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Debt default, recession prediction, geopolitical swing states, baby goats hopping
May 22, 2023 - The Nett Report
The Political Divide
Religion becoming less important in the lives of Americans
Religion is another factor contributing to the political divide. A May 15, 2023, story on NPR provided the results of a report from the Public Religion Research Institute regarding the importance of religion to Americans.
Just 16% of Americans surveyed said religion is the most important thing in their lives, down from 20% a decade ago.”
For Catholics and mainline Protestants, the importance of religion has declined somewhat in the last decade.
38% of Black Protestants and 42% of white evangelical Protestants say religion is most important.
71.1 million people have been displaced by war and climate change
A record 71.1 million people were displaced by war and climate calamities, a 20% increase since 2021, according to a May 11, 2023, Reuters story. The facts:
Three-quarters live in 10 countries, including Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ukraine, and Sudan, due to conflicts that prompted significant displacement in 2022.
17 million displacements were due to the war in Ukraine.
32.6 million displacements were due to disasters, including floods, droughts, and landslides.
28.3 million displacements were due to conflict and violence
Geography determines the political shape of the nation
A May 8, 2023, article in UnHerd makes the case that the political divide, or deepening conflict as they call it, “is inevitably framed as a disagreement between classes, races, or ideologies.” The article calls this a mistake. Instead, the author argues that “it is geography that determines its political shape. The greatest division today is to do with place: in particular, three basic terroirs — urban, suburban, and rural — which reflect a divergence in economic interest, family structure, and basic values, particularly between big city economies and those on the periphery.” It is a worthwhile read.
The debt default – history and the 14th Amendment
As Republicans and Democrats negotiate the debt default, the question of the 14th Amendment has arisen. The 14th Amendment states in Section 4 that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” Former U.S. Labor Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, in his May 22, 2023, newsletter relates a 1985 standoff over the debt limit when Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III told congressional leaders that:
If Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling by the end of the month, the Reagan administration would pay the nation’s bills by taking back Treasury securities in which Social Security had invested.
If Congress still didn’t raise the debt ceiling, Baker said the administration would borrow from the railroad retirement and military retirement trust funds.
And if the impasse continued, the administration would begin selling gold from the U.S. gold reserve.
Reich said that “Baker’s point was that the Reagan administration would continue to find ways to pay the nation’s bills, come hell or high water. An agreement was finally reached after the Reagan administration had begun raiding Social Security but before it took any other measures.”
Future of Work / The Economy
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” - Mark Twain
Survey results – 58% say no recession is coming
In the May 8 issue, The Nett Report readers looked into their crystal balls and told us what they think about the possibility of a recession. The sample size was small and certainly not statistically significant, but the results were interesting.
Is a recession coming?
58% - no
42% - yes
If you think a recession is coming, when will it arrive?
60% - Fourth quarter 2023
40% - Sometime later in 2024 (beyond the first quarter)
College graduates are leaving large, expensive metro areas
A New York Times analysis of census data in The Morning newsletter on May 16, 2023, found that “over the past decade, college graduates have joined a trend that was already evident among lower-income Americans. They are increasingly moving out of the country’s most expensive metropolitan areas.” Housing is a key element of the trend and “that even professionals with relatively high salaries are choosing to leave.” The article says the one of the most important movements in American politics today is the YIMBY movement – Yes in My Backyard – which encourages more homebuilding in expensive regions.
Goldman Sachs on geopolitical swing states
According to a Goldman Sachs article on May 15, 2023, “In American domestic politics, swing states can be won by either party, and they decide presidential elections. In geopolitics, swing states have the agency to chart their own course on an issue-by-issue basis, and they may decide the future of the international balance of power. Geopolitical swing states are relatively stable countries that have their own global agendas independent of Washington and Beijing, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities.” Goldman Sachs says these countries fall into four overlapping categories:
Countries with a competitive advantage in a critical aspect of global supply chains — e.g., India, Brazil and China.
Countries uniquely suited for nearshoring, offshoring or friendshoring — e.g., Vietnam, Mexico and Canada.
Countries with a disproportionate amount of capital and willingness to deploy it around the world — e.g., Saudi Arabia, Norway and Singapore.
Countries with developed economies and leaders with global visions that they pursue within certain constraints — e.g., Germany, France and South Korea.
“They will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical — and sometimes unpredictable — forces in the world's next stage of globalization and the next phase of great power competition.”
Smoke from Canadian fire spreads across the U.S.
Smoke from a fire in Canada’s Alberta province has spread across the U.S. according to this May 22, 2023, map by Monarch Weather & Climate Intelligence, a woman-owned business with a team of Certified Consulting Meteorologists (CCM) and GIS Analysts.
WMO suggests CEOs hire climate officers to manage climate change risks
A May 16, 2023, story in Fortune’s CEO Daily report on the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) latest global climate update says climate change is “too often considered a long-term threat” when in fact, “it is a very short-term reality.” The WMO report says:
The annual mean global temperature for each year between 2023 and 2027 is predicted to be between 1.1°C and 1.8°C higher than pre-industrial levels.
The chance of at least one year between 2023 and 2027 exceeding the warmest year on record, 2016, is very likely (98%).
The chance of the five-year mean for 2023-2027 being higher than the last five years (2018-2022) is also very likely (98%).
The WMO also warned of regional anomalies, such as the return of a warming El Niño, reduced rainfall in the heavily forested Amazon region and Indonesia, and accelerated warming in the Arctic regions.
The director of climate services for WMO suggested companies hire meteorologists or even appoint a “chief climate officer” so they can make “no regret decisions” and turn climate risks into opportunities.
Lithium Valley could be California’s next gold rush
A CBS News 60 Minutes program on May 7, 2023, featured Imperial Valley’s lithium reserves. Nicknamed Lithium Valley, this impoverished county in the southeastern corner of California, bordering Arizona and Mexico, could produce 300,000 tons of lithium annually. That’s more than half of the world's supply. Energy Source Minerals is projecting that its first plant will be commercially in operation by 2025. Lithium is a critical element for batteries that power everything from electric vehicles to mobile phones. Proponents say it will be “the cleanest, most efficient lithium process in the world.” Most lithium operations are either rock mining operations that tear up the land or use large evaporation ponds. The Lithium Valley process chemically extracts the lithium from the hot brine, which is returned deep underground after the lithium is extracted.
Covid emergency is over, but it is still killing thousands weekly and still changing
While both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have called an end to the Covid pandemic emergency and a return to life as it was before the pandemic, a May 5, 2023, article in Science quotes WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesuss, cautioning that “This virus is here to stay. It's still killing, and it's still changing. The risk remains of new variants emerging that cause new surges in cases.” The change will also cause a cutback in requirements for data reporting, making it more difficult for scientists to spot emerging trends in Covid variants.
Genetics may be the determinant of vegetarianism
We’ve likely all heard stories or had friends that swear by the health benefits of being a vegetarian and those who felt miserable and returned to eating meat. Now several studies indicate that vegetarianism is mostly due to genes. A March 30, 2023, story in the Washington Post reports that Cornell University researchers “have found a fascinating genetic variation that they said appears to have evolved in populations that favored vegetarian diets over hundreds of generations. It includes people from India, Africa, and parts of East Asia.” The vegetarian adaptation allows people to “efficiently process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and convert them into compounds essential for early brain development.” In a May 12, 2023, Fox News story, even celebrity survivalist Bear Grylls, who wrote a book about vegetarian diets, is now “embarrassed by his past vegan diet and says he's never been better with an all-meat diet.”
The Nett Light-Side
“Thinking about the profession of “baseball player … I’m most jealous of … their ability to eat sunflower seeds and spit them all over the place at work.”- Grant Bisbee, staff writer, The Athletic
Eight Minutes of Baby Goats Hopping in Slow Motion
What more can I say? This short video of hopping baby goats in slow motion set to music from Laughing Squid on May 8, 2023, will brighten your day.
AI is here, influencer clones her image for you to talk with
Caryn Marjorie, a 23-year-old Snapchat influencer with 1.8 million followers, has created an AI powered virtual copy of herself and charges $1/minute for people to chat with it. In a beta test, she earned $71,610 in revenue in a week and estimates she will earn $5 million/month from the clone, according to a May 10, 2023, Insider article.
About Carl Nettleton
Carl Nettleton is an award-winning writer, speaker, thought partner, facilitator, and subject-matter expert regarding water, climate, sustainability, the ocean, and binational U.S.-Mexico border affairs. Nettleton Strategies, the consultancy he founded in 2007, is a trusted source of analysis and advice on issues at the forefront of public policy, business, and the environment. He helps people and organizations to think strategically about their options for change. He is also the founder of OpenOceans Global, a nonprofit addressing the ocean plastic crisis in a new way.
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