Category Archives: business news

Does the special counsel have those Trump tax returns?

I keep getting this throbbing in my trick knee that suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller might be able to answer the question that has been bugging millions of Americans like me.

What is in Donald John Trump’s tax returns, the returns he refuses to release for public inspection?

That ol’ trick knee of mine suggests that Mueller has obtained those returns as part of his investigation into “The Russia Thing.” Trump won’t release them, making some sort of phony claim about being under audit by the Internal Revenue Service.

Of course, Mueller has substantial authority to get a lot of information that doesn’t come out through regular channels.

I’m waiting with some anxiousness for Mueller to finish this probe while telling us what many of us want to know: Are there business dealings in Russia that Trump wants to keep hidden from the public?

No photo ID needed … usually

I am 68 years of age. I look my age. I’ve got the gray in my hair to prove it.

I don’t usually have to produce photo identification when I go to the grocery store to purchase, um, some lettuce, a loaf of bread or even something to drink.

Now, if it’s an adult beverage, which I enjoy now and then, I will put the beverage in my shopping cart and roll it to the checkout stand.

Then I might — I repeat, might — ask the checker, “Do you want to see my ID” to prove I am of age to buy the adult beverage? Most of the time, they laugh and say, “No, uh, that’s all right.”

But occasionally, they play along. “Sure thing,” he or she might say. I gleefully pull out my driver’s license to show that I am, indeed, old enough to purchase the beverage. Then I boast about “being carded.”

Unlike what the president of the United States asserted Tuesday at that Florida campaign rally, that’s the only time I’ve ever had to show ID at the grocery store.

So there.

How do you say it in, oh, Mandarin?

Donald J. Trump has been facing this scrutiny ever since he rode down that escalator at Trump Tower and declared his intention to “Put America First” while campaigning for the presidency of the United States.

Reuters News Agency reports that the Trump re-election campaign has getting its “Keep America Great” banners from a factory in the People’s Republic of China. The Trump team denies it. Reuters stands by the story.

I am going to go with Reuters’s version of events.

You see, Trump and his team have demonstrated repeatedly their ability to lie to our faces. They’ve done so on almost any and every issue under the sun. They get away with it in the eyes of the “base” that continues to support the president.

The Hill reports: Manager Yao Yuanyuan told Reuters that she was worried Trump’s own tariffs would hurt production numbers, but said she did not know if the banners’ buyers were officially affiliated with the Trump campaign or the GOP.

Yao said her factory has been making Trump banners since the president was a candidate. 

There have numerous reports ever since Trump entered the rough-and-tumble world of politics about Trump-brand clothing being made offshore. Trump hasn’t denied it categorically. So, there’s a history of his using foreign labor to manufacture items with his name on them.

Should it surprise a single person that he would do so with the re-election campaign banners? Hah! Not even …

Some perspective, please, on GDP numbers

Donald J. Trump is damn proud of the Gross Domestic Product report given this week, showing the economy grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent.

Good news, yes? Sure it is! It’s even great news! But hold on, Mr. President. It ain’t “historic,” as you contend.

And, in fact, the rate of growth might not last, thanks to the trade war the president has launched with, oh, Canada, Mexico, China, the European Union … and maybe even the outer planets of our solar system.

As CBS News is reporting, the president didn’t inherit a “fixer-upper economy.” He took command of an economy in good condition. It has been on an upward spiral for, oh, the past eight years.

However, the president yet again took pains to disparage the growth rate during the Obama administration years. And, as is the norm, the criticism of President Obama’s handling of the economy was incorrect.

As CBS News noted: While Mr. Trump praised the 4.1 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter, the economy exceeded that level four times during the Obama presidency: in 2009, 2011 and twice in 2014.

The latest numbers are quite good. There’s no mistaking it. Are they sustainable? The trade war impact on various economic sectors will reveal that in due course.

In the meantime, the president and his team — who gripe about Trump Derangement Syndrome afflicting their critics — should check their own vital signs to see if they can ever shake their Obama Derangement Syndrome symptoms.

Oh, those doggone tax returns

Pardon me for gloating for just a moment.

I have kept yapping about those income tax returns that Donald J. Trump has refused to release for public viewing. He has broken with a 40-year tradition laid out by presidential candidates of both major parties.

Now he has had that hideous press conference this past week with Vladimir Putin, calling into question yet again whether the Russians — and their president — have something, anything on Trump’s business dealings that the U.S. president might not want known to the public.

Thus, the tax return issue has returned. It’s back. Hey, it won’t go away.

The Hill reported this: The issue of Trump’s tax returns had become less prominent in recent months. But that changed following last week’s joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki when Trump questioned the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump continues to hide behind the lie that an Internal Revenue Service audit prevents the tax returns release. The IRS — which hasn’t commented on whether it is auditing Trump’s taxes — says no such audit would prevent the release of tax returns to the public.

For that matter, Trump hasn’t even produced a letter saying that the IRS is auditing him.

The questions and suspicion about Trump’s refusal to condemn the Russian attack on our election are valid. Does it have anything to do with Trump’s business dealings in Russia? Do the Russians have the “goods” on the president? If they do, what do those “goods” constitute?

I am happy to realize that others have suggested what some of us have been saying all along: Release those tax returns. The public needs to know what they contain. Do it! Now!

Amarillo channeling OKC?

I’m hearing some similar-sounding economic rumblings from two places: Amarillo, Texas and Oklahoma City.

An acquaintance of mine, Jason Herrick, active in Amarillo Matters, a pro-business political action group, writes this via Twitter: You mean the same OKC that first built a downtown ballpark, then attracted a minor league team and kicked off a revitalization of downtown? And now they are attracting new hotels and investment because there is demand for the product?

I am going to surmise from Herrick’s message that downtown Oklahoma City is continuing to stir, to come to life, to enjoy the fruits of public investment.

Amarillo’s downtown district is beginning to rumble in much the same manner, again thanks to some public investment.

You see, OKC decided some years to invest some public money into construction of a new ballpark near what’s now called Bricktown in the downtown district. The ballpark is now home to the city’s AAA minor-league baseball franchise. Bricktown took off, too.

The city encouraged development of an entertainment district along a Canadian River tributary that flows through the downtown area. Abandoned warehouses were re-purposed. The city built a new sports venue downtown, where the Oklahoma City Thunder play NBA basketball before packed houses.

Life is good in downtown OKC.

So, where is Amarillo tracking these days? From my vantage point it appears that the city of my former residence well might be along the same track. Yes, I get that Amarillo doesn’t have a river running through its downtown district. I also understand the disparity in the size of the two communities: Amarillo has 200,000 residents; OKC is home to around 700,000. Still, there are signs of life to be seen in little ol’ Amarillo.

A downtown ballpark is under construction. The city has opened a first-class convention hotel. Polk Street is stirring back to life. Residents are moving into newly developed dwellings.

Where will the future take Amarillo? It needs to look just a bit eastward along Interstate 40, toward OKC, perhaps to get a clue.

Tax returns? Remember them?

Forgive me, please, for being repetitive.

I believe it’s time, though, to bring up an old issue: tax returns. Specifically, the tax returns of the president of the United States of America. Yes, I know: I’ve traveled down this road already.

Donald J. Trump’s astonishing performance Monday alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki has prompted questions about whether Putin has “something” on Trump, as in some sort of business matter that might embarrass the president.

How might we know for certain? Oh, I’ve got it! Tax returns!

Trump refused to release his tax returns when he declared his presidential candidacy in 2015, flouting a tradition followed by candidates of both major parties dating back to 1976. They all did it voluntarily.

Not so with Trump. Why? His returns were “under and IRS audit,” he said. It’s crap. The Internal Revenue Service said an audit didn’t prevent release of those returns for public review.

But now there are questions arising anew about whether the president’s substantial business empire has been caught up in the “Russia thing” that special counsel Robert Mueller is examining as part of his probe into Russian meddling in our 2016 election.

I’ll ask one more, and it likely won’t be the final time: Why not release the returns and shine the light of accountability on your dealings, Mr. President?

Growth vs. no-growth in new city of residence

I have learned something about the town my wife and I now call “home.”

There appears to be a struggle within the town of Fairview among residents, some of whom want to see the community grow, while others of them don’t want any more growth. They like the town just the way it is.

Hmm. I haven’t seen this kind of intra-city tension in a good while.

I have made a fascinating acquaintance in Fairview. He is a member of the Town Council. I hesitate to give you his name because he doesn’t know I’m writing this blog post; I’ll respect his privacy.

He tells me about the strife that’s occurring in this Collin County community. Fairview’s population in 2010 was about 7,200; its estimated population in 2014 had grown to more than 8,400 residents.

It is tucked between McKinney to the north (population of just less than 200,000) and Allen to the south (population of about 100,000). Collin County’s population likely has surpassed 1 million residents.

This is a high-growth, high-demand region of Texas (just north of Dallas), which is a state that is growing rapidly as well.

We lived 23 years in Amarillo before relocating to Fairview. I don’t recall ever hearing much public squawking in Amarillo about the city’s aggressive growth strategies: its use of the economic development corporation to lure jobs; its courting of manufacturing and medical center jobs. All of that meant growth was certain. Indeed, Amarillo’s population will exceed 200,000 by the time they take the census in 2020.

We lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before migrating to the Caprock. The Golden Triangle, too, demonstrated an eagerness to grow and to seek diversity in its economic base, which for generations relied heavily on the petrochemical industry.

My own sense is that the pro-growth faction — whoever comprises it — ultimately will win the argument. I have found little appetite in Texas during my 34 years living in this state for wholesale resistance to growth opportunities when they present themselves.

Growth means more revenue, which produces greater means to pay for services. My new friend in Fairview seems to believe the no-growth faction remains a vocal minority.

I trust he is correct, as he knows the town far better than I do.

That also is my hope.

Trump’s trade war inflicts casualties on friendly forces

Donald J. Trump keeps insisting that the United States hasn’t declared a trade war against China.

Except that we have.

Here’s the bad news for those who supported Trump’s “America First” political mantra in 2016. The trade war is going to hurt them. It will hurt them bigly.

The Texas Tribune reports that Texas agriculture is being cost in the trade war crossfire between Washington and Beijing.

I lived in the heart of Texas Cotton Country until just a few weeks ago. I am saddened to read what might happen to cotton growers in the Panhandle.

As the Tribune reports: President Donald Trump — and by extension many of the nation’s farmers — is seeing that lesson in action after he launched a bevy of tariffs against China on Friday, prompting the People’s Republic to retaliate with its own tariffs on imports from the United States. Among those American goods are some key Texas exports, including cotton, corn and sorghum. Some of the Chinese goods targeted in Trump’s tariffs are vital parts for Texas’ agriculture industry, such as livestock equipment.

“No question, it’s going to hurt,” said Gene Hall, a spokesperson for the Texas Farm Bureau.

They harvest a lot of cotton and corn in the Panhandle, much of which goes to China. More from the Texas Tribune: Cotton is the state’s 10th largest export. Nearly half of the U.S. cotton exported to China comes from Texas. Soy is a smaller market for Texas, but China is the state’s largest international soy customer. Texas exports about $157 million worth of corn a year, making it the 13th largest exporter of the crop in the country, though U.S. corn exports to China have dropped precipitously over the past few years due to increased regulations on the Chinese side.

Read the entire Texas Tribune story here.

And, yes, I hasten to add that many of the farmers who now are going to suffer from the trade war collateral damage supported Trump’s election in 2016. They rallied to his “America first” rhetoric, apparently not anticipating that a trade war would ensue that would have a direct impact on their ability to make a living.

The 26 counties that comprise the Texas Panhandle voted roughly 80 percent for Trump in 2016. I am wondering at this moment how many of those who live off the land are going to regret their vote for the guy who vowed to “make America great again.”

Trade wars aren’t ‘good,’ really, they aren’t

I believe it was the character Gordon Gekko, portrayed by Michael Douglas, who said in the film “Wall Street” that “Greed … is good.”

That was about three decades ago. These days, we have another character, who happens to be the president of the United States, who is saying that “trade wars are good.”

Well, greed isn’t necessarily good. Trade wars aren’t good, either.

Yet the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has now officially gone to “war” with China, the world’s second-leading economic powerhouse.

Ladies and gents, we’re all going to pay for this.

Trump has imposed tariffs on Chinese imports. As the New York Times has reported: On Thursday, President Trump showed no signs of backing down from his fight, saying aboard Air Force One that the first wave of tariffs on $34 billion in goods would quickly be followed by levies on another $16 billion of Chinese products. And Mr. Trump continued to threaten Beijing with escalating tariffs on as much as $450 billion worth of Chinese goods.

How are the Chinese going to respond? That remains the open question. According to the Times: “At the moment, I don’t see how this ends,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is very much in the president’s hands because he’s got advisers that seem divided, some substantively, some tactically. I just don’t think we’ve had any clear signs of the resolution he wants.”

Trump’s war against our traditional allies and trading partners has reached around the world. He’s imposed tariffs on Canada and Mexico, on the European Union and on Great Britain.

Tariff is another word for “tax,” meaning that the tax will add to the cost of producing the goods being shipped. If we’re going to impose these taxes on imported products, then the nation from which they come will respond with tariffs/taxes of their own on the goods that come from the United States.

Think, too, for a moment about the U.S. Labor Department’s report today that non-farm payrolls grew by 213,000 jobs in June. Good news, yes? Of course it is!

Will we continue to experience this continuing job growth if manufacturers no longer can afford to do business in this world of growing tariffs and taxes?

That’s my fear.

Trade wars aren’t good.