US Jobs and Economic Growth – Cutting through the Trump BS

The US economy was strong in 2017.  Trump’s claim that two million new jobs were added, is right.   Of course,  job growth was good leading up to his inauguration, so he shouldn’t be taking credit for the entire year.

What’s not right, is that the economy was terrible under Obama, and he somehow turned things around.  It was a terrible economy in the last year of Bush’s administration, and aggressive action by both Bush and Obama helped the recovery.  I just go by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to make my point.

Trump’s monthly average gain of 171,250 new jobs doesn’t look too good, nor does the 2 million new jobs stand out against Obama’s administration’s numbers.   The housing bubble (2004 – 2006) produced some high gains, but it all came crashing down in 2008 to 2009.  The stock market made an all time low in March 2009.

It took time for our economy to recover, as there was only a 1 million job gain in 2010.   But,  our economy has proven to be much more resilient than economists were predicting in 2007 to 2009.   The December 2017 labor statistics just came out with 148,000 new jobs, well below the 190,000 estimate.  The stock market continued its rally, based on the concept of a slowing economy  discourages the Fed’s program of gradual rate hikes.  Or another words, some bad news is actually good news to the stock market, just so long as it isn’t terrible news.

I’ve included one link as posted in Yahoo – Finance, entitled “Challenge for Trump: Job Growth is Slowing”  which adds a bit of reality to the whole story.  We likely attributed too much to actions of an administration, as the factors influencing growth (good or bad) may take years to develop.  The housing bubble was at least seven years in the making (includes both the Clinton and Bush administrations).  Also, an unemployment of 4.1% is considered a good number, and attempts to stimulate the economy further puts pressure on wage growth.

So, the chief concern is that inflation will increase more rapidly than wages, so many workers will feel  their spending power reduced.  Not good for retail, and ultimately this could lead to a recession.   In this case, the reduced corporate tax rate will help in reducing debt, not expanding businesses.   So, Wall Street may prosper at least in the short term, as Main Street suffers.

See link:

Challenge for Trump: Job growth is slowing

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

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Giving

There are many organizations doing terrific work around the world helping people in need.  I’ve listed a few of the agencies involved in disaster relief and assistance to refugees.  The many conflicts around the world have left many without food or shelter.     My list:

Foundationhalo.org

Oxfam

One American Appeal

Doctors without Borders

International Rescue Committee

Global Giving

UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC)

American Red Cross

Dave

Ignorance is bliss

“So long as I know it not, it hurteth mee not.”

I like the original proverb, by G. Pettie in 1576 than today’s  version, “What I don’t know can’t hurt me.”   Unfortunately, what we don’t know, does hurt us.   From our ignorance we just don’t know the best way to respond to problems.

The Environmental Protection Agency cancelled the participation of three of their scientists in the Narragansett  Bay Estuary Program’s workshop.  One scientist was prohibited from giving a keynote address at the workshop.  The other two scientists removed from the program were to speak about “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.”

See Links:

The EPA Stopped Three Agency Scientists From Talking About Climate Change at a Conference

Even Fox Business News reported the story:

EPA cancels appearance by scientists at climate change conference

An  estuary is   where fresh outflows come in contact with the salt water from bays or oceans. They are particular sensitive ecosystems.  Fresh water inflows may contain contaminants harmful to the more saline water in the estuary and depend on plants and other material  to act as to keep the ecosystem in balance.   See link:

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/estuaries03_ecosystem.html

EPA Director Scott Pruitt clearly put politics ahead of science.  Climate change is harmful to estuaries.  See link below:

NOAA report highlights climate change threats to nation’s estuaries

Fortunately,  NOAA is under the US Department of Commerce, out of the reach of Pruitt.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Mon Dieu, ce n’est pas vrai!

Translation, My God, it isn’t true.  How on earth can a Rodin scupture be hiding in plain sight for decades in the corner of a municipal building in NJ?

A Rodin sculpture of Napoleon has been discovered in a Madison, NJ. Auguste Rodin died in 1917 and was in his time, a very controversial artist.

It was reported by the New York Times, in a wonderful story, which has posted it on the internet.

A Rodin Hiding in Plain Sight in a New Jersey Suburb

William Rockerfeller, Jr is mentioned in the article.  He is John D. Rockerfeller’s brother and co-founder of Standard Oil.

Stay tuned,

Dave

He said/she said …

If the real thing don’t do the trick
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn to the wick
Oooo, Barracuda, oh yeah

Lyrics from Barracuda by Heart

He said, she said and then the video said.   And the video showed the truth as plain as day.

I am talking about the recent spat between Representative Frederica Wilson and White House chief of staff,  General John R. Kelly.    The statement by Kelly was that Wilson bragged how she secured $20 million for a South Florida FBI building in 2015 through twisting Obama’s arm.   It would have been another dumb and distracting feud, except the speech had been video taped by the Sentinel Sun.  What Representative Wilson had done was just the opposite – she acknowledged the help of Senator Marco Rubio,  Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, all Republicans, and she never took credit for the funding of the building. In fact, she wasn’t even elected to Congress when funding for the building occurred.

The building was named after two slain FBI agents. Wilson did take credit for approval of the name of the building just days before the dedication.

Pretty mean spirited stuff from the White House.   Lesson to General Kelly- don’t escalate a feud, if it means crossing over between what is an opinion to what is a lie.  For this one, I don’t need any research, it’s all on the video.  See link:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-reg-wilson-kelly-tape-of-speech-20171020-story.html

It may be pretty small, but it looks like the White House is lining up on the side of the lie instead of the truth.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Immigration Removals

I know this is a hot issue.  This blog is narrowly focused on historical and recent removal statistics.  Here’s my conclusion – Trump in 2017 will likely deport the same or slightly fewer immigrants than Obama did in his last year.   I know this seems contrary to the general impression that Trump is far more aggressive against illegal immigrants  than Obama.  I will explain why.

President Obama record of deportations is shown below based on the ICE website.  There is an upward trend in deportations, peaking at 409,000 in 2012, then declining to 235,000 by 2015.  I’ve rounded the numbers for convenience.    The deportations in fiscal year (FY) 2016 are basically the same as 2015, at 240,000 removals,  or an average  20,000 deportations per month.

immigration trends

The blue bars are the non-criminal removals.   The priority shifted during Obama’s administration to target removals of illegal immigrants with a criminal convictions, as the blue bars become smaller percentages of the entire bar over time.

The decline in removals from 2012 to 2016 is likely attributable to a reduction of immigrants coming through from Mexico.   Security barriers including extension of the security fence and electronic surveillance likely discouraged immigrants or at least made the crossings much more expensive.   There is a network of “coyotes” operating in many countries, such as Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua which organize illegal entries into the US, and my extremely limited polling indicates the cost is rising, costing as much as $10,000.   News of increased border enforcement  can  discourage illegal entry.    Therefore, it should  not be interpreted that a decline in removals means that enforcement is lacking.

The Obama administration, through Executive Orders,  aggressively targeted illegal immigrants with criminal records, as shown by the graph below:

ice removals

 

The blue line is for “interior removals” (away from the border or near border towns) and is represents the Obama’s efforts to target immigrants with criminal conviction records.   I don’t have a breakdown of these offenses,  but they likely include fairly minor offenses.

ICE attributes the increase in removals in 2016 due to: (1) increase state and local cooperation through the priority enforcement program (PEP) and (2) increased border security.    They state that 99.3% of the illegal aliens by ICE in 2016 met the enforcement priorities.     The statistics for 2016 are provided below:

2016 Statistics
Number %
At border removals 174923 72.8
Interior removals 65332 27.2
Total 240255
At border convicted of a crime 78351 44.8
At border, not convicted of a crime 96572 55.2
total 174923
Int. removals convicted of crime 60318 92.3
Int. removals not convicted of a crime 5014 7.7
Total 65332
All removals convicted of crime 138669 57.7
All removals not convisted of crime 101586 42.3
Total 240255
At border, non-criminals 96572 95.1
Int. removals, non-criminals 5014 4.9
Total 101586
Suspect of confirmed gang members 2057 0.9
Not suspected or confirmed gang members 238198 99.1
Total 240255

Probably, if Trump’s policies are working as he claims,  the interior removals of immigrants convicted of crimes would rise above 60,318 in 2017.    The best estimate I have at present is 202,000 removals for 2017, which will be about 14% below 2016.   This would not be any fault of enforcement, but rather a decline in border crossings.  Separating fact from fiction will be challenging.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Qatar’s Cows

cows.pngI swear I’m not making this up!  The idea of cows in Qatar would normally be preposterous given Qatar’s six months of brutally hot and dry summer.  Camels and sheep, ok, but cows- that’s impossible!

But the cows are coming to Qatar, so the  Qataris can drink really fresh milk. Baladna Farms in Qatar has built special cow sheds with temperature control.

baladna farm

In June 2017, an economic blockade of  Qatar was initiated by  Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE)  and agricultural products.   I have discussed this in prior blogs. Qatar really has only a small agricultural industry, well until recently!

In many ways, Qatar is pushing back, with increased trade with other countries including Iran, Turkey and Morocco. Plus,  they are now in the dairy industry, as shown in the video below.

It has to cost a lot to  maintain air conditioned structures in the middle of the desert with the summer day time temperature well over 100 degrees.  Airlifting cows has got to cost a fortune.  The news media stated the first two deliveries were 230 cows using Boeing 777 Cargo planes.   The goal in to have 4,000 cows in Qatar by mid-September.

It is certain that Qatar has turned this economic blockage into an economic windfall for Qatar’s company, Power International Holdings.  Having enormous gas resources to generate cheap electricity for the air conditioned sheds really helps.

Saudi Arabia new Crown Prince thought he could push around Qatar through economic measures.   Qatar is not only rejecting the 13 demands of Saudi Arabia, but pushing back big time, by restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran.

Links:

https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/07/08/2017/Baladna-Farm-plans-to-meet-Qatar-s-dairy-needs-by-April-2018

There’s many other news stories found by searching Google for “Qatar Cows”

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Standing up for Trump

After criticizing Trump on a wide range of issues,  the New York Times came to Trump’s defense.      The incident began with the posting of  a video clip supposedly showing a 3 year old child in a wheelchair at the White House which alleged to show the child attempt to shake Trump’s hand, and Trump snubbed him.   It was all nonsense as  3 year olds move their hands around alot –   that’s what babies do!

This clip was pick up by a website called the washingtonjournal.com,  a highly biased website against Trump.  It had nothing to do with the CSPAN, Washington Journal broadcast.

It went viral quickly.  The well known author of Harry Potter books,  J.K. Rowlings tweeted how horrible Trump’s actions were, but later realized that she had been fooled.   Factcheck.org wrote,

Even ‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling, who criticized Trump on Twitter for the alleged snub, was misled by the video clip. Rowling later deleted her tweets and apologized to the family.

The NY Times ran a photo showing the president bending over, and in fact, shaking the hand of the child.   They also stated that J.K. Rowling apologized to the family for her error, but did not apologize to President Trump.

You can see New York Times professionalism in the article.

Link:  J.K. Rowlings apologizes for Anti-Trump Tweets (but not to Trump)

I always like the quote attributed to Mark Twain, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

While this would make a nice end to this blog, my curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to know what  Twain really said.   Turns out,  the origins of  this  great quote may have come from Jonathan Swift in 1710, some 200 years before Twain’s death.

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it

(See link at the end)

It is very interesting that printing presses were praised as spreading knowledge and creating a greater sense of an informed public essential for democracy and at the same time, spreading rumors and false stories.

Today,   the culprits for originating and disseminating falsehoods (I like this word) are websites, political radio stations, and news commentary television shows.  If you check out the “Pants on Fire” lies on Politifact, you will find they come mostly from bloggers, although some are attributed to comments made by Trump at events.

I admit to being a news snob.  What is nice about the mainstream print media is it can’t undone or updated, and it will be seen by experts on the particular topic.  So, journalists have to tread carefully on “breaking news.”  The New York Times and the Washington Post are not particularly good places for political hacks.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Pants on Fire

Quote investigator

Politifact.com

 

 

 

 

The Art of the Deal: Fixing Obamacare

Since the ACA was passed in 2010, the Republicans have predicted the eventual demise, either through court challenges or legislative repeal. President Trump nominated Tom Price as the Health and Human Services Department. He demonstrated a real knack of avoiding the question, and instead talking in general terms of what are the good intentions of the Department.  Spin all the positives possible.

The question Price would like to respond to, is: “Doesn’t the Department have the public’s best interest in mind when it comes to health care?” Or at least “Isn’t everything proposed by Republicans excellent, as compared to what we have.”

The link below is his interview on Meet the Press:

Youtube video: Meet the Press

He is correct that HHS administers five health plans.  He’d love to talk about the other 4 non-controversial plans.

Trump has tweeted repeatedly, is that he will never own Obamacare, just let it implode.   So Price as the plan’s administrator will be accused of neglecting the program for partisan purposes.

Now,  any fix of Obamacare will not happen with Tom Price as secretary.   What a fix would entail is increased subsidies for lower income families to encourage enrollment  massive advertising with reminders that people without insurance will face tax penalties.    It will take legislative action to fix Obamacare.

Trump could emerge on top, being the ultimate deal maker between feuding Democrats and Republicans.  To avoid alienating Republicans, he should never talk of a fix, but rather a merger of taking the best of both plans, and putting together one that will work for all Americans.    Call it a consolidated or reconciled bill or non-partisan bill.   Yes, that’s BS, but it’s the only BS that will work.   Price would be replaced by a real expert in healthcare systems.  Defunding of Planned Parenthood and abortion payments would not be part of the consolidated plan.

The Democrats have come up with a new slogan,  “A Better Deal” in which they will include a promise of a better health plan.   Trump would steal their thunder by endorsing what is basically their plan.

The Trump health plan would be despised by many Republicans, but now it would be the Republicans who would have to vote down something the Democrats support.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

South Sudan – Part 2: Relations to other countries

  • Climate Change and the US Withdrawal from the Paris Accords

Disease, famine and war have ravaged South Sudan.  Add the effects of climate change, for which the developed countries, including the US, EU, India and China bear responsibility for this.   The government revenues come from oil.  It is estimated that 95% of the population rely on subsistence farming.  Climate change is resulting in deforestation, destroying the timber industry.   The decline in timber resources is also due to illegal exports by other countries.

See links:  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/war-torn-south-sudan-grave-risk-climate-change-48695857

(video is about Somalia, while the article is on South Sudan)

UN Report: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2017/6/29/Confronting-climate-change-in-South-Sudan.html

According to the ABC news report:

At its climate change conference last month, South Sudan reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris climate agreement and criticized the U.S. withdrawal under President Donald Trump.  “Trump thinks climate change isn’t a reality,” says Lutana, South Sudan’s climate change director. “He should know that his pulling out won’t stop people from continuing to work on it.”

  • US and South Sudan 

The human rights violations by the South Sudanese government, as they terrorize the Nuer ethnic group are staggering and include the torture and  killing of children and women.   South Sudan has also purchased weapons from North Korea according to the UN.  For this reason, the US maintains trade sanctions against South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_violence_in_South_Sudan  (this is pretty horrific)

Also:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan

In January 2017,  in a goodwill gesture,  President Obama partially lifted some trade sanctions.  The partial lifting ended on July 12, 2017,  and was conditioned on South Sudan government showed progress in certain areas, including maintaining regional ceasefires, enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation, and improving humanitarian access.   If there wasn’t significant progress, President Trump would be able to re-instate the sanctions.   However,  the White House simply delayed a decision on sanctions for another 3 months.

The Special Envoy to South Sudan resigned in January 2017, and the Trump administration has yet to nominate a replacement.  Also the Trump adminstration has yet to nominate an Assistant to the Secretary of State for African Affairs.  The Secretary of State stated his intent to cut US foreign assistance programs (USAID) by 40%.

Links:  https://www.voanews.com/a/white-house-stance-on-south-sudan-unclear/3936540.html

The US is providing 199 million dollars in famine relief to South Sudan and neighboring counties.   Given that South Sudan is surrounded by six countries,  I am not sure how much will be spent on South Sudan.

Meanwhile other countries seem more interested in dealing with the government in making oil deals, than helping with the problems of disease and famine.   To export the oil, the oil flows through a pipeline to Port Sudan in the country of Sudan.  Sudan receives a cut of any South Sudanese oil which is exported.  Since Sudan is considered a state sponsor of terrorism, US oil companies are prohibited from participating in the oil development deals of South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_South_Sudan

  • Recent Events

The President of South Sudan has threaten to kill journalists who write stories, that he considers “against the country.”  Thus the press is limited by intimidation and in some cases imprisonment.   Access to certain websites has been shut down.

Links: http://www.dw.com/en/south-sudan-blocks-access-to-independent-websites/a-39786961

I wish I could be more positive about South Sudan.  The crisis in the country should be a great concern to the developed world.

Stay tuned,

Dave