How Bad is a Vocational Education?

Especially compared with a formal college education?  Oren Cass, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, had some thoughts on that in a recent Wall Street Journal piece.

Elevating vocational education, and prioritizing its students, must begin with a substantial reshaping of American high schools. Vocational education will not succeed so long as culture and public policy consign it to second-class status—a dumping ground for students who interfere with what school districts consider their real mission, college prep.

US Corn Exports

The Trump administration is working on a deal with the People’s Republic of China to reduce the trade imbalance we have with them (whether the trade imbalance really is a bad thing and whether the PRC is working the deal as hard as the Trump administration are questions outside this post).  American farmers would have trouble producing enough to meet their part of the goal, were the deal to go through.

US corn exports could jump from $150 million to about $10 billion annually within a few years if China vastly expanded its quotas and reduced its duties that are as high as 65%, according to one estimate.

The Obama Legacy

Much has been made over the last week, both favorably and unfavorably, of the magnitude of President Donald Trump’s erasure of ex-President Barack Obama’s (D) legacy.

I disagree with that coverage.  Trump has been mitigating, if not correcting, as many of Obama’s errors as he can, but he’s done nothing about Obama’s legacy, which includes the following far from exhaustive list:

  • apologizing to the world for our successes
  • bowing to world leaders, deeply on several occasions
  • alienating our friends and toadying up to our enemies
    • attacking Israel for insisting on defending itself

It’s Not Your Company

Seattle wants to charge a head tax on businesses operating in the city, a tax whose amount would be just what it sounds like—a tax based on the number of hours worked by each employee the business has on its payroll.

In response to the proposal, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, paused construction on a 17-story office tower in downtown Seattle.

In response to Amazon, the Left in Seattle, spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union-backed activist gang—Working Washington—wants Amazon charged with a felony.

Budget Commitments

Recall the hoo-raw raised when President Donald Trump signed a Republican-authored budget-busting budget [sic] earlier this year.  Now he wants to send up some rescissions to an earlier budget, with indications that he’ll submit further rescissions to the just-signed thing.

There’s a kerfuffle brewing in the Senate, and it’s not from the Progressive-Democrats there.

…[Senator Mitch (R, KY)] McConnell, who told Fox News that rescission would jeopardize future budget negotiations with Democrats: “You can’t make an agreement one month and say, “OK, we really didn’t mean it.'”

Fiduciary Duty

State and local governments are at it again.  Or still.

The value of investments by public pension funds declined last quarter, widening the gap between what these funds say they will earn and what they actually earn.  Pension fund managers—especially government pension fund managers—must make annual “estimates” (they’re actually politically self-serving pie-in-the-sky claims) of the market returns they expect to make on the funds under their nominal care.  These WAGs determine the amount of money “the government that is affiliated with the pension fund must pay into it”.

Taxes and Deduction Caps

New York thinks it’s found a way around the tax reform act that cut Federal income taxes and capped the deduction taxpayers can take for State and Local Taxes (vis., State income and property taxes).

The idea, which became law last month, creates a new optional payroll tax that shifts the state and local tax deduction from individuals who can no longer fully take it to businesses that can.

However,

Employers are worried about compliance costs, interactions with union contracts, complexity across state lines, and the difficulty of explaining to workers how a plan that might lead to smaller pay raises still puts more money in their pockets.

A Graph

The Wall Street Journal had a piece on shifting bank deposits, and in that article was an interesting graph.  The article itself is worth the read, but the graph has, I think, wider import.

The graph illustrates the differing rates between what banks pay on depositors’ accounts compared to what money market funds pay, but look at the rates as indicated on vertical axis.  Plainly, these aren’t the heady days of the early ’90s when money market funds like Dreyfus’ Worldwide Dollar Fund was paying in the region of 6%-8%.  This graph, instead, illustrates the effect of the Fed’s continued suppression of market interest rates, even if they are—slowly—allowing their benchmarks to come up a bit.

German Defense Spending

Recall that at the just-concluded summit between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump urged Merkel to increase Germany’s defense spending.  Recall further Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s subsequent meeting with NATO bigwigs in which he urged NATO members generally to increase their defense spending.

This table illustrates why Germany really needs to plus up its defense spending.

And this:

In February, the newspaper Rheinische Post cited an internal Bundeswehr paper stating that the army lacked the necessary basic equipment for its deployment in a NATO rapid reaction force.

A Misunderstood Premise

Greg Ip is worried about financial deregulation.  He opened his Wednesday piece with this statement:

Deep into an economic boom with asset prices near records is when you’d expect the US financial system’s guardians to tamp down risk-taking. Instead, federal regulators and legislators are doing the opposite—watering down, narrowing or declining to enforce rules passed after the financial crisis.