STOREY COUNTY, Nev. — You can’t ride the wild mustangs at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Nevada, but you’re nearly guaranteed to see bands of them loping over sagebrush in a scene that feels straight out of the 1800s.
At least until the dust clears and Tesla’s 5.3-million-square-foot “Gigafactory” comes into focus.
Welcome to the Silver State, where Elon Musk, a cryptocurrency tycoon and a brothel owner are using a symbol of Americana as a social media recruiting tool.
The water cooler used to be the spot in the office to talk shop. Then came on-site cafes, fitness and yoga studios, rooftop gardens, fire pits and rock-climbing walls. “The overarching trend of the last five years has been the hotelification of the office,” said Lenny Beaudoin, an executive managing director at CBRE.
For employers, the newest amenities to wow workers are ideological, with environmental commitments topping the list, said Jason H. Somers, the president of Crest Real Estate, a Southern California real estate consultancy.
progress by corporate giants, but most efforts remain so opaque that it’s tough to spot greenwashing, the use of sustainability efforts to appear more attractive.
Embracing high environmental standards can be challenging and expensive. Some companies pay others to reduce emissions. Others plant trees, which can take years to grow and rely heavily on water and care.
Tesla used a $1.3 billion state tax break to build its $5 billion factory, tapping into a local work force still reeling from the Great Recession and ushering in a wave of Silicon Valley heavies. Switch, a technology infrastructure company, set up three data centers, then Google gobbled up 1,200 acres. Blockchains bought 67,000 acres for $170 million in 2018, becoming the park’s biggest tenant.
hoped to transform the expanse into an experimental city run by his encrypted digital systems. He pledged to build 15,000 homes, turning it into a huge innovation zone, with his company overseeing everything from schools to courts, law and water.
“I want this to become the greatest social experiment in the history of the world,” he said. “It’s going to be a cross between Disneyland and the chocolate factory from Willy Wonka.”
He’ll have to rethink the scope: In March, the county voted against the secession plan.
Mr. Berns says he plans to develop around 25,000 of his 67,000 acres, but for now, it will remain an outpost for wild horses.
Nevada is home to more than half of the country’s 95,000 wild horses and burros, descendants of animals brought to the continent by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. Managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management to the tune of about $100 million annually, wild horses live on protected and private land crisscrossed by freeways.
Wild Horse Connection, an advocacy group. “Horses in traffic, on the wrong side of fencing, vehicular, train accidents, sick or ill horses.”
Rescues triple once mares start foaling, said Ms. Vance, whose annual budget is about $100,000, including small donations from the office park and tenants. She says further expansion depletes open spaces and decreases grazing areas.
“Horses have migration patterns, and when a development comes in, it cuts that off and there’s more interactions with people,” she said.
One solution is humane horse fertility so the animals, which can spend up to 16 hours a day eating, don’t overpopulate and overgraze.
American Wild Horse Campaign, has worked with the office park since 2012, spending more than $200,000 on fertility control, water and feeding in the last three years.
“Development displaces wildlife,” she said. Water stations help, she said, as does an underground crossing built by Switch.
But the horses will not offset the park’s overall carbon footprint, said Simon Fischweicher, the North American head of corporations and supply chains at CDP. Tenants like Tesla, whose lithium-ion batteries are costly to mine and nearly impossible to recycle, require a lot of energy.
Switch is installing its own solar panels, and there are two green fuel plants on site, but distribution and data centers use large amounts of water for heating and cooling, and “supply chain emissions are on average 11.4 times higher than operational emissions,” Mr. Fischweicher said.
Others question the need to use the horses as a lure. Mr. Thompson says most of the roughly 25,000 workers at the office park are blue-collar Nevadans living within an hour commute. They’re here for jobs, not because of horses.
Growth for the industrial park means luring workers from out of state, expanding limited housing nearby and developing more land — all of which jeopardize the wildlife incentive.
“Quality of food, retail choices and housing are going to shape those decisions more than having wild horses nearby,” Mr. Beaudoin of CBRE said. “I would never bet against someone like Elon Musk, but there are other factors to attract workers.”
When these sorts of companies enact work-life policies, why don’t they seem to stick?
Look at the reward structure. You have an OK base salary, but then the bonus is allocated based on how you’re stacking up at the end of the year against your peers. It’s like a tournament. It’s like a race. And all you know is that the people next to you, against whom you will be measured, are just as smart as you. They work just as hard. And so the only lever you have is try to outwork them. These reward structures perpetuate this work ethic.
When an organization says “we value work-life balance, we want our people to not work on weekends, we want blah blah blah” — there is still this competitive structure where people have an incentive to work all they can because others are doing the same thing, and only winners get rewarded.
Churning through talent may work for a company. But you found that many employees choose these grueling schedules, even when they come at great personal cost. One associate told you: “I work hard because I want to.”
The people who get hired at banks have been through performance competitions all their lives. When I talk to students at the beginning of their undergraduate career and ask them, “what do you want to be?” very few want to go into banking.
So what happens? When these firms descend onto campus, people start competing because that’s what they have been conditioned to do throughout their lives. They chase after what everyone else chases after, regardless of whether they actually care about the work. Regardless of whether there are consequences or not, these people want to win.
This is maybe the final part that locks people into these intense work schedules. It is the idea that there is a cadre of individuals who are the best and brightest, and if you don’t keep up the pace you’ll end up at some kind of second-tier firm — part of an undefinable “rest.”
What’s so bad about that?
The people in the best and the brightest group, they have opportunities, they earn a lot, they work with other interesting people, they work on global deals. The rest push paper with uninteresting colleagues and over time, you’ll become like them. That’s what people sincerely believe. They believe that if you don’t work for an elite organization, you fall into an abyss of personal social status descent.
Ethel Gabriel, who in more than 40 years at RCA Victor is thought to have produced thousands of records, many at a time when almost no women were doing that work at major labels, died on March 23 in Rochester, N.Y. She was 99.
Her nephew, Ed Mauro, her closest living relative, confirmed her death.
Ms. Gabriel began working at RCA’s plant in Camden, N.J., in 1940 while a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. One of her early jobs was as a record tester — she would pull one in every 500 records and listen to it for manufacturing imperfections.
“If it was a hit,” she told The Pocono Record of Pennsylvania in 2007, “I got to know every note because I had to play it over and over and over.”
She also had a music background — she played trombone and had her own dance band in the 1930s and early ’40s — and her skill set earned her more and more responsibility, as well as the occasional role in shaping music history. She said she was on hand at the 1955 meeting in which the RCA executive Stephen Sholes signed Elvis Presley, who had been with Sun Records. She had a hand in “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” the 1955 instrumental hit by Pérez Prado that helped ignite a mambo craze in the United States.
Caroline Losneck and Christoph Gelfand, documentary filmmakers, were at work on “Living Sound,” a film about her.
Ms. Losneck, in a phone interview, said they had been hoping to complete the documentary by Ms. Gabriel’s 100th birthday this November.
Ms. Losneck said Ms. Gabriel had survived in a tough business through productivity and competence.
“She knew who to call when she needed an organist,” she said. “She knew how to manage the budget. All that gave her a measure of control.”
Many of the records Ms. Gabriel made fit into a category often marginalized as elevator music.
“It’s easy to look back on that music now and say it was kind of cheesy,” Ms. Losneck said, “but back then it was part of the cultural landscape.”
Toward the end of her career, as more women began entering the field, Ms. Gabriel was both an example and a mentor. Nancy Jeffries, who went to work in RCA’s artists-and-repertoire department in 1974 and had earlier sung with the band the Insect Trust, was one of those who learned from her.
who persuaded her to turn over to him her retirement package — more than $250,000 — so that he could invest it in the hope that the proceeds would finance future music ventures. The money disappeared, and Mr. Anderson, who died in 1989, was later convicted of tax evasion.
Ms. Gabriel lived in the Poconos for a number of years before moving to a care center in Rochester to be near Mr. Mauro and his family. As she died at a hospital there, Mr. Mauro said, the staff had Sinatra songs playing in her room.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, stressed on Thursday that even as economic prospects look brighter in the United States, getting the world vaccinated and controlling the coronavirus pandemic remain critical to the global outlook.
“Viruses are no respecters of borders,” Mr. Powell said while speaking on an International Monetary Fund panel. “Until the world, really, is vaccinated, we’re all going to be at risk of new mutations and we won’t be able to really resume activity with confidence all around the world.”
While some advanced economies, including the United States, are moving quickly toward widespread vaccination, many emerging market countries lag far behind: Some have administered as little as one dose per 1,000 residents.
Mr. Powell joined a chorus of global policy officials in emphasizing how important it is that all nations — not just the richest ones — are able to widely protect against the coronavirus. Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said policymakers needed to remain focused on public health as the key policy priority.
fresh data showed that state jobless claims climbed last week. Mr. Powell pointed out that the burden is falling heavily on those least able to bear it: Lower-income service workers, who are heavily minorities and women, have been hit hard by the job losses.
raising corporate taxes.
“For quite some time, we have been in favor of more investment in infrastructure. It helps to boost productivity here in the United States,” Ms. Georgieva said, calling climate-focused and “social infrastructure” provisions positive. She said they had not had a chance to fully assess the plan, but “broadly speaking, yes, we do support it.”
But the White House’s plan has already run into resistance from Republicans and some moderate Democrats, who are wary of raising taxes or engaging in another big spending package after several large stimulus bills.
Some commentators have warned that besides expanding the nation’s debt load, the government’s virus spending — particularly the recent $1.9 trillion stimulus package — could cause the economy to overheat. Fed officials have been less worried.
“There’s a difference between essentially a one-time increase in prices and persistent inflation,” Mr. Powell said on Thursday. “The nature of a bottleneck is that it will be resolved.”
If price gains and inflation expectations moved up “materially,” he said, the Fed would react.
“We don’t think that’s the most likely outcome,” he said.
President Biden last week named 11 people he plans to nominate to serve on federal courts, more than any recent president this early in his term. Nine are women, three are Black women and one would become the country’s first Muslim federal judge.
I spoke to Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent and the author of a book about Trump-era fights over the judiciary, about why Biden is rushing to shape the courts and how judges became so central to American politics. Our conversation has been condensed.
Ian: Donald Trump’s judicial appointments were a big part of his presidency, and now Biden seems to be making filling vacancies a priority. Why have the courts become so important?
Carl: Because the courts are deciding our political fights now. Climate change, voting rights, immigration, redistricting: Because the legislative branch is so stuck, the courts are getting to be the arbiters. They’ve been amplified as a political issue because of their increased importance in deciding big, cutting-edge issues.
put 220-some judges on there — many of them very conservative, most of them white males and some of them with very little legal experience — the Biden folks concluded they needed to get different kinds of people on the courts.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, has a totally white lineup of judges. So Biden picked Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, who is a Black woman and a former federal public defender. Public defenders see the federal courts from another side — from the perspective of the defendant. That’s a big change. I think Biden wanted to make a statement about the kinds of judges he wants: people with different life and legal experiences.
There are currently 68 vacancies, with another 26 scheduled to open this year. Does that limit how transformative Biden can be?
The transformation is going to be in the types of judges. Biden is going to have a hard time matching Trump’s numbers, which were over four years. And that was a concerted campaign by Mitch McConnell, to the exclusion of many other things.
a bigger point of emphasis because of Trump. Democrats watched what Senator McConnell did so successfully, and they are eager to replicate that from the other end of the ideological spectrum. Trump’s going to have people on the bench for 30 years, maybe 40. There’s still a few Reagan judges out there.
Trump appointed three justices to the Supreme Court. Many Democrats hope that Stephen Breyer, who is 82 and one of the court’s three remaining liberals, will retire soon. Does that seem like Biden’s best hope to fill a seat?
We’ll see what happens. A lot of Democrats don’t want to get caught in this Ruth Bader Ginsburg situation again. And Justice Breyer is an extremely smart guy, and also a political guy. He knows what’s going on here.
THE LATEST NEWS
Suzanne Nossel argues in Foreign Policy.
“A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected,” John Boehner, a Republican who served as House speaker, writes in Politico Magazine about the right’s paranoid turn. (Warning: Profanity abounds.)
A New SoHo: It was a haven for artists. Now it’s full of luxury storefronts. What’s next? Maybe affordable housing.
Lives Lived: Winfred Rembert survived a near-lynching in rural Georgia in 1967. He learned to carve figures into leather while in prison, and later became a renowned artist whose work told the story of the Jim Crow South. He died at 75.
writes in The Times.
The pandemic has left many reeling from a loss of health, of income, of loved ones or of a normal way of life. Though circumstances vary, the mood is often similar.
“When people are under a long period of chronic, unpredictable stress, they develop behavioral anhedonia” — a reduced ability to take pleasure in activities — Margaret Wehrenberg, an expert on anxiety, said. “And so they get lethargic, and they show a lack of interest — and obviously that plays a huge role in productivity.”
How are people trying to cope? Some are meditating, turning to alcohol or edibles, going for walks or re-engaging with a spiritual practice. Others are finding pockets of joy where they can — sending postcards, exchanging gifts with neighbors or adopting pets. And some have embraced the notion that it’s all right not to be productive during a period of major global upheaval.
“You’re supposed to be inventing something or coming up with the next big business idea,” one person told The Times last year. “I’m trying to be more OK with just being.”
What to Watch
The Korean star Yuh-Jung Youn has had a thriving career for five decades. Now, at 73, she’s up for an Oscar for her role in “Minari.” She spoke with The Times about her career.
Explore the hidden details of this stunning 17th-century portrait of the emperor who built the Taj Mahal.
Daniel Kaluuya, star of “Get Out” and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” hosted “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend. Here’s a recap.
Now Time to Play
And Friday’s Bee Plus answer: CHINA, CHIA, ECHINACEA
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Gas that comes down as rain on Jupiter (four letters).
“So many things seem like so much more work than my brain can possibly manage,” she said: sending routine emails, brushing her teeth after every meal, reading a novel. She has started drinking coffee from a mug that says, “Apathy Is the Best Whatever.”
“It feels like the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, bouncing around you in a sort of circle. I feel like I’ve done all of them at least twice,” she said. At least she loves her job, she added. “And I’m fine — I’m not dead.”
Natasha Rajah, a professor of psychiatry at McGill University who specializes in memory and the brain, said the longevity of the pandemic — endless monotony laced with acute anxiety — had contributed to a sense that time was moving differently, as if this past year were a long, hazy, exhausting experience lasting forever and no time at all. The stress and tedium, she said, have dulled our ability to form meaningful new memories.
“There’s definitely a change in how people are reporting memories and cognitive experiences,” Professor Rajah said. “They have fewer rich details about their personal memories, and more negative content to their memories.” This means, she said, that people may be having a harder time forming working memories and paying attention, with “a reduced ability to hold things in their minds, manipulate thoughts and plan for the future.”
Add to that a general loneliness, social isolation, anxiety and depression, she said, and it is not surprising that they are having trouble focusing on their work.
“Honestly, weirdly, sometimes when I’m writing I just stop and stare at the wall,” said Valerie M., a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology in Michigan who asked that her full name not be used because she did not want her employers to hear how her workdays are going. “The staring at the wall contributes to the time warp. I’m like, ‘I spent the whole day, and I really didn’t do anything.’ Not that I did anything fun, either. It’s like, ‘Wow, I don’t even know what I did.’”
Prolonged stress will do that to you, said Mike Yassa, professor of neuroscience and the director of the UCI Brain Initiative at the University of California, Irvine. “Stress is OK in small amounts, but when it extends over time it’s very dangerous,” he said. “It disrupts our cycles of sleep and our regular routines in things like exercise and physical activity — all these things make it very difficult for the body to be resilient.”
Professional athletes can sell almost anything, from soda to sneakers to car insurance. But lately they’ve used their star power to sell SPACs, the blank-check acquisition vehicles that have raised more than $90 billion this year. Amid frenzied competition for merger deals, about a fifth of SPACs launched since last year have brought athletes on board in hopes of standing out when pitching to start-ups they hope to take public, Matthew Goldstein and DealBook’s Lauren Hirsch report.
Alex Rodriguez is one of the highest-profile athletes in the SPAC business, and he stands out because unlike many of his peers merely adding their names to someone else’s SPAC, he founded his own. Slam Corp, established by the former baseball slugger and the hedge fund manager Himanshu Gulati, has met with more than 70 potential targets since it raised $500 million in a February I.P.O. Mr. Rodriguez could sit on the board of whatever company it acquires. He and his business partner spoke with Lauren about their plans — below are exclusive excerpts from their conversation.
On running a public company …
Mr. Rodriguez formed the investment firm A-Rod Corp in 1996, but a listed company brings a new set of responsibilities. Is he ready?
“I think you do it collectively, you do it with the team,” said Mr. Rodriguez, pointing to his frequent communication with Mr. Gulati. And when it comes to understanding the fiduciary duties involved, he said that his long career at the Yankees brought him experience at “the ultimate public company,” where the shareholders, so to speak, were the outspoken fans of the storied franchise.
$1.7 billion bid for the Mets lost out to Steve Cohen’s $2.4 billion offer. “The silver lining for me is the trust that people put on us, and that doesn’t go to waste just because you didn’t win,” Mr. Rodriguez said, referring to himself and the pop star Jennifer Lopez, who joined him on the bid. “I think that’s something that brings tremendous credibility.”
On the S.E.C.’s warning about SPACs pitched by celebrities …
The U.S. securities regulator recently told investors not to buy shares of a SPAC simply because boldface names are attached to it. Many SPACs bring celebrities on as directors or advisers, Mr. Gulati said, and “they’re just there to kind of help them raise capital.” At Slam Corp, he said, “Alex is the C.E.O. — what he’s done at A-Rod Corp should not be understated.”
“I just want to stand up for the athlete community, because there’s so many smart young men and women. I would be lucky to have them as partners,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We have a reach, and it’s not just domestic, it’s global,” he said, in reference to himself and Ms. Lopez.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
WeWork is going public via a SPAC. The office sharing company agreed to a deal with the blank-check company BowX Acquisition that values WeWork at $9 billion. That’s less than a quarter of its valuation in 2019. The venture firm behind the SPAC counts Shaquille O’Neal as an adviser.
struggling to free the container ship that has been wedged in the vital waterway since Tuesday, creating a huge, costly traffic jam that exposes the world economy’s reliance on just-in-time supply chains.
Lawmakers get few direct answers when grilling tech C.E.O.s. At the five-hour hearing on disinformation, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey acknowledged that his platform bore some responsibility for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai disagreed on whether regulatory changes were needed. Lawmakers were unimpressed: “There’s a lot of smugness among you,” said one.
Chinese consumers boycott several foreign brands. H&M, Nike, Adidas and others face retaliation from shoppers — egged on by the Communist Party — after they joined calls to avoid using cotton produced in the Xinjiang region, where Beijing has waged a repression campaign against ethnic minorities. Shares in Chinese apparel brands with ties to Xinjiang have rallied.
Banks can resume buybacks and raise dividends this summer. After the Fed’s next round of stress tests ends in June, most institutions will be allowed to resume share repurchases and increase dividends that were frozen during the pandemic, assuming they have sufficient capital.
A TV debut (on the public markets)
Over its nearly 20-year history, Vizio has become one of the biggest names in flat-screen TVs. But as it began life as a publicly listed company yesterday, its founder and C.E.O., William Wang, was eager to convince investors that its biggest business is in streaming on its smart TVs.
Lockdowns were good for Vizio. With people stuck at home and movie theaters closed, TVs have been in high demand: The company shipped 7.1 million units last year, up 20 percent from 2019. More important from Vizio’s perspective, it saw a 60 percent increase in accounts for SmartCast, its platform for connecting to streaming services like Apple+ and Netflix. “I think the biggest impact of the pandemic is forcing people to look at home entertainment again,” Mr. Wang told DealBook.
paid $2.2 million to settle charges that it collected and sold users’ data without their knowledge or consent. It doesn’t offer every streaming service — it’s missing HBO Max, for example — and faces competition from Roku, Apple TV and other smart TV makers.
The time was right for an I.P.O. Vizio tried to go public in 2015, but called it off after agreeing to sell itself to a Chinese rival (only for that deal to fall apart). Now that it makes money from both TV sales and streaming, Mr. Wang said, Vizio is more attractive to public-market investors. That said, the I.P.O. priced at the low end of its expected range, and fell 9 percent in the first day of trading. The C.E.O. put a positive spin on it: “We’re probably the leader in the space in consumer electronics. I believe sooner or later people will appreciate that.”
In the papers
Some of the academic research that caught our eye this week, summarized in one sentence:
The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships,” which was published by McGraw-Hill Education this week.
Ms. McPherson spoke to DealBook about making connections during a pandemic that has physically estranged so many. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
DealBook: Has your view of technology changed?
Ms. McPherson: The past year helped us all understand how much we miss human connection when we don’t have it. Some days I‘ve showed up at a team meeting and a part of me just felt like crying. So I’ve learned to expose more of that vulnerability and how to be more empathetic and compassionate online, which freed up my team, too. Now, I think we can be better stewards of technology and make those deep connections if we’re intentional about it.
Britain’s competition watchdog is worried about the “supply of GIFs” after Facebook’s acquisition of the animated-image site Giphy. (Reuters)
Are the bond vigilantes back? (NYT)
Politics and policy
The S.E.C. has opened an inquiry into the SPAC craze, asking underwriters about their risk-management processes. (Reuters)
Georgia Republicans passed sweeping voting restrictions, drawing the ire of President Biden.(NYT)
The Supreme Court made it easier for consumers to sue companies, ruling that it doesn’t matter if a manufacturer has a substantial presence in the state where an injury happened. (NYT)
The crypto token linked to a Times column sold at auction for $560,000, with the proceeds going to charity. (NYT)
A labor board said Tesla illegally fired a worker involved in union organizing and ordered Elon Musk to delete a threatening tweet. (NYT)
Best of the rest
“Using Shame, Lending Apps in India Squeeze Billions Out of the Desperate” (NYT)
The actress Jessica Walter, who played Lucille Bluth, the martini-swilling matriarch of a dysfunctional business family on “Arrested Development,” died at 80 in Manhattan. (NYT)
Will the popularity of five-star meal kits from fine-dining establishments persist after the pandemic? (Bloomberg Opinion)
We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON — After a two-month, $2 trillion sprint to pass aid for an economy still hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic, President Biden is finally set to detail his “Build Back Better” agenda next week in Pittsburgh. Its name, carried over from the 2020 campaign, has become a catchall phrase that cabinet officials and junior aides use to describe all manner of plans to overhaul American capitalism.
In the weeks ahead, the president’s strategic choices will show the country what “building” really means, to him.
Mr. Biden’s forthcoming proposals, which aides and documents suggest could cost as much as $4 trillion over the next decade, are a pivot to the core economic agenda he campaigned on: rebuilding infrastructure, revitalizing America’s competitiveness in emerging industries and reducing the barriers that hold back men of color and women in the workplace.
Mr. Biden will have the benefit of momentum in pushing them, and of a political moment that seems ripe for another large spending bill. Democrats are riding high on the public approval ratings for their coronavirus relief bill across the country. Even the most conservative Democrats in the Senate are eager to spend big again to address infrastructure concerns that have festered for a decade, and to combat widened income inequality that has helped fuel the rise of populist politicians in both parties.
low-carbon energy economy.
toured the Mississippi River to celebrate projects built with money from an $800 billion economic stimulus bill that had passed seven years before. He stopped at a port, a bus and train terminal, and a rail yard where he declared, “I’m a railroad guy.”
In his campaign, he spoke frequently of the need to build more in the United States to improve the economy and better compete with international rivals like China in a host of emerging industries like fifth-generation cellular networks, known as 5G, and advanced battery manufacturing. Like President Donald J. Trump before him, he has set ambitious goals to reverse a decades-long slide in American factory employment, pledging to create at least five million new jobs in manufacturing and innovation. Aides say he is particularly fond of repeating his pledge to install 500,000 electric-car charging stations across the country.
The “Build Back Better” plan that his economic advisers recommended Mr. Biden pursue this week would lead with those physical investments: a combination of spending and tax incentives on traditional infrastructure, high-growth industry cultivation and carbon-reducing energy investment that documents suggest could top $2 trillion.
But Mr. Biden’s economic advisers emphasize that the economy needs more than construction to increase productivity and achieve the president’s goals. They argue that it also needs investments in education, like universal prekindergarten and free community college, and in efforts to relieve the burdens of caring for family that often hamper working women. Those initiatives are included in the second half of the proposal that aides took to Mr. Biden this week, along with extensions of newly expanded tax credits meant to fight poverty.
stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.
Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more
This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.
There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.
The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.
“This next package is really about investing in our future and making the kind of smart investments that we know will increase growth,” Ms. Rouse said at a White House news briefing. “And we want that growth to be widely shared.”
“These aren’t simply women’s issues,” she said. “They affect all families, the ability of our economy to recover and our nation’s competitiveness.”
Inside the administration, aides disagree on the likelihood that both halves of the plan — the physical piece and the human piece — could pass Congress this year. Some see hope that Republicans, spurred by the business community, could join an effort with Democrats to muster 60 votes to pass a bill that spends heavily on roads, bridges, water systems and other traditional infrastructure. Some Democrats, like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key swing vote, have insisted that Republicans be involved in the effort.
But most Democrats in and outside the White House see little chance, if any, of a large bipartisan bill taking shape. They point to early opposition from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who has called the proposals a likely “Trojan horse” for tax increases, and whose aides have begun labeling them a “Green New Deal” in disguise, even before Mr. Biden releases the details.
Lobbyists following the process closely expect Mr. Biden to allow Senate moderates to effectively test the proposition, giving them a fixed time to line up 10 Republicans behind an ambitious infrastructure bill that would almost certainly need to be financed by something other than the tax increases on the wealthy and corporations that the administration favors.
At the same time, Democratic leaders will most likely prepare to move at least one part of Mr. Biden’s plans quickly through the budget reconciliation process, which allows senators to skirt the filibuster and pass legislation with a bare majority, as they did for the coronavirus relief bill. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said in an interview that he is drawing up legislative text for tax increases to fund the Biden spending: “I’m going to start rolling out specific proposals so that people can have ideas about how they might proceed,” he said.
Moving on a party-line basis could leave all or most of the “human” programs behind, some in the administration fear. But analysts in Washington suggest many of them could eventually be rolled into an epic, single bill, perhaps costing $3 trillion and offset in part by tax increases on corporations and the rich, which would pass with only Democratic votes.
The idea, said Jon Lieber, a former aide to Mr. McConnell who is now managing director, United States, for the Eurasia Group in Washington, is that by moving fast and aggressively, Mr. Biden might be able to strong-arm even reluctant Democrats, who see their political fates tied to the continuing success of the administration in the polls.
The odds of a large bill passing this year, Mr. Lieber said, are “very, very, very, very good. What would stop them?”
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Walmart announced last month that it was raising pay for some of its lowest-wage workers. Investors responded by pummeling its shares, sending them down by more than 6 percent on the day.
That wasn’t quite as bad as in 2015, when the retailer’s stock dropped 10 percent after it said a wage increase would cut into profits.
$13.5 billion in profit in its most recent fiscal year.
Chief executives have in recent years publicly pronounced their commitment to “stakeholder capitalism” and “doing well by doing good.” But when it comes to paying workers a wage that can support their families, investors send executives a clear message: increase pay at your peril.
This is a problem. Worker compensation as a percentage of our national output has declined for decades, and especially steeply since 2000. Low-wage workers at companies including Amazon, McDonald’s and Walmart rely on public assistance such as food stamps to make ends meet, according to an October report from the Government Accountability Office. A shocking 30 percent of Americans couldn’t easily come up with $400 on their own in an emergency, and women and people of color generally earn less than their peers.
But two new books highlight good ideas for how to more fairly allocate pay, some new and others fallen into disuse. They can maybe even help investors to accept that reallocation.
Just Work,” Ms. Scott, a former Apple and Google executive, calls on managers to identify the gaps in pay between gender, racial and ethnic groups. “Unless you believe that white men are superior to others and that’s why they’re paid more, it’s impossible to believe that bias is not a factor,” she writes. American women, for example, make only about 85 percent of what men earn.
at Buffer, a social-media tools company, for example, and also at many government agencies. “More companies are finding that the simplest way to address pay disparity is to take the mystery out of the process,” Ms. Scott writes.
Ms. Scott also calls on business leaders to look at the spread between executives’ compensation and that of their lowest-paid employees. Research shows that raising low-wage workers’ compensation is one of the most effective ways to narrow the persistent racial pay gap. “If you are in charge of compensation, you can pay people who get paid less more and people who get paid most less,” Ms. Scott writes. “I’m not talking communism; I’m talking common human decency.”
Some companies are thinking similarly. Costco recently raised its starting wage to $16 per hour, from $15. The retailer has long been a case study for how higher wages can be a good business strategy, reducing employee turnover and theft, and improving customer service. Best Buy and Target both raised minimum pay to $15 per hour last year. Amazon says it benefited from higher staff morale and retention, and a significant jump in job applications after it raised starting pay to $15 per hour for all U.S. employees in 2018.
PayPal in recent years began focusing on employee financial health, including a metric it calls net disposable income, or what staff have left after taxes and necessary living expenses. It raised salaries and the company’s health-insurance contributions for its lowest-paid workers, which resulted in higher employee satisfaction and retention.
You’re Paid What You’re Worth.” One of the biggest myths is that what we’re paid reflects our performance, argues Mr. Rosenfeld, a professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.
In theory, workers should be paid based on how much money a business generates thanks to their work, and for some rainmakers that may be clear. But that’s often not the case. Mr. Rosenfeld blames several structural factors for undermining the tie between the value workers contribute to their employer’s revenue and their compensation, including noncompete agreements, opacity around salaries and company performance and market concentration.
Beyond that, Mr. Rosenfeld makes the provocative contention that measuring most individual workers’ performance is fruitless. “For many jobs today, the whole effort to measure marginal productivity is misguided — not because the right tools haven’t been developed, but because there is no way to disentangle the productivity of one worker from that of others in the organization,” he writes.
He argues that even when it’s possible to tie individual performance to revenue, as with salespeople and lawyers, performance-based pay has deep flaws, such as generating cutthroat competition between colleagues.
If performance-based compensation is so problematic, what’s the alternative? One possibility is to link pay to the performance of the whole company. Profit-sharing programs, where companies give a percentage of earnings to employees, were common in the United States before the 1980s, but have mostly disappeared since.
Mr. Rosenfeld also suggests an approach unlikely to have fans among younger workers: pay based on seniority. It strips managers of their ability to play favorites, diminishes the impact of bias and rewards experience. “Seniority-based pay ensures we’re paid for our improvement,” Mr. Rosenfeld argues.
has historically supported raising the minimum wage to $15. And even that level falls short of providing workers with income sufficient to cover basic expenses in many parts of the country.
As Walmart was reminded very clearly, investors aren’t necessarily on the same page as the general public when it comes to better wages. That’s shortsighted. Researchers including Zeynep Ton, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, have shown that companies can be just as profitable when they pay higher wages, thanks to benefits such as better quality goods and services and lower staff turnover. Also, when workers struggle to make ends meet, it holds back the economy because they consume less.
On top of that, fair pay is a critical foundation for a fair society. Now is a good time for resetting assumptions about why we’re paid what we’re paid, and how compensation is determined. New approaches exist for those who are open to them.
A labor union’s effort to organize about 5,800 Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., has turned into a national story. The workers are now voting whether to join the union, in an election that runs through March 29.
I asked Noam Scheiber, who covers workplace issues for The Times, to explain what’s going on. Our conversation follows.
David: Why has this one local union election become such a big deal?
Noam: Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the U.S. In the more than 25 years since its founding, the company has successfully resisted unionization at all of its U.S. facilities, which now number in the hundreds. But labor leaders believe that a single high-profile success will reverberate across the country.
There are already signs that they may be right. Some nonunionized Amazon workers on Staten Island walked off the job last year, to protest pandemic working conditions. And the union that’s trying to organize the workers in Alabama — the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union — says it has received more than 1,000 inquiries from other Amazon workers since this campaign started.
Amazon exerts a lot of influence over working conditions for tens of millions of other workers. When Amazon enters an industry, it often forces the competition to adopt similar labor practices — partly on pay, but also squeezing efficiency out of workers. Consider, for example, that shares of Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco swooned after Amazon announced its acquisition of Whole Foods back in 2017.
Amazon and the union have made competing claims about whether the jobs already come with good wages and benefits. Can you help us understand them?
The company typically pays rank-and-file warehouse workers between $15 and $20 per hour and offers health care and retirement benefits. For a full-time worker, that translates into about $700 a week. Amazon touts its compensation package as “industry-leading,” though most of its workers are likely earning well below the national weekly median of about $1,000 for full-time workers.
tends to be higher than for nonunion workers, even when you control for factors like education and experience. But I suspect Amazon will likely raise wages even if the union loses, because credible threats of unionization tend to drive up wages even at nonunion companies.
Joe Biden offer stronger pro-union words than any president in decades — and then see Marco Rubio, a conservative Republican, also encourage the Bessemer workers to join a union. Is it possible that labor unions are on the verge of growing again?
There’s an element of social contagion here, in which successful activism by some workers can inspire others. We saw that during the teacher walkouts that began in West Virginia in 2018 and quickly spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona. The same has recently happened in digital media and among white-collar tech workers.
That said, it’s hard to believe we’ll see a reversal in the decades-long decline in unionization, as opposed to a slowing of the decline, absent a major change in U.S. labor law. The current law gives employers enormous advantages in a union campaign. They can subject workers to a barrage of anti-union rhetoric, through mandatory meetings, emails, signage. Unions have no comparable way of getting their message out. And the law rarely results in more than a slap on the wrist for employers that fire workers for supporting a union.
What would “a major change in U.S. labor law” look like?
Something along the lines of the PRO Act that the House just passed, which would dramatically increase the penalties for retaliating against workers who organize. Or card check, which would allow workers to unionize if a majority sign cards, allowing them to bypass a contentious election like this one.
Another approach would be sectoral bargaining, in which a union could bargain with all the major employers in an industry by getting, say, 10 to 20 percent of the industry’s workers to sign cards. That would diminish the incentive of any one employer to fight a union campaign out of a fear of competitive disadvantage. Germany, France and Norway use sectoral bargaining.
won the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor, for turning old structures into new affordable housing.
Eight migrants died in a car crash in Texas near the Mexican border. A similar accident happened two weeks ago in California.
The U.S. federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. What should it be?
$10 to $14: It should vary by region to preserve jobs, the research institute Third Way suggests.
$15: A nationwide $15 minimum wouldn’t cost many jobs and it would reduce poverty, the economist Arindrajit Dube writes in The Washington Post. “Thirty-two million Americans would get a raise,” the labor organizer Saru Jayaraman says on “The Argument.”
$24: The minimum wage should match the economy’s productivity growth, as it did until 1968, The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz argues.
Cody’s World: The key to a healthy lifestyle? For The Times’s Amanda Hess, it’s a Peloton instructor who looks “like a piece of Disney fan art.”
DealBook: Were the airline buyouts necessary?
Lives Lived: In 1976, the British wine expert Steven Spurrier organized a blind tasting to compare French and Californian wines. The result revolutionized the industry. Spurrier died at 79.
ARTS AND IDEAS
For sale: The minutiae of your day
“Have you ever wanted to control my life?” a 15-year-old TikToker with 3.3 million followers asked in a recent online video. He then asked his fans what game he should play with friends — dodgeball or catch — and 78 percent chose dodgeball. Fans have also voted on what he should watch, what video games he should play and what to name his pet hamster.
Taylor Lorenz, a Times tech reporter, writes. One of those companies is NewNew, where fans pay to vote in polls, like the dodgeball one, to determine a creator’s daily choices. Five votes cost $4.99.
“It doesn’t matter how boring you think you are, there’s someone out there who would find your life interesting to the point that they’re willing to pay,” NewNew’s founder, Courtne Smith, said.
Influencers are joining such platforms for the promise of diversification, Taylor writes, leaving them less beholden to a the ever-changing algorithms and pay structures of a few social media giants.