Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… And officially more than two years into the pandemic. America struggles with delivering on the promise of free COVID-19 tests, along with the impacts of the pandemic on the housing market and public transportation. Meanwhile, global trust in the leaders of our society is at a shallow point. Plus—when you think cryptocurrency, do you think of Walmart? If not, think again—all this and more in this week’s edition. Thanks for joining us.
P.S. Give a big welcome to our new strategic alliance partner, Michael Wascom. Michael joins us with nearly 30 years of experience, including tenure with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Airlines for America. Learn more about Michael and his role on our team here.
THE BIG FIVE
Two essential things America still can’t deliver on, even two years into the pandemic.
In just a few weeks, America will have an unwelcome anniversary — two years since we first saw cases of COVID-19 within our borders. Even though we have been dealing with COVID-19 for so long, the U.S. still struggles to deliver on its most basic pandemic goals: distributing free testing kits and facemasks. The Biden administration’s distribution plan is drawing fire at its complexity and gaps. The plan begs the question: How much should getting tested for COVID-19 cost? The need for tests has surged during the extra contagious omicron variant breakout, but the light at the end of the tunnel may be here. Experts say the variant is losing steam in its spread across the United States. Omicron dwindling would be welcome on many levels for President Biden – his administration’s polling numbers have been taking a hit, and any positive COVID-related news could only help. Read more in MSNBC.
Are Americans still able to achieve the little white picket fence dream?
Homeownership has long been a staple of the American dream, but this is becoming less of a reality for many. America’s housing situation is being gripped by inflation in a big way, and that is making potential buyers wary of the extra impact on their wallets. However, there are differences in affordability from state to state. Florida, typically known as an affordability haven, is seeing home prices spike. But other states, including Strategic Elements’ home base of Iowa, are still much more affordable. Unfortunately for homebuyers across the board, experts predict permanently higher prices following the pandemic but hope the 2022 market becomes a little more reasonable. Read more in Realty Business News.
The growing trend sweeping the globe? Not trusting leadership.
Our current moment is defined by distrust in politics, media, and even business. Most of this ire is directed toward the established industry leaders, which is not a uniquely American problem. According to Edelman’s 2022 global “Trust Barometer,” a survey of 35,000 respondents across 28 countries, government leaders and journalists are considered least trustworthy among societal leadership. Trust in Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and business leaders also fell. As turmoil and chaos become the norm, these trends may become more prominent among Gen Z. Read more in Axios.
The pandemic hit public transportation hard. Is it bouncing back?
COVID-19 left no part of our lives untouched, and public transportation took a massive hit. Now, nearly two years after the start of the pandemic, public transit is bouncing back…a little. The New York Times reported where subway riders are actually riding the subway again and where they are still avoiding crowded, underground quarters with others. While some forms of public transportation are seeing a return in users, these systems face another problem: labor shortages. All industries are struggling to hire good workers, and public transit is dealing with the same issue but in different ways. Some cities are trying to incentivize job seekers through bonuses and benefits, while others have cut services to try and make do. Between a lack of an adequate workforce and evolving commuting habits, experts are now looking toward the future of post-pandemic travel and what it means for public transportation. Read more in WIRED.
Welcome to Walmart. Are you shopping for crypto today?
Welcome to 2022, where words like cryptocurrency, NFTs, and the metaverse are casually thrown around in the news and in conversation (and if you are lost, here’s a guide). The mainstreaming of more complex technologies means that well-known companies want a piece of the action. It does not get any more mainstream than Walmart. New filings show that the company is preparing to create its own collection of NFTs and cryptocurrency. Will Walmart become a one-stop financial shop too? Let’s let time decide. Read more in the LA Times.
Beijing is struggling over a lack of new babies.
China has announced that its birthrate has plummeted…for the fifth year in a row. The country closely associated with restricting the right to have children is now concerned about maintaining its population. This concern has led to actions such as the reversal of the notorious “one-child policy.” Starting in 2016, the cap was increased to two children per family and was bumped even higher to three children last year. This change is in addition to new incentive programs and promises about improving family life and early education. But China is facing a hard truth: while the country once told women they could only have one child, women now say they want no children. This trend is playing out in many countries, but how it impacts the most populous country in the world will be closely watched. Read more in the New York Times.
- 66%: The percentage of people globally who believe that journalists are “purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.” Followed closely behind are government leaders (66%) and business executives (63%).
- 42%: The amount of U.S. adults who are identified as independents. Independents are currently America’s largest political group. 29% identify as Democrats and 27% as Republicans. There was a huge shift in party preference over the course of 2021, narrowing the gap between Democrats and Republicans, with more Republicans growing.
- 3: The number of people who have been confirmed dead in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific last weekend, causing “major damage” across the western coast of the main island Tongatapu.
- 41,000+: The number of Americans who underwent an organ transplant in 2021, a new record and a 6% increase from 2020, when the pandemic caused a slight slowdown of the life-saving procedures.
- 4: The number of COVID-19 tests for which every home in the U.S. is eligible. Americans can request free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests on the HHS/Postal Service website www.covidtests.gov
- 400 million: The amount of non-surgical N95 masks that will be made available for free at thousands of “convenient locations” across the United States from the Biden administration. This is the largest deployment of PPE in U.S. history.
- $75 billion: The amount Microsoft is set to spend (in cash) to buy Activision Blizzard that will allow them to absorb popular video games like Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Diablo, Overwatch, Destiny and World of Warcraft.
- 5,674: The record number of firearms discovered at airport security checkpoints in the U.S. in 2021. TSA published its list of the most unusual items caught at U.S. airports last year, including a saw, a machete, and something they call a “meth burrito.”
- 282 million: The number of phone calls the IRS received last year, but due to staff shortages, only was able to answer 29 million of them. As a follow-up from last week’s report of delayed tax returns, this is a harbinger of what is to come this tax season.
Credit: ABC News
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