Don’t worry everything is fine Trump and his stooges are in control

Trump and his stooges Mulvaney, Kudlow, Navarro and Mnuchin


Trump inherited a growing and good economy, and for roughly 2½ years has everything he can to milk it for his personal and political gain. And as with his inherited business empire, he has also somehow convinced much of the public that this windfall was due to his personal talents rather than dumb luck.

But right now, his dumb luck — and ours — might be running out.

Bond markets are flashing warning signs. Stock prices are whipsawing. Some troubling economic data are rolling in, both here and abroad. All this suggests that the risk of a U.S. recession is rising.

Trump seems to be worried about getting blamed for what is coming. For months, he has been setting up the Federal Reserve as a scapegoat — including for market swings caused by his own foolish trade wars. When stocks go up, Trump claims full credit; when they go down, it’s the Fed’s fault. Personal responsibility and all that.

What’s Trump’s plan? A badly mismanaged recession. Which seems inevitable if, indeed, recession strikes. If things go south, this administration doesn’t have a plan. It never had a plan. And it doesn’t have competent personnel in place to come up with a plan.

Trump’s economic dream team or the stooges: Kudlow, Navarro and Mnuchin

Trump’s economic brain trust consists of a guy who plays an economist on TV, a crank who has been disowned by the (real) economics profession and the producer of “The Lego Batman Movie.”

For those unfamiliar with this particular dream team, the first person on that list is National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, an affable former CNBC personality. Kudlow has one skill that actually could be useful in a crisis: being able to communicate clearly to financial markets. That skill has been rendered moot, however, by Trump’s inability to settle on any consistent message worthy of communicating. Next is senior White House aide and trade adviser Peter Navarro. When profiled in the New Yorker in 2016, Navarro could not name a single other economist who agreed with his views on trade. More recently, he suggested the Wall Street Journal editorial page sounded communist!

Dow falls more than 800 points amidst recession fear

The Dow plunged more than 800 points as investors feared a recession following poor economic data from Germany and China. (Reuters)

And finally, there’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Bankrolling “Suicide Squad” and other movies — whatever their artistic merits — and earning the coveted title of greatest sycophant in Cabinet history bear little relevance to rescuing the world from economic crisis.

Moreover, Mnuchin’s Treasury Department is rife with vacancies. Many senior jobs lack even a nominee. There is likewise no nominee for the Senate-confirmed job of chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. The acting chair is a health expert.

Not that we should expect Trump, who reportedly disregards briefings that don’t feature his name in every paragraph, to take the wise counsel of aides even if it were on offer. Indeed, the scary question is not whether there are any smart people in meetings with Trump, but if there’s one he would even listen to.

The only competent economic policymakers we have right now are over at the Fed, an institution that Trump is spending all his energy trying to discredit. He has done this by questioning Fed officials’ abilities (a theme of his blow-by-blow tweetstorm of Wednesday’s market rout, which referred to Trump’s own hand-picked Fed chair as “clueless”); and he’s done it by compromising the central bank’s perceived political independence.

Whenever the Fed has refused to bend to Trump’s will, he (alongside other members of his team) has taken to the airwaves to complain, in violation of a multi-decade-long norm for the White House to never comment on monetary policy. This means that even if Fed officials cut interest rates further next month solely because they believe that would be best for the economy — which in my view, would be the only reason this group of professionals would ever cut rates — at least some Fed-watchers will instead interpret the action as a response to the president’s bullying.

In other words, regardless of what the Fed does, Trump is eroding its credibility just when we need it most.

Additionally, with interest rates already low and some powers taken away by the Dodd-Frank Act, the Fed also has fewer tools at its disposal than in recessions past. Fiscal policy, too, is somewhat limited. Trump already spent nearly $2 trillion on tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, leaving relatively little powder left in the keg when we’ll actually need it.

Trump — like the rest of us — had better hope and pray that we don’t have a recession anytime soon. Because if we do, it’s gonna be bad.

Edited from Washington Post column

This so called “Booming economy” benefits only the rich, the rest of us are out of luck


Americans are not happy, and for good reason: They continue to suffer financial stress caused by decades of flat income. And every time they make the slightest peep of complaint about a system rigged against them, the rich and powerful tell them to shut up because it is all their fault.

One percenters instruct them to work harder, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop bellyaching. Just get a second college degree, a second skill, a second job. Just send the spouse to work, downsize, take a staycation instead of a real vacation. Or don’t take one at all, just work harder and longer and better.

The barrage of blaming has persuaded; workers believe they deserve censure. And that’s a big part of the reason they’re unhappy. If only, they think, they could work harder and longer and better, they would get ahead. They bear the shame. They don’t blame the system: the Supreme Court, the Congress, the president. And yet, it is the system, the American system, that has conspired to crush them.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, unemployment is low and the stock market is high. But skyrocketing stocks benefit only the top 10 percent of wealthy Americans who own 84 percent of stocks. And while more people are employed now than during the Great Recession, the vast majority of Americans haven’t had a real raise since 1979.

It’s bad out there for American workers. Last month, their ranking dropped for the third year running in the World Happiness Report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a UN initiative.

These sad statistics reinforce those in a report released two years ago by two university professors. Reviewing data from the General Social Survey, administered routinely nationally, the professors found Americans’ assessment of their own happiness and family finances has, unambiguously, declined in recent years. But if Americans would just work harder, everything would be dandy, right?

No. Not right. Americans work really, really hard. A third of Americans work a side hustle, driving an Uber or selling crafts on Etsy. American workers take fewer vacation days. They get 14, but typically take only 10. The highest number of workers in five years report they don’t expect to take a vacation at all this year. And Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in other countries.

Americans labor 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more than Brits, and 499 more than the French, according to the International Labor Organization.

And the longer hours aren’t because American workers are laggards on the job. They’re very productive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that the average American worker’s productivity has increased 400 percent since 1950.

If pay had kept pace with productivity, as it did in the three decades after the end of World War II, American workers would be making 400 percent more. But they’re not. Their wages have flatlined for four decades, adjusting for inflation.

That means stress. Forty percent of workers say they don’t have $400 for an unexpected expense. Twenty percent can’t pay all of their monthly bills. More than a quarter of adults skipped needed medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it. A quarter of adults have no retirement savings.

If only Americans would work harder. And longer. And better.

Despite right-wing attempts to pound that into Americans’ heads, it’s not the solution. Americans clearly are working harder and longer and better. The solution is to change the system, which is stacked against workers.

Workers are bearing on their backs tax breaks that benefited only the rich and corporations. They’re bearing overtime pay rules and minimum wage rates that haven’t been updated in more than a decade. They’re weighted down by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that hobbled unionization efforts and kneecapped workers’ rights to file class-action lawsuits. They’re struggling under U.S. Department of Labor rules defining them as independent contractors instead of staff members. They live in fear as corporations threaten to offshore their jobs—with the assistance of federal tax breaks.

Last year, the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court handed a win to corporatists trying to obliterate workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages and conditions. The court ruled that public sector workers who choose not to join unions don’t have to pay a small fee to cover the cost of services that federal law requires the unions provide to them. This bankrupts labor unions. And there’s no doubt that right-wingers are gunning for private sector unions next.

This kind of relentless attack on labor unions since 1945 has withered membership. As it shrank, wages for both union and nonunion workers did too.

Also last year, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can deny workers access to class-action arbitration. This compels workers, whom corporations forced to sign agreements to arbitrate rather than litigate, into individual arbitration cases, for which each worker must hire his or her own lawyer. Then, just last week, the right-wing majority on the court further curtailed workers’ rights to class-action suits.

In a minority opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the court in recent years has routinely deployed the law to deny to employees and consumers “effective relief against powerful economic entities.”

No matter how hard Americans work, the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court has hobbled them in an already lopsided contest with gigantic corporations.

The administrative branch is no better. Just last week, the Trump Labor Department issued an advisory that workers for a gig-economy company are independent contractors, not employees. As a result, the workers, who clean homes after getting assignments on an app, will not qualify for federal minimum wage (low as it is) or overtime pay. Also, the corporation will not have to pay Social Security taxes for them. Though the decision was specific to one company, experts say it will affect the designation for other gig workers, such as drivers for Uber and Lyft.

Also, the Labor Department has proposed a stingy increase in the overtime pay threshold—that is, the salary amount under which corporations must pay workers time and a half for overtime. The current threshold of $23,660 has not been raised since 2004. The Obama administration had proposed doubling it to $47,476. But now, the Trump Labor Department has cut that back to $35,308. That means 8.2 million workers who would have benefited from the larger salary cap now will not be eligible for mandatory overtime pay.

It doesn’t matter how hard they work; they aren’t going to get the time-and-a-half pay they deserve.

Just like the administration and the Supreme Court, right-wingers in Congress grovel before corporations and the rich. Look at the tax break they gave one percenters in 2017. Corporations got the biggest cut in history, their rate sledgehammered down from 35 percent to 21 percent. The rich reap by far the largest benefit from those tax cuts through 2027, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center. And by then, 53 percent of Americans—that is, workers, not rich people—will pay more than they did in 2017 because tax breaks for workers expire.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers predicted the corporate tax cut would put an extra $4,000 in every worker’s pocket. They swore that corporations would use some of their tax cut money to hand out raises and bonuses to workers. That never happened. Workers got a measly 6 percent of corporations’ tax savings. In the first quarter after the tax cut took effect, workers on average received a big fat extra $6.21in their paychecks, for an annual total of a whopping $233. Corporations spent their tax breaks on stock buybacks, a record $1 trillion worth, raising stock prices, which put more money in the pockets of rich CEOs and shareholders.

That’s continuing this year. Workers are never going to see that $4,000.

No wonder they’re unhappy. The system is working against them.



Trump the business wrecking ball just keeps swinging

Trump as now already fucked with Mom’s and Chevys……….are apple pies and baseball next?

Threatening trade wars with China Canada is starting to really take its toll

Frist, it was Ford:

Now it’s General Motors. Good grief, maybe this is how the petulant orange big baby gets even with Michigan for turning blue in the mid terms.

General Motors’ shares fall after Trump threatens to cut its subsidies as retaliation for layoffs

Donald Trump says he will consider pulling General Motors’ subsidies after the company announced plans to slash production at several facilities and lay off more than 14,000 people.

Trump has threatened companies that shut down American operations or consider moving production overseas after he promised to revive U.S. manufacturing.

It is unclear exactly how much GM benefits from federal government subsidies, but it plans to phase out production of one electric vehicle model, the Chevrolet Volt, which qualifies for a tax credit for buyers.

Trump tweets he’s looking at cutting all GM subsidies     Trump tweets he’s looking at cutting all GM subsidies

Trump will consider cutting all subsidies to General Motors after the company announced plans to slash production at several American plants, he said Tuesday.

“We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including … for electric cars,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets. Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump

 Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get! We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including….

The automaker’s shares fell following the tweets and were down more than 3 percent on Tuesday afternoon, on track for their worst day in a month. In a statement Tuesday, GM said it is “committed to maintaining a strong manufacturing presence in the U.S.” and noted that “many of the U.S. workers impacted by [plant closures] will have the opportunity to shift to other GM plants.”

“We appreciate the actions this administration has taken on behalf of industry to improve the overall competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing,” the company said, without directly addressing Trump’s threat to revoke subsidies.

Trump escalated his public threats against GM as he pushes the company to keep the facilities in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland open. Trump has repeatedly pressured American companies who consider shutting down facilities or moving operations overseas after he pledged to revive U.S. manufacturing.

“They better damn well open a new plant [in Ohio] very quickly,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal about GM’s decision on Monday. He said he told the company that “you’re playing around with the wrong person.”

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that she does not know about a specific timeline for pulling subsidies and stressed that Trump is looking into it.

It was not immediately clear exactly how much subsidies help GM’s business, or how much power Trump has to revoke the company’s tax breaks. Electric vehicle buyers currently qualify for a tax credit of up to $7,500, which is designed to encourage sales.

That credit starts to phase out when a manufacturer sells 200,000 electric vehicles in the United States. GM expects to hit that cap by the end of 2018, meaning its electric vehicles will no longer qualify for the credit in a little over a year. Still, the issue is not settled: Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada has proposed a bill to lift the cap on the number of vehicles eligible for the credit, but phase out the break entirely in 2022.

GM has already started to move away from one electric vehicle model. As part of its plans announced Monday, the automaker said it would phase out production of the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt.

Assembly of the model took place at a Detroit factory, where as many as 1,500 people could lose their jobs during the restructuring. GM expects to stop production of the Volt at the beginning of March.

The company plans to cut more than 14,000 factory and white-collar jobs in all as it scales back production at the plants in the three states and Canada. That figure could change depending on whether some workers get moved to other GM facilities.

Politicians in the states slammed the automaker’s move. Trump took particular issue with the closure of a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, an area he pledged to revive last year that sits in a key political swing state.

Trump spoke to GM CEO Mary Barra on Monday. The executive also met with Trump’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow. The National Economic Council director told reporters Tuesday that he told Barra about possible “additional announcements” related to GM and said the administration would “be looking at certain subsidies.”

In his tweet Tuesday threatening to pull subsidies, Trump said he was “very disappointed” with GM and Barra. He cited the U.S. bailout of major automakers after the 2008 financial crisis.

“The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!” he tweeted.

Trump added: “General Motors made a big China bet years ago when they built plants there (and in Mexico) – don’t think that bet is going to pay off. I am here to protect America’s Workers!”

Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump

  Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get! We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including……..for electric cars. General Motors made a big China bet years ago when they built plants there (and in Mexico) – don’t think that bet is going to pay off. I am here to protect America’s Workers!

From CNBC story

The European Union plans a economic retaliatory strike at the US……Thanks a lot “Dear Leader”

Make no mistake if Trump doesn’t back off on his tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, we will all feel the impacts.

A worker packing coils for delivery at the production site of German steel technology group Salzgitter AG in Salzgitter. Trump’s announcement of a 25-percent tariff on steel sent stock markets tumbling around the world, over fears of escalating retaliation. / AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ

The European Union Friday made public a 10-page list of American products that are potential targets for retaliation if “Dear Leader” Trump refuses to exempt the allied bloc from his new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The list offered the most detailed glimpse to date of the likely targets for E.U. action, including products selected for maximum political impact in the United States. Among them: Bourbon, a specialty of  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky; cranberries which grow in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s native Wisconsin; orange juice from Florida and tobacco from North Carolina, two political swing states that are rich in electoral votes.

“It’s pretty clear they’re trying to wake up American legislators, who are the only ones in government who can influence the president on this issue,” said Chad Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Still, the E.U. says its response to Trump’s tariffs is designed to conform with World Trade Organization rules, signaling that Europe hopes to avoid a full-blown rupture with the unpredictable U.S. president.

Though Trump has cited national security concerns in limiting shipments of foreign-made metals, the E.U. says it will respond as if the U.S. had implemented traditional import limitations known as “safeguard measures.”

In the Europeans’ view, that would entitle it to levy import taxes on roughly $3.4 billion worth of American products, a figure that corresponds to the value of European metals exports to the U.S. that did not increase in 2017 compared to the previous year.

E.U. officials described the publication of Friday’s list as a procedural step, not an escalatory one. The measures will now be open to public comment. “They absolutely do not have interest in a tit-for-tat trade war with the United States,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The E.U. also plans to file a complaint over the U.S. tariffs with the WTO. If the Geneva-based body rules in its favor or three years pass, an additional $4.4 billion in U.S. goods could be hit with a second wave of retaliatory tariffs.

The E.U. shipped $6.2 billion of steel and $1.1 billion of aluminum products to the U.S. last year.

Fuck you European trade partners!

When Trump announced the new import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum March 8, he exempted Canada and Mexico and opened the door to excluding other nations that had a security relationship with the U.S. Cecilia Malmstrom, the E.U.’s trade chief, met two days later with U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to discuss prospects for an E.U. exemption. Later, she described the talks as “a frank discussion,” adding “the E.U. must be excluded from the announced measures.”

U.S. officials have informed their European counterparts that exemption bids will be determined based upon criteria including cooperation with the U.S. in WTO proceedings and in a multilateral forum in Paris aimed at reducing excess global steel production.

Talks with Washington are ongoing, E.U. officials said, and Malmström plans to meet sometime next week with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Germany, which has been the main European target of Trump’s ire, also plans to send Economy Minister Peter Altmaier to Washington early next week.

“We are not rushing into any kind of escalation,” an E.U. official said in Brussels, briefing reporters under ground rules of anonymity.

“We are not negotiating our exemption with the United States. We are making the case to the United States we’re security partners,” the official said, adding that the process for arguing for an exemption remained “very unclear.”

The 28 nations in the European Union negotiate trade policy as a bloc, setting tariffs and concluding trade deals in unison, but there is nothing to prevent Trump from granting tariff exemptions to individual countries. That idea that has been raised by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who suggested linking defense spending to exemptions.

If Trump started handing out individual exemptions to E.U. members, “that would be absolutely non-acceptable,” the E.U. official said. “Politically it would be very disruptive for transatlantic relations.”

The official said that U.S. officials had not raised the idea in conversations with their European counterparts. The idea is sensitive to Europeans because it could pit E.U. member states against each other and test their solidarity in a core area of European unity.

Still with the U.S. tariffs slated to take effect on March 23, hopes for a deal are fading. “I’m not optimistic,” said Bown.


Development pressure sparks HCSD to push water service to Indianola and Redmond road areas

Rumored Developments in the Rocky Creek area and at the end of Redmond Rd appear to be the driving force behind a push to bring water service to these areas. Water connections would mean that subdividing into small parcels would be possible and likely. It’s ironic that Dave Tyson and Dave Hull, local developers best friends, would be pushing this.

From Sundays Times-standard:

The Humboldt Community Services District Board of Directors is looking into expanding water services in the Indianola area along Old Arcata Road between Arcata and Eureka, but area residents have expressed concerns over water services being the first step of urbanizing their beloved rural community.

The district’s general manager David Hull said this issue dates back two decades.

“The residents, landowners out in the Indianola area, were having problems with their wells,” he said.

Wells were running dry, not working or polluted, Hull said.

“It actually turned into a health and safety issue,” he said.

Some residents came to the district’s board to ask for the area to be annexed so they could be hooked into the water system, Hull said. But Humboldt Local Agency Formation Commission rules at that time would have required the services district to provide other services, such as emergency services, to annexed areas.

Hull said the district dealt solely in water and wastewater services.

“That made it costly and near impossible,” he said about the annexation. “Since that time those rules have changed so we can do water service expansion out there.”

So the district board started talking about the annexation again and sent out 439 survey letter to gauge public opinion on the annexation, Hull said. Only 141 surveys were returned with 100 respondents interested in the annexation and 41 not interested in it, according to a staff report.

In November the board directed district staff to prepare a second survey letter that would be sent out to the 298 residences that didn’t respond to the first survey letter, according to a staff report.

“That’s what the discussion was [on] Tuesday night,” Hull said.

On Tuesday evening the district board met and heard input from members of the public and instead of voting to send out the second letter as drafted gave staff direction to add to it.

“Based on public input we’re going to add more detail into the public letter,” Hull said.

About 16 residents came in with concerns about how the district would be profiting or benefitting on the annex, he said.

“I was directed to prepare a second letter to all landowners detailing the entire annexation process by bullet point stating there is no profit to the district, the district will not proceed unless there is the majority of the public interested, that we don’t know what the cost per parcel will be at this time but there will be a cost to landowners most of which would be added to property tax bills under a special assessment,” Hull said.

But this staff direction from the board didn’t quell all the concerns of at least two Indianola area residents.

Indianola resident Aryay Kalaki said he thinks the survey process should start all over again — meaning the second letter CSD staff is in the process of drafting should be considered the first survey letter — because the letter sent out in October only contained the positives of the annexation.

“The problem is they already sent out an initial letter that didn’t have any of the pertinent information that could affect them,” he said.

Kalaki said he’s concerned what annexation and water service expansion could mean in the future.

“Water is the crucial factor in development,” he said.

County Planning and Building Department director John Ford said anytime utilities already installed make that development in that area easier and more attractive.

“That doesn’t translate into planned development at this point,” he said.

Ford said he’s not aware of any future development plans in the Indianola area but that doesn’t preclude any from happening further down the road.

“The first step in all likelihood would be to create new parcels,” he said.

But this would require a subdivision map and public input so concerned citizens would have to opportunity to be heard, Ford said.

Hull said the services district is only focused on providing water to Indianola if the majority of residents want it.

“The Humboldt Community Services District doesn’t do land planning,” he said.

The district board is also in the midst of annexing a separate piece of land along Redmond Road that abuts the southern-most edge of the proposed Indianola annexation area. Redmond Road resident Jonathan Weber said he’s not against the idea of him and his neighbors being hooked up to the water system but is against what development could be put in after water service expansion and how the board went about notifying stakeholders.

“They had very little information in the first [letter],” he said.

But Weber said it’s a good thing that the services district is redrafting the second letter.

“We really want the public to make an informed decision,” he said.

Humboldt Community Services District was created in 1952 to provide water services to the unincorporated areas surrounding Eureka. It maintains 160 miles of water and wastewater pipes, 10 water tanks and 40 water and wastewater pumping stations over 15 square miles, according to the district’s March 2017 water and wastewater rate study. The proposed Indianola expansion area would add 1,090 acres to the district, Hull said in an email.

The Humboldt Community Services District Board of Directors publicly meets twice a month. The redrafted letter will be up for further discussion and possible approval on Jan. 9 at 5 p.m. in the boardroom next to the facility lobby at 5055 Walnut Drive, Eureka, according to the Humboldt Community Services District website.

The proposed annexation of the Indianola area would add 1,090acres to the Humboldt Community Services District, which currently services 160 miles of water and wastewater pipes, 10water tanks and 40water and wastewater pumping stations over 15square miles


The Humboldt Community Services District board is also in the midst of annexing a piece of land along Redmond Road that abuts the southern-most edge of the proposed Indianola annexation area.



Huge divergence between how people feel about the economy, their future and the actual reality under Trump

The U.S. economy expanded at its slowest pace in three years in the first quarter of this year, according to government data issued Friday morning, as spending by consumers grew at a slower pace and government outlays fell.

America’s gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic growth, grew by just 0.7 percent in the first three months of 2017, a significant slowdown from the previous quarter.

The report highlights the challenge this administration — which marks Trump’s first 100 days in office on Saturday — will face trying to meet its target rate of 3 percent economic growth.

A rapid pace of economic expansion is crucial for Trump’s broader economic agenda. He plans to aggressively reduce taxes, which could leave the federal government short trillions of dollars in revenue unless the budget is bolstered by strong economic growth.

Consumer spending expanded in the quarter, though it grew at just 0.3 percent, the slowest pace since 2009. Reduced spending at all levels of government, as well as a strong dollar that weighed on exports and increased imports, brought down the official estimate. Trump has said that closing the gap between imports and exports is one of his chief priorities.

Markets opened on a slide Friday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index had fallen 0.05 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.1 percent by midmorning.

Auto sales were also weak in the first quarter, but Preston says that isn’t too much of a cause for concern. “Sales have just been so strong in recent quarters, we were due for a bit of a breather,” she says.

One bright spot  for Trump was a rebound in business investment, driven by the construction of new oil rigs. Oil prices have gradually ticked up over the past year from the ultra-low levels seen in early 2016, making new investments economical once again.

The report contains the first official estimates of economic growth under Trump and was coincidentally released on the 99th day of his new administration. The president and his aides have tried to show demonstrable progress on his chief priorities, including economic issues, before he concludes his first 100 days in office.

Some say the weaker growth is partly due to persistent measurement issues, which have caused the government to underestimate growth in the first quarter for many years — and reflected poorly on other presidents in their first quarter in office.

In the fourth quarter of 2016 the final full quarter of President Barack Obama’s tenure, the economy grew by 2.1 percent, federal economists reported last month.

Some economists expect the pace of growth to rebound in the second quarter. All the same, the disappointing figure suggests a potentially worrisome gap between expectations for the new administration and the reality of how the economy is performing.

Surveys show that consumer and business confidence have soared since the November election, creating one of the biggest divergences in recent memory between soft data — measurements of how people feel about the economy and their future — and the hard data that government statisticians release each month.

Hard data has painted a more mixed picture. In the first two months of the year, the number of jobs added to the U.S. economy surpassed expectations. But the number of new jobs created slumped in March, partly due to a snowstorm that prevented some Americans from working. Some economists worry about sluggish retail sales, which indicate consumers may be saving rather than spending.

Spending could be restrained further if the Federal Reserve continues with its plan to hike interest rates two more times this year, after already raising rates at its March meeting. Higher interest rates will mean consumers end up spending more on credit card debt and big-ticket items purchased through loans, like automobiles.



“I’m president, and you’re not.” – It takes 25,000 American families to support the Plutocratic Trump regime

How many Americans does it take to keep President Trump and his family in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed?

Dana Milbank Opinion writer Washington Post

Well, think of it this way. The Post this week had a scoop on the Secret Service requesting an additional $60 million in its next budget: $27 million to protect the president’s wife and son in their three-floor penthouse at Trump Tower in New York, where they live instead of the White House, and $33 million for additional travel costs.

The average family of four in the United States pays about $4,000 a year in federal income taxes. That means the entire tax bill for 15,000 families for the year will go toward these additional protection measures for Trump. And the Secret Service is just a slice of the overall expense. Figure in costs incurred by authorities in Florida and New York, the Pentagon and others, and costs related to the Trump sons’ international business trips, and we’re well over $100 million a year.

That’s the annual federal income-tax bill for some 25,000 American families. Each trip Trump takes to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where he has gone most weekends since his inauguration, is estimated to cost taxpayers in excess of $3 million. And an unknown chunk of the taxpayers’ money subsidizes Trump businesses in the form of rent, restaurant bills and publicity. In April, Trump will host Chinese leader Xi Jinping at what Trump dubs the “Southern White House,” which is a Trump property where the initiation fee has doubled to $200,000 since Trump won the presidency.

The taxpayer subsidization of Trump’s rich-and-famous lifestyle is but one of the bait-and-switch maneuvers by Trump, who said during the campaign that “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done.” The man ran as a populist and is governing as a plutocrat.

The now-withdrawn House GOP health-care bill, pushed by Trump, would be a huge transfer of wealth to the rich from the poor and middle class. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center calculates that while low-income Americans would take a hit under this plan, the average family earning more than $200,000 could be $5,640 better off. White, working-class communities that supported Trump would be disproportionately hurt. Under revisions to the bill last this week, 24 million people would still lose health-care coverage but wealthy Americans would get even more of a tax break, the Congressional Budget Office said.

Trump’s budget, unveiled shortly before one of his Mar-a-Lago jaunts, would cut many of the government’s efforts to help low- and middle-income Americans: aid for small manufacturers, financial assistance to rural regions, affordable housing, job training and home heating. Analyses of previous Trump proposals have shown that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans would get nearly half of the tax benefits.

On March 18, The Post’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa reported on the unexpected influence of a “coterie of ascendant Manhattan business figures” around Trump aligned with son-in-law Jared Kushner: Gary Cohn and Dina Powell, formerly of Goldman Sachs, and two other businessmen recruited by Kushner, Chris Liddell and Reed Cordish. They, along with finance and industry heavies in the Cabinet such as Wilbur Ross, Steven Mnuchin and Rex Tillerson, are providing a counterweight to adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s populism.

Plutocracy doesn’t come cheap, in ways big and small. Tillerson, the secretary of state, kicked the press corps off his plane, which means taxpayers will probably pick up tens of thousands of dollars in travel costs that had been paid by media organizations. (The administration said Tillerson flew on a smaller plane to save money, but the military 737 he took is often used by officials traveling with reporters.)

A budget-conscious president would spend weekends at Camp David rather than hopping on Air Force One, at about $200,000 an hour, to Palm Beach, Fla. The Post’s Philip Bump estimated spending on Trump’s travel and protection, if it continues at current rates, at $526 million for his presidency. This dwarfs what was spent by Trump’s predecessors, even though Trump in 2012 tweeted that Obama’s “vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars — unbelievable!”

Trump has already used his office to boost Trump properties by dining at the Trump International Hotel in Washington and playing golf on his courses. And the Trump administration has told the Trump Organization that this is just fine. The General Services Administration on Thursday declared that the Trump Organization is in “full compliance” with the terms of its lease of the Trump International facility, even though the agreement says no “elected official of the government of the United States” can get “any benefit” from the lease. Trump stepped down from day-to-day management of his company, but he and his family still stand to make out financially.

Trump, who has often pointed out that he’s exempt from conflict-of-interest rules, isn’t just any elected official. Last Wednesday, when asked by Time’s Michael Scherer about credibility problems over his false intelligence claims, Trump had an imperious justification: “I’m president, and you’re not.”

Or, as another big-spending politician once put it: L’etat, c’est moi.