Welcome to a new edition of The Weekender…where Congress is discussing the most targeted tax bill yet, and college enrollment rates have plummeted for another year, creating future issues for the U.S. economy. Also, Facebook continues to face global heat amid another whistleblower stepping forward, amplifying questions many have about the company’s ethics issues and potential corruption. Read about this and more in this week’s particularly spooky edition of The Weekender. Thanks for joining us, and Happy Halloween!
THE BIG FIVE
The progressive messaging of “tax the rich” has gotten unusually specific. Senate Democrats have put forward what they call the “billionaire tax” in U.S. President Joe Biden’s social-spending and climate-change legislation. The bill targets a smaller group of individuals than any other tax in American history. The tax would target those with $1 billion in assets or $100 million in income for three consecutive years. Currently, the tax would target only 700 taxpayers. In addition, the spotlight continues to follow U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, the two politicians who have been vocal in their opposition to the $3.5 trillion plan. Business groups are putting pressure on the moderate Democratic Senators to cut tax increases out of the plan with aggressive ad campaigns and lobbying efforts. However, neither the senators nor the business groups are out of the woods yet. Senator Sinema, who opposes tax hikes, openly supports a minimum tax on corporations, while Senator Manchin has openly said he supports a 25 percent top corporate rate. You may remember that we brought you the story of how leaked IRS documents revealed wealthy Americans and companies avoided taxes and spent millions on lobbying back in June. The ProPublica report showed that some of the country’s wealthiest individuals paid fractions of their wealth in taxes. The issue of how to tax America’s wealthiest individuals is not going away anytime soon. Read more in The Wall Street Journal.
The typical college student may not look the same in the coming years. Here’s why.
The Easy Mac and instant ramen businesses may have hit a snag as college enrollment rates continue to fall. The rates plummeted during the pandemic, and they haven’t bounced back. Studies show that typically college enrollment rates grow during recessions, but not this time. A report from NPR revealed that college enrollment rates have been falling since 2012 but plummeted at the undergraduate level. And these drops are across the board – neither private universities nor local community colleges have escaped lower enrollment rosters. However, community colleges are facing the worst of the decline. Brookings has found that people from the ages of 16 to 24 are taking part in record disengagement rates, defined as time spent neither in education nor the labor force. However, it’s not as clear-cut as it may seem. Students are questioning the quality and equity of their education as virtual learning created barriers, such as students needing their own technology and the reduction of student-teacher socialization. This issue is more than fewer bodies in a classroom or Zoom lecture, which has enormous consequences for the U.S. economy. A strong economy and growing tuition costs have disincentivized many young people from going to college. With the economy weakening and fewer skilled workers available, positions are sitting open. Colleges and universities will have to get creative to recruit the newest image of the typical American college student. Read more in NPR.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Start your (electric) engines.
Car rental retailer Hertz has recently announced a partnership with Uber to add up to 50,000 Tesla vehicles to their services. The deal marks the largest electric vehicle purchase ever. The partnership would allow Uber drivers to rent the cars in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Uber said that while some drivers prefer to drive their own vehicles, other Uber drivers do not. The company also added that this program is a step towards its zero-emission goal, indicating a changing auto industry. Uber additionally noted that while this movement towards electrification is advancing the company’s goals, owning an electric vehicle is often more expensive than a traditional gas-powered vehicle. While this deal amplifies the growth of the electric vehicle market, it also notes issues presented by electrification. The quick adoption of electric vehicles nationwide offers challenges to local infrastructure. Some studies show that as more electric vehicles come onto the grid, the U.S. will require as much as 25 percent more electricity than it does today. The electrical grid is just scratching the surface of the significant updates that utilities and small fuel retailers may have to make nationwide if companies like Hertz and Uber keep moving in the electric direction. Read more in The Hill.
Facebook’s most prominent PR crisis continues.
When Frances Haugen revealed her identity on 60 Minutes, a domino effect began. A story we first brought to you earlier this month has since escalated. In Silicon Valley, leaked internal message boards from Facebook on January 6 showed more than just Haugen who was unhappy with the company’s policies to prevent misinformation and violence from spreading via the platform. This issue has gained enough traction that another Facebook whistleblower has come forward anonymously to the Washington Post. The whistleblower aired concerns very similar to Haugen’s released in her interview while also indicating that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was more involved than previously thought. Haugen’s interview has ignited conversation and criticism of Facebook globally, with international governments wanting to see a change. While Facebook has shrugged off previous scandals without blinking, experts are touting this as the company’s largest scandal. Facebook reported $9 billion in profits for the third quarter of this year – they are unlikely to endanger future earnings. But the future is blurry for Facebook as the company faces a potential SEC investigation and anti-trust suit from the FTC. From Farmville to data mining, Facebook has indeed done it all. Read more in Business Insider.
Halloween: Trick or treating, pumpkin carving, and politics?
While Halloween started as a mix of Celtic, Catholic, and Pagan rituals, honoring those who have passed, it has modernized itself into how we know the celebration today. Politics finds itself in every nook and cranny of our lives, and Halloween is no exception. Walk into any Halloween store, and you will find walls of face masks allowing you to dress up as political figures on the political left and right. Halloween costumes with political themes have fallen flat this year. From the strong red state of Florida to the nation’s first caucus state of Iowa, consumers just seem to want fewer unprompted political debates during the holiday. Political correctness goes beyond a silly mask or a Donald Trump toupee. In the nation’s most segregated city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Halloween serves as a reminder of the city’s racial and economic divides. As our world becomes more aware of the social and economic divides between our racial, political, and other differences, Halloween still serves as a happy memory for many of us. Memories of using an old sheet as a ghost costume or taking hours to plan the neighborhood route for the best candy still stand in many of our minds. May we honor the memories of Halloweens past and look to a new age of what this centuries-old celebration is becoming as we enter our second year of a pandemic Halloween. Read more in the Citizen Tribune.
How China’s COVID-Zero policy is slowing global business.
China’s largest hotpot chain, Haidilao, has slowed business expansion and lost $4 billion as the nation sees a spike in COVID-19 cases. What once had hours-long lines for its soups, the chain saw less business as customers dine out less frequently. However, Haidilao isn’t the only company in the nation to see shortcomings. China’s entire economy grew slower than expected in the third quarter of this year. Economists predict that this slowdown comes from supply chain issues, power outages, and increased COVID-19 cases. German-retailer Puma recently reported that it expects sales in China to be impacted by the increased possibility of COVID lockdowns and a consumer boycott of Western brands, thanks to a recent political movement. China has also recently faced heat from businesses to ease COVID restrictions, such as shortening the three-week quarantine for foreign travelers and no longer requiring patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to quarantine for another two weeks. According to a recent survey, the nation’s COVID-Zero hurt 45.1 percent of respondents’ businesses. While these policies are keeping internal numbers as low as possible, it has significant external effects. Ships coming into Shanghai and other areas have held up ports as crews are tested, slowing the entire supply chain. As the battle between business interests and public health continues on a global front, we hope to find a comprehensive answer soon. Read more in National Law Review.
172%: The percentage increase of the number of out-of-stock messages online compared to January 2020. U.S. consumers hoarded $2.3 trillion in pandemic-era savings, making for an even slicker slope heading into the holiday season.
10: The days (as of Friday) until foreign travelers will be allowed entry to the U.S. with proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with a shot authorized by the World Health Organization and a negative test within three days of departure.
$100 billion: The estimated amount of climate aid the United Nations will provide annually to developing countries. This commitment is part of a plan to eliminate the failure of industrialized nations to follow through on their financial obligations.
10 inches: The amount of rain that fell on the West Coast on Sunday during what experts call a series of mighty “atmospheric river” storms, delivering historic amounts of rainfall across the region.
41,000+: The number of customers without power in Massachusetts early Wednesday morning as a nor’easter unleashed powerful winds and heavy rain on the state. Reports found gusts of 60 mph forecast for coastal New England.
8,263: The number of hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2020, up 13% since 2019 and the highest recorded in nearly two decades. 2021 is on track to exceed last year’s spike as houses of worship across faiths are experiencing vandalism, arson, and threats.
$10 billion: The amount Americans are expected to spend on Halloween this year. Google’s annual FrightGeist tracker results found the ten most popular Halloween costumes this year range from a witch to Cruella de Vil to Chucky the doll.
$100 million/year: The annual income that will be a part of the Billionaires Income Tax proposal. Senate Democrats say the proposal would raise “hundreds of billions of dollars” from the mega-rich.
50: The number of television ads since August invoking former President Trump’s name. This continued repetition of his namesake is more evidence of how polarizing and motivating the former president’s figure remains for Democrats and Republicans alike.
A Republican Senator Dressed His Dogs as Kyrsten Sinema and Mitch McConnell for Halloween https://t.co/PcmINNTsxg— People (@people) October 28, 2021
Credit: People on Twitter.