WELCOME BACK TO Empty Office Buildings
Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… where Hamilton’s dream of the Supreme Court is realized, the suburban boom comes at the expense of cities, and humanity’s impact is written in stone.
- 0.5%: The rate mortgage applications grew over the last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
- 30.3%: The drop in Bud Light sales compared to this time last year
- 40.2%: Percentage of Texas population made up of Hispanic Texans, outnumbering white residents for the first time since 1850
- 200,00: The number of Customs and Border Patrol encounters with migrants at the southern border during May
- 264,000: U.S. jobless claims applications last week
- 11.5 Million: The number of views Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever” accrued last week
The Fight for South Carolina
South Carolina has long served as a presidential primary battleground state. But how are candidates Senator Tim Scott and former Governor Nikki Hayley polling in the Palmetto State given they both it home?
Senator Scott recently announced that more than 140 former and current South Carolina elected officials have endorsed his campaign. Nikki Hayley secured an endorsement from U.S. Representative Ralph Norman but has not been able to secure much additional backing. Even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis won over 15 South Carolina state lawmakers who backed his bid for the Oval Office.
FiveThirthyEight’s most recent polling shows that South Carolinian endorsements do not perfectly reflect national opinion, though. Haley’s 4.1% beats out Scott’s 3.1% favorability. Of course, former President Trump leads the herd with 52.5%, followed by DeSantis with 21.3%.
Haley and Scott are expected to fight clean throughout the primary; after all, it was then-Governor Hayley who appointed then-Rep. Tim Scott to the Senate in 2013. South Carolina primaries will be critical to candidates as the DNC unanimously moved the state to be first in their primary season. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who did not announce his candidacy amid an unclear path to victory, reels over the Democrats’’ decision to remove New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status by saying, “You’re crazy. I dare you – come and take it.”
A Curious Case in the Court’s Conclusions
In the 78th Federalist Paper, Alexander Hamilton hoped that the Supreme Court would remain insulated from political polarization and ever-changing public opinion. Today, some assert that we are seeing his dream become a reality.
Despite a conservative supermajority, the court has yet to deliver a decision, with the six conservative and three liberal justices voting along their ideological lines. The liberal justices on the Right-leaning Supreme Court have tended to win the odds despite a 6-3 Right-leaning bloc. In the 39 decisions this court has delivered, the three liberal justices have rarely been dissenting votes. The most liberal of the group, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, has dissented the least.
While the trend is interesting in brief, the real test of the Conservative court supremacy waits in the wings.
The expected upcoming decisions include whether certain businesses can refuse services to same-sex marriages, whether colleges can continue using affirmative action, and whether President Biden has the authority to cancel student debt. These will be highly visible cases impacting the lives of millions of Americans and may test the justices’ devotion to impartiality.
To Buy or Not to Buy
Despite projections of a slow May, new construction climbed last month with an increase of 21.7%. According to recent Census Bureau data, housing starts increased to an annual rate of 1.63 million units compared to 1.34 million in April. Previously high mortgage rates are falling and homebuilder confidence reached its highest level in nearly a year. Although, affordability remains a driving factor.
Wannabe homeowners are entering a market with home median price estimates around $400K – 5.6 times the median household income. Many homeowners still enjoy below 4% moretgage interest rate, driving the increase in new builds. Yet, buyers still face a shortage of homes – especially affordable ones. These predicaments are having the worst effect on millennials, with many regretting purchasing a home at above-average rates and even more avoiding the milestone altogether.
Cities Struggle, Suburbs Soar
Office buildings in the largest U.S. cities are roughly half of pre-pandemic occupancy levels. Remote work has changed the game. Investors now purchase fewer New York subway bonds while downtown real estate investment trusts are exchanged for less than half their pre-COVID value. What’s the economic impact? A loss of roughly $500 billion, which is particularly detrimental as approximately 10% of a city’s revenue is generated through office building property tax.
The suburbs are winning the battle that downtowns are losing. Axios reports that as more people, Millennials especially, can work remotely. S,urbs will continue to revitalize to meet the needs of the home office workforce. Remote work also places a new beauty on living in peaceful rural America, where more city dwellers are trading in the concrete mazes for open air.
Humanity’s Impact Written in Stone
Geologic calendars tell the story of Earth’s history. Humans have made such an impact that scientists are considering the recognition of a new era: The Anthropocene. Why? Our society has changed the planet more over the past 7 decades than the past 7 millennia.
Scientists search for “golden spikes” to determine when a new chapter starts. The most prominent examples of these spikes are the traces of the ancient asteroid that turned in the age of dinosaurs for the Cenozoic era. The Holocene, which we currently inhabit, is the 11,700-year period of stable temperatures well-suited to sustain human existence.
The Anthropocene will be declared once human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, testing nuclear weapons, and mass extinction caused by industrialism, have created an Earth too drastically different from before to be considered another page of the Holocene epoch. Scientists are finding that mankind’s impact has created an Earth that no longer resembles the past 11,000 years of the Holocene. The Atlantic’s Peter Brannen argues that despite humanity’s evident effect on the planet, geological impacts are studied with a 50,000-year margin of error. So, if humans started recording events a little more than 5,000 years ago, we exist well within the margin of error to restrain from harkening in the new Anthropocene epoch.
Wheelchair Users Advocate for Easier Air Travel
Air travel can be difficult for everyone, but it can be outright destructive to passengers with physical disabilities. Individuals who require wheelchairs are not permitted to remain in them during the flight. January alone saw airlines mishandling 1.6 of every 100 wheelchairs for which they were responsible.
Accessibility advocates are rallying to Congress to call for new laws, including wheelchair-friendly seats, wheelchairs to be stored in the cabin, and eliminating potentially dangerous wheelchair-to-seat transfers.
26-year-old Madison Lawson, who has muscular dystrophy, relies on a $70,000, custom-made power wheelchair to navigate the world. If an airline damages or mishandles the chair, her independence, mobility, and safety are directly affected. While airlines are independently workshopping methods to support disabled passengers, they are unlikely to voluntarily roll out new procedures if it hurts ticket revenue sales. While a series of FAA reauthorization bills currently being considered would include heightened accessibility requirements, advocates are calling for Congress to support disabled Americans’ independence by passing more extensive reforms.
Poor Precipitation Poses Problems for Panama
Remember when a freighter ship blocked Egypt’s Suez Canal in 2021? The Panama Canal is quickly adapting to its most considerable rainfall drought in over a century – so operators are working to avoid a similar catastrophe.
The Panama Canal’s lock systems lose over 50 million gallons of water to the sea every time a ship utilizes the mechanism, and a rain-filled reservoir serves as the only source to replenish the lost water. If the locks cannot be filled, ships cannot traverse the canal without fear of grounding themselves.
Canal security is paramount because the canal is responsible for 46% of the total market share of containers moving from Northeast Asia to the U.S. East Coast.
The Panama Canal Authority now directs ships to lighten their cargo load before entering the locks, but this does little to quell the 20-year trend of consistently dropping rainfall – or the record number of vessels moving through the Panama Canal.
The supply chains for automobiles, petroleum products, liquid natural gas, grains, and coal, among many other goods, will be severely disrupted if the canal does not find new water sources.
P.S. Strategic Elements welcomes Sydney Hamilton to the team as Digital Coordinator. Sydney brings public relations and journalism insight to her digital work at the firm, enhancing our award-winning team. Learn more about Sydney, our coast-to-coast team, and our services here.