- Associated Press - Monday, August 13, 2018

Leader-Telegram, Aug. 9

Tariffs hit farmers hard

An Eau Galle soybean farmer says a bushel of his product currently would sell for less than it costs to produce.

“Regardless of when this trade issue is resolved, this is not something that is remedied overnight,” Tony Mellenthin, who also is president of the Wisconsin Soybean Association, said in a Leader-Telegram story by Erica Jones. “This has long, long-lasting consequences.”

Mellenthin and others adversely affected by trade wars participated Tuesday in a discussion with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. Tariffs implemented by President Trump have fueled retaliatory tariffs by other nations.

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department announced 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods that would go into effect Aug. 23. Initial tariffs on $34 billion worth of products from China began in early July. China has threatened $60 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods in response.

Price increases from steel tariffs have affected business at Realityworks, an Eau Claire-based producer of educational materials.

“These are not minor price changes. … These changes have had a really phenomenal impact,” Timm Boettcher, CEO of Realityworks, said in Jones’ story. “I don’t want to pass those prices along to educational programs, but I don’t have a choice.”

The U.S. trade deficit actually rose 7 percent in June, and news of the escalating trade war came on the heels of a discouraging report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The study found that the average Wisconsin farm spent more than $168,000 on production in 2017, a 6 percent annual increase. According to The Associated Press, expense increases were high for trucks, tractors and other farm machinery.

“It may be the case that some of that equipment simply can’t be fixed anymore,” said Mark Stephenson of UW-Madison’s Center for Dairy Profitability in a Wisconsin Public Radio story. “Any one or two years, you can get by not replacing it. But four years? Some equipment is going to have to be replaced.”

Sherry Wuebben of St. Joseph Equipment, which has a location in La Crosse, said in the AP story that sales could go down even more.

“After years of not having any significant price increases, because of the tariffs on steel, (buyers) are going to start seeing some price increases,” Wuebben said.

The federal government is allocating $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers that are expected to begin being distributed next month.

Krista Swanson, a fifth-generation farmer in Illinois, said in a Huffington Post piece Tuesday that the $12 billion, if distributed evenly, equates to less than $6,000 per farmer.

“So if I’m negative $20,000, the $6,000 helps,” she said, “but it’s not fixing the issue at hand.”

And the effects are likely to be long term. “We start to lose more and more market share all the time,” Kind said.

“The longer this goes on, the more difficult it will make it for us to resume our relationships with our customers,” said Stephanie Nadeau, a U.S. food distributor, in a CBS News story.


The Capital Times, Aug. 8

Who’s the fiscally responsible reformer in the Senate race? Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s dismal Republican challengers, billionaire-funded career politician Leah Vukmir and billionaire-funded newcomer Kevin Nicholson, have been attacking the Democrat for supporting the Medicare-for-all health care reform proposal that has been sponsored by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

But the joke is on the Republicans, especially Vukmir. As a legislator, Vukmir has long carried water for Charles and David Koch, the wealthy conservative campaign donors who fund the American Legislative Exchange Council and other groups with which Vukmir has associated herself.

The Koch brothers have invested billions of dollars in a decades-long campaign to turn public opinion against necessary reforms, such as the establishment of a single-payer health care system in the United States. And Republican politicians like Vukmir have dutifully opposed the efforts to ensure that all Americans get the health care they need.

But now a Koch brothers-supported project has, unintentionally but unquestionably, made the case for the Medicare-for-all reform that has been championed by Sanders and Baldwin.

A working paper produced by the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which examined the potential costs of the Medicare for All Act (M4A) that has been sponsored by Sanders, was released with much fanfare this week. It was immediately embraced by right-wing politicians who are close to the Kochs, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, who tweeted an article on the study with the message: “$32.6 trillion dollars. That’s how much Washington Democrats’ single-payer healthcare proposal would cost over 10 years. Even doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes wouldn’t cover this cost. It is just absurd.”

Ryan is supposed to be the GOP’s “numbers guy.” But he missed the most important numbers in the study. While the speaker fixated on a prediction by the author of the working paper that the Sanders plan would raise federal health care spending by roughly $32.6 trillion from 2022 through 2031, economists who actually read the report focused on a far more salient detail. On Page 18 of the paper, in a section titled “Effects on National Health Expenditures and the Federal Budget,” came mention that under the Sanders plan “national personal health care costs decrease by less than 2 percent, while total health expenditures decrease by only 4 percent, even after assuming substantial administrative cost savings.”

That’s right. A report that was supposed to discredit the single-payer solution found that, even after the benefits of a Medicare-for-all program are realized -“additional health care demand that arises from eliminating co-payments, providing additional categories of benefits, and covering the currently uninsured” - the potential cost of the plan would still be less than “potential savings associated with cutting provider payments and achieving lower drug costs.”

What that translates to is what Medicare-for-all advocates like Baldwin have been saying all along: Under a single-payer system, Americans would get more quality care for more people at less cost.

“Health care costs, even for those who have health insurance, are endangering tens of millions of people every day in this country,” said National Nurses United union Co-president Jean Ross, RN. “What even this corporate-funded study concedes is that we can actually guarantee health care for everyone in this country, without the devastating, rising costs of premiums, deductibles, and co-pays - at less than we spend as a nation today on health costs.”

Bottom line: Vukmir and Nicholson are the big spenders in the Senate race, while Tammy Baldwin is the fiscally responsible reformer.


The Journal Times of Racine, Aug. 8

Foxconn looking into solar power is more welcome news

Only a month ago we were lauding the developers of the $10 billion Foxconn manufacturing campus under construction in Mount Pleasant for committing to a cutting-edge water recycling system.

That proposed system would reduce the demand for water from Lake Michigan to serve the campus by more than half, and would distill, recycle and recover manufacturing-process wastewater.

Foxconn officials cited it as an example of the company’s commitment to comply with water-treatment regulations and exceed them where possible.

Now, recent news reports suggest Foxconn may try to take the same path when it comes to energy needs for the giant manufacturing facility.

We Energies officials said they were in talks with Foxconn over its energy supply needs and that solar power may figure prominently in the campus’ needs.

“Everything is on the table, and we’re looking to how this best works for both parties,” Gale Klappa, chairman and CEO of WEC Energy Group, told a Milwaukee newspaper.

According to the news report, a solar installation at Foxconn could be the largest in Wisconsin, and could generate 60 to 90 times the current top facility, found at the new IKEA store in Oak Creek, which has 4,716 panels and generates 1.6 megawatts of electricity.

That would go a long way toward supplying the estimated 200 megawatts of electric demand the Foxconn campus is expected to need.

This is still just in the talking stages, but the talk is going in the right direction. In July, Wisconsin utilities said they were planning major investments in solar and wind projects in the coming years, and a sizeable solar component here in Mount Pleasant would fit nicely with that new direction.

Foxconn has faced criticism on its potential impact on Lake Michigan and other environmental issues. But from what we have seen in the past two months, the company is striking all the right notes when it comes to environmental responsibility and that’s good news for Wisconsin, which has always treasured its land, water and air resources.

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