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The Hill featured Haub Law Professor David N. Cassuto's co-authored piece "Torturing fewer animals will mean burying fewer people"

07/23/2020

The Hill featured Haub Law Professor David N. Cassuto's co-authored piece "Torturing fewer animals will mean burying fewer people"

COVID-19 has killed hundreds of thousands of people, devastated the global economy and left millions jobless, homeless and hopeless. Like COVID-19, 60 percent of viruses that infect humans and 75 percent of recent infectious diseases are “zoonotic,” meaning they originate in animals. 

We’ve dealt with zoonoses in the past — SARS, avian influenza, HIV, Ebola, West Nile, to name a few. COVID-19, also a zoonotic disease, was not unexpected. As scientists race to develop vaccines for each new zoonotic event, the rest of us might well ask why we keep enabling the spread of these diseases. Avoiding future pandemics is possible but it will require an unprecedented cooperative effort to remake and enforce international animal law.

Zoonotic diseases result from human interaction with animals confined in close, unsanitary conditions. It is fashionable to blame China’s live animal markets, but the reality is far more complex. Live markets are brutally cruel, facilitate trafficking in protected species and encourage unsustainable and unhealthy eating practices. They also form a vast, criminal enterprise built on the illegal trade, slaughter and suffering of wild and endangered animals. 

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The Hill featured Pace Haub Law Professor Darren Rosenblum's piece "The Supreme Court's decision won't cure inequality — quotas will"

06/22/2020

The Hill featured Pace Haub Law Professor Darren Rosenblum's piece "The Supreme Court's decision won't cure inequality — quotas will"

Since 2015, members of the LGBT community have been able to marry someone from the same sex, but in many states, they haven’t been able to work where they want. Monday’s Supreme Court Bostock decision changed that. Now, not only is firing someone because of who they choose to marry illegal, but so is firing someone based on their self-identified sex. 

But I take the victory with a grain of salt: we should be skeptical about how much progress to expect from such decisions. This decision will not ensure our equality — we need more aggressive legislation, including quotas. Look at the race context: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has unquestionably protected people based on race since its passage, but as the massive mobilization after George Floyd’s death demonstrates, racial equality remains a distant dream.  

This is also true for sex. Since the revolutionary sex equality cases brought by then-litigator, now-Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the early 1970s, we have indeed seen radical improvements in sex equality. But inequality is so pervasive, we don’t even see it. Women still only make 80 percent of what men earn, and black people only make 70 percent of what white people do. Our corporate sector actively promotes how inclusive it is, but it’s a man’s world. Women constitute only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. There are more CEOs named James than there are women CEOs. 

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The Hill featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law Distinguished Professor Jason Czarnezki's piece "Lessons from the climate and COVID-19 crises"

04/10/2020

The Hill featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law Distinguished Professor Jason Czarnezki's piece "Lessons from the climate and COVID-19 crises"

The world’s current handling of the coronavirus pandemic — an imminent threat spreading rapidly across the globe — offers lessons to turn around the stark lack of global action toward the climate crisis. 

Climate change is also a harmful crisis with projected impacts resulting in mass migration, biodiversity and food insecurity. For example, the most recent global estimate is that “environmental migrants” expected by 2050 range from 150 million to 300 million. Both the COVID-19 and climate crises create emotional trauma, death, cultural and social change, and can undermine democratic institutions, civil society and civil liberties — Hungary’s dissolution of Parliament, and cell phone tracking and military lockdowns in numerous countries.

Whether deserved or not, the international press has levied an overwhelming amount of criticism upon various countries such as the United States, China and Sweden for their coronavirus responses. 

Before drawing conclusions and in order to better prepare for future crises, the press, individual nations and the international community would be wise to pay close attention to pre-coronavirus levels of emergency preparedness. Attention should also be paid to how politicians and governments have responded to COVID-19, how scientists are involved, and the resulting public health (both physical and mental), economic and potential democratic fallout — the extent to which is unknown and will be for some time.

Society must recognize that both climate change and COVID-19 are sustainability and security crises. The three pillars of sustainability— environmental, social and economic stability — essentially define “security.” Without fear of death and illness, without a job or income, without the mental health that comes with schooling, open playgrounds and seeing friends and family, and without clean air and water, one cannot feel secure. 

The causes and effects of climate change, including air pollution, destruction of habitat and migration camps, can exacerbate and accelerate threats like coronavirus and other zoonotic diseases.

Thus, what legal rights should humans demand from leaders in light of these crises and threats to the security of themselves, their families, and their health and livelihoods?

Rights that increase the individual, social and natural stability — and which are currently under threat by COVID-19 and climate change — include universal health care, paid sick leave, unemployment compensation, housing, food, a living wage, a clean and healthy environment,and a properly functioning and sustainable climate system. 

For example, the norm in the European Union is to provide free or low-cost healthcare and many weeks of paid sick leave. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Supreme Court held in the Urgenda case that the Dutch government must reduce emissions immediately in line with its human rights obligations.

What we see in the COVID-19 response is that national governments, through legislation and their own purchasing, have the buying power and economic wherewithal to turn the corner on climate change. It is only the will to act that is lacking. The economic power of public procurement is significant. In the U.S., federal spending accounts for nearly $4 trillion, over 20 percent of gross domestic product. In Europe, public authorities account for about 16 percent of the EU’s GDP. Governments have the ability to force public health and climate innovations in markets to ensure we have the materials and infrastructure humans need to be safe in the short and long term. 

We can have adequate personal protection equipment for healthcare workers and adequate ventilators for patients, as well as renewable energy to power the planet while customers enjoy high-speed rail. The COVID-19 crisis teaches that society has the financial resources and industrial capacity to meet these challenges.

But, given the lack of political will and failure to meet these challenges, who decides? Who should be in charge? 

The COVID-19 crisis offers additional lessons. In terms of initial preparedness prior to outbreak, politicians would be wise to listen to the advice and findings of scientists. Note, South Korea’s infectious disease preparedness level.  

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"The Hill and MSN" featured Lubin School of Business associate professor Philip G. Cohen's op-ed "The difference between good and bad tax reform"

04/26/2019

"The Hill and MSN" featured Lubin School of Business associate professor Philip G. Cohen's op-ed "The difference between good and bad tax reform"

Philip G. Cohen is an associate professor of taxation at Pace University's Lubin School of Business. He is the former vice president of tax & general tax counsel for Unilever United States, Inc.

Tax reform done correctly can be very beneficial for the United States and the American people. To be constructive, tax reform should endeavor to promote fairness, efficiency and simplicity. Further, the tax system needs to generate enough revenue to meet the government's requirements. 

Some tax reform measures can do more harm than good. I remain a firm critic of many parts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). It remains a poster child for a poorly conceived, incredibly complex (even for a tax act) partisan legislation enacted without due deliberation, that has and will continue to exacerbate the national debt and further drive good jobs and income offshore.

It also punished many residents of blue states like New York, New Jersey and California by capping the itemized deduction for all state taxes to $10,000. This sizably increased the federal income taxes paid by many residents of states with high income and/or property taxes.

While a corporate rate reduction was necessary, the 21-percent rate provided for by the TCJA went too far. Three new tax reform proposals, one from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and two from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) were recently announced that are intended, in part, to address wealth inequality.

While I have enormous respect for Sen. Wyden and Sen. Warren and recognize the problem of wealth inequality, two of the concepts would make for unsound tax policy.

Wyden has suggested that investment gains be placed on a mark-to-market system (where one is taxed on appreciation even absent sale) and be taxed at ordinary income rates.

The Internal Revenue Code currently includes a very limited mark-to-market approach for securities dealers and securities traders who agree to elect this treatment, as well as for certain financial products known as section 1256 contracts. 

Warren has a proposal to impose a wealth tax on "ultra-millionaires" at an annual rate of 2 percent for those whose net worth is greater than $50 million, and 3 percent on net worth greater than $1 billion.

Finally, Sen. Warren has recently put forth the idea that corporations, which report to shareholders global net income of over $100 million, pay a 7-percent minimum tax on global net reported income over this amount.  While the first two plans should be rejected, the latter is certainly deserving of consideration.

If an investor buys stock in what is known as a "C" corporation (all publicly traded corporations are "C" corporations) and the shares appreciate but are not sold, requiring he/she pay tax on this unrealized gain would fail a fundamental tenet of U.S. tax policy, which is to not impose tax on those who do not have the wherewithal to pay the tax from the deemed profit because it is simply unfair.

Removing long-term capital gain incentives would further add acid to the wound. While there is something arguably unjust with Warren Buffet paying tax at a marginal rate lower than his secretary because of the tax incentives for capital gains and qualified dividends, this is not the solution.

Neither is creating a very hard-to-administer new tax on wealth in an environment where the Internal Revenue Service does not have the resources to administer the current tax laws. Perhaps starting with eliminating many estate tax loopholes, as Andrew Ross Sorkin recently suggested in the New York Times, would be a better approach.

Warren's other proposal is known as "The Real Corporate Profits Tax." lt would be based on publicly reported book income. This may be an appropriate fix to some of the TCJA corporate largess and a step, albeit minor, in the right direction regarding addressing an out-of-control national debt. 

The TCJA reduced the federal corporate tax rate precipitously from a top rate of 35 percent to 21 percent, eliminated the corporate minimum tax and exempted much foreign-source dividend income of U.S. multinational corporations from tax.

Paying a relatively small tax on worldwide income where a corporation has reported $100 million-plus in profits to its shareholders is consistent with the notion of fairness, which is critical element of a good tax system.

Read the Hill article.

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"The Hill" featured professor of law at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic Karl S. Coplan's piece "How you can fight climate change when the government won’t"

10/25/2018

"The Hill" featured professor of law at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic Karl S. Coplan's piece "How you can fight climate change when the government won’t"

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the global steps needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius is a clarion call to action. Global emissions must drop by nearly 50 percent in just over a decade to stay on track to meet this target. The secondary target of 2 degrees Celsius will involve substantially greater adverse impacts, and will still require substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the coming decade.

This call to action has renewed debate about appropriate collective and governmental actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions. There are renewed proposals for carbon taxes, fee and dividend plans, and renewable energy investments. Even Exxon Mobil has announced its support for some form of carbon tax — if it gets liability relief for fossil fuel harms at the same time.

But the national political climate remains hostile to effective climate action in the United States, as the Republican Party, remains in a position to block all legislative and administrative efforts to reduce emissions. And the fact that Exxon Mobil supports a carbon tax gives a hint that any national carbon policy that is going to be on the table is unlikely to achieve the necessary drastic reductions in fossil fuel-related greenhouse emissions. 

In the absence of national action, attention focuses on “bottom-up” actions by states and municipalities. New York and San Francisco were rightly applauded when they pledged to meet the Paris Agreement greenhouse gas reduction commitments even in the face of the Trump administration’s planned withdrawal from that agreement. Hundreds of municipalities across the country have joined that pledge. 

But the ultimate bottom-up climate action is individual action. If you live in the developed world, your lifestyle choices make an outsized contribution to climate change. Basic ethical principles of avoiding harm to others and a variation of the golden rule compel us to take a look at our own carbon footprint and commit to reducing it. We should strive to live in a way that limits our harm to others as we would have others live in a way that limits their harms to us. Just as cities and states can commit to the Paris accord reductions, so can individuals commit significantly to reduce their own footprints.

Start by going to an online calculator and see what

parts of your carbon footprint are largest. Electricity, heat, gasoline, food, and air travel are likely to be the biggest items for many Americans. Zero out your electricity footprint by signing up for a renewable energy supplier. Plan to convert to a lower carbon heating system, such as an electric heat pump, within the next decade. Choose a hybrid when the time comes to replace your car. If you are already driving a hybrid, replace it with an electric vehicle. Reduce red meat consumption. And fly only when absolutely necessary. By taking these simple measures, the average climate-concerned American can easily cut their direct carbon footprint in half.

Despite these easy steps, many climate activists remain ambivalent about calling for carbon footprint reductions at the individual level. They argue that individual footprint reductions are such an infinitesimally small part of the problem as to be meaningless, or that it is not fair to ask struggling working Americans to buy expensive hybrid or electric cars or pay to install solar panels on their houses. Climate leaders are reluctant to alienate supporters by calling for sacrifice. 

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"The Hill" featured Lubin Professor Philip G. Cohen's opinion piece in "Tax reform postmortem reveals lethal dose of crony capitalism"

05/22/2018

"The Hill" featured Lubin Professor Philip G. Cohen's opinion piece in "Tax reform postmortem reveals lethal dose of crony capitalism"

Philip G. Cohen is an associate professor of taxation at Pace University Lubin School of Business and a retired vice president – tax and general tax counsel at Unilever United States, Inc. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of any organization to which the author is or was associated with.

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing regarding the impact of P.L. 115-97, informally referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in December 2017.

While Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) undoubtedly viewed this as an opportunity for a curtain call, TCJA is a poster child for poorly conceived, incredibly complex (even for a tax act) partisan legislation enacted without due deliberation, that will exacerbate the deficit and undoubtedly further drive good jobs and income off-shore.

It also punished blue states like New York, New Jersey and California by capping the itemized deduction for all state taxes at a mere $10,000, but managed to reduce the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent.

Even Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who voted for TCJA, has expressed regrets when faced with a Congressional Budget Office estimate that TCJA will increase the federal budget deficit by $1.85 trillion in 2018-2028. Sen. Corker stated, "If it ends up costing what has been laid out here, it could well be one of the worst votes I've made."

Another TCJA supporter, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), also articulated remorse over TCJA, albeit for a different reason: "They [big corporations with the tax cuts] bought back shares; a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker." 

This latter comment was reinforced by a survey of economists by the National Association for Business Economics, which found that "two-thirds of business economists [indicated that] the 2017 tax law isn't changing their firms' and industries hiring or investment plans."

While there was somewhat widespread belief that the pre-TCJA top corporate statutory rate of 35 percent needed to be reduced, what was the rationale for slashing the rate to 21 percent?

Furthermore, why was untaxed pre-TCJA offshore earnings of U.S. multinationals only taxed at rates of 15.5 percent for cash and cash equivalents and 8 percent for other assets, coupled with the tax being spread over eight years and heavily back-loaded? 

In addition, why has the nation's tax laws moved in the direction of quasi-territoriality, wherein most foreign-sourced dividends received by 10 percent or more domestic corporate shareholders will get 100 percent dividends received deduction, i.e., they pay no federal income tax.

The answer to all three questions is that this was a pay-off to major campaign contributors, where their interests prevailed over those of the nation.

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