Trump officials predict sustained growth in the economy
By MARCY GORDON
AP Business Writer
Monday, July 30
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s top economic policymakers insisted that the robust growth marked in the April-June quarter will maintain its pace and that he respects the Federal Reserve’s independence despite his condemnation of the central bank for raising interest rates.
“We as an administration absolutely support the independence of the Fed, and the president has made it clear that this is the Fed’s decision,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told “Fox News Sunday.” He said Trump’s critical statements “are really more just comments saying as interest rates are going up, it’s something that the president has a concern” about.
The Fed isn’t expected to announce a rate increase when its latest policy meeting ends Wednesday. But the central bank is widely anticipated to set the stage for tightening credit again in September for a third time this year and then to likely raise rates again by December. The Fed has raised rates twice this year in response to strong growth, low unemployment and a slight rise in inflation.
Trump has taken credit for that growth, and 10 days ago he criticized the recent rate increases, warning that they could slow the economy’s advance. Criticism of interest rate hikes by the Fed, which is politically independent from the White House and administration, is something no president has expressed publicly in more than two decades.
“I don’t like all of this work we are putting into the economy, and then I see rates going up,” Trump said in an interview with CNBC.
The rate increases are intended to prevent the economy from overheating or inflation from accelerating too sharply. But higher rates make borrowing for homes, autos and credit cards more expensive — an unpopular consequence for consumers.
“The market expects interest rates to keep going up,” Mnuchin said. “So the only question is how far and for how long? And we think the Fed will be very careful in managing the economy.”
The latest snapshot of the economy issued by the government Friday showed an energetic 4.1 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter, the fastest pace in nearly four years.
Trump and administration officials have declared that the gains are sustainable and will only accelerate. But few economists outside the administration agree with that assessment. And there is concern that the trade battles pursued by Trump could endanger economic growth over time.
The administration has imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese and Canadian products, and threatened billions more on U.S. allies in Europe. Tariffs, which are taxes on imports, are meant to protect domestic companies against foreign competitors — but also can hurt U.S. businesses and consumers that pay more for imported products.
Downplaying the concerns, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday the basic drivers of economic performance — not temporary factors like the surge in farm exports ahead of anticipated new tariffs — will continue to boost growth going forward.
“The basics of this (second-quarter) number were consumer spending and business investment,” Kudlow said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”Consumer spending, business investment are on a tear.”
Mnuchin predicted the economy will enjoy four or five years of sustained 3 percent growth “at least.”
“I don’t think this is a one- or two-year phenomenon,” he said.
Kudlow told CNN’s “State of the Union”: “I think the president deserves a victory lap — low tax rates, rolling back regulations, opening up energy, for example. … The fundamentals of the economy look really good.”
Pointing to “five Trump quarters” of strong growth, Kudlow said, “I don’t see any reason why we can’t run this for several quarters.”
Many experts believe it’s unlikely that growth can continue at the 4.1 percent pace. Some of the factors in the second quarter appeared to be one-offs. Soybean exports jumped as farmers sought to beat the impending tariffs overseas. And business spending was boosted by soaring investment in oil and gas drilling equipment, which might not last.
Other challenges loom. Borrowing costs are rising, lifted by the Fed’s interest rate increases. And rising prices have left average hourly pay, after adjusted for inflation, flat over the past 12 months.
Still, other trends do appear sustainable and could help boost growth above the roughly 2 percent annual pace that’s prevailed since the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession ended.
AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger and Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.
Opinion: Socialism Vs. Economic Freedom
By Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan
After decades of trying, Bernie Sanders seems finally to have made the political landscape safe for socialists. Not long ago, calling a politician “socialist” was an insult. Now candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez follow Sanders’ lead and self-identify as such. These self-proclaimed socialists, however, seem to have little understanding of what they advocate. Bernie Sanders might be able to make socialism politically safe, but he cannot make socialism sensible.
Sanders’ biggest problem is that he seems not to understand what socialism even is. In a 2015 debate he said, “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway.”
“In Denmark,” he said, “there is a very different understanding of what ‘freedom’ means …” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen disagreed, pointing out in a speech delivered at Harvard that Sanders missed some important details in his attempt to make America Danish. “I would like to make one thing clear,” Rasmussen said. “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”
Sanders has a solid track record for ignoring evidence, and Ocasio-Cortez is following in his footsteps. She recently declared herself “not the expert on geopolitics” — while appearing on national television to discuss geopolitics. And despite studying economics, she remains confused as to how something as simple as unemployment is measured. What neither seems to realize is that they inadvertently make the case not for socialism, but for economic freedom.
Economic freedom, the ability to engage in transactions free from government interference while simultaneously being protected from fraud, theft, breach of contract and other malfeasance, is at once a measure of limited and of effective government. While there is no perfect way to measure economic freedom, competing methods yield consistently similar results. The most recent of these, the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, lists the United States as the 18th (out of 180) most economically free country in the world.
This is far short of the No. 4 ranking the United States held in 2007, the decline from which coincided with a dramatic increase in the scope of the federal government’s power and spending following the housing crash. According to Heritage, the United States ranks 153rd out of 180 for tax burden, 125th for government spending, and 129th for the fiscal health of the government. In 2018, the United States ranked 48th for trade freedom, but that was before President Trump’s trade war heated up. We should expect further declines in this area in next year’s report.
But here’s the rub. Democratic socialists in the United States call for us to be more like Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Yet two of those countries, Denmark and Sweden, are more economically free than the United States, sitting at 12th and 15th in the Heritage rankings. Though at the bottom of the list for freedom from taxes (180th and 179th), Denmark and Sweden score much higher than the United States for freedom from government spending (13th and 3rd), effectiveness of their judiciary (9th and 5th), and business freedom (3rd and 11th).
Socialism has a consistent track record for any who care to take a sober look. The Soviet Union and Venezuela tried it and disintegrated. China and North Korea tried it and suffered mass starvation. Every country that has ever tried socialism has either retreated back toward economic freedom, or has employed mass violence to force its people to remain socialist.
All of this should be perfectly obvious to American socialists, but they are as resistant to history as they are to economics. Consequently, they learn from neither.
If socialist politicians truly cared about improving the lives of the less well-off, they would do everything in their power to unleash the forces of economic freedom, because economic freedom works. No matter how politically safe Sanders and others make socialism, they cannot make socialism work. This is why “socialist” became an insult in the first place.
ABOUT THE WRITERS
Antony Davies is associate professor of economics at Duquesne University. James R. Harrigan teaches in the department of Political Economy and Moral Science at the University of Arizona. They host the weekly podcast Words & Numbers. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.
After #MeToo, in Germany comes #MeTwo
By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER
Monday, July 30
BERLIN (AP) — After #MeToo comes #MeTwo.
The hashtag has become a rallying point for scores of second- and third-generation immigrants in Germany, who have taken to Twitter to share their accounts of everyday racism and how they still struggle to be accepted as Germans.
The hashtag, which echoes the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, was created by Ali Can, a 24-year-old journalist of Turkish descent, following the furor over Turkish-German soccer star Mesut Ozil’s recent resignation from the German national team.
Ozil, the son of Turkish immigrants, quit earlier this month after fierce criticism of his decision to pose for a picture with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In reaction, Ozil attacked the German soccer federation, its president, fans and the media, criticizing what he said was racism and double standards in the treatment of people with Turkish roots. “I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” he said.
Can used the #MeTwo hashtag because he wanted to show that ethnic minorities in Germany often feel connected to two cultures or places at the same time: Germany and the country of their or their ancestors’ origin. By Monday, more than 60,000 tweets recounting instances of discrimination had been posted to Twitter.
Germany is home to more than four million people of Turkish origin, who were invited in the 1960s to help rebuild the country after World War II.
The debate also reflects concern over the recent influx of many Muslim migrants, an issue that has divided German society. Since 2015, more than 1 million migrants, mostly from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have come to Germany. The arrivals of the asylum-seekers has given rise to the anti-migrant and nationalist Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which won seats in the German parliament for the first time last year.
All in all, about 20 percent of the more than 82 million living in Germany now have immigrant roots.
“We need to redefine what it means to be German,” Can, who kicked off the #MeTwo debate, told The Associated Press on Monday.
“No matter how much immigrants want to integrate into German society, they will not be able to do it on their own,” he said. “Everyone here needs to help with integration.”
Among the #MeTwo tweets, many complained about discrimination based on skin color or wearing a headscarf. Others denounced some ethnic Germans’ assumption that even third-generation immigrant children do not fully belong as “Germans.”
Twitter user Moorni recounted her school experience: “Despite good grades no recommendation for comprehensive secondary school. Quote class teacher: Your daughter will anyway wear a hijab and get married early.”
Abeneezer Negussie tweeted, “When a stranger says to you after a nice conversation on a train, ‘your skin color is not your fault, I mean, you unfortunately you can’t change it,’ and you understand that he perceives your skin color as something that went wrong.”
Some wrote that despite the pain and humiliation they have suffered through racism, the #MeTwo outcry had important and positive elements.
“The good thing about the racism debate 2018 is, that migrants have finally joined the conversation,” said Turkish-German author Hatice Akyun. “Our parents pretended they didn’t understand and looked away in shame.”
On Twitter, anti-migrant comments soon followed the #MeTwo movement. But some migrants also posted about their positive experiences in the country using the hashtag #MyGermanDream.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas chipped in as well, writing Sunday on Twitter: “It is damaging the image of Germany if there’s the impression that racism is socially acceptable again. We cannot allow that people with migrant roots feel threatened. Together, we have to stand up decisively for diversity and tolerance.”
A WORLD DESIGNED BY PLAYGROUND BULLIES
By Robert C. Koehler
As the week’s news slaps against my consciousness like road slush, some fragments sting more than others. For instance:
“According to the DOJ’s court filing, parents who are not currently in the U.S. may not be eligible for reunification with their children.”
I can’t quite move on with my life after reading a sentence like this. A gouge of incredulity lingers. How is such a cruelly stupid rule possible? What kind of long-term ramification will it have on the entirety of the human race?
The Common Dreams story goes on: “The ACLU and other immigrant rights advocates have argued that many of the parents who have been deported were pressured to agree to deportation without understanding their rights, following the traumatizing ordeal of family separation—many after fleeing violence and unrest in their home countries.”
Oh, to be a desperate human being, caught between “interests.”
And then there’s this:
“If they would just confirm to us that my brother is alive, if they would just let us see him, that’s all we want. But we can’t get anyone to give us any confirmation. My mother dies a hundred times every day. They don’t know what that is like.”
This is not more news from the Mexican border. This is from a recently released Amnesty International report on the U.S.-backed war in Yemen, being waged by a Saudi Arabian coalition that has visited famine, a cholera epidemic and mass bombings on the Yemeni people.
Also, as Kathy Kelly notes: Human Rights Watch and the Associated Press have exposed “a network of clandestine prisons” in Yemen, operated by coalition partner the United Arab Emirates. The reports, Kelly writes, “described ghastly torture inflicted on prisoners and noted that senior U.S. military leaders knew about torture allegations. Yet, a year later, there has been no investigation of these allegations by the Yemeni government, by the UAE, or by the UAE’s most powerful ally in the Yemen war, the United States.”
This of course is all marginal news, mostly kept in the shadows by the corporate media, which focuses on Russiagate and the Trump Follies, that is to say, on political entertainment, us vs. them, neatly packaged and fed to American news consumers as though it were their unending World Cup tournament. And Hillary Clinton tweets: “Great World Cup. Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”
And another gouge of incredulity lingers. Global politics is reduced to winning and losing, our team vs. their team, which makes life a lot more convenient for the powerful because it jettisons the hellish consequences of the game from public awareness: the cholera and torture and such, which are the regrettable side effects of confrontational politics.
Or rather, the hellish consequences are reported selectively — only when “they” do it. The point of the reporting is not to expose the suffering and focus public attention on the need to eliminate its complex causes, but rather to score a point for “our” side (we’re not like that) and quietly justify whatever harsh actions we must undertake in order to (eventually) prevail. What matters is the game, not the human consequences.
All of which adds up to a con game much, much bigger than Donald Trump, who is basically a malfunctioning cog in the machine. The “machine” is sometimes called the Deep State, which Mike Lofgren, the former Republican congressional aide who coined the term, described as “a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country” — that is to say, Wall Street and Silicon Valley in league with the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security, along with the Justice and Treasury departments, the CIA and much more. It’s America’s quiet, unofficial government, the military-industrial complex holding hands with the prison-industrial complex. The money just isn’t there for most social programs, but it’s there for war, surveillance and incarceration.
And Donald Trump, malfunctioning cog or not, has contributed to the Deep State’s invisibility simply by accusing it of being the cause of his troubles, thus making it possible for the president’s opponents — almost two-thirds of the country — to dismiss the whole thing as a conspiracy theory and maintain the feel-good assumption that the United States is still a darn-good democracy.
The reality, however, as Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens point out in their book Democracy in America? (as quoted by Paul Street), is that government policy “reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.”
Back to the border, then. Back to Yemen and all our other ongoing wars. Back to the 800-plus U.S. military bases located around the world. Back to our militarized police departments. Back to every political and bureaucratic cruelty “our team” commits in defiance of the likely wishes of a true democratic majority.
One consequence of this game is to keep humanity on the surface of what’s possible. We’re living, I fear, in a world designed by playground bullies, with institutions focused primarily on self-perpetuation and indifferent to the harm they create. Rules matter. Values don’t.
Life is sacred? Not at the border. Not across the ocean and “over there.” And if life is only sacred for some, it is, in fact, sacred for no one.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Manafort trial to focus on lavish lifestyle, not collusion
By ERIC TUCKER and CHAD DAY
Monday, July 30
WASHINGTON (AP) — The trial of President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman will open this week with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultant’s pocket.
What’s likely to be missing: answers about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, or really any mention of Russia at all.
Paul Manafort’s financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, will center on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president’s campaign.
But the broader implications are unmistakable.
The trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday with jury selection in Alexandria, Virginia, will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence Mueller’s team has spent the year accumulating. It will feature testimony about the business dealings and foreign ties of a defendant Trump entrusted to run his campaign during a critical stretch in 2016, including during the Republican convention. And it will unfold at a delicate time for the president as Mueller’s team presses for an interview and as Trump escalates his attacks on an investigation he calls a “witch hunt.”
Adding to the intrigue is the expected spectacle of Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, testifying against him after cutting a plea deal with prosecutors, and the speculation that Manafort, who faces charges in two different courts and decades in prison if convicted, may be holding out for a pardon from Trump.
“Perhaps he believes that he’s done nothing wrong, and because he’s done nothing wrong, he’s unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever — even if it’s a lesser crime,” said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor. “Obviously, that’s very risky for him.”
Manafort was indicted along with Gates in Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of cooperating with the government. The remaining 31 individuals charged have either reached plea agreements, including ex-White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged.
Prosecutors in Manafort’s case have said they may call 35 witnesses, including five who have immunity agreements, as they try to prove that he laundered more than $30 million in Ukrainian political consulting proceeds and concealed the funds from the IRS.
Jurors are expected to see photographs of his Mercedes-Benz and of his Hampton property putting green and swimming pool. There’s likely to be testimony, too, about tailored Beverly Hills clothing, high-end antiques, rugs and art and New York Yankees seasons tickets.
The luxurious lifestyle was funded by Manafort’s political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine’s president in 2014.
Lawyers have tangled over how much jurors will hear of his overseas political work, particularly about his ties to Russia and other wealthy political figures.
At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will preside over the trial, warned prosecutors to restrain themselves, noting the current “antipathy” toward Russia and how “most people in this country don’t distinguish between Ukrainians and Russians.” He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others “at a cocktail party with scantily clad women,” if they exist.
Prosecutor Greg Andres reassured the judge that “there will be no pictures of scantily clad women, period,” nor photographs of Russian flags.
“I don’t anticipate that a government witness will utter the word ‘Russia,’” Andres said.
While jurors will be hearing painstaking detail about Manafort’s finances, they won’t be told about Manafort’s other criminal case, in the nation’s capital, where he faces charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and lying to the government.
Nor will they hear about the reason he’s been jailed since last month after a judge revoked his house arrest over allegations that he and a longtime associate attempted to tamper with witnesses in the case. And they won’t learn that Manafort’s co-defendant in the Washington case is a business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, who lives in Russia and who U.S. authorities assert has connections to Russian intelligence.
Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly sought to play down Manafort’s connection to the president, yet the trial won’t be entirely without references to the campaign.
Mueller’s team says Manafort’s position in the Trump campaign is relevant to some of the bank fraud charges. Prosecutors plan to present evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a job on the campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration. The administration job never materialized.
The trial will afford the public its first glimpse of a defense that so far has focused less on the substance of the allegations than on Mueller’s authority to bring the case in the first place. At one point, his defense lawyers sued Mueller and the Justice Department, saying they’d overstepped their bounds by bringing a prosecution untethered to the core questions of Mueller’s investigation — whether Russia worked with the Trump campaign to tip the election.
Ellis rejected that argument despite having initially questioned the special counsel’s motives for bringing the case. He noted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, had explicitly authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort’s business dealings. Mueller’s original mandate was to investigate not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but also any other crimes arising from the probe.
“When a prosecutor looks into those dealings and uncovers evidence of criminal culpability,” said Stanford law professor David Alan Sklansky, “it doesn’t make sense to ask him to avert his eyes.”
Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP and Chad Day at https://twitter.com/ChadSDay
July 24, 2018
DeWine Awards Over $357,000 in Grants to Boys & Girls Clubs, Other Organizations
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced that his office has awarded grants totaling $357,435 to the Ohio Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and other organizations across the state for new computers and other technology purchases.
“These grants will support programs serving many Ohio communities,” Attorney General DeWine said. “They will help improve access to technology for kids, adults with disabilities, and other individuals who are served by these programs.”
The Ohio Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs is receiving a total of $232,763 that will be distributed among the following 12 organizations:
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus
- Boys & Girls Club of Dayton
- Boys & Girls Club of Erie County
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati
- Boys & Girls Club of Hamilton
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Lorain County
- Boys & Girls Club of New Richmond
- Orrville Area Boys & Girls Club
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo
- Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve
- Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown
“Ensuring that kids have a safe and supportive environment to access technology is a critical part of the Boys & Girls Clubs experience for youth,” said Rebecca Asmo, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus and board member of the Ohio Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. “When youth use technology in the Clubs they get access to the opportunities that technology provides in a space that is free from cyberbullying and where adult staff can guide them to use it in safe and productive ways. The grant funding provided by Attorney General DeWine will allow Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Ohio to improve their technology infrastructure – serving thousands of Ohio’s youth and teens in the process.”
The following eight organizations also have been awarded funding:
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Ohio
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Zanesville
- The Childhood League Center (Franklin County)
- Greater Warren-Youngstown Urban League
- Inspiring Minds (Trumbull County)
- The Ohio State University Nisonger Center
- Our Lady of the Wayside (Cuyahoga County)
- Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center Inc.
Organizations will use the grants for a variety of technology purchases, such as new computers, educational software, or high-speed internet.
The Ohio State University Nisonger Center will use the funding to increase the technology capacity of an academic center used by students in its Transition Options in Postsecondary Settings (TOPS) program, which allows students who have intellectual disabilities to enroll in audited OSU courses, participate in internships, or work in paid positions at the university or surrounding communities.
The grant funding also will support the computer education program of Our Lady of the Wayside’s Pathways Program, which offers day services for adults with developmental disabilities. Adults in the program use computers to learn and to communicate with family, friends, and peers.
Funding for the grants comes from settlement funds.
A list of the amounts allotted for each organization is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Ohio State Fair Purchases: Remember These Rules
Columbus, OH (July 24, 2018) – As the end of July approaches, Central Ohio prepares to host the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. Besides culinary novelties and family fun, attendees also have the opportunity to view businesses’ booths and products. While it’s easy to get caught up in the curious crowd, BBB wants consumers to remember that day-to-day purchasing rules still apply before making decisions.
Last year, the Ohio State Fair had over 800,000 visitors. The fair’s surveys show that 78% of guests will visit vendors in their commercial buildings and thousands will frequent the outdoor exhibitions and concession spaces.
If you plan on attending the Ohio State Fair from July 25th through August 5th, keep these BBB tips in mind:
- Do your research. BBB Business Profiles are available any time, and optimized for smartphones. You can research companies for free at bbb.org or by calling 614-486-6336.
- Before making a purchase, get the company’s refund and exchange policies in writing. Also, obtain the company’s physical location and telephone number in case you need to return or exchange your item.
- Do some comparison shopping before buying, but remember that the least expensive item may not always be the best value.
- Don’t be pressured to buy, no matter how pushy the salesperson may be. After the demonstration or sales pitch, give yourself some time to think.
- Ask the vendor if a sale price will be honored after the State Fair. If so, you will not feel as pressured to purchase the item on the spot.
It’s important to note that the Federal Trade Commission’s “cooling-off rule,” which normally allows consumers three days to cancel a purchase, does not apply to the following purchases at fairs:
- Purchases under $25;
- Goods or services not primarily intended for personal, family, or household purposes;
- Insurance, securities, or real estate;
- Motor vehicles; and
- Arts and crafts.
If you are making a purchase where the “cooling-off rule” does apply but you need to cancel a sale, sign and date a copy of the company’s cancellation form. Ask for the form when you make your purchase. If you mail the form back to the company, be sure it is postmarked before midnight of the third business day after you made the purchase.
For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2017, people turned to BBB more than 160 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.
Opinion: ESA and Cooperative Conservation in the West
By Megan Hansen and Jennifer Morales
Earlier this month, nine bills were introduced by the Congressional Western Caucus to make significant changes to the Endangered Species Act. While these bills make revisions to a number of pieces of the ESA, one common thread across them is an effort to increase the involvement of local governments, private organizations and individuals.
The traditional approach employed under the ESA has led to conflict between different interest groups. Encouraging cooperation across society could go a long way in reducing this conflict. By increasing engagement with state and local actors, we are also likely to get more successful conservation efforts that leverage local knowledge surrounding species and habitats.
One of the biggest challenges in effectively conserving endangered species is gathering good data. With more than 1,400 animals and 900 plant species listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government is responsible for keeping updated information on a huge amount of wildlife and fauna. Of the 85 species on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services website that have been delisted, more than one-fifth have been delisted because the initial decision was made with incorrect data.
One proposed reform would require the federal government to include data from states, tribes and local governments to fulfill the ESA’s requirement that agencies use the “best available scientific and commercial data” in listing decisions. Because local actors often have the most accurate information about species in their area, increased data sharing will likely benefit species and help ensure that resources are spent on species that most need protection.
Cooperating in data sharing is helpful, but another promising reform would allow the Department of the Interior to create cooperative management agreements with states, local governments, tribes and individuals. In cases where successful species conservation programs are already being implemented at the state or local level, the bill allows those programs to “take the lead” on ESA conservation efforts in coordination with federal officials. This proposal would take advantage of existing cooperative conservation plans like those implemented throughout 11 western states to protect the greater sage grouse.
This would allow states like Wyoming, a pioneer in sage-grouse conservation efforts, to continue to seek innovative solutions such as the state-led coalition of local and state officials, conservation interests, and energy companies that have successfully worked to stabilize the state’s greater sage grouse population. Other states have followed Wyoming’s lead and created their own sage grouse conservation plans.
These state-led efforts were successful enough that the Fish and Wildlife Service stated it was unnecessary to list the species as endangered. Allowing states to continue to take the lead in these efforts encourages states to seek local solutions that leverage their understanding of the species, habitats and those best suited to assist in these efforts
A third proposal would further engage local conservationists by allowing conservation efforts that occur outside designated critical habitat areas to be considered in decision-making about species. Critical habitat areas are deemed essential for species recovery but often only cover a part of the territory on which the species lives.
Recognizing the efforts of state and local conservationists as valid contributions toward species recovery would help further encourage local conservation. In addition to efforts to help the greater sage grouse, states and local groups are taking action to help preserve other species through plans like the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative. This partnership of public and private organizations helps ranchers and farmers improve their agricultural practices while improving habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken. When these efforts benefit species, they should be considered in species management decisions, even if they do not occur on federally designated habitat.
The current ESA framework for facilitating cooperation between important conservation actors should be updated to give species the best chance at thriving. Private landowners, state governments and local groups are already working across the country to help endangered species recover and thrive. Reform efforts that take advantage of these local efforts and include local knowledge in the process have the best chance at helping effectively conserve endangered species.
ABOUT THE WRITERS
Megan Hansen is the research director at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University. Jennifer Morales, a graduate of Utah State University, is a summer research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.