October 2017 Commentary

  • Key Economic News:

    • Debt Limit and Government Funding Follow Up: In early September, the Republican-led Senate approved legislation to raise the debt limit, secure funding to avoid a government shutdown. Yet, an early December government shutdown is a real possibility, since a divided Congress is struggling to agree on military spending, Democrats insist on providing assistance for young immigrants, and President Donald Trump's position tends to change with each lawmaker he speaks with.

      • Our Take Away: Congress and the President continue to kick the can down the road since the quick fixes we witnessed in September and October will last for only a few more weeks. Throughout November, Congress will need to develop and institute longer-term measures to fund government operations, come to a consensus on immigration policy and healthcare, raise the government’s borrowing capacity, and restore basic utilities to areas devastated by hurricanes. Politically, what we expect is that a government shutdown is likely to occur given the recent stalemates and upsets observed this year. Yet, since a shutdown will dramatically harm both sides of the aisle, one side will inevitably blink partially through the first few days of the shutdown before anything critical is compromised.

  • Key Political News:

    • The Probe into Russian Meddling in the 2016 Election: Last month, we noted how Robert Mueller was seeking to interview at least six of Trump’s officials with respect to the ongoing Russia investigation including Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Don McGahn, James Burnham, and Josh Raffel. With the indictments of Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, and George Papadopoulos, on October 30, additional indictments may soon be on the way for central figures of Trump’s campaign and cabinet.

      • Our Take Away: The next individuals likely to be indicted are former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, and current Senior Advisor to the President, Jared Kushner. Compared to Manafort, Gates, or Papadopoulos, both Flynn and Kushner had/have been key players in Trump’s inner circle during and after the race for the White House. An indictment for either of them could easily ensnare the President further in a politically irrecoverable legal battle come 2020. Overall, there is already plenty of speculation that Mueller’s grand jury may have already handed down new indictments that have not been unsealed.

  • Key Social News:

    • The Wrong Type of Social Media Influencers: Transitioning from October to November, the top lawyers for Google, Twitter, and Facebook spent several hours in front of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees explaining how they are cracking down on malicious activity by foreign agents. The tech giants have presented a mostly united front during the hearing, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee's crime panel that, while the amount of Russian-sponsored ads and content on their platforms during last year's election was relatively small compared to their total user bases, they are committed to making sure it does not happen again.

      • Our Take Away: At the end of the day, the real responsibility for consuming and disseminating information rests with the users of any of the social media sites. Social media, and the rest of the internet for that matter, is a powerful tool that can both help and hurt democracy. It gives billions of people the chance to express opinions and share information, but like any other information through any other medium, that information can be intentionally manipulated to serve other purposes. This is only the tip of the iceberg of a deeper issue we expect to see resurface in the coming months and again in future elections.


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