White House advisors optimistic about economic progress amid pandemic

Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow speaks to members of the press outside the West Wing of the White House November 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
8:05 PM PT – Friday, December 4, 2020

As the U.S. economy continues to feel the effects of the pandemic, the Labor Department’s November unemployment report revealed slower job growth than expected.

Jobless claims fell from 6.9 to 6.7 percent, which added 245,000 jobs to the economy. However, this was 50 percent lower than what was originally forecasted.

On Friday, Chief White House Economist Joe Lavorgna spoke to One America News and emphasized that the Labor Bureau’s data still included many positive reports.

“We’re down 54 percent from where we were in April,” Lavorgna stated. “Within that number, private employment rose almost 500,000, which is fantastic.”

He added that major minority groups have seen unemployment rates fall as well. Lavorgna noted the country’s GDP growth is up 11 percent, emphasizing that the U.S. economy looks “awfully powerful.”

Meanwhile, various states and local governments have implemented further restrictions as coronavirus cases surge. However, Lavorgna stated that investors are looking past any temporary economic slowdowns due to vaccine developments.

The White House economist also discussed the prospects of a stimulus bill. He said the government would like to offer more help to the American people for COVID-19 testing and paycheck protection.

“Negotiations are continuing, which is good, but we’d certainly like to give people extra assistance even though we’re in this ‘V-shaped boom,’” Lavorgna stated. “There’s certainly a lot of hardship and pain out there and if we can do more to help people that is what we’ve always tried to do.”

In the meantime, Chief Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow displayed optimism about the U.S. economy.

On Friday, Kudlow said the economy has come back strong. Although 10 million Americans remain jobless, he noted it’s lower than the unemployment rate at the start of the pandemic.

“We’ve got 150 million Americans working and that’s way up,” Kudlow emphasized. “The 10 million who are unemployed is way down.”

These improvements come as unemployment benefits are set to expire by the end of the year, which puts pressure on Congress and the White House to pass a new stimulus package by January.

MORE NEWS: Va. School District Votes To Spend $443K On Renaming 3 Schools Instead Of COVID Resources

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POLITICO Poll of Polls — Polling from across Europe. Updated daily. – POLITICO

Lithuania goes to the polls on October 11 to elect a new parliament. Here’s the latest polling data and projections from POLITICO Poll of Polls.

  • Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats

    Tėvynės sąjunga-Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai

    Leadership: Gabrielius Landsbergis

    EP Affiliation: EPP

  • Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union

    Lietuvos valstiečių ir žaliųjų sąjunga

    Leadership: Ramūnas Karbauskis

    EP Affiliation: Greens/EFA

  • Labour Party

    Darbo Partija

    Leadership: Viktor Uspaskich

    EP Affiliation: RE

  • Social Democratic Party of Lithuania

    Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija

    Leadership: Gintautas Paluckas

    EP Affiliation: S&D

  • Freedom Party


    Leadership: Aušrinė Armonaitė

    EP Affiliation: RE

  • Liberal Movement

    Liberalų Sąjūdis

    Leadership: Eugenijus Gentvilas

    EP Affiliation: RE

  • Freedom and Justice

    Laisvė ir Teisingumas

    Leadership: Remigijus Žemaitaitis

    EP Affiliation: NI

  • Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania-Christian Families Alliance

    Lietuvos lenkų rinkimų akcija-Krikščioniškų šeimų sąjunga or

    Leadership: Valdemar Tomaševski

    EP Affiliation: ECR

  • Social Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania

    Lietuvos socialdemokratų darbo partija

    Leadership: Gediminas Kirkilas

    EP Affiliation: New*

  • Lithuanian Centre Party

    Lietuvos Centro Partija

    Leadership: Naglis Puteikis

    EP Affiliation: New*

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Could China’s J-20 Give the Russian Su-35 a Run for Its Money?

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Apropos of engine troubles, Russian defense commentators join their western counterparts in their skepticism about the status of the WS-15 engine that the J-20 was supposed to ship with. Performance and reliability issues with the WS-15’s  single-crystal turbine blades has led the Chinese to produce initial J-20 batches with older, inferior WS-10B’s as a stopgap measure.

As the Su-57 enters serial production in much larger quantities than previously expected, Moscow is making a concerted effort to pitch the fifth-generation fighter to major arms importers including Turkey, India, and China.

Over the past several years, Chinese defense media has been particularly keen on following the Su-57’s development; their–mostly positive commentary–has long been taken as one bellwether of Chinese import interest.

But the question is rarely asked in reverse: namely, what does Russia think of China’s own J-20 fighter?

Whereas Chinese defense commentary has been largely complimentary of the Su-57, their Russian counterparts have been much more tepid about the J-20. In a recent article on the “mutual benefit” of a China Su-57 import deal, prominent Russian defense outlet RG concluded that the Su-57 is neither better nor worse than the J-20 but fulfills an altogether different operational purpose. The J-20 was designed as a stealth missile platform that can penetrate sophisticated air defenses in order to target critical infrastructure or military assets. The Su-57, on the other hand, excels as an air superiority platform that trades stealth and ground attack features for raw dog fighting potential. Thus, RG aptly characterizes the thrust of the Russian export argument: China’s air force should buy the Su-57 not as a replacement, but as a complement to the J-20.

Perhaps the most prevalent, if not contentious, aspect of Russian commentary on the J-20 is the recurring allegation that Chinese drew heavy inspiration from a Soviet fifth-generation fighter project that was tabled in 2000. Dmitry Drozdenko, deputy editor of the Russian military publication “Arsenal of the Fatherland,” told Sputnik that the J-20 “is based” on the ill-fated MiG 1.44: “In my opinion, the machine is based on the Russian MiG 1.44. That plane was created to compete with the PAK FA at the preliminary design stage, and made its maiden flight in 2000. The Chinese plane is very similar. Although it hasn’t been announced officially, the J-20 uses our AL-31F engine, developed by Salut, which the Chinese bought for half a billion dollars.” The article went on to cite a similarly-shaped canard configuration and tail section as examples of an allegedly uncanny resemblance between the two fighters.

TASS, Russia’s leading state news agency, echoed Sputnik in noting that a number of J-20’s currently run on the AL-31F engine and that the J-20 shares a distinctive “duck-like” aerodynamic design with the MiG-1.44, but stopped just short of claiming that the Chinese directly consulted the Russian fighter’s design in building the J-20.

Apropos of engine troubles, Russian defense commentators join their western counterparts in their skepticism about the status of the WS-15 engine that the J-20 was supposed to ship with. Performance and reliability issues with the WS-15’s  single-crystal turbine blades has led the Chinese to produce initial J-20 batches with older, inferior WS-10B’s as a stopgap measure. There was a brief spurt of speculation in 2018 that Chinese engineers had managed to fix the WS-15, but nothing has been confirmed as of the time of writing.

Although Moscow may have no intention of importing China’s flagship stealth fighter, their perception of it is relevant to their ongoing effort to sell China on the Su-57. Specifically, Rosoboronexport– Russia’s arms export agency–will have to make a compelling case that the Su-57 has something that the Chinese need, and that the J-20 lacks. Likewise, their evaluation of the J-20 is strategically important within the context of the burgeoning Sino-Russian defense relationship in which neither side wants to be relegated to the role of junior partner.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University. This first appeared in June 2019.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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Coronavirus live news: US averages 1,800 daily deaths as NSW investigates link to airline crews | World news

Ghebreyesus declared Friday that positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials mean the world “can begin to dream about the end of the pandemic,” but he said rich and powerful nations must not trample the poor and marginalised “in the stampede for vaccines.”

He cautioned that while the virus can be stopped, “the path ahead remains treacherous”. The pandemic has shown humanity at “its best and worst,” he said, pointing to “inspiring acts of compassion and self-sacrifice, breathtaking feats of science and innovation, and heartwarming demonstrations of solidarity, but also disturbing signs of self-interest, blame-shifting and divisions”.

Referring to the current upsurge in infections and deaths, Ghebreyesus said without naming any countries that “where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads”.

He warned in a virtual address to the high-level meeting that a vaccine “will not address the vulnerabilities that lie at its root” including poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change, which he said must be tackled once the pandemic ends.

“We cannot and we must not go back to the same exploitative patterns of production and consumption, the same disregard for the planet that sustains all life, the same cycle of panic and meddling and the same divisive politics that fueled this pandemic,” he said.

On vaccines, Ghebreyesus said, “the light at the end of the tunnel is growing steadily brighter,” but vaccines “must be shared equally as global public goods, not as private commodities that widen inequalities and become yet another reason some people are left behind.”

He said WHO’s ACT-Accelerator program to quickly develop and distribute vaccines fairly “is in danger of becoming no more than a noble gesture” without major new funding. He said $4.3bn is needed immediately to lay the groundwork for mass procurement and delivery of vaccines and a further $23.9bn is required for 2021.

The world spends $7.5 trillion on health every year, almost 10% of global GDP, he said, but most of that money is spent in rich countries on treating disease rather than on “promoting and protecting health.”

“We need a radical rethink on the way we view and value health,” he said. “If the world is to avoid another crisis on this scale, investments in basic public health functions, especially primary health care, are essential, and all roads should lead to universal health coverage with a strong foundation of primary health care.”

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Lantau Tomorrow: silver bullet for Hong Kong’s housing woes or costly white elephant?

The Hong Kong Legislative Council on Friday approved an initial funding requested to kick-start a feasibility study for Lantau Tomorrow Vision, a massive land reclamation scheme aimed at creating the city’s next housing and business hub.The contentious bill was passed in the absence of the opposition camp, whose members resigned en masse last month after four of their colleagues were summarily booted from the legislature over their political stance.But the HK$550 million (US$71 million) in…

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Manitoba First Nations disproportionately hit by COVID-19 with 11 deaths, 625 cases in past week

COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect First Nations people in Manitoba, with 625 new cases and 11 deaths related to the illness in the past week, officials said Friday.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs made the announcement during a weekly live-streamed news conference, where they provide updated numbers on the coronavirus in First Nations people and communities.

The latest data suggests First Nations people are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and Marcia Anderson, a doctor with the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team, pointed to a range of trends that bear that out.

The secondary attack rate — a measure of how many people are likely to contract COVID-19 after being a close contact with a positive case — is about 16 per cent for all of Manitoba, she said. That means in the general population, roughly 16 in 100 close contacts tend to end up with the illness.

But in First Nations, that number is around 40 per cent, she said.

“That is a very staggering percentage and it’s important to have an appreciation of that,” said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas.

Range of barriers

There are a number of explanations for that, including delays or barriers to accessing testing, or having more close contacts due to crowded housing situations in some remote communities, Dr. Anderson said.

There are 1,815 active COVID-19 cases among First Nations people in Manitoba — including 602 on reserve, and 1,213 involving First Nations people living off reserve — and 1,548 recoveries as of Friday.

Anderson also revealed the five-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the tests that come back positive — is 20 per cent among First Nations people. It is 13.4 per cent Manitoba-wide.

She echoed Manitoba Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin in saying the health-care system is strained by the crush of new daily cases, and First Nations people are turning up in hospital beds at a higher rate than other groups.

As of Friday morning, 107 First Nations people were in hospital — almost a third of all Manitoba COVID-19 hospitalizations — and 23 were in intensive care, out of a total of 55 people in Manitoba in ICU with the illness.

Forty-seven First Nations people in the province have died so far from COVID-19.

The average age of First Nation people hospitalized due to the illness is around 50 right now, and the average age of First Nations deaths is around 66, said Anderson. Provincewide, the average age of those dying of COVID-19 is 83, she said.

Official Opposition Leader Wab Kinew said systemic racism, and not race, is at the root of why First Nations are hit harder by the virus. 

“It’s the fact that Indigenous people are more likely to have poor housing, less likely to have access to a family doctor and less likely to have access to clean drinking water,” the Manitoba NDP leader said.

“The same way that the pandemic revealed how we’ve ignored personal care homes over the past many years, the pandemic is now revealing how the lack of access to health care for First Nations people is a major issue that needs to be addressed.”

Pandemic exacerbates addictions

The pandemic has also further revealed the critical need for harm reduction supports for Indigenous folks living with addiction, said Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches at the virtual AMC news conference.

He wants governments to work together and start opening supervised consumption sites, including in his western Manitoba community. 

Long Plain declared a state of emergency due to addictions issues three years ago, he said, but the pandemic has only exacerbated those issues.

“Support at the time was really lacking from governments, so it’s almost like we’re on our own trying to deal with the addiction crisis. And it’s still ongoing and still it’s a crisis.”

WATCH | Shamattawa chief calls for military help:

The chief of Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba is renewing calls for military aid in his community as the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to grow. 1:52

Meanwhile, Shamattawa First Nation is battling COVID-19 problems of its own.

About 1,300 people live in the fly-in community, about 745 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

On Thursday, Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead said over 100 people are currently positive for the illness, and the community had a 68 per cent test positivity rate.

“There is a significant amount of the virus circulating in the community,” said Anderson. “Obviously, [Chief Redhead] and his team are very concerned, as are all of us, and really trying to pull together as much as we can to support the efforts there.”

He has called on the military to intervene, and the Red Cross is helping out.

“The Canadian Red Cross is well-positioned to assist with pandemic efforts and continues to work with all levels of government, as well as Indigenous leadership to address emerging needs across the country,” a spokesperson with the organization said in a statement.

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Charge sheet filed against Arnab Goswami in 2018 suicide case

Mumbai: The police on Friday filed a charge sheet against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and two others in a 2018 abetment of suicide case. The charge sheet was filed before a court in Alibaug in neighbouring Raigad district, where the case for alleged abetment of suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud has been registered.

Besides Goswami, the other two accused named in the charge sheet are Firoze Sheikh and Nitish Sarda, said special public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat. The trio has been charged under IPC sections 306 (abetment to suicide), 109 (punishment for abetment) and 34 (act done by several people in furtherance of common intention). As many as 65 persons are named as witnesses in the charge sheet that runs into 1,914 pages. Prosecution sources said that it relies on purported suicide noteas the ‘dying declaration’.

Naik’s handwriting has been matched with the writing in the suicide note and forensic report indicated that he was not under pressure while writing it, sources added. Six statements recorded before a magistrate under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are also part of the charge sheet. Such statements can be used as evidence during trial. Incidentally, Goswami had moved the Bombay High Court on Thursday seeking a stay to the filing of charge sheet, but the petition is yet to be heard.

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EU-UK negotiations – Brexit talks inch towards a last-minute deal—but it is not done yet | Britain

THE GOVERNMENT is urging businesses to step up preparations for the end of Britain’s transition out of the European Union on December 31st. This week Michael Gove, the cabinet office minister, announced the setting up of a new border operations centre, adding that significant change was coming with or without a trade deal. Yet many companies retorted that uncertainty over the negotiations made proper preparation all but impossible.

This week’s talks in London have made some progress, yet the old gaps remain over fisheries and a level playing-field for competition. Officials suggest Boris Johnson now needs to intervene to seal a deal. The prime minister is under pressure, especially after a big backbench Tory revolt on December 1st against his new covid-19 tier system. But Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group, a consultancy, sees little sign of early readiness to give more ground to the EU. And the mooted inclusion of more unilateral (and illegal) changes to the Northern Ireland provisions of the withdrawal treaty in next week’s finance bill could upset the applecart again.

As repeated Brexit deadlines come and go, the timetable for ratifying a trade treaty that runs to some 800 pages (plus annexes) becomes ever tighter. Getting a deal through Westminster should not be hard even with another revolt by hardline Tories, because the Labour opposition is unlikely to vote it down if the alternative is no deal. But rushed approval by the EU is a lot more problematic.

All national governments must agree. Some may jib if there is not enough time for full legal scrutiny and translation. In a few countries, such as Finland, parliamentary approval is needed before a government signs. Some parliaments may also demand a say if the deal is “mixed”, meaning it includes issues such as airline regulation or social security that fall within national not EU competence. But Georgina Wright of the Institute for Government, a think-tank, says lawyers in Brussels may still argue that the deal needs only EU approval. She also points to precedents for provisional application of trade deals pending any national ratifications later deemed necessary.

That is harder with the European Parliament, since its approval has always preceded a trade deal taking effect. Next week sees its last planned plenary meeting of the year. Two committees normally scrutinise and report on trade deals before they are voted on. Yet MEPs are well briefed on the Brexit trade talks, and are anxious not to be seen as an obstacle to a deal. They have already planned a remote session with a vote in the week of December 28th just in case.

Brexit’s potential cost is becoming clearer. The government tried unsuccessfully to head off this week’s backbench revolt by publishing a hasty economic-impact assessment of its covid-19 tiers. Yet Mr Johnson still refuses to offer a similar assessment of any Brexit trade deal (or of no deal). Fortunately the independent Office of Budget Responsibility has now done the job. It predicts a 4% long-term loss of output with a deal, and an extra cut in GDP of 2% next year with no deal. This echoes other forecasts and the Bank of England’s conclusion that Brexit will cost more than the pandemic. And it will come on top of a poor outcome in 2020. The OECD has just downgraded its forecasts, putting Britain second-to-last among leading members, with an expected fall in GDP this year of 11.2%. That is an unhappy position in which to inflict further disruption.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “How late it was, how late”

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Our Towns: Why Some Libraries Are Ending Fines

This note is to kick off a resumed set of chronicles in the “Our Towns” series, after  time away for a long Atlantic project on the origins of this era’s public-health and economic disaster.

The results of that project are here: “Three Weeks That Changed Everything.” If you’re wondering, the three weeks I have in mind are: January 1, 2020—when first mentions of an outbreak of a new “pneumonia type disease” in central China would have appeared in the CIA-produced “President’s Daily Brief,” at the White House, which in normal governing circumstances would have triggered the beginnings of a coordinated federal response—through January 22, when the first diagnosed case of COVID-19 turned up in the United States. I argue that at the start of that time, it might have been possible to contain the disease near its point of origin, before it became a global disaster. By the end of that time, the U.S. had made fateful decisions that put us on our current catastrophic path.

In a bleak way, the past few months have underscored a message Deb Fallows and I have been discussing for years: At a time of federal-government paralysis and worse, the functionality and cohesion at many points in local- and regional-level America have been the main source of resilience.

I am careful to say “at many points” rather than “everywhere,” because some governors, and a handful of mayors, have followed the disastrous federal example of treating the pandemic as another front in the national-politics war, rather than as public-health emergency. But most governors (of both parties), plus an overwhelming majority of mayors (whose offices are usually not strongly partisan), and a larger and larger share of corporate, private, and non-profit organizations have offered such traction, practical-mindedness, and civic spirit as the nation can display at the moment.

Of course, these dispersed efforts are not enough, in coping with a disaster of this scale. If national governance fails, the whole nation suffers—as does the world, which in previous disease crises had relied on the U.S. to take the lead (again, as my Atlantic piece argued). But local, statewide, regional, and private/NGOs are what we have work with—and learn from, and expand—right now.

To kick things off today, three developments that shed light on how the parts of America that still work can be applied to the parts now so badly failing.

1) “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century,” from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences:

I know, I know: Another commission report, with another lofty title, from another worthy institution, grappling with another of our biggest public challenges. But this one is different and is worth paying attention to. (For the record: I saw an early version of the report but had nothing to do with its preparation or contents. The web version of the report is on the Academy’s site here, and a free downloadable PDF is here.)

The report’s diagnosis of America’s civic, cultural, and governing problems will be recognizable to most readers. The real payoff is the recommendations. There are 31 of them, in six categories, and they’re both impressively ambitious and surprisingly practical-minded, which means that—in theory—they are achievable.

For instance, the sweep of the ideas involves proposals as consequential (and logical) as changing the Supreme Court to fixed 18-year terms for justices, with one nomination every two years; or switching to ranked-choice voting in presidential, congressional, and state elections, to avoid third-party “spoiler” results; or adopting the Australian model in which voting in federal elections is an expectation-of-citizenship, like showing up for jury duty. Significant as such changes might be, only one of the 31 proposals would require amending the Constitution—all the rest could be done by Congress or state legislatures, or would require no legal changes at all. The one exception is this—essentially, correcting the Supreme Court’s ruinous Citizens United ruling from 2010:

RECOMMENDATION 1.5 Amend the Constitution to authorize the regulation of election contributions and spending to eliminate undue influence of money in our political system, and to protect the rights of all Americans to free speech, political participation, and meaningful representation in government.

There’s a lot more in the report, not all of which I agree with, but the vast majority of which would make America more workable at all levels of governance. Another example: stronger incentives to encourage a year of national service. And allowing states to create multi-member congressional districts, if in so doing they could reduce gerrymandering and ideologically “safe” seats.

Congratulations to the three directors of the project, Danielle Allen, Stephen Heintz, and Eric Liu, and to their colleagues who held meetings and citizen-hearings all around the country in coming up with their recommendations. This should be one of the roadmaps for digging out of the current rubble. For more on the fixed-term Supreme Court proposal, see a note* at the end of this item.

Also: If you’re looking for a wry, quickly readable, yet informed and edgy discussion of the same topic, I highly recommend Democracy In One Book or Less, by David Litt. Readers of Litt’s previous book, Thanks, Obama, will need little prodding to get his new work. Litt was a young White House speechwriter for Barack Obama, and that previous book, published in 2017, was one of the funnier and more self-aware entries in the special niche-literary category of speechwriters’ memoirs. His new book is not exactly like Schoolhouse Rock, the corny-but-informative ’70s-era video series on how democracy works, including such classics as “I’m Just a Bill.” But it’s in the same spirit: whimsy and pop culture, enlisted toward the end of knowledge. Here’s the Washington Post review of Litt’s book. Read it!

And in the same “bonus reading tips” spirit, please check out Joe Mathews, of Zócalo Public Square, on the useful thought experiment of California declaring independence (it won’t happen, but it’s clarifying to think about); and Quint Studer, a successful businessman who has become a civic leader in Pensacola, Florida, on how to broaden understanding of what it takes for democracies to survive.

2) Right to Start, from the Right to Start Fund and Victor Hwang:

Victor Hwang, originally trained as a lawyer, is a longtime tech entrepreneur and startup evangelist. I came to know him in his years with the entrepreneur-minded Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City. While there he emphasized the foundation’s findings that a huge share of America’s net job growth comes from brand-new, startup firms. Bigger firms obviously employ more people, but as time goes on they have little net job creation.

The graph below, produced by the Kauffman Foundation, illustrates the pattern: In most recent years, long-established firms (gray line) either shed more jobs than they create, or add only modest numbers overall. By contrast, new firms (blue line) have added one to two million jobs nearly every year. The point is obvious once you think about it: Since startup firms, by definition, have no existing jobs to lose, every job they create is a net plus. But Hwang and his Kauffman colleagues have long emphasized a less obvious implication: that if an economy wants new jobs, it needs to foster the creation of new firms.

“New” firms are responsible for most net job creation in the U.S. economy. (Graphic courtesy of the Kauffman Foundation)

Now Hwang has devoted himself full-time to policies at the national, state, and local level that will make it easier rather than harder to start a small business, a small factory, even (someday) a small restaurant. Obviously this is all the more important now, as the small businesses that have been so crucial in city-by-city revival (as I described here) have come under new, intense pressure.

At Kauffman, Hwang helped write the “America’s New Business Plan” policy guideline, which begins this way:

America’s future depends on entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs not only embody the American spirit, they also power our economy. The new businesses they start account for nearly all net new job creation… [Yet] starting and building a business has become harder and rarer in most of America….

America remains a nation with vivid entrepreneurial dreams. More than 60% of Americans have a dream business in mind they would love to create, and more than 40% would quit their job and start a business in the next six months if they had the tools and resources they needed…

There is a hole at the center of our economic discussion where hope should be.  

Victor Hwang and his colleagues wrote that, and the rest of the manifesto, before the pandemic upended everything. But I think their recommendations for state legislators and regulators (here), for local officials and policy makers (here), and for federal candidates and office-holders (here) are worth your time and attention.

Update: Victor Hwang’s organization has just released a video from Tulsa, about “The Legacy of Black Wall Street” there. The reference is of course to the “Tulsa Race Massacre” of 1921, whose centennial the city is planning to observe in appropriate ways next year.

3) The Career Certificates Program, from Grow with Google:

Back at the dawn of time, I wrote an Atlantic cover story called “The Case Against Credentialism.” It argued that the American higher-education system and associated “meritocracy” had less and less to do with the abilities that should enable people of different backgrounds to get ahead, or with the professional competence that society needed.

That is: Parents understood that getting children into the right preschool helped them get into the right prep school, which helped them get the right test scores, which helped them get into the right college, which helped them … in some general way. (Mainly by getting to the top rather than the bottom of an unequal economy.) But as a society looked at the twin goals of maximizing opportunity and rewarding real performance, it made less and less sense to enable a system that gives such an edge to those who start out with advantages.

This is a point many people recognize in principle, though it is hard to implement in practice. It’s a reason Deb and I have given such emphasis to community colleges over the years, for instance here (about Kansas and Michigan) and here (about Ohio). Community colleges matter because they are the part of the U.S. educational system most committed to matching people who need opportunities with the opportunities this era has opened up.

The high-tech industry is not often seen as a vehicle of rapid class mobility within the United States. For people from around the world, yes! Less so for people without financial or educational advantages inside the U.S.

In the past few years, Deb and I have often referred to initiatives by Grow With Google, a non-profit arm of Google started in 2017 and devoted to applying advanced tech tools to job-search, civic resilience, and local-startup ends. (For the record: Grow With Google was an underwriter for some of our travel and reporting last year. Deb and I had known, liked, and collaborated with members of this organization in the time well before their business relationship with the Atlantic—and have stayed in touch with them thereafter.)  

This past week Grow With Google announced a new program to offer transferrable certificates, in a variety of tech-related fields. The crucial aspect here is the standardization and nationwide (or international) transferability of these credentials. The training may be under Google’s auspices, but the goal is a credential that people can use to show their proficiency when applying for jobs elsewhere.

“Everyone says ‘Bachelor’s degree or equivalent’ in job listings,” Lisa Gevelber, VP of Global Marketing and a leading figure in Grow With Google, told me last week. “But there was no standard definition of what that ‘equivalent’ is.” Five years ago I wrote about an effort in San Bernardino, California, to provide a standardized, transferrable credential in machine-tool and similar skills. Grow With Google is trying to do that on a much broader scale, in an array of skills that have much faster-than-average growth in job availability, and much higher-than-average wages. In addition to tech-related fields like IT support, the certificates cover project-management and data-analytics skills that can be applied in a range of industries.

“A college degree is just out of reach for lots of folks, but a great job doesn’t have to be,” Gevelber told me. “People want to get started, but they don’t know what would be a specific, realistic pathway.” The new certification program, operated in partnership with 100 community colleges around the country (and eventually with “career technical” programs at many high schools), intends to offer the same kind of specific “here’s the next step” certification that people intending to be lawyers have with the LSAT and law degrees, or that aspiring pilots have with FAA certifications. The program also offers its students extensive free “soft skill” training—practice in writing resumes, preparing for job interviews, and generally filling in the background that people from more advantaged backgrounds would already have. Students in these programs pay $49 per month to Coursera, which hosts them. Lisa Gevelber said that students typically finish in three to six months, at a total cost of $150 to $300—and that Google is funding 100,000 scholarships, in addition to other reduced-cost options.

Standardized degrees for professional-class America—the BA, the PhD, the law and medical and related credentials—have been indispensable tools of mobility and opportunity for many people. Standardized and portable credentials for the rest of America are also important, which is why I think this initiative deserves notice.

The main theme of my pandemic article was that people have thought hard about  “gray rhino” challenges—problems that, unlike “black swans,” are foreseeable and inevitable, but whose timing is unknown. In earlier administrations, they had come up with plans that could have saved us incalculable suffering, cost, and woe.

Something similar is true of these civic and economic plans. People have thought about this! We should listen to them.

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Move to relocate Rohingya refugees to remote island criticised by human rights groups

More than 1,600 Rohingya refugees are being relocated to a remote island as part of the first phase of a controversial relocation program launched by the Bangladeshi goverment.

Some 1,640 men, women, and children are being moved from Bangladesh’s southern port of Chittagong to the remote island of Bhasan Char.

Around a million Rohingya refugees live in squalid camps in eastern Bangladesh, where deadly landslides and violence by drug gangs and extremists are reported to happen.

Most of the people ended up there after fleeing a military offensive in neighbouring Myanmar in 2017.

The government in Dhaka says it is moving the Rohingya because of overcrowding at the camps in Cox’s Bazaar.

But critics say the low lying silt island is prone to flooding and that cyclones hit that region frequently.

The Bangladesh government has built shelters and a three-metre flood embankment around the area at a cost of around €330 million.

Rights groups have also alleged that many were coerced into going.

Sufia Khatun, 60, went to see off her son and five other relatives and said, “They beat my son mercilessly and even smashed his teeth so that he agreed to go to the island.”

But Bangladesh’s foreign minister, AK Abdul Momen called the rights groups’ claims “a damn lie”. He added the facilities on the island were “much better” than in the camps.

According to the authorities, the move will ease congestion in the vast network of existing cramped camps.

The United Nations office in Bangladesh said it had been prevented from independently assessing the “safety, feasibility and sustainability” of the island.

The co-founder of Free Rohingya Coalition, Ro Nay San Lwin, told Euronews “I think the Bangladesh government is not going to listen to any international human rights groups or UN organisations. They had been planning to relocate the Rohingya Refugees since 2018 and they have postponed this plan a few times”.

“I have visited the camp a few times so I know the reality,” added Ro Nay San Lwin, “Those pictures (of the camp) speak a thousand words”.

“The Bangladesh government had said they wouldn’t force anyone but the ground reality is different,” said Ro Nay San Lwin.

It’s also unclear whether the Rohingya will be able to leave the area once they’re there.

Security has been tightened with some 300 police officers deployed to the island.

To watch the full interview, click on the media player above.

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