Odds and ends number 83

Subtitled, the post-election edition.

I have a number of items I collected over the last few weeks that I figured I would end up getting to after the election. Well, the election is over so now I can clean out the e-mail box with this handy feature.

Despite Donald Trump’s stated defense of Planned Parenthood (coupled with his vow to defund it) and shaky position on abortion, the head of the pro-life group Created Equal was pleased with the election results and their efforts in securing them.

“Now, we must hold our new president-elect accountable for his promises to defund Planned Parenthood, pass a 20-week ban, and nominate a Constitutionalist to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Created Equal’s Mark Harrington.

Defunding Planned Parenthood will be a battle since Congress controls the purse strings and a Republican majority couldn’t get the job done in this edition of Congress. And as a reminder: they are funded through September 30, 2017 – the end of the federal fiscal year. Passing a 20-week ban and getting a pro-life SCOTUS justice will also be difficult with 48 Democrat Senators, although eight of them may want to keep in mind that Trump won their state and they are up for re-election two years hence. (In 2018 Democrats face the same minefield Republicans did this time: 23 of 33 Senate seats at stake are held by Democrats, along with two “independents” who caucus with the Democrats.) But I suspect the pro-life side will be disappointed with a President Trump; however, I never thought he would be President either so he may shock us all.

Another group angling for a payoff is my old friends at the American Alliance for Manufacturing, who are begging:

President-elect Trump and Congress must come together on much needed investment that will put Americans to work building and repairing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Stronger trade enforcement to address China’s massive overcapacity and a crackdown on countries trying to circumvent U.S. trade laws can boost manufacturing jobs.

Factory workers were more than a prop in this election. Now’s the time to deliver for them.

The signs are there that Trump may be their kind of President: we know he’s more hawkish on trade, and he’s planning on making it possible for up to $1 trillion in private-sector infrastructure investment over the next decade. But it takes two (or more) to tango on trade, so progress on that front may be slow. And the union-backed AAM may not be happy with the infrastructure plan if it doesn’t feature union-friendly rules and prevailing wage regulations. (Maybe this is a good time to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act? I doubt Congress has the guts to.)

But if you thought AAM wanted a tougher stance on trade, this diatribe came from Kevin Kearns, head of the U.S. Business & Industry Council:

Trump’s antagonists (on trade) are Wall Street institutions, multinational corporations, major business organizations, academic economists, editorial boards, business journalists, opinion writers, bloggers, and the generally knowledge-free mainstream media. All are opposed to Trump because they are wedded to a false, outdated “free trade” dogma, which has decimated the working and middle classes.

On Capitol Hill, a minority of Democrats and majority of Republicans are partial to the same free-trade theories. Speaker Paul Ryan admitted as much in his remarks on the election victory, noting that Trump alone had recognized the dire plight of average Americans.

I found it interesting that the LifeZette site has as its editor-in-chief Trump ally (and radio talk show host) Laura Ingraham. But this was the real payoff of the Kearns piece for me:

Trump must impose a Value-Added Tax of 18-20 percent applicable at the border to all imports. Over 150 of our trading partners use such taxes to make American exports pricier in their home markets. We should reciprocate.

So anything we import becomes 18 to 20 percent more expensive? Yeah, that will end well.

Another item in the election hopper was some attempted reform from another guy who I’ve oftentimes cited on my website, Rick Weiland. A “trifecta of reform” his group successfully put on the South Dakota ballot went 1-for-3 the other night. Measures for redistricting reform and non-partisan elections failed, but South Dakota voters narrowly passed a sweeping campaign finance reform package the state’s Attorney General said “may be challenged in court on constitutional grounds.”

Personally, I would have been fine with the two that failed in a broad sense – as a Maryland resident, I know all about partisan gerrymandering and would be interested to see how non-partisan elections pan out. (The duopoly would have a fit, I’m sure.) But this campaign finance reform was a bad idea from the get-go, and it tips the Democrats’ hand on how they would attack the Citizens United decision. One controversial facet of this new law would be a $9 per registered voter annual appropriation to pay for this public financing - such a law in Maryland would be a required annual $35 million appropriation from our General Fund. (The fund Larry Hogan used in his successful 2014 campaign was built with voluntary donations via a checkoff on income tax forms; a checkoff that was dormant for several years but was restored last year.)

And instead of “democracy credits” as this amendment proposed, a better idea would be one I believe Ohio still uses: a tax deduction of up to $50 for political donations. But I’m sure soon a South Dakota court (and maybe beyond) will be ruling on this one.

I also received some free post-election advice from the creators of iVoterGuide, which is an offshoot of a small Christian group called the Heritage Alliance (not to be confused with the Heritage Foundation.)

Pray specifically for the appointment of Godly people as our newly elected President selects his Cabinet and closest advisors.  Pray that the Administration, Senate and House will work together to honor life and liberty as set out in our constitution by our founding fathers.  Pray for ALL elected officials to humble themselves and seek God’s will for our nation.  We need to repent, individually and as a nation, and turn from policies contrary to God’s word.

Pray for unity and peace.  Our country is deeply divided. Christians must truly start loving our neighbors as ourselves so that there can be a spiritual awakening.  Now is not a time to gloat but to turn our hearts continually toward God so we can be examples of His love and work toward reconciliation and unity.  Pray for all nations, as a new stage is being set both nationally and internationally.

I think I can handle that. Oddly enough, this was also a subject of our Bible study prayer group Wednesday – maybe one or more of them is on this e-mail list, too. As for iVoterGuide, what they need is a larger state-level base as Maryland and Delaware aren’t among the handful of states they cover (it’s mostly federal.)

As iVoterGuide‘s executive director Debbie Wuthnow concludes, “we ask you pray about how God wants you to be involved in retaining the freedoms He has so graciously granted us.” I suspect I’m going in the right direction here but one never knows what doors open up.

I was originally going to add some energy-related items to this mix, but I think I will hold them until later this week for a reason which will become apparent. There’s one other subset of items I’m going to have fun with tomorrow – I would consider them odds but not ends. And so it goes.

Haiti needs electricity. Hillary gives them a sweatshop (and her foundation gets a new donor)

November 1, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, Marita Noon, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

Until Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti nearly a month ago, on October 4, the impoverished island country was out of the headlines – pushed aside by election news. But new emails which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Republican National Committee and then shared with ABC News, made public on October 11, make Haiti part of the U.S. election news, as they highlight the cozy connections between the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton’s cronies. The corruption that has been brought to light is nothing short of scandalous – though, since it’s merely one more such story, few are probably following it.

I’m aware of this new information due to my multi-year collaboration with Christine Lakatos and her Green Corruption Files. She alerted me to the “bombshell new evidence” and she now has a full 26-page report available.

Hurricane Matthew made clear that the billions of dollars that poured into Haiti after the 2010 earthquake did little to help the 1.5 million people who were displaced when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed their homes in 2010. According to the New York Times, 55,000 people were still living in shelters when Matthew hit. However, earlier this year, HBO’s VICE newsmagazine series did a segment titled: The Haitian Moneypit. In it, Vikram Gandhi takes viewers through the deplorable conditions found in the refugee camps that have no electricity, fresh water, or functioning toilets. He claims: “hundreds of thousands of survivors are still displaced.”

Gandhi says that despite the $10 billion in relief that came into Haiti after the earthquake, “many parts of Port-au-Prince still look like the earthquake struck just yesterday.” He addresses the Zoranje model home project – described as a $2.4 million dollar showroom and the first approved reconstruction project headed by Bill Clinton and the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. However, Gandhi reports, the homes were unsuited to Haiti. Once the expo was over, zero homes were built for Haitians. Today the model homes are occupied by squatters who live in the makeshift village without plumbing or electricity.

Perhaps the homes were never built because the companies didn’t donate, or didn’t donate enough, to the Clinton Foundation. In his film Clinton Cash, Peter Schweizer relays a story about a Florida firm with extensive disaster relief experience. The company spent $100 million getting equipment into Haiti, but only made a small contribution to the Clinton Foundation. The company didn’t get any relief contracts. Many contracts went to relief organizations that were also involved in the Clinton Foundation - which brags about its role in Haiti.

Lakatos explains: “In digging through over 1000 emails from Hillary’s State Department related to Haiti, I discovered additional damning proof that the Haiti ‘reconstruction plan’ was a huge pay-to-play scheme for filling the coffers of the Clintons and their cronies.” She continues: “We now have an ocean of evidence confirming that our former president Bill Clinton and his wife, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, exploited the poor Haitian people in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.”

In 2015, in an article titled The King and Queen of Haiti, Politico summarizes: “The amounts of money over which the Clintons and their foundation had direct control paled beside the $16.3 billion that donors pledged in all.”

While Lakatos’ complete report provides details with links to the supporting documentation, due to space here I am jumping to what I believe is the most dramatic example: The Caracol Industrial Park (CIP) – a $300 million project that was planned before the 2010 earthquake and was built in a part of Haiti that was not impacted by the earthquake (therefore not helping the victims.) The CIP was originally lauded by Secretary Clinton as creating 100,000 new jobs in Haiti, but got revised down and down – with current jobs at a dim 8000-9000.

The comingling of players, companies and organizations is overwhelming – but one of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidants, Cheryl Mills, is at the center of it. Addressing the project and the Clintons’ “public-private web,” the New York Times (NYT) states: “Cheryl D. Mills worked ceaselessly to help a South Korean garment maker open a factory in Haiti, the centerpiece of United States government’s efforts to jump-start the island nation’s economy after the 2010 earthquake.”

In short, “Sea-A Trading secured millions of dollars in incentives to make its Haiti investment more attractive,” writes NYT. Sea-A Trading’s chairman Woong-ki Kim became a Clinton Foundation donor after his firm secured the lucrative contract in Haiti. NYT calls Kim: “the sort of enlightened global capitalist the Clintons favor.” Adding to the intrigue, when Mills left the state department, she started a company called BlackIvy Group – for which Kim is a financial backer. NYT describes the relationship this way: “The partnership with Mr. Kim sheds light on the business activities of Ms. Mills – a longtime Clinton loyalist who is likely to play a significant role in any future Clinton White House – as well as the interlocking public and private relationships that have long characterized the Clintons’ inner circle.”

The company makes clothes using Haiti’s cheap labor (roughly $6.85 a day – though reports claim the factory doesn’t pay that much and accuse the factory of sexual harassment, bullying and humiliation.) Workers complain that after they pay for lunch and transportation, they don’t have enough money left to feed their families. Many feel that they were better off farming the land they were thrown off of to make room for CIP.

The primarily female workforce makes clothes for large American retailers, including Walmart and Gap Inc., which get special tax breaks for importing the clothes made in Haiti.  Both companies are Clinton Foundation donors: Walmart has given $1 million to $5 million and Gap has given between $250,000 and $500,000 to the foundation.

Part of the $124 million in “incentives” the U.S. government provided (an unwitting donation from taxpayers) for CIP was to build a power plant to run the factory. While I have been unable to ascertain what fuels the plant, video makes it clear it is not wind or solar that Clinton touts. My research revealed: “Haiti is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels for electric generation.” It is most likely oil-fueled.

The electricity provided by the Caracol Electrification Project also powers some of the surrounding communities. The USAID site features stories of people living with electricity for the first time and elaborates on the dramatic improvement in health and quality of life since the area has reliable power. Many other similar reports exist.

A few months ago, Lakatos and I wrote about Hillary’s clean cookstove initiative: The developing world wants natural gas and electricity, Hillary Clinton sends cookstoves. This story is similar. Haiti needs electricity and Hillary gives them a sweatshop.

Considering the conditions in the Sea-A Trading factory and the hundreds of thousands of people throughout Haiti living in plastic tents and without electricity and the benefits it provides – one must wonder if the hundreds of millions of dollars that went to enriching Clinton Foundation donors, like Kim, wouldn’t have been better spent providing reliable fossil-fuel power to the people of Haiti. Doing so would have boosted the economy and helped families improve their lives. But that’s not how the Clintons operate and their fingerprints are all over the Haiti recovery efforts. Obviously, they have hurt the Haitian people, while helping themselves and their friends.

On November 8, America will decide if this is the kind of leadership we want.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Earning my presidential vote: trade and job creation

I am finally approaching the halfway point in this quest, and pocketbook issues have considerable importance. This section is the first of two consecutive segments dealing with the economic end of government. Trade and job creation, to me, are the areas of government which most directly affect your income. (The next section, taxation, is the other end of the pocketbook equation.)

As I have noted throughout, you can work your way through the series by starting here and working forward as issues gain in weighting my decision.

In five bullet points or less, our next President should:

  • Revisit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (and other deals) to see if they can be salvaged as a good deal for the United States – which provides the majority of the GDP in each deal and should have the most favorable terms while maintaining our sovereignty. Otherwise, I believe in free trade that is fair, so we should work to isolate countries who don’t play by the rules.
  • Get government out of the way! According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, regulations cost business $1.885 trillion in 2015. That has to stop.
  • Rather than knuckle under to the knuckleheads who think we should have a “living wage,” the federal minimum wage should be abolished entirely. States are free to continue the lunacy and watch their businesses suffer the consequences when minimum wages get too high for the market.
  • Be an advocate and cheerleader for the right-to-work movement.
  • Invest in necessary federal infrastructure, particularly highways – the “post roads” of the modern era. Not only does this benefit job creation but it would assist in getting goods from place to place more quickly.

So where do my contenders stand? Let’s find out how many of the nine points they will receive.

Castle: Opposed to TPP as “the worst of our free-trade agreements.” Should freely trade with all nations but formal agreements cost us sovereignty. (Facebook)

Hedges: Opposes Republican policy of giving away our jobs through free trade.

Supports “appropriate employment at a living wage available to all citizens who are able to work.”

“The importing of goods from and the offshoring of services to other nations are the primary causes of lost jobs and impoverished communities in America. We favor free trade only on a reciprocal basis among equals. We will impose balancing tariffs on all goods imported from countries whose wage scales, labor benefits, and environmental protections are not similar to our own. No nation which fails to protect the civil rights of its citizens may be accorded ‘most favored nation.’” (party platform)

As a party they also support right-to-work states and would index Congressional pay to the minimum wage.

Hoefling: “Politicians constantly talk about ‘jobs, jobs, jobs,’ even though they don’t have any jobs to offer that aren’t government jobs, or jobs that are subsidized by the taxpayers, and by debt shoved off on our grandchildren. As if we don’t already have more than enough of those kinds of jobs, right?

Here’s another thing: while working for a paycheck is certainly an honorable thing, it is not the American ideal. The ideal is for YOU to OWN your own piece of this country.

My goal, should I become the governor, is not to offer jobs to my fellow Iowans, or to use your money to bribe some company to provide you with a job. My goal is to secure your rights, and to then create an economic environment of FREEDOM, low taxes, reasonable, minimal regulation, and OWNERSHIP, an environment that will quite naturally lead to productivity and prosperity for all.

And, of course, the bonus is, companies will line up to do business in a state like that. You know it’s true.

‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’?

NO!

OWN, OWN, OWN!” (as Iowa gubernatorial candidate, 2014)

Johnson: Reduce the administrative burden. Level the playing field. Incentivize job growth.

As governors, both Gary Johnson and Bill Weld supported policies that incentivized job growth. In 2012, Gov. Johnson was praised as having the best “job creation” record of all presidential candidates. And Weld transformed Massachusetts from having the highest to the lowest unemployment rate of any industrialized state in less than 8 years.

Yet, Johnson has said that, “As Governor, I didn’t create a single job.” His point, of course, being that government doesn’t “create” jobs. Entrepreneurs, businesses, and economic prosperity are the building blocks for job growth.

Governors Johnson and Weld believe that we must allow a regulatory and tax environment that incentivizes fairness. Not one that picks winners and losers. The purpose of government regulation is to protect citizens from bad actors and the harm they might do to health, safety, and property. But regulation should not be used to manipulate the economy, to manage private lives and businesses, or to place unnecessary burdens on those who make our economy work.

Today, the reason so much corruption and power thrive in Washington, D.C., is that powerful corporate interests actually benefit from over-regulation. After all, they have the resources to comply with onerous laws. But for the average American, entrepreneur, or small businessperson, they don’t have teams of high-priced attorneys to help them navigate the bureaucracy.

We simply need to apply common sense to regulatory policy. Let’s get rid of the unnecessary laws and taxes that siphon the resources businesses use to create the jobs we need.

Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld helped create the conditions for job growth in their states. In the White House, they will create the conditions for massive job growth across the entire country. (campaign website)

McMullin: American businesses export more than $2.2 trillion per year of goods and services. The demand for American exports supported 11.5 million jobs, an increase of more than 50 percent over the past 20 years. On average, these jobs pay 18 percent more than jobs that are unrelated to exports. For all these reasons, Evan believes that trade is an engine of prosperity and that well-designed trade agreements can help our economy grow even more.

At the same time, we can do more to help American workers adjust and thrive in the 21st century. Since 2000, the U.S. economy has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs, although more than 12 million Americans still work at factories. The main driver of this trend is advanced technology, especially advances in robotics and computing. Today, U.S. automakers produce just as many cars as they did 20 years ago, yet the auto industry employs 300,000 fewer workers, a reduction of almost 25 percent.

Therefore, Evan believes that one of the most important ways to help American workers is to make education more affordable while supporting the growth of technical schools, online education, and work-based training programs. It is essential to support these alternatives to the typical full-time four-year degree program, which may not be a good fit for older students who need to work and support their families while studying. While U.S. factories have cut millions of jobs for those with a high school education or less, hiring of college graduates remains stable, while hiring of those with graduate degrees continues to demonstrate strong growth.

Around the globe—even in China—manufacturing employment is shrinking rapidly as factories rely more and more on advanced technology. Thus, using tariffs to raise the cost of Chinese imports won’t bring those jobs back to the United States. In fact, it will kill American jobs, because China and others will block U.S. exports, which now support more than 11 million jobs.

In addition, raising the cost of imports will force hard-pressed American families to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more each year for basic necessities, from clothing to pots and pans and diapers.

Evan supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement recently signed by 12 countries, including Japan, Australia, and Vietnam. The TPP will eliminate tariffs for all the countries that sign, but it will not go into effect until ratified by Congress, which must vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without making any changes to the agreement.

One of the biggest advantages of the TPP is that reducing tariffs to zero favors American companies. Right now, America has low tariffs, not far above zero. In contrast, other countries’ tariffs will plunge when the TPP goes into effect, opening up their markets to U.S. exports. TPP is still a good deal for those countries, because it gives them better access to the biggest market in the world (ours) and the third biggest (Japan).

TPP also helps create a level playing field between U.S. workers and their counterparts overseas. If foreign companies lower their costs by mistreating workers and polluting the environment, then its puts American companies at an unfair disadvantage. However, TPP has the strongest protections for labor and the environment of any major trade deal.

Finally, TPP is important for national security reasons. Our allies in Asia are watching to see whether the U.S. still has the ability to set the rules of the road, or whether their security depends on submitting to China. That is why the secretary of defense has said, “TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.” If the U.S. abandons TPP, China is likely to intensify its campaign of intimidation in the South China Sea. Thus, support for TPP is a win-win proposition; it enhances our security and reinforces the growth of job-creating American export industries.

Americans are ready to work hard to provide for their families, but fewer and fewer are capable of finding the good jobs necessary to support a middle-class standard of living and help them to pursue their dreams. If we accept the slow growth of the Obama years this won’t change. Only if the economy begins to grow faster—at a rate of more than 3 percent year instead of less than 2—will good jobs become more widely available.

Right now, there are three major roadblocks standing in the way of a stronger economy: a tax code that rewards special interests while hurting small businesses, excessive regulations that cost businesses almost $2 trillion per year, and runaway entitlement spending that multiplies the national debt.

Evan McMullin will dismantle these roadblocks. (Editor’s note: see my next part, taxation, for point 1).

Federal regulations play an essential role in making sure that Americans have clean air, clean water, and safe food. Yet the blizzard of intrusive regulations issued by the Obama administration have gone far beyond what is necessary to protect our health and the natural environment. Instead, these regulations serve as an invisible tax that raises the cost of doing business and prevents firms from creating jobs. As president, Evan McMullin would direct federal agencies to identify a clear problem that needs to be fixed before resorting to further regulation. If an agency believes regulation is necessary, it would still have to prove that the benefits of a proposed regulation are greater than its costs. The same test would also be applied to existing regulations, which would be lifted if they were not achieving their goals.

If the United States can’t get its national debt under control, the government will eventually have to impose harsh taxes or pursue other policies that would drive the economy into a deep recession, destroying millions of jobs. The number one cause of runaway debt—now more than $19 trillion—is the cost of entitlements. Our country needs Social Security and Medicare to ensure the health of senior citizens and prevent them from falling into poverty. We also need Medicaid to provide health care to the needy. Yet these programs are so inefficient, wasteful, and susceptible to fraud that their costs are out of control. The result is that the government must borrow vast sums to keep the programs going. The Obama administration has already added $9 trillion to the debt, almost as much as every previous administration combined.

With a smarter tax code, streamlined regulations, and entitlement reform, the U.S. economy can begin to grow again at the rates it did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Evan McMullin believes that America should be the best place in the world for innovation, entrepreneurship and opportunity. We must reform a system that too often benefits the politically connected and the corporate elite, while leaving too many Americans without good jobs. By running for president, Evan McMullin is giving voters the opportunity to get the economy moving again instead of doubling down on the status quo. (campaign website)

**********

I wish Darrell Castle had been more specific and forthcoming on his economic policy. I’m sort of stuck here – on the one hand, the fealty to the Constitution he advocates would mean he would properly address most of my issues, but there are always the provisos and conditions to watch out for. I consider this a wasted opportunity for him. 3 points.

Jim Hedges has somewhat of a right idea on free trade, but the rub comes in dictating what policies other nations may have – particularly when we are so overregulated. Moreover, his stance on jobs at a “living wage” is troubling, and suggests he may not be as strongly in favor of the right-to-work platform plank. I can only give him 1.5 points.

I suspect Tom Hoefling is speaking of entrepreneurship, which is indeed sorely lacking in this country. Even better, it is a philosophy that is scalable to a national level, although the details could really be fleshed out more. He has the same problem as Castle insofar as the specifics aren’t being put out there and easily available. I give him more credit since he addressed the more important aspect of job creation. 4 points.

Gary Johnson gets it insofar as the philosophy goes, and he makes an extremely salient point regarding how the regulatory climate stifles competition. Big corporations become big donors, and then they move into the realm of lobbying for regulations designed to keep small players from gaining market share. But the question is how much will he do to promote “fairness” vs. to promote “opportunity.” There is a subtle but important difference, because fairness implies equality of outcome and that isn’t the way a free market works. Maybe I’m being picky with the term, but generally these campaign issue statements are thought through to make a certain point. 5.5 points.

Evan McMullin is much more sold on TPP than I am, particularly because China is not a party to it. One has to ask what we are giving up if other nations are suddenly going to reduce their tariffs to our level. I don’t think not having access to economies in Chile, Brunei, and several other signatories will break us.

And there’s the idea of justifying regulations – well, any idiot will tell you that of course the government agency that writes and enforces regulations will say they are justified. This needs to be determined independently of the government because job one for a bureaucrat is preserving his job, not solving problems. It’s also telling to me that Evan really didn’t discuss these educational alternatives in workforce training in his general education segment. Here he seems to want more government involvement, not less.

Note that I moved the taxation part of job creation to the next installment, but left the part about entitlements in because he also makes those same points there. I’ll discuss that subject in due course. Anyhow, Evan doesn’t do that well in this category with his political-speak. 2.5 points.

As I noted above, it’s certain my next part is taxation.

Blame for Ford’s Mexico move falls on Obama administration

Commentary by Marita Noon

Ford Motor Company made headlines on Wednesday, September 9, when, during an investor conference, CEO Mark Fields told attendees that it will invest $1.6 billion building a manufacturing plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and will move all of its small car production there during the next two to three years.

The announcement was hardly news as Ford has been talking about the shift for more than a year. But in the throes of an election that has both candidates decrying companies that send jobs to low-wage countries, the decision was an invitation for attention. The next day, during a speech in Flint, MI, Donald Trump declared that it was: “horrible.” He’s previously called the proposed move “an absolute disgrace” and promised to punish Ford with a 35 percent tariff on cars made in Mexico that are then sold in America – which he believes will prevent them from moving production out of the U.S.

No one wants American jobs to go away – and Ford plans to build more profitable vehicles in the plants that currently produce the Focus and C-Max small cars. It claims it is not going anywhere and that the U.S. is its home. Reports do indicate that no jobs at the Wayne, MI, plant will be lost, as it will likely be converted to building the new mid-size Ranger pick-up truck and, possibly, a new Bronco compact sport-utility.

But there’s more to the story that isn’t generally being addressed.

Earlier this year, Fields told CNBC: “We’re always going to invest where it makes sense for business.”

Obviously, it no longer makes “sense” to invest in small car production in America. Most of the news surrounding the move to Mexico addressed the benefit of low-cost labor. According to the Detroit Free Press: “The industry has known for decades that domestic manufacturers struggle to make a profit on small cars.” In Slate’s MoneyBox blog, Jordan Weissmann says: “You can protest that Ford should find a way to consistently churn out profits while manufacturing small cars at home, but that’s easier said than done.”

The number of auto jobs in Mexico is up 40 percent from 2008, while they are only up in the U.S. by 15 percent over the same period. Reuters reports: “American automakers pay Mexican workers $8 to 10 an hour, including benefits.” By comparison, Ford’s labor costs average $57 per hour at home.

Even with the huge labor cost differential, American car companies’ trucks and SUVs are profitable to manufacture in the U.S. and they are the vehicles Americans want to buy – which should raise the question: Why do car companies make small cars when they can’t make them profitably? The answer is the story not being addressed in the current coverage of Ford. And this is where Trump could, possibly, change the outcome.

In a free-market world, companies that want to stay in business should stop activities that lose money and focus on those that make money. Yet the Big Three automakers continue to produce small cars that for years have made little, if any, money.

Business Insider explains: “If Ford is going to keep them around, it needs to address the profit problem. Americans don’t want to buy small vehicles at the moment (actually, they almost never want to buy small cars), so Ford’s only rationale for continuing to build them is to satisfy the more stringent fuel-economy standards in the future.” Those fuel standards are called CAFE - which stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. In short, it means that car companies can only sell the bigger vehicles that Americans want if it also produces cars that achieve very high fuel efficiency (including electric vehicles, in which Ford is investing heavily) that results in an “average” of the mandated miles per gallon – which is now 54.5 by 2025.

Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, blames the Ford move on, along with other draconian government policies, the CAFE standards: “The CAFE standards, which began in 1975, require auto manufacturers to meet government-imposed fuel economy standards across a fleet of cars. In order to meet those standards, which have been dramatically increased under President Obama, carmakers have to make light, inexpensive cars with high fuel economy to offset their trucks and SUVs with lower fuel economy. And electric cars really help their fuel economy balance. So the companies make minimally or even unprofitable small cars and electric vehicles so they can sell their popular and profitable large products – and hope for a profit in the end. By moving their small cars to Mexico, which has skilled but cheaper labor, Ford hopes to break even or make a little profit off of them.”

While the CAFE standards have increased dramatically under the Obama administration, and have also increased costs for consumers, most people don’t realize that they are not set in stone. Brad Plumer, senior editor for VOX.com outlines the options: “A new president can revise them, up or down. These CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) rules are scheduled to come up for a midterm review in 2017. At that point, automakers may lobby to allow the standards to rise more slowly – particularly if sales of fuel-efficient vehicles have been sluggish due to low oil prices. Green groups, meanwhile, could push to make the standards stricter, or to have them keep increasing past 2025, to push vehicle emissions down even further.”

A President Trump could, perhaps, by promising to allow car companies to make whatever kind of cars they want to make, entice Ford to keep its money in America – though, admittedly, there are other factors (such as trade deals) that make manufacturing small cars attractive in Mexico. CAFE is just one of the many policies that make doing business difficult in America.

Revising the CAFE standards, which could reduce the cost of future cars and would remove government intrusion from vehicle selection, is something Trump can do that would make doing business in America “make sense” again for U.S. car companies. For all business, let’s make America a place where it makes sense to invest.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The few, the loud, the anti-fossil fuel crowd

Commentary by Marita Noon

If you get your news from the mainstream media, you likely think the views expressed by the environmental activists represent the majority of Americans. After all, their highly visible protests against the Keystone pipeline – sit-ins in front of the White House, locking themselves to the White House fence and then being arrested for it, and parading down the National Mall carrying a huge inflated tube emblazoned with the words: “Just say no to Keystone” – were effective. Despite repeated polling that showed a majority of Americans supported the pipeline, with a small minority opposed, the loud theatrics of the anti-fossil fuel crowd eventually won out. After years of stall tactics, President Obama finally bowed to their demands and said no to the job-creating infrastructure project.

Earlier this year, the usual group of suspects, led by well-known anti-fracking activist Bill McKibben, planned a “global wave of resistance” called BreakFree2016 - scheduled to take place from May 3-15 – on six continents. The event’s website announced the various activities, including an appearance and speech by McKibben, a Vermont resident, at the Colorado rally that promised: the “largest mass mobilizations for climate action in the history of Colorado.” It confirmed that there would be “civil disobedience.”

Did you hear about it? Probably not.

A news report of the planned Colorado activities said: “And on May 14, 350 Colorado is planning a day of speeches, live music and activities protesting oil and gas developments close to neighborhoods and schools in Thornton. The goal is to draw 1,000 people to the upcoming events.” The website, post-event, states: “about 800 people joined the action throughout the day” with “about 30-40 people” still there at the end of the day for the dramatic “frack-site” invasion. Yet, as even their own Facebook page photos indicate, not even 100 were present for the big McKibben speech. Without vendors and media, he may have had no audience at all.

After flying in to Denver, and then being driven to the protest site in a limousine, McKibben jetted off to Los Angeles, California, where he was joined by the greens’ “Daddy Warbucks,” billionaire political campaign donor Tom Steyer – with much the same results: a few hundred protesting fossil fuels and, as Energy In Depth reported, “the very social and economic underpinnings of liberal democracy.” The typical anti-everything protestors were present – but only a few.

In Iowa, as I addressed last week, a meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition – which according to the organizer includes those with “concerns about the impact it could have on the environment, farmers who worry about their cropland and religious groups who view expanding use of fossil fuels as a moral issue because of climate change” – expected a crowd of 200. Instead, according to the Ottumwa Courier, “only 40 or so were seated when the meeting began. Others trickled in as the meeting progressed.”

Now, Colorado is ground zero for “one of the biggest environmental fights in the country this year,” as Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director for Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based group advocating for safety in food production and oil and gas production, called it. Two ballot initiatives, 75 and 78, have the potential to, according to Colorado regulators, “effectively halt new oil and gas development in as much as 90 percent of the state.” In order to get the initiatives on the ballot, 98,492 valid signatures needed to be turned into the Colorado Secretary of State by August 8 – no later than 3:00 p.m.

In June, The Tribune reported that Tricia Olson, who has pumped in most of the funding for a group backing initiatives 75 and 78, hoped to “collect 160,000 signatures to account for the invalid signatures that inevitably pop up.” (Politico just announced: “recent campaign finance reports were filed with the Colorado secretary of state, the Sierra Club gave $150,000, making it the largest single reported contributor to the anti-fracking effort.”)

Because the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on May 2, declared local fracking limits “invalid and unenforceable,” as state law trumps local ordinances, Olson sees the ballot initiatives as their “last ditch effort.”

On Monday, August 8, exercising stagecraft, at 2:30 p.m., dozens of supporters emptied a U-Haul truck and delivered box after box of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. They celebrated their “victory.” 350 Colorado, one of the groups behind the measures, proclaimed: “We did it! Over 100,000 signatures delivered on initiatives to limit fracking!” – not the 160,000 originally hoped for, and likely not enough to get on the ballot in November.

By CBS Denver’s accounting about 105,000 signatures were turned in – most in half empty boxes. Lynn Bartels, Colorado Secretary of State Communications Director, tweeted: “Proponents of fracking measures turned in lots of boxes with very few petitions in them.” Once the petitions were consolidated, there were roughly 50 empty boxes. Simon Lomax, an associate energy policy analyst with the conservative Independence Institute in Denver and a consultant who advises pro-business groups, said: “To make it look more impressive they added a bunch of empty boxes, or boxes with very few petitions. It just sort of shows, these groups don’t do substance, they just do deceptive publicity stunts.”

On CBS Denver, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler explained that since you need about 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot because, for a variety of reasons, at least 30 percent are rejected, you need to submit at least 140,000. He says that for the 105,000 signatures turned in to qualify would be “unprecedented,” something that “has never occurred in Colorado for a ballot initiative.” According to Gessler, the effort is “doomed” – though we will not know for sure until next month when the final counts are released.

Noted election reporter and national affairs columnist for the National Review, John Fund, told me: “If there is enough public support for an issue to get the votes needed to pass, getting a surplus of signatures to get it on the ballot is an easy task.”

Many Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper, support hydraulic fracturing and have come out against the ballot initiatives. Politico posits that because mainstream environmentalists “fear that their movement will suffer a demoralizing defeat if the two proposals make it in front of the voters,” they “hope the ballot initiatives will die instead.”  Additionally, “A decisive referendum on oil and gas production would increase calls for [Hillary] Clinton to explicitly take a side.” She’s previously aligned with 75 and 78 – which could spoil her attempts to attract moderate Republicans she’ll need to win the state.

Despite their drama and declared “victory,” it doesn’t seem that the Colorado anti-fossil fuel crowd has enough signatures, or support, to make it onto the November ballot. They may be loud, but, alas, they are few.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The pipeline’s approved. Environmentalists are angry.

Commentary by Marita Noon

Final federal approval for what is being called the “new Keystone” came from the Army Corps of Engineers on July 26 – allowing the pipeline to move forward. The 1,168-mile long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), also called the Bakken Pipeline, is comparable in length to the Keystone XL. It will cross four states and carry 450,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to a transfer terminal in Illinois where it will connect with other pipelines and be taken to refineries.

The $3.8 billion dollar project has pitted environmentalists against economic interests.

During the Keystone fight, outspoken opponent Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, said: “In America we should be focused on making sure that the oil in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and others, in Montana, that that oil is getting to market.” Now, thanks to DAPL, America’s oil will have a safer way to get “to market” – freeing up as many as 750 train cars a day to transport corn, soybeans, and grain. However, as soon as DAPL came on the scene, they moved the marker, and environmental opposition was mounted. Bold Iowa, a group that shares a website with Kleeb’s Bold Nebraska, says it has members willing to risk arrest in “nonviolent protests.” They are also training monitors to report any environmental violations or hazards.

On August 1, nine pieces of heavy equipment – excavators and bulldozers – were set on fire at three different DAPL construction sites, causing $3 million in damage. At the time of this writing, no arrests have been made. Additionally, protestors have gathered on the grounds of the North Dakota Capitol, calling for Governor Jack Dalrymple and legislators to put a halt to construction of the pipeline until their lawsuits are addressed.

On its “Stop the Bakken Pipeline” page, the Iowa Sierra Club posted: “A new pipeline will delay the US transition to clean and renewable energy and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The United States needs to move away from fossil fuel extractions and to energy sources that have less impact on climate change.”

The Club’s position sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton’s. When she finally came out against Keystone, she said: “We need to be transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy.” She called the pipeline “a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change.”

Opposition, however, is not as broad-based as the environmental groups had hoped for. At an April meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition in Iowa, organizers were disappointed. Chairs were set up for 200, but only about 40 “trickled in.” In the four states the pipeline will cross, more than 90 percent, on average, of the landowners signed the voluntary easement agreements.

At its peak, the DAPL’s construction is expected to involve as many as 4,000 workers in each state and will require the purchase of $200 million in American-made heavy construction and related equipment from Caterpillar, Deere, and Vermeer.

Cory Bryson, Business Agent for Laborers Local 563 reports: “We’ve been inundated with calls from all over the country from people wanting to work on this pipeline project. Mainline pipeline projects like Dakota Access provide excellent working opportunities for our members and tremendous wages. The Laborers excel at this work.” No wonder men and women want to travel to the pipeline’s locale, some workers, most without college degrees, brag about banking $2,000-5,000 a week.

In Illinois, the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce has assembled hundreds of packets with information including restaurants, health-care facilities, RV sites, and laundromats. Executive Director Lisa Musch reports that her office has been receiving calls for months from people looking for rental properties. Teriann Gutierrez, owner of Buena Vista Farms, a resort-campground, and a retired plastics engineer, says: “I’ve been full since the beginning of April.” She told me the boost in population is bringing a lot of money into the community that has been hit hard with the loss of manufacturing jobs. DAPL is putting a lot of local people to work. Gutierrez is very thankful as the boom means she’ll be able to pay down debt.

“Like any major construction project, the DAPL will create, and more importantly maintain, high paying American jobs throughout the supply chain and throughout the nation,” North Dakota’s at-large Congressman Kevin Cramer said. “I’ve seen the crews that work on building the line and they take great pride in their craft. They spend money in local, usually rural, communities throughout the route. The steel suppliers and equipment manufacturers and distributors are just a few of the links in the chain. Everybody from fry cooks to hotel owners to financers are affected. Perhaps, most importantly, in a low price crude market, the economics of moving oil by the most efficient and safe manner possible preserves jobs on the production side of the equation as well.”

While DAPL is already creating lots of jobs, it is just one of many pipeline projects in the works that could be bringing much needed economic development to other communities and high-paying jobs for American workers. Gutierrez explained that, according to the workers staying at Buena Vista Farms: “The hardest thing is getting the permits. The long process holds up jobs.” Apparently, many of them made reservations but, then, had to delay them – and delay starting to work on the pipeline – because the permits hadn’t been approved as expected. It doesn’t have to be that way. Under President Obama, permitting for oil-and-gas activity has been slow-walked. Jobs have been held up.

Donald Trump has made clear that he’ll support pipelines and said he’ll invite TransCanada to reapply for the Keystone permit. On the other side, Clinton opposed Keystone and supports moving away from fossil fuels. Secretary of State John Kerry, Clinton’s successor, has implied that with “some 300 pipelines” we really don’t need any more. He said: “it’s not as if we’re pipeline-less.” A Clinton administration would likely extend the Obama delay tactic.

Whichever candidate wins in November will appoint agency heads who support his or her views – thus driving the policy direction.

Like Gutierrez, union members are grateful for the jobs. Last week, Dave Barnett, Pipeline Representative for the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, told me: “We are pleased that the thousands of job opportunities associated with these projects are being decided on their need and merits, not on political pressures by extremists as the Keystone XL was.”

Whether the thousands of additional job opportunities materialize depends on American voters. Will we vote for pipelines that fuel the American economy and transport our natural resources safely and cheaply? Or, will we block job creation and economic development by voting with the environmentalists who want to “keep it in the ground?” In less than 100 days, we’ll have the answer to these important questions.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Can Salisbury be Hockeytown south?

July 1, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff, Sports · Comments Off 

Over the last couple days there has been quite the buzz about Salisbury becoming home to professional hockey at long last, since the alcohol restrictions on the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center are no longer in effect. One story on the WBOC-TV website quotes an official with the Federal Hockey League, which is a lower-level minor league comparable to an independent league in baseball as teams are not affiliated as farm clubs for a particular NHL team. According to Andrew Richards of the FHL, “for a team to survive, each game would generally need to see 1,200 to 1,500 attendees at roughly $10 per ticket.”

It’s interesting that this post will come right after my Shorebird of the Week post; however, I am a much more casual hockey fan than I am a baseball fan. I lived in Toledo, a city with a longstanding minor league hockey history dating back to the 1940s, and attended one or two games over the years (as opposed to perhaps fifty Mud Hen games.) Yet the criteria Richards uses is definitely doable if people are willing to spend a little bit more than they would for a Shorebirds game.

However, if Salisbury wants to have a successful hockey franchise, the FHL may not be the place to be. Formed in 2010, the league has suffered some serious growing pains to get to its current 7-team status. (Six clubs played in 2015-16; a seventh team in St. Clair Shores, Michigan is an expansion team for 2016-17 and the eighth team out of Watertown, New York is supposed to return from a one-year “hiatus” this fall.) The other serious contender would be the Southern Professional Hockey League, a ten-team league that is several years older and seems to be more established. They have an eleventh team that is taking a year off in 2016-17 due to renovations to its arena, so Salisbury would be a good fit as a twelfth team for the 2017-18 season.

But travel would also be somewhat more of a concern for an SPHL franchise – while Salisbury is not in the geographic center of either loop, the closest SPHL team would be in Roanoke, Virginia, which is about six hours away. Its other franchises are in Tennessee, North Carolina, two in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Illinois, and Indiana. On the other hand, there are two FHL teams about five hours away, in Danbury, Connecticut and Brewster, New York. There are other teams in New York and New Hampshire, but the western side of the FHL is Midwest-based with franchises in Ohio, Michigan (2), and Illinois.

Attendance-wise, though, Salisbury could be one of the more successful FHL teams. Both the SPHL and FHL give host teams 28 games, but attendance at SPHL games is comparable to the South Atlantic League in minor league baseball, where teams average between 2,000 to 3,000 a contest. Using Richards’ formula, none of the six FHL teams that played last year would be a success: the closest two were Danville, Illinois, which averaged 1,120 and Port Huron, Michigan, which drew 1,044 per game. The other four ranged from 243 to 774 per game, which meant half-empty (or even cavernously vacant, in Dayton’s case) arenas. Unfortunately for Salisbury, the more successful FHL teams tend to be in the Midwest so we may not have close rivals; moreover, I’d have serious concerns about the entire league going belly-up, which may be why they are pursuing our area so hard thanks to a reasonably-sized arena and presumably hockey-starved market. (They obviously factor in the thousands of NY/NJ/PA retirees living less than an hour away in Sussex County and Ocean Pines.)

So nothing is official yet. But to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we may get ourselves a hockey team – if we can keep it.

2016 Salisbury Shore Craft Beer Festival in pictures and text

June 19, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

It was a perfect day to be downtown and try a few local craft beers, so I went to the inaugural Salisbury Shore Craft Beer Festival (SSCBF) held downtown along the Riverwalk. (The Salisbury designation distinguishes it from a similar event with the same sponsor in Ocean City, the first of which was held last October.) It was also billed as a “Riverwalk Celebration” and while they are renovating it, there’s still some work in progress.

To be fair, I was looking west from the Division Street bridge and most of the Riverwalk lies east of the structure. But this was the site chosen for the festival.

Early on I thought the crowd was a little bit meager. I took this photo about 2:00, a half-hour after the gates were opened for general admission. (VIP ticket holders could get in at 12:30.)

One area where the festival will have room to grow is the food selection. The Division Street bridge served as a mini-food court.

As time went on, though, the crowds thickened a little bit. This photo was taken from along the river looking toward the stage.

One thing that I got to take advantage of was making my first visit to Headquarters Live, which was a nice place to sit down. There wasn’t a tent with picnic tables set up on the main festival site.

Now if you had the entry in the pool that said the first band I would see there would be called Billy Earl and the Pink Flamingos, you would be right – but I would have called you nuts.

I’ll have much more on them as well as Eastern Electric on the mobile stage when I do a “Weekend of local rock” post later this week, but suffice to say Headquarters Live is a smaller venue than I imagined. Yet the festival was shrewd in tying the outdoor stage and indoor venue together, with a separate wristband for each. This gives them a logical area for expansion beyond the small parcel that was used across Division Street and along the river.

As it was, there was a comfortable amount of people in the park where you didn’t feel like you were tripping over anyone yet there was enough to give the event some energy. Unlike the Good Beer Festival, which is held in a secluded location outside of town, people could readily walk in from outside but they could not sample the beer. Another asset was the fact that it was all local breweries – none of those mainstream brewers that are still considered crafters like Sam Adams or Blue Moon which come to the Good Beer Festival from afar. This will limit the event’s size to some extent as the area can only support so many breweries and expanding to markets farther and farther away will run them into stiff competition from their local crafters. There were twelve area breweries represented at the SSCBF, pouring around 30 beers as well as a couple of tea concoctions.

I think the event was rather successful considering it was held at a time when few other events off the beach seem to succeed. Most of our larger local festivals actually occur during what’s considered “shoulder season” before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. (April and October are the favored months.) In this case, the SSCBF was up against the OC Air Show and the end of the Firefly Music Festival as well as at a time when Salisbury University isn’t in regular session, so there were a lot of distractions. It may succeed a little more a week earlier or a week later, but this isn’t a bad summer event.

So we will see what happens next year and find out how much more of the Riverwalk they take advantage of.

Leadership on trade?

June 8, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Campaign 2016 - President, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I have a sneaking hunch that my friend Rick Manning of Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and Donald Trump may not see eye to eye on what constitutes “limited” government should Trump be elected, but one thing ALG is encouraging Trump to pursue is a more America-centric policy on trade.

On Monday ALG released a letter they sent to Trump thanking him for “giving voice to the reality that the deals negotiated by our leaders are anything but free trade or good for America.”

Manning cited two examples of poor trade practice in his letter, with the first singling out the struggles one American shoe maker endures in competing with Nike:

The average Vietnamese worker makes $150 a month, virtual slave wages.  But the average Vietnamese textile worker who makes shoes earns even less, in fact, about 30 percent less down to $100 a month according to Vietnamonline.com. While this is good for Nike, which doesn’t actually make any of its hundred dollar plus tennis shoes here in America, it is bad for their competitor, New Balance, which employs 900 Americans in Massachusetts and Maine making footwear.

Let me step in for a minute (pun intended.) I happen to prefer New Balance shoes for a simple reason: it is far easier for me to find their shoes in the wide width I need because I wear 4E wide shoes for my duck feet. New Balance seems to have their finger on the pulse of the American market better than Nike, which outsources their production to the cheapest possible outposts. (It shows in their quality, too. I’ve been disappointed in the couple pairs of Nikes I’ve owned.) But Nike has a far bigger market share thanks to the power of marketing, if not necessarily the quality of their shoes.

Manning goes on to cite a second imbalance he’s hoping Trump may address:

Another egregious example of American policy being out of whack is the area of agricultural subsidies and trade.  A specific example is the much maligned U.S. sugar policy, which is in place to offset massive sugar subsidization by producers like Brazil, Thailand and India.  These countries’ subsidies and trade-distorting policies have wrecked the world sugar market and could drive the U.S. industry out of business.

Over the years Life Savers, Dum-Dums and other candy products have seen their production relocated to Canada or Mexico – not because of labor costs but the cost of sugar. Since the ingredient is the major proportion of the product, it only makes sense to find the cheapest alternative. Manning cites one proposal to address this:

However, there is a solution for someone with a hard-nosed desire to get the best deal for the American people and end agriculture subsidies.  U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation that would end the U.S. sugar program when the U.S. gets other nations to do the same through the World Trade Organization.  Yoho’s approach, making the end of our sugar policy contingent upon our competitors eliminating their subsidies, too, gives the President a powerful tool to use as a cudgel over world-wide agricultural competitor’s heads, because Congress would have already done its work.

The ALG letter also goes on to talk about ending Chinese currency manipulation, which is a familiar complaint from manufacturing groups as well. But Manning is adamant about manufacturing’s place in the American economy. “Rebuilding a robust domestic manufacturing sector is important to restoring America’s economic leadership in the world, and in doing so, providing hope to our nation that tomorrow will once again be better than today,” concluded Manning. And he’s right.

But trade is only one part of the equation. We have to encourage more businesses to create jobs by not making it mandatory they give 35 cents of every dollar back in taxes. While Trump addressed this in his tax plan by cutting corporate rates to 15 percent, he has several provisos such as a “one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash,” and ending deferral on corporate income earned abroad. Bear in mind as well Trump admitted that his tax plan as presented is his “optimal plan,” but subject to negotiation – so the rate may be higher, the “one-time” repatriation may become annual, and it may be tied to other non-productive policies such as a minimum wage hike. Regulations are another issue which Trump is vague about, telling CNBC he wanted to scrap “a slew” of them, but not being specific.

Trump, however, is also talking about our own currency manipulation, questioning the wisdom of a strong dollar. Having a weaker dollar would tend to be protectionist policy, making imports more expensive but allowing our products to be more competitive elsewhere. By the same token, it would encourage international visitors while making American trips abroad more expensive. But it also could enhance inflation.

If Trump wins the election, it’s truly anyone’s guess what effect he will have on the economy. He could be the boost we need to get back to 4-5% annual growth we haven’t seen since the Clinton-Gingrich tech boom era of the 1990s or he could make us long for actual growth instead of depression. It’s truly anyone’s guess, and one piece of the puzzle will be how the market reacts to Trump’s more protectionist policies.

Finally, courage to counterpunch the green bullies

June 7, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

When the name Resolute was chosen in 2011, after the merger of Bowater and Abitibi-Consolidated, the Canadian company, a global leader in the forest products industry and the largest producer of newsprint in the world, likely didn’t know what a harbinger it was. Today, it stands alone, set in purpose, with firmness and determination. Displaying the rare courage to stand up to the typical environmental extremists’ campaign of misinformation and shaming designed to shut it down, Resolute Forest Products is fighting back.

Many people are probably unaware of the shakedown tactics used by groups whose touchy-feely names belie their true goals.

Like most companies, Resolute originally went along. As Peter Foster explains in the Financial Post: “a cabal of radical environmental non-governmental organizations, ENGOs – including Greenpeace, ForestEthics and the David Suzuki Foundation – agreed to stop their campaigns of customer harassment in return for the members of the Forest Products Association of Canada, FPAC, agreeing to sanitize a swathe of the Canadian Boreal forest, and to ‘consult’ on development plans. Astonishingly, governments played no part.” The result was the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The ENGOs ultimately aspired to put the majority of the Boreal forest off limits – ending economic development. Regarding the Greenpeace-promoted concept of “intact forest landscape protection,” Laurent Lessard, Quebec’s Minister of Forest, Wildlife and Parks, says it threatens “absolutely devastating” economic implications.

Resolute had been a major supporter of the Agreement and has participated in other efforts between ENGOs and industry to work out differences. Despite that, using a campaign of lies and intimidation, ENGOs have constantly attacked Resolute. At one point, in 2012, the false claims were so egregious, Resolute threatened legal action against Greenpeace – which garnered an unprecedented apology and retraction from Greenpeace. However, they came back with vengeance. Greenpeace continued to publicize the same false statements and dubbed Resolute a Boreal forest “destroyer.”

Engaged in a war without violence, Greenpeace has since attacked Rite-Aid Pharmacy for “getting millions of pounds of paper from controversial logging giant Resolute Forest Products,” calling Resolute: “a company with a history of environmental destruction.” Greenpeace was successful with a similar harassment campaign against Best Buy. Resolute was the company’s primary paper supplier, but due to the shaming, Best Buy announced it would seek other sources. Greenpeace has no plans to stop the tactic. Other targeted companies include Canadian Tire (a retailer with more than 1700 outlets), Home Depot and Office Depot, Proctor & Gamble and 3M. Foster reports: “Greenpeace itself has calculated that its campaigns have cost Resolute at least $100 million.”

Somewhere between the Greenpeace retraction and May 2013, an epiphany – similar to what occurred between the president of the U.S. and the space alien in the movie Independence Day – must have taken place. In the clip, the captured alien is choking someone with its tentacle and the president is trying to negotiate with it. He tries to reason with the alien and suggests that they could “coexist.” He asks the alien what it wants them to do. The alien simply responds: “die.” Resolute must have realized that no matter how many agreements it might sign, the global network of ENGOs come back with more and more rigid requirements until the tentacles choke the company out.

On May 23, 2013, Resolute filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace claiming it damaged the company’s “business, goodwill and reputation.” The suit asserts defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations and seeks damages of $5 million as well as punitive damages of $2 million, plus costs. Greenpeace says the suit “is an effort to subdue Greenpeace into silence and send a message to other groups that they should stay quiet.” It believes the suit should have been thrown out, but despite several attempts, the Judge has disagreed and allowed unflattering accusations about Greenpeace’s global law-breaking activities to remain.

While the Canadian lawsuit makes its way through the courts and the appeals process, Resolute has just taken another bold step to defend itself against the green bully’s attacks.

On May 31, Resolute took a page from the ENGO’s playbook and, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, filed a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) suit against Greenpeace and a number of its associates who, though they claim to be independent, act cooperatively. The RICO Act intended to deal with the mob as a loose organization, or “enterprise,” with a pattern of activity and common nefarious purposes, such as extortion. (Greenpeace has asked the Justice Department to use the RICO Act to investigate oil companies and organizations that sow doubts about the risks of climate change.)

The 100-page complaint alleges that Greenpeace and its affiliates are a RICO “enterprise.” According to the Resolute news release, it describes the deliberate falsity of the malicious and defamatory accusations the enterprise has made and details how, to support its false accusations, “Greenpeace has fabricated evidence and events, including, for example, staged photos falsely purporting to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas.”  The suit also calls Greenpeace a “global fraud” out to line its pockets with money from donors and says that “maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s true objective.” Additionally, it cites admissions by Greenpeace’s leadership that it “emotionalizes” issues to manipulate audiences.

In the U.S. lawsuit, Resolute is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial, as well as treble and punitive damages.

Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace, is disappointed that the group that originally wanted to help, is now an extortion racket. He told me: “I am very proud to have played a small role in helping Resolute deal with these lying blackmailers and extortionists.”

Discovery in both the Canadian and U.S. lawsuits will open up records and could well peel back the moralist tone to expose a global job-destroying, anti-development agenda. For too long ENGOs have been allowed free rein over regulating natural resources in what is really economic warfare on workers.

At a recent meeting, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, according to Foster, “acknowledged that it was time to stand up and recognize ‘the significant economic implication of misinformation’” – though one has to wonder what took them so long.

Resolute is counter-punching the green bullies – and it’s about time. Just ask the coal miners in West Virginia or the farmers in Central California who are wild with enthusiasm for the Trump candidacy that promises to end the regressive regulations and return the U.S. to economic strength.

Hopefully other companies will now tune into the public’s change in attitude and, with firmness and determination, will, also, fight back to protect shareholders and workers.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

What’s up with prices at the pump and why it could be a good sign

May 3, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

All of us loved less-than $2 a gallon at the pump. AAA reports: “Americans paid cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years” – which resulted in savings of nearly $10 billion compared to the same period last year. However, oil (and, therefore gasoline) has been creeping upward since the February low – topping $45 a barrel, a high for the year. And that could be a good thing.

While low prices at the pump have been a boon to consumers, the plunge in oil prices has been a bust for American producers.

You may not care about “big oil,” but there’s still reason to be positive about the rising prices.

There are several causes for uptick. First is the weaker U.S. dollar. As oil is traded in dollars, a weaker dollar means that it takes more of them to buy the same amount of oil.

Additionally, we are heading into a busy summer driving season and refineries are switching to the more expensive “summer blend.” The switch typically means a brief shut down for maintenance – which reduces the gasoline supply. Summer driving increases demand.

Globally, oil production is down due to a workers’ strike in Kuwait that took about 1.3 million barrels a day of production offline, and disruptions in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and the North Sea. Former investment advisor and financial writer Tony Daltorio writes: “That brought the total to roughly 3 million barrels a day that were offline.” In the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “oil production has fallen below 9 million barrels a day in recent weeks, down from a peak of 9.7 million barrels a day last April.”

These are all supply issues that can easily be eradicated with increased production – such as recently threatened by Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Additionally, in the U.S., reports Bloomberg: “Drilled, uncompleted wells could return 500,000 barrels a day back to the market.” The potential for increased production has many, including Daltorio, predicting a fall in price from current levels.

Consumers like lower prices, but they signal economic concerns as the price of oil is directly connected to the global economy.

In February, a Citibank strategist warned that due to the extended oil price collapse, the global economy “appears to be trapped in a death spiral.” Eric Sharpe, Publisher at Energy Ink Magazine, states: “Citi’s assessment is clear, and easy to understand: weak global growth results in continued depressed oil prices as demand weakens under over-supply.”

This is why I posit higher prices are a good thing for everyone, not just the oil industry.

Simple economics are based on a supply vs. demand formula. So far, I’ve mostly addressed the supply side. But a careful read of the forecasts indicates an increase in the demand side. Sharpe points out: “The single most important factor for the stabilization of oil prices is for demand to outpace growth which it has not done for over two years. Though demand growth is slow, it is still climbing.”

On April 23, the Financial Times reported that commodities, led by oil, rallied “on signs of stronger growth” that bolstered demand. It also referenced: “better housing and infrastructure demand after China’s economy rebounded in March.”

On April 27, in a story about the price of oil hitting “another 2016 high,” WSJ addressed the fact that the Federal Reserve officials “left interest rates unchanged.” The last time the same decision was made, the statement included language that indicated the global economic and financial conditions posed risks to their outlook. This time, that was removed – “signaling less concern about risks posed to the U.S. Economy by global financial conditions.” In WSJ, Robert Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA, is quoted as saying: “The elimination of international elements in the language may mean that the market feels that the international situation is improving, and we’ll get a bit of demand from emerging markets which wasn’t there.”

Additionally, Phil Flynn, Sr. Market Analyst at the PRICE Futures Group, in his daily energy report, on April 22, wrote: “Demand is busting out all over.” He explains: “Low gas prices are causing a buying frenzy at the pump as gasoline demand in the month of March hit an all-time record high.” He continues: “it’s not just gasoline demand, it is oil demand all over. Not just here in the United States but also in China. China reported that crude-oil imports in March were up a whopping 21.6% from last year coming in close to 7.7 million barrels a day. …China’s demand for imported oil is stronger than it has ever been.” He also addressed; “the strongest ever volume increase in Indian demand.”

There is growing demand.

“The market is coming in better balance,” Jason Gammel, an analyst at Jefferies, stated, according to the WSJ. “We maintain the view that the current oversupply will flip into an undersupply in the second half of the year.”

While this is good news for the oil industry, it is also good for everyone – even though it means higher prices at the pump. If this optimistic view is correct, it means the global economy – despite the bad economic news on the American front – may be heading toward a net positive; that it is not “trapped in a death spiral.”

A growing economy needs energy and that is why higher demand – that equals higher prices – is good for everyone.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Pork in the Park 2016 in pictures and text

April 24, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Personal stuff · Comments Off 

It was back to the basics once again for this once-premier regional event, which is still chugging along in its thirteenth year. What better way to celebrate the weekend of Earth Day than eating some of its tastier creatures cooked over a charcoal fire?

For the second time, though, there was no KCBS competition element. However, there was a competition wrapping up just as we arrived regarding which of the four competitors selling pulled pork had the best, along with a local craft beer pairing. Actually it sounded like a pretty good deal for $10 and it’s a pity I missed it.

There was still a pretty good food court, though, dubbed “Pig Out Alley” with some out-of-towners hawking their barbecued wares.

The guys from Smoke Shack BBQ were hard at work keeping up with demand.

There seems to be a psychological effect where the place with the longest line is thought to have the best ribs. As it turned out, Kim stayed in the Smoke Shack line for about a half-hour while I walked across the way to get mine from the former Salisbury denizen Famous Dave’s, strolling right up to the counter and ordering. Maybe that’s why their location here only lasted a couple years.

So this is what I got.

Funny thing: both Kim and I agreed that the Famous Dave’s ribs were better. Smoke Shack was somewhat pricier as well, but that comes with the territory I suppose. We could have gotten Hess’s ribs as well, for they didn’t have a long line either. But as I recall we had theirs last year, when Pork in the Park nearly failed.

Nicer weather helped with the attendance, which seemed to be improved from 2015. It wasn’t to the level of past years but perhaps they can rebuild the festival.

One holdover from 2015 was the kids court, with the row of bouncy houses.

It was actually a pretty good arrangement, as they separated the kids zone from the beer tent and other adult areas. It wasn’t like you couldn’t hear the band, which was wrapping up as we got there.

According to the entertainment page of the PitP website the band was Delta Spur, a country cover band. Since I’m not into country, they didn’t do a lot for me until they ended the show with some Lynard Skynard (that one I recognized.) But it looks like quite a few were into them.

One thing new they were trying was Balloonville, where you could check out these balloons and perhaps take a (tethered) ride in one, for a price.

I would have to say that this year’s rendition is improved over last year’s, but whether it can turn the corner without the competition element remains to be seen. It’s worth noting that most of the banners various rib vendors use to commemorate their victories are several years old – seems that the number of these competitions have waned as tastes move away from everything barbecued and onto other culinary options. Perhaps someone somewhere has a banner that brags about winning Pork in the Park, but that’s not happening this year.

But if you don’t mind paying a little extra for some good ribs, this isn’t a bad place to bring the family if you’re around Salisbury. They have the kids’ area so the little ones can blow off steam and it’s only $3 to get in for the adults. It’s a beautiful day on Delmarva as well – aside from some rain yesterday afternoon, they lucked out with the weather. You have until 5:00 today.

So come on out and see if we can make it bigger and better for 2017.

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.