Category Archives: economic news

Nice timing on pay freeze, Mr. POTUS

Donald John Trump isn’t exactly the master of impeccable timing.

He helps shut down part of the federal government, forcing the furloughing of thousands of federal employees; thus, they are not getting paid while their agency is shut down because the White House and Congress are arguing over money to build The Wall along our southern border.

What does Trump then decide to do? He signs an executive order freezing wages for federal employees! They were slated to get a 2.1 percent pay increase. No longer will they get it. Trump said the budget cannot support it. Imagine that, will ya?

The budget deficit has exploded since the president and congressional Republicans enacted that tax cut, depriving the government of revenue that might have helped minimize deficit growth.

At least, though, the pay freeze doesn’t have an effect on the 2.6-percent pay increase granted to our men and women in the military.

Still, as the saying goes: Timing is everything.

Nice timing, Mr. President.

Federal workers ‘favor’ the shutdown? Hardly!

Donald Trump says many members of the federal work force “favor” the government shutdown that has put many of them out of work and has taken money from their pocketbooks.

Yep, that’s what the president said.

The president’s assertion, quite naturally, has been rebuked by union leaders, who say Trump’s statement is, shall we say, way off the mark.

Think of it. You work for a federal agency that is deemed “non-essential.” Members of Congress and the White House cannot agree on spending priorities. The government runs out of money approved by Congress during its most recent continuing resolution.

So the government shutters itself. Your agency is one of them that goes dark. You’re furloughed without pay.

And you favor shutting down the government? Sure thing, and the sun will rise in the west tomorrow morning.

Trump is trying to insert The Wall into this discussion. Well, whether employees favor construction of The Wall along our southern border is beside the point. They might actually support the president on that one.

It doesn’t mean they want the government to shut down and they want to deny their families an income upon which they demand for things such as, oh, keeping a roof over their head and putting food on their table.

Now the POTUS wants to manage global economy?

This blog doesn’t deal much at all with global economic policy, mainly because its author — that would be me — isn’t qualified to discuss it. So, I able to resist the urge to get entangled in such complicated matters.

However, it’s always been my understanding that the Federal Reserve Board is independent of the president of the United States. Yes, the president appoints the Fed chairman but traditionally lets the Fed run on its own power. The president stays out of the economic quagmire.

That is until Donald Trump became president. Now he’s getting involved in second-guessing, undercutting, undermining Fed chairman Jerome Powell over interest rate policy. He is blaming Powell — among others — for the precipitous decline in the stock market. He says that Powell, a well-educated economist, doesn’t understand the stock market. Eh? What?

Trump wrote this via Twitter: “The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!”

I am having trouble getting past the idiocy in that tweet in the first place. I am trying to figure out what the hell Trump is trying to say, referencing government shutdowns, trade wars and “strong dollars.” What the . . . ?

What is troubling is that the president is now trying to micromanage something about which he knows not a damn thing! I get that he’s likely to say he knows more about economic policy than any human being who’s ever lived . . . except that he cannot find his rear end with both hands when it comes to any of it!

Donald Trump won’t ever get it. He won’t ever understand that there are issues he should avoid. Every time this clown opens his mouth and utters these feckless clichés, he sends the markets into gyrations.

As someone who fears for the future for my retirement fund, I implore Donald Trump to do something he is incapable of doing.

Keep your trap shut . . . Mr. President!

Bulls to bears: Why has POTUS gone silent?

Donald Trump has this annoying, perhaps sickening, habit of taking credit when he doesn’t deserve it. He behaves a bit like many of his presidential predecessors in that regard, although they usually have done so with a bit more, um, style and subtlety.

Not Trump. Take the stock market, for example. He bellows, blusters and bloviates when then market hits all-time highs. He suggests quite openly that his policies are the cause of all that wealth.

Now, though, the wheels seem to be coming off that economic hay wagon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has tanked . . . bigly! The bull market has turned bearish.

Where is the president now? Doesn’t he deserve to take the blame as well as hog all the credit? Are there factors above and beyond one man’s economic policy?

Of course there are! It works in both directions. When the market skyrockets — as it has done — the president doesn’t deserve to take all the credit. When it plummets, he doesn’t deserve to take the heat.

It’s just that with this president, you always can expect bluster when positive opportunities present themselves.

When it goes badly? Crickets, man!

Now, how about the Herring Hotel?

You’ve heard it said, “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they, um, make the trains run on time?”

Amarillo, Texas, might have a “put a man on the moon” metaphor of its own. It could go something like this:

“If they can find a way to rehabilitate and reopen the crappy hulk of a structure known as the Barfield Building, why can’t they do the same thing for the Herring Hotel?”

The Barfield Building — which is a rotting 10-story structure at the moment — is going to be repurposed as a Marriott boutique hotel.

Meanwhile, the Herring Hotel, once the city’s go-to place for every social event of consequence, also is rotting. It’s dark. It is foreboding.

A friend of mine, Bob Goodrich, has owned the building since the 1980s. He bought the abandoned structure with the hope of finding someone to invest big-time money to rehabilitate and revive it. He says he has scored some near misses. He’s been disappointed. He pays the taxes annually on it. The building isn’t quite the eyesore that the Barfield has become.

I’ve been through the first two floors in the Herring. Granted, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. It is in surprisingly decent condition, however.

Some contacts I used to have who were involved in downtown revitalization have told me they foresee a viable future for the Herring. Many of those folks have moved on. I am not familiar with many among the current crop of brainiacs who are talking among themselves about what to do about the Herring.

Nor am I familiar with all that has taken place to date.

I simply am amazed that a hospitality management company has actually taken control of the Barfield and has actually begun work to bring that miserable hulk of a structure back to life.

I consider the Barfield to be among the worst examples of urban rot in downtown Amarillo. If they can find a new purpose for the Barfield, isn’t there a future to be found for the Herring?

Self-awareness is MIA

Donald John “Smart Gut” Trump’s jaw-dropping absence of self-awareness is on full display this week.

He has taken aim at the man he selected this past year to lead the Federal Reserve Board. Jerome Powell took the hit for the reeling stock market, giving Trump the headache of watching people’s retirement funds — such as mine — shrink before our eyes as investors sell off their stocks.

Chairman Powell is not giving anything back to Trump, the president complained. Trump said he is quite unhappy with the selection of Powell to lead the Fed.

For starters, the Fed is an independent agency that doesn’t answer to the president of the United States. Trump doesn’t understand that, along with all the other elements of government he doesn’t understand.

Then he said he has “a gut” that tells him more than “anyone else’s brain” can tell him.

Oh, really, Mr. President?

Well, did your gut tell you to invest in all those endeavors for which you filed bankruptcy before you entered political life? How did Trump University or the Trump Taj Mahal resort work out? Not too well.

Trump’s “gut” let him down . . .  again and again and again!

Globalism isn’t a dirty word

Donald Trump decided this week to rough up a PBS reporter, Yamiche Alcindor, who sought to ask him whether his declaration that he is a “nationalist” was a “dog whistle” to those who are closet “white nationalists.”

He called the question “racist,” an odd accusation given that Alcindor is African-American.

Setting that stuff aside, it’s fair to wonder whether the president’s nationalistic view is code as well for “isolationist.” Yes, I share the view that the nationalism espoused by Trump can be construed as an endorsement of white nationalism, but the isolationist tag is equally dangerous on another level.

Trump wants to “put America first.” His nationalist tendencies, though, ignore the reality of the present day. The world has figurately shrunk, thanks to technology and a 24/7 awareness of everything that happens on the other side of Planet Earth. Thus, we cannot recuse ourselves from the affairs in faraway lands. Nor can they from our affairs.

We build alliances because we seek to stay engaged in world affairs. The president seems intent on pulling us out of the cooperative efforts that his predecessors have forged with trading partners, military allies and geopolitical friends.

Trump imposes trade tariffs because he accuses our partners — namely Canada and Mexico — of being “unfair” in their trading practices. He goes to Europe and scolds NATO allies for failing to pay their fair share of their defense; in the most ironic tongue-lashing of all, he tears into Germany for its deal to import natural gas from Russia, suggesting that the Germans were beholden to the Russians. Shortly after taking office, Trump managed to hang up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull because of a spat he didn’t understand over refugee migration.

This is how putting “America first” makes us stronger? This is how to build American prestige around the world?

No. It isn’t. Our retreat from a global strategy weakens this country as its standing among the world community of nations diminishes.

I don’t want the president to continue on this course. I know he won’t give a damn what I think, or what other critics think about him and his policies. If only he could enlist the wisdom of those closer to him to speak the truth to him about the folly of his nationalism.

TEA Party? Where have you gone?

Don’t you remember when the 2010 midterm election produced a “shellacking” of the Democrats? It was delivered by what was then called the TEA Party.

Eight years ago, the TEA Party was the dominant insurgent force within the Republican Party. The TEA Party comprised Republicans who were fed up with being taxed too much.

Indeed, in recent years I’ve been using the term “TEA Party” in all capital letters, because it was born of a movement that proclaimed itself to be “Taxed Enough Already,” hence TEA Party is an acronym.

The TEA Party drove then-House Speaker John Boehner — a leader of the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party — to just this side of nuts. Indeed, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican and a friend/ally of Boehner, told me he believed Boehner was going to bail from the House because he was tired of battling the rebels within his GOP caucus.

It turned out Thornberry was right. Boehner quit the speakership and the House in 2015. He’d had enough.

The TEA Party has its share of lawmakers who’ve taken their message forward. Ted Cruz of Texas is one of them.

But since about 2016, we hear less of the TEA Party and more of another insurgent group of Republican lawmakers calling themselves the Freedom Caucus. It, too, is a low-tax outfit committed to cutting government spending on programs that have become part of the national fabric. You know, programs such as Medicare, Medicaid … those kinds of things.

The Freedom Caucus has picked up where the TEA Party (seemingly) left off in opposing the Affordable Care Act. They want to repeal the ACA, but I haven’t heard about whether to simply repair the ACA, make it better, preserve those elements of it that are working.

The Freedom Caucus has become every bit the political gadfly that the TEA Party became to the point of sending a speaker of the House of Representatives packing in the middle of his term.

It’s not that I miss the TEA Party. I don’t. I’m just wondering out loud how these movements come and go and how replacement insurgencies come to the fore.

I happen to favor good government, not necessarily big government. The TEA Party — wherever it is — wants to gut government. As one who appreciates the role government plays to improve people’s lives, I wouldn’t mind one bit if the TEA Party would simply vanish, never to be heard from again.

Same for the Freedom Caucus.

POTUS pitches tax cut before midterm election? Can’t happen

Donald Trump’s ignorance about the federal government was on full display at a campaign rally.

The president promised a 10 percent tax cut before the midterm election. Cheers erupted from the crowd.

Oh, but wait. Congress initiates tax measures. Congress isn’t meeting. The president cannot enact a tax cut by himself.

Cutting taxes is a complicated matter. It requires negotiation among lawmakers and with the White House.

So it is that Donald Trump has shown us yet again that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. He can say things. He can elicit cheers from adoring crowds.

He cannot deliver anything by himself. None of this matters to his base. This is the “new normal” in Washington: A president doesn’t know what he’s talking about … and neither does the crowd that cheers him on.

Fed chairman feels POTUS’s wrath

Donald Trump has crumpled up yet another presidential custom and tossed it into the nearest crapper.

There once was a time when presidents didn’t criticize openly the chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Not this guy. Not this president.

Trump says he “maybe” regrets appointing Jerome Powell as Fed chairman. He gripes that “I’ve got a good economy going” and Powell is wrecking it by raising interest rates, causing the stock market to wobble and then crater.

You see, Trump yet again seems upset that his personal reward from serving in the highest office in the land is being diminished because an economic pro is taking measures commensurate with a healthy economy.

As for the president’s criticism of the Fed chairman, it flies directly in the face of a longstanding custom to shield the Fed from political criticism. Trump doesn’t recognize customs that historically lend dignity to the office.

To think, too, that the president is savaging a chairman who he appointed himself.

Weird, man.