Breaking Points: FULL SHOW 5/31/22

Krystal and Saagar give an update on the Ukraine conflict, inflation policy, gun control debates, stock ban frustration, burn pit victims, shock Colombian election, war on normal people, & Biden’s student debt proposal!

Jeff Stein:

Timestamps: Ukraine: 0:0032:11 Inflation: 32:1246:01 Guns: 46:0255:33 Stock Ban: 55:341:03:57 Jon Stewart: 1:03:581:09:54 Krystal: 1:09:551:20:19 Saagar: 1:20:201:30:02 Jeff Stein: 1:30:031:49:40

5/31 NEWSLETTER: Ukraine Update, Inflation Moves, Gun Fights, Stock Ban, Student Debt, & More!
Welcome to the final Breaking Points premium newsletter for May 2022 covering the 5/31 full uncut show and all of the information used in the broadcast. We hope you all enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend and the Summer weather that is coming! In yesterday’s show and the Sunday one year recap video, we outlined the plans for the broadcast in year two and how it improved throughout year one. We are always incredibly grateful for your support that makes it all possible!
Now to the May 31st show that can be found here:
There has been many key developments in the war in Ukraine and the geopolitical fallout caused by the conflict since it was last covered in depth on the show. Domestic political issues taking center stage has not meant the conflict has become any less severe. Ukraine has been requesting long range rockets in order to target Russia, but Biden rejected their appeals out of fears of unnecessary escalation. The concern from Ukraine comes as the new Russian offensive launched in Donbas begins to overwhelm their eastern forces and progress towards Severodonetsk, the last key city in the contested Luhansk region. Russian victories have come at the cost of severe wartime casualties and progress has been largely incremental in their invasion. The Donbas region has been in a state of war since 2014 that escalated dramatically when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and Ukraine believes it lacks the artillery necessary for a war centered around the country’s eastern region. Ukraine has also suffered with growing dissatisfaction in its ranks because of the lack of training for the war ahead of time and the constant shelling from Russian artillery. Civilians in nearby areas have been living under constant bombardment that has caused major damage to cities including Severodonetsk. The damage caused by Russians in the Donbas has reinvigorated European diplomatic activity after the French and German leaders urged Putin to meet with Zelensky in a phone call. If pushes by top European nations and the United States lead to renewed diplomatic talks, it will all be covered here on Breaking Points as soon as possible.
Another aspect to the European involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the EU’s embargo on Russian oil that the organization agreed upon after initial objection from Hungary to the absolute terms of the proposal. There are exceptions in the agreement for pipeline deliveries making it a partial embargo that only covers oil delivered by sea. Two thirds of Russian oil exports will be targeted by this agreement, a further escalation of sanctions and economic punishment on Russia by the European Union. On the military side, Germany has agreed to a bipartisan military spending package that will lead to 100 billion Euros to be put towards military armament and defense in response to the invasion of Ukraine. It’s a major step forward for the country with one of the world’s largest economies that has consistently underfunded its military for many years prior. Germany has drawn ire for not meeting its NATO commitment of spending 2% of GDP on defense despite its size and stature in Europe. It still claims that it will not meet the 2% agreement every year, and refused to enshrine NATO obligations in their constitution. The new agreement could change that as part of a broader foreign policy shift moving forward.
There has been speculation floating around that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is afflicted with cancer and has been given three years to live. Previous reports claimed that Putin has thyroid cancer and his bizarre behavior in meetings has led to speculation about his health, especially because of his aggressiveness in Ukraine that he believes will define his legacy. On Lex Fridman’s podcast, Oliver Stone mentioned that Putin has been diagnosed with cancer before, hinting at persistent health issues for the Russian autocrat. His declining health could have been a major factor in his revanchist aims in Ukraine, as Oliver Stone points out in the linked interview above. It is difficult to tell fact from fiction on a deeply secretive issue, but if Putin’s health continues to decline there could be massive geopolitical implications.
The major domestic issue in America out of the spotlight for the moment is inflation causing major financial difficulties across the country. It has wiped out pandemic era savings and in the process caused the savings rate to drop to its lowest levels since 2008; the time of the great recession. An official for the Federal Reserve announced his support for raising rates at a fast clip over several meetings until inflation shows serious signs of slowing down. The rate increases could have reverberations across the US economy especially if the Fed continues to reduce its asset portfolio in addition. The US Central Bank’s previous half a percentage point rate increase was viewed as contributing to a slow down in the housing market and the slight dip in inflationary pressure year over year seen from March to April. Fed officials are all in agreement about increasing the rates by that same amount in June and July, with debates coming about what to do next. President Biden has announced a White House meeting with Fed Chair Jerome Powell to discuss the state of the American and global economy with the Fed being crucial to Biden’s plans to calm inflation down. He laid out his plan in more detail for an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal that expressed a desire to work with anybody serious about tackling the issue regardless of party affiliation.
After the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings happened in a matter of weeks, Americans are demanding change from their government, particularly those on the Democratic side. Biden is now floating a ban of 9mm handguns that is likely to generate ire from gun rights activists. A ban on handguns would be a more far reaching policy than anything else proposed at this point and is unlikely to make it any form of legislation. The President is banking on what he calls ‘rational’ Republicans to contribute to bipartisan legislation that can get through the Senate. Biden and his officials have been absent from the Senate talks up to now, with WH aides refusing to discuss the Uvalde shooting in interviews for Sunday news shows. In the past, Biden was known as a dealmaker behind the scenes with strong relationships across the political spectrum, placing him near the middle of the Democratic Party. With that in mind, more questions and scrutiny are likely to arise if the talks on legislation stall and Democrats become more frustrated with their President for inaction on gun control, who only has a few months to get something done before Republicans regain power in the midterms if results reflect the polls.
A topic near and dear to Krystal and Saagar has been the organic movement fighting for a ban of Congressional stock trading practices that have enabled politicians to reap large profits while in office. After it gained momentum behind the scenes in the House, progress on any kind of legislation has stalled and leadership has been blamed for stonewalling the effort. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has been a major participant in stock trading throughout her career has been a major obstacle for any bipartisan legislation to get a floor vote. In the Senate, similar frustrations are growing due to slow moving talks on specific legislation after an agreement was made on the fundamentals. It is a bill that could divide Democrats in a time where leadership believes unity is required, and the Congressional stock trading bill is difficult to craft because it affects members’ personal activities. Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal remains confident that a bill can get done, and believes that staffer unionization efforts contributed to holding up the committee efforts on stock trading legislation. The possibility of legislation has not stopped Senators from violating the existing STOCK act that requires financial disclosures on such transactions and other financial activity. The disclosures are required within 45 days of when they or a loved one executes a financial transaction of over $1000 on stocks, bonds, and other securities. Two Democratic and one Republican Senator have joined the dozens of lawmakers on both sides to violate this law on timely disclosures laid out in the STOCK act.
Comedian and political commentator Jon Stewart is known for many positions he has taken over the years, none more so than his advocacy for veterans suffering from long term medical consequences of burn pit exposure while serving. On Memorial Day, Stewart headlined a rally held by veterans organizations to push the aid required for the VA to properly handle burn pits over the finish line and get a few more Senators to sign off. His lengthy speech was cut down in the broadcast for clarity, and in the address Stewart blasted the dysfunction of the political system and how poorly veterans are treated after service. He called on America to do more than Tweet or share pictures showing support for veterans and really pressure lawmakers to send more funding for those in need of assistance. It has been a 15 year battle for Stewart and the veterans to obtain the funding necessary to provide healthcare and recognition for veterans exposed to toxic exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan. The exposure can cause severe lung, heart, and skin conditions as well as cancer. Over a ten year period, the proposed PACT Act that would give the benefits will cost $200 billion dollars to treat those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Krystal takes a look at the Colombian Presidential election that continues the global pattern she has been tracking of domestic elections where the people reject their political establishment. The country has struggled with cartel violence and deep economic inequality for many years under various right wing governments. The right wing establishment President had a handpicked successor who did not even make it to the runoff election between the top two candidates. Instead a right wing populist businessman running on an anti-corruption platform surged to make it in second place against a leftist politician who was once a guerilla fighter in the initial vote.
The rise of the left in South America has been a well documented trend with platforms focused on poverty, climate change, US intervention, and other key issues affecting Latin American nations. In Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Brazil the left has been building popularity and winning elections with candidates pledging to take on economic interests and climate issues with a left wing populist platform. In Colombia, the left surge has been buoyed by a mass protest movement after a threatened tax hike and healthcare privatization plan by the government in 2021. The country had been hit with massive covid outbreaks and economic fallout beforehand with the newer proposals pushing people over the brink, which the government responded to with a violent crackdown.
Left wing Senator and former guerilla warrior Gustavo Petro emerged from the movement on a platform centered around universal healthcare, jobs guarantee, peace with guerillas, rural poverty alleviation, revising trade deals, restoring relations with Venezuela, and tactical changes to the drug war. It appeared he would win against the successor of the hated incumbent until businessman Rodolpho Hernandez came out from nowhere on an anti-corruption platform. A businessman with views seemingly all over the place, Hernandez has been compared to Donald Trump due to some outlandish statements and has faced corruption issues of his own. He came out of nowhere and now has a chance to win in the runoff election, especially because the economic and political elites are now backing Hernandez over Gustavo Petro. A populist vs populist fight, the political establishment in Colombia has been thoroughly humiliated by a populace looking for something new.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar talk about the dynamics of the Colombian Presidential election that is likely to be very close, and how brutally the establishment in their country was rejected at the polls. They discuss the recent history of the country and how Colombia was sick of the chaos caused by the drug war, leading to massive spending programs on police and weapons until a peace deal in 2016 was signed. It was a disappointment in general but it splintered the guerillas and made more chaos in the country.
Saagar has another gas prices monologue because each and everyday in America millions are being hammered by costs at the tank with nobody in power doing much about it. Memorial Day has come and that kicks off driving season in America with record high gas prices coming with it. The nationwide average is $4.62 a gallon and the sky high prices have hit the American west hardest, with California facing a $6.15 average gas price and some stations having as high as $8 per gallon. A pressing political issue, the media has been forced to reckon with high gas prices on why they are high, what is being done about it, and how the people are being affected. The New York Times echoed the Biden administration blaming the ‘Putin price hike’ before blaming the American people for driving too much. No discussion of domestic capacity, foreign dependency, Jones act, or other policy questions Saagar has put forward in his coverage of the gas price problem. NYT experts sitting in their perches are calling on people to cut back on driving instead of hitting the road for vacation for the first time since before the covid lockdowns. No proposals to boost the supply in American markets by pumping more oil into it or restriction domestic exports. The only possible way to combat the problem is for ordinary Americans to suffer in what Saagar describes as a war on normal people by the US ruling class. Elites believe that they can never fail, only be failed by the people they rule over. It was clear in a recent Biden press conference on inflation where the first question to the President was about people driving less. This perspective comes from urban dwelling journalists who are not feeling the price hike and have easy access to public transportation.
Farther down in the article, the New York Times talks about the economic problems causing high gas prices. Low domestic inventory caused by no refinery capacity, onerous regulations, and globalist outsourcing of oil reliance to third world countries as a substitute for domestic production. But their sentiment about driving has become pervasive in elite spaces, with a viral tweet by an urban planner expressing with more contempt how urban experts feel about the rest of the country. An ignorance of how useful trucks are for working and how a foundational tenet of America is that we live in a beautiful country to be seen by road trippers in their massive cars. Failures by elites and media are not an excuse for Americans to sacrifice their lifestyle and culture, and instead there needs to be a policy program to bring energy abundance from a variety of domestic sources. An elite culture of tearing things down from cancellation to nihilism is the first problem that has to be combatted, and an obsession with lawyerly bureaucracy on a policy level cannot be sustained for America’s future. Instead of destructive culture and worse lifestyles, America needs renewed technological progress to rebuild the country.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar discuss the elites blaming people who want to drive and be free after lockdowns for two years. It has become a consistent theme for elites to blame the American people for their problems instead of doing the work of governing and taking responsibility. The American people are not the ones to blame for the issues in America, no matter how much they get shamed by elites to change their day to day lifestyles.
Krystal and Saagar are joined by Washington Post economics journalist Jeff Stein to better understand the proposal from Joe Biden to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt through executive action. A final decision has not yet been made on the proposal that has gotten intense levels of scrutiny from dissatisfied progressives demanding more and conservatives opposed to student debt forgiveness. They go over the broader legislative abilities of Joe Biden at this stage and how much day to day management he conducts with his staffers. Follow Jeff here to see all of his reporting on the economy and the policy proposals by both parties to address it.
Thank you all for reading this edition of the Breaking Points premium newsletter. Please direct any feedback to or comment on YouTube! The next newsletter will be for the Thursday show, and in the meantime enjoy the Wednesday content!

Categories: Media

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