WELCOME BACK TO SHATTERING THE (DEBT) CEILING
Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… where Congress fights to raise the debt ceiling before it falls on their heads, and Pink Floyd teaches us how to manage our days. Plus—former President Donald Trump is feeling so good about the upcoming election, he is passing on GOP debates. Also—a bet on Meta may be a worthwhile investment, and the fight for control of Sudan poses a serious threat to all North Africa. It’s been a long week, but you can relax now: you finally made it to The Weekender.
P.S. From her time out on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to her expertise in corporate communications, Baylor Bears fanatic and Strategic Elements’ Senior Vice President Hillary Beightel dives deep in our newest edition of Getting Personal.
Break the Debt Ceiling
Raise the roof? More like raising the (debt) ceiling. That’s what happened this week when Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill proposing deep cuts in government spending, which would raise the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit. However, with President Joe Biden’s reluctance to quickly make cuts, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-controlled Senate. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the government could run out of money as soon as June. Here’s how the debt ceiling works: the U.S. routinely spends more money than it makes (also known as a deficit), and to cover the deficits, the Treasury Department borrows money by issuing new debt in government securities, similar to a loan. That loan is then added to the total national debt. With Congress imposing a limit on the amount the Treasury can borrow, a debt ceiling is created. When lawmakers authorize new spending, the ceiling does not automatically increase but allows the Treasury to issue new debt to cover expenditures. Once the debt ceiling is reached, new debt cannot be issued until lawmakers vote to raise or suspend the borrowing limit. While the Treasury has some cash reserves, it will eventually run out and not have the funds to pay the government’s bills on time. If the government runs out of cash, it could miss payments, such as monthly payments to federal employees. Now that we have the run-down, let’s return to the bill. Republicans suggested that the Treasury Department give priority to bondholders of federal debt if the ceiling isn’t raised in time. However, it has never been done as Treasury secretaries from both parties warn against it. Congress and the presidents have never officially allowed the U.S. to default on its debt. Let’s see how they handle the possible 103rd modification of the debt ceiling. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
Dark Side of the Monday
Forty-nine years, two months, and 23 days have passed since Pink Floyd released their classic hit song, “Time”. During the song’s verse, David Gilmour sang the line, “Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.” Nearly five decades later, time management still gets the best of us, as interruptions and distractions compete for our attention. Luckily, Forbes published a list of skillful tactics to help avoid missing the tune’s proverbial starting gun. Writing down goals and keeping the list close by is vital to keeping the focus on progress, and committing time to reach those goals will help make the most of your day. It’s important to stop distractions, such as impromptu meetings and an open office door, and remove any possible distractions. When participating in a meeting, stay focused and present by silencing notifications. Finally, block off your calendar to focus, which allows you to retain control of your daily workload and be intentional about meetings. Pink Floyd understood the importance of disconnecting and sang about it in the song, Time: “Home, home again, I like to be here when I can, and when I come home cold and tired, it’s good to warm my bones by the fire.” Incorporating simple tips in your daily routine can help you avoid “ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.” Read more at Forbes.
Donald Deliberates Dodging Debates
Former President Donald Trump is seriously considering skipping debates for 2024 Republican White House contenders because he says he has enough of a lead to pass on participating. On the “Cats & Cosby Show” with hosts John Catsimatidis and Rita Cosby, Trump said, “When you’re way up, you don’t do debates. If you’re even or down, you do debates, but when you’re way up, what’s the purpose of doing the debate?” While Trump has always toyed with the idea of skipping debates, it is unclear whether he will commit to missing them during the election season. Recent polling maintains Trump as the clear frontrunner, with 50% of Republican respondents mentioning they plan to vote for Trump in the primary, as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis polls in with 24% support. Former Vice President Mike Pence receives an early 7%, and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Hayley gets 5%. Jonathan Martin wrote an article in POLITICO about how long Republicans can expect Donald Trump to remain the leading figure in their party. He says, “Just as progressives privately worried that Hillary Clinton and her party’s moderates would never truly embrace Bernie Sanders if he prevailed, many pessimistic Republicans wonder the same about Trump next year.” If someone like Ron DeSantis wins the nomination over Donald Trump, it is hard to believe that Trump would accept gracefully; he will persist as a thorn in their side long after the final decision. Further, if Trump wins the nomination but the Democratic Party wins the 2024 election, the Republican party could restructure itself for 2025 and future elections while resting on his success in securing a right-of-center Supreme Court. Read more at The Hill.
Initiating Success in Infrastructure
Change is slow on large-scale infrastructure projects, and challenges like supply chain shortages, rising prices, and community concerns are roadblocks. In the development and operation process, it is crucial to understand the core leadership best practices for large infrastructure projects to be successful. First, build confidence within communities by gaining their trust, forming relationships, and communicating openly with constituents. Garnering a relationship creates a space for questions, concerns, and explanations about the project as well as what it entails for their community and the future. Next, acknowledge the local and regional regulations to save time by baking approval into every step. Every location presents its own unique set of hurdles. Planning ahead by researching the country, state, or city’s local and regional regulations beforehand can improve the process flow immensely. Finally, understand the market and diverse supply sources. Supply chains, resources, and staff have been feeling a lot of weight on their shoulders with the pandemic, geopolitical conflict, and other global economic events, furthering the difficulty of infrastructure projects. These issues are causing shipping challenges, labor shortages, and fluctuating costs, creating pressure for projects. To avoid these issues, understand the market and supply sources so the project isn’t affected down the road (literally). By working with local suppliers, creating realistic timelines, choosing flexible vendors, and understanding the raw materials market, the project leader will feel better prepared to take on the project. Read more at Forbes.
Mega Meta Sales
The market looks like it will be hot on Meta as shares gained more than 14% in premarket trading. After three consecutive losing quarters, Meta beat their first-quarter earnings and revenue estimates, showing strong results. Meta might have Chinese retailers to thank for growth this quarter as they saw an acceleration among advertisers in China targeting users and other markets, which may be due in part to dropping shipping costs and easing the COVID-19 lockdown for advertisers, according to Chief Financial Officer Susan Li. Optimism is also guiding the current quarter as revenue climbs. Analysts also anticipate a positive outcome for Meta using artificial intelligence (AI). Morgan Stanley—a supporter and investor in AI and the metaverse—notes, “Developing more open-source models (including LLMs) and helping create an open ecosystem is another area of focus, as an open ecosystem should enable Meta to stay at the forefront and drive infrastructure efficiency over time.” In an unsurprising move, Morgan Stanley has increased its price targets for Meta. Read more at CNBC.
Sudanese Conflict May Be North African Tinderbox
A brawling power struggle between the Sudanese army and a formidable paramilitary force (Rapid Support Forces, or RSF) has escalated into conflict across Sudan, leading the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Spain to evacuate diplomats and nationals from the state. The fighting began on April 15 over which group should maintain control of the resource-rich nation which shares its northern border with Egypt and its eastern border with the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. These two groups served as allies in 2019 to overthrow the longstanding Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir. They rallied behind the promise of democracy for the country once the former leader fell, but the transitional civilian government following his reign was toppled by a second coup in 2021. The result of this coup was these two groups fighting against each other for control. The Sudanese Army General Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the RSF General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo control active armies and most of the state’s economy. Ahmed Soliman, Horn of Africa researcher at the British think-tank Chatham House, says both men have positioned themselves as the reformers, protectors, and guardians of democracy in Sudan, but neither has lived up to the ideal. Instead, the two have fostered a humanitarian crisis, where citizens are forced to remain sheltered indoors and must wait in the wake of momentary lapses of battle to secure food, water, and medicine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinked informed the press that he has spoken to both generals directly, as the United Nations and the African Union are involved in quelling the conflict, but either side is seriously interested in negotiating at this time. Beyond the conflict in Sudan, according to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the fear is that fighting will spread to other fragile countries in North Africa. The U.S. embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, is now officially closed, and U.S. officials tweeted it is too unsafe for the government to evacuate private citizens. Read more in BBC.
- 18: The number of seasons four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers played for the Green Bay Packers. After a long-anticipated trade, Rodgers is not headed to New York to play with the Jets.
- 16,000: The estimated number of American citizens in Sudan during a week of heavy fighting between rival military factions. The Biden administration moved to evacuate U.S. government personnel from the region over the weekend.
- 14%: The percentage increase from using AI in customer service chats at an unnamed Fortune 500 company that provides software to small businesses. Due to AI, agents could care for more customers per hour, spending less time on individual chats.
- 500,000: The number of applications a week for passports, according to Secretary of State Tony Blinken. With the demand being 30% to 40% above last year, the number of applicants is expected to break last year’s record of nearly 22 million passports.
- $102 billion: The number of deposits that First Republic Bank lost last month. The deposits plunged nearly 41% last quarter and would have fallen by more than 50% if 11 large banks hadn’t come to its aid with $30 billion. The bank’s stock dropped another 18% after releasing its results.
- 11: The chapter number that Bed Bath & Beyond filed for bankruptcy protection. As part of its bankruptcy and liquidation, the company said it plans to close all its 360 Bed Bath & Beyond locations and its 120 Buybuy Baby stores by June 30—if a last-minute buyer doesn’t rescue it from going out of business.
- $8/month: The amount that Twitter accounts charge for a Twitter Blue subscription. Blue checkmarks have been removed from hundreds of thousands of Twitter accounts that didn’t pay to keep it there. However, some blue checkmarks have returned to Twitter accounts with more than one million followers and famous Twitter users who are no longer alive.
- $2.24 trillion: The amount spent by countries around the world on their militaries last year – a 3.7% increase on the previous record high after adjusted for inflation. America remains the world’s biggest military spender, reaching $877 billion in 2022, which was 39% of total global military spending and three times more than the amount spent by China, the world’s second-largest spender.
Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon both knew how to provoke primetime audiences, but nervous media companies may not need those skills in the streaming era, when they are under pressure to deliver large, live crowds….https://t.co/XftyR75ho2 via @variety
— Brian Steinberg (@bristei) April 26, 2023