Saturday, March 17, 2018

Trade War Fears Grow As Trump Weighs Slapping Big Tariffs On Chinese Imports

By Lisa Mascaro and Josh Boak | March 16, 2018 5:26 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is considering sweeping tariffs on imports from China, with an announcement possible as early as next week. And that has industry groups and some lawmakers scrambling to prevent the next front in a potential trade war that could reverberate across the U.S. economy.

Early indications from the White House have officials braced for tariffs across a wide variety of consumer goods, from apparel to electronics, and even on imported parts for products made in the U.S. The size and scope remain under debate, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is warning that annual tariffs of as much as $60 billion on Chinese goods would be “devastating.”

Trump’s focus on China could be even more consequential, both at home and abroad, than the recently announced penalty tariffs on steel and aluminum. And amid the staff turmoil at the White House, it’s being read as a sign of rising influence for the administration’s populist economic aides, led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and adviser Peter Navarro.

Even Larry Kudlow — an avowed free trader tapped to replace Gary Cohn as director of the White House National Economic Council — has said that China deserves a “tough response” from the United States and its friends. He told CNBC this week, “The United States could lead a coalition of large trading partners and allies against China.”

But with these tariffs, the Trump administration appears so far to be content to go it alone.

On Friday, the National Retail Federation, which recently hosted industry groups to organize opposition to another round of tariffs, convened a conference call to update its members. “They’re all concerned about this,” said David French, vice president for government relations. “Tariffs are a tax on consumers and they’re best used sparingly as tools.”

Read more

America's debt crisis is coming -- interest payments will hit a trillion dollars a year

By Maya MacGuineas
20 hrs ago

Thanks to the recent budget-busting tax cuts and spending deal, the national debt is skyrocketing and on an unsustainable course. And where there is debt, there are interest payments on that debt.

In fact, interest is by far the fastest growing part of the budget.

In our latest nonpartisan analysis, we found that interest payments will quadruple, topping $1 trillion per year in as little as a decade. That's more than we will spend each year on the military or Medicaid, and as a share of the economy, it is the highest in history.

As the country spends more and more to service our debt, it leaves less room to spend on everything else, from defense to education to infrastructure to new tax cuts.

Over the next decade, we'll spend around $7 trillion -- $55,000 per household -- just servicing our debt. That's hardly the best use of our scarce tax revenue.

Unfortunately, we can't just cut these interest payments; they represent commitments to our creditors. But a thoughtful plan to slow the growth of our rising debt can help keep interest rates down and prevent interest payments from eating up our entire budget.

Sadly, policymakers have spent the past year doing exactly the opposite. Between massive new tax cuts and massive spending hikes, Congress has added over $2 trillion to projected debt. We're addicted to debt!

So, how do we fix this?

The first step is admitting we have a problem. We need a national debt audit, and members of Congress need to recognize and be held accountable for their votes.

Read more

Republicans Already Freaking Out About Mississippi Special Election

Eric Boehlert
March 16, 2018 2:25 am

With a GOP civil war brewing in Mississippi, some Republicans are already worried about a looming special election there. They’re concerned that this year’s mounting blue wave could elect a Democrat to the U.S. Senate from one of the reddest states in the country.

After this week’s embarrassing special election loss in a previously pro-Trump district in Pennsylvania, it seems very few Republican races are safe in 2018. Not even one in the Deep South.

Under the headline, “Mississippi Is Now in Play for Democrats,” the conservative Weekly Standard started ringing the alarm bells for Republicans on Thursday.

Nerves are frayed because Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a tea party favorite, announced he was dropping out of his previously announced plan to post a primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

Instead, McDaniel decided to jump over to the special election, which was created when Mississippi’s other Republican senator, Thad Cochran, announced he is retiring four years into his six-year term, because of health issues. Cochran steps down on April 1.

McDaniel’s flip-flop move was met with an angry rejoinder from the state’s Republican governor, Phil Bryant, who denounced McDaniel’s move. “This opportunistic behavior is a sad commentary for a young man who once had great potential,” Bryant said in a written statement on Wednesday

Bryant will appoint a temporary senator to fill Cochran’s vacant seat, and a special election will be held in November.

The concern for Republicans is that the at-times outlandish McDaniel could be seen as toxic by enough voters to open the door for Democrats. Especially if there’s a bruising war within the GOP during the run-up to the special elections.

Read more

White House acknowledges the U.S. is at war in seven countries

By Alexa Liautaud Mar 15, 2018

The U.S. is officially fighting wars in seven countries, including Libya and Niger, according to an unclassified White House report sent to Congress this week and obtained by the New York Times.

Known officially as the “Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Military Force and Related National Security Operations,” the document is part of a new requirement outlined in the 2018 defense spending bill. The White House is already required to update Congress every six months on where the U.S. is using military force.

The new report comes at a time when the Pentagon has expanded its war authority in several active conflicts while adopting an increasingly secretive approach, and is likely to raise new and old concerns around the constitutionality of executive war-making privileges put in place after September 11, 2001.

Here's what you need to know.

Though President Donald Trump campaigned on a more isolationist foreign policy platform, he’s largely expanded or reinvigorated his predecessor’s conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. The report gives the clearest indication to date of America’s most pressing military conflicts under Trump, largely detailing an uptick in direct and indirect combat, as well as “advise and assist” operations across all regions.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. continues its 16-year-long battle against the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State. Trump announced a new strategy last summer that centered on boosting the troop count and greatly increasing airstrikes. In Iraq and Syria, the U.S. saw major gains against the Islamic State, clearing 98 percent of territory once held by the terrorist organization, though not without heavy civilian casualties in cities like Mosul and Raqqa.

In Somalia, the U.S. more than doubled its use of airstrikes against Al-Qaeda offshoot Al Shabaab in 2017, and more recently has targeted Islamic State, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The report acknowledges the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against the Islamic State in Libya, but makes no mention of the small number of U.S. troops known to be operating in the country.

In Niger, the report says U.S. troops were deployed to assist Nigerian troops and ended up in two firefights with “elements assessed to be part of ISIS.” As the New York Times points out, the report also acknowledges for the first time a second firefight in Niger, beyond the Oct. 4 ambush that left four U.S. soldiers dead.

The details revealed in this new report are likely to reinvigorate long-held concerns about the perceived overuse of AUMF, the sweeping post 9/11 legislation U.S. presidents have used to expanded existing wars or enter new conflicts without Congressional approval.

Read more


It’s the biggest Trump con since he told Americans the tax cut would help them more than the rich.
He’s calling for a $1.5 trillion boost in infrastructure spending – but he’s proposing just $200 billion in federal funding.

So where does the rest come from? Tax hikes on the middle-class and poor, and from private investors.

1. State and local governments, already starved for cash, would have to raise taxes.

2. Private investors, for their part, won’t pitch in unless they’re guaranteed a good return on their investment, most likely in the form of tolls and other user fees. Or worse, governments might be forced to transfer ownership of roads and bridges to private corporations.

So the public will end up paying twice: in higher taxes and higher tolls, and won’t even get what’s needed.

3. Projects that will be most attractive to big investors are where tolls and fees will bring in the biggest bucks: Brand new highways and bridges rather than the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair.

4. Trump’s infrastructure plan only worsens the racial justice divide in America, by leaving disadvantaged communities behind while giving massive profits to the rich and corporations through new tolls and fees.

5. It’s a double con because now that Trump and the Republicans have enacted a huge tax cut for corporations and the rich, there’s no money left for infrastructure. The White House says the $200 billion of federal spending will be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, but doesn’t explain how or where. Given what we know of Trump’s and the GOP’s priorities, that means taking money from programs that protect vulnerable Americans, not from the billions in wasted on military spending.

A real infrastructure program – as opposed to Trump’s fake program – would focus on repairing existing infrastructure, doing so based on need rather than financial returns, prioritizing public transportation over private, and clean water and renewable energy over projects that generate more pollution.

And it would be paid for by closing tax loopholes used by big corporations and the rich, not by imposing higher taxes, Trump tolls and user fees on the rest of us.

To really make America great again we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public – not for big developers and investors.


Religiously speaking

Our well regulated militia and their documented GunFail

Posters 3.17.2018

News, opinions, tweets and more 3.17.2018