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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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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Watchdog finds EPA broke law by spending $43K on Scott Pruitt’s soundproof booth and not telling Congress

Ledyard King, USATODAY Published 12:31 p.m. ET April 16, 2018 | Updated 2:41 p.m. ET April 16, 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is denying he knew about big raises given to two of his closest aides and insisting he did nothing wrong in renting a bargain-priced condo tied to an energy lobbyist. (April 5) AP

WASHINGTON — The EPA broke the law when it failed to tell lawmakers on House and Senate spending committees that it was allocating more than $43,000 to install a soundproof phone booth in Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office last year, according to a congressional watchdog agency.
In a report issued Monday, the Government Accountability Office said the agency violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2017 when it failed to notify both House and Senate appropriations committees prior to obligating the money to install a soundproof privacy booth in Pruitt’s office.
Any office expenditure above $5,000 requires lawmakers be notified, according to the eight-page GAO report. The total cost of the soundproof booth and its installation amounted to $43,238.68.
The privacy booth cost $24,570, including delivery and assembly, according to the GAO. The remaining expenses included: “Concrete Floor Leveling” ($3,470); “Drop Ceiling Installation” ($3,360.97) “Prep and Wall Painting” ($3,350); “Removal of CCTV Equipment” ($7,978); and “Infrastructure Cabling and Wiring” ($509.71).
EPA Spokeswoman Liz Bowman said the agency would comply with the findings and alert lawmakers.
“The GAO letter ‘recognized the…need for employees to have access to a secure telephone line’ when handling sensitive information,” she said. “EPA is addressing GAO’s concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week.”
The GAO’s review was requested by several key Democratic lawmakers, led by Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso, a Pruitt ally who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee said it’s “critical” all federal agencies including the EPA follow the law.
“EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law,” Barrasso said.
During a congressional hearing in December, Pruitt said he needed the equipment to conduct private calls with White House officials and others in the administration without the fear of eavesdropping.

“There are secure conversations that need to be take place at times,” he told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Cabinet-level officials need to have access to secure communications (systems).”
The installation of the phone booth is one of several issues Pruitt’s critics have seized on in calling for President Trump to dismiss him.
The former Oklahoma Attorney General has been slammed for allegedly giving aides raises after the White House told him not to, for renting a bedroom in a Capitol Hill apartment owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist, and for spending more than $100,000 on luxury air travel.
“The GAO report underscores that Scott Pruitt shouldn’t be trusted with a child’s piggy bank, much less with access to the federal treasury,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.
President Trump continues to stand by his embattled Cabinet member, tweeting earlier this month that Pruitt’s “bold actions” as EPA administrator in deregulaton efforts point to the “great job” he’s doing.

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Unions Want to Know Where the Hell All That Trump Tax Cut Money Went

Several unions are demanding that employers explain what exactly they’re doing with they huge windfall Republicans gave them.

Livia Gershon
Apr 6 2018, 5:09pm

 

Certified nursing assistant Gloria Duquette starts each work day at 7 AM, dashes to her second job at 3 PM, and finishes at 11 PM. All day long, she transports nursing home residents to and from dining rooms and bathrooms and dialysis machines, helps them shower, and changes their clothes and diapers. The Connecticut resident works more than 90 hours a week, including a third job where she gets some hours as a home care provider, and her husband works nights as a machine operator. After paying insurance and taxes, she said, the family can only just cover its bills. So she was naturally hoping the tax cut package passed by Republicans in Congress and signed by Donald Trump late last year would help her out.

“When I heard that these tax cuts passed I’m happy,” she told me. “I’m like, maybe I could give up one of my jobs now.”
Duquette, a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said she went to the director of the nursing home where she works full-time to ask about what she’d heard Trump say on TV—that the tax cut, which lowered rates for businesses and the wealthy in particular, would result in raises for regular workers. But she found that the nursing home, operated by Genesis HealthCare, hadn’t announced anything like that. (Like several companies contacted for this article, Genesis declined to comment.)
In Georgia, Jerome Westpoint spends his days picking up trash from construction sites and the backs of grocery stores. The work is hard and dangerous—you never know what you’ll find in a dumpster or a landfill. Westport has been doing the job for nearly 44 years, and, as a member of the Teamsters, he earns a middle-class wage. He said a guy can make $55,000 to $75,000 a year doing what he does. After the tax cut bill passed, Westport said, he and other workers asked their employer, Republic Services, about getting a share of the windfall.
“They’re not going to give us anything,” he said. “Me personally, I feel like it’s a slap in the face. I have been out here long enough to see guys, once they retire five years, they don’t live long because they have been exposed to so much stuff out here in the field. In respect to that, I think we deserve something.”
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Back in October, Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, predicted that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would result in a $4,000 to $9,000 jump in America’s average household income. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office, as well as Trump himself, also cited the $4,000 number. The idea was that companies would bring jobs back from overseas and reinvest the tax savings in expanded operations—classic trickle-down economics, in other words,
Workers like Duquette and Westpoint are asking exactly where that money went.

Four major unions—the SEIU, the Teamsters, Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)—are calling on corporations to disclose exactly what they’re doing with the windfall from the tax cut. They’ve sent letters to ten companies that are currently in, or preparing for, negotiations with unionized workers. They argue that that information is vitally important to them as they prepare to hash out new contracts.
“We think the information is relevant for us to make counterproposals, or proposals, to make sure we are advocating on behalf our members and that they share in the profits that our members helped to create,” said Jennifer Abruzzo, special council for strategic initiatives at CWA. “If we don’t ask for them, our members won’t get them.”
In the wake of the tax bill, numerous companies announced bonuses for employees. Several targets of the union campaign—American Airlines, AT&T, and PepsiCo—gave $1,000 to some or all non-executive workers. These employers often tied the bonuses explicitly to the Trump tax cut and received a burst of positive media coverage, even as some of those same companies quietly cut jobs.

No one would turn down a bonus, but bonuses are not the same as real raises, said Kevin Leicht, a sociologist who studies inequality and class at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. While a raise increases a worker’s base salary so that they make more money each year going forward, a bonus is just a one-time payment. Leicht told me that given the record profits that corporate America was already making before the tax cut, there’s no reason to believe companies will use a significant part of their tax savings for raises or reinvestment.
“I know almost no credible people who think that,” he said. “Past experience is, tax cuts have not resulted in wages rising, so why would that happen now in the absence of some overwhelming reason to do it?”
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Instead, Leicht said, companies are most likely to use the money to pay dividends to shareholders, stockpile cash, or buy back stock—a move that boosts share prices and makes it easier to reward investors. Early signs already show big increases in dividend payments and stock buybacks this year.
Still, it’s unclear exactly where all the tax cut savings are going, prompting the unions’ action. They’ve sent letters to two divisions of AT&T, two American Airlines regional carriers, cable station operator Nexstar Media Group, Consulate Health Care, Genesis HealthCare, Kindred Healthcare, American Medical Response, Fresenius Medical Care, as well as Frito-Lay/Pepsi and XPO Logistics. The Teamsters is also planning to send one to Westpoint’s employer, Republic Services, and Abruzzo said unions will continue sending similar letters as they prepare to negotiate contracts with other employers.
In response to questions about the union campaign, American Airlines pointed to its $1,000 bonuses. One of its regional carriers, Envoy Air, said it could not comment because it’s currently engaged in negotiations with the union. A second division, Piedmont, said it has already negotiated an agreement with CWA and that it had provided the union with the relevant information.
In a statement, Brad Puffer, a spokesperson for Fresenius Medical Care North America, said that the “vast majority” of the tax benefit would go to employee salaries and improvements to its operations. “In fact, by investing in our value based care efforts, we will save the government in excess of what we’re receiving in tax reform while improving health outcomes and the experience for our patients,” he said.

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