Thursday, May 28, 2020

What Does Phase #1 In The Historic triangle Look Like?

May 27, 2020

The local tourism and restaurant industries are continuing to adapt as the state continues to move forward through Phase 1 of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan.

Ron Kirkland, executive director of the Williamsburg Hotel and Motel Association, said the first weekend of Phase 1 didn’t see a lot of change in business for local hotels. But even with the state partially reopening, that doesn’t necessarily mean revenue can be recouped quickly for the hotel industry.  And Kirkland said it will be an uphill battle until local attractions such as Busch Gardens are able to reopen.
“Some folks are wondering if our beaches would be open, if that would bring people,” he said. “We’re not going to get the people who want to go to Virginia Beach, but any little thing we can do for potential travelers will be beneficial not just to the lodging industry, but the entire town’s economy.”  While locals can go to restaurants and improve that industry, hotels rely on people coming from out of town. To attract visitors, there need to be activities for them to do in the area.

The hotel industry has also taken a significant hit with the closure of William & Mary, he said. No longer were families booking stays for graduation ceremonies or to come visit the college and Kirkland said he hopes the college reopens and continues sports in the fall to bring in that revenue.  Recent data has shown there’s a 95 percent decrease in revenue for the local hotel industry in April 2020 as compared to last year. He said for a small business, such as a 50-room hotel or even a bed and breakfast, that’s devastating. 
“That’s a huge hit, you can’t just replace that money,” he said. “It’s people coming from somewhere else with wallets full of money…so we just have to move along a little faster towards getting things reopened as close to normal as we can.”  Once more begin to reopen and people start booking rooms, Kirkland said staffing issues come into question.

There’s one thing, though.  Many employees aren’t returning to work right away because they’re making more money now with unemployment benefits and stimulus checks from the federal government.  “They’ll be hesitant to come back to work and I don’t blame them,” Kirkland said. “But we need them to come back to work… we will have to have people back in those positions to be able to operate.”
Restaurants had some restrictions lifted during the Phase 1, but it doesn’t necessary mean they can return to normal operations.  Debi Schaefer, executive director for the Williamsburg Area Restaurant Association, wrote in an email some of their members have managed to hire 50 to 60 percent of their staff back but some employees are still on unemployment.  “Keep in mind that some of our members remain closed and some are only doing pick up,” she wrote. “So since they don’t have 100% of their normal business, they wouldn’t have 100% of normal staffing.”

Schaefer knows of few restaurants who are hiring but that the uptick happens every year after Memorial Day to prepare for the summer.  “I have not heard any restaurant mention that they have staff concerned about returning to work,” she added.
Michelle Sieling, owner of Aromas Coffeehouse Bakeshop & CafĂ©, said they are in the process of rehiring staff and hiring new ones.  “We have not had anyone express concerns about coming back to work,” she wrote. “They are happy to be back and being able to interact with the team and our wonderful customers.”

Jacqueline Liebler, general manager of Revolution Golf & Grille, also rehired most of their staff ––75 percent––and the remaining staff are part-time, still getting unemployment.  “Everyone came back without hesitation but their concerns are the same as mine in regards to when the PPP [paycheck protection program] runs out and we are not fully open what will happen next,” he wrote in an email. “I have been extremely transparent with our team and everyone’s involved with the knowledge of all our purchases the costs and sales. This helps them understand exactly what we are going through with this pandemic and its effect on our business.”

Monday, May 18, 2020

Federal Reserve Bank Chairman's Report - 5/18/2020

Powell: Recovery may begin by summer, will likely be slow
  • May 17, 2020

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× Help support our COVID-19 coverageWe're providing access to COVID-19 articles for free. Please help support our work by subscribing or signing up for an account. Already a subscriber? Log in. Log in Sign up Subscribe WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed optimism Sunday that the U.S. economy can begin to recover from a devastating recession in the second half of the year, assuming the coronavirus doesn't erupt in a second wave. But he suggested that a full recovery won't likely be possible before the arrival of a vaccine.

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes," Powell noted that the economy was fundamentally healthy before the virus struck suddenly and forced widespread business shutdowns and tens of millions of layoffs. Once the outbreak has been contained, he said, the economy should be able to rebound “substantially.”

Powell offered an overall positive message while warning that it would take much longer for the economy to regain its health than it took for it to collapse with stunning speed.

“In the long run, and even in the medium run," the chairman said, "you wouldn’t want to bet against the American economy. This economy will recover. And that means people will go back to work. Unemployment will get back down. We’ll get through this."

Powell pointed out that the downturn wasn't a result of deep-seated financial instabilities, like the housing meltdown and the excessive risk-taking among banks that ignited the Great Recession. Rather, it resulted from an external event — a pandemic — that required a shutdown of the economy. That may mean, he said, that “we can get back to a healthy economy fairly quickly.”

In the meantime, though, American workers are enduring their worst crisis in decades. More than 36 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the two months since the coronavirus first forced businesses to close down and shrink their workforces. The unemployment rate, at 14.7%, is the highest since the Great Depression, and is widely expected to go much higher.

In the interview with CBS, Powell played down comparisons to the Depression. While acknowledging that unemployment could peak near the Depression high of 25%, he noted that U.S. banks are far healthier now and that the Fed and other central banks are much more able and willing to intervene to bolster economies than they were in the 1930s.

Still, Powell cautioned that it would take time for the economy to return to anything close to normal. A recovery “could stretch through the end of next year,” he said. And a vaccine would likely be necessary for Americans to feel safe enough to return to their normal economic behavior of shopping, traveling, eating out and congregating in large groups — activities that fuel much of the economy’s growth. Most health experts have said that a vaccine won’t be ready for use for 12 to 18 months at least.

“Certain parts of the economy will find it very difficult to have really a lot of activity,” Powell said. “The parts that involve people being in the same place, very close together. Those parts of the economy will be challenged until people feel really safe again.”

The Fed chairman said he and other central bank officials, in conversations with businesses, labor leaders, universities and hospitals, have picked up on “a growing sense that the recovery may take some time to gain momentum.”

“That would mean,” he added, ”that we will start our recovery and get on that road, and that’ll be a good thing, but that it’ll take some time to pick up steam.”

Powell reiterated his view that both Congress and the Fed must be prepared to provide additional financial support to prevent permanent damage to the economy from widespread bankruptcies among small businesses or long-term unemployment, which typically erodes workers’ skills and social networks. Congress has already approved roughly $3 trillion in rescue aid for individuals and businesses. But states and localities are in need of federal money to avoid having to cut jobs and services, and legislation to provide that money remains at an impasse in Congress.

If necessary, Powell said, the Fed could expand any of the nine emergency lending programs it has launched since the viral outbreak began to harm the economy — or create new ones. In March, the central bank slashed its benchmark interest rate to near zero as stock markets plunged and bond markets froze. The Fed has also intervened by buying $2.1 trillion in Treasurys and other bonds in an effort to keep interest rates low and smooth the flow of credit.

The Fed could also provide more explicit guidance on how long it will keep rates pegged at nearly zero and the extent of its bond-purchase programs, Powell said. Doing so would give banks and other companies more confidence that borrowing rates will stay lower for longer.

But the chairman reiterated that the Fed isn’t considering cutting rates into negative territory, which President Donald Trump has repeatedly urged. The issue of negative rates flared up in recent weeks when futures markets essentially bet that the Fed would take that step early next year, as some other central banks have done.

“There’re plenty of people who think negative interest rates are a good policy,” Powell said. “But we don’t really think so at the Federal Reserve.”


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Governor Punts On First Down


By Stephen D. Haner


Just as COVID-19 was starting its destruction of the world's economy in early March, the Virginia General Assembly took final action on an exuberant two-year state budget within shouting distance of $140 billion. Six weeks later at the Reconvened Session, with the economic damage obvious but not yet measured, the Assembly reaffirmed the same spending plan.

Rather than substantially cut the budget, Governor Ralph Northam and his finance team proposed to delay the vast majority of the newly authorized spending and decide later whether the state can afford it. About $2.3 billion in increased spending will remain in the budget, but frozen until a new revenue forecast is presented later this year. A special session will then be called where legislators either release the freezes or approve other actions.

It was a punt on first down. It is the same tactic the Northam Administration displayed with four controversial union-backed labor law changes, all of them likely to impair the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The spending is postponed, but not yet canceled.

In fact, fueled by new authority to issue $750 million in short-term bonds and by a new 35% tax on those ubiquitous skill game machines, every effort may probably be made to avoid any state budget cuts until absolutely necessary. When more clarity makes a new revenue forecast possible, the state may legally begin to dip into the Revenue Reserve Fund, further delaying the inevitable.

That safety net will not help for long. At the end of Fiscal Year 2007, on the eve of the last recession, Virginia had $1.2 billion in the Revenue Stabilization Fund, a.k.a. the Rainy-Day Fund. At the end of Fiscal Year 2019, with the pandemic eight months away, the balance was 75% lower, or $291 million. The combination of that plus an additional revenue reserve stood at less than $800 million, 33% lower.  That bears repeating: Going into the last recession, when Virginia's budget was far smaller, the reserve cash balance was far higher. This has not been widely advertised.

Virtually every state revenue source is going to decline, some precipitously, perhaps for a long time. They will not be flat, they will decline. Alcohol is selling well, but even those taxes may fall below the levels seen with bars open and big events authorized. It will not be just sales and income taxes, and the accounting tricks used in the past will not work.

Also unknown is the level of federal largesse coming toward the state and Virginia's local governments. Congress barely passes one massive bailout with borrowed money before speculation begins about the next one, probably larger. In an early response, Congress raised the federal the reimbursement level for Medicaid services, but the additional revenue for Medicaid will go out the door in new spending for that threatened population. Other federal funds coming may be tightly targeted, as well.

If the state's leaders wait until the revenue losses and federal grants are known to make the hard decisions, Virginia's budget hole will be far deeper than necessary. This is about cash flow. The state needs to end its current fiscal year on June 30 with the largest pile of cash it can accumulate, and then continue to keep spending below revenue. That means reduced spending now.

Virginia's local governments, lacking cash reserves comparable to the state, are making the hard decisions to lay off staff and eliminate services now. When Richmond's hard decisions come due, medical history tells us a second wave of COVID-19 may be taking hold, forcing yet another economic contraction and more stay-at-home orders.

Is the administration willing to cut existing spending now, before the revenue questions are answered? If that is happening, there are few signs. There were only a few actual cuts in proposed amendments April 22 and some new expenditures were allowed to proceed. The bulk of the frozen spending is in the second year of the budget, which starts in July 2021, when many must dream things will be back to normal. This is a bad time to engage in dreams.

A version of this commentary originally appeared in the May 3, 2020 edition of The Fredericksburg Free Lance Star.  Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, 7011
Dreams Way Court, Alexandria, VA 22315
(Maybe Governor Ralphie doesn’t realize the Commonwealth can’t print money like the feds do!)



Monday, April 27, 2020

Is President Trump An Existential Threat?

The following is one of the most well-written and informative articles I have come across in a very long time.   Written by Dr. James Veltmeyer, a prominent La Jolla physician voted “Top Doctor” in San Diego County in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019.

By James D. Veltmeyer, MD
The ongoing attacks by the political establishment on President Donald Trump –which began even before he was elected – are without parallel in history.   The savagery, frenzy, and outright hysteria displayed by the President’s enemies within the Democrat Party, the media, and the various power centers of the globalist elites have no prior precedent.
This President has been spied on, lied about, made the subject of phony foreign dossiers, insulted, ridiculed, scorned, mocked and threatened.   We have witnessed Hollywood celebrities advocate for blowing up the White House, demand the President be beaten, jailed or even assassinated, and his children tortured and sexually abused. We have seen politicians in Washington try to convict the President of non-existent crimes, investigate him and his family members for everything from tax returns to guests at his hotels, project on to him crimes that they themselves have committed, and seed his Administration with leakers and double-agents.
No other President in American history has been treated in such a shameful manner. Not Lincoln. Not FDR. Not Nixon. Not Reagan.  What is it about this President that has roused such demons in his political foes?   What is it about this President that drives his opponents to the brink of insanity?   What is it about this President that so terrifies and terrorizes the Pelosis, Schiffs, Schumers and the George Soroses?   Is it simply that he is not part of the club, a brash outsider with a different style?   Is it merely because he’s outspoken and tramples on political correctness? Is it because he’s sometimes unpresidential in his demeanor (at least in their minds)?  Not at all.   After all, aren’t these the same folks who loved Bill Clinton whose extracurricular activities involved cigars and staining blue dresses in the Oval Office?
Of course, Clinton was beloved by the globalist elites who pull the strings on world governments. He gave them NAFTA, after all.   He gave them the WTO.   He made tens of billions of dollars for them and their stockholders through these unfair trade deals that cost America five million manufacturing jobs and closed 70,000 factories.   He also gave the military-industrial complex plenty of profit-making military interventions, from Haiti to Bosnia to Serbia and Iraq Bill Clinton, for all his corruption, delivered the goods for the New World Order.
Donald Trump, of course, never played ball with these globalists.   He was elected explicitly on an anti-globalist platform that put America first.   From day one, he started to implement that America-first agenda, earning him the undying enmity of all those whose profits are secured by selling out American workers, American jobs, and America’s national sovereignty.  President Trump pulled us out of the TPP. Billions in lost profits for the globalists.  President Trump pulled us out of the job-destroying Paris Climate Accords.   Billions in lost profits for foreign nations like Communist China, at our expense.   Read NASA's Report.  President Trump began the process of securing the U.S. border.  Billions in lost cheap illegal immigrant labor for the Business Roundtable.
President Trump imposed tariffs on China, becoming the first President ever to address Beijing’s annual $500 billion rape of our economy.  Billions in lost profits for corporations who ship our jobs to one of the worst tyrannies on the planet.  President Trump renegotiated NAFTA. Again, billions in lost profits for the cheap labor crowd,  President Trump launched the process of extricating the U.S. from endless foreign wars and avoiding new wars with nations like Iran and North Korea.   Billions –perhaps trillions – in lost profits for the globalist war machine.
Is the picture becoming a little clearer?   In each instance, the President’s policies have represented a dramatic upending of the globalist agenda of both parties, the Carter-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama agendas of continuous war and the continuous looting of America’s wealth and hollowing out of the American middle class.   With both parties and their representatives in Congress beholden to campaign donors whose profits are threatened by Trump’s America-first initiatives, is it no wonder that both Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans, all Globalist-Socialist , are determined to bring this President down?     Most of the mass media is controlled by these same global corporations.   After all, doesn’t Amazon’s Jeff Bezos—the richest man in the world – own the Washington Post?    As was said in Watergate, just follow the money.   And while you’re following the money—see if it leads to a $500 million left-wing slush fund run by a shadowy Soros and Clinton linked group called Arabella Advisors which is funding the anti-Trump political agenda through dozens of high-sounding front groups.
Folks, the New World Order gang is in full retreat all over the globe.  From Brexit in the UK to the populist governments of Hungary and Poland to the Yellow Vest movement in France and Salvini in Italy, the middle and working classes are demanding the overthrow of their nation-destroying overlords.   The overlords who have flooded their countries with unassailable immigrants from North Africa and surrendered their sovereignty to the European Union and its unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels.   They have lived the unfulfilled promises of the globalists, that giving up national sovereignty and relocating jobs abroad would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.   The exact opposite has happened.   The globalist vision has resulted in $7 trillion of pointless wars in the Middle East, an immigration crisis, the loss of jobs, and declining standards of living.
In the United States, Donald J. Trump has emerged as the New World Order’s most tenacious and determined foe as he fights the good fight for the American people, our constitutional rights and liberties and the sovereignty of our nation.   He is an existential threat to the New World Order.   Unlike other Republican presidents of the recent past, he can’t be bought and has no price.   Unlike them, he doesn’t give in and he doesn’t give up.
Go ahead, globalists.  Try your impeachment games. Try your Senate trials.  It won’t work In fact, it will backfire on all of you as – after three years of trying to prevent the Electoral College from voting for Trump, stopping the inauguration, unleashing Jim Comey and the FBI, CIA spying, Robert Mueller and his phony Russiagate probe, tax returns, emoluments, Kavanaugh, and all the rest -- the patience of the American public is wearing thin. We aren’t as stupid as you think. something you will recognize clearly come November 3, 2020.
“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” ― Thomas Jefferson


Friday, April 17, 2020

He Is Not A Politician - He's Donald Trump

You think Trump is a jerk?

“I have to say he is probably a jerk! I cringe so many times when I hear him talk. Someone should probably take his twitter account away. He exaggerates, misspeaks, insults, and more. But he has gotten more done since 2016 than most other presidents have in their entire careers.

The bottom line has been that Trump is a jerk. He’s crude, he bloviates, he gets his feelings hurt, lashes out and he’s a hot head.  Let me tell you what else he is, He is a man who demands performance. He is a guy that asks lots of questions. The questions he asks aren’t cloaked in fancy phrases, they are “why the hell...” questions.

For decades the health industry has thrown away billions of face masks after one use. Trump asks, “Why the hell are we throwing them away? Why not sterilize them and use them numerous times?”

He’s the guy who gets hospital ships readied in one week, when it would have taken a bureaucrat weeks or months to get it done.

He’s the guy who gets temporary hospitals built in three days. He’s the guy who gets industries to build ventilators and face masks in a business that’s highly regulated by agencies that move like sloths.

He’s the guy who asks why we aren’t using drugs that might work on people that are dying; what the hell do we have to lose?

In spite of all the naysayers. He’s the guy who shut down travel from China, when the liberals and the media were screaming xenophobia and racist.

He’s the guy who ran to secure our borders in the face of a screaming press and hostile media.

When he shut down borders in the midst of the Coronavirus  the opposition was up in arms over such a draconian move. Then the rest of the world followed suit all over, including the European Union between member countries.

Has he made mistakes, yep. Everyone I know would have. All of these experts wouldn’t have done any better. Trump is working harder than I’ve ever seen a President work. He isn’t hiding in his office, he’s out front, every day.

Take for instance, all the shortages of PPE’s and ventilators. I’m unaware of anything that prevented all of these governors from ordering all the PPE and ventilators for emergency purposes over the last two years. And yet, it’s somehow Trump’s fault that they didn’t have what they needed when they needed it.

He has balanced his approach and listened to the experts, when his distractors said he wouldn’t and couldn’t. When he offers hope, they say he’s lying and when he’s straight forward, they complain he should be hopeful. It’s a no win, but he is not deterred by all of that BS coming from the press and the liberals.

I’ll take this kind of leadership over a nice guy who can make eloquent speeches and form committees to debate the appropriate action.

Copy and paste if you agree, and by all means forward this.