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Trends Newsletter September 2021

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Divided States of America

The Divided States of America are of intense interest because the divisions are interrelated and affect the financial well-being of every US household.

Two Americas continue largely unchecked as the country awaits government plans working their way—slowly—through Congress. Corporate regulations are under review; large companies are scrutinized over potential antitrust infractions that hinder healthy competition that lowers consumer prices. Views on tax policy are shifting; the fight about who-will-pay-what is certain; lobbyists will earn another fortune in the process. Coronavirus still threatens the economic recovery vaccines were hoped to afford; America verges on another lockdown because of divisions over political ideology and individuals' rights. There are winners and losers. Compromise is viewed as a failure on the part of one side rather than a democratic way forward.

Climate is an imminent menace to humanity—full stop! Changes threaten lives and livelihoods. Extreme weather threatens not only peoples' largest investment (homes and real estate), but energy supplies and local, domestic, and global food and water sources. Divisions between the Haves and Have-Nots are more pronounced than before the Great Depression (1929). Increasing numbers of families saddled by debt lead tenuous lives, while for others, the amount of wealth to be transferred to the next generation skyrockets; the middle shrinks further.

Worker shortages and just-in-time inventory practices cause scarcities, price increases, and inflation fears. Despite divisions over US government stimulus-check benefits, the work force is shrinking. Divisions over immigration policies impact workforce growth. Record numbers of women are forced to choose between having a sustainable life and caregiving responsibilities; more than 1 in 4 women are reevaluating their work options. Millions of dissatisfied workers are not returning to old jobs in hopes of a better future; two million workers have taken early retirement. Social policies created to address many inequalities remain mired in a previous white male-dominated era.

As more families face declining spending power, tax increases, hardship, and eviction, politicians argue over financial remedies (to win their next election). C-suite executives maneuver to increase shareholder returns, green-wash company records, and keep scandals at bay (to keep their lucrative jobs). Large media outlets, owned by a handful of companies (literally), are complicit in spreading misinformation to grab attention, get ratings, and increase advertising revenue. Voters (increasingly uninformed, and misinformed) who elect politicians are the same citizens who produce the goods and services that provide corporate dividends to shareholders only. Workers suffer the consequences of decisions beyond their control. Trust to "do the right (fair, responsible) thing" by people and institutions in power is at an all-time low. Backlash against power manifests in frustration, anger, and physical aggression. In the twenty years since the 9/11 attack, the United States has become the Divided States of America.