Mortgage Applications Fall as Interest Rates Remain High

Paper Work

Mortgage applications sank last week as high prices and rising mortgage rates have increased unaffordability for average Americans, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The total volume of mortgage loan applications for homes declined 10.6% in the week ending Feb. 16 compared to the previous week when seasonally adjusted, while the purchase index fell 10% in that same time, according to a release from the MBA. The drop in applications follows an increase in the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for homes under $766,550 to 7.06% from 6.87% the week prior, intensifying housing unaffordability.

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‘Serious Problems’: Global Plague of Recessions Could Infect U.S., Experts Say

Office Meeting

The recessions currently plaguing several major countries around the world could be what drags the U.S. into an economic downturn of its own, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Germany announced on Monday that it fell into a technical recession in the fourth quarter of 2023, after reporting its second month in a row of negative growth, following several other top nations experiencing economic difficulties. While the U.S. has managed to avoid a recession due to its size and diverse industries, foreign economic malaise may drag the U.S. economy down through changes to trade and global inflation that would lead to a loss for American businesses, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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Auto Executives: Chinese EVs Could ‘Demolish’ U.S. Production

BYD Electric Vehicle

Detroit placed the U.S. on wheels but if Motor City wants to go electric it faces fierce global competition.

Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD outsold Tesla in the fourth quarter of 2023. The foreign automaker said it produced more than 3 million new energy vehicles in 2023 compared to Tesla’s 1.8 million.

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Domestic Oil Production in U.S. Reached Record Levels

Oil Drilling

Domestic oil production in the U.S. reached a new record in November of 2023, hitting 13.31 million barrels per day, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The previous record was 13.25 million barrels per day. That was set in September 2023.

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Former CEO: High Interest Rates ‘Killing’ Companies as Layoffs Continue

Bob Nardelli

President Joe Biden is blaming corporations for high prices and “shrinkflation.” Business executives and many economists disagree, arguing the real problem is inflation created by federal deficit spending policies.

Ahead of the Super Bowl, Biden posted a video on X saying, “While you were Super Bowl shopping, did you notice smaller-than-usual products where the price stays the same? Folks are calling it Shrinkflation and it means companies are giving you less for every dollar you spend. I’m calling on the big consumer brands to put a stop to it.”

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Rampant Crime Takes Toll on America’s Small Businesses, New Survey Reveals

Small Business

Nearly one-third of small business employers in January said that crime has raised everyday business costs, according to a Job Creators Network Foundation (JCNF) poll obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Around 31% of small businesses surveyed in January said that neighborhood crime has increased business costs through added expenses associated with extra security or stolen inventory, with employers in the western U.S. being the most likely to say they were affected at 35%, according to the poll. Businesses with $100,000 to $250,000 in revenue in a year were the most likely to say that neighborhood crime has increased business costs, with 53% saying yes, followed by businesses with less than $100,000 in revenue at 47%.

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Major American Financial Institutions Withdraw from Global Climate Investment Organization in Blow to Green Agenda

Several of the largest asset managers in the U.S. are withdrawing from a major coalition of companies focused on advancing green investment strategies and climate-sensitive corporate management.

JPMorgan Asset Management (JMAM) and State Street Global Advisors will not be renewing membership in Climate Action 100+, a coalition of investors and asset managers with a combined $68 trillion under management that pushes corporations to reduce emissions and adopt climate risk disclosure practices, according to Financial Times. Climate Action 100+ and Ceres — a green shareholder activist group that co-founded the coalition — are currently under investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, which is alleging that the coalition’s advancement of progressive Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) policies may constitute non-competitive activity in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

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Commentary: Biden Gaslights America on the Economy

Biden Speaking

Joe Biden is gaslighting America on the economy. His administration is trying to oversell what has underperformed for several reasons: First, the economy is the one issue that affects most Americans most significantly. Second, Biden is doing worse on virtually every other issue. Finally, time is short: the economy is about to get worse, and the election is close. The administration’s strategy is to get Americans to believe what they hear and doubt what they see.

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More Investors Bet Inflation Is Here to Stay amid Disappointing Price Data

Investor at Work

More investors are projecting a “no landing” scenario where inflation remains elevated but economic growth continues at its current levels following a disappointing inflation report on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Nearly one out of five fund managers polled by Bank of America predicted a “no landing” scenario as the most likely outcome in the next year, with concerns about such a scenario being intensified by a poor inflation reading that sent U.S. markets into a frenzy on Tuesday, according to Reuters. Tuesday’s consumer price index (CPI) report showed inflation decelerated in January to 3.1% year-over-year from 3.4% in the preceding month, higher than expectations of 2.9%.

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Corporate America is Starting to Shy Away from Woke Business as Backlash Mounts

Office Meeting

American companies are reversing the multiyear trend of hiring more employees in roles related to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues in an effort to increase profitability and address investor pushback, according to The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. companies shed 3,071 employees with positions related to ESG in December while only adding 2,897, continuing the trend that has been seen in half of the months in the last year of a net loss of ESG positions, according to the WSJ. The shift is in response to investors pulling their funds from companies heavily involved in ESG practices and placing their money in firms where they can get higher returns.

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Joe Biden Mocked Mercilessly for Mumbling, Bumbling ‘Shrinkflation’ Video Released on Super Bowl Sunday

President Joe Biden was mocked by conservatives on Sunday for a video he released ahead of the Super Bowl which derided “shrinkflation,” when manufacturers lower the size or quantity of items included for a given price without informing the consumer as a result of inflation, with pundits uniformly reminding the embattled president that his inflationary policies preceded the shrinkflation.

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China’s Real Estate Collapse Infecting Troubled American Sectors

China Real Estate

The crumbling Chinese real estate sector is starting to put properties around the world on the market at deep discounts, threatening debt-laden American commercial developers and the U.S. banks holding the loans, according to Bloomberg.

In a bid to pay off massive debts, Chinese real estate developers are having to offload a huge number of properties onto the global market, depressing prices even further for a sector that already has had borrowing cost hikes, causing a loss of $1 trillion in office property values, according to Bloomberg. The drop in property values hits American commercial real estate particularly hard due to the huge amount of debt the sector holds and the dwindling U.S. demand, with banks that hold the debt also fearing they may lose out on their investment.

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Commentary: Avoid These Four Costly 401(k) Mistakes

Ford Stokes

As you near retirement, you must make smart choices with your 401(k) plan. This is especially important for baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. For a secure retirement, avoiding mistakes and maximizing growth opportunities is crucial. Here are some common mistakes people make with 401(k) plans and solutions to improve retirement prospects.

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Illegal Immigration ‘Surge’ Will Put ‘Downward Pressure’ on Wages for Years, CBO Says

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the ongoing surge in immigration, both legal and illegal, will put “downward pressure” on inflation-adjusted wages through 2034, according to a recently released report.

The downward effect on real wages will continue until 2027, at which point it will “partially reverse,” with immigration still expected to cause average real wages to be lower in 2034 than they otherwise would be, according to CBO. CBO did predict some positive impacts of immigration, as well, such as increased GDP growth and an expanded labor force.

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Mexico Dethrones China as America’s Main Source of Goods

Car Plant in Mexico

Mexico supplied the United States with a higher volume of goods than China in 2023, according to annual data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) published on Wednesday.

The U.S. imported about $427.2 billion worth of goods from China, whereas imports from Mexico reached around $475.6 billion, according to the data. Trade tensions between the U.S. and China persist as America continues to impose sanctions and tariffs while the two countries engage in a race to develop artificial intelligence technology.

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American Billionaires Bankrolled Activist Crusade Against Natural Gas Hubs Before Biden Signed Off on Approval Pause

Natural Gas Power Plant

American billionaires bankrolled an activist campaign targeting liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals that influenced the White House’s decision to pause new and pending approvals for the projects, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The philanthropic organizations of the Rockefeller family and Democratic megadonor Michael Bloomberg cumulatively provided millions of dollars to activists who pressured Biden administration officials to crack down on LNG export hubs over the past several years, according to the WSJ. The activists ultimately got their way on Jan. 26, when the White House announced that the administration would pause new project approvals as the Department of Energy (DOE) widens the scope of its reviews to include climate impacts of LNG export terminals alongside considerations like national security and economic benefits.

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Big Corporations Try to Clean Up Their Act After Reports of Rampant Child Migrant Labor

Farm Workers

U.S. companies are conducting full-scale audits and shifting “focus” after multiple reports revealed child immigrants were working in increasingly dangerous conditions, according to The New York Times.

In 2023, the Department of Labor opened an investigation into companies like Lucky Charms and Cheetos after reports of immigrant children working in dangerous conditions while thousands of children have crossed over into the U.S. in the last several years. Many other companies, including McDonald’s, Whole Foods, Costco and more, have announced that they are conducting full audits to prevent migrant children from working in dangerous conditions, according to the NYT.

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Ford Lost Billions on EVs in 2023

Ford EVs

Ford lost billions of dollars on its electric vehicle (EV) product lines last year, according to corporate documents.

The company lost $4.7 billion on EVs in 2023, a greater loss than the $4.5 billion the company expected it would lose in 2023 at mid-year, according to a summary of the company’s annual earnings. The company pointed to “an extremely competitive pricing environment” as a key reason for the losses.

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Commentary: Inflation Is the Reason Joe Biden Is So Unpopular

Joe Biden

We’ve paid much attention to President Biden’s flagging job approval here, in part because it tends to be a strong predictor of how an election will turn out. Biden is marching into this election season as likely the least popular president to face the voters since Herbert Hoover. While he may yet be saved by the fact that he is facing off against Donald Trump, who brings his own baggage to the table, it’s an ominous indicator.

At the same time, the economy is running hot. Growth is over 3%, unemployment is under 4%, and inflation has fallen from its peak. So why the seeming paradox of an unpopular president in a time of strong economic growth, especially when the strength of the economy is itself a traditional predictor of presidential job approval?

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Chinese Solar Companies are Gearing Up to Cash in on Biden’s Signature Climate Bill

Solar Panel Installation

Chinese solar manufacturers are building factories in the U.S. to reap American subsidies created by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), President Joe Biden’s signature climate bill, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Companies based in China are responsible for about 25% of the 80 gigawatts in new solar manufacturing capacity announced in the U.S. since the IRA became law in August 2022 and established robust tax credit programs to incentivize domestic green energy production, according to the WSJ. Assuming that the factory construction and expected outputs announced by these China-based solar companies stay on schedule, they could reap a combined $1.4 billion worth of value from IRA subsidies each year.

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Ohio U.S. Rep Jim Jordan Debuts ‘Amazon Files’ Showcasing Federal Censorship Efforts Against Books

The House Judiciary Committee and the Weaponization subpanel on Monday revealed internal documents secured via the subpoena of Amazon, highlighting the Biden administration’s efforts to address “propaganda” and “misinformation” in books the online retailer sold.

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Full-Time Work Is Being Replaced by Part-Time Jobs as Americans and Businesses Struggle

Uber Driver

Since June 2023, Americans have been increasingly employed in part-time positions, with a subsequent decline in full-time work, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The number of Americans working part-time in January grew by 96,000 compared to the previous month, while full-time employment sank by 63,000, according to the BLS. The change in the types of employment follows a trend toward part-time employment that has been increasingly exacerbated since June 2023.

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Tesla Recalls over 2 Million Vehicles Due to Issues with Warning Lights: Report

Tesla in Parking Lot

Tesla is reportedly recalling over 2 million vehicles due to issues with warning lights on instrument panels, according to news reports.

The issue is expected to be resolved with “over-the-air” software, according to The Wall Street Journal. That means owners will not have to take their vehicles to a dealership to resolve the matter. 

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Job Growth Exceeds Expectations Despite Mass Layoffs

Office Co-Workers

The U.S. added 353,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in January as the unemployment rate remained at 3.7%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data released Friday.

Economists anticipated that the country would add 180,000 jobs in January compared to the 216,000 that were added in December and that the unemployment rate would tick up to 3.8% from 3.7%, according to Reuters. Despite the job gains, American employers cut 82,307 positions in January, a 136% jump from the previous month, amid a wider trend of layoffs as factors like high inflation continue to hurt business conditions.

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Job Cuts Soar as Employers Look for Ways to Lower Costs

Frustrated Worker

The number of job cuts by American employers surged in January as companies looked to lower operating costs to adjust to harsh economic conditions, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc.

The number of positions cut by employers in January jumped 136%, with 82,307 positions cut compared to the 34,817 cut in December, according to a report from Challenger, Gray and Christmas. The job cuts come amid a wider U.S. layoff trend due to broader economic struggles, like inflation and adjustments from automation.

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Top U.S. Automaker Reports $1.7 Billion Loss on Electric Vehicles in Fourth Quarter

Marry Barra

General Motors reported a $1.7 billion loss on Tuesday in its fourth quarter earnings call in the production and sale of its electric vehicle line, despite having positive net income growth in the quarter.

The automaker’s net income for the fourth quarter rose 5.2% year-over-year to $2.1 billion despite a reduction in revenue over that time frame of 0.3%, according to GM’s fourth quarter earnings report. The losses on EVs accompany a $1.1 billion total loss from a six-week-long strike by the United Auto Workers that partially halted operations, with the union gaining a new work contract that could raise labor costs in the coming year, according to the company’s investor earnings call.

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Commentary: The Tricky Business of Branding

Patagonia Clothing

Brand development has become a major focus for firms hoping to find or maintain success in advanced markets. According to Steve Forbes, “Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” And he certainly is right.

A brand not only serves to identify firms and what they offer, it also conveys a company’s positioning strategy and value proposition. Promotional elements such as logos, names, symbols, and colors, are commonly leveraged for branding purposes but a brand can also be reinforced through pricing and distribution systems. For instance, if a company wants their product to be viewed as the best of the best, then they wouldn’t want it to be found on the shelves at a discount store. This is why Burberry has been known to burn excess inventory and perhaps it is also why premium brands will leverage opportunities to recycle their products.

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Inflationary Woes: More Chain Stores Closed in 2023, Continuing into 2024

Macy's Store

More chain stores closed in 2023 as a result of high inflationary costs, with the trend continuing in 2024 led by the iconic department store, Macy’s.

In 2023, retail stores, pharmaceutical and fast-food chains continued a trend of previous years: declaring bankruptcy and closing their doors or shutting down some locations to cut costs, citing inflation, higher costs, and profit losses.

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Continued Inflation Tops List of Worries for Democrats, Republicans

Grocery Shopping

A new poll shows that Democrats and Republicans are concerned more about inflation than other potential crises, but voters from the two parties don’t see eye to eye on other concerns, including the potential of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil or potential chaos after the 2024 election.

The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll conducted in conjunction with Noble Predictive Insights found that Republicans (45%) were more concerned about inflation than Democrats (32%). Concerns that inflation could continue and further drive up prices were highest for voters with children under 18 (47%) and those 45 to 54 years old (47%).

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Corporate Media in Crisis as Outlets Grapple with Biden’s Economy

Joe Biden

Numerous legacy media outlets are struggling with challenges posed by President Joe Biden’s economy and resorting to drastic measures, Axios reported on Friday.

Close to a dozen of these outlets are firing workers, dealing with employee strikes or looking to sell, according to Axios. The Federal Reserve’s imposition of high interest rates to bring down inflation is hindering their ability to accumulate more debt, complicating their efforts to extend the timeline for resolving their financial difficulties.

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Leadership of Major U.S. Landowner Chock-Full of Chinese Communist Party Members

American Farmland

Top executives at Hong Kong-based WH Group Limited, the world’s largest pork producer that controls vast swaths of U.S. farmland through its American subsidiary, are Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation review of corporate records and state-run media reports.

Records and reports reviewed by the DCNF identify four top executives and the chairman of the pork giant as CCP members with extensive ties to the Chinese government. WH Group controls nearly 150,000 acres of land across 29 U.S. states through its subsidiary Smithfield Foods, a family-run business established in 1936, which it purchased for $7.1 billion in 2013. While a keyword search on Smithfield’s website returned only two articles mentioning the firm’s relationship with WH Group, neither of the two articles mentioned China. An online map of Smithfield’s global business activities does not list any operations in, or connection to, Asia, despite archived reports from their website suggesting otherwise.

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U.S. Economic Growth Exceeds Expectations with Rate Cuts on the Horizon

Blue Collar

The U.S. economy grew at a rate of 3.3% in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to gross domestic product (GDP) statistics released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) on Thursday.

In the third quarter of 2023, real GDP rose 4.9%, down from the second estimate of 5.2%, but in line with initial estimates. Economists expected that GDP growth would be around 2% for the fourth quarter of 2023, in line with typical U.S. growth rates.

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Commentary: Big Labor State Politicians’ ‘Wall of Denial’ Is Starting to Crumble

California Illinois

For decades, cold, hard data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have shown that states like New Jersey, Illinois and California are paying a high price for allowing dues-hungry union bosses to continue getting workers fired for refusal to bankroll their organizations.

Year after year, far more taxpayers have been leaving forced-unionism states than moving into them.  And the average tax filer moving out of a forced-unionism state has reported having an adjusted gross income (AGI) on his or her IRS form that is substantially higher than the average for a tax filer moving into a forced-unionism state.

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Smaller Banks’ Earnings Limp as High Interest Rates, Sector Turmoil Send Customers Fleeing to Megabanks

Bank Teller

Many smaller banks posted dismal fourth quarter earnings as depositors continue to flee to booming megabanks that have been unfazed by interest rate hikes and a crisis that shook the sector early last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Net income was down substantially at many small and regional banks in the fourth quarter, including KeyCorp, Citizens Financial Group, PNC Financial Services Group, Comerica and Zion Bancorporation, falling 90%, 70%, 40%, 90% and 50%, respectively, according to the WSJ. Despite the poor performance at the small and regional level, America’s megabanks — JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup — saw their earnings increase 11% during 2023 to over $100 billion.

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Stigma of ‘Dirty Fossil Fuels’ Drives Young People Away from Lucrative Careers in Oil and Gas Work

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineering is the highest paying bachelor’s degree in the United States, according to a report by Payscale, but despite an average annual salary of $97,500, oil companies struggle to fill positions.

The industry faces a number of challenges. Employees often face cyclical layoffs whenever commodity prices collapse, and that makes the jobs appear unstable. Young people today are also concerned about working in an industry they’re taught is destroying the planet.

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United Airlines CEO Says They Are Making Plans Without Boeing After Manufacturing Issues

United Boeing

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Tuesday that the company is making a plan to move forward without Boeing after the manufacturing company grounded its MAX 9 planes, according to CNBC.

Boeing has suffered a series of problems in the last several weeks after multiple planes had major mechanical and structural errors, forcing the company to ground all Max 9 aircraft with door plugs. Kirby told CNBC that the decision to ground the aircraft was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for United.

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Home Sales in 2023 Were the Lowest in 28 Years as Affordability Crisis Plagued Americans

Home Owners

Sales for existing homes, which make up a majority of the housing market, slumped to the lowest level since 1995 as rising prices and sky-rocketing mortgage rates increased unaffordability, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Existing home sales sank 1.0% in December compared to the previous month, falling 6.2% annually, with 4.09 million homes being sold for the year, according to a report from the NAR. The slump in sales follows a year of rising prices due to inflation, constrained supply and sky-high mortgage rates, which at one point neared 8%, suppressing demand and Americans’ ability to buy in the housing market.

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Cloud Hangs over Commercial Real Estate as Trillions in Debt Set to Come Due

Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate is facing a mountain of debt that many borrowers could have trouble refinancing due to a rapid hike in interest rates and record vacancies, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Around $2.81 trillion in commercial real estate loans are set to expire through 2028, meaning borrowers would either have to pay the amount outright or refinance the debt with higher interest rates, according to data from market research group Trepp. Payments on commercial mortgages are typically only for interest while the loan is active, and when the loan reaches its expiration date, borrowers often refinance at current rates, but doing so would increase payments drastically in a time when commercial developers and property owners are strapped for cash, according to the WSJ.

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Poll Finds Americans Worried About National Debt

Congress Spending

Americans are worried about the national debt, according to the results of a new poll.

Americans have the national debt crisis as one of their top concerns along with war, inflation and crime. Those polled think the overspending has a direct impact on their personal security and also has an impact on the security of the United States, according to a recent study commissioned by Main Street Economics, a nonprofit group designed to educate Americans on the nation’s debt crisis.

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Ford Slashes Production of EV Truck Biden Drove to Promote Green Agenda

EV Ford

Ford is cutting back production of its F-150 Lightning electric vehicle (EV), a model that President Joe Biden took for a test drive to market his administration’s EV agenda.

Ford made the official announcement that it will be reducing its F-150 Lightning output in 2024 amid slower-than-projected growth in EV demand. Biden test drove a F-150 Lightning in Michigan in May 2021 to promote his administration’s EV agenda, which aims for EVs to make up 50% of all new auto sales by 2030.

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Commentary: New Biden Labor Dept. Rule Likely to Hurt Millions of Small Businesses, Independent Contractors

Remote Worker

Some 99% of American companies are small businesses, and 100% of businesses started out small, but a recently finalized rule from the Biden administration’s Labor Department will make it harder for small businesses to start, grow and succeed.

As of last May 1, a White House news release pointed out, “Young firms, which often start small with few employees, are a driving force in job creation.” That’s been particularly true since the COVID-19 pandemic, as small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have accounted for a growing share of new jobs.

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Big Pharma Raises Hundreds of Drug Prices Despite Biden Admin Efforts to Keep Costs Down

Pharmacist

Top pharmaceutical companies raised the list price on 775 brand-name drugs in just the first half of January, even as President Joe Biden aims to keep prices low, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The median price hike of the drugs was around 4.5%, with some rising by 10% or more, despite an inflation rate of 3.4% year-over-year in December, according to data from 46brooklyn Research acquired by the WSJ. The price hikes are in contrast to the president’s efforts to tame rising drug prices, taking actions such as imposing automatic rebates to Medicare for drugmakers that raise their prices faster than the price of inflation, which first went into effect in December, affecting 48 drugs covered under Medicare Part B.

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New York Manufacturing Sees Biggest Plunge Since Pandemic Lockdowns

Blue Collar

The index for New York state’s general business conditions fell by 29 points to -43.7 for January, with a negative number indicating a contraction, declining to the lowest point since May 2020 when the state was struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from the Federal Reserve of New York.

Accompanying the decline and contraction in general business conditions, shipments fell 25 index points, the number of unfilled orders remained high at -24.2 index points and the amount of inventory held shrank to -7.4 index points, according to the Empire State Manufacturing Survey conducted between Jan. 3 and 10. Despite poor current conditions, optimism about future activity levels by businesses increased, with the index rising 7 points but still remaining relatively low at 18.8 points, indicating that businesses expect an economic expansion in the coming months.

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BlackRock to Make Massive Infrastructure Move to ‘Decarbonize the World’ and Reap Government Subsidies

BlackRock on Friday reached an agreement to acquire Global Infrastructure Partners for $12.5 billion, a move aimed at advancing the investment giant’s climate objectives and capitalizing on government subsidies, according to statements and reports.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager and is a proponent of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investing. Both companies share a commitment to decarbonization and BlackRock sees the deal’s timing as opportune, as governments have offered businesses rare financial incentives to build infrastructure, including for green energy projects, according to a press release.

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