Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud columnist Ruth Margolis for blasting liberals who demand that parents must immerse kids of all ages in politics and the social justice movement. They also wince at the evidence Republicans may have lost congressional seats in states like California and New Jersey because they limited how much residents could use their state and local tax bill to reduce their federal tax payments. And they react to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint defeated Senate candidate Martha McSally to the state’s other Senate seat if Jon Kyl steps down before 2020.
Listen to “Butina Conned Dems Too, Tariffs Wipe Out Tax Cuts, Trump’s Iran Tweet” on Spreaker.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are not thrilled to see that alleged Russian spy Maria Butina conned Obama administration officials, but they do welcome the evidence that Russia was infiltrating everywhere and not just getting cozy with the GOP. They also sigh as the Tax Foundation concludes that President Trump’s tariffs and the tariffs aimed back at the U.S. will gobble up all of the tax cuts for working families. In addition, they fume as Citizens Against Government Waste shows Republicans in Congress are cranking up the spending through pork barrel earmarks again. And while they love Mike Pompeo’s speech casting Iranian leaders as the mafia for stealing from their own people to fund terrorism, they’re not sure Trump’s all-caps tweet Sunday night was the best move.
Jim Geraghty of National Review with Chad Benson filling in for Greg Corombos of Radio America. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims to be in possesion of tens of thousands of documents that reveal that Iran has been lying about its nuclear weapons program. Marco Rubio expresses skepticism toward the basic tenets of supply side economic theory, suggests that the recent tax cuts will not help the middle class as promised. Lastly, Twitter is upset about a Chinese dress as claims of cultural appropriation strike prom.
President Trump’s embrace of new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports is largely believed to be behind the exit of his top economic adviser, and one free market advocate is concerned that it could hurt American consumers and stunt the nation’s economic growth spurt.
Last week, during a meeting with executives from America’s leading steel and aluminum manufacturers, Trump announced his new policy.
“We’ll be imposing tariffs on steel imports and tariffs on aluminum imports. Pretty much all of you will be immediately expanding if we give you that level playing field, if we give you that help,” said Trump in announcing 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and a 10 percent surcharge on foreign aluminum.
The policy comes as little surprise, since Trump routinely condemned what he characterized as terrible trade policies with the likes of China and Japan and vowed to revive American manufacturing by addressing America’s trade posture.
However, Texas Public Policy Foundation Senior Economist Dr. Vance Ginn believes tariffs are the wrong policy for Trump to pursue.
“I think this would be bad for Americans overall and reduce our economic potential over time, which had been boosted by the tax cuts last year and the regulatory reforms that were made. I’d rather see those sorts of things boosted instead of tariffs and trade practices such as this,” said Ginn.
Ginn says the simple fact is that charging more more imports means higher prices for all of us.
“If you raise the cost of doing business, that hurts business and it hurts American consumers. Whenever you look at raising steel prices and aluminum prices, those are in the cars that we drive and the buildings where we work and in many other aspects of capital throughout our economy,” said Ginn.
He also says we were reminded just last decade in the George W. Bush administration that steel tariffs don’t necessarily get the intended results.
“Some estimates show that cost us about 200,000 jobs. I would hate to see more Americans not have a job when we’ve had an expanding economy,” said Ginn.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross estimates that the steel tariffs would result in a bump of one half of one percent to three-quarters of one percent, an average of about $700. He says the difference is “trivial.”
Ginn says that approach badly undermines the administration’s defense of the tax cuts.
“If $1,000 is just crumbs according to Nancy Pelosi but a big deal according to those in favor of the tax cuts, $700 is also a big deal. That takes away a lot of the potential from those bonuses that they had before to [add income],” said Ginn.
But with significant trade deficits and China dumping steel into this country in violation of World Trade Organization protocols, the U.S. stands at a tactical disadvantage.
Ginn says that doesn’t explain why the tariffs apply to everyone.
“The proposal so far would be a global tariff on steel and aluminum. It wouldn’t just hit China. So if there are those issues with China, let’s deal with those, not necessarily make it for everyone to pay these higher costs,” said Ginn.
Ginn also says the effort to reduce our trade deficits starts with a tough look in the mirror.
“Let’s look at what we’re doing here at home that’s also maybe raising the cost of living and raising the cost of doing business such that China and other countries are having a competitive advantage in the global market,” said Ginn.
“Let’s look at the cost of unions and what they’re doing to the cost of labor over time. Let’s look at our minimum wage and what that’s doing over time. Retirement pensions. There are a number of factors that are raising the cost here that are putting us at a disadvantage compared to other countries,” said Ginn.
Ginn believes America’s position on the global trading stage is already on the upswing thanks to the tax reform bill.
“That helps to reduce the cost of doing business. It allows us to be more competitive on a global playing field. I think we should look at more of those things, along with regulatory reforms,” said Ginn.
According to Ginn, the way to help an economy flourish is not to add more complications but to remove as many as possible. He says it’s led to a booming economy in Texas.
“The ability for us to focus on freedom and free markets has allowed us to be a powerhouse. As an independent nation, we would be the tenth largest economy in the world and continue to create a lot of jobs. In fact, over the last decade, we created 26 percent of all new jobs that were added in the United States,” said Ginn.
President Trump’s negotiating tactics often show him throwing out an idea, watching his critics set their hair on fire, and then finding common ground with a less severe approach. Ginn suspects that is Trump’s approach here, as well as an effort to put the heat on officials renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
“He’s even talked to the Mexicans and the Canadians and said, ‘Look, if we don’t get something done with NAFTA, then I’m definitely going through with these tariffs.’ That puts pressure on the NAFTA renegotiation process as well. I’m hopeful this is not where we’ll be at the end of the day,” said Ginn.
Ginn contends NAFTA could be much better but is not as destructive to the U.S. economy as its critics suggest. He says free trade ought to be the ultimate goal.
“What would be a perfect trade agreement? It would be no trade barriers between the countries that are involved. Instead, we have a 1,700-page trade agreement with NAFTA.
“So what does that do? That picks winners and losers throughout the whole economy. There’s a lot of ways to renegotiate to make this more of a free trade agreement. I’m just a little concerned that’s not where we’re going to go if we start picking out even more winners and losers in the process,” said Ginn.
The Republican tax cuts are already boosting local economies and more help may be on the way, but GOP House member says lawmakers must get serious about cutting spending and taming the debt.
Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Pennsylvania, is a member of the House Financial Services Committee. He says the benefits of the tax legislation, passed solely on Republican votes in December, are already clear in his district east of Pittsburgh.
“We’re seeing a lot of positive feedback. We’re seeing a lot of folks who are getting more money in their weekly or bi-weekly paychecks. We’re hearing from people who have gotten bonuses.
“We’ve talked to small businesses that are going to be able to make new investments in their businesses to grow their businesses, hire workers, buy equipment, which means the person who supplies the equipment is going to have a job. We have gotten a lot of great feedback and this is just the thing that this economy needed,” said Rothfus.
Rothfus says the tax cuts, along with the GOP rollback of regulations, is triggering the kind of economic recovery we should have seen years ago.
“The Obama administration had a different model of recovery, one of more regulation, more control from Washington, higher taxes, more spending. We saw the slowest growth rate in a recovery since the Great Depression,” said Rothfus.
So what do Rothfus and other Republicans have in mind for stoke economic growth some more?
“It’s all about getting capital flowing again. We are losing a community bank or a credit union a day in this country because of all the over-regulation in the financial sector. We need to find right regulation. I talk about this all the time. We want regulation that is smart, prudent, responsible. That’s the focus we’re going to have on the Financial Services Committee,” said Rothfus.
But while Republicans made good on their promises to cut taxes for most Americans, Congress has not managed to restrain spending. In addition to maintaining Obama-era spending levels for over a year, lawmakers forged a budget agreement in February that will crank up both military and domestic spending and create trillion-dollar deficits for years to come.
Rothfus voted against that deal. He says it is unacceptable for lawmakers to look the other way on debt and deficits.
“That means we are borrowing two million dollars every minute, every day of the year. That’s what a trillion dollars is,” said Rothfus.
“We have to get serious about this spending problem that we have. We are collecting more tax revenue than ever. We have to get back to healthy economic growth, because that’s actually going to help generate revenues to pay for programs that people expect,” said Rothfus.
He says a double-digit growth in domestic spending is irresponsible given other pressing priorities.
“When you’re growing the defense budget the way we did, when you’re going to offer $89 billion to help people effected by disasters in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, this was not the year to raise domestic, non-defense spending by 12 percent.
“A family that is going through issues in their budget at the kitchen table, if they had a fire there they know they’re going to have to put more money there and not buy other things,” said Rothfus.
When asked how to control spending, Rothfus pointed to two ideas, one of which Congress recently scrapped.
“The smart way is to have left in place the caps that we had under the prior budget agreement, except to make sure that we’re taking care of defense and our veterans,” said Rothfus.
He also wants to see much closer scrutiny of existing government programs, as Congress is now doing with funding for opioid addiction treatment.
“That means you have to take a hard look at other programs across the government and see what’s effective and what’s not. We passed a bill a couple years ago called the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, a necessary piece of legislation to address the opioid epidemic. One of the provisions for that is for the first time we are going to measure the effectiveness of some of the treatment plans.
“Imagine that. We should be measuring the effectiveness of every government program. These are the hard-working taxpayers’ dollars that we want to be good stewards of,” said Rothfus.
Addressing the opioid crisis is a major priority for Rothfus, who believes government needs to play a key role in helping people end their addictions.
“The response has to come from everywhere. This is an all hands on deck situation. We have to have local partnership,” he said.
In addition to providing the money for programs proven to help addicts recover, Rothfus says the crisis makes real border security an even greater priority.
‘We have to be taking a hard look at our border. Most of the heroin that we have in our country is coming from the cartels in Mexico. If that’s not a reason to secure our border, I don’t know what is.
“So we’ve got to be doing a much better job and, where appropriate, have barriers along the border. We have to increase capacity at ports of entry so that we can be inspecting the vehicles that are smuggling this poison in,” said Rothfus.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America look at a bunch of new polling that shows America sharply divided on banning “assault weapons,” in large agreement on mental illness needing to be addressed, and a majority now liking the tax cuts. They also rip the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for redrawing the congressional map of the state, ignoring the will of the people through their elected representatives and making the map much more favorable to their Democratic friends. And they shudder as fears grow that North Korea may punish their Olympic athletes for failing to medal at the Winter Olympics.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America welcome a new Politico/Morning Consult poll showing more Americans now plan to vote for a Republican congressional candidate than for a Democrat, which is a big swing since in recent weeks. They also roll their eyes as Democrats and pundits fret that President Trump hasn’t given specific orders for the FBI to thwart Russian attempts to meddle in the midterm elections, when FBI Director Christopher Wray says they are on the case because it is their job after all. And they look at the Valentine’s Day tradition of columns by liberal women blaming men for their own relationship frustrations and the decline of modern romance.
As Congress approaches yet another government funding deadline, the U.S. government is still spending taxpayer dollars at Obama-era levels since lawmakers continue to kick the fiscal can down the road in perpetuity, and one leading economist says that inaction is triggering the return of trillion-dollar deficits that future generations will have to pay.
Vance Ginn is senior economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he also directs the foundation’s Center for American Prosperity. Ginn also shared his insights on recent stock market volatility and what it means for the nation’s overall economic health.
On Feb. 8, the short-term continuing resolution approved last month will expire, triggering another partial government shutdown unless another funding bill is approved. Right now, Democrats and President Trump are drawing competing lines in the sand over immigration policy.
As a result, no one is advocating actual changes in spending for the various department and obligations of the government. In essence, the U.S. is still operating at Obama-era spending levels more than a year into the Trump administration.
Congress and Trump have repeatedly avoided dealing with the issue by passing and signing continuing resolutions in April, September, December, and January. And there is no indication the next bill will be any different.
“What it seems like they’re doing is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That’s the definition of insanity and that’s what we continue to have in D.C,” said Ginn.
“Congress hasn’t taken the opportunity here – and the multiple congresses before this – to restrain the growth of spending over time,” said Ginn, and he says political considerations are behind the failure to rein in spending.
And while Democrats are doing their best to gum up Republican efforts to trim the federal budget, Ginn says the bottom line is Republicans know cutting spending comes with political consequences, so they’re reluctant to do it.
“When you’re looking at the next election cycle, you want to get re-elected. So it makes it very difficult to make those tough choices to cut spending for interest groups that are there often with their hands out,” said Ginn.
Recently, Treasury Department officials announced deficits for Fiscal Year 2018 could approach $1 trillion. Most reaction has been quick to blame the recently approved tax cuts. Ginn says that is one factor but not the primary factor.
“The driver of deficits and debt is spending. We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. We’ve got to get the spending under control as quickly as possible. This would be a great opportunity to do that,” said Ginn.
And he says deficits will continue to bury us until the big ticket items are dealt with.
“The president has put out some good ideas like rolling back some of the funds going to the EPA and some other areas, but we really have to have congressional action. This isn’t just going to take cuts to spending. At some point, it’s going to have to be reforms to entitlement programs to really bend the cost curve so we don’t have massive deficits and debt year after year after year,” said Ginn.
Ginn says every year that lawmakers dither on spending adds another pile to the bill facing our children and grandchildren.
“That means future generations are going to have to pay more in taxes. Currently the national debt is around $21 trillion. (This years projected deficit) would push it up to $22 trillion or $23 trillion. If you add in unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare, we’re over $100 trillion in debt,” said Ginn.
Ginn says some states are modeling fiscal responsibility and that Congress could take a lesson from his state of Texas.
“When you look at the Texas model of low taxes, relatively less government spending and sensible regulation, what we’ve been able to do in Texas is pass conservative budgets that don’t increase by more than population growth plus inflation. Actually it’s been less than that.
“It would be great to see the day where Congress can do that. And that would help it to live within taxpayers’ means over time,” said Ginn.
Meanwhile, the past several days on Wall Street have investors reaching for the antacid. Before Tuesday’s gains, the markets saw the biggest losing streak in about two years. Ginn says the negative numbers approached the range of a typical correction, but figuring out why takes some work.
“Eighty percent of businesses have come in above expectations for earnings in the fourth quarter, so you would expect greater increases in the stock market as well. But there’s also anticipation of faster economic growth and higher inflation, and some of those things are starting to contribute to an increase in interest rates, which slows economic growth and reduces the money supply in circulation,” said Ginn.
But with the Federal Reserve edging interest rates up recently, why is inflation becoming a problem? Ginn sees two reasons.
“Part of that is from the economic growth potential from the tax cuts that were passed and people are already starting to see an increase in their pay. As they see an increase in pay, they like to spend more and that increases demand. Without the increase in supply – which I think we will see from increased production from businesses – that would increase inflation,” said Ginn.
But there’s another, very different reason inflation concerns are mounting.
“The Federal Reserve has increased the money supply quite dramatically over the last decade, from quantitative easing and everything else. So you’re seeing inflationary pressures from that monetary factor as well,” said Ginn.
The bottom line though, says Ginn, is that Americans should have confidence in the economy going forward.
“The fundamentals are strong. The last three quarters of last year averaged three percent growth. That’s the long-term growth rate of our economy over the last 100 years,” said Ginn, noting the number is significantly better than during the Obama years.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America see decent prospects for Republicans governors in the 2018 midterms, as they are glad to see the ten most popular governors in the U.S. are all Republicans and that many of the GOP’s least popular governors are not running for re-election. They also groan as Treasury Department officials project nearly trillion dollar deficits returning this fiscal year. And they get dizzy trying to follow all the accusations and counter-attacks related to the House Intelligence Committee FISA memo, concluding that the more information that gets released the better – from all sides – so long as sources and methods are not compromised.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America get a big kick out of Democrats insisting there are no real real benefits for the middle class in the recent tax bill – even as company after company publicly announces higher wages, new jobs, and bonuses. They also shake their heads as emergency official in Hawaii create a major mess by trying to run a missile alert drill and send out an actual missile alert instead. And they sigh as convicted military leaker and felon Bradley Manning, who now identifies as a woman named Chelsea, runs for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.