FILE PHOTO: Royal Bank of Scotland signs are seen at a branch of the bank, in London, Britain December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
April 22, 2019
By Iain Withers
LONDON (Reuters) – British state-controlled lender the Royal Bank of Scotland has doubled its funding pot to support small businesses to 6 billion pounds ($7.8 billion), but says the extra cash is no longer primarily for Brexit-proofing businesses.
NatWest, the biggest trading arm of RBS, said it had topped up its so-called Growth Fund in response to high demand from firms in industries including green energy and technology.
The lender previously topped up the fund from 1 billion pounds to 3 billion pounds in October. It said at the time that it was doing so after identifying nearly 2,000 businesses it lent to that were likely to suffer payment or supply problems due to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Since then, Brexit has been repeatedly delayed amid deadlock in parliament and it is now unclear how Britain will leave the EU, if at all.
Brexit remained a core driver behind expanding the fund, NatWest said, but stressed other factors.
“It’s really about demand from growth sectors in the UK economy,” Mike Slevin, head of capital management at NatWest, told Reuters.
“Obviously it remains fully available for companies that require extra support for Brexit-related purposes as well.”
Customers were unlikely to roll back facilities taken out to prepare for Brexit while uncertainty continued, Slevin said, but demand for such products has “waned somewhat” in recent weeks.
Banks have been keen to promote their small business lending credentials ahead of Brexit, but groups representing small firms have expressed scepticism.
Rival lender Barclays announced a 14 billion pound fund over three years to help small firms manage uncertainty including Brexit last month.
However, Barclays’ fund included all projected lending to small companies over a three-year period, rather than just extra cash over day-to-day funding.
A Barclays spokesperson said the 14 billion pounds would represent an increase of around a third in lending over the previous three year period.
“While it’s good to see some of the banks looking to proactively support customers during this period of uncertainty, the fact remains that lending to smaller firms continues to lag behind big corporations to the tune of millions each year,” Mike Cherry, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said.
(Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Susan Fenton)
Many Americans aren’t ready to clear President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation, with a new poll showing slightly more want Congress to keep investigating than to set aside its probes after a special counsel’s report left open the question of whether he broke the law.
About 6 in 10 continue to believe the president obstructed justice.
The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also finds greater GOP confidence in the investigation after Attorney General William Barr in late March released his letter saying special counsel Robert Mueller found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but didn’t make a judgment on the obstruction question.
At the same time, the poll indicates that Americans are mostly unhappy with the amount of information that has been released so far. They’ll get more Thursday , when Barr is expected to release a redacted version of the nearly 400-page report.
Trump has repeatedly claimed “total exoneration,” after Barr asserted in his memo that there was insufficient evidence for an obstruction prosecution.
“It’s a total phony,” Trump said of all allegations to Minneapolis TV station KSTP this week. “Any aspect of that report, I hope it does come out because there was no collusion, whatsoever, no collusion. There was no obstruction, because that was ruled by the attorney general.”
Overall, 39% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, roughly unchanged from mid-March, before Mueller completed his two-year investigation.
But many Americans still have questions.
“It’s kind of hard to believe what the president says as far as exoneration,” said James Brown, 77, of Philadelphia, who doesn’t affiliate with either party but says his political views lean conservative. “And in my mind the attorney general is a Trump person, so he’s not going to do anything against Trump.”
The poll shows 35% of Americans think that Trump did something illegal related to Russia — largely unchanged since the earlier poll. An additional 34% think he’s done something unethical.
Brown says he remains extremely concerned about possible inappropriate contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, citing Trump’s past interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow, and believes the president committed crimes of obstruction to cover up financial interests. “He’s not going to jeopardize his pocketbook for anything,” he said.
Still, the poll suggests Barr’s summary helped allay some lingering doubts within the GOP. Among Republicans, more now say Trump did nothing wrong at all (65% vs. 55% a month ago) and fewer say he did something unethical (27%, down from 37.
Glen Sebring, 56, of Chico, California, says he thinks the nation should put the Russia investigations to rest after reading Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report. The moderate Republican credits Trump with helping to “double the money” he’s now earning due to an improving economy and says Congress should spend more time on issues such as lowering health care costs.
“It’s like beating a dead horse,” Sebring said. “We’ve got a lot more important things to worry about.”
Even as Trump blasts the Mueller probe as a Democratic witch hunt, poll respondents expressed more confidence that the investigation was impartial. The growing confidence since March was driven by Republicans: Three-quarters now say they are at least moderately confident in the probe, and 38% are very or extremely confident, up from 46% and 18%, respectively, in March. Among Democrats, about 70% are at least moderately confident, down slightly from a month ago, and 45% are very or extremely confident.
Still, majorities of Americans say they believe the Justice Department has shared too few details so far with both the public (61 and Congress (55%). About a third think the department has shared too little with the White House, which has argued that portions of the report should be kept confidential if they involve private conversations of the president subject to executive privilege.
Democrats have been calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect Trump. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.
The poll shows that even with the Mueller probe complete, 53% say Congress should continue to investigate Trump’s ties with Russia, while 45% say Congress should not. A similar percentage, 53%, say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia.
“We don’t even know what we found yet in the probe. Until we do, Congress should definitely continue to push this issue,” said Tina Perales, a 35-year old small business owner in Norton, Ohio, who describes herself as Republican. “That little letter Barr sent out summarizing the report I think was completely BS. This Mueller thing is hundreds of pages, and he just sums it up like this? These things just don’t add up.”
Deep partisan divisions remain.
Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to believe Trump had done something improper and to support continued investigations that could lead to his removal from office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has downplayed the likelihood of impeachment proceedings but isn’t closing the door entirely if there are significant findings of Trump misconduct.
On investigations, 84% of Democrats believe lawmakers shouldn’t let up in scrutinizing Trump’s ties to Russia, but the same share of Republicans disagree. Similarly, 83% of Democrats say Congress should take steps to impeach Trump if he is found to have obstructed justice, even if he did not have inappropriate contacts with Russia, while 82% of Republicans say Congress should not.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,108 adults was conducted April 11-14 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.
Source: NewsMax America
Czech President Milos Zeman gestures in Vienna, Austria April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
April 15, 2019
PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech President Milos Zeman will appoint Karel Havlicek, the head of a small business association and deputy chief of the government’s science and research council, as new industry minister on April 30, a spokesman said on Monday.
The president will also appoint lawyer Vladimir Kremlik as new transport minister, replacing Dan Tok who resigned after serving more than four years, a record tenure for the transport post.
Havlicek’s main tasks will be regulating the telecoms market and preparing a project to boost the European Union country’s nuclear power capacity.
Both ministries are controlled by Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party, which leads the coalition government.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Frances Kerry)
President Donald Trump showed “contempt” for the law by telling a Customs and Border Protection official that he’d pardon him if he went to jail for stopping asylum seekers at the border, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Sunday.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Nadler was asked about Trump’s remark to former CBP commissioner and current Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan during a visit to the border in Calexico, Calif.
“This shows the president’s contempt for law, another incidence of the president’s contempt for law, to order that something clearly illegal, mainly blocking people claiming asylum, from coming into the country, which is clearly against our law… or offering a pardon… to someone who would disobey the law at the president’s request,” Nadler said.
“That’s the main job of the president, to see that the laws are faithfully executed,” Cardin added. “For a president to sabotage that goal by deliberately seeking to break the law is unforgivable.”
Nadler also charged that Trump, before he became president, “stole” a 9/11 grant that should have gone to small businesses — and that Trump has “no moral authority to be talking about 9/11 at all.”
”I was instrumental in getting funding for small business grants for victims of 9/11, people with small businesses in the area,” the New York lawmaker said. “Donald Trump actually took a $150,000 grant from the Bush administration, they let him take $150,000 grant for 40 Wall Street.
“He stole $150,000 from some small business person who could have used it to rehabilitate himself… He has no moral authority to be talking about 9/11 at all,” Nadler added, referring to Trump’s tweet condemning remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., about the terror attacks.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez never misses the opportunity to bash capitalism.
At the 2019 South by Southwest festival, the Congresswoman derided capitalism, describing it as “irredeemable.” She says that the U.S. is currently facing the consequences of “putting profits over everything else in our society.” Curiously, the freshmen congresswoman pivoted her rant towards a critique of the New Deal.
How could such a staunch leftist like Ocasio-Cortez — who fashioned her pet legislation as the “Green New Deal” — criticize its 20th-century predecessor? She was able to do so by turning this discussion into a matter of race.
In her view, Roosevelt’s New Deal cut African Americans a raw deal:
“The New Deal was an extremely economically racist policy that drew little red lines around black and brown communities and it invested in white America.”
Ocasio-Cortez continued expanding on the New Deal’s harmful effects: “It allowed white Americans access to home loans that black Americans didn’t have access to, giving them access to the greatest source of intergenerational wealth.”
Misinterpreting the New Deal’s Racist History
The congresswoman is correct about the New Deal’s racist policies, albeit from an observational standpoint. I wrote about this previously, detailing how the federal government promoted segregated housing during the New Deal at the African-American community’s expense.
However, Ocasio-Cortez’s talk about the New Deal flagrantly omits other government interventions that clearly affected racial minorities in a negative way. The Wagner Act of 1935 — which established labor-union monopolies — gave incumbent unions tremendous power to exclude low-wage workers. During this period, union heavyweights discriminated against black workers in order to keep wages artificially high for white workers.
Similarly, the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 allowed the executive branch to create industrial cartels to restrict output and enact minimum-wage policies. This resulted in approximately 500,000 blacks being pushed out of the labor market thanks to high, non-market wages.
Despite these overlooked aspects of the New Deal, Ocasio-Cortez continues to race hustle and thinks that more government intervention will somehow “correct” past injustices that the government itself created.
How Limited Government Made African Americans Prosperous
In contrast to the New Deal, markets have historically helped racial minorities. It was during the Gilded Age that the African-American community was able to first establish itself as an economic force. This was an era when there was no welfare state, no federal tax maze, nor an alphabet soup of bureaucracy to impede capital accumulation and business creation.
During this time, African American civil society was at its peak. David Beito’s From Mutual Aid to Welfare State was a seminal work in demonstrating how the African-American community thrived without any form of government assistance before the New Deal. Civic organizations like the Independent Order of Saint Luke and the United Order of True Reformers “specialized initially in sickness and burial insurance,” and became leading institutions in African-American civil society.
The Independent Order of Saint Luke stood out for its entrepreneurial endeavors and ended up establishing the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank of Richmond, which had the honor of having Maggie L. Walker as the first, black female bank president in American history.
Additionally, prosperous enclaves such as “Black Wall Street ” in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District and Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood demonstrated the power of black capitalism. No central planning was needed to establish these business neighborhoods.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her intellectual cohorts make sure that this history falls down the memory hole. Bashing capitalism is simply too easy and anything that disrupts the narrative, must be cast aside.
Is Capitalism Truly Irredeemable?
So, is capitalism irredeemable and worthy of eternal scorn? Human Progress depicts what capitalism has been able to achieve, even with the fiscal and regulatory shackles imposed on it:
“….in 1820, 94 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power). In 1990 this figure was 34.8 percent, and in 2015, just 9.6 percent.”
Human Progress’s findings are in line with Mises’s view in Human Action that economies with nominal degrees of capitalism are still capable of delivering constant improvements in living standards: “The characteristic mark of economic history under capitalism is unceasing economic progress, a steady increase in the quantity of capital goods available, and a continuous trend toward an improvement in the general standard of living.”
Most importantly, capitalism has made us more humane in our treatment of domestic animals and has granted women and children unprecedented access to leisure activities and educational opportunities to improve economically. Sadly, select parts of the world — especially present-day Venezuela — have regressed into barbarism due to their political class’s complete rejection of capitalism and private property rights.
Indeed, Western mixed economies still have work to do, but the direction they must head towards is one of more liberalization, not government control.
The Invisible Iron Fist of Government Bureaucracy
Politicians like Ocasio-Cortez see poverty and working-class people struggling to make ends meet, but they don’t see the mountains of paperwork and regulations in the background that make the cost of living so high and make it difficult to run a small business. They also ignore the minimum wage laws that keep countless unskilled minority workers – their primary constituents – from entering the workforce and getting the experience they need to improve their lives.
Refuting the historical distortions and false narratives surrounding capitalism is incumbent upon on all free-marketers. George Orwell said it best, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
Politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez come and go, but their ideas have staying power. When these ideas are allowed to go unchallenged, they can transform into veritable nightmares in the political arena. The very least we could do is challenge these flawed ideas. If we fail to do so, we are only sowing the seeds for our inevitable defeat.
Attorney General William Barr is beginning to call out the Obama & Hillary camps for the crimes they committed during the 2016 presidential elections.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on Monday urged the Federal Trade Commission to hold Google and Facebook accountable for potential privacy, data security and antitrust violations and publicly disclose whether it was investigating the tech giants.
“We understand that the FTC does not typically comment on nonpublic investigations, but the public discussion surrounding Google and other companies’ conduct have made this a uniquely important national issue,” the senators wrote in the letter.
“Accordingly, we respectfully request that the FTC consider publicly disclosing whether it is conducting an investigation of Google and/or other major online platforms and describe, in general terms, the nature of the conduct under examination in any such investigations,” they added.
The senators in their letter pointed out how Google dominates web traffic (90 percent) while both Facebook and Google hold a large chunk of digital advertising in the U.S.
“This type of market dominance has amplified concerns about how those companies protect consumers’ online information and about possible anticompetitive conduct that could harm consumers, innovation, and small business growth,” the two senators wrote.
Facebook and Google are already in the crosshairs of the FTC’s new competition task force, which monitors competition and considers possible antitrust violations in U.S. technology markets.
Source: NewsMax America