As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after
a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse
enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day
in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the
“Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited
back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic
nomination for president, issued this statement:
“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in
France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating
campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world. He
has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable
allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside
our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that
NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or
else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s
long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the
United States and our allies in Europe.
“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the
American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global
stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For
the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique,
because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing
issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade
practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation.
No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century
challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.
“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s
national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we
amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify
our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an
alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it
more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But
it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most
important strategic alliance.
“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of
Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish
praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to
bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow
democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to
permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring
together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am
president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead
the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished
values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. Here is her proposal — Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features
big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our
society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private
information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And
in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.
I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most
powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure
that the next generation of great
American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies
from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor
and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential
That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech
sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
How the New Tech Monopolies Hurt Small Businesses and Innovation
America’s big tech companies provide valuable products but also wield enormous
power over our digital lives. Nearly half of all e-commerce goes
through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through
sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook.
As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their
resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small
businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the
broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in
our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation
of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our
biggest tech companies.
America’s big tech companies have achieved their level of dominance in part
based on two strategies:
Mergers to Limit Competition.
Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp.
Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors
like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has
snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick. Rather
than blocking these transactions for their negative long-term effects on
competition and innovation, government regulators have waved them through.
Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many
big tech companies own a marketplace – where buyers and sellers transact –
while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of
interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small
companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon
Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google
allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine
by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has
favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp.
Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in
competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now
hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because
it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing
competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech startups
has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of
the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups
have declined 22% since 2012.
With fewer competitors entering the
market, the big tech companies do not have to compete as aggressively in key
areas like protecting our privacy. And some of these companies have grown
so powerful that they can bully cities
and states into showering them with massive taxpayer handouts in exchange
for doing business, and can act — in the words of Mark Zuckerberg —
“more like a government than a traditional company.”
We must ensure that today’s tech giants do not crowd out potential competitors,
smother the next generation of great tech companies, and wield so much power
that they can undermine our democracy.
Restoring Competition in the Tech Sector
America has a long tradition of breaking
up companies when they have become too big and dominant — even if they are
generally providing good service at a reasonable price.
A century ago, in the Gilded Age, waves of mergers led to the creation of some
of the biggest companies in American history — from Standard Oil and JPMorgan
to the railroads and AT&T. In response to the rise of these “trusts,”
Republican and Democratic reformers pushed for antitrust laws to break up these
conglomerations of power to ensure competition.
But where the value of the company came from its network, reformers recognized
that ownership of a network and participating on the network caused a conflict
of interest. Instead of nationalizing these industries — as other countries
did — Americans in the Progressive Era decided to ensure that these networks
would not abuse their power by charging higher prices, offering worse quality,
reducing innovation, and favoring some over others. We required a structural
separation between the network and other businesses, and also demanded that the
network offer fair and non-discriminatory service.
In this tradition, my administration
would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps:
First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be
designated as “Platform Utilities” and
broken apart from any participant on that platform.
Companies with an annual global revenue of
$25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an
exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be designated as
These companies would be prohibited from
owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform.
Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users.
Platform utilities would not be allowed
to transfer or share data with third parties.
For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million
and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same
standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but
would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the
To enforce these new requirements, federal regulators, State Attorneys General,
or injured private parties would have the right
to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these
requirements, to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and to be paid for losses and
damages. A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.
Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform
utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and
Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart.
Google Search would have to be spun off as well.
Second, my administration would
appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech
Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that
reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using
existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including:
Whole Foods; Zappos
Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.
Protecting the Future of the Internet
So what would the Internet look like after all these reforms?
Here’s what won’t change: You’ll still be able to go on Google and search like you do today. You’ll still be able to go on Amazon and find 30 different coffee machines that you can get delivered to your house in two days. You’ll still be able to go on Facebook and see how your old friend from school is doing.
Here’s what will change: Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. Google couldn’t smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants.
Of course, my proposals today won’t solve every problem we have with our big tech companies.
We must give people more control over how their personal information is collected, shared, and sold—and do it in a way that doesn’t lock in massive competitive advantages for the companies that already have a ton of our data.
We must help America’s content creators—from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook.
And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections.
Those are each tough problems, but the benefit of taking these steps to promote competition is that it allows us to make some progress on each of these important issues too. More competition means more options for consumers and content creators, and more pressure on companies like Facebook to address the glaring problems with their businesses.
Healthy competition can solve a lot of problems. The steps I’m proposing today will allow existing big tech companies to keep offering customer-friendly services, while promoting competition, stimulating innovation in the tech sector, and ensuring that America continues to lead the world in producing cutting-edge tech companies. It’s how we protect the future of the Internet.
Donald Trump keeps rattling on about the US trade deficit. Yet he is singularly responsible for depressing America’s #2 export: international travel.
It is ironic, really. The guy has his name on hotels around the globe but he no sense whatsoever of “hospitality,” nor a clue about how important face-to-face contact among people from different backgrounds is toward to greater issue of national security. Trump is more like the evil, ruthless landlord, Snidely Whiplash, who lashes the girl to the railroad tracks until her father signs the deed to their farm, than the international hotelier Barron Hilton.
President Obama understood the importance of engagement of people from abroad coming to the US and Americans – especially young people – going abroad – for work, study, volunteering, travel.
“Americans are now getting out – to build empathy and stewardship, for personal growth, to create a sense of global citizenship.” (Ah, the bad word: “global” when this guy extols America First.)
In 2016, thanks largely to Obama policies, the US saw a record 75.6 million international visitors who spent $245 billion and generated an $84 billion trade surplus. Travel and tourism in 2016 was a $1.5 trillion industry, employing 8 million and supporting 7 million more jobs, with every $1 million in sales of travel goods and services directly generating nine jobs. Globally, travel and tourism accounts for 10 percent of the world’s jobs.
Travel to the US has been in decline ever since Trump took office, causing the USA to slip to #3 behind Spain (#2) and France (#1) in popularity for foreign travel.
Indeed, despite 2017 being a strong year as the global economy, not just the US economy was surging (thanks Obama!), every area on the globe showed growth except the United States, which saw a 4 to 6% decline in international visitors. So what you ask? That represented a $4.6 billion hit to the economy and cost 40,000 jobs. What is more, the US, once #1 destination on the world’s bucket list, slipped to #8, boding ill for future international spending here. Brand USA has a lot of catch-up to do.
“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics, told The New York Times.
“Certainly it is the travel ban, rhetoric of Trump, the visa situation,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO, Apple Leisure Group said during an industry panel at the New York Times Travel Show to explain the drop in bookings to the US. “Brand USA is hurt.”
New York City received 100,000 fewer international visitors in 2017. And while the “strength of the American dollar” was likely a large factor in that dip, “There’s a real concern that this isolationism, this ‘America first’ rhetoric could lead to a decline in international travel,” said Fred Dixon, the head of NYC & Company. International visitors spend four times what domestic travelers do in New York City. The city, which garners $64 billion in economic impact from tourism supporting 383,000 jobs, collected $4.2 billion in taxes from tourists in 2016.
Instead of a welcoming place, this is the image that the US has broadcast around the world: gun violence (15 countries actually have travel advisories against the US because of this scourge); Charlottesville and the mounting White Nationalist attacks on the “other;” calls for erecting walls and closing borders, that defy international norms, treaties and American values and traditions by refusing to accept refugees and asylum-seekers (and withdrawing from the United Nations Treaty on Migration), that pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord as a big F-U to the planet and the global community. Trump said as much at Davos: America First and foremost, and you all should be doing the same. Attacking the United Nations, hollowing out the US State Department, loose nuke rhetoric. That’s the recipe for international conflict.
Recently, NPR interviewed Jake Haupert of Evergreen Escapes, an inbound tour operator that organizes visits into his area from around the world. After a decade of steady growth, this year, his business volume plunged 25% after 11 years of growth- he is looking to sell him business. What accounts for it?”
“There is a sense of fear – gun violence, homelessness, the political climate. Trump comes across as anti-foreigner. The rhetoric is affecting US representation around the globe. Also the strong dollar. They are choosing not to travel. They are disinterested in coming to the US (once the most desired destination) or are waiting for this to pass.”
This undoes all the good that Obama had done – expediting travel visas, making visitors feel welcome at ports of entry, spending money to promote travel to the US, and yes, projecting the United States as a global leader advancing the betterment of the planet with climate action, eradication of poverty and disease, and spreading the institutions and values of democracy. What do you suppose the Trump CDC will do with another outbreak of Zika or Ebola?
Trump, the very opposite of a smart businessman (witness the number of bankruptcies including Atlantic City casino hotels), whose entire fortune including his ascension to the Oval Office is based on selling his “brand”, is cutting funding entirely to Brand USA, not just the title but a public-private coalition to inspire people from around the world to visit the United States. Every country on the planet has an entity that promotes tourism into their country, because tourist dollars are new dollars. In fact, Brand USA, which generated $615 million in incremental federal taxes and another $52 million in state and local taxes -produces a 27 to 1 return on investment – that’s $27 returned to ripple through the economy for every $1 spent on promotion. If Trump were actually a good businessman, he would appreciate that ROI as a great deal.
But Trump is ostensibly the president of the US, who should be concerned beyond mere dollars. He should be concerned about relationships, forging mutual understanding, dispelling myths about Ugly Americans. Travelers who come to the US, and Americans who travel abroad, take on the mantle of “ambassador” – presumably ambassadors of good will. It’s “minds and hearts” versus “bullets, bombs and bluster” that actually wins the day.
Trump in his State of the Union address will no doubt take credit for the economy (which grew only 2.6%, much lower than needed to support his tax cuts). But travel is the canary in the coal mine – it is the leading indicator for the economy – and because of its sheer size in the economy, supporting for one in every nine nonfarm jobs, what happens causes a ripple effect.
Travel spending is tied not so much to household income, but to consumer confidence – it is a manifestation of feeling, outlook.
Trump’s “Wall” is no different than the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain. It is a wall of ignorance, isolation, indifference, and just as anti-democratic and destructive. I would bet that 90% of Trump voters have never been outside their own province: they have no “world view” only a narrow view so easily shaped and molded by an autocratic regime that feeds on hate and mistrust.
Trump’s disdain for other countries and cultures, manifest in his “shithole” comment regarding the entire continent of Africa, Haiti and El Salvador, communicates his prejudice and resuscitates the image of “The Ugly American.”
And that image of the US border patrol agent dumping water left in the desert for people desperately fleeing violence in Central America is the new “Brand USA.”
During a press call previewing Donald Trump’s “closing message to the American people” about the glories of the Republican tax plan supported by less than 25% of Americans, Trump’s leading “messagers” – the people charged with making the deal palatable – had to “research” the American Dream, as if they had never heard of the concept before:
“At the president’s direction, we did research into the concept of American Dream,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Tony Sayegh. “It is interesting what we found, where the concept came from and what it meant. And part was that in the United States, you were not destined to die in the same income class you were born into, children were not destined to have same quality of life that you had, people had the ability to rise. This was unique thing in world history. Most of the world, most of history, born in a certain class and died in that class, children were born and died in same economic class. America [brought the] idea of economic opportunity for all.”
But now, he said with dubious accuracy because this same criticism has arisen since the Reagan “Revolution”, if he in fact bothered to research, “for first time in American history, parents no longer think their children will be better off. …We will bring back the American spirit, that’s what president likes to talk about it. Consumer confidence is at all time high. That kind of optimism is at the core of the message.”
He asserted, “We’re nearing a historic moment in which we will decide the economic future of the nation. We have the power to reject [the notion] that 2% growth is the new normal and the majority of Americans for first time in history will lose faith that next generation will do better…[We want an] economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy and well connected….Ultimately message will be that middle class will no longer just be getting by, finally have the opportunity to get ahead, and that’s what will Make America Great Again.”
When asked about the scores of economists and experts who have challenged the theory that the tax cuts to the wealthiest and corporations will trickle down to working people, that the cumulative impact of the tax plan will hurt working class and middle class Americans, upset the very mechanisms that promote the American Dream (education, health care, home ownership), that it will result in $1.5 trillion added to the national debt which will result in cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and that large majority of Americans oppose the tax plan, White House message strategy director Cliff Sims went on the attack:
”I encourage you to spend a little less time reading [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer’s talking points, and more time reading the plan [which has yet to be finalized or scored]. This plan offers a lot for the middle class…. [The plan] substantially increased child tax credit, $1000 now to $1600 or $2000; nearly doubles standard deduction so a married couple can take $24,000 tax free and more if they itemize; it lowers the tax rate so more income is taxed at lower rates… Quite frankly anyone who says otherwise is purposefully disingenuous or taking a partisan line that doesn’t meet the reality.”
Sayegh added, “Analysis and studies. The Council of Economic Advisors reported a month ago clearly demonstrates what we are doing on corporate side helps workers, because workers absorb the greatest burden when corporate taxes are high… We know that through analysis, the average worker gets anywhere $4000-$9000.. after policies implemented – because there is a more productive and investment-friendly environment when corporations can compete with significantly lower rate. It is a benefit to hardworking Americans, the American worker.”
Asked where was the analysis that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said “over 100 people in Treasury are “working around the clock on running scenarios for us,,” Sims said that Treasury “in very rare instances will ever release analysis of a bill that has not already been voted on and passed because as anyone who has followed process understands, there are two bills – House, Senate –there are differences between them and a final bill will be voted on.”
Sayegh also pushed back against polling which shows the vast majority of Americans believe the tax plan substantially favors the wealthy over working people, pointing to rolling back the estate tax and eliminating the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), by which Trump in 2005, in the only 2 pages of his tax returns revealed to the public, shows that he would have saved $30 million in tax payments but for the AMT.
“We’ve poured through this from a lot of angles, political strategy and public opinion. It is abundantly clear that almost every poll nationally cited – CBS, Quinnipiac, Marist – is deliberately trying to shake and manipulate public opinion and not accurately reflect it. Quinnipiac uses a methodology where only 20% of respondents are Republican, 33% are Democrats, 38% are independents –a preposterous formula. Negative of 12% between Democrats and Republicans is not close to reality – so does not reflect public opinion.”
Sims added “The more people learn about specifics, the more they love it. 61% to 21% supported it after learning we are doubling the standard deduction from $12 to $24K, 54% support only 14% oppose the child tax credit, 54% support only 18% oppose after being informed of basic provisions. Does anyone on the planet not believe Americans don’t want lower taxes, a fairer corporate tax rate that will create more jobs and higher wages? When polls get into specifics…support goes through the roof. When you have polls that try to manipulate, push questions, you get numbers you can put in Chiron or story to manipulate public opinion, but not reflect what Americans feel.”
Except that polling only specific, popular provisions (who doesn’t want higher standard deduction), does not put the whole picture into view: the higher premiums likely to come when the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act is eliminated; the personhood provision; drilling in the Arctic National Refuge; taxing graduate school fellowships as income; eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes and significantly limiting the mortgage interest deduction, and adding more than $1 trillion to the national debt, which will trigger cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, curtail investment and infrastructure spending.
And no one has asked where the $300 billion to pay for disaster relief just from the 2017 climate catastrophes will come from, or why the Republicans have refused to reauthorize CHIP, which provides access to health care for 9 million children and pregnant mothers.
“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history; healthcare, phenomenal healthcare. I know you don’t want this — welfare reform. Does anybody want welfare reform?(Applause.)And infrastructure. But welfare reform — I see it and I’ve talked to people. I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform…”
This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.
Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.
Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care. 800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.
The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.
Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:
“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”
You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.
It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.
Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.
This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)
Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.
Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)
You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.
“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.
“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.
The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.
Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
New York State is holding a global competition to find the best ideas to re-imagine the New York State Canal System so it becomes an engine for economic growth upstate as well as a world-class tourist destination. The competition, run by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation, is awarding up to $2.5 million to develop and implement the winning ideas.
“The Canal System is a vital part of New York’s storied past and it is critical that it continues to be an essential component of our state’s future,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “We’re looking for bold and innovative ideas that ensure the canal system and its surrounding communities can grow and prosper and with this competition, we encourage bright minds from across the globe to contribute their best ideas to help bring this piece of history to new heights.”
“Originally labeled Clinton’s Folly, the Erie Canal went on to become one of the most significant transportation milestones in our history, putting Upstate NY on the path to a century of prosperity,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “It is fitting that now, as we celebrate its bicentennial, we re-imagine how this iconic Canal can once again become an engine for economic growth across New York State.”
The competition was announced as New York continues the celebration of the bicentennial of the beginning of construction on the Erie Canal, in Rome, N.Y., on July 4, 1817. Next year, the State will mark the centennial of the 524-mile state Canal System, which includes the Erie, Champlain, Cayuga-Seneca and Oswego canals.
“There are many people in the public and private sector who are passionate about the canals,” said Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, which operates the state Canal System as a subsidiary. “We want to translate that passion into sustainable projects that will make the canal corridor bigger and better.”
Quiniones unveiled the competition today at the World Canals Conference in Syracuse, where hundreds of canal experts and enthusiasts from three continents are meeting this week.
“The building of the Erie Canal took persistence, vision and overcoming deep skepticism, but its construction transformed this nation,” Brian U. Stratton, New York State Canal Corporation director said. “Now, we want to transform the canals so they become go-to travel and recreation destinations. The entries can come from anywhere. Good ideas have no boundaries.”
The goals of the competition include soliciting programs and initiatives that promote:
The Canal System and its trails as a tourist destination and recreational asset for New York residents and visitors;
Sustainable economic development along the Canal System;
The Canal System’s heritage; and
The long-term financial sustainability of the Canal Corporation
The competition will seek entries on two separate tracks, one for infrastructure; the other for programs that have the potential to increase recreation use and tourism.
In the first round, entrants will provide information about how their proposal meets core competition goals and outlines the applicant’s qualifications. Finalists will each receive $50,000 to implement their ideas for the second round, where they will partner with either a municipality along the Canal System or a non-profit engaged in canal-related work. A panel of judges will select two or more winners to receive between $250,000 and $1.5 million to plan their projects and implement them.
Submissions for the first round are due Dec. 4. The final winners will be announced next spring.
Hurricane Harvey had just devastated Texas, the worst natural disaster up until two weeks later when the entire state of Florida was about to be destroyed by Hurricane Irma, as whole Caribbean island nations as well as the US territory of Puerto Rico had their infrastructure utterly decimated. And Hurricane Jose was on Irma’s tail. Meanwhile, Los Angeles and Oregon were being consumed by record wildfires. Congress had authorized $15 billion toward Hurricane Harvey relief and to replenish the nearly depleted funds of FEMA.
Indeed, in North Dakota on September 6, as Hurricane Irma was barreling toward Florida, Trump, the Tax-Cheat-in-Chief, gave an incoherent speech touting his tax plan that began with his incredulity in discovering that North Dakota was undergoing a massive drought.
“I just said to the governor, I didn’t know you had droughts this far north. Guess what? You have them. But we’re working hard on it and it’ll disappear. It will all go away,” Trump said.
Accuweather is projecting the cost of Harvey and Irma alone at $290 billion, or 1.5% of total GDP, which would erase the growth of the economy through year-end, according to Dr. Joel N. Myers, president and chairman.
That’s also more than one-fourth of the $1 trillion that Trump proposed for a 10-year infrastructure plan. Where will the money come from? And if all infrastructure spending has to be directed to Texas and Florida, where does that leave the rest of the country? Not to mention the $1 billion Trump is demanding as down payment on a $70 billion border wall.
Does this get you thinking that Trump and his administration, especially EPA Administrator and shill for the oil industry Scott Pruitt, should rethink their self-serving notion of climate change denial (self-serving because it is used to fuel their argument that they can overturn environmental regulations on the massively profitable fossil fuel industry)? Of course not.
But it should also cause them to rethink their totally corrupt plan for tax reform which is intended to starve the federal government of funds, balloon the budget deficit and national debt, all to shift more of wealth to the already fabulously wealthy. Especially when so many people have lost their businesses and jobs, which will certainly impact tax revenues.
Let’s just consider for a moment what taxes are supposed to be for. And yes, a considerable amount goes to pay for interest on bonds, but bonds are what are used to pay for infrastructure – they represent an investment in the future. And as we are considering how to replace the destroyed and decimated infrastructure, why not build back with sustainability in mind.
Just as in his speech declaring his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement (forged with US leadership and signed by 195 countries), Trump, who took a $900 million tax deduction on his failed Atlantic City casino and probably has never paid 40% tax in his life,lies to rationalize his tax plan, beginning with the lie that the US is the highest taxed nation in the world (not true) and that workers wages will increase if only shareholders and CEOs and the wealthiest 1% could keep an even greater percentage of their money (history shows the opposite). (See New York Times, The False Promises in President Trump’s Tax Plan)
Remember: the wealthiest people used to be taxed at 90% – that was after World War II when the nation had to rebuild its treasury. We were able to afford the GI Bill which probably did more to create a middle class than anything since the New Deal. Now the wealthiest pay something between 35 to 40% – except that they don’t.
Trump (and Ryan) want to give a $170,000 annual windfall to the wealthiest Americans, while crumbs ($700) to the middle class who will lose the only tax deductions they can use. $170,000 times four years worth mean in terms of free money (from tax-paying schnooks) is a lot of dough to invest in politicians and policy with a spectacular return: policies like enabling Big Pharma Sharks to hike up life-saving drugs by 5000%; Oil Barons to make sure incentives for wind and solar energy don’t help these industries develop into competitors; real estate developers who can delight in the tax advantages that let them take a $900 million deduction and build without interfering regulations on lands that are needed to soak up flood waters and health insurance companies to raise premiums to pad profits.
Now this nation is looking at more than $290 billion just to recover from the climate disasters which are becoming more and more frequent, hitting the high density developed urban centers.
If taxes for those who have the means to pay don’t cover the cost, who does? Ryan and the Republicans love to talk about “sacrifice” but the only ones they demand sacrifices from are not the wealthiest or the corporations, but Social Security and Medicare recipients, struggling middle class kids who need to take out loans to pay for college. Their concept is to take money out of the consumer economy, which starts a downward unvirtuous cycle of economic contraction. How do we know?” Because we have seen this movie before: the Bush tax cuts. Meanwhile, median income has risen to its highest levels in 1999 (under Bill Clinton) and 2016 (under Barack Obama) and their tax-and-spending plans.
The Trump/Ryan tax “plan” requires a federal budget that slashes spending for infrastructure, for research and development, for education, for environmental protection (and of course, eradicating any mention of climate change), even slashing spending for diplomacy and foreign aid. It depends on slashing Medicaid and subsidies to keep health insurance affordable (that’s why they are so desperate to repeal Obamacare).
It slashes the tax rate for corporations which already do not pay the nominal 35% rate. Many highly profitable corporations – including General Electric, Pepco Holdings, PG&E Corp., Priceline and Duke Energy – paid nothing into federal coffers from 2008-2015 yet benefit from all the services the government provides including roads, public safety, an educated workforce, mass transit, a military to defend their shipping.
To get to a tax cut without obscenely increasing the national debt, the Republicans say they will get rid of “loopholes” like the mortgage credit and property taxes – that would only complete the decimation of the Middle Class and destroy any semblance of an American Dream. What would make more sense, if they really cared to “reform” the tax code and stop the income distribution from middle class to the already fabulous rich, is to take away the mortgage tax credits on 2nd, 3rd homes and such, and take away the many special deductions that real estate developers like Trump has benefited from, as well as the loopholes that let hedge fund managers shield all but a fraction of their income from taxes that wage-earners pay.
Indeed, the policies that Trump are proposing – specifically, eliminating the tax deduction for state and local property taxes – would hurt blue-states that tend to have higher state and local taxes because they tend to have higher property taxes but provide more services and get less in federal payments than they send to the government, while red-states that have low state and local taxes (and crappy schools and health care) get more from the federal government (paid for by blue states) than they send.
And what about Puerto Rico. which already was in economic disaster – having defaulted on $70 billion in debt – and basically written off by the US government. It’s infrastructure is now totally destroyed. How will it be rebuilt? Here’s what I imagine: Trump is so transactional, I can see a foreign country (China?) with big bucks and an interest in having a foothold in the Western Hemisphere buying Puerto Rico from the US. After all, what is $100 billion or $200 billion to put the island right?
Of course Trump’s tax “reform” plan – sketched out as if on the back of an envelope without any analysis – is really all about tax cuts to the wealthiest and to corporations. As Hillary Clinton said during a debate (which she won): “trickle down economics on steroids” from the guy who took a $900 million deduction for a failed real estate deal, which taxpayers – normal working stiffs – wind up paying for.
Those who have actually analyzed the plan have said that the wealthiest people – who have done astronomically well for decades, while middle class Americans have scarcely had a salary increase in 40 years, so that the gap between rich and poor has reached Grand Canyon proportions – would get a tax windfall of $170,000 a year, while middle class families would get something like $700. Where do the 1 percenters put that extra money which they scarcely need? Well, they invest in buying politicians and influencing policy, of course.
Tax “reform” figures into the Trump obsession with repealing Obamacare and leaving 32 million people without health insurance. It figures into the administration’s dismissal of the Gateway Tunnel project so important to the New York region’s infrastructure and economy.
But now, Trump’s Republican states are being whacked with climate catastrophes, and the money has to come from somewhere.
And let’s also be reminded that the growth in the economy – first, saving the nation from plunging into another Great Depression, and now rebounding to the highest median income, lowest unemployment rate ever and highest rate of health insurance coverage while reducing the poverty rate – happened because of Obama Administration policies and would have been even more effective in terms of raising wages and living standards if the Trump Administration did not steamroll back policies, like overtime pay, parental leave, and federal minimum wage and obstruct infrastructure development and the transition to clean, renewable energy.
People remark that the devastation in their neighborhoods from these massive climate disasters is like a bomb went off. Well, in wartime, taxes are raised – that’s how the rate on the wealthiest hit 90%, to pay off the World War II debt. This is wartime. This nation has to rebuild, and sustainably, responsibly. We need to invest in 21st and 22nd century technologies, to keep the United States a global leader. Otherwise, we will cede our leverage to China which has basically embraced the American model of spreading its political ideology (nominally, “Democracy”) through capitalism (nominally “free market” as opposed to centralized control) and is literally buying up influence over Africa and Asia.
Of course, Trump’s tax plan is Paul Ryan’s tax plan (Trump never actually had a plan), and the Republicans are content to let Trump destroy the nation and end the social safety net including Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and possibly embroil us in World War III, until they can get jam through the tax plan they have coveted since Reagan.
It doesn’t matter that Trump’s preposterously named “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget is “dead on arrival” according to even staunch Republican, Texas Senator John Cornyn. Much of it is the long-time wet dream of Paul Ryan and Republicans whose singular ambition has been to destroy the New Deal, Square Deal, Great Society. They would eliminate the minimum wage, child labor laws, food and product safety, Clean Air & Water protections, Social Security and Medicare and most notably Medicaid, sell off national parks and monuments to mining and oil and gas industrialists. And this is before taking into account tax “reform” that would take $2 trillion out of the national budget to put into the pockets of the wealthiest and corporations, so they have even more extra pocket change to spend on political campaigns.
Indeed, the Trump budget is everything that the Republicans have been dying to do, but didn’t dare. But Trump doesn’t care. He has shown that it really isn’t hard atall to cut the budget when you really don’t care what the numbers represent,when you have no clue and no interest.
The Trump Budget is built on “Trumponomics, as Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney proudly exclaimed, “It’s a taxpayer-first budget, going line by line through the budget, trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are paying for those lines….What Trumponomics is and what this budget is a part of is an effort to get to sustained 3 percent economic growth in this country again..And by the way, we do not believe that that is something fanciful.”
Indeed, this is a “tough love” approach to force malingerers off things like food stamps – it’s not non-living wages paid by companies pocketing record profits that keep workers below the poverty line that’s the problem.
“Getting people back to work. Create an environment where people more comfortable staying at …We no longer measure compassion by the number of programs or number of people on programs. We measure success by how many get off programs and have success in lives.”
But the figures don’t actually add up.
Economists from across the spectrum say that the math that underlies the main selling point for Trump’s budget, that it will “balance the budget” in 10 years, is a crock. It doesn’t take into account the $1 trillion or so in tax cuts that will go entirely to the wealthiest and to corporations that Trump sketched out; it assumes a 3% rate of annual economic growth, which would mean 50% more economic activity, which everyone says is beyond pie-in-the-sky; and it actually double-counts $2 trillion, prompting headlines like this one from Slate, “Donald Trump’s budget is based on a hilarious accounting fraud” and “The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump’s budget “ from Vox.
Health care a right, not a privilege? Trump’s budget projects a 28.3% DROP in spending for health services, $2 trillion less spending, over a 10-year period – despite the aging and increase in population. This includes a 27% decrease in spending for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (imagine another Ebola, Zika or Swine Flu outbreak); 25% drop in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (even as Trumpcare will no longer include mental health or addiction), 25% less spending for research and training, including 25% cut for the National Institutes of Health (no interest in finding therapies or cures for Zika, Alzheimers or “orphan” diseases that wouldn’t be profitable enough for Big Pharma); 40% cut for the Food & Drug Administration (let Big Pharma do what they will); 15% drop in food safety and inspection; 17% cut to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 16% cut in already strapped Occupation and Mine Safety and Health spending even as he overturned regulations.
$1.4 trillion gap in infrastructure spending to repair decaying roads, bridges airports? Trump would cut Transportation spending by 25% cut (65% cut to National Infrastructure Investments; 50% cut to air transportation which is already woefully in need of upgrades); 28% cut to Education, Training, Employment and Social Services.
His cuts to environmental protection – on top of slashing regulations that give communities a fighting chance to protect their air, water and public health – amount to Hague Tribunal level of war criminality for what he will do to the planet, let alone our communities. The allocation is cut 27.1% – $132 billion worth – including a 34% cut in Pollution control and abatement, 42% cut in Regulatory, enforcement and research programs, 37% cut in Hazardous substance superfund ($330 million less in 2018).
Trump would end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts—“saving” over $100 million in 2018. He cuts out $129 million in funding for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement. He cuts out $233 million in 2018 for the EPA’s Research & Development (ie. climate change science). It eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, $347 million worth in 2018; and ends funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay, amounting to $427 million in 2018.
Trump would cut General Science, Space & Technology spending by 14.7%, including 18.9% cut to General Science and basic research.
International Affairs would be cut nearly in half, including 26% cut in spending for Global Health programs; 74% cut in Refugee programs; 66% percent cut in International Disaster Assistance, 83% cut in “other” development and humanitarian assistance.”
Setting aside for a moment that Trump and his billionaire friends don’t actually pay their fare share of taxes, nor do many profitable American companies which have stashed $2 trillion in offshore accounts, the Republicans’ approach is what Hillary Clinton correctly observed, “trickle down economics on steroids.” It didn’t work with Reagan or George W. Bush. And this is even worse.
No matter: the extremity of Trump’s proposed budget, the callousness of it, will give cover to Ryan and the House Republicans and make anything they do seem “moderate”, even “compassionate.” So they cut Medicaid by $600 billion instead of $866 billion and call it a “win” for the little people; they cut the State Department by 20% instead of 30% and pat themselves on the head; they cut the EPA by 25% instead of 31%.
Here’s what Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) wrote: “Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says that Donald Trump’s new budget is ‘right on the target.’ That’s all you need to know about just how devastating Trump’s budget will be for working families in Massachusetts and across this country.
$5 billion in cuts to public education
$73 billion in cuts to Social Security
$191 billion in cuts to food stamps
$610 billion in cuts to Medicaid (and that’s in addition to the $880 billion the House Republicans are slashing in their so-called “health care” bill)
“Those are just a few of the highlights. What else gets cut? Money for children’s health care, money to combat the opioid epidemic, money for medical research, money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and so much more.
“This budget is ‘right on the target’ only if the target is to sucker-punch kids, seniors, the poor and the sick. If the Republicans make good on this budget, they could deliver the final blow to America’s working families.
“We don’t build a future by ripping health care away from tens of millions of people. We don’t build a future by starving education, by letting our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, and by shutting down the big pipeline of medical and scientific research in this country.
“We build a future by making the investments in ourselves and all of our people – so the next kid can get ahead, and the kid after that, and the kid after that. We’ve done this before in our country, and we can do it again.
”Budgets aren’t just about dollars and cents. Budgets are about our values, and this budget is morally bankrupt,” Warren wrote.
Trump and the Republicans would cut out all the things that have “made America great,” and a world leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, not to mention the main tools for spreading democracy and human rights across the globe (through capitalist investment, which is what China and Russia are now doing).
This is the midst of an actually strong economy, near “full employment” and as we keep hearing, a record stock market.
The Trump budget is the essence of everything that Trump is doing to weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.
As we marked Memorial Day this past weekend, a New York Times book review of “The Allure of Battle: A History of How Wars Have Been Won and Lost,” by Cathal J. Nolan, pointed out that “Generally, one side, usually the one with a smaller economy and population, becomes exhausted, and gives up. Talk about élan and audacity all you like, he counsels, but what wins wars is demography and economic strength.” That is to say, winning a war is more a matter of “hearts and minds” vs. “bombs and brigades” as we have been seeing in America’s longest wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Everything that Trump has done so far (putting aside the fact that he is an illegitimate occupier of the Oval Office by selling out to an adversary government), will weaken the US as an economic power, a world power, and its ability to be a moral leader, that Reaganesque “beacon on a hill” of political righteousness.
Indeed, Trump, who cozied up to the Saudis while hectoring NATO allies and the G7, on his “epic” overseas trip, came back declaring “a home run”, while Germany’s Angela Merkel told Europe, “We can no longer depend on the US or UK. We are on our own.”
New York State, along with other “blue” states like California, already send way more income tax money to Washington than we get back while the “red” states, which so pride themselves in low state taxes and low wages get far more than they send. Like tenants with a legal fight against their landlord, I would propose that New Yorkers collect their federal income tax money in an escrow account, to pay for services that should be paid by the federal government, such as police and security protection (which Trump is threatening to cut to New York and other states that don’t cooperate in his roundup of undocumented individuals), environmental restoration, health care for those whose subsidies have been eliminated, public schools, infrastructure repair, food stamps and school lunch program.
Eight Years of Labor Market Progress and the Employment Situation in December
WASHINGTON, DC – Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement on the employment situation in December and reviewing eight years of job growth including the longest streak of total job growth on record, adding 15.8 million jobs.
Summary: The economy added 156,000 jobs in December, extending the longest streak of total job growth on record, with U.S. businesses adding 15.8 million jobs over the recovery.
Employment grew at a solid rate of 156,000 jobs in December as the longest streak of total job growth by far on record continued. Average hourly earnings for private employees increased 2.9 percent in 2016, the fastest twelve-month pace since the financial crisis. U.S. businesses have now added 15.8 million jobs since early 2010 amid the U.S. economy’s strong recovery from its worst crisis since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate—4.7 percent in December—has been cut by more than half since its peak, falling much faster and further than expected, and nearly all measures of labor underutilization have fallen below their pre-recession averages. Real wages have grown faster over the current business cycle than in any since the early 1970s, and in 2015 U.S. households saw the largest increase in real median income on record. Since 2010, the United States has put more people back to work than all other G-7 economies combined. Thanks in part to the forceful response to the crisis and policies throughout the eight years of the Obama Administration to promote robust, shared growth, the U.S. economy is stronger, more resilient, and better positioned for the 21st century than ever before. Even with this remarkable progress, it remains important to build on these efforts to support further job creation and real wage growth in the years ahead.
THIRTEEN KEY POINTS ON LABOR MARKET PROGRESS OVER THE LAST EIGHT YEARS
1. U.S. businesses have now added 15.8 million jobs since private-sector job growth turned positive in early 2010. Today, we learned that private employment rose by 144,000 jobs in December. Total nonfarm employment rose by 156,000 jobs, slightly below the monthly average for 2016 as a whole but substantially higher than the pace of about 80,000 jobs per month that CEA estimates is necessary to maintain a low and stable unemployment rate given the impact of demographic trends on labor force participation. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7 percent in December, less than half its peak during the recession, while the labor force participation rate—which has been largely unchanged over the past three years despite downward pressure from demographic trends—increased to 62.7 percent. Average hourly earnings for all private workers increased 2.9 percent over the past year, the fastest twelve-month pace since the end of the recession and above the pace of inflation in 2016.
2. Since job growth turned positive in October 2010, the U.S. economy has added jobs for 75 straight months—the longest streak of job growth on record and more than two years longer than the next-longest streak. Over this period, nonfarm employment growth has averaged a robust 199,000 jobs a month. On a calendar-year basis, the pace of job growth peaked at 251,000 jobs a month in 2014, the best year for job creation since the 1990s. In 2016, job growth remained strong, averaging 180,000 jobs a month. As of December 2016, total nonfarm employment exceeded its pre-recession peak by 6.9 million jobs. All of the net job creation in the current recovery has been in the private sector, as private-sector payroll employment exceeded its pre-recession peak by 7.0 million jobs as of December.
3. The unemployment rate has been cut by more than half since its peak in 2009, falling much faster and further than expected. After peaking at 10.0 percent in October 2009, the unemployment rate fell rapidly over the course of the recovery, and by mid-2015 had recovered fully to its pre-recession average. Since then, it has fallen even further, standing at 4.7 percent at the end of 2016. The rapid decline in the unemployment rate came far more quickly than most economists predicted: as recently as March 2014, private forecasters expected the unemployment rate to remain above 5.0 percent until at least 2020.
4. Real hourly wages have grown faster over the current business cycle than in any cycle since the early 1970s. In recent years, American workers have seen sustained real wage gains, as hourly earnings have grown faster than inflation. The chart below plots the average annual growth of real hourly earnings for private production and nonsupervisory workers—a group comprising about four-fifths of private nonfarm employment—over each business cycle, including both recessions and recoveries. (Economists prefer comparing across entire business cycles, as they generally represent economically comparable periods.) Since the beginning of the current business cycle in December 2007, real wages have grown at a rate of 0.8 percent a year, faster than in any other cycle since 1973.
5. Since the end of 2012, real wages for non-managerial workers have grown nearly 18 times faster than they did from 1980 to 2007. In fact, since the end of 2012, real wages for private production and nonsupervisory workers have grown over 5 percent cumulatively, more than double their 2.1-percent total growth from the business cycle peak in 1980 to the business cycle peak in 2007—a sign of the remarkable progress made by American families in the current recovery after years of slow growth in wages.
6. Robust real wage growth and strong employment growth have translated into rising real incomes for households, with the largest gains going to low- and middle-income families. From 2014 to 2015, real median household income increased by $2,800, or 5.2 percent, the largest annual increase on record. Gains were even larger in the lower half of the income distribution, ranging from an increase of 5.5 percent for households at the 40th percentile to an increase of nearly 8 percent for households at the 10th percentile. While households in the top half of the income distribution also saw increases, their gains were smaller, with an increase of 2.9 percent at the 90thpercentile of household income. Growth in both real wages and employment in 2016 point to continued gains in real incomes for American households.
7. On net, essentially all of the increase in employment over the recovery has been in full-time jobs. As measured by the household survey, U.S. employment reached a trough in December 2009. Since then, full-time employment has increased by 13.7 million. In contrast, part-time employment has increased by just 420,000 over the course of the recovery.
8. Broader measures of labor underutilization have also steadily improved, and all but one are below their pre-recession averages. The headline unemployment rate, the U-3 rate, includes unemployed persons who have looked for work in the last four weeks. Broader measures of labor underutilization each include a progressively larger group of individuals: U-4 counts discouraged workers in addition to the unemployed, U-5 adds in others who are marginally attached to the labor force, and U-6 also includes people working part-time who would prefer a full-time job (“part-time for economic reasons”). Like the headline unemployment rate, all of these measures saw large increases during the recession, with the U-6 rate in particular reaching a record high. However, U-3, U-4, and U-5 all recovered fully to their respective pre-recession averages in the summer of 2015 and have fallen further since. As of December, the U-6 rate was just 0.1 percentage point above its pre-recession average.
9. Real average hourly wages have risen in every major industry over the current business cycle—and in nearly all, the pace of increase has been faster than in the previous cycle. Since the beginning of the current business cycle, real wages for non-managerial workers have grown at an average rate of 0.8 percent a year. However, this average masks considerable variation in real wage growth among workers in different industries. As the chart below shows, workers in all major sectors have seen real increases in their hourly earnings, ranging from average gains of 0.1 percent a year for workers in the transportation and warehousing industry to gains of 1.7 percent a year for workers in the financial activities sector. For nearly all major industries, real wage gains so far in the current business cycle have outpaced gains in the 2000s business cycle.
10. Unemployment rates for all major demographic groups have recovered to below their respective pre-recession averages, though more work remains to close longstanding disparities in the labor market. The unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanic Americans peaked at 16.8 percent and 13.0 percent, respectively, after experiencing larger percentage-point increases from their pre-recession averages than the overall unemployment rate did. By mid-2015, both the African-American and Hispanic-American unemployment rates had recovered to their respective pre-recession averages. Similarly, the unemployment rates for white Americans and for Asian Americans, which have historically tended to be lower than the overall unemployment rate, have more than recovered to their pre-recession averages. Still, the fact that the unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanic Americans are much higher than the overall unemployment rate is a reminder that much more work remains to ensure that the benefits of the strong labor market are shared among all Americans, including through efforts like the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
11. Initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) have been below 300,000 for 96 consecutive weeks, the longest such streak since 1970. During the Great Recession, claims for unemployment insurance—which are an important leading indicator of recessions—rose sharply to near-record highs. However, they have since declined to well below their pre-recession average, and average weekly initial claims in 2016 were the lowest of any calendar year since 1973. Still, the share of unemployed workers eligible for unemployment insurance has fallen in recent years, in part as a result of reductions in coverage within States’ UI programs. A number of reforms—including several in the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget—would build on the strengths of the UI system to ensure that it both provides effective assistance for those who lose a job through no fault of their own and helps to stabilize the U.S. economy during future downturns.
12. Two-thirds of States have seen their unemployment rates fall below their pre-recession averages. There was extremely wide variation in the effect of the Great Recession on unemployment rates across States and the District of Columbia, with increases ranging from nearly 200 percent (Nevada) to just 13 percent (Alaska) of their respective pre-recession averages. As of November 2016, however, 34 States and the District of Columbia have seen their unemployment rates recover fully, with a number of States seeing unemployment rates substantially below their pre-recession averages. The sixteen States that still have elevated unemployment rates include the six that saw the largest percentage increases in their unemployment rates in the recession.
13. Since 2010, the United States has put more people back to work than all the other G-7 economies combined. The rebound of the U.S. economy from the Great Recession occurred much faster than in most other advanced economies and compares favorably with the historical record of countries recovering from systemic financial crises. As shown in the chart below, the United States has been responsible for a disproportionate share of employment growth in the G-7 economies during the recovery. Although the United States comprises about two-fifths of total employment in the G-7, it has been responsible for more than 55 percent of the net employment growth since 2010, a further sign of the strength and resilience of the U.S. economy and the importance of the policies of the last eight years in putting it on a sounder footing.
As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and payroll employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data as they become available.
Donald Trump has made it clear he intends to erase Obama’s legacy. The policies Trump is prescribing – tax cuts for the richest 1% and corporations, elimination of mortgage deductions that will steal the American Dream from middle class Americans, overturning clean energy, trade wars instead of promoting 21st century manufacturing, and policies sure to balloon the national debt, overturning Obama executive orders on overtime rules, raising the federal minimum wage, paid parental leave, overturning Dodd-Frank financial protections to prevent another overheated meltdown – will reverse the progress. So it is important to have a measure. Saving the US economy from collapse, saving Americans from another Great Depression, was one of the most significant successes of Obama’s presidency. Eight years after that uncertainty and insecurity, Americans seem to have forgotten. They take for granted what Obama accomplished in face of a Republican leadership determined to make his presidency fail, rather than rescue Americans losing their jobs, homes, health care, retirement and college funds. – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Here is a report on eight years of economic progress:
Eight Years of Macroeconomic Progress and the Third Estimate of Gross Domestic Product for the Third Quarter of 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on eight years of macroeconomic progress and the third estimate of Gross Domestic Product for the third quarter of 2016. You can view the statement HERE.
Summary: Real GDP grew 3.5 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter, with the U.S. economy now 11.6 percent larger than at its peak before the crisis.
Third-quarter economic growth was revised up 0.3 percentage point to 3.5 percent at an annual rate, the fastest quarterly growth since 2014. The U.S. economy is now 11.6 percent larger than its pre-crisis peak in 2007 amid its strong recovery since the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Rising incomes, improved household balance sheets, and high levels of consumer confidence have supported robust consumer spending growth over the recovery. Meanwhile, the housing sector has continued to recover from the crisis and shows further potential for expansion. However, economic growth has faced a number of headwinds in the current recovery, including contractions in State and local government spending, weak foreign growth (which has weighed on both exports and investment), and the demographic effects of the aging U.S. population. More work remains to further strengthen growth and to ensure that it is broadly shared, including promoting greater competition across the economy; supporting innovation; increasing investments in infrastructure; and opening new markets to U.S. exports.
SEVEN KEY POINTS ON MACROECONOMIC PROGRESS OVER THE LAST EIGHT YEARS
1. According to BEA’s third estimate, real gross domestic product (GDP) increased 3.5 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter of 2016, an upward revision of 0.3 percentage point (p.p.) from the second estimate. Real consumer spending grew a strong 3.0 percent in the third quarter following robust growth in the second quarter. Inventory investment—one of the most volatile components of GDP—added 0.5 percentage point to GDP growth in the third quarter after subtracting 1.2 percentage points in the second quarter. Residential investment declined for the second quarter in a row, though at a slower pace in the third quarter than in the second. Notably, exports grew 10.0 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter, their fastest quarterly growth since late 2013, boosted by a likely transitory jump in agricultural exports.
Real gross domestic income (GDI)—an alternative measure of output—increased 4.8 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter. (In theory, GDP and GDI should be equal, but in practice they usually differ because they use different data sources and methods.) The average of real GDP and real GDI, which CEA refers to as real gross domestic output (GDO), increased 4.1 percent at an annual rate in the third quarter. CEA research suggests that GDO is a better measure of economic activity than GDP (though not typically stronger or weaker).
The 0.3-p.p. upward revision to GDP growth was more than accounted for by upward revisions to consumer spending, business fixed investment, and State and local government spending. However, the overall contour of third-quarter growth was largely unchanged from last month’s second estimate.
2. Strong consumer spending growth over the current recovery has been supported by growth in real incomes, improvements in household balance sheets, and high levels of consumer confidence. Consumer spending accounts for over two-thirds of GDP, and has contributed disproportionately to overall real GDP growth in recent years. This strength in domestic demand reflects improved economic conditions for American households across a wide range of measures. Real wages have grown faster over the current business cycle than in any since the early 1970s (measured peak to peak), and from 2014 to 2015 real median household income increased 5.2 percent, the fastest growth on record. Meanwhile, as a share of disposable income, household debt service—the amount that households must spend on interest and principal payments for their outstanding debt—has fallen sharply in recent years, driven both by low interest rates and by sharp reductions in outstanding household debt relative to income. Taken together, these factors have left households with more disposable income available for consumer purchases. Finally, consumers have been increasingly confident in recent years. As the chart below shows, the University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment—which tends to closely track real consumer spending growth—is close to its highest level in ten years.
3. The recent slowdown in real business fixed investment growth can be explained largely by changes in the rate of U.S. and foreign GDP growth, as discussed in Chapter 2 of the 2017 Economic Report of the President. While business fixed investment—private spending on structures and equipment, as well as expenditures on intellectual property products such as software and research and development (R&D)—constitutes just 12 percent of GDP, it is crucial to long-run growth because it provides workers with more capital and improves technology, thus contributing to productivity growth. Business fixed investment growth has slowed since 2014; while oil-related investment has dragged on overall investment growth due to low oil prices, non-oil related investment growth has slowed somewhat as well. CEA analysis finds that much of the slowdown in investment growth can be explained using an “accelerator model,” which assumes that businesses invest if they expect rising demand growth for their products, meaning that rising GDP growth rates will lead to faster investment growth. The analysis also finds that several factors that have historically impacted investment growth—including credit constraints and other financial stress—have little explanatory power in understanding the recent slowdown. However, because the model predicts that investment follows changes in the rate of GDP growth, it predicts a rebound in the future, since U.S. and global output growth are expected to stabilize or pick up slightly in the years ahead.
4. Ten years after the first signs of decline in the U.S. housing market, housing activity and investment have gradually recovered, with room for future expansion. Recovery in the housing sector has been supported by strong job growth, rising real wages, and low mortgage rates, with growth in real residential investment outpacing overall real GDP growth over the course of the recovery from the Great Recession. Even with the solid growth in recent years, there is room for further expansion in residential construction. As the chart below shows, housing starts remain well below the level needed to keep pace with population growth, household formation, and typical rates of housing stock replacement. CEA analysis suggests that excess housing supply from overbuilding during the 2000s has been more than offset by underbuilding in recent years. Low household formation, particularly among young adults, may be playing a role in reducing demand for housing. On the supply side, local barriers to housing development in high-demand areas may also be one factor holding back new residential construction. Still, residential investment has further room to grow in future quarters, presenting upside potential for domestic demand in the near-to-medium term.
5. Trends in real State and local government purchases have differed sharply from prior business cycles, with meaningful contractions amid budgetary cuts. Although in a typical recovery State and local spending tends to grow quickly and at a similar pace as in the pre-recession period, State and local spending contracted sharply in the current business cycle and, after seven years, has still not rebounded to its pre-crisis levels. During the four quarters of 2010, State and local purchases subtracted 0.5 percentage point from GDP growth and then subtracted about another 0.3 percentage point in both 2011 and 2012. Spending in this sector stabilized in 2013, added modestly to GDP growth during the four quarters of 2014 and 2015, and had a negligible impact on GDP during the first three quarters of 2016. Real State and local government purchases, as well as State and local government employment, remain below their respective pre-crisis levels. If State and local government purchases had increased at the average rate of expansions excluding the current cycle (as shown in the chart below), real GDP growth would have been approximately 0.4 percentage point faster per year on average in the current recovery. Due in part to contractions in State and local government spending, total real government purchases are below their level at the business cycle peak in 2007; in other words, all of the growth in real GDP in the current business cycle is attributable to the private sector.
6. Growth in U.S. exports closely tracks global demand, with slowing global growth creating key headwinds to U.S. growth in recent years. The volume of U.S. exports to foreign countries is sensitive to foreign GDP growth, and, as shown in the chart below, four-quarter foreign GDP growth—when weighting countries by their relative importance to U.S. trade—explains much of the variance in U.S. export growth. Over the last five years, global growth has consistently underperformed relative to forecasts, and in its October World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised down its forecast of global growth for the four quarters of 2016. Still, the IMF currently forecasts global growth to pick up in 2017, suggesting less downward pressure on U.S. export growth—and on the manufacturing sector, which tends to be more export-oriented than other industries—from weak foreign demand going forward.
7. The aging of the U.S. population, a trend that will continue in the coming years, has placed constraints on growth in potential real GDP. The growth of the working-age (15-64) population in the United States has slowed notably in recent decades, putting downward pressure on labor force participation and real GDP growth. The working-age population grew 1.4 percent at an annual rate in the 1960s through the 1980s, but just 0.6 percent during the current business cycle. (The rate of growth of the prime-age [25-54] population has declined even more steeply, and the prime-age population even contracted between 2012 and 2015.) The decline in the growth rate of the working-age population is expected to continue through 2028, suggesting continued demographic headwinds to overall growth for at least the next decade. As noted in Chapter 2 of the 2017 Economic Report of the President, research has found that demographic shifts towards an older workforce may have also reduced productivity growth in recent years, though projections of the composition of the labor force suggest that the drag on productivity from demographics may soon abate. Still, slowing productivity growth remains a key structural challenge that the United States shares with all other major advanced economies.
As the Administration stresses every quarter, GDP figures can be volatile and are subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any single report, and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data as they become available.