Monthly Archives: May 2018

Trump has officially put more tariffs on U.S. allies than on China

By Heather Long

President Trump campaigned on going hard after China for ripping off the United States on trade. Yet a year and a half into his presidency, Trump has put more tariffs on longtime U.S. allies than he has on China, his supposed “bad guy” on trade. The Trump administration announced new tariffs Thursday on the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

Almost all of the reaction has been negative. Many are calling it a political and economic mistake.

America’s allies are stunned, stocks slid on Wall Street as trade-war fears returned, and economists are warning that Americans will soon face higher prices on a wide variety of products. A slew of Republican lawmakers immediately trashed the move as bad for the economy and foreign relations.

“Europe, Canada & Mexico aren’t China. You don’t treat allies the same way you treat opponents. Blanket protectionism is a big part of why we had a Great Depression. ‘Make America Great Again’ shouldn’t mean ‘Make America 1929 Again.’ ” tweeted Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), joining an opposition that included many Republican officials and business groups.

Trump’s latest move takes the focus off China. Most countries (and U.S. lawmakers) agree with Trump that China isn’t playing fair on trade, but instead of turning the E.U. and Canada into allies in the trade fight against China, Trump is alienating them.

The president has threatened tariffs on an additional $50 billion in Chinese goods later this month, but he has often changed his mind, putting tariffs on hold or scaling them back before they go into effect. Right now, Canada and the E.U. are taking a bigger blow. (The E.U. and other allies would also bear the brunt of Trump’s proposed tariffs on autos).

Of course, it could all change quickly …read more

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Italy’s political crisis is the biggest threat to the euro so far

By Matt O’Brien

Italian President Sergio Mattarella (Fabio Frustaci/ANSA/AP)

Italy’s political crisis has brought Europe’s currency crisis back with a vengeance, and just about everything the establishment is trying to do to stop it is only making things worse.

The problem is, for the first time since all this started 10 years ago, Europe is facing the prospect of a country being led by a government that might genuinely want to leave the euro. The closest Europe had come to this before was three years ago when Greece’s far-left party Syriza threatened to do so as a bluff to try to win better terms on the country’s bailout package. It didn’t work.

Italy’s newly ascendant far-right party the League, though, doesn’t seem interested in mere concessions so much as freedom — the freedom to cut taxes and deport immigrants as much as it wants. Neither of those, of course, is allowed under Europe’s current rules. Which is why the League has played a double game where it’s said it doesn’t want to take the country out of the euro at the same time that it’s pushed policies and personnel that suggest otherwise.

Now, there are two things to understand about Italy’s dangerously dysfunctional politics. The first is that its mainstream parties have imploded under the weight of corruption scandals and an economy that hasn’t grown at all in the past 15 years, even when you account for the graying of the population.

The second is that its populist parties, which took the top two spots in the most recent elections, were just blocked by the head of state President Sergio Mattarella from forming the government that the League insisted on. He did that because he was worried that their choice of finance minister — a longtime euroskeptic named Paola Salvona who has said they need a “Plan …read more

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A 64-year-old put his life savings in his carry-on. U.S. Customs took it without charging him with a crime.

By Christopher Ingraham

Rustem Kazazi. left, at home with wife Lejla and son Erald in Parma Heights, Ohio. (Institute for Justice)

A 64-year-old Cleveland man is suing U.S. Customs and Border Protection after agents strip-searched him at an airport in October and took more than $58,000 in cash from him without charging him with any crime, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week in Ohio.

Customs agents seized the money through a process known as civil asset forfeiture, a law enforcement technique that allows authorities to take cash and property from people who are never convicted or even charged with a crime. The practice is widespread at the federal level. In 2017, federal authorities seized more than $2 billion in assets from people, a net loss similar in size to annual losses from residential burglaries in the United States.

Customs says it suspects that the petitioner in the case, Rustem Kazazi, was involved in smuggling, drug trafficking or money laundering. Kazazi denies those allegations and says that the agency is violating federal law by keeping his money without filing any formal complaint against him.

Kazazi is a retired officer with the Albanian police who relocated with his family to the United States in 2005 after receiving visas through the State Department’s lottery program. They became U.S. citizens in 2010. After several years away, Kazazi planned a trip to Albania last fall to visit relatives, make repairs on a family property and potentially purchase a vacation home.

He took $58,100 in U.S. currency with him, the product of 12 years of savings by Kazazi, his wife, Lejla, and his son Erald, who is finishing up a chemical engineering degree at Cleveland State University, according to the lawsuit. The family lives in Parma Heights, a suburb of Cleveland.

In an interview translated by his son, Kazazi …read more

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