Category Archives: economic news

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.

Amarillo no longer ‘ignored’ by state

It’s hard for me to believe that at one time many residents of Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle felt “ignored” by the powers that be way down yonder in the state capital in Austin.

Every now and then I still hear the occasional gripe that Austin doesn’t give a damn about Amarillo, or the Panhandle, or those who live there. Those who say such things — or think them privately — need to get out more.

I’ve moved away from there but I return on occasion with my wife. I am amazed at what I see transpiring along the city’s major highways.

I see dozens, maybe hundreds, of work crews toiling to renovate Interstates 40 and 27. I see dozens of trucks, front-end loaders, backhoes, road-grading equipment and assorted vehicles of all shapes and sizes  with “Texas Department of Transportation” decals plastered on the doors.

No longer can anyone with a straight face complain about Amarillo being “ignored” by the state.

I don’t know what the dollar figure is on all this work, but it’s got to be in the mid- to high eight figures.

A former state legislator, Republican David Swinford, was known to grumble out loud about the lack of attention Austin was paying to the Panhandle. I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995 to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I met the Dumas lawmaker shortly after arrival and asked him whether it was true — as I had heard — that he wanted to split the Panhandle off from the rest of the state. Swinford didn’t deny it categorically and said that he was miffed that the state didn’t pay the Panhandle enough attention.

Well, I guess my old buddy David Swinford has seen his wishes come true.

These work crews are tearing up the highways, not to mention along Loop 335 along the southwest corner of the city. Eventually, TxDOT will begin work extending the loop along Helium Road about a mile west of Soncy Road.

I look forward to watching this all take shape from some distance — except when my wife and I return to do battle along the I-40 as we enter from the east.

You’ve heard it said to “be careful what you wish for”? These days, the grumbling I hear in Amarillo speaks mostly to there being too much attention being paid by the state.

Doesn’t the deficit matter any longer?

News that the federal budget deficit grew by 17 percent in the past fiscal year makes me wonder.

How is it that “real Republicans” continue to lend their support to a man who calls himself a Republican but on whose watch the deficit is allowed to grow at this breakneck pace?

Donald Trump made a lot of campaign promises while winning the presidency. He said the deficit would plummet. It hasn’t.

It grew to about $771 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Now I get that there are factors contributing to that deficit. The Trump tax cuts, for one. Another has been a boost in defense spending.

But juxtaposed to this deficit lies a curious set of potential issues that could send it into deep space. The wall Trump wants to build along our southern border is going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Then there is that infrastructure improvement package that the president said should cost more than $1 trillion. He wants to improve, repair, renovate, rebuild our nation’s highways, bridges and airports.

Where in the name of fiscal responsibility is he going to get that money? Oh, I know! He’ll borrow it, just like President Barack Obama did in 2009 when he inherited a national economy in collapse — and which Trump and other Republicans criticized to the hilt at the time, even as the economy began to revive itself.

Obama and his spendthrift policies did help reduce the rate of growth in the annual deficit dramatically during his two terms in office. In President Bush’s final year, the deficit exceeded $1 trillion; the Obama administration and Congress managed to cut that annual amount by roughly two-thirds.

Now it’s climbing — inexorably, according to many economists — back toward that trillion-dollar figure.

Deficit hawks — and I consider myself a deficit hawk — are alarmed. If not, they should be alarmed.

Yet the question remains about those real Republicans. The president you embrace doesn’t adhere to anything approaching regular Republican fiscal orthodoxy. Why do you keep clinging to this individual’s coattail?

Bezos loses $9.1 billion … cry me a river

The stock market plunged into the crapper today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping more than 800 points.

Who were the big “losers”? Try this on for size: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos dropped a cool $9.1 billion from his portfolio today.

Is the dude going broke? Uh, no. He’s still got about $145 billion, although admittedly it’s not a cash amount laying around the house or in his back yard.

This kind of reminds me of how ridiculous it has become to try to measure the wealth of the world’s richest individuals.

“A billion here and billion there and soon we’re talking about real money.” So said the late, great Republican U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen in the old days when a billion bucks really mattered.

Aristotle Onassis, the late Greek shipping tycoon — and the husband of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy — died in 1975 as the world’s second-richest human being. His net worth at the time of his death? About $500 million.

These days, when we’re talking about individuals’ worth running into the tens of billions, Ol’ Ari’s estate looks downright pauper-ish.

Socialism = red herring

Socialism is the newest four-letter word we can add to our political glossary of epithets.

The problem with the word, though, and the way it is tossed around is that those who oppose socialism hang the label of “socialist” on folks for the wrong reasons.

They don’t know — or choose to ignore — the true definition of the word. Yet we hear it all … the … time! It comes from those on the right and the far right. It is meant to tear down the ideas of those with whom they disagree.

Socialism defines an economic system that spreads public assets around. Government takes over private industry and distributes assets to everyone the government represents. Here is one definition I found: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

I heard Donald Trump — yet again! — toss the s-word out there during a recent campaign rally. He said Democrats are not-so-closeted socialists who want to destroy our way of life, our economic system, our prosperity. He and his allies contend — and they are largely, but not entirely correct — that socialism doesn’t work.

I have been accused of being a socialist by readers of High Plains Blogger. They make me laugh. For starters, I’ve never posted an entry on this blog that espouses the economic benefit of a socialistic society.

Why is that? I am not a socialist! I am as much of a capitalist as any of my friends who happen to oppose the views expressed in this blog.

I have not endorsed the idea of Medicare for all, or a single-payer health care system, and I damn sure haven’t endorsed the notion of the government nationalizing heavy industry.

And yet …

We hear critics of those who tilt left accuse them of being socialists, of wanting the government to do everything. They say we lefties are in favor of creating something called a Nanny State.

C’mon, folks! Let’s get real!

Socialism — and those who believe in it — have become a convenient political rallying cry at right-wing rallies. Hey, whatever works, right? It’s working for those level these accusations against those who oppose them.

It damn sure is working for the president of the United States, who got elected by stirring up fears and anxiety of voters in precisely the right states to win an Electoral College majority in 2016.

Stoking those fears and leading the cheers of those who believe this nonsense is no way to govern.

Let’s call it NAFTA 2.0

Donald Trump vowed to toss out the North American Free Trade Agreement, calling it the “worst trade deal” ever negotiated … ever!

Over the weekend, the president announced a new trade agreement — which is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — with Canada and Mexico. It remains to be seen whether it’s better than NAFTA. I’ll say this: Trump has delivered on a key campaign pledge to get rid of one trade deal and replace it with another.

I believe in free trade. I also believe that NAFTA was good for all three nations. It stripped away tariffs, enabling the nations to ship goods among each other. Trump contended during the 2016 that NAFTA cost the United States too many jobs, more or less echoing the mantra delivered in 1992 by Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot.

Let’s look at the details of this deal

Congress will have to approve NAFTA 2.0. The president wants Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, to sign it before handing his office over to his successor. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who Trump once blasted as “weak” — called the new treaty a “good day for Canada.”

Midwest farmers are happy with the new agreement. I hope that happiness makes its way to Texas, with its own huge agricultural industry.

The new deal has drawn some guarded, but optimistic, responses from key lawmakers. According to Politico: “Maintaining the trilateral North American deal is an important prerequisite to preserving and extending those gains and the Trump administration has achieved that goal,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “I look forward to reviewing this deal to conform it meets the high standards of Trade Promotion Authority.”

I remain committed to free trade among the three friendly giant nations. I hope the new deal, once we dive deeply into the details, is the result of the guy who has boasted of his ability to cut the best deals in the history of Planet Earth.

How about sharing credit, POTUSes 44 and 45?

Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump are arguing over who deserves the credit for the nation’s booming economy.

Trump keeps hogging all the credit. Obama is reminding us that Trump inherited an economy on the upswing.

Trump says the tax cut has spurred job growth. On his watch, the unemployment rate is at historic lows, job growth is booming, as is the stock market.

Oh, but Obama says the nation’s economic stimulus package approved not long after he took office has spurred much of the growth. The nation has been on an upward climb since 2011.

I know this won’t happen. Ever! How about the men sharing the credit?

Why won’t it happen? Obama and Trump are politicians of different political parties. They obviously detest each other. Trump fomented the Big Lie for years about Obama’s place of birth. Obama has recently taken the gloves off with Trump, calling him out by name in his attempt to help Democrats get elected to Congress in the 2018 midterm election.

I am inclined to side with President Obama. I know: no surprise there. It’s just that Donald Trump has continued to speak untruthfully about the nature of the economic recovery and about the base line he inherited. He calls the economy a “disaster,” which it clearly wasn’t when he took office.

My hope is a futile one. Still, it’s good to remember that when our Special Forces took out Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the then-president — Barack Obama — made sure to spread the credit to where it was due. He praised the anti-terror work done for many years across two administrations, Republican and Democrat.

Is there that kind of sharing to be expressed these days with a relatively robust economy? Hah! Hardly.