Press Releases

Cover for Second Quarter 2017 issue

Aug. 29, 2017

Econ Focus Magazine Looks at “Sin Taxes” and Other Topics

The new issue of Econ Focus, the economics magazine of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, looks at the economics of soda taxes, the latest wave of so-called “sin taxes.” Adopted in a growing number of cities, they’re intended to promote health while generating revenue. Economists are asking how much these measures actually reduce consumption and whether they lead to better health outcomes — and to what extent they’re regressive, borne disproportionately by lower-income consumers.

Also in this issue:

  • Paying for public broadcasting. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports media such as the Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio and local public broadcasters, was established in 1967 to “constitute a source of alternative communications.” At the time, with only three TV networks and commercially dominated radio, the case for government-supported alternatives was straightforward. Have changes in media and technology made federal funding for public broadcasting less necessary?
  • The Fed’s foreign exchange operations. Since the 1960s, the Fed has occasionally intervened in foreign exchange markets. By the 1980s, a number of economists and Fed officials were questioning the wisdom of these actions — a debate that influenced how the Fed views foreign exchange interventions today.
  • Taxing credit unions. Unlike banks, credit unions have been exempt from paying federal corporate income taxes since 1937. This favorable tax treatment has been met with opposition over the decades as critics argue credit unions have become indistinguishable from banks. Is this critique valid?
  • Deadly strain. In 1918, a lethal flu virus began spreading across the world. Within two years, the “Spanish flu” pandemic had killed as many as 100 million people worldwide, with lasting social and economic repercussions.
  • Interview. Jesse Shapiro of Brown University discusses the drivers of media bias and whether the Internet is behind increasing political polarization.
  • And more. Other economic issues affecting the Fifth Federal Reserve District and the nation.

For a free subscription to Econ Focus or for copies of the magazine, call (800) 322-0565 or subscribe online. The articles also are available online.


As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District—including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia—to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.

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