U.S., Japan Sign Limited Deal on Farming, Digital Trade Deals   

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U.S., Japan Sign Limited Deal on Farming, Digital Trade Deals(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and Japan signed a limited trade deal intended to boost markets for American farmers and give Tokyo assurances, for now, that President Donald Trump won’t impose tariffs on auto imports.The accords on agriculture and digital trade cover about $55 billion worth of commerce between the world’s largest- and third-biggest economies, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said at a ceremony in the Oval Office alongside Trump.The accord is a “game changer for our farmers” and ranchers, Trump said at the event.The goal is for the accord to take effect Jan. 1.Trump, who faces re-election next year, was eager to make a deal with Japan to appease U.S. farmers who have been largely shut out of the Chinese market as a result of his trade war with Beijing. American agricultural producers, also reeling from bad weather and low commodity prices, are a core component of Trump’s political base.Under the deal, Japan will lower or reduce tariffs on some $7.2 billion of American-grown farming products, including beef and pork.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s priority was to win a pledge that the U.S. won’t slap tariffs on Japanese automobile exports, a sector valued at about $50 billion a year and a cornerstone of the country’s economy.Read more: Click here for the most recent research from Bloomberg EconomicsThe written text of the deal doesn’t explicitly cover auto tariffs, but Abe has said he received assurances that Japan would be spared from them.The proposed pact won’t lower the barriers protecting Japan’s rice farmers -- a powerful group supporting Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. This could help the prime minster smooth the deal’s course through parliament, where it must be ratified before coming into effect.The U.S. has said this agreement -- which was signed in principle on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month -- is just the first phase of a broader agreement.To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net;Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at jdlouhy1@bloomberg.net;Brendan Murray in London at brmurray@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Margaret Collins at mcollins45@bloomberg.net, Sarah McGregor, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

Look Beyond the Bogus Bonus Smokescreen   

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Taxpayers might be less skeptical of the born-again guardians of fiscal responsibility if these evangelists were actually practicing what they preached. While the Obama administration now issues impassioned calls to stop rewarding failure, they moved Thursday to dump another $5 billion into the failing auto industry. That's on top of Thursday's announcement by the Federal Reserve to print $1 trillion to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage securities sold by the government -- which no one else wants to buy.

Financial blogger Barry Ritholtz tallied up $8.5 trillion in bailout costs by December 2008 between Federal Reserve, FDIC, Treasury and Federal Housing Administration rescues (not including the $5.2 trillion in Fannie and Freddie portfolios that the U.S. taxpayer is now explicitly responsible for). Then there's the (at least) $50 billion proposed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in February to bail out home owners and lenders who made bad home loan decisions, which would be just a small sliver of the $2.5 trillion he wants to spend on the next big banking bailout, which would draw on the second $350 billion of the TARP package over which an increasing number of Chicken Little lawmakers are having buyer's remorse.

Phew. We're not done yet: As AIG-bashing lawmakers inveighed against wasted taxpayer funds and lamented the lack of accountability and rush to judgment that led to passage of the porkulus bill that mysteriously protected the bonuses, the Senate quietly passed a $10 billion lands bill stuffed with earmarks and immunized from amendments. GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, fiscal conservative loner, pointed out that none of the provisions for special-interest pork projects -- including $3.5 million in spending for a birthday bash celebrating the city of St. Augustine, Fla. -- was subject to public hearings. That's on top of the pork-stuffed $410 billion spending bill passed two weeks ago.

Oh, and did I mention that the House passed a $6 billion volunteerism bill (the "GIVE Act") on Wednesday to provide yet another pipeline to left-wing advocacy groups under the guise of encouraging national service?

Also coming down the pike: the Obama administration's "cap-and-trade" global warming plan, which Hill staffers learned this week could cost close to $2 trillion (nearly three times the White House's initial estimate) and the administration's universal health care scheme, which health policy experts reported this week could cost about $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

It is no wonder that when earlier this week Vice President Joe Biden told local officials in Washington that he was "serious, absolutely serious" about policing wasteful spending in Washington, he was met with the only rational response his audience could muster: laughter.


          

Barack Obama's Savior-Based Economy   

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The event turned into a full-blown revival meeting when Obama announced that the Senate had passed his massive stimulus plan. Audience members erupted into applause. Tongues of fire descended from the sky. Loaves and fishes (or rather, pork and Kool-Aid) multiplied miraculously into trillions for all. GOP Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina didn't know how right he was when he warned over the weekend: "We're moving precipitously close to what I would call a savior-based economy."

Like Mighty Mouse, President Obama is here to save the day. The government is here to help -- and it is your patriotic duty to pay for it all without preconditions. Hughes didn't explain the cause of her financial turmoil. Obama didn't ask. And if we conservatives dare to question the circumstances -- and the underlying assumption that it is government's (that is, taxpayers') role to bail her out -- we'll be lambasted as cruel haters of the downtrodden.

Woe unto ye unbelievers in Big Government who cling to what Obama derided as "ideological rigidity."

Well, pardon my unbending belief in fairness and personal responsibility, but why should my tax dollars go to feed the housing entitlement beast? At his fear-mongering press conference Monday night, Obama lamented that homeowners "are seeing their property values decline." Countrywide crony Sen. Chris Dodd successfully stuffed $50 billion into the just-passed stimulus package for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to spend on "mandatory loan modifications" for homeowners deep underwater on their mortgages. That's in addition to the $20 billion already allocated by the House last month for the same purposes.

Banks have been engaged in these "Mo Mod" programs over the past year. Democrats want to accelerate the pace and use the power of government to essentially provide a blanket amnesty for borrowers and lenders who made bad financial decisions. Yes, there are many responsible borrowers out there having trouble negotiating loan modifications. But this $50 billion giveaway to the banks -- on top of the upward of $2 trillion more from the Treasury department, on top of the $700 billion in original "TARP" funding -- is throwing more bad money after bad.

This massive expansion of government meddling in the housing market -- yet another attempt to get federal bureaucrats in the business of rewriting loan contracts and reducing principal -- will just delay the inevitable. A report released by the Comptroller of the Currency in December showed that more than half of loans modified in the first quarter of 2008 fell 30 days delinquent within six months. And after six months, 35 percent of people were 60 or more days behind on their payments.

Where's the fairness in forcing prudent homeowners and renters to subsidize people who bought overpriced houses and rescue the banks that lent to them?

Tellingly, Obama chose Ft. Myers to drum up support for his wealth redistributionism. The area has been one of the hardest hit by foreclosures, as the president was quick to point out. But many of those homes are second or third homes and investment properties. And low housing prices are not a catastrophe for everyone. They've created opportunities for Americans who haven't been able to buy in an artificially inflated market. The median sales price of a home in the Ft. Myers area fell 50 percent to $106,900, from $215,200 in December 2007. Bargain-priced home sales are up 146 percent from a year ago.

It's sacrilegious to say it in the Age of Obama, but it needs to be said: Home ownership is not an entitlement. Credit is not a civil right. Your property-value preservation is not my problem. Can I get an "Amen!"?


          

U.S.-Japan trade deal includes Trump pledge for no auto tariffs   

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s priority was to win a pledge that the U.S. won’t slap tariffs on Japanese automobile exports, a sector valued at about $50 billion a year and a cornerstone of the country’s economy.


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