1 month ago

Did we win the trade war?

President Trump recently announced a partial trade settlement with China. Does this mean we have won the trade war?

Details remain sparse, and the present deal may merely forestall further tariff hikes. It may be a truce rather than a peace treaty. Nonetheless, avoiding escalation of the trade war is good news.

To think about trade with China or other nations, we should not view nations as trading. Individuals and businesses trade through buying. As consumers, we face a range of options for cars, clothes, phones and so forth. Sometimes a “foreign” product better serves us or offers comparable value at a better price. Businesses similarly consider who can best supply the inputs they use. Today’s global supply chains make the difference between foreign and domestic manufacturers a matter of degree.

Viewing trade as individual action helps us recognize that trade makes consumers better off. Overseas sales boost American firms’ revenues and make their customers across the globe better off too. Voluntary trade in markets benefits all involved, even when they live in different countries.

All nations’ governments limit their citizens’ freedom to trade internationally. This is unfortunate; a world economy with everyone participating would be more prosperous. And governments use their tax dollars to help their companies sell in foreign markets. These export subsidies hurt the world economy by making products artificially attractive to consumers.

What can we do if other nations keep their citizens from buying American products? As a rule, I think we should engage in trade to the extent possible. Limited trade still produces benefits.

The charitable interpretation sees President Trump’s trade war as trying to make China open their markets. Tariffs on Chinese imports threaten the profits Chinese companies earn selling here. A trade war tries leveraging this pressure for a better deal. If successful, the costly trade war would yield future benefits.

Yet pressuring governments on trade is problematic. A government that restricts imports demonstrates relatively little concern for their citizens’ well-being. For many years Japan limited rice imports, an important staple of their national diet. If Japanese rice growers were so important that politicians were willing to make households (who could vote against the politicians in elections) pay more for rice, could we possibly have enough leverage to force a policy change?

The dispute with China also involves allegations of unfair trade. One element of unfairness is government assistance to companies exporting to the U.S. Another component is currency manipulation, or keeping the value of China’s currency, the yuan, low to make exports artificially cheap. (Intellectual property and technology transfer are also concerns but these issues are sufficiently involved to warrant separate treatment.)

Government export assistance raises fairness concerns and harms the world economy. We might accept it when American companies lose out in fair competition against companies from Canada, Europe or Asia. Export subsidies inflict pain on Americans with no gains for the world economy. Why should we let American companies go out of business and American workers lose their jobs due to government-assisted exporters?

Yet establishing the unfairness and even existence of specific forms of assistance when governments are extensively involved in the economy is exceedingly difficult. Are the tax breaks and worker training provided by Alabama and other states unfair assistance in international trade? International finance economists do not agree whether China is currently manipulating the yuan to aid exports. Absent some way to clearly identify unfair assistance, every American company facing international competition will seek protection.

The details on this agreement and any follow up agreements will tell us if President Trump’s trade war has increased the freedom of Americans and Chinese to trade. Wars sometimes result in bloody stalemates, with leaders then peddling a deal restoring the status quo ante as victory. The cost of trade wars and shooting wars makes peace with honor, if possible, an attractive alternative.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

28 mins ago

Zeigler’s army and the legislature to butt heads on ending an elected school board

There may be a new heavyweight battle on the horizon between some powerful groups in the state of Alabama on a generally insignificant issue.

Back in May, the State Senate unanimously passed SB397, which paved the way for a vote on the 2020 primary ballot to decide if the Alabama Constitution will be amended to allow for the governor to appoint the State Board of Education rather than electing members.

Little did the legislature know that come later in the summer, a group of citizens throughout the state, led by Jim Zeigler, would come together to defeat the governor and ALDOT’s proposal to levy a toll on the I-10 bridge in South Alabama.

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Zeigler now thinks this makes him a potential person of the year for Alabama, and he’s probably right.

Make no mistake, his leadership led to a group of citizens defeating the toll project, and now Zeigler has shifted his attention to a new fight: keeping the State Board of Education elected and keeping the decisions in the hand of the people.

This will ultimately pit Zeigler against a new foe: the Alabama legislature.

State Senator Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) joined WVNN radio in Huntsville Thursday, and when asked if the legislature’s unanimous vote was an effort to advance the issue to the ballot to let the people decide, or if it was an endorsement of the idea, Givhan told host Will Hampson it was the latter.

“No, that’s an endorsement,” Givhan plainly laid out.

He continued, “[W]hen the legislature sends something to the people, I think generally it is something they want to happen. When they send it to the people it’s not like, well yeah, let’s float this out there and see what the people think.”

The argument from the legislature is clear: the system we have right now is not working.

Alabama is consistently ranked in the bottom of education nationally and has been ranked there for decades.

Other groups, such as the Alabama Policy Institute (API), have been very vocal in their support of an appointed school board. API’s Phil Williams was an outspoken supporter at ALGOP’s summer state executive committee meeting.

However, this emerging citizens group led by Zeigler has made it clear that giving the people accountability is the answer, and taking away their vote is not.

Jim Zeigler is joined on this issue by his wife Jackie, who is the SBOE District 1 representative.

Jackie Zeigler told Alabama Media Group, “As representative for State Board of Education District One, I am vehemently opposed to any attempt take away the voice of the people.”

This represents another episode in an ongoing saga that has pitted the people versus those elected to represent them.

The people of Alabama are probably not going to give up their right to vote on a position they don’t pay any attention to. Most people reading this don’t know who their Alabama Board of Education member is; this won’t change that.

I’m indifferent to the whole thing because the decisions by the state school board aren’t going to have a huge impact on my kid one way or the other. Local school boards have far more impact and few people care about that either.

If the election were today, I would vote to keep the board the way it is, but I’m open to changing my mind.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

2 hours ago

Watch: Must-see video celebrating 200 years of Alabama’s contributions to entertainment

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Thursday released a video highlighting the amazing contributions Alabamians have made to American culture and entertainment.

The approximately 10-minute video features famous Alabama musicians, singers, actors, comedians and authors from throughout the ages — including many you might not have realized were born and/or raised in the Yellowhammer State.

This special tribute is one way Aderholt is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Alabama becoming a state, which is Saturday.

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In the video caption, Aderholt said, “Happy 200 Alabama! As we celebrate our great state on this milestone, I wanted to highlight how our state has also had a huge impact on entertainment and culture across America. Alabama singers, actors and authors have touched people across our country and around the world. This video is approximately 10 minutes and we could still have added more. But I invite you to take a few minutes, take a stroll down memory lane and enjoy Alabama at 200!”

Watch:

The ALABAMA 200 finale on Saturday will mark the historic anniversary in grand fashion in downtown Montgomery. Members of the public are invited to attend the events throughout the day, which are all free, including the bicentennial parade at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Aderholt commented, “As Alabama turns 200, we have a lot to celebrate. And I believe our state’s best days are still ahead of it, with new jobs and new opportunities coming every day.”

“When I’m in Washington, I enjoy telling the many people I meet about our state and its warm, loving people,” he continued. “It’s truly a special place, with unmatched beauty from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, to the foothills of the Appalachians. So, happy birthday Alabama! Here’s to 200 more years of Sweet Home Alabama.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Shelby, Jones formally honor Alabama’s 200th birthday

Ahead of Alabama becoming a state exactly 200 years ago on Saturday, U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) on Thursday officially introduced a Senate resolution recognizing and celebrating the anniversary.

The resolution honors the bicentennial as well as the achievements of the Yellowhammer State throughout history.

In a statement, Shelby said, “Alabama has transformed over the last 200 years.”

“Our state went from existing as a territory of farmland to being a major player in national defense, space exploration, manufacturing, medical research, and so on,” he continued. “I am honored to introduce this resolution commemorating Alabama’s 200 years of statehood. What better time to remember our state’s history and celebrate how much we have accomplished over the last two centuries.”

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The resolution is expected to pass the Senate unanimously.

On Saturday, the state’s three-year ALABAMA 200 celebration will culminate with a finale for the state’s birthday.

The past three years have seen ALABAMA 200 honor the people, places and events that form the state’s vibrant history. Throughout this bicentennial countdown, the bicentennial commission has invested in schools and teachers, engaged in various communities and encouraged citizens and visitors alike to explore and learn more about the beautiful state.

“As we commemorate 200 years of Alabama history, we recognize that the history of our state is one of overcoming all odds in pursuit of the American dream,” Jones added. “We honor and remember all the men and women who helped get us to where we are now, and recommit ourselves to each do our part to continue to move Alabama forward.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Univ. of South Alabama provost elected chair of southern college accrediting commission

The University of South Alabama on Thursday announced that Dr. David Johnson, the university’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, has been elected chair of the board of trustees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

SACSCOC is the recognized American regional accrediting body in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, as well as in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees.

Johnson’s election came during SACSCOC’s recent annual meeting in Houston. He will serve during 2020.

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The Commission on Colleges’ board of trustees is the representative body of the College Delegate Assembly and is charged with carrying out the accreditation process.

“The SACS Commission on Colleges is responsible for ensuring that all accredited colleges and universities in our region meet the standards for quality and integrity that are specified in the body’s Principles of Accreditation,” Johnson explained in a statement. “I consider it a great honor, and a tremendous responsibility, to have been selected to serve as board chair of this important organization.”

Prior to his election as board chair, Johnson served as vice chair, executive council member and chair of the Alabama state delegation. He has reportedly been active with SACSCOC for many years, serving as an accreditation consultant and as a member of several site visit teams.

Dr. Belle Wheelan, SACSCOC president, advised, “This year as vice chair, Dr. Johnson demonstrated a thorough awareness and understanding of the many complex issues before us.”

“His patience, compassion and knowledge make him an obvious choice to serve as board chair,” Wheelan added.

Johnson has served in his current leadership roles at South Alabama since 2009 and is the first administrator of the Mobile university to serve as SACSCOC chair.

A member of the South Alabama faculty since 1984, he has enjoyed a distinguished career in teaching, research and community service. Johnson previously served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2002-2009. Before that, he served as associate dean, as well as acting chair of sociology and anthropology.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Three former NFL players with connections to Alabama charged with healthcare fraud

The Eastern District of Kentucky announced Thursday that 10 former NFL players, including three with ties to Alabama, have been charged for their alleged roles in a healthcare fraud scheme.

Carlos Rogers, a former All-American cornerback at Auburn, was joined in the indictment by Robert McCune and Etric Pruitt, who were both born and played high school football in Mobile County.

According to the indictment, McCune and Rogers were both involved in the creating of the scheme, and they both recruited other players to join.

The scheme allegedly involved the submitting of claims for expensive medical equipment, typically between $40,000 and $50,000 for each claim. Allegedly, the equipment in the claims was never purchased by the former players who are accused of pocketing the money.

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The seven other players charged included Clinton Portis, a former All-Pro running back for the Washington Redskins.

According to the U.S Department of Justice, “The alleged fraud targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which… provided for tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their wives and their dependents – up to a maximum of $350,000 per player.”

Carlos Rogers, who grew up in Georgia, is an Auburn graduate who garnered First-Team SEC, and consensus All-American honors during his senior year in 2004. He was selected by the Redskins with the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of health care fraud.

Robert McCune, from Mobile, went to high school at John Leflore Magnet in Mobile. He played for Louisville in college and had a three-year stint in the NFL. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and nine counts of health care fraud.

Etric Pruitt is a Theodore native who played college football at Southern Miss before having a short career in the NFL. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud.

According to the indictment, over $3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims were submitted by the players in question. The NFL plan paid out over $3.4 million on those claims between June 2017 and December 2018.

“Ten former NFL players allegedly committed a brazen, multi-million dollar fraud on a health care plan meant to help their former teammates and other retired players pay legitimate, out-of-pocket medical expenses,” asserted Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.

Over 20 FBI field offices participated in the investigation.

This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the Miami Field Office.

“Today’s indictments underscore that whoever you are, if you loot health care programs to line your own pockets, you will be held accountable by the Department of Justice,” added Benczkowski.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.