Category Archives: business news

‘Most of America’ first, eh Mr. President?

I need some time to digest this idea a bit more completely, but what I see initially gives me stomach pains.

Donald J. Trump has pitched a budget that takes away oil royalties the federal government shares with four Gulf Coast states that bear the bulk of the responsibility for responding to disasters related to the drilling of oil off their respective shores.

The result could cost the states of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama billions of dollars in revenue.

Who gets the dough? The feds do!

Is this how the president plans to “put America first”?

This is another baffling proposal that has to pass congressional muster.

Here’s a thought for Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn — two Republicans who are among the president’s seemingly dwindling roster of congressional allies: Don’t stand still for a budget proposal that robs your state of valuable revenue.

According to CNBC: “The plan is part of the president’s effort to contain the growth of the U.S. federal deficit. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that ending the royalty-sharing program would save the federal government $3.6 billion over a decade.”

I’m a deficit hawk, too. I get the need to reduce the deficit — which the Obama administration had overseen during its eight years in office. Why, though, take money from states that also rely on this revenue stream to help them deal with pressure to fund valuable state programs?

My hope now is for Congress to step in and dispose of a presidential proposal that appears to punish four of our United States.

POTUS ‘tells it like it is’ abroad

Donald J. Trump’s supporters like to say the president merely “tells it like it is.”

Others of us prefer to say he tells it like he thinks it is.

He is abroad, finishing up his first overseas trip as president and he’s managing — as only the president — to demonstrate a stunning lack of diplomatic skill.

Get this, his assessment of Germany, one of our nation’s strongest allies and trading partners: “The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said. “See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S. Terrible. We will stop this.”

What? Stop it. How? He wants to start a trade war with Germany because it peddles cars to American consumers?

Vox.com is a known liberal-leaning website, but it offers an interesting analysis of how Trump’s lack of diplomatic skill is hurting him and the country he represents.

https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/26/15698824/trump-germany-bad-trade-cars

As Vox reports: “First, it’s worth noting that the language Trump reportedly used in the meeting is yet another example of his total lack of nuance or finesse. Trump likes to cast the world in black and white and use superlative language. Things are ‘terrific,’ or they are ‘terrible.’

“Trump speaks this way on domestic issues as well, but in international affairs his vulgarity as a speaker is amplified. Diplomacy requires gentle touches and subtle signaling that simultaneously maintains stable relationships while having the power to pressure or persuade. Slamming the Germans, a vital US ally, as ‘very bad’ and saying you need to ‘Stop’ them from selling cars to the US is, well, the opposite of that.”

Vox also notes that German automakers also operate many manufacturing plants in the United States, employing Americans and paying them well to produce these motor vehicles.

That the president wouldn’t recognize that is just another sign of his complete ignorance about the world and the inter-connectedness among nations.

Wouldn’t tax returns answer a lot of Russia questions?

I keep circling back to an issue that just won’t disappear.

Those tax returns that Donald J. Trump insists on keeping secret might answer a lot of questions about the president of the United States and his reluctance to say anything negative about Russia and its president/strongman/killer Vladimir Putin.

Trump won’t release them. He is dismissing a four-decade-old custom for presidential candidates and for presidents. They’ve all released them for public review. Except the current president.

I keep asking: How come? Trump keeps yapping about an “audit.” Two points here: The Internal Revenue Service — which doesn’t comment on specific audits — says an audit does not prevent someone from releasing those returns to the public; furthermore, Trump never has even proved that the IRS is auditing him.

He demanded repeatedly that Barack Obama produce a birth certificate to prove his constitutional eligibility to serve as president. How about Trump provide a letter from the IRS that declares that he’s being audited?

Amid all this is the swirl of Russia and whether the president has business dealings with Russian oligarchs and government officials. The president says he has none. He expects us to believe him. Sure thing, Mr. President. He also expected us to believe that Barack Obama wiretapped his campaign offices, that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton and that thousands of Muslims cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Tax returns would reveal whether the president has any business dealings in Russia. If he has been telling us the truth about that matter, then the returns would validate his assertion. Wouldn’t they? If he’s not being truthful, well, the returns would reveal that, too. Am I correct on that?

I am left only to conclude that the tax returns the president refuses to release to the public contain something he doesn’t want us to see. Do they involve Russia, Mr. President? Do they reveal why you won’t speak ill of your pal Vlad Putin?

Here’s an idea: How about sprucing up AMA?

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson rode into office partly on the strength of an ambitious six-point campaign platform.

It pays a lot of attention to economic development, fiscal responsibility, accountability to taxpayers and even makes a nod toward improving the appearance of public rights-of-way along our interstate highways.

I didn’t see any mention of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. Indeed, I am keeping my copy of an Amarillo Globe-News story that profiled Nelson’s campaign platform; my intent is to remind myself of issues she is addressing and which of them she needs to devote more attention.

About the airport.

I just returned this evening from a quick trip to AMA and noticed a couple of things about the site.

One is that the grounds immediately around the covered parking structures look better than they have looked in recent months. The grass is cut and trimmed. I did notice a number of weeds sprouting through the pavement in the parking lot. Tsk, tsk.

The other thing I continually notice as I drive along Airport Drive is that it, um, is so non-descript. I didn’t notice a “Welcome to Amarillo” sign, or any roadside artwork that depicts the personality of the community travelers are visiting … many for the first time, or perhaps for the only time.

I make the point about AMA for this reason: In the 1990s, the city spent a lot of tax money to subsidize jet traffic provided by American Airlines. The idea of spending Amarillo Economic Development Corporation sales tax revenue on these jet aircraft was to make air travel more comfortable for business travelers. The AEDC subsidy was intended to lure business to Amarillo. It drew its share of criticism from other communities. Frankly, it sounded like so much sour grapes.

I found the strategy to be innovative, aggressive and ambitious. The city ended the subsidy. American Airlines pulled the jets out of its Amarillo-to-D/FW route — for a time. Then the airline brought jet traffic back to AMA, as did United Airlines and Continental; Southwest always flew jets in and out of AMA.

The city once staked a lot of public money on air service at its airport. What’s more, in recent years the city has renovated and remodeled AMA, modernizing the terminal, turning it into an attractive site.

We have a new mayor and an entirely new City Council making policy at City Hall. Our new city manager, Jared Miller, came here from San Marcos with a reputation as someone who emphasized economic development.

I’ll throw this idea out to them all for consideration: How about developing some sort of strategy to make Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport a good bit more inviting to those who come here from the Metroplex, from Houston, Denver, from Las Vegas or from Phoenix?

There might be a business opportunity to be gained for the city if the traveler gets a first-glimpse look at what the city has to offer on his or her way out of the airport.

Just some food for thought, folks.

This a ‘disaster,’ Mr. President?

The job numbers came in this morning — and they look pretty darn good.

The U.S. Labor Department reported today that the economy added 211,000 non-farm jobs to payrolls in April and the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent.

The boost in jobs was considerably greater than analysts had predicted. The jobless rate has inched a bit closer to what one might consider to be “full employment” in the United States.

Donald J. Trump used to disparage the Labor Department figures as phony, bogus, cooked up, fake. That, of course, was during the Obama administration. The president doesn’t say those things now that he’s on the job.

Hey, I’ll give the president credit for presiding over this sparkling jobs report. Let there be many more of them.

I do have one question: A little more than three months into your presidency, is this the economic “disaster” and the “mess” you have said repeatedly you inherited from Barack Obama?

UAL settlement means airline messed up big time

Dr. David Dao has just received a lot of money — reportedly — from a commercial air carrier that treated him quite badly.

Many millions of Americans have seen the video that went viral almost immediately after it was recorded: airport security officers dragged Dao off a United Airlines flight after he declined to give up his seat. Dao suffered facial injuries, he lost some teeth, while passengers shrieked their indignation at what happened.

You know the story. UAL wanted to make room on a fully booked flight for four airline employees who needed to get from Chicago to Louisville. The airline sought passengers to volunteer to surrender their seats; no one answered the call. UAL then selected four names at random and ordered them off the plane; three of them complied. Dr. Dao said “no.” He had patients to see at the other end of the flight.

The airline then called security. Officers wrestled with Dao. They hauled him off the plane.

Well, that ain’t how you treat your paying customers, United Airlines. The airline’s boss, Oscar Munoz, at first defended the officers, then backed off. He now calls it a “system failure” for which he is responsible. “I own it,” he said.

Commercial air travel hasn’t been much fun since 9/11. You know what I mean. Air security has tightened. Passengers are subjected to random searches. Flight attendants get testy when passengers gripe too vigorously.

The settlement today tells me the airline has acknowledged it messed up. United has announced policy changes. It will offer significant amounts of money to passengers who give up their seats on overbooked flights.

This incident tarnishes an entire airline needlessly. Why? Because it employs a lot of folks who do their jobs well and who had nothing to do with the incident in question.

David Dao’s settlement amount is a secret. My sense is that it was for a lot of dough. Fine.

The bigger issue rests with the policy changes that United has enacted. May it not be lost on other air carriers who depend on the public to keep their birds in the air.

Happy Trails, Part 12

My mind has this habit of wandering backward.

Yes, it goes forward, too. It’s been moving ahead in this post-retirement phase to the next great adventure that awaits my wife and me. When it’s not thinking ahead, it occasionally drifts into the past.

My mind did so again today as I began thinking about two colleagues of mine who died within a week of each other under quite different circumstances.

Buddy Seewald died in an auto accident north of Amarillo. He wasn’t ready to leave this world. It happened. He was gone. Just like that.

Then came news of the death of Virgil Van Camp, a much older gentleman, who died of natural causes at the age of 87.

I wrote about them in September 2013. Here’s the link to that earlier piece.

http://highplainsblogger.com/2013/09/there-goes-another-good-man/

I tend to reminisce in my own mind about my past, about the career path I chose and the people I met along the way. Buddy and Virgil were two men who affected me greatly during the time we worked together. They were contributors to the Amarillo Globe-News opinion pages, which I had the high honor of editing for nearly 18 years.

My memory of them reminds me of how much tried-and-true fun I had pursuing this particular craft.

They enabled us to keep the newspaper more relevant in people’s lives. They would share their world view on particular issues. They would debate them between themselves and share their differing perspectives with Globe-News readers.

This was just on the eve of the Internet Invasion, before newspapers — the printed version that carriers would toss onto our porches — began losing their relevance.

I was proud to be a part of that era. It saddens me at some level to see all the changes that are occurring within the industry. Newspapers are printing fewer copies each day. They’re moving toward what publishers call the “digital product”; as an aside, I detest the word “product” to describe a printed newspaper.

While I am somewhat sad these days, I also look back with great fondness at the journey I was allowed to travel.

Friends and associates like Buddy and Virgil made it all the more fun.

NAFTA on the ropes, now it’s back on its feet

This just in: Donald J. Trump has decided that the United States will not withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Well. How about that?

Word came out today that the president might pull out of NAFTA, an agreement he criticized throughout his campaign for the White House.

Then he got on the phone today with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Both men talked to our president and apparently persuaded him to pull away from his threat to abandon NAFTA.

This is good news.

I have long supported NAFTA. I believe free trade among the North American nations has been good for all of them and it has helped strengthen the alliances among them. I hope this means Trump will cease his NAFTA-bashing and try to smooth the tension that has developed between the United States and the other two nations individually.

The president has proposed a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber shipped to the United States; and, of course, he and the Mexican government have been arguing over who’s going to pay for construction of a wall along our southern border.

The NAFTA pullout is now off the table. May it never return.

Tax ‘reform’ unveiled … now let’s see how it affects POTUS

I believe another mega-rich guy, the Texan H. Ross Perot, once said that the “devil is in the details.”

With that, one of the details of Donald John Trump’s tax proposal must include just how this “reform” affects the individual who has pitched it.

Yes, I’m talking about tax returns. Release them, Mr. President.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the president will not release those tax returns. There’s been enough information released already, he said. I disagree, quite naturally, with what the secretary suggests.

The major points about the president’s tax plan include a dramatic reduction — from 35 percent to 15 percent — in corporate income taxes for small businesses and a huge increase in the standard deduction for individuals’ tax returns.

As The Hill reported: “The plan would repeal taxes that mostly affect wealthy Americans, such as the alternative minimum tax for individuals and the estate tax. But it would also ‘eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers,’ according to the one-page outline released Wednesday.”

Why is release of the president’s tax returns relevant? He has not divested himself of his huge business interests. Therefore, he stands to be affected in some fashion by what he has pitched. Americans have the right to know just how Donald Trump’s portfolio is affected.

He isn’t likely to release those returns just because many of his fellow Americans want him to do so. Still, it’s worth making the demand yet again. I believe I will keep yammering about the returns during Trump’s time in office.

But here’s another wrinkle.

How does the tax plan affect revenue to pay for at least two major Trump proposals: infrastructure repair and, yep, that dadgum wall.

Trump wants to spend about a trillion bucks to fix highways, bridges and airports. Will these tax cuts reduce cash flow into the Treasury, making it impossible to “pay as you go” on these projects?

Oh, and the wall is going to cost — according to varying estimates — as much as $25 billion. How does the president intend to pay for that project? Do not tell me “Mexico is going to pay for it.” That will not happen. 

As it’s often said: The president proposes, Congress disposes. You can bet your last nickel that congressional progressives will continue to insist that Trump release his tax returns as condition for any tax overhaul.

My gut tells me the disposition of this tax plan — absent the president’s release of his tax returns — continues to be one of the great mysteries in the nation’s capital.

Now it’s NAFTA in the crosshairs

Let me try to figure this out.

Donald J. Trump gets elected president and then launches a war of words with Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto over whether Mexico will pay for construction of “the wall” between our two countries.

Then this week the president announces plan to impose a 20-percent import tariff on lumber coming from Canada, which shares an even longer border with the United States.

Oh, and today we get word that the Trump administration is considering a wholesale withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement, which would bust up one of the largest trade agreements in world history.

Yes, the president is trying to put “America first,” but at what cost?

NAFTA has been demonized wrongly as a job killer. It’s been no such thing. It has sought to open up trade lanes among these three giant North American neighbors, allowing a freer flow of goods in and out of the United States to two of our strongest allies.

NAFTA order being drafted

Automation has been the No 1 job killer in this country. No trade war, or blustering about putting America first, or any chest-thumping on the world stage is going to reverse the automation trend that has occurred in industrialized nations around the world.

For the life of me I cannot figure the president out.

He calls China a “currency manipulator” and then backs totally away from that assertion, looking for China’s help in stopping North Korea’s march toward becoming a nuclear power. Trump has yet to condemn Russia fully for meddling in our 2016 presidential election, although he has sounded a bit angrier about Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war. He scolds Australia’s prime minister over the phone and then hangs up on him. Trump declines to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a White House photo op.

He’s now launching trade wars against two of our largest trading partners.

Someone … pass the Pepto. Please.