Monthly Archives: February 2017

Treasury Secretary Says No Cuts to Entitlements in Trump’s New Budget

Steven Mnuchin’s Official Portrait as the 77th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained on the Fox News program “Sunday Morning Futures” that President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal will refrain from any cuts to government entitlement programs.

He also said that Trump’s scheduled address to the joint session of Congress this coming Tuesday will announce the new administration’s far-reaching plans to cut taxes for the middle class, simplify the tax system and to make US companies more globally competitive.

Mnuchin said that his top priority is tax reform, and stated that the budget will not ask for any drop in spending for federal benefits programs, known as “entitlements.”

“We are not touching those now. So don’t expect to see that as part of this budget, OK,” Mnuchin said of the programs, according to a transcript provided by Fox. “We are very focused on other aspects and that’s what’s very important to us. And that’s the president’s priority.”

Trump’s campaign promises included not touching Social Security, Medicare health care for seniors, and not the Medicaid programs, which is healthcare for the poor. Continuing to fund these programs at present levels, together with tax cuts for the middle class, would help the working class and retirees, who happened to be a large portion of his supporters.

Inventories, Sales Up in December

The Department of Commerce reported that US business inventories were up better than expected in December, while sales rose by their biggest percentage since 2011. The announcement said that inventories went up by 0.4 percent, while November’s figure had to be re-stated as 0.8 percent in place of the previously announced 0.7 percent.

Business inventories are a crucial factor in the determination of the gross domestic product, or GDP.

Retail inventories were also up by 0.1 percent in December and not the 0 which had been predicted before the report was disseminated. November’s inventories climbed by 0.9 percent. Without cars the retail inventories were 0.4 percent and not the predicted 0.2 percent. This is the figure that is used to calculate GDP. November’s rise was 0.5 percent.

Inventory investment factored in a whole percentage point to the 1.9 percent annualized growth rate for the economy in the fourth quarter of 2016. That was the second quarterly contribution to the growth of GDP in a row. Since the second quarter of 2015 inventories had been holding down the growth rate of GDP.

December’s business sales climbed by 2.0 percent, the largest since March of 2011, and came right after a 0.3 percent growth in sales of November. One way to look at the sales pace versus inventory is by the measure of how long it would take to clear the shelves. With December’s sales pace it would take 1.35 months for businesses to clear the shelves, while at November’s pace it would take 1.38 months.

US Government Stimulating Nigerian Power Sector with $1 Billion

Eskom Generation’s pilot wind-farm facility at Klipheuwel in the Western Cape, South Africa. Photo by Warren Rohner from Cape Town, South Africa.

The United States government is investing about $1 billion in the power sector of Nigeria, said the coordinator of the program to light up Africa, Andrew Herscowitz.

The plan, known as Power Africa, was announced at a media conference in Abuja, Nigeria last week. Herscowitz added that the US government has already committed several billion dollars to funding the developing nation’s energy projects.

Power Africa was initiated by President Barack Obama in 2013. The goal was to improve access to electricity there, adding over 30,000 megawatts (MW) of more efficient and cleaner energy development in sub-Saharan Africa. The project also aims to jump-start the development of other sources of power, such as wind, solar, hydro, natural gas, biomass, and geothermal energy sources, all found in abundance in Africa.

“It has advanced US$50 million in financing from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to Lumos, a Nigeria-based solar energy company, to scale up it’s off-grid solar power service to about 200,000 Nigerian homes and businesses.

“Power Africa has supported power companies in the country to the tune of 100 million dollars capital expenditure credit enhancement facility with a corresponding 6.5 million dollars in technical assistance and (supported) another 1.5 million dollars to turn around the DISCOS,” Herscowitz said.

Daniel Taub Interviewed on CNN

Portrait of Daniel Taub. Photo courtesy of Daniel Taub.

While the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was in England visiting the recently appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, Daniel Taub, former ambassador to the United Kingdom, discussed current events with CNN international news Anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Amanpour’s opening question addressed the issue of settlements, and US President Trump’s recent statement that it would be better if Israel refrained from establishing new settlements. Daniel Taub responded that although he thought that the issue of settlements most likely did come up in conversation between PM May and PM Netanyahu, it was most likely not the most pressing issue on their agenda.

The CNN anchor then went on to ask Mr. Taub what he thought could happen in the future concerning Iran and the nuclear deal which PM May said is vitally important for regional security in the Middle East. Taub answered that there is a high level of security and intelligence cooperation between the UK and Israel, and they both are aware that there is a very real threat from Iran, stating that the head of the Iranian nuclear program declared that there is 60 percent more Uranium than they had at the start of the agreement when the sanctions on Iran were lifted.

Finally, Amanpour asked what Netanyahu hopes to achieve when he heads to Washington, DC to meet the newly appointed President of the United States, Donald Trump, next week. Mr. Taub answered that he believes PM Netanyahu’s primary objective will be to further deepen the already positive relationship Israel has with the US., mirroring his main objective of his visit to the UK, strengthening the bond there as well.