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Joe Biden’s baseball field: The summer of Washington | ticker VIEWS



With rising temperatures in Washington,

It is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and President Joe Biden will spend a fair part of the summer in his beloved Delaware, at Rehoboth Beach. 

It’s an Atlantic Coast playground where much of Washington decamps to cool out in July and August.

However, in Washington, it is hot and the temperature is rising. 

At 150 days in office, Biden has secured a complete victory on his first priorities: ending the pandemic and economic recovery. 

Without any Republican votes in Congress, the American Rescue Plan was enacted and is doing its job.

Close to 70 per cent of the country will be at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day on July 4. The economy and jobs are coming back strongly, with growth forecast above 5 per cent this year.

It was with these winds at his back that Biden could meet with 30 allies in Europe, including Australia.

American allies renewed their support for US, carrying Western power into summit with Putin last week.

Biden outlined issues where the two countries could work through tough problems, such as Russia-based cyber attacks on US infrastructure; leave no doubt that the US would respond fully if provoked by Russian behaviour; and reaffirm core US values of democracy and human rights to Putin.

  By all measures, Biden achieved what he wanted to accomplish.

In the United States, it is the height of the baseball season in America, so let’s do some inside baseball analysis:

Biden returned to Washington at the next critical juncture of his presidency:  to win approval in Congress of multitrillion dollar program to rebus the country and provide economic security – in education and health and opportunity – for American families.

With his decades of service in Congress, Biden wants to see whether he can do at least some of this important work in the way he prefers to do it:  with bipartisan cooperation. 

And that effort is underway.  At the same time, he wants to hold all his Democrats together – and he needs virtually every Democratic vote in the House and Senate to win floor votes.

This is unfolding on two tracks.  A smaller joint bill with some Republicans on “basic” infrastructure: roads, bridges, broadband.  About a trillion dollars, and Biden wants it paid for without new taxes or user fees on the middle class. 

This package may get there. We will know in the next week or so if the talks are successful.

If a deal is reached, perhaps 15 Republicans can join with most Democrats to pass it in the Senate.

However this smaller package hardly meets the ambitious program Biden and Democrats want given the urgency of the country’s needs. So, a parallel mega-bill of perhaps $5 trillion will get underway. 

The test for that package is whether Democrats will hold united against withering Republican attacks on a “radical, socialist, extremist” program of “tax and spend” that will bankrupt the country.   

If these scenarios play out with Biden victories, there will be some earnest rebuilding of infrastructure across the country.  And people will see that things are getting better. And that will paty political dividends for Biden.

If the bipartisan talks fail, and Democrats cannot maintain the unity required to see the mega-Biden program through, then Biden’s legislative program comes to a griding halt.

That would have the most profound consequences for how much President Biden can indeed accomplish in these first four years.  A home run?  Or three strikes and you’re out?

Read more by Bruce Wolpe here. This article was edited by Keira Wright and Brittany Coles.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.


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Five reasons it’s so expensive to travel right now



We’ve been waiting years to go on holiday, but wow it’s expensive to fly. Here are the five reasons it’s so expensive to travel right now

Remember the good old days of competition in the travel industry? Those were the days. Now every time you look to book a flight, the prices are soaring. Even if you want to use your points.

The airline industry is complex, so a total shut down of the industry was always going to have long term effects. The long hangover from the shutdowns and lockdowns are with us.

So let’s break down the five key reasons your flight is so expensive.

“Revenge travel”

It’s not just you who wants to go overseas and change up the scenery. Everyone else is thinking the same thing.

And as the northern hemisphere enjoys its first lockdown free summer in years, everyone is clamouring to use all that saved up cash, topped up with government assistance, to spend on flights.

The simple supply versus demand philosophy means it’s become an airline’s dream to push up prices while often pushing down the value of the ticket. How bad are those airline meals at the moment?

Big planes are grounded

Remember the good old 747 and A380s? Well you’re doing well to find a 747 in the skies these days. The last remaining airlines that were operating them used the cover of COVID to either reduce their fleet of the ageing Queen of the Skies, or retire them altogether.

Then there’s the A380, which is integral to huge airline flees like Emirates.

They were first to go into storage in the desert in 2020 as the pandemic hit. Airlines noticed its often cheaper to fly two 787s on the same route as an A380. So they are begrudgingly bringing the super jumbo back, but only once all their 787s are back in service first.

Don’t you just long for the days of extra space on a plane?

Rocketing fuel prices

In some cases, spot prices for aviation fuel has soared to 80 per cent! Airlines usually rely on hedging fuel prices (as in locking the price in in advance). But not many carriers in Asia do that, meaning they are at risk of fluctuating oil prices.

Airlines have a simple strategy for dealing with rising fuel prices – passing the cost on to consumers. Some passengers flying out of Asia are finding that a flight to London in economy is now $5000, five times the price.

The war in Ukraine hasn’t helped matters either, with Russian oil now missing from the global supply chain. That’s pushing up the cost of resources everywhere, and there’s no sign that’s about to end.

Lack of staff

Airline staff get COVID too, and in some (hilarious) cases, front line staff are returning to stop working from home!

Airlines have rules in place regarding how many flight attendants and pilots need to be on board an aircraft. And with so many different types of planes in service, some flight attendants can only work on certain aircraft types.

That severely limits the capability of airlines to quickly man aircraft in an emergency. And one cancellation snowballs into a travel nightmare.

Airports are struggling too. Lack of maintenance at baggage carousels and airport equipment means some airports are relying on just one vehicle to help every plane back out of a gate.

Remember when the pandemic hit and airlines sacked thousands of workers? The airlines didn’t think they would need them all back so quickly, and highly skilled pilots went on to find other, perhaps more stable jobs.

Accountants taking over

Airlines are big businesses with gigantic overheads. Think of the cost of a plane, which often reaches over $300 million.

Then add the cost of airports, fuel and staff.

Qantas had a debt bomb of $6.5 billion at the height of the pandemic, and while governments have been throwing money at airlines to stay in business, they still are a business.

Airlines need to make a profit, they need to return value to shareholders, and they need to pay down debt to stay financial. Not to mention cashflow.

So regardless of the airport queue, or the soggy sandwich you’re eating in business class, think of the balding accountants praying for good news.

And keep your eye out for some bargains. It’s not all doom and gloom. Some airlines are even allowing you to burn your points on upgrades. So why fly economy?

And if you can hang on a few months longer, you might enjoy cheaper fares. But no promises.

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Disney vs Netflix – who will win the streaming revenue raise?



Netflix and Disney shares fall as the streaming companies fight to stay on top of their game

Investors to evaluate Walt Disney’s shift from cable television to subscription service as the company’s shares fall by 31 percent.

This comes after Netflix announced its first ever decrease in subscribers last month. The company reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers in its first quarter while predicting more losses ahead.

Netflix’s decision to suspend its services in Russia also led to a loss of 700,000 subscribers. It’s shares have also fallen by a staggering 71 percent this year, a bigger loss than its competitor Disney.

While Netflix struggles with its subscriber count, FactSet Estimates predicts Disney+ to have attracted 5.3 million new subscribers through march leading to a total of about 135.1 million subscribers.

Disney also predicts it will have amassed more than 230 million subscribers by September 2024.

Netflix is reportedly considering adding an advertisement-based subscription option by the end of the year as the company looks at how to stay competitive in the increasingly saturated streaming market.

In a previous statement, Netflix’s chief executive said they were looking to introduce advertisements in a year or two but a leaked internal note to the employees has revealed the company is introducing it as early as October 2022.

The note also says Netflix will begin cracking down on password sharing by monetizing it.

All of this has resulted in Netflix being sued by shareholders who argue they have been mislead about the state of the company and future prospects.

Rijul Baath contributed to this report

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