Monthly Archives: April 2018

Decision time: Tonight we’ll find out whether Trump wants a trade war with Europe

By Heather Long

President Trump has until midnight to decide whether the European Union gets smacked with tariffs on steel and aluminum. To put it another way, the United States could very well be in a trade “spat” with some of its closest allies by the time people walk their dogs Tuesday morning.

Despite the smiles and many warm embraces last week between Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the E.U. and United States have fundamental disagreements on trade. Trump says the United States has been treated unfairly for years, especially by China and Germany. Europe thinks Trump is trying to blow up the entire rules-based trade system that the United States pushed everyone else to join in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Both sides think they have the moral — and legal — high ground. And Monday night, those tensions could boil over.

“If Trump doesn’t exempt Europe, we’ll get in a trade war with the E.U. countries. They are not going to let this pass,” said C. Don Johnson, a Democratic former congressman from Georgia and U.S. trade negotiator for the Clinton administration. He is the author of “The Wealth of a Nation: A History of Trade Politics in America.”

[Trump keeps U.S. allies on edge ahead of steel tariffs deadline]

The Trump administration is demanding the E.U. accept 25 percent tariffs on steel sent to the United States and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum or agree to a quota that would sharply limit how much of the metals the E.U. could ship here. Europe has rejected those demands.

When Trump first announced the tariffs, he set up a 30-day window for countries to negotiate. …read more

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Marco Rubio just went way off message on the GOP tax cuts

By Jeff Stein

Sen. Marco Rubio when he was a presidential candidate. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Democrats frequently claim Republicans’ corporate tax cuts enriched big businesses while doing little for workers, but now that line of criticism is coming from a prominent Republican: Sen. Marco Rubio.

“There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,” the Florida senator told the Economist in a recent interview. “In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

The GOP tax law dramatically reduced taxes on American businesses, cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The White House said throughout the tax debate that the law’s corporate cuts would increase wages for the average American worker by $4,000, a claim made by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Nonpartisan experts were skeptical about the claim, and independent analyses say the bulk of the law’s tax cuts would go to the wealthy.

The remark was seized on by Senate Democrats, with the office of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) broadcasting it on Monday.

“We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves,” wrote Schumer spokesman Matt House.

In a statement on Monday, Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said that the senator believes the corporate tax cut would make the U.S. more competitive for companies, but did not say it will lead to the kind of wage growth for workers touted by other Republicans.

“Rubio pushed for a better balance in the tax law between tax cuts for big businesses and families, as he’s …read more

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The rise of the blue-collar signing bonus — now up to $25,000

By Danielle Paquette

In today’s economy, railroads are offering signing bonuses. (Matthew Brown/AP)

This year, BNSF Railway, one of the country’s largest freight railroads, aims to hire 3,500 workers across the United States — a challenge at a time when employers nationwide say they are struggling to fill vacancies.

So, BNSF is offering something rare in blue-collar America: signing bonuses up to $25,000 for hourly workers, including conductor trainees, electricians and mechanics.

“We want to meet our customers’ needs, and we’re going to do what we need to do to hire for our company,” said Amy Casas, the railroad’s director of corporate communications.

A blend of forces pushed BNSF to beef up incentives, she said. The national unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low (4.1 percent), and the figure has dropped to 2.8 percent in some areas of the railroad’s network.

Casas would not specify which of the 28 states with BNSF tracks have the toughest hiring climate, but Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and North Dakota have jobless rates below the country’s average.

The tight labor markets, combined with rising freight demand — a symptom of the “moving economy,” she said — has intensified BNSF’s talent-attraction efforts.

Beyond the five-digit railroad perks, blue-collar industries such as construction and security are giving extra cash to new hires, according to job listings and interviews with employers.

They usually come with strings. The BNSF signing bonus will be paid out in installments over three years, Casas said, and vary depending on an applicant’s skills. (The incentives start at $15,000. The company would not say how many employees have received them.)

Gary Painter, a public policy and economics professor at the University of Southern California, said he expects to see more of these perks, which are more often associated with office roles.

“A shortage is only a shortage,” he said, “until you pay enough money to …read more

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