Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up Big Everything

“mergers don’t just affect consumers: “The world has changed for those workers,” Warren said.”

“Studies have shown that as markets become more concentrated, wages stagnate.”

“Under Warren’s new bill, mergers over a certain size or that consolidate the market too much are forbidden. And consummated mergers that have harmed competition, workers, consumers, or competitors can be broken up.”

China’s Intervention Sends Stocks Soaring. Powell’s Unlikely to Make That Big a Splash.

“China promised to keep its stock markets stable and implement measures to boost its economy, according to a state-run media report of a meeting of the country’s financial stability and development committee. The committee also stressed that regulators should “actively introduce market-friendly policies.

Significantly for U.S. investors, the committee said China continues to support companies’ listing of shares overseas and has maintained “good communications” with U.S. regulators, with a cooperation plan in the works. That’s quite the development – just last week the Securities and Exchange Commission named five Chinese companies that could face delisting.

So what’s changed? The pressure on Chinese stocks had ramped up in the past week as regulatory concerns returned and surging Covid cases led Beijing to lock down millions of people. The country’s links to Russia also spooked investors as U.S. officials said the Russian government has asked China for military aid. If it did help Russia, sanctions would surely follow.”

Prisons, Water Infrastructure And Broadband: Where States Are Spending Their Pandemic Relief Funding

“combined with previous coronavirus response bills and spending packages, the federal government has now spent almost $5 trillion addressing the pandemic”

“It’s not clear yet where all this money will go — states have an enormous amount of leeway as to how they’ll spend it and until 2026 to do so. (In total, $155 billion went out to states in 2021, with the rest due to be distributed later this year.) Most states have used the windfall of cash to address the budget problems caused by the economic downturn following the pandemic and to address the inequities thrown into sharp relief during the past two years. But while there are broad commonalities in how states have spent the money, it’s also true that how relief from the pandemic is defined varies widely — not necessarily across partisan lines but in ways that are still shaped by local conditions and ideology.”

“Almost every state that has allocated money so far has spent some on broadband, water and sewer infrastructure”

“Infrastructure has also been a big priority for states like Florida, which is spending money on highways and other transportation projects that had been long-planned but unfinished. Lazere said some of the need for infrastructure goes all the way back to the Great Recession, which began in 2007, and the long, slow recovery that followed. “These were areas of need that had not been addressed, [for which] there hadn’t been a dedicated state or federal funding source, so the rescue plan gave them the opportunity to tackle these problems that had been around for a long time,” he said.
Additionally, because the funds are a large, one-time payment, with no expectation that they’ll continue into the future, it encourages spending on infrastructure.

“It really starts with states doing that analysis, to be able to know what’s affordable over the long-term and what’s not,” said Josh Goodman, who is part of The Pew Charitable Trusts’s state fiscal health project.”

“In Alabama, $400 million will be used for building two new prisons.”

“the state has been under a court order to improve mental health care in its prisons since 2017, and advocates of the new law say using the recovery funds to build a new prison will address those problems, as well as overcrowding and inadequate staffing. They also say the new facilities will improve the overall health care and mental health care available to incarcerated individuals.”

“In more liberal states and localities, lawmakers are pursuing new financial assistance programs for local families. One idea that has picked up steam is funding guaranteed income pilot programs, with eligible residents receiving between $500 and $1,000 in cash assistance monthly. Support for these programs has been growing across the ideological spectrum, especially in the last few years.”

Why Covid-19 is always one step ahead of the US response

“The Biden administration’s response to the omicron variant is belatedly kicking into gear. The White House announced Wednesday that it would soon ship 400 million N95 masks to US pharmacies and community health centers to be given away. Americans can submit their bills for at-home tests to their health insurer for reimbursement, and on Tuesday, a new federal website launched that lets people order a few free at-home coronavirus tests.

Free tests and free masks are finally here — after some public health experts have been calling for them since omicron was first detected around Thanksgiving or even earlier. But the tests and masks might not arrive in Americans’ hands until the end of the month.

“By the time the masks and tests get there, the surge will probably be over,” Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases doctor at the University of California San Francisco, told me. It’s possible — but far from certain — that the omicron wave has already peaked. The average number of daily cases has dropped by 50,000 in the last week, a 6 percent decline.”

“Experts point to three main factors in the US government’s slow response to omicron: an over-reliance on vaccines, a failure to develop contingency plans, and the fracturing of the expert consensus on what the appropriate public health interventions would be.”

“There are limits on what the federal government can do under our federalist system of government. Mask mandates and social distancing restrictions are largely the purviews of state and local authorities. The Biden administration did attempt to take sweeping actions, such as a vaccine mandate for large employers, that got tied up in the courts.”

“Public health experts were never a monolith. But early in the pandemic, there was a fairly clear consensus about what to do about Covid-19: Close some businesses, ban most large gatherings, mandate masks, and develop a vaccine. A New York Times survey of hundreds of epidemiologists found in the summer of 2020 that more than half were in agreement about the timeline for resuming many activities that had been stopped because of Covid-19, such as vacationing within driving distance or eating out at a restaurant.

But as the pandemic has dragged on, expert opinions diverged. In spring 2021, the Times ran another survey of epidemiologists, asking them how long people would need to wear masks indoors, the answers varied wildly; 20 percent said half a year or less, while another 26 percent said people would wear masks indefinitely, at least in certain situations. As the Biden administration debated booster shots this summer and fall, some experts were full-throated supporters of giving everybody an additional dose, while other prominent experts argued boosters made sense only for certain people.”

Josh Hawley Wants to Make the Supply Chain Crisis Permanent

“In an op-ed for The New York Times published Friday, Hawley uses the temporary supply chain problems as an excuse to push for a permanent expansion of federal power over the affairs of private businesses. We must “fundamentally restructure our country’s trade policy,” Hawley demands, and that means injecting both the Pentagon and Commerce Department bureaucrats into companies’ purchasing decisions. Under the terms of a bill that Hawley is proposing, any product determined to be “critical for our national security and essential for the protection of our industrial base” would have to have at least 50 percent of its value made in the United States.

Why is it necessary for the government to get significantly more involved in the system of global trade that’s allowed Americans to enjoy unparalleled prosperity in recent years? Because “the global pandemic has exposed this system for what it is—a failure,” Hawley writes.

One must assume that if the lights in his home went out due to a storm, Hawley would respond by declaring electricity to be a mistake and demanding that the government require homes to be lit with candles and gas lamps. After all, what is the electrical grid but a complicated supply chain that leaves Americans woefully dependent on production and distribution systems (power plants, substations, and lines) that they do not fully control? Better to produce your own lighting, right? If that means you have to live without television or the internet, well, those are just the trade-offs required to achieve self-sufficiency.

A storm—or a pandemic—can create temporary problems in the highly complex systems that run so much of the modern world. That’s hardly a reason to abandon them. If Hawley is imagining a world in which the United States is wholly self-sufficient, then he’s asking you to accept a scenario in which the United States is significantly poorer than it is today.”

“Hawley says the supply chain crisis is the result of “a crisis of production.” Wrong again. American manufacturing is stronger than it has ever been, in part because outsourcing low-level production has allowed companies here to focus on higher-value goods (which means higher wages for the people who make and sell them). The true cause of the current mess is a disconnect between supply and demand—supplies have been constrained by a number of pandemic-related issues like temporarily closed factories and worker shortages, while demand has shifted in unexpected ways.”

“If his thesis is correct, then items that are already mostly produced domestically should be exempt from the problems with foreign supply chains, right? Except, no, that’s not true. As Scott Lincicome, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, points out, the vast majority of food consumed in the United States is grown, raised, and otherwise produced here. And yet Americans are seeing higher prices and supply issues at the grocery store too.

“That a mostly‐domestic U.S. food supply chain hasn’t protected American consumers from recent shortages and price increases is unsurprising,” Lincicome writes. “For starters, many of the same things that stress global supply chains—COVID-19 outbreaks; supply‐demand imbalances; labor shortages in the trucking and warehousing industries; misguided trade, transportation, and immigration policies; etc.—stress domestic ones too.””