Commentary: Biden Is Making Russia Great Again

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva, 16 June 2021

Under former President Donald J. Trump, for the first time in decades, the United States became a net exporter of natural gas and oil. That helped to keep global energy prices relatively low. It also gave the United States leverage over the international system in ways it had not enjoyed since before the 1970s.

Alas, the propagation of the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China, along with the ceaseless lies of the Western “mainstream” media made such a prosperous and secure future under Trump an impossibility.

In the eight months since assuming office under a cloud of controversy, Joe Biden has done more to harm America’s inherent strategic advantages in the global energy market than any U.S. rival could have imagined. Under Biden, the United States has gone from being a net exporter of global energy to begging the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to produce more oil for the world to consume.

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State Attorney Generals Launch Investigation into Instagram’s Effects on Kids

Young person on Instagram

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general launched a probe into Instagram on Thursday to examine whether the company violated state-level consumer protection laws.

The states are investigating whether Meta (formerly known as Facebook), which owns Instagram, promoted the image-sharing platform “to children and young adults” despite being aware of its negative effects, according to statements from the attorneys general. The probe cites internal Facebook communications and research leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen and published by The Wall Street Journal showing Meta was aware that use of Instagram could contribute to body image and mental health issues among teens.

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Republican Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement.

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Commentary: Taking the Infrastructure Bill Hostage Didn’t Work

Nancy Pelosi, AOC's mother and her all together

Back in August, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait blessed the strategy of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to withhold their votes for the Senate’s bipartisan physical infrastructure plan until that bill was effectively linked to a bigger, broader, and surely partisan, measure investing in a range of items from climate protection to universal preschool. He argued that “ransoming the infrastructure bill” would turn the tables on the party’s moderates:

Historically, most partisan bills are shaped by the preferences of the members of Congress closest to the middle, and their colleagues on the political extreme simply have to go along with it. … This time, the left has real power. Progressives can credibly threaten to sink a priority that moderates care about more than they do.

Twice in the past two months, most recently last Thursday, the House progressives successfully executed this strategy, blocking attempts by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass the bipartisan infrastructure legislation before an agreement is reached on the larger “Build Back Better” bill.

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U.S. Consumer Spending Grew Slowly in September amid High COVID-19 Cases, Supply Chain Problems and Rising Inflation

U.S. consumer spending growth slowed in September, and income dropped due to high COVID-19 cases, supply shortages, rising inflation, and ending unemployment benefits.

Consumer spending increased 0.6% in September, down from a 1% jump in August, the Commerce Department announced Friday. Personal income fell 1% in September, driven by a 72% drop in unemployment insurance benefits that offset a 0.7% spike in wages and benefits, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Economists polled by Reuters projected a 0.5% in consumer spending. Delta variant cases peaked in the middle of September, and the continued supply chain backups have caused shortages and rising prices, making it harder for consumers to purchase their desired goods, the WSJ reported.

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Facebook Changes Its Name to ‘Meta’

Illustration of two people looking out on a design of Meta, Facebook's new name

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday the tech giant was changing its name to “Meta.”

Zuckerberg announced the name change at the Facebook Connect 2021 conference. The new name reflects Zuckerberg’s goal to reorient his social media company to a technology conglomerate with several different products beyond the Facebook social network, focusing on “metaverse” technology. 

The “metaverse” is a virtual environment in which individuals can interact with one another through avatars and across multiple platforms and devices. Facebook called it a “new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality” in which people interacting online can become much closer to the experience of interacting in person.”

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Commentary: If Demography Is Destiny, So Are Suburbs and Small Towns

cars parked in front of red brick building

Policy and politics often collide at the intersection of geography and demographics. The non-urban, non-college-educated white voter causing concern among Democrats these days, the suburban voter of 2018, and the heartland voter of 2016 are all profiles built on the common interests of certain people in certain types of places.

After 18 months of domestic migration prompted by a pandemic, another interest in addition to where people live has emerged in this equation: where people wish they lived.

Americans of all stripes, including young people, have long preferred suburban to urban living despite the prevailing (mis)conception in the media, but the twin crises of Covid and urban unrest in 2020 have clearly accentuated Americans’ desire to leave denser places. Not only have Americans continued apace in their usual migration from cities to suburbs, they also now aspire to live in towns and hinterlands more than one might expect.

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Cargo Companies Warn That Vaccine Mandates Could Worsen Supply Chain Crisis

Several cargo boxes on a ship in the ocean

A trade association representing all of the major cargo companies in the United States is warning that if Joe Biden actively purses more vaccine mandates, it could further disrupt an already-weakened supply chain, according to Politico.

Stephen Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association (CAA) sent a letter to the Biden Administration expressing concern over an upcoming December 8th deadline.

“We have significant concerns with the employer mandates announced on September 9th, 2021,” Alterman said, “and the ability of industry members to implement the required employee vaccinations by December 8th, 2021.”

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Google and YouTube Will Demonetize Content Denying ‘Scientific Consensus’ on Climate Change

Person on Smartphone

Google and YouTube announced a new policy Thursday demonetizing all content that denies the scientific consensus on climate change.

Google will no longer allow ads for “content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change,” the company announced in a support page added to its website Thursday. The policy, which Google will start enforcing next month, covers YouTube videos and websites that treat climate change as a “hoax or a scam,” content “denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming” and content “denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.”

The search giant said it was implementing the policy due to pressure from advertisers, who didn’t want their products associated with content promoting climate denial.

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Inflation Hits Another Multi-Decade High After Fed Boosts Projection

A key economic index used by the Federal Reserve to measure inflation surged to another 30-year high in August as Americans continued to experience sticker shock.

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index increased 4.3% over the 12-month period ending in August, according to a Department of Commerce report published Friday. The figure represented the index’s highest increase since January 1991 when it surged at an annual rate of 4.5%, government data showed.

Minus energy and food prices, which are notoriously more volatile than other sectors, the PCE index increased at an annual rate of 3.6% in August, the Commerce Department reported. That is also the highest increase in more than 30 years.

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Commentary: Bearing the Tax Burden of the Biden Administration

Joe Biden

As congressional Democrats push a $3.5 trillion social spending package, everyone is wondering: “How are we going to pay for that?” To President Joe Biden, the answer is simple: raise taxes.

Included in Biden’s proposed tax plans — erroneously named the American Families Plan — are hikes in personal income tax and capital gains tax rates. The plan would raise the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent and reclassify long-term capital gains and qualified dividends as ordinary income for those with taxable income above $1 million, resulting in a top marginal tax rate of 43.4 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.

Despite the frustration (or excitement) that Americans have towards Biden’s income and wealth tax proposals in the midst of an economic recovery, Americans should be paying closer attention to his other proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the Made in America Tax Plan.

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Apple Engaged in ‘Anticompetitive Conduct,’ Court Rules in Antitrust Lawsuit

A judge ruled Friday that Apple engaged in anticompetitive conduct in its App Store, concluding a lawsuit filed by game developers alleging the tech giant was an illegal monopolist.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled Friday that Apple’s policy of preventing app developers from linking to third-party payment systems within their apps was anticompetitive, forcing the iPhone maker to change its app store guidelines. However, Rogers ruled in favor of Apple on several other allegations, finding the tech giant did not illegally maintain a monopoly.

“While the Court finds that Apple enjoys considerable market share of over 55% and extraordinarily high profit margins, these factors alone do not show antitrust conduct,” Rogers wrote. “Success is not illegal.”

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The Global Chip Shortage Will Have a Major Impact on Consumers

Computer mother board

The global chip shortage is beginning to impact consumers, driving up prices of smartphones, vehicles and personal electronics as manufacturers struggle to keep up with rising demand.

“We’re seeing 5% to 10% price increases right now,” Glen O’Donnell, vice president and research director at Forrester, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “They will increase more as this issue drags on.”

Semiconductors, the internal components essential to the functioning of almost every electronic device, have been in short supply since early 2020 due to high consumer demand of mobile electronics cloud services, and other products that require computer chips, according to O’Donnell. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem by stalling semiconductor production and disrupting supply chains, with demand for consumer electronics only skyrocketing due to more people working from home.

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Inflation Measure Surges Again, Hits New Three-Decade High

People on an escalator in an indoor shopping mall

An index measuring inflation surged at an annual rate of 4.2% last month, reaching its highest level since 1991, according to the Department of Commerce.

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, which measures prices, increased 4.2% in the 12-month period between August 2020 and July 2021, according to a Department of Commerce report published Friday. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, the index spiked 3.6%, the report showed.

The last time consumer prices increased this much in one year was more than three decades ago in January 1991, CNBC reported. The figure reported Friday is in line with what economists expected.

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36 States Sue Google over Alleged Anticompetitive Practices in Play Store

Google Play Store on Android

State attorneys general of 36 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Wednesday alleging the company engaged in anticompetitive practices in its Play Store for Android.

The complaint argues Google holds and unlawfully maintains a monopoly in the market of “Android app distribution,” using anticompetitive tactics such as blocking competitors from accessing the Play Store, discouraging the creation of competing app stores, and acquiring smaller app developers. The complaint also alleges Google charges app developers up to a 30% commission when customers purchase their products through the Google Play Store.

“Google has taken steps to close the ecosystem from competition and insert itself as the middleman between app developers and consumers,” the plaintiffs argue.

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Lumber Futures Drop After Sustained Rise, Signaling Potential Price Drop for Consumers

Lumber

Lumber futures plunged further this week, seeing a price drop that hit 20% in a sign that the lumber market may finally reverse course from its dizzying price spike that occurred over the last few months.

The reversal was likely driven in part by a drop in homebuilding, which was down nearly 10% last month; general home repair also saw a similar decline.

Lumber manufacturers over the past several months have also been producing record levels of supply in response to the price surge.

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New Federal Rule: No More Surprise Hospital Bills and More Options for Consumers

Hospitals have begun publishing their actual costs of services, including discounted cash and negotiated rates as a result of a rule change implemented by former President Donald Trump. The rule was challenged by the American Hospital Association and others, who lost in federal district court.

An appeal to the court ruling has not yet been filed. While the association says it is calling on the new administration to adjust the rule, hospitals in the meantime must publish prices for the majority of the services and medications they provide.

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