On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. As Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins reminds readers: Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. ‘NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,’ said Clinton, as he signed the document, ‘If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.’ Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant ‘sucking sound’ as jobs went south of the border to Mexico. IT’S A COMPLICATED WORLD Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on ‘renegotiating’ the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 29, 2017.
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. ‘NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,’ said Clinton, as he signed the document, ‘If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.’ Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant ‘sucking sound’ as jobs went south of the border to Mexico. It’s a Complicated World Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on ‘renegotiating’ the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action. However, coming to a decisive viewpoint on NAFTA’s success or failure can be difficult to achieve. Over two decades, the economic and political landscape has changed. China has risen and created a surplus of cheap labor, technology has changed massively, and central banks have kept the spigots on with QE and ultra-low interest rates. Deciphering what results have been the direct cause of NAFTA – and what is simply the result of a fast-changing world – is not quite straightforward.
Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017
Summary of the chaotic day’s key events: GOP House leaders delayed their planned vote Thursday to repeal and replace “Obamacare,” which as AP put it was a “stinging defeat” for Paul Ryan and President Trump in their first major legislative test. The decision came after Trump failed to reach agreement with a bloc of rebellious conservatives. Moderate-leaning Republican lawmakers were also bailing on the legislation, leaving it short of votes. At least 30 Republicans said they opposed the bill, enough to defeat the measure. But the number was in constant flux amid the eleventh-hour lobbying. The bill could still come to a vote in coming days, but canceling Thursday’s vote is a significant defeat. It came on the seven-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, years that Republicans have devoted to promising repeal. “No deal,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N. C., said after he and his group of more than two dozen rebellious conservatives met with Trump to try to get more concessions to reduce requirements on insurance companies. The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies. The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 23, 2017.
In the latest attempt to stir the pot over allegations that Trump and members of his closest circle had ties to Russia, on Wednesday, the AP unearthed a 2005 memo from former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort – who was let go by the Trump campaign in the summer to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who became Russia’s richest man under Putin and whose key asset is a 48% stake in Russian aluminum giant Rusal, according to which Manafort would boost Putin’s agenda and reportedly undermine anti-Russian opposition across Europe, the U. S. and former Soviet republics. “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote, adding it “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.” As a reminder, Manafort worked as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman last year from March until August. Trump asked Manafort to resign after AP revealed that Manafort had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russian political party.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 22, 2017.
Government’s meddling in the healthcare business has been disastrous from the get-go. Since 1910, when Republican William Taft gave in to the American Medical Association’s lobbying efforts, most administrations have passed new healthcare regulations. With each new law or set of new regulations, restrictions on the healthcare market went further, until at some point in the 1980s, people began to notice the cost of healthcare had skyrocketed. This is not an accident. It’s by design. As regulators allowed special interests to help design policy, everything from medical education to drugs became dominated by virtual monopolies that wouldn’t have otherwise existed if not for government’s notion that intervening in people’s lives is part of their job. But how did costs go up, and why didn’t this happen overnight? It wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon restricted the supply of hospitals by requiring institutions to provide a certificate-of-need.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 22, 2017.
It is barely seven weeks since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. Perhaps too early to figure out the details of America’s foreign policy during his presidency. However, some broad contours of his policies are taking shape, which may provide pointers to what he is likely to do in the next four years. These pointers are based partly on what Trump said during his election campaign and partly on what has happened since he became President. Actually, quite a lot has happened in the last seven weeks or so, including considerable turbulence in US domestic and foreign policy. Before proceeding further, it may be useful to recall that Trump’s victory in the Nov. 2016 elections was unexpected. Most opinion polls and the mainstream media (MSM) predicted victory for Hillary Clinton, who was the candidate of the US Establishment and the ‘Deep State’ (DS), which includes the military-industrial complex, the intelligence agencies, the MSM, Wall Street, and the Jewish Lobby. The DS is a permanent, unelected, group of institutions, lobbies, and individuals which wields enormous power from behind the scenes and continues to do so irrespective of who is the President and which party controls the US Congress. It is driven by the quest for money and power, among other things. The present DS began taking shape almost thirty-five years ago when Jimmy Carter was President. There was a DS before that too, going back to the 1950s, which came into existence after the Second World War. However, it was much less powerful and entrenched than the present one. John F. Kennedy tried to defy it but did not succeed. Some believe he paid for it with his life.
Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, has confirmed that it hired the consultancy of Tony Podesta, the elder brother of John Podesta who chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, for lobbying its interests in the United States and proactively seeking the removal of various Obama-era sanctions, the press service of the Russian institution told TASS on Thursday. “The New York office of Sberbank CIB indeed hired Podesta Group. Engagement of external consultants is part of standard business practices for us,” Sberbank said. Previously, The Daily Caller reported that Tony Podesta was proactively lobbying for cancellation of a range of anti-Russian sanctions against the banking sector. In particular, he represented interests of Sberbank and was paid $170,000 for his efforts over a six-month period last year to seek to end one of the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against that country. Podesta, founder and chairman of the Podesta Group, is listed as a key lobbyist on behalf of Sberbank, according to Senate lobbying disclosure forms. His firm received more than $24 million in fees in 2016, much of it coming from foreign governments, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Former President Barack Obama imposed the Russian sanctions following the break out in violence in east Ukraine in 2014.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 9, 2017.
As the U. S. House of Representative marks up Paul Ryan’s American Healthcare Act, the battle between the moderate and conservative factions of the Republican Party continues to mount behind the scenes all while opposition from a variety of advocacy groups is also growing. ‘This is what good, conservative health-care reform looks like,’ House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday. ‘It is bold and long overdue. And it is us fulfilling our promises.’ Despite the public bickering, Republicans scored a victory early Thursday, pushing a measure through the House Ways and Means Committee repealing tax penalties on people who don’t buy insurance but otherwise progress on the bill has been slow. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Ryan and House Republicans have to thread a very fine needle on healthcare legislation that appeals to a sufficient number of conservatives to pass the House while not alienating the more moderate factions of the party in the Senate. House Republican leaders are under pressure to ease passage through the House by making changes that appease conservatives who want a more aggressive repeal of the ACA. Those changes risk further jeopardizing support in the Senate, where centrist Republicans have said they are concerned the proposal will cause too many people to lose coverage, particularly those with low incomes. Underscoring the Senate’s central role, a group of Republican governors representing states that expanded Medicaid under the existing law have largely given up on lobbying the House and instead are focusing their efforts on the Senate, according to two people familiar with their thinking.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 9, 2017.
The byline on this article is misleading — probably because of where it’s published. Salim Yusuf says new evidence fails to support many major diet recommendations. There is no such “new evidence.” Yusuf presented evidence that many of the most significant and impactful nutrition recommendations regarding dietary fats, salt, carbohydrates, and even vegetables are not supported by evidence. There was never evidence to support those “recommendations”; there was industry gaming, there was outright fraud (the “7 nations study”) and there was and still is lobbying by various organizations. The results from PURE will likely add fuel to the ongoing fiery debate over carbohydrates and fats. Yusuf displayed data showing that the incidence of cardiovascular disease in the PURE population increases as carbohydrate intake (as a percentage of total calories) rises.
A close look at the ’86 tax reform shows why tax reform may not get done this year. As BofAML’s Ethan Harris notes, “we are skeptical.” Significant tax reform creates winners and losers, which may make it hard to find a “coalition of the willing.” Via BofAML, Is it a done deal? By some accounts, tax reform is more or less a done deal. After all, Republicans control both the executive and legislative branches of government so reform could pass without one Democrat vote. In particular, Republicans can use the ‘reconciliation’ process to avoid a filibuster and pass a plan with just 51 votes in the Senate. House Republicans already have a specific plan and the President has already suggested a less fleshed out alternative. The leadership in the House is planning to focus first on repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), then writing the tax reform bill after the spring budget passes and enacting the plan by the August recess. We are skeptical: even with the Republican sweep last fall, tax reform could prove taxing. Any reform requires that some groups give up hard won tax breaks in exchange for lower rates. This creates a complex web of winners and losers, causing splits both across parties and within parties. Here, we draw nine history lessons from the 1986 tax reform. Nine reasons tax reform is tough #1 A proclivity for Swiss cheese: The US political system, with the strong influence of lobbyists, seems to have a natural tendency to add complications to the tax code. Loopholes had been steadily added to the tax system in the run-up to 1986 reform, and loopholes have been creeping back into the tax code ever since the reform. Also recall that the ’86 reform put the top rate at 28%, but it has since climbed back to 39.6%. Turning our ‘Swiss cheese’ tax system into ‘American cheese’ will likely be difficult.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 24, 2017.
Goldman’s former President and COO, who was recently picked to be Trump’s chief economic advisor as head of the National Economic Council, will recuse himself from any matters directly involving his former employer, the White House told the Financial Times. The topic emerged when the FT learned that the former “#2” at Goldman was spearheading Goldman’s lobbying at the US derivatives regulator on rules prompted by the role swaps contracts played in the 2008 financial crisis. As president of Goldman Sachs, Cohn attended four meetings in 2015 and 2016 with top officials at the CFTC to discuss the swaps rules mandated by the sweeping Dodd-Frank reforms, according to meeting records. As the FT adds, Cohn’s most recent CFTC meeting as a Goldman representative was on February 19 2016, according to the records. On the same day Trump was campaigning in South Carolina, where he mocked Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton by saying Goldman Sachs had ‘total control’ over them. He ended his campaign by airing an anti-Wall Street ad that displayed an image of Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein as Mr Trump talked of ‘a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class’.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 23, 2017.
The idea of playing by the rules is a tough concept to grasp for some politicians, particularly those with ties to the ever-corrupt city of Chicago. So when David Plouffe, Obama’s former campaign manager and then Chief Policy Advisor for Uber, sent an email to Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emmanuel seeking assistance in fighting rules that would block Uber from picking up passengers at Chicago’s airports, he probably thought his illegal lobbying efforts would go unnoticed. That said, Chicago’s ethics board had a slightly different opinion on the issue and has decided to slap Plouffe with a $90,000 fine and levied another $2,000 fine on Uber. Apparently Plouffe wasn’t registered with the city as a lobbyist for Uber, a requirement he was undoubtedly familiar with, when he sent the following email to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel: “Assume both of us thought the airport issue was settled and we would never have to discuss again, but unfortunately two significant new hurdles were introduced. Coming to you because of their severity that would prevent us from operating. We were all set to announce Monday we were beginning pickups.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 17, 2017.
Two days after democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, asking if Goldman effectively runs the country through its extensive alumni links at the Trump administration, and requesting details on “lobbying” activities in the bank related to review of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Obama-era fiduciary rule on financial advice, as well as asking for any communication between the bank’s employees and Cohn, Mnuchin, nominee for the SEC chair Jay Clayton and chief strategist Steve Bannon, Bloomberg reported overnight that yet another Goldman banker, Jim Donovan, was under consideration for the No. 2 job at the Treasury Department, however it appears he has “got one big thing working against him.” That “thing” is the overdue realization by the new president that his cabinet openly appears to have been created and staffed by populism arch nemesis #1, Goldman Sachs. Besides Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, former Goldman officials working for the new administration include former president Gary Cohn, now director of the National Economic Council; Stephen Bannon, the chief White House strategist; and Dina Powell, formerly the bank’s head of philanthropic investment, who’s an assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives. So just like Goldman would staff every central bank’s core positions prior to Trump, after the US election, the world’s most influential investment bank has shifted all of its attention on just one person, and he is finally starting to realize that that may not be a good thing.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Feb 12, 2017.
In his latest close encounter with top US CEOs, President Donald Trump told drugmakers at a White House meeting Tuesday they were charging ‘astronomical’ prices and promised to get better bargains for government health programs, something even Bernie Sanders would agree with. He also said he would focus on finding ways to get new medicines to market faster. ‘The pricing has been astronomical,’ Trump said to CEOs of some of the world’s biggest drugmakers, who came to Washington after Trump’s criticism of the industry earlier this month sent drug and biotechnology stocks plunging. ‘You folks have done a very great job over the years but we have to get the prices down.’ At the meeting was Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America CEO Stephen Ubl, Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier, Eli Lilly & Co. CEO Dave Ricks, Celgene Corp. CEO Bob Hugin and others. They embraced Trump’s calls for lower taxes and fewer regulations. The gathering with drug CEOs came after Trump’s said on Jan. 12 that the industry was ‘getting away with murder’ and promised to act on drug prices. Since then, drugmakers have turned up their lobbying efforts with Congress as a potentially friendlier force that might counter Trump. ‘Some of the policies you’ve come out and suggested i think can help us do more — tax, regulations,’ said Lilly’s Ricks. Also at Tuesday’s White House meeting were Novartis AG CEO Joe Jimenez and Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Chairman of Pharmaceuticals Joaquin Duato.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.
On Saturday, president Trump signed three more executive orders aimed at fighting terrorism and corruption. They follow yesterday’s order for a temporarily ban on immigrants from certain countries entering the U. S. Today’s actions are as follows: EO #1: Implementing a five year lobbying ban on administration officials. “This is something I’ve talked about a lot on the campaign trail… and now we’re putting it into effect,” said Trump. EO #2: Calling for a reorganization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. EO #3: Calling on military leaders to present a report to the president in 30 days that outlines a strategy for defeating ISIS. “This is the plan to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in other words ISIS. I think it’s going to be very successful.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 28, 2017.
Ukraine’s government has hired Washington lobbyists to fix its problems with the Trump Administration, but would do better to fix its internal problems, instead. Ukraine’s problems are in four categories: a structural problem caused by the multiple overlapping entities involved in military strategy and procurement; the absence of a unified strategic vision for ordering equipment and supplies; a ‘Fifth Column’ of pro-Russian officials; and a staggering corruption that divides the self-interest of the elites from the national interest. A recent Rand study highlighted the deficiencies in the command structure of Ukraine’s security sector. Defense procurement particularly has several overlapping structures with no clear lines of authority or unity of command. The President, Prime Minister, Defense Ministry, General Staff and the infamous state-owned defense company, Ukroboronprom, compete against and undercut one another. Each entity produces its own wish list, driven more by impulse than strategy, and each entity has separate financial controls, opening the door to insider dealing and corrupt sales of government property. In Ukraine, citizens are played for suckers: local militias fight to preserve home and liberty, while the leaders focus on procedure, personal prestige, and offshore bank accounts. Ukroboronprom is infamous for selling arms to the black market, and domestic contracts are given to factories indirectly owned by President Petro Poroshenko, who still hadn’t divested his business interests as he promised to do when he took office in 2014.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 26, 2017.
As Donald Trump himself tweeted on Monday morning… “Busy week planned with a heavy focus on jobs and national security. Top executives coming in at 9:00 A. M. to talk manufacturing in America.” -via twitter- … the president’s first official day on the job will be busy, including a meeting with business executivesm congressional leaders (including a separate meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan), signing executive orders and getting his cabinet picks voted through. According to the WSJ, Trump is also expected to sign various executive orders around 10:30am, which as previewed yesterday will include such topics as trade, immigration, government hiring, Obamacare and a lobbying ban. According to the White House, which released daily guidance for the president on Sunday evening, Trump’s Monday will include a ‘breakfast and listening session with key business leaders’ and a similar afternoon session with union leaders and ‘American Workers.’ Among this week’s key meetings, Trump is scheduled to with meet “top executives” at 9 a.m. today to discuss manufacturing, and British PM Theresa May on Friday.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 23, 2017.
Having already signed a (mostly symbolic) executive order on Obamacare on Friday night, urging US agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of provisions deemed to impose fiscal burdens on states, companies or individuals, Trump is preparing to unload a volley of many more executive orders. Courtesy of Axios, which quotes “one of the best-wired Republican lobbyists in town”, here is a preview of the initial round of Trump executive actions, some of which may hit as soon as Sunday afternoon: Look for a possible hiring freeze at executive branch 5-year lobbying ban on transition and administration officials Mexico City policy, which prevents foreign NGOs from getting U. S. family planning money if they provide abortions with non-U. S. funds. (It’s already illegal to use U. S dollars on abortions.) Task the Defense Secretary and joint chiefs to come up with plan to eviscerate ISIS Report on readiness, and something cyber security related Border/immigration: Something on sanctuary cities, expand E-Verify, an extreme vetting proposal Trade: Withdraw from TPP and a thorough review of NAFTA Axios also notes that “the Mexico City executive order could come as soon as today.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 22, 2017.
The ‘fog of war’ erupts in the confusion caused by the chaos of war. And in the media, it’s an intentional phenomenon that makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. While the battles over war narratives evolve, they all have a common goal: to distort reality on the ground. *** On Oct. 10, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as ‘Nayirah’ told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators and leaving them on a cold floor to die. Her testimony was cited numerous times by senators and even President George H. W. Bush as justification for backing Kuwait in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein, which erupted just three months later. However, it was later revealed that ‘Nayirah’ was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States, and her testimony was arranged by a PR firm representing a Kuwaiti-sponsored group lobbying Congress for military intervention.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 13, 2017.