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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Sen. Sherrod Brown wants the federal government to give a $3,500 discount to buyers of American-made cars and trucks, under legislation he introduced last week.
The price cut would be paid for by doubling the tax rate on foreign profits from some auto companies to 21 percent, the full U.S. corporate tax rate. The 21 percent corporate tax rate, and the lower rate on foreign corporate profits, both were part of the sweeping GOP congressional tax plan President Donald Trump signed last December.
On Tuesday, Brown pitched his bill as a way to unwind some of the economic forces that led General Motors in June to lay off 600 workers at a plant in Lordstown, near Youngstown. The layoff, which eliminated the plant’s second shift, went into effect the same day the company announced it would build a new assembly plant in Mexico to make the Chevy Blazer, an SUV.
“I contend that if this bill were law right now, I don’t think GM would be going to Mexico to make its Chevy Blazer and build a new plant,” Brown said. “I contend they’d re-tool the plant in Lordstown or elsewhere, and make the Chevy Blazer here.”
Brown, a Democrat, is being challenged in the November election by Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth. Brown’s proposed legislation is targeted at an issue important to some of the blue-collar areas that voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and that Brown now is courting for support.
In a statement, Renacci campaign spokeswoman Leslie Shedd called Brown’s legislation, which stands little chance of passing in the GOP-controlled Congress, a “campaign stunt.”
“It’s no surprise that liberal career politician Sherrod Brown is pretending he cares about Ohio’s auto workers in an election year – that’s what career politicians do,” Shedd said. “But for the last 25 years in Congress, Brown has consistently voted for job killing regulations, including supporting dramatic EPA overreach that directly hurts Ohio’s auto workers. Campaign stunts like this don’t actually help Ohioans.”
Brown’s proposed program would be voluntary for auto dealers, and the $3,500 discount would be applied through government vouchers.
Auto industry analysts say the Lordstown plant is in danger of closing, having lost two of its three shifts, totaling 3,000 jobs, since the beginning of last year. The plant manufactures the compact Chevy Cruze, demand for which is lagging compared to GM’s trucks and SUVs. Potentially complicating GM’s decision whether to close the plant is the possibility that Trump may retaliate by following through on his campaign pledge to impose a 25 percent tariff on autos imported from Canada and Mexico.
“I support the president’s idea on these tariffs… I think we need to do them in a way that works. It’s too early to tell, because they [the Trump administration] kind of keep changing on where they’re going,” Brown said.
Among those who joined Brown on Tuesday were Dan Boone, the president of the United Steelworkers union chapter that represents workers at the ArcelorMittal plant in Cleveland, Mark Payne, the president of the United Auto Workers chapter that represents workers at the Brook Park Ford engine plant and Brook Park Mayor Mike Gammella, a former UAW local chapter president.
In an interview, Boone said many of the 1,400 steelworkers his union represents supported Trump because of his rhetoric on trade. Payne compared Trump to a persuasive salesman who co-opted an approach used by Brown and other Democrats, but who hasn’t necessarily followed through.
“I would say something like 40 percent of our members supported President Trump,”Boone said. “But I would say they voted for him based on what he said.”
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Peter Strzok, the FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages fueled suspicions of partisan bias, defended himself during a contentious hearing. AP
Who says sending anti-Trump texts to your girlfriend doesn’t pay?
Sure, such texts cost Peter Strzok his 22-year career with the FBI, but they also seem to have garnered the disgraced former agent a lot of support – enough to raise more than $325,000 for his legal expenses in one day on a GoFundMe page.
The page, launched Monday by “Friends Of Special Agent Peter Strzok,” initially sought $150,000 to be “put into a trust dedicated to covering Pete’s hefty – and growing – legal costs and his lost income.”
But that sum was reached quickly and the target amount was later raised to $350,000.
“Peter Strzok, a man who has spent his entire life working to help keep us and our nation safe, has been fired,” reads a message on the GoFundMe page. “He needs your help.”
The post goes on to say that Strzok has “been the target of highly politicized attacks, including frequent slanderous statements from President Trump, who actively – and apparently successfully – pressured FBI officials to fire Pete.”
It also says his firing did not follow the FBI’s “normal and independent process” because it overruled “the decision of the career professionals in the FBI’s disciplinary division.”
In less than half a day, the page drew in donations from more than 8,400 donors. The largest was a donation of $2,000.
Strzok had become the poster child for the perceived anti-Trump “deep state” among the president’s supporters after it was revealed he sent text messages to his girlfriend (and co-worker) vowing to stop Trump from winning the 2016 election.
Those texts cost him his spot on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and fed claims that the entire Russia probe is a partisan “witch hunt.”
But Strzok, who also was part of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, insisted during a heated hearing with lawmakers last month that his personal opinions of Trump hadn’t affected his work.
Strzok’s GoFundMe success is not unprecedented. Earlier this year a similar fundraising campaign for McCabe raised more than $500,000.
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August 14, 2018
This report responds to a request from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota about employee issues at the Dickinson Post Office. In response to that request, our objectives were to determine whether the U.S. Postal Service complied with employee payment requirements and assess employee engagement and staffing levels at the Dickinson, ND, Post Office.
The Dickinson Post Office is in the Bakken Region of North Dakota. In calendar year (CY) 2006, the region’s oil boom began, peaking in CY 2012. During the oil boom, the region experienced increased employment opportunities, which subsequently contributed to the Postal Service’s challenge of attracting and retaining employees.
In February 2014, the Postal Service entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) to assist in attracting and retaining rural carriers.
What the OIG Found
The Postal Service did not comply with employee payment requirements at the Dickinson Post Office; employee feedback indicated employee engagement was low; and the post office is currently at full complement although it has faced challenges attracting and retaining both management and bargaining employees in the past. Specifically, we determined:
- Four of seven (or 57 percent) rural carriers were placed in an incorrect pay status. These carriers received letters of demand and invoices for salary overpayments totaling $23,767.
- Six of 20 (or 30 percent) career rural carriers, who were eligible for a 90-day and/or one-year bonus prescribed in the Postal Service’s MOU with the NRLCA, did not receive their bonuses totaling $5,000.
- One employee was not reimbursed for official travel expenses submitted for 10 travel vouchers totaling about $1,920 for work conducted in support of another Dakotas District post office.
- There is a perception of an unsupportive work environment, no employee recognition, and a lack of communication at the Dickinson Post Office. This may be an indication of low employee engagement, which is a contributor to low employee morale.
These conditions occurred because:
- Human Resources Shared Services Center processing specialists were unaware rural carriers should have been paid from one of four rate schedule code tables. Specialists also indicated they used an incorrect pay step within the rate schedule code table.
- District Human Resources did not have a formal process to timely identify carrier eligibility for bonuses.
- The postmaster did not have access to the Electronic Travel Voucher system and did not forward the employee’s travel voucher to the designated travel coordinator for processing.
- There was an apparent disconnect between Dickinson Post Office management and lack of subsequent actions, and employee concerns and issues.
The Dickinson Post Office had a challenge attracting and retaining employees and subsequently developed a plan to address the rapid changes in population growth and employee turnover. However, due to actions taken by the Dickinson Post Office and the Dakotas District, as of April 2018, there were 40 employees at the Dickinson Post Office — three more than its authorized career complement of 37.
If management does not take appropriate action to ensure that they properly compensate and inform employees, there could be a negative impact on employee engagement, morale, and complement at the Dickinson Post Office.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management provide refresher training to Human Resources Shared Services Center processing specialists responsible for processing pay activities on Postal Service Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action, for the Memorandum of Understanding at select Bakken Region facilities, to include verifying employee pay statuses; and implement and communicate a process to timely identify and pay rural carriers.
We also recommended management grant Electronic Travel Voucher system access to the postmaster or designee at the Dickinson Post Office or implement controls to monitor and track reimbursements due when employees submit travel vouchers manually; and develop a strategy, to include management training, to increase employee engagement at the Dickinson Post Office.
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