Monday, December 11, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| March 21, 2023 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

According to a Dept. of Energy study, the U.S. has enough geothermal energy in shallow locations to heat every U.S. home and commercial building “for at least 8,500 years.”

Advocates of clean geothermal energy believe it could move forward with government plans to incentivize construction.

After the cartel deaths of two Americans traveling to Mexico for cosmetic treatment, BBC shared why Mexico is a destination for “tens of thousands.” It’s more affordable (a co-pay under insurance in the U.S. can cost more than treatment in Mexico) and, typically, quality of care is equal to that in the U.S., (but may not be for surgical procedures, which run the risk of infection).

The U.S. Dept. of State warns against travel to some areas in Mexico; some Mexican border states also have travel warnings.

The second-largest bank failure in America occurred last Friday when Silicon Valley Bank was shut down.

That followed bankers’ half million dollar investment in lobbyists wanting less scrutiny of “low risk” banks, The Lever reported. Under scrutiny: SVB’s CEO pulled out “millions” weeks before. The bank closure has been linked to a bank deregulation bill signed in 2018. Over the weekend the FDIC took over the SVB, where over 90% of deposits were not insured.

On Sunday night measures were announced to fully protect fund-owners, with no burden to “be borne by the taxpayer.” Bloomberg noted that the SVB scenario included a gamble with deposits: bankers speculated the Federal Reserve would not raise interest rates, so they invested in long-term Treasury bonds. But those declined in value when the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates up. Two crypto-friendly banks also went into failure recently.

Last week President Joe Biden introduced his $6.9 trillion 2024 budget proposal. The Wall Street Journal said it would “save hundreds of billions of dollars” by lowering drug prices, raise some business taxes, crack down on fraud and cut spending he [Biden] sees as “wasteful.”

Biden asked for a larger defense budget in light of the Russia-Ukraine ordeal and tensions with China.

Various media reported the Biden’s budget proposal includes measures to protect Social Security and Medicare, lower prescription drug prices for current and future retirees, cap older Americans’ generic drug at a low cost for chronic conditions and improve and expand home and community care services for seniors and the disabled.

Funds for those projects would come via lifting the cap on SS pay-ins for those with incomes over $400,000; the latter is expected to reduce the deficit by close to $3 trillion over the next decade. Incomes under $400,000 would see no rise in federal taxes.

Biden’s budget plan includes changing the Trump-era tax break for corporations from 21% to 28%; it was 35% before Trump’s 2017 cuts. The proposal would also raise the tax on capital gains for those earning at least $1 million annually, from 20% to 39.6%. The wealthiest 0.01% would pay a minimum 25% income tax rate as opposed to the current 8%.

Biden’s budget posed a sharp contrast to “supply-side economics,” used since the 1980s, that exploded deficits and upped the national debt, historian Heather Cox Richardson stated. A 2020 Rand Corporation study found that $50 trillion “moved” from the bottom 90% of Americans to the top 1% between 1975 and 2018.

The Republicans’ House Speaker called Biden’s budget “completely unserious.”

So far House Republicans have not submitted their own budget plan. But they are working on the Default Prevention Act. It would allow the federal government to continue to borrow money for existing debt and prioritize some debts over others, The Washington Post reported.

Media has speculated that, if enacted, the Republican plan could cut $150 billion from the federal budget in the upcoming fiscal year. White House critics say the DPA puts “wealthy foreign bondholders - including billionaires and banks in China - over working Americans,” while posing a threat to others, (like those with disabilities and veterans).

A Manhattan Institute economist noted that the government’s computer system does not have the technology to implement the Republican DPA plan; a new system would need to be built within four months.

Republicans refusal to raise the debt ceiling (which they raised three times under Trump), poses national and international economic risks, according to Moody’s Analytics Mark Zandi. He says Republicans’ cuts will be “so extreme” they will trigger a recession and cost as many as 2.6 million jobs.

While Republicans heckled the president for saying they want cuts to Social Security and Medicare, so far only one Republican signed a Social Security Works pledge saying they commit to that. Rather, SSW learned that Republican Rep. Jim Baird has indicated that SS cuts are “on the table.”

Some 56% of Americans define “woke” as being aware of social justice and not being overly politically correct, according to a USA Today/Ipsos poll.

CNN says the International Criminal Court plans to investigate accusations that Russia unlawfully acted in Ukraine by abducting Ukrainian children and targeting infrastructure.

Blast from the past: “The price of apathy is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato, Greek philosopher, 427-347 BCE.