Category Archives: economic news

Tariffs harm U.S. economy, experts say

It turns out that Donald Trump’s alleged expertise on international trade policy is, shall we say, a bit overstated.

Put another way, the president’s decision to impose tariffs on imported goods has harmed U.S. taxpayers and cost American jobs he vowed would return in droves.

Whose analysis is this? The Federal Reserve has released a study laying out what it says has been the impact of the tariffs across the land. It hasn’t been good, according to the Fed analysis.

This likely will bring some recrimination from Trump, who will say the numbers are wrong, they’re cooked up in some star chamber kitchen and that they’re intended to throw the upcoming election into his opponents’ corner.

As The Hill reports: “We find that tariff increases enacted in 2018 are associated with relative reductions in manufacturing employment and relative increases in producer prices,” the report by Fed economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce reads.

This is pretty in line with what many economists have said all along about tariffs, which is that they don’t harm the producers of the goods being imported into this country, but that they inflate the prices we pay here.

Trump is having none of it. He keeps insisting that tariffs are part of a successful strategy to “put America first.” He wants to punish countries that don’t play fair in the game of international trade. I certainly understand the president’s stated reason for wanting a fairer playing field.

Why, though, must he invoke tariffs that do two things immediately? They boost prices on imported goods, which is a de facto tax and they rattle the daylights out of financial markets, affecting the retirement portfolios of millions of Americans … such as, well — my wife and me!

This so-called trade policy damn sure isn’t making America great again.

Calling all business to the downtown parking garage!

With all the success enjoyed this past spring and summer by Amarillo’s newly installed AA minor-league baseball team, I had hoped to be able to cheer for the stampede of new business filling up ground-floor storefronts at the parking garage across the street from the ballpark where the Sod Poodles play the Grand Old Game.

Alas, no cheering … at least not just yet.

The parking garage does have a tenant, or so I understand. Joe Taco, the (somewhat) upscale Mexican restaurant is moving into the garage; for all I know, perhaps Joe Taco has made the move.

The rest of the structure, though, appears to remain dark.

The idea was for the ballpark to act as fairly quick lure for businesses looking to profit from all the ballpark activity associated with the Amarillo Sod Poodles. The Sod Poodles played to packed houses at Hodgetown throughout their initial Texas League season.

None of this concern over the lack of parking-garage activity is intended to suggest gloom and doom for the structure. I remain optimistic that the garage investment will pay off. It just might be that the planners and economic gurus perhaps oversold the immediate result that the Sod Poodles would produce once they began their season in Amarillo.

The city’s changing downtown landscape remains a work in progress. So far, the work I have seen suggests that progress is going to follow in due course.

What do you know? Dems and Repubs can work together!

The atmosphere in Washington, D.C. has gotten beyond toxic, with the impeachment of the president on the horizon. Democrats and Republicans can’t say anything nice to or about each other these days.

But wait! Amid all that impeachment rancor, exacerbated I should say by Donald Trump’s incessant and relentless Twitter barrage, we see the parties working together to craft a new North American trade agreement.

It’s called the USMCA, which is shorthand for a trade agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada. It replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement that was hammered out by the Clinton administration.

Donald Trump vowed to scrap NAFTA and replace it with something else. He vowed to craft the best deal in human history. The president hasn’t quite delivered the goods all by himself. It turns out he needed some legislative help not just from his Republican allies, but also from his Democratic foes, er, enemies.

I haven’t yet studied the USMCA, but I understand it’s supposed to benefit Texas business interests, given our lengthy border with Mexico. It also contains some environmental protections that progressives wanted in a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

However, the good news amid all the toxicity that infects everything in D.C. these days is that both political parties can lay claim to a victory … that isn’t at the other party’s expense.

That’s not a bad outcome.

What must Herring Hotel owner be thinking?

I haven’t talked to the owner of the long-vacant Herring Hotel in downtown Amarillo, Texas, for a good while. I know Bob Goodrich quite well. He’s a nice man, a conscientious property owner — and a fellow with big dreams for the building that once served as the go-to spot for Amarillo’s social elite.

That all stipulated, Goodrich must be steamed as he reads about other abandoned downtown buildings finding new life. The latest such structure is the Rule Building, which developer Todd Harmon wants to turn into a boutique hotel. Then there’s the Barfield Building, which is going to open soon as boutique lodging.

Other structures are finding life, or are being repurposed into something other than their original use.

Then there’s the Herring Hotel building. It sits there. Vacant and rotting. Goodrich pays the taxes on it every year. He seeks developers and investors. He once called me to say he had a potential investor lined up; then the deal fell through.

Someone who at the time had intimate knowledge of downtown Amarillo’s redevelopment efforts told me years ago he was certain there would be a happy ending to the Herring Hotel saga. This individual is no longer part of the downtown in-crowd and, of course, I have retired from daily journalism and have relocated to another community. It’s quite possible this person didn’t know what he was talking about, but … well, that’s grist for another story — maybe. 

I do have a parting thought. Perhaps there ought to be a statement from the downtown redevelopment gurus addressing the reasons why the Herring Hotel continues to sit quietly with no apparent action on the horizon. Center City? The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone board? City Hall? The Amarillo Matters PAC? The Convention and Visitors Council? Amarillo EDC?

Might there be some way to reveal to the nosey segments of the public what they think they need to know about the Herring Hotel? Is there a future for the building … or not?

266,000, 3.5 percent: Numbers are great, Mr. POTUS, however …

You bet that those numbers released this morning from the U.S. Labor Department are pretty darn stellar.

We added 266,000 jobs to our private payrolls in November; unemployment ticked down to 3.5 percent, retaining a full-employment ratio in the work force.

Those are impressive figures, as Donald Trump will tell us. “It’s the economy, stupid,” he tweeted this morning, using a phrase made famous by Bill Clinton campaign guru James Carville in 1992.

Let’s wait, though, for yet another suggestion from the president that will declare, “You cannot impeach me. Look at the job I’m doing to boost the economy! The economy is going too well for you to impeach me!” 

Mr. President, the pending impeachment by the House of Representatives has nothing — zero, zilch — to do with the economy. Indeed, presidents don’t get impeached based on how they are handling the nation’s economic health, unless they commit some sort of “high crime and misdemeanor.” Near as I can tell, Donald Trump’s trouble has nothing to do with the economy.

It has everything to do with other matters relating to how he has abused the power of his office to solicit a foreign government to help him win re-election. The articles of impeachment that will come from the House will speak to that abuse of power, perhaps to obstruction of justice or to obstruction of Congress.

The economy? It won’t be mentioned anywhere in those articles.

So, Mr. President, you may stop referencing the economy in the context of impeachment. It’s a non-starter.

Hey, wasn’t the ‘national debt’ considered a deal breaker?

Check it out! Twenty-three trillion! As in dollars, man!

What does it represent? The national debt.

It crossed yet another milestone. The national debt keeps growing, despite bold — and arguably reckless — predictions that the president of the United States all by himself was going to eliminate the annual budget deficit by the end of his second term.

It, too, keeps growing, adding to the debt that those in Donald Trump’s Republican Party used to warn would bankrupt the country.

Has it bankrupted the United States of America? I don’t think it has, although the debt does pose a serious potential threat.

I guess my concern is that Donald Trump’s penchant for braggadocio persuade enough Americans to vote for him in 2016. He made that bold promise. He called himself “the king of debt,” whatever that was supposed to mean. Trump also pledged to balance the budget.

The current fiscal year deficit is growing at a breakneck pace, owing to the tax cuts enacted for the richest Americans along with still-uncontrolled federal spending.

I recall vividly the mantra repeated throughout the 2012 presidential campaign that the national debt, which totaled about $16 trillion, was the deal-breaker among Republicans. GOP nominee Mitt Romney said President Obama must not be re-elected because the national debt was just unsustainable. The message didn’t sell, as Obama was re-elected with a handsome margin — although it was diminished from the margin that Obama rolled up in 2008.

The debt has piled on another $7 trillion since 2012. It is still growing. What is Donald Trump going to promise to do about it to ensure his re-election in 2020?

I’m all ears.

So very thankful for news out of Golden Triangle

I have been watching the news out of Mid-Jefferson County, Texas, with great interest and keen anticipation.

A refinery in Port Neches exploded and caught fire this week. My wife and I have many friends in that part of Texas, owing to the time we lived in nearby Beaumont for nearly 11 years.

I am grateful beyond measure that no one died in that horrific blast and inferno. My jaw has dropped when I watched video of the explosion that propelled large pieces of debris into the air. I am stunned not only that no one died, but that only a handful of folks suffered what officials have called “minor” injuries caused by flying glass.

The best news is that firefighters have controlled the blaze, giving me a chance to offer high praise yet again for the first responders who have this uncanny ability — not to mention willingness — to thrust themselves into harm’s way.

I hear reports now about the plant that exploded being in violation of Environmental Protection Agency safety standards. That issue needs maximum attention, to be sure, if there will be any chance of that plant being brought back into full operation.

Until then I am merely going to offer a word of thanks and expression of relief that our friends are safe.

I am not going to take it any longer!

We’ve all had this experience.

You walk into a dining establishment. You place your order. The individual who takes it from you is scowling. He or she would rather be doing anything else other than doing business with you. You pay for your meal. The individual who takes your money then declines to say “thank you,” let alone “thank you for your business.”

You pick up your order and leave. You get into your car to drive away and then you get angry over the so-called “service” you just received.

I didn’t have far to drive home. However, by the time I pulled into my driveway just about a mile or so from the dining establishment that had just taken my money I was, to say the least, really steamed.

This happened to me the other day in Princeton. I went to a fast-food joint to pick up a quickie meal for my wife and me. The young woman at the counter needed a crash course in customer relations.

I looked at my receipt when I got home and saw a website address I could look up to file a “customer satisfaction survey.” Suffice to say that this “customer” was far from “satisfied.”

I got to the question about the friendliness of the staff. I scored them “extremely dissatisfied.” Then I got to the part of the survey where I could explain my dissatisfaction. I let ’em have it. With both barrels!

I felt like sharing this with you just as a cautionary tale and a word to the wise. These businesses that employ individuals who don’t have the common courtesy to smile — even if it’s a fake smile — and welcome you do not deserve our business.

Maybe the individual got into a fight with a loved one; maybe she had a headache; perhaps she scored poorly on an exam at school. None of it matters, man! In other words, I don’t give a rip what your problems are. You are on the clock for one purpose only, which is to ensure that your customers’ experience is a pleasant one.

I told the business establishment that I do not expect to be greeted with “Ruffles and Flourishes” when I walk in. I do expect to be treated like the valuable customer I am.

This is my way of saying that I ain’t gonna take it any longer.

Don’t reverse vaping restriction, Mr. POTUS

No-o-o-o! Don’t do it, Mr. President! Don’t reverse a common-sense provision you announced regarding vaping, the current craze among young people who are taking up this killer habit in place of smoking cigarettes!

Your decision to ban the manufacture and sale of certain flavored vaping products was the right call when you made it in September. Now you’re concerned about job losses as a result?

Holy crap, Mr. President! What about the lost lives that will result with more young people taking up this habit?

For my money, the lives that are put in jeopardy are far more critical to our nation’s economy than jobs that might be lost if you enact this ban.

For the life of me, Mr. President, I just don’t understand these decision you make, the basis on which you make them and the process you use to finalize your policy. Or even if any policy is ever finalized.

This reversal seems to be part of your modus operandi. You have this annoying — and many times frightening — tendency to tweet these decisions out there, only to reverse yourself later. You’ve done that tariffs and foreign policy matters. Now you seem to be waffling on this health emergency matter.

Listen to those voices, Mr. President, that compelled you to enact the vaping ban in the first place.

Our children need government to intervene on their behalf … even if they insist on doing things that put their health at risk.

Jobless rate is great … but it doesn’t negate misbehavior by POTUS

One of the dodges employed by Donald Trump’s apologists who are fighting against the impeachment tide that is splashing against the president is the strength of the national economy.

Indeed, so does the president speak to that issue.

Unemployment is at a 50-year low, Trump and The Gang tell us. They ask: “Why impeach a president who is doing such a great job on the economy?”

Here’s my answer: Because the issues relating to the president’s probable impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives have nothing to do with his performance as president, or the strength of the national economy.

The issues of grave concern center on whether the president has violated his oath of office or, as has been alleged, broken federal law.

It is the very same separation of these matters that drove Republicans to march toward impeaching President Clinton in 1998. They didn’t give a rat’s rear end about the nation’s economic health two decades ago. Did it matter to them that the federal budget was balanced on President Clinton’s watch? No. They said, with some justification, that the president perjured himself before a grand jury; he broke the law, they said and, therefore, had committed an impeachable offense.

I thought then that the impeachment was a waste of time, given that Clinton’s lie had to do with a relationship he was having with a woman who was not his wife. That relationship didn’t have a thing to do with the duties of his office.

The issues driving the pending impeachment of Donald Trump have everything to do with his conduct as president of the United States. They also have nothing to do with the jobless rate, or the growth rate of private-sector employment, or trade policy, or immigration policy or anything else on the president’s list of issues with which he must grapple.

Let’s just try to keep these matters in some perspective, shall we? The economy is doing well under Donald Trump’s watch. It’s a big deal, to be sure. It’s a tiny, infinitesimal deal, however, when we ponder this matter of impeachment.