Monthly Archives: April 2017

The latest bad economic news isn’t Trump’s fault, but he has made it his problem

By Max Ehrenfreund

The economy grew slowly last quarter, according to a report published Friday, the first official estimate of growth under President Trump. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump came into office promising to make the economy great again — or at least make it grow at rates the United States hasn’t enjoyed for decades.

On Friday, he got a taste of just how far he has to go.

The country’s gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic growth, grew by a paltry 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017, slower than the quarter before it and far from what Trump said he would and could deliver for the American people. During the campaign, he cited figures as high as 6 percent.

Now, that anemic quarter isn’t Trump’s fault — there’s little if anything any president can do in his opening months that would have an instant effect on GDP growth — and it’s not even as bad as it sounds.

Despite the disappointing figures in Friday’s report, experts believe the economy is doing reasonably well. Official estimates of economic activity in the first quarter often give the impression of a weak economy, in part because of the weather. A winter storm can halt a construction project, or keep shoppers off the street. By contrast, unusually warm weather can discourage consumers from spending on wintry items.

The bad news for Trump is that while the economy may be sound, it’s not roaring, and a host of longer-term factors — which Trump didn’t cause but also can’t fix — mean it’s unlikely to hit rocket growth any time soon.

One factor is the age of the labor force. Although more Americans have gone back to work …read more

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Congress soon could make it harder for rich people to move to the U.S.

By Tracy Jan

Kushner Companies chief executive Jared Kushner, second from left, presides over a 2014 ceremonial groundbreaking for Trump Bay Street, a luxury waterfront apartment tower in Jersey City, which will be built alongside the Trump Plaza Residence. The project was partially funded by foreign investors from China. (Photo courtesy of The Jersey Journal and NJ.com/Hudson)

The original plan was to attract foreign investment to blighted neighborhoods. But instead, the controversial EB-5 investor visa enabled affluent Chinese to park their cash in high-end real estate in Beverly Hills, Calif. and Manhattan — benefiting developers such as President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Now the visa program criticized as “green cards for cash” faces a questionable future Friday, with some members of Congress refusing to reauthorize the expiring program unless there is significant change.

Proponents of the program argue that the investor visas provide much-needed capital for economic development. Critics say it encourages a two-tier immigration system favoring the rich over those fleeing wars, persecution and poverty.

“These are wealthy investors whose main goal is to secure the visa as quickly as possible,” said Gary Friedland, a New York University scholar in residence whose research focuses on EB-5 capital. “The way to do that is to invest in the safest projects that are most likely to be completed in the shortest period of time.”

Some lawmakers, as well as the White House, say lax government oversight has resulted in a visa program that is rife with fraud and abuse.

Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the chairman and former ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee — have proposed changes, along with their counterparts in the House. So too has the Department of Homeland Security.

Some members of Congress have threatened to let the program expire on Friday if their colleagues do not agree to …read more

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Trump’s new, one-page tax plan is the same as his old, one-page tax plan

By Matt O’Brien

(Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

After almost 100 days in office, President Trump has finally found his forte: one-page tax plans.

That’s how long his first one was last September, and how long his new one was Wednesday. There’s a reason for this. If you compare them side-by-side, you can see that Trump’s two main innovations this time around are using bullet points and offering less specificity. Everything else is just about the same.

Indeed, the “new details” of Trump’s new plan aren’t new and aren’t details. They’re more like an Oprah-themed wish list: you get a tax cut, and you get a tax cut, and you in the top 1 percent really get a tax cut. Trump, you see, wants to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, reduce individual tax rates across the board, double the size of the standard deduction, eliminate the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax and the Affordable Care Act investment taxes, and supposedly pay for it all by closing unspecified loopholes. This was his plan during the campaign, and, despite all the fanfare about his “big announcement,” it’s still his plan today. About the only change is that he now says he’d get rid of the state and local tax deduction.

Well, that and the fact that he doesn’t know where he’d set his tax brackets anymore. Back in September, he said that under his proposal a married couple would pay 12 percent on their first $75,000, 25 percent on anything between $75,000 and $225,000, and 33 percent on anything above that. But even that minimum level of detail is absent from his latest version. All he says now is that he’d have three brackets of 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. (He tweaked the first and last ones a little). Good luck …read more

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