Saturday, May 20, 2017

TREASURY | Mnuchin Testimony, Senate Banking Committee

President Trump and Treasury Secretary
Steven Mnuchin
The Senate Banking Committee heard Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Thursday, May 18. The following report on Mnuchin's testimony is from Dana Chasin, reposted by permission:

The Senate Banking Committee hearing with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin exhibited a coordinated effort among the Democrats on the panel to press the administration on all the priority issues for the minority. One by one, Democratic members challenged Sec. Mnuchin about promises made by the Trump administration for supporting the middle class:

The CHOICE Act —seems to renege on promises to the middle class and actually sacrifices the middle class for tax cuts.

The "Mnuchin Rule" — while he was Secretary-Designate, Mnuchin told reporters immediately after his nomination that the Trump tax plan would not net the wealthy a tax cut. Mnuchin continues to stand by it.

Passthroughs — Sen. Warren appears to have exacted a promise from Sec. Mnuchin that the S-corp passthrough will only be available to small and medium-sized business owners.

Foreclosures — Sen. Cortez Masto grilled Sec. Mnuchin about why his leadership team has no one advocating for borrowers or homeowners.

Export-Import Bank — the Secretary heard appeals for full Bank reauthorization from both sides of the aisle.

Orderly Liquidation Authority — Sen. Warner advocated preserving the authority extended to the FDIC to resolve non-banks.

Here are more detailed highlights:

Warren's Passthrough Reform Bid
Sen. Shelby called on Sec. Mnuchin on the S-corp pass-throughs and how Mnuchin had promised to not give a tax cut to the wealthy. Mnuchin responded that "we are committed to make sure that rich people do not use pass-throughs as a loophole to pay lower rates. … So we do want small and medium sized businesses to have the benefit of lower taxes."
How about big law, for example? Mnuchin: "... we will make sure that not every single accountant, lawyer, and doctor who should be paying higher personal rates sets up an LLC or a pass-through to get around the system.”
This point was brought up again later by Sen. Warren, in the most productive exchange in the hearing. Mnuchin enumerated the key elements of the administration's new passthrough policy: "specifically, people who are making lots of money will not be able to use pass throughs. There will be criteria as to whether you're eligible for the business tax if you're pass through. It will not be available to everyone.”

OLA: Backstop against Bailouts
Sen. Reed said giving up the Orderly Liquidation Authority would deprive the system of its main defense against bailouts and sought assurance that taxpayers wouldn't bear losses under OLA.
In a critical exchange, Sen. Warner asked Sec. Mnuchin,
“If we have a large, trillion-dollar-plus SIFI institution headquartered in the United States and operating across the world with multiple subsidiaries, if it runs into a credit crunch and the rest of the financial industry stops doing business with this SIFI and it therefore fails, in order to have an orderly failure and wind in Congress this week-down, would you agree that shareholders need to be wiped out in that SIFI institution?”
Mnuchin concurred that something drastic would be necessary in such a situation. Sen Warner reiterated that the OLA is necessary as a backstop for this sort of systemic risk, and Mnuchin demurred again.

EXIM Bank: Two Takes
EXIM came up several times, with Sen. Heitkamp arguing for protection of it and Senator Shelby supportive but asking for reform. Mnuchin made no promises, but it does seem to be understood that the Bank is not on the chopping block anymore -- now that the president knows it “makes us a lot of money.”

Events Next Week
The following events are scheduled:
House Ways and Means Committee: Hearing entitled, "Increasing U.S Competitiveness and Preventing American Jobs from Moving Overseas," focused on the border-adjustment tax, 10 a.m.
The American Enterprise Institute event on the CHOICE Act with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, 11 a.m. The bill is Hensarling's overhaul of Dodd-Frank.
House Budget Committee: Hearing on the White House fiscal 2018 budget with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, 9:45 a.m.
House Ways and Means Committee: Hearing on the White House fiscal 2018 budget, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, 10 a.m.
Senate Budget Committee: Hearing on the White House fiscal 2018 budget proposal with OMB Director Mulvaney, 9:45 a.m.
Senate Finance Committee: Hearing entitled "Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposals for the Department of Treasury and Tax Reform", witness is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, 10 a.m.

Other Takes on the Testimony: Sen. Warren on Reinstating Glass-Steagall . Video of Exchange with Sen. Warren . Video of testimony (CNBC)

Monday, May 15, 2017

THEATER BIZ | Best Contest Practices

Some contests and festivals can be exploitative. They may require large submission fees and then grab rights from the winning writers or photographers based on language in the submission contract.

In some entry guidelines (for instance, in the Emerging Writer Awards), submitting an entry grants publishing rights. 

Writers who don't read the fine print carefully enough may find themselves trapped by such provisions. See:

To reduce such exploitation, the Dramatists Guild has issued a statement on "Best Practices for Festivals and Contests". A good idea. 

Now it is up to contest organizers and playwrights today attention to these guidelines. Here is the one-page statement with the language of the release preceding it.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

ART BIZ | Ashawagh Hall 2018 Summer Space... Gone!

Ashawagh Hall is an art gallery and village center. Photo by JT Marlin 2016.
Ashawagh Hall is the center of Springs. 

It used to be owned by the Miller family, which lives across the road. They donated the original building to be used as a schoolhouse, with the understanding (so they told me) that if the use of the building changed, the property could not be sold; instead, it would revert to the family.

The Springs School moved to larger quarters (!) and Ashawagh Hall now doubles as an art gallery and a village hall. I have frequently reviewed community events there, such as the award to the late Herb Field last year (his memorial service is May 20).

I have also reviewed art shows at Ashawagh Hall, with an economic perspective, for example:

Search Results

Eternal Springs Hope (2016).

Hot Dots and Collage Credit (2016).

Meckseper and Troemel (2014). 

Ten Artworks Sold (2014).

Over the years I have figured out the system for allocating space in the gallery, which is that members of the Springs Improvement Society on May 15 call in to reserve space at the gallery for the following year at 8:00 a.m., and everyone else calls in at 10 a.m. The instructions for 2017 are still shown on the Ashawagh Hall website, although the space that would be allocated on May 15, 2017 is for 2018.

That system gives a little edge to long-term residents, members of the Society, and people who watch the calendar and the clock. A little quirky, but it seems fair enough.

As I checked out this year's timing, I find that this year it has changed. Artists calling on May 15 will discover that all the 2018 summertime space was already allocated. It was done during the winter. A special discount was reportedly emailed (to all members? to a list of artists?) in February.

Sorry to be the bearer of this bad news if you were planning on something in 2018. If you think the change in the system is capricious, comment below or send me an email. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

ART BIZ | Fantastic Exhibit at One Art Space (Updated May 15, 2017)

Multiple Points of View, One Inspiration — Ernst Fuchs
The "Visionary Alchemy" Exhibit opened with buzz Friday evening, April 29, at One Art Space at 23 Warren Street, New York City. The exhibition remained open until May 13. 

This gallery is a fine white cube — actually more of a white rectangular brick — half a block west of Broadway and City Hall Park. Phone 646-559-0535.

In keeping with the theme of this blog, the Art Biz, I can report that the highest price for a painting in this Exhibition is $25,000 (#2 by Isaac Abrams) and the lowest is $280 (#27 by Marnie Pitts), a range of nearly 100 to 1.

Artists Exhibiting at One Art Space, 23 Warren St., NYC

The 51 listed paintings and 48 listed artists came from all over the world — Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Dom. Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Peru. U.S. painters came from the New York area and Ohio.

They are all members of the Society for Art of Imagination, which was founded by followers of Austrian artist Ernst Fuchs.

Brigid Marlin in front of a painting
of hers, #21B.

Fuchs, which is German for Fox, is pronounced like "Looks" with an "F" (or listen to this).

Fuchs viewed himself as the reincarnation of the great German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).

The exhibition is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm, until Saturday, May 13.

The Society for Art of Imagination is the successor group to Ernst Fuchs' own society, the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, which he co-founded in the 1940s.

If I may simplify, Fuchs and his colleagues in Vienna sought to explore spiritual fantasy using the hard-won schools of early Renaissance painters and engravers.
Miguel Tio, Treasurer of the
American Society and painter
(see "Heartbeats", #43, the
purple lady behind him).

The Vienna School expired with the death of Prof. Fuchs himself in November 1915

He became President of the Society of Art of Imagination before he died. 

He called Brigid Marlin, who founded the Society, "my best student".

One Art Space is curated by Diego Ponce, who can be reached by email at A catalog of the art show is available via email.

The exhibition was co-curated by France Garrido, Olga Spiegel and Miguel Tio, who are leaders in the American Society for Art of Imagination.

One of the visitors to the exhibition came up from Washington, D.C. She prepared the following video clip of her visit:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

R.I.P. | Sage of Springs, Herb Field (Updated Apr 27, 2017)

Apr 19, 2017 – Herbert E[dwards] (Herb) Field, the Sage of Springs, passed to his eternal reward yesterday at 92 years old, according to his pastor, Rev. Nancy Howarth.

A memorial service for Herb Field will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 20 at the Springs Community Presbyterian Church, at the intersection of Old Stone Highway and Springs Fireplace Road.

Herb Field's father and two uncles died tending their traps during the 1938 Hurricane when Herb was just 13. (His obituary, based on information from his son Thomas F. Field, was published in the East Hampton Star on April 27.)

Last year, he received a well-earned temporal award at an end-of-summer meeting of the Springs Community Advisory Council in Ashawagh Hall.

East Hampton Town Councilman Fred Overton presented him with a Proclamation testifying to his contributions to the Springs community. Overton's presentation was on behalf of East Hampton Town by its Supervisor, Larry Cantwell.

At the presentation, the crowd attending the meeting gave Herb a standing ovation for his contributions to his country and his community.
The Proclamation.

The citation, signed August 22, 2016 by Supervisor Cantwell, proclaimed that Herbert Edwards (Herb) Field was born at Franklin Farm on August 3, 1924 to Herbert Stone Field and his wife Abigail Rebecca, née Edwards.

Herb was the eldest of four sons. After the death of his father and uncles, he worked for Ferris Talmage to help support his mother and brothers. Talmage remained a lifetime mentor.

Herb enlisted at 17 in the U.S. Navy in April 1943. He served as a motor mechanic on board destroyer escorts.  He was sent on tours in the Pacific, Europe and the Americas. He was honorably discharged on December 18, 1945.

After his military service he managed Sylvester Prime’s farm on Shelter Island and then in 1949 moved to Morrisville, N.Y., where he purchased and managed two dairy farms covering 316 acres.

After 15 years upstate, he purchased the Baker and Baker dairy farm in Amagansett and lived there until his death.

Herb faithfully attended the Springs Community Presbyterian Church starting in the 1970s and sat consistently in the second row behind the organ donated by Robert Mulford.

For what must have been four decades he arrived an hour before the service every Sunday morning and started the coffee pot brewing, until one day not so long ago he announced he couldn't keep doing this any more.

When I first came to Springs in 1981 as a seasonal visitor, I started singing in the Springs Church choir and was invited, faute de mieux, to join "The Men of Springs," a church-related activity. My wife Alice Tepper Marlin was dubious about this. It sounded macho. Who knew what sinister plans these local deer-hunters, who probably looked askance at seasonal families "from away", might not be up to?

Herb Field with Tina Piette and
me, next to Ashawagh Hall. Photo
by Dr Carter Dodge.
Then we found out that the principal public activity of the Men of Springs was to cook and serve a community chicken dinner with no apparent female support. Her attitude to the group mellowed.

So I was a seasonal participant in the program, but over time the number of men who composed the Men of Springs dwindled, lost to illness or death or retirement to a place where they could get assisted living — or unassisted living — at an affordable price.

In time, the remaining men could not keep up the tradition of the annual chicken dinner. The event was continued, like so much else, through the devotion of the hard-working women of the church.

Herb was, I think, the last of the Men of Springs who were there when I arrived in Springs 36 years ago.

Herb earned the title of Sage of Springs because he knew more about the history of Springs than anyone else alive. He commented as an aside that he remembered when Supervisor Cantwell was "in short pants."

Over the years Herb told me more truly funny stories than I can count. He had a keen understanding of farming, canning, clamming, milling and human nature and he communicated it with his dry Bonacker humor, of which he was acutely aware and proud.

For example, during the period of my Men of Springs membership, I was in the kitchen, and everyone there was highly aware that I was a city guy out of my element in the Springs culture, which for centuries was built on faith, farm, fish and family. I came in for a lot of teasing as the country bumpkins enjoyed showing the city slicker how little he knew about what was important.

At one point they explained to me that how nutritious the food was, and that the delicious ginger gravy they were serving with the chicken had no sugar or flour in it.

I was amazed. How could they do that? They swore on the bible they added no sugar or flour. But I saw a glint in Herb's eye, and I demanded that he tell me, based on my rights as a fully vested seasonal member of the Men of Springs,  what the ingredients were.

Herb with Dr Dodge.
Photo by JT Marlin.
He said: "Well now, we have the juice left over from the chicken and we filter out any skin and the heavy fat. We cook it all in a pan and stir in some green onions and celery, and some garlic, about 4 minutes..."


"We add some pepper, thyme and sage..."

"And... what else?" I demanded, getting a little impatient.

I learned over time to look for the signal that Herb was about to deliver the punch line to his story, which he loved doing. He would become super-serious.

"Then, well now, you know, for every quart of gravy," he said, "we mix in five ginger-snap cookies."

After God created Herb, He threw away the mold.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

VOTE | Choosing Where

The following is reposted with permission from Resist and Replace, a blog started by David Posnett.

A suggestion from Pamela Keen:

It is completely legal in NY State to choose where you wish to vote as long as you don’t vote twice (in different locations), which is voter fraud.

Second homeowners and those who rent for the summer months may choose to vote in their summer residence, such as CD-1.  They will need evidence of having lived in the district, such as a copy of utility bills. Here are four useful online resources:

3. How to register on-line.
4. How to download the registration form online and then send in by mail— particularly useful if you want to help someone fill out the form.

Get some forms and have them handy.  Bring them to events and share them with your friends. For example, hand out registration forms at your July 4 barbecue! It is a good idea to start now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

DODD-FRANK | House Bill Takes Aim, by Dana Chasin

Dodd-Frank applied CPR to the 1933 Glass-
Steagall Act, which gave banks deposit insurance
in return for bank and securities regulation.
Hensarling wants a GOP-branded Act...
The following is slightly abbreviated from a summary by Dana Chasin of the new Hensarling bill:

Jeb Hensarling (R, TX-5), Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has announced a beefed-up Financial Choice Act to eliminate some key Dodd-Frank provisions.

It would reduce Sarbanes-Oxley and JOBS Act regulations.

The bill, Hensarling 2.0 (H2O), proposes major structural changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) and the SEC. Hensarling has said he would get H2O through his Committee to the House floor by the end of April.

The Major Changes

Major Dodd-Frank-related provisions in Hensarling's H2O bill include:
• weakening of provisions protecting against systemic risk, increasing the threat of “too big to fail” financial institutions, holding up taxpayers for another bailout
• rolling back safeguards protecting ordinary investors and consumers on financial transactions involving everything from derivatives trading to retail banking
• repealing restrictions on the kind of subprime mortgages that caused the 2008 financial crisis.
Jeb Hensaring (R, TX-5).
Chair, Financial Services
[Hensarling says on his website that H2O will do what Dodd-Frank failed to accomplish after the 2008 financial crisis. “It would end bank bailouts,” he says. “It would give regulatory relief for community financial institutions, and we would also have the strongest penalties for Wall Street wrongdoers that have ever been on the books.” Though Republicans want to roll back Dodd-Frank, Hensarling says they don't want a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis and so his bill would require banks to hold on to more loss-absorbing capital than is currently required. “We’re not trying to save any individual institution,” says Hensarling. “We’re trying to save the entire financial apparatus and our whole financial system.”]

Hensarling Needs Votes

Hensarling believes that his Financial Choice approach should replace Dodd-Frank entirely. But if Dodd-Frank reforms were passed in present form, they would undermine the 2010 financial regulation law. The skeleton will still exist, and the new bill would act as a disable-and-disregard "remedy" to Dodd-Frank.

With that in mind, the bill will most probably not make it to the floor until the summertime, per Rep. Patrick McHenry, vice chair of House Financial Services. Although passing the Senate would require a Herculean legislative effort to create a bipartisan measure, some Republicans are still looking for ways to roll back Dodd-Frank while avoiding working with Democrats. GOP Senator Pat Toomey suggested last week that the reconciliation process to repeal regulations on a simple majority vote basis is still available.

The Role of Capital Requirements

What is interesting is the Republican interest in capital regimes, which monetize regulations. Another way of looking at these is effectively as a corporate tax. So instead of ducking a regulation by imposing a corporate tax, the GOP could weigh that out during their tax reform efforts as a means to compromise with Democrats.

Hensarling’s new plan also includes reducing the frequency of bank stress tests performed by the Federal Reserve (once every two years as opposed to annually). The plan would also give the president the authority to fire the directors of the CFPB and restrict its oversight, as well as changing the code of conduct between the SEC and private companies.

Republican Strategy vs. Street Sense

Seeking to learn from the health-care-reform failure, the Congressional leadership may be of the view that H2O provides a strongly conservative approach to repealing and replacing Dodd-Frank, bridging the gap in the GOP between the Freedom Caucus and House leadership. It’s hard to see it get through the House without compromise, though. All the while, Dodd-Frank has quietly been picking up support in the last couple of months from the banks and their main news source: the Wall Street Journal, featuring masthead editorials opposing repeal of Dodd-Frank. [Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has expressed interest in restoring aspects of the Banking (Glass-Steagall) Act of 1933.]

With some banks backing key portions of the 2010 law, such as the need to preserve the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Orderly Liquidation Authority from Titles I and II, the bill's road to the President's desk will not be an easy one. If it passes the House, the Senate will almost certainly reject it.

Related Posts: Economic Hotspots Banking (Glass-Steagall) Act of 1933 . Dodd-Frank Act .

Friday, April 7, 2017

JOBS | March Disappoints (Updated Apr 8, 2017)

The 1990s saw steady job growth with Bill
Clinton and in 2009-2016 with Obama.
Sources: BLS, FRED (St Louis Fed).
March 7, 2017—The BLS reported this morning on the March jobs data.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by only 98,000 in March, following gains averaging 217,500 in January-February 2017.

Professional and business services continued to grow (+56,000), as did mining (+11,000). These are good-paying jobs:
  • Services to buildings and dwellings (+17,000) and architectural and engineering services (+7,000) did well. 
  • Most of the gain in mining occurred in support activities (+9,000). Mining employment has risen by 35,000 since a recent low in October 2016.
However, retail trade lost jobs (-30,000). Competition from the Internet is likely hurting bricks-and-mortar retailers. Employment in general merchandise stores declined by 35,000 in March and has declined by 89,000 since a recent high in October 2016. The good news is that with higher levels of technology the jobs that remain are better paid.

Health care continues to create jobs, as it has for decades, added 14,000 in March, with gains in hospitals (+9,000) and outpatient care centers (+6,000). In the first 3 months of this year, health care added an average of 20,000 jobs per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 32,000 in 2016.

Financial activities, the best-paying jobs, continued to trend up in March (+9,000) and jobs in the sector have increased by 178,000 over the past 12 months.

Construction employment changed little in March (+6,000), following a gain of 59,000 in February. It has been trending up since late last summer, largely among specialty trade contractors and in residential building.

Postscript (Saturday, Apr 8, 2017)

Neil Irwin in The New York Times today (p. B2) says that "it was a mistake" for Trump to point out the strong growth in jobs in February, because he drew attention to a number that in March didn't work out so well for the new administration.

Irwin goes on to say that payroll jobs are not the best economic indicator...

What? Trump promises more jobs, and he shouldn't focus on the monthly job numbers? I have been working with the job numbers for a long time, and I don't think Irwin is correct in advising the President to shift attention away from them, certainly not at this early stage.

Trump's biggest campaign commitment was to "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs". The number he has to beat is payroll jobs as shown in the chart below. Sure, these numbers are revised periodically, but they are the coin of the realm. BLS collects job numbers from each state based on unemployment insurance filings within each state. If a monthly number is out of line, it gets looked at more carefully. These numbers are well grounded.

Irwin's two alt monthly job numbers, by contrast, are not so well grounded—
  • Yes, the employment/population number is a good way of comparing long-term job-creating performance, because it eliminates issues involved in unemployment questions asked of the survey respondents in each sampled household. ("Who is not working? Have they been recently looking for work?") It is more resistant to survey-question creep. But the denominator, population, is not a reliable number for month-to-month comparisons.
  • No, probably, to Irwin's proposal to pick age groups within the employment/population ratio. It would require tagging each unemployment insurance report with a year of birth and dividing the monthly job change according to age groups. Maybe this could be done—or the numbers could be estimated based on a sample—but will the new information be worth the effort? Might be something for a state government with a strong Unemployment Insurance staff to experiment with.
  • Yes, finally, tracking wages is indeed important. We know that real wages over the long term have been falling in manufacturing as American factories compete with lower-wage supplies in other countries. But the real hourly earnings of private-sector employees is an aggregate of many different private-sector stories and is less useful for measuring the President's progress toward his stated goal than the aggregate job numbers. A rise in wages may simply reflect fewer jobs in a low-paying industry and more jobs in a higher-paying industry. The quarterly census of jobs and wages is conducted only quarterly and is published with a substantial lag that diminishes the value of the numbers. (But better late than never, and better late than inaccurate.)
Related Posts

Phony Numbers? . Job Numbers for Trump to Beat . Economic Hotspots

Job Growth by Month since the post-Glass-Steagall Meltdown of 2008.


The U.S. Economy at Risk as Washington Debates.
My friend Dana Chasin sent me a summary of economic issues before the Congress at the end of the first quarter of 2017. 

With his permission, I have re-posted it below.

The issues add up to some strong challenges that will not be easy for the GOP to address. 

Having struck out on replacing Obamacare, Trump is facing the likelihood that the First 100 Days may go by without a single significant piece of legislation.

Here is Dana's guest post. I have added only a number to identify each of his five sections:

1. Dodd-Frank Action

One of the subtlest but surprising developments of the year to date is the sense that Wall Street itself (the financial industry) is not as warm to the idea of repealing the law as Trump is.  Several major firms and the Wall Street Journal -- yes, even its masthead editorial page -- have signaled caution when it comes to the president’s actions on Dodd Frank. More and more investors believe that the administration is unlikely to deliver any significant jolt to the economy. 

As Trump vowed again this week to “do a number” on Dodd-Frank, it’s expected that the SEC, under Jay Clayton who will likely be confirmed, will soften enforcement and rules that the 2010 law put in place.  That is not to say that rolling back Obama-era regulations will be easy for the SEC.  Per the Journal:  “The SEC doesn’t have the authority to revoke Dodd-Frank, which is an act of Congress.” 

Given that the vast majority of rules and regulations from the Dodd-Frank Act have already been implemented, the best that the SEC can do is amend them or grant exemptions on a case by case basis.  If legal objections were motioned as a result of the SEC’s actions, it would slow down the already drawn-out process.

2. Tax Reform

It seems that the already difficult tax overhaul process just got a lot more complicated for Trump.  The GOP in Congress are having trouble agreeing on a bill that Democrats won’t filibuster.  This all started when two senior economic officials who served in the Obama administration, David Kamin and Brad Tester, published an article that found that the much talked about Border Adjustment Tax will not produce the kind of revenue the President has suggested. If their report is confirmed by, say, the CBO, then it would throw the whole tax agenda off because they would not be able to produce a bill that wouldn’t add to the debt.

The Trump administration is working hard to ensure a legislative success before the year is up.  There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of road blocks (think Blue Dog Democrats and the Freedom Caucus). Recently, the President’s legislative director met with moderate House Democrats to propose working with them on the tax reform plan. One of the Democratic lawmakers who attended the meeting said that the legislative director declared the border adjustment tax dead on arrival.  If that is the case, then Donald Trump’s protectionist campaign promises will be broken, a prospective trillion dollars in revenue will be lost, and tax reform, lacking a pay-for, will limp forward, or not.  

There have been rumors this week that the White House is considering a carbon tax and a value added tax to make up for the loss of revenue that will be induced by the massive tax cuts Republicans are aiming for, both on the income and corporate side.  If the carbon tax is in the bill, the Freedom Caucus had have reason to vote against it.  

The White House has flip-flopped on the VAT and carbon tax, saying that it was considering them at first and soon after disavowed them completely.  Given the collective lack of experience this administration has, their negotiation efforts are very transparent and their tactics are easy to dodge so far.

This flip-flop shows that the Freedom Caucus should have reason to be cautious of their trust in the House leadership to put forth a plan with their inputs taken into account. This is precisely why the plan is showing signs of ripping apart at the seams.  This and the BAT may get debated extensively over the next few months.  Don't be deceived: they are dead letters in Congress. 

3. Infrastructure

For some reason, the administration decided to pick tax reform as its next big ticket item after the health care debacle, opting for the more difficult and partisan route.  The president may once have had a shot at working with Democrats who have been asking for infrastructure investment for a long time, but it seems that Trump is ditching that train for now.

The president’s infrastructure plan might, accordingly, also be too ambitions.  With a goal of a trillion dollars, Trump aims to pass large tax subsidies to investors willing to pour money into infrastructure investment.  There are many reasons this plan is risky, one of which is that large firms will be getting nothing short of massive government handouts for investments they are probably going to make anyway. 

Last year, Congressman Delaney came up with a plan that could give the president a pass around Democratic obstruction.  His proposed infrastructure bill combines infrastructure investments, which Democrats have been eying for quite some time, and international tax reform, an issue that Republicans have been keen to tackle.  And here’s the catch: it has strong bipartisan support with 40 Democrat and 40 Republican cosponsors. 

By going with tax reform first and seeking more money than Obama's stimulus package, this administration’s legislative agenda and self imposed August deadline suggests remarkable legislative incompetence.  

4. Budget

Despite being able to check off submitting a statutorily required budget to Congress from his to-do list, Trump can hardly consider this any sort of accomplishment at this point.  As it was not even dead on arrival -- Congress will not consider or even hold hearings on it -- and grossly increased the deficit, there is nothing to see here as an accomplishment. 

5. What the GOP Might Do

The biggest obstacle to a sweeping tax reform is the Democrats in the Senate, who could easily filibuster a bill if it adds to the national debt. The reason for that is that tax legislation that adds to the debt cannot be passed by a simple majority vote as per the reconciliation process that passed the budget resolution earlier this year.  That said, there are still ways around the filibuster with a model similar to the Bush Tax Cuts which passed in 2001. 

Per the Washington Post:  “Republicans could avoid Democrats in the Senate altogether by putting forward a plan that would expire after 10 years, the approach they adopted when they reduced taxes under President George W.  Bush. They could also rely on a different set of estimates than those produced by the JCT if that agency's analysis is unfavorable to their plan.” 

The budget resolution passed earlier this year through a reconciliation process could give the GOP some leverage in the legislature. While it may miss on major reforms, the administration could push through several smaller tax reforms that could pave the way for the president’s infrastructure plan.  If Trump were serious about infrastructure, Republicans could look to Congressman Delaney’s plan and set a less ambitious goal than $1 trillion.

In regard to repealing Dodd-Frank, Republicans are having a much harder time than they had anticipated.  As noted, the intricate law has recently picked up an unlikely supporter base: Wall Street itself. The industries main newspaper has cautioned against repealing the law, and several key players have joined the Dodd-Frank chorus.  That won’t stop Republicans, however, from at least seeking to chip away at some parts of the law.  

This is just the beginning of what is going to be a drawn out process, with several wins and many losses.  The question is can the president pull a rabbit out of a hat and pass tax reform or will this administration be legislatively stillborn come August recess?  Money can buy many things and every administration  has a learning curve but it is already beginning run out of the one thing it keeps trying to buy: time.

Related Posts: Banking (Glass-Steagall) Act of 1933 . Dodd-Frank Act .
Hensarling's H2O Bill


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

BLOG VIEWS | 340K—Top Ten Posts, Six on WW2 or Depression

Hitler Pays His (Last) Respects to
German Democracy, 1933.
The clicker has passed 340,000 views on this blog, about two million on all of them combined.

Thank you for checking in!

Here are the top ten most-viewed posts in the last month. Nos. 1, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 all relate to the Great Depression, FDR, Hitler and the Holocaust.

HITLER | Mar 5, 1933 — Nazis Elected, End Democrac...
Mar 5, 2017
NYC | Universities and City Invest in Tech
Mar 22, 2017
BLS | "Phony Numbers" on Their Way?
Jan 23, 2017
SPORTS BIZ | Fastest-Growing Game–Pickleball (Upda...
Mar 2, 2017
HOLOCAUST | Remembrance Day–It Started with Words
Jan 27, 2017
NEW JERSEY | Huge Fire in North Bergen
Dec 21, 2016
OXFORD BLOG | 200K Views—Top 10 Most-Read Posts Si...
Mar 18, 2017
FDR | March 4–Inauguration
Mar 4, 2017
IMMIGRATION | Centennial of (Anti-)Immigration Act
Feb 5, 2017
Oct 16, 2014

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

NYC | Universities and City Invest in Tech

March 22, 2017—David W. Chen writes wide-ranging stories that put New York City in a global economic context. 

He interviewed me in 2008 during the fiscal meltdown and again this month in a story about university technology centers in New York City. 

The new story appears in The New York Times online today and will be in the printed edition tomorrow, Thursday.


George Grenville (1712-1770)
March 22, 2017 — This day in 1765 the British Government imposed the Stamp Act on the American colonies, provoking serious Resistance.

The Act lasted only until the next year, but in the meantime it angered so many of the colonists that it started stiff opposition to the Crown that resulted in American independence.

The British Government at that time was led by two Georges, George III and George Grenville.

A previous Prime Minister, savvy William Pitt the Elder (alumnus of Trinity College, Oxford) had been popular in the colonies. Pitt had urged the King to relinquish his obsession with what was happening in the German duchies and had the vision to see the value of securing the North American continent by using British troops to defeat the French and Indians. The colonists were so grateful to Pitt they named Pittsburgh after him. That was where the last battle of the formidable Gen. Edward Braddock took place. Before his death, Braddock gave his general's sash to his second-in-command, Col. George Washington.

Although victorious against the French, the British Government ran up debts to  send over their redcoats and faced having to borrow more to defend the vast new American territories won in the French and Indian War (known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War, 1756-1763).

The parliament of George Grenville therefore passed the Stamp Act as a revenue-raising attempt, following on the Sugar Act of 1764.

Grenville entered Parliament in 1741, one of the men interrelated by blood or marriage dubbed Cobham's Cubs who united in opposition to Sir Robert Walpole. Walpole was the first person to be considered by historians to have the primus inter pares status of Prime Minister and he held this power from 1721 to 1742 — a length of service not subsequently equalled. Walpole practiced a policy of benign neglect toward the American colonies, which had the advantage of not costing the Crown any money.

Grenville was a graduate of Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. His ministry 22 years after the end of Walpole lasted only two years (1763–65). It was disastrous. He never developed a close relationship with the king because George III continually consulted with Bute, who had recommended Grenville as his successor.

The Stamp Act levied a tax on all materials printed for commercial and legal use in the colonies, from newspapers and pamphlets to playing cards and dice. This was a common fundraising vehicle in England, but stirred up protest in the colonies, which had already been burdened with three new major taxes: the Sugar Act (1764), adding duties on imports of textiles, wines, coffee and sugar; the Currency Act (1764), which reduced the value of paper money used by colonists; and the Quartering Act (1765), which required colonists to provide room and board to British troops.

The Stamp Act raised the issue for the colonists of taxation without representation. They started to organize against the British government. By October of 1765, nine of the 13 colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress, where they drafted a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances.”

Grenville’s ministry ended in the year he pushed through the Stamp Act. Realizing that it would be more expensive to enforce the Act, Parliament abolished it in 1766. But it was too late. The damage had been done. Resistance to the Mother Country had started and did not stop until the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Most important of the organizing groups was the Sons of Liberty in Boston and other ports. In the south, wealthy landowners were the leaders.  Societies continued to meet to address what they saw as the abusive policies of George III and the newly consolidated British empire.

Frederick North (1732-1792) was the son of the Earl of Guilford. Like Pitt, he was an alumnus of Trinity College, Oxford. He served in the Treasury from 1759 to 1766, when the government of George Grenville fell following the disaster of the Stamp Act (not to mention other stumbles). North became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the second ministry of Pitt the Elder, and then became Prime Minister during the years when the American colonies broke away.

Sources include (besides links) - and  Encyclopedia Britannica

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

GLASS-STEAGALL | The Banking Act of 1933

Sen. Carter Glass (D-Va.) and Rep. Henry Steagall (D-Ala.) co-sponsored
a good law that traded deposit insurance for bank regulation.
The 37-page Banking Act of 1933, also known as the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, was passed by Congress on June 16, 1933.

It is lean and clear and it served the American people well for nearly seven decades.

It created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (section 12B), which was much wanted by the banking community to reduce the threat of panics.

In exchange for deposit insurance, the law establishes multiple constraints on banks to protect the insured deposits from speculation. It separates commercial banking from insurance and investment banking.

It also creates the Federal Open Market Committee (12A), which becomes the main body for ongoing monetary policy for the Federal Reserve System.

The limits on deposit insurance were gradually raised until the FDIC decided that it was most efficient to take over failing banks, thereby essentially insuring all deposits.

Also, over time, the separation of commercial banks from investment banks and insurance companies was eroded. Investment bankers sought access to government-insured funds and banks—protected by the taxpayer from risk—saw no reason not to hunt for the highest yield. This led to the meltdown of 2008.

Monday, March 20, 2017

TREASON | What Is It?

Treason in general is criminal disloyalty to one's country. Here is the U.S. definition of treason, and the penalty, from the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute:

18 U.S. Code § 2381 - Treason

Current through Pub. L. 114-38. (See Public Laws for the current Congress.)
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994108 Stat. 2148.)