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

Encryption/Decryption Race

The political one I mean, not the technological one.  Recall, for instance the San Bernardino terrorist attack, the FBI’s capture of one of the terrorists’ encrypted iPhones, Apple’s refusal to decrypt it (they couldn’t, by their design of the iPhone’s OS), then-FBI Director James Comey’s (yes, that Comey) cynically tear-jerking demand for future such personal device encryption back doors to decrypt at Government convenience, and Apple’s refusal to support development of that.

An expert on the subject—a technological expert I mean, not a political one—thinks he’s solved the problem.  His solution is described in a Wired article.  This expert thinks he has a way of providing Government “exceptional access” to a private person’s (or private enterprise’s) encrypted cell phone (for instance).  His solution, Clear, works this way:

False Choice

Consider the kerfuffle involving corm farmer subsidies in the form of ethanol mandates and the required use of ethanol by oil refiners as they produce vehicle fuels.  The argument is being presented as a choice forced on President Donald Trump in that he “must choose” between the corn farmers and the oil companies as the kerfuffle is solved.

Oil refineries want out of a costly requirement to blend ethanol into the gasoline they produce. Corn growers say the requirement diversifies the US fuel supply, and insist Mr Trump fulfill promises to at least hold the ethanol mandate.

State Taxation of Internet Businesses

The Supreme Court is hearing a case, South Dakota v Wayfair Inc, that seeks to overturn an older precedent that prevents States from taxing businesses doing business in the State that don’t have a physical presence there.  South Dakota is claiming that

…the 1992 precedent harms state treasuries and disadvantages taxpaying home-grown businesses.

That argument might hold water if the States were powerless. They’re not. There’s nothing at all preventing them from lowering the tax rates they impose on the brick-and-mortar and home-grown businesses resident in those States so they can compete. There’s nothing at all preventing the States from lowering their spending rates and thereby protecting their treasuries.

Union Threat

The American Federation of Teachers doesn’t like guns, gun owners, gun manufacturer, or those who support them.  That’s fine; this is America.

The union’s President, Randi Weingarten, has taken a typically union follow-on step: threatening a union boycott of Wells Fargo if the bank doesn’t end its relationship with the National Rifle Association and with those manufacturers.

We’re issuing Wells Fargo an ultimatum.  They can have a mortgage market that includes America’s teachers, or they can continue to do business with the NRA and gun manufacturers. They can’t do both.

Government Surveillance by Regulation

Loosely related to a nearby post, now it seems the government is getting worried about the size of the “private” capital market, where folks can place investments in enterprises, particularly startups, without having to go through the public—stock—markets and government regulations that are broadly extensive and deeply intrusive.

The boom is transforming how companies grow, concentrating investing in fewer hands and raising concerns about oversight

The linked-to article’s subhead lays out the whole misunderstanding. Government doesn’t need to be in the business of regulating every little thing we do.  We can manage our investments just fine without Government’s “help.”  And we can suffer our own outcomes if we choose badly or fortune moves against us despite our otherwise correct decisions.

Standards and Markets

The EPA has decided to revisit, revise, and lower fuel efficiency standards for cars sold in the US for the model years 2022-2025.  The Obama administration EPA had mandated that overall fleet fuel efficiency—averaged across all models of cars built by a manufacturer—be raised to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 from 35.5 miles per gallon in 2016.  This would have represented a greater than 50% increase in fuel efficiency in just 10 short years.

Environmentalists are up in arms over the move.  Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund President:

A Fiduciary Rule

The Obama Labor Department, under the suzerainty of Tom Perez who is now the Progressive-Democratic National Committee Chairman, enacted a rule that allowed individuals to hale into court principals of employer or union retirement plans for the crime of charging commissions for their actions.  The rule also redefined “investment advice fiduciaries” to include broker-dealers and financial-insurance agents whose activities are limited to selling financial products.

The 5th Circuit struck the rule as illegal.  That’s good news for all of us.

However.

The Trump Labor Department has said it won’t enforce the rule and is working with the SEC on a new one….

The PRC and Intellectual Property Theft

In the absence of any serious legal protections against intellectual property theft in the People’s Republic of China, businesses operating there are engaging more and more in sweeping conference rooms there for bugs and equipping personnel with sanitary burner phones for use while in the PRC.

That’s a start for those willing to put their proprietary information at risk through a business venture inside the PRC or with a PRC-based business anywhere, but it’s inadequate by itself, as illustrated by this bit of naivete by the linked-to piece’s author: