What We’re Reading is a roundup of current news and commentary on the challenges and opportunities of aligning business decisions with the long-term health of society. The end of summer 2023 marks the one-year anniversary of the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, and, as other news headlines remind us, is in many ways the unofficial start of the 2024 presidential campaign. Headlines that the U.S. seems to have avoided a large-scale recession are understandably top of mind for business, but we should also consider signs of longer-term economic and social shifts taking place under Biden — as well as long-simmering threats still to be addressed.
As Recession Fears Fade, We May Be Experiencing a ‘Richcession’ Instead — Here’s What That Means for You (Jessica Dickler, CNBC.com) We’ve covered the idea of a “richcession” before in a prior edition of What We’re Reading, but this article offers useful alternative characterizations of what’s going on in the U.S. macroeconomy. See also: What Was the Tech-Cession? (Joseph Politano, Apricitas Economics).
Zooming out from the immediate present, there are indicators of deep changes underway in the U.S. economy under the Biden administration.
This coverage of the Inflation Reduction Act How a Half-Trillion Dollars Is Transforming Climate Technology (Casey Crownhart, MIT Technology Review) is just one example. Biden’s Course for U.S. Trade Breaks With Clinton and Obama (David J. Lynch, The Washington Post) is another, in which one expert summarizes: “The era of trade liberalization has petered out. We’re in a new world with a new set of challenges.”
And yet, for all the hopes for the U.S. economy and society, a fundamental challenge simmers.
New Survey: Institutional Investors Believe American Democracy Is Increasingly at Risk (United States Democracy Center) “Threats to democracy in the United States also pose a risk to investors and the economy.” How can investors work to reduce the impact of these risks on companies?
Labor Groups Target Hyundai, and Biden, Over Transition to Electric (Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times) A major test for the Biden Administration’s signature economic policy with labor leaders: “…those leaders also say the volume of jobs created on his watch may not be enough to win worker loyalties if those jobs are low-paid, dangerous and insecure. That is especially true if substandard jobs are underwritten by the taxpayer.”
Will Starbucks’ Union-Busting Stifle a Union Rebirth in the US? (Steven Greenhouse, The Guardian) “Many labor experts say the unionization campaign at Starbucks has done more than any other effort to inspire union drives, whether at Trader Joe’s, Apple or elsewhere, but if Starbucks succeeds in quashing its baristas’ organizing efforts and prevents them from ever getting a first contract, that would be a major symbolic and substantive blow to the hopes for a union rebirth in the US.”
A Progressive’s Case for Getting Rid of ‘ESG’ (Alex Edmans, The Wall Street Journal) There’s more than one turn of phrase we would question here (comparing ESG to a child’s paint-by-numbers art project, really?). Still, there’s at least one useful provocation: “Conversely, poor non-ESG performance can harm society. Kodak’s sluggish executive team missed the digital revolution, eventually causing the company to go bankrupt and 150,000 employees to lose their jobs.”
What Your Insurer Is Trying to Tell You About Climate Change (Juliette Kayyem, The Atlantic) “Risk has a price, and by not acknowledging that price, homeowners can’t understand that risk”: When it comes to communicating issues of critical importance to both businesses and consumers, why limit the conversation?
Following Elon Musk’s Lead, Big Tech Is Surrendering to Disinformation (Naomi Nix and Sarah Ellison, The Washington Post) What does it say about the relationship between tech and policymakers that one man’s choices can so dramatically transform industry standards?
Tech Is Broken—Can Collective Action Fix It? (Patrick Sisson, MIT Technology Review) What are alternative models for managing the tech sector’s impact on society, and can tech workers help fix what their leaders have broken?
For more on our work to align business with the long-term good of society, sign up for our publications and visit our website. (Please note, the purpose of this newsletter is to highlight what Aspen BSP staff are reading, and is not intended as advertisement or endorsement of content or viewpoints.)
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