Nel's New Day

September 5, 2021

Feds Stop Unemployment Boost on Labor Day

Filed under: economy — trp2011 @ 10:57 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last week, the last week of summer vacation before Labor Day, saw a huge number of disasters: Taliban controlling Afghanistan after a frantic U.S. airlift of 123,000 people from the country; the nation literally on fire as the Caldor fire threatens Lake Tahoe; another part of the U.S. under water as Hurricane Ida killed at least 51 people in a swath from New Orleans to the Northeast; Florida’s COVID cases going sky high while Gov. DeSantis tries to conceal the facts; and Texas Republicans passing draconian anti-choice, unlimited gun carry, and voter suppression laws. All these were anticipated, but GOP lawmakers postponed prevention for decades—no solutions for climate change, corruption in Afghanistan, increasing COVID disasters, etc.

Tomorrow, on the day to honor workers, life will become harder for ten million people in the U.S. when they lose their federal jobless benefits. Three federal programs expire in an abrupt finish with no relief in sight. Almost three million workers to lose the benefit don’t qualify for regular state unemployment insurance including gig workers, caretakers, and self-employed people. Representing 40 percent of all unemployment claims, these people, typically lower-income and younger, will have no unemployment insurance starting on Labor Day 2021.

At the same time, the large number of unvaccinated people and movement of the COVID Delta variant sweeps the U.S. Both disease and lack of benefits will cut back on spending in parts of the country, especially in restaurants and other service businesses. Pulling people from this federal support will throw millions back into poverty with much less access to food and housing.

Bipartisan legislation approved the emergency jobless aid in Spring 2020 through the CARES Act as almost one million people lost their jobs each day and the economy went into freefall. Lawmakers believed the pandemic was short-lived because of assurances by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), but it didn’t. The aid was extended again in December 2020 and in another three months until Labor Day through the American Rescue Plan.

Republicans maintained people on unemployment were lazy, wanting to stay home when they could have a job, and demanded an investigation into fraud, declaring hundreds of billions of dollars in unemployment aid were stolen. Twenty-six states run by Republicans ended unemployment benefits early, giving a preview of what people in other states now face.

Economists researched the relationship between local economies and the combination of GOP benefits withdrawal and the pandemic. One study revealed withdrawing benefits didn’t force people back into the workforce: for every eight workers losing benefits, only one could find a job, resulting in a drastic drop in spending throughout the state. Those states saw seven cents in increased earnings for every dollar lost in benefits. Labor Day marks the beginning of “$8 billion in reduced spending during September and October,” according to Arindrajit Dube, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

In states continuing unemployment insurance, 21.5 percent found employment while states without the unemployment saw only 24.9 percent of the unemployed finding jobs. Earnings in the states refusing to pay unemployment rose by an average of $14 for people who found employment while benefits declined by $278 per week, a net income decline of $264 per week at $13,728 on an annualized basis. In the same states, spending decreased by $145 per week ($7,540 annually) compared to states continuing to pay benefits. Workers may not have had much increase in wages during the pandemic (a 3.9 percent increase), but CEOs made out well—18.9 percent gain on average.

When the pandemic began, 152.5 million were employed, compared to the 146.8 million people now with jobs. With employment continuing its increase of 900,000 jobs a month, the gap would be closed in six months without damaging the economic recovery. States don’t have to stop the unemployment benefits on Labor Day: President Joe Biden told states they can use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal stimulus law passed in March 2021, for some of the lost federal aid. Of the 24 states continuing federal benefits until tomorrow, most said they didn’t plan to use stimulus plans in this way or would let the legislature made the decision.

A common question in the media is why over 8.4 million unemployed are searching for work in a market with 10 million job openings. One major reason is that the pandemic situation in which people lost their jobs, even temporarily, or were forced to stay home, perhaps working remotely, set up a “Great Reassessment” of work by both employers and employees. Employees may want to continue remote work, spend more time with their families, or find more flexible or more meaningful careers. Some people are still afraid to come into the workplace, especially with the concern for contracting “long-haul” COVID, coronavirus-like symptoms affecting their organs, joints, and muscles for months and possibly years after recovery of the infection.

Some companies, still desperate for employees, have increased wages, 8.8 percent up for nonmanagerial workers in the restaurant-and-hospitality sector and 6.1 percent for warehouse workers. Almost half the 3.1 million jobs gained since March are in hospitality although employment stalled with the Delta variant surge in August. Job resignations are up 13 percent over the beginning of the pandemic with an additional 4.9 million people who aren’t working or searching for work. During the pandemic, 3.6 million people resigned, two million more than expected. Others became entrepreneurs.

Many available jobs aren’t in the same locations or occupations where people worked before the pandemic. For example, professional and business services have 1.8 million job openings with 925,000 unemployed people who had worked in that category. Leisure and hospitality, retail, and wholesale trade have more openings than pre-pandemic workers in those areas, and many workers losing jobs in those industries don’t want to return. Education and health services have .6 million more job openings than unemployed workers from that sector. Workers in those areas have quit their jobs at the highest rate on record beginning in 2002. Child care facilities are in trouble with a serious shortage of applicants, and people with children need care for them to go back to work.

Alternatively, many employers want to hire fewer people and expanded their automation or completely revised supply chains and office organization. Last year, 43 percent of companies planned to use new technology to reduce their workforce, and business investment grew 26 percent in the past year, over twice as much as the economy. Roving machines are cleaning supermarket, hospital, and warehouse floors, and robots will start delivering room service. Salads and cooked vegetables will start being prepared by kitchen robots. Diners scan barcodes to access a menu and order food without servers.

People searching for jobs say they aren’t being hired, especially if they haven’t worked for a year—even if they were laid off because of the pandemic. About 40 percent of those now unemployed, 3.2 million, haven’t had a job for at least six months. Workers have had to decide whether to keep their jobs or follow COVID guidance. These people may have a good reason for not working, but employers worry that their skills may not be up-to-date. With prior jobs and employers often gone, job-seekers also may not have personal connections for resumes.

Job losses are worst for Latinas, Black women, and people without college degrees. In Idaho and Utah, employment recovered months ago with 2.6 percent and 3 percent unemployment respectively. On the other hand, tourist-oriented states are struggling: Hawaii is short 12 percent of its jobs, New York 9 percent down, and both Nevada and Alaska 7 percent behind. Urban downtowns such as San Francisco and Washington D.C. don’t have need for shops and restaurants because office workers aren’t back. Employers such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook won’t open until January. Buffets and movie theaters don’t need half their workers while RV dealers, carwashes, breweries, and appliance stores are going gangbusters. Some industries such as delivery services, mortgage lenders, and breakfast-cereal manufacturers had no job losses and now have 10 or even 20 percent more employees than 18 months ago.

Far more than 10 million people will participate in the massive loss. Because the average household getting unemployment insurance has 3.8 members, almost 40 million people, over 10 percent of the U.S. population, will lose this benefit tomorrow—on Labor Day. Keep this in mind tomorrow while you go shopping and then join friends in the backyard to grill hotdogs. 

 

August 8, 2021

Whither Infrastructure, DDT?

President Joe Biden’s first bill to repair U.S. physical infrastructure—roads, bridges, railroads, etc.—is limping on its way over the weekend as some Republican senators try to delay it and Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) lambasts Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for permitting its existence. The bill, moved forward by Democrats and 18 Republicans, would add $550 billion for the project if it passes a vote after up to 50 hours debate. The bill would then have to pass the House where several Democrats are trying to wait for a second bill for social spending to pass the Senate. Because the second bill would be through the reconciliation process, it needs only 50 votes, probably from Democrats, and cannot be filibustered which demands 60 votes. The question is whether Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would not support the measure.

DDT’s ally Maria Bartiromo attacked Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) on her Sunday Fox show, accusing him of “betraying the Republican base” and not providing money for DDT’s wall. In defense of the bill, the far-right senator said that there were things that both parties did and didn’t like. When Cramer repeated that Democrats won’t agree to building a wall, Bartiromo said, “Why not work for the American people!” Then she repeated DDT’s comments about the bill being used against the GOP in 2022 and 2024. DDT has said he won’t endorse any Republican who supports it. Cramer pointed out that “the vast majority of Republicans are very supportive of this” and that DDT “didn’t give one reason why it’s a bad deal other than it’s Joe Biden’s.”

DDT used the infrastructure bill to again insult McConnell, first calling the bill a “disgrace” and then blaming the Senate Minority leader for it. DDT wrote:

“If Mitch McConnell was smart, which we’ve seen no evidence of, he would use the debt ceiling card to negotiate a good infrastructure package… It is a gift to the Democrat Party, compliments of Mitch McConnell and some RINOs [Republicans in name only], who have no idea what they are doing.”

DDT also stayed in the limelight when his replacement for AG Bill Barr in late December 2020, acting AG Jeffrey Rosen, testified in a closed-door hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about DDT’s efforts to suborn the election in a conspiracy with acting deputy AG Jeffrey Clark. The testimony concerned Clark’s attempts to push top leaders to falsify the election and publicly assert that election fraud investigations went against the Electoral College results. Earlier Barr had stated that DOJ found no fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Rosen refused to follow DDT’s demands, leading DDT to consider replacing Rosen with Clark in January 2021. Clark continues to maintain his official White House communications “were consistent with law.”

Rosen described five encounters with Clark, including one in late December when Clark admitted to meeting with DDT and promised he would not do so again. Clark continued his unauthorized conversations with DDT about casting doubt on Biden’s victory, especially in close states such as Georgia, and drafted a letter for Rosen to send to the state’s legislators, wrongly demanding they should void Biden’s victory in the state because DOJ was investigating voter fraud there. These actions were followed by DDT’s fiery speech on January 6, encouraging his followers’ violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

DDT ranted about election fraud, claiming his victory for president in the 2020 election, in an interview with Fox’s Dan Bongino last night, but his lies were edited out, according to his furious spokeswoman Liz Harrington. Her tweets justifying his statements are here. DDT also claimed he was being politically persecuted by prosecutors in New York.  

While the infrastructure bill keeps chugging along, the U.S. added 943,000 jobs in July, bringing the total during President Joe Biden’s first six months to over four million, the only president with this achievement. June’s job gain was adjusted upward to 938,000 positions. Economic growth is the fastest in 40 years, and the unemployment rate of 5.4 percent is the lowest since the pandemic began. Now people wait to see the effect of COVID-19 problems from the unvaccinated affects.

Thanks to congressional action, the poverty rate in the U.S. may drop to 7.7 percent for the current year, a 45 percent decline from 2018 and the largest drop on record. The money sent to people in the past few months put food on the table and made rent payments as the pandemic forced people out of work. Without stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment insurance—which 26 states refused—the poverty rate would be at 23.1 percent. White people benefited the most: non-Hispanic White people in the U.S. have a projected 5.8 percent poverty rate compared to 11.8 percent for Hispanic people. Although the poverty rate for Blacks will still be 9.2 percent, it would have been 36.0 percent without assistance. 

After concerns that U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan abandoned Afghans helping U.S. forces including interpreting for them, Congress has passed $500 million to fund emergency transportation and housing for them and their families. Another $600 million goes to State Department funding and makes an additional 8,000 “special immigrant visas beyond the exiting 26,500 authorized while easing some eligibility requirements for those visas. Another $71 million in the $2.1 billion emergency spending package went to avert the Capitol Police funding crisis, and $42 million covered the pandemic costs on Capitol Hill, including reimbursements for overtime, protective equipment, cleaning costs, and telework equipment. More funding–$521 million—covers National Guard costs—and $300 million will harden doors and windows on the Capitol campus and install new camera systems. including reimbursements for overtime, protective equipment, cleaning costs and telework equipment. The Senate voted 98-0 and the House, 416-11 for the expenditures.

Republicans claim their objection to the second infrastructure bill is the $2.3 trillion over eight years, under $300 billion a year, to “Build Back Better.” Yet they don’t object to their expenditure of $6.4 trillion—outside the outrageously normal Pentagon budget—on destabilizing wars in the Middle East based on GOP lies. Deaths, either foreign or in the U.S., give Republicans no concern. The GOP expenditure of $6.4 trillion could give the U.S. a completely renewable energy grid. War and militarization annually take almost two-third of the U.S. discretionary spending.

Last year, the Defense Department, its leadership appointed by Deposed Donald Trump (DDT), gave $422 billion in frequently non-competitive contracts, $40 billion more than the previous year and $60 billion more than the year before that. The Pentagon is also spending $1.6 million for the F-35 fighter jet so unfunctional that it recently shot itself. At ten percent of GDP, Biden’s jobs package is one-fourth of the 1930s New Deal bringing the U.S. out of the Great Depression.

The GOP 2017 tax cut for the wealthy and big business costs the U.S. $2.3 trillion over ten years, a little more than the progressive American Jobs Plan, thus the U.S. is giving trillions more in tax breaks to the wealthy and big business than helping the economy. Taxing investment income like wages and strengthening the estate tax for the wealthy would bring in $886 billion more each year, over three times what the jobs act would cost. Tax evasion by the wealthy annually costs the U.S. $175 billion, one-third of that from the top 1 percent. Collecting that money would pay for two-thirds of Biden’s jobs plan, but Republicans refuse to allow it in protection of their donors.

At a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig reported a loss of perhaps $1 trillion each year because of error, fraud, and lack of staff to get the revenue. The loss of corporate taxes in a half century is phenomenal: corporate taxes provided 23 percent of federal revenue in 1966 compared to seven percent in 2019. Treasury Secretary refers to the “30-year race to the bottom” as tax havens and globalization ease the process of escaping taxes.

From 2000 to 2016, corporate tax receipts averaged about 1.7 percent of total GDP; corporate revenues dropped almost 40 percent and will be over 25 percent less during the next decade.

In the 1950s, revenue from the federal corporate income tax averaged about 5 percent of GDP per year. Last decade, corporate tax revenue averaged just 2 percent of GDP annually. Since 2009, corporate tax revenue has averaged just 1.2 percent, the lowest three-year average in American postwar history.  

The U.S. is at the bottom of the G7 countries.

 

 

 

Biden recommended that an increase for big business would more than pay for the two infrastructure bills, but Republicans are protecting their donors. Instead people will go back to poverty when they no longer receive the benefits from the stimulus bills. Republicans in the 1950s understood the importance of living wages, unions, healthcare, and other rights bringing people out of desperation. A half century later, Republicans use people only as menial labor in order to enrich themselves. That’s the reason they don’t want the second infrastructure bill.

April 25, 2021

Biden’s Economy Disappoints GOP

With lies and no evidence, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said President Joe Biden is taking “destabilizing” actions, his foreign policy has been a “disaster,” and he has tossed a “wet blanket” on the economy. He accused Biden of “wanting to raise taxes in a large amount” although Biden’s taxes will drastically drop for anyone making under $75,000.

The U.S. economy seems to be humming along: stock markets rising, the weekly number of unemployment claims is almost half what they were a few months ago, and March saw almost one million new jobs, the largest increase in seven months. The thought of Biden’s stable economy greatly disappoints most Republicans. Deposed Donald Trump (DDT) ran his losing campaign by claiming Biden’s election would cause a huge economic crash.

“If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you’ve never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell and it’ll be a very, very sad day for this country.”

Republicans guaranteed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) would be a disaster. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), leaving Congress next year, warned about “too much liquidity going into the system.” The checks went out last month, immediately after the GOP congressional members voted en masse against ARPA and then had to lie about supporting the law all along. Retail sales are up, and the unemployment rate is dropping. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, a DDT appointee, dismissed the GOP’s dire warnings  about runaway inflation.

Republicans trying to sabotage any Democratic success and help for people howled about Biden’s proposal of an infrastructure law paid by the corporate tax increase to seven percent lower before DDT’s tampering. They claim the tax increase will “hurt the American family and millions of struggling small businesses.” Yet reducing the corporate tax rate in 2017 didn’t lower prices, and Biden’s plan raises capital gains tax only on people earning more than $1 million a year.

The American Families Plan provides for national paid leave, reduction in childcare costs, and free prekindergarten and community college. With free childcare costs, mothers can afford to find employment. Increasing taxes for the wealthy and big businesses also provides lead-free water, transit, education, and other infrastructure as well as decent jobs. Republicans know that Biden’s success means their possible failure in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Biden’s economy will have its best year since 1984 after the first quarter indicated an annual increase of six percent or possibly higher by the end of the year. DDT gained no new jobs during his full four years; Biden added 1.3 million jobs since the election. DDT’s sole economic metric was the stock market: the Dow Jones has gone up almost 17 percent since Biden’s presidency was announced on November 7, 2020, greater than DDT’s 10.5 percent gain in the same time period four years ago.

Republicans spread the same doom and gloom after the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. John Kasich, a former GOP congressman and Ohio governor, said about Clinton’s agenda:

“This plan will not work. If it was to work, then I’d have to become a Democrat.”

Clinton’s plan worked, but Kasich stayed a Republican. Republicans predicted George W. Bush’s tax cuts would bring historic economic gains; his second term ended with the worst recession in many decades. Republicans predicted disaster for President Obama’s Recovery Act; Indiana’s Mike Pence claimed in 2009, it “won’t work to put Americans back to work.” He continued:

“It won’t create jobs. The only thing it will stimulate is more government and more debt. It will probably do more harm than good.”

President Obama’s plan brought the U.S. out of the Great Recession, rescued jobs, and introduced a decade of sustained growth.

In 2017, Republicans and DDT lost big when their regressive tax plan failed to improve private-sector hiring, bring higher wages, and greatly increase business investments. Corporations used financial gains from tax cuts to buy stocks in their companies, purchase other companies, fire employees, and stash money overseas. Lack of revenue from less consumer spending by lower- and middle-class people couldn’t replace losses from the tax cuts, and business investment abruptly dropped.

Why Republican presidents’ economies fail:

Republican presidents are slow to respond to recessions and other crises.

Democratic presidents are more pragmatic and listen to evidence about deficit reduction and government support.

Republican presidents believe only in tax cuts for the wealthy that do nothing for economic growth.

According to Neil Barron in the conservative Hill, Biden’s ARPA reverses 30 years of failed trickle-down economics widening income and wealth inequality to trickle-up economics. It creates demand for products and services to generate economic growth by increasing spending ability for consumers who will spend money. Biden’s “jobs” (aka infrastructure) plan invests in families, education, clean water and energy, housing, healthcare, etc. The strategy follows economic success after World War II when the top tax rate was 70 to 90 percent. Funding the world’s biggest middle class, investment went not only to the GOP mandate of roads and bridges but also to education, health, and research. The 1950s brought three of the four biggest decreases in U.S. unemployment and two years of the nation’s fastest economic growth—under a Republican president.

For the last half century, the GOP trickle-down tax cuts for the wealthy brought negative or flat economic growth, higher unemployment, and stifled consumption by moving income from consumers to rich savers. In over a half century, Republicans contributed more to federal deficits: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush raised the deficit from $70 billion to $175 billion (almost double today with inflation), but Democrat Bill Clinton cut it to zero. George W. Bush took the deficit back to $1.2 billion with tax cuts and war; Democrat Barack Obama rescued the nation from the Great Recession and halved the deficit to $600 billion before DDT ran it up to $1 trillion—before COVID-19.

Barron writes:

“Spending $100 billion [in infrastructure] would add roughly 1 million full-time American jobs. And each $100 invested in infrastructure would boost productivity and private sector output by $13 to $17, generating more wage growth and economic benefits across more income classes. Every dollar invested in infrastructure under the AJP is expected to return $1.50, which is among the highest rates of return for federal government spending. And by 2024, the AJP would grow GDP by 3.8 percent and add 13.5 million jobs, compared with just 2.2 percent GDP growth and 11.4 million jobs if it doesn’t become law.”

Graham complains about “destabilizing,” but evidence shows a different picture. In the three months since Biden’s inauguration, fewer households say they can’t pay their rent and don’t have enough to eat in the past week. In December, 1 in 7 adults reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat; now that number is 1 in 11—the lowest percentage since April 2020 when the survey began.

In Biden’s first three months, 200 million doses of vaccines were administered although a large number of Republicans, including 47 percent of white males, refuse to be vaccinated. The United States is experiencing a greater feeling of optimism although the wealthy are still doing better. The economy may largely depend on the pandemic: GOP counties and states may suffer the most if Republicans continue to refuse vaccinations. Most Southern states, like tourism-dependent North Carolina, lag behind the national average in vaccinations.

Bloomberg’s positive view of Biden’s economic dynamism comes from companies’ readiness to increase efficiency and employees ready to return to work. The pandemic changed business practices—stronger productivity with increased online marketing and automation. In the last quarter of 2020, businesses increased spending on equipment by 25.4 percent after reducing this spending for over a year. For two decades, the GDP increased at two percent average, lower than 3.3 percent than the previous two decades. A faster growth in the future will help the government’s debt because of increased revenue.

A major difference between Biden’s and DDT’s economic strategies is DDT’s reliance on the Federal Reserve. In the past decade, Congress counted on the Fed’s cheap-money policies for economic health, causing more wealth inequality: the stock market kept rising, but people couldn’t find jobs. Richer people worked from home, but poorer people couldn’t find jobs. Fifty million people in the world moved from middle- to lower-class. With GOP presidents, Republicans gave some support for the poor to be re-elected and then declared austerity with Democratic presidents.

In 2010, GOP lawmakers called for cuts before the economy healed. With interest rates almost at bottom, the Fed made large-scale bond purchases, hoping to save the economy. The slow solution finally dropping the unemployment rate after a decade to a half-century low. In 2007, the bottom half of the population had 2.1 percent of U.S. assets, and the top one percent had 29.7 percent. By 2020, the bottom half dropped to 1.8 percent while the top one percent owned 31 percent of the wealth. The pandemic made the situation worse.  

April 5, 2021

‘Ever Given’ Causes Economic Difficulty, Craziness

Filed under: economy — trp2011 @ 9:59 PM
Tags: , , ,

The episode is over except for the economic fallout, but internet liars can’t let it go. Sexist media created the falsehood, complete with photoshopped images, that Egypt’s first woman ship captain, Marwa Elselehdar (right), was responsible for the debacle. If so, she is quite talented because on the day the Ever Given ran aground, Elselehdar was working as first mate on another ship in Alexandria, hundreds of miles from the Suez Canal.

The first woman to enroll in the Arab Academy for Science, Elselehdar, 29, had to obtain permission from then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. Her 1,200 male classmates were “older men with different mentalities,” according to Elselehdar: they didn’t accept women “working in the sea away from their families for a long time.” In 2015, she helped lead the procession to celebrate the Suez Canal expansion and was the first Egyptian woman to captain a ship cross the canal. Only two percent of worldwide seafarers are women with almost all working on cruise ships.

On March, 2021, the combination of high winds and a dust storm supposedly caused the Ever Given to accidentally hit the canal bottom at a diagonal angle between opposite banks of the canal. An investigation may discover whether human or technical errors were responsible as the head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has claimed. Bound for Rotterdam, it was fifth in a northbound convoy of 20 vessel. All ship traffic was blocked for almost a week, causing a blockage of 422 other ships.

The Ever Given may be floating, but it’s still “stuck” in the Suez Canal while maritime lawyers determine liability for its grounding. The ship’s owner lawsuit against the ship’s operator in UK’s High Court highlights ownership complexity and determination of responsible parties for anything going wrong. The vessel flies Panama’s flag, two Japanese firms own the ship, and it is leased by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine Corporation. A German entity, Bernhard Schulti Shipmanagement, is the technical manager. Although the company hired the Indian crew, it isn’t party to the lawsuit.

Another question is which nation’s courts have jurisdiction. Egypt has started an investigation by reviewing the data recorder and interviewing the captain and crew while both Panama and the ship management company plan separate probes.

The SCA wants $1 billion to cover lost revenue from tolls during the six-day period, the cost of equipment and work to free the ship, and the damage to the waterway to complete the freeing of the ship. The ship’s owner cited maritime law requiring the owner of cargo on a ship to contribute to the vessel’s rescue because of a major casualty event. For example, Ikea, shipping furniture on the beached ship, couldn’t get its furniture back until it pays a percentage of the furniture’s total value. Delays for ships now going through the canal may keep them from places to dock and/or unload their cargo, and their goods could spoil or have charges for late arrival. The insurance claims could be phenomenal. The 25 crew members, all Indian nationals, will be under “house arrest” during any review while the Ever Given is anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, halfway through the canal. The ship can’t leave until a final court settlement if needed to determine compensation.

About 12 percent of global trade uses the 120-mile-long canal, saving ships an extra eight-day trip around South Africa’s Cape Horn while traveling between Asia and Europe. About one million barrels of oil and eight percent of the world’s liquefied natural gas normally go through the canal each day. In addition to the longer time, shipping costs thousands of dollars in additional fuel costs which are passed to the consume, and pirates preying on ships along the longer route may be interested in the valuable consumer products shipped out of the East. 

Alternatives to the Suez Canal are the Panama Canal and the Northwest Passage, but many ships, like the Ever Given built in 2018, are far too large for the Panama Canal. The trip through the Arctic could be safer than in the past after climate warming melted a great deal of ice, but the Northern Sea Route still sees only a few hundred shipping vessels a year. Yet Russia will be pushing for the this alternative. 

The 220,000-ton Ever Given finally escaped the mud and sand with the use of a Dutch dredger, over a dozen tugboats, and a high spring tide caused by a full moon and a “king tide.” Equipment and workers removed over 1.1 million cubic feet of the muck from around the ship.

The SCA lost about $15 million every day the canal was blocked. Tolls provide about two percent of Egypt’s GDP. For six days, the blockage stopped about $9.6 billion of trade each day–$400 million and 3.3 million tons of cargo each hour ($6.7 million per minute). German insurer Allianz said annual trade growth could lose 0.2 to 0.4 percent for the year. The cost of renting ship to and from Asia and the Middle East increased 47 percent to $2.2 million.

Egypt considers extending another channel after paying $8 billion in 2015 for that process of 43.5 miles, over one-third the complete length. The SCA will also purchase two new tugboats, get the biggest dredger in the Middle East, and arrange for another five Chinese tugboats.

Almost all container ships headed to Europe from China’s factories go through the Suez Canal; the shutdown affected up to 15 percent of the world’s container shipping. Delayed oil supplies to Syria caused rationing for “basic services … such as bakeries, hospitals, water stations, communication centers, and other vital institutions,” according to the Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources.

Bizarre QAnon conspiracy theories emerged from the blockage of the canal. An early one blamed Hillary Clinton for operating the ship with a cargo of child sex slaves. QAnon followers connected the name “Evergreen” on the side of the ship to the concealed Secret Service name for Clinton when she was first lady. Note the ship’s all sign of “H3RC”? It’s close to Clinton’s initials! And the falsehood that the ship’s captain looks like Monica Lewinsky! Elselehdar has little similarity in appearance to Lewinsky and wasn’t the captain.

In another viral—and false—Facebook post, the grounding was planned to raise prices. The falsehood claimed this was the first accident in the canal although three others closed the canal in the past two decades. The ship charted a course in the Red Sea like a giant penis before entering the Suez Canal, according to another post, giving credit to a hacker friendly to the QAnon cause who controlled the ship’s computers. The lengthy treatise compared the canal to a birth canal showing imminent unmasking of the deep state and worldwide changes. Resurrecting a 2018 post, supporters repeated “watch the water” because they believe the QAnon conspiracy is real regarding an occurrence on or near water. [Right: the QAnon “proof” board about its conspiracies.] 

The disaster presages future disasters. China is dependent on the three-fourths of its oil consumed as well as four-fifths of iron ore for its infrastructure building in exchange for exporting goods to pay for oil and iron ore. Eastern Asia is vulnerable to maritime blockades in case of geopolitical conflicts. One suggestion is for world powers to manage the Suez Canal with international authorities while respecting the current leadership.

Even a short-term hit to the economy can cause problems. The U.S., already suffering from economic shutdowns from the pandemic, experienced disruptions of traditional buying patterns like those in Europe and China. Purchasing changed from eating out to ordering imported goods for working at home, and shipping costs from China to the U.S. doubled in less than a year. Metal shipping containers sat in some ports while others had a shortage, and COVID-19 resulted in fewer longshoremen while dozens of container ships waited for California ports. The lack of truckers caused more problems after goods were unloaded from shipping vessels. The Suez blockage came on the heels of the “big freeze” in Texas which stopped petrochemical plants. Global executives may drop its strategies reducing costs and consider the vulnerabilities of disasters like this one in the Suez Canal, especially after the supply chain interruptions from the coronavirus.

Meanwhile oil prices are going down again, and conservatives will forget about the usefulness of globalization until the next disaster.

January 31, 2021

Redditors Treat Investing like Gaming

When the Dow drops by over two percent in one day, in this case 633.87 points, the cause is usually political. Last Wednesday, however, the reason came from a group of people who thought they were ganging up on hedge fund investors. The situation started last December when big investors did their usual “short selling,” betting companies will lose the value of their stock. An investor tells the broker to borrow the stocks and sell them at the current price, hoping the price will drop. After the company’s loss, the investor rebuys an equal number of stocks at the lower price, returns the borrowed stocks, and pockets the different in price as profit. The short seller only gets into financial trouble if the stock price goes up.

On Reddit, however, a large group of small investors tried to show big investors they weren’t in control. They used a free app allowing purchase of small amounts of stock, Robinhood, to purchase shares of GameStop, causing the stock prices to skyrocket. GameStop, a retailer with 5,000 stores selling video games, struggled even before the coronavirus increased online competition. Wall Street, convinced the company was due for bankruptcy, bought its outstanding stock “short.” In retaliation, Redditors planned a “short squeeze” to buy all the stocks at once, driving up the price. As the shorts got worried, they bought back the stock on its way up and drove the price up. Others decided to short the stock. Overvalued at $40, the stock was exorbitantly priced at $300 and so forth. Melvin Capital competitors had to bail out the hedge fund, which had a $3.75 billion loss.  

Although their losses sound like retribution, many ordinary day traders also got in financial trouble while some financial firms benefited if they actually owned stock early on. Asset manager Blackrock, with 13 percent of GameStop, gained about $2.4 billion from $173.6 million worth of stocks in about a month. Norway’s government also owned 2.6 percent of GameStop. 

The problem for Redditors is when to sell. The price won’t stay at today’s price of $325 forever, and people may lose bigtime. And while they think they are scheming against Wall Street, they are doing exactly the same thing as hedge fund investors. The stock market has nothing to do with investing in companies—just in stripping its resources.

Vice has a detailed description of the GameStop event. 

The GameStop saga didn’t end with people purchasing the stocks. By Thursday, Robinhood decided to stop selling stocks from both the video game retailer and other companies caught up in the decision. It also raised margin requirements for some of the securities, forcing users to front more of their own money for purchases and benefiting investors with more ready cash. TD Ameritrade and Charles Schwab did the same thing. Short-sellers bought shares to hedge their positions, sending the stock market up by over 300 by the end of Thursday.

A Robinhood customer filed a class-action lawsuit against the app with almost 31,000 users for banning sales of GameStop shares, claiming the action rigged the market against its customers and benefited those who weren’t—especially the huge hedge fund investors.

After a backlash, Robinhood announced “limited buys” of GameStop and other drastically shorted stocks, raising $1 billion overnight to comply with federally mandated capital requirements. GameStop shares increased almost 65 percent Friday, up $308 since the beginning of the year from $17 per share, going as high during the day as $414. Yet pessimism about economic problems and anxiety about the trade volatility dropped the Dow another 621 points, another two percent down. The week’s loss was 1,000 points.

Before Robinhood reinstated trading, the amateur traders pushed negative reviews about the app, leading to Google’s one-star rating early Friday morning based on 275,000 reviews. By noon, however, the rating went up to four stars after 100,000 reviews mysteriously disappeared, supposedly deleted by Google.  

The melodrama continues on Monday. After saying on Friday that he was not pressured to restrict the sales of stock, the head of Robinhood is again restricting these sales, narrowing a list of 50, however to only eight: GameStop, AMC Entertainment, BlackBerry, Koss, Express, Nokia, Genius Brands International and Naked Brand Group. For example, users can buy only one share and up to five options contracts. They are permitted ten each of AMC stock. Robinhood said the limits were subject to changes throughout the day.

Last week, the central Wall Street clearinghouse required a ten-fold increase in the firm’s deposit requirements last week. The clearinghouse also required an increase in Robinhood’s margin, the funds in a client’s account when they borrow to buy a security. Huge collapses in share prices, highly possible with the risks taken in buying GameStop and other heavily shorted securities, leave Robinhood on the hook. Margin shares could have placed further strain on Robinhood’s balance sheet, potentially leaving the broker on the hook in the event of a massive collapse in GameStop’s share price.

Jaime Rogozinski, possibly the founder of the Reddit community, called the insanity of GameStop’s shift in share prices “a train wreck happening in real time.” Keith Gill, the trader kicking off the scheme called r/WallStreetBets, said “he didn’t expect this.” Jim Cramer, Wall Street commentator on CNBC, referred to it as “insane.” Video game industry analyst Michael Pachters said it was a Ponzi scheme, a fraud appearing to make money only when propped up by funding from new investors. Critics described Robinhood as a dangerous “gamified” stock trading.

While the news may appear to affect only those involved, it shows “how social media can upend everyday life,” according to tech writer Ian Sherr. He explained:

“Twitter has changed the worlds of news and politics. YouTube and Instagram have transformed the fashion, beauty and entertainment industries. Now Reddit is taking on Wall Street… And TikTokers banded together in attempts to confuse President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.”

Other stocks targeted by Reddit communities include the once-popular Blackberry and the struggling movie chain AMC. Nasdaq, the stock market index focusing on tech companies, threatened to stop trading on stocks manipulated by social media.

The gambling of Redditors and hedge fund investors exacerbates the problem of growing inequality in the U.S. and the economic problems of the vast majority of its population. Billionaires’ assets have gone up 38.6 percent in less than a year. The $1.1 trillion they acquired is equivalent to over $3,400 for every person in the United States. And billionaires make this money because they own most of corporate stock.

People who try to cover for the huge inequality claim these wealthy people have fortunes because of their exceptional talents. For example, Elon Musk, Testa’s CEO, was worth $24.6 billion last March; last week he had $179.2 billion. Yet his increase came from business-supported government policies and a plutocracy in which very few accumulate most of a nation’s assets. In addition to DDT’s gift to the wealthy of huge tax cuts, the Feds contributed to their riches with low interest rate policies to “grow” the economy. Last year, the Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 hit record highs. New financial instruments help rich people get more money; i.e., special acquisition companies (SPACs) to buy shares in companies wanting to cash out or expand. The result is greater demand for shares and higher windfalls for the top executives who had done nothing special.

Even the misnamed Robinhood is making big bucks from Redditors’ “games” from “third party” financial companies paying Robinhood for each client trade. One of them, Citadel Securities, belongs to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who bailed out Melvin Capital by taking a big ownership share in the hedge fund loser. Other Wall Street players—Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and other big banks—make money off Redditors with its “dark pools,” hidden exchanges serving the big institutional investors without the need to specifically or timely report their trading. The relationship between Robinhood and its investment firms may face an investigation.

The whole Reddit/Wall Street/GameStop debacle is destined to end badly. Bored and frustrated by low interest rates, participants treat investing like entertainment, behaving like a mob at a sports event. The winner will be Robinhood and other zero-cost brokerages who gamble on the ignorant traders.  A few investors will sell before an inevitable crash, but more will lose everything from greed. Last summer, a 20-year-old student killed himself because he thought he had lost $730,000 on an option. In fact, he was $16,000 in the red.   

Financial markets are meant to move capital from savers to firms needing capital. The sideshow of GameStop does nothing to benefit the company while destroying faith in the markets’ functions. Hopefully, the COVID-19 vaccine will allow Redditors to find other amusement. Meanwhile, GameStop is the one without benefits: the company plans to close almost ten percent of their stores this year.

December 22, 2020

No Government Shutdown, Little Funding

The threat of the holiday 2020 government shutdown has been averted if Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) signs the $2.3 trillion budget bill. Included in the bill is $900 billion for coronavirus relief. Congress already passed the $741 billion defense bill which DDT has not yet signed and promised to veto. He has until Wednesday before it goes into law unless he vetoes it in that time.

The House passed the budget by 359-53, the Senate by 92-6. The White House said DDT will sign the measure. The six GOP senators voting against the bill: Marsha Blackburn (TN), Rand Paul (KY), Rick Scott (FL), Ron Johnson (WI), Mike Lee (UT), and Ted Cruz (TX).  

DDT has signed a one-week Continuing Resolution to give time for the budget’s paperwork preparation.   

Last May, the House passed a $3 billion stimulus bill; it passed another one for $2.2 trillion in October. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to go above $1.1 trillion but finally settled on $900 billion in his attempt to get two GOP incumbent senators re-elected in Georgia on January 5. Arguments about the contents of the bill included the inclusion of stimulus checks, extended unemployment, and assistance for state and local governments—all opposed by Republicans. The GOP wanted no liability for lack of safety from COVID-19 and the elimination of any programs to use money from the Treasury Department rainy-day fund to save the country from financial crisis. Republicans lost both of these as well as financial help for states. The 5,593-page measure probably has lots of mystery items because lawmakers had only a few hours to consider it. A few openers:

  • $1.375 billion for 56 miles of DDT’s border wall;
  • $5 million for a database to track police misconduct;
  • $153 million for programs to better community relations with police;
  • 3 percent pay raise for military;
  • 1 percent pay raise for the civilian federal workforce.

Critics have pointed out that the “stimulus” bill is quite skimpy, especially the direct aid: 

  • $166 billion: the federal unemployment insurance supplement of $300 a week, extended for 11 weeks;
  • $120 billion: direct aid checks of $600 a person making under $75,000;
  • $284 billion: forgivable loans for businesses paying for rent and workers;
  • $15 billion: live venues, movie theaters, and other entertainment;
  • [several billion]: other Small Business Administration programs;
  • $82 billion: colleges and schools with $54 billion going to public schools;
  • $69 billion: vaccines ($22 billion – testing and tracing, $20 billion – vaccine procurement, $9 billion – vaccine distribution);
  • $45 billion: transportation, including $15 billion for the airline industry;
  • $25 billion: rental assistance and an extension of the moratorium on evictions;
  • $20 billion: Economic Injury Disaster Loans;
  • $13 billion: food-assistance programs, increasing the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit by 15 percent;
  • $10 billion: childcare assistance.

States and cities have a full year to use funding from last March’s Cares Act bill. In another measure, health providers must work with insurers for a fair price in case of unexpectedly out-of-network care to avoid massive bills. Republicans get a tax break on “three-martini lunch” because Democrats wanted expanded tax credits for low income families and the working poor. DDT lobbied for that benefit. Lawmakers claim this bill is only a starter for help, but McConnell will almost surely not allow another one. The GOP firmly believes in austerity when a Democrat is president.

Oregon hit national news when about 300 heavily armed white supremacists, including Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, broke into the state capitol during a one-day special legislative session. The far-right protesters attacked police with spray chemical agents, broke glass in the doors, and tore tarps from vandalized marble reliefs on the front steps. Streets around the capitol were closed, and residents were told to avoid the area. DDT has gone silent about any protesters, including the Antifa, because of the white supremacists’ unprovoked attacks on people. [Left: a protester at the Oregon capitol.]

Arizona’s GOP Chair Kelli Ward wants DDT to “cross the Rubicon,” the illegal action Julius Caesar took to change the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire through civil war and require people to swear fealty to him and not their country.

Caught up in a conspiracy theory, air-conditioner installer David Lopez-Zuniga was going to work in a small cargo truck filled with parts last October when a SUV deliberately struck his truck and forced him to the edge of the highway. Feigning an injury, Mark Aguirre, a former Houston police officer who believed the truck had 750,000 fraudulent ballots, ordered Lopez Zuniga to the ground and pointed a gun at his head. Aguirre claimed “Hispanic children” were used to sign ballots because their fingerprints weren’t in any databases. Steven Hotze, head of a conservative nonprofit, hired Aguirre as one of 20 investigators looking into Texas ballot fraud—conspiracy theories fed by DDT and his court cases. Aguirre was fired from the Houston police force in 2003 for ordering the arrest of 300 people in a retail store parking lot, some of them shopping. He claimed drag racing, and the city paid almost $1 million to settle multiple lawsuits. Aguirre refused to say why he picked Lopez-Zuniga and called the charges a “political prosecution.”  

AG Bill Barr has until Wednesday in office, and he opposes special investigators for both Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, and election fraud. He also thinks DDT is wrong with his rejection that Russia is behind the current cyber espionage; he said the hacking “certainly appears” to be from the Kremlin. On Monday, DDT told a tea party conference he won in a landslide and wants the Justice Department to back him in overturning the election. Barr also said there is no reason for seizing voting machines, something Sidney Powell talked about with DDT Sunday at the White House. DDT’s campaign had fired Powell because of her history of false claims. 

Boeing’s 737 MAX is back in the air after being grounded for 21 months ago, but a bipartisan Senate report describes how the company and the FAA manipulated its recertification tests after the two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. Boeing “inappropriately coached” FAA test pilots for the airplane’s desirable outcome with some tests on simulators not equipped to recreate the same conditions as the crashes. The FAA also retaliated against whistleblowers, blocking the investigation, didn’t hold senior managers accountable, and permitted Southwest Airlines to operate dozens of falsely certified planes.

The post office is again failing to deliver packages on time. This time the reason is heavy e-commerce and COVID-19 infections/exposures among almost 20,000 employees. DDT’s Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s sabotage of USPS delivery, especially of ballots, worsened the situation by trashing sorting machines and cutting back on overtime. Georgia’s election, with a deadline on January 5, has a request for 1.3 million mail-in ballots.

Last August, Russians poisoned Vladimir Putin’s opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Almost dying, Navalny tricked the Russian assigned to tail Navalny into explaining the method of poisoning: the lethal nerve agent Novichok was planted inside the crotch of his underpants. Konstantin Kudryavtsev believed he was being debriefed by a senior official from Russia’s National Security Council and talked about traveling to Siberia to clean up the evidence. Navalny probably lived because his flight was diverted to Omsk where he was treated within minutes of landing. When Kudryavtsev got the clothing, he applied solutions to destroy any evidence of poison, according to directions from Stanislav Makshakov, the official in charge of the toxin team.

Russia’s four-year ban from international sports competition may be cut in half, but the country will still miss the next two Olympics and the World Cup. No flag, no anthem, no presence at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Winter Games (Beijing), and other competitions such as the FIFA World Cup, the Youth Olympic Games, Paralympics, and other world championships. Russian athletes can compete but not under the Russian flag. The court ruling for Russian doping also requires Russian government representatives, including Putin, cannot attend a major international event for the next two years. Russia must pay $1.27 million to the World Anti-Doping Agency for covering the costs of its investigation and turn over data from its Moscow laboratory.

With the addition of a Moderna vaccine, the CDC is planning more vaccinations with the next tier going to essential workers and people 75 and over. The first group was comprised of healthcare workers and people in nursing homes along with “older” members of Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), 49, joined the “older” group to get vaccinated, becoming one of the 32,000 Floridians in a state with a population of 21,480,000, mostly people over 65 and an enormous nursing home population.

Grifters are making money off the grifter in the White House. Reggie Skyrock and Ashley Weiss selling bus tickets to Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, for $40—no refunds. Yes, you read that right. It’s posted on Event Brite. And the announcement was still there a few hours even after The Bulwark outed them.  

December 18, 2020

GOP Sabotages Stimulus Bill, Economy

The United States is on the verge of another government shutdown, almost two years after the last one created by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his GOP minions. This one comes from the attachment of a stimulus bill to the budget which expires today, December 18. The general election slowed down any stimulus bill because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to destroy the economy for a Democratic president. He found no value in austerity when the GOP gave trillions of dollars to the wealthy and big business in the 2017 tax cuts and earlier this year with the CARES law giving billions more to big business. The hope last fall was that DDT’s name on another set of $1,200 checks for most people in the U.S. would make him—and other Republicans—reelected in the fall. There was no bill: Republicans came out of the general election better than expected, but DDT lost, much to the denial of his supporters.

McConnell’s decision was to vastly shrink the amount of the current stimulus bill to under $1 trillion while blowing up the amount by using money from the CARES law. He blocked the stimulus bill by refusing to send any money to local and state governments, in serious shape from the pandemic, and demanding big business have no liability for endangering their workers, even when they sit around and make bets about how many of their employees will die.

To further jeopardize the stimulus bill and the economy, the GOP tacked on another demand today, ending emergency lending programs for small and medium-sized businesses authorized by the CARES Act. The CARES Act states the programs don’t expire until 2026 unless Congress changes the law.  Language from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who doesn’t plan to run for reelection in two years, blocks all money in the Treasury’s rainy day fund, even funds not from CARES, from use in similar future programs to respond to a financial crisis. Of nine programs needing to be renewed at the end of 2020, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wants to scuttle five of them. Toomey wants to prevent any future Treasury secretary of either party from ever providing assistance for both small businesses and non-federal governments.

“My goal … is always to get as right-of-center an outcome as possible,” McConnell said when questioned about a crisis, specifically a government shutdown. His one goal is to stay in power, and he’ll do anything to keep the job. He admitted the only reason he might send out smaller stimulus checks is to reelect the two Georgia incumbent senators, who McConnell says are being “hammered” by the stimulus check issue, but he wants the amount small to depress the economy.  McConnell appears to be a DDT loyalist, but his admission about Biden being president-elect shows he will dump DDT when necessary. It’s not that he wants Biden; he just wants his Republicans to not look foolish so they will get reelected.

DDT wants stimulus checks to be up to $2,000, but White House staffers talked him out of the idea. Keeping the stimulus checks low will guarantee a struggling economy when Biden takes over as president and keep McConnell semi-satisfied. Under DDT and McConnell, poverty jumped 2.4 percent in the past five months, the highest annual increase since the 1960s. The shift from 9.3 percent in June to 11.7 percent in November added 7.8 million to the poor while people with a high school education or less—DDT’s supporters—faced a 5.1 increase in unemployment. McConnell figures these people will keep voting for Republicans because they get their falsehoods from conservative media.

To avoid a weekend shutdown today, the House passed a two-day Continuing Resolution to the budget by 360-60 which passed the Senate with a voice vote. Congress has until midnight on Sunday to pass a real budget and a real stimulus bill if DDT passes the C.R

Another Christmas Grinch, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), has twice blocked the stimulus bill. Johnson said:

“I’m not heartless. I want to help people. I voted to help people.”

A favorite Johnson strategy is accusing others of lying while he tells his own falsehoods. During Johnson’s committee hearing earlier this week  focusing on conspiracy theories about evidence-free election fraud, he blew up at Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), accusing Peters of having “lied repeatedly in the press that I was spreading Russian disinformation.” In the past, Johnson did exactly that about Hunter Biden, the son of the president-elect, in a ploy to get votes for DDT. In the midst of the budget and COVID-19 crisis, Johnson devoted three hours to pushing election fraud lies with three witnesses totally lacking credibility. Peters responded:

“This is not about airing your grievances. I don’t know what rabbit hole you’re running down. This is terrible what you’re doing to this committee… Whether intended or not, this hearing gives a platform to conspiracy theories and lies. It is a destructive exercise that has no place in the United States Senate.”

Some of the falsehoods from Johnson’s witnesses were already rejected in tens of courts; others had no basis. With no evidence, Johnson kept claiming fraud had occurred although the one expert witness maintained it did not. The only reliable witness, Chris Krebs, knew the election had no widespread fraud: he was the leader of the DHS cyber security agency until DDT fired him a few days after losing because Krebs wouldn’t say he found fraud. At the hearing, Krebs talked about how the lies about election fraud were worsening the climate of threats against elections workers, causing a “chilling effect” in future elections. Peters said some threats against Krebs were so serious that they had “to make some arrangements for your security to be here today to testify in person.”

Two days after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) supported Johnson’s view of election fraud, that the 2020 election was “stolen” from DDT, he objected to people voting in the Georgia election for two U.S. senators on January 5. He believes Republicans need to block a large voter turnout because it helps Democrats. Paul said:

“They’re mailing out a solicitation to vote by mail. This is not in the state law. I’m very, very concerned that if you solicit votes from typically non-voters, that you will affect and change the outcome. So I’m very worried that the Democrats will control all three branches of government.”

Conservatives control the third “branch of government”—the Supreme Court—because DDT controlled the executive and legislative branches during his first two years in the Oval Office. Paul announced Republicans can have a majority of the legislative branch only if a segment of eligible voters, especially Blacks, are disenfranchised. Paul may formally reject the electoral votes during the January 6 joint session of Congress.

The U.S. Army is refusing to follow Michael Flynn’s request for a declaration of martial law to force reelections in battleground states where DDT lost. On Newsmax, Flynn said:

“[DDT could] order the—within the swing states, if he wanted to—he could take military capabilities, and he could place those in states and basically re-run an election in each of those states.”

The response from Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville:

“There is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.”

Despite Flynn’s claim that “it’s not unprecedented,” there is no record of a U.S. president declaring martial law for a new election. Flynn, a QAnon member, secretly worked with Russia after DDT’s election and before his inauguration to subvert President Obama. His business was also paid to secretly encourage the extradition back to Turkey of a longtime Turkish dissident living in Pennsylvania for 20 years. DDT gave Flynn the same pardon President Gerald Ford gave Richard Nixon, absolving Flynn of “any and all possible offenses” arising from Mueller’s investigation, any related grand jury proceedings, and all charges based on “facts and circumstances, known to, identified by, or in any manner related to the investigation of the Special Counsel.”

In the past week, Steve Schmidt, formerly John McCain’s campaign manager, shifted his voter registration to Democrat, because of DDT’s and the GOP behavior:

“It was a joke in a lot of ways, but it was a coup. It was a failed coup. And the way you get to a second coup in most countries is by having your first unsuccessful one.”

Schmidt described the Democratic Party as the only one that “stands for the ideas and ideals of American liberty.” He declared, “I’m a single-issue voter now. I believe in democracy.”

December 18: daily U.S. cases – 254,680; deaths – 2,794. Thirty-three more days to go.

September 7, 2020

Labor Day: DDT Makes Almost Everyone a ‘Loser’

Last week, an Atlantic article addressed Dictator Donald Trump (DDT in his description of captured, wounded, and killed military members as “losers” and “suckers.” Today, the fourth Labor Day since DDT was inaugurated, over 90 percent of the people in the United States are “losers.” Labor Day is meant to celebrate but under DDT:

Workplace safety has been destroyed: OSHA’s website no longer provides names of people dying in workplace accidents, and safety protections are rolled back for oil rig and coal industry workers.

The number of workers eligible for overtime pay has been cut in half, and workers are losing the ability to unionize and collective bargain.

Only half of workers for companies employing fewer than 50 people has access to 401(k)s, belying DDT’s claim that the stock market helps workers.

COVID-19 can’t be blamed for all the bad economy: the recession, defined by two quarters of negative growth, began last February before the virus’ onslaught. DDT also did nothing to stop the pandemic for months. He used the infections and deaths in blue states, hoping the problems would help him get elected. The economy was already too weak to overcome the pandemic’s effects, especially with a collapsing healthcare infrastructure. The tie of people’s health insurance to their employment devastated the economy after almost one-third of workers lost their employment or were furloughed.

The RNC attempt to “sell” the economy failed:

Employment: The stable economy in 2017 taken over by DDT in 2017 had a good record for consecutive monthly job growth, compared to Barack Obama’s assuming the presidency at the worst of the Great Recession. Almost 7 million jobs were created during Obama’s last three years in office; DDT’s first three years shrank 394,000 jobs to 6,585,000 jobs. Job growth in July, 4.7 million new jobs, shrank to 1.7 million in July and 1.4 million August, many of them temporary census takers to be laid off in a month or two. The number of permanently laid-off workers instead of temporary layoffs or furloughs increased to 3.4 million in August from 2.9 million in July. Of the 25 million jobs lost in the spring, only 10 million returned through July, a loss of 5.7 new jobs since DDT was inaugurated.  

Monthly unemployment numbers: In his ongoing attempts to pretend the economy is better than it is, DDT is “adjusting” the monthly unemployment figure by publishing the “additive” seasonal adjustment for first time unemployment claims. The change lowering numbers by about 21 percent. For example, the 881,000 claims for the last week of August, the first to use the system, would normally have been the usual over one million figure. About 29 million workers currently receive weekly unemployment out of a past workforce of approximately 154 million.

Economic growth: In Obama’s final three years, the economy (inflation-adjusted gross domestic product) grew 2.5 percent in 2014, 3.1 percent in 2015, and 1.7 percent in 2016—an average of 2.43 percent per year. DDT’s first three years showed an average of 2.5 percent per year—2.3 percent in 2017, 3.0 percent in 2018, and 2.2 percent in 2019. He had promised 4 percent or more per year.

Wage growth: Hourly earnings adjusted for inflation grew 3.3 percent during Obama’s final three years. DDT’s first three years were slightly less in the hourly earnings increase at an average of 3.2 percent. Any spike in wage growth now comes from disproportionate job losses for low-wage workers. Workers in the bottom 25 percent were half of the job losses whereas the top half of earners comprised one-third of the layoffs. Meanwhile, the ratio of CEO compensation to worker pay rose from 293 to 1 in 2018 to 320 to 1 in 2019.

The system may reverse as millions of lower-paid employees are being brought back, and the well-paid jobs, including those at tech companies, are disappearing. In the last four weeks, almost seven million people filed initial unemployment claims while the number of people on unemployment insurance dropped by four million, from 31 million to 27 million. Many of the people who got their jobs back, however, are in retail, restaurants, and lodging—the lower-paid end of services. It’s the next disaster.

Stock market: DDT’s S&P 500 climbed 51 percent from the day of his inauguration to August 25, 2020. It has gone down since then. The S&P 500 rose 182 percent during Obama’s two terms—about 52 percent during his second term.

Gains for the wealthy: The “K-shaped recovery,” a sideways “V” giving money to the rich and taking from the other 99 percent, was worsened by DDT’s 2017 tax cuts in which over half the people made less money in 2018 than in 2016. The almost 87 million taxpayers making under $50,000 lost $307 compared to President Obama’s last year. DDT’s policies benefit the top 7 percent: households with incomes over $200,000 rose by over 20 percent, and those making over $10 million skyrocketed by 37 percent to 22,112 households. Losing revenue from the tax cuts mostly for the wealthy adds at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt. During the pandemic, the combined wealth of more than 600 billionaires in the U.S. jumped by $792 billion, taking their collective net worth to $3.7 trillion.

National debt: The federal accumulated debt is projected to be larger next year than the overall economy for the first time since 1946—107 percent of the 2023 gross domestic product. This fiscal year’s debt ending this month expected to be $3.3 trillion reaches 16 percent of GDP, a level not seen since 1945. Federal spending skyrocketed to 32 percent of GDP for the current fiscal year. Tens of millions of people unemployed and countless businesses struggling or gone dropped revenues, down 16.3 percent from last year and 18 percent from 2015. The Congressional Budget Office estimates declines in both revenues and spending for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning October 1 with an expected 8.6 percent of GDP next year.

Deferred payroll taxes: If businesses defer the 6.2 percent employee portion of taxes for Social Security and Medicare, workers will see more money in their paychecks until the end of the year before they are forced to pay double that amount—12.4 percent—for over three months until the “deferment” is repaid. Ideally, people could save the overage in their paychecks for repayment, but realistically, many of them won’t. The needy unemployed won’t have any extra money from the deferred payroll tax because they have no paychecks. DDT is ordering this deferment for the 4.5 million federal employees, both civilian and military. Businesses describe DDT’s plan in his signed measure as “unworkable” and don’t plan to implement the order. Workers may also be able to opt out of the deferral program although the possibility is uncertain. More problems come from situations in which employees no longer work for the company as well as the government struggling to collect back-due tax balances next year.

DDT has said, if reelected he plans to eliminate the payroll tax entirely. If he carries through with his threat, the Social Security Trust Fund will be empty by 2023. The question is whether he can carry through with his plan without congressional approval. 

High U.S. trade deficit: On the campaign trail, DDT promised to produce a speedy decline in the U.S. trade deficit. July saw a 12-year high in this deficit after a surge in imports, the largest since July 2008. The negative trade balance in 2020’s first seven months is $340 billion. Over 300,000 U.S. jobs have been lost to outsourcing and imports since DDT’s inauguration, perhaps more because the figure reflects only job losses approved for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) retraining and other benefits. The Economic Policy Institute reported DDT’s trade agenda and handling of the pandemic “wiped out much of the last decade’s job gains in U.S. manufacturing.” Robert Scott, EPI senior economist and director of trade and manufacturing stated, “Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared under Trump between 2016 and 2018.” He added the annual increase in the U.S. trade deficit since 2016 reduced GDP growth by about 0.25 percent annually for each of the three years.

New stimulus bill: One reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses help for states and cities during the pandemic comes from not “bailing out” blue states having budgetary problems from the pandemic. Deep-red Louisiana has a 46 percent decline in revenue and asked for $500 billion, $350 billion more than DDT offered. If McConnell sticks to his guns, the U.S. economy could contract by three percent and lose another four million jobs.

The Federal Reserve has decided to keep interest rates low, benefiting banks and allowing people to borrow more money while putting more people in debt and raising inflation. The higher prices and lower savings rates will hurt many people, especially elders. The delinquency rate for mortgages just hit the biggest quarterly rise in the history of surveying. More facts about the collapsing economy here and here

During his inauguration speech, DDT promised to provide for the “forgotten men and women of our country. These are some of the results. DDT now says a Biden/Harris administration would destroy the U.S. economy. It’s too late; people are already losers.  

March 9, 2020

Markets—Stocks, Bonds, Oil—in Crisis

Reminiscent of the 2008 crisis, a full-flown trading panic sent the New York Stock Exchange shooting downwards as the Dow Jones dropped over 2,000 (7.8 percent) to the same level as 30 months ago, and the Standard & Poor and Nasdaq each lost over 7 percent. The radical drops during the first few minutes after the bell rang to open stock trading caused a 15-minute trading hiatus for all trading. The automatic trigger mechanism was created during the 1987 recession, and it’s only the second time since then that the stoppage has gone into effective, the last time in 2008 during the Great Recession. It’s the first time since 2008, during The Great Recession, that the trigger mechanism was utilized.  [Floor trader Peter Tuchman watches the stock numbers drop during the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange on March 9, 2020. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images.) 

The losses were predictable. Global markets began shrinking over the weekend, setting up the scene for the losses in the U.S. London’s FTSE returned to three years ago by falling 8 percent, Japan’s Nikkei index went down over 5 percent, and Australia’s stocks lost over 7 percent.

Bonds also hit an historic low as investors sold stocks to because of covid-19 and the oil war. All yields fell below 1 percent for the first time ever: the 10-year Treasury bond is 0.62 percent, and the 30-year yield dropped almost 2 percent to crawl back up to 1.08 percent. 

 

 

 

 

 

The covid-19 pandemic has roiled the global markets, but the slumps were also caused by Saudi Arabia’s initiating an oil war with Russia which caused prices to collapse 30 percent to the level of the 1991 Gulf War. Despite a glut of oil on the market, the Saudis won’t scale back production after Russia flooded the market. Finishing down 24 percent, Brent was $34.44 per barrel and West Texas International crude at $31.13 per barrel. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) blew aside the destructive impact from uncertainty and fear by praising oil prices to save money at the gas pump. Lower oil prices also slash inflation that may match the 2008 financial crisis.

Last Friday, Russia refused an agreement with OPEC on cuts in oil supplies to bolster prices. Price drops hurt Venezuela and Iran, already suffering from U.S. sanctions. Highly indebted U.S. oil companies will have added pressure, and more of them may go out of business with ensuing decline in production. Oil producing states such as Texas have laid off workers. Canada will be hard hit, and developing companies such as Nigeria, Angola, and Brazil will face economic slowdowns. Shares of the Saudi national oil company, Saudi Aramco, dropped by 9 percent. If the Saudis increase output to make up for lower prices, prices in the world will continue to collapse, already about one-third this year.

Last week,  J.P. Morgan told clients that markets indicate a 90 percent chance of a recession, meaning six continuous months of economic contraction. Hits to the economy come from almost empty airplanes and hiring freezes. Middle-class people will stay at home to eat instead of patronizing restaurants and buy cheaper products.

DDT keeps talking about how strong “the economy” is, but people’s economic life and livelihood are not “the economy.” DDT’s policies on taxes, tariffs, education, healthcare, the environment, etc. have badly hurt most people’s finances. The 34 percent addition to the deficit negates the idea that the economy is booming, as are the frequent drops in the prime rate. Since his inauguration, DDT has run the government as if the U.S. was already in a recession. Education enriches the economy, but it’s cut in DDT’s budget as are service. Taxpayers have already paid $28 billion to bail out farmers because of DDT’s tariffs, and DDT wants to take the Affordable Care Act away from most people in a case before the Supreme Court. Climate change takes more money from taxpayers, but DDT and his administration ignore its problems of floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The economy hurts most people.

Years before the 2008 financial crisis, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) warned about a vulnerable economy with trends of “shady subprime lending, rising household debt, a mortgage market where lenders didn’t bear the risk of their loans.” [Note: I sensed disaster coming too, but I’m not an expert.] Warren wrote another post less than a year ago about an eminent disaster:

“I see a manufacturing sector in recession. I see a precarious economy that is built on debt—both household debt and corporate debt—and that is vulnerable to shocks. And I see a number of serious shocks on the horizon that could cause our economy’s shaky foundation to crumble. Seventy-one million American adults—more than 30% of the adults in the country—already have debts in collection.”

She added that consumers were getting squeezed by “a generation of stagnant wages” and the rising costs of basic goods and services. The solution for U.S. households is to take on debt at historic levels with student loans, credit card debt, auto loans. Warren also wrote about corporate debt:

“Leveraged lending—lending to companies that are already seriously in debt—has jumped by 40 percent since Trump took office.”

This leveraged debt helped consumer debt to tank the economy in 2008. Like subprime mortgages, new corporate loans are “poorly-underwritten loans with minimal protections that are then packaged and sold to investors.”

The recession for U.S. manufacturing sector, tied to DDT’s trade wars, began in the beginning of 2019. Warren wrote, “For the first time ever, the average hourly wage for manufacturing workers has dropped below the national average.” Her solution was reducing household debt by canceling some debt and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour; creating regulations to decrease heavily leveraged corporate lending; and investing trillions of dollars into new environmental research, production, and exports to strengthen manufacturing.

Instead, DDT kept wages low, blocked regulations, stopped investing in the country, and cut taxes for the wealthy and big business.

DDT is fond of comparisons to him with biblical figures such as Cyrus, David, Abraham, Moses, the apostles, Jesus, and even Queen Esther. Running out of Judeo-Christian figures, DDT quote-tweeted an image of himself as Nero and wrote, “Who knows what this means, but it sounds good to me!” Former ethics director Walter Schaub replied:

“It means Rome is burning and you’re fiddling around a golf course, Nero.”

When he was young, the emperor Nero had lavish palaces, threw wasteful parties, slept around, and went on the stage. In 64 A.D., he announced his plan to destroy Rome and build it back up in his preferred architectural style. The Senate refused, and Rome began to burn for nine days. According to legend, the extravagant emperor Nero “fiddled while Rome burned,” but violins didn’t come into existence until many centuries later. Nero’s first biographer claimed he sang while Rome burned. Other biographers asserted that witnesses saw Nero set the fire or hired thugs to do it. Nero committed suicide four years later after fleeing Rome and discovering that he was condemned to death as a public enemy. The people celebrated his death. [Left: A float depicting DDT as Nero in the traditional Carnival parade in Mainz, Germany, on Feb. 24. Michael Probst/AP]

The United States is burning, and DDT plays golf and blames the Democrats.

March 3, 2020

DDT’s Economy before Covid-19

As the new coronavirus, covid-19, continues its creep across the world, the economy—which had many cracks before the health crisis—may take a bit hit.

Financial markets: Last week, U.S. stocks’ drop of at least 10 percent had not been seen since 2008 in the great recession at the end of George W. Bush’s second term. Damage is being done to retirement accounts, especially if interest rates are again cut, and consumer confidence. Stocks went up this week but only because governments and banks promised to take care of the problem.

Retail: Reduction in discretionary spending influences an area providing for over two-thirds of U.S. economic growth. A covid-19 outbreak in the U.S. would also drive people to online outlets, threatening jobs in a sector showing no employment growth in 2019.

Travel and hospitality: Cancelation of conferences and meetings have already led to a drastic decline in global travel and tourism, hurting airlines, lodging, casinos, restaurants, concert/sports venues, and other businesses with close contact.

Technology: Factory shutdowns in China and neighboring countries already restricted supply of technology products and parts, necessary for huge companies such as Apple and Microsoft. Almost 80 percent of small and medium-sized industrial plants in China are still closed.

Automobiles: Lack of parts from China hurts the U.S. industry already suffering from DDT’s tariffs.

For the one argument to vote for him, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) bragged about creating the “best economy” people have ever known—low unemployment rate, lies about new jobs, and the high stock market. Even before the onslaught of covid-19, DDT’s economy was going downhill. He pushed through the tax cuts with promises for a GDP up to six percent but averaged $1 trillion deficit per year, twice President Obama’s last year. He hasn’t even hit three percent GDP growth for a year: 2.3 percent last year, 2.9 percent in 2018, and 2.4 percent his first year. President Obama hit over 4 percent in four different quarters. Goldman Sachs now estimates GDP for the first quarter of 2020 at 1.2 percent. Ed Hyman, Evercore ISI Chairman and widely followed economist on Wall Street, predicts 0.0 percent GDP for both second and third quarters of 2020. 

An update from early November showing DDT’s growing economy problems:

  • Private-sector investment had negative growth for most of 2019 as big business stores profits offshore and buys stocks in their companies.
  • Job growth of almost 2.1 million in 2019 was below that of 2018 and among the worst since 2011 when the country was crawling out of a big recession. DDT’s best year of 2018, with 2.31 million new jobs, was still under jobs gains during any of Obama’s last three years.
  • About 1 in 7 U.S. men between 25 and 54 (over 14 percent) aren’t employed, higher than the year before the economic disaster in 2007. Many of them don’t appear in unemployment statistics because they gave up looking for work. Most do not have college degrees and live in a handful of rural, low-income regions across the country.
  • Median household income rose only $1,400 during DDT’s first two years, compared to the $4,810 increase during President Obama’s last two years.
  • Wage growth dropped in states that didn’t have minimum-wage increases, and median wage for “blue collar” workers has gone down 12.3 percent since 1979. The $7.25 minimum wage, established 11 years ago, just shrank to $6.05 after adjusted for inflation.  U.S. households are poorer than before the 2007 financial crisis.
  • The median wage of a full-time male worker is still more than three percent below what it was 40 years ago. DDT’s change in the overtime rule means that eight million workers will receive lower wages, $1.4 billion less than under the 2016 rule.
  • The typical US male worker needs one additional week every year to support a family of four compared to the 30 weeks in 1985 that gave him the money. Now a man needs $54,441 for expenditures compared to the $13,227 required in 1985. Women are worse off, requiring 45 weeks in 1985 compared to 66 weeks in 2018.
  • Median household income in Democratic districts is $61,000, compared with $53,000 for Republicans.
  • Conservative policies are responsible for millennials’ huge college debt, stagnant wages, unaffordable health care, climate change problems, and massive federal deficits.
  • Nine of the last ten recessions began under Republicans: 1953, 1958, 1960, 1969, 1973, 1981, 1990, 2001, and 2007. The only Democratic one was in 1980, resulting from the oil crisis in the late 1970s.
  • In the employment figures that DDT praises, 57 million workers, one-third of all employed people, have gig economy jobs without any benefits such as health insurance. People in those jobs, as well as other ones that don’t provide sick leave, are likely to spread covid-19 by working while sick and having contact with a large number of people.  
  • In two years, the uninsured rate increased from 10.9 percent to 13.7 percent, and life expectancy dropped in the first two years after DDT was inaugurated—in 2017 the highest rate of midlife mortality since World War II.
  • Almost 60 percent of people in the U.S. cannot cover an emergency expense of $1,000 such as a car repair
  • In a Monmouth University poll, only 12 percent of people in the U.S. said their families had “benefited a great deal” from recent economic growth, and only 18 percent said that middle-class families had benefited a lot from Trump’s economic policies. 

DDT wants people to overlook his soliciting foreign interference to get elected, incessantly lying, obstructing justice, and destroying the lives of people through his domestic and foreign policies. His demand for votes based on a continuation of Obama’s economy ignores the indicators of a coming recession.

  • The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index dropped to 47.2, its lowest level since June 2009. Unemployment has increased in Ohio and Pennsylvania for the past six months, and Michigan and Wisconsin manufacturing unemployment has eroded.
  • Manufacturing cut 12,000 jobs in December; mining shed 8,000; and transportation and warehousing dumped 10,000. US Steel shuttered its Detroit plant and laid off 1,545 workers. Two hundred workers lost their jobs earlier last year.
  • Shipment volume dropped 9.4 percent in January 2020 compared to an already weak January the previous year. The decrease was for the 14th month and the steepest since October 2009. In December, the Celadon Group, with 3,000 drivers and 2,700 tractors, became the largest truckload carrier to file for bankruptcy, and barge operator American Commercial Lines, with 3,500 barges mostly the Mississippi River, declared bankruptcy in January. Two of the largest US railroads, CSX and Union Pacific, dropped revenues and reported massive layoffs from weak transportation.
  • Car sales have declined since 2016 to below their level in 2000, and new-vehicle registration in California, the biggest U.S. market, dropped 5.5 percent in 2019. New-vehicle sales have dropped to
  • Five percent of auto loans are delinquent.
  • Credit card delinquencies increased in 2019 to 8.36 percent. Subprime credit-card delinquency rates are at an all-time high.
  • One in nine borrowers of student debt, now over $1.5 trillion, were reported 90+ days delinquent or in default in 2019. This figure might be understated because half of student loans aren’t in the repayment cycle because they are in deferment, grace periods, or forbearance. Delinquency rates are projected to be about twice as high when those loans enter the repayment cycle.
  • The size of the stock market relative to the size of the economy is at its highest level ever, showing that it’s overvalued. Because of stock over-evaluation, asset managers expect a recession this year or in 2021.
  • Capital spending by S&P 500 companies grew less than 1 percent in the third quarter and would have fallen without Apple and Amazon because uncertain business environment causes companies to cut back on spending.

GOP Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley encouraged DDT and his economists, including Peter Navarro, to read about parallels to the booming 1920s in Dan Henninger’s Wall Street Journal op-ed by Dan Henninger. The economic growth, when Congress cut taxes three times in a time of huge income inequality, was followed by the financial crash and almost a decade of deep fiscal depression. Herbert Hoover, elected in 1928, loved tariffs that damaged an already declining economy and signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff law in 1930, a policy that severely restricted trade and strained the economy by raising import taxes.

After a cash shortage in financial institutions last September, the Federal Reserve flooded the market with overnight “repos,” repurchase operations by purchasing $60 billion a month in short-term Treasury bills. Banks buy them overnight and sell them back the next day at a higher price to meet federal requirements for minimum reserves. 

The economy would have shown greater signs of tanking without the Federal Reserve acting as if the U.S. were in a recession instead of a sound economy. The agency practiced quantitative easing, buying assets such as bonds. The last time the government did this to get out of the great recession, the Fed stopped the practice as soon as the economy recovered. Now, the Fed is purchasing bonds at a $60 billion per month–$720 billion a year or about three-fourths of a trillion dollars—more debt for future generations. This system moves more wealth to the top, away from most people.

The Fed has also cut interest rates several times since DDT was inaugurated, most recently the 0.5 percent this morning which dropped the rate to below 1.25 percent—the largest cut since 2008. The purpose is to encourage people to spend, an unlikely behavior during a health crisis.

A recent Pew research poll found that “[s]even-in-10 U.S. adults say the economic system in their country unfairly favors powerful interests.” William D. Cohan wrote that covid-19 gave investors the reason for grabbing their profits in a shaky economy and DDT an excuse to blame the stock market on something other than his economic policies that “widened the gulf between the rich and poor” to the biggest divide since the Gilded Age of 150 years ago.   

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