INFLATION SHOWS MAJOR DECLINE BUT INTEREST RATES GO UP AGAIN; NUCLEAR FUSION ENERGY BREAKTHROUGH IS HISTORIC BUT ITS FULL IMPACT IS STILL LIKELY DECADES AWAY; THE STATE AGENCY THAT HELPS TENNESSEE’S AT-RISK CHILDREN FACES STILL MORE ONGOING, MASSIVE ISSUES; SECOND THOUGHTS ON EXCEPTIONS TO TENNESSEE’S ABORTION LAW; A BIG FINAL MEETING OF THE YEAR FOR THE METRO COUNCIL; ONE METRO HEALTH CARE ISSUE MOVES TOWARD SETTLEMENT WHILE A RELATED DECISION STILL LOOMS; CONGRESS LIMPS TOWARDS THE END OF ITS LAME DUCK SESSION WITH A VERY FAMILIAR CHALLENGE; THIS WEEK WITH TRUMP: BAD POLLING AND…. TRADING CARDS? INSIDE POLITICS AND DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ LOOK AT THE WAR IN UKRAINE AS THE YEAR’S MOST IMPACTFUL STORY; SEE YOU IN 2023
INFLATION SHOWS MAJOR DECLINE BUT INTEREST RATES GO UP AGAIN
According to the latest government report, consumer prices went up 7.1% on an annual basis in November.
That is lower than expected by economists and the lowest increase in consumer prices since December of last year.
But 7.1% is still quite high with the Federal Reserve seeking to bring that number back to a 2%-3% level. Therefore, the Fed on Wednesday went ahead with another interest rate increase of ½ percent. That’s lower than the multiple ¾ percent hikes federal officials have imposed earlier this year. Interest rates are now the highest in 15 years and there are more increases ahead in 2023, although they may be smaller and come as frequently.
Late in the week with new reports that retail sales declined more than expected, the stock market had its worst day in three months as fears of a recession grow.
Market futures Friday morning portend a further decline.
NUCLEAR FUSION ENERGY BREAKTHROUGH IS HISTORIC BUT ITS FULL IMPACT IS STILL LIKELY DECADES AWAY
After spending decades of time in research along with billions of dollars, the U.S. Department of Energy said scientists have finally been able to achieve nuclear fusion, a process that ultimately would release more energy than went into creating it.
Such an energy source would be similar to the way the sun releases its energy. If fusion can be deployed on a large scale, it would offer an energy source devoid of the pollution and greenhouse gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the dangerous long-lived radioactive waste created by current nuclear power plants.
It would be a game-changer, creating a perhaps almost endless supply of energy and ending the use of fossil-based fuels and other gases that cause climate change.
But despite all this good news, the scientists add there is a lot more research, dollars and work to be done to make this breakthrough commercially viable.
The day this breakthrough was announced was Tuesday, December 13. That’s my birthday, and while my birth is never likely to be included in a TODAY IN HISTORY list, maybe one year down the road, after I am gone, my descendants will find this fusion energy breakthrough listed in an updated version of the most important events that occurred on this date.
THE STATE AGENCY THAT HELPS TENNESSEE’S AT-RISK CHILDREN FACES STILL MORE ONGOING, MASSIVE ISSUES
It is a state agency that has been all over the news for months now…and none of it is good.
As exposed in stories from Ben Hall and NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES along with other media outlets, the Tennessee Department of Human Services is a mess.
It has so many children in its care and so few underpaid employees and foster parents to care for its charges, children are sleeping on the floor or on couches in DCS offices while others are tying up beds in local children’s hospitals, all waiting for someone to take them in and give them a home.
Now comes a scathing audit by the State Comptroller’s Office leading the new DSC Commissioner to pledge reforms including asking Governor Bill Lee and state lawmakers for a large budget increase to help attract, pay and keep employees and recruit more foster parents.
Meanwhile, another alarming finding in the state audit is a failure by DCS to investigate multiple charges of sexual abuse and harassment.
Governor Lee, during his re-election campaign, ran a TV spot over and over again, bragging about how much his administration has done to help Tennessee families. He said his next term would see more of the same. Well, here is a chance for the Governor and the state’s legislators to prove it.
However, I don’t think Nashville needs to give back some of the state’s funding for the proposed new Titan’s roofed football and events stadium. Tennessee has plenty of its reserves of its own so Metro doesn’t need to bail them out by giving back some ($50 million) of what the state has already appropriated.
SECOND THOUGHTS ON EXCEPTIONS TO TENNESSEE’S ABORTION LAW
Tennessee Republican lawmakers thought they were so smart when they passed the state’s trigger law banning abortion in anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to an abortion under federal law.
They apparently felt so smug about it that they voted down efforts to put exemptions under the trigger law for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. But now reality has set in. A new Vanderbilt poll finds 75% of Tennesseans want exemptions allowed, while doctors are telling them, that without exemptions, women will die and doctors trying to help them will have to become felons.
Given that political reality, now Republicans are joining Democrats in filing bills for the next legislative session next month to allow exemptions. for
In response, Tennessee Right to Life seems ready to revoke its support and endorsement for any lawmakers who support a trigger exemption bill.
Given that split on this issue, will some Republicans wanting to pass the exemption measure have to come together with Democrats to pass the legislation?
A BIG FINAL MEETING OF THE YEAR FOR THE METRO COUNCIL
Indications are the Metro Council is set to give final approval Tuesday night to two major pieces of legislation that will move the city forward to build the $2.1 billon roofed Titans football stadium and events facility on the East Bank.
After months of study in committees and multiple public hearings held across the county, the Council seems likely to approve a resolution approving a non-binding term sheet outlining who does what and pays for what in the project.
The Council also seems ready to give final approval to an ordinance authorizing a significant part of the city’s funding, a 1% increase in the city’s hotel/ motel room tax.
That tax won’t take effect until the final binding term sheet is negotiated and approved in a separate action of the Council. Exactly when that will be is unclear.
Even before the Council acts, there were developments this week surrounding the project. The owners of the National Football League approved their part of the funding which is $200 million in grants and loans.
Meanwhile, the Beacon Center of Tennessee used its annual “2022 Pork Report,” placing the multi-billion dollar stadium proposal at the top of its list of wasteful government spending along with other examples across Tennessee.
ONE METRO HEALTH CARE ISSUE MOVES TOWARD SETTLEMENT WHILE A RELATED DECISION STILL LOOMS
The immediate future of Metro’s safety net General Hospital at Meharry is assured if the Metro Council approves a resolution Tuesday night. The bill is a proposal negotiated by Mayor John Cooper and Meharry officials.
Ever since the city moved General Hospital to Meharry in the mid-1990s, Metro has paid only the cost of the bonds that were issued then to renovate the facility. Meharry wants a fair market rent to be paid and there are lesser financial issues that have cropped up.
The bill before the Council settles all that but the agreement lasts only until 2027. Will Metro keep its General Hospital at Meharry after 2027, or go elsewhere?
In one other action Tuesday night, the Council will be asked to settle a lawsuit filed by a Metro firefighter who was suspended by his superiors for calling Metro Councilmembers "white supremacists.”
Ironically, several Councilmembers defended Joshua Lipscomb’s right to free expression. But now taxpayers will pay $450,000 to settle the matter.
CONGRESS LIMPS TOWARD THE END OF ITS LAME-DUCK SESSION WITH A VERY FAMILIAR CHALLENGE
One more time, Congress this week again faced the possibility of running out of money, and shutting down much of the government, unless it passes a continuing resolution for more funding. It took some time and wrangling, but by late Thursday night, both houses approved a stop-gap resolution although it only keeps the government going another week.
The reason for that is that Democrats and the Republican leadership in the Senate want to join with House Democrats (soon to lose control in the House) to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year at the end of September 2023
But House Republicans aren’t on board with that. They want to fund the government only until January when they are in control. With continued uncertainty about who will lead the Republicans and become Speaker of the House, the outcome of the whole matter is uncertain. There are concerns that this disagreement between House Republicans and the House versus the Senate split, could foreshadow future problems passing legislation because the GOP majority in the House is so narrow and divided.
THIS WEEK WITH TRUMP: BAD POLLING AND…. TRADING CARDS?
Another disastrous week for former President Donald Trump.
It began with polling showing Mr. Trump falling behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who for now appears to be his major competitor to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
The Trump poll decline versus DeSantis can also be seen in the Vanderbilt poll of Republican voters in Tennessee.
The former President is falling even as current President Joe Biden is seeing his numbers rise a bit.
But remember this, the polls indicate most Democratic voters say they don’t want President Biden to seek re-election while polling among Republicans show if the GOP presidential field is crowded (as it was in 2016) Trump may still have the most support according to a FOX NEWS survey.
Looking towards next week, more bad news could lie ahead for Mr. Trump. The House Committee probing the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol could vote Monday to place the former president on a list of persons the committee requests criminal referrals to the U.S. Justice Department.
Finally, in the “what was Donald Trump thinking” category, is this story. On Wednesday night the former president announced a “major announcement on Thursday. Would be an endorsement in the U.S. House Speaker’s race? A major endorsement for the struggling 2024 Presidential campaign.
What was announced by Mr. Trump Thursday morning, on the Truth Social site is a collection of Donald Trump digital trading cards, portraying him as a Super Hero. Mr. Trump says the digital pieces, selling at $99 apiece, will make great Christmas gifts, and he pledged the digital pieces will be “more exciting” than baseball cards.
I am not kidding!
The Trump promotional effort has been roasted in numerous social media posts and even by FOX NEWS.
Even President Biden didn’t resist trying to make some political points in mocking Trump’s “major announcement.”
In other social media developments, the U.S. Senate, concerned about Chinese spying has voted to ban Tik Tock from all federal government devices while the owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, continues to raise doubts he is a supporter of free speech by temporarily banning several mainstream reporters for reporting or retweeting public information about Musk’s air travels.
INSIDE POLITICS AND DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ LOOK AT THE WAR IN UKRAINE AS THE YEAR’S MOST IMPACTFUL STORY
The Russian invasion and war against Ukraine is perhaps the biggest news story, and among the most consequential events of 2022.
As the year ends, and the war approaches its first anniversary in February, we have invited Vanderbilt History and Political Science Professor Dr. Thomas Schwartz to join us on INSIDE POLITICS this week to bring us an update on the conflict and his insights on how this war has impacted the world and what may still lie ahead.
We thank Dr. Schwartz for joining us again.
INSIDE POLITICS can be seen on its regular weekly schedule on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS.
Those times include:
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THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. We are also on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.
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Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my own Facebook page, sometime the week after the show airs.
SEE YOU IN 2023
This is the 42nd and last Capitol View commentary for 2022.
It marks 21 years since I began this weekly column in 2002.
My next CV will be posted on NewsChannel5’s website on Friday, January 6, 2023.
The next two weeks, my INSIDE POLITICS shows are encore presentations of two of the best shows we did in 2022.
One is my interview with Dr. Alex Jahangir, whose leadership as the Chair of the Metro Board of Health, helped guide Nashville through the most perilous days of the recent pandemic.
We discuss his book on the experiences he and the city endured. It is entitled HOT SPOT: A DOCTOR’S DIARY FROM THE PANDEMIC. I recommend it to you.
The other encore INSIDE POLITICS program we will air is my interview with Mike Kelly, the owner and proprietor of JIMMY KELLY’S STEAKHOUSE, Nashville’s best fine dining restaurant since 1934.
Mike is a wonderful storyteller, and his book, A GENEROUS POUR: TALL TALES FROM THE BACKROOM AT JIMMY KELLY’S is a must read for anyone interested in Nashville history. He tells enough stories in our conversation about his family and the restaurant to make you want to watch it all again and buy the book.
Happy Holidays!! Happy NewYear!
May 2023 be our best year ever!