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    Biden's Stimulus Is Stoking Inflation, Fed Analysis Suggests

    Inflation is likely getting a temporary boost from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that the Biden administration ushered in early this year, new Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco research released on Monday suggested.The analysis may add fuel to a hot debate in Washington over whether the administration’s policies are contributing to a spike in prices. Critics of the government spending package that was signed into law in March, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, have said it was poorly targeted and risked overheating the economy. Supporters of the relief program have said it provided critical aid to workers and businesses still struggling through the pandemic.The new paper comes down somewhere in the middle, finding that the spending had some effect on inflation but suggesting that it is most likely to be temporary. The economists estimated that it would add 0.3 percentage points to the core Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation index in 2021 and “a bit more” than 0.2 percentage points in 2022. Core inflation strips out volatile items like food and fuel.While those numbers are significant, they are not what most people would consider “overheating” — the Fed aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, and a few tenths of a percent here or there are not a reason for much alarm.But the result is only a rough estimate, one the researchers came up with to help inform an continuing political and economic debate.Both the Trump and Biden administrations signed trillions of dollars in virus relief spending into law. The packages included two bipartisan bills in 2020 that pumped more than $3 trillion into the economy, including direct checks to individuals and generous unemployment benefits. Another $1.9 trillion — called the American Rescue Plan — was passed this year by Democrats after they took control of both Congress and the White House.“The later timing and large size of the A.R.P. stirred debate about whether it is causing an overheating of the economy and fueling a sustained increase in inflation,” the San Francisco Fed researchers noted.The economists tried to answer that question by looking at how much spare capacity is in the economy using a labor market measure — the ratio of job openings to unemployment. The logic is that inflation tends to pick up when there is very little labor market slack, because businesses raise wages to attract workers and then raise prices to cover their climbing labor costs.Government stimulus can push up the number of job openings in the economy as it fuels demand while constraining the number of available workers because it gives would-be employees a financial cushion, allowing them to take their time as they search for a new job.Based on the package’s size and using historical evidence on how fiscal spending affects the labor market, the researchers found that the American Rescue Plan might raise the vacancy-to-unemployment ratio close to its historical peak in 1968, fueling some inflation — but that the price impact would be small and short-lived.U.S. Inflation & Supply Chain ProblemsCard 1 of 6Covid’s impact on supply continues. More

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    Biden’s Plans Raise Questions About What U.S. Can or Cannot Afford to Do

    Democrats are debating whether doing nothing will cost more than doing something to deal with climate change, education, child care, prescription drugs and more.WASHINGTON — As lawmakers debate how much to spend on President Biden’s sprawling domestic agenda, they are really arguing about a seemingly simple issue: affordability.Can a country already running huge deficits afford the scope of spending that the president envisions? Or, conversely, can it afford to wait to address large social, environmental and economic problems that will accrue costs for years to come?It is a stealth battle over the fiscal future at a time when few lawmakers in either party have prioritized addressing debt and deficits. Each side believes its approach would put the nation’s finances on a more sustainable path by generating the strongest, most durable economic growth possible.The debate has shaped a discussion among lawmakers about what to prioritize as they scale back Mr. Biden’s initial proposal to dedicate $3.5 trillion over 10 years to programs and tax cuts that would curb greenhouse gas emissions, make child care more affordable, expand access to college and lower prescription drug prices, among other priorities. The smaller bill under discussion could increase the total amount of government spending on all current programs by about 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent over the next decade, depending on its size and components. Mr. Biden has proposed fully paying for this with a series of tax increases on businesses and the wealthy — including raising the corporate tax rate, increasing taxes on multinational corporations and cracking down on wealthy people who evade taxes — along with reducing government spending on prescription drugs for older Americans.As the negotiations continue, Democrats are considering cutting back or jettisoning programs to shave hundreds of billions of dollars off the final price to get it to a number that can pass the House and Senate along party lines. One key part of Mr. Biden’s climate agenda — a program to rapidly replace coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy — is likely to be dropped from the bill because of objections from a coal-state senator: Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia.The discussions have focused attention on Washington’s longstanding practice of using budgetary gimmicks to make programs appear to be paid for when they are not, as well as opening a new sort of discussion about what affordable really means.The debate about what the United States can afford used to be pegged to its growing budget deficits and warnings that the government, which spends much more than it brings in, could saddle future generations with mountains of debt, sluggish economic growth, runaway inflation and enormous tax hikes. But those concerns receded after no such crisis materialized. The country experienced tepid inflation and low borrowing costs for a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, despite increased borrowing for economic stimulus under President Barack Obama and for tax cuts under President Donald J. Trump.In its place is a new debate, one focused on the long-term costs and benefits of the government’s spending decisions.Many Democrats fear the United States cannot afford to wait to curb climate change, help more women enter the work force and invest in feeding and educating its most vulnerable children. In their view, failing to invest in those issues means the country risks incurring painful costs that will slow economic growth.“We can’t afford not to do these kinds of investments,” David Kamin, a deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said in an interview.Take climate change: The Democratic think tank Third Way estimates that if Congress passes an aggressive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. companies will invest an additional $1.3 trillion in the construction and deployment of low-emission energy like wind and solar power and energy-efficient technologies over the next decade, and $10 trillion by 2050. White House officials say that if the country fails to reduce emissions, the federal government will face mounting costs for relief and other aid to victims of climate-related disasters like wildfires and hurricanes.“Those are the table stakes for the reconciliation and infrastructure debate,” said Josh Freed, the senior vice president for climate and energy at Third Way. “It’s why we think the cost of inaction, from an economic perspective, is so enormous.”But to some centrist Democrats, who have expressed deep reservations about spending $2 trillion on a bill to advance Mr. Biden’s plans, “affordable” still means what it did in decades past: not adding to the federal debt. The budget deficit has swelled in recent years, reaching $1 trillion in 2019 from additional spending and tax cuts that did not pay for themselves, before topping $3 trillion last year amid record spending to combat the coronavirus pandemic.Mr. Manchin says he fears too much additional spending would feed rising inflation, which could push up borrowing costs and make it harder for the country to manage its budget deficit. He has made clear that he would like the final bill to raise more revenue than it spends in order to reduce future deficits and the threat of a debt crisis. Mr. Biden says his proposals would help fight inflation by reducing the cost of child care, housing, education and more.A few economists agree with Mr. Manchin, warning that even fully offsetting spending and tax cuts could fuel inflation. Michael R. Strain, a centrist economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who supported many of the pandemic spending programs, said in an interview this year that additional spending that stoked consumer demand would “exacerbate pre-existing inflationary pressures.”President Biden visited the Capitol Child Development Center in Hartford, Conn., on Friday. He has warned that if Congress does not act to invest in children, the United States will face slower economic growth for generations to come.Sarahbeth Maney/The New York TimesRepublicans, who have vowed to fight any version of the spending bill, argue that the national economy cannot afford the burden of taxes on high earners and businesses that Democrats have proposed to help offset their plans. They say the increases will chill growth when the recovery from the pandemic recession remains fragile.“The tax hikes are going to slow growth, flatten out wages and both drive U.S. jobs overseas and hammer small businesses,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. “There will be a significant economic price to all this spending.”U.S. Inflation & Supply Chain ProblemsCard 1 of 6Covid’s impact on supply continues. More

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    Funding Fight Threatens Plan to Pump Billions Into Affordable Housing

    A federal voucher program is at risk of being sharply scaled back as the White House seeks to slash its social policy package to appease two centrist senators.SAN FRANCISCO — Audrey Sylve, a retired bus driver, has spent 13 agonizing years on a waiting list for a federal voucher that would help cover rent for an apartment in one of America’s most expensive housing markets.This summer it seemed that help was finally on the way.In late July, congressional Democrats introduced a $322 billion plan to bolster low-income housing programs as part of the $3.5 trillion social spending plan embraced by President Biden. At its center is a $200 billion infusion of aid for the country’s poorest tenants, which would allow another 750,000 households to participate in a program that currently serves two million families.Affordable-housing advocates saw it as a once-in-a-generation windfall that would allow local governments to move thousands of low-income tenants like Ms. Sylve, 72, off waiting lists and to expand aid to families at the highest risk of homelessness.But optimism has given way to anxiety. Low-income housing, and the voucher program in particular, are among those most at risk of being sharply scaled back as the White House seeks to slash the package to accommodate the demands of two centrist Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, according to several people involved in the talks.Congressional negotiators are seeking to cut the overall size of the 10-year package, in coordination with the White House, to between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion. Housing is just one of several high-price priorities on the chopping block in the negotiations.Yet proponents say no other proposal is likely to have as immediate an effect on the lives of the country’s most vulnerable as the increase in rental assistance because it addresses a foundational problem: securing an affordable place to live when rents everywhere are outpacing earnings.“I’m all for funding early childhood education, child care and the expansion of health care with education, but we cannot be successful with any of that unless people have safe and secure housing,” said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who leads the House Financial Services Committee, which drafted the original plan.Supporters of the expansion say every penny is required to begin addressing a crisis that threatens to undermine recent gains in the fight to reduce poverty. They fear it will be elbowed aside by other programs, such as universal child care, that enjoy broader political support because they benefit middle-class, and not just poor, people.“Better health care or increased educational access doesn’t do much for families sleeping in their car or under a bridge, or for the millions more on the verge,” said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which is pressuring the White House to fund the program as it was drafted. “There are no ‘savings’ to be had here.”The financial services industry, which puts together the complex public-private financing packages used to build most affordable developments, has already factored in a significantly scaled-back congressional compromise.“Much of the proposed $400 billion in housing-related grants and tax subsidies is likely to be cut from the reconciliation bill,” analysts from Goldman Sachs wrote in an email last week. That figure bundled the $332 billion package, which also includes increases for public housing authorities and an affordable housing construction fund, with a smaller package of tax breaks in the bill.White House officials say they have made no decisions. Ms Waters and her counterpart in the Senate, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat of Ohio, said they would not accept any deal that cut the housing plan more than any other proposal.“We’re not going to scale back. We’re not going to lose our way on this,” Mr. Brown, chairman of the Banking Committee, said in an interview. “And we’re not going to compromise the mission of transforming the fight on poverty.”The White House is looking for ways to win support for its package from Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin III.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesOver the past two decades, the federal government has stopped bankrolling construction of government-run public housing projects. Instead, it has shifted resources to voucher programs, which bridge the financial gap between what a poor tenant can afford to pay and what a landlord might reasonably expect to get on the open market.Demand far outstrips supply: One recent study found that the federal government has provided funding for only a quarter of the vouchers needed to help house eligible families — and many housing authorities have simply stopped taking names to avoid leaving tenants in the lurch.Even if the voucher increase somehow makes it past Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema, it would represent only a down payment on an enormous unmet need for housing aid exacerbated by rocketing real estate values in most major cities.California’s estimated share of the new aid would bankroll only a fraction of the new vouchers needed to meet the demand, said Matthew Schwartz, president of the California Housing Partnership, a nonprofit that works with community groups to finance low-income housing projects.But it would be a significant improvement, Mr. Schwartz said, particularly on top of a $22 billion affordable-housing plan that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this summer.Joseph Villarreal, executive director of the housing authority of Contra Costa County, outside San Francisco, is less concerned about the future than fulfilling the promises he has made in the past. He saw the new cash in personal terms, as a way to fulfill a commitment more than a decade in arrears.“It would be horrible if any, much less the majority, if this voucher money gets cut from the proposal,” he said.Mr. Villarreal’s organization, which serves as a pass-through for federal funding, maintains 51 separate waiting lists for the vouchers — some for specific developments, others for targeted demographic groups, with 47,000 families in limbo. “It weighs on me,” he said of the lists.Ms. Sylve, who said she was scraping by on a small pension and Social Security, was one of 6,000 chosen from 40,000 qualified Contra Costa County applicants in a lottery to be added to the slow-moving queue for the program, which is still known by its historical name, Section 8.A few years ago she was told that a voucher was about to become available, but that fell through, and she has spent much of the past 13 years hopping from apartment to apartment. Last spring, Ms. Sylve moved in with her daughter across the bay in San Francisco, because the neighborhood around her apartment had become too dangerous.“They give you hope, and that’s the hardest part,” Ms. Sylve said. “But you keep hoping, year after year after year.”A survey of 44 large housing authorities across the country conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington think tank, painted a grim picture of the voucher program. A total of 737,000 people were on waiting lists, and 32 of the authorities are refusing to take new applications, with a few exceptions for particularly vulnerable populations.The situation on the West Coast was especially dire, with eight times as many people lingering on waiting lists as receiving aid in San Diego, where the list has topped 108,000. Long waiting lists are also a staple in Washington, Philadelphia, Houston, Honolulu, Little Rock, Ark., and New York, which closed its list years ago.Will Fischer, director for housing policy for the center, said bolstering the voucher program was the most important single move the federal government could make to address the homelessness crisis.“Look, the public housing money is urgently needed — but it would be for existing units, for families who already have a place to live,” he said. “And most of the other funding in the proposal actually serves people a little bit higher up the income scale.”Representative Ritchie Torres, a Bronx Democrat whose district is among the poorest in the country, said housing always seemed to be listed as the third, fourth or fifth priority of many liberal lawmakers.When House Democrats peppered Mr. Biden with questions about the social spending package at a meeting in the Capitol this month, Mr. Torres — a former chairman of the New York City Council housing committee — was stunned when he realized no one had asked the president about rental aid, and spoke up.Mr. Biden responded by promising he would “protect” housing, without elaborating, Mr. Torres said. 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    U.S. Renews Its Support for the World Trade Organization

    Trade Representative Katherine Tai outlined her vision for the battered World Trade Organization, saying the U.S. wanted to re-engage and address working people’s concerns.Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, affirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting the World Trade Organization in a speech in Geneva on Thursday but said further reforms were needed to restore the global trade body’s relevance to working people.Ms. Tai addressed the organization’s shortcomings, criticizing some of its processes as “unwieldy and bureaucratic” and saying the international group had “rightfully been accused of existing in a ‘bubble,’ insulated from reality and slow to recognize global developments.”But she said the United States was committed to strengthening the organization, which critics say the Trump administration had actively worked to undermine. And she argued that the W.T.O. had a crucial role to play in steering countries through the pandemic and confronting challenges like rising inequality and climate change.“The reality of the institution today does not match the ambition of its goals,” said Ms. Tai, who spoke from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. However, she added, “We all recognize the importance of the W.T.O., and we all want it to succeed.”The speech marked a putative return of the United States to its traditional leadership role at the beleaguered trade body, which functions based on consensus from its 164 member countries. It was the first time a United States trade representative had visited the W.T.O.’s offices in Geneva in half a decade.It was also a personal return to Geneva for Ms. Tai, who litigated trade cases on behalf of the United States at the World Trade Organization earlier in her career.Ms. Tai’s visit comes at a crucial moment for the global trade body, which is struggling to make headway on issues ranging from global vaccine distribution to rules for the fishing industry as it prepares for a major ministerial conference beginning Nov. 30.The 25-year-old World Trade Organization was designed as a forum for trade negotiations as well as for settling trade disputes between its members. It also plays an important role in monitoring and publishing data about global trade. But under pressure from an expanding membership of countries, including nonmarket economies like China, it has struggled to produce new trade agreements and resolve disputes in a timely manner.The Trump administration criticized the W.T.O. for its failure to police Chinese trade practices and its limits on how the United States protects its workers, among other issues. Many other member countries had accused the United States in recent years of abandoning its traditional role as one of the organization’s greatest supporters.Jake Colvin, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents major multinational companies, said it was “fundamentally encouraging to hear Ambassador Tai reaffirm the continued commitment of the administration to the W.T.O.”“That’s important and can’t be taken for granted,” he said. “I would agree with her, and the administration would agree with her, that the organization needs to show that it’s capable of addressing challenges and it’s not just trade for trade’s sake.”Richard E. Baldwin, a professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, posed questions to Ms. Tai after her speech. He was enthusiastic about the departure from the Trump administration’s harsh critiques. “I haven’t heard optimism and W.T.O. said in the same sentence in a long time,” he said.In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Thursday, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general of the W.T.O., said that despite a bruising trade war, discussion of decoupling the United States and China, and pandemic-related shortages, global trade was actually at historic highs and the multilateral trading system continued to strongly benefit the global economy.“To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of multilateral trade are greatly exaggerated,” she said. “Warnings of deglobalization are not matched by the evidence, not yet, at least.”As the organization prepares for its meeting next month, W.T.O. members are divided over whether to grant a waiver that allows countries to bypass the intellectual property protections pharmaceutical companies have on their products to more quickly produce and distribute coronavirus vaccines to lower-income nations.Backed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the Biden administration has stated its support for the waiver. But it continues to face criticism, both from supporters who say the administration isn’t doing enough to provide vaccine access to poorer countries, and from the business community, which worries about the long-run effects of the erosion of intellectual property rights.On Thursday, Ms. Tai countered accusations of the administration’s “silence” on the issue by saying the United States was working actively behind the scenes. She compared the administration’s efforts to a duck sailing on a pond where “underneath the surface the duck’s legs are going very, very fast.”Ms. Okonjo-Iweala said “there seems to be a will to find a compromise” that would allow developing countries to have access to vaccines without discouraging research and development. “That solution is within reach,” she said, adding that more than 100 developing countries were proponents of the waiver.The World Trade Organization is also under pressure in the coming weeks to conclude a two-decades-long negotiation over curtailing harmful subsidies that countries give to their fishing industries.The Biden administration has made a last-minute proposal to add provisions combating the use of forced labor on fishing boats, provisions that many countries say they support in principle but view as complicating the negotiations in the final hour.Ms. Tai said the United States had made the forced labor proposal a way of bringing “trade policy back to thinking through the impacts on working people” as well as sustainability, and that the United States was hopeful to reach consensus on the issue.Trade can be “a force for good that encourages a race to the top,” she said.Ms. Tai also suggested that the United States was ready to engage on an intense disagreement over the organization’s system for settling disputes, but that further negotiations would be needed.The W.T.O. appellate body, the final stop in the organization’s system for settling trade disputes, has been defunct since 2019, when the Trump administration refused to appoint new officials. That refusal protested a system that the White House once said had long ceased to function as its designers intended.Ms. Tai offered similar criticisms of the dispute settlement system, saying that the W.T.O. had become a forum for “prolonged, expensive and contentious” litigation, and that it was also having a chilling effect on finalizing new negotiations.She cited as an example a standoff between the United States and Europe on subsidies given to aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus. It resulted in 16 years of litigation at the W.T.O. and was only resolved through outside talks in June.But she distanced herself from the Trump administration’s more combative approach at the W.T.O., emphasizing that the United States was eager to engage and work toward solutions.“If you will listen to us, we will listen to you, and let’s start the reform process from there,” she said. More

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    As Western Oil Giants Cut Production, State-Owned Companies Step Up

    In the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, government-owned energy companies are increasing oil and natural gas production as U.S. and European companies pare supply because of climate concerns.HOUSTON — After years of pumping more oil and gas, Western energy giants like BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron are slowing down production as they switch to renewable energy or cut costs after being bruised by the pandemic.But that doesn’t mean the world will have less oil. That’s because state-owned oil companies in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America are taking advantage of the cutbacks by investor-owned oil companies by cranking up their production.This massive shift could reverse a decade-long trend of rising domestic oil and gas production that turned the United States into a net exporter of oil, gasoline, natural gas and other petroleum products, and make America more dependent on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, authoritarian leaders and politically unstable countries.The push by governments to increase oil and gas production means it could take decades for global fossil fuel supplies to decline unless there is a sharp drop in demand for such fuels. President Biden has effectively accepted the idea that the United States will rely more on foreign oil, at least for the next few years. His administration has been calling on OPEC and its allies to boost production to help bring down rising oil and gasoline prices, even as it seeks to limit the growth of oil and gas production on federal lands and waters.The administration’s approach is a function of two conflicting priorities: Mr. Biden wants to get the world to move away from fossil fuels while protecting Americans from a spike in energy prices. In the short run, it is hard to achieve both goals because most people cannot easily replace internal-combustion engine cars, gas furnaces and other fossil fuel-based products with versions that run on electricity generated from wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable sources of energy.Western oil companies are also under pressure from investors and environmental activists who are demanding a rapid transition to clean energy. Some U.S. producers have said they are reluctant to invest more because they fear oil prices will fall again or because banks and investors are less willing to finance their operations. As a result, some are selling off parts of their fossil fuel empires or are simply spending less on new oil and gas fields.That has created a big opportunity for state-owned oil companies that are not under as much pressure to reduce emissions, though some are also investing in renewable energy. In fact, their political masters often want these oil companies to increase production to help pay down debt, finance government programs and create jobs.Saudi Aramco, the world’s leading oil producer, has announced that it plans to increase oil production capacity by at least a million barrels a day, to 13 million, by the 2030s. Aramco increased its exploration and production investments by $8 billion this year, to $35 billion.“We are capitalizing on the opportunity,” Aramco’s chief executive, Amin H. Nasser, recently told financial analysts. “Of course we are trying to benefit from the lack of investments by major players in the market.”Aramco not only has vast reserves but it can also produce oil much more cheaply than Western companies because its crude is relatively easy to pump out of the ground. So even if demand declines because of a rapid shift to electric cars and trucks, Aramco will most likely be able to pump oil for years or decades longer than many Western energy companies.“The state companies are going their own way,” said René Ortiz, a former OPEC secretary general and a former energy minister in Ecuador. “They don’t care about the political pressure worldwide to control emissions.”State-owned oil companies in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Libya, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil are also planning to increase production. Should oil and natural gas prices stay high or rise further, energy experts say, more oil-producing nations will be tempted to crank up supply.The global oil market share of the 23 nations that belong to OPEC Plus, a group dominated by state oil companies in OPEC and allied countries like Russia and Mexico, will grow to 75 percent from 55 percent in 2040, according to Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research in Amherst, Mass., who is an occasional adviser to OPEC.If that forecast comes to pass, the United States and Europe could become more vulnerable to the political turmoil in those countries and to the whims of their rulers. Some European leaders and analysts have long argued that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia uses his country’s vast natural gas reserves as a cudgel — a complaint that has been voiced again recently as European gas prices have surged to record highs.A pump jack in Stanton, Texas. American companies have been cautiously holding back exploration and production.Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York TimesOther oil and gas producers like Iraq, Libya and Nigeria are unstable, and their production can rise or fall rapidly depending on who is in power and who is trying to seize power.“By adopting a strategy of producing less oil, Western oil companies will be turning control of supply over to national oil companies in countries that could be less reliable trading partners and have weaker environmental regulations,” Mr. Lynch said.An overreliance on foreign oil can be problematic because it can limit the options American policymakers have when energy prices spike, forcing presidents to effectively beg OPEC to produce more oil. And it gives oil-producing countries greater leverage over the United States.“Today when U.S. shale companies are not going to respond to higher prices with investment for financial reasons, we are depending on OPEC, whether it is willing to release spare production or not,” said David Goldwyn, a senior energy official in the State Department in the Obama administration. He compared the current moment to one in 2000 when the energy secretary, Bill Richardson, “went around the world asking OPEC countries to release spare capacity to relieve price pressure.”This time, state-owned energy companies are not merely looking to produce more oil in their home countries. Many are expanding overseas.In recent months, Qatar Energy invested in several African offshore fields while the Romanian national gas company bought an offshore production block from Exxon Mobil. As Western companies divest polluting reserves such as Canadian oil sands, energy experts say state companies can be expected to step in.“There is a lot of low-hanging fruit state companies can pick up,” said Raoul LeBlanc, an oil analyst at IHS Markit, a consulting and research firm. “It is a huge opportunity for them to become international players.”Kuwait announced last month that it planned to invest more than $6 billion in exploration over the next five years to increase production to four million barrels a day, from 2.4 million now.This month, the United Arab Emirates, a major OPEC member that produces four million barrels of oil a day, became the first Persian Gulf state to pledge to a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. But just last year ADNOC, the U.A.E.’s national oil company, announced it was investing $122 billion in new oil and gas projects.Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, has invested heavily in recent years to boost oil output, aiming to raise production to eight million barrels a day by 2027, from five million now. The country is suffering from political turmoil, power shortages and inadequate ports, but the government has made several major deals with foreign oil companies to help the state-owned energy company develop new fields and improve production from old ones.Even in Libya, where warring factions have hamstrung the oil industry for years, production is rising. In recent months, it has been churning out 1.3 million barrels a day, a nine-year high. The government aims to increase that total to 2.5 million within six years.National oil companies in Brazil, Colombia and Argentina are also working to produce more oil and gas to raise revenue for their governments before demand for oil falls as richer countries cut fossil fuel use.After years of frustrating disappointments, production in the Vaca Muerta, or Dead Cow, oil and gas field in Argentina has jumped this year. The field had never supplied more than 120,000 barrels of oil in a day but is now expected to end the year at 200,000 a day, according to Rystad Energy, a research and consulting firm. The government, which is considered a climate leader in Latin America, has proposed legislation that would encourage even more production.“Argentina is concerned about climate change, but they don’t see it primarily as their responsibility,” said Lisa Viscidi, an energy expert at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington research organization. Describing the Argentine view, she added, “The rest of the world globally needs to reduce oil production, but that doesn’t mean that we in particular need to change our behavior.” More

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    Biden to Announce Expansion of Port of Los Angeles's Hours

    The expansion of the Port of Los Angeles’s hours comes as the administration has struggled to untangle kinks in global supply chains and curb the resulting inflation.WASHINGTON — President Biden will announce on Wednesday that the Port of Los Angeles will begin operating around the clock as his administration struggles to relieve growing backlogs in the global supply chains that deliver critical goods to the United States.Product shortages have frustrated American consumers and businesses and contributed to rising prices that are hurting the president politically. And the problems appear poised to worsen, enduring into late next year or beyond and disrupting shipments of necessities like medications, as well as holiday purchases.Mr. Biden is set to give a speech on Wednesday addressing the problems in ports, factories and shipping lanes that have helped produce shortages, long delivery times and rapid price increases for food, televisions, automobiles and much more. The resulting inflation has chilled consumer confidence and weighed on Mr. Biden’s approval ratings. The Labor Department is set to release a new reading of monthly inflation on Wednesday morning.Administration officials say that they have brokered a deal to move the Port of Los Angeles toward 24/7 operations, joining Long Beach, which is already operating around the clock, and that they are encouraging states to accelerate the licensing of more truck drivers. UPS, Walmart and FedEx will also announce they are moving to work more off-peak hours.Mr. Biden’s team, including a supply chain task force he established earlier this year, is working to make tangible progress toward unblocking the flow of goods and helping the retail industry return to a prepandemic normal. On Wednesday, the White House will host leaders from the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to discuss the difficulties at ports, as well as hold a round table with executives from Walmart, UPS and Home Depot.But it is unclear how much the White House’s efforts can realistically help. The blockages stretch up and down supply chains, from foreign harbors to American rail yards and warehouses. Companies are exacerbating the situation by rushing to obtain products and bidding up their own prices. Analysts say some of these issues may last into late next year or even 2023.Administration officials acknowledged on Tuesday in a call with reporters that the $1.9 trillion economic aid package Mr. Biden signed into law in March had contributed to supply chain issues by boosting demand for goods, but said the law was the reason the U.S. recovery has outpaced those of other nations this year.Consumer demand for exercise bikes, laptops, toys, patio furniture and other goods is booming, fueled by big savings amassed over the course of the pandemic.Imports for the fourth quarter are on pace to be 4.7 percent higher than in the same period last year, which was also a record-breaking holiday season, according to Panjiva, the supply chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.Meanwhile, the pandemic has shut down factories and slowed production around the world. Port closures, shortages of shipping containers and truck drivers, and pileups in rail and ship yards have led to long transit times and unpredictable deliveries for a wide range of products — problems that have only worsened as the holiday season approaches.Home Depot, Costco and Walmart have taken to chartering their own ships to move products across the Pacific Ocean. On Tuesday, 27 container ships were anchored in the Port of Los Angeles waiting to unload their containers, and the average anchorage time had stretched to more than 11 days.Jennifer McKeown, the head of the Global Economics Service at Capital Economics, said that worsening supplier delivery times and conditions at ports suggested that product shortages would persist into mid- to late next year.“Unfortunately, it does look like things are likely to get worse before they get better,” she said.Ms. McKeown said governments around the world could help to smooth some shortages and dampen some price increases, for example by encouraging workers to move into industries with labor shortages, like trucking.President Biden is set to give a speech on Wednesday addressing the problems in ports, factories and shipping lanes that have helped create shortages.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times“But to some extent, they need to let markets do their work,” she said.Phil Levy, the chief economist at the logistics firm Flexport and a former official in the George W. Bush administration, said a Transportation Department official gathering information on what the administration could do to address the supply chain shortages had contacted his company. Flexport offered the administration suggestions on changing certain regulations and procedures to ease the blockages, but warned that the problem was a series of choke points “stacked one on top of the other.”“Are there things that can be done at the margin? Yes, and the administration has at least been asking about this,” Mr. Levy said. However, he cautioned, “from the whole big picture, the supply capacity is really hard to change in a noteworthy way.”The shortages have come as a shock for many American shoppers, who are used to buying a wide range of global goods with a single click, and seeing that same product on their doorstep within hours or days.The political risk for the administration is that shortfalls, mostly a nuisance so far, turn into something more existential. Diapers are already in short supply. As aluminum shortages develop, packaging pharmaceuticals could become a problem, said Robert B. Handfield, a professor of supply chain management at North Carolina State University.And even if critical shortages can be averted, slow deliveries could make for slim pickings this Christmas and Hanukkah.“I think Johnny is going to get a back-order slip in his stocking this year,” Dr. Handfield said. Discontent is only fueled by the higher prices the shortages are causing. Consumer price inflation probably climbed by 5.3 percent in the year through September, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to show on Wednesday. Before the pandemic, that inflation gauge had been oscillating around 2 percent.Officials at the White House and the Federal Reserve, which has primary responsibility for price stability, have repeatedly said that they expect the rapid price increases to fade. They often point out that much of the surge has been spurred by a jump in car prices, caused by a lack of computer chips that delayed vehicle production.But with supply chains in disarray, it is possible that some new one-off could materialize. Companies that had been trying to avoid passing on higher costs to customers may find that they need to as higher costs become longer lived.Others have been raising prices already. Tesla, for instance, had been hoping to reduce the cost of its electric vehicles and has struggled to do that amid the bottlenecks.“We are seeing significant cost pressure in our supply chain,” Elon Musk, the company’s chief executive, said during an annual shareholder meeting Oct. 7. “So we’ve had to increase vehicle prices, at least temporarily, but we do hope to actually reduce the prices over time and make them more affordable.”For policymakers at the White House and the Fed, the concern is that today’s climbing prices could prompt consumers to expect rapid inflation to last. If people believe that their lifestyles will cost more, they may demand higher wages — and as employers lift pay, they may charge more to cover the cost.What happens next could hinge on when — and how — supply chain disruptions are resolved. If demand slumps as households spend away government stimulus checks and other savings they stockpiled during the pandemic downturn, that could leave purveyors of couches and lawn furniture with fewer production backlogs and less pricing power down the road.If buying stays strong, and shipping remains problematic, inflation could become more entrenched.Some of the factors leading to supply chain disruptions are temporary, including shutdowns in Asian factories and severe weather that has led to energy shortages. Consumer habits, including spending on travel and entertainment, are expected to slowly return to normal as the pandemic subsides.But most companies have enormous backlogs of orders to work through. And company inventories, which provide a kind of insulation from future shocks to the supply chain, are extremely low.To get their own orders fulfilled, companies have placed bigger orders and offered to pay higher prices. The prospect of inflation has further encouraged companies to lock in large purchases of products or machinery in advance.“The customers that are willing to pay the most are most likely to get those orders filled,” said Eric Oak, an analyst at Panjiva. “It’s a vicious cycle.”Emily Cochrane More

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    As Democrats Trim Spending Bill, Some Americans Fear Being Left Behind

    President Biden had an ambitious agenda to remake the economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of proposals, some of them indefinitely.WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress are curbing their ambitions for President Biden’s economic agenda, and Jennifer Mount, a home health care aide, worries that means she will not get the raise she needs to pay more than $3,000 in medical bills for blindness in one eye.Edison Suasnavas, who came to the United States from Ecuador as a child, has grown anxious about the administration’s efforts to establish a pathway to citizenship, which he hoped would allow him to keep doing molecular tests for cancer patients in Utah without fear of deportation.And Amy Stelly wonders — thanks to a winnowing of Mr. Biden’s plans to invest in neighborhoods harmed by previous infrastructure projects like highways that have harmed communities of color — whether she will continue to breathe fumes from a freeway that she says constantly make her home in New Orleans shudder. She has a message for the president and the Democrats who are in the process of trying to pack his sprawling agenda into a diminishing legislative package.“You come up and live next to this,” Ms. Stelly said. “You live this quality of life. We suffer while you debate.”Mr. Biden began his presidency with an expensive and wide-ranging agenda to remake the U.S. economy. But under the duress of negotiations and Senate rules, he has shelved a series of his most ambitious proposals, some of them indefinitely.He has been thwarted in his efforts to raise the federal minimum wage and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has pared back investments in lead pipe removal and other efforts that would help communities of color. Now, as the president tries to secure votes from moderates in his party, he is reducing what was originally a $3.5 trillion collection of tax cuts and spending programs to what could be a package of $2 trillion or less.That is still an enormous spending package, one that Mr. Biden argues could shift the landscape of the economy. But a wide range of Americans who have put their faith in his promises to reshape their jobs and lives are left to hope that the programs they are banking on will survive the cut; otherwise, they face the prospect of waiting years or perhaps decades for another window of opportunity in Washington.“The problem now is this may be the last train leaving the station for a long time,” said Jason Furman, an economist at the Harvard Kennedy School who was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama. “It could be five, 10, 20 years before there’s another shot at a lot of these issues.”President Biden entered the White House with an expensive and ambitious agenda to remake the U.S. economy. He has pared back those plans.Tom Brenner for The New York TimesMr. Furman and other former Obama administration officials saw firsthand how quickly a presidential agenda can shrink, and how presidential and congressional decisions can leave campaign priorities unaddressed for years. Mr. Obama prioritized an economic stimulus package and the creation of the Affordable Care Act over sweeping immigration and climate legislation in the early years of his presidency.Stimulus and health care passed. The other two did not. A similar fate now could befall Mr. Biden’s plans for home care workers, paid leave, child care subsidies, free prekindergarten and community college, investments in racial equity and, once again, immigration and climate change.If Mr. Biden is able to push through a compromise bill with major investments in emissions reduction, “he’s got an engine that he’s working with” to fight climate change, said John Podesta, a former top aide to Mr. Obama and President Bill Clinton. “If he can’t get it, then I think, you know, we’re really kind of in soup, facing a major crisis.”Republicans have criticized the spending and the tax increases that would help fund it, claiming that the Democratic package would hurt the economy. Democrats “just have an insatiable appetite to raise taxes and spend more money,” Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday” this week. “It would kill jobs.”Amy Stelly said she wondered whether she would continue to breathe fumes from the Claiborne Expressway, which is near her home in New Orleans.Edmund D. Fountain for The New York TimesThe threat of Republican filibusters has blocked Mr. Biden’s plans for gun and voting-rights legislation.For now, though, the president’s biggest problem is his own party. He is negotiating with progressives and moderates over the size of the larger tax and spending package. Centrists like Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have pushed for the price tag to fall below $2 trillion. Mr. Manchin has said he wants to limit the availability of some programs to lower- and middle-income earners. Progressive groups are jockeying to ensure that their preferred plans are not cut entirely from the bill.The House has proposed investing $190 billion in home health care, for example, less than half of what Mr. Biden initially asked for. If the price tag continues to decrease, Democrats would almost certainly have to choose between two concurrent aims: expanding access to older Americans in need of caretakers or raising the wages of those workers, a group that is disproportionately women of color.Another proposal included in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure bill was an investment of $20 billion to address infrastructure that has splintered communities of color, although the funding was slashed to $1 billion through a compromise with Republican senators.Ms. Stelly thought the funds, plus the president’s sweeping proposals to address climate change — which might also be narrowed to appease centrist Democrats — would finally result in elected officials addressing the highway emissions that have filled her lungs and darkened the windows of her home.Ms. Stelly, an urban designer, has since limited her expectations. She said she hoped the funding would be enough to at least issue another study of the highway, which claimed dozens of Black-owned businesses and the once-thriving neighborhood of Tremé.The Claiborne Expressway bisects the residential neighborhood of Tremé in New Orleans. Ms. Stelly said she hoped the funding would be enough for another study on the effects of the highway.William Widmer for The New York TimesSome Democrats are eager to pack as much as they can into the bill because they fear losing the House, the Senate or both in the midterm elections next year. Mr. Podesta has urged lawmakers to see the package as a chance to avoid those losses by giving Democratic incumbents a batch of popular programs to run on, and also giving the president policy victories that could define his legacy.Mr. Biden has promoted some of his policies as ways to reverse racial disparities in the economy and lift families that are struggling in the coronavirus pandemic from poverty.Ms. Mount, who immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago, said she was appreciative of her job helping older Americans and the disabled eat and bathe and assisting them in their homes. But her wages for her long hours — working about 50 hours a week for $400, at times — have made it effectively impossible to stay on top of payments for basic needs.She had hoped Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the minimum wage or salaries for home health care aides meant she would no longer need to choose between her electric bills and her medical expenses. She said the treatment had improved her blindness, but without a salary increase for her field, she is more convinced that she will be working for the rest of her life.“I have to make a choice: Do I go to the grocery store or pay my mortgage? Do I pay my water bill or pay my electric bill?” said Ms. Mount, who lives in Philadelphia. “With that, retirement looks B-L-E-A-K, all uppercase. What do I have there for retirement?”When Mr. Biden initially proposed two years of free community college, Ms. Mount, 64, was encouraged about future opportunities for her six grandchildren in the United States. But she fears that effort could also be cut.“That’s politics from on top,” she said. “At times, they always seem detached.”Protesters gathered in front of the White House in August in support of the DACA program, which protects young immigrants from deportation.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSome measures that Democrats have long promised voters have run afoul of Senate rules that dictate which policies the administration should include in bills that use a special process to bypass the filibuster, including a minimum-wage increase and a plan to offer citizenship to immigrants brought to the United States as children.When the Senate parliamentarian rejected the strategy, it made Mr. Suasnavas, who has lived in the United States since he was 13, consider the prospect of eventually being deported; he would have to leave behind his job as a medical technology specialist, and his 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.“We’ve been having the hopes that politicians in Washington — Democrats and Republicans — will see not only the economic impact we can bring to the country but also we’re still people with families,” said Mr. Suasnavas, 35. “Our hearts have been broken so many times that it feels like another wound in your skin.” More