November 28, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v155)

Welcome, friends, to our regular wondering and wandering through the news. Here's a snipped of what's on my wondering mind.

Facebook is under fire again, this time facing grilling from an international panel that's frustrated with the social media behemoth for a host of reasons, including privacy issues, not being able to control misinformation and propaganda, and worse. CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not attend, which did not endear his company to the inquisitors - no wondering there.

But what I do wonder about is this: if you think Facebook has an obligation to protect us from ourselves and our inability to discern what's real from what's fake, what's intentional misinformation from what's an accidental share of something outdated, or from the general threat of interference in elections, who else should ace the same solution, whatever that might be? Would be be everyone below or to the left or right of the green box on the Media Bias Chart 4.0? Or would the yellow box get to stay  too, as long as it was heavily disclaimed?

And, as I've wondered before, who's more dangerous, a 400-pound guy in a basement, the Russian intelligence machine,  the Chinese government  picking pro-Trump industries for tariffs, or the president himself?  For example, here's just one of the president's many actions on Twitter today:


That's right - the president of the United States retweeted this picture today.  #MAGAMA, if you know what I mean.

Also today, NPR reported that enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans is down some 400,000 people in the first 17 days this year compared to last year. Also down this year? Spending by the feds on support for enrollees in the plans.  In 2016, $63 million was spent on funding for navigators, the people who help others, in person, find a plan and get enrolled. Last year, it was $36M, and this year? $10M.

Now, we can somewhat logically guess that some of the decrease in enrollment is because of the lower unemployment rate; after all, most of us get our insurance through our employers not through healthcare.gov, the federal exchange. But it's hard not wondering how much further the Trump administration will go to 'repeal' the ACA by continually drying up the funding. You know, like they  might do with the Mueller investigation...

Finally today, I can't help wondering whether the speech by Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was driven at least in part by the president's treatment of Powell and not only by the collective thinking of the central bankers. From this article on The Street,
Prior to Powell's appearance, Donald Trump criticized him and the Fed in an interview with the Washington Post in which he accused the central bank of pushing US stocks lower and triggering a decision by General Motors Co. to shutter five plants in North America and two additional plants outside North America, and cut 15% of its salaried workforce. 
Trump  told the Post in an interview that he wasn't "even a little bit happy with my selection" of Powell to head the Federal Reserve, adding that the Fed's current stance on interest rates was "way off base." Trump's remarks followed a similar interview with The Wall Street Journal in which he accused the central bank of being a "bigger problem than China."
Now, maybe Powell is another Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a guy who will continue to do his thing in spite of the obvious attempts at interference from his boss. But at the end of September, Powell suggested our low interest rates was no longer necessary, suggesting that rates would continue to rise in the near future. I don't pretend to understand this stuff, but the timing of this change, which delighted the market today, is interesting. 

And one thing we won't have to wonder about much is how soon the president will being tweeting about the stock market again.

There's more out there we could focus on -- what's on your list, I wonder?

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