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Our economy is in crisis. Only one of the candidates realizes it. – The Washington Post

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But before we get to President Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, here’s some of what’s happening right now:

  • At the end of this month, the enhanced unemployment insurance that provides unemployed workers with an extra $600 per week will expire, sending tens of millions of families from a position of stability into financial stress or outright crisis.
  • According to a recent study, at least 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance during the pandemic and economic collapse.
  • While the Paycheck Protection Program has helped many small businesses survive the crisis, it hasn’t been nearly enough. Tens of thousands of small businesses have already shut their doors permanently; by the time this recession is over, that number could be in the hundreds of thousands. The PPP is set to expire in August.
  • We’re on the cusp of a housing cataclysm: As many as 23 million families, or one in five households that rent their home, could face eviction by this fall.
  • State and local budgets continue their free fall, causing massive layoffs and cutbacks in services, while the Republican leadership in Congress refuses to provide the aid they need.

In the fantasy world Trump inhabits, the economy can simply be switched back on; convince everyone that things are fine and they’ll all return to work and boundless prosperity will ensue. But it’s now clear that the economy will likely take years to recover from the damage it has already sustained and continues to sustain.

Worst of all, the president has rejected this fundamental truth: We can’t recover economically until we contain the pandemic. Instead, he has decided to simply give up on controlling the pandemic and let it run rampant, and insist that if he does some cheerleading for the economy, we will magically recover.

So when you ask the White House for its economic plan, it becomes obvious it has no plan at all. The administration is signaling that while it despises the generosity of the $600 supplemental UI, it might be open to some smaller payments of as-yet-undetermined size. The White House has, however, floated the idea of a “capital gains tax holiday,” a giveaway to rich investors. That’s its answer.

There is one other idea coming out of the Trump administration. Ivanka Trump debuted an ad campaign on Tuesday called “Find Something New,” in which people whose livelihoods have disappeared are urged to expand their horizons and explore new career opportunities. The company you worked at for 10 years went bankrupt? The restaurant your family owned for generations went out of business? Why not start a fashion line, or become a motivational speaker? Or have your dad give you a job in his White House?

So that’s what Trump is offering. What about Biden?

On Tuesday, the presumptive Democratic nominee released a new infrastructure plan whose goal is “creating the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future.”

In many ways, it resembles other infrastructure plans Democrats have put forth: roads, bridges, transit, water systems, clean energy, broadband, upgrading buildings for energy efficiency, and so on. He proposes to spend $2 trillion over four years to achieve these goals, and in the process promote union jobs and environmental justice.

The most striking contrast between the approaches Biden and Trump take isn’t only that Biden wants to do a lot and Trump wants to do very little. It’s also that the steps Biden proposes are quite purposefully meant to create permanent effects: not just a temporary infusion of cash or a tax break, but the building of tangible systems and resources that could continue to yield benefits even after the next Republican president takes office.

He has other plans, too; his campaign calls them “Build Back Better.” While he may not want to reorient fundamental power relations in the same way that Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren proposed in their presidential campaigns, it’s no longer possible to say that Biden isn’t being ambitious.

If Biden does win, he’ll take office with the economy not only still in crisis, but also facing profound long-term difficulties. Even if you don’t support the specifics of what he proposes, or think he’s missing other steps that ought to be taken, at least he seems to understand the gravity of the problem.

And Trump? As The Post’s Carol Leonnig reports, “the president seemingly has no interest in or patience for what he considers the boring work of governing, several of his former senior advisers say.” It’s becoming all too clear.

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Economy

Biodiversity and the circular economy | Greenbiz – GreenBiz

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Making its way to the top of global agendas and the bottom of balance sheets, biodiversity recently has risen through the ranks of planetary priorities. As a result, I’ve noticed a growing number of organizations calling to connect the dots between the circular economy and biodiversity, so I thought it worthwhile to consider their relationship — one that I instinctively felt to be a bit of a stretch. 

Although fundamentally aligned in their overlapping aims to address resource extraction, water scarcity, energy generation, toxicity and climate change, in practice circular economy strategies and biodiversity preservation seem to be one step removed. 

For example, repairing or reselling a pair of jeans does not directly preserve biodiversity. But done at scale, product life extension and keeping materials in use for as long as possible does reduce the need to extract the same quantity of natural resources, and therefore reduces the strain on our ecosystems. The same can be said for climate change mitigation, given that climate change contributes to 11 to 16 percent of biodiversity loss, and circular economy strategies can reduce carbon emissions

A central aim of the circular economy is to curb the extraction of finite resources and to regenerate living systems — two strategies that support the preservation of biological diversity, but only if they are done right. 

No one framework or priority is intended to stand alone or address every problem in the world.

As companies champion the $7.7 trillion potential of the bioeconomy by 2030, a gradual move away from nonrenewable (and often petroleum-based) inputs has made manufacturers and materials scientists alike turn to bio-based materials as ideal inputs to more circular systems.

One example is the nuances of bioplastics, which are often produced through monoculture farming in deforested areas and use synthetic fertilizer. This actively decreases biodiversity and contributes to the 90 percent of biodiversity loss created by the way that we extract and process materials, fuels and food. 

I think the Dutch consultancy Circle Economy posed the question best: “You need biodiversity for a circular economy, but do you need a circular economy for biodiversity?” 

Personally, I don’t care. Connecting the dots between biodiversity and circularity isn’t necessarily additive, although it certainly can’t hurt.

Whether a company’s primary lens is sustainability, regeneration, net-zero, biodiversity, the circular economy or something else, what matters most is an aligned orientation of these solution sets to make sure we’re moving in the right direction. Neither the circular economy nor biodiversity preservation are ends unto themselves. These are means to move us towards a clean and resilient economy, equitable and prosperous communities and a healthy planet. 

No one framework or priority is intended to stand alone or address every problem in the world. 

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Economy

Biodiversity and the circular economy | Greenbiz – GreenBiz

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 on


Making its way to the top of global agendas and the bottom of balance sheets, biodiversity recently has risen through the ranks of planetary priorities. As a result, I’ve noticed a growing number of organizations calling to connect the dots between the circular economy and biodiversity, so I thought it worthwhile to consider their relationship — one that I instinctively felt to be a bit of a stretch. 

Although fundamentally aligned in their overlapping aims to address resource extraction, water scarcity, energy generation, toxicity and climate change, in practice circular economy strategies and biodiversity preservation seem to be one step removed. 

For example, repairing or reselling a pair of jeans does not directly preserve biodiversity. But done at scale, product life extension and keeping materials in use for as long as possible does reduce the need to extract the same quantity of natural resources, and therefore reduces the strain on our ecosystems. The same can be said for climate change mitigation, given that climate change contributes to 11 to 16 percent of biodiversity loss, and circular economy strategies can reduce carbon emissions

A central aim of the circular economy is to curb the extraction of finite resources and to regenerate living systems — two strategies that support the preservation of biological diversity, but only if they are done right. 

No one framework or priority is intended to stand alone or address every problem in the world.

As companies champion the $7.7 trillion potential of the bioeconomy by 2030, a gradual move away from nonrenewable (and often petroleum-based) inputs has made manufacturers and materials scientists alike turn to bio-based materials as ideal inputs to more circular systems.

One example is the nuances of bioplastics, which are often produced through monoculture farming in deforested areas and use synthetic fertilizer. This actively decreases biodiversity and contributes to the 90 percent of biodiversity loss created by the way that we extract and process materials, fuels and food. 

I think the Dutch consultancy Circle Economy posed the question best: “You need biodiversity for a circular economy, but do you need a circular economy for biodiversity?” 

Personally, I don’t care. Connecting the dots between biodiversity and circularity isn’t necessarily additive, although it certainly can’t hurt.

Whether a company’s primary lens is sustainability, regeneration, net-zero, biodiversity, the circular economy or something else, what matters most is an aligned orientation of these solution sets to make sure we’re moving in the right direction. Neither the circular economy nor biodiversity preservation are ends unto themselves. These are means to move us towards a clean and resilient economy, equitable and prosperous communities and a healthy planet. 

No one framework or priority is intended to stand alone or address every problem in the world. 

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Economy

US adds a strong 379000 jobs in hopeful sign for economy – constructconnect.com – Daily Commercial News

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WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a robust 379,000 jobs last month, the most since October and a sign that the economy is strengthening as confirmed viral cases drop, consumers spend more and states and cities ease business restrictions.

The February gain marked a sharp pickup from the 166,000 jobs that were added in January and the loss of 306,000 in December. Yet it represents just a fraction of the roughly 9.6 million jobs that the economy needs to regain to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The pickup in hiring lowered the unemployment rate from 6.3 per cent to 6.2 per cent, the Labor Department said in its monthly jobs report. That is down dramatically from the 14.8 per cent jobless rate of April of last year, just after the virus erupted in the United States. But it’s well above the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 3.5 per cent.

Stock prices surged on the news of solid job growth, a day after Wall Street suffered deep losses on fears that inflation and interest rates could soon be headed higher.

One year after the pandemic triggered a violent recession, economists are increasingly optimistic that hiring will accelerate in the coming months as Americans seize the opportunity to once again travel, shop, attend sporting events and visit movie theatres and restaurants. Households as a whole have accumulated a huge pile of savings after having slashed spending on those services. Much of that money is expected to be spent once most people feel comfortable about going out.

The report showed that the nation’s job growth is still being driven by a steady recovery of bars, restaurants and other leisure and hospitality establishments. Bars and restaurants, in particular, snapped back last month, adding 286,000 jobs as business restrictions eased in California and other states. That trend will likely continue as Texas joined some other states in announcing that it would fully reopen its economy with no restrictions.

Also hiring last month were retailers, which added 41,000 jobs, health care companies with 46,000 and manufacturers with 21,000. On the other hand, construction companies shed 61,000 jobs, likely in part because of the severe storms and power outages in Texas.

The strong jobs report, by suggesting that the economy is on the mend, could complicate President Joe Biden’s push for his $1.9 trillion economic rescue package, which is being considered by the Senate after winning approval in the House. The Biden package would provide, among other things, $1,400 checks to most adults, an additional $400 in weekly unemployment aid and another round of aid to small businesses.

One discouraging note in the February data is that last month’s net job growth came entirely from people who reported that their layoffs had been temporary. By contrast, the number of people who said their jobs were permanently gone was largely unchanged compared with January. People who have permanently lost jobs typically face a tougher time finding new work. In many cases, their former employers have gone out of business.

With so much money being pumped into the economy, Oxford Economics forecasts that growth will reach seven per cent for all of 2021, which would be the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the nation will add a substantial 6.2 million jobs this year, though that wouldn’t be nearly enough to restore employment to pre-pandemic levels.

Still, the size of the Biden relief package, coming as the economy is already showing improvement, has stoked fears that growth could overheat and accelerate inflation, sending borrowing costs up and possibly leading the Federal Reserve to jack up interest rates. Those fears have roiled financial markets for the past two weeks.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell sought to assuage those concerns – without success, based on sharp selloffs in the stock and bond markets – when he suggested that any meaningful rise in inflation would likely prove temporary and that the Fed would be in no hurry to raise its benchmark short-term rate.

Nor did Powell offer any hint that the Fed would act to push back against a surge in the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which has jumped from about 0.9 per cent last year to 1.5 per cent. Still, Powell sounded some optimistic notes. Citing in part the increasing distribution and administering of coronavirus vaccines, he said, “There’s good reason to expect job creation to pick up in the coming months.”

Other recent economic reports have also suggested better times ahead. Americans sharply increased their spending at retail stores and restaurants in January, when the $600 relief checks were mostly distributed. Retail sales jumped 5.3 per cent, after three months of declines.

Factory output also picked up that month, and demand for long-lasting goods, such as autos and aircraft, rose 3.4 per cent, the government said last week.

Home sales have been on a tear for most of the past year, driven by low mortgage rates and the desire of many Americans for more space during the pandemic. A huge jump in the proportion of people working from home has also driven up sales, which were nearly 24 per cent higher in January than a year earlier.

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