There is a public pension crisis in America. Across the country, states and cities do not have enough money set aside to pay the retirement benefits of their workers. Teachers, police officers, firefighters and beyond will very likely not receive the retirement that they were promised.
Looking for something to talk about at dinner tonight with the in-laws? Here are some of the stories that made news this week:
Tech: Amazon shares fell 5.9% this week after Axios reported that President Trump privately expressed frustrations about the company’s practices, which he feels are unfair. Trump then confirmed the rumors via tweet:
I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2018
Amazon, however, does pay state taxes in all states that require them; the USPS itself has refuted that Amazon is causing it to lose money ($) and has described the relationship as mutually beneficial.
Markets & Economy: It was a down month for the S&P IT sector as a whole (-3.9%), as investors digest the latest challenges for Facebook and Tesla and begin to question whether such high valuations are warranted (PE for S&P IT sector is 23.5). The S&P 500 as a whole was down 2% for the quarter ended 31 March.
Foreign Policy: Kim Jong-un, the reclusive leader of North Korea, made an unscheduled visit to Beijing to discuss upcoming nuclear negotiations with South Korea and the US. Some analysts believe Jong-un was seeking to strengthen his hand by getting China’s implicit support; others felt the Chinese might have initiated the meeting to avoid being left on the sidelines of the negotiations.
Politics: Congress is currently in the middle of a scheduled two-week break. After exhausting all options, Governor Scott Walker (R-Wis.) has called for special elections to fill two empty seats in the state legislature. Democracy groups had sued the state after Gov. Walker originally planned to not hold the elections, preferring instead to wait until the fall 2018 elections.
Sports: The captain of Australia’s national cricket team admitted to cheating in a recent match against South Africa. The revelation has shocked the world of cricket. The sport has traditionally placed a very strong emphasis on players adhering to the spirit of the game.
This week at Street 43 we also provided more background on why the current anti-trade environment in Washington might prevent American companies from tapping into the world’s growing middle class; why adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census could have profound impacts; and how Trump’s firing of David Shulkin, secretary of veterans affairs, might hasten the privatization of veterans healthcare.
On Wednesday, President Trump fired Dr. David Shulkin, the Veterans Affairs Secretary, and announced his selection of Dr. Ronny Jackson to replace him. The firing marks the end of one of the longest and most public conflicts within the Trump administration and perhaps the beginning of the end of the Veterans Health Administration as we know it. The episode is a case study for how Trump’s shallow positions on many policy issues and his freewheeling management style have left a vacuum that motivated ideologues are happily filling to service their own agendas.
On Monday, the Commerce Department announced that the 2020 Census will include a question about the respondent’s citizenship status. The inclusion of the question was requested by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the grounds that the information is needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act. In response, many rights and democracy groups, as well as members of Congress, raised concerns that the citizenship question will depress overall response rates and lead to inaccurate data.
On Friday, buried among all the news making headlines, Neil Irwin published an article highlighting one of the chief ironies about globalization. In short, the anti-globalization policies now in favor and being promoted in Washington are too late; and their successful implementation might actually prevent US companies from capitalizing on the main benefits that rival countries reaped from globalization.
Looking for something to talk about at dinner tonight with the in-laws? Here is a summary of this week’s news:
Markets & Economy: The S&P 500 had its worst week since January 2016, down 6%. Young and long-term investors rejoice as the market goes on sale. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates on Wednesday by 0.25 percent. The median expectation for long-term inflation increased, suggesting growing hawkish sentiment within the FOMC.
Tech: Lithium batteries are about to get 30% ($) better now that companies can fill them with more silicon.
Politics: Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill. The 2,200 page document was released for review just 24 hours before it was voted on. Trump, unhappy that the media portrayed the document as win for Democrats, initially threatened to veto the bill before ultimately signing it Friday afternoon.
National Security: After rumors circulated for months, H.R. McMaster, National Security Adviser, is officially out. He will be replaced by John Bolton, a former ambassador to the UN in the Bush Administration and a prominent foreign policy hawk.
Sports: For the first time in the men’s NCAA tournament, a No. 1 seed (Virginia) lost to a No. 16 seed (University of Maryland – Baltimore County).
This week at Street 43 we also provided more background on why people suddenly want to #DeleteFacebook; whether Governor Cuomo is testing Trump’s playbook in his looming battle with Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon; and how Trump’s tariffs on China might not get him what he really wants.
The Trump administration has announced tariffs on more than $60 billion of Chinese goods. The tariffs are ostensibly related to China’s use (and misuse) of American intellectual property (Bloomberg has an informed overview). Trump campaigned hard on the US trade imbalance with China, so it’s perhaps not surprising that he is moving forward with this action.
In yet another sign of how completely and utterly tin-eared the Boomer generation remains, a surrogate of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has condescended (smeared?) his opponent Cynthia Nixon, calling her an “unqualified lesbian.” You might remember Nixon as one of the actors in the popular HBO show Sex and the City. Having only ever watched one or two episodes I cannot comment on Ms. Nixon’s contributions to that show, though she made it into both movies, so presumably her role was material. But that isn’t the focus of this post.
It was interesting to read all the reactions on Twitter to the big story over the weekend about how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook user data for their voter profiling and targeting work for the Trump campaign.