Trump’s Trade War Hits Another Red State

Bloomberg  Joshua Green
2 hrs ago

US shale oil production to rise 124,000 barrels a day in May

President Donald Trump’s trade war with China has already sparked promises of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, including soybeans, that will hit such Trump-friendly Midwestern states as Iowa, Indiana, North Dakota, and Nebraska—if they take effect. In March, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said “there is hope” they can be forestalled.

Sorghum growers aren’t so lucky. On Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced it would impose a 178.6 percent duty on sorghum imports from the U.S. that will take effect almost immediately. The news puts an additional Trump-friendly state (and Republican leader) squarely in the crosshairs: Kansas is the largest sorghum producer in the U.S., and its senior senator, Pat Roberts, chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“It’s extremely frustrating and very disappointing,” says Jesse McCurry, executive director of the Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission. “Half of Kansas sorghum or more was going to China, and that probably stops, at least for now.”
The new Chinese measure is a response to the tariffs Trump slapped on solar panels and washing machines earlier this year. China began a probe of sorghum imports in early February, shortly after Trump’s announcement. “We knew this was hanging over our heads,” says Kurt Winter, a sorghum farmer in Sedgwick County, Kansas, just outside Wichita. “But when we heard the news this morning, it was still just devastating to us. It’s really going to put the hammer to our price prospects.”
Trump’s campaign-trail protectionism and attacks on China were a big part of his appeal to Republican voters in 2016. But as he’s begun implementing those policies as president, the economic fallout has landed heavily on his own voters. Hardest hit by the new tariffs will be Roberts’s old congressional district (KS-01), known as “The Big First” for its sprawling, agriculture-intensive acreage. In the last election, Kansas’s first district voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 45 points.
Kansans such as Winter wish Trump would keep that in mind—but don’t hold out much hope. “I know that the administration is very much aware that rural America had a lot to do with putting President Trump in office,” Winter says. “But I’m not sure anybody can change his mind.”

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Trump Moves to Gut the Post Office

David Dayen

April 16, 2018
His war on Amazon expands to include the right-wing’s campaign to abolish America’s oldest—and still successful—public service.  Some may be inclined to think that Donald Trump’s executive order Thursday night establishing a task force to recommend reforms for the U.S. Postal Service reflects another salvo in the president’s war against Amazon. Trump’s attack on Amazon, a clear byproduct of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s ownership of The Washington Post, included the suggestion that the online retailer was “ripping off the post office” by securing a special deal for the USPS to ship packages the last mile. By reviewing the finances of the post office, Trump’s task force could demand increases to that shipping contract, possibly costing Amazon billions of dollars.
Whether Amazon actually is getting a special deal on shipping is open to intense debate. The company also happens to enjoy a discount on stamps, which they then mark up to their own marketplace sellers, a pure arbitrage deal to earn profits from a publicly issued product.
But these issues have almost nothing to do with the Trump executive order. The Amazon spat is a cover for the formal unveiling of a long-wished right-wing project to destroy the post office and have private industry take over its infrastructure, which taxpayers funded long ago. All the executive order really does is create a report; it would take a willing Congress to deliver the final hammer blow. But that report, with a government imprimatur, will become part of that right-wing wish list, living on for decades in think tanks and private shipping company boardrooms as a fervent dream.
And sometimes dreams become reality.
Let’s look at the executive order, which is a bit deceptive in its intentions. The policy section manages to mention that the Postal Service routinely earns the highest public approval rating of any agency in the federal government. But then it layers on the bad news: the decline in first-class mail volume—$65 billion in losses since 2009, an “unsustainable fiscal path.”
Amazingly, the policy section alludes to the inability of the USPS to fund retiree health and pension benefit obligations, without stating that it has the impossibly high statutory burden of pre-funding those obligations 75 years out, effectively having to pay today for future workers who have not yet been born.
Amazingly, the policy section alludes to the inability of the USPS to fund retiree health and pension benefit obligations, without stating that it has the impossibly high statutory burden of pre-funding those obligations 75 years out, effectively having to pay today for future workers who have not yet been born. No public agency or private company has any similar burden. It was placed on the Postal Service in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act to deliberately cripple the agency at the behest of UPS and FedEx, its two major competitors on package delivery. There should be no confusion: Without this completely anomalous pre-funding mandate, the USPS would be a money-making operation, regardless of the rise of email.
But while alluding to “inflexible costs,” the executive order says that the USPS “must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.” Yet, a true restructuring would require only one line of legislative text: “The 75-year pre-funding mandate is hereby repealed.” The fake crisis would be over. But that’s not what Donald Trump’s minders want.
The executive order establishes a task force, chaired by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to “evaluate the operations and finances of the USPS.” Also on the task force are anti-government zealot and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, former Booz Allen Hamilton lawyer and Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon, and whomever else Mnuchin wants to throw in.
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In reality, there’s already a “task force” empowered to evaluate the Postal Service. That’s the USPS Board of Governors, an 11-member panel that operates like the board of directors of a corporation, empowered to review all policies and practices and engage in long-range planning. But this board, which includes the postmaster general, their deputy, and nine presidential appointees, has not had a new member confirmed since the George W. Bush administration. It’s been operating without a quorum since 2015, and currently all nine appointee positions are vacant. The Trump administration took until October of last year to nominate three of the open nine governor seats; they’re only getting a confirmation hearing next week.
If Trump, or anyone in his administration, were actually concerned with Postal Service operations, he’d quickly stock its board. Instead, he’s formalizing a task force to look into undermining it. Here are some things the executive order wants the task force to look into:
“The USPS’ role in competitive markets,” specifically package delivery, where it competes with private shippers;
“Issues relating to government monopolies operating in the commercial marketplace”;
“The USPS monopoly over letter delivery and mailboxes”; and
“The definition of the ‘universal service obligation’ in light of changes in technology, e-commerce, marketing practices, and customer needs.”
I think the goal is clear. The task force is being prodded to open up the mailbox to any company, and degrade the centuries-old tradition that the post office deliver anywhere in the nation, through snow or rain or heat or gloom of night. After eliminating these public benefits, the task force might seek to bar the post office from competing in markets where the private sector operates, or to privatize the agency altogether, selling its infrastructure off for parts.
These have long been hard-right fantasies, which, if made real, would be a direct money funnel to UPS and FedEx’s corporate treasuries, to say nothing of Amazon, whose cash reserves could easily buy Postal Service infrastructure.
These have long been hard-right fantasies, which, if made real, would be a direct money funnel to UPS and FedEx’s corporate treasuries, to say nothing of Amazon, whose cash reserves could easily buy Postal Service infrastructure. In fact, the executive order says that the final report should take into account the views not only of postal workers and consumers, but also of “competitors in the marketplace.”
This report of “administrative and legislative reforms” to the post office is due August 10. Legislative recommendations would obviously have to pass Congress, and that’s unlikely even today, given the important role the post office plays in rural communities.
But we’ve already seen bids to privatize and undermine the Postal Service administratively. In 2013, the Postal Service partnered with Staples to sell stamps and deliver mail and packages inside their stores, with their non-union workers. The American Postal Workers Union kicked off a long campaign to stop this, but the practice only stopped after a National Labor Relations Board judge ordered it. Trump’s NLRB might not have the same posture if the “Approved Shipper” program were restarted.
The USPS already gives competitors a sweet deal to participate in its own destruction. It ships the last mile for UPS, FedEx, and Amazon, delivering the packages that are unprofitable for those companies to deliver themselves. And the Postal Service’s leadership has repeatedly cut employee hours and eliminated routes, closing post offices and laying off tens of thousands of workers in the process. Having a government task force call for the death of the post office will build on these efforts at self-immolation.
The solutions here are obvious. The post office has the advantage of 30,000 locations, universal service, and a wider reach than for-profit companies could ever cast, paid for by taxpayers. Returning to the postal banking system we had from 1911 to 1967, which offers financial services to the unbanked with simple accounts and even small loans, would fit the agency’s mission of expanding commerce and save billions for vulnerable populations—all the while shoring up postal finances. The author of a 2014 white paper on postal banking, then-USPS Inspector General David Williams, is one of the nominees for the Board of Governors, and if allowed to do his job, Williams could fix up a system that would solve numerous problems at once.
This is one of a many ideas to maintain the Postal Service’s strong position at the center of American life, where it’s been since before the Constitution was written. Instead, Donald Trump, while claiming fake concern for the USPS getting “ripped off” by Amazon, wants to empower a gang of cretins bent on selling off the agency for parts.

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Can You Pass This Quiz? APWU (Video)

Can you pass this quiz?

Tax day quiz! Do you know the answer?

Posted by APWU – The American Postal Workers Union on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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Former First Lady Barbara Bush Has Died

Barbara Bush, who served as first lady during the 1989–1993 presidency of her husband, George H.W. Bush, and was the matriarch of a Republican political dynasty that dominated conservative politics for decades, died Tuesday. She was 92.
Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath announced the death Tuesday on Twitter.

George H.W. Bush held Barbara’s hand all day and was at her side as she died, according to Jean Becker, the former president’s chief of staff.
“He of course is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years,” Becker said.
On Sunday, the family announced that Bush was in failing health and would not be seeking further treatment after a series of hospitalizations.
“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health,” the family said in a statement at the time, “worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others.”
The mother of six was a staple in American politics as she supported the political career of her husband and her son President George W. Bush. Another son, John Ellis or “Jeb,” served as the governor of Florida and was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2016 election.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Jeb Bush said his mother was a “force of nature.”
“I’m exceptionally privileged to be the son of George Bush and the exceptionally gracious, gregarious, fun, funny, loving, tough, smart, graceful woman who was the force of nature known as Barbara Bush,” Jeb Bush wrote. “Thank you for your prayers, and we look forward to celebrating and honoring her life and contributions to our family and great nation in the coming days.”
His brother George W. Bush also paid tribute, saying in a statement that his mother kept the family laughing until the end.
“Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was,” he wrote. “Barbara Bush was a fabulous first lady and a woman unlikes any other who brought levity, love, and literary to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end.”
Bush’s dedication to improving literacy rates became a hallmark of her time as first lady. In 1989, she founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which runs literacy programs for low-income families.
President Trump highlighted her work on Twitter as one of her “greatest achievements.”

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
.@FLOTUS Melania and I join the Nation in celebrating the life of Barbara Bush:
12:05 AM – 18 Apr 2018
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But “Bar,” as she was known, also committed herself to a number of other causes while she was in the White House, including homelessness and volunteerism.
“Today we can say that our country is a better and a stronger force for good in the world because, more and more, we are a people that serve,” President Obama said in 2013. “And for that, we have to thank President Bush, and his better half, Barbara, who is just as committed as her husband to service, and has dedicated her life to it as well.”
On Tuesday, Obama said in a statement that Barbara lived her life “as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling.”
Bill Clinton cited her “grit & grace, brains & beauty” in living an “honest, vibrant, full life.”

Associated Press
Barbara Pierce, the future Barbara Bush, in her graduation photo from Ashley Hall, a private all-girls school in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1943.

Bush was born Barbara Pierce in Rye, New York, in 1925, as the third of four children, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. She was the granddaughter of an Ohio Supreme Court justice and the daughter of a magazine publisher who was a distant relative of Franklin Pierce, the 14th US president.
The future Mrs. Bush had an early love of reading, a passion she would later pursue through her foundation. She also was athletic, enjoying swimming and biking.
She met her future husband when she was 16 at a dance during her Christmas vacation from Ashley Hall, a boarding school for girls in Charleston, South Carolina.
The pair got engaged a year and a half later, and the future president headed off to fight in World War II. She headed to Smith College but dropped out when George returned from the war. They married on Jan. 6, 1945, in Rye.
Following President Bush’s time at Yale University, the couple headed to Odessa, Texas, to work in the oil industry.
Barbara and George Bush had six children: George Walker Bush, Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, Neil Mallon Bush, Marvin Pierce Bush, and Dorothy “Doro” Bush Koch.
Their daughter Robin died at age 3 in 1953 of leukemia. Bush told her granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager in a 2012 Today show interview that her young daughter never left her heart.
“Robin to me is a joy. She’s like an angel to me, and she’s not a sadness or a sorrow,” she said.

Anonymous / AP

While living in Houston, George H.W. Bush began getting involved in politics.
He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1966 but lost a run for Senate in 1970. He was then appointed UN ambassador by President Richard Nixon and the director of the CIA by President Gerald Ford in 1977.
After mounting an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan selected Bush as his running mate.
During her husband’s two terms as vice president, Barbara Bush championed literacy and was seen as an asset to her husband’s popularity.
“Her friendly, forthright manner won her high marks from the voters and the press,” her White House biography proclaims.

Charles Tasnadi / AP

After Reagan endorsed George H.W. Bush as his successor in the 1988 election, Barbara became the first spouse of a nominee to ever address the Republican National Convention, according to the National First Ladies’ Library, using her speech to tout her husband as a family man.
George H.W. Bush won the election and his wife again focused on literacy as her main cause during her tenure as first lady.
“The American dream is about equal opportunity for everyone who works hard. If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed,” she once said.
Bush served one term as first lady. Her husband lost the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton.

Eric Draper / Associated Press

After her husband’s loss, Barbara and the Bushes returned to Houston, where she continued her advocacy work.
She was also active in the political careers of her sons, former president George W. Bush and former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Bush, then 75, spent “two or three days” on the campaign trail a week vouching for her son in the 2000 presidential election, the New York Times reported at the time, and drew many adoring fans to her appearances.
“I know about our son, what he’s accomplished, what he believes in, what kind of person he is and what kind of president he’ll be,” Bush said at a rally, according to the Baltimore Sun. “He’s always been surrounded by strong women. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by birth.”
George W. Bush went on to serve two terms as president. Her son Jeb served as governor of Florida and then ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
In her later years, Bush spent her time devoting her time to her family and her work promoting literacy. She continued to work with her foundation, where her daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, serves as an honorary chair.
In 2009, she wrote a column for Newsweek about the movie Precious and her commitment to literacy.
“After 30 years promoting literacy, I’ve never felt more energized. Watching this movie, I was reminded why it’s important that we keep working so hard,” she wrote.
Throughout her life, Bush remained a devoted partner to her husband. The couple celebrated 73 years of marriage in January 2018, making them the longest-married presidential couple ever.
In 2011, the former president teared up on the Today show as he read a letter he had written to his wife in 1994.
“You give me joy that few men know,” he wrote. “I’ve climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband.”

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