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Despite Booming Economy, Experts Worry

Unemployment rates are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years, wages are increasing, and the economy’s expansion is the longest-running on record. So it may come as a surprise that journalists are reporting that the overall mood at last weekend’s annual meeting of economic forecasters was one of concern and pessimism. Instead of praising President Trump’s economic policies for the impact on the economy as the Trump administration would surely prefer, experts at the conference warned that a few economic indicators signal that trouble may come for the economy soon. Though by traditional standards the economy has been healthy and strong for the duration of Trump’s presidency, government budget deficits and the weakness of central banks among other factors concern experts who fear that the when the current expansion ends, as it inevitably will, the negative consequences could be drastic and painful.

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This sentiment is mirrored by the “Global Economic Prospects” report released on Wednesday by economists at the World Bank, who described the global expansion as “fragile” and built upon a shaky foundation. Though this report predicts a continuation of economic growth throughout 2020, it also warns of a potential economic downturn posed by the ever-present risk of trade wars between the Trump administration and other countries as well as changing markets in countries like China and India. While trade-related tensions between the United States and China appear to be lessening for the time being, it’s hard to know whether Trump will sign a trade deal with the foreign country as expected given how unpredictable his behavior has become, particularly in the aftermath of impeachment and a potential war with Iran.

In European nations, technology companies that are largely based in the United States face new taxes, which Trump has responded to by threatening tariffs on French imports, posing a threat to the global economy. And according to research published by the American Economic Association, the economic fight between China and the United States has resulted in lower wages for workers in both countries. While the economy is predicted to continue to grow, the rate of growth is forecasted to slow to 1.8 percent this year and 1.7 percent next year, according to the World Bank. And the combination of the tax cuts passed in 2017 and increased spending have ballooned the national deficit to almost $1 trillion a year, a figure that worries economists around the world. 

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Interest rates in advanced economies have been dropping as a result of trends like the aging of the population, meaning central banks have less power than they would otherwise to grow the economy in the event of a recession. These low rates are expected to continue for the foreseeable future, causing economists grief. Economists like Valerie A. Ramey of the University of California have called on Congress to pass bills increasing spending on infrastructure and research and development in order to stimulate the economy. Though Trump campaigned on plans to improve the nation’s infrastructure, such plans have not materialized, meaning the potential economic gains caused by infrastructure spending have not been realized. Overall, economists say that policymakers will have to act strongly in order to combat the effects of an upcoming recession, the immediacy of which grows more likely by the day.

American Flag

President Trump Will Be Impeached Tonight

Currently, members of the House of Representatives are debating the articles of impeachment that were approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week. All Republicans are expected to vote against impeachment, and nearly all Democrats will vote to impeach. Former Republican representative Justin Amash, who changed his party to Independent after criticizing the president’s conduct with Ukraine, will also vote to impeach. Members of the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to speak today as they list their reasons for or against impeachment before they vote. The arguments they are presenting, often in a raised voice, are repetitive and predictable; Democrats stress the urgency of removing Trump from office due to the national security risk he imposes, whereas Republicans criticize the process and partisan nature of the proceedings, defend the president’s behavior, and accuse Joe Biden and others of misconduct. As Democrats control more than half of the seats in the House of Representatives, it’s virtually certain that the president will be impeached after a vote which is scheduled to take place tonight.

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Though impeachment is now a virtual certainty, the timeline for when it will occur may change. That is because Republicans have done nearly everything in their power to delay the proceedings, forcing a vote to dismiss them, which of course failed, and engaging in other tactics to delay the inevitable. Depending on how long today’s proceedings run, the vote may be rescheduled for tomorrow morning. This happened last week, when Jerry Nadler moved to wait until the following morning to vote on whether to approve articles of impeachment and send them to the full house after the proceedings ran late into the night. Nadler wanted to avoid criticism that the vote took place late at night, and thus at a time when most people would not be paying attention, so he instead called the vote at 9 AM the next day. Depending on how much time the debate before the vote takes, Democrats may choose to do so again, given the importance and level of controversy surrounding impeachment.

Pelosi reiterated her stance that she desperately wanted to avoid impeachment, fearing the damage it would do to the country, but the president’s conduct left her no choice

As usual, the president gave his opinion on today’s impeachment on Twitter, tweeting a common refrain that the investigation is a witch hunt and his behavior was perfect. In all capital letters, and using several exclamation points, Trump urged his followers to pray for him, an apparent response to Nancy Pelosi’s claim that she prays for the president “all the time.” Trump expressed offense at this remark, accusing Pelosi of lying and claiming she hates him; in response, Pelosi reiterated her claim, and when asked whether she hated the president, she angrily rebuked the charge, offended by the use of the word “hate.” When asked why she thought Trump accused her of lying about praying for him, she said that Trump constantly projects the truth about himself by accusing others of the same wrongdoing he is in fact engaged in, so because Trump does not pray for Pelosi, he believes she must be lying about  praying for him. The conflict escalated when Trump sent Pelosi an angry six-page letter, written very much in the style of his tweets, full of capital letters, exclamation points, and baseless accusations. Pelosi stated that she didn’t read the full letter as she is too busy, but that she got the gist of it, and described it as “sick.”

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In keeping with her commitment to solemnity and prayerfulness during this process, Pelosi and other female Democrats dressed in black clothing to set a somber tone for the day. In her remarks, Pelosi reiterated her stance that she desperately wanted to avoid impeachment, fearing the damage it would do to the country, but the president’s conduct left her no choice as she and other Democrats feel they would be derelict in their duties if they did not vote to impeach. Tonight’s vote will officially ensure that a trial of some sort will take place in the Senate, which is expected to happen in January, though the details of the trial are as-of-yet unknown.

Climate Change

Greta Thunberg, 16 year old Climate Activist, Testifies Before Congress

After arriving in America from Sweden on a boat instead of a plane in order to reduce carbon emissions, Greta Thunberg, a teenage environmental activist from Sweden, testified before a Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, September 17th, to draw attention to the threat posed by climate change and urge lawmakers to act. Thunberg, who is known for her direct and blunt style of speaking, appeared alongside youth climate activists Jamie Margolin, Vic Barrett and Benji Backer this week. Yesterday, after introducing herself to the committee and receiving praise from lawmakers for her strength and determination, Thunberg tried to shift the focus to the science, submitting the 2018 global warming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as her testimony and saying “I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”

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Thunberg went on to chastise lawmakers, telling them “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry,” prompting laughter and applause from supporters. Although Congress is sharply divided by partisanship, sympathetic members of Congress such as Representative Ed Markey encouraged Thunberg and her peers, telling her that she represents the future of political leadership and that voices like hers are essential in combating political inaction on climate change. Though she received support from representatives like Markey, who is a sponsor of the Green New Deal which aims to take radical action on climate change, other representatives were less sympathetic. Representative Garret Graves from Lousianna, for instance, argued that the U.S. is not to blame for climate change because America doesn’t produce most of the world’s carbon emissions, prompting a rebuttal from Thunberg in which she stressed the importance of American leadership in this field.

The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects

Thunberg’s trip to the Americas coincides with a planned international strike from school in protest of climate change inaction on Friday, which is likely to be among the largest environmental protests in history. The strike comes just a few days before the UN is set to meet for the Climate Action Summit, during which representatives from signatories of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord are expected to articulate new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. During the strike, Thunberg will lead a demonstration at Foley Square in New York City, after which she will lead a rally and march to Battery Park. The absences of public school students who wish to protest will be excused in New York City, and students from cities around the world are expected to participate in parallel protests, with additional demonstrations, rallies, and marches planned. The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects, and who do not remember a world in which climate change was not one of the top political concerns around the globe.

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The nature of Thunberg’s trip to the United States on a speedboat is notable for its uniqueness and for how it demonstrates Thunberg’s personal commitment on climate change. The sailing yacht, called the Malizia II, was equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines in order to allow for a carbon-neutral trip. The journey took 15 days, and the conditions onboard were not particularly luxurious, as the boat lacked a kitchen, toilet, and shower. Nevertheless, Thunberg and her crew enjoyed the experience, and in an interview with Democracy Now! she described seeing dolphins and other wildlife as well as the stars in the night sky free of light pollution. The boat’s sails were decorated with the phrase “Unite behind the science,” and other environmentalist messages and carried the flags of Germany, Monaco, Sweden, and the European Union. Thunberg currently does not know how long she’ll stay in the Americas and doesn’t know what mode of transportation she will use to get back home, but is likely to employ another carbon-neutral or low-carbon mode of transport.