NFIB Weekly NewsLeading the News House To Focus On Proposed Tax Code Overhaul, Budget Proposal This Week. (05/23/2017)
The Wall Street Journal (5/21, Nicholas, Tau, Subscription Publication) reported that this week, the House Ways and Means Committee will hear testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, and then hold a separate hearing on a tax code overhaul.
The Hill (5/19, Jagoda) similarly reported Republicans are “trying to stay focused on tax reform” this week, after the House Ways and Means Committee held its “first tax-reform hearing of the year” last week. The Hill added that Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn “held a series of meetings with lawmakers on tax reform” last week “as part of the outreach efforts they’ve been undertaking since the roll out of Trump’s tax plan late last month.” Mnuchin also testified before the Senate Banking Committee, “and he and Vice President Pence spoke at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where their comments touched on taxes.”
The Hill (5/19, Jagoda) reported separately the hearing by the House Ways and Means Committee on the border adjustment tax scheduled for this week “will include witnesses who both support and oppose the proposal.” The piece explained that the witness list “reflects the fact that businesses, economists and lawmakers are divided over the import tax proposal that was in the tax-reform blueprint House Republicans released last year.”
Treasury Secretary Defends Trump Plans For Jobs, Tax Reform. (05/16/2017)
Fox Business (5/13, Shapiro) reported that “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the Trump administration’s plans to save and create jobs for American workers during his meetings with G7 finance ministers at their annual meeting in Bari, Italy.” Fox Business added Mnuchin “also reiterated the promise for tax reform in the United States, telling G7 ministers it remains a goal by the end of the year.”
Ryan Sees Tax Reform Passed This Year. The Hill (5/14, Greenwood) reported House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) “said Congress is likely to pass a major overhaul of the tax code by the end of the year, but cautioned that Republicans ‘don’t want to put an artificial deadline’ on reform.” He told radio host John Catsimatidis this is because “we want to get it right. So this is really a plan for 2017, and we are convinced that we can get this done in 2017 so that the economy can really start to take off.”
In Ohio, Ryan Says “Tax Overhaul Long Overdue.” The Chicago Tribune (5/10, Smyth) reports that on a visit to Ohio House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress “will act soon” on tax reform. The Tribune added that, “during a roundtable discussion Wednesday at a central Ohio contract packaging plant, Ryan focused on reducing the number of tax brackets to three, eliminating tax breaks and simplifying the code to cut rates for individuals.”
Small Business Optimism Remains Strong, But Businesses Concerned Over Healthcare Bill Failure. (05/09/2017)
The NFIB reports that its monthly Small Business Optimism index shows that in April, small business owners remained at “historically high” levels of optimism. The overall April index fell 0.2 points to 104.5. April marked the sixth month in a row of “historically high optimism” for small businesses. However, expectations for future business conditions declined 8 points due to concerns after Congress failed to repeal and replace Obamacare. NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan said, “Obamacare has crushed small businesses. Small business owners expected the White House and Congress to address that problem. Their failure to do so caused volatility in the Optimism Index.” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg added, “Small business owners want Congress and the White House to address the high cost of health care, which has been their top concern for more than 30 years. When that effort failed in March, expectations for better business conditions collapsed.”
Business Community Supportive Of Proposal For Reduced Corporate Tax Rate. (05/02/2017)
The New York Times (4/25, Cohen, Subscription Publication) reported that the business community has responded with support for President Trump’s plan to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. The Times added, “A corporate tax of 20 percent or lower is...a top priority” of business groups across industries.
In a statement, NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan commented on Trump’s tax plan, saying, “The President’s proposal for rate parity would make American businesses immediately more competitive. A low, single business tax would supercharge the economy, and create an even playing field for small businesses and large corporations. We are very happy that the White House has listened to small businesses.”
Trump Sees Tax Reform As “Opportunity” For “Major Legislative Victory.” The Washington Post (4/29, A1, Phillip, O'Keefe) reported on its front page that having reached 100 days in office, President Trump is “barreling into the second phase of his presidency focused on...big victories” and he “has fixated on tax reform as the next undertaking of his administration – an opportunity for him to land a first major legislative victory after repeated failures to pass a health-care package.” The Post said the President “has taken an interest in the minute details of proposals under consideration by his administration” and aides are “being pressured to front-load the effort with the goal – already delayed – of having a bill approved before the end of this year.”
Trump Executive Order Takes Step Toward Reversing Tax Regulations. (04/25/2017)
CBS News (4/21, Light) reported that President Trump has signed an executive order taking aim at tax regulations. The New York Times (4/21, Rappeport, Subscription Publication) reported that the executive order asks Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “to review the tax regulations imposed by President Barack Obama in 2016.”
House Ways & Means Chairman Plans Tax Reform Hearings. The Hill (4/18, Jagoda) reported that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said the committee “will soon be announcing congressional hearings on our blueprint starting next week.” The committee must announce hearings a week in advance, but a spokeswoman for Brady “could not give a specific date or topic for the committee’s first tax reform hearing.”
NYTimes Analysis Examines Business Tax Proposals. Writing in the New York Times (4/21, Subscription Publication) “The Upshot” blog, N. Gregory Mankiw suggested that “the next 12 months are shaping up to be a critically important time” for the tax code, and the reform proposals currently being discussed “would profoundly alter how the government raises money and upend the incentives for private decision makers.” He highlighted “four key issues.”
Details Of Trump’s Infrastructure Bill Still Unclear, But President Reiterating Commitment To Issue. (04/18/2017)
The AP (4/13) reported President Trump “says that last month’s bridge collapse near downtown Atlanta is a ‘painful reminder’ of the importance of strong infrastructure.” According to the AP, Trump “reiterated his commitment to enacting a major federal infrastructure spending program.”
In continuing coverage of the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan, The Hill (4/12, Zanona) reported DJ Gribbin, special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy, said that the timeline for the package is still “up in the air.” According to Gribbin, the release depends on whether the plan moves forward as a standalone or is attached to another piece of legislation. “While Gribbin emphasized that they are still crafting the infrastructure measure,” the Hill added, “Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the package could be unveiled as soon as next month – a major shift from the administration’s initial goal” of a fall release.
Business Climate Industry Wants Faster Permits, Simpler Rules From Regulatory Reform. (05/23/2017)
Reuters (5/17) reports that US industry groups “have told President Donald Trump’s administration that they want two main things from his promised regulatory overhaul: a speedier permit process and simpler environmental rules.” Reuters added, “Associations representing the drilling, refining, mining, and building industries have submitted hundreds of pages of documents to the Commerce Department and Environmental Protection Agency in recent weeks, outlining regulations they want to see eliminated or modified.”
MarketWatch (5/21, Bartash) reported that “earlier in 2017, confidence among consumers and businesspeople surged to multi-year highs on the hope that a pro-business Trump administration would add rocker boosters to the economy.” MarketWatch added, “The good news is the U.S. economy is quite resilient.” MarketWatch wrote that “rapid hiring, dwindling unemployment and rising wages have helped to improve the standard of living for millions of people hurt by the Great Recession,” and “household wealth is now at its highest level in a decade, enabling more consumers to buy cars, houses and other big-ticket items.”
Fed Expected To Raise Rates In June. The New York Times (5/21, Times, Subscription Publication) reported that this week the Federal Reserve “will release the minutes of its most recent meeting, in early May.” The Times added, “investors expect the Fed to raise its benchmark interest rate at its next meeting in June, partly because the Fed did nothing to diminish those expectations at the May meeting.”
Mnuchin To Call For Rolling Back Regulations For Small, Regional Banks. (05/23/2017)
The Washington Post (5/18, Paletta) reported that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee that he would “soon formally call for rolling back regulations on thousands of small and regional banks, arguing that major changes were necessary to help these companies make more loans and boost the economy.” Mnuchin “said he would call for exempting all banks with less than $10 billion in assets from rules under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law.” In addition, the Secretary said he was expecting to recommend allowing “many regional banks to escape tighter regulatory scrutiny by raising the $50 billion asset threshold that automatically triggers tougher oversight.”
Federal Government Records $182.4B Budget Surplus. (05/16/2017)
The AP (5/10, Crutsinger) reported the federal government “ran the second highest monthly surplus on record this April as tax revenues were pushed higher by a change in the deadline for corporate tax payments.” The AP added that the government “generally runs surpluses in April reflecting the annual tax deadlines,” and “this year’s surplus was inflated because of a deadline change that allowed corporations until April to make their final tax payments for last year.”
Senate Confirms Lighthizer As US Trade Representative. (05/16/2017)
The AP (5/11) reported the Senate confirmed Robert Lighthizer as the US Trade Representative in an 82-14 vote. In what the Washington Post (5/11, Kane) called the vote “a rare bipartisan moment.”
Fed Holds Interest Rates Steady And Says Slow Growth Was Likely To Be ‘Transitory.’ (05/09/2017)
USA Today (5/3, Davidson) reported the Federal Reserve held its benchmark short-term interest rate steady during its latest meeting, and “took pains to minimize recent bumps in the economy’s course, seeming to prime investors for another rate increase” in June. The Fed’s policymaking committee said in a statement that it “views the slowing in (economic) growth during the first quarter as likely to be transitory.” It also “emphasized the generally robust labor market.” The New York Times (5/3, Appelbaum, Subscription Publication) reported the Fed said that “the fundamentals underpinning the continued growth of consumption remain solid.” With unemployment steadily declining, most Fed officials believe there will be upward pressure on inflation and want to increase interest rates this year to reach a point “that does not encourage or discourage growth.”
Small Business Marketing Half Of All Searches May Be Spoken By 2020. (05/23/2017)
In broader commentary on research, MediaPost’s Research Brief (5/16, Loechner) mentioned that voice search “is quickly becoming the search method of choice for many consumers,” and is expected to be about “half of all searches...by 2020.” As a result, there is “a rise in longer, more conversational queries, causing savvy advertisers to refocus their keyword strategy.”
Google’s Voice Assistant Coming To iPhone. (05/23/2017)
Bloomberg News (5/16, Gurman, Bergen) reported that Google’s “Assistant” soon will arrive on the iPhone in the form of a new, free iOS application.
Citing the Bloomberg piece, Mashable (5/16, Williams) said a “person familiar with the matter” has said the functionality “will depend on voice commands to work with other Google apps” and presumably offer the ability to “ask Assistant to queue up videos on YouTube or even read off emails from Inbox.”
Nielsen To Add Electronic TV Monitoring To 140 More Markets. (05/23/2017)
MediaPost’s Television News Daily (5/16, Friedman) reported that Nielsen “will install nearly 15,000 TV meters in 7,000 homes” across 140 markets that had paper diaries as part of its plan to electronically measure “all 210 local TV markets.” The meters will also “address the limitations of solely using set-top-box data for audience measurement in local TV markets,” according to Nielsen.
Facebook Update Helps Control Disruptive Content, Ads On News Feed. (05/16/2017)
Social Media & Marketing Daily (5/11, O'Malley) reported Facebook has rolled out an update so users see fewer posts and ads in News Feed that link to low-quality web pages “containing little substantive content and that [are] covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads,” according to Facebook engineers Jiun-Ren Lin and Shengbo Guo. Facebook already has a policy in place designed to block advertisers with low-quality websites, and the update helps “ramp up enforcement on ads, as well as take into account organic posts in News Feed.” In a new blog note, Lin and Guo said, “Similar to the work we’re already doing to stop misinformation, this update will help reduce the economic incentives of financially-motivated spammers.”
Newest Media Buyer Is An AI Platform Called Albert That Created Stunning Returns. (05/16/2017)
Digiday (5/9, Pathak) profiled a new media buyer, an artificial intelligence platform known as Albert, that planned “a full digital campaign that included display, banners and Facebook images and video” as well as “all the buying, optimization and placement.” Albert was developed by an ad agency, Adgorithms. Dole Asia, which used Albert for planning, “said it found an 87 percent...increase in sales versus the prior year.”
Google Taking Steps To Address Phishing Attack. (05/09/2017)
CIO Magazine (5/4, Simon) reported, “After millions of people were targeted in a Gmail phishing attack...that used a fake Google Doc to trick users into handing over access to their email account, Google is taking steps to make sure the next attack isn’t so widespread.” The company, in a blog post, “explains that it will be introducing a new security feature in its Android app this week that will help identify fraudulent sites that are looking to dupe you into revealing your personal information.”
BBC News (UK) (5/4) quoteed a statement from Google: “While contact information was accessed and used by the campaign, our investigations show that no other data was exposed. ... There’s no further action users need to take regarding this event; users who want to review third party apps connected to their account can visit Google Security Checkup.”
Wages and Benefits Trump Administration May End ACA Program For Small Businesses. (05/23/2017)
The Dallas Morning News (5/18, Rice) reported that small businesses “may lose the ability to enroll their employees into health insurance plans using the federal marketplace’s Small Business Health Options Program next year.” The program, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, sought “to make it easier for companies with 50 or fewer full-time employees to provide health and dental coverage.” Last week, “federal health officials said they plan to scale back the program, in part, because too few businesses participated.”
The AP (5/19) reported that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has “made public-private apprenticeships his debut issue as President Trump’s point man on matching American workers with specific jobs.” The AP quoted Acosta as saying, “CEO after CEO has told me that they are eager to fill their vacancies, but they cannot find workers with the right skills.” The article stated that “the discussion of apprenticeships is a relatively new one for Trump, who campaigned for the White House on promises to restore manufacturing jobs that he said had been lost to flawed trade deals and unfair competition from China, Mexico and more.” However, the AP added, the issue is “not new to policymakers of either party or the private sector, whose leaders have for years run apprenticeship programs.”
WSJournal Analysis: Trump, Fed Face Complicated Trade-Offs With Full Employment. (05/23/2017)
The Wall Street Journal (5/17, Ip, Subscription Publication) reported the April unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, which signals America reaching so-called “full employment,” presents a new set of economic policy trade-offs for the Federal Reserve and President Trump to consider. While some economists say there has been an exodus of working-age people from the labor force, a group that would flood back in the right conditions, Goldman Sachs economists found that by freezing the age structure of the population in 2007, one finds the employment-to-population ratio currently is actually very similar to the 2007 level. This means nearly all job shortfall today can be accounted for by demographics – not economic weakness.
US Has Near Record High Number Of Job Openings. (05/16/2017)
CNN Money (5/9, Gillespie) reported that Labor Department data show the US has 5.7 million job openings, “close to the record number of job openings reported by the Labor Department since it started tracking them in 2000.” CNN Money added that the good news about the number of openings is “employers are hiring and workers are starting to feel more confident,” while the bad news is that “not all employers can find the skilled workers they need.” Bloomberg News (5/9, Laya) reported that “while a high number of openings shows companies are still willing to hire, managers are having trouble finding skilled and experienced labor to fill open positions.”
Strong Job Growth Makes Full-Time Jobs Easier To Get. (05/16/2017)
USA Today (5/11, Davidson) reported that “the number of part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs fell by 281,000 last month to 5.3 million, down from a peak of 9.2 million in 2010 and the lowest number in nine years, according to the Labor Department.” USA Today added that full-time jobs are more widely available, because “many firms instead are upgrading their part-time workers to full-time, or turning part-time jobs into full-time positions to attract more applicants.” The article also pointed out that “the broadest measure of U.S. joblessness that includes part-timers, discouraged workers who have stopped looking as well as unemployed people is now at 8.6%, compared with 9.7% a year ago and a high of 16.9% in 2010.”
Economists: Increased Automation Will Boost Job, Productivity Growth. (05/16/2017)
In a Wall Street Journal (5/14, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Entropy Economics President Bret Swanson and Progressive Policy Institute Chief Economic Strategist Michael Mandel wrote that expanded implementation of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence has the potential to bolster both job and productivity growth. The economists compared growth in digital industries – technology, communications, media, software, finance, and professional services – and physical industries – healthcare, transportation, education, manufacturing, and retail – and concluded that digital industries’ state of relative deregulation and heightened use of information technology have allowed firms to make existing processes more efficient and encouraged the development of new business models, products, and platforms. While some jobs would be lost, more – and more-highly-skilled ones – would result.
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