Environmental advocates on Friday responded with outrage to confirmation from the White House that President Donald Trump has ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to plot what’s being called an “unprecedented intervention” by the federal government to bail out financially strapped coal and nuclear power plants that can’t compete with the renewable energy sector.
“This is an outrageous ploy to force American taxpayers to bail out coal and nuclear executives who have made bad decisions by investing in dirty and dangerous energy resources,” declared Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Continue reading →
About 25,000 members of the Culinary Union vote to authorize a citywide strike in Las Vegas to demand better employment conditions. | Unite Here Local 226 Twitter
Las Vegas casino owners’ threats to subcontract or automate thousands of workers’ jobs – among other issues — forced the workers, employed by Unite Here Locals 226 and 165, to vote almost unanimously to authorize a strike if bargainers fail to agree on a new pact by June 1.
If 50,000 workers, who toil at 34 big hotels on the Las Vegas strip and downtown, must walk out, it would be the union’s largest strike in decades. The May 23 vote at the Thomas and Mack Center, a basketball arena, drew 25,000 members, who authorized the strike by a 99 percent-1 percent margin. Continue reading →
More than 100 House Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019. (Photo: David B. Gleason/flickr/cc)
While the world responds with alarm over President Donald Trump’s spontaneous decision to cancel diplomatic talks with North Korea scheduled for next month—which aimed to ease rising nuclear tensions—131 Democrats in the U.S. House joined with the overwhelming majority of Republicans to pass a $717 billion Pentagon spending bill that includes massive expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019 authorizes the development of new low-yield submarine-launched nuclear warheads that the Trump administration demanded in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was released in February and denounced by disarmament advocates as “radical” and “extreme.” Continue reading →
“Today the Senate has taken a giant step toward unwinding the least-popular policy decision in the history of the FCC,” Free Press President Craig Aaron said in a statement. (Photo: Free Press/Twitter)
Human rights campaigners protest against arms sales to Saudi Arabia outside the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), the Government department responsible for arms export promotions. (Photo: Campaign Against Arms Trade/Flickr/cc)
Further demonstrating the willingness of the U.S. to reward and perpetuate the war crimes of its allies, the Trump administration is reportedly moving ahead with a multi-billion-dollar sale of so-called “smart bombs” to Saudi Arabia just weeks after the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition bombed a wedding in Yemen, killing more than 20 people.
First reported by The Intercept‘s Alex Emmons on Friday, the precise details of the deal—which also includes weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates—are not entirely unclear as it is in the preliminary stages, “but it is said to include tens of thousands of precision-guided munitions from Raytheon,” the company that helped produce weaponry used in the deadly wedding airstrike last month. Continue reading →
“We will finally force lawmakers to let us know if they stand with the 85 percent of Americans who support net neutrality—or with the cable companies that want to manipulate the internet in service of greater profits.”
Momentum is building as open internet advocates and internet companies urge senators to overrule the FCC’s unpopular repeal of net neutrality rules. (Photo: Free Press/Flickr/cc)
In less than a week, senators will be able to officially voice their support for overruling the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) December ruling on net neutrality—and momentum was building among advocates and internet companies on Thursday ahead of a huge online demonstration to push lawmakers to reverse the FCC’s decision.
Protest for net neutrality in New York City in December 2017. Photo: Mark Stanley/Twitter
Today is the day that net neutrality’s “slow and insidious” death at the hands of the Republican-controlled FCC officially begins, and Congress is facing urgent pressure to save the open internet before it’s too late.
An Iranian man reads a copy of Iranian daily newspaper Arman with a picture of US President Donald Trump on its front page with the title in Persian that reads ‘Crazy Trump and logical JCPOA’ on display in Tehran, Iran. (Photo: EPA)
“Together, Europeans and Americans have proved that a strong and united transatlantic partnership can bring about a coalition extending to Russia and China, endorsed by the international community,” the lawmakers write. “But this coalition is now at risk, as the U.S. government moves towards abandoning the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] without any evidence of Iran not fulfilling its obligations.” Continue reading →
An Air Force RPA reconnaissance drone is retrofitted for use in attack squadron. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward. Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.
Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society. There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process. At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets. Continue reading →
The tariffs are meant to address two problems: intellectual property theft by China and a steep and persistent trade deficit.
As an economist and expert in international trade, I don’t see how the proposed tariffs will resolve either one. In fact, it’s more likely that they will create two new problems by hurting both consumers and businesses.
IP theft and trade deficits
The administration formally justified its tariffs by invoking Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which allows the president to impose tariffs on countries in violation of international trade deals.
Intellectual property theft has been a major complaint of American companies doing business in China for decades. Sometimes this theft occurs through illicit means, such as industrial espionage. It also occurs through legal channels, such as when U.S. companies are forced to form a joint venture with a Chinese business. In other cases, technology transfers are a precondition of doing business in China.
The other problem that has long irked the president is the significant trade deficit. Since the U.S. normalized trade relations with China in 2000, the deficit ballooned from less than $84 billion to over $375 billion in 2017.
This “China shock” of cheap goods has caused considerable disruption in the U.S. economy. The labor market has been surprisingly slow to adjust, leading affected workers to earn far less money over a lifetime.
The wrong solutions
It remains to be seen, however, whether the tariffs will alleviate either problem.
The administration’s calculation seems to be that China will back down on intellectual property theft if faced with less access to U.S. markets.
But China is less dependent on U.S. trade now than it was a decade ago, making its economy resilient to these sorts of punitive measures. The U.S. accounted for 18.4 percent of Chinese exports in 2016, down from 21 percent in 2006.
The U.S. likely would have better luck resolving this problem at the WTO, which China joined in 2001 and must abide by its rulings. The best part about a WTO ruling is that it would affect all of China’s exports, not just those to the U.S.
The U.S. personal savings rate has fallen steadily since the late 1970s. At the same time, the government has run persistently large budget deficits, both of which have increased the level of borrowing in the U.S. economy.
As a result, foreign investment, particularly from China, has become increasingly critical to financing U.S. economic growth. This is great news in terms of helping Americans buy cheap Chinese goods and the government finance its budget deficit. But all that foreign cash going into the financial market isn’t being used to buy the stuff Americans are producing, like Harley Davidson motorcycles and Iowa corn.
This results in lower exports and a higher trade deficit. Tariffs will not change this reality.
Two new problems
While the full details of the tariffs have yet to be released, it’s clear they’ll cause at least two immediate problems.
One is that U.S. consumers will be hurt. The typical consumer has about $260 in extra purchasing power as a result of trade with China. Those benefits, which disproportionately go toward working-class Americans, will fall due to the U.S. tariffs, as American importers will pass some of their increased costs along to consumers.
Particularly vulnerable to Chinese retaliation are the pork and soybean industries, which are concentrated in the Trump-friendly Midwest. This list could grow if a trade war with China escalates.
A broader concern is that, by acting unilaterally, the Trump administration is undermining the broader system that has facilitated the growth of international trade and adjudicated grievances between countries since World War II.
While far from perfect, organizations such as the WTO have limited the scope of trade wars since the chaos of the 1930s. Failing to uphold these institutions could have major consequences in the future.