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Minimum wage may not go up, but expect stimulus checks in April

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

Is the minimum wage going to $15 an hour?

Probably not. The House of Representatives did include it in the stimulus bill that they're going to pass as soon as next week, but when it gets over to the Senate it's likely to either be stripped out altogether because of a provision of the reconciliation process known as the Byrd Rule, or you could see some moderate Senate Democrats try to push a compromise measure which would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to something closer to $10 or $11 an hour.

$15 an hour minimum wage at the federal level was considered unthinkable just five years ago, but since that time you've seen a lot of states and many cities adopt $15 an hour as a minimum wage. However, for a lot of rural areas of the country where wages tend to be lower, $15 an hour is considered quite expensive for a number of small businesses. So, you've got the senator from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema, and the senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who remain opposed and may try to push a compromise if they can get it through the procedural hurdles.

When will my stimulus check get here?

Probably in mid-April. If you are one of the Americans who's filed your taxes electronically with the IRS, they have your bank account information on file. And as soon as the Biden stimulus plan passes, which we think will happen probably sometime early March, it'll take Treasury a couple of weeks to get the systems up and running, get those checks out the door. You should see a nice little bonus payment in your pay in your bank account in April.

Does anyone care about the federal deficit?

With President Biden and most congressional Democrats rallying around $1.9 trillion in new deficit finance stimulus this year, that'll bring the total of deficit finance stimulus to about $5 trillion over the last 12 months, which is roughly a quarter of the US economy. Again, unthinkable amounts of money that could never have happened in a previous political era. But when the US government is borrowing around 1% on the 10 year note, that gives a lot of fiscal space for Congress to reply to the emergency of the coronavirus in unprecedented ways. Politics here could shift, however, this year. The Republican party is back in the minority, and as the opposition party, they successfully made a big deal out of the deficits that were being run up early in the Obama administration and came into power on the Tea Party wave as a result. We'll see if that evolves this year. I think the politics really have shifted over the last 10 years with the Fed providing easy money and no inflation in sight.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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In the fall of 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would change the world, Ian Bremmer asked Dr. Fauci what kept him up at night and he described a "a pandemic-like respiratory infection." Fast-forward to late February 2021 and Dr. Fauci tells Ian, "I think we are living through much of that worst nightmare." Dr. Fauci returns to GZERO World to take stock of the nightmare year and to paint a picture of what the end of the pandemic could look like—and when it could finally arrive.

Catch the full episode of GZERO World, where Dr. Fauci discusses the latest in vaccine roll out, schools re-openings, and plenty more, on US public television stations nationwide, beginning Friday, February 26. Check local listings.

Egypt and Sudan want some dam help: Cairo and Khartoum have called on the US, EU, and UN to intervene in their ongoing dispute with neighboring Ethiopia over that country's construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile. Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream of Ethiopia and worry about their farmers losing water, want binding targets and dispute resolution mechanisms, while Ethiopia, which sees the dam as a critical piece of its economic future, wants more flexibility and has given little ground in talks. Efforts by the African Union to mediate have failed as Ethiopia presses ahead with filling the dam even after being sanctioned by the Trump administration last year for doing so. The dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as it is called, has threatened to spill into military conflict at several points in recent years. Can the "international community" turn things around?

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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