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Why your $7 latte is $7
Pictured above: What should probably now be considered a luxury item. | akinbostanci via Getty Images Your expensive coffee habit is indeed getting even more expensive. That Pumpkin Spice Latte is going to cost you a pretty penny this fall. If you are a connoisseur of fancy coffee and fancy coffee shops (or even just fancy-ish), you’ve probably noticed that the price of your favorite drink is higher than it used to be. Nowadays, the base price for a regular latte is something like $6, then maybe you add in vanilla syrup, which costs you an extra dollar, and ask for oat milk, which is a dollar more. You’re now staring at an $8 drink, plus taxes and, assuming you’re doing the right thing here, at least a $1 tip. What, you might be asking yourself, is going on here? You are not alone. Why is my latte so expensive? is indeed a perennial question. And to that question, at least the 2023 version, I’ve got answers. (I’m going to insert a semi-long aside here, which is that obviously you can make your coffee at home or go somewhere less expensive, like McDonald’s or Dunkin’ or a coffee cart, which all run under $4 for a latte. You can also get just regular black coffee, or add in just regular milk, and it’ll run you a whole lot cheaper. Your latte, your choice.) Anyway, back to why lattes are expensive. I spoke to a Starbucks analyst and three people in the coffee business to get some explanations. The cost of your latte is more than the coffee and the milk The long and short of why your latte is more expensive is that almost everythingis more expensive than it was a few years ago. That, of course, includes many of the inputs that make your latte price your latte price — from the coffee and milk to the wage of the worker drawing that cute little flower onto the top of the drink. Coffee is a commodity, so its price goes up and down — its price has actually come down from its 2022 highs. You also maybe notice the rising latte price more because it’s something you buy relatively often, and it’s the only thing on the receipt when you do. Caleb Benoit, founder and CEO of Connect Roasters, a wholesale coffee company that’s about to open its first cafe in Bourbonnais, Illinois, laid out some rough numbers on coffee shop economics. Judging only by the coffee, milk, and lid, the margins for a coffee shop on a latte look great, like 70 to 80 percent. But that’s without the overhead. “I think most healthy coffee shops are probably paying 30 percent of their revenue out in labor and probably another 10 percent in fixed costs, like rent and utilities,” he said. “You factor all of that into the equation and your, let’s just call it 75 percent gross margin, becomes 10 to 15 percent net margin.” “I think that in 2023, getting a vanilla oat milk latte is okay to be considered a luxury item” Patrick Sullivan, who owns The Coffee House with his wife in downtown Burlington, Wisconsin, says he was “terrified” when they decided to hike their prices earlier this year. But they felt like they had no choice. They partner with Anodyne Coffee Roasting out of Milwaukee for their beans, which he credits for holding the line on pricing for a long time. Eventually, Anodyne — and other suppliers — gave in and hiked costs. “It was death, from a pricing perspective, by a thousand cuts,” he said. “Anodyne’s got to raise their bean cost 10 percent, our alternative milks went up 15 percent, so almond, oat, coconut.” Their supplier for regular milk upped prices, too, so Sullivan started going to the local Pick ’n Save, where it was cheaper, three times a week. Eventually, though, they had to start charging more. “We basically made the decision in the spring of this year that we were going to do this in one fell swoop, and that way we know why we’re doing it, our employees know our reasoning and the numbers, and we just talk to our customers about it if they’re concerned,” Sullivan said. “The numbers had to be a 15 to 17 percent increase in price, that was just to maintain the profit margin that we have always needed, not to become more profitable.” Danny McColgan, one of the owners of Familiars Coffee & Tea in Northampton, Massachusetts, said that over the past couple of years, it seemed like they were getting a letter from some vendor every month explaining a new price increase. “Even thinking back to when everyone was up in arms about how high the price of gas was getting, that was something where our vendors added fuel surcharges, and those fuel charges haven’t gone away,” he said. Familiars, which opened in 2019, already had a higher price point. They work with a sustainability-focused coffee roaster that uses a direct trade model with farmers, and they get their milk from a local dairy farm that’s extra nice to its cows. “We’re paying a fair price for the coffee we’re using; we’re paying a fair price for the milk we’re using. And honestly, it’s not just paying a fair price, it’s paying a good price,” McColgan said. “It’s all about what people consider a commodity and what people consider a luxury. I think that in 2023, getting a vanilla oat milk latte is okay to be considered a luxury item. You can get a cup of black coffee for less.” Baristas are making better money, and that money has to come from somewhere Labor is often the most expensive cost coffee businesses have, and labor has gotten costlier over the past few years. Workers are demanding and making more money, and lower-wage workers — like baristas — have seen especially significant wage gains. That’s a good thing! It also means higher costs for companies, and — you guessed it — for you. Starbucks has pointed to inflation and higher labor costs as the reason for its increased prices. (It’s also been able to make more money off of those higher prices.) “There’s been a big push for them to have a better dynamic with their employees. So, they started a reinvention plan to kind of put an end to the unionization of employees, but it comes at a cost. So they’ve raised prices in that regard to raise wages,” said Siye Desta, an equity analyst at CFRA Research, a financial intelligence firm, referring to efforts among Starbucks employees to unionize stores. Starbucks’ reinvention plan also entails revamping some of its stores, it says, to improve the day-to-day of its workers and make things speedier and more efficient, which requires investment. Starbucks has expanded digital tipping, which isn’t rolled up into the price of its drinks but obviously shows up for consumers at the point of sale. It has helped the company keep employees. “[It] might rub customers the wrong way, but it’s definitely helped with wages, and their barista attrition has improved quite a bit since they’ve made those changes,” Desta said. “For the volume of business we do, it requires a lot of staff to provide good service” There is quite a discourse around tipping right now, with many consumers feeling angered and pressured at point-of-sale tablets that nudge them to add on a tip for their barista or server. I will only say that you may want to keep in mind that your barista is making the cost of, like, two of your lattes an hour. Tip jars have always existed, they were just easier for consumers to ignore. Also, you can just tap “no tip.” Smaller coffee shops are feeling wage pressure, too. Many states have laws in place that are gradually increasing the minimum wage, including Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Many businesses have had to increase pay to compete for workers in the current labor market. Sullivan, the Wisconsin coffee shop owner, said most job applicants he gets nowadays list their current wage as somewhere in the $15 range. “For the volume of business we do, it requires a lot of staff to provide good service, so that’s the balancing act,” he said. His shop has changed around some of its food offerings to try to diversify and up ticket sizes to mitigate some of the higher labor costs. If you love frilly coffee, you might have to learn to love (or accept) the frilly price The price of lattes has always been steep, even before this recent bout of high inflation. The same goes for cold brew coffee, which is pricier to make because it takes more coffee, more time, and different machinery. If you think your drink of choice is too expensive now, you probably thought it was expensive five years ago. The latte-sipping liberal meme exists for a reason, whether or not it’s fair. The price of lattes probably isn’t going to go down anytime soon. As much as customers have been annoyed by the price hikes, they’ve kept buying and ordering fancier drinks. Plenty of big companies, including Starbucks, have been quite forthcoming about consumers continuing to open up their wallets to higher degrees. The small coffee shop owners I spoke with said that by and large their customers seemed to get what was going on with the pricing, though they did sometimes get complaints. Plus, if the big guys like Starbucks charge more, so can they. Benoit, the Illinois coffee company owner, said he often argues that coffee is underpriced, given the length of its supply chain and the number of hands the product touches before the consumer has their first sip. “You can compare it to other things in the beverage industry. You look at wine, right?” he said. “It’s grown in far-away places, the manufacturing of the product is pretty intensive. Nobody blushes at a $10, $15 glass of wine at a restaurant, but somebody might see a $5 latte as expensive.” It’s not not a fair point, though $15 for a glass of wine is also wild. If there’s a silver lining here for coffee lovers, it’s that prices are probably going to chill for a while now. “I think it’s more likely now than it was before for there to be some signs of consumers trading down with the orders and making less custom drinks that are expensive, which might change [Starbucks’s] pricing strategy,” Desta said. “They’ve already indicated they don’t plan on taking much compared to quarters past, and that’s just kind of industry-wide.” The other silver lining is that, really, you do have other options — you can go somewhere cheaper, you can make your coffee at home. Or you can keep at it with the lattes, which are delicious, and if you’re going to local coffee shops, supporting small businesses. It’s just going to cost you a little more than you’d like.
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Congress just avoided a shutdown. Kevin McCarthy’s fight is just beginning.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, and the motion to vacate, explained Congress finally managed to squeeze out a deal to fund the government for 45 days on Saturday, but the eleventh-hour resolution is already causing trouble for Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida indicated Sunday that he will call for a motion to vacate — a vote to toss McCarthy from leadership for passing a continuing resolution that Gaetz says violates the terms of McCarthy’s speakership deal. For the rest of the country, a fight over the speakership takes away from the work of passing a long-term funding deal, as well as negotiating the future of aid to Ukraine. Gaetz has led the charge against McCarthy’s leadership since January, when Gaetz and a crew of right-wing holdouts refused to vote for McCarthy until he made major concessions to the group — including restoring the ability of any one member of the House of Representatives to call for McCarthy’s removal, among other promises. Now, the question for McCarthy — assuming the motion to vacate forges ahead — is whether or not he’ll be able to get the support he needs from Democrats to retain the speakership, while also retaining the support of more moderate Republicans. That might not be so simple, as McCarthy seems to be capable of frustrating different critical factions while trying to please everyone. While Congress has avoided a shutdown that was seen as all but inevitable until the legislation actually passed, some Democrats are frustrated about the lack of support for Ukraine written into that legislation, while Republicans — especially Gaetz’s right-wing group — are furious that their proposed funding cuts didn’t make it through in the final legislation. That puts McCarthy in a tenuous position, potentially fighting for his job, despite the fact that he averted a government shutdown. What’s more, proposing a motion to vacate distracts Congress from the crucial work of funding the government for the next year — something they have just six weeks to do before the continuing resolution runs out. Here’s how McCarthy got into this situation Back in January, McCarthy went through a grueling 15 rounds of votes to win his speakership. Because Republicans have such a narrow majority in the House — 221 Republicans to 212 Democrats — the defection of 19 extreme right-wing Republicans including Gaetz, Rep. Lauren Beobert of Colorado, and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, represented a serious problem for McCarthy’s ambition to finally take the speaker’s gavel.To win over his naysayers, McCarthy ultimately agreed to a deal that left him vulnerable to an ouster as Jacobs wrote in January: “Part of their demands include efforts to weaken the office of speaker generally and enable rank-and-file members of the House — and, in particular, rank-and-file members of the House GOP — to have more influence over legislation. In recent years, speakers from both parties have centralized more and more authority in their own hands. This has meant members have less opportunity to introduce amendments, that most key legislation is negotiated by leadership in both parties, and it is presented for a vote in a handful of comprehensive bills such as the 2022 social spending bill Democrats dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act.” Those who want McCarthy gone all dislike him for their own reasons, from the political to the personal. Gaetz in particular has accused McCarthy of breaking his pledges to the right-wing group that ultimately delivered his speakership win, particularly surrounding the debt ceiling debate back in May. Much like avoiding a government shutdown, passing legislation to avert a default on the US’s debts was critical for the economy and for the government’s ability to serve its function. But for Gaetz in particular, any effort McCarthy makes to work with Democrats seems to renege on the January bargain, as Politico pointed out. “Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January and since then he’s been in brazen, repeated material breach of that agreement,” Gaetz told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday. “This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw.” The stakes are high — both for McCarthy and for the government Once the legislation passed the House on Saturday — mostly with Democratic support — Gaetz tried to get the floor, ostensibly to call for a motion to vacate, but was rebuffed. The motion to vacate will come this week, Gaetz has promised, and he could be counting on quite a bit of Democratic support, particularly in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as Politico Playbook pointed out Sunday. But that’s far from a guarantee that McCarthy will lose the speakership, particularly if Jeffries doesn’t convince the entire Democratic caucus to vote against McCarthy. Furthermore, there are plenty of GOP members who would vote to keep McCarthy in power, denying Gaetz’s effort the majority it would need to remove McCarthy from office. Gaetz has thus far remained mum as to who he sees as a viable replacement for McCarthy, particularly given that Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second most powerful Republican in the House, is being treated for cancer. “The problem is — and this is the same problem we saw with the 15 ballots at the beginning of the year — it is my belief that there is nobody at this point in time that has the majority votes in order to become speaker other than Kevin McCarthy,” Rep. Morgan Griffith, a Freedom Caucus member from Virginia, told Politico on Friday, though Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s name has been floated, the Washington Post reported Thursday. But the stakes for the government are significant, too; despite opposition from both the right and the left, McCarthy has managed to push through agreements on the debt ceiling and a continuing resolution, two significant challenges with serious, long-ranging national consequences. Those deals are far from perfect, but both seemed impossible until they were actually done. Though 45 days may sound like plenty of time to pass a spending bill, it’s not, particularly given the major partisan divide over government spending. Most Republicans, and especially the hard-right Republicans like Gaetz, are demanding spending cuts across the board, as well as much more stringent border controls, at odds with most Democrats. Anything that distracts from coming to an agreement over a full year of government funding increases risk of a shutdown come November 17, when the current deal expires. As far as funding to Ukraine is concerned, most members of Congress support sustained aid and Senate leadership from both parties indicated Saturday that the Senate will work to protect that funding. Democrats, including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who held up the Senate vote on Saturday’s funding bill over Ukraine aid, maintain that support against Russia’s illegal invasion and occupation is critical to defend democracy against an authoritarian foe. Whatever happens for McCarthy, he’ll likely continue to find himself beholden to interests other than his own, whether that comes from his own party or not. And even if he survives this motion, it’s possible, given Gaetz’s animosity and promises to take McCarthy down, that he’ll face another challenge in a matter of time.
The 2010s was a decade of protests. Why did so many revolutions fail?
A demonstrator kicks a tear gas shell during clashes with the police outside the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte, on June 26, 2013. | Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images Journalist Vincent Bevins grapples with failed revolutions from Egypt to Brazil to Hong Kong. When a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in protest of the Tunisian government in 2010, he inspired a revolution in his country and ultimately a cascade of revolt across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and even in the United States. The 2010s was a decade of mass protest, as the journalist Vincent Bevins writes in his new book If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution. But the movements demonstrating in public squares in world capitals lost out, and many countries ended up with leaders even more repressive than the autocrats that protests toppled. Figuring out why many of the revolutions never materialized has bedeviled activists since. This is the task that Bevins, a former correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, sets out to explore in over 250 interviews across 12 countries. The result is the kind of broad survey that was impossible for reporters to capture in the middle of these uprisings. There are trends and shared triggers: that after governments crack down on an initially small group of protesters, the squares swell with more and more demonstrators; that in the midst of a leftist eruption, the far right often quickly coopts the momentum; that the media itself bears some responsibility for the movements’ shortcomings; that, now, activists are eager to tell the intricacies of their efforts so that the next generation of protesters can get things right. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Protesters gather in Tahrir Square on February 1, 2011, in Cairo, Egypt. On the media’s role, he looks back at when he was covering Brazil’s 2013 protests from the vantage point of an American. “People like me ended up in this position that we did not earn and we did not deserve, of being called upon to explain to the world what was actually happening in the streets,” Bevins told me. “We did not have the intellectual or material resources to do this properly. ... And we too often saw what we wanted to see in the mass protest explosions.” Are there lessons for those ready to rise up today or tomorrow? “If you look back on the decade with this wide lens as I do, you see the copying and pasting of tactics that were developed in wildly different circumstances,” he says. “One of the many lessons that comes out of these conversations is: Pay very, very close attention to what your society is, how you’re trying to change it, and the applicability of the tactics you’re adopting to your given situation.” Somehow, despite all the loss and the failed revolutions, it’s a hopeful story. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. Jonathan Guyer What struck me in this book is just how many of these protests were happening concurrently. Just to speak from my own experience, I was in Egypt during the 2013 coup that was in part sparked by an astroturf movement, and I left the country for Istanbul, Turkey, as the Gezi Park protests were happening. And the umbrella protests in Hong Kong were inspired by Occupy Wall Street. Tell me about the connections between these movements. Vincent Bevins Connectivity provided unexpected benefits and unexpected dangers when it came to the possibility of observing, learning from, and transferring knowledge and solidarity across national borders. Because on the one hand, the great thing about the internet is that you could see what was happening anywhere, immediately. Movements can be in contact with each other. I unexpectedly went viral in Brazil when I tweeted about a protest chant that was about Turkey, and Turkish people are sending me messages to pass on to the protesters in Brazil. I was very uncomfortable with this dynamic at the time, not only because I was a journalist in the mainstream corporate media and I was supposed to be objective about this movement, and I’m not supposed to be a part of it. And number two, I’m thinking, “Well, wait a minute, these are really different countries.” Luis Felipe Muller/Contributor On June 17, 2013, an estimated 65,000 people marched through São Paulo streets to voice a range of frustrations. Monique Jaques/Corbis via Getty Images A woman gives out a solution of milk and antacid that relieves eyes from the sting of tear gas on Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 1, 2013. If you look back on the decade with this wide lens as I do, you see the copying and pasting of tactics that were developed in wildly different circumstances. You see the application of something that was developed to, for example, try to remove an autocratic leader in North Africa being employed in imperfect democracies — but democracies — like Brazil and Ukraine. You also saw it happening after it became clear in the original country that this particular tactic didn’t even work. The Umbrella Movement in 2014 in Hong Kong was inspired by Occupy Wall Street, which was inspired by Egypt, which was inspired by Tunisia. Really, this is the globalization of the Tahrir Square model. But by the time they put it into practice in Hong Kong in 2014, Egypt had already ended in disaster; Egypt had already experienced the Sisi coup, which arguably installs a dictator, which is even worse than the Mubarak government that the protest movement initially sought to overthrow. The idea of writing a book which identifies this mismatch between tactics and targets is to identify the way that you can fix that mismatch. So what looks like a pessimistic reading of history can quickly become an optimistic project that looks toward the future because all you have to do is match the tactics to this huge, demonstrable desire for change in the global system; then you have something that you can work on in the next decade. Jonathan Guyer Since you started writing this book, social media has fundamentally been transformed, you might even say it has died. How central was social media to the series of protests that you were covering? Could they happen with social media in the state it’s in today? Vincent Bevins The types of mass protest movements that I look at in this book are the explosions which become so large, in which so many people enter the streets that governments are either toppled or fundamentally destabilized. And often getting over that line requires many, many factors to come into play, and to act upon each other and to combine in an explosive manner. And without social media, I think a lot less of them would have gotten across that line. The reason that social media did not work as promised is not because we misunderstood the nature of the internet and the possibilities of digital connectivity, but because oligarchs took over the digital space. Often when I’m explaining this book to younger people, my cousins and nieces and nephews, they’re often shocked to hear something that you or I might remember that 10-15 years ago, the common-sense wisdom, the mainstream opinion, and basically, this is what was shared almost across the board in the English-language media, was that anything that happened as a result in social media was going to be fundamentally, necessarily progressive, more democratic, and lead to a better world. Now, 10-15 years later, if one can imagine a movement of young men storming the capital of a country because of something they saw on the internet, our first reaction is probably going to be the exact opposite. Our first reaction is going to be whoa, hold on, this might be very dangerous. Our first reaction is to think of all of the ways that that can go wrong. And again, I think that’s not because the internet does not have the promise that we believe that it did. It’s because oligarchs conquered it and murdered the best parts of it. Jonathan Guyer I liked this line where you said, “Getting tear-gassed is great for engagement.” I wonder if you could step back and talk to me about how you fit yourself into this story. This is more personal than your last book, The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World. Vincent Bevins It is a little bit more personal than The Jakarta Method, I think, for two reasons. One is because I lived through the events of this decade, especially in Brazil. And I think that at some points, I was so close to the unfolding events as to require my inclusion in order to be fully honest. But a fuller answer, the more difficult answer, is that this particular type of response to perceived injustice; this type of explosion; this repertoire of contention; the apparently spontaneous, digitally coordinated, horizontally organized mass protests in public spaces ends up meeting, relying on, handing the privilege of interpreting these events to people like me. People like me ended up in this position that we did not earn and we did not deserve, of being called upon to explain to the world what was actually happening in the streets. The participants and the original organizers of these mass protest events, many of them now recognize that this is a fundamental flaw of this particular type of contention, that it relies on somebody else to impose meaning upon it from outside, because the meaning of the movement itself is incapable of speaking in one coherent voice. But whatever the reason for this, people like me, foreign correspondents, especially from the most powerful countries in the world, especially from the dominant corporate outlets, which have the biggest microphone on the global stage, were called upon to explain an endlessly complex set of explosions around the world, and we failed. Chris McGrath/Getty Images A pro-democracy activist holds a yellow umbrella in front of a police line on a street in Mongkok district on November 25, 2014, in Hong Kong. We did not have the intellectual or material resources to do this properly. We too often were guided by narrow ideological or careerist concerns. We often do not have the depth of knowledge required to place these movements in context. And we too often saw what we wanted to see in the mass protest explosions. So in order to tell this story honestly, I think we do have to talk about the role of media representation, not only in defining the sort of world-historical significance of these explosions, but indeed in reconfiguring the concrete form of the movements on the street. Because often the particular type of coverage that these movements got, whether in traditional media or on social media, dictated who went out to the street and what they understood that they were going to find there. The gap between what the original organizers thought they were doing and what the later arrivals thought they were going to find often ended in violence or tragedy. Jonathan Guyer What do you think is the big takeaway of these varied stories of activists across many different contexts organizing in a whole lot of different societies? Vincent Bevins This book is not structured as an argument, it’s really a work of history. And I think that by reading what happens, following chronologically how the decade starts in Tunisia and how things unfold throughout the decade, different readers will come to different conclusions and different interpretations of what really happened. One of the many lessons that comes out of these conversations is: Pay very, very close attention to what your society is, how you’re trying to change it, and the applicability of the tactics you’re adopting to your given situation. The mass protest decade, as I call it, demonstrates that there’s a huge amount of desire to change the world for the better, to affect transformations to our global system. And the entire point of this book, the reason that hundreds of people wanted to sit down and talk to me, was to help future generations match the right tactics with the right goals and succeed at creating a better world.
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Congress avoided a shutdown. What happens now?
Kevin McCarthy teamed with Democrats to keep the government open. Will he keep his job? | Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images Kevin McCarthy faced either a shutdown or a right-wing push to kick him out of his job. He chose the latter. With only hours to spare, Congress on Saturday narrowly avoided a government shutdown. The Senate approved a bill to keep the government open for the next 45 days by a vote of 88 to 9after a dramatic reversal by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ensured an overwhelming House vote to keep the government open. McCarthy had spent weeks trying to find a path that would both keep the government open and protect himself from an internal coup by hardliners within the House Republican Conference. Ultimately, McCarthy opted to fund the government and challenge the hardliners to do their worst — opening him up to attempts to remove him from the House’s top job. McCarthy had tried Friday to get his caucus to support a short-term measure — known as a continuing resolution — that was loaded up with major spending cuts to appeal to House right wingers. But after that failed, the California Republican punted on Saturday after accepting that he could not pass any short-term funding measure with Republican votes alone. Instead, he allowed the House to vote on legislation that would continue current government spending for the next 45 days along with disaster aid. The only major provision desired by Democrats not included in the legislation is additional aid to Ukraine. The short-term bill passed with all but one Democrat supporting it. However, 90 Republicans were opposed. For many of those Republicans, they were opposed to a continuing resolution on principle. They believed McCarthy had made a commitment to funding the government through twelve individual appropriations bills rather than a single legislative vehicle. As Rep Wesley Hunt (R-TX) put it on Friday. “We got to break the fever. This is how business has been conducted for the past 33 years in this country, which coincidentally are close to $30 trillion in debt.” He added “if we don’t break this right now, if you don’t do this right now, it’s gonna be business as usual next year, and the year after the year after.” Will Kevin McCarthy stay the GOP speaker? The challenge for McCarthy is whether he can survive his shift in tactics. Speaking to reporters after the vote, he offered a challenge to those dissidents. “If someone is going to bring a motion against me. Bring it.” McCarthy’s position has always been a precarious one from the start. The California Republican had only been elected Speaker after fifteen ballots and had a four-seat majority in the House. If a motion to oust McCarthy was brought to the floor, only five dissident Republicans would be enough to remove him if no Democrats came to his aid. Matt Gaetz, a longtime critic of McCarthy and one of the ringleaders of the effort to block him from becoming Speaker in January, told reporters: “I’ve said that whether or not Kevin McCarthy faces a motion to vacate is entirely within his control because all he had to do was comply with the agreement that he made with us in January. And putting this bill on the floor and passing it for Democrats would be such an obvious, blatant and clear violation of that, we would have to deal with it.” But not all of the skeptics of continuing resolutions in the conference were ready to strip McCarthy of the Speaker’s gavel. Rep Troy Nehls (R-TX), who was one of the 21 Republicans who voted against McCarthy on Friday, expressed sympathy for the Speaker. He told reporters that McCarthy had the “most impossible job in the world and the United States.” So what happens now? A potential government shutdown will be averted for the next six weeks. That gives Republicans more time to try to advance the remaining appropriations bills through the House. But anything they pass will go to a Democratic controlled Senate with very different priorities and without the same attachment to the traditional appropriations process possessed by doctrinaire House conservatives. But it also means McCarthy will have to thread the same needle then. The tension that he will face is he will continue to be able to both keep the government open and remain Speaker. One longtime conservative critic, Bob Good of Virginia, expressed fundamental dissatisfaction with McCarthy’s leadership on Saturday morning to reporters. As he described the Speaker’s approach “the bus is going 100 miles off the cliff with the Democrats, let’s slow it down to 95 and we get to drive the bus off the cliff.” Speaking to Vox earlier this week, Liam Donovan, a longtime Republican operative and Washington lobbyist, thought that the goal of Republican dissidents was to force a showdown and have McCarthy face a reckoning within his conference. After all, regardless of whether it happened without a shutdown or with one, McCarthy’s exit strategy was always to work with Democrats to pass legislation that would fund the government. It was simply a question of which parliamentary approach that he would take and what the collateral damage would be. As of late Saturday night, the showdown had happened and the government would remain open. But, at least for a day, the reckoning would wait. What happens next on additional funding for Ukraine? There are still a number of other possibilities for Congress to provide additional funding to Ukraine, including through a supplemental appropriations request as well as attaching it to future must pass legislation including the next resolution to fund the government. But this bill marks a key demarcation in the political debate over Ukraine on Capitol Hill. Coming only days after, for the first time, a majority of Republicans voted for an amendment to strip funding for Ukraine, it’s a clear indication that there is a growing sentiment on the right against further US aid to the Eastern European country. While McCarthy was willing to punt on almost every other issue in order to avoid a government shutdown, he still didn’t include additional funding for Ukraine in the continuing legislation. Wait, but why am I hearing about a fire alarm? While there were rhetorical fireworks among Republicans on Saturday, there was a literal fire alarm pulled by a Democrat. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) pulled an alarm in a House office building on Saturday. In a statement, a spokesman for the Democrat said: “Congressman Bowman did not realize he would trigger a building alarm as he was rushing to make an urgent vote. The Congressman regrets any confusion.” He later told reporters: “I thought the alarm would open the door.” However, Republicans suggested that Bowman may have done so intentionally. The alarm was pulled at a time when Democrats were trying to delay a House vote in order to read the legislation introduced by Republicans and ensure they found it acceptable. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) was already preparing legislation to expel the New York Democrat. Such a proposal would require a 2/3rds vote which would require significant Democratic support. Other possibilities for discipline, including a formal reprimand or censure, would only require simple majorities. McCarthy condemned Bowman. “This should not go without punishment,” he said. The Speaker added that he expected the House Ethics Committee to investigate and that he planned to speak with Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York about Bowman’s behavior.
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How do you prepare a city like New York for major floods?
New Yorkers attempt to clear storm drains in Brooklyn on September 29 | Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images The flooding on September 29 was bad. The future will be, too. Apocalyptic flooding brought New York City to a standstill Friday, with subway service suspended and murky rainwater seeping into buses attempting to navigate the city’s flooded roads. The city’s mayor, Eric Adams, did not directly address the public till nearly noon Friday, despite the fact that his administration knew about the potential for a major downpour and potential flooding on Thursday, before the storm hit. Now, floodwaters remain in parts of the city — along with questions about its ability to mitigate the effects of climate change as storms like Friday’s. As major climate events — like dangerous, smoky haze from Canadian wildfires earlier this summer, as well as flood water surge from Hurricane Sandy more than a decade ago — increasingly affect the city, the urgency of climate change mitigation policy and initiatives is clear, but whether the city has the capacity, funding, and political will to undertake such a monumental task is not. Although New York has undertaken ambitious study and planning projects, the effects of Friday’s storm indicate that mitigation projects aren’t happening quickly enough, and that the city won’t be prepared for the next storm when it inevitably happens. Of course, New York City isn’t the only place that suffered from yesterday’s storms; parts of the northeast can expect heavy rainfall over the coming week, according to CNN. In fact, unusual rainfall has had an impact throughout the US this year, and flooding has devastated areas of Libya, Pakistan, and China over the past year. “Everywhere is susceptible to these impacts,” University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann previously told Vox’s Li Zhou. “The western, central, and eastern US, Europe, and Asia — with one of the best examples being the Pakistan floods last year which displaced more than 30 million people.” The city does have political infrastructure to address climate change New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned New Yorkers about flash floods and “havoc throughout the downstate region” on Thursday; state transit officials held a news conference about the storm Thursday, too, as the New York Times reported. Hochul tweeted about the storm and appeared on local news stations warning about the severity of the storm in the day beforehand; city officials issued a travel advisory Thursday night. City schools remained open, though some experienced flooding and ended up evacuating, causing confusion and frustration for parents and more criticism for Adams and Chancellor David Banks. Adams defended the decision, saying that “We should be clear that we have only a certain number of school days that we can utilize, and we must make sure we meet that.” Adams’ delayed response to the situation mirrors his reaction to dangerous air quality in the city following wildfires in Canada this summer, and it’s not the first time a New York City mayor has failed to adequately address serious environmental threats to the city and its residents, as New York Magazine pointed out. Aside from the major issue of public communication, New York City does actually have a political infrastructure to address climate change and disaster mitigation, Timon McPhearson, professor of urban ecology and director of the Urban Systems Lab at The New School, told Vox in an interview. “One of the most important things that happened after Hurricane Sandy,” the 2012 storm that destroyed homes along the coast, flooded downtown Manhattan, and killed 44 people, “was the establishment of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, which is now part of the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice,” said McPhearson, who works on adaptability and mitigation initiatives with the city. That office has the capacity to convene other city agencies to address major environmental challenges — a rarity in city governments, McPhearson added. New York City commissioned a study of its own stormwater resiliency after seeing the devastation Hurricane Harvey’s torrential rainwater caused the city of Houston, and it’s now working on a flood vulnerability study. But on the ground, the reality is that New York City’s infrastructure is nowhere near able to withstand the kind of rainfall that it saw on Friday. The subway system is old and porous; the sewage system is, too. In fact, much of the city’s infrastructure needs to be rethought in order to deal with the kinds of climate vulnerabilities New York will face in the coming decade; sidewalks need to be raised to keep water from flooding from the roads into people’s homes and subway grates need to be covered and pipes replaced. All of that takes monumental political will and effort — as well as billions of dollars, McPhearson said. “This is at least a 10-year, if not a 20-year effort, to retrofit the city to increase its ability to absorb a lot more water. And it’s also anywhere between a $100 to $200 billion sewer system upgrade project,” McPhearson said. “Nobody knows where that money’s going to come from. Even with all the [Inflation Reduction Act] spending, there’s just no real source of the kinds of funding that would be required to make those kinds of upgrades; we’re only going to get that money from federal sources.” Mitigation projects need to happen faster, because it’s only going to get worse As Vox’s Zhou pointed out, the impact of rainfall will be more intense as global temperatures increase: “As the Earth gets warmer, the atmosphere is able to hold more water, leading to heavier precipitation when it rains, and a greater likelihood of flooding as a result. A 1 degree Centigrade increase in the atmosphere’s temperature corresponds to a 7 percent increase in water vapor that it’s able to hold, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. And estimates suggest global temperatures could breach a 1.5 degree Celsius increase threshold sometime in the 2030s, meaning much more rain to come.” Weather events like Friday’s are going to cause much more damage to places like New York City unless and until we learn to “live with water,” as McPhearson put it, which requires political, financial, and social mobilization on a significant scale. Utilizing nature-based solutions, like infrastructure-supported soil and green space on the flat roofs of city buildings, can help trap rainwater until it can be more safely and slowly released, for example. And in cities like Rotterdam and Copenhagen, public space has been reimagined as part of the cities’ climate mitigation plan while still serving its original purpose. Copenhagen’s Enghaveparken — the “climate park” — was retrofitted to become a rainwater reservoir in case of a major rainfall event of the kind that hit the city in 2010 and 2011 and caused about $1 billion worth of damage. But to be prepared for future storms requires a massive political, financial, and time investment, as well as the understanding that the “new abnormal,” as Mann said, is happening right now.
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