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The Finance 202: ‘Made in America’ week belies weak manufacturing numbers – Washington Post

THE TICKER

Welcome to “Made in America” Week, the latest attempt by the White House to get back on offense by hammering a theme from President Trump’s economic agenda. 

If past is prologue, drama from the health-care debate and new Russia revelations — reinforced by Trump tweets — will swamp the message. And the domestic manufacturing push starts out as a tough sell for a president whose retail empire outsources much of its production abroad. Ditto for Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, whose own company relies exclusively on foreign factories in Bangladesh, Indonesia, China and elsewhere, a recent investigation by The Post revealed

As of Sunday morning, the White House didn’t have a good answer for the Trump family’s apparent double standard: 

 

Trump campaigned on a pledge to restore American manufacturing might in order to bring back a line of work that once offered solid wages, good benefits and security without much advanced training required. And he’s tried to cheerlead an industrial jobs revival he says is already underway:

The data tell a different story. Amid otherwise decent job growth this year, manufacturing has been a weak spot, with the sector’s share of U.S. employment hitting a record low in June at just under 8.47 percent. That continues a steady, decades-long slide in manufacturing employment, that, while slowing in recent years, is heading in the same direction.

Here’s what the erosion has looked like since just before the recession: 

Those who still work in manufacturing have seen their wages rise barely 2 percent over the last year, even more slowly than the lackluster 2.5 percent rate for the broader private sector.

But waning manufacturing jobs and wages at home haven’t also spelled atrophying manufacturing muscle. On the contrary, American factories are cranking out more goods than ever, the result of gains in productivity — supercharged by automation and other technological advancements — that have enabled companies to make ever more with fewer workers. 
 

This chart from a Brookings Institution study in November demonstrates the divergence: 

Specifically, the entire sector can now produce twice as much as it did in 1984 with a third fewer workers. And the split between what factories produce and how many people they employ is only going to get wider. As Brookings senior fellow Mark Muro wrote the week after Trump won in part by rallying displaced workers in the Rust Belt, “No one should be under the illusion that millions of manufacturing jobs are coming back to America.”

That’s because robots likely have only just begun replacing manufacturing employees. The sector still ranks among the most vulnerable to automation, a McKinsey Global Institute study last month found. And though it employs less than a tenth of the workforce, manufacturing contributes more than a fifth of corporate profits. 

Trump has a different theory of the case. He’s targeted what he calls bad trade deals since he began criticizing American political leadership some three decades ago — and it’s arguably been his most consistent policy position since. He’s started following through on his protectionist campaign platform by pulling the U.S. out of the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, moving to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and considering slapping tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum — all actions the White House plans to highlight this week as proof that Trump is making good on his promises. 

And the administration appears to be nearing a decision on tariffs. The prospect that the Trump team could impose tough restrictions on imports and precipitate a trade war has rattled allies, lawmakers of both parties, economists, and businesses like automakers that rely on low-cost imported steel. A group of 15 economists who served as top advisers to presidents of both parties — including former Fed chairs Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke — wrote Trump last week to warn him against restricting steel imports. Among other things, they argued it could cost factory jobs. 

That blowback — and administration infighting over how to proceed, pitting the so-called globalists, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, trade czar Peter Navarro (who got a write-up in Politico), and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon — appears to have delayed a decision that the White House originally aimed to make by the end of June. In a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, Ross told lawmakers that the administration hopes any action it takes will force China, which produces half the world’s steel, and other countries to change their behavior.  

The topic is likely to be front and center this week when Chinese and U.S. officials meet in Washington for an annual round of economic talks between the two countries.

— Trump tweeted about his favorite positive economic indicator — the record-breaking performance of the stock market — three times on Saturday: 

But surging stocks haven’t translated into similarly strong gains across the economy. The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Leubsdorf: “New government data showed consumers pulled back spending at midyear even as markets rallied. Households also grew less optimistic about the future and inflation on consumer purchases softened. Taken together, the indicators pointed to an economy that is entering the ninth year of expansion steady and still creating jobs at a healthy clip, but without obvious additional momentum.”

Nevertheless, Americans are feeling pretty optimistic about their own financial prospects, a new Bloomberg National Poll finds. The survey reveals 58 percent of Americans believe they’re “moving closer to realizing their own career and financial aspirations, tied for the highest recorded in the poll since the question was first asked in February 2013.” The twist for Trump is that Americans are feeling better in spite of, not thanks to, his presidency. Just 40 percent approve of the job he’s doing, while 55 percent disapprove: “In nearly every measure of his performance, the poll indicates that Trump’s tumultuous presidency is not wearing well with the public.”

— “Tax reform shocker: the White House actually has a plan,” Jonathan Swan of Axios reports. The plan appears to center on the coming sales job to promote a tax code overhaul rather than on the substance of a bill itself: “The administration will start pitching the tax reform effort in mid-August, according to sources involved. They’re hoping to get the bill itself finalized for markups after Labor Day (count us as skeptical on that.) But while that happens, expect to see CEOs, White House surrogates, and high-profile conservative activists start talking up the plan.” Basics, including how or if to pay for cuts, remain unresolved. 

The scarcity of detail hasn’t stopped Americans from taking a position on Trump’s tax plan. According a new poll, a majority oppose it, including a third of Republicans, Politico’s Brian Faler reports

— JPMorgan by most accounts had a good Friday morning. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon apparently did not. The bank reported second-quarter earnings that far exceeded expectations, but Dimon used the occasion to vent frustration at gridlock in Washington that he said is holding back the country. “We have become one of the most bureaucratic, confusing, litigious societies on the planet. It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country,” the normally unflappable Dimon said on a conference call ostensibly to discuss the bank’s performance. 

Listen here: 

Dimon has taken on a more prominent role in Trump’s Washington, leading the Business Roundtable and serving on the White House business advisory council, Renae Merle reports. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board cheered him on. And Capital Alpha Partners has this riff on “How to Read the Rant from America’s Number One Banker.”

Elon Musk says the worst case scenario for artificial intelligence is, uh, pretty bad, calling it the “biggest risk we face as a civilization.” The Testa and SpaceX CEO says AI will threaten all human jobs and could spark a war, and he’s calling for a new regulatory body to guide its development. The Wall Street Journal’s Tim Higgins reports: “Mr. Musk has been vocal about his concerns about AI and helped create OpenAI, a nonprofit research group that aims for the safe development of the technology. He suggested to the governors that a regulatory agency needs to be formed to begin gaining insight into fast-moving AI development, followed by putting regulations into place.”

A few more good reads: 

— Congressional Republicans are considering tying a debt-limit increase to a veterans’ benefits bill, the Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin, Nick Timiraos and Kristina Peterson report. The idea would be to attach the must-pass but unpopular extension of the federal government’s borrowing authority to a legislative spoonful of sugar — in this case, a program that allows vets to get medical care outside the Veterans Affairs system. 

— House Republicans are considering making a high-stakes gamble on a government spending package. To satisfy rank and rile members frustrated with their lack of input into the process, leaders are thinking of rolling all 12 appropriations bills into a single, $1 trillion government funding package — and then opening up the process to potentially hundreds of amendments on the House floor, Politico’s Rachel Bade, Sarah Ferris, and Jennifer Scholtes report. The strategy could open Republicans up to politically dicey amendment votes. 

— A Wells Fargo trader beat an insider trading case the Securities and Exchange Commission brought against him after the agency after two commissioners split on what the evidence showed. An administrative law judge dismissed the case in 2015, and the SEC enforcement division had appealed that decision. The outcome marks a rare loss for that division, Reuters reports

“Trump Campaign Paid $50,000 to Firm Now Representing Son,” Bloomberg’s Bill Allison reports: “The June 27 payment to the Law Offices of Alan S. Futerfas came almost two weeks before news of the meeting — involving Trump’s eldest son and two other top Trump confidants, son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, as well as lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and a former Soviet counterintelligence officer — was reported.”

“Startup That Got a Seat at White House Roundtable Is Part-Owned by Kushner Family,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jean Eaglesham and Lisa Schwartz: “Prominent technology-industry leaders and venture capitalists gathered in the White House’s state dining room last month to discuss tech policy with President Donald Trump in an event that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, helped organize. Seated at the rectangular table alongside the corporate luminaries, university presidents and senior White House officials was a less-prominent figure: Zachary Bookman, the 37-year-old CEO of a small startup called OpenGov. Mr. Kushner’s brother, through a venture-capital firm, is a part owner of OpenGov, according to government disclosures and data from Dow Jones VentureSource.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Trump’s standing weakened since springtime. He now has the lowest approval rating a president has ever recorded in his first six months in office. 

Today

  • The National Retail Federation will host its Retail Advocates Summit starting today and continuing through Wednesday.
  • The Brookings Institution will hold its Municipal Financial Conference starting today and continuing through Tuesday.
  • The Heritage Foundation is hosting an event on the SEC, Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth.

Coming Up

  • The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will hold a nomination hearing on Tuesday.
  • The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Managing Terrorism Financing Risk in Remittances and Money Transfers” on Tuesday.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness holds an event on the CFPB’s anti-arbitration rule on Tuesday.
  • The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities and Investment will hold a hearing on “The Cost of Being a Public Company in Light of Sarbanes-Oxley and the Federalization of Corporate Governance” on Tuesday.
  • Vice President Pence will speak at the National Retail Federation Summit on Tuesday.
  • The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade will hold a hearing on restricting North Korea’s access to finance on Wednesday
  • The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on housing finance reform on Thursday.
  • The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade will hold a hearing on “Monetary Policy v. Fiscal Policy” on Thursday.
  • The Heritage Foundation will hold an event on social and economic trends on Thursday.

The Post’s Tom Toles says “When you get your GOP health coverage, you might need some dental coverage too.”

President Trump’s lawyer says the president didn’t know about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer: 

President Trump picks lawyer Ty Cobb to serve as White House special counsel: 

President Trump’s former adviser Michael Caputo says he never heard of campaign contacts with Russians: 

Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton talk about humility in the Oval Office:

Watch flamingos flock to new a habitat at the National Zoo:

Watch Stephen Colbert’s book report on the new Steve Bannon exposé:

Recap the first six seasons of Game of Thrones: 

The Finance 202: ‘Made in America’ week belies weak manufacturing numbers – Washington Post}

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