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Noah Smith @Noahpinion
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Now at a Brookings session on bringing econ research into public policy discussions, with @JayCShambaugh! Very interesting.
The session is basically a series of papers demonstrating how to explain research results in a way the general public will understand!

This is relevant to my own job..
First paper is Matthew Marx talking about noncompetes.

Great explanation of how noncompetes are a reaction to job mobility and the rise of contingent employment. Companies are trying to clamp down on workers' use of their own knowledge and skills.
Noncompete policy is made at the state level, and some states actually make it easier to use and enforce them.

Why would you strengthen noncompetes? Are you insane???
Well, the answer is that governments are captured by businesses, which want to suppress workers' outside options.

But it's a poisoned chalice. Noncompetes help individual businesses but hurt businesses overall because knowledge and skills can't flow between companies.
What's worse than actual enforcement of noncompetes is the chilling effect. People are afraid their employer will sue them and win, even if that's actually unlikely.
Some states like MA are reforming noncompetes to limit them significantly. That's fine, but there's no reason to take such half measures. Just ban the damn things!!!
Insight from Matthew Marx (the presenter): Descriptive statistics are very powerful when talking to lawmakers. Causal identification less so.
His advice is consistent with my own experience. A simple time series graph will always be the most attention-getting evidence.
Now Jesse Rothstein is talking about EITC expansion.

EITC is really good btw
EITC does two things:
1) provide income support for poor people
2) incentivize work

It does both of these very effectively.
Lots of evidence that EITC improves maternal health, reduces frequency of low birth weight, raises kids' test scores and raises college enrollment.

Slam dunk policy
Rothstein doesn't mention this but EITC also goes great with minimum wage. Minwage helps employees capture more of the EITC money (which tends to lower wages). And EITC makes minimum wage less likely to bind (and thus less likely to kill jobs).
Anyone who tries to tell you "EITC is better than minimum wage" is feeding you a line. It's like saying pumpkin pie is better than whipped cream.
Now Ryan Nunn is talking about the U.S.' bizarrely low investment in early childhood education.
Nunn is now discussing the child care tax credit (which is a good idea).
Currently, child care tax credits go to rich people more. A good idea is to shift them so that they go more toward poor people.
A discussant is talking about how progressives have turned from targeted policies like EITC toward regulatory policies like minimum wage...but why is he contrasting the two when they go so well together? I hate hate hate this false alternative.
In general Brookings is great at illustrating who benefits from policies, and focusing on which things benefit the poor the most.

I feel like progressive activists sometimes forget this, focusing instead on policies that would demonstrate their power and dismay their enemies.
But Brookings also seems frustratingly fixated on the idea of crafting policies they think could get bipartisan support, when in fact this is a total fantasy. This is not the 90s. The GOP is not going to do anything that helps the poor, period.
Focusing on targeting help to the people who need it most = good.

Making preemptive concessions in order to chase bipartisan cooperation that will probably never materialize = not so good.
Then again I never worked in Washington so what do I know!

It just seems like recent experience makes the prospect of 90s-style bipartisan policy victories like the EITC seem highly unlikely.
But I also wish more progressive activists would think harder about what really benefits the poor, as opposed to what gives them the most triumphant feeling of having dunked on the rich...

To be fair to Brookings, one of the panelists does say that in a polarized moment like ours, there's no room for bipartisanship or technocratic smart govt, so we're bound to end up with cruder policies.

BUT, that's the federal level. The state level might be better.
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