Saturday, May 18, 2019

Last Call For The Perfect Storm

Midwest farmers are getting destroyed by the twin grinders of climate change and Trump's trade war with China, and this is where Democrats need to come in and make the case they are better on both issues.  In Iowa as farmers deal with the Mighty Mississippi flooding and soybean and corn prices hitting rock bottom as China is no longer buying, John Deere's tractor plants are cutting production and possibly jobs.

Deere & Co. is scaling back production at some of its major North American plants, with heightened trade tensions and harsh weather hurting farmers' incomes and lowering equipment demand.

Moline-based Deere on Friday cut its full-year profit forecast. The agriculture-equipment manufacturer reported second-quarter earnings of $1.13 billion, or $3.52 per share. That's lower than the $1.21 billion, or $3.67 per share, reported during the same quarter last year.

The revised forecast is another indicator that farmers, and those in the Midwest in particular, are suffering the brunt of the Trump administration's trade battles. On Friday, the president sought to ease fears over the escalating trade confrontations by lifting tariffs on industrial metals with Mexico and Canada, and he has pledged another aid package for farmers hurt by tariffs.

Deere said it lowered its forecasts because farmers aren't buying as much equipment. Farmers are worried about plummeting crop prices, international trade disputes and extreme weather events that have delayed planting, including here in Iowa.

Deere's earnings were lower than Wall Street expectations, causing shares to drop more than 7 percent in afternoon trading.

"Ongoing concerns about export-market access, near-term demand for commodities such as soybeans and a delayed planting season in much of North America are causing farmers to become much more cautious about making major purchases," Chairman and CEO Samuel Allen said in the report.

On a Friday morning call with analysts, Josh Jepsen, director of investor relations, said in response to market dynamics Deere is reducing production in its agriculture business to levels below retail sales. Production will be lower at some of its large North American plants for the remainder of the year.

He said the changes are mostly affecting the production of large agriculture equipment, with its major plants shipping around 20% less than the previous year.

Locally, Deere manufactures large agriculture equipment, such as combines and tractors, at its factories in East Moline and Waterloo.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden said the company is not specifying where production cuts are being made, only that it plans to under-produce market demand in the second half of the year.

"Production changes can be accomplished without changing the size of the workforce," Golden said in an email. "We have not announced any change in workforce."

The job cuts won't come until next year, I figure.  Just in time for 2020 campaign season, too.  But they are coming.  Trump's trade war with China is about to get a lot worse for America's economy across the board as the real effect of tens of billions in new tariff taxes raise prices across the board for everyone.

Like I keep saying, Trump wins as long he keeps his campaign promise of making everyone else other than rural white voters more miserable. The second that misery comes home to farmers and ranchers and Crystal at Wal-Mart and Ricky at the Speedway, he's done.

That's the problem with a "white supremacy/economic anxiety" platform. If you don't deliver on the economic side of it, you're toast.  The economy is going to crater and soon, especially if there's war in Iran.

And then the Democrats have a real shot.

Trump's Taxing Explanation, Con't

Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin is calling House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal's bluff and will not hand over Donald Trump's tax information, saying he has been advised by Attorney General Bill Barr that he is not authorized to turn Trump's taxes over to anyone despite what the law says.

Democrats’ request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” and the Treasury Department is therefore “not authorized” to hand over the documents, Mnuchin said in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

Neal had requested the documents under a longstanding federal law giving Congress access to private tax information. Mnuchin said he’s not authorized to produce the documents, but the law actually doesn’t authorize him to refuse.

“The law, by its terms, does not allow for discretion as to whether to comply with a request for tax returns and return information,” Neal said in a statement responding to Mnuchin’s letter.

The tax returns are just one part of a broader standoff between the Trump administration and Congress. Lawmakers have a constitutional right to oversee the executive branch, but the White House has been stonewalling demands for testimony and documents.

Democrats will probably be at the mercy of federal courts to enforce their subpoenas, although some lawmakers have talked about dusting off the legislature’s own power to force compliance through jail or fines.

Neal asked for six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns last month and followed through with the subpoena last week after Mnuchin refused the initial request.

“I didn’t think that they would turn it over,” Neal told HuffPost on Thursday, before Mnuchin had officially defied the subpoena.

Neal declined to discuss next steps but has previously said he would sue in federal court and ask a judge to enforce the subpoena. Courts have repeatedly ordered executive branch officials to cooperate with subpoenas, but the process typically takes longer than election cycles, meaning Trump could be out of office before Democrats can win.

And so the Trump tax case ends with a whimper.  We will never see them, because they will be tied up in court for years, and by then the 2020 election will be over one way or another.  If Trump loses (or Democrats lose the House in 2020) then the request dies in court, and if Trump wins, the Supreme Court will eventually block the law as unconstitutional considering Trump will get at least one more Justice to pick, if not two, in a second term (and no, Democrats won't block a pick if they should somehow win back the Senate, because they are Democrats.)

This is the effective end of the Trump tax fight.  I hate to say it, but Mnuchin's not going to jail, and Richard Neal isn't going to dust off the cell in the Capitol building to hold him there, and Mnuchin is one of the richest people in the country and fines won't mean a damn thing.

It's over, and we lost.

Trump will win because Democrats aren't willing to use every tool they have, and Trump (and Mitch McConnell) will use every tool.

That's the real story of this decade in American politics.

The Trumpian Wonder Down Under

Australia's conservative Liberal party coalition has won national elections Saturday despite all the polls pointing towards a Labor party sweep, and PM Kevin Morrison will keep his office by running on the Trump platform: tax cuts for the rich, forget climate change, and it's all immigrants' fault.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison led his conservative government to a surprise victory in Australia’s election, seeing off a challenge from the left-leaning Labor opposition with his pledge to safeguard the slowing economy.

“I have always believed in miracles,” Morrison, 51, told cheering supporters in Sydney, flanked by his wife and two daughters. “Tonight we’ve been delivered another one.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten, 52, earlier phoned Morrison to concede defeat, saying it was clear he could not form government even as millions of votes remained uncounted. He wished Morrison “good fortune and good courage in the service of our great nation” and said he would step down as opposition leader.

With 70% of the vote counted, the Liberal-National coalition is expected to win 74 seats in the 151-member lower house, with Labor on 65, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The broadcaster said it remained unclear whether the coalition would gain the 76 seats needed to form a majority.

It is a remarkable win for the conservative government, which has been plagued by factional infighting during its six years in office that hobbled its ability to craft policy. Morrison, who took the helm in August and is the Liberals’ third leader in four years, spent much of the campaign relentlessly attacking Labor’s detailed policy platform that included boosting the minimum wage and taking tougher action against climate change.
He urged voters not to risk a change of government just when the economy -- in its 28th year of uninterrupted growth -- appears to be running out of steam.

“The economic story, the economic message, the economic choice was what differentiated the parties at this election,’’ Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

Morrison faces a drawn-out battle to legislate planned income tax cuts that could provide much-needed fiscal stimulus for the economy. His ability to do so will hinge on the makeup of the Senate, where populists and independents could hold the balance of power. Vote counting for the upper house will likely continue for days.

Morrison must also navigate the intensifying trade war between the U.S., Australia’s most important ally, and China, its biggest trading partner. The government must shore up ties with Beijing, which have been strained since the coalition last year introduced laws aimed at ending Chinese interference in national affairs, and barred telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co. from participating in its 5G network on security grounds.

Morrison closed down Labor’s lead during the five-week campaign, and a Newspoll published Saturday put the opposition just three points ahead. With the contest so tight, it was vital for both parties to hold or pick up seats held by a thin margin. 

And it was rural voters out in Queensland and Tasmania who won it for the conservatives.  If there seems like there's a lot of similarities to Clinton vs Trump in 2016, that's because there is, and Australia's Trump has won.  Despite deadly wildfires and record summer heat in the country last year, voters turned against climate change and wage increases in order to stop those people and keep Australia for...well, certainly not its aboriginal population, that's for damn sure.

The Trumpification of Alerica's allies continues.

The Road To Gilead, Con't

If you think that red state Democrats wouldn't turn on women faster than red state Republicans in order to try to keep their jobs over doing the right thing, well, you've never met a Louisiana Democrat, particularly John Bel Edwards.

Nearly three decades ago, when Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ wife was 20 weeks pregnant with their first child, a doctor discovered their daughter had spina bifida and encouraged an abortion. The Edwardses refused.

Now, daughter Samantha is married and working as a school counselor, and Edwards finds himself an outlier in polarized abortion politics.

“My position hasn’t changed. In eight years in the Legislature, I was a pro-life legislator,” he said. When he ran for governor, his view was the same. “I’m as consistent as I can be on that point.”

Edwards, who has repeatedly bucked national party leaders on abortion rights, is about to do it again. He’s ready to sign legislation that would ban the procedure as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, when the bill reaches his desk.
Louisiana’s proposal , awaiting one final vote in the state House, would prohibit abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to laws passed in Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia and Ohio that aim to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Alabama has gone even further, enacting a law that makes performing abortions a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions.

But the abortion bans in those other conservative states — spurred by anti-abortion activists hoping the addition of conservative judges to the Supreme Court could help overturn Roe v. Wade — were backed by Republican governors.

A rarity in his party, Edwards’ anti-abortion stance provokes angry outcries on social media from Democratic voters and disappointment within the party’s broader ranks across the country.

“When Republicans are taking away women’s rights at every step, it’s on the Democrats to show that we are the party that will protect women. When we fail to do that, we make it absolutely hopeless for women around the country,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive Democratic consultant

And Bel Edwards never ran as anything other than a Catholic pro-life Democrat in Louisiana.  Democratic voters knew exactly what they were getting when they elected him, and he's up for re-election in less than five months.

Of course he was going to sign this unconstitutional bill.

As a resident of Kentucky, let me assure you that it's never a question of if Red State Dems up for reelection toe the GOP line, it's how often, and how many people get hurt when they do.

And yet the Republican alternative is always somebody 100% willing to follow the GOP mantra.

It's depressing, trust me.
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