TOKYO — With the world’s oldest population, rapidly declining births, gargantuan public debt and increasingly damaging natural disasters fueled by climate change, Japan faces deep-rooted challenges that the longstanding governing party has failed to tackle.
Yet in choosing a new prime minister on Wednesday, the Liberal Democratic Party elected the candidate least likely to offer bold solutions.
The party’s elite power brokers chose Fumio Kishida, 64, a stalwart moderate, in a runoff election for the leadership, seeming to disregard the public’s preference for a maverick challenger. In doing so, they anointed a politician with little to distinguish him from the unpopular departing leader, Yoshihide Suga, or his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.
Elders in the party, which has had a near monopoly on power in the decades since World War II, made their choice confident that, with a weak political opposition and low voter turnout, they would face little chance of losing a general election later this year. So, largely insulated from voter pressure, they opted for a predictable former foreign minister who has learned to control any impulse to stray from the mainstream party platform.
slowly emerges from six months of pandemic restrictions that have battered the economy.
Taro Kono, an outspoken nonconformist whose common touch has made him popular with the public and with rank-and-file party members. Mr. Kishida prevailed in the second round of voting, in which ballots cast by members of Parliament held greater weight than ballots cast by other party members.
He will become prime minister when Parliament holds a special session next week, and will then lead the party into the general election, which must be held by November.
In his victory speech on Wednesday, Mr. Kishida acknowledged the challenges he faces. “We have mountains of important issues that lie ahead in Japan’s future,” he said.
They loom both at home and abroad. Mr. Kishida faces mounting tensions in the region as China has grown increasingly aggressive and North Korea has started testing ballistic missiles again. Taiwan is seeking membership in a multilateral trade pact that Japan helped negotiate, and Mr. Kishida may have to help finesse a decision on how to accept the self-governed island into the group without angering China.
As a former foreign minister, Mr. Kishida may have an easier time managing his international portfolio. Most analysts expect that he will maintain a strong relationship with the United States and continue to build on alliances with Australia and India to create a bulwark against China.
But on the domestic front, he is mostly offering a continuation of Mr. Abe’s economic policies, which have failed to cure the country’s stagnation. Income inequality is rising as fewer workers benefit from Japan’s vaunted system of lifetime employment — a reality reflected in Mr. Kishida’s campaign promise of a “new capitalism” that encourages companies to share more profits with middle-class workers.
close to 60 percent of the public is now inoculated. But Mr. Kishida has offered few concrete policies to address other issues like aging, population decline or climate change.
In a magazine questionnaire, he said that he needed “scientific verification” that human activities were causing global warming, saying, “I think that’s the case to some extent.”
Given the enduring power of the right flank of the Liberal Democratic Party, despite its minority standing in the party, Mr. Kishida closed what daylight he had with these power brokers during the campaign.
He had previously gained a reputation as being more dovish than the influential right wing led by Mr. Abe, but during the leadership race, he expressed a hawkish stance toward China. As a parliamentary representative from Hiroshima, Mr. Kishida has opposed nuclear weapons, but he has made clear his support for restarting Japan’s nuclear power plants, which have been idled since the triple meltdown in Fukushima 10 years ago.
And he toned down his support for overhauling a law requiring married couples to share a surname for legal purposes and declared that he would not endorse same-sex marriage, going against public sentiment but hewing to the views of the party’s conservative elite.
“I think Kishida knows how he won, and it was not by appealing to the general public, it was not by running as a liberal, but courting support to his right,” said Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “So what that’s going to mean for the composition of his cabinet and his priorities, and what his party’s platform ends up looking like, means he could end up being pulled in a few different directions.”
resigned last fall because of ill health. He had led the party for eight consecutive years, a remarkable stint given Japan’s history of revolving-door prime ministers. When he stepped down, the party chose Mr. Suga, who had served as Mr. Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, to extend his boss’s legacy.
Sanae Takaichi — a hard-line conservative who was seeking to become Japan’s first female prime minister — to revitalize his base in the party’s far right, analysts and other lawmakers said he helped steer support to Mr. Kishida in the runoff.
As a result, Mr. Kishida may end up beholden to his predecessor.
“Kishida cannot go against what Abe wants,” said Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister who challenged Mr. Abe for the party leadership twice and withdrew from running in the leadership election this month to support Mr. Kono.
“I am not sure I would use the word ‘puppet,’ but maybe he is a puppet?” Mr. Ishiba added. “What is clear is he depends on Abe’s influence.”
During the campaign for the party leadership, Mr. Kishida appeared to acknowledge some dissatisfaction with the Abe era with his talk of a “new capitalism.” In doing so, he followed a familiar template within the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been adept at adopting policies first introduced by the opposition in order to keep voters assuaged.
“That’s one of the reasons why they have maintained such longevity as a party,” said Saori N. Katada, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. “Kishida is definitely taking that card and running with it.”
Makiko Inoue, Hikari Hida and Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.
As Germany heads into an election that will see Angela Merkel step down after 16 years as chancellor, she leaves behind a country profoundly changed — and anxious about changing more.
By Katrin Bennhold
Photographs by Lena Mucha
STUTTGART, Germany — The small silver star at the tip of Aleksandar Djordjevic’s Mercedes shines bright. He polishes it every week.
Mr. Djordjevic makes combustion engines for Daimler, one of Germany’s flagship carmakers. He has a salary of around 60,000 euros (about $70,000), eight weeks of vacationand a guarantee negotiated by the union that he cannot be fired until 2030. He owns a two-story house and that E-class 250 model Mercedes in his driveway.
All of that is why Mr. Djordjevic polishes the star on his car.
“The star is something stable and something strong: It stands for Made in Germany,” he said.
But by 2030 there will be no more combustion engines at Daimler — or people making combustion engines.
parental leave in Catholic Bavaria. The married gay couple raising two children outside Berlin. The woman in a hijab teaching math in a high school near Frankfurt, where most students have German passports but few have German parents.
successive crises and left others unattended, there was change that she led and change that she allowed.
phase out nuclear power in Germany. She ended compulsory military service. She was the first chancellor to assert that Islam “belongs” to Germany. When it came to breaking down her country’s and party’s conservative family values, she was more timid but ultimately did not stand in the way.
Konrad Adenauer anchored Germany in the West. Willy Brandt reached across the Iron Curtain. Helmut Kohl, her onetime mentor, became synonymous with German unity. Gerhard Schröder paved the way for the country’s economic success.
Ms. Merkel’s legacy is less tangible but equally transformative. She changed Germany into a modern society — and a country less defined by its history.
She may be remembered most for her decision to welcome over a million refugees in 2015-16 when most other Western nations rejected them. It was a brief redemptive moment for the country that had committed the Holocaust and turned her into an icon of liberal democracy.
“It was a sort of healing,” said Karin Marré-Harrak, the headmaster of a high school in the multicultural city of Offenbach. “In a way we’ve become a more normal country.”
lingering inequality between East and West three decades after reunification is still evident, even though taxpayers’ money has flowed east and things have gradually improved. With the government planning to phase out coal production by 2038, billions more in funding are promised to help compensate for the job losses.
But as Mike Balzke, a worker at the nearby coal plant in Jänschwalde, put it: “We don’t want money — we want a future.”
Mr. Balzke recalled his optimism when Ms. Merkel first became chancellor. Because she was an easterner and a scientist, he expected her to be an ambassador for the East — and for coal.
Instead, his village lost a quarter of its population during her chancellorship. A promised train line from Forst to Berlin was never built. The post office shut down.
Mr. Balzke, 41, worries that the region will turn into a wasteland.
That anxiety runs deep. And it deepened again with the arrival of refugees in 2015.
Two Fathers and Two Sons
was up in arms, but only a decade later, it has become the new normal.
Ms. Merkel never backed same-sex marriage outright, but she allowed lawmakers to vote for it, knowing that it would go through.
Mr. Winkler left the party again in 2019 after Ms. Merkel’s successor as conservative leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, disparaged same-sex marriage. But he acknowledged his debt to the chancellor.
On June 30, 2017, the day of the vote, he wrote her a letter.
“It is a pity that you could not support opening marriage to same-sex couples,” he wrote. “Still, thank you that you ultimately made today’s decision possible.”
Then he invited her to visit his family, “to see for yourself.”
She never replied. But he and his family used to live just around the corner from Ms. Merkel, who never gave up her apartment in central Berlin. They would see her occasionally in the supermarket checkout line.
“There she was with toilet paper in her basket, going shopping like everyone else,” Mr. Winkler’s partner, Roland Mittermayer, recalled. Even after 16 years, they are still trying to figure the chancellor out.
“She is an enigma,” Mr. Winkler said. “She’s a bit like the queen — someone who has been around for a long time, but you never feel you really know her.”
The Post-Merkel Generation
Six hours northwest of Berlin, past endless green fields dotted with wind farms and a 40-minute ferry ride off the North Sea coast, lies Pellworm, a sleepy island where the Backsen family has been farming since 1703.
Two years ago, they took Ms. Merkel’s government to court for abandoning its carbon-dioxide emission targets under the Paris climate accord. They lost, but then tried again, filing a complaint at the constitutional court.
This time they won.
“It’s about freedom,” said Sophie Backsen, 23, who would like to take over her father’s farm one day.
Sophie’s younger brothers, Hannes, 19, and Paul, 21, will vote for the first time on Sunday. Like 42 percent of first-time voters, they will vote for the Greens.
“If you look at how our generation votes, it’s the opposite of what you see in the polls,” Paul said. “The Greens would be running the country.”
Pellworm is flush with the sea level and in parts even below it. Without a dike ringing the coastline, it would flood regularly.
“When you have permanent rain for three weeks, the island fills up like a bath tub inside the dikes,” Hannes said.
The prospect of rising sea levels is an existential threat here. “This is one of the most important elections,” Hannes said. “It’s the last chance really to get it right.”
“If not even a country like Germany can manage this,” he added, “what chance do we stand?”
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.
Late in the third quarter of a March game between the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans, Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s 7-foot-1 center, caught a pass and slammed down a dunk as the Pelicans’ Josh Hart leapt to contest the shot.
As the two National Basketball Association players jogged back down the court, television viewers could see Mr. Gobert bark out something to Mr. Hart.
Trash talk? Sort of.
“As I was running back on defense, I told him that would be a nice Top Shot Moment right there,” Mr. Gobert said in an interview. Mr. Hart said he had responded with a four-letter word that was not suitable to be printed.
LeBron James reverse windmill dunk Top Shot, for example, sold for $210,000 in March.
Nearly four dozen N.B.A. players have created Top Shot accounts, from All-Stars like Mr. Gobert to journeymen and rookies. Some have collected just a handful of clips, while others own dozens or hundreds.
The trend is an engaging — if expensive — way for fans and players to celebrate exhilarating basketball plays. It’s also a moneymaker for the N.B.A., which lost about $1.5 billion in revenue last season between the pandemic’s emptying arenas and China’s pausing the broadcasting of basketball games over a geopolitical dispute.
The N.B.A. has long been one of the most innovative leagues in finding ways to make money. It finished its 2019-20 season in a Disney World bubble and squeezed in a condensed All-Star Weekend in March to recoup some lost revenue. But with arenas only now slowly filling, Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, recently told Time magazine that the league would still miss out on 30 percent to 35 percent of revenue this season.
dozens of N.B.A. players blew their millions on risky investments, but the league has pushed in recent years for its young stars to educate themselves financially.
Top Shot is risky, too, because the price of the highlights could plummet at any time if people decide they are no longer interested. One warning sign: Top Shot’s sales last month, $82 million, were down from $208 million in March and $224 million in February, according to CryptoSlam, an NFT tracker. Dapper said that the marketplace was still growing, and that April’s numbers were more normal after a brief NFT boom.
“It’s a marketplace that obviously is purely built on demand and scarcity,” said Darren Heitner, a lawyer and a sports law professor at the University of Florida. Between shifting interests and the ebbing of the pandemic, he said, “there’s a lot of reasons you could see this marketplace drying up and find individuals left holding the bag.”
valued at $2.6 billion in a recent funding round. In April, The Information reported that Dapper was raising another round that would value it at more than $7.5 billion.
streams live on YouTube while opening Top Shot packs.
Of course, it’s still the N.B.A., and the fraternity of Top Shot aficionados engages in plenty of antics and inside jokes.
In the locker room and on team plane rides, Mr. Ross and teammates Cole Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams answer questions from curious coaches and debate which vintage basketball play would make the best Top Shot.
“We’re making jokes, like, in-game,” Mr. Ross said. In a game against the Washington Wizards, for instance, Mr. Ross had an impressive dunk, and Mr. Carter-Williams told him as they ran back down the court that he hoped it would become a Top Shot.
In San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee — also a Dapper investor — is trying to start a new tradition: having players swap Moments instead of jerseys after games.
The king of Top Shot, though, is a Sacramento King: the rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton.
Bored one day in February, Mr. Haliburton checked Top Shot and saw the value of a Moment featuring him had grown by $600. He posted about it on Twitter and immediately saw another spike, piquing his interest.
“From there on, I was full go with Top Shot,” said Mr. Haliburton, who owns 163 Moments and has spent months exhorting other players to get involved.
During one postgame interview, he even urged Sacramento journalists to pool their money to buy a $10,000 highlight of his 6-foot-4 teammate Buddy Hield dunking over 7-foot Mitchell Robinson of the New York Knicks.
“There’s only 50 in existence, and you will never see Buddy do that again,” he said. They laughed at the advice; Mr. Haliburton, who makes $3.8 million this season, clearly did not know how little journalists earn, they said.
The next day, the Hield Moment surged to $50,000 in value.
Mr. Haliburton, who also invested in Dapper recently, has persuaded at least four other Kings to join Top Shot, including Harrison Barnes, who was “hooked.”
Mr. Barnes, the secretary-treasurer of the players association, is another veteran with a reputation for financial smarts. He owns 242 Top Shot Moments, the most of any player.
Mr. Haliburton thinks the Top Shot bets will pay off.
“I have a real belief that this is the future of our world,” he said. “I’m just going to keep collecting.”
China’s population is growing at its slowest pace since the 1960s, with falling births and a graying work force presenting the Communist Party with one of its gravest social and economic challenges.
Figures for a census conducted last year and released on Tuesday showed the country’s population at 1.41 billion people, about 72 million more than the1.34 billion who were counted in the last census, in 2010.
Births have fallen in recent years, and with rising longevity have pushed China to the verge of a demographic crisis that could stunt growth in the world’s second-largest economy. China faces aging-related challenges similar to that of developed countries, while having a much smaller household income — that is, the country is growing old without first having grown rich.
Beijing is now under greater pressure to abandon its family planning policies, which are among the world’s most intrusive; overhaul an economic model that has long relied on a huge population and growing pool of workers; and plug yawning gaps in health care and pensions.
turned to robots because they cannot find enough workers.
getting older, China’s demographic problems are largely self-inflicted. The one-child policy, imposed in 1980, may have prevented 400 million births, but also shrank the number of women of childbearing age. As the population gets older, it will impose tremendous pressure on the country’s overwhelmed hospitals and underfunded pension system.
eased to limit couples to two children. Already, many local governments are allowing families to have three children or more without making them pay fines.
But demographers say there are no easy fixes. A growing cohort of educated Chinese women are putting off marriage, which has declined since 2014. The divorce rate has risen consistently since 2003. Many millennials are put off by the cost of raising children.
In the southwestern city of Chengdu, Tracy Wang, the 29-year-old founder of an English enrichment center for children, said she had decided in her early 20s that she did not want children.
“In essence, I don’t like children very much — yes, they might be cute — but I don’t want to give birth to them or take care of them,” Ms. Wang said.
“Before, many people used to think it was such an incredulous thought: ‘How could you even think this way?’” she said. “But now, they all understand that you can’t afford it.”
On a Sunday in July 2014, a man boarded a plane in Monrovia, Liberia, and flew to Lagos, Nigeria. He felt sick with a fever when the trip began and was in worse shape by the time he landed. The Nigerian authorities took him to a hospital, where doctors eventually diagnosed Ebola.
From that first patient, infections soon began to spread in Lagos, which is Africa’s most densely populated city. It was the most terrifying period during any Ebola outbreak, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said.
But two months later, the crisis was over. Nigeria had no more Ebola cases, and fewer than 10 people, including the man from Liberia, had died. How did Nigeria prevent an epidemic? It wasn’t science, or at least not science as people typically define it. It was more basic than that.
A Covid preview
Nigeria succeeded through a combination of good governance and organizational competence. Officials conducted roughly 18,500 in-person interviews with people potentially exposed to the Ebola virus and then moved those who seemed to be at risk into isolation wards. They were released if they tested negative and moved to a different isolation ward if they tested positive.
only 37 percent as many deaths per capita as the U.S., thanks partly to tighter travel restrictions. Vietnam and some other Asian countries benefited from intense early contact tracing. Britain and Israel are now doing better than continental Europe not because of laboratory discoveries but because of more effective vaccine distribution.
The pattern extends far beyond infectious diseases like Covid and Ebola. The greatest human accomplishment of the last century is the near doubling of life spans, as Steven Johnson argues in the cover story in this weekend’s Times Magazine. Johnson refers to it as “Our Extra Life.” It is all the more remarkable when you consider that average longevity barely budged — around 35 years — for most of recorded history, into the 18th century.
Since then, science has played a crucial role in progress, including the development of antibiotics, vaccines and drugs to treat cancer and heart disease. Yet scientific discoveries often take decades to affect most people’s lives. And basic health measures, like hand washing, are sometimes even more important. Johnson writes:
Those breakthroughs might have been initiated by scientists, but it took the work of activists and public intellectuals and legal reformers to bring their benefits to everyday people. From this perspective, the doubling of human life span is an achievement that is closer to something like universal suffrage or the abolition of slavery: progress that required new social movements, new forms of persuasion and new kinds of public institutions to take root.
amazing Covid vaccines; the question is how quickly the world can produce and dispense them. Scientists have also developed technologies that produce energy with relatively little pollution. Yes, further technical progress is important, but the bigger question is when political leaders and voters will decide to prioritize the fight against climate change.
which are historically low, and devoting the money to everyone else would make a real difference. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.
Americans sometimes like to dismiss politics as a grubby business that is disconnected from the things that really matter — science, health and everyday life. And while politics certainly can be grubby, it also remains the most powerful mechanism for human progress.
THE LATEST NEWS
Chicago, Houston, San Diego and other cities. In New York, several venues — including the Shed, the Guggenheim Museum and some Off Broadway theaters — are welcoming audiences, and Shakespeare in the Park will return this summer. “There’s a little more every week,” Michael says.
Last week, the soprano Renée Fleming gave a performance in Manhattan that The Times’s Julia Jacobs called a success and an example of challenges that live performances face: Organizers spent $2,500 on Covid tests.
“Wow, applause!” Fleming said after her opening number. “Very exciting.”
Uncertainty still abounds. The early shows will sell only limited tickets, which means the economics won’t add up for many venues. But audiences seem to want to return, Michael told us: “People are hungry to go out.” — Claire Moses, Morning writer
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Tomato type (four letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you Monday. — David
P.S. Zolan Kanno-Youngs, a Times White House reporter, has for years been getting calls meant for Roller World, a beloved Massachusetts rink with a similar phone number. “I kind of have a script,” he told Boston magazine.
You can see today’s print front page here.
There’s no new episode of “The Daily.” Instead, listen to the final episode of “Odessa.” On “Still Processing,” Cathy Park Hong discusses finding healing in rage.
For Meng Shan, a 48-year-old urban management worker in the Chinese city of Nanchang, retirement can’t come soon enough.
Mr. Meng, who is the equivalent of a low-level, unarmed law-enforcement official, often has to chase down unlicensed street vendors, a task he finds physically and emotionally taxing. Pay is low. Retirement, even on a meager government pension, would finally offer a break.
So Mr. Meng was dismayed when the Chinese government said it would raise the mandatory retirement age, which is currently 60 for men. He wondered how much longer his body could handle the work, and whether his employer would dump him before he became eligible for a pension.
“To tell the truth,” he said of the government’s announcement, “this is extremely unfriendly to us low-level workers.”
granted concessions, a rare move for him.
shelve the proposal.
The Chinese government itself abandoned a previous effort to raise retirement ages in 2015, in the face of a similar outcry.
This time, it seems determined to follow through. But it has also acknowledged the backlash. Officials appear to be treading gingerly, leaving the details vague for now but suggesting that the threshold would be raised by just a few months each year.
“They’ve been talking about it for a long time,” said Albert Francis Park, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who has studied China’s retirement system. “They’ll have to really exercise quite a bit of resolve to push it through.”
China has been hurtling toward a retirement age crisis for years. The current standards were set in the 1950s, when the average citizen was expected to live until only his or her early 40s.
But as the country has swiftly modernized, life expectancy has reached nearly 77 years, according to World Bank data. Birthrates have also plummeted, leaving China’s population distinctly top-heavy. More than 300 million people, about one-fifth of the population, are expected to be over 60 by 2025, according to the government.
defines many white-collar workplaces in China is already grinding on Naomi Chen, a 29-year-old financial analyst in Shanghai. She has often discussed with friends her wish to retire early to escape the pressure, even if it means living more modestly.
The government’s announcement only confirmed that desire. China already struggles to provide enough well-paid white-collar jobs for its ballooning ranks of university graduates. With fewer retirees, Ms. Chen worries, she would be left working just as hard but with less prospect of a payoff.
“Getting promoted will definitely be slower, because the people above me won’t retire,” she said.
In reality, older workers may suffer more. China has modernized so quickly that they tend to be much less skilled or educated than their younger counterparts, making some employers reluctant to retain them, Professor Park said. In several industries, including tech, 35 is seen as the age ceiling for being hired.
told a state-backed labor publication.
Still, experts maintain that the cost of inaction would be too high. A 2019 report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences predicted that the country’s main pension fund would run out by 2035, in part because of the dwindling work force.
average for urban retirees. He praised the government for consistently raising pension payments over the past decade though some experts have acknowledged the strain that doing so has added to the system. “The Chinese government treats retirees very well,” he said.
But that security is unevenly distributed, and it is likely to remain so even if the government shores up its pension funds.
Mr. Meng, the urban management worker, is paid about $460 a month, one-tenth of which he pays toward pension and basic medical insurance funds. When he finally retires, he expects to draw $120 to $150 a month.
He acknowledged that it was barely enough to live on. But he said he could make it work — even if he was now increasingly unsure when the date would come.
“All I can do is hold on,” Mr. Meng said. “Keep holding on until I’ve reached the right age.”
President Biden is expected to unveil a $1.5 trillion “human infrastructure” plan next week that will focus on education, child care and paid leave for workers, among other things. It would be paid for in part by new taxes on the rich, including the end of a tax break that lawmakers have tried to eliminate for years.
The White House will propose a major change to capital gains taxes, with people earning more than $1 million per year paying the top marginal tax rate on their investment gains. Mr. Biden wants to raise that rate to 39.6 percent.
The carried interest loophole might finally disappear. Profits earned from funds owned by real estate investors and managers of private equity and venture capital firms are taxed as capital gains at about 20 percent, instead of as regular income, which is taxed at more than double that rate when state levies and other taxes are taken into account.
Financial industry executives and their lobbyists have long asserted that carried interest merely represents a return on investment, not income, an argument that survived challenges as recently as 2017. (Here’s Andrew back in 2007 writing about how lawmakers were trying, unsuccessfully, to end the “longstanding, but little understood, practice.”)
In a 2015 DealBook Op-Ed, the law professor Victor Fleischer, a top proponent for raising taxes on carried interest, estimated that such a move could raise $180 billion.
In a 2011 Times Op-Ed, Warren Buffett decried the treatment of carried interest, which allowed him to report a lower tax rate than his secretary. A minimum tax on millionaires was proposed shortly thereafter and dubbed the “Buffett rule.”
JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon has been a regular critic of carried interest, even though it benefits many of the bank’s clients. In his latest letter to shareholders, he said it could be seen as “another example of institutional bias and favoritism toward special interest groups.”
Other changes to the tax code could be in the works, including to the estate tax. Private equity executives are also worried that the Biden administration may limit the tax deductibility of corporate interest payments, which would be another hit to their business model.
they may be on board with eliminating some business tax loopholes. The White House wants that tax revenue to fund the infrastructure bill it unveiled last month. But another group of Republican senators yesterday proposed a much smaller infrastructure bill — $568 billion, versus Mr. Biden’s $2.3 trillion — that would do away with any corporate tax increases.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
U.S. health officials may soon lift the pause on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. A committee of outside experts will meet today to discuss whether to resume giving the shot; they’re expected to vote in favor. But the damage may be done: The Biden administration has reportedly written off the J&J shot’s importance to U.S. vaccination efforts.
President Biden sets a new climate goal. At the first day of a climate summit that the U.S. convened, he pledged to cut America’s emissions in half by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, and offered more funding for developing countries to help them meet their targets. Swiss Re estimated that climate change could cost the global economy as much as $23 trillion in the coming decades.
Airlines see clearer skies ahead. Carriers expect travel to return almost to normal levels by the summer, with the largest airlines expected to offer as many seats this July as they did in July 2019, by one estimate. The industry plans to call back thousands of employees and hire hundreds of pilots.
Scrutiny over a fatal Tesla crash intensifies. Two senators asked regulators to create recommendations for autonomous vehicle software, following the deaths of two men in a Tesla, in which police said no one was behind the wheel. Consumer Reports said it was able to trick Tesla’s Autopilot into operating without anyone in the driver’s seat.
AT&T gains ground in the streaming race. The company added 2.7 million subscribers to HBO and HBO Max in the first quarter. Also worth noting: AT&T collects nearly three times more revenue per streaming user than Disney, and trails only Netflix by that measure.
reckoning on corporate political donations that will be a prominent feature of proxy season, with many shareholder proposals demanding greater disclosure of company spending.
Today in Business
“Companies are reading the writing on the wall,” Thomas DiNapoli, New York State’s comptroller and trustee for the state’s public pension fund, told DealBook. “Political and social polarization are bad for their business, and they need to decide if political donations are worth the risk.”
“Time will tell if their increased attention to these issues is lip service or if it represents a sincere change in corporate culture,” Mr. DiNapoli said. “At a minimum, investors need disclosure of this spending.” New York’s public pension fund is the third-largest in the U.S. and since 2010 it has filed more than 155 shareholder proposals on political spending, winning more than 40 adoptions or agreements, including from Bank of America, Delta Air Lines and Pepsi. Three of five resolutions it has advanced this year have already been withdrawn, with the companies agreeing to make changes without putting them to a vote. That’s a 60 percent hit rate, and companies that wouldn’t engage before are now at least responsive, a spokesperson for the fund said.
The fund got CMS Energy, a Michigan public utility, to agree to be more transparent about political spending, DealBook is first to report; First Energy, an Ohio utility, and the multinational brewer Molson Coors also agreed to more disclosure.
“Companies are now expected to have core values — almost personalities,” said Bruce Freed, the president of the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit that partners with shareholders on proposals. Recent agreements, like the ones brokered by Mr. DiNapoli, are a “strong indication” that corporations are feeling “real pressure,” he said. Nine of 30 companies (including those noted above) have agreed this year to provide more disclosure on political donations. Last year, eight of 40 companies facing similar proposals agreed to act instead of putting the question to shareholders in a vote. The Capitol riot “raised the stakes,” Mr. Freed said, and the pressure on companies has not relented since.
read this comprehensive account by The Times’s Tariq Panja and Rory Smith.
Chicago, Flat Rock, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo., through the first two weeks of May. The Kansas City factory makes the F-150 pickup, Ford’s most profitable model.
G.M. has kept its factory in Kansas City, Kan. — which makes the Chevy Malibu sedan — closed since February, and has cut production at other plants.
Daimler has temporarily halted production at two plants in Germany that produce lower-cost C-class vehicles.
Jaguar Land Rover, Britain’s biggest carmaker, will temporarily shut two of its factories there starting next week.
Renault scrapped production forecasts, and said it was prioritizing the manufacturing of its most profitable models.
The shortage is unlikely to end anytime soon, according to Intel’s C.E.O., Pat Gelsinger: “This will take a while until people can put more capacity in the ground,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
In the papers
Some of the academic research that caught our eye this week, summarized in one sentence:
Exclusive: Master P to invest in racial equity
Percy Miller, better known to hip-hop fans as Master P, plans to invest $10 million in companies led by or serving people who are Black, Indigenous and people of color, DealBook is first to report. He sees ownership and equity as keys to bridging racial wealth gaps, and wants other investors to follow his lead.
“This is all about economic empowerment,” Mr. Miller told DealBook. Early in his career, Mr. Miller opened a record store from which he launched No Limit Records, once one of the largest independent labels. More recent projects have been aimed at social entrepreneurship, like an “Uncle P” line of food products to replace Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s (both have since been renamed) that would dedicate a portion of profits to supporting Black communities.
Mr. Miller wants to invest in an array of industries, with education, including financial literacy, a priority. “I always tell people, product outweighs talent — at the same time, education and wisdom are so important,” he said. “That’s the longevity of my success.”
UBS will help connect him to potential prospects. “Our DNA is around entrepreneurship, and our DNA is around facilitating capitalism, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about here,” said Mark Wilkins, a private wealth manager at the bank. The two are treating the initiative as an investment, on which they’re planning to make a return.
THE SPEED READ
Blackstone reported $1.75 billion in profit in its latest quarter, setting a record and swinging from a $1 billion loss a year ago. (WSJ)
L Brands may seek as much as $5 billion in a sale of Victoria’s Secret, far more than the failed deal with Sycamore Partners last year. (Bloomberg)
Politics and policy
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously limited the F.T.C.’s ability to seek financial relief for consumers wronged by deceptive business practices. (CNBC)
Union officials reportedly told Senate Democrats to back legislation strengthening protections for organizing efforts — or risk losing their political support. (Politico)
Norway has led the world in going cashless. Now its central bank is testing out a digital currency. (Insider)
Is Europe’s approach to tech regulation visionary, or misguided? (NYT On Tech)
Best of the rest
Inside Elon Musk’s $150 million philanthropy blitz. (Recode)
The Hamptons property market is on fire: A summer rental went for $2 million, while a 42-acre estate sold for over $100 million. (CNBC)
Do you need to wear a mask outside? (NYT)
We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“So many things seem like so much more work than my brain can possibly manage,” she said: sending routine emails, brushing her teeth after every meal, reading a novel. She has started drinking coffee from a mug that says, “Apathy Is the Best Whatever.”
“It feels like the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, bouncing around you in a sort of circle. I feel like I’ve done all of them at least twice,” she said. At least she loves her job, she added. “And I’m fine — I’m not dead.”
Natasha Rajah, a professor of psychiatry at McGill University who specializes in memory and the brain, said the longevity of the pandemic — endless monotony laced with acute anxiety — had contributed to a sense that time was moving differently, as if this past year were a long, hazy, exhausting experience lasting forever and no time at all. The stress and tedium, she said, have dulled our ability to form meaningful new memories.
“There’s definitely a change in how people are reporting memories and cognitive experiences,” Professor Rajah said. “They have fewer rich details about their personal memories, and more negative content to their memories.” This means, she said, that people may be having a harder time forming working memories and paying attention, with “a reduced ability to hold things in their minds, manipulate thoughts and plan for the future.”
Add to that a general loneliness, social isolation, anxiety and depression, she said, and it is not surprising that they are having trouble focusing on their work.
“Honestly, weirdly, sometimes when I’m writing I just stop and stare at the wall,” said Valerie M., a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology in Michigan who asked that her full name not be used because she did not want her employers to hear how her workdays are going. “The staring at the wall contributes to the time warp. I’m like, ‘I spent the whole day, and I really didn’t do anything.’ Not that I did anything fun, either. It’s like, ‘Wow, I don’t even know what I did.’”
Prolonged stress will do that to you, said Mike Yassa, professor of neuroscience and the director of the UCI Brain Initiative at the University of California, Irvine. “Stress is OK in small amounts, but when it extends over time it’s very dangerous,” he said. “It disrupts our cycles of sleep and our regular routines in things like exercise and physical activity — all these things make it very difficult for the body to be resilient.”
In 2017, a new Mazda MX-5 Miata RF, resplendent in Soul Red Metallic paint, listed for $35,901. By 2020 that jaunty two-seater had an average resale value of $24,112. If finished in stolid Machine Gray Metallic paint, however, that same model fetched an average of $1,046 less, thanks to the color alone.
Because many other factors influence car value, color is easy to overlook. Yet both paint and car manufacturers maintain international departments of stylists and colorists who not only monitor what consumers are buying but — drawing from the fields of art, architecture, fashion, popular culture and consumer research — predict what people will want up to five years in the future.
Decisions are exasperatingly complex. A popular color for sedans might not work for sports cars. A hit color in Florida might tank in Michigan. According to iSeeCars, a search engine catering to car buyers, the worst color for S.U.V.s was beige, which lost 46 percent of its value over three years. For pickup trucks the best color was … beige. Beige pickups lost only 18 percent in value in the same time period.
The importance of color to cars is almost singular. It’s nothing to chuck a formerly fashionable fuchsia T-shirt, and you can repaint a room in a weekend. But repainting a car costs thousands and requires skilled technicians. With the possible exception of kitchen appliances, there are few color decisions as costly that consumers live with for as long. In a routinely quoted poll from 2000, 39 percent of car buyers said color was more important than brand.
An iSeeCars analysis compared list prices for new 2017 cars with their resale prices in 2020 to see which colors hold value best in different vehicle classes. In addition, some larger paint manufacturers publish annual color popularity reports and predictions for the coming year. Combined, they help draw broad rules for picking the best values in car colors. And while color doesn’t wholly determine a car’s value, if it’s not part of a buying decision, you might get stuck with a gray Miata.
Paint is also about durability, not just aesthetics. It was intended to prevent rust. Henry Ford famously offered customers “a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Black paint was durable and inexpensive — and using a single color sped up production, said Matt Anderson, a curator at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich.
“Popular myth says black was chosen because it dried fast,” he said, “but there’s no evidence that black dried any faster than dark greens or blues,” both among the colors that Ford initially offered.
By the mid-1920s, a DuPont paint formulation helped expand the palette, and color was used as a marketing device; General Motors’ Oakland Motor Car division advertised the True Blue Six model after its bright color in 1924. Even Ford Motor caved in when it needed a marketing boost in 1925.
“Colors then returned for the T’s final two model years in an effort to stimulate slumping sales,” Mr. Anderson said.
Cars came in more than a dozen hues by the mid-50s — the better to attract the female drivers of the family’s second car, the thinking went. Those colors became more vivid in the psychedelic ’60s.
Metal and paint technology upped rust resistance in the ’70s, and then a new process from Europe gained notice, said Clifford Schoff, a paint chemist who spent 30 years at the manufacturer PPG. Clear coating was about to arrive in America.
“We started hearing about the ‘wet look,’” Mr. Schoff said. “The color plus clear meant you kept a higher gloss for a longer time.”
Over the years, those technologies that improved the longevity of cars and paint may help explain the unprecedented 10-year run for white as the most popular color. Its functional advantages also help. White is good in hot climates and hides scratches and dings well, making it popular with fleet buyers.
“Rental car companies love white,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for iSeeCars.
But, as the iSeeCars data shows, there is a big gap between what is popular and what retains value.
The 2020 Color Report from the paint provider Axalta (formerly DuPont) said fewer than 1 percent of new cars on lots in America were yellow. Yet iSeeCars data shows yellow retained the most value over all. An overwhelming 30 percent of cars on dealers’ lots are white, followed by 19 percent for both black and gray and 10 percent for silver.
It’s the law of supply and demand. “It’s not that yellow is a popular color. It’s that yellow is popular in relation to how many people want it,” Mr. Brauer said.
“You can’t go wrong buying the popular colors — black, white or silver — but you can’t go right, either,” he added. The most popular colors generally fall in the middle of the value chart.
Rarity alone doesn’t guarantee value. Purple, brown and gold are about as rare as yellow yet retain the least value over all.
There are other anomalies, such as the previously mentioned beige paradox. Trucks did well in muted colors, possibly because, as work vehicles, those hues show less dirt and company names painted on the sides are easy to read.
S.U.V.s did best in flashy colors, possibly because the drivers didn’t want to feel like drudges.
“You are buying the S.U.V. to avoid the minivan,” said Jonah Berger, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with expertise in marketing psychology. A lively color, he said, “makes us feel like: ‘I am driving a fun car. I am a fun, exciting person.’”
Apparently minivan owners are focused on utility. Blue retained the most value, losing 39 percent, but that wasn’t much different from the worst, brown, at 42 percent.
This makes it difficult to assess the “best” color for a car. It might be better to consider the best color for a type of buyer.
“People buy things for different reasons,” Mr. Berger said. “Sometimes we buy them for what they do. Sometimes we buy them for what they say about us.”
People who buy cars for utility, like minivan and fleet buyers, seem to value subtle colors that are easy to care for. People who buy a car as a personal statement — sports- and muscle-car owners — value glitzy colors.
That still complicates the paint choice for vehicles that defy categorization. Jeeps and trucks are utility vehicles for some and showpieces for others, who bolt on lift kits, light bars and custom grilles. The Jeep Wrangler retained the most value in Xtreme Purple, a color usually at the bottom of the overall chart. Purple Wranglers kept $2,398 more value than the same model in utilitarian silver.
Color prognosticators agree that the new color to reckon with is blue. Last year it accounted for 10 percent of cars on lots, equal to silver. But which blue? Dark? Light? Metallic? People who make a livelihood from car paint see vast differences between shades of a single hue, even mundane white.
“The white we have is not the white we had 20 years ago,” said Paul Czornij, head of color design for car paint at BASF. A carmaker might ask him for “a white metallic that is a little bluish, and from this grazing angle it has this property, and from this angle is has that property,” he added. “That is very exciting.”
For consumers, those fine points appear to have little effect on value. The iSeeCars data shows that metallic paint’s value advantage over nonmetallic is insignificant.
Ultimately, many buyers may choose paint color disregarding both value and popularity to achieve a third goal, Mr. Berger said: “Maybe having a color that’s different than white makes you happy.”
What enhances longevity? College degrees and continuing education are correlated with it, a Yale and University of Alabama-Birmingham study found. Having a degree doesn’t guarantee you a longer life, but one’s longevity may be augmented by factors such as enlightened self-care, better medical attention and activity later in life.
Genetics also play a significant role. The landmark New England Centenarian Study, begun in 1995, identified genetic markers associated with those living past 100. The researchers, led by Dr. Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, found that these markers over all were 61 percent accurate in predicting who hits 100.
“The genetic component is a factor in 40 percent to 50 percent of people who make it to 100,” Dr. Perls said, “and 70 percent for those reaching 106, but it’s like winning the lottery. Only one in 5,000 Americans make it to the century mark.” And longevity isn’t distributed equally: A Princeton Universitystudy in 2012 found that socioeconomic differences can account for 80 percent of the life-expectancy divide between Black and white men, and for 70 percent of the imbalance between Black and white women.
An enlightened attitude and deliberate mental, social and physical activity during retirement also matter. That means continuing to learn new things, staying involved in the community and working to some degree.
Activity is critically important, said Mitch Anthony, a consultant in Rochester, Minn., and author of “Life Centered Financial Planning.” Mr. Anthony, who trains financial planners in life planning, has found that people who embrace what he calls a “new retirementality” do best when they remain socially and mentally vibrant.
In developing a core life-planning philosophy, he said, you will have to ponder answers to three questions: “What do you want out of life, what gives you joy, and how do you pay for it?”
Purpose and meaning throughout life are important, many researchers agree, although it’s hard to pin down on how they improve longevity. One study, published in 2013, suggests that these factors may offer a mental and possibly physical breakwater for life’s many travails.