Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Apr 7, 2017 in Stuff You Should Know

Government Shut Down Ahead?

Saturday April 29 will mark President Trump’s 100th day in office. But it could also signal something else: the start of a partial government shutdown.

The current federal government spending bill runs out on April 28. Congress must pass a budget before that date. However, Congress is deeply divided on so many issues that this may be difficult, if not impossible. Some of the major issues that could lead to a shut-down:

  • Defense spending: President Trump is requesting a $30 billion increase for defense and homeland security. This would require cutting many other non-defense, domestic programs, which angers Democrats. However, Senator John McCain and other Republicans have said they won’t pass the budget without the defense spending increase.
  • Border wall: Senate Democrats have already stated that they won’t approve any spending bill that includes funding for Trump’s controversial border wall.
  • Planned Parenthood: Republican attempts to include defunding measures in the spending bill means that Democrats will refuse to approve it.

If no compromise can be reached, and the federal government does experience a partial shutdown, here’s what it would look like: “non-essential” agencies and services, such as national parks and federal museums, will be closed. Hundreds of federal employees will be laid off without pay. “Essential” employees, such as FBI agents, would continue to work. The U.S. mail service would continue to run. Both parties want to avoid a shutdown, which is a huge waste of government time and resources. Republican senators especially do not want a shutdown to occur on their watch, and may be willing to compromise with Democrats as a result.

Dig Deeper The last time the federal government experienced a partial shutdown was in October 2013, because of the Affordable Care Act. Since then, there have been two additional “close calls”: one in September 2015, and again in December 2016. Use internet resources to research these close calls. What was each one about, and how were shutdowns avoided?

“Dandelion” Crayon Retired

Box of crayons

An assortment of crayon colors. (Credit: McGraw-Hill Education)

Chances are that you have colored with Crayola crayons before. Or maybe the recent adult coloring book craze has you pulling your old crayons back out once again? If you have a “dandelion” crayon in your box, hang onto it, because it is about to become a lot rarer: Crayola recently announced that, after 27 years, it will be retiring the color permanently from its classic box of 24.

This isn’t the first time that Crayola has retired a crayon. In 1990, the company retired eight colors (maize, lemon yellow, blue gray, raw umber, green blue, orange red, orange yellow, and violet blue) and replaced them with eight new ones, including dandelion. Later, in 2003, the company retired four more colors and replaced them with inchworm, mango tango, wild blue yonder, and jazzberry jam. Also in 2003, consumers voted to save burnt sienna from retirement with Crayola’s “Save the Shade” campaign.

Crayola was planning to make an official announcement about dandelion’s retirement on Friday, but a Target shopper beat them to the punch, posting a photo on Twitter of a box of crayons that read “Dandelion is retiring! Get it now!” The package also announced that Crayola will be sponsoring a contest to name the new color.

What Do You Think? Since Thursday’s announcement, thousands of people have gone online to lament dandelion’s retirement. Take a moment to visit Crayola’s Facebook page and scroll through some of the comments. Why do you think so many people are upset about the loss of a crayon? What do you think causes people to care so deeply about certain objects from their past?

The U.S. Job Market: Robots vs. Humans

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he does not believe that advancing technology will lead to widespread job loss. A recent study, however, disagrees.

Researchers from MIT and Boston University have determined that robots caused the loss of up to 670,000 manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2007. Worse, the number of industrial robots is expected to quadruple, meaning that large numbers of jobs will continue to be lost. The area most affected is car manufacturing, followed by the manufacturing of electronics, metal products, plastics, and chemicals.

Up until now, researchers have not believed that robots will significantly affect the number of overall jobs; the thinking has been that even if robots eliminate jobs in manufacturing, they will cause new jobs to open up in software development and data analysis. The problem with this scenario is that people who have worked their whole lives in manufacturing do not necessarily have the skill set necessary to make the jump to working in software development. Additional studies have estimated that up to 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be at risk due to “computerization,” and that the percentage is even higher in developing countries.

Researchers point out, however, that these numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Robots, though efficient, cannot copy human traits like empathy and common sense, and thus will never be able to fully replace human workers.

What Do You Think? The studies mentioned above have focused on the loss of manufacturing jobs due to robots. What do you think will be the effect of other developing technologies–such as drones and driverless cars–on the U.S. job market?

Trump Meets with President of China

On Friday, President Trump will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. The meeting between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies is expected to be a tense one, with many important and controversial issues on the table.

At the top of the agenda for Trump is likely to be trade. The president has said that he plans to examine what he considers to be unfair trade practices which are causing American job losses. He has also pledged to place new taxes on imported Chinese goods.  Several other issues are likely to come up as well, such as China’s plan to build artificial islands in the South China Sea to use as military bases. Furthermore, Trump has threatened economic sanctions against China if the country refuses to help rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs: threats which have begun to anger the Chinese government.

Relations between the two leaders got off on a bad foot just days after Trump’s election, when he violated the “One China” policy by acknowledging a phone call from the president of Taiwan (China considers Taiwan to be part of its own territory). Trump has also accused the Chinese of creating global warming as “hoax,” and has claimed that the Chinese manipulate currency to gain an unfair upper hand in trade.  Advisers hope that the two leaders will be able to use Friday’s meeting as a chance to find common ground and rebuild a constructive relationship.

Dig Deeper Use internet resources to research the 1979 “One China” policy. What does the policy require, and why did the U.S. adopt it? Write a short paragraph summarizing the policy and explaining why Trump’s decision to acknowledge the president of Taiwan posed a potential diplomatic threat.