TL(PM) DIGEST: A bond in every pot
Plus South Africa secretly sends arms to Russia, Americans sour on Russia and China, and chiplets to the fore in semiconductor manufacturing
1. States experiment with “baby bonds” to help fight intergenerational poverty
What happened? The Wall Street Journal reports on several state-level efforts to launch so-called “baby bonds” programs:
“The idea is for the government to deposit a few thousand dollars into a trust account for each infant born to parents below a designated income level. As adults, the beneficiaries can use the money—plus investment returns—to help pay for education or a home.”
Why does it matter? Connecticut, California, and Washington, D.C. have already approved baby bonds pilot projects. Program structures differ by state, but Connecticut, for example, designed its (now delayed) program to place a $3200 bond in an investment trust managed by the state Treasurer for every child born in the state under its Medicaid program, called HUSKY:
“At age 18, an eligible beneficiary can make a claim for the funds to be used to start or invest in a Connecticut business, buy a home in Connecticut, pay for higher education, or save for retirement.”
TLP’s take: Baby bonds alone will not solve the complex issues surrounding intergenerational poverty, and there are other tax-free savings ideas that should be considered as well. But these programs should be given a shot. They are better formulated than unconstitutional reparations ideas and are targeted at all kids in need, regardless of their race or ethnicity. For a modest upfront investment, states could help pave the way for low-income families and their kids to enjoy more meaningful opportunities later in life—opportunities like higher education, owning a home, or starting a small business often denied to those without financial resources.
2. U.S. accuses South Africa of shipping arms and ammunition to Russia
What happened? The U.S. ambassador to South Africa accused President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government of secretly supplying arms and ammunition to Russia in support of Moscow’s war against Ukraine. South Africa claims to be neutral, but it has already conducted joint naval exercises with Russia, allowed a sanctioned Russian aircraft to land at a South African air force base, and invited Putin—now wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court—to the country for a summit, all in addition to now-confirmed suspicions about surreptitiously shipping weapons to Moscow.
Why does it matter? As Ambassador Reuben Brigety put it, South Africa’s foreign policy conduct “does not suggest to us the actions of a non-aligned country.” Nor does the statement adopted by the ruling African National Congress party blaming the United States for the war in Ukraine.
TLP’s take: South Africa has effectively aligned itself with Moscow under a self-righteous cloak of neutrality and non-alignment. Too many incidents add up to a disturbing pattern, and if South Africa persists in its current pro-Kremlin course it should be treated accordingly.
3. Russia remains our biggest enemy according to Americans
What happened? New research from Pew shows that Americans hold very negative views of both Russia and China but are much more likely to view Russia as America’s enemy and China as our competitor.
Why does it matter? More than 6 in 10 Americans hold a very unfavorable view of Russia, and more than 9 in 10 view Russia unfavorably overall, while 44 percent hold a very unfavorable view of China, with more than 8 in 10 viewing China unfavorably overall. Nearly two-thirds of Americans label Russia as an enemy of America rather than a partner or competitor. A little more than half of Americans say China is mostly our competitor, with 38 percent now labeling China as our enemy.
TLP’s take: Vladimir Putin’s unjust invasion of Ukraine has completely soured Americans on Russia. Just a few short years ago, most Americans viewed Russia more as a competitor—now the nation is clearly seen as our enemy. Contrary to the views of the far-left and far-right, this is entirely Russia’s fault, not ours. Likewise, China’s aggressive moves on the global stage, and support for Russia’s war, have earned that nation increased enmity from Americans. It certainly would be best for global stability and peace if Russia, China, and America could all just compete with one another—but that first requires Russia, and by extension China, backing down from its illegal war in Ukraine and becoming a solid global player again.
4. “Chiplets” are the wave of the future when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing
What happened? The New York Times reports on the rise of “chiplets,” the tight packaging of a large number of tiny chips onto a substrate that’s then encased in plastic. These chip packages are cheaper to make and faster than a single ultra-fast chip—one chip package made for an advanced supercomputer has ten times as many transistors as the most powerful conventional chip—making chiplet packages all the rage among semiconductor manufacturers and computer companies like Apple, IBM, and Intel.
Why does it matter? The CHIPS and Science Act aims to supercharge chip packaging facilities in the United States alongside semiconductor manufacturing—while America accounts for just 12 percent of chipmaking worldwide, it accounts for only 3 percent of chip packaging. CHIPS funding has already caused companies to announce or consider plans to build or relocate chip packaging companies in and to the United States.
TLP’s take: Whether or not chip packaging takes root in the United States will provide another way to measure the success of President Biden’s industrial policy moving forward. As Moore’s Law has slowed down, moreover, chip packages have become a critical way to keep increasing the speed and capabilities of new computers—and well worth investing in.
Just one more thing…
The latest weapon in the fight to preserve winemaking against the ravages of climate change? Satellite imagery.