Quick Take: US stimulus, vaccine rollout, & Russian cyber espionage

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. It's Christmas week. God, we need it. Great to see you and a little quick take to kick us off this last full week of 2020, getting through on fumes this most, most challenging year. First, obviously happy to finally see a deal come through almost a trillion dollars in relief that is desperately needed in the United States. People complaining that $600 checks aren't going to do very much. And I agree, it's kind of pathetic, especially in the context of what other advanced industrial democracies have been doing for their working populations around the world, but it's better than zero, which is where we were.

Look, my annoyance with all of this is that a trillion-dollar deal was doable three months ago, six months ago. The Republicans in power refused to make it larger when larger was necessary and doable. The Democrats, not in power, were unwilling to compromise or capitulate. And if you're in a weaker position, you need to be willing to bend more. As a consequence of both sides playing politics logically to improve their positions in the run-up to the election, the people that get screwed are the American voters, and particularly those that aren't doing well right now.

And that concerns me, especially because come January, assuming the Democrats don't take both seats in Georgia in the Senate, and it's possible they do, in which case you'll see a lot more stimulus, but if it doesn't, I think it's more the same. And that means you're going to have a working class in the US that's going to be in worse shape, in terms of trajectory, than in most of Western Europe, than in Canada, than in Japan. And for the wealthiest country in the world, the United States, with the markets just chugging along and the top 10% doing very well indeed, that's just not acceptable. And that, that kind of annoys me. So yeah, it's better than nothing, but it's not where we want to be.

Also, in terms of vaccines, we're seeing the rollout. I've seen an awful lot of criticism about all of these members of Congress that are getting their vaccines. I have no problem with the idea that for continuity of government purposes, that political leaders across the board, in the White House, top management in cabinet and in key departments, as well as all members of Congress, House and Senate should have access to the vaccine in the first tranche. I have no problem with that.

But I think leadership, if you are in one of those positions and clearly not vulnerable to the disease yourself, in other words, you're not old, you don't have pre-existing conditions, leadership is saying, "Everyone should take this vaccine. I'm waiting until my demographic comes up," which by the way is what the CEO of Pfizer did. And obviously he could have had a vaccine as soon as it was approved. He chose not to. That's leadership. And I don't like the idea that Marco Rubio or AOC or others have decided not to.

Now, by the way, I actually blame the Republicans more on this, not all Republicans, but those specifically that were unwilling to get tested when they should have, weren't wearing masks when they should have, it shows more hypocrisy. But what I want is not just an absence of hypocrisy, I want leadership and leadership is when you're out front leading by example. And I don't see very much of that in the United States right now on either of these points. I hate to bang on this, but here we are in the teeth of the worst crisis of our lifetimes and the United States is both the most economically unequal and also the most politically divided, and that's really not where you want to be.

The Russia hack is something that, as we learn more, continues to get worse. The technological sophistication that the Russians have in terms of cyber is very great indeed. Russia is not a country doing very well overall. They're nowhere in terms of private sector technology and artificial intelligence, the Americans and Chinese are both light-years ahead of them. Their major sources of strength and wealth are fossil fuels, which are going away, and conventional weapons and nuclear weapons capabilities, which the Chinese aren't investing much in, and that should tell you something about the future. But on cyber, the Russians have invested, and they are truly capable, and they are deploying that against the United States. The Americans are, of course, deploying that against the Russians as well. And the fact that we both engage in that kind of espionage against each other makes the world more dangerous, but also has to make you a little bit more cautious in terms of calling for, "We've got to hit them back. This is war."

It's not war. It would be war if the Americans were trying to actually break the critical infrastructure as they attack it, which is what they did, of course, in Ukraine with the NotPetya virus a few years ago, and which then actually extended well beyond Ukraine and caused billions and billions of dollars of damage. No, this is espionage. This is an intelligence operation. But the Americans need to invest in better defense. And the Americans also need to do a better job of degrading Russian capabilities. And in both cases, I suspect we'd not been quite where we want to be in the US. And that plus a risk acceptance on the part of the Russian government, where they feel like very little is going to be done to respond to them, whether it is their conventional activities in places like Syria or Ukraine, or even Belarus, or it's their cyber capabilities against the Americans against NATO, against American allies, that clearly makes Russia more of a risk than you'd like it to be.

China is still by far the most capable competitor of the United States and is growing in that capacity over time. Russia's capacity to undermine the global order is actually decreasing over time, but they're angry about it, and they blame the United States. And in the near term, that actually makes them a greater risk factor than you would otherwise expect.

So that's a little bit of where I'm thinking right now. Hope everyone is good. Hope you have a great Christmas this week. Be safe, avoid people. Talk to you soon.

Early employment can set a young person on a trajectory for success, providing both a paycheck and a stepping-stone for improving academic performance.

Bank of America is committed to investing in youth employment, funding $160 million since 2018 to connect youth and young adults to jobs and mentoring.

The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

More Show less

Three years ago, Facebook changed its algorithms to mitigate online rage and misinformation. But it only made Facebook worse by boosting toxic engagement, says Nick Thompson, The Atlantic CEO & former WIRED editor-in-chief. Thompson believes Facebook simply got in over its head, rather than becoming intentionally "evil" like, say, Big Tobacco with cigarettes. "I think they just created something they couldn't control. And I think they didn't grasp what was happening until too late." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

From overall health and wellness to representation in the global workforce, women and girls have faced serious setbacks over the past 18+ months. They also hold the key to more robust and inclusive growth in the months and years ahead: McKinsey & Company estimates that centering recovery efforts on women could contribute $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

On October 28th at 12pm ET, as part of our "Measuring What Matters" series, GZERO Media and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will look beyond traditional indicators of economic recovery to examine COVID-19's impact on girls and women, specifically in the areas of health and employment.

More Show less

This year, American kids who've asked Santa for L.O.L. Surprise! dolls, Nerf blasters, or classic Legos may be disappointed. The delivery of these and other in-demand toys could be delayed due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions that are still hitting US businesses and consumers hard. Container vessels loaded with precious cargo are waiting days to enter busy US ports, while within the country truck drivers are working flat out to meet soaring demand for goods of all kinds. Products are getting wildly expensive or arriving late. Here's a snapshot of the problem, showing longer delivery times, skyrocketing freight and shipping costs, and trucker employment.

Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A long-running Senate investigation in Brazil has found that by downplaying the severity of COVID, dithering on vaccines, and promoting quack cures, President Jair Bolsonaro directly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. An earlier version of the report went so far as to recommend charges of homicide and genocide as well, but that was pulled back in the final copy to a mere charge of "crimes against humanity", according to the New York Times. The 1,200-page report alleges Bolsonaro's policies led directly to the deaths of at least half of the 600,000 Brazilians who have succumbed to the virus. It's a bombshell charge, but it's unlikely to land Bolsonaro in the dock — for that to happen he'd have to be formally accused by the justice minister, an ally whom he appointed, and the lower house of parliament, which his supporters control. Still, as the deeply unpopular Bolsonaro limps towards next year's presidential election, a rap of this kind isn't going to help.

More Show less

11,412: Irmgard Furchner, a 92-year-old former typist at a Nazi concentration camp in Germany, is facing trial for contributing to the murder of 11,412 people there. Furchner tried to escape German authorities in late September by sneaking out of her nursing home, but was arrested hours later and slapped with an electronic wrist tag.

More Show less

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Russia's Vladimir Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal