‘Two Sessions’ congress: The economic goals in Chinese leaders’ coded language

China’s “Two Sessions” congress that began this week is the country’s most important political event of the year. To understand what’s at stake, it helps to have some fluency in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) parlance. Terms such as “new productive forces” and “new three” appear vague, but they speak volumes about the party’s agenda during the 10-day congress.

China’s annual political extravaganza has attained cruising speed. The “Two Sessions” congress of two of the country’s most important political bodies has already touched on economic recovery, the modernisation of the army, foreign relations and the question of Taiwan.

During the event, nearly 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) – China’s parliament – meet to set the legislative agenda for the coming year. The 2023 session set the roadmap for more than 2,000 measures that were adopted, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Alongside the NPC meeting, the congress also hosts the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a body meant to give its opinion on the political priorities for the year. Some 2,000 members of the CCP and civil society debate under the watchful eye of Beijing.

The Two Sessions are framed by Chinese media as the best way for a foreign observer to understand how “Chinese democracy” works. They can thus offer a good reading of the political climate in China – provided one understands the CCP parlance in use. One of the best ways to build literacy is to spot the buzzwords that pop up again and again, as reported by Bloomberg News.

Most of them may seem obscure at first glance. What does Chinese President Xi Jinping mean by the “new productive forces”? What are the “new three” developments that participants in the Two Sessions often refer to? Knowing how to interpret these terms “enables us to understand the main developments in the economic and social policy of Xi Jinping and the government, beyond the official announcements”, says Marc Lanteigne, a Sinologist at the Arctic University of Norway.

These buzzwords are also a way to implicitly acknowledge mistakes. Chinese leaders “are never going to clearly say ‘no way’, but the coded language often heralds changes in direction, and thus a tacit acknowledgment that something wasn’t working anymore”, says Lanteigne.

To help make sense of it all, FRANCE 24 has examined three terms in use during these Two Sessions that can help clarify the CCP’s true perspective on China’s economic and social situation, a viewpoint that is not necessarily obvious in official media and public statements.

The ‘new productive forces’

Xi has been using this expression since at least September, but China’s president never specifies which forces he is invoking to rescue the country’s economy.

He referred to them again during the Two Sessions to affirm that they would enable China to reach a 5 percent growth target without any problems.

The “new productive forces” are “a modern version of expressions used by all Chinese leaders since Mao Zedong to designate the economic sectors that are going to be favoured”, explains Lanteigne.

The Sinologist is betting that Xi is referring to services – especially financial – and information technologies with the 2024 version of “productive forces”.

By invoking “new” forces, Xi also aims to sideline the “old” engines of Chinese growth. In other words, the president is indicating that it is time to stop “betting everything on investment in infrastructure and real estate”, says Lanteigne, who expects to see less construction of highways and railroads. Real estate developers, shaken by the fall of debt-laden Evergrande, have received confirmation that saving them is no longer a government priority, he adds.

‘AI plus’ 

Chinese Premier Li Qiang put the country’s “AI plus” initiative on the map. He made it the cornerstone of the “work report” published by the NPC on Tuesday.

Here again, “the contours of this concept are very vague”, says Lanteigne. The main idea is to support artificial intelligence in all sectors of the economy. But how, when, and where to begin? “We’ll have to wait for the details, but the ambition is clear: to make AI a driving force in the economy and boost artificial intelligence research”, he says.

China is far from the only country betting on AI: since the advent of ChatGPT, artificial intelligence has become the hot topic for everyone. But it’s the “plus” that is meant to distinguish China’s engagement.

“By adding a ‘plus’, the authorities want to give the impression that China is already at the next stage,” says Lanteigne.

The term suggests that Beijing has already mastered AI and is now looking for the best ways to use it. It also aims to counter the image of a country that is falling behind. Blame it on ChatGPT and its clones: all these tools come from the West, and a narrative has started to develop suggesting China is having trouble catching up.

Read moreChina, AI and a say on world order: Why the US rejoined UNESCO

The ‘new three’ 

The expression has gained popularity in the media and economic circles for over a year, as noted in a Citigroup bank report published in January 2024. During the recent debates in the NPC, Li expressed delight that “the new three have grown by 30 percent in one year”.

The term refers to solar panels, electric cars and batteries. “It’s not surprising that this term is being put forward at a time when China’s champion electric car maker – BYD – is displaying increasingly global ambitions,” says Lanteigne.

By using the term, the government is showing its support for a manufacturer whose commercial appetite is beginning to concern Western countries. In late February, US President Joe Biden described Chinese electric cars as a risk to American “national security”.

“It’s also a concept that complements the idea of ‘new productive forces’,” says Lanteigne. Once again, it’s a question of turning over a new leaf: these “new three” are opposed to the “old” sectors – textiles and cheap electronics – that were China’s international glory.

China aims to show countries that it intends to remain the “world’s factory”, but now for technological products with high added value.

These “new three” pillars have something in common: “They are meant to illustrate China’s ambition to move towards an eco-responsible economy,” says Lanteigne.

Solar panels represent renewable energy, while electric cars and the batteries that power them symbolise the decarbonisation of road traffic. The “new three” thus also serves as a new slogan for “green” China.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

Read moreAsia-Pacific region: A new cold war brewing

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Venezuela’s highest court upholds ban on opposition presidential candidate Machado

The prospect of a free presidential election in Venezuela was dealt a heavy blow Friday when the country’s highest court upheld a ban on the candidacy of María Corina Machado, a longtime government foe and winner of the primary held by the opposition faction backed by the United States.

The ruling came months after President Nicolás Maduro and the U.S.-backed opposition reached an agreement aimed at leveling the playing field ahead of the election later this year. The deal led Washington to ease economic sanctions on Maduro’s government.

Machado, a former lawmaker, won the opposition’s independently run presidential primary in October with more than 90% of the votes. Her victory came despite the government announcing a 15-year ban on her running for office just days after she formally entered the race in June. 

She was able to participate in the primary election because the effort was organized by a commission independent of Venezuela’s electoral authorities. She insisted throughout the campaign that she never received an official notification of the ban, and said that voters, not ruling-party loyalists, are the rightful decision-makers of her candidacy.

After the court issued its ruling, Machado tweeted that her campaign’s “fight to conquer democracy through free and fair elections” is not over. 

“Maduro and his criminal system chose the worst path for them: fraudulent elections,” she wrote. “That’s not gonna happen.”

She did not offer any details of her next steps, and her campaign declined to comment.

Machado had filed a claim with Venezuela‘s Supreme Tribunal of Justice in December arguing the ban was null and void and seeking an injunction to protect her political rights.

Watch moreVenezuela opposition leader Machado: ‘The Maduro regime is in its weakest position ever’


Instead, the court upheld the ban, which alleges fraud and tax violations and accuses her of seeking the economic sanctions the U.S. imposed on Venezuela last decade. 

The U.S. eased some of the sanctions on Venezuela’s oil, gas and mining industries in October after Maduro’s government and the opposition group known as the Unitary Platform signed the agreement addressing electoral conditions. The accord also led to a swap of prisoners between Washington and Caracas in December. 

The deal signed on the Caribbean island of Barbados narrowed the scheduling of the presidential election to the second half of 2024 and called on both sides to “promote the authorization of all presidential candidates and political parties” to participate as long as they comply with the law. The latter provision prompted the government to allow candidates to appeal their bans.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has threatened to reverse some of the sanctions relief if Maduro’s government fails to lift bans preventing Machado and others from running for office, and if it fails to release political prisoners.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately comment on the court’s action.

Geoff Ramsey, senior analyst on Venezuela at the Atlantic Council think tank, said Maduro’s government was never going to let Machado be a presidential candidate because “her popularity makes her too much of a threat.”

“The timing of this will make it almost impossible for the U.S. government to ignore,” he said. “The problem for Washington is that it’s essentially run out of ways to pressure Maduro. How do you threaten a regime that’s already endured multiple coup attempts and years of crippling sanctions?”

The harshest sanctions were imposed after Venezuela’s last presidential election, which was widely considered a sham and cost Maduro international recognition as the country’s legitimate leader. 

The U.S.-backed opposition stunned its allies and adversaries when more than 2.4 million people voted in the primary, including in neighborhoods long considered strongholds of the governing party. The high turnout came amid Venezuela’s continuing economic struggles and despite government efforts to discourage participation.

After the vote, Maduro and his allies called the opposition’s primary fraudulent. Attorney General Tarek William Saab opened criminal investigations against some of the organizers and later issued arrest warrants for some of Machado’s collaborators.

Over the past two weeks, Maduro, Saab and Jorge Rodriguez, the leader of the National Assembly and the government’s chief negotiator, have linked opposition supporters and people close to Machado to a number of alleged conspiracies they claim were devised to assassinate the president and his inner circle.

Rodríguez, without mentioning Machado, tweeted Friday that “despite the serious threats from far-right sectors against the peace of the Republic,” referring to the alleged conspiracies, “the mechanism established within the framework of the Barbados Agreements has been met.”

Rodríguez vowed to hold the presidential election this year. Maduro will be seeking to add six more years to his decade-long presidency marked in its entirety by political, social and economic crisis. Under Maduro’s watch, millions of Venezuelans have fallen into poverty and more than 7.4 million have migrated.

A U.N.-backed panel investigating human rights abuses in Venezuela in September determined that Maduro’s government has intensified efforts to curtail democratic freedoms ahead of the 2024 election. That includes subjecting some politicians, human rights defenders and other opponents to detention, surveillance, threats, defamatory campaigns and arbitrary criminal proceedings.

Election campaigns in Venezuela typically involve handouts of free food, home appliances and other goods on behalf of governing party candidates, who also get favorable state media coverage. Opposition candidates and their supporters struggle to find places to gather without harassment from government activists and to get fuel to travel across the country. 

A common government practice for sidelining adversaries is to ban them from public office, and it is not limited to presidential contests. 

Such a ban was used retroactively in 2021 to remove gubernatorial candidate Freddy Superlano when he was ahead of a sibling of the late President Hugo Chávez but had not yet been declared the winner. Superlano’s substitute was also kept off the ballot via a ban. 

The court on Friday also upheld a ban on former governor and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who dropped out of the primary race before the vote.

“What they will never be able to ban is the Venezuelans’ desire for CHANGE,” Capriles tweeted. “… Today more than ever, let nothing and no one take us off the electoral route.”


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We can tackle climate change, jobs, growth and global trade. Here’s what’s stopping us

We must leave behind established modes of thinking and seek creative workable solutions.

Another tumultuous year has confirmed that the global economy is at a turning point. We face four big challenges: the climate transition; the good-jobs problem; an economic-development crisis, and the search for a newer, healthier form of globalization.

To address each, we must leave behind established modes of thinking and seek creative workable solutions, while recognizing that these efforts will be necessarily uncoordinated and experimental.

Climate change is the most daunting challenge, and the one that has been overlooked the longest — at great cost. If we are to avoid condemning humanity to a dystopian future, we must act fast to decarbonize the global economy. We have long known that we must wean ourselves from fossil fuels, develop green alternatives and shore up our defenses against the lasting environmental damage that past inaction has already caused. However, it has become clear that little of this is likely to be achieved through global cooperation or economists’ favored policies.

Instead, individual countries will forge ahead with their own green agendas, implementing policies that best account for their specific political constraints, as the United States, China and the European Union have been doing. The result will be a hodge-podge of emission caps, tax incentives, research and development support, and green industrial policies with little global coherence and occasional costs for other countries. Messy though it may be, an uncoordinated push for climate action may be the best we can realistically hope for.

Inequality, the erosion of the middle class, and labor-market polarization have caused significant damage to our social environment.

But our physical environment is not the only threat we face. Inequality, the erosion of the middle class, and labor-market polarization have caused equally significant damage to our social environment. The consequences are now widely evident. Economic, regional, and cultural gaps within countries are widening, and liberal democracy (and the values that support it) appears to be in decline, reflecting rising support for xenophobic, authoritarian populists and the growing backlash against scientific and technical expertise.

Social transfers and the welfare state can help, but what is most needed is an increase in the supply of good jobs for the less-educated workers who have lost access to them. We need more productive, well-remunerated employment opportunities that can provide dignity and social recognition for those without a college degree. Expanding the supply of such jobs will require not only more investment in education and more robust defense of workers’ rights, but also a new brand of industrial policies for services, where the bulk of future employment will be created.

The disappearance of manufacturing jobs over time reflects both greater automation and stronger global competition. Developing countries have not been immune to either factor. Many have experienced “premature de-industrialization”: their absorption of workers into formal, productive manufacturing firms is now very limited, which means they are precluded from pursuing the kind of export-oriented development strategy that has been so effective in East Asia and a few other countries. Together with the climate challenge, this crisis of growth strategies in low-income countries calls for an entirely new development model.

Governments will have to experiment, combining investment in the green transition with productivity enhancements in labor-absorbing services.

As in the advanced economies, services will be low- and middle-income countries’ main source of employment creation. But most services in these economies are dominated by very small, informal enterprises — often sole proprietorships — and there are essentially no ready-made models of service-led development to emulate. Governments will have to experiment, combining investment in the green transition with productivity enhancements in labor-absorbing services.

Finally, globalization itself must be reinvented. The post-1990 hyper-globalization model has been overtaken by the rise of U.S.-China geopolitical competition, and by the higher priority placed on domestic social, economic, public-health, and environmental concerns. No longer fit for purpose, globalization as we know it will have to be replaced by a new understanding that rebalances national needs and the requirements of a healthy global economy that facilitates international trade and long-term foreign investment.

Most likely, the new globalization model will be less intrusive, acknowledging the needs of all countries (not just major powers) that want greater policy flexibility to address domestic challenges and national-security imperatives. One possibility is that the U.S. or China will take an overly expansive view of its security needs, seeking global primacy (in the U.S. case) or regional domination (China). The result would be a “weaponization” of economic interdependence and significant economic decoupling, with trade and investment treated as a zero-sum game.

The biggest gift major powers can give to the world economy is to manage their own domestic economies well.

But there could also be a more favorable scenario in which both powers keep their geopolitical ambitions in check, recognizing that their competing economic goals are better served through accommodation and cooperation. This scenario might serve the global economy well, even if — or perhaps because — it falls short of hyper-globalization. As the Bretton Woods era showed, a significant expansion of global trade and investment is compatible with a thin model of globalization, wherein countries retain considerable policy autonomy with which to foster social cohesion and economic growth at home. The biggest gift major powers can give to the world economy is to manage their own domestic economies well.

All these challenges call for new ideas and frameworks. We do not need to throw conventional economics out the window. But to remain relevant, economists must learn to apply the tools of their trade to the objectives and constraints of the day. They will have to be open to experimentation, and sympathetic if governments engage in actions that do not conform to the playbooks of the past.

Dani Rodrik, professor of international political economy at Harvard Kennedy School, is president of the International Economic Association and the author of Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017).

This commentary was published with the permission of Project Syndicate — Confronting Our Four Biggest Economic Challenges

More: Biden administration’s antitrust victories are much-needed wins for consumers

Also read: ‘Dr. Doom’ Nouriel Roubini: ‘Worst-case scenarios appear to be the least likely.’ For now.

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Questions swirl around Xi’s motives after a second top minister disappears in China

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu has not been seen in public for more than two weeks. The disappearance of this top official close to President Xi Jinping comes two months after that of now-former foreign affairs minister Qin Gang, and follows the dismissal of a pair of influential military generals. For some observers, Li’s vanishing is likely linked to corruption, while others see it as a sign of intense political battles hidden from outside eyes.

Where is Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu? The top military official has not been heard from in more than two weeks, as noted by the Financial Times in an article published on Friday. 

The general last appeared in public at the third China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in Beijing on August 29. Li had not left China since a trip to Moscow and Minsk earlier that month. 

Beijing is keeping quiet about the disappearance. The only official clue emerged when Vietnamese authorities said that Li’s ministry last week cancelled his trip to Hanoi for “health reasons”. 

But sources in Washington offered a different explanation. Speaking to the Financial Times on condition of anonymity, several US officials said that Li could be the target of a corruption investigation, which could have prompted Chinese authorities to discreetly remove the defence minister from his post just six months after his appointment by President Xi.

Reuters reported on Friday that Li is under investigation by Chinese authorities, citing 10 people described as being familiar with the matter.

Beijing seems to have undertaken a summer clean-up in the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“There are signs that a vast anti-corruption campaign is ongoing targeting the PLA,” said Carlotta Rinaudo, a China specialist at the International Team for the Study of Security (ITSS) Verona. 

In July, Xi himself announced the dismissal of two officials from the PLA’s Rocket Force, a military branch responsible for the development of highly strategic ballistic missiles. 

In early September, the president of the army’s military court was sacked. Beijing did not give an official reason for this “unexpected shakeup”

However, when it comes to China’s armed forces, corruption is still the chief suspect.

“PLA corruption has been a problem since China opened to the world, economically, in the 1980s”, said sinologist Marc Lanteigne of the Arctic University of Norway. “Going back 20 years, there has been scandal about generals getting rich by selling access and influence.”  

‘No one is safe’

Since he came to power in 2012, Xi has made the fight against corruption in the military’s ranks an absolute priority. “He is obsessed with fighting corruption in the PLA,”, said Rinaudo.  

“When Xi Jinping’s father was rehabilitated, it helped him land a job as a mishu. It’s a Chinese term that means literally a ‘book of secrets’ and [designates a] personal assistant who has access” to a military general’s “secrets”, she explained, referencing the purging and later return to favour of Xi’s father Xi Zhongxun.

“It was a perfect spot to see the extent of the corruption in the PLA.”

The recent clean-up – including the defence minister’s disappearance – could be the latest manifestation of Xi’s anti-corruption crusade. 

The fact that the president did not hesitate to let go of a minister he had appointed in March who “certainly is seen as a Xi loyalist”, as Lanteigne said, would appear to demonstrate the president’s determination.  

“No one is safe,” said Rinaudo. 

She said that Li’s profile also fits in well with a major corruption case in the military.

“Around 2017-2018, he worked for the equipment development department, which … is considered one of the most corrupt because of the huge amount of money they have access to,” she said. 

However, Li’s disappearance doesn’t fit neatly within the narrative of a major anti-corruption effort – China’s president has never been discreet in his fight against corruption in the military. “It’s an accomplishment he is very proud of,” said Lanteigne. 

It is possible that Xi has opted for silence because he doesn’t want to draw too much media attention to a matter that tarnishes a man who is supposed to be close to him.

“It really calls into question the control Xi Jinping has on his inner circle and his ability to pick the right person,” said Lanteigne. 

But Li’s disappearance also recalls another recent episode at the highest level of the state. In July, former foreign minister Qin Gang also disappeared – for more a month. Qin was officially sacked at the end of that month without any reason being given. The ex-minister has not reappeared since. 

After the wave of disappearances of billionaires and business leaders in recent years, it could be the turn of senior political officials. The recent silent sackings reflect major “infighting between administrations or even factions” in China’s government, said Lanteigne. The behind-the-scenes cacophony conflicts with the image of control that Xi exercises on his government. 

Anxiety, not strength 

But the political situation in China has been tense since the end of Beijing’s “zero Covid” policy, which was preceded by demonstrations “that took the government by surprise because of how strong they were”, said Lanteigne. The dismissals are “maybe a reaction to the impression of a loss of control by Xi over the situation”, he said. 

“In a way, getting rid of a loyalist is a demonstration of strength from Xi,” said Rinaudo. 

Internationally, the disappearances create an impression of anxiety rather than strength, according to both experts interviewed by FRANCE 24. US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel even poked fun at the situation, comparing it to mystery writer Agatha Christie’s novel “And Then There Were None”, in which one character after another disappears. 

“Both of these ministers are responsible for projecting power outside of the country,” said Lanteigne. “The impression that there is some internal turmoil behind this is not helping the government to demonstrate China is in a position to play an active role on the world stage.”

From a diplomatic point of view, “it’s creating some doubt about who is in charge for foreign diplomacy”, said Rinaudo. 

However, the likely isolation of the defence minister could ultimately benefit Beijing. Since 2018, Li has been on the list of people targeted by US sanctions for having sold military equipment to Russian entities that were sanctioned by the US.

“Having a defence minister on a Washington sanction list was a bad thing for [China-US] relations,” said Rinaudo. “Now that he is gone, it could ease the tensions.” 

What’s more, Li “is a hawk who was very aggressive … about China’s territorial dispute and relations with the West”, said Lanteigne. For the Arctic University professor, the appointment of his successor will be a very good indicator of Xi’s state of mind. If the new defence minister is a moderate, it could be a sign that Beijing wants to improve its relations with Washington. 

This article is a translation of the original in French. 

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Here’s How Much Mike Pence Is Worth

Government pensions made the former vice president a millionaire in 2019, but he really cashed in after the 2020 election forced him back into the private sector.

It took Mike Pence nearly two decades of government service to become a millionaire on taxpayers’ dime through his state and federal pensions in 2019–and less than three years to quadruple his fortune as a public speaker, writer and consultant after leaving the vice presidency in January 2021. The 64-year-old darling of conservative evangelicals, who published his memoir “So Help Me God” last November, is wealthier (and more liquid) than he’s ever been, worth an estimated $4 million, according to Forbes’ estimates.

From the start of 2022 to June 2023, Pence generated $3.4 million by delivering 32 paid speeches, talking to a variety of groups, including an international peace organization, an oil and gas group and a smattering of universities. He collected another $1.4 million in advance payments for his book over the same period. His wife, Karen, received $75,000 in advance payments for her book, “When It’s Your Turn To Serve.” The Pences used some of their newfound cash to enjoy life outside of the White House, paying $1.9 million for a home in Indiana. But they saved plenty, too, buying stock in blue-chip names like Apple, Pfizer, Chevron and Lockheed Martin, before concentrating their portfolio in broad-based funds as a presidential run approached.

The son of a Korean War veteran who helped build Kiel Bros. Oil Co., an Indiana gas station and convenience store chain with more than 200 locations at its peak, Mike Pence graduated from Indiana University’s law school in 1986. He passed on a job at his family’s business, instead mounting unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 1988 and 1990 and briefly working at a small law firm. Pence’s second congressional campaign erupted in scandal after he used political donations to cover a mortgage, credit card and grocery bills. “I’m not embarrassed that I need to make a living,” he told the press at the time. Such personal spending was legal then (though it has since been banned) but proved unpopular with voters.

Pence’s Portfolio

As vice president, Mike Pence’s fortune was almost entirely locked up in government pensions. Out of office, he has quadrupled his net worth to $4 million, scooped up a mansion in Indiana and expanded his exposure to the stock market.

Over the next decade, Pence reinvented himself as a local radio star, billed as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf,” making him a minor celebrity in the conservative Midwest and helping propel him into Congress on his third attempt in 2000. Still, the U.S. representative from Indiana remained one the Capitol’s poorer members, with few assets to his name besides stock in his family’s Kiel Bros.—worth somewhere between $200,000 and $450,000, according to a financial disclosure report he filed with the federal government in 2004. The company, which his brother Greg had taken over, filed for bankruptcy the next year.

Pence had a safety net. In 2006, he hit his fifth year of federal service, making him eligible for the especially generous retirement package afforded to members of Congress and their staffers. In 2012, Pence voted to scale back such retirement packages for future congressmen, but a grandfather clause written into the new legislation left his pension, and those of older lawmakers, untouched. “They’re almost twice as valuable as a regular federal pension,” Tim Voit, a financial analyst who runs a firm specializing in pensions told Forbes in 2019. “Congress passes laws for their own benefit, and they’ll never shortchange themselves.”

Between the 12 years Pence served in the House through 2012 and his four years as vice president beginning in 2017, he is currently eligible to collect an estimated $62,750 per year from the federal government for the rest of his life. If he were able to sell that annuity today, he could get about $620,000 for it, down only slightly from around $700,000 in 2019, with two years of additional service as vice president offset by the impact of interest rate hikes.

Then there’s Pence’s state pension, the result of his four years as governor of Indiana through 2016, which entitles him to 40% of his final salary of $112,000 for the rest of his life. That’s assuming Pence, who received a salary of $230,700 during each of his four years as vice president before really raking it in as a private citizen, waits to start drawing benefits until he turns 65 next year. The Indiana pension is worth an estimated $430,000 today–down only slightly from a half million or so in 2019. A spokesperson for Pence did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Pence’s pensions are still worth a lot to the former vice president, accounting for nearly a quarter of his estimated $4 million fortune, or $1.1 million combined. But they’re not his only real assets anymore. The millions he earned writing, speaking and consulting after leaving the White House likely helped Pence pay off the five student loans he received to help put his three children through college, which had somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 of principal remaining on them when he departed the White House, according to a financial disclosure he filed in January 2021.

Pence’s recent cash infusion will also make it easier to pay down the $1.5 million mortgage he took out to purchase a five-acre estate in his hometown of Columbus, Indiana shortly after leaving the vice president’s official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in January 2021. Forbes estimates that Pence’s new property, apparently the first he has owned since moving into the Indiana Governor’s Mansion in 2013, is now worth $1 million, after deducting the remaining balance on his 30-year mortgage.

Pence also owns shares in four mutual funds worth between $95,000 and $250,000 combined through his 401(k) plan at Hoosier Heartland LLC, the entity through which he conducts his speaking, writing and consulting. Hoosier Heartland has paid him $381,000 in salary since the beginning of 2022, according to his most recent financial disclosure. Two of his larger holdings today are a money market account and a Fidelity index fund that tracks the broader market, in which he has somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million apiece. To top things off, Pence has a life insurance policy valued somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000, and as much as $15,000 of cash in the bank.

The last two and a half years as a private citizen have been far more lucrative for Pence than his 20 years in public service. But he could make even more in the wake of a presidency, if he’s able to upset both his former boss, Donald Trump, and the man whose election he certified, Joe Biden.


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5 things we already know about Finland’s new right-wing government

From tax cuts to climate change, increased VAT to Finland’s international reputation, here’s some key things you should know.

The setting and symbolism couldn’t have been more striking, or more different. 

After the 2019 Finnish election, the parties of the new coalition government presented their policy programme in Helsinki’s spectacular Oodi Central Library in the morning over coffee, and took questions from the public and journalists alike — before embarking on a tour of town halls up and down the country to have conversations with voters about the future direction of Finland. 

Compare that with 2023, when the four parties which make up Finland’s new coalition government summoned journalists at 6pm on a Friday evening, no members of the public allowed, to unveil their policy agenda — which came after seven weeks of fractious negotiations.

The right-wing National Coalition Party, known locally as Kokoomus, emerged from the April general election with the most seats in parliament, and partnered with the next biggest group, the far-right Finns Party. Also on board are the Christian Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party, with Kokoomus leader Petteri Orpo as Finland’s next prime minister. 

So what are some of the key things we know already about the new government programme, and how might it all unfold now: 

1. This is the most right-wing Finnish government in modern times

Kokoomus has a vocal EU-sceptic and immigrant-sceptic wing. The Christian Democrats’ best-known MP is anti-abortion, and became something of a cause celebre among the US Christian right when she carried a bible into court to face charges of being anti-LGBT. She was later cleared

Meanwhile, the Finns Party’s track record on immigration, the EU and fighting the climate crisis speaks for itself. 

There are also several Finns Party MPs, including senior party members, with convictions for race-related crimes, and the younger cadre of Finns Party politicians who came to prominence during the last two election cycles have a fondness for Donald Trump’s MAGA movement. 

“Petteri Orpo’s government programme is building a European, free and secure Finland that will not just sit on its hands,” insists Kokoomus MP Elina Valtonen, who is likely to land one of the big ministerial portfolios in the new government.

“A strong and caring NATO Finland, where consumer choice increases, entrepreneurship pays, skills are valued, living standards rise and nature is cared for,” she adds. 

But political analyst Juho Rahkonen says “we have a more right-wing government than perhaps ever before,” a stark contrast to outgoing Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s five-party center-left coalition.

Finns Party leader Riikka Purra said the Nordic nation should opt for a tougher immigration line, and called for stricter asylum policy, time-limited protection of asylum-seekers, mandatory integration, and plans to reduce the number of quota refugees, saying those policies would amount to “a paradigm shift.”

2. The Swedish People’s Party is taking a reputational gamble

No party has more at stake in this coalition government than the Swedish People’s Party SFP/RKP. 

With ten seats in parliament, they are the only party which was also in the previous government — an administration which put intersectional feminism at the heart of policymaking with Sanna Marin as prime minister.

Over the last four years they’ve moved further to the left on issues of internationality, multi-culturalism, human rights and immigration — an anathema to the Finnish right-wing.  

Before negotiations, SFP/RKP leader Anna-Maja Henriksson said she wouldn’t be in the government if it was doing Finns Party politics, but she seems to have capitulated and it’s difficult to see at this stage what she has actually won for her party — except perhaps to prolong Finland’s widely-criticised fur farming industry, which employs around two thousand people, many of them in her own constituency area. 

For a party that’s already divided between it’s Ostrobothnia ‘countryside’ voters and the southern coastal ‘city’ voters, the Swedish People’s Party might have lost the chance to appeal to other non-Swedish-speaking Finns, immigrants and young people as potential voters, by joining up with a far-right party in government — indeed their own youth group leadership quit the government formation talks in protest at cooperation with the Finns Party, and Henriksson admitted on Friday that still not all her MPs were in favour of being in government with them.  

3. Four billion in savings needed

Petteri Orpo promised to find €4 billion in savings to reduce Finland’s debt, and that means a mixture of cuts — which are never popular with the people on the receiving end — and cost savings or fundraising in the form of increasing items with a 10% VAT to 14%, making it even more expensive to buy medicines, take part in sports, go to the cinema or cultural events, or book a hotel room. 

“Before the elections, we promised to put the country’s affairs in order. We promised an adjustment of €6 billion and 100,000 new jobs,” says Kokoomus MP Sinuhe Wallinheimo

Most of the savings are coming from €1.5 billion cuts to social security, and by re-jigging how regional healthcare systems are funded from the central government to generate efficiency savings. 

There will be freezes for the next four years on earnings-related unemployment insurance, housing allowance and some other benefits. 

There’s cuts of €125 million for education and culture grants, and an adult education subsidy will also be scrapped. Some €250 million will be cut from funding for new roads projects and another €250 million from development aid budgets. 

Tax on beer will decrease, but taxes on wines, spirits and soft drinks will go up. 

“There is enough money for investors and high earners, but poor families with children, students and the elderly are being cut,” says Jussi Saramo, chair of the Left Alliance Parliamentary Group. 

“For example, massive housing benefit cuts will hit students, single parents and those working in low-wage jobs hard,” he says. 

4. Fighting the climate crisis

The previous Finnish government were enthusiastic about setting targets to meet and even exceed international agreements on carbon emissions – even if they were less enthusiastic about taking enough concrete steps to meet those goals fast enough. 

Within the new government, the Finns Party has been opposed to the idea that Finns — who they say are among the least polluting people on the planet — should have to take radical steps to fight the climate crisis when this should be done by big polluting countries instead. 

They’ve also wanted to lower the price of petrol and resisted calls to reduce the number of petrol cars on Finnish roads. 

“The new government is very much leaning towards the conservative right and takes Finland backwards when it comes to climate action and biodiversity protection,” says Ville Niinistö, a Finnish Green MEP. 

“The financing for nature protection is reduced by one-third from the previous Marin government and therefore we have no tools to protect our forests and waterways in line with global commitments to stop biodiversity loss,” he tells Euronews. 

Niinistö notes that while the new government doesn’t formally back down on the commitment to be carbon neutral by 2035, its policies are “leading away from that goal”. 

The new government plans to reduce tax on petrol by €100 million, and reduce vehicle taxes by €50 million. 

5. Finland’s international reputation could take a hit

In large part thanks to Sanna Marin’s profile, Finland has enjoyed unprecedented good press internationally over the last four years. 

From being the happiest country in the world to putting extra money into development aid for women and children when the Trump administration withdrew support, Finland has shored up its credentials as a reliable partner. 

But now there will be cuts to international aid, amounting to hundreds of millions of euros. Finland will also be less welcoming to asylum seekers and so-called ‘quota migrants.’  

And having a far-right party in power probably doesn’t do a lot to burnish Finland’s brand image as a friendly, welcoming country. 

Kokoomus MP Saara-Sofia Sirén says that in the new government programme, Finland “promotes the rights of women and girls across its foreign policy.” 

“The priorities of the government’s development policy are strengthening the status of women and girls, the right to self-determination, and sexual and reproductive health,” but doesn’t address whether budget cuts to international aid will impact the scope or scale of the services which Finland currently funds.

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#Finlands #rightwing #government

Receipt-filled thread shows how YOUR tax dollars were used to blacklist (defund) conservative media

Gosh, it sure sounds like the government doesn’t want you reading conservative news. Wonder why? As Twitchy readers know, the Washington Examiner broke a HUGE story late last week about a Microsoft-supported ad group working to deplatform and defund conservative sites; they were blacklisting us as a means to all but destroy our advertising revenue. They accused us of spreading disinformation and used descriptors like misogynists and hate, etc. They actually called Townhall Media ‘offensive and reprehensible’.

Meanwhile, they promoted sites like Buzzfeed and HuffPo.

Because of course, they did.

Now, it sounds like there are more dots to connect here … to the State Department. No, seriously.

Take a look at this thread from Walter Olson:

They targeted Reason Magazine, you guys.

Probably the most centrist, unbiased site around …

From Liberty Unyielding:

Conservative and libertarian-leaning media are now being starved of advertising dollars because of a taxpayer-funded progressive group — the Global Disinformation Index. It classifies truthful media coverage as “disinformation” that advertisers should avoid, when it is offensive to progressives. Most of the publications targeted by the Global Disinformation Index are conservative, but even non-conservative publications have been classified as misinformation after criticizing civil-liberties violations by progressive officials. That includes Reason Magazine, a libertarian publication that has won journalism awards for its reporting on civil-liberties violations and government abuses of power.

So basically any outlet not pushing government-approved Leftist garbage.


London-based group.

This just gets dumber and more horrible by the minute.

From the Washington Examiner:

According to financial statements, the NED received over $300 million from the State Department in 2021. Critics have argued that the endowment, which Congress authorized in 1983, is essentially a government grantmaking body despite its legal status as a private entity.

In 2020, the NED granted $230,000 to the AN Foundation, GDI’s group that also goes by the Disinformation Index Foundation, documents show.

So … those of us in conservative media have been paying for these a-holes to try and defund/deplatform us.

No words.

… dynamic exclusion list.

How very Orwellian.

Basically, hate speech is anything the Left disagrees with.

Just. Wow.

In other words, Microsoft backpedaled and is trying to cover its backside.


But you know, we’re false and misleading.

You’ve gotta be kidding us.

This. ^


The government has no business whatsoever in funding any sort of action to silence the opinions of the media. We’re certainly not experts but this sounds a lot like a First Amendment thing.

See, you can tell he writes for Reason. His take is fair.

Meanwhile, this editor is ready to break out a chainsaw or two …


Since the government was involved?

Ain’t that the truth?



NPR DRAGGED (then dragged some more) for asking if we should continue masking FOREVER in some places

YIKES! We thought the NYT piece promoting mass suicide was bad but THIS Dick guy’s thread is even WORSE

AOC leads pack of frothy-mouthed Dems LOSING IT over Jesus Super Bowl ad (here are the dumbest)


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#Receiptfilled #thread #shows #tax #dollars #blacklist #defund #conservative #media

John Hayward’s powerful thread about what it will take to BEAT Leftist totalitarians a MUST-read

Once again we were lucky to come across one of John Hayward’s threads and this time he’s rallying the troops to take on the Left, particularly totalitarians. What is especially important about this thread is his addressing libertarians and small-government conservatives who may not like how we have to fight … but it has to be done.

Take a gander.

Your adversaries most certainly do.

Keep going.

And sadly we are definitely looking at a gigantic central government that is wholly run by aggressive totalitarian statists.

It won’t be easy to be the totalitarians but it can be done. It MUST be done.

They laugh as we all just want to be left alone.

And if you don’t share ITS values, you’re a bigot.

Or a racist.

Or a homophobe.

Or a domestic terrorist.

Or a Nazi.

Or a white nationalist.

Or a white supremacist.

See a pattern?

Bullies the lot of ’em.

Progressives, Lefties, socialists, etc. are more than happy to do just that.

We have to beat them at their own game.


Bingo again.

If you don’t fight to defend your own values the totalitarians will force you to adopt theirs.

Or suffer.

We need warriors.

Ride the Leviathan, or you will be devoured by it.


So much boom.



Adam Schiff’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week gets even WORSE pushing ANOTHER blatant lie

Historian takes first episode of Hulu’s 1619 Project APART in thread and SCHOOLS Nikole Hannah-Jones

Michael Shellenberger FACT-CHECKS AOC and her grossly false claims about police killings in brutal thread


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#John #Haywards #powerful #thread #BEAT #Leftist #totalitarians #MUSTread