Biden infrastructure plan would boost jobs; Georgia voter law tensions

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

What specifics do you expect to be in Biden's "build back better" infrastructure plan?

Well, this is really a two-part plan. The first part Biden's rolling out this week, and it's focused mainly on infrastructure. Bridges, roads, tunnels, transit, the whole infrastructure smorgasbord, including on broadband deployment, as well as investing in things like rural hospitals, schools and upgrading buildings to be more energy efficient. Biden's proposed between $2 and $2.5 trillion depending on how you do the math, paid for by tax increases primarily falling on the corporate sector that actually spread out over 15 years, as opposed to the bill's spending, which spreads out over 10. That means the bill will be mildly stimulative to the economy on top of creating potentially new jobs through the direct spending that's going to happen.


The tax increases are focused largely on corporate America, higher corporate tax rate, changes in the way US taxes its multinational corporations, and other changes that come on the individual side, which will be primarily used to fund the second half of the plan, which is going to be focused on more of a human services element. These are things like education, healthcare, subsidies for daycare, universal pre-K, community college, and other things that the Biden administration contends have to be invested in to keep the American economy going. Now, these tax increases are going to be really controversial with Republicans, which means you're probably not going to see a lot of Republicans vote for this. But Democrats are pretty aligned around doing something big and meaningful in advance of the 2022 midterms. So both of these bills probably pass into law before the end of the year.

What's going on with the Georgia voter law?

Well, in the wake of a 2020 election, where President Trump claimed there was widespread fraud, Republican politicians are now moving across the country to roll back some of the expansions that were done during the coronavirus pandemic to make it easier to vote. In Georgia, this has meant curtailing the ability to vote on Sundays, it's meant requiring a photo ID, and it's meant limiting to some extent, the ability to apply for an absentee ballot. Most of these changes are rolling the voting rules back by a couple of years. This is not the apocalyptic changes that the Democrats have been claiming, but the Democrats are really motivated to stop all of this from happening because they want to open up voting and make it as easy as possible for their constituents to get out. They typically do better at higher turnout elections. Republicans typically do better in lower turnout elections.

So for Democrats this is really, for both parties, this is really considered an existential threat, and the voting rules are going to be a really important battleground over the next 12 to 18 months. At the federal level, the Democrats are pushing a bill, H.R. 1, that would fundamentally alter the way elections are conducted in this country, including by changing money in politics and eliminating partisan gerrymandering, by requiring each state to use a nonpartisan commission to draw the districts for the House of Representatives. If it passes, and I don't think it will because it would require today 60 votes in the Senate, but if it were to pass, it would be a big structural shift towards the Democrats in US elections.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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How will artificial intelligence change the world and especially the job market by 2041? AI scientist Kai-fu Lee just wrote a book about precisely that, and he predicts it'll shake up almost every major industry. AI, he explains, will be most disruptive to many so-called "routine" occupations, but the damage may be reduced by shifting "empathetic" workers to jobs that require human empathy. Watch his interview on GZERO World with Ian Bremmer.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

The Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson believes in tech firms doing business in China because connecting with people there is a huge social good for the world. But in demanding LinkedIn de-platform certain people, he says, the Chinese government crossed a line, and "you can't justify that."

Watch Ian Bremmer's interview with Nicholas Thompson in an upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Sectarian clashes in Lebanon: As Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, were on their way to a protest in Beirut Thursday, gunfire broke out, evidently between Hezbollah militants and those of the Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. The protesters were rallying against the ongoing state probe into last year's devastating twin blasts at a Beirut port, saying that state authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. They have called for the dismissal of Judge Tarek Bitar — who is leading the probe and on Monday issued an arrest warrant for a prominent Shiite parliamentarian linked to Amal. Each side has blamed the other for starting the violence Thursday, which killed at least six people, injured dozens more, and threw the entire city into a panic. In a grim omen, the clashes, which are among the worst in recent years, erupted along one of the old front lines (dividing Muslim and Christian neighborhoods) of the 15-year sectarian civil war that devastated the country up until 1990. With the country mired in economic and political crises, the people of Lebanon can't seem to catch a break: just last week the country was plunged into complete darkness when its decrepit power grid ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, Najib Mikati, who became prime minister designate in July after months of political deadlock, declared a "day of mourning," but civil strife continues.

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35.4: The US has overtaken China as the country with the largest share of the world's Bitcoin mining networks, now accounting for 35.4 of the global mining presence. This comes after the Chinese government banned domestic cryptocurrency mining operations to promote its own digital yuan that would track every single transaction.

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