A year ago, President Donald Trump staged an Independence Day double-header: July 3, at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and July 4, at the White House in Washington.
This time last year…
The country was in crisis, the suffering immense. 130,000 Americans had died of Covid. America was in recession, with real unemployment over 15%. George Floyd had been murdered a few weeks earlier. The national mood was bleak; the outlook from the President was ugly.
With the sculptures of four of America’s greatest presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln – looking down on him, Trump was moved to deliver these words:
The next night, at the White House, Trump left no room for misunderstanding: “We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing.”
Trump, along with his wife, his son and most of this senior staff, would go on to contract Covid, engage in the most disgraceful presidential debate ever with Joe Biden, and lose the election in November – a defeat he has never accepted or acknowledged.
Over 450,000 more Americans would die in the pandemic. A Trump-incited mob would attack the Capitol to try to stop the certification of the presidential election.
That was then.
What has changed one year on?
Today, President Biden is celebrating July 4 with the theme “America’s Back Together.”
The pandemic is not yet defeated but is well past peak. Close to 70% of Americans have received at least one vaccine jab. Unemployment has fallen below 6%; 3 million jobs have been created since Biden took office; and economic growth is projected at over 7% — faster than at any time since Ronald Reagan was president.
The country is not united – far from it
Politics are terribly polarized. Democrats control the House of Representatives with a 4-vote margin (out of 435) and the Senate by one vote (50-50 plus the Vice President. Bipartisanship has failed on voting rights, gun control, immigration reform.
There is a deal with 10 Senate Republicans on infrastructure to rebuild the country – but we do not know if that agreement will hold.
And yet, there is a quiet mood in the country that things are better, and some hope is warranted. 50 million Americans on the road this holiday weekend. Day-to-day life is back to more normal rhythms. Schools are open.
The troops are coming home from Afghanistan. Biden is well received by allies around the world. He likes to say, “America is back.”
The President today preaches unity, not hate. When tragedy strikes, as it has in Florida, he is the Empathizer-In-Chief. Healing at home. Leadership abroad.
A profoundly different Fourth of July.
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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.
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.
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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