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. This month, we examine why a seemingly simple question of opinion—“Is the U.S. economy being managed well?”—seems to vex pundits parsing public sentiments. What our readings suggest is that the answer may depend on how one places summer 2023 within the larger narrative of U.S. history. In a story centered around America’s manufacturing past and potential future, for example, the present moment suggests particular promise. But is that the economic story of greatest interest to investors, or for that matter, most U.S. consumers?
The Job-Market Boom Is Over. Here’s Why and What It Means. (Sarah Chaney Cambon and Rosie Ettenheim, The Wall Street Journal) The headline may undersell the most positive aspect of this story, which is the potential of a “soft landing”—that is, a cooling of inflation without an accompanying recession.
Now, if such a sought-after policy goal is within reach, why do polls suggest Americans are so pessimistic about current U.S. economic policy? At the very least, the opinion piece The Real Problem With ‘Bidenomics’ (Catherine Rampell, The Washington Post) offers a provocative perspective: a “myopic focus on manufacturing,” a sector the author believes most voters feel is removed from their daily lives. But if so, are they right?
Financial Implications of Rising Political Risk in the US (Stephen M. Davis, Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance) Among the most interesting issues raised by this piece is that it treats political risk in the U.S. as an issue for corporate boards to address—that is, as a governance issue. Sound far-fetched? According to the article, some 90% of institutional investors believe threats to U.S. democracy are rising. Yet, “less than 30% of these same investors are confident that US public companies are today equipped to manage that political risk.”
Strive Asset Management vs. Engine No. 1: How Did the Activists Vote? (Alyssa Stankiewicz and Lindsey Stewart, MorningStar) “For investors wishing to take a stance on environmental and social issues, these results underscore the importance of manager due diligence when choosing between otherwise similar index-tracking funds.”
Soaring Solar Power and EV Sales Gives Hope for Hitting 1.5°C Global Warming Target (Sibi Arasu, Time Magazine) “The report found that solar power capacity increased nearly 50% in the last two years and electric car sales increased by 240%.” Read with the domestic manufacturing requirements of the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act in mind, does this suggest a hopeful future for U.S. manufacturing? For a more complicated picture, see: Should Autoworkers Fear Electric Cars? (Nitish Pahwa, Slate).
A Summer of Strikes (Molly Cook Escobar and Christine Zhang, The New York Times) As we turn the page on summer 2023, this article provides a good recap of just what a remarkable summer of labor activity it was.
US Retail Workers Are Fed Up and Quitting at Record Rates (Devin Leonard and Diana Bravo, Bloomberg) “To be a US retail worker in 2023 means fielding an onslaught of growing American anxieties about everything from high prices to politics. Increasingly, some workers say the job isn’t worth the wages.”
FTC and 17 States Sue Amazon on Antitrust Charges (Lauren Feiner and Annie Palmer, CNBC) Has the FTC had it with corporate monopolies? For an in-depth look at how Amazon has changed for both buyers and sellers, read Amazon Has Become a One-Click Nightmare.)
Hollywood Writers Reached an AI Deal That Will Rewrite History (Will Bedingfield, Wired) We at the Aspen Institute’s Business & Society Program believe in ending What We’re Reading on an optimistic note whenever we can. In that spirit, we share with you this piece suggesting a hopeful summation of the many threads explored this month: that workers can wield power to shape history for the better, even when confronted with technological change.
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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