A government in disarray and an increase in labor shortages

Welcome to a new edition of The Weekender… and the month of October. The only thing scarier than the fact that we are three months away from 2022 is cybersecurity attacks and the thought of the stock market being rigged… which we will get into below. Also, the government will remain open after a last-minute short-term spending bill was passed–the lights will remain on for now…though debt default still looms. Plus—the CDC wants to research the impact of gun ownership, and healthcare workers (and workers in general) are scrambling as vaccine mandates roll out. Find these stories and so much more below. As always, the Weekender has you covered.
 
THE BIG FIVE
Shutdowns, bills, and debt… oh my!

Stories that we brought to you last week have kept us on the edge of our seats. A government shutdown has been narrowly avoided (for now), and there is still no vote on the infrastructure bill—all in a week’s work, right? There had been little to no progress on these issues in Congress (there was a Congressional baseball game, though). In what feels like the final seconds of the ninth inning in the shutdown saga, Congress managed to pass a stopgap spending bill Thursday afternoon, just hours before the shutdown. This nine-week funding patch is a strategy to buy time, with the continuing resolution covering existing expenses for military and non-defense programs. Still, it does not resolve issues for a broader deal on new funding. Congress has until December 3 to work it out, but is that enough time to come together for a long-term solution? If the infrastructure package is an indication, optimism in this regard falls short. House leaders continue to hold off a vote on the infrastructure package with Democrats still divided—but a new poll finds a majority of people in Iowa, New Jersey, and Virginia all oppose the bill. This opposition may influence what is currently included in the bill. Right now, there are lines about expanding Medicare, creating universal pre-K, and paid leave. Only time will tell what will be included in the bill. Lastly, the U.S. now faces a decision on the debt ceiling. The government is running out of money—but that is not news to most Americans. However, October 18 is the day Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned the U.S. could run out of cash to pay its bills, leading to the first default in U.S. history. The Treasury Secretary said that the effects would be catastrophic, immediately ending programs such as food assistance, Medicare, Social Security, and other vital services. The debt ceiling is high—but the stakes are even higher. Congress is likely to raise the debt ceiling, ending this fiasco, but more talks and blaming the other side are sure to happen in the meantime. Read more in Reuters

Yesterday’s heroes, today’s firings

The workforce is already underemployed, with labor shortages hitting businesses throughout the U.S.—and it is not getting any better under the new vaccine mandates. New York state’s vaccine mandate went into effect on Monday, and we are already seeing the impact: a hospital has put about 5% of its staff on unpaid leave for not meeting the requirements. Governor Hochul has already called in the National Guard to help with the vacancies as staff shortages and the Delta variant are on the rise in New York. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to essential worker shortages following vaccine mandates. Airlines are facing massive firings, with United Airlines set to fire nearly 600 unvaccinated employees. These layoffs have caused a warning of holiday travel delays and overall chaos; as if it was not hectic enough to travel during the holidays. Likewise, teachers nationwide are dropping out of their classrooms. After having to figure out how to teach kids remotely for months and then being required to wear masks while teaching and staying behind shields in the classroom throughout the pandemic, many teachers are quitting instead of giving the vaccine a shot. In New York City, officials are trying to figure out how to deal with a possible shortage of about 10,000 teachers and staff overnight. Of course, the fight has been taken to court; however, it has yet to be ruled in favor of the unvaccinated. Read more in The Associated Press. 

CDC begins to take gun violence as seriously as COVID-19

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has its eyes on a new target: guns in America. The government agency has begun to study the impact of firearms in the U.S., researching the number of gun deaths and the number of gun injuries, the relationship between parties and potential underlying causes, and the types of guns being used. The study aims to find solutions to curb gun violence in America, paying hospitals to track gun-related injuries and deaths to find “hotspots” the same way the CDC did with COVID-19. The CDC’s long-awaited study has been stalled since 1996 when Congress passed the “Dickey Amendment,” a treasured win by Second Amendment advocates, which barred the CDC from spending federal funds on any study that “advocates or promotes gun control.” However, in 2019, Congress settled on $25 million for this research. As there has been a rise in gun violence, with reports that 2021 will be the worse year in a decade for gun violence, we have also seen a rise in non-traditional gun ownership in America. Some leaders, including those in Philadelphia, are calling for more police and funding to help prevent and protect against gun violence as homicides are rising. This begs the question, will there be a balance or a compromise from both sides? We will be watching closely to see how talks and discussions on local, state, and federal levels continue to pan out. Read more in NPR. 

Cyberattacks boil down to a single password

A story we first brought you last month in The Weekender, which you can read anytime on our website, included news of a record-breaking year for hackers and data breaches—something no one wants to have to deal with and can be life-changing. Luckily, lawmakers are taking action against the ongoing threat and small (but mighty) steps to make the attacks a thing of the past. This week, the Biden administration issued new security guidance to businesses to help prevent cyberattacks from ever happening. The guidance is aimed at companies that supply necessary goods and services to Americans, such as transportation, water, and power. Even the Pentagon has realized the imminent risk of hackers looming over U.S. companies nationwide. After the historic Colonial Pipeline hack earlier this year shut down a major fuel provider for days, leading to a frenzy and a surge in gas prices, there has been a reeling need for federal action. Company officials recently admitted that the hack happened after just one password was comprised—a humbling reminder to change all of our passwords—like, now (and not to “ABC123”!). Read more in CNN

Americans believe the stock market is rigged. Is it possible?

It seems every day a new government official trades stocks with insider knowledge—however, these stories oddly do not go viral and fail to garner the coverage that they deserve. Most recently, the Federal Reserve Bank President in Dallas is stepping down after news revealed he made millions of dollars in financial trades at the outset of the pandemic. The Dallas news is just the latest of stories, with former Senator Loeffler going under fire for selling $20 million in stocks after receiving information about the then-looming COVID-19 pandemic, which may have cost her the election. While still a theory, this angst caused “Reddit investors” to react, impacting GameStop and AMC’s stocks earlier this year; however, with news of more Federal Reserve heads getting caught for these sketchy trades, the general public is losing trust in the system. Now, more than half of individual investors think the stock market is rigged against them. So, what’s next? Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is up for reappointment for the seat, which is set to be a hot topic in the Senate. Ethics rules may not be the most exciting topic, but it has been proven to have major repercussions for all—and it is only the beginning. Read more in Bloomberg

INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

Angela Merkel set to leave the world’s stage after 16 years of Germany’s Head of State
Germany’s leader Angela Merkel is preparing to step down after 16 years in office—becoming one of modern history’s longest-serving world leaders. She has worked with four U.S. Presidents—one of whom even admitted to tapping her phones. Her popularity was steady, having the lowest approval ratings of 68%, which most leaders would be lucky to have. Merkel has been the center of U.S.-German relations, often visiting the White House and ensuring the alliance stays between the two countries. Not only will Germany feel Merkel’s departure, but the world will also soon face the reality of a new German leader. A recent poll showed that 66% of Germans no longer trust Americans on the world stage, so this uncertainty is sure to be a key factor in the next phase in U.S.-German relationship building. Read more in the New York TImes. 

DATA POINTS

 1964: The year the Rolling Stones began touring together. Fifty-seven years later, Mick Jagger (78), Keith Richards (77), and Ronnie Wood (74) still tour the U.S., this year hitting the road for their “No Filter” tour.

5.7%: Business economists’ projection of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for 2021, cutting nearly a point off their annual GDP forecast since earlier this year. GDP is the most commonly used measure for the size of an economy. Experts say projections this years are a reflection of increased concerns over the pandemic’s economic impact.

3: The number of decades John Hinckley Jr. spent at a psychiatric hospital after being found not guilty by reason of insanity for attempting to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Earlier this week, a judge declared he will be a free man next year as long has he remains mentally stable and follows the rules. 

141: The number of passengers on the Empire Builder Train that derailed last weekend on its way from Chicago to Portland, killing three and wounding more than 50 others. The last recorded fatal incident involving Amtrak occurred in 2018.

$3.5 billion: The amount Laurene Powel Jobs, President of Emerson Collective, is investing in her new climate-action group – all to be spent within 10 years as a way to show urgency on the issue. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, will chair the board.

53%: The amount of Americans surveyed in an Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index poll who said they have little or no trust in President Joe Biden when it comes to providing them with accurate information about the pandemic.

11,000: The number of jobs Ford is set to create with the opening of their twin battery manufacturing plants in Kentucky and a “mega campus” near Memphis. The locations will include both battery manufacturing and vehicle assembly for electric F-series pickup trucks.

2025: The year that the Obama Presidential Center is set to open in Chicago’s South Side. The presidential library broke ground on Tuesday with an event with the former President and other Illinois leaders.

593: The number of United Airlines employees who will be terminated for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. More corporate jobs are requiring their employees to get the jab, creating a sudden surge of searches for roles that do not require it.

FEATURED TWEET

Credit: The Associated Press on Twitter. 
 
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