Wednesday, March 6, 2019

America's Trade Deficit Grows For Third Straight Year, Hitting All Time High......

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that — despite more than two years of President Trump’s “America First” policies — the United States last year posted a $891.2 billion merchandise trade deficit, the largest in the nation’s 243-year history.

The trade gap with China also hit a record $419 billion, underscoring the stakes for the president’s bid to reach a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping as soon as this month.

The department’s final 2018 trade report, which was delayed by the partial government shutdown, showed that the United States bought far more in foreign goods than it sold to customers in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. The shortfall topped the 2006 record of $838.3 billion, set as the housing bubble was peaking, and marked the third consecutive year of rising deficits.

A broader measure of the nation’s trade performance, which includes the services sector, showed a $621 billion deficit. That reflected a deterioration of more than $100 billion from the figure Trump inherited from president Barack Obama.

It has been evident for months that Trump was not shrinking a trade gap that he calls “unsustainable” and that he says represents a major transfer of wealth from Americans to foreigners. Over the past year, even as he imposed tariffs on foreign-made solar panels, washing machines, steel, aluminum and assorted goods from China, imports roared ahead of exports.

The president thus begins his reelection drive with a core campaign promise unfulfilled — and with a recent flurry of economic research showing that his embrace of tariffs is damaging the U.S. economy.

Economists say the trade deficit is swelling because of broad economic forces, including a chronic shortfall in national savings that was exacerbated by last year’s $1.5 trillion corporate and personal income tax cut. As cash-flush businesses and consumers increased their spending, purchases of imported goods rose while the overvalued dollar weighed on exports.

“Macroeconomics end up ruling. You can’t wish it away. You can’t tariff it away,” said William Reinsch, a former Commerce Department official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Commerce Department report comes amid indications that negotiations with China over a broad trade agreement may be in their final weeks. China has offered to buy a reported $1.2 trillion in additional American products over the next six years in a deal that reportedly would ease each side’s tariffs, usher in changes to Beijing’s state-led economic model and include tough new enforcement mechanisms.

But most economists say that such increased Chinese purchases probably would only divert U.S. shipments from other foreign customers, shrinking the trade gap with China but leaving the global balance largely unchanged...

America is waiting for you Trump. We won't hold our breath.

More below THE FOLD

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Rational Nation USA is Winding Down to its April 4, 2019 Closure......

Rational Nation USA, a site devoted to truth and integrity is winding down. After 10 years it is time to accept that Americans, with their love of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, do not really want to discuss issues honestly and with sincerity. They much prefer to gather in chat rooms (weblogs) with folks that share their same narrow views. This is especially true of rightwing conservative Trumper sites. For this reason the proprietor of the Rational Nation USA weblog is shutting down operations on April 4, 2019. Until April 4, 2019, the site will occasional post issues of interest. On April 4, 2019 the site will post its final closing remarks on Blogger.

Following are todays posts that may or may not be considered of interest. Depending on your partisan pollical leanings. Articles will have a lead in "teaser" but no opinions by the site proprietor will be made. Feel free to leave a comment, although there is no guarantee any comment will be responded to by the blog proprietor. In today's glaring political animosity and incivility it just ain't worth the effort.

Don’t Abolish Billionaires

Billionaires are in notably bad odor with many people on the left. Socialists have long held that large stores of private wealth are tantamount to violence against those in need. But regular nonradical folks not on the left are fed up, too. Howard Schultz’s potential independent White House bid is simply infuriating, and it’s maddening to feel helplessly tangled in the gilded web of global intrigue emanating from the president, his plutocrat dictator pals and America’s retail overlord, the philandering Jeff Bezos.

Thanks at least in part to Bernie Sanders and the sizzling rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, this dry wick has met a spark. Enthusiasm for radical leveling is whistling out of the hard-left fringe and blossoming into a mainstream mood.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s policy adviser, Dan Riffle, contends that “every billionaire is a policy failure” (that’s the tagline on his Twitter handle) because “the acquisition of that much wealth has bad consequences” and “a moral society needs guardrails against it.” He’d like to see the 2020 Democratic primary contenders answer a question: Can it be morally appropriate for anyone to be a billionaire?

It’s a compelling litmus test. I’d also like to watch would-be Democratic nominees take it. However, I hope that they would stick up for the idea that it can be morally kosher to bank a billion and that the existence of virtuous three-comma fortunes is a sign not of failure but of supreme policy success.

The empirical record is quite clear about the general form of national political economy that produces the happiest, healthiest, wealthiest, freest and longest lives. There’s no pithy name for it, so we’ll have to settle for “liberal-democratic welfare-state capitalism.” There’s a “social democratic” version, which is what you get in countries like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. And there’s a “neoliberal” (usually English-speaking) version, which is what you get in countries like Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

You may prefer one version over the other, but they’re not all that different. And in comparative terms, they’re all insanely great. The typical citizen of these countries is as well-off as human beings have ever been. These places are the historical pinnacle of policy success.

Trump demanded top-secret security clearance for Jared Kushner last year despite concerns of John Kelly and intelligence officials

President Trump early last year directed his then-chief of staff, John F. Kelly, to give presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance — a move that made Kelly so uncomfortable that he documented the request in writing, according to current and former administration officials.

After Kushner, a senior White House adviser, and his wife, Ivanka Trump, pressured the president to grant Kushner the long-delayed clearance, Trump instructed Kelly to fix the problem, according to a person familiar with Kelly’s account, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

Kelly told colleagues that the decision to give Kushner top-secret clearance was not supported by career intelligence officials, and he memorialized Trump’s request in an internal memo, according to two people familiar with the memo and the then-chief of staff’s concerns.

It is unclear how Kelly responded to Trump’s directive. But by May, Kushner had been granted a permanent security clearance to view top-secret material — a move that followed months of concern inside the White House about his inability to secure such access.

Kushner’s attorney publicly described the process as one that had gone through normal channels, a description that Kelly did not view as accurate, according to a person familiar with his reaction.

The former chief of staff, who left the administration at the beginning of this year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump’s push to get Kushner clearance — and the chief of staff’s concerns about it — was first reported by the New York Times, which also reported that then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn had concerns about Kushner’s clearance.

House Judiciary chair: "It's very clear" Trump obstructed justice

House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose committee would be responsible for starting impeachment proceedings, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that "it's very clear" President Trump obstructed justice.

Near the end of Michael Cohen's testimony yesterday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked the former fixer whether President Trump had ever run an insurance fraud. Cohen said yes, naming three Trump Organization executives: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari.

Why it matters: Cohen offered no proof for this allegation — and given his record of lying, his claims can't be believed without evidence. But by making this allegation — and coughing up the names of the executives — Cohen gave House investigators and federal prosecutors yet another trail to chase.