The daily business briefing: September 3, 2020

Table of Contents

The United facility in California

© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The United facility in California


The federal budget deficit will hit a record $3.3 trillion, lifting the federal debt above the size of the economy in the 2021 federal fiscal year for the first time since World War II, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The federal debt hit 98 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, due to the government’s massive coronavirus relief spending. “We thought we had a full 10 years before reaching this unfortunate milestone, but the virus wiped out a decade of fiscal space in just a few months,” said Michael Peterson, head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization focused on the country’s long-term fiscal challenges. [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]


United Airlines said Wednesday that it would furlough 16,370 employees in October, far fewer than the airline projected in July due because thousands of workers had taken early retirement, buyouts, or long-term leaves of absence. United had warned that it might have to furlough 36,000 employees starting Oct. 1, after the end of a ban on layoffs that was a condition of federal coronavirus relief. The company said it could avoid the furloughs if Washington reaches a deal to provide a new round of aid to the travel industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic. The flight attendants’ union, whose members are facing the brunt of the layoffs, said United was understating the extent of the job losses, as more than 15,000 flight attendants are expected to leave the payroll unless Washington approves more aid, and another 3,400 are staying to keep benefits with no guarantee of income. [The Associated Press]


The United Nations is demanding an investigation into whether the Trump administration’s plan to lease Alaska’s coastal plain for oil and gas drilling amounts to a human rights violation. The U.N. says the U.S. might be violating the International Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Racial Discrimination by threatening the way of life of the Gwich’in people. The Gwich’in refer to themselves as the “Caribou people” because they rely on the Porcupine caribou that use the coastal plain as a calving ground. “It’s considered so deeply sacred that the Gwich’in refuse to set foot in that area, even in times of famine,” said Carla Fredericks, Director of First Peoples Worldwide and the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado, Boulder. [Gizmodo, The Hill]


U.S. stock index futures edged down early Thursday after Wall Street kicked off September by surging to new records. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were essentially flat, while those of the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq were down by 0.3 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, several hours before the opening bell. The Dow surged by 1.6 percent on Wednesday, lifting the blue-chip index above 29,000 for the first time since February, before the coronavirus crisis hit and sent stocks into a nosedive. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both surged, too, setting the latest in a string of records. DuPont rose by 5 percent and Verizon gained 2.3 percent, while Apple and Tesla dropped by 2 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively, after posting huge recent gains. [CNBC, Reuters]


U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has received a subpoena from the House Oversight and Reform Committee seeking documents on his decision to make changes Democrats say are slowing mail flow and threatening ballot deliveries in the November election, the United Postal Service said Wednesday. A spokesperson for Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) confirmed that the committee had served the subpoena. Democrats accuse DeJoy of failing to turn over documents they have requested. A Postal Service spokesperson said the agency was “surprised and confused” that the committee would resort to a subpoena during “ongoing dialogue” concerning the documents lawmakers want. [Reuters]

Video: Washington Policy analyst on second stimulus bill: ‘We’re either headed for a deal or a government shutdown’ (CNBC)

Washington Policy analyst on second stimulus bill: ‘We’re either headed for a deal or a government shutdown’



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