Auto Tariffs Revisited

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström says the EU will respond to any increase in US tariffs on imported autos and auto parts with its own tariffs on autos and parts imported from the US.

And,

The EU cannot offer a bilateral deal only on autos, Ms. Malmström said, to address Mr Trumps complaints about the 28-member bloc’s 10% car tariffs—which are quadruple the US rate.

Never mind that applying its own auto and auto parts tariffs to imports from the US is precisely such a bilateral action.

Get Rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell thinks it’s a good idea.

I think it is really important for the longer run that we get the housing finance system off the federal government’s balance sheet.  I think it is very important for the economy longer term.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agrees.

I am determined that we have a fix to the GSEs and that we don’t leave them in conservatorship for the rest of time[.]

But this doesn’t go far enough.  It’s insufficient to kick these Government Sponsored Entities out of conservatorship.  Left as GSEs, they’d still be able to dip their fingers into our pocketbooks; Fannie Mae wants another $3.7 billion of our tax money already.

Auto Tariffs

Auto makers, parts suppliers, and dealers are joining forces to push back against the Trump administration’s proposal to apply tariffs of up to 25% on vehicles and components imported into the US….

The auto industry is aiming at the wrong target.  The German auto industry and the US have already agreed in principle to a regime of no auto tariffs at all.  It’s the German government that’s waffling and the EU that’s ignoring the matter altogether.

These domestic execs need to be asking the German government and the EU why they’re so disinterested instead of whining about domestic matters.

A Good Start

Congress is considering RESA, the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act, a bill that would represent a massive change to our retirement system, in particular our 401(k) system.  This bill would, among other things,

encourage more small employers to offer retirement savings plans and make it easier for companies to offer annuities that turn workers’ savings into a guaranteed annual income.

Among specific things that the House wants in such a bill are

  • a universal savings account, funded with post-tax dollars but with tax-free earnings and more flexible withdrawal rules than existing retirement accounts.

An Example of Irrationality

Here’s Donald Trump decrying Germany’s willingness make itself dependent on Russian energy supplies by pushing for Nordstream 2, which will mean that Germany will get 60% of its natural gas from Russia, to go with the 40% of its oil imports that already are from Russia.  Aside from becoming so dependent on an enemy for its energy, Germany will be paying Russia billions of euros for the privilege.

I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.

Not Far Wrong

In an interview with the British newspaper The Sun, President Donald Trump said that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit “blueprint” for Brexit would likely kill any opportunity for special trade deals with the US.  A critical part of that blueprint would have Great Britain

stick[ing] to a common ­rulebook with Brussels on goods and agricultural produce in a bid to keep customs borders open with the EU.

A Couple of Interesting Graphs

This, via Stratfor, illustrate the level of commitment and its nature of NATO member nations toward their own defense.  The first shows the breakdown of expenditures of those monies aimed at each member’s commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense.

Notice who’s spending the most on equipment—that actual teeth of defense.  Most of the nations spending the most are right across the fence from the Russian Bear.

This graph shows which nations actually are meeting their 2% commitment.

In case the note is unreadable, the asterisk for Bulgaria notes that its figure does “not include persons.”

Union Politics

Here’s what the American Federation of Teachers union “agency fees” would have been spent on absent the favorable ruling in Janus vs AFSCME, which said that public unions can no longer make non-union employees pay into union coffers as a condition of employment.  These are actual resolutions to be offered at the AFT’s convention this weekend.

Keep in mind, too, that those agency fees typically ran to 60% to 80% of member union dues—which gives an idea of how much a public union’s intake was spent on politics rather than on member matters.

  • single-payer health care

Allies

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, the main governing body of the European Union, says

Dear America, appreciate your allies, you don’t have that many[.]

That’s true enough; we certainly don’t have that many who aren’t demanding to freeload off American blood and treasure for their defense while being unwilling to contribute much of their own to their defense.

Tusk tweeted soon after,

US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China.

Free Food Stamps

The House passed a farm welfare bill that includes a requirement for food stamp recipients to work for their welfare payouts last month, and the Senate passed its version—carefully without that requirement for actual work. Or perhaps just timidly passed, since Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R, KS) was intimidated by Progressive-Democrat Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D, MI) and couldn’t find the backbone to oppose her.

Now the two bills go to conference for resolution, and the outcome doesn’t look promising for work.

In today’s tight employment environment, that work would be easy to find, too, and in light of that, The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board made the comment