Budget

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters Friday the Pentagon stands ready to dispatch more troops to the border region if President Trump follows through with his pledge to increase the military presence along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

Trump said after touring a section of recently upgraded border fencing in Calexico, Calif., last week, “We’re going to bring up some more military” to deal with what he said were more than 70,000 illegal migrants rushing the border.

Shanahan said the Pentagon has had conversations with the Department of Homeland Security but has yet to receive a formal request.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ll provide more support to the border,” he said in response to a reporter’s question as he prepared to meet with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “Our support is very elastic, and given the deterioration there at the border, you would expect that we would provide more support.” Shanahan said he anticipates the support will be similar to what the military has already provided with several thousand troops, barrier construction, transport, and surveillance.

Shanahan will meet with a planning team at the Pentagon over the weekend to prepare for the potential request, he said.

“It will follow up with where are we on barrier construction, where do we stand on troops deployed, and then in the areas we anticipate, what type of preliminary plans should we be doing prior to receiving a request for assistance,” he said.

Democrats have been highly critical of the deployment of active-duty troops to the border, and many have cited a leaked internal memo the Marine Corps commandant sent to the Navy secretary warning that unexpected expenses, such as hurricane damage and border operations, could force him to cancel routine training and degrade combat readiness.

But in Senate testimony this week, Gen. Robert Neller insisted his memo was being misconstrued. “To say that going to the border was degrading our readiness is not an accurate statement,” Neller told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.

Neller’s March 18 memo listed eight categories of unfunded and unexpected expenses. Hurricane recovery was at the top of the list, but a number of expenses were included, such as the raise for civilian employees, which was not in the budget.

“We have a shortfall of just under $300 million, of which the border mission is less than 2 percent,” Neller said. “So my intent was to just simply lay out for my boss what these were and ask for support in trying to figure out how we might fund them.”

Pressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Neller conceded some Marines, who are not doing the jobs they would normally do, could see a small degradation in their unit readiness, but he said it depended on the unit.

“Some of the units have gone down there and they’ve done tasks that are more in line with their core mission. Like engineer units or MP units. Aviation units that were assigned to that early on have actually improved their readiness because they are able to fly certain profiles and things,” he testified.

Neller reports to his civilian boss, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, who requested the memo and jumped to Neller’s defense at the hearing.

“The main stress that we were dealing with at the time, senator, was the hurricane, which was imposing the greatest cost on the Marine Corps,” Spencer told Warren. “Five hundred men for a month at the southern border is $1.25 million. In my mind, is that affecting my readiness stress? No, it’s not.”

Neller said so far border operations have cost the Marine Corps $6.2 million.

FILE PHOTO: Eurogroup President Centeno attends a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: Portugal’s Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Mario Centeno attends a eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

April 12, 2019

By Jan Strupczewski

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Europe must raise the international profile of its euro currency to protect itself from the domination of a “weaponised” U.S. dollar and help stabilize the international monetary system, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers Mario Centeno said.

“Washington’s inclination to use the dollar as a tool to complement the effect of economic sanctions and serve a narrow domestic agenda is a source of concern,” Centeno told the Reinventing Bretton Woods Committee in Washington on Friday.

“The foundations of the international monetary system are wobbling, as currencies are used to advance national interests that are narrowly defined. For some observers, the system in which the dollar holds a dominant and unrivalled position is on the cusp of reformation,” he said in a speech.

The European Union started thinking about increasing the role of the euro last year after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to abandon the 2015 deal under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for Tehran accepting curbs on its nuclear program.

The U.S. move, though unilateral, means European companies also cannot trade with Iran, fearing they would be cut off from U.S. markets and the international payments system in retaliation.

Centeno said the world could be heading toward a multi-currency system in which the dollar would vie for dominance with others, notably the euro and the Chinese renminbi.

He said such a multi-polar currency system could improve the functioning of the international monetary system and would be less prone to the economic fluctuations of the dominant dollar by offering options to diversify currency reserves.

The euro is used in around 36 percent of international payments, just behind the dollar with almost 40 percent, but when it comes to foreign exchange trading 44 percent is in dollars but only 16 percent in euros, Centeno said.

The favorite for currency reserves is the dollar with a 62 percent share of global reserves, while the euro has a 20 percent share.

“In Europe there is a growing concern that we are exposed to the risk that the power of the dominant dollar can be used against our best interests. The obvious consequence of ‘America First’ is that others will come second, at best,” Centeno said.

“The feeling is that we can only rely on ourselves and our currency. And this is behind repeated calls to strengthen the international role of the euro,” he said.

Centeno noted however, that to achieve a stronger role, the euro zone needed to tackle many tough issues about the design of the single currency.

He said the 19 countries sharing the euro had to first complete their banking union, by agreeing on a European deposit insurance system and setting up a capital markets union.

Other needs include a budget for the euro zone, under discussion now, and creating a euro zone safe asset – a debt instrument backed by all euro zone countries – with a sufficiently deep and liquid market, an idea that now faces very strong opposition from several key euro zone countries.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump is downplaying the chances of reaching a bipartisan two-year agreement to escape billions of dollars in spending reductions.

The president tweeted Thursday evening: “House Democrats want to negotiate a $2 TRILLION spending increase but can’t even pass their own plan. We can’t afford it anyway, and it’s not happening!”

Politico noted House Democrats failed this week to gain support to pass a bill that would ward off $126 billion in spending cuts in the fiscal that starts on October 1 and cuts for the following fiscal year.

The Trump administration maintains it would lead to nearly $2 trillion in spending increases over 10 years, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned that Trump might initiate a budget sequester and allow about $125 billion in cuts for both defense and non-defense spending if Congress does not agree to his 2020 budget.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Manufacturing is becoming too successful for its own good. The sector is growing so fast that it cannot find enough people to fill open positions, and that shortage is threatening to hurt the nation’s economy in the coming years.

One key reason why the jobs are unfilled — 450,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from about 100,000 during the recession — is that many of them need people from STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Congress isn’t doing much to address the shortage. One thing that could fill the need, expanding high-tech immigration, is a no-go in the current climate.

“People tend to think manufacturing is blue-collar jobs, but you’re hiring rocket scientists and doctors and the like, too. That speaks to just how advanced manufacturing is now,” said Chad Moutray, economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, is putting its strongest effort toward expanding apprenticeship programs. That’s a good thing, the industry says. The mindset that college is the only path to a good career needs to be corrected, they argue, and the industry needs those workers. However, apprenticeships won’t address the STEM jobs shortage.

Nor is Congress doing much to expand the number of workers entering these fields. The few pieces of legislation relating to STEM that have been introduced involve trying to encourage groups such as minorities or veterans to participate.

“We have not seen legislation at this time which addresses this issue,” said Andrew Powaleny, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, one of the industries that’s struggling to find workers.

Overall, manufacturing will need 4.6 million more workers over the next decade, Moutray estimated in a new report for the National Association of Manufacturers, but it will find just half of that based on current hiring trends. That will grind the manufacturing industry to a halt as companies are unable to expand due to the lack of workers, costing the broader economy $2.5 trillion over 10 years.

The study doesn’t address the wages being offered for the positions or whether higher pay would address the gap. A report last year by the group’s Manufacturing Institute argued that offering higher pay helped to attract talent but not retain it. STEM workers were often hired away by rivals.

“Manufacturing has moved up the skill ladder,” said Dan Griswold, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “The typical manufacturing worker has to be more educated. The manufacturing jobs that have disappeared over the last few years tend to be the lower-tech ones.” There are U.S. workers that can do these jobs, and they are being hired, but there just aren’t enough of them, he added.

Manufacturing doesn’t necessarily mean hard goods. Moutray found that the industry with the largest number of openings was pharmaceuticals, which accounted for 13% of the manufacturing jobs that were left open in the past year. The next sector most lacking workers is aerospace products and parts.

The administration has tried to address these shortages. President Trump set up a Committee on STEM Education at the National Science and Technology Council, an executive advisory agency. On the other hand, the latest White House budget proposed cutting Education Department spending by $7 billion from last year and the National Science Foundation’s budget by $1 billion.

One way that the government could ensure manufacturing finds more of the people it needs without having to spend more money, Moutray noted, would be increasing the number of visas available through the H-1B program for immigrants with specialized skills.

The visas are in extremely high demand. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in the first week of April that it had already given away all of the 65,000 visas allotted for the year. The visas help the U.S. maintain a competitive edge over other countries, said Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas.

“If you’re coming here and getting an advanced degree, I don’t want you going to back to China, I don’t want you going to Canada, I want you staying here,” Hurd said. The congressman has not introduced legislation to expand the H-1B program, nor has anyone else in Congress. Bringing in foreign workers to take good-paying jobs is a tough thing to support.

That shouldn’t be a concern, argued Griswold, pointing to research that finds that every high-skilled immigrant hired results in five to seven workers added elsewhere in the industry.

The Trump administration has fiddled with the H-1B program but not to expand it. It altered the lottery process for the visas in January to favor immigrants with the highest levels of education and discourage bachelor’s degree-level education, a change that experts worried would result in fewer visas being given out. Ultimately, the allotted 65,000 were all awarded, the same number awarded each year for decades.


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