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The US is suffering from a surprising shortage: a lack of long-haul truckers. Despite predictions that automation will eventually make human drivers obsolete, America cannot find enough of them right now. The producer price index for trucking is 6 per cent higher than a year ago, hitting margins for companies ranging from General Mills to Clorox. Executives say the problem could soon get even worse.
There are three lessons to be drawn, Gillian Tett writes in her latest column. One is that we should all take predictions about the impact of technology with a pinch of salt. Another is that we need to think harder about our worker training programmes. Many young people are reluctant to pay $5,000-$10,000 to learn to drive an 18-wheeler at a time when experts are predicting that it is a dead end career. And finally, economic bottlenecks like these help explain why the US Federal Reserve is struggling to decide how quickly to raise interest rates.
Lazy fund managers: Corporate veteran Tom Brown tells tales out of school about the fund managers he has encountered as a director of seven UK-listed companies. He believes that many active funds fail to outperform their benchmarks because their managers fail to do enough research and are far too willing to accept management blather about “cutting costs” and “improved cash flow”.
China clash: In recent years, much has been accomplished to reduce the economic threat from China, writes Lawrence Summers. China’s global trade surpluses have come down, it has spent about $1tn propping up its currency, and intellectual property protections are far better enforced than a few years ago for major US software and video producers. Donald Trump’s current bluster against China is only alienating American allies and will do little to solve the economic hardship in the US heartland.
Structural weakness: The EU is less influential than it should be because it exists in a permanent state of dependence: on Russia for energy supplies; on the US for defence; and on the rest of the world to absorb the EU’s current account surpluses. Wolfgang Munchau argues that the root cause is a collective action problem: the bloc is fundamentally a collection of small countries, each of which has its own small-country mindset. There is no such thing as an overall economic, let alone geopolitical, strategy.
Best of the rest
‘The Most Dangerous Man in the European Union’ — Paul Lendvai in the Atlantic
I’m furious about being paid less than men at the BBC — Sarah Montague in the Sunday Times
Don’t expect the west to act on Syria’s latest horror — Matthew d'Ancona in the Guardian
How to Level the College Playing Field — Harold Levy in the New York Times
A mother’s dispatch from an elementary school lockdown drill — Sandhya Acharya in the Washington Post
What you’ve been saying
If only the French or Dutch had stopped to plant a flag — letter from Geoffrey Warrener
The Westminster system is the most combative, do-nothing, undemocratic system of government ever foisted on an unsuspecting population. A system that disenfranchises half the population for the length of every electoral cycle and allows every incoming flip-flop government to spend the whole term undoing its adversaries’ legislation. As for the British legal system, call it a system but don’t call it prompt and don’t call it justice, except for the very rich and corporations. If only the French or Dutch had been better at planting flags when they passed Australia some 100-plus years before Captain Cook.
Comment from Paul A. Myers on How the world swapped a big idea for a bad one
Mr Trump is going to break the Republican party into its isolationist-nationalist wing and its internationalist wing (Roosevelt engineered a similar break in the 1940 election to create bipartisan support for his third-term re-election). One can date the fracture to the departure of Gary Cohn and his replacement with the clownish Larry Kudlow who will bring heightened levels of ineffectiveness to White House domestic policy.
Point of IMO’s sulphur cap is human health — letter from Ned Molloy
The entire point of the IMO’s 2020 sulphur cap regulation is human health. According to the most recent research published in Nature, shipping’s dirty cheap fuel causes around 400,000 premature deaths a year via heart and lung conditions, and gives 14m children a year asthma. Given the extraordinary efficiencies of scale in modern shipping, freight accounts for only a few pence or cents in the consumer cost of an iPhone. Would you pay a few cents more for your iPhone so that a child living on a coastline next to a major shipping lane doesn’t get sick? I certainly would. The IMO has made the right and proper decision in starting to clean up shipping.
Donald Trump trade threats lack credibility
US bluster has caused most of the world to rally to China’s side
New global tracking models show uptick in world inflation
Higher than expected US inflation is bigger threat than global trade war fears
Lazy fund managers lead to lousy returns
Too many have a short-term outlook and fail to properly understand investments
US truck driver shortage points to bigger problems
As automation is happening unevenly a flexible training system is needed
Trade disputes reveal the EU’s strategic weakness
A bloc of nations with small-country mindsets wallowing in a permanent state of dependence
Elected representatives will do the right thing on Brexit
MPs and MEPs should follow their conscience about whether to vote for any exit deal
FT View: The dangers of global ‘fake news’ backlash
Tackling malevolent propaganda does not justify muzzling the media
FT View: Outsiders knock at the door of power in Italy
If no stable government can be formed, new elections are the answer
The Big Read
The Big Read: Cuba after the Castros: escaping a long shadow
The appointment of a new president next week will only serve to underline the country’s economic stagnation and fading influence