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Knock-on effect? 连锁反应

中国日报网 2024-01-02 13:54


Reader question:

Please explain “knock-on effect”, as in this sentence: They are not out to achieve social justice as the knock-on effect of pursuing truth; they want to pursue it head-on.

My comments:

To paraphrase:

They’re not asking for the truth to be sought and revealed just for the sake of it while hoping some form of social justice is achieved as a side effect. Rather, they want to pursue social justice head-on, i.e. directly.

Knock-on effect, you see, means an indirect or secondary effect or the result of something happening earlier.

Let’s use billiard balls for example. In the game of billiards, you hit the white ball, known as the cue ball with, well, the cue, a woken stick. You hit the cue ball in order for it to move and hit other balls on the table. The cue ball moves and knocks on another ball to cause it to move and knock onto still other balls.

Movement of the other balls is the result of them being hit by the cue ball.

This is the literal meaning of a knock-on effect.

Metaphorically speaking, by extension, any event caused by an earlier event can be described as its knock-on effect.

We sometimes hear such an event described as a chain event, one of a series of events happening one after another, like a chain – a string of rings linking one another.

Another similar phrase used to describe the knock-on effect is “domino effect” – effect caused by one piece of domino falling onto another piece, causing it to fall onto yet another piece, so on and so forth.

Unlike the domino effect, which is expected, the knock-on effect is often unexpected. Again, let’s use the billiards table for example. Before you become very good at it, you can’t control the cue ball very well. And when you hit, you cannot hit so accurately. Hence, how the balls move about is actually highly unpredictable.

Hence and therefore, the knock-on effect of a social event is often unpredictable.

In other words, what happens next can be unexpected.

Unexpected and, often, unwanted.

That’s the difference between “knock-on effect” and “domino effect”.

All right, here are media examples of “knock-on effect”:

1. When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington. And she knew Trump’s pick for Treasury – Steven Mnuchin – all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

“I just wish that I had not voted,” said Colebrook, 59. “I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in.”

Less than a month after his presidential win, Trump’s populist appeal has started to clash with a Cabinet of billionaires and millionaires that he believes can energize economic growth.

The prospect of Mnuchin leading the Treasury Department drew plaudits from many in the financial sector. A former Goldman Sachs executive who pivoted in the early 2000s to hedge fund management and movie production, he seemed an ideal emissary to Wall Street.

When asked Wednesday about his credentials to be Treasury secretary, Mnuchin emphasized his time running OneWest – which not only foreclosed on Colebrook but also on thousands of others in the aftermath of the housing crisis caused by subprime mortgages.

“What I’ve really been focused on is being a regional banker for the last eight years,” Mnuchin said. “I know what it takes to make sure that we can make loans to small and midmarket companies and that’s going to be our big focus, making sure we scale back regulation so that we make sure the banks are lending.”

But the prospect of Mnuchin leading the Treasury Department prompted Colebrook and other OneWest borrowers who say they unfairly faced foreclosure to contact The Associated Press. Colebrook wishes she could meet with Trump to explain why she feels betrayed by his Cabinet selection after believing that his presidency could restore the balance of power to everyday people.

“He doesn’t want the truth,” she said. “He’s now backing his buddies.”

The Trump transition team has been sensitive to preserving trust with its voters. Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway publicly warned that supporters would feel “betrayed” if former critic Mitt Romney was named secretary of state, for instance.

For Mnuchin, the fundamental problem stems from the Great Recession. His investor group was the sole bidder to take control of the troubled bank IndyMac in 2009. The group struck a deal that left the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation responsible for taking as much as 80 percent of the losses on former IndyMac assets and rebranded the troubled bank as OneWest.

The combination of OneWest’s profitability, government guarantees and foreclosure activities drew the ire of activist groups like the California Reinvestment Coalition. It found the bank to be consistently one of the most difficult to work out loan modifications with even though OneWest never drew a major response from government regulators.

By June of 2014, five years after taking over OneWest, Mnuchin sold the bank for $3.4 billion at a tremendous profit.

Colebrook said she learned the hard way about OneWest’s tactics, after the regional bank acquired her home lender, First Federal Bank of California, in late 2009.

In 1998, she bought a triplex for $248,000 in Hawthorne, California, not too far from Los Angeles International Airport.

She rented out two of the units and lived in the third. Colebrook refinanced her mortgage in order to renovate the property and help buy additional homes to generate rental income.

By the time the financial crisis struck in 2008, she had an interest-only mortgage on the triplex known as a “pick-a-payment” loan. Her monthly payments ran as high as $2,000 and only covered the interest on the debt. Then she got ensnarled in the economic downturn.

“All my tenants lost their jobs in the crash,” Colebrook said. “They couldn’t pay. It was a knock-on effect.

Over five years, she tried unsuccessfully to adjust her loan with OneWest through the Treasury Department’s Home Affordable Modification Program. But she said that One West Bank lost paperwork, provided conflicting statements about ownership of the loan and fees and submitted charges that were unverified and caused her loan balance to balloon. By the time she lost her home in foreclosure in April 2015, the payoff balance totaled $517,662.

Colebrook said she is still challenging the foreclosure in court.

- Trump voter lost home, blames incoming Treasury secretary, AP, December 3, 2016.

2. While a new tentative deal may have been reached between the two sides involved in a labour dispute impacting thousands of B.C. port workers, experts say Canada may not have seen the last of strikes this year.

From the B.C. port strike to the recent Greater Toronto Area Metro workers’ strike to the writers’ strike in the U.S., rising costs of living, high corporate profits and dissatisfaction among workers may all be contributing to collective action across sectors.

Simon Black, associate professor of labour studies at Brock University, said that while these present-day examples may not be at the same level as the strike waves of the 1970s and the late 1940s, all signs point towards large-scale dissatisfaction.

“Workers have seen their real wages, their purchasing power, eroding a great deal under this inflationary period. And yet, large corporations have made record gains, while working class households have struggled. I think there’s good evidence that the corporate profits and not workers’ wages have contributed disproportionately to inflation,” Black said.

Moshe Lander, economics professor at Concordia University, said the latest strike waves are driven by a desire to recover some of the lost purchasing power.

“You’re having, essentially, a showdown that’s dealing with how we recover the lost money or the redistribution of that money during high inflation.”


Rising cost of living is not the only factor making public anger worse. Lander said that record temperatures this summer aren’t helping. “People tend to be angrier, tend to be more frustrated easily, tend to be more exhausted during periods of extreme heat,” he said.

Black and Lander agreed that strikes in one sector could have a domino effect on other sectors.

“If a public sector union can negotiate a 12-per cent wage increase over three years and another union goes to their employers and say, I want the 12 per cent over three or I want more than 12 per cent over three, how does the employer turn around and say, no, you can’t have that when another union’s already agreed to it?,” Lander said.

Black added: “This is what happens when we see a strike action. We see workers learning from other workers.”

There’s a knock-on effect that other workers see that and learn from that. And so yes, we can see this kind of this kind of activity spread throughout the economy, to different sectors.”

- Wave of strikes in Canada could cause ‘knock-on effect’ in other sectors, experts warn, GlobalNews.ca, July 31, 2023.

3. The pieces are lining up for President Joe Biden to lay claim to a victory for his pro-union stance as the second of Detroit’s Big Three car companies reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers, President Shawn Fain confirmed Saturday evening.

With General Motors the only one still at the bargaining table, the union expanded its walkout against the company.

Stellantis notched its deal with the union following a final stretch of intense negotiations, mere days after the UAW similarly came to preliminary terms with Ford on a new four-year contract. General Motors is now the lone Detroit automaker still at the bargaining table and faces growing pressure to come to terms as its competitors’ workers return to their jobs pending ratification of their agreements.

“Our union is again victorious; once again we’ve achieved what we were told just weeks ago was impossible,” Fain said in a video message. “We truly are saving the American dream.”

Underlining GM’s outlier status, a local UAW chapter in Tennessee announced Saturday evening that it is joining the strike at GM’s Spring Hill Manufacturing facility, which employs nearly 4,000 union and non-union workers.

Still Biden is now closer than ever to turning the page on a major concern as he begins navigating shared governance with new House Speaker Mike Johnson, just ahead of another deadline to fund the government. It eases the danger that unrest in the sprawling auto industry will be an economic drag as he makes his pitch for reelection.


Asked about the development on Saturday, the president, who was in Delaware, responded with two thumbs up. The White House later released a statement from Biden calling the tentative agreement a “testament to the power of unions and collective bargaining to build strong middle-class jobs while helping our most iconic American companies thrive.”

The UAW called its Ford members back to work immediately after its deal was announced, and the union instructed picketing workers at Stellantis – whose product lines include Jeep, Ram Trucks, Dodge and Chrysler – to follow suit in short order.

Stellantis said that roughly 14,300 of its workers were on strike, as of earlier this week, and another 2,000 were temporarily laid off as a knock-on effect from the work stoppages at its facilities.

- Political danger for Biden receding as second automaker has deal with UAW, Politico.com, October 28, 2023.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


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