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Will Joe Manchin thwart Biden's spending? FDA credibility hit

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

What does the disappointing jobs number mean for the Democrats' agenda?

Well, payroll employment in August came in well under expectations with under 300,000 jobs created. This is in contrast to the last several months, which really saw a torrid pace of job creation as the US started to recover from the pandemic and restrictions were lifted. With new mask mandates and the Delta variant spreading, Americans are slowing down their pace of activity and slowing down spending, which means you could see more economic volatility in the next couple of months. At the same time, Democrats are attempting to find consensus around a major new spending initiative, which would spend up to $3.5 half trillion over the next 10 years. This initiative isn't really about coronavirus pandemic recovery, or even stimulus, it's about expanding the size and scope of government for increased transfer payments and increased subsidies for education services and healthcare and also, of course, on infrastructure. The slowing jobs growth creates more fiscal space for Democrats to borrow more, and that's a real sticking point because you have moderates like Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who says the US is already at their borrowing limit and shouldn't be borrowing more to spend money. This is going to be the major storyline in Washington for the next several months because it's also probably going to be the last big initiative of the Biden administration before the midterm elections next year.

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Why CIA director Bill Burns met with the Taliban

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on the CIA director's secret meeting with the leader of the Taliban, the G7 emergency meeting on Afghanistan, and the future of vaccine mandates following the FDA's approval of Pfizer's COVID vaccine.

CIA director Bill Burns held a secret meeting with the leader of the Taliban. How will it impact the ongoing evacuations?

Well, at the very least, you have to think that America's top priority, ensuring that all Americans get out of Afghanistan, given that the US controls nothing on the ground but Kabul Airport, will be facilitated. I would think that that was the reason for him to be there, absolute top priority. That has been successful. If it was a failure, we would've heard something about it by now, and the situation on the ground would be quite different. That is very different though than what happens after August 31st, and whether or not all of the Afghan nationals working with the Americans and in physical danger are going to be let out. So far, I haven't heard that from the Taliban. Certainly that will be a big piece of the negotiations. But better that he's there than not.

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What We're Watching: VP Harris in Southeast Asia, FDA approves Pfizer jab, Qatar's first legislative election

Harris' Southeast Asia tour overshadowed by... Afghanistan: It's been a bad week and a half for the Biden administration, which has gotten terrible PR over its disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. But Vice President Kamala Harris is trying to flip the script a bit on a current, week-long tour of Southeast Asia. The main aim of the Veep's visit to Singapore and Vietnam is to shore up relations with Asian partners as a bulwark against an increasingly aggressive China, and to emphasize the Biden administration's "pivot" to the Indo-Pacific region more broadly. That's particularly true in Vietnam, which is extremely concerned about China's behavior in the disputed South China Sea. But when Harris held a press conference with Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong Monday, hoping to highlight new cooperation on climate change, cyber security, and COVID tracking, she was instead peppered with questions about violence at Kabul's airport and the administration's so-far botched evacuation plans for Americans there.

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J&J vaccine review will cause hesitancy; Blinken warns China on Taiwan

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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Should you get the J&J vaccine? Why Dr. Atul Gawande says yes

On Thursday, February 4, Johnson & Johnson requested emergency FDA approval for its single-shot vaccine. In the days since the company first released efficacy and safety data, many of the headlines focused on its lower efficacy rate compared to that of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. But that's the wrong takeaway, says surgeon, public health expert and former member of Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, Dr. Atul Gawande. "This is a highly effective vaccine. It stops people from getting sick. If some people have some sniffles and mild effects from the coronavirus, that's okay, this is going to stop the deadly disease. And that is the ultimate goal of the vaccine."

Gawande's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, which starts airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, February 5th. Check local listings.

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