NFIB Weekly News
Leading the News
Trump Executive Order Takes Step Toward Reversing Tax Regulations.
CBS News (4/21, Light) reported that President Trump has signed an executive order taking aim at tax regulations. The New York Times (4/21, Rappeport, Subscription Publication) reported that the executive order asks Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “to review the tax regulations imposed by President Barack Obama in 2016.”
House Ways & Means Chairman Plans Tax Reform Hearings. The Hill (4/18, Jagoda) reported that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said the committee “will soon be announcing congressional hearings on our blueprint starting next week.” The committee must announce hearings a week in advance, but a spokeswoman for Brady “could not give a specific date or topic for the committee’s first tax reform hearing.”
NYTimes Analysis Examines Business Tax Proposals. Writing in the New York Times (4/21, Subscription Publication) “The Upshot” blog, N. Gregory Mankiw suggested that “the next 12 months are shaping up to be a critically important time” for the tax code, and the reform proposals currently being discussed “would profoundly alter how the government raises money and upend the incentives for private decision makers.” He highlighted “four key issues.”
Details Of Trump’s Infrastructure Bill Still Unclear, But President Reiterating Commitment To Issue. Business Climate
The AP (4/13) reported President Trump “says that last month’s bridge collapse near downtown Atlanta is a ‘painful reminder’ of the importance of strong infrastructure.” According to the AP, Trump “reiterated his commitment to enacting a major federal infrastructure spending program.”
In continuing coverage of the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan, The Hill (4/12, Zanona) reported DJ Gribbin, special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy, said that the timeline for the package is still “up in the air.” According to Gribbin, the release depends on whether the plan moves forward as a standalone or is attached to another piece of legislation. “While Gribbin emphasized that they are still crafting the infrastructure measure,” the Hill added, “Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the package could be unveiled as soon as next month – a major shift from the administration’s initial goal” of a fall release.
March Small Business Optimism Remains Historically Strong.
The NFIB reported that its latest Small Business Economic Trends Report shows that small business optimism declined slightly in March, down 0.6 points to 104.7. However, this was still a historically-high level for the index. NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan said, “Small business owners remain optimistic about the future of the economy and the direction of consumer confidence. We are encouraged by signs that optimism is translating into economic activity, such as capital investment and job creation.” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg added, “By historical standards, this is an excellent performance, with most of the components of the Index holding their gains. The increases in capital expenditure plans and actual earnings are signs of a healthier economy, and we expect job creation to pick up in future months.”
Gorsuch Confirmed To Supreme Court.
The Los Angeles Times (4/9, Savage) reported on the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, noting that he “joins the Supreme Court just in time to cast potentially significant votes in cases that pit religious liberty against gay rights, test limits on funding for church schools and challenge California’s restrictions on carrying a concealed gun in public.”
The Washington Post (4/9, Wagner, Sullivan, O'Keefe) said Gorsuch’s ascension “marks a big win for [President] Trump and conservatives – both on and off Capitol Hill.” The President has so far “failed to advance much of the ambitious legislative agenda he said would happen quickly if he was elected,” but Gorsuch’s confirmation “broke this pattern.”
Adam Liptak of the New York Times (4/9, Subscription Publication) wrote that Gorsuch could conceivably be on the court until 2050 or beyond, and “actuarial realities suggest that President Trump will have additional chances to move the court to the right.”
AP Analysis: Trump “Keeping His Promises” To Undo Obama Policies.
The AP (4/3, Superville) writes that President Trump “is steadily plugging away at a major piece of his agenda: Undoing Obama.” Despite “staff shake-ups, blocked travel bans and the Russia cloud hanging overhead,” Trump “is keeping his promises in methodically overturning regulations and policies adopted when Barack Obama was president.” While the Affordable Care Act has not been repealed and replaced, Trump has reversed Obama actions on climate change, oil pipelines, and trade.
US GDP Slowed Less Than Previously Reported In Fourth Quarter.
Reuters (3/30) reported that US economic growth “slowed less than previously reported” in the fourth quarter – GDP increased “at a 2.1 percent annualized rate instead of the previously reported 1.9 percent pace, the Commerce Department said.” Economists polled by Reuters “had expected fourth-quarter GDP would be revised up to a 2.0 percent rate.” Growth in consumer spending was revised up to a 3.5 percent rate from the 3.0 percent rate previously reported. In addition, imports increased “at a 9.0 percent rate rather than the 8.5 percent pace reported last month.” USA Today (3/30, Davidson) reported business investment increased 0.9%, below the previous 1.3% estimate, while exports fell 4.5 percent, more than the prior 4 percent estimate.
US Corporate Profits Rose 22.3% In Fourth Quarter. In a separate report, the Commerce Department said that after-tax corporate profits increased 22.3 percent – totaling 9.2 percent of Q4 GDP – in the fourth quarter from the same time the year before, according to the Wall Street Journal (3/30, Leubsdorf, Subscription Publication). In total, profits rose 4.3 percent in 2016 after dropping 8.5 percent in 2015.
Trump OIRA Nominee Could Influence Regulatory Reform.
The Washington Post (4/23, Mufson) reported that President Trump has nominated George Mason University Law Professor Neomi Rao to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the “gateway through which federal regulations must pass.” Rao would be “responsible for vetting and tallying cost estimates for most regulations.”
FCC Votes To Deregulate Business Data Services. Small Business Marketing
Reuters (4/20, Shepardson) reported the Federal Communications Commission voted to “effectively deregulate the $45 billion business data services market in a win for companies like AT&T Inc, CenturyLink Inc and Verizon Communications Inc that will likely lead to price hikes for many small businesses.”
Trump To Call For Reducing Corporate Tax Rate To 15 Percent.
Bloomberg Politics (4/24, Pettypiece, Kapur) reports that on Wednesday, President Trump will “call for cutting taxes for individuals and lowering the corporate rate to 15 percent, according to a White House official.” The President will offer “the broad outlines of what he wants to change in the tax code, though the details likely will be left until later negotiations among congressional leaders and officials from Treasury.”
The Washington Post (4/24, Paletta, Costa) reports that the President “has instructed advisers to drastically cut the corporate tax rate even though doing so will expand the deficit and grow the national debt, sticking to one of his campaign pledges but shattering another.”
Reuters (4/24) says that Trump’s “zeal to unveil a tax plan before his 100th day in office is raising questions about just how thorough his ‘tax reform’ plans will be.” Though he has “vowed to oversee the biggest ‘tax reform’” since 1986, some analysts say he “may instead offer a package of rate reductions, like those backed by [President] Reagan in 1981 and President George W. Bush in 2001, which left the tax system intact.”
Federal Reserve Releases Beige Book Showing Continued US Economic Expansion.
The AP (4/19, Crutsinger) reported that the Federal Reserve said in its latest Beige Book report that the US economy continued to expand in the early spring. The Federal Reserve survey found that its 12 regional banks “all depicted growth as either ‘modest or moderate’ from mid-March through early April,” based on “consumer spending, tourism, housing construction and manufacturing.” Bloomberg News (4/19, Jamrisko) reported that the Fed report “paints a picture of an economy maintaining its steady expansion, without a rapid pickup that would reflect the surge in confidence among consumers and businesses.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal (4/19, Leubsdorf, Chaney, Subscription Publication) said that most businesses anticipated modest price growth in the coming months. MarketWatch (4/19, Robb) reported that “a couple of districts said that worker shortages and increased labor costs were restraining growth in manufacturing, transportation and construction,” and “uncertainty about tax-and-spending policies was one factor mentioned in several districts as a restraint on activity.” Fox Business (4/19, Craig) reported consumer spending “fluctuated district by district amid strong vehicle sales but soft spending levels in other retail areas.”
Trump Confirms He Will Pursue Revival Of Ex-Im Bank.
Reuters (4/12, Gibson) reported that President Donald Trump said that he plans to fill two vacancies on the board of the Export-Import Bank. Trump revealed his intention in an interview (4/12) Wednesday with the Wall Street Journal following a meeting Tuesday with former Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. If the appointments overcome opposition from some Republicans and are confirmed by the Senate, they would return the five-member board to a quorum, enabling it to once again make loans of more than $10 million.
Latino Small Business Leader Notes Administration’s Encouraging Words For Small Businesses.
In an op-ed, Latino Coalition Chairman and former Small Business Administration Administrator Hector Barreto wrote in The Hill (4/12) that Vice President Pence recently told a meeting of The Latino Coalition: “The Trump administration will be the best friend American small businesses will ever have, because when small business is strong, the American economy is strong.” Barreto praised Pence’s message, saying, “Those simple words gave that group of business owners tremendous relief and confidence. They felt understood and appreciated. And their confidence has consequences – good ones.”
Google Considering Ad Blocker In Chrome, Sources Say.
The Wall Street Journal (4/19, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reported that its sources say Google has plans for an ad-blocking component for both the desktop and mobile versions of its Chrome web browser. The Journal said one significant option under consideration is blocking offensive ads site-wide rather than single ads, which would require sites to make sure all their ads meet acceptable standards. The Journal said analytics company StatCounter estimates that Chrome now accounts for more than 47% of the browser market across platforms.
IBM Finds Brand Execs, Consumers Don’t See Eye To Eye On Digital Experiences. Wages and Benefits
Campaign US (4/11, Liffreing) reported that the IBM Institute for Business Value found a mismatch between brand executives and consumers about what makes a “digital experience” valuable to consumers. The institute surveyed some 600 executives and about 6,000 consumers and found that “70 percent of consumers said their branded digital interactions were disappointing,” while “the majority of participants said they weren’t impressed with virtual reality experiences used to discover products, digital displays in retail environments or voice command for customer service.” The survey also found that age is a big deal, with Millennials most excited about digital technologies (at 63 percent), while Gen Xers were less excited (at 48 percent), and Baby Boomers were the least excited (at 39 percent).
Facebook Offers More Ad Metrics, Notifications.
Advertising Age (4/6, Slefo) reported that Facebook announced a number of changes, including “a redesigned Delivery Insights dashboard” and notifications for marketers “when they might be maxing out a campaign on the same consumers,” or when there are “sudden fluctuations in results and cost per result.” Marketers also will be able to “get an estimate of their results from a campaign, depending on who they’re trying to reach, when the campaign will run and how much they’re spending on advertising.” Facebook plans more changes this year, the company said.
Sources Say Google Developing Its Own Flavor Of Header Bidding.
Advertising Age (3/27, Slefo) reported that its sources say Google is following Facebook’s lead on header bidding and “is moving to add dozens of technology partners and hundreds of publishers to the open beta of its header bidding alternative, called exchange bidding dynamic allocation, or EBDA.” That test is scheduled for May, sources said. Ad Age pointed out that “many in the ad tech industry feverishly support header bidding because it levels a playing field that’s long been dominated by Google.”
Pinterest Opens App-Install Ads To All Brands.
MediaPost’s Mobile Marketing Daily (3/28, Sullivan) reported Pinterest “began offing app-install ads to all brands” with its Promoted App Pins, which are “now available on the Ads Manager self-service platform as well as through its application programming interface (API).” Users who are pinning images will see mobile apps “mixed in with the content.” Site users cannot examine the app before they download it.
YouTube, Holding Companies Take Measures To Reassure Brands On Safety.
In ongoing coverage of YouTube’s environment for brand safety, Advertising Age (4/3, Slefo) reported that the company “is searching for ways out of an abrupt advertiser revolt” and will soon give marketers “more options at their disposal when advertising on YouTube.” The company “said that it’s working with third-party brand-safety vendors like DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science” as well, but it didn’t give a timeline or list of third-party partners.
In a separate report, Advertising Age (3/31, Sloane) reported that Omnicom gave details on its “safety program,” saying that it “could review hundreds of thousands of videos daily and ensure that they are appropriate for brands.” Ad Age said that “machines and in some cases people will review YouTube content and score it for brand safety before putting it on the whitelist.” The report points out that WPP earlier “said it would work with Open Slate, the video ad tech firm, to whitelist YouTube channels for its advertiser clients.”
Federal Reserve: Employers Struggling To Find Skilled Workers.
Business Insider (4/19, Oyedele) reported that the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book data showed that “employers are having a harder time finding skilled workers to hire as the labor market continues to tighten.” Employers had greater difficulty filling low-skilled positions, but “labor demand was stronger for higher skilled workers,” Business Insider added.
Similarly, the AFP (4/19) reported that “companies are increasingly complaining of trouble finding workers, including for low-skill jobs,” and the Washington Post (4/19) reported that “wages grew in response to a tightening jobs market.”
Cities Push To Bar Employers From Using Wage History In Salary Negotiations.
The Wall Street Journal (4/15, Gee, Subscription Publication) reported that a bill awaiting New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature would prevent not only public-sector agencies but also private-sector companies from using an applicant’s wage history in salary negotiations. The Journal said the measure is putting pressure on companies to correct discrepancies in pay for women and minorities and follows similar efforts in Massachusetts and Philadelphia.
Puzder: Minimum Wage Hurts Entry-Level Job Opportunities, Encourages Robot Installation.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (4/3, Subscription Publication), former CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder argued that significant government-imposed minimum wage hikes threaten to reduce the availability of entry-level positions. Puzder said automation occurs at higher rates in places with a high minimum wage, noting that McDonald’s and Wendy’s increasingly are installing self-order kiosks, and CaliBurger has plans to introduce burger-flipping robots. Puzder cites claims by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Sen. Bernie Sanders about the importance of young people earning a paycheck. Meanwhile, a 2011 Employment Policies Institute report showed that the loss of entry-level jobs disproportionately impacted racial minorities.
Business Groups Ask Administration To Reject EEOC Rule.
USA Today (3/31, Gaudiano) reported on a coalition of 27 business groups urging “the Trump administration to kill an Obama-era initiative designed to reduce wage disparities by requiring big employers to report pay data based on race, gender and ethnicity.” The coalition on March 20 asked the Office of Management and Budget “to review and reject” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s “requirement to bolster federal investigations of possible pay discrimination and encourage employers to evaluate their own pay practices as women’s salaries continue to lag behind those of men.”
Labor Department: Hiring Rose In 11 US States Last Month.
The AP (3/24, Rugaber) reported the Labor Department announced “hiring picked up in 11 states last month compared with January and was mostly unchanged in the other 39, as stronger U.S. job gains benefited most of the country,” but “pockets of weakness remained,” notably in Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wyoming. According to the AP, “All those states have either oil and gas or coal mining industries, or both, which have taken sharp hits from falling energy prices.”
Bills To Roll Back Obama-Era Regulations Sent To Trump For Signature.
The Washington Post (3/22, Kindy) reported that in a 50-48 party-line vote, the Senate approved the second of a pair of bills calling for the elimination of Obama-era OSHA rules. The approved measure “takes aim at a new rule that gave OSHA authority to issue citations and levy fines against companies with 10 or more employees if they failed to record illnesses, injuries and deaths that dated back as far as five years.” Both bills “now await President Trump’s signature. Administration officials said he plans to approve both measures.”
The Hill (3/22, Carney) reported in its “Floor Action” blog that Republicans “argue that the Labor Department’s rule is another example of the Obama administration overstepping its boundaries.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is quoted as saying, “It’s a regulation that purports to look out for workers’ best interests but actually does little to achieve that outcome.” Similarly, the Indianapolis Business Journal (3/22) reported that critics “said the Obama administration was trying to extend the penalty window to five years, describing the rule as ‘an unlawful power grab.’”