The Economics Of Human Trafficking Are Staggering

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), human trafficking is defined as “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” When we think of human trafficking, we usually think of young kids and women who are forced into this type of life — whether by kidnapping or an alternate means of pressure or financial stress. But we rarely consider what human trafficking costs us all every day.

Human trafficking has hidden fees. These cost us our security, economic growth, and innocence. Even though the concept of trafficking is receiving more widespread attention, there are still around 25 million individuals trafficked globally each year. Those who would use humans to advance their own financial interests make an estimated combined $32 to $150 billion every year.

Author of Illicit Moises Naim said, “Throughout the twentieth century, to the extent that governments paid attention to illicit trade at all, they framed it — to their public, and to themselves — as the work of criminal organizations…Only recently has this mindset began to shift.”

Big American sexual abuse law firms like Paul Mones struggle to ascertain the reasons why their case loads are on the rise even as international authorities clamp down on these heinous acts.

One of the reasons that trafficking costs world economies so much is because the trafficked individuals do not produce wages or salaries. That loss is likely undersold by authorities. A Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report suggests that the loss amounts to about $325 billion per year, which is notably even higher than the estimated gains made by those who perpetrate this type of crime.

The impact on economies that rely on tourism is massive. Countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Moldova, the Philippines, and Zimbabwe rely on money from overseas to stay afloat. 

Another hidden cost is covered by the healthcare, which must help reduce the impact of the years of trauma inflicted upon these exploited individuals. 

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Exploring the ways in which human trafficking enables terrorist and armed groups, finances criminal organizations, and supports abusive regimes…[could undermine] our collective security.”

The paper continues to state that “analyzing how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified economic instability worldwide and increased risks of human trafficking and forced labor” is important to understand how authorities and citizens themselves can protect the exploited. COVID-19 has presented a golden opportunity for traffickers through this instability.

Myths about human trafficking include: It only occurs in third-world countries or outside of the United States; it only occurs to those who live in poverty; sex trafficking is the same thing as human trafficking; victims must be forced/coerced; human smuggling is the same thing as human trafficking; victims always seek help when able. 

In order to fully understand human trafficking and all its implications, we must first ascertain why these misconceptions are false — and then work to educate those who still do not understand or strive to remain ignorant.

Should Undocumented Immigrants In The United States Be Allowed Driving Cards?

A routinely provided conservative argument is that undocumented immigrants (often frowned upon as “illegal immigrants,” a derrogatory, slanderous phrase), funnel cash away from our economy. They use our socialized benefits. Of course, another oft-repeated argument is that they take our jobs. How they can simultaneously use up our benefits and take our jobs is a confusing (and untrue) topic for another day. 

In any case, the state of Indiana is considering providing undocumented immigrants with the ability to retain a “driving card” after the Notre Dame Student Policy Network published a “Driving Card Privilege Project” study. The study provided insight into the possibility that driving cards for undocumented immigrants might improve many aspects of life, including: a reduced incident rate of hit-and-run accidents, improved law enforcement, increased state revenue, and increased revenue for car insurance companies.

Senate Bill 319 was presented last session, but the GOP decided not to move forward or pass the law.

The study says: “Indian’as current policy does not keep undocumented immigrants off the roads — but it does ensure that every time an immigrant drives in Indiana, they risk a citation for driving without a license and a string of legal consequences that could culminate in deportation. The current policy not only imposes significant costs on undocumented immigrants but by preventing drivers from being certified and purchasing insurance, it produces significant welfare and economic costs for all residents.”

Imagine you were in an accident with an undocumented individual (or rather, anyone who was unable to obtain insurance to cover an accident’s costs). The person runs because to do anything else would put them on the path to financial ruin. The police launch an investigation. Your insurance will only cover certain costs, but you have no one to sue. 

These are only a few of the hidden costs that add up when some residents are treated as if they don’t belong.

Climate And Economy At Forefront Of Concern Over Indian Farm Laws

India and China are known to be two of the world’s greatest polluters — and certainly, American companies and politicians usually point to two of the world’s most populated countries when arguing over whether climate regulations are relevant to American interests. There’s one big problem inherent in those arguments: India, for example, uses about one-sixth of the energy per person as the average American. It’s comparing apples and oranges. 

The same applies to China, which is leading the world in creating new renewable energy infrastructure. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to place blame there.

Still, there are mounting concerns over climate and economy when looking at Indian farm laws. The laws are notorious for providing farmers with freedom of choice. The decision of where their crops are sold and to whom is theirs alone. Protests against the laws have been framed amidst western conspiracy theories, which seems like an easy argument to make — we’re known for them. Social media regulations toward the end-of-Trump era seem to make them even easier. 

The problem is farming is such an important part of the Indian economy — and a huge drain on the local environments. The goal for protesters is to ensure that farmers produce fewer cattle and less rice. Both of these results would be wonderful for the environment, but terrible for the Indian economy. So far, compromises aimed at reconciling the conflicts have proved difficult to achieve.

Big American firms like Hale & Monico have shown an interest in approaching litigation built on cases of personal injury due to unhealthy environmental practices. That appetite is spreading to law firms in other countries like India.

And few other solutions have presented themselves thus far. The agriculture that has sustained India for decades is built on subsidy, which is no longer a strategically tenable choice for government agencies to implement. The debt created by these programs is extraordinary, and even blamed for a string of suicides among the agricultural community. Notably, the farmers are using too much groundwater and relying heavily on fossil fuels to power farms. Without change, it’s difficult to see a positive outcome for farmers.

Even worse, desertification has become a huge issue all over the world. This is readily apparent in local regions like Punjab and Haryana, where desertification due to over-farming is a big problem.

Farmers must transition to less damaging crops, but have shown little motivation to do so — especially by the new farming laws providing them the option to basically ignore climate and environmental impacts. India is struggling to create employment in other sectors of the economy, which is part of the reason farmers continue to defend a broken system. The economy will not grow without change. It will stagnate instead.

The government — and foreign entities, certainly — must research new methods to incentivize farmers or move them away from traditional economic outcomes. So far, there has been too little dialogue to effect these changes. 

Democrats And Republics Still Fighting Over COVID Litigation Regulation

One of the major sticking points for COVID-19 relief packages passed by the U.S. Senate was whether or not they implemented protections for businesses designed to reduce litigation related to COVID-19. Generally, Democrats prefer to focus on individual protections (which means allowing litigation) and Republicans prefer to focus on business protections (which means reducing litigation). These considerations have yet to be resolved, but some state governments are taking the fight to their own legislative bodies. 

For example, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law “Act Number 2021-4” in order to address litigation concerns on February 12, 2021. 

There were actually three separate bills aimed at limited economic impacts, most of which protected businesses. The new laws aim to provide protections to businesses, schools, healthcare providers, governments, and those who work at these institutions. The recently passed laws purport to “[provide] a safe harbor to businesses that operate reasonably consistent with applicable public health guidance” to reduce “social harms of a closed economy and the resulting unemployment.” 

Alabama was not the first to enact such legislation, though. Other states with primarily conservative legislatures enacted similar laws. These include: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Utah.

The laws seek to limit, but not eliminate, consumer access to claims made against businesses. Those wishing to file a personal injury lawsuit because of COVID-19 should not be dissuaded from consulting with a lawyer. The “good faith” laws do more to limit frivolous or overreaching lawsuits. Employers who completely subvert legally mandated practices are still liable in civil court.

The laws provide the basis under which a plaintiff must prove beyond reasonable doubt that a business entity helped spread COVID due to intentional acts or wanton disregard for safety procedures under local and state laws. Many governments have also placed damage limitations on these types of lawsuits.

Should You File Bankruptcy Amidst COVID-19?

It’s a difficult question to ask oneself anytime, but the stress of the pandemic has made answering it even more difficult. No one wants to lose their job, close their business, or run out of money because of an unforeseen problem. But it happens to millions of Americans every year. The stigma of doing so rarely changes the outcome. Here’s why you might or might not consider filing bankruptcy amidst COVID-19.

Last year’s CARES Act allowed many businesses to hold off declaring bankruptcy for months. By the time the next stimulus arrived, it was too late for thousands of others. Even big retailers began to feel the impact of economic decline.

When answering the question for yourself (and each individual case is different), it’s worth asking a follow-up question: Would a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy change the outcome? For most people who are out of work or on unemployment payments, the answer is likely “no.” One of the biggest factors is time. Once you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you cannot file again for eight years. That means dropping the hammer could reduce the debt relief options at your disposal for a long time — and you might need those if the economy continues to struggle. None of us knows what will happen.

Keep in mind that the pandemic is not over. If you don’t have health insurance and become seriously ill, the medical bills could be astronomical. It might be more beneficial to wait to file bankruptcy if the possibility of additional debt is possible in the near-future. Filing for bankruptcy won’t give you a job or guarantee that you’ll be able to make ends meet. It will only guarantee that your ability to get out of hot water is limited in the future. 

What two things should you do immediately before deciding whether or not bankruptcy is the right move right now? You should talk to a financial consultant and bankruptcy lawyer immediately. Both professionals can help steer you in the right direction by limiting payments right now or cutting needless expenditures. Don’t make a decision without consulting with the professionals who are best-versed in the long-term consequences of these types of decisions.

When deciding that filing is the right course of action, you should find out if you even qualify. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is only for those who are in exigent circumstances, i.e. there’s no way for you to possibly pay off your debt while making ends meet.

You will receive a “means test” to determine whether or not you qualify. It’s based on six months of income — which unfortunately means that even when you’re making nothing, you might not qualify yet because you were making tons of money two months ago. Tough luck, right? Be sure that your claim is almost certain to be accepted before spending money on a filing fee. You don’t want a bankruptcy filing on record if it won’t do anything for you.

It’s also important to discuss the impact of bankruptcy on your assets — because you stand to lose quite a lot.

Lawmakers Try To Reconcile Higher Taxes With Economic Relief

To say that the world is experiencing a tumultuous series of events is an enormous understatement. Our people — for the most part — know that we need to act fast to spare ourselves from the harshest consequences of man-made climate change, which will cause environmental and economic devastation in the long-term. But amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we already need economic relief. How do we pay for relief without sacrificing the need for change? 

It’s a tough equation even for the experts.

Virginia legislators are slated to pass legislation that would have an adverse effect on insurance costs at a time when many families are already struggling to find work. Senate Bills 1182, 1195, and 1202 would revise current laws relating to financial responsibility. They would implement “bad faith actions for auto claims.” They would amend the need for underinsured or uninsured coverage. For example, bodily injury coverage required would be doubled to $100,000. Those requirements would inevitably be reflected in costs.

Those against the changes argue that they will lead to more court cases, increased costs, and the need for more legislation in the future.

In addition, advocates for the legislation have allowed little room for debate and ignored inquiries into the necessity of these additions. Nancy Egan wrote in The Roanoke Times: “There has been no consumer outcry to make changes to existing auto insurance law and there is no urgent need to pass reforms, so why now?”

She continued: “The COVID pandemic continues to ravage people’s lives and livelihoods. The Biden Administration has made it a priority to provide relief to Americans during these challenging times. Virginia lawmakers should do the same and protect individuals, families and businesses from increasing auto insurance costs by voting no on SBs 1182, 1202 and 1195.” 

It’s still too early to know what will happen, but we expect that lawmakers will enact the new legislation.

Didn’t Receive A COVID-19 Stimulus Check? Claim The Rebate When Filing Taxes

Most Americans don’t understand that the COVID-19 stimulus payments are meant to be a simple tax break — and don’t really constitute “free money.” Many millions of Americans did not receive the second round of payment before tax season rolled around, which means they are entitled to file for the rebate when they file their taxes. Most tax software will inquire whether or not you received the economic impact payment, so don’t worry until after you file your taxes!

Keep in mind that an inaccurate tax filing could impact your ability to receive a timely payment. To receive a prompt payment, consider filing with a professional. You can also sign up with the federal government to receive future payments through electronic deposit if they were automatically scheduled to be delivered through the mail. 

You will find a Recovery Rebate Credit Worksheet on Form 1040/Form 1040-SR. Check the document’s instructions if you are not sure how to fill it out.

The federal government allows many Americans to file for free using its “Free File” program. If your household makes $72,000 or less, you are eligible to use it — and this is almost always the fastest method if you expect a tax refund. 

Check here for more information.

The “Get My Payment” website received its final update for the second economic impact payment on January 29. It will probably not be updated again until another stimulus package is passed through Congress. The second round of payments resulted in $142 billion in returned funds to eligible Americans using 147 million electric transfers. The remaining funds were disbursed through the USPS. The next stimulus is an expected $1400, which will bring the previous payment to the controversial $2,000 figure.

There are a number of other taxes that have strange classifications under economic law, including FICA, unemployment, and Workers Comp. The latter is a pool of money into which businesses (and employees) pay, which allows businesses to cover employees’ medical expenses when an accident occurs. These are completely deductible as business expenses when filing taxes. 

Workers comp lawyer Adam Skutner said, “No, you do not pay taxes on workers’ compensation payments…Workers’ compensation payments are generally tax-free for the entire time that the worker receives them. Of course, some important exceptions apply if an injured person gets both workers’ compensation and disability payments. If the injured worker also receives disability payments, the portion of the amount attributable to disability is taxed.”

Unemployment works similarly. When you lose your job, the benefit returned to you was already partially paid through taxes by you and your employer — but you still have to pay new taxes on the benefit received.

Have any questions about the relationship between economic law and taxes? A lawyer or tax professional can likely answer many of your questions during a free consultation, which will give you a decent idea of whether or not it’s worthwhile to hire a specialist to sift through your tax documents when it comes time for a rebate check.

Are Social Media Platforms Legally Allowed To Censor Users?

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok — all of these are social media platforms that are used to gather followers who are interested in certain people or subjects. They are used to reach people who buy certain products or vote a certain way. And that means that they are deeply tied to our economy overall. And that means that social media platforms have immense power when it comes to deciding who has “purchasing” power, whether they be individuals or companies.

The question recently arose after Donald Trump was booted off Twitter and Facebook permanently: is censorship of users legal or illegal?

The question is generally framed from one of two perspectives. First, is this type of censorship by a private business enterprise a violation of someone’s First Amendment rights? The answer is “probably not.” But it’s a murky area legally, which means we’re likely to see many courtroom battles in the coming months. The reason the answer is probably not is simple: the First Amendment protects the right to free speech not in general, but when considering potential government restrictions. What we say or do still has consequences dependent on what anyone else thinks. 

The second perspective comes from a discrimination standpoint, i.e. does this private business have the right to potentially discriminate against someone based on the person’s views or soundbites? And the answer is almost undeniably “yes.” This is the case because the Supreme Court has already ruled numerous times that private businesses can neglect to serve groups of people — take selling wedding cakes to same-sex couples, for example. The Supreme Court says if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. That’s the result of our so-called Religious Freedom laws, bogus or not.

But that leads to a somewhat tricky confluence of two important laws: one regarding free speech, the other regarding discrimination. What happens when we consider them both together is not without precedent, but considering this case involves a former president — it’s hard to say how things will turn out.

New COVID-19 Cases Could Threaten Los Angeles Businesses

Big cities have been inundated by a new surge of COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks — and a far greater number are expected in the next few. Analysts have projected hundreds of thousands of American deaths by February. These problems are compounded by economic realities across the country. Thousands of small businesses have already closed, and thousands more might not survive this current round of cases without more help from Congress.

One Los Angeles, California business — Go Kart World — shut down business operations when coronavirus cases first arose in March. Or rather health department officials forced the business to shut down.

Co-owner Cynde Harris said, “I was freaking out. Our season runs February through September. We were losing like $1.4 million a month. There’s no way to recover from that.”

Go Kart World had to let 35 workers know that they would be — at least temporarily — out of a job. The businesses eventually reopened thanks to the economic stimulus provided by the CARES Act. Harris and her husband obtained two federal loans worth a combined $270,000. Another $30,000 was provided by Los Angeles County.

Unfortunately, the family-run business is still on thin ice because of debts already incurred due to shutting down. Harris said, “You can only take on so much. It’s bitter medicine to be told, ‘You can borrow the money,’ when a government closure just drove a truck through your business.”

The CARES Act was worth $2.2 trillion, but it wasn’t enough to hold them over. Another stimulus is much needed, but many believe it won’t easily pass through Congress — especially with Republicans in stark opposition to an incoming president’s agenda, and Democrats’ stark opposition to placing business interests over individual ones. Neither side seems willing or able to compromise for the good of all.

Businesses are likely to close again — even if not mandated by the government — because flu season is here, coronavirus cases are on the rise, and social distancing guidelines and regulations will almost certainly become far more strict in the coming months.

California director of the National Federation of Independent Business John Kabateck said, “The loans they got gave many businesses some moments of respite. But they were Band-Aids on a very big wound. Now they’re very, very terrified.”

None of these projections are speculation anymore. Small business revenue plummeted 29.3 percent in the last month alone. The holiday season might not be enough to turn things around. Only 28.8 percent of small business operations in California are still active. The rest have already closed down either temporarily or permanently.

UC Santa Cruz economist Robert Fairlie said, “Many of these closures may be permanent because of the inability of owners to pay ongoing expenses.”

California currently averages over 11,000 new cases every day — and that number is only going up. The same is true for hospitalizations, which have risen 78 percent.

What Are The Long-Term Economic Consequences To Coronavirus?

There are harsh realities for every tragedy. When we get hit by a natural disaster, we calculate the potential cost by analyzing the total damages to infrastructure, people, productivity, etc. It’s even more complicated than that when we consider the economic impacts of man-made climate change — because we know those natural disasters will occur more often and will be worse. But what about the economic consequences of a virus or disease? 

Unfortunately, it works much the same way.

A warming climate means that these infections and diseases will become much more common in the future, which is disastrous for our long-term economic outlook. In fact, COVID-19 itself might be a consequence of climate change. 

President Trump has done his best to ignore these problems, which has resulted in a large number of lawsuits against his administration. Some have succeeded. Some have failed. Others are forthcoming. While the president himself isn’t liable personally for any unintended consequences of executive actions he takes while in office, we can still try to prevent future damages by legally turning him away from some of these decisions. 

But the consequences are already adding up. First and foremost, many Americans have been ruined financially after losing their jobs — and subsequently their health insurance — which means they can’t contribute to the overall economy. Add to this fact that automation was experiencing exponential growth before so many businesses lost their workforces and what you get is a country led more by robots than by people. That means good news for businesses but bad news for families. 

The economic impacts will be felt more strongly in the coming years as we forget about legitimate concerns amidst ongoing struggles. Will anyone still be wearing a mask in a year or two? It’s hard to say yes considering how widely politicized such a simple thing has become. The virus won’t be gone, though. That means more cases and a higher cost.