Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Trump economy set to roar in 2018

By Robert Romano

When it comes to the economy, observers are often loath to make predictions. After all, it is not a hard science, where a hypothesis is formulated, and observations are made to prove or disprove the hypothesis. What will U.S. economic growth be in 2018?

Who knows? It could be faster than 2017. But maybe it will be slower.

But what we can do is take into consideration certain factors that might serve to either hamper growth, or to foster it. And when we consider the economy being fostered under President Donald Trump’s first term, there are things to be bullish about.  After all, Trump promised we would start winning again.

Well, the past two quarters’ growth have come in over an inflation-adjusted 3 percent annualized, with a solid fourth quarter hoped for. If it does, even if 2017 does not produce 3 percent growth — a number not seen since 2005 — the U.S. economy will be well-positioned in 2018 to get there. Why?

The biggest reason just happened, and that’s President Trump and Congress’ $1.5 trillion tax cut plan, which will account for an average 1 percent of Gross Domestic Product each of the first four years, making it the largest tax cut since Reagan’s 1981 plan as a percent of the economy.

It will put hundreds of billions of dollars back into businesses and individuals each year, which can be spent, invested or saved. It’s going to have a major impact. To be clear, even if we were to experience an unforeseen economic slowdown right now — Reagan had a major recession even after the 1981 tax cuts — the recovery could still be magnificent.

Other considerations are the regulatory environment that is now being fostered. Trump has left the Paris climate accords and his EPA head Scott Pruitt is tearing up the new and existing coal power plant regulations. He has ended the practice of sue and settle whereby the agency would agree to a left-wing environmentalist group’s lawsuit in exchange for expanding the regulatory mandate of the EPA. The Waters of the United States rule regulating every puddle in America is being rescinded.

Federal lands are being reopened. The aforementioned tax cut bill also contained a provision that will allow for oil drilling in previously prohibited areas of Alaska.

On trade, Trump has put forward an America first policy, cancelling the TPP and renegotiating NAFTA, all the while getting tough on trade enforcement against South Korea and Mexico.

Since Trump took office, 171,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created.

The number of 16-to-64-year-olds who have entered the labor force has increased by 879,000, increasing labor participation to 73.3 percent for that group. There still remain 8 million of this age group out of the labor force had participation remained at the same rate as it was in 2000. Meaning there is a lot of room to grow.

Labor market conditions remain a key consideration and considerable headwind, as the expansion of the workforce tends to correlate with economic growth. So, if the Trump economy is successful in attracting new investment and the creation of new businesses and business expansions, leading to major new hiring, things could be looking up.

Whether it comes in 2018 or later remains to be seen, but by giving the American people more of their own money back, rolling back onerous regulations, setting a new paradigm on trade and lowering the cost of doing business in the U.S., after Trump’s first year in office, the recipe for robust growth is there. Let the winning begin.



Voter suppression? Alabama election exposed a myth

by Jeff Jacoby

AFRICAN-AMERICANS constitute 26 percent of Alabama's people, but they accounted for 29 percent of the voters in this month's special election for the US Senate. Whites make up 69 percent of the state's population, yet they were only 66 percent of those who voted. Black voters, in other words, punched above their weight on Election Day, turning up at the polls at a rate that exceeded their share of the general public. Whites, by contrast, underperformed.

But surely that's impossible! Haven't we been told time and again that Deep Red states like Alabama engage in voter suppression, cynically disenfranchising minorities through outrageous election rules that, as Jay Michaelson wrote in The Daily Beast, "just coincidentally happen to disproportionately hit communities of color"? Weren't we reminded in the weeks leading up to the election that Alabama's rules amount to "a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color" and that black electoral clout is undermined by all the hurdles the state's Republican politicians have devised to deter minorities from casting ballots?

What angry critics decry as voter suppression, Republicans defend as precautions to ensure the integrity of elections. In Alabama, as in many other states, voters are required to show a photo ID. There is no same-day registration and no early voting, and citizens with convictions for felonies of "moral turpitude" are barred from participating in elections.

Are these outrageous infringements on a core American right — or are they reasonable safeguards of that right? There are sincere arguments on both sides.

But there's plenty of cynicism on both sides, too.

Voter fraud, rampant in earlier eras, is essentially a nonissue in contemporary America; states without voter ID laws seem to have no trouble conducting fair elections. GOP lawmakers have sometimes admitted that there is a racial and partisan component to their support for such measures: The lack of an ID law, an Alabama state senator once confided in an interview, "is very beneficial to the black power structure and the rest of the Democrats."

On the other hand, voter ID laws are extremely popular across the political, racial, and geographic spectrum. In a 2016 Gallup poll, 63 percent of Democrats supported voter ID laws. So did 77 percent of nonwhites. So did large majorities in every region of the country. To denounce voter ID laws as racist abominations when nonwhite voters favor those laws as overwhelmingly as white voters do is more than a little disingenuous.

It's also condescending. For most of American history, black citizens really were disenfranchised, excluded from elections by violence and intimidation, humiliating "literacy" tests, and defiantly segregationist politicians. If anyone has reason to value the right to vote, it is African-Americans. For people with historical memories of Bull Connor and the Freedom Summer martyrs, having to show an ID when voting is a trivial detail, not "disenfranchisement."

And that is just what the data show. Far from being suppressed, black voters routinely show up on Election Day at roughly the same rate as white voters. And — as with any other voting bloc — when they are especially motivated, they turn out at even higher rates.

One such motivation was Barack Obama's 2012 reelection, which so energized black voters that their turnout not only hit an all-time high, but surpassed white turnout by 2.1 percentage points. Another motivation was this month's race in Alabama, and the exceptionally distasteful candidacy of Roy Moore. Alabama's election rules, bewailed by so many as an obstacle to minority turnout, didn't keep black voters from flocking to the polls.

Nor have similar rules elsewhere. Even in Republican-dominated states with voter ID laws, black turnout has risen. When the Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley made that claim in a 2014 column, PolitiFact put it under the microscope — and confirmed its accuracy: "Census data shows that . . . black voter turnout was higher nationally than white voter turnout," the fact-checkers concluded, "and at least as high in the states with strict voter ID laws."

This doesn't mean that Republicans who champion such laws don't expect them to yield political dividends. It only means that voter suppression is more of a bugaboo than a real phenomenon. At the same time, that very bugaboo may be helping Democrats. The louder they howl about Republican attempts to keep minorities from voting, the more fervently their base may be galvanized to get to the polls. That too helps explain why ballot-integrity laws haven't impeded black voter turnout.

To repeat, politics is a cynic's game. Republican strategists push for voter ID rules for the same reason Democratic strategists push for automatically registering people to vote when they sign up for welfare benefits or a driver's license: Each camp believes it will work to their party's benefit.

Ultimately, though, elections come down to voters, who have minds of their own and routinely upset the experts' calculations. Alabama is only the latest reminder that when elections are free and fair, outcomes aren't guaranteed. In the Heart of Dixie, as in the rest of 21st-century America, voter suppression is a thing of the past.



Iran As I See It

By Rich Kozlovich

Yesterday I linked to this article, Western media are ignoring a revolution in Iran, commenting:

"These pensioners are old enough to remember how life was when the Shah of Iran was in charge, and when they were young, impetuous and....well....stupid. Now all a sudden the Reza Shah wasn't so bad after all." "Admittedly, he was a tyrant, but the freedoms under the Shah were far greater than anything going on in Iran right now." 

"They traded a beneficent tyrant for an insane group of clerics who've done nothing but suppress them, murder them, abuse them and rob them for decades, and now - they've discovered they've robbed them blind. And now they're shocked! Imagine that!"

I followed that up with this link: Iranian Women Defy Islamic Dress Code as Anti-Government Protests Sweep Nation, with the author stating:

"Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which established Islamic rule in the once free and prosperous country, women have been historically oppressed. However, brave women are now taking to the streets in defiance of Sharia law. These protests are reminiscent of 1979 when thousands of women publicly condemned the government imposed veiling of women."

We should remember that Iran was very westernized under the Shah, and the transition to an Islamic state had to have been a shock to a great many Iranians - who also dared not say anything for fear of what might happen to they and their families.

Which brings us to the important question: How important are these protests?

First, this isn't an isolated incident. These demonstrations are breaking out all over the country and the numbers are substantial, so substantial security forces have used tear gas and water cannons to break them up.

It's hard to know for sure just how big a deal this will become, but one thing is clear. These people know their leader's obsession with foreign involvement in the affairs of Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and their obsession with their nuclear program, and their obsession to defeat or control these non Shiite Muslim countries has absolutely been of no benefit to the people of Iran, and has impacted their economy adversely.

And the foreign investments the government promised hasn't materialized, and I'm sure Trump's decision not to recertify their nuclear program may have been part of the reason for that. It seems to me investors really understand - there's a new sheriff in town - and Iran may not be the best place to put their money.

Yet their oil production is way ahead of where everyone anticipated it to be, but the price of oil isn't what it once was and the Middle East can't make demands any longer - we now have fracking - the world doesn't need them.

I don't know what happened to the billions of dollars Obama sneaked into Iran, but it didn't go to the people of Iran who suffer from high unemployment, especially among the youths of the nation. A demographic that can explode with little provocation, especially when the entire nation knows governmental corruption is massive.

There are two things that aren't talked about in the news much, or at all, and that's the problem with Iran's geography and demography. Geographical boundaries of a nation don't necessarily create a national identity. Societies are made up of communities, and in this case - tribes. Tribes who may self identify in ways Iran's leaders may not like.

Modern Iran, once known as Persia, is mostly useless desert, but it's also a mountain country. And Iran has no navigable rivers - an important component to capital generation - the ability to move goods quickly and cheaply.

Mountain farming is difficult, but that's the only areas in Iran where they're high enough to get enough moisture to grow crops, but the rains are inconsistent, thus making Iran's agricultural economy a feast or famine cycle.

Being a mountain nation makes it difficult to invade, but it also makes it difficult to control. These mountain populations are populations separated by valleys, and those populations don't necessarily identify with people in the next valley, much less those further on.

In spite of the fact Iran has between a 90 and 95 percent Shiite Muslim population, this is not a demographically homogeneous nation. Not only do these mountains create separate identities, sixteen percent of Iran's population are Azerbaijanis, and they have a large Kurdish population, neither of which are easy to deal with. Over half of the Iranians don't even consider themselves Persian.

What will happen? At some point economic reality will have to set in on this nation. It's too small, too land locked, it has no ability to be a real capital generator outside of its oil, and that value is dropping by the minute, the United States is going to cause them as many problems as they can, and their single port could easily be destroyed by a deep water Navy. They are not in a position to enforce their will against anyone, ergo, they use proxy forces - terrorists - and that will come back to haunt them.

Their options are running low, their credibility is non-existent, they're despised throughout the region, and now they're dealing with a President of the United States who isn't going to be bluffed or intimidated. It would seem to me there's going to be a regime change of major proportions, and the clerics will not be a part of the change, and Islam - as it's being imposed on Iran now - will be in for a shock.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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