Will real growth improve under the Trump Administration? Not if the Fed and the left can prevent it!

The tweet caught my eye:

Modest? By long-term historical standards, certainly, but the professional economists, including the Federal Reserve, seem to think that roughly 2% is the new maximum sustainable growth. The article:

Donald Trump wants 4% GDP growth. 3% will do

by Paul R. La Monica | March 22, 2017: 12:40 PM ET

Few mainstream economists believe that President Trump will be able to get the U.S. economy growing at an annualized rate of 4% anytime soon. But he may not have to live up to that promise.

Even if the economy grows at a more modest 3% clip over the next few years, Trump will likely be able to take a victory lap.

Why would 3% be the magic number for Trump? For starters, a 3% growth rate is better than what the U.S. economy has experienced lately. GDP has hovered around 2% or so.

If the economy gains enough steam so that 3% growth is sustainable, that would probably mean even more job creation, higher wages, increased productivity and stable stock and housing markets. In other words, Wall Street and Main Street will approve.

Is 3% doable? A lot may depend on how quickly Trump is able to get his numerous economic proposals through Congress.

Tax reform. More infrastructure spending. A rollback of Obama-era regulations on banks and health care companies. Trump has a lot on his plate.

But Bill Sandbrook, CEO of U.S. Concrete (USCR), thinks Trump will be able to deliver 3% growth.

Sandbrook voted for Trump and he continues to be impressed by the fact that the president is willing to have an open dialogue with business leaders about what needs to be done to boost the U.S. economy.

He thinks that more companies will start to hire more because there is increased confidence about what’s going on in Washington.

Considering the anemic, roughly 2% real GDP growth during the Obama Administration, 3% wouldn’t seem terribly “modest” to me. And for Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve, it’s way too much! From The New York Times:

A Trump Economic Boom? The Fed May Stand in the Way

By Binyamin Appelbaum | December 13, 2016

WASHINGTON — Investors in financial markets, and those predicting faster economic growth in 2017, would do well to remember the famous words that William McChesney Martin Jr., the former Federal Reserve chairman, uttered way back in 1955: The Fed’s job is to remove the punch bowl just as the party gets going.

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s promises to cut taxes and regulation and to increase spending on infrastructure and defense have convinced many that a sugar high in the near term will goose the economy. But Fed officials say the economy is already expanding at something close to its maximum sustainable pace, meaning faster growth would drive inflation toward unwelcome levels.

To avoid overheating, the Fed could respond by raising interest rates more quickly. The more Mr. Trump stimulates growth, the faster the Fed is likely to increase rates. .  .  .  .

“Our No. 1 priority is going to be the economy, get back to 3 to 4 percent growth,” Steven Mnuchin, Mr. Trump’s pick to serve as Treasury secretary, said last month.

Many economists regard such growth predictions as fanciful; the economy has been mired in an extended period of slow growth and the reasons, including an aging population and a dearth of innovation, are unlikely to change quickly. Some think Mr. Trump is more likely to push the economy into recession than to catalyze a new boom.

Even if Mr. Trump is right, however, the Fed does not want 4 percent growth.

The central bank’s outlook has become increasingly gloomy. Officials estimated in September that annual growth of 1.8 percent was the maximum sustainable pace, and they predicted growth would not exceed 2 percent in the next three years.

There’s more at the link; the emphasis was mine.

The article was from last December, but we have already noted that the Fed are already doing their best to put the brakes on economic growth.  It’s been made quite clear that the Fed not only don’t believe that economic growth or much more than 2% is sustainable, but that they will fight any attempts by the Trump Administration to achieve higher growth. While I have previously said that I do not believe that any ‘stimulus’ program would be a good idea, the President has yet to present any stimulus program, but the Fed are already raising rates to slow down whatever economic growth there is.  The President’s calls for regulatory reform to get out of the way of economic activity hardly seem something which ought to anger Dr Yellen, but the Fed raised interest rates a total of fifty basis points (combined) at their December and March meetings, and their meeting report indicated that they still plan on two more increases this year, and three increases in 2018 and 2019.

And, as the chart at the right indicates, the Fed project GDP growth at 2.1% for this year and next, dropping to 1.9% in 2019. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the Fed continued policies to hold growth down to those ranges. After all, every one of the five members of the Board of Governors was appointed by President Obama, and one of them, Lael Brainard, contributed the maximum amount allowable under the law to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.1

One more paragraph from the Times article:

For years, Fed officials urged Congress to increase fiscal spending. Now, Mr. Trump is promising to do just that — and the Fed has concluded that it is too late.

I suppose that the Fed are now becoming deficit hawks, the way the esteemed Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist flip-flopped on deficits once Mr Trump won the 2016 election.2 Somehow, I find it difficult to believe that the Fed’s change of heart is not a direct reflection of the election results.

Will we see improved economic growth during the Trump Administration?  Nobody knows, of course, but if 3% real growth is achieved, it won’t be because the Fed or the Democrats or the left didn’t fight it.

____________________

  1. Dr Brainard “is in line for a top job if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.”
  2. It should be noted that I have not flip-flopped on deficits, being critical of President Obama’s wasteful spending and stating that I opposed such plans by President Trump.

The bias of NBC News

CNBC, actually, one of the places I don’t expect too much anti-Trump bias.

At 9:44 AM EDT this morning, with the stock market down slightly, the blurb at the bottom of the screen was “Trump Slump,” as though the at-the-time decline of roughly 0.15% in the Dow Jones Industrial Average — and the NASDAQ was up slightly then — was somehow Donald Trump’s fault.

Of course, stocks had fallen more than 1% on Tuesday: the Dow closed at 20,668.01, down 288.32 points, or 1.14%. However, the Dow closed at 18,259.60 on November 7, 2016, the day before the election (when almost everybody expected Hillary Clinton to win the election), and 18,332.43, up 0.4% on election day itself. Since then, the stock market has soared, closing above 20,000 for the first time ever on January 25, 2017, and hit a record 21,115.55 at the market close on March 1, 2017. Yes, 20,665.01 is down from that high, 447.54 points, or 2.1%, but that’s still 2335.58, or 12.7% since the election. It’s kind of difficult to call a slightly more than 1% decline, following a 12.7% advance, as a “Trump Slump.”

But, if it’s kind of difficult to do so reasonably, it apparently isn’t when you are expressing an obvious bias.

The Fed and its economic biases

We have frequently noted how poorly the Federal Reserve has done on its economic prognostications. Now, The Wall Street Journal catches up with us:

The Fed Is Stuck in the Past With Its Forecasts of the Future

Recent economic forecasts that have missed the mark suggest a flaw in the central bank’s approach

By James Mackintosh | March 20, 2017 10:57 a.m. ET

Currency markets offer the perfect antidote to confident forecasters. The overwhelming consensus before Christmas was that the dollar was setting off on an early-1980s-style bull run, and investors should grab hold while they still could. The euro would fall to parity, and emerging markets needed to brace for turmoil as dollar debts would become harder to service.

Three months later, the dollar’s weaker, the euro (and the less-discussed yen) is up strongly, and emerging market stocks and currencies have leapt.

Understanding what went wrong with the forecasts is vital in pinning down what might happen next. But more important for the longer term are the Federal Reserve’s predictions of weak growth forevermore—and whether it is merely projecting the recent past into the indefinite future.

There were three major drivers of the dollar’s reversal. First and probably most important was that the dollar had become a crowded trade, with pretty much everyone believing it would carry on up. Bets on dollar futures had rarely been higher, and the consensus in favour of the dollar was strong.

Underlying this positive sentiment were two fundamental arguments, neither of which has so far worked out: Central bank divergence; and U.S. tax policy.

The Fed’s December increase marked the resumption of its interrupted rate cycle, while the central banks of Europe and Japan were stuck with hopeless economies and no inflation, and so wouldn’t raise interest rates in the foreseeable future. Investors were also convinced that the Republican-controlled House proposal for a border-adjusted tax would restrict imports while helping exports, giving a boost to the dollar.

There’s a lot more at the link.

Mr Mackintosh, the author, continues to document just how far off the Fed’s economic projections have been in the recent past, and how their own (internal) recognition of their past mistakes are now leading to a bias to err again, this time on the negative side:

“All these years they’ve had these bullish views and they’ve had to downgrade,” says Stephen Jen, co-founder of Eurizon SLJ Capital. “Now just as the world economy seems to be gaining traction they are moving the other way.”

Put another way, the Fed’s economists may have fallen into the classic psychological trap of recency bias, putting too much weight on the postcrisis period. The history of secular stagnation suggests the Fed’s far from the first to assume the good times are gone forever.

It seems that the Fed hves been making the same mistakes everywhere, erring on the high side of projected economic growth — and they couldn’t even get right the “projected” GDP growth for 2016 in a meeting after 11½ months of 2016 had already elapsed — as well as the strength of the dollar.  These are very different things, with very different data: GDP is a complex, after-the-fact measurement, while currency markets always have up-to-date information, but the author’s theme is that the Fed have internalized an economic bias which leads them to be wrong almost continuously.

If someone like Paul Krugman gets something wrong, people pay attention to him due to his résumé, but they still have the power to take their own decisions, and Dr Krugman has no governing power beyond his own influence.  If I get something wrong, well, far fewer people listen to me, and the only people hurt by my wrong guesses would be my family and me.

But when the Federal Reserve gets things wrong, they have real power, and their wrong guesstimates have led to poor monetary policy.  In a slow growth economy, one growing even more slowly than their own anemic forecasts, they have raise interest rates 50 basis points over their last two meetings, and remain on track for two more rate increases this year.  That has a real, negative effect, on the margins, as far as investment and small business creation and expansion are concerned.

 

The problem of remittances

From CNNMoney:

I send money home to Mexico to support my family

by Patrick Gillespie | March 20, 2017: 12:16 PM ET

Dalia Maldonado is considered a life saver by her family and friends in Mexico.

She paid for her father Francisco’s knee surgeries. She pitched in $400 for her friend Esmeralda’s leukemia treatment. And she regularly helps pay for food and bills for her parents and relatives.

But Maldonado is not with them in Sonora, Mexico. She sends about $250 home every month from Menifee, California, where she works in real estate, earning about $35,000 a year. Her parents have a combined income of $20,000 in Mexico.

The cash Maldonado sends home is called a remittance, which has become Mexico’s biggest source of foreign revenue.

Last year, Mexico received $27 billion in remittances — a record high and far more than what the country got from its oil exports, $18.7 billion, according to Mexico’s central bank. The vast majority of remittances sent to Mexico come from the U.S. and they support millions of low-income families in Mexico.

President Trump could make it harder for Maldonado and millions of other Mexicans in the U.S. to send money home.

During his campaign, he threatened to tax remittances to pay for the wall. In January, after being elected, he hinted at it again.

There’s more a the link, including the statement that Miss Maldonado holds dual citizenship, with both the United States and Mexico.

There is an economic concept called the velocity of money, which is, simply put:

the frequency at which one unit of currency is used to purchase domestically- produced goods and services within a given time period. In other words, it is the number of times one dollar is spent to buy goods and services per unit of time. If the velocity of money is increasing, then more transactions are occurring between individuals in an economy.

A further Fed document notes that the velocity of money has fallen, pretty dramatically, to the lowest point since the 1950s. From FRED:

In general, the velocity of money starts to increase after a recession is over, when confidence is restored. However, since 2007, the velocity of money in the U.S. has been decreasing, which means consumers and firms are still holding onto cash instead of spending it. This behavior, which also reflects a decrease in inflation, suggests that confidence in the recovery is still low. When confidence is restored, we should expect to see a rebound in the velocity of money.

Perhaps this is explained by something we have noted previously, that the American people don’t really believe all of the good economic statistics put forward by the government. And part of it is explained by the Fed’s own actions, to increase the money supply through “quantitative easing.”

But, as the CNNMoney article noted, in 2016 Mexican immigrants in the United States removed $27 billion from the United States economy, and added that money to Mexico’s. Every dollar Miss Maldonado sent to her family in Mexico became a dollar which ground to a halt as far as the velocity of money is concerned within the United States. Those remittances sent south of the border to “support millions of low-income families in Mexico” might make those families slightly better off, but by removing them from the United States, they have made American citizens that much poorer.

The $250 per month Miss Maldonado sends to Mexico is $3,000 a year that she has been paid by (mostly) Americans that is not being spent in the United States to help other Americans, to help the American economy. It’s worse than buying imported products, because at least those imported goods have some value in the United States; remittances are the sending of US dollars abroad for no return at all.

Mr Gillespie’s CNNMoney original notes that if President Trump succeeds in getting a tax on remittances passed, many people who send them will do so the old fashioned way: simply take cash across the border when they visit their families.  It is perfectly legal to transport cash across the border, though if you carry more than $10,000, you must file a form with Customs and Border Enforcement. Mexico also requires the declaration of cash at customs.  But there will be many people who simply can’t head back to Mexico to take cash to relatives, for reasons such as distance, expense or the inability to get time off of work, so such a tax would net more than zero.  Any remittance tax at all would help the American economy.

 

 

M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H was a (supposedly) liberally-oriented television comedy series in the seventies, but it appears that liberalism in the seventies sure was different from the way it is today.

In an episode entitled Edwina, which ran this morning on Sundance TV, the plot is:

Edwina “Eddie” Ferguson, a petite, fairly attractive, but hopelessly clumsy nurse, cannot find romance at the 4077th—or anywhere else, for that matter, as she confides to Margie Cutler. The other nurses at the Double Natural discuss her problem and agree to put their romantic relationships with the doctors and corpsmen on hold until someone agrees to date Eddie.

Eventually, to end the romantic drought the doctors draw straws to be her date for an evening, and Hawkeye draws the short straw. Hilarity ensues as his best smooth operator technique collides head on with Eddie’s innate klutziness.

Of course, it is series star Alan Alda who draws the short straw, and has to date Edwina, slapstick comedy ensuing. The jokes are based on the willingness of the nurses to copulate with the doctors, laugh lines and innuendo against homosexuals, and pretty much everything which would have fit seventies-era culture and comedy. I figure that today’s left ought to protest the whole series.

Why the enforcement of immigration laws should please the left

From eater.com, a food and restaurant site:

How Immigration Raids Destroy the Lives of Food Workers

Comparing the tactics of Trump’s administration to the Bush era

by Tove Danovich | March 16, 2017, 2:02pm EDT

On February 22, 2017, exactly 55 unauthorized workers1 went missing from Mississippi restaurants after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) raided the businesses. Two days later, the Jackson Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reported “their locations have not been disclosed and their futures are uncertain,” and since, 11 of the 55 have been charged. Just a week before the Mississippi raids, ICE also raided Pennsylvania’s Aroma Buffet & Grill and took four employees into custody, causing the restaurant to close for two weeks due to a lack of staffing. Immigrants working from farm to table are now wondering whether their time in the United States could be coming to an end.

“There is great fear among farmworker communities where as much as 70 percent of farmworkers are undocumented,” says Bruce Goldstein, president of advocacy group Farmworker Justice. “Children are coming home from school in tears asking if their families are going to be broken up.” Deportation is devastating to families, he adds, especially when so many have put down roots and lived in the U.S. for decades. “It sends a chill through the entire community.”

In restaurants, even workers with legal papers are nervous. “Ever since the rumors started that raids are happening again, everyone’s been very cautious, careful, and scared of what could happen,” says Felipe Donnelly, chef and owner of New York’s Comodo and Colonia Verde. “During these raids there’s a sense of loss of any rights you have — that’s the scary part.” What if there’s a raid and a legal worker doesn’t have his papers on him? “You’re going to assume I’m here illegally and take me down anyways,” Donnelly says. “That’s not something you want to feel on top of you constantly.”

Then maybe, if you are a legal immigrant, you ought to have your documents on hand! If I am doing something which requires documentation of my privilege to do so, such as driving my truck, I am legally required to carry my driver’s license on me. If you are an immigrant, working at a job which requires documentation of your legal right to do so, then you had better have your documents on you, and your employer had better have your completed Immigration Form I-9 on file.

Immigration raids have been making headlines across the country for the past month. But as previous instances of immigration enforcement have shown, removing people from their communities has a much larger effect than simple labor shortages or temporary restaurant closures. Here’s a look at how raids have affected the food community in the past and how the industry — including farmers, food manufacturers, and restaurateurs — might be able to prepare for their effects in the future.

There’s more at the link.

And with what were the eleven who have been charged accused?  Felony re-entry, that’s what.  They had entered the United States illegally on a previous occasion, and were apprehended, and sent back to their homes.  Six had been caught crossing the border, and returned immediately, while the other five had been been in the US for a while before being caught, and had been deported.  Those charged with felony re-entry could face up to two years in the penitentiary.

The other 44, well, we haven’t been told, but it is probable that they were here illegally but it as their first offense, and will simply be deported.

The linked article continues, in pretty much of a sob-story vein, to tell us just how horrible it has been for illegal immigrants who have gotten caught and sent back home.

Tove K Danovich, photo from her website.

The author, Tove Danovich, who is clearly sympathetic to the illegal immigrants, told us, perhaps unwittingly, just how wise immigration enforcement is.  She wrote of the 2008 ICE raid at Agriprocessors, a meatpacking plant in the small town of Postville, Iowa.  With much of its workforce hauled away, the company brought in immigrant labor from other countries, paid very low wages, and suffered from a high number of industrial accidents.

Agriprocessors closed six months later. In addition to labor violations, they’d been cited for poor environmental standards and inhumane handling of animals (a tall order in an industry where chickens have few protections from abuse). The plant was foreclosed, the former CEO arrested for federal financial fraud — and ultimately sentenced to 27 years in prison.

That would be a different result from what the author claimed was the norm, the business owners not being criminally charged for knowingly using illegal immigrant labor.  But here’s the best part:

Because of Agriprocessors’ role as one of the biggest suppliers of kosher meat, it was eventually taken over by new management under the name of Agri-Star. Mayor Rekow praises the plant’s business practices. “[The new owner] has worked with the city and things are progressing nicely,” he says with characteristic reserve. According to Rekow, Agri-Star raised their wages and is more efficient than Agriprocessors.

Put plainly, once the business which exploited immigrant labor was forced to close, it was replaced by a legitimate business, which has raised wages and improved working conditions. How is that a bad thing? Being forced to comply with the immigration laws has resulted in exactly what the left claim that they want! You don’t need to raise the minimum wage when market conditions require the payment of higher wages to meet your labor requirements.

Today many immigrants are worried that what happened in Postville will soon become all too regular. If raids target groups of restaurants in small communities, they could have the same effect as if they target a large scale food producer like Agriprocessors.

And that would be a good thing! One wonders how Miss Danovich, who wrote about the good effects wrought by the replacement of Agriprocessors with Agri-Star, fails to see that. In stating that she is working on a book concerning, among other things, humane farming, one would think that she would be concomitantly interested in humane working conditions, something she told us Agri-Star is attempting to provide, which Agriprocessors did not.

From another article on eater.com, If You Care About Food, You Need to Care About Immigration Policy:

Top to bottom, the American food system relies on immigrant labor more than any other cross-section of the economy. According to the 2014 Hunger Report, over 70 percent of farm workers are foreign-born, with an estimated half of those undocumented. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 10 percent of restaurant workers are immigrants, with a study by Pew Hispanic finding that at least 20 percent of all cooks and 28 percent of all dishwashers are undocumented. (The depth and breadth of the American food system’s reliance on immigrants was on display during yesterday’s A Day Without Immigrants strikes.)

Despite the stereotype of unauthorized immigrants being paid in cash under the table, which may be the case with many farming jobs, most undocumented workers in restaurants and food-production factories are hired as legal employees, filing false information with their I-9 forms. They’re paid — and have taxes withheld — as if they are authorized workers. (This accounts for much of the nearly $12 billion undocumented immigrants contribute in taxes each year.2 It also accounts for virtually every restaurateur’s vehement claims that they absolutely do not employ any unauthorized immigrants.)

Those who defend the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants are quick to point out that the targets of these policies are undocumented residents, not individuals who are authorized to live and work in America. The matter is not so simple, however, and neither are its execution or effects.

It really does not matter whether enforcement of the law is simple or not; the law is the law, and the Congress has declined to change our immigration laws, despite eight years of pressure from then-President Barack Obama.3 But the effects of enforcing our immigration laws have been, and will be, to raise wages and improve conditions by those businesses currently dependent upon illegal immigration. If those businesses are forced to hire only people who are in the country legally — and the federal government needs to change the laws to require more thorough examination of immigration documents being provided, to put more legal responsibility and liability on employers to insure that their employees are legally allowed to work — then they will be compelled, by market forces, to pay higher wages in order to attract and keep their employees.

The left ought to be appalled that so many businesses are getting away with lowered wages and poorer working conditions by the use of a workforce largely unable to complain. Virtually everything about which they complain would be addressed if the government enforced our immigration laws, on both employers and employees.
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Cross-posted on RedState.
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  1. The First Street Journal does not use the mealy-mouthed terms “unauthorized” or “undocumented,” other than for prosaic concerns or in direct quotes from others, because those terms have been meant, by those who use them, to obscure the fact that illegal immigrants are here illegally, are in violation of the laws.
  2. We have previously noted that the government absolutely loves collecting taxes from illegal immigrants.
  3. During President Obama’s first two years in office, the Democrats had sizable majorities in both Houses of Congress, and the immigration laws still were not changed.

A good start: the President’s FY2018 budget blueprint

From CNN:

Trump releases $1.1 trillion ‘hard power budget’ with cuts to State Dept, EPA

By Dan Merica | Updated 7:29 AM ET, Thursday, March 16, 2017

(CNN)President Donald Trump released a $1.1 trillion budget outline Thursday that proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending corresponding cuts to non-defense spending at the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of other federal programs.

The blueprint features the broad strokes of Trump’s plan to dramatically remake the federal government. It includes plans to slash spending at everything from the National Institutes of Health to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, while boosting spending at the Pentagon.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, described the proposal as a “hard power budget” in a Wednesday briefing with reporters, meaning the Trump administration will prioritize defense spending over diplomacy and foreign aid.

In that vein, the administration will recommend a 28% cut to the State Department, Mulvaney said, including a 38% reduction in foreign aid spending.

A US official told CNN earlier this month that cuts would come from the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs and projects the fund programs at United Nations.

“There is no question that this is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” Mulvaney said. “This is a hard power budget and that was done intentionally. The President very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is strong power administration.”

There’s a good deal more at the original, including the whining complaints of John O’Grady, president of AFGE Council 238, which represents unionized workers at the Environmental Protection Agency, that the President’s budget “will be akin to taking away the Agency’s bread and water.”

In his budget message, the President wrote:

My Budget Blueprint for 2018:
• provides for one of the largest increases in defense spending without increasing the debt;
• significantly increases the budget for immigration enforcement at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security;
• includes additional resources for a wall on the southern border with Mexico, immigration judges, expanded detention capacity, U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Border Patrol;
• increases funding to address violent crime and reduces opioid abuse; and
• puts America first by keeping more of America’s hard-earned tax dollars here at home.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney added:

Consistent with the President’s approach to move the Nation toward fiscal responsibility, the Budget eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs and focuses funding to redefine the proper role of the Federal Government.

The Budget also proposes to eliminate funding for other independent agencies, including: the African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Some highlights:

  • $17.9 billion for the Department of Agriculture, a $4.7 billion or 21% decrease from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level (excluding funding for P.L. 480 Title II food aid which is reflected in the Department of State and USAID budget.)
  • $7.8 billion for the Department of Commerce, a $1.5 billion or 16% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $639 billion for the Department of Defense, a $52 billion increase from the 2017 annualized CR level. The total includes $574 billion for the base budget, a 10% increase from the 2017 annualized CR level, and $65 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.
  • $59 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, a $9 billion or 13% reduction below the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $28.0 billion for Department of Energy, a $1.7 billion or 5.6% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget would strengthen the Nation’s nuclear capability by providing a $1.4 billion increase above the 2017 annualized CR level for the National Nuclear Security Administration, an 11% increase.
  • $69.0 billion for Health and Human Services, a $15.1 billion or 17.9% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. This funding level excludes certain mandatory spending changes but includes additional funds for program integrity and implementing the 21st Century CURES Act.
  • $44.1 billion in net discretionary budget authority for the Department of Homeland Security, a $2.8 billion or 6.8% increase from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget would allocate $4.5 billion in additional funding for programs to strengthen the security of the Nation’s borders and enhance the integrity of its immigration system. This increased investment in the Nation’s border security and immigration enforcement efforts now would ultimately save Federal resources in the future.
  • $40.7 billion in gross discretionary funding for Housing and Urban Development, a $6.2 billion or 13.2% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $11.6 billion for the Department of the Interior, a $1.5 billion or 12% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $27.7 billion for the Department of Justice, a $1.1 billion or 3.8% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. This program level excludes mandatory spending changes involving the Crime Victims Fund and the Assets Forfeiture Fund. However, significant targeted increases would enhance the ability to address key issues, including public safety, law enforcement, and national security. Further, the Administration is concerned about so-called sanctuary jurisdictions and will be taking steps to mitigate the risk their actions pose to public safety.
  • The President’s 2018 Budget requests $9.6 billion for the Department of Labor, a $2.5 billion or 21% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $25.6 billion in base funding for the Department of State and USAID, a $10.1 billion or 28% reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget also requests $12.0 billion as Overseas Contingency Operations funding for extraordinary costs, primarily in war areas like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, for an agency total of $37.6 billion. The 2018 Budget also requests $1.5 billion for Treasury International Programs, an $803 million or 35% reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $16.2 billion for the Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget, a $2.4 billion or 13% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $12.1 billion in discretionary resources for the Department of the Treasury’s domestic programs, a $519 million or 4.1% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. This program level excludes mandatory spending changes involving the Treasury Forfeiture Fund.
  • $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, a $4.4 billion or 6% increase from the 2017 enacted level. The Budget also requests legislative authority and $3.5 billion in mandatory budget authority in 2018 to continue the Veterans Choice Program.
  • The President’s 2018 Budget requests $5.7 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a decrease of $2.6 billion, or 31%, from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $19.1 billion for NASA, a 0.8% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level, with targeted increases consistent with the President’s priorities.
  • $826.5 million for the Small Business Administration, a $43.2 million or 5.0% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.

Because very few FY2017 appropriations bills had actually been passed, most of the budget is based upon the continuing resolution funding, which is why you see the contorted phrase “the 2017 annualized CR level.”

The blueprint document, linked above, makes for very dry reading, but it’s very important. However, I am concerned that the $54 billion in Defense and Homeland Security related programs is being ‘paid for’ by only a $54 billion cut in domestic spending. Director Mulvaney noted the impending $20 trillion national debt level — as of March 14, 2017, it stood at $19,902,604,401,637.92, which is still lower than the $19,947,304,555,212.49 on President Obama’s last day in office — and a budget which does not decrease the deficit certainly does not decrease the national debt.

Andrew JacksonPresident Trump drew comparisons to himself with President Andrew Jackson, a comparison NBC News tried to belittle, due to Mr Jackson’s populist appeal. The 45th President has had the 7th President’s portrait hung in the Oval Office, and though President Jackson’s legacy includes things which tarnish his reputation when judged by 21st century standards — he was a slaveowner and championed the removal of the Indians from the southeast — he has the unique status of being the only President of the United States to completely pay off the national debt.

If Mr Trump really wishes to have a legacy like his 19th century predecessor, budgets which do not cut the deficit will not be enough. Our national debt is so large, more than 100% of our Gross Domestic Product,1 that it will take several determined Presidents and Congresses to accomplish what President Jackson did, and I very much doubt that such an extended commitment will be found.
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The #idesOfMarch : What a perfect day for the Fed to stab President Trump in the back!

As previously noted, the Fed are raising interest rates:

Fed raises rates, signals more to come in 2017

by Patrick Gillespie | March 15, 2017: 2:33 PM ET

The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by 0.25 percentage point on Wednesday. It was just the third time that the Fed has increased rates since the financial crisis.

That raises the Fed’s target for short-term interest rates to a range of 0.75% and 1.00%.

The move was widely expected after last week’s strong jobs report and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s comments that a rate hike was “appropriate.”

A rate hike is a sign that the Fed is confident about the pace of growth in the U.S. economy. The Fed placed its key interest rate at 0% in December 2008 to resuscitate the collapsed housing market. But a little over eight years later, the U.S. economy is in much better shape and has grown, albeit slowly.

“The economy continues to expand at a moderate pace,” Yellen said in a press conference.

There’s more at the original, and that story may well be updated throughout the day.

Here are the Fed’s economic projections:

Other than their 2018 GDP growth and 2017 Core PCE inflation projections, the Fed did not change any of their forecasts. Yet, as we have previously noted, the Fed got their GDP projections for 2016 very wrong, and got them wrong in mid-December of 2016! The Fed projected 2016 GDP growth at 1.9%, but not only did the initial 2016 numbers show only 1.6% real growth, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis second estimate, released on February 28th, was the same: 1.6% real growth for 2016.

Why, then, ought we to have any confidence in the projections of the Fed for accuracy, when they couldn’t even get right a year in which 11½ months had already elapsed?

Various Federal Reserve officials have already said that they see little need for further ‘stimulus’ spending, and Governor Lael Brainard indicated that the FOMC might seek to raise interest rates if President Trump’s policies focus on stimulus. While I happen to agree that ‘stimulus’ spending is not a good or effective thing, it’s becoming clear that the Fed are not being apolitical, but are actively attempting to fight President Trump’s economic policies, and that is definitely not their job. If the government are going to try to use some form of stimulus program, such as the President’s suggested $1 trillion in infrastructure programs, that is the decision of the Congress and the President, and not something that the Fed has any legitimate right to fight.

So, what has happened? With a completely unnecessary increase in interest rates, the Fed have just made any stimulus program by the government more expensive, by increasing the rates for whatever money the government borrow.