The Next Financial Crisis Might Be in Your Driveway

Bloomberg: “Lured by low interest rates, low gas prices, and a crop of seductive vehicles that are faster, smarter, and more efficient than ever before, American drivers are increasingly riding in style. Don’t be fooled by the curb appeal, though—those swanky machines are heavily leveraged.”

“The country’s auto debt hit a record in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, when a rush of year-end car shopping pushed vehicle loans to a dubious peak of $1.16 trillion. The combination of new car smell and new credit woes stretches from Subarus in Maine to Teslas in San Francisco.”

“Another way to look at: Every licensed driver in the U.S., on average, owes about $6,100 in car payments.”

No, Robots Aren’t Killing the American Dream

New York Times: “At a recent global forum in Dubai, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said some of the economic pain ascribed to globalization was instead due to the rise of robots taking jobs. In his farewell address in January, President Barack Obama warned that ‘the next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good middle-class jobs obsolete.'”

“Blaming robots, though, while not as dangerous as protectionism and xenophobia, is also a distraction from real problems and real solutions.”

“While breakthroughs could come at any time, the problem with automation isn’t robots; it’s politicians, who have failed for decades to support policies that let workers share the wealth from technology-led growth.”

How Readers React to Political News Stories They Don’t Like: By Ignoring Them

New York Times: “…a new analysis of the web traffic of 148 news organizations shows something subtler: Publications across the political spectrum broadly cover the news events of the day, but their readers appear to gloss over the stories they don’t want to see.”

“That analysis comes from Chartbeat, a web analytics company used by hundreds of online media publishers, including The New York Times. Chartbeat’s real-time dashboards display the articles that are being read most at any given moment, along with where those readers came from and how long they stayed. Because so many organizations use the service, Chartbeat has insight into overall news traffic that few other companies have.”

How Mike Pence Used Obamacare to Halt Indiana’s HIV Outbreak

“When then-Gov. Mike Pence faced the worst public health crisis to hit Indiana in decades, he turned to Obamacare — a program he vilified and voted against,” Brianna Ehley writes for Politico.

“In 2015, as a rash of HIV infections spread through rural southern Indiana, state health officials parachuted into Scott County and enrolled scores of people into Obamacare’s expanded Medicaid program so they could get medical care and substance abuse treatment. Many were addicted to opioids and had contracted HIV by sharing dirty needles.”

“Two years later, Pence is helping to lead the Republican effort to dismantle the program that helped him halt the deadly outbreak in an impoverished swathe of Indiana.”

Is the ‘Deep State’ Out to Get Trump? We’re Not There Yet

Doyle McManus: “In a country controlled by the deep state, members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies can overthrow presidents they don’t like; that’s what happened in Egypt in 2013. They hold veto power over major decisions. They often run large parts of the economy, or at least enough government contracts to make their families rich. And they’re rarely held accountable for their actions. They act with impunity.”

“U.S. intelligence agencies, on the other hand, are restrained by law. Sometimes they overstep, but eventually they are reined in. The officials who leaked the details of Flynn’s conversations knew that Trump would order the FBI to track them down. They put themselves at risk.”

“Trump’s problem isn’t the deep state; it’s the broad state. He’s facing pushback not only from intelligence agencies, but from civilian bureaucracies, too.”

Here Comes the Next Wave of the U.S. Oil Boom

“U.S. oil companies didn’t merely survive OPEC’s attempt to drown them in low prices. The energy industry is emerging from this dark period of bankruptcies and job cuts much leaner and ready to thrive, even at prices that were once too low,” Matt Egan writes for CNN Money.

OPEC’s decision in November to abandon its strategy of flooding the world with excess supply allowed oil prices to stabilize above $50 a barrel. That bottom in prices has allowed the U.S. shale oil producers that have driven the boom in American oil production over the past decade to once again start pumping more oil. And many have even started to rehire some of the thousands of workers laid off during the downturn.

The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes, Says Bill Gates

Quartz: “Robots are taking human jobs. But Bill Gates believes that governments should tax companies’ use of them, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment.”

“In a recent interview with Quartz, Gates said that a robot tax could finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools, for which needs are unmet and to which humans are particularly well suited. He argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it.”

The Need for a Digital Geneva Convention

“Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace.  And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.  The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world’s trust,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith writes.

“While there is no perfect analogy, the world needs an organization that can address cyber threats in a manner like the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the field of nuclear non-proliferation.  This organization should consist of technical experts from across governments, the private sector, academia and civil society with the capability to examine specific attacks and share the evidence showing that a given attack was by a specific nation-state.  Only then will nation-states know that if they violate the rules, the world will learn about it.”

Millennials in Many Countries Are More Open Than Their Elders on Questions of National Identity

Pew Research: “Across a number of countries that are wrestling with the politics of national identity, younger people are far more likely than their elders to take an inclusive view of what it takes for people to be truly considered “one of us” – whether the measure is being born in their country, sharing local customs and traditions or being Christian.”

The Biggest Economic Issue Facing America Is Not Job Creation

Quartz: “The biggest economic issue for the future is closing the skills gap and retraining workers who have been displaced from their old jobs that have been automated. Both the US unemployment rate and the total job openings have been relatively unchanged in the past year. The unemployment rate in January was 4.8%, down only 0.1% from the same time in 2016. The total job openings were 5.5 million in Dec. 2016, up from a mere 100,000 the same time in 2015. We simply don’t have people with the right skills to fill millions of jobs, yet many of them are still underemployed or living in poverty.”

“The problem is that one in every five adults globally has no formal education, which is a total of 682 million people, and jobs that require formal education are the ones expected to grow by nearly 8% in the next seven years.”