#118 After Harvey: Climate Change Insurance. Gernot Wagner

Is climate change to blame for Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods around Houston? Even though we can't be certain about the cause of a single storm, Harvey's epic rainfall and surprisingly long duration remind us of the need for urgent action.

In this edition of our solutions podcast, economist Gernot Wagner, executive director of Harvard University's Solar Geoengineeering Research Program, makes the case for market-based climate insurance: A fix that even skeptical conservatives could love.

If there was a 10% chance of a tree falling on your house, you'd buy home insurance. Gernot says that's what the U.S. and every other nation must do to reduce global warming. His fix for the planet? Carbon pricing through a program of cap-and-trade that lets the market find the cheapest way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

Companies that exceed their emissions cap pay a penalty. Energy-efficient firms make money by selling their pollution allowances. Cap-and-trade can boost growth and jobs. California has designed its own system to reduce pollution as it makes a transition to a clean energy economy

The weather is already changing. The daily surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico this year is the warmest on record.  When the sea warms, more water evaporates into the air, leading to greater rainfall. 

How do we help the victims of the Houston flood? This link has some smart suggestions.

#113 America's Male Unemployment Crisis: Ed Glaeser

Here's a paradox. While the U.S. unemployment rate is near a 16-year low, the percentage of all American adults in the workforce remains stuck at well below pre-recession levels.

Men are much more likely than women to drop out of work. In the 1960's 95% of adult men between 25 and 54 were employed. Today, after 7 years of an improving job market, only 80% are in the workforce.

People who don't look for a job are not counted in the official unemployment statistics compiled by the Labor Department. 

Harvard University Professor Edward Glaeser says "there's a war on work." Taxation, housing, regulatory and social policies aimed at improving the lives of low income Americans, he says, often remove incentives for people to get a job. We based our episode on the findings and solutions suggested in Ed's article for City Journal-- "The War on Work and How to End It."

#106 Defusing The Prison Population Bomb: John Pfaff

Today, about 2.2 million Americans are behind bars. "The incarceration rate is about five times the rate of 1970 and our crime rate is the same as in 1970." 

Our guest, John Pfaff of Fordham University is both a law professor and an economist. Author of "Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform," he says state and local policies matter far more than changes in the federal system.

At about 700 inmates per 100,000 residents , the U.S. incarceration rate is five times higher than most western nations. Only North Korea and Iran have locked up a larger share of their population.
 
Growing bi-partisan support for criminal justice reform may bring changes. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going in the opposite direction.  He's ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the strictest charges and sentences in criminal cases-- reversing Obama Administration policies.
 
The standard explanation for America's inmate population explosion is "three strikes and you're out" sentencing and other aspects of the federal government's war on drugs.
 
John Pfaff says that argument is far too simplistic. In this episode, we look at the key role played by state and local prosecutors. John argues that one key reform would be to focus on charging policies-- reigning in the almost unchecked power of many district attorneys.