Monday, February 20, 2017

A Close Look at the Decline of Homeownership

"The homeownership rate—the percentage of households that own rather than rent the homes that they live in—has fallen sharply since mid-2005. In fact, in the second quarter of 2016 the homeownership rate fell to 62.9 percent, its lowest level since 1965. In this blog post, we look at underlying demographic trends to gain a deeper understanding of the large increase in the homeownership rate from 1995 to 2005 and the subsequent large decline. Although there is reason to believe that the homeownership rate may begin to rise again in the not-too-distant future, it is unlikely to fully recover to its previous peak levels. This is a disconcerting finding for those who view homeownership as an integral part of the American Dream and a key component of income security during retirement. 

An estimate of the homeownership rate is published each quarter by the U.S. Census Bureau, based on a sample of housing units..."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile

"This report presents a profile of the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) as of January 4, 2017. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

In the House of Representatives, there are 241 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 197 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), and 3 vacant seats. The Senate has 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 2 Independents, who both caucus with the Democrats..." 
115th Congress Membership

President Trump: Putting Coal Country Back to Work

"Today, President Donald J. Trump signed House Joint Resolution 38 to stop the costly Stream Protection Rule from further harming coal workers and the communities that depend on them. H.J.Res. 38 blocks an overly burdensome regulation that threatened the coal industry with millions of dollars in compliance costs, reduced coal production, and fewer jobs.
Since 2009, the coal industry has declined, leaving workers and communities without a lifeline. Over 36,000 jobs have been lost without any relief in sight. From 2009 to 2015, American coal production has declined by over 177,000,000 tons, and over 600 coal mines have closed. H.J.Res. 38 will give coal country relief from these harmful regulations created under the Obama Administration..."
Coal industry

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cybersecurity: Actions Needed to Strengthen U.S. Capabilities

"GAO has consistently identified shortcomings in the federal government’s approach to ensuring the security of federal information systems and cyber critical infrastructure as well as its approach to protecting the privacy of personally identifiable information (PII). While previous administrations and agencies have acted to improve the protections over federal and critical infrastructure information and information systems, the federal government needs to take the following actions to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity

• Effectively implement risk-based entity-wide information security programs consistently over time. Among other things, agencies need to (1) implement sustainable processes for securely configuring operating systems, applications, workstations, servers, and network devices; (2) patch vulnerable systems and replace unsupported software; (3) develop comprehensive security test and evaluation procedures and conduct examinations on a regular and recurring basis; and (4) strengthen oversight of contractors providing IT services.

• Improve its cyber incident detection, response, and mitigation capabilities. The Department of Homeland Security needs to expand the capabilities and support wider adoption of its government-wide intrusion detection and prevention system. In addition, the federal government needs to improve cyber incident response practices, update guidance on reporting data breaches, and develop consistent responses to breaches of PII.

• Expand its cyber workforce planning and training efforts. The federal government needs to (1) enhance efforts for recruiting and retaining a qualified cybersecurity workforce and (2) improve cybersecurity workforce planning activities..."

Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2026

"Nuclear weapons have been a cornerstone of U.S. national security since they were developed during World War II. In the Cold War, nuclear forces were central to U.S. defense policy, resulting in the buildup of a large arsenal. Since that time, nuclear forces have figured less prominently than conventional forces, and the United States has not built any new nuclear weapons or delivery systems for many years....

If carried out, the plans for nuclear forces delineated in the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) budget requests for fiscal year 2017 would cost a total of $400 billion over the 2017– 2026 period, CBO estimates—an average of $40 billion a year. (In this analysis, “costs” refers to budget authority, the amount that would need to be appropriated to implement the plans.) The current 10-year total is 15 percent higher than CBO’s most recent previous estimate of the 10-year costs of nuclear forces, $348 billion over the 2015–2024 period..."
U.S. Nuclear forces

The Essential Neil Gorsuch Reader: What Judge Gorsuch Cases Should You Read?

"Following President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Senators have reportedly begun meeting with the nominee who could succeed Justice Antonin Scalia, as part of the initial phases of determining whether to provide “Advice and Consent” to the nomination. According to recent news reports, the Senate is anticipated to hold hearings and ultimately vote on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination in the coming weeks and months. Hearings on nominees to the Supreme Court have historically considered the nominee’s previous work experience, with particular focus on any rulings the nominee authored as a judge.

As an earlier Sidebar posting noted, Judge Gorsuch has a voluminous judicial record, having served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for more than a decade. According to Judge Gorsuch’s recent submissions to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has authored over eight hundred opinions and participated in approximately 2,750 decisionsduring his tenure on the Tenth Circuit. This provides an enormous—and perhaps unwieldy—body of law for those interested in learning about Judge Gorsuch’s approach to judging. Federal appellate opinions and votes can be far from dispositive in predicting how federal appellate judges might vote if elevated to the Supreme Court, as many rulings on federal courts of appeals are unanimous, uncontroversial, or all but dictated by precedent. Nonetheless they “offer perhaps the best gauge available for” determining a nominee’s future work as a Supreme Court Justice, as one scholar of the Supreme Court nomination process has noted. Beyond Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record, the nominee has authoredvarious publications that could also provide insight into his approaches to various areas of law..."
Judge Neil Gorsuch

Congressional Gold Metals

"Senators and Representatives are frequently asked to support or sponsor proposals recognizing historic events and outstanding achievements by individuals or institutions. Among the various forms of recognition that Congress bestows, the Congressional Gold Medal is often considered the most distinguished. Through this venerable tradition, the occasional commissioning of individually struck gold medals in its name, Congress has expressed public gratitude on behalf of the nation for distinguished contributions for more than two centuries. Since 1776, this award, which initially was bestowed on military leaders, has also been given to such diverse individuals as Sir Winston Churchill and Bob Hope, George Washington and Robert Frost, Joe Louis and Mother Teresa of Calcutta...."
Congressional gold metal

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Withdrawal from International Agreements: Legal Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement

"The legal procedure through which the United States withdraws from treaties and other international agreements has been the subject of long-standing debate between the legislative and executive branches. Recently, questions concerning the role of Congress in the withdrawal process have arisen in response to statements made by President Donald J. Trump that he may consider withdrawing the United States from certain high-profile international commitments. This report outlines the legal framework for withdrawal from international agreements under domestic and international law, and it examines legal issues related to the potential termination of two agreements that may be of significance to the 115th Congress: the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) related to Iran’s nuclear program.

Although the Constitution sets forth a definite procedure whereby the Executive has the power to make treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is silent as to how treaties may be terminated. Moreover, not all agreements between the United States and foreign states are made through Senate-approved, ratified treaties. The President also enters into executive agreements, which do not receive the Senate’s advice and consent, and “political commitments,” which are not binding under domestic or international law. The legal procedure for withdrawal often depends on the type of agreement at issue, and the process may be further complicated when Congress has enacted legislation implementing the agreement into domestic law..."
International Agreements

Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions

"Congress has delegated responsibility for monetary policy to the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve (the Fed), but retains oversight responsibilities for ensuring that the Fed is adhering to its statutory mandate of “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate longterm interest rates.” To meet its price stability mandate, the Fed has set a longer-run goal of 2% inflation

The Fed’s control over monetary policy stems from its exclusive ability to alter the money supply and credit conditions more broadly. Normally, the Fed conducts monetary policy by setting a target for the federal funds rate, the rate at which banks borrow and lend reserves on an overnight basis. It meets its target through open market operations, financial transactions traditionally involving U.S. Treasury securities. Beginning in September 2007, the federal funds target was reduced from 5.25% to a range of 0% to 0.25% in December 2008, which economists call the zero lower bound. By historical standards, rates were kept unusually low for an unusually long time.

In December 2015, the Fed began raising interest rates and expects to gradually raise rates further..."
Federal Reserve and monetary policy

Food Safety:A National Strategy Is Needed to Address Fragmentation in Federal Oversight

"Since 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the federal agencies with primary responsibility for food safety oversight, have taken some actions to address fragmentation in the federal food safety oversight system, and HHS has updated its strategic plan to address interagency coordination on food safety. However, USDA has not yet fully implemented GAO’s December 2014 recommendation that it describe interagency collaboration on food safety in its strategic and performance planning documents. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not addressed GAO’s March 2011 recommendation to develop a government-wide plan for the federal food safety oversight system.

At a 2-day meeting GAO hosted in June 2016, 19 food safety and other experts agreed that there is a compelling need to develop a national strategy to address ongoing fragmentation and improve the federal food safety oversight system. This is consistent with a prior GAO finding that complex interagency and intergovernmental efforts can benefit from developing a national strategy..."
Food safety

Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2016

"The Transportation Statistics Annual Report describes the Nation’s transportation system, the system’s performance, its contributions to the economy, and its effects on people and the environment. This 21st edition of the report is based on information collected or compiled by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a principle Federal statistical agency at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Nearly 4.2 million miles of roads, more than 19,000 public and private use airports, about 140,000 miles of freight and passenger railroads, 25,000 miles of navigable waterways, and nearly 2.7 million miles of oil and gas pipelines connect the Nation’s people and businesses across the continent and with the rest of the world.

The estimated value of U.S. transportation assets in 2014 was approximately $8.1 trillion. The public owns 50.5 percent of the total transportation asset value, mostly highways and streets, but also publicly held transit facilities, airports, and numerous seaports, inland ports and terminals, and other facilities related to water transportation. Private companies own 31.5 percent of transportation assets, including railroads, pipelines, trucks, planes, and ships. Personal motor vehicles account for the remaining 18.0 percent...."

Transportation statistics

Friday, February 10, 2017

Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering

"Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering provides statistical information about the participation of these three groups in science and engineering education and employment. A formal report, in the form of a digest, is issued every 2 years...."
"Women, minorities, disabled in science

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Top Five U.S. Trading Partners in Goods in 2016: China, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Germany

"Today the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis issued full year 2016 U.S. international trade in goods and services data. The top five countries based on trade in goods in 2016 were China, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Germany.
Trade in goods with China was $578.6 billion. Exports were $115.8 billion and imports were $462.8 billion. The top three U.S. exports to China in 2016 were civilian aircraft, soybeans and passenger cars. The primary imports were cell phones and other household goods, computers, and telecommunications equipment.
The second largest goods trading partner was Canada, at $544.9 billion. Exports to Canada were $266.8 billion and imports were $278.1 billion. The top U.S. exports to Canada were automotive parts and accessories; passenger cars; and trucks, buses, and special purpose vehicles. The top imports from Canada were passenger cars, crude oil, and automotive parts and accessories.
Mexico was the third largest U.S. trading partner in goods in 2016, totaling $525.1 billion. Exports were $231.0 billion and imports totaled $294.2 billion. The primary exports to Mexico were automotive parts and accessories, electric apparatus, and computer accessories. On the import side, the primary categories were also automotive parts and accessories; trucks, buses, and special purposes vehicles; and passenger cars...."

International trade

What Is Manufacturing? Why Does the Definition Matter?

"Numerous provisions in federal law are intended to support manufacturing in the United States. Almost without exception, these provisions define manufacturing as the process of physically transforming goods. Physical transformation involves what might be thought of as traditional manufacturing activities such as molding, cutting, and assembly. These laws establish a variety of potential benefits, preferences, or penalties based on the country in which physical transformation occurs.

 By and large, federal supports targeted specifically at manufacturing rest on two implicit premises that have been rendered questionable as a result of developments in the private sector.
  • Each manufactured product is assumed to have a single country of origin. The determination of whether a product is American-made is binary; either it was made in the United States or it is an import. This assumption fits uneasily with the global value chains now widely used by manufacturers to combine raw materials, components, services, and intellectual property from multiple countries into a single, finished manufactured good.
  • Physical transformation is assumed to be the means by which manufacturing creates economic benefits. Under a variety of statutes, the fact that other activities related to making a product are conducted in the United States is not relevant to the determination of whether the product is made in the United States. This is generally the case even if those activities account for a large proportion of the value of the finished good or of the employment related to the good’s production. Conversely, a good may be treated as U.S.-made if significant parts are of U.S. origin and if the good was transformed in the United States, even if all research, design, software development, and other nonphysical activities related to its production occurred in other countries...."

President Donald J. Trump Announces His Cabinet

"President Donald J. Trump today formally announced the 24 people who will be serving with him on his Cabinet..". 
President Trump's cabinet