What Might the New Normal Look Like After Coronavirus?

The coronavirus put a spotlight on how unprepared society was for an outbreak of a disease that has no vaccine. There have been scares before, like ebola, or the common flu that seems to grow stronger each year. But ebola wound up being contained, and for many people, the flu is just a part of the winter season – there are flu shots, too, which may help ease people’s concerns, even if it isn’t 100% effective.

So what comes after a potential coronavirus vaccine, or we reach herd immunity by spreading the disease long enough? 

Here are a few possibilities.

For Individuals

The inequality between classes had been an increasing concern before coronavirus, but now, those differences have reached a straining point. According to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, 40% of families earning less than $40,000 a year lost their job in March following lockdown, highlighting a disparity between those who had the luxury of working from home and in industries that were more economically buffered to economic instability.

Many service industry workers found themselves unemployed, even if they put in years of hard work and dedication to their jobs. That is the nature of the service industry, despite all of our reliance on it to keep our lives running. 

Families living off so little money were already strained, both financially and medically. What makes things more challenging is that government safety nets, such as unemployment, buckled under the sudden demand for help.

This raises the question of how we see and treat those who are in these industries or less well off. People in the service industry were put most at risk because they had no other choice than to work. If those people got sick, they had to have quarantines for 14 days. Divesting more tax dollars to these social programs or healthcare may be one area where we see greater change.

For Businesses

Many businesses will reopen their offices with desks further apart or areas taped off to keep people moving in one direction. Other businesses will transition to a full or part-time remote workforce to help reduce the number of people in the office at any given time.

For people living in small homes or apartments, those with roommates, or individuals who suffer from loneliness while at home and not surrounded by coworkers, things will be difficult. If you live in a space without a dedicated work area, working efficiently or comfortably will be a challenge.

Businesses will have to account for this and figure out a way to make accommodations or rent workspaces in different buildings to give people the option to go somewhere else to work if the main office is at capacity.

Finally, hygiene will likely be given greater importance. While hygiene and dress codes have always been part of the office, regular handwashing, outdoor time, or encouraging healthy habits through diet and exercise may also gain importance.

For Dining and Entertainment

Many cities have now blocked off roadways and opened them to pedestrian traffic, dining, and more opportunities for people to socially distance or meet in small groups without interacting with a large number of people. This will likely be the norm for a while. However, the push towards car-free cities is growing.

Workers in all professions will still have to wear masks. The fashion industry is already taking advantage of masks and is turning it into a fashion statement.

Many restaurants and small businesses will continue to shudder. In their place, new businesses may rise. Artists are looking online to connect with fans and earn money, possibly leading to more independent artists that operate without managers or giving up ownership of projects or sharing royalties. 

One thing that won’t change is that many buildings were designed for a set purpose and can’t be easily altered to make social distancing easier. Restaurants need to fill a specific capacity to remain profitable. The same goes for theaters that can’t permanently reduce capacity to half, which may lead to a faster shift towards streaming and the theaters becoming an entirely different experience. Airplanes, buses, subways, and other transportation methods will struggle to adapt.

By mid-2021, we may have a better idea of what the future will look like and whether things will change as much as we think. A lot of businesses, people, and politicians are eager for a return to the status quo. Hopefully, no matter what happens, we see a lot of new and fantastic innovation that drives positive change.

Has Opinion Shifted on E-Cigarettes After Recent Regulations?

In August, a Standard University School of Medicine study found that people who vaped were up to seven times more likely to be infected by COVID-19 than those who did not vape. However, public attention over e-cigarettes and vaping appear to have fallen, with very few news stories covering the topic after February when pandemic-related concerns took over the news cycle.

It was in February of this year that the Trump administration formally signed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes (excluding menthol and tobacco) following a series of reports that some vaping products may have been associated with the lung injury, EVALI, a condition that can cause inflammation, a form of pneumonia, and damage the tiny air sacs in the lungs. Additionally, vape products among those under the age of 18 highlighted concerns about a lack of oversight in the vaping industry compared to conventional tobacco products.

A poll taken by Pew found that 64% of those aged 30 to 64 were in favor of tighter e-cigarette regulations. This compares to 48% of Americans aged 18 to 29, who said that laws should be more strict.

This is very much an example of young people being more daring or playing chicken with their health. We have already seen in the news that younger Americans are also less likely to heed the warning about COVID-19. Pictures and video of students and young adults partying have been finding their way online even when quarantine guidelines were in place. 

These social behaviors have worried health experts, including Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who warned young people against taking coronavirus lightly and potentially making the pandemic worse or failing to see that it isn’t just older people suffering adverse health consequences. 

No new polling for research institutes, such as PEW, about vaping haven’t been released recently – the focus for most Americans now appears to be about the economy, mask mandates, and the upcoming Presidential election. Information about the effect of the regulations and whether it has curbed use among younger Americans also appears scarce, based upon searches in Google Scholar.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, new research will give us a better understanding of why some people experience more severe symptoms, how it transmits, and what factors may be putting people at risk.

For now, if you are using vaping products, it may be a good idea to abstain and focus on treating your body well.

According to the University of California, Davis, there are five things you can do to prioritize your immune system. These include:

  • Getting enough vitamin A from carrots, sweet potato, spinach, broccoli, and red bell peppers.
  • Increasing your vitamin C intake from citrus fruits and red fruits like strawberry to stimulate your antibody response.
  • Consuming vitamin E from vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and avocado.
  • Adding more zinc to your diet from beans, seeds, nuts, meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Eating protein-rich foods, such as meats, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds!

Along with healthy dietary habits, you can also look to supplements for additional support. Allergy Research Group, Premier Research Labs, and Results RNA formulate lung support products for a healthy mucosal lining in the sinuses, normal fluid production in the lungs, and comfort in the respiratory system, especially when outside during pollen season or when stuck indoors with dry air.

While diet and supplements may support the body, other ways to maintain your health included continued observation of social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask, and keeping informed on the latest research to know what may help or hurt your overall health COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pros and Cons of Letting More People Work From Home

Working from home has been on the rise for around a decade, but it was during the COVID-19 outbreak that the idea had taken hold out of necessity. 

While many companies initially struggled during the first weeks and months of lockdown, and they may still not be entirely sure of its effectiveness, polling does show workers have an overall favorable opinion of the practice. For those businesses that were already offering this incentive before lockdown, quarantine has validated the execution of those decisions and proven that having been prepared was a smart move.

Looking ahead, some businesses are likely to reopen offices with regular or reduced staff. While others, like several major tech companies, are implementing policies to transition to a fully remote workforce to cut costs, commute times, and make life easier for employees who struggle with the high cost of living in areas like San Francisco and Seattle.

To put it mildly, remote work has been a major disruptor. Here’s how employees say they are fairing with what they like and dislike the most.

What Employees Like Most

  • Having more freedom in their schedule is a significant benefit.
  • Working from anywhere means not being stuck at the same desk and view each day.
  • If kids are home from school or sick or don’t have to sit in traffic, there is more time to take care of and be with family.

What Employees Struggle With

  • When you live where you work, you might not fully unplug, or you will find yourself checking your phone when you should be focused on family; coworkers might also feel it’s appropriate to schedule meetings outside of regular working hours.
  • Loneliness is a big problem and can contribute to severe mental and physical issues.
  • When you are all in a Zoom call and not at the same conference table, collaborating and communicating is more complicated.
  • Distractions from home should be considered and avoided; just because you are home doesn’t mean you are available for chores, helping a neighbor, or doing something else, like walking the dog.
  • For team members working on different continents, attending meetings can be almost impossible.
  • Between distractions or not having someone looking over your shoulder, staying motivated can be challenging.
  • When you work from home, it can feel like you are on an extended vacation. Taking time off, especially if you usually stay at home, can feel strange or ineffective at making you feel relaxed and rested when you return to work.
  • Home internet isn’t always the same as a business line, and your connection may be spotty or slow.

What Businesses Like or Dislike

For businesses, employee wellbeing is important, but there are aspects of remote work that can become difficult to manage. Here are some of the main challenges that businesses have to realize if they make remote work permanent and the benefits.

Benefits of Work From Home

  • Cost savings through reduced building-related expenses.
  • Employee productivity is higher with a remote workforce.
  • Remote work as an incentive can help attract and retain employees.

Problems With Work From Home

  • Managing projects becomes more difficult unless the company can track, assign, and manage workflows – Monday, Asana, and ToDoist are a few examples of project management tools companies use to manage these challenges.
  • Remote collaboration is more complicated and requires the right people to lead teams and meetings.
  • While not true for all companies, those looking to build a remote workforce, including people who may move overseas, will have to figure out solutions to living in different time zones.
  • A major hurdle for companies is the idea that employees can’t be trusted. There are many opportunities for remote workers to take advantage of remote work opportunities, but companies may not be better served with intrusive tracking programs or check-ins throughout the mornings and afternoons; finding a healthy balance is key.

Moving towards a partial or fully remote workforce may be the future. After COVID-19, as we wonder how safe dense urban areas are, the cost of doing business in expensive office buildings, or demand from employees to have freedom with where and how they live, the conversation will continue. It is up to companies to start figuring out how they want to handle this future.

Facts About Jobs: Why Low Unemployment Has Downsides

When jotting down a list of facts about jobs, you may not believe that low unemployment has many downsides. 

You may think that if everyone is working, then people can afford necessities, they will spend more on goods and services, and drive the overall economy to new heights.

While it is true that more people being employed means more money being spent, there are several downsides to unemployment that have wide-reaching implications on all of us.

Employees Can’t Keep Up

One cause of low unemployment is the advancement of new technologies driving job growth. During the industrial revolution, people feared that machines would lead to mass unemployment. But the opposite proved correct. While some jobs were lost, a greater number of new jobs took their place. 

The same is true today, but with a few caveats. 

Firstly, there aren’t enough workers for the job available. Ignoring coronavirus’s impact for just a moment, in 2019, the pool of available candidates shrunk to record lows. This is partially due to people having fewer children, an aging population leaving the workforce, and a boom of innovation that has created millions of jobs across a range of industries in a short period.

So, just like in the past, innovation is driving growth across many sectors. But the new jobs being created require a higher degree of skill that people lack for one reason or another. So it isn’t just a matter of having more people. The people that companies need require skills that can take years to develop – soft skills, in particular, are in high demand but not at a high enough skill level in every candidate.

More problematic is that new workers coming out of high school and college aren’t able to keep up with the expectations put upon them in entry-level jobs; they don’t have the experience or knowledge to complete work effectively.

Likewise, older employees or those in other departments within a company are being tasked with roles they are unfamiliar with. This may include learning an entirely new job while needing to keep up with their existing responsibilities.

Assuming employees don’t burn out, or the quality of work doesn’t suffer, the employee may begin to demand higher wages or use their new experience to leverage a better offer from another company, leaving a company that is already short-staffed in a tricky position.

All of this leads to reduced productivity. 

Productivity Suffers

When unemployment gets too low, additional jobs fail to produce enough productivity to cover the cost of the work being done. You can’t just add more workers, either. Adding more workers (who are potentially inexperienced) causes an company’s resources to become underutilized.

Other causes of poor productivity are higher demand for employees leading to competition among companies. Job applicants are more valuable, which contributes to higher wages. However, due to budget restrictions, more inexperienced candidates who are not able to do a job as well may be hired instead. These workers cost more and may produce less value than their wages and benefits.

Inflation and Recessions

Due to a large number of job openings, there aren’t enough people to fill roles within companies to adequately complete tasks. This leads to low productivity among existing workers and increased spending, which worsens inflation.

If inflation gets too high, lending becomes more expensive as interest rates increase to match the Federal Reserve rates. This can cause an economy to fall into a recession, where the overall economy shrinks, and innovation begins to lag. The result is a large number of job losses as companies are forced to save money by cutting wages, hiring, and investments into the business.

According to Mark Hulbert of Marketwatch, the S&P 500 sees optimal returns when unemployment sits around 7.2%. This falls to 2.8% growth when unemployment is just 4%. In 2019, we saw numbers just below 4%. As of writing this, unemployment is around 11% due to COVID-19.

Final Thoughts

The economy goes through cycles, from expansion to recession. These are not easy to predict. If they were, you could easily become the wealthiest person on the planet.

Solutions for low employment can include pursuing even more automation and seeking out remote workers in your country or globally. However, these creative solutions do require people to manage them and can result in new challenges that many businesses will struggle to overcome.

While COVID-19 has changed the landscape and lead to unemployment numbers in the double digits, those numbers could fall quickly. For now, companies should take advantage of the greater availability of workers, begin staffing for the future, and find solutions to future labor issues.

Should The Government Offer Universal Basic Income to Citizens?

An English village in Speenhamland experimented with universal basic income in response to rising grain prices. That was in 1795.

The idea was much the same to what has been proposed today, although with a greater focus on bread. If you didn’t work or were unable to, you received bread for you and your family. If you did work, you were given additional bread to supplement what you could already afford.

At first this concept worked well. People who worked hard but still lived in poverty enjoyed a better life, and those who didn’t want to work were no longer the targets of intimidation, a task that was not manageable or effective by the government.

As many things do, the good times ended and things fell apart. Now that people could afford a better life, they had more children. The system strained and collapsed, casting many workers into a society built around the idea of not needing a strong labor market.

In the following decades, the idea of a universal basic income system would be proposed under many different leaders, but these systems were either labeled too socialist and never passed, or the governments trying to implement them fell apart.

Universal Basic Income Today

The idea of universal basic income (UBI) is once again a topic of conversation being taken seriously. While we don’t face a shortage of bread there is growing income inequality and globalization that has left millions of able-bodied blue collar workers without any hope of providing anything more than what welfare or food stamps provide. Even those in white collar jobs are at risk of losing their jobs to automation and artificial intelligence that could force workers into lower paying jobs or requiring them to return to school to learn an entirely new trade.

There is a lot of disagreement around how UBI should be implemented today. Some proposals, such as those from former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, outlines a policy that gives $1,000 a month to every U.S. citizen over the age of 18, regardless of income or employment. 

If you are unemployed, this money would help to ease the burden that comes from poverty because it would be a cash payment. For those in higher income brackets, it would supplement their existing income.

At this point, many people might say this all sounds rosy! The problem becomes how to pay for it, and that’s where things start to fall apart. 

How to Pay for UBI

Under Andrew Yang’s proposal, money would be raised through a value added tax (VAT) that is placed on purchases for most goods that would fall under the category a non-essential good or service. The second would come from simplifying current social welfare programs. The third is by restructuring the healthcare system.

Yang’s policy proposal says that these and other changes would cover the program’s entire cost and could lead to economic growth. But we don’t entirely know that any of these changes would generate enough money to cover the system’s costs.

Another way to make UBI more practical is to limit who would get the money. For example, anyone who makes under $50,000 a year would receive the full payment. Those who earn above that amount would receive a smaller amount up to a phase-out number, or no money at all. 

How It Would Backfire

Assuming that a UBI did pass, there are very real concerns about how it would affect the labor market. Besides more people leaving the job market and choosing to live on the modest cash they get each month, there is the possibility that employers would suppress wages. 

If the government is helping to supplement a person’s income, why would they pay them as much? Workers too might no longer be disincentivized to work harder and longer for promotions and pay raises, which would hurt the business’s growth.

There are ideological differences, too. UBI is seen as a socialist program that rewards the lazy person while everyone else gives up their time and hard work for a too-small paycheck.

Final Thoughts

For the longest time, automation has been called the greatest threat to society. Even back during the industrial revolution, it was believed that there would be mass unemployment as machines replaced many labor jobs.

Instead, automation led to the creation of many new jobs that were less dangerous and paid better. Much of the discussion around UBI is framed as being necessary to prevent automation and AI from taking jobs, but there is no guarantee of this.

However, one true thing is that millions of people who want to work simply can’t find a job or lack the skills necessary to compete in the modern workforce. Those who do work are finding that a dollar doesn’t go as far, and that their wages aren’t enough to pay for a starter home, kids, hospital bills, college, and retirement. 

UBI can help to alleviate some of the challenges that people today face. It may even be necessary in the future. Governments should not outright dismiss the idea. Society might find that it winds up being the best way to help fix some of the problems currently affecting society and prevent new problems that could arise from worsening income inequality and mass unemployment.

Should People or The Economy be Prioritized During COVID-19?

There is a challenging topic being discussed within the highest levels of government and around social circles: Will the impact of shutting down the economy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ultimately lead to a worse outcome than if we had let COVID-19 run its course?

We are arguing that shutting down the economy could lead to long-lasting economic harm contributing to societal instability, widespread poverty, increased rates of criminal activity, and so on. Assuming this were true, might it then be better to open the economy, let COVID-19 run its course, and potentially watch as millions die for the sake of keeping businesses and families afloat. 

Let’s take a look at these options, and why this approach to the conversation might be the wrong way of looking at things.

Why Shutting Down is Good

The service industry makes up a large portion of the workforce. For those in these positions, working from home is not an option. People with these jobs are also working face-to-face with customers who come in and out of the business and might be a carrier for coronavirus.

Those who work these service-level jobs have always had a higher rate of vulnerability, due to low wages, lack of access to healthcare, and a higher risk for alcoholism, drug use, and early death.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the service industry was already feeling pinched by a lack of available workers. This has led to a trickle-up effect that has impacted corporate growth and profits. While we might not give too much thought to the people who stock store shelves, deliver our food, or sit behind the counter of a business and help us to make schedules or show us the right way to go, they are most likely to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

This isn’t to dismiss the importance of white-collar workers. Illness can also spread in offices, too. But the point is that the economic impact could be staggering, and it is most likely going to start with blue collar workers.

While some may not like to put a dollar figure on human life, it is often the best way to have these discussions. At least, in this case, the value of human life is high. Analysts suggest that shutting down would protect around 1.7 million workers, which could translate to around $8 trillion in savings. In the long-term, this could help us to avert an even worse disaster if millions were to die suddenly.

Why Local Governments are Reopening

Many people live paycheck to paycheck, and there are thousands of businesses that can’t survive for more than a few weeks if they are forced to close. 

This contributes to a few problems. The first is that the unemployment insurance system is not well funded and can not support mass unemployment. Second, when people lose employment, they may also lose health insurance, meaning access to essential treatment or even basic care may be delayed or could contribute to massive debt. Finally, small businesses don’t have the privilege to ask the government for assistance, and banks may be unwilling to extend loans to companies that may continue to remain closed for an unknowable amount of time.

The ramifications of closures won’t just be felt in communities where people will no longer have a place to spend their money, but also for people who rely on these now-shuttered businesses to pay bills, save for future education, start a family, buy a car or a home, and so on.

All of this has played a significant role in the decision to reopen. There are few fail-safes for states and local governments in the kind of situations we are in right now – they are worried just as much as many of us. When the federal government allows extended benefits to lapse, states may be left to pick up the tab when their budgets don’t allow for them to support high rates of employment or loss of businesses.

Change The Economy Instead

Right now, so much of the talk is centered around “returning to normal.” This idea suggests that the economy we had before was good enough. As COVID-19 has revealed, crises such as what we face today, and those that could come in the future, are sufficient enough reasons to change how we operate. Where we are right now is a call to action. As the looming climate crisis increasingly disrupts those activities we consider normal, being able to adapt quickly might save us down the road.

Ensuring that there are systems in place to better respond to crises, specifically related to disease, is the most important step. A lack of available testing has been a significant contributor to not knowing how the disease spreads, how many people within an area are carriers, and whether someone needs to self-quarantine for 14 days to ensure they don’t spread it to anyone else.

Another step would be to have better systems in place to help small businesses and vulnerable people disproportionately affected by major economic disruptions. If someone knows that their bills will be covered if they have to leave work for 14-days due to testing positive for an illness, they will be more incentivized to stay home and lessen the risk of spreading the illness. 

Other changes we are already seeing. Home delivery services that pick up groceries, medicine, or takeout food were already available before COVID-19. Today, this has proven invaluable for allowing people to stay home and not make physical contact. We might expect more of these services to arrive in the future. Increased contactless checkouts and curbside deliveries are other likely options, as are changes to public transportation, and how we work at the office or home. 

Some people are also arguing that there needs to be a renewed focus on individual health, including managing stress levels, changing sleep habits, eating right, and supplementing with immune support products, like those from Metagenics, Douglas Laboratories, and Apricot Power.

A lot has happened in a short amount of time. There are no simple answers to the current issues we face. Treading carefully and making decisions that take into account the needs of workers and businesses and the overall health of the population, will be the only way we come out of this with the least possible harm.

Should Presidents Have the Power to Pardon Anyone?

Recent accusations of corruption against the Trump administration and his choice of pardons has raised questions about whether there should be more restrictions on the power of the President. But why are people upset?

Trump has been accused of pardoning people with connections to close personal friends, despite their convictions involving bribery and violations of security laws. Recent talk of pardoning Robert Stone, who was sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness, has raised further concerns.

Trump is not the first president to issue pardons, but why are we currently so focused on his actions? 

Why Can Presidents Issue Pardons?

Under the Pardon Clause, Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, of the Constitution, Presidents of the United States have the power to grant clemency to people convicted of a federal crime, except in cases of impeachment tried and convicted by Congress. The Office of the Pardon Attorney, a part of the Justice Department, hands pardons on behalf of the President. 

There are five types of clemency that fall within the President’s power:

  • Pardons – These include partial, absolute, and conditional pardons that offer varying degrees of forgiveness for criminal wrongdoing.
  • Amnesty – Grants the same benefits of a traditional pardon, but is applied to groups or communities of people.
  • Commutation – A reduction to the sentence handed down by a federal court. 
  • Remittance – A reduction or elimination of fines or the forfeiture of property that is handed over to the court as a reprieve during sentencing.

Pardons are supposed to factor in the public welfare and whether there’s some unfairness that the courts can’t correct, but because of the power of the Constitution, there is limited oversight. In 1974, the pardon process was challenged following the commuted sentence of Jimmy Hoffa by President Richard Nixon. The court stated that the President has executive discretion to grant clemency as they see fit – the Supreme Court has not ruled on this.

Notable Pardons by Presidents

There are several recent examples of Presidents issuing pardons that brought criticism.

  • Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was involved in leaking more than 250,000 State Department cables to Wikileaks.
  • Bill Clinton pardoned his brother, who had served one year for a drug conviction.
  • Ronald Reagan pardoned New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner who made illegal campaign contributions to Nixon’s presidential campaign.
  • George Washington offered clemency to John Mitchell and Philip Weigel for their participation in the Whiskey Rebellion and anti-tax movement.
  • Gerald Ford granted a full pardon to Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal.

Number of Pardons by President

The number of pardons issued by presidents varies. In some cases, because a pardon applies to a group of people. These numbers do not reflect commutations and remissions. 

  • Theodore Roosevelt – 668 pardons.
  • Jimmy Carter – 534 pardons.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – 2,819 pardons.
  • Harry S. Truman – 1,913 pardons.
  • Ronald Reagan – 393 pardons.
  • William H. Taft – 383 pardons.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1,110 pardons.
  • Woodrow Wilson – 1,087 pardons.
  • Lyndon Johnson – 960 pardons.
  • Richard Nixon – 863 pardons.
  • Calvin Coolidge – 773 pardons.
  • Herbert Hoover – 672 pardons.
  • John F. Kennedy – 472 pardons.
  • Gerald Ford – 382 pardons.
  • Warren Harding – 386 pardons.
  • William McKinley – 291 pardons.
  • George H.W. Bush – 74 pardons.
  • Bill Clinton – 396 pardons.
  • George W. Bush – 189 pardons.
  • Barack Obama – 212 pardons.
  • Donald J. Trump – Still counting.

Should Presidents Have the Power to Pardon Anyone?

There are some limitations around who the President can pardon. However, this power is far-reaching, being applicable even in cases of conspiracy, treason, or murder. However, pardons can open a President to investigation by government offices, may lead allies to turn on them, or lead to impeachment – a President may not pardon himself, which can disincentivize the use of pardoning power.

Is that enough to prevent a President from issuing pardons to people who contributed large sums of funds to political campaigns, or federal crimes committed by family and friends? Not as of today. Many Presidents issue pardons near the end of their final term, meaning that there will be little consequence, and the time and cost required to challenge each pardon is unrealistic. 

Obviously, it is easy to point at Trump and criticize the pardons he has already made and who he might pardon in the future, but past Presidents on both sides of the aisle have used this power to achieve the desired end with little chance of the People to stop it.

Is Regulated Trade Good or Bad for a Country

Regulated trade is a policy system that seeks to establish rules for how countries import and export goods. Regulated trade aims to prevent unfair competition and deceptive business acts while also placing importance on preserving the environment, offering consumer protection, employee safety, and transparency of labeling, among other guidelines that benefit foreign and domestic economic systems.

We most often see regulated trade in the form of trade agreements. These agreements open borders to foreign interests so businesses can offer products and services to a greater number of people.

At the same time, regulated trade can be used to protect domestic industries by levying tariffs on specific products being imported. These tariffs artificially raise the price of goods coming into the country so that domestic industries that can’t compete on price are protected.

However, many economists want to throw trade regulations out the window and opt for free trade that lets global markets decide who should win or lose in any specific industry. 

Policymakers, on the other hand, argue that this isn’t possible because voters who have been negatively affected by free trade agreements want regulated trade to help protect their jobs.

So which is the right answer? Should regulations be tossed, or should governments seek to close borders and protect their citizens?

Benefits of Free Trade

  • Economic Growth – Exporting production, design, or manufacturing can free up resources to invest in research and development that leads to new, higher quality, and better-paying jobs in both home and foreign markets.
  • Innovation – When economies don’t have to compete on a global stage, they are less likely to innovate. At its best, innovation leads to reduced cost, better quality products, and more consumer choice.
  • Less Corruption – With regulated trade, any government can selectively decide to enact tariffs on specific products; this can lead to interest groups influencing government officials to provide them special protections that stifle innovation and entrepreneurship. Trade agreements also feature loopholes and may unfairly target some industries more than others.

Benefits of Regulated Trade

  • Intellectual Property Protection – Regulations built into trade agreements can prevent foreign companies from stealing ideas and flooding the market with a competing product at a lower price.
  • Protections for Workers – Low skilled workers can earn more and have a better life when they aren’t competing with nations that have a lower standard of living,
  • Less Destruction – By restricting the outsourcing of labor, there are fewer opportunities for companies to buy up inexpensive resources overseas and exploit local populations and a lack of labor regulations.
  • Tax Revenue – Local tax collection sometimes exceeds what is generated by tariffs, meaning that states and local governments benefit more by keeping production and labor domestic.

So which is best? Well, there is no right or wrong answer. These issues are massive and include hundreds of countries, differing monetary systems, governments, leaders, and people.

Experts agree that trade policy should include regulations that restrict businesses and countries from unfairly controlling entire industries through reduced labor costs, inadequate environmental protection policies, and violence. 

They should also encourage nations to meet global standards for workers and the environment, and seek to actively prevent theft of ideas and to help educate workers who lose jobs as a result of outsourcing. But, no trade agreement should overstep and seek to control markets because, in the long-term, these regulations will likely fail and wind up costing more jobs, lost revenue, and harm consumers.

What Makes an Employment Termination Policy Sound?

With unemployment numbers growing during the coronavirus pandemic, many companies are being forced to reconcile with a new reality if furloughing or laying off entire staff.

When an entire business shutters due to health concerns, employment termination is not being done as a result of an employee’s actions or a desire to bring in new candidates.

But current circumstances are an anomaly, and as the economy returns to normal, more companies may want to rethink their employment termination policy and whether it is sound.

What Makes a Good Employment Termination Policy?

Before continuing, it is important to understand the two forms of employee termination: voluntary and involuntary

Voluntary termination occurs when the employee submits a resignation letter to the employer stating their intention to leave the company at a current or future date. An employer can and should encourage this to happen with a fair benefits package that the employee would be willing to accept.

Involuntary termination occurs when the employer chooses to no longer retain an employee either because of performance, violation of company policy, an inability to pay the employee, or other reasons.

In the case of voluntary termination, things are more likely to end on good terms. For involuntary termination, a company should keep the following things in mind to prevent conflict or other issues.

What to Include in Your Policy

While you are not required to clarify why you are terminating an employee, you should be prepared to answer questions. These clarifications may help to keep emotions in check and protect you from accusations related to wrongful termination or discrimination. Here are steps to take during a termination meeting.

  1. Make it clear that the decision has been made and the date and time of termination.
  2. Cite key facts (lateness, work performance, behavior, etc.)
  3. Review the benefits packages if applicable, including how they will receive their last check or any unpaid vacation time.
  4. How to request references.
  5. Review non-disclosure or non-compete clauses that are in effect.
  6. What will happen following the meeting (gathering belonging, communication with co-workers, exit interviews, etc.)
  7. Contact numbers if there are issues following termination.

These are not required, but these may be enough to give the employee more understanding or acceptance. During the meeting, bring in the employee’s direct supervisor, and an HR representative or other witness.

What to Avoid

The worst thing an employer can do is enter into a termination meeting unprepared. While all 50 states are “at-will,” meaning an employer can terminate an employee for any reason (the sound of their voice included), doing so without covering all of your bases will make it easier for an employee to retaliate legally. Here are a few examples of where some companies get it wrong.

  • Failure to review contractual terms.
  • Inconsistencies in employee handbooks. 
  • Written or verbal agreements that the employee used as guidance to their own detriment (the employee may claim unfair termination in this case).
  • Defamation of employee after termination, especially when making a statement in response to a reference inquiry (it is best to only state their start and end dates and not further clarify anything), or when announcing termination to co-workers.
  • Invasive or humiliating searches of the employee’s body or personal belongings during an investigation into misconduct or when walking the employee from the building.
  • Causing emotional distress (beyond the normal explanation of termination or a reasonable request of return of company belongings).
  • Conspiring to get an employee fired or preventing them from getting a new job without justification to do so.
  • Termination of an employee following unreasonable requests that made it impossible to perform the job at a satisfactory level.
  • Violation of equal employment opportunity laws.
  • Not addressing issues related to unfair treatment or discrimination.
  • Not providing employment records at the request of the employee.

Having a good employment termination policy begins with each new hire. Clearly outline expectations for employment, perform background checks, call references, and keep all business discussions professional. Additionally, each year the employer should review the handbook and any new updates and perform reviews that make it clear where employees are doing well and could do better to ensure that there is evidence of problems that can be used to support termination later.

How to Protect the Company

Broadly speaking, the above are clear steps that make up the majority of a good termination policy. Working with an HR representative to fine-tune policies is important in determining the specific needs of your company.

Print off and use the following checklist if you are looking for more detailed information if you are looking to more closely grasp what is important for an employment termination policy.

Should Genetic Alteration of Babies be Allowed?

In 2018, a Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, genetically altered the DNA of embryos before implantation into two women. Both women were married to husbands with HIV, and the changes made to the DNA of the embryos would potentially make any offspring resistant to the virus. 

Both women gave birth to children that are believed to be healthy. After Jiankui announced the birth, he was arrested and pleaded guilty to violating regulations in China that expressly forbid applying gene-editing technology to human reproductive medicine.

In America, like in China, there are divisions between some members of the scientific community and the government about the use of genetic engineering on the cells that will one day grow into a baby. In 2019, the House Appropriations Committee voted to continue a ban on genetically modified babies in the United States. Representatives of the House did not uphold the ban without reservation, with some saying they hoped the issue would be reconsidered in the future.

Researchers who oppose the ban say that it is overreaching and could stifle research that could prevent genetic disease.

So should we outright ban this research, or should America become a leader in this field of research?

Designer Babies

The goal of gene editing is to make changes to DNA that could, among other things, potentially reduce or eliminate the risk of disease in a person’s life. This is similar in concept to what the agriculture sector has been doing for years with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that can produce crops resistant to drought and disease.

It is hard to argue with preventing disease in future generations or ending hunger. Except, there is a chance of “getting it wrong.” If we mess up the genetic information of a corn seed and the plant fails to grow properly, we can get a different seed and try again. In a human, any defects in the modified cell could be devastating. Once the modified cell begins to multiply, a fix would require injecting the original and all future cells with the updated genetic information – no easy feat when we are talking about trillions of cells in adults.

Assuming the best-case scenario, and all genetically altered babies grow into healthy adults, people could begin using genetic engineering for vanity or other means. One consideration is how genetic alteration may lead to the creation of a market for consumers (likely the wealthy) to choose the traits that they want in their offspring.

Do you want your child to grow up and look like Idris Elba or Bella Hadid? Would you like them to be over six-feet tall so they have a greater chance of excelling in sports? Perhaps you would like them to have an IQ above 200. This is one direction that we can take with designer babies, and although it is currently the stuff of science fiction, we may only be a few decades from it being possible.

Should Research Move Forward?

Britain is currently the only country that has approved research into altering genetic information in embryos. However, the law states that they must only use genetic testing to understand human development and to improve fertility treatments and prevent miscarriages. Once modified, the embryo must be destroyed after seven days.

Interestingly, according to Pew Research, U.S. adults are in favor of changing a baby’s genes to treat a serious congenital disease; however, an overwhelming majority rejected the idea if it would make the baby more intelligent. The same research also shows that the majority of people are against gene editing that relies on embryonic testing.

For now, we probably shouldn’t try to alter the DNA of cells that will become a baby until we know it is safe. Except we aren’t doing that because of the laws that prevent it.

To move forward, we need to publicly speak about how we could use genetics research for good, and establish oversight to ensure that people aren’t putting future generations at risk by making broad changes to genes that would lead to unforeseen health problems and inequality in society. In this way, hopefully, we would also quell fears about how modifying genetic information of cells could be used to make “vanity babies.”

The fact is we can only control what our country does. There is nothing stopping another nation from moving ahead and implanting modified embryos in women. If America became a leader in this field of research, we may be able to control the narrative and rules governing its application.