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Daily Archives: May 25th, 2019


By Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times 12 hrs ago

We’ll say this for President Trump: When he misunderstands something, he misunderstands it more than anyone else in creation.
Take the business of tariffs. Trump is unshakably convinced that his tariffs are a tax on China. He repeated this grossly erroneous claim just Thursday, during his announcement of a new $16 billion bailout for farmers harmed by, yes, his tariff war.
“Just so you understand,” he said, “these tariffs are paid for largely by China. A lot of people like to say by ‘us.’ ”
Well, the people who say that are economists and other experts who have done the math, and found that the tariffs Trump has imposed on imports from China cost American consumers $68.8 billion last year, though some of that spending got funneled back to some domestic producers in the form of higher prices (which their customers, of course, paid).
But our main topic here is that $16 billion bailout, and what it says about who pays for Trump’s trade war and how much. The newly announced bailout comes on top of $12 billion in emergency farm aid he announced last year, aimed heavily at soybean farmers whose exports to China have fallen to zero, thanks to the trade war.
As Jordan Weissmann observes in Slate, the $28 billion total is “about what the U.S. spent last school year on Pell grants for college students.” That raises doubts about Trump’s priorities.
To get a sense of where these expenses fall, it’s worthwhile to follow the money. The $68.8 billion tariff cost estimated by a team of economists led by Pablo D. Fajgelbaum of UCLA, is reflected in the prices of imports, which are passed through almost entirely to U.S. consumers.
The money is paid by importers to the U.S. government, which can redistribute it to the direct victims of the trade war, such as farmers, if it wishes. But that’s a narrow recompense. It doesn’t help collateral victims, such as the buyers of foreign-made washing machines, the median price of which rose to $835 from $749 after tariffs were imposed on the appliances (at the behest of Whirlpool, a domestic manufacturer). It won’t help the estimated 40,000 beer industry workers who have lost their jobs, in part because of tariffs on the aluminum used to make cans, according to industry reports. Nor will it help others who lose their jobs if the tariffs foment a general economic slowdown.
Nor are the agricultural bailouts evenly distributed within the farm sector. They’re heavily concentrated among Midwestern growers, including soybean farmers, leaving dairy farmers and others wanting. It’s proper to note that the pain in this sector isn’t a direct result of U.S. tariffs, which at least return some money to the Treasury: It’s the result of retaliatory tariffs from China and other trading partners, which destroys foreign demand for U.S. production. No one pockets any gains from these tariffs; they’re simply a deadweight loss to international trade.
As farmers are well aware, the bailouts won’t compensate them for the longer-term damage to their export prospects. Soybean farmers can’t count their losses simply in terms of lower annual exports while the tariffs are in effect; they’re fearful, rightly, that when former customers such as the Chinese turn to other countries for their supplies, they may never come back. “The noose is getting tightened a little bit more than it was before,” Michigan farm spokesman Jim Byrum said a couple of weeks ago.
So U.S. consumers are paying a tax to the U.S. government in the form of higher prices for imported goods. Some of those funds are circulated back into the economy as emergency aid — but it’s not going back to all the consumers who paid the tariffs. Nor is its certain that the tariff revenue is actually going to the trade war victims: The government is running a deficit, caused in considerable part by the tax cuts enacted in December 2017, which largely benefited corporations and the wealthy. Arguably, it’s their tax breaks, not the losses of soybean farmers, that are being subsidized by Trump’s tariff revenue.
Moreover, because the farm losses are due to foreign, not domestic, tariffs, no revenue at all is coming to the United States as a result. The bailouts are our expense, completely. That’s another way in which the tariffs are paid not by China, but by “us,” Mr. Trump. See how it works?
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik writes a daily blog appearing on latimes.com. His business column appears in print every Sunday, and occasionally on other days. As a member of the Los Angeles Times staff, he has been a financial and technology writer and a foreign correspondent. He is the author of six books, including “Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age” and “The New Deal: A Modern History.” Hiltzik and colleague Chuck Philips shared the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry.
©2019 Los Angeles Times

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Where is “Botch: McConnell in all of this? As a “leader” he should be on the front line of this and other poor decisions made by this Administration. Another clear case of aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise. MA

By David Brown 11 hrs ago

The Trump administration on Friday notified Congress it plans to sell $8.1 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates without congressional approval — a move that has incensed members from both parties who have sought to cut off military aid for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.

The decision covers 22 pending transfers of munitions, aircraft parts, and other supplies “to deter Iranian aggression and build partner self-defense capacity,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability, and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Normally such sales are subject to congressional approval. But Trump is using a loophole in the Arms Export Control Act that allows him to bypass the process in case of emergency. The move is similar to Trump’s declaration of a border emergency this year, which allowed him to divert military funds to pay for border barriers.
Pompeo, who cited previous instances in which the arms sales authority was used by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, said the step was critical to help allies maintain their armed forces in a period of “increasing regional volatility.” And he lashed out at Congress for delaying the shipments.
“These national security concerns have been exacerbated by many months of Congressional delay in addressing these critical requirements, and have called into doubt our reliability as a provider of defense capabilities, opening opportunities for U.S. adversaries to exploit,” Pompeo said.
But he insisted that the decision would be “a one-time event.”
“This specific measure does not alter our long-standing arms transfer review process with Congress,” he insisted.
Nonetheless, the move was deeply unpopular on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have sought to halt arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. The coalition has been blamed for rising civilian deaths in that country.
Trump recently vetoed legislation that would restrict American support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
In a statement Friday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) confirmed that the relevant committees had been notified of the pending sales.
“There is no new ‘emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen, and doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there,” Murphy said. “This sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to sell weapons without a check from Congress.”
Murphy said he’s looking into new legislation to restrict the sales. “We have the constitutional duty to declare war and the responsibility to oversee arm sales that contravene our national security interests,” he said. “If we don’t stand up to this abuse of authority, we will permanently box ourselves out of deciding who we should sell weapons to.”
Several other members of Congress have announced their intention to block any further weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Every bomb sold to Saudi Arabia is another bomb for Saudi bomber jets to drop on Yemeni hospitals, weddings, markets, and school buses,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), an outspoken opponent of America’s involvement in Yemen, said in a statement. “Any claim from President Trump that selling weapons to Saudi Arabia constitutes an ‘emergency’ is a farcical attempt to obscure the shameful reality that ‘made in the U.S.A’ bombs are killing innocent civilians and fueling the world’s worst humanitarian emergency in Yemen.”
Pompeo insisted, however, that the administration sees little choice but to bypass Congress. “The United States is, and must remain, a reliable security partner to our allies and partners around the world,” he said. “These partnerships are a cornerstone of our National Security Strategy, which this decision reaffirms.”

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Why is that “BOTCH” can’t see the forest for the trees?. Maybe it’s because Nancy would become President? MA

By Tom Coleman Special to The Star
May 22, 2019 08:35 PM, Updated May 24, 2019 08:32 AM
US President Donald Trump reacted to a freshman Democratic congresswoman’s diatribe predicting his impeachment while using a vulgarity, by saying “You can’t impeach somebody doing a great job.” By AP
According to the redacted Mueller report, candidate Donald Trump, along with members of his team, on multiple occasions welcomed Russian interference on his behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign. For example, the report details a meeting between the Trump campaign chairman and a Russian intelligence asset where polling information and campaign strategy were shared.
While Mueller did not find sufficient evidence that Trump or his campaign had violated a criminal statute, the net effect was that the Trump campaign encouraged a foreign adversary to use and misrepresent stolen information on social media platforms to defraud U.S. voters. Because the presidency was won in this way, the president’s election victory brought forth nothing less than an illegitimate presidency.
Mueller presents a strong case that in addition to receiving campaign help from Russian operatives, the president obstructed justice — a crime in itself. Mueller declined to charge the sitting president because of current Department of Justice regulations that prohibit it. That policy is wrong in my opinion, and must be changed in the future when reason and rationality return to our politics.
What should be done now? There are some Democratic members in the House majority who want to put off any discussion of impeachment until after the 2020 election. They believe it will only strengthen the hand of the president, who will claim he is a victim and will respond with his mantra of, “No collusion, no obstruction, case closed.” Other Democratic members of Congress want impeachment proceedings to begin.
The political calculus not to pursue impeachment is understandable. Current polls show a majority of voters do not favor it. But critical times require exceptional leadership. Lawmakers of both parties should not blindly follow the polls but instead follow the evidence and their conscience. Politics should not rule the day. Partisan politics is what got us to this dangerous place — so dangerous, I believe, that the survival of our democracy is at risk.
Contemplate the possible behavioral problems of a Trump untethered from the law and who is frequently untethered from reality. Would we be surprised if he were to repeatedly brandish his get out of jail card while breaking, at will, democratic norms, presidential precedents and criminal statutes? Trump said early in his campaign that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Are we now at that point?
Because DOJ regulations put a president above the law while in office, I believe the only viable option available is for the House of Representatives, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, to open its own investigation, hold public hearings and then determine if they should pursue removal of the president through impeachment. There is a trove of evidence in the Mueller report indicating Trump has committed multiple impeachable offenses, including abuse of power and lying to the American public. Both were part of the articles of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon. This process would allow a full public review of wrongdoing, while providing Americans an opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the consequences to our national security and the lingering threat to our democracy.
If this process leads to impeaching Trump in the House of Representatives and also results in convicting him in the Senate, his illegitimacy would survive through Vice President Mike Pence’s succession to the presidency. Because the misdeeds were conducted to assure the entire Trump-Pence ticket was elected, both former candidates — Pence as well as Trump — have been disgraced and discredited. To hand the presidency to an illegitimate vice president would be to approve and reward the wrongdoing while the lingering stench of corruption would trail any Pence administration, guaranteeing an untenable presidency. If Trump is impeached, then Pence should not be allowed to become president. The vice president should resign or be impeached as well if for no other reason that he has been the chief enabler for this illegitimate president.
Alternatively, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution provides for the removal of a president. It sets forth a cumbersome procedure requiring the vice president to convince a majority of the Cabinet to recommend removal to Congress because the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office. By a two-thirds vote, Congress could then end a presidency. The removal of the president and replacement with the vice president would have the same result as if the president had been impeached. The vice president would succeed to the presidency.
In addition to these constitutional provisions, the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 sets the order of officials who are in line to succeed a president, regardless of the reason. The first three officials listed are the vice president, the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate. If the vice president were unable to ascend to the presidency for whatever reason — for example resignation or impeachment — then the speaker would become president. Today that individual is Rep. Nancy Pelosi. It is unknown whether she would agree to serve as president or that the majority of the House would want her to do so.
The Constitution does not require the speaker of the House actually to be a member of the House of Representatives. Under these circumstances, with the specter of a national crisis looming over the vacancy of the presidency and vice presidency simultaneously, consideration should be given by House members to draft a nationally-known individual for speaker who would appeal to the vast majority of Americans. That person, after being sworn in as speaker, would ascend to the highest office in the land. Under the provisions of the 25th Amendment, the new president would nominate a vice president, who would take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both chambers of Congress.
What if House Democrats decide not to embark on impeachment? If that were the case, I believe the public would conclude Democrats are no better than the Republicans who have enabled Trump for the past two years, putting party above country. It could hand Trump a second term. Failure to pursue impeachment is to condone wrongdoing. To condone wrongdoing is to encourage more of it. To encourage wrongdoing is to give up on the rule of law and our democracy. To give up on the rule of law and democracy invites autocracy and eventually dictatorship. History has taught us this outcome. In my lifetime, it has occurred in other places including the Soviet Union and Germany, as well as in Russia and Venezuela today.
Tom Coleman is a former Republican U.S. representative from Missouri. He has served as an adjunct professor at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and at American University.

Read more here: https://www.kansascity.com/opinion/readers-opinion/guest-commentary/article230713224.html#storylink=cpy

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