🐤 Balancing the books

We're going to introduce you to the man trying to single-handedly fix America's debt crisis.

Monday | May 22nd, 2023
Early Chirp

Welcome to Monday, chirpers! The latest FIFA World Cup wrapped up just a few months ago, but organizers didn’t waste any time unveiling the logo for the 2026 championship series.

Judging from the reviews, maybe they shouldn’t have been in such a rush.

-Chris Agee

Markets
NASDAQ
IXIC
$12,657.90
-$30.94 (-0.24%)
Dow Jones
DJI
$33,426.63
-$109.28 (-0.33%)
S&P 500
GSPC
$4,191.98
-$6.07 (-0.14%)
EUR-USD
EURUSD
$1.08
-$0.00 (-0.01%)
Bitcoin
BTC-USD
$26,729.87
-$399.72 (-1.47%)
Cenntro Electric
CENN
$0.33
-$0.03 (-7.74%)
*Market data for this issue is from May 21st, 2023 at 5:34pm EST

🏦 Markets: Last week ended with a bit of a letdown after some Wall Street gains, but this is a new week full of new opportunities.

Looking ahead, a few factors are likely to help shape the stock market narrative.

Earnings reports are incoming from major retailers including AutoZone, Lowe’s, Costco, Dollar Tree, and Best Buy.

On Wednesday, minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting will offer insight into the central bank’s position on interest rates.

And the week will end with new inflation numbers, a consumer sentiment report, and data about the housing market.

World

The Breakdown

A quick look around the world.

The Breakdown Xinhua/Shutterstock

🌋 Airport ash: The eruption of Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano led to the temporary cancelation of flights from Mexico City’s two largest airports on Saturday. Volcanic ash covered the area, leading Benito Juarez and Felipe Angeles airports to suspend operations for several hours. The ash is an impediment to visibility and can also damage the body of the aircraft. Several communities in the area canceled school in the aftermath of the volcano’s latest explosion.

📺 Streaming sports: Disney might be planning to combine its streaming service with Hulu, but one asset owned by the company could be unveiling its own platform. According to reports, ESPN is preparing to launch a standalone service. This would be different from ESPN+, which doesn’t provide the live coverage that airs on the cable network. The sports channel would still be included in cable packages, but this news could put that in jeopardy.

🍯 Bye-bye bot: Ernie Bot, China’s answer to the AI chatbot ChatGPT, is taking action against users who ask certain questions about Chinese President Xi Jinping. Specifically, queries about Xi and Winnie the Pooh have reportedly led to users being banned from the platform entirely. The leader has reportedly been sensitive about comparisons to the cartoon character since he was portrayed as Pooh following a 2013 meeting with then-U.S. President Barack Obama.

😷 Where there’s smoke: Although the Western United States has experienced more than its fair share of wildfires, it’s a Canadian blaze that is threatening the air quality across many Northwestern states this week. The smoke is wafting down from a fire in Alberta, leading to health advisories for individuals living in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah. Those impacted are being encouraged to limit the time they spend outdoors.

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economy

One Guy Is Tracking The Debt Crisis … And You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Him

His job is increasingly important as America faces a possible default.

One Guy Is Tracking The Debt Crisis … And You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Him Giphy

If you’ve been following U.S. news lately, you’ve likely heard about a looming debt crisis.

You might have even heard Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warn that we might default on our debt as soon as June 1. But where did she get that date from? As it turns out, most of the information about this important issue comes from just one economic policy wonk.

Meet Dave

As with most federal government bureaucrats, Dave Lebryk isn’t a household name. But his position as fiscal assistant secretary at the Treasury Department is particularly important as America approaches a fiscal cliff.

Ordinarily, Lebryk is responsible for providing Yellen with quarterly reports about how much money the federal government has. With the debt creeping closer and closer to its limit, however, he’s in daily contact with the Treasury secretary.

Here’s a sampling of what kind of insight he provides:

  • How close the U.S. is exceeding its current debt limit
  • How much cash the Treasury needs to borrow to pay its debts
  • How the government can forestall a default in the meantime.

He has an important job even in normal economic times. These days, he says his team takes the responsibility “enormously seriously.”

How we got here

In a nutshell, the Biden administration and congressional Republicans are at odds over how to raise the nation’s debt limit, which could result in a disastrous default. Negotiations are ongoing, but as of this writing, it’s unclear whether a deal will be reached before the scheduled default date.

Behind the scenes, Lebryk is working hard to do whatever he can to avoid catastrophe. Former Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur described Lebryk’s role like this: “He runs the nation’s checkbook. He is not quite the CFO of the country, but he is pretty close.”

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culture

Gen Z Is Actively Reinventing The American Dream

Younger folks are increasingly dismissing plans for a white picket fence.

Gen Z Is Actively Reinventing The American Dream Giphy

No matter how old you are, you’re probably familiar with the term “American dream.” But depending on your age, different definitions for the phrase might come to mind.

Among those in older generations, chances are it involves owning a home and raising a family. Younger adults, however, are increasingly aiming for their own unique priorities.

Shifting goals

Whether due to changing sentiments about family or an economy that has put purchasing a home out of reach for many workers, Gen Z believes that the old-school American dream either isn’t feasible or isn’t attractive.

So what are young adults trying to accomplish with their lives? Well, Business Insider sat down with a group of folks from this generation (born between 1997 and 2012) to discuss.

Here’s what they found:

  • A desire for freedom: Instead of being tied down by a home and a decades-long career with one employer, many Gen Zers crave flexibility. As 23-year-old Genesis Gutierrez explained: “For me, that success comes with having the freedom to work wherever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want. I don’t see myself climbing the ladder.”
  • The pursuit of happiness: While previous generations might have followed their parents’ leads, Gen Z is willing to rewrite the script to match their own goals. Jenna Gestentner, 20, said: “Today, our generation and society is more open to accepting other paths. Before, if you said you didn’t want to have kids, that wasn’t accepted.”
  • A realistic approach: Social media might highlight those who live a lavish life, most Gen Zers seem to realize that it takes hard work to achieve success, and many are attracted to an entrepreneurial path. Sam Farber, 22, landed a job at JPMorgan but said he’ll be working on his own startup company “outside of the 40- to 60-hour workweek.”
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food

Hey, Carnivores: The Future Of Animal-Free ‘Meat’ Is Now

New technology makes the process more efficient and less expensive.

Hey, Carnivores: The Future Of Animal-Free ‘Meat’ Is Now Aleph Farms

There have been a number of recent efforts to create meat without the need for slaughtering animals, but they haven’t all earned the approval of discerning diners.

But two companies think they’ve found a new technology that could revolutionize the process.

Let the cultivation begin

Aleph Farms and Enzymit teamed up to create so-called “insulin substituents” that researchers say will make it cheaper and easier to cultivate animal-free meat products.

This innovative product could be able to replace the far more expensive serum protein mimetics that have thus far been used to create such faux meats.

Aleph Farms executive Neta Lavon celebrated the milestone, calling it “imperative for driving economies of scale and taking cultivated meat mainstream.”

If this nascent industry can effectively and affordably mimic animal protein, the sky’s the limit.

“This innovation, combining Enzymit’s outstanding protein design and experimental capabilities with our team’s expertise in cellular agriculture, is helping to build the foundations for our sector to achieve cost-efficiency and long-term impact,” Lavon added.

The push to go meat-free

Efforts like this one have been prioritized in recent years due to concerns over the environmental and ethical implications of eating meat. While many folks are unlikely to adopt a meat-free mantra, the availability of such options could convince people to at least try cultivated meats.

Of course, it all comes down to how it tastes — and that’s one aspect of this story that is still waiting to be told. But Enzymit CEO Gideon Lapidoth is generally optimistic about the results so far.“With recombinant proteins currently accounting for the overwhelming majority of cell culture costs, creating highly stable and more active insulin substituents can markedly reduce the cost of growth media and increase efficiency in producing cultivated meat at scale," he said.

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Early Chirp

Written by Chris Agee

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