News Updates

Breaking Points: 10/25/22 Full Uncut Show midterm updates, the war in Ukraine, a major DOJ announcement on China

Krystal and Saagar cover midterm updates, the war in Ukraine, a major DOJ announcement on China, plummeting math scores in the US, a cringe MSNBC segment, the birth rate crisis, and welcome a special guest, Rana Faroohar.

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Timestamps: MIDTERMS: (01:5624:30) UKRAINE: (24:3146:12) CHINA: (46:1357:43) EDUCATION: (57:441:04:48) MSNBC: (1:04:491:13:07) KRYSTAL: (1:13:081:22:03) SAAGAR: (1:22:041:33:24) RANA FAROOHAR: (1:33:271:51:21)

10/25 NEWSLETTER: Midterm Races, Ukraine Policy, Education Losses, Globalization Retreat & More!
Welcome to the October 25th, 2022 Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar newsletter. We are pleased to hear the positive feedback about Counter Points last week. In order to speed up the distribution of the program, tweaks are being explored to get it taped sooner. There will be More to announce about the changes on Thursday!
Be on the lookout for more announcements!
MIDTERMS
With two weeks to go until midterms, CNN has released new polls from battleground states. They have Democrats leading in Pennsylvania Sen, Wisconsin Gov, PA Gov, and Michigan Gov compared to the GOP leading for WI Senate. A separate Ohio poll shows Democrat Tim Ryan in a dead heat against Republican JD Vance for the state’s senate seat. Compared to the previous poll by this Ohio pollster, Vance made up ground against Ryan. Right wing pollster Trafalgar puts the Michigan Gov. race in a dead heat, unlike the other polls on this contest. There has been a constant stream of polls coming out because of how close it is to election day. CNN’s are more favorable to Democrats than most of the national polls coming out right now. Other key races in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and elsewhere have similarly tight polling data. One state to focus on is Pennsylvania, because Dr. Oz and John Fetterman will be facing off in their lone debate tonight. Fetterman narrowly leads Oz in a poll by the right wing group Rasumussen ahead of the big night. CNN’s data suggests Fetterman has a more comfortable lead and much stronger favorability numbers than his opponent. Most of the polling data since September has shown Oz narrowing the large lead Fetterman had built up during the Democrats’ August momentum. A major reason for Fetterman’s agreement to the debate with Dr. Oz was the campaign momentum Oz gained in September due to successful attacks on his opponent for hiding himself from voters. The Fetterman campaign is preparing for viral videos of his misspeaking to spread during the debate and acknowledged he’s never been a great debater. His speech problems in his recovery from a stroke have become a theme of the campaign and the subject of frequent attacks from Dr. Oz. In contrast, Oz’s well known TV career will lend itself well to the debate format. It’s an open question whether political debates have substantial impact, but one or two viral moments can alter the course of a close race when placed in last minute campaign ads. Either way, Democrats are sending the cavalry to stump for Fetterman in Pennsylvania. President Biden and former President Obama will barnstorm for the Democratic candidate in the final days leading up to the election. Biden has already made multiple trips to the state and Fetterman has not shied away from the president, a noted contrast from other Democratic candidates.
UKRAINE
On the question of how the United States should handle the Ukraine war, dissent from orthodoxy from the left and right has been stifled and limited. Yesterday, 30 House Democrats called for diplomacy between the US and Russia in a letter to the Biden administration. Led by Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, they urged the president to end the war by facilitating direct negotiations between America and the Russians to prevent catastrophic escalation. In the letter, they praised Biden’s steering of the war by supporting Ukraine without dragging the US into a direct conflict with Russia. This band of progressives acknowledged the difficulties of getting Russia to the table considering their outrageous invasion of Ukraine and illegal annexation of disputed territory. Their goal is to preserve a free and independent Ukraine while ending the conflict. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby addressed the letter and said there are no indications of Russian interest in diplomacy. Progressives were hit with severe backlash from hawkish liberals and Democratic colleagues for the letter. Jayapal responded by clarifying the intent of the letter was not to rebuke President Biden, effectively capitulating to critics.
On the other side, Republicans have been publicly clashing on Ukraine policy. After GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested limited Ukraine aid if the Republicans take congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the Biden administration to provide more assistance to Ukraine. McConnell emphasized the importance of delivering assistance to Ukraine for any Republican Senate majority. In response to the dissent on the right, a Washington Post opinion writer claimed Putin is rooting for the GOP to win in the midterms. This is a perfect example of how criticism of the Ukraine consensus has been stifled since the conflict against Russia began.
Meanwhile, Russian and US military chiefs had another meeting about the alleged ‘dirty bomb’ Ukraine plans on using. American officials have repeatedly rejected the Russians’ allegation and see it as a pretext for further escalation against Ukraine. There are no indications of Russia preparing to use nuclear weapons and Russian leaders denied that the story will be a pretext for escalation. This did not prevent Russian officials from doubling down on their claim that Ukraine will use radioactive dirty bombs in Kyiv and elsewhere.
CHINA
Following much speculation and buildup, the Department of Justice announced charges against two Chinese intelligence officers for trying to obstruct an investigation into Chinese tech giant Huawei. Attorney General Merrick Garland described the attempt by CCP intelligence officers to shield a state run company in a press conference yesterday afternoon. Huawei has also utilized American lobbyists in its efforts to avoid a DOJ crackdown, most notably the Podesta brothers. Of the two brothers, John is a Biden administration advisor, former Hillary Clinton campaign chair, and former Clinton WH Deputy Chief of Staff. Tony Podesta has been a powerful Washington lobbyist for multinational corporations and governments for over 30 years. Similarly, the Chinese parent company of social media giant TikTok used the app to monitor the locations of specific American citizens. The project involved accessing users’ data without their consent and conducting surveillance on specific Americans. TikTok is the subject of an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) over the possibility of the Chinese government obtaining vital information from the company. CFIUS is also pursuing negotiations with the app about the national security risks posed by the company. Under oath to Congress, representatives of the company previously stated that access to TikTok data was limited to authorized personnel and would be subject to protocols by the US government. Central to the company’s negotiations with CFIUS has been TikTok’s development of an internal system built to prevent Chinese employees from accessing US data. Senate Intelligence Committee investigations about TikTok withholding information to lawmakers about data accessibility by employees in China reflects the widespread skepticism of the company’s claims.
Unrelated to the specific cases, Chinese markets crashed after the conclusion of the CCP’s national congress over the weekend. A blow to Xi Jinping, the Yuan weakened to a 14 year low and foreigners sold a record amount of shares over concerns about the country’s future.
EDUCATION
American schools recorded the largest drop in math scores in recorded history this year, with fourth to eighth graders in every state showing significant declines according to Education Department data. In a sweeping analysis, the National Assessment of Educational Progress also revealed three decades of gains in reading had been wiped out. Longstanding gaps in student achievement widened and pre pandemic declines in academic achievement grew more intense. Lower performing students suffered larger declines than higher performing counterparts, and racial minorities faced larger declines than white students. The data comes after federal test results in September showed similarly historic drops in reading ability and math scores. Compared to 2019, the last year of recorded results, scores in math and reading for fourth and eighth grade students dropped sharply based on results from all 50 states & DC.
Separate figures for 26 large urban school districts showed decline and no jurisdiction showed gains in either subject. Tests are viewed as key indicators of student achievement and future trajectory. Students obtaining reading proficiency by fourth grade is essential because it is when they begin to learn other subjects. Likewise, math proficiency in eighth grade is paramount for succeeding in high school and beyond. During the covid pandemic, school districts imposed school closures and navigated the resumption of in person instruction after lengthy periods of remote learning. Difficulties caused by remote learning combined with student mental health challenges are widely seen as causes of the decline. Across the board, states where schools opened sooner had similar numbers to those that stayed closed for longer periods of time. Existing gaps between demographic and class groups were exacerbated by varying access to learning opportunities, technology, school funding, economic support, covid sickness, and other factors. Debates about reopening schools played a major role in Republican overperformance in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election and could be a factor in this year’s midterms. Generally, Democrats sided with teachers unions and school districts on keeping schools closed, compared to Republicans who supported keeping schools open and more alternatives to public education.
MSNBC
A widely circulated video of an MSNBC panel with Trump supporters featured a notable exchange between them and the interviewer about January 6th. When the MSNBC host asked a Pittsburgh focus group of Trump supporters about January 6th, they pushed back against her and voiced support for GOP candidate Doug Mastriano. Panelists went on to correct her about the number of deaths caused by the Capitol riot, which detailed accounts show to be one. The only death was an unarmed rioter who was shot by police when she tried to breach the House of Representatives. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died of a stroke soon after the event. It was determined to be a death of natural causes according to a medical examiner report. The group on MSNBC followed up by comparing January 6th to riots by Black Lives Matter supporters and antifa activists in the Summer of 2020. They blamed Nancy Pelosi, fed implants, and Capitol Police officers for the situation getting out of hand, while one Trump supporter who was there recalled her experience at the riot. Observers noted the MSNBC host’s lack of knowledge about all the facts surrounding the riot and how she lost control of the discussion. By the end of it, allegations of Democratic operatives carrying out the riot and the Biden administration weaponizing it were flying around. They compared January 6th rioters to political prisoners for their time in jail without bail for misdemeanors. It reflects a broader inability for Democrats to expand their messaging past the theme of Republican extremism. Rhetoric about the extreme views of Republicans is not resonating based on polls of what voters deem to be the most important issues heading into the election. Democrats will occasionally go to Trump counties and treat it like a safari or wilderness exploration, showing how Americans are separating from each other. Mainstream and independent media is becoming more factionalized and places where inconvenient information is shut off from viewers. Legacy media is the biggest culprit, but there is no guarantee what’s next will be any better.
KRYSTAL
Krystal gives her perspective on the alarming midterm rating shift in DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney’s congressional race. Cook Political Report shifted it from Lean Democrat to Toss Up and allies believe Maloney could legitimately be in trouble. It’s a big deal for a multitude of reasons, the first being that Maloney is running in a newly drawn Biden +10 district. Another is his position running Democratic house campaigns and the possibility he could be the first campaign committee chair to lose in 40 years. The backstory of how he ended up in the situation is worth recalling because he did everything possible to get the race he’s currently running in. When New York drew new house districts, Maloney announced with no heads up that he would run in this newly created district because it is a safer seat than most of his current district. Maloney stiff armed progressive Mondaire Jones from running in the district Maloney chose for himself and left most of his current district without an incumbent candidate. Jones trashed Maloney publicly before losing in a primary for a different seat. He won the feud with the progressive, trounced a progressive primary challenger, and set up the general election he preferred.
Ironically, his move is beginning to backfire primarily because he lacks a connection with most of the district and lacks the benefits of incumbency. For example, the orthodox Jewish community in his new district has not warmed up to him in the same way they did in his old district. But the broader issue of Democrats’ strategy led by Maloney is what’s creating his problems. Republican attacks on crime is beginning to outweighing Democratic messaging on abortion. The attacks from Maloney on his opponent for being extreme and having ties to extremists are not landing. No economic message for Maloney whatsoever, even though Republicans are planning more tax cuts for the rich and cuts to social security. He framed the election in a Fox News op-ed as mainstream Democrats vs MAGA extremism before touting the achievements of Joe Biden. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg has said this is the worst form of messaging for Democrats and Maloney is reaping the consequences.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar review the case of Sean Patrick Maloney as a perfect case of why Democrats are failing in the midterms. If he barely wins, there will be no consequences for him because he is on the center-left. Democratic moderates beat out progressives for the presidency, party agenda, and in this congressional election. There are no excuses for them but they will somehow manage to blame the left. Even in New York’s Gubernatorial race, the Republican is within striking distance, reflecting the midterm landscape nationwide.
SAAGAR
In his monologue, Saagar examines the curious rise in US fertility rates in the year 2021. The most basic job of a civilization is to replace its population and it is hardwired into our DNA. Modernity has led people away from this duty for a variety of reasons, causing Americans to have less children, get married less, and die earlier than before. Declining American life spans hit a crisis in 2021 when deaths of despair and covid caused the biggest drop in life expectancy in the past 100 years. Beneath this is a more hopeful trend, a mini baby boom that almost nobody expected and can teach us plenty of lessons about pro-natal policy decisions. A new paper showed increased pandemic birth rates during the pandemic after a precipitous decline in 2020 that was expected to continue. The trend completely reversed and increased for the first time since 2007, before the great recession.
From 2007 to 2020, the US total fertility rate, which measures the average number of children expected over a woman’s lifetime, declined from 2.1 to 1.6, below the replacement rate. If a society cannot replace its individuals, the age pyramid reverses and can lead to too many old people relying on the young. Early pandemic data showed continued decline but things reversed in dramatic fashion in 2021. The 6.2% increase in fertility rates reversed two years of trends in a single year, unheard of in modern times. Women under 25 saw the biggest bump after years of women having children at later ages. Another bump happened with women aged 30-34, particularly those with a college degree. In debates about fertility, some internationalists have taken the position of letting more immigrants in and ignoring domestic fertility rates. Others touted domestic spending to encourage child birth and restricting immigration. Mass immigration has drawn populist revolts in nations across the west, and domestic spending has only generated incremental growth. American debates are in the middle, between immigration and family policy to boost fertility. The left favors more immigration and childcare subsidies, contrasted with the right favoring border restriction and flexible cash incentives for parents. Numbers in 2020 show immigration drops caused the measured drop in birth rate, indicating domestic populations behaved the same way. One factor that caused trends to reverse is remote work, which gave women the flexibility to have more kids without dropping out of the workforce. Younger women decided to have a child if given the choice of working or doing nothing at all. This situation only works for college educated women and demonstrates how work can be a detriment to family formation. It does not mean women should be sent back to the kitchen, it means giving them options by giving them money, time, and flexibility.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar celebrate the baby boom over the past year that came out of nowhere. It matters because of the issues with a working age population not generating enough social welfare for the elderly population and it creates a social malaise across society. History provides examples of societies going badly and collapsing when people stop having children voluntarily. For working families, reliable scheduling being pushed by the union movement could go a long way for child rearing. Adequate wages and affordable child care would be a major boost. Alternatively, workers could be given cash for their family to do what they want, rather than forcing them into one way or another. Women or men who would rather take care of the child than work should be given the option. We are all invested in having well cared for children and the west has tried everything it can to alleviate the problem of declining birth rates. Such an increase in 2021 without any money spent is one of the greatest in modern times and needs to be talked about more.
RANA FOROOHAR
Krystal and Saagar are joined by financial times business columnist Rana Foroohar to discuss her new book about the emerging post-globalization economic age. Supply chain woes during the covid pandemic brought the fragility of global trade to the forefront. War in Ukraine has exacerbated the fragility of the global economy and political fragmentation. Prioritizing profits and efficiency over resiliency and local prosperity has produced massive wealth gaps, economic insecurity, and distrust in our institutions. Big companies were able to put money and jobs wherever they wanted and financilize their business model. Let money and goods go where they will and it will all land where it is supposed to was the thinking. Trickle down Republicans and Clinton Democrats were both invested in this way of thinking Globalization for a generation. has run its course and in its place will be an economy based on keeping wealth, investment, and operations closer to home. Markets in the UK reacting so negatively to Liz Truss’s trickle down budget plan is a reflection of how the world economy is changing. Globalization has not worked for the working class in 40 years and it has distorted markets over the past 20 or so. It could be a turning point down the hill of neoliberalism towards something better. There is not one silver bullet to fix the problem but there is some good news. We have more agility and manufacturing competitiveness than we are aware of. Agriculture, technology, and textiles are three industries we saw adjust their production during the pandemic when we needed masks and other goods. Economic and political pitfalls will be bumpy because the world is not flat and America is no longer blind to that reality. Export bans by the Biden administration appeared to be an act of aggression against China, but it came after the CCP declared its goal to be independent of western technology. Proposals to build a trade system around ‘friend shoring’ with allies and bolstering domestic manufacturing have become part of mainstream political opinions. Institutional and political power is still with the neoliberal ideology and its proponents who will not die easily. President Biden is arguably a pre-neoliberal given his support for labor and his administration is ground zero for an existential fight within the Democratic party. A contingent of Biden officials who believe in a different way forward have the president’s ear right now. Inflation reflects the reality that cheaper consumer goods did not make the economy better and it came at the expense of dramatic cost increases for essential goods. We are at a social breaking point caused by the modern economy built on forever inflating asset prices and financialization instead of innovation. Incentives on global companies to keep getting richer and focus on growing its share price were developed because of stock buybacks and paying people in shares that were legalized during the period of globalization. We asked the Fed to keep interest rates low to inflate asset prices that did not translate to prosperity on main street. We are done with cheap capital from interest rates, cheap energy from Russia, and cheap labor from China. Balancing the production and consumption economy, paying workers more, and building domestic manufacturing are what is needed for the future. Industries need to be spending money productively because not all can be subsidized by the government. Competition with China will not be possible otherwise.
Thank you for reading the latest Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar newsletter. The next full show will be on Thursday and look out for Wednesday content in the meantime!

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