May 5, 2023

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen weighed in this week on how soon the U.S. could tumble over a financial cliff if the country’s debt ceiling is not increased, which most experts say would drag the entire global economy down with it. According to Yellen, the economic Armageddon could begin as early as June 1.

Meanwhile, President Biden refuses to negotiate with congressional hardliners, who are holding the debt limit hostage, threatening to cut spending on stuff that has already been bought, but not yet paid for. In other words, throwing the country into default. Here’s the math, though: if the hardliners don’t touch Social Security, Medicare or defense – as they say they won’t – that means that the rest of the federal government will suffer an average 22% budget haircut. ABC news painted this picture of how painful it could get for just about everybody if that happens.

If that isn’t bad enough, Colbert, Kimmel, Fallon, SNL, and a long list of other entertainment providers won’t be on the air or on streaming sources to lighten our angst, now that the Writers Guild of America has declared a strike after arriving at an impasse on a variety of labor issues, including everything from writer compensation to the use of artificial intelligence in scripts. Glad we’ve been saving all those internet cat videos.

As we await a Ukrainian spring offensive, the U.S. is sending that country about $300 million in additional military aid, including an enormous amount of artillery rounds, howitzers, air-to-ground rockets and ammunition, the Pentagon said Wednesday. In other news, Russia accused Ukraine of attempting to assassinate Vladimir Putin, a charge that Ukraine denied. Military experts-turned-pundit believe the Russians may be manufacturing an excuse to escalate the war and use nuclear weapons.

As if we didn’t have enough public health epidemics, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said this week that loneliness poses health risks as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, costing billions of dollars annually. Murthy is calling on workplaces, schools, technology companies, community organizations, parents and other people to make changes that will boost the country’s connectedness.

The state Senate voted Wednesday to pare back a Depression-era law that allows Philadelphia to impose a commuter tax on suburban residents. The bill passed with backing from every Republican and one Democrat. Opponents say the bill would cost the city $200 million a year. It likely faces a chilly reception in the House, where Democrats have a one-seat majority.

Now, let us turn to some uplifting news. The latest sign that bipartisanship is still breathing culminated this week with Governor Shapiro signing into law a measure that requires insurers to cover preventive breast and ovarian cancer screenings for high-risk women, at no cost. This first-of-a-kind legislation, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, was approved unanimously in both the House and Senate.

Much to the delight of our friends in the transportation construction industry, Mike Carroll was confirmed unanimously by the Senate as PennDOT secretary this week after sailing through confirmation and budget hearings. He’s a solid transportation subject-matter expert, having served for years on the House Transportation Committee and as Democratic chair for the last four, retiring from the House last year.

PA House members approved Republican amendments to a slate of four gun safety bills as they sought compromise on the first gun reform legislation to reach the House floor since Democrats won control of the chamber last year. The full House must vote on the revisions before the bill goes to the Senate.

State Reps. Jordan Harris and Jared Solomon, both Democrats from Philadelphia, announced the creation of a legislative Black-Jewish Caucus, which they said will explore “the historic relationship between the two groups, reignite the current relationship, and work together to promote social justice.” That sounds like a winner to us.

A poll from Philly’s Committee of Seventy shows the top five mayoral contenders statistically tied and within the poll’s credibility interval (which is like a margin of error) with two weeks to go.

In the Steel City, Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny) holds the lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County executive, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled upper chamber voted 41-9 to approve a bill outlawing places where people may inject or use illicit drugs while supervised by medical professionals who could intervene in the event of an overdose. Meanwhile, more than 1 million doses of overdose-reversal medicine have been placed into the hands of PA first responders since 2017, state officials say.

A bill to broaden protections for LGBTQ+ people passed the PA House on Tuesday — the first to advance this far after years-long efforts by Democrats. The bill passed 102-98 in the House, but faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

In our We Can’t Make This Up feature, we take you to New York City, where a stoned-dog epidemic seems to have broken out. This is due to the practice of people smoking pot (perfectly legal in New York now), then disposing of an unfinished doobie on, say, the sidewalk. Well, as it turns out, Fido likes roaches, and veterinarians are reporting a significant rise in cases of strange dog behavior. (What, Fido is craving Doritos again?) Anyway, we don’t pretend to have the answers, but maybe this calls for (apologizing in advance) the creation of a joint commission to study the issue.

And that’s what passes for news around here this week. From your friends at Triad, have a perfectly legal weekend, and we’ll be right back here next week!