Trump’s Secret Service $core

Trump’s Secret Service $core

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Plus, Trump says drug importation plan coming ‘soon’
Friday, November 22, 2019

Secret Service Spent More Than $250,000 at Trump Properties in His First Five Months as President

It’s a shocker, we know: Newly released documents raise fresh concerns about the extent to which President Trump is personally profiting from his public office, showing that the Secret Service spent more than $250,000 at Trump properties over the first five months of he was in office — an average of nearly $2,000 a day.

The records were obtained by the nonprofit watchdog group Property of the People through a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit. They provide only basic details on credit card spending by the Secret Service at Trump properties and businesses from January 27 through June 9 of 2017, showing a total of $254,020.94 of expenditures at Trump hotels and golf clubs. The Washington Post reports that Trump made 21 visits to his properties during that time — and has made more than 100 additional trips since then.

The records do not show what the payments were for, but the spending often appears to match up with Trump’s visits to his own properties. A golf outing by the president in early April 2017, for example, appears to have led to nearly $27,000 in Secret Service spending at Trump’s club in a single day.

Ongoing ethical concerns: Trump refused to divest from his businesses or put them in a blind trust after taking office and has frequently visited his own properties as president while his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, run the Trump Organization — an arrangement that raised ethical concerns. The Constitution’s domestic emoluments clause prohibits the president from receiving payments other than his salary from the federal or state governments.

“Due to his overt self-dealing and refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American presidency into a racket,” Ryan Shapiro, the executive director of Property of the People told the Post.

Trump has dismissed such concerns. He recently called the emoluments clause “phony” and has reportedly said it does not prevent him from charging the federal government for services rendered. Trump’s lawyers have argued that the emoluments provision only prevents him from being paid as part of “an employment-type relationship” with a foreign or domestic government, Politico’s Natasha Bertrand says.

Trump’s son Eric has said that the Trump Organization charges the taxpayers “at cost” for federal employees but has not explained how that “cost” figure is calculated, the Post’s David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O’Connell and Joshua Partlow note.

Trump has also claimed that being president will cost him billions of dollars.

Read more at The Washington Post or Politico.

Tweet of the Day: Trump Says Drug Importation Plan Coming ‘Soon’

President Trump tweeted Friday that he “will soon release a plan to let Florida and other States import prescription drugs that are MUCH CHEAPER than what we have now!”

The Trump administration in July outlined a proposal to allow U.S. states to legally import prescription drugs from Canada and senior administration officials told The Washington Post in September that the president would be issuing an executive order on the subject before long.

The pharmaceutical industry — and Canadian officials — oppose the idea, and regulators have warned it could threaten consumer safety.

Trump on Friday also said he and Republicans stand ready to work with Democrats on bipartisan legislation to lower drug prices, but he criticized a bill by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying it “doesn’t do the trick” and would lead to fewer cures and treatments.

Responding to the president’s tweets, Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation wrote: “Drug prices in other countries like Canada are lower than in the U.S. because the government sets a cap on the prices. That's similar to Speaker Pelosi's bill, which would allow the government to negotiate prices for many drugs on behalf of Medicare and private insurers.”

And Rachel Sachs, a law professor focused on health care at Washington University in St. Louis, noted that the Trump administration claims to oppose the strategies used by other countries to lower drug prices but is hoping to benefit from those lower prices anyway.

States Boost Spending at Fastest Pace Since Great Recession

U.S. states increased spending in fiscal year 2019 at the fastest clip since the end of the Great Recession, according to a new report from the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Total state spending, at $2.1 trillion, rose 5.7% from the prior year, up from 3.4% growth the year before. Spending from states’ own funds, as opposed to federal funds, rose 5.9% in 2019, the highest annual growth since the recession. Federal funds flowing to states rose by 4.7%.

“The figures show how the record-long expansion is reviving the finances of states that were hit hard by the fallout from the real estate bust,” Bloomberg’s Romy Varghese writes. “That shift has lifted the credit ratings of California, Washington and Michigan and driven down the yield penalties that investors demand to buy bonds of states such as Connecticut and Illinois.”

Spending on transportation grew by 8.9% year over year, the most of any category. That spending may continue early next year as states look to address infrastructure needs before another recession hits or election-year politics creates additional uncertainties, Karel Citroen, head of municipal research at investment management firm Conning, told Bloomberg.

“This is their now or never moment,” Citroen said. “This is going to be the final opportunity to take care of their infrastructure needs.”

But overall state spending growth is expected to slow in fiscal 2020, the report says, as states look to prepare for a potential economic slowdown and the accompanying decline in revenue growth. More than 30 states have proposed increasing their rainy-day funds, Brian Sigritz of the National Association of State Budget Officers told Bloomberg.

Some other key details from the report:

  • State tax collections “experienced strong gains” in both fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 after slower growth in the two previous years.
  • “In contrast to recent years, total Medicaid spending grew at a slower rate than state spending overall, the first time since fiscal 2012 when the federal stimulus began to wind down,” the report says.

Public Investment Is the Key to Avoiding Economic Stagnation: Report

Economic stagnation on a global scale is a growing threat, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The group’s November economic outlook projects worldwide GDP growth of 2.9% in 2020, the weakest rate of growth since the financial crisis. Growth is not expected to exceed 3.0% for several years after that, held back by uncertainty in the private sector and fundamental structural changes in the global economy. Together, these factors make for a “worrying” trend that will be hard to reverse without well-designed interventions by policymakers, the group said.

“Unless bold action is taken by governments now, sluggish activity will become entrenched, threatening jobs and living standards for years to come,” said Laurence Boone, chief economist of the OECD.

Rising uncertainty: Global trade is stagnating, the group says, driven by the burgeoning trade war between the U.S and China, as well as other, smaller regional conflicts. Unresolved trade disputes are creating significant uncertainty for businesses, weighing on investment decisions in the private sector.

Deeper structural trends: “Slow growth is becoming entrenched for structural rather than cyclical reasons,” the report says. The structural factors include the gradual slowing of China’s growth as the country begins to emphasize consumption and services over manufacturing; digitalization of the economy; population aging; and the growing cost of climate change.

The limits of monetary policy: Central banks have cut interest rates to address the threat of slowing growth, but the positive effects may be limited due to the low-interest environment that has taken hold across the developed economies. As a result, “fiscal policy needs to be used more actively to support near-term demand and enhance medium-term prospects by taking advantage of exceptionally low interest rates to invest in infrastructure and other measures.”

A major role for government: The OECD sees public investments in 21st century infrastructure as a key factor in raising the growth trajectory in developed nations and worldwide. Targeted public investment would stimulate private sector investment and innovation, providing a foundation for higher growth levels in the long run. Key investment targets include physical and digital infrastructure, and technologies associated with the transition away from fossil fuels. Greater global cooperation on trade agreements and tax monitoring would also go a long way toward restoring confidence and certainty in the private economy, raising the prospects for growth.

The political challenge is considerable, though, requiring governments to focus on sectors with the highest returns; competent management with transparent monitoring; and long-term, though not-open ended, financial commitments to ensure that projects are completed.

The case of the U.S.: Although the U.S. economy is in relatively good shape compared to the rest of the 36 OECD nations, growth is slowing and the trade war with China is clearly taking a toll on business investment. Further, persistently high deficits and growing debt will likely make it more difficult for the U.S. to embrace the kind of fiscal stimulus that would benefit the economy in the long run, the OECD says. The group recommends focusing on reducing conflict with trade partners to enhance economic growth while building up fiscal buffers to reduce the risks associated with a significant slowdown. Even so, the threat of stagnation driven by demographics and trade wars is significant, potentially made worse by the fiscal constraints imposed by high deficits.

The bottom line: The OECD is calling for levels of activity and coordination within and between developed nations that are well beyond current standards. The alternative, however, is years of lackluster growth, the group says. “There is a unique window of opportunity to avoid a stagnation that would harm most people: restore certainty and invest for the benefit of all,” said Boone, the chief economist.

Your Prize for Making It Through the Week

Time magazine is out with its list of the 100 best inventions of 2019, in categories ranging from food to entertainment to health care. Some of the choices might be frivolous, but there's plenty of smart, practical stuff — and cool, futuristic creations, too.

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Have a great weekend!


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