Category Archives: economic news

Just wondering: Who’s running the OMB?

I cannot stop thinking about the fellow who is serving as acting chief of staff at the White House.

Mick Mulvaney waltzed into the West Wing to take over as chief of staff after John Kelly was either (a) fired, (b) asked to quit or (c) resigned in a huff because he couldn’t control anything.

Donald Trump said Mulvaney would become “acting” chief of staff, which is strange on its face. Normally presidents wouldn’t have any difficulty finding a permanent COS. Mulvaney, though, already has a full-time job as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The OMB gig is a huge undertaking as it is.

Now he is running the White House per the president’s instruction.

Who, though, is running the OMB? Who is putting a pencil to the staggering deficit that is growing ominously, even though the president promised to bring the budget into balance — albeit over a serious length of time.

Does this mean, therefore, that we no longer have a permanent WH chief of staff and a director of the Office and Management and Budget? I keep wondering about who is minding the OMB store while the boss is at the White House trying to make sense of the chaos inside the West Wing.

Watching the rebirth of a city’s downtown

I don’t get back to Amarillo, Texas, as often these days. My wife and I are getting set to plant new roots in a home in Collin County.

We aren’t going to cease returning to the city we called “home” for more than decades. I am getting anxious to witness the rebirth of its downtown district.

You know already that I am a big supporter of the changes that are under way in the Texas Panhandle community. I am heartened by the expected completion of Hodgetown, the baseball park that will be the home field for the AA minor-league Amarillo Sod Poodles baseball squad; the Sod Poodles open their home season on April 8. As an aside, my wife and I will be in Amarillo that day, getting ready to shove off in our fifth wheel for a trip downstate and then to New Orleans; hmm, I might look for a way to attend that opening-night game.

I simply am amazed that the city has embarked on this urban revival journey. When we arrived in Amarillo in early 1995 we saw little evidence of a municipal appetite for the pro-active approach we have witnessed unfold there. City Hall operated on a policy of letting private business fuel any significant change. The city took a hands-off approach; it didn’t want to invest public money on what it considered to be a private venture.

That has changed to a large degree at City Hall. Two mayors, Debra McCartt and Paul Harpole moved the City Council forward in pushing for development of the ballpark. It promoted what it called “catalyst projects” that would bloom in the wake of the ballpark’s completion. Those projects appear to be bearing fruit.

The city welcomed the opening of a first-class hotel; it is pledging to make major improvements to the Civic Center; Polk Street — once known as Amarillo’s “main drag” — is coming back to life; renovated buildings on Polk are welcoming something called “pop up” businesses; the Barfield Building is in the process of being repurposed into a Marriott “boutique hotel.”

This all makes my head spin.

And I don’t even live there!

Every return to Amarillo we make these days fills us with surprises. We’ll be back again soon. I await the next jaw-dropper.

What? No outcry over the national debt?

This just in: The U.S. debt has just jumped past the $22 trillion mark, rising more than $2 trillion during the first two years of Donald J. Trump’s administration.

I have to ask: Where is the outcry? Why hasn’t the far right raised holy hell about that? Why are acquiring all this additional debt without anyone raising a stink about it?

Didn’t the 2012 Republican Party nominee Mitt Romney once chide President Obama at a charity dinner that the event was sponsored by “the letter ‘O’ and the number 16 trillion”? He was referring to the size of the debt during the 2012 presidential campaign. The quip drew lots of laughs — and a few groans.

However, the GOP was simply aghast at the national debt back then.

This time? Pfftt! Who cares?

Oh, I almost forgot! Donald Trump has referred to himself as the “King of Debt.” All hail the king!

Socialism is a serious straw man

Donald J. Trump stood before a joint congressional session and received his share of cheers — mostly from Republicans sitting in front of him — during his State of the Union speech.

One applause line deserves a brief comment here. He declared, without an ounce of equivocation, that the United States is never going to become a “socialist nation.”

GOP lawmakers stood and cheered. So did a handful of Democrats.

Why mention this here? Because the president of the United States only revealed his acute command of the obvious.

He was taking a direct shot at one member of the Senate, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders. He also was targeting a handful of House Democrats, too, namely the rookie lawmaker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has become a media superstar while serving for an entire month in the House of Representatives.

Is the president’s declaration actually intended to stave off some hidden stampede toward socialism? He clearly intends with that statement to stoke some kind of made-up fear that there is enough support in Congress to allow for a government takeover of heavy industry. He is breeding panic among those who believe that the United States of America is going to forgo capitalism in favor of socialism.

Let’s catch our breath. There is no way in the world that the United States of America is going to adopt a socialistic economy.

The issues that some congressional progressives can be resolved without converting our economy from one that produces individual wealth to something that distributes wealth evenly among all 300 million-plus Americans.

“Medicare For All” is no more of a socialistic solution than, say, the original Medicare was when it was enacted in 1965. Or when Social Security became law in 1935. Yet lawmakers and, yes, the president insist that the Affordable Care Act — President Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative — marches the nation down the road toward socialism.

There remains a tremendous amount of individual wealth in this country. I happen to believe firmly that individual wealth will continue to flourish likely until the end of time — whenever that occurs! Socialism, as I understand the meaning of the concept, seeks to redistribute wealth through some nefarious government grab of individual assets.

Does anyone seriously believe that is going to happen? Ever?

If you believe it, then you likely have swilled the Kool-Aid dispensed by demagogues who flourish in a climate of fear.

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!