Small business and business taxes

Small business owner Wm. Michael Simmons:

This week is National Small Business Week. It’s an opportunity to emphasize the big role small businesses play in the economy and labor market. Small businesses account for half of GDP and half of all jobs. And they create the majority of new jobs and new inventions. I have been fortunate enough to lead several small businesses over my career and witness their outsized importance first-hand.

While we recognize the small business backbone of the economy this week, we should also take a moment to examine the public policies that allow small businesses to thrive in the first place. I am continually amazed that so many people — including politicians and community leaders — believe that small businesses are simply a part of nature — like Lake Michigan — that they aren’t affected by broader economic trends or public policies.

In reality, public policy has a major impact on small business success. Take it from me: Entrepreneurs consider the costs of taxes and regulations before making any decision to hire or expand. For decades, over-taxation had an especially damaging effect on small business creation and expansion, ranking among the biggest hurdles small businesses faced.

Recently passed federal tax cuts have changed that. They created a new 20 percent small business tax deduction — the biggest small business tax cut in the country’s history. Though this aspect of the tax cuts has been overlooked by the media, it arguably has the biggest impact on the economy and the small business dreams of entrepreneurs in Wisconsin and throughout the country. These necessary tax cuts provided me the opportunity to start two Wisconsin businesses: Flags For Schools and eTOP Sports Innovations.

Prior to the tax cut, small businesses faced a top marginal tax rate of 40 percent — not including state and local taxes. At this level of taxation surviving is difficult for many small businesses — let alone thriving. This is reflected in the declining small business creation of recent years — one of the few economic indicators not to recover from the Great Recession.

The new 20 percent tax deduction effectively lowers the top small business tax rate from 40 percent to 30 percent — a 25 percent tax cut. It allows small business owners to protect one-fifth of their earned income from taxes. This capital can instead be used to expand into new product lines, open new locations, hire new employees, and give existing ones raises. No wonder small businesses support the new tax cuts by a margin of ten-to-one, according to a recent national survey.

Given small businesses’ major role in the economy, their benefits are shared by everyone. Less money extorted from Wisconsin small businesses by the IRS means more money stays at home in communities where it is needed. Less taxes means more investment, consumption, and jobs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has recognized this tax cut stimulus. It recently raised its growth forecast for the year to 3.3 percent, a level that mainstream economists said couldn’t be achieved. At this level of growth — more than twice the rate of the last year of the Obama Administration — living standards rise noticeably.

This economic growth will create a feedback loop for small businesses, giving them new customers, with more disposable income — something every small business wants. In this sense, the tax cuts are a gift that keeps on giving.

So while we celebrate small businesses this week, we should also reflect on the public policies that go hand-in-hand with their success. These should also be celebrated during National Small Business Week this week.

 

Advertisements

The bigotry of liberal-led “journalism”

Kevin D. Williamson:

In early March, I met up with Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief of the Atlantic, at an event sponsored by the magazine at the South by Southwest conference in Austin. He had just hired me away from National Review, the venerable conservative magazine where I’d been a writer and editor for 10 years.

“You know, the campaign to have me fired will begin 11 seconds after you announce that you’ve hired me,” I told him. He scoffed. “It won’t be that bad,” he said. “The Atlantic isn’t the New York Times. It isn’t high church for liberals.”

My first piece appeared in the Atlantic on April 2. I was fired on April 5.

The purported reason for our “parting ways,” as Mr. Goldberg put it in his announcement, had nothing to do with what I’d written in my inaugural piece. The problem was a six-word, four-year-old tweet on abortion and capital punishment and a discussion of that tweet in a subsequent podcast. I had responded to a familiar pro-abortion argument: that pro-lifers should not be taken seriously in our claim that abortion is the willful taking of an innocent human life unless we are ready to punish women who get abortions with long prison sentences. It’s a silly argument, so I responded with these words: “I have hanging more in mind.”

Trollish and hostile? I’ll cop to that, though as the subsequent conversation online and on the podcast indicated—to say nothing of the few million words of my published writing available to the reading public—I am generally opposed to capital punishment. I was making a point about the sloppy rhetoric of the abortion debate, not a public-policy recommendation. Such provocations can sometimes clarify the terms of a debate, but in this case, I obscured the more meaningful questions about abortion and sparked the sort of hysteria I’d meant to point out and mock.

Let’s not equivocate: Abortion isn’t littering or securities fraud or driving 57 in a 55-mph zone. If it isn’t homicide, then it’s no more morally significant than getting a tooth pulled. If it isn’t homicide, then there’s no real argument for prohibiting it. If it is homicide, then we need to discuss more seriously what should be done to put an end to it. For all the chatter today about diversity of viewpoint and the need for open discourse, there aren’t very many people on the pro-choice side, in my experience, who are ready to talk candidly about the reality of abortion.

Which brings us back to that event at South by Southwest, where the Atlantic was sponsoring a panel about marginalized points of view and diversity in journalism. The panelists, all Atlantic writers and editors, argued that the cultural and economic decks are stacked against feminists and advocates of minority interests. They made this argument under the prestigious, high-profile auspices of South by Southwest and their own magazine, hosted by a feminist group called the Female Quotient, which enjoys the patronage of Google, PepsiCo, AT&T, NBCUniversal, Facebook, UBS, JPMorgan Chase and Deloitte. We should all be so marginalized. If you want to know who actually has the power in our society and who is actually marginalized, ask which ideas get you sponsorships from Google and Pepsi and which get you fired.

The event itself was revealing, not for the predictable banalities uttered on stage but for the offstage observations coming from the master of ceremonies: my new boss. Mr. Goldberg in private sometimes takes an amusingly ironic view of the pieties of P.C. culture. After giving the opening remarks, he joked about inflicting upon me the “wokiest” thing I’d ever suffered through and said that he himself was “insufficiently intersectional” for the event. He had a good laugh.

I couldn’t share so easily in his humor. Mr. Goldberg knows something about the power of the Twitter mob. A Jewish liberal with some hawkish foreign-policy views and a clear-eyed understanding of the problems associated with the poorly assimilated Muslim minority communities in Europe, he has been labeled everything from a perpetrator of crimes against humanity (he served in the Israeli military as a young man) to an “Islamophobe” to the intellectual author of George W. Bush’s ill-conceived war in Iraq.

But he underestimated the energy with which that mob would pursue someone like me. Mr. Goldberg sits atop one of the most celebrated magazines in our country’s history, and before that he was a star at the New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker. He can survive the occasional heresy.

I’m an unassimilated conservative from Lubbock, Texas. Much of my career for the past 20-odd years has consisted of writing pieces that tell people things they don’t want to hear. My angry critics on the left think I’m a right-wing monster; my angry critics on the right don’t like the fact that I’ve reported extensively from Trump country and haven’t thought very highly of what I’ve seen. If I’d been hired for a new job at some conservative outlet, you can be sure there would have been talk about how I pray each night for the death of the white working class.

But this time, the tsunami came from the left, as I’d predicted.

On March 22, the Atlantic announced that it had hired me and three others as contributors to its new section “for ideas, opinions and commentary.” In no time, the abortion-rights group Naral was organizing protests against me, demanding that I not be permitted to publish in the Atlantic. Activists claimed, dishonestly, that I wanted to see every fourth woman in the country lynched (it is estimated that 1 in 4 American women will have an abortion by the age of 45). Opinion pieces denouncing me appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, Slate, the Huffington Post, Mother Jones, the Guardian and other publications.

The remarkable fact about all this commentary on my supposedly horrifying views on abortion is that not a single writer from any of those famous publications took the time to ask me about the controversy. (The sole exception was a reporter from Vox.) Did I think I was being portrayed accurately? Why did I make that outrageous statement? Did I really want to set up gallows, despite my long-stated reservations about capital punishment? Those are questions that might have occurred to people in the business of asking questions. (In preparing this account, I have confirmed my recollection of what Mr. Goldberg said with Mr. Goldberg himself.)

Instead of interviewing the subject of their pieces, they scanned my thousands of articles and found the tidbits that seemed most likely to provoke. I was half-amused by progressive activists’ claims to have “uncovered” things that were, after all, published. Goodness knows there’s lots to choose from: I have unpopular and contrarian views about what we used to call sex-reassignment surgery and are now expected to call “gender-confirmation surgery,” and I have argued that the much-remarked upon epidemic of sexual assault on American college campuses does not in fact exist (check the numbers).

But no, I didn’t call an African-American child a “monkey,” and, as should be clear by now, I’m not eager to be any sort of executioner. I am one of what I suspect is a very small number of American journalists to have seen a hanging (a lynching in India), and that kind of violence is worth taking seriously.

Having my views misrepresented is familiar territory for me. In 2014, I got a call from a friend who was disturbed by my public support for Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, who had gotten himself into trouble for some racist remarks. I had, at that time, never heard of Mr. Sterling, but there was a quote from me right there on Twitter: “‘Looks like the antiracist gestapo are already lacing up their jackboots for Donald Sterling,’ National Review’s Kevin Williamson commented.”

I mention that one mainly because I know the source of it: It was invented by Matt Bruenig, a left-wing blogger and lawyer formerly associated with the progressive think tank Demos and a contributor to, among other publications, the Atlantic. That quote was not a distortion; it was not “taken out of context” or anything of the sort. It was a pure fabrication. (Mr. Bruenig says that the quote, produced in its entirety above, was intended as “satire.”)

You can find other tweets attributed to me that are pure invention. And while the claims against me during the course of the Atlantic fiasco were not created ex nihilo, the distortions and exaggerations represent a similar kind of intellectual dishonesty: indifference to the facts of the case in the service of narrow ideological goals.

It is easy to misrepresent and exaggerate views that are controversial to begin with. I have argued for years that the current U.S. model of capital punishment is defective and that the practice ought to be tightly restricted or eliminated entirely. I also have argued that if we are to have capital punishment, then it should be carried out by means that are forthrightly violent—firing squad, hanging, etc.—rather than the current pseudo-clinical method of lethal injection. We should always be honest about what it is we are doing, and the involvement of the medical profession in the willful imposition of death is a perversion of its creed, whether in the matter of abortion or in the matter of executing criminals.

Whatever you think of my views on this issue, I’d suggest that they’re more interesting than hearing someone repeat the same shopworn talking points on capital punishment for the thousandth time. The editors of the Atlantic thought so, too, until the mob started doing their thinking for them.

The Atlantic has often welcomed controversial writers. The magazine’s best-known contributor today is Ta-Nehisi Coates, arguably the nation’s foremost writer on race. He came in for criticism after writing, in his book “Between the World and Me,” that the first responders on 9/11 were “not human” to him, that he had come to regard such uniformed figures as menaces. I don’t share his view, but if that’s what he thought at the time, then I’m glad he wrote it. He could have pretended to have had thoughts and feelings other than the ones he did—but the truth is usually more interesting, and it is always more useful.

The late Christopher Hitchens was another frequent contributor to the Atlantic. He was routinely denounced by people on the left for his harshly critical views of Islam. He complained of the war in Afghanistan that “the death toll is not nearly high enough,” described the Jewish scriptures as “evil and mad” and directed shameful vitriol at Mother Teresa. Hitchens routinely and gleefully gave occasion for offense—and he was one of the invaluable essayists of our time.

“Yes,” Mr. Goldberg said when I reminded him of this precedent. “But Hitchens was in the family. You are not.”

And that, of course, is what this whole episode was really about. No one is very much interested in my actual views on abortion and capital punishment—I am hardly a household name. Anyone genuinely interested in my views would have done what journalists do and inquired about them. It isn’t hard to do.

I’m working on a piece right now touching on the way that my fellow conservatives sometimes misrepresent the views of the economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Mr. Krugman is not the left-wing radical of the right-wing imagination but a moderately liberal Democrat with more traditional views on trade than the Trump administration; his critique of Republican tax policy is fundamentally a conservative one. I think Mr. Krugman would say that’s a fair accounting of his views. I am confident of this because I asked him, and he said so.

Where my writing appears is not a very important or interesting question. What matters more is the issue of how the rage-fueled tribalism of social media, especially Twitter, has infected the op-ed pages and, to some extent, the rest of journalism. Twitter is about offering markers of affiliation or markers of disaffiliation. The Left shouts RACIST!, and the Right shouts FAKE NEWS! There isn’t much that can be done about this other than treating social media with the low regard it deserves.

But when it comes to what appears in our newspapers and magazines, some of the old rules should still apply. By all means, let’s have advocacy journalism, but let’s make sure about the journalism part of it: Do the work, ask the questions, give readers a reason to assume that what’s published adheres to some basic standards of intellectual honesty. To do otherwise is to empower those who dismiss the media as a tangle of hopeless partisan opportunism.

Without credible journalism, all we have is the Twitter mob, which is a jealous god. Jealous and kind of stupid.

When the media doesn’t do its job

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association convention is this weekend. (No, I’m not going.)

I wonder if this Politico Special Report! will get discussed:

President Donald Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media may be rooted in statistical reality: An extensive review of subscription data and election results shows that Trump outperformed the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in counties with the lowest numbers of news subscribers, but didn’t do nearly as well in areas with heavier circulation.

POLITICO’s findings — which put Trump’s escalating attacks on the media in a new context — were drawn from a comparison of election results and subscription information from the Alliance for Audited Media, an industry group that verifies print and digital circulation for advertisers. The findings cover more than 1,000 mainstream news publications in more than 2,900 counties out of 3,100 nationwide from every state except Alaska, which does not hold elections at the county level.

President Donald Trump’s attacks on the mainstream media may be rooted in statistical reality: An extensive review of subscription data and election results shows that Trump outperformed the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in counties with the lowest numbers of news subscribers, but didn’t do nearly as well in areas with heavier circulation.

POLITICO’s findings — which put Trump’s escalating attacks on the media in a new context — were drawn from a comparison of election results and subscription information from the Alliance for Audited Media, an industry group that verifies print and digital circulation for advertisers. The findings cover more than 1,000 mainstream news publications in more than 2,900 counties out of 3,100 nationwide from every state except Alaska, which does not hold elections at the county level. …

“I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media, to be honest with you,” Trump told Fox Business Network in October. Without it, he said at the time, he “would never … get the word out.”

POLITICO’s analysis shows how he succeeded in avoiding mainstream outlets, and turned that into a winning strategy: Voters in so-called news deserts — places with minimal newspaper subscriptions, print or online — went for him in higher-than-expected numbers. In tight races with Clinton in states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the decline in local media could have made a decisive difference.

To assess how the decline in news subscriptions might have affected the presidential race, POLITICO made a county-by-county comparison of data from AAM. Almost all daily newspapers report their subscription numbers, print and online, to AAM for verification in order to sell to advertisers. (Some of the smallest outlets do not, though, including weekly publications.) After ranking the counties on subscription rates, POLITICO compared election results between counties with high and low subscription rates, and used regression analysis to determine the correlation between news circulation and election results.

Among the findings:

• Trump did better than Romney in areas with fewer households subscribing to news outlets but worse in areas with higher subscription rates: In counties where Trump’s vote margin was greater than Romney’s in 2012, the average subscription rate was only about two-thirds the size of that in counties where Trump did worse than Romney.

• Trump struggled against Clinton in places with more news subscribers: Counties in the top 10 percent of subscription rates were twice as likely to go for Clinton as those in the lowest 10 percent. Clinton was also more than 3.7 times as likely to beat former President Barack Obama’s 2012 performance in counties in the top 10 percent compared to those in the lowest 10 percent — the driest of the so-called news deserts.

• Trump’s share of the vote tended to drop in accordance with the amount of homes with news subscriptions: For every 10 percent of households in a county that subscribed to a news outlet, Trump’s vote share dropped by an average of 0.5 percentage points.

To many news professionals and academics who’ve studied the flow of political information, there’s no doubt that a lack of trusted local media created a void that was filled by social media and partisan national outlets. …

Starting in the 1970s, when the control of the nominating process shifted from party elites to primary-election voters, a common sight at rallies, conventions and debates was small groups of journalists, men and women, most of them having traveled in from Washington, gathering to compare observations. Together, they would decide what news had been made — which candidate handled himself better, which exchanges were the most relevant, which assertions were the most questionable.

In the days before the Internet, about a dozen news outlets dominated national political coverage. They included the major television networks, weekly news magazines, The Associated Press, and about a half-dozen newspapers. Wire services such as The New York Times News Service and The Washington Post-Los Angeles Times service sent out their articles to smaller papers across the country, guaranteeing vastly wider circulation for their stories.

There is a giant error here. (Actually more than one, but follow me for a bit.) To call an area — say, Ripon, where I used to live — a “news desert” because it doesn’t have a weekly newspaper is a gross misrepresentation. Ripon has a weekly newspaper, and an award-winning weekly newspaper at that. A lot of communities have award-winning weekly newspapers that are doing better in a business sense than the nearest daily newspaper.

In fact, across the newspaper industry weeklies are doing considerably better than dailies. Dailies face more competition for the advertising dollar (which is the majority of income for newspapers) than weeklies in smaller markets do, and often competition that relies on ad revenue for all of its revenue (radio and TV).

Dailies focus on the community whose name is in their masthead (i.e. the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), showing up in small towns only when there’s something they think is meaty. The weekly newspaper, meanwhile, covers things that don’t get the attention of the daily, such as school events, local sports, etc. The competently run weekly newspaper doesn’t focus on state or national issues except to the extent those issues affect their readers. So if Paul Ryan comes to town, they’ll cover Ryan, but they’re not going to write about politics beyond their market every week.

Chain ownership is a reality of journalism today, as it is in many fields of business. Though there is nothing innately wrong with chain ownership in the same way there is nothing innately wrong with ownership by a publicly traded company, chain ownership hasn’t worked out so well for daily newspaper readers. Gannett owns most of the daily newspapers east of the Interstate 39 corridor. None are considered quality newspapers (other than by themselves) except for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (and the JS certainly has its non-fans, which is probably a growing group, given the USA Today-ization of the Journal Sentinel). Gannett newspapers outside the Journal Sentinel run a page or two of news from the previous day’s edition of USA Today (which makes those pages USA Yesterday, actually two-day-old news, which should be unacceptable for a “daily” newspaper).

Other daily newspapers have made business decisions seemingly designed to alienate their audience. The Wisconsin State Journal decided to stop covering the southwestern part of the state at the same time the Dubuque Telegraph Herald stopped printing its own newspaper. So, you ask? The issue is that the TH’s print deadlines for a morning daily newspaper are the previous early afternoon, except for page 1 stories. Both the State Journal and the TH have simultaneously cut back on sports coverage in the area where they previously had overlap, reducing readers’ daily choices from two to none. Readers stop reading, or don’t start reading, due to (in their definition) bad product.

The Internet is a difficult problem for those who are used to getting customers to pay for their product. A lot of daily newspapers started putting their work online for free, and then discovered that people don’t like paying for something they used to get for free. The online model that seems to work best is to charge for the product but include it in a print subscription package, but a lot of daily newspapers haven’t figured that out.

The State Journal is the daily newspaper I grew up reading (starting at age 2, according to my parents, which did not compel the State Journal to hire me, not that I’m bitter or anything). It has been owned by Lee Newspapers for decades. State Journal readers if asked might say that the State Journal has gone backward in quality since Lee decided it wanted to buy bigger newspapers, such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that had increasing business problems. For all The Capital Times’ numerous faults, it was locally owned, and still is, though it is no longer a daily newspaper and still has those numerous faults.

Strange though this sounds, the Cap Times’ (as it calls itself now as a weekly tabloid) ending daily publication wasn’t a benefit to the State Journal’s non-liberal readers. The State Journal, both editorially and in its news coverage, has lurched leftward ever since then, while continuing to print Sunday screeds of editor Paul Fanlund and his predecessor, Dave Zweifel. The State Journal used to have a moderate-to-conservative editorial page, but that hasn’t been the case for years. (Similarly, the merger of the former Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel resulted in a generally slightly-less-than-liberal Journal Sentinel editorial page.)

What Politico terms “news deserts” are simply markets not large enough to support a daily newspaper. It’s pretty arrogant to assume that journalism occurs only in daily newspapers, but that’s one of the (often valid) criticisms of my line of work.

And speaking of that, David Harsanyi adds:

We’re now into our second year of theorizing about what went wrong in 2016, which is itself illustrative of the prejudice in much of political media. Most of these stories have nothing to do with Donald Trump’s policies or his behavior — topics well worth covering — and everything to do with creating the impression that the electoral process was dangerously flawed. Whether The Comey Letter swung the election or Fake News swung the election or Facebook data mining swung the election, there have been so many stories intimating that our democratic institutions have been subverted, that you sense certain people might be reluctant to accept the sanctity of the process.

I bring this up, because this week, a new Politico piece theorizes that a lack of “trusted news sources” in rural areas, rather than any particular issues, gave Donald Trump victory in 2016. It is perhaps the most unconvincing, inference-ridden, self-aggrandizing piece in the entire “What Went Wrong?” genre. The premise, basically, is that a lack of local media sources left a void that was filled by Donald Trump’s tweets and unreliable conservative sites, and that factor turned the 2016 election, “especially in states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania,” where hapless Americans were unable to make educated choices without proper guidance from journalists.

“The results,” Shawn Musgrave and Matthew Nussbaum write, “show a clear correlation between low subscription rates and Trump’s success in the 2016 election, both against Hillary Clinton and when compared to Romney in 2012.” Setting aside the problem of correlational/causation and all that, every one of these stories is driven by the unstated notion that Clinton was predestined to win the 2016 election, and any other outcome means something went wrong. There’s simply no way, a year into Hillary’s presidency, that major outlets would be doing a deep dive into the viewing habits of urbanites to try and comprehend how they could have been crazy enough to elect her.

It’s true, the world is changing and also it is inarguable that places with larger populations that have the means to support local newspapers (like the scrappy New York Times) would be more inclined to vote for Clinton, while in rural areas where subscription-based outlets are more difficult to maintain, they would not not. Both these things are true. Yet, there is no data in the piece — despite nearly 4,000 words and a number of graphs to create a scientific veneer — offering any compelling evidence that the dynamics of a race would be altered if the Bedford Falls Examiner was still in business.

In the old days, we’re told, the local reliable church-going editor would run dispassionate stories from trustworthy sources.

In the days before the Internet, about a dozen news outlets dominated national political coverage. They included the major television networks, weekly news magazines, The Associated Press, and about a half-dozen newspapers. Wire services such as The New York Times News Service and The Washington Post-Los Angeles Times service sent out their articles to smaller papers across the country, guaranteeing vastly wider circulation for their stories.

For people who care about the news, larger papers and stations still exist, but they exist online. Rural Americans, like urban Americans, get most of their news online. They follow national trends in their news consumption. After decades of skewed coverage, they’ve become skeptical. But like other voters, they rarely alter their positions, and when they do seek out the news they seek our news that feeds their predominant political prejudices. You may not like that rural Republicans get their news from FOX and Sinclair rather than CNN and MSNBC, but that’s a matter of ideological taste.

It is almost also certainly true that Trump’s “relentless use of social media” had something to do with perceptions of his voters (his obsession with Hillary is another story.) But would his successful application of new media, once celebrated when the appropriate people won elections, been any less effective because there was a Washington Post wire story running in the local paper? Would Trump voters have traded in the MAGA hat for an “I’m with her” bumper sticker if they read Paul Krugman in their paper? This seems unlikely.

What’s far more plausible is that a combination of factors made Trump in 2016 a marginally more agreeable Republican candidate to rural voters than Mitt Romney in 2012. Or, perhaps, even more relevant, that Hillary Clinton was far less likeable, and had far less political acumen, than the candidate Romney faced in 2012, Barack Obama. But even without factoring in the personalities, comparing turnout and voting patterns in different years in the way Politico does is fraught with other problems. Americans are fickle, and national events, trends, local economic factors, and thousands of other variables can alter results, as well.

The idea that a lack of a local newspaper is a determinative factor in swinging enough people to turn a national election is probably a reflection of journalism’s self-importance and an inability to live with the idea that Americans could vote for Trump without being hoodwinked in some way. Because, let’s face it, Democrats never really lose an election, do they? If the Supreme Court isn’t stealing the presidency then propaganda outfits are weaponizing social media mindbots to control your vote or the Constitution is getting in the way of proper “democracy.” We’re going to keep doing this until Americans make the right choice.

Trump may or may not get reelected (or even run) in 2020. But daily newspapers have probably lost those Trump voters permanently, and that is the daily media’s own fault. Alienating vast numbers of paying customers is not a successful recipe for staying in business.

Solidarity liberals don’t like

London’s Daily Mail:

The NRA has seen a huge surge in membership interest in recent weeks, after drawing noisy backlash over the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Google searches for ‘NRA membership’ have risen roughly 4,900 per cent since the week before the February 14 shooting, with new members flocking to support the gun owners’ rights group.

NRA President Wayne LaPierre announced last May that national membership had reached five million, but the group has not commented on the recent surge and didn’t immediately reply to calls from DailyMail.com on Sunday.

Though high-profile mass shootings often spur an increase in gun sales over fear of a crackdown, the Parkland shooting was different in the focus of vitriol that was directed at the NRA.

Some otherwise casual gun rights supporters said that the loud attacks on the NRA in the media by young Parkland survivors such as David Hogg drove them to sign up.

‘Thank you David Hogg for inspiring me,’ one Twitter user wrote. ‘I gifted my husband with an NRA membership. I felt now was an important time to support them,’ she continued, adding a screenshot of the membership confirmation email.
Other new NRA members said they were pushed to join because of perceived media bias and the rush to condemn gun rights in the wake of the shooting, in which 17 died.

‘After ten minutes of CNN’s town hall “debate” I had already searched for gun safes, the closest firearms dealer near me, classes on gun safety, and an NRA membership,’ wrote Robert Norman in a column for the Federalist.

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch appeared at the CNN town hall just a week after the shooting, receiving boos and curses from the packed arena.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel piled on, drawing cheers from the crowd when he berated Loesch – days before information about critical law enforcement failures in Israel’s own department came to light.

‘The town hall was a display of tyranny,’ wrote Norman, on why it prompted him to join the NRA.

‘For tyranny has never come from a single person, but rather from a mob cheering for the destruction of liberty and rights from those with whom they disagree.’

Google searches for ‘NRA membership’ have risen roughly 4900 per cent since the week before the February 14 shooting, according to this Google Trends report
After the CNN town hall, several national brands withdrew from partnerships to offer discounts to NRA members – companies including MetLife, Enterprise car rental, and Norton AntiVirus.

A new Morning Consult survey conducted last week found that net favorability ratings for those brands plunged when consumers learned of their moves to cut ties with the NRA – though the results were sharply split along partisan lines.

‘There is no one. NO ONE. Who joins the NRA for a discount on a rental car,’ Cleta Mitchell, an NRA member and former Oklahoma state lawmaker who sat on the NRA’s board from 2002 to 2013, said in an email to Time.

‘You can rest assured that the NRA will not lose a single member as a result of this,’ Mitchell said.

‘If anything, it should spur people to join the NRA as a means of demonstrating that we who believe in the Second Amendment will not be bullied by these left wing multi-billion dollar corporations

Business and guns

Dick’s Sporting Goods announced yesterday:

Facebook Friend Nathan Schacht sums up his opinion:

I don’t care if Dick’s is stopping their sales of AR-15s. Here’s why.
1) I go to Dicks about once every 2-3 months, I had no idea they sold guns. None. Can’t miss what you didn’t know existed, right?
2) The only thing I’ve ever bought from Dicks is clothing, all their other gear is outrageously overpriced, pricing I assume was applied to the guns I didn’t know they sold.
3) They are a private company and the can do what they want.
4) Do yourself a favor and get your guns from your local gun store, they could use the money more than Dicks anyways (and it’s safe to assume they have pretty prices), and they are on the front line standing up for your 2A rights, offering CCW and gun training classes and are you neighbors.

Nathan’s point number three is certainly correct. So is point number four. (Shop local!)

Walmart followed by announcing it was raising its age for firearms and ammunition purchases to 21, which means that according to Dick’s and Walmart you can defend and die for your country at 18, but you can’t buy a gun.

Dick’s focus, moreover, on alleged “assault weapons” is misguided. Consider:

And Dick’s management’s claim to support the Second Amendment is proven a lie by its support of infringing the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, while literally nothing Dick’s espouses will stop the next school shooting. It is yet another appeal based on emotions and not fact or logic.

Meanwhile, another Facebook Friend posted this list, whose veracity (including its definition of “anti-gun”) I cannot verify:

When someone or something bashes the NRA (for instance, members of my church Sunday), they are bashing the NRA’s members, for whom Second Amendment issues are very close to the top of their political priorities. NRA members specifically and gun owners vote, at the ballot box and with their wallets.

Why economic growth is better than “equality”

Amity Shlaes:

Free marketeers may sometimes win elections, but they are not winning U.S. history. In recent years, the consensus regarding the American past has slipped leftward, and then leftward again. No longer is American history a story of opportunity, or of military or domestic triumph. Ours has become, rather, a story of wrongs, racial and social. Today, any historical figure who failed at any time to support abolition, or, worse, took the Confederate side in the Civil War, must be expunged from history. Wrongs must be righted, and equality of result enforced.

The equality campaign spills over into a less obvious field, one that might otherwise provide a useful check upon the nonempirical claims of the humanities: economics. In a discipline that once showcased the power of markets, an axiom is taking hold: equal incomes lead to general prosperity and point toward utopia. Teachers, book review editors, and especially professors withhold any evidence to the contrary. Universities lead the shift, and the population follows. Today, millennials, those born between 1981 and 2000, outnumber baby boomers by the millions, and polls suggest that they support redistribution specifically, and government action generally, more than their predecessors do. A 2014 Reason/Rupe poll found 48 percent of millennials agreeing that government should “do more” to solve problems, whereas 37 percent said that government was doing “too many things.” A full 58 percent of the youngest of millennials, those 18–24 when surveyed, held a “positive” view of socialism, in dramatic contrast with their parents: only 23 percent of those aged 55 to 64 viewed socialism positively.

At least for now, most progressives acknowledge that markets and economic growth are necessary. But progressives in academia contend that growth has proved itself secondary to equality efforts—something to be exploited, rather than appreciated. Not just nationally, but worldwide, policymakers and the press regard the subordination of growth to equality to be a benign practice, as in the recent line in the Indian periodical Mint: a policy aimed at “reducing inequality need not hurt growth.”

The redistributionist impulse has brought to the fore metrics such as the Gini coefficient, named after the ur-redistributor, Corrado Gini, an Italian social scientist who developed an early statistical measure of income distribution a century ago. A society where a single plutocrat earns all the income ranks a pure “1” on the Gini scale; one in which all earnings are perfectly equally distributed, the old Scandinavian ideal, scores a “0” by the Gini test. The Gini Index has been renamed or updated numerous times, but the principle remains the same. Income distribution and redistribution seem so crucial to progressives that French economist Thomas Piketty built an international bestseller around it, the wildly lauded Capital.

Through Gini’s lens, we now rank past eras. Decades in which policy endeavored or managed to even out and equalize earnings—the 1930s under Franklin Roosevelt, the 1960s under Lyndon Johnson—score high. Decades where policymakers focused on growth before equality, such as the 1920s, fare poorly. Decades about which social-justice advocates aren’t sure what to say—the 1970s, say—simply drop from the discussion. In the same hierarchy, federal debt moves down as a concern because austerity to reduce debt could hinder redistribution. Lately, advocates of economically progressive history have made taking any position other than theirs a dangerous practice. Academic culture longs to topple the idols of markets, just as it longs to topple statutes of Robert E. Lee.

But progressives have their metrics wrong and their story backward. The geeky Gini metric fails to capture the American economic dynamic: in our country, innovative bursts lead to great wealth, which then moves to the rest of the population. Equality campaigns don’t lead automatically to prosperity; instead, prosperity leads to a higher standard of living and, eventually, in democracies, to greater equality. The late Simon Kuznets, who posited that societies that grow economically eventually become more equal, was right: growth cannot be assumed. Prioritizing equality over markets and growth hurts markets and growth and, most important, the low earners for whom social-justice advocates claim to fight. Government debt matters as well. Those who ring the equality theme so loudly deprive their own constituents, whose goals are usually much more concrete: educational opportunity, homes, better electronics, and, most of all, jobs. Translated into policy, the equality impulse takes our future hostage.

Touring American history with an eye on growth, not equality, has become so unusual that doing so almost feels like driving on the wrong side of the road. Nonetheless, a review trip through the decades is useful because the evidence for growth is right there, in our own American past. Four decades, especially, warrant examination: the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1960s, and the 1970s.

Foxconnsin

Tom Still knows more about Wisconsin business than those campaigning against Foxconn:

There are still plenty of people in Wisconsin who think the Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group is giving the state a giant head fake.

Skeptics think the company has no intention to put down roots in Wisconsin, and is simply waiting for the chance to abscond with our tax dollars and scamper home.

The latest company announcement rammed home the fact that nothing could be further from the truth.

Foxconn is buying a seven-story building in downtown Milwaukee from Northwestern Mutual, Wisconsin’s 161-year-old insurance giant. It will be the company’s North American headquarters and a center for activities outside its planned manufacturing plant in Racine County.

Those activities will include innovation, incubation, venture capital investment possibilities and other commercial dealings. The building has the capacity to hold 650 people and will be renamed Foxconn Place.

The move was praised by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Gov. Scott Walker, who joined in the Feb. 5 announcement.

“Foxconn is putting a stake in the ground,” said Abele, once touted as a Democratic candidate for governor. “This is an extraordinary opportunity…”

At the same news conference, Foxconn executive Louis Woo pledged the company will “work for the next 161 years to not only witness but actively participate in the transformation and growth of Wisconsin.”

If that’s a head fake, it beats anything we just saw in the Super Bowl.

People may continue to debate whether Foxconn’s 13,000 direct jobs and its predicted supply-chain effects are worth the state tax credits, but they need to remember Foxconn won’t get those credits unless the company meets specific job and capital goals over time.

The contract between the state and Foxconn is tightly written, as it should be, and lays down job and capital investment markers over a 15-year schedule. It’s a “pay-as-you-grow” strategy that can throttle up or down depending on the company’s performance.

In the meantime, skeptics should at least acknowledge that Foxconn is working hard to be a permanent and active corporate citizen of Wisconsin.

It shows not only in the Milwaukee headquarters announcement, but in job fairs, research and development relationships, supply chain spadework, land acquisition, transportation planning and more across the state.

In Milwaukee, the Regional Talent Partnership organized through the Milwaukee 7 economic development group is trying to meet the area’s workforce attraction and retention demands – including those tied to Foxconn.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone is leading that partnership, which involves other universities and technical colleges. The group includes UW-Parkside and Gateway Technical College, which is knee-deep in Foxconn workforce planning in Racine and Kenosha counties. Mone will speak at the March 19 Wisconsin Tech Summit in Waukesha, where Foxconn representatives will meet with emerging companies.

Marquette University and the Milwaukee School of Engineering are examples of colleges where Foxconn representatives have met with students and faculty; MSOE has announced plans for a gift-funded $34 million computational science and artificial science center to keep up with growing talent and R&D demands.

The city of Milwaukee is examining the possibility of expanded Amtrak service in the Milwaukee-to-Chicago rail route, in part to accommodate anticipated Foxconn workers traffic from the city to Racine County and back.

Meanwhile, reconstruction of I-94 south of Milwaukee is set to begin in earnest in 2019.

The highway will be widened from six lanes to eight from College Avenue in Milwaukee south to Highway 142 in Kenosha County. Interchanges will be rebuilt, as will frontage roads between Highway 20 and Highway KR, the stretch of interstate closest to the planned Foxconn campus.

While it’s a bittersweet experience for many farmers in the Racine town of Mount Pleasant, Foxconn is paying about five times per acre — about $50,000 — what land sold for before the company decided to build there.

Many people still have their doubts about the size of the Foxconn deal and remain concerned about environmental effects. At this point, however, those who still believe Foxconn is giving a giant head fake are only faking themselves.

A corrective word

The Associated Press reports:

Investor fears about higher interest rates escalated into rapid, computer-generated selling Monday that wiped out all the market’s gains for the year. At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 1,000 points in less than an hour, and it ended with its worst day in more than six years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is now down nearly 8 percent from its record high, set a little more than a week ago.

Market professionals warn that the selling could continue for a bit. But many are also quick to say they see no recession looming, and they expect the strengthening global economy and healthy corporate earnings to help stock prices recover.

“The reasons for the increase in rates is the stronger economy,” said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust. “The reasons are positive. It’s not as if something like 2008 or financial Armageddon is coming.”

The trigger for the sell-off came at the end of last week when a government report showed that wages across the country rose relatively quickly last month. While that’s good for workers, traders took it as a signal that higher inflation may be on the way, which could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly than expected. Higher rates not only make it more expensive for people and companies to borrow, they can also drive investors away from stocks and into bonds.

The sell-off Monday was so steep that some market-watchers blamed automated trading systems. These systems are programmed to buy and sell based on several variables, and they may have hit their sell triggers following the first wobble for stock prices after an unusually placid run.

That may mean even more volatility in the coming days, something that investors haven’t had to deal with during a blissful year-plus of record-setting returns. Before Monday, the S&P 500 index had gone a record period of time — roughly 400 trading days — without a drop of even 5 percent.

Monday was also the first day in office for the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, and investors are wondering how closely he will stick with the low interest-rate policies set by his predecessor, Janet Yellen.

Still, many market-watchers said they remain optimistic that stocks will recover.

Despite worries about interest rates, they still see a recession as a long shot. With economies growing around the world, profits for U.S. businesses are expected to continue rising, and stock prices tend to follow the path of corporate earnings over the long term.

“The rate worries have been the trigger” for the stock market’s swoon, said Melda Mergen, deputy global head of equities at Columbia Threadneedle. “But fundamentally, we don’t see any new news. It’s earnings season, the time that we get more direct feedback from our companies, and we don’t see any concerns.”

More than half the companies in the S&P 500 have told investors how they performed in the last three months of 2017, and most have topped analysts’ expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Even more encouraging is that more than three quarters of them made more revenue than expected, which means it’s not just cost-cutting and layoffs that are allowing companies to earn more.

The White House cited some of those trends Monday and said “long-term economic fundamentals … remain exceptionally strong.”

President Donald Trump, unlike his predecessors, bragged repeatedly about stocks as the market rose. Monday, he avoided the topic as they plunged.

During the bull market of the last year, Trump complained that the media weren’t giving him credit for record highs in securities values.

“I mean, it’s something that’s pretty amazing,” he said to a group of mayors last month, in characteristic remarks, citing an estimate of $8 trillion in added wealth.

He also has said that the market would have lost 50 percent of its value had Hillary Clinton won the election, a claim that he repeated publicly during a recent speech to global leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The assertion is impossible to prove or disprove.

Trump’s comments came despite frequent reminders from fact checkers and others that stocks began rising during the tenure of former President Barack Obama. In his administration, Obama and his aides were especially careful to avoid making comments about the market, for fear that the president would be blamed when it fell, as markets inevitably do.

During Monday’s market plunge, Trump was delivering a speech touting his tax cuts at a factory in Cincinnati, calling employees to the stage to discuss the gains they expected to make as a result of changes in the tax laws and what they intended to do with bonus checks they were receiving.

Trump did not mention the falling market, but as he bragged about the soaring economy, all three cable news channels airing the speech displayed graphics showing the market dropping in real time. As the speech wore on and stocks continued falling, all three — including Trump-friendly Fox News — pulled away from the speech entirely to report on the Dow.

If the stock market does indeed bounce back, though, many market-watchers expect returns to be more muted than in prior years because prices have already climbed so high. The S&P 500 is up nearly 292 percent since bottoming in early 2009.

And investors should remember that drops like those of the past two days aren’t a unique occurrence for stocks. They’re inherently risky investments, and investors should be prepared to see drops of 10 percent. Such declines happen so regularly that analysts have a name for them: a market correction.

Yesterday’s record drop totaled 4.5 percent, which is not remotely close to a record. The Black Monday 1987 drop was 22.61 percent, and those 508 points were recovered in a year. The Black Tuesday 1929 drop was 12.82 percent, followed a day later by another 11.73-percent drop and a week later by a 9.92-percent drop. In the two months before and after the 2008 election, the Dow Jones dropped 2,870 points over four days. Even with the drops of last week and Monday, the Dow Jones has gained 6,000 points since Election Day 2016.

Investors should look at the long term, not what happened yesterday or last week, and look at their own financial situations instead of what the news media reports.

 

The anti-Obama (and anti-Hillary)

Victor Davis Hanson:

Donald Trump continues to baffle. Never Trump Republicans still struggle to square the circle of quietly agreeing so far with most of his policies, as they loudly insist that his record is already nullified by its supposedly odious author. Or surely it soon will be discredited by the next Trumpian outrage. Or his successes belong to congressional and Cabinet members, while his failures are all his own. Rarely do they seriously reflect on what otherwise over the last year might have been the trajectory of a Clinton administration.

Contrary to popular supposition, the Left loathes Trump not just for what he has done. (It is often too consumed with fury to calibrate carefully the particulars of the Trump agenda.) Rather, it despises him mostly for what he superficially represents.

To many progressives and indeed elites of all persuasions, Trump is also the Prince of Anti-culture: mindlessly naïve American boosterism; conspicuous, 1950s-style unapologetic consumption; repetitive and limited vocabulary; fast-food culinary tastes; Queens accent; herky-jerky mannerisms; ostentatious dress; bulging appearance; poorly disguised facial expressions; embracing rather than sneering at middle-class appetites; a lack of subtlety, nuance, and ambiguity.

In short Trump’s very essence wars with everything that long ago was proven to be noble, just, and correct by Vanity Fair, NPR, The New Yorker, Google, the Upper West Side, and The Daily Show. There is not even a smidgeon of a concession that some of Trump’s policies might offer tens of thousands of forgotten inner-city youth good jobs or revitalize a dead and written-off town in the Midwest, or make the petroleum of the war-torn Persian Gulf strategically irrelevant to an oil-rich United States.

Yet one way of understanding Trump — particularly the momentum of his first year — is through recollection of the last eight years of the Obama administration. In reductionist terms, Trump is the un-Obama. Surprisingly, that is saying quite a lot more than simple reductive negativism. Republicans have not seriously attempted to roll back the administrative state since Reagan. On key issues of climate change, entitlements, illegal immigration, government spending, and globalization, it was sometimes hard to distinguish a Bush initiative from a Clinton policy or a McCain bill from a Biden proposal. There was often a reluctant acceptance of the seemingly inevitable march to the European-style socialist administrative state.

Of course, there were sometimes differences between the two parties, such as the George W. Bush’s tax cuts or the Republicans’ opposition to Obamacare. Yet for the most part, since 1989, we’ve had lots of rhetoric but otherwise no serious effort to prune back the autonomous bureaucracy that grew ever larger. Few Republicans in the executive branch sought to reduce government employment, deregulate, sanction radical expansion of fossil-fuel production, question the economic effects of globalization on Americans between the coasts, address deindustrialization, recalibrate the tax code, rein in the EPA, secure the border, reduce illegal immigration, or question transnational organizations. To do all that would require a president to be largely hated by the Left, demonized by the media, and caricatured in popular culture — and few were willing to endure the commensurate ostracism.

Trump has done all that in a manner perhaps more Reaganesque than Reagan himself. In part, he has been able to make such moves because of the Republican majority (though thin) in Congress and also because of, not despite, his politically incorrect bluntness, his in-your-face talk, innate cunning, reality-TV celebrity status, animalistic energy, and his cynical appraisal that tangible success wins more support than ideology. And, yes, in part the wheeler-dealer Manhattan billionaire developed real sympathy for the forgotten losers of globalization.

Even his critics sometimes concede that his economic and foreign-policy agendas are bringing dividends. In some sense, it is not so much because of innovative policy, but rather that he is simply bullying his way back to basics we’ve forgotten over the past decades.

The wonder was never how to grow the economy at 3 percent (all presidents prior to 2009 had at one time or another done just that), but rather, contrary to “expert” economic opinion, how to discover ways to prevent that organic occurrence.

Obama was the first modern president who apparently figured out how. It took the efforts of a 24/7 redistributionist agenda of tax increases, federalizing health care, massive new debt, layers of more regulation, zero-interest rates, neo-socialist regulatory appointments, expansionary eligibility for entitlements, and constant anti-free-market jawboning that created a psychological atmosphere conducive to real retrenchment, mental holding patterns, and legitimate fears over discernable success. Obama weaponized federal agencies including the IRS, DOJ, and EPA in such a manner as to worry anyone successful, prominent, and conservative enough to come under the federal radar of a vindictive Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, or a FISA court.

Trump has sought to undo all that, point by point. The initial result so far is not rocket science, but rather a natural expression of what happens when millions of Americans believe they have greater freedom and safety to profit and innovate, and trust they will not be punished, materially or psychologically, for the ensuing successful results. The radical upsurge in business and consumer confidence is not revolutionary but almost natural. The Left and Never Trump Right claim that Trump is Stalin, Hitler, or Mussolini. In fact, for the first time in eight years, it is highly unlikely that the FBI, IRS, CIA, DOJ, and other alphabet-soup agencies see their tasks as going after the president’s perceived opponents.

The same about-face is true on the foreign-policy front, as the ancient practice of deterrence replaced the modern therapeutic mindset. Obama blurred, deliberately so, the lines between allies and hostiles. America experienced the worst of both worlds: We were rarely respected by our friends, even more rarely feared by our enemies; loud rhetorical muscularity was backed up only by “strategic patience” and “leading from behind.”

On the supposedly friendly side, Europe assumed that the United States would fawn after the virtue-signaling Paris Climate Accord. The Palestinians concluded that there was no shelf life on victimhood and that America simply would not, could not, dare not move its embassy to Jerusalem as the Congress had chronically showboated it would. NATO just knew that endless subsidies were its birthright and prior commitments were debatable. The West apparently lapped up Obama’s Cairo speech: But when even the European Renaissance and Enlightenment were seen as derivatives of Islam, there is not much left to boast about.

On the unfriendly side, China sensed there was little danger in turning the Spratley Islands into an armed valve of the South China Sea. Russia understood that America was obsequiously “flexible” and ready to push a red plastic reset button in times of crisis.

ISIS assumed that American lawyers were vetoing air-strike targets. Iran guessed rightly that the Obama administration would concede a lot to strike a legacy deal on nonproliferation. It was unsure only about whether the Obama administration’s eagerness to dissimulate about the disadvantageous details were due to a sincere desire to empower revolutionary, Shiite Iran as an antipode to Israel and the Sunni oil monarchies, or arising from a reckless need to leave some sort of foreign-policy signature. Kim Jung-un concluded that the eight years of the Obama administration provided a rare golden moment to vastly expand its nuclear and missile capability — and then announce it as an irrevocable fait accompli after Obama left office.

Again, the common denominator was that the Obama administration, in quite radical fashion, had sought a therapeutic inversion of foreign policy — in a way few other major nations had previously envisioned.

Trump’s appointees almost immediately began undoing all that. There were no more effective avatars of old-style deterrence than James Mattis and H. R. McMaster. Neither was political. Both long ago embraced a realist appraisal of human nature, predicated on two ancient ideas: We all are more likely to behave when we accept that the alternative is far more dangerous to ourselves, and the world is better off when everyone knows the laws in the arena. Just as Obama’s pseudo–red lines in Syria signaled to the Iranians or North Koreans that there were few lines of any sort anywhere; so too the destruction of ISIS suggested to others that there might be far fewer restrictions on an American secretary of defense anywhere

On the cultural side, the Trump team figuratively paused, examined its inheritance from the prior administration, and apparently concluded something like “this is unhinged.” Then it proceeded, to the degree possible, to undo it.

Open borders, illegal immigration, and sanctuary cities are the norms of very few sovereign states. They are aberrations that are unsustainable whether the practitioner is Canada, Mexico, or the United States. Calling a small pond or large puddle on a farm’s low spot an “inland waterway” subject to federal regulation is deranged; undoing that was not radical, but commonsensical.

Trump sought to revive the cultural atmosphere prior to Obama’s assertion that he would fundamentally transform what had already been a great country. In 2008, it would have been inconceivable that NFL multimillionaires would refuse to stand for the National Anthem — much less in suicidal fashion insult their paying fans by insinuating that they deserved such a snub because they were racists and xenophobes. It was Byzantine that a country would enter an iconoclastic frenzy in the dead of night, smashing and defacing statues without legislative or popular democratic sanction.

The Un-Obama agenda was not simply reflexive or easy — given that Obama was the apotheosis of a decades-long progressive dream. After all, in year one, Trump has been demonized in a manner unprecedented in post-war America, given the astonishing statistic that 90 percent of all media coverage of his person and policies has been negative. Obama was a representation of a progressive view of the Constitution that about a quarter of the population holds, but in Obama, that view found a rare megaphone for an otherwise hard sell.

One would have thought that all Republican presidents and presidential candidate would be something like the antitheses to progressivism. In truth, few really were. So given the lateness of the national hour, a President Nobama could prove to be quite a change.

Trump’s (which means Republicans’) biggest triumph might be this list reported by Americans for Tax Reform of the U.S. companies, from A (AAON) to Z (Zions Bancorporation) that have announced “pay raises, bonuses, expansions, 401(k) increases — arising from tax reform.” Giving you back your money (and yes, taxes are your money the government is taking from you) should be the number one priority of any elected official.

And, reports CNBC:

Apple on Wednesday made a slew of announcements about its investment in and contribution to the U.S. economy in part because of the new tax law.

The headline from Apple is that it will make a $350 billion “contribution” to the U.S. economy over the next five years, although it’s unclear exactly how the company came to that number.

The company also promised to create 20,000 new jobs and open a new campus.

It said it expects to pay about $38 billion in taxes for the horde of cash it plans to bring back to the United States. This implies it will repatriate virtually all of its $250 billion in overseas cash.

Apple also said it will spend over $30 billion in capital expenditures over the next five years. About $10 billion in capital expenditures will be investments in U.S. data centers, the company said.

Apple added that it will spend $5 billion as part of an innovation fund, up from the $1 billion CEO Tim Cook announced last year on CNBC’s “Mad Money.”

The job creation will include direct employment and also suppliers and its app business, which it had already planned to grow substantially (app developers earned $26.5 billion in 2017.) The new campus will focus on customer support.

Obama not only didn’t decrease our taxes, he increased our taxes (by allowing the George W. Bush payroll tax cuts to expire). Everyone who considers himself or herself anti-Trump should ask himself or herself whether there is any chance Hillary Clinton would have cut your taxes.

Nor would you be reading this, reported by The Hill:

Who deserves credit for the booming economy? This is not a petty argument. How voters answer the question could well determine whether Democrats retake the House of Representatives come November.

Trump and Obama (and their admirers) are slugging it out, both claiming that it is their policies that have led to the ongoing economic expansion, steady job growth and higher stock prices.

Happily for President Trump, the pros agree with him. A recent survey of economists suggest it is President Trump, and not Obama, who should be taking a bow.

The Wall Street Journal asked 68 business, financial and academic economists who was responsible for the strengthening of the economy, and most “suggested Mr. Trump’s election deserves at least some credit” for the upturn.

A majority said the president had been “somewhat” or “strongly” positive for job creation, gross domestic product growth and the rising stock market.

The pros cite the White House’s push for lighter regulation and the recent tax bill as critical to a pro-growth environment; more than 90 percent of the group thought the tax bill would boost GDP expansion over the next two years.

A year ago in the same survey, economists awarded President Obama mixed grades. Most saw his policies as positive for financial stability, but neutral-to-negative for GDP growth and negative for long-term growth. By contrast, Trump was seen as neutral to positive for long-term gains.

Why would Trump rate higher than Obama with this group? Economists point to the upturn in business confidence that accompanied Trump’s election, and tie that to increasing business investment. Spending on capital goods accelerated sharply over the first three quarters of last year, growing at an annualized rate of 6.2 percent.

Such outlays will spur productivity gains and lead to wage hikes, creating a virtuous circle complete with rising consumer confidence and spending. …

Democrats are terrified that the tax cuts will be a pleasant surprise to those who believed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) when she called the bill Armageddon, and when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared it a “kick in the gut to the middle class.”

They are even more terrified of the bonuses and raises being handed out by employers large and small, who credit the tax bill for those unexpected benefits. Democrats are trying to convince voters that those $1,000 bonuses and pay hikes are “crumbs” as multi-millionaire Nancy Pelosi recently said.

Maybe $1,000 is “pathetic” to Pelosi, but for a great many Americans, it is a big and welcome windfall.

The policy of this blog (in contrast to the opinions of Trump-worshipers and Trump-haters) is to give any politician, including Trump, credit when credit is due, and criticism when criticism is due.

 

How to put more money in people’s pockets

Facebook Friend Devin has compiled a list of companies, several of which have offices in Wisconsin, that have raised wages or otherwise invested in their employees since the announcement of the federal tax cuts late last year:

Wal-Mart – wages increased and bonuses paid

Southwest Airlines – Bonuses paid

CVS – increased hiring

FedEx- increased hiring

Aflac: $250 million boost in U.S. investments and increased 401(k) benefits, including one-time contribution of $500 to every employee’s retirement savings account.

American Savings Bank: $1,000 bonus to 1,150 employees, nearly the entire workforce, and increase of minimum wage from $12.21 an hour to $15.15.

Aquesta Financial Holdings: $1,000 bonus to all employees, increase in minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Associated Bank: $500 bonus to nearly all employees and increased minimum wage to $15 per hour, up from $10.

AT&T: $1,000 bonus to all 200,000 U.S. workers and $1 billion boost in U.S. investments.

Bank of America: $1,000 bonus for about 145,000 U.S. employees.

Bank of Hawaii: $1,000 bonus for 2,074 employees, or 95 percent of its workforce, and increase of minimum wage from $12 to $15.

BB&T Corp.: $1,200 bonus for almost three-fourths of associates, or 27,000 employees, and increase in minimum wage from $12 to $15.

Boeing: $300 million boost in investments to employee gift-match programs, workforce development, and workplace improvements.

Central Pacific Bank: $1,000 bonus to all 850 nonexecutive employees and increase in minimum wage from $12 to $15.25.

Comcast NBCUniversal: $1,000 bonus for more than 100,000 employees.

Deleware Supermarkets Inc.: $150 bonus to 1,000 nonmanagement employees and $150,000 in new investment in employee training and development programs.

Express Employment Prc: $2,000 bonus to all nonexecutive employees at Oklahoma City headquarters.

Fifth Third Bancorp: $1,000 bonus for all 13,500 employees and increase of minimum wage to $15 for nearly 3,000 workers.

First Hawaiian Bank: $1,500 bonus for all 2,264 employees and increase in minimum wage to $15.

First Horizon National Corp.: $1,000 bonus to employees who do not participate in company-sponsored bonus plans.

Kansas City Southern: $1,000 bonus to employees of subsidiaries in the U.S. and Mexico.

Melaleuca: $100 bonus for every year an employee has worked for the company—an average of $800 for each of 2,000 workers.

National Bank Holdings Corp.: $1,000 bonus to all noncommissioned associates who earn a base salary under $50,000.

Nelnet: $1,000 bonus for nearly all of 4,100 employees.

Nephron Parmaceuticals: wage increase of 5 percent for its 640 employees.

Nexus: wage increase of 5 percent and plans to hire 200 workers in 2018.

OceanFirst Bank: increase in minimum wage from $13.60 to $15, affecting at least 166 employees.

PNC Bank: $1,000 bonus to 47,500 employees and $1,500 increase to existing pension accounts.

Pinnacle Bank: $1,000 bonus for all full-time employees in Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.

Pioneer Credit Recovery: $1,000 bonus to employees.

Rush Enterprises Inc.: $1,000 discretionary bonus to 6,600 U.S. employees.

Sinclair Broadcast: $1,000 bonus to nearly 9,000 employees.

SunTrust: increase of minimum wage to $15, $50 million increase in community grants, 1 percent 401(k) contribution for all employees.

Turning Point Brands, Inc.: $1,000 bonus to 107 employees.

Washington Federal, Inc.: wage increase of 5 percent for employees earning less than $100,000 per year and increased investments in technology infrastructure and community projects.

Wells Fargo: increase in minimum wage from $13.50 to $15, and higher charitable giving by about 40 percent, to $400 million.

Western Alliance: wage increase of 7.5 percent for the lowest-paid 50 percent of employees.

Whether you like this fact or not, that is directly to Trump’s and the Republican Congress’ credit. And …

More broadly, Mark J. Perry observes things for which politicians do not deserve credit:

I posted the charts above on Twitter last Sunday and that Tweet has already had more than 1,000 re-Tweets and hundreds of comments, e.g., here’s a typical one: “This is something to cheer you up, in stark contrast to the daily #media #coverage!” So to help get people even more cheered up, and to counteract the negative news in the media with some positive economic data and facts, here’s a re-post of my 2014 “Carpe Century” post:

Morgan Housel at The Motley Fool lists the 50 reasons we’re living through the greatest period in world history (free registration may be required), and here are 25 of my favorites:

1. U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950, and 79 years today. The average newborn today can expect to live an entire generation longer than his great-grandparents could.

2. In 1949, Popular Mechanics magazine made the bold prediction that someday a computer could weigh less than 1 ton. I wrote this sentence on an iPad that weighs 0.73 pounds.

3. The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51. Enjoy your golden years — your ancestors didn’t get any of them.

4. Despite a surge in airline travel, there were half as many fatal plane accidents in 2012 than there were in 1960, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

5. People worry that the U.S. economy will end up stagnant like Japan’s. Next time you hear that, remember that unemployment in Japan hasn’t been above 5.6% in the past 25 years, its government corruption ranking has consistently improved, incomes per capita adjusted for purchasing power have grown at a decent rate, and life expectancy has risen by nearly five years. I can think of worse scenarios.

6. Two percent of American homes had electricity in 1900. J.P Morgan (the man) was one of the first to install electricity in his home, and it required a private power plant on his property. Even by 1950, close to 30% of American homes didn’t have electricity. It wasn’t until the 1970s that virtually all homes were powered. Adjusted for wage growth, electricity cost more than 10 times as much in 1900 as it does today, according to professor Julian Simon.

7. According to the Federal Reserve, the number of lifetime years spent in leisure — retirement plus time off during your working years — rose from 11 years in 1870 to 35 years by 1990. Given the rise in life expectancy, it’s probably close to 40 years today. Which is amazing: The average American spends nearly half his life in leisure. If you had told this to the average American 100 years ago, that person would have considered you wealthy beyond imagination.

8. Median household income adjusted for inflation was around $25,000 per year during the 1950s. It’s nearly double that amount today. We have false nostalgia about the prosperity of the 1950s because our definition of what counts as “middle class” has been inflated — see the 34% rise in the size of the median American home in just the past 25 years. If you dig into how the average “prosperous” American family lived in the 1950s, I think you’ll find a standard of living we’d call “poverty” today.

9. According to the Census Bureau, only one in 10 American homes had air conditioning in 1960. That rose to 49% in 1973, and 89% today — the 11% that don’t are mostly in cold climates. Simple improvements like this have changed our lives in immeasurable ways.

10. Almost no homes had a refrigerator in 1900, according to Frederick Lewis Allan’s The Big Change, let alone a car. Today they sell cars with refrigerators in them.

11. Adjusted for overall inflation, the cost of an average round-trip airline ticket fell 50% from 1978 to 2011, according to Airlines for America.

12. According to the Census Bureau, the average new home now has more bathrooms than occupants.

13. According to the Census Bureau, in 1900 there was one housing unit for every five Americans. Today, there’s one for every three. In 1910 the average home had 1.13 occupants per room. By 1997 it was down to 0.42 occupants per room.

14. Relative to hourly wages, the cost of an average new car has fallen by a factor of four since 1915, according to professor Julian Simon (5,000 hours of work at the average wage in 1915 vs. about 1,200 today).

15. Google Maps is free. If you think about this for a few moments, it’s really astounding. It’s probably the single most useful piece of software ever invented, and it’s free for anyone to use.

16. The average American work week has declined from 66 hours in 1850, to 51 hours in 1909, to 34.8 today, according to the Federal Reserve. Enjoy your weekend.

17. Incomes have grown so much faster than food prices that the average American household now spends less than half as much of its income on food as it did in the 1950s. Relative to wages, the price of food has declined more than 90% since the 19th century, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

18. As of March 2013, there were 8.99 million millionaire households in the U.S., according to the Spectrum Group. Put them together and they would make the largest city in the country, and the 18th largest city in the world, just behind Tokyo. We talk a lot about wealth concentration in the United States, but it’s not just the very top that has done well.

19. In 1900, 44% of all American jobs were in farming. Today, around 2% are. We’ve become so efficient at the basic need of feeding ourselves that nearly half the population can now work on other stuff.

20. U.S. oil production in September was the highest it’s been since 1989, and growth shows no sign of slowing. We produced 57% more oil in America in September 2013 than we did in September 2007. The International Energy Agency projects that America will be the world’s largest oil producer as soon as 2015.

21. The average American car got 13 miles per gallon in 1975, and more than 26 miles per gallon in 2013, according to the Energy Protection Agency. This has an effect identical to cutting the cost of gasoline in half.

22. Annual inflation in the United States hasn’t been above 10% since 1981 and has been below 5% in 77% of years over the past seven decades. When you consider all the hatred directed toward the Federal Reserve, this is astounding.

23. According to AT&T archives and the Dallas Fed, a three-minute phone call from New York to San Francisco cost $341 in 1915, and $12.66 in 1960, adjusted for inflation. Today, Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $5 a month.

24. You need an annual income of $34,000 a year to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic’s 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it’s $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America’s poorest are some of the world’s richest.

25. Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are you’re one of them. We’ve got it made. Be thankful.