Government Stories 2019-2020

Stories that earlier appeared in Nelson's News
Note: Carl Nelson Consulting, Inc is not an investment adviser and may hold a financial interest or client relationship in companies discussed.
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Maybe later. Trump said he could wait until after the U.S. election to strike a limited trade deal with China, sending stock prices down sharply and casting doubt on whether the two sides will head off new tariffs. [Wall Street Journal, Dec 3, 19] At the moment he is busy making trade war with France. But then, he promised that trade wars are easy to win. Easy to beat China? Ask the Japanese. This is no longer the 19th century's weak exploitable China.

Reforms to a US national security regulation are putting off foreign investors and driving down VC investment in the biotech space by as much as 20 percent. ... “Some of the companies that are just starting off right now with great innovations are going to take ten to twenty years. There is going to be less capital going into those companies, and so it could be another zero on the end of that if you look at the longer timeframe. It would be devastating to innovation. [Dan Stanton, xconomy.com, reporting comments by David Thomas, VP of Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Nov 29, 19] The consequences of building walled Fortress America while cutting federal contribution to R&D and silencing scientists in federal agencies.   A page out of the 1920s.

Unbounded loyalty. A majority of Republicans say President Trump is a better leader than former President Lincoln, according to this week’s Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll. [TAL AXELROD, The Hill, Nov 30. 19]

King Donald dictates agreements. TThe Office of Personnel Management said agencies may unilaterally implement the provisions of three controversial executive orders [for federal civil servants][Erich Wagner, govexec.com, Nov 26, 19] Federal worker bargining goes back to the Kennedy administration Executive Order.

Throwing money at the problem. Sen. Chuck Schumer proposed a $100 billion tech R&D investment that would be coordinated by a new agency operating under NSF. And New York is providing a five-year, $250 million, matching grant to Research Foundation for SUNY to support R&D capital, projects and spin-outs. [SSTI, Nov 20, 19] Meanwhile, Trump is shrinking the innovation pool by excluding innovative immigrants while finding no urge to balance spending with revenue collection. On the other hand, the easiest thing a legislature can do about a problem is to send money and declare victory.

In order to catch a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy, you have to send a selfish, idiotic hotel business guy — SAMANTHA BEE [LateNight Television, Nov 20, 19]

Stubborner and stubborner. “China is going to have to make a deal that I like,” President Trump said at a cabinet meeting. “If we don’t make a deal with China, I’ll just raise the tariffs even higher.” [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, Nov 19, 19] Negotiating by press release with a reliance on the perpendicular pronoun 'I". Could the Chinese and the Trump political base be as gullible as he implies?

King Donald ignores another law. The White House instructed federal agencies they are under no obligation to comply with the legal decisions issued by the government’s top watchdog, saying in recent guidance the auditor’s rulings come from the legislative branch and are therefore not binding on the executive branch. [Eric Katz, govexec.coom. Nov 19, 19]

Learned it here, using it there. With what are known as “talent programs,” the Chinese government provides compensation and resources to researchers who at times illicitly transfer intellectual property to China, in some cases setting up shadow labs overseas mirroring their U.S. research, according to the report released Monday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. [Wall Street Journal, Nov 18, 19]

Not with me is against me. Trump has heightened his attacks on career federal employees in recent days as the House continues to hold public impeachment hearings, labeling those who have provided testimony as biased and disloyal to the country. [Eric Katz, govexec.com, Nov 18, 19] "Draining the swamp" means arbitrary extralegal executive control. A real estate mogul has neither experience nor respect with external controllers like legislatures. 

Japan Inc fear again. Offshoring by American companies has destroyed our manufacturing base and our capacity to develop new products and processes. It’s time for a national industrial policy. ... the federal government must do more than invest in basic research; it must also fill the innovation deficit by creating a new infrastructure for R&D in engineering and manufacturing. [Sridhar Kota and Tom Mahoney, Wall Street Journal, Nov 15, 19] The Republican governments of the 1980s and 90s would recoil in horror.

What matters? Polarized politics mean that voters’ views of the economy are increasingly shaped by their party preference, rather than the other way around. And for some key voting blocs, noneconomic issues such as immigration, race relations and Mr. Trump himself have superseded economic concerns in determining their vote. [Greg Ip,WSJ, Nov 12, 19] A serial fantasizer has an emotional grip on a huge section of the electorate.

Destroying a system. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been credited with improving State Department staffing and morale, but his treatment of U.S. Foreign Service officers caught in the impeachment inquiry has undercut those efforts, according to current and former career professionals upset over his recent actions. [Jessica Donati, Wall Street Journal, Nov 11, 19] a 17th century scheme to re-elect the monarch at any cost

Hear no evil. E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules [Lisa Friedman, NYTmes, Nov 11, 19] The overriding goal: corporate profits.

Big tech threat. A raft of research shows us that trust in liberal democracy, government, media and nongovernmental organisations declines as social media usage rises. ..In the US, of course, personal data is being collected, monetised and weaponised in ways that we are only just beginning to understand, and monopolies are squashing job creation and innovation. At this point, it is harder and harder to argue that the benefits of platform technology vastly outweigh the costs. [Rana Foroohar, The Guardian, Nov 8, 19]

The American people are ill informed, and this quadrennial circus called a presidential election makes matters worse, as it becomes a contest in which candidates compete to proclaim their fealty to American exceptionalism while insisting that no alternative to American global leadership can conceivably exist. They all promise if elected to ensure that ours remains not only the best but the strongest military in the world, now and forever, as if a dearth of military power has somehow hampered U.S. policy. [Andrew Bacevich, Boston Review, April 2016]

NASA has a nice piece by Mike DiCicco of Goddard Space Flight Center on commercialization from  four NASA SBIR/STTR awardees. Read the stories.. Companies: Serionix (Champaign, IL), Cambrian Innovation (Watertown, MA), Electric Power Systems (Lombard, IL), Zeus (Orangeburg, SC)

Exploiting Insecurity.  Right now, we are asking millions of Americans to accept high immigration while they are already living with maximum insecurity. Their wages are declining, their families and communities are fragmenting, their churches are shrinking, government services are being cut, their values and national identity feel unstable. Of course they are going to react with suspicion if suddenly on top of all this they begin to feel like strangers in their own place. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Nov 7, 19] why a scheming insulting amoral liar can get elected President.

A single, self-funded competitor ran away with top honors in the latest round of the DARPA Subterranean (SubT) Challenge, which promotes the development of next-gen war robots that can navigate and map underground tunnels and caves. Besting teams from top institutions with an event score of 50 total points, Coordinated Robotics, represented by a single engineer named Kevin Knoedler, won the Virtual Tunnel Circuit event. Knoedler will earn $250,000 for his first-place finish.  [Greg Nichols for Robotics, zdnet.com, Nov 5, 19]

Nervous in the service. Last month, [nearly 100-year-old American Foreign Service Association] began a fundraising campaign—soliciting donations from members and the public alike—for a legal defense fund for any FSOs asked to testify before Congress. ... caught in the middle of the impeachment battle. Congress has subpoenaed several AFSA members, who are being told by State not to cooperate. [Eric Katz, govexec.com, Nov 5, 19] Foreign Service has the most demanding entry competition of all government employment.   Federal employees in several agencies have reason to fear the President's self-serving political machinations and appointment of unconfrmed lobbyists and their ilk to agency leadership in rejection of the rule of law.   

Fantasy exposed. The drop in business investment once again raises questions about the 2017 tax cuts. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell pointed out that business investment was a key selling point for the GOP tax cuts: “Mechanism by which the GOP tax cut was supposed to supercharge growth was by supercharging business investment,” she wrote Wednesday. “Business investment instead *fell* last quarter, by 3% annualized.” [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Oct 30, 19] Suckas! The people got a debt charge and the wealthy and business got a huge handout, which they simply banked.  The richer you are, the lower your propensity to consume, we learned in  Econ101. 

We're keeping the oilRemember that, I've always said that. Keep the oil. We want to keep the oil — $45 million a month — keep the oil. We've secured the oil."  [Donald Trump. Oct 28, 19] To the victor goes the spoils? Regrdless of international law on ownnership of land and mineral rights?

Imagine that: the economists were right. Deficits have nearly doubled under President Trump, despite solid economic growth and low unemployment — and despite Trump’s vow to eliminate the federal debt in eight years. The Republican tax cut legislation of 2017 reduced revenues relative to projections, and bipartisan spending deals have raised spending. The Treasury estimates that the deficit will exceed $1 trillion next year, and budget experts expect it to remain above that level for years to come. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey,Fiscal Times, Oct 25, 19] And the Liar-In-Chief and his yes-men were wrong. Another $300B added uselessly to the national debt.

Scientists Were Hunting for the Next Ebola. Now the U.S. Has Cut Off Their Funding. [Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, Oct 25, 19] America Alone awaiting new viral disease invasions, like ebola, that a "national emergency" Mexican Wall won't stop.

U.S. government investment continues to decline, while other nations are increasing federal investment and strengthening foundational research. In fact, the White House’s proposed budget for 2020 decreases foundational research funding by 10% and applied research by 14% from the last fiscal year.22 By contrast, China doubled its foundational research funding in the last five years and spent a record $254 billion on R&D in 2017, narrowing the gap between it and the United States in R&D spending. [AN INNOVATION CHALLENGE FOR THE UNITED STATES, Aspen Institute, 2019] While America Alone shrimks its government and rejetcs immigrants.

Trump this week issued an executive order reinstituting the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) to advise the president on matters involving science, technology, education, and innovation policy and named the first seven people to the council. The council will also provide the president with “scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the American economy, the American worker, national and homeland security, and other topics.” [SSTI, Oct 23, 19] But will he ask for or listen to any advice?

House committee approved with bipartisan support a measure to protect federal scientists and the data they collect from political influence, with proponents saying it would insulate public servants from undue pressures that could compromise their work. The Scientific Integrity Act (H.R. 1709) would prevent agency officials from interfering with scientific research, including through putting their thumbs on the scale of findings or blocking the distribution of data or public communications. [govexec.com] Trumpism's business obsession went too far for comfort in supressing legitimate and apolitical government science.  

Strangling the golden goose. The trade war between the United States and China will reduce global expansion by nearly a percentage point by the end of 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (The Hill).The global economy is on pace for the weakest growth since the financial crisis, and tariffs are a big reason (The Wall Street Journal). [The Hill, Oct 16, 19]

Federal agencies fail, on average, 24 percent of the time to notify applicant small businesses of award decisions within required deadlines. A small business has a zero percent chance of being able to plan to start an innovation project within six months if they apply to ARPA-E  or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, both of which never met the deadline. These competitiveness-throttling facts were uncovered in the latest SBIR-related report from the General Accounting Office (GAO), released Sept. 26. “Small Business Innovation Programs: Many Agencies Took Longer to Issue Small Business Awards than Recommended,” reports only 13 of the 28 federal agencies, offices and components included in the analysis were able to make timely awards (within 180 days) more than 50 percent of the time. [SSTI, Oct 10, 19] Considering the Trumpian federal government upheaval, where's any surprise?

Trump removed the gate guards, the Turkish Army stormed in shooting, and Trump has not yet mentioned his threat to destroy Turkey's economy.

If SBIR managers seem pre-occupied. As Congress continues to widen its net for documents and testimony, employees subject to conflicting demands have two options, legal experts told Government Executive. The first is to violate orders from management and give Congress what it wants, assuming protections under whistleblower law. A second possibility is to exercise federal employees’ statutory “right to disobey” orders that violate laws, rules or regulations. [govexec.com, Oct 8, 19] Not your rice bowl, but the Constitution does say that each house of Congress shall make its own rules. The President has no voice in that. Concepts like presumption of innocence, questioning accusers, trail of evidence, and trial by jury apparently do not apply.

Omniscient and Omnipotent. if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” [Trump] wrote [Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver, DefenseOne, Oct 8, 19]

Pitch, and Catch. The new Air Force SBIR Pitch Days have already met with success and 10 more Pitch Days have been scheduled in 2019. Participants in the Space Pitch Day, scheduled for the first week of November in San Francisco, will be vying for a piece of approximately $40 million in planned awards. Get invited, pitch your story, get an immedite contract. here's how.

The Department of Defense commissioned a pilot study by TechLink of the economic impact of cooperative R&D agreements (CRADAs) at three Defense labs. The study received information on 628 of 645 completed CRADAs from 1996-2018, 168 of which resulted in sales for the lab’s industry partner. Related sales were $8.7 billion, of which $4.9 billion went to the U.S. military, and TechLink’s IMPLAN analysis estimates $3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues as part of a $23 billion economic impact. Read more. [SSTI, Oct 2, 19]

The one-man government. President Donald Trump has ordered a substantial reduction in the staff of the National Security Council, according to five people familiar with the plans, as the White House confronts an impeachment inquiry touched off by a whistle-blower complaint related to the agency’s work. [JENNIFER JACOBS AND JUSTIN SINK, The Hill, Oct 4, 19] 

Political science, again. Climate science, under attack. The Guardian: "The treatment of science by the Trump administration has hit a 'crisis point' where research findings are manipulated for political gain, special interests are given improper influence and scientists are targeted for ideological reasons, a nonpartisan taskforce of former government officials has warned." Read the report, released Thursday by the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy. [DefenseOne, Oct 3, 19]

Tariff wars taking their toll. Europe's economy may have ground to a halt. IHS Markit's composite purchasing managers index, a measure of business activity, fell to the lowest level in more than six years as a manufacturing downturn showed signs of spreading into the broader economy..... who is winning the trade war? Tariff and trade experts. Hiring for trade-related roles rose 24% in August. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Oct 2, 19]

L'etat, c'est moi. ‘A presidency of one’: Key federal agencies increasingly compelled to benefit Trump [Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, Washington Post, Oct 1, 19] Such focus on the Executive cannot be good for federal programs like SBIR that don't support his big business contributors with legacy profit sources.

“The greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping,” George Kennan warned in his Long Telegram from Moscow in 1946, at the dawn of the Cold War [quoted by Alex Pascal, Atlantic Monthly, Sep 24, 19] Trump champions doing just that and recommending [at a major UN speech] that other nations do the same. Such things happen all the time: today's problem was yesterday's solution and now all the people [Kennan's contemporaies like Truman, Acheson, Marshall, FDR] who invented that solution are dead. Trump, as no student of history, and no listener to contrary opinion, heads pell-mell into the new-old 1940s problem. 

The small business model in the Defense Department is about looking for new ideas for solving problems, Gen. John Murray, commander of Army Futures Command, said. “I have 37 years in the Army, so I tend to think a certain way; I can guarantee you some of these small startups think about solving problems in an entirely different way.” While the Army can struggle to describe its issues in a way that’s easy for small businesses to understand, the larger issue is a lack of trust that the government can sustain small business models in its current funding process, he said. [AUSA's Five Things, Sep 23, 19] The Army's organizaton for instant war needs new ideas that have been thoroughly tested, can be issued in bulk, and have a logistics system (supply, maintenance, and engineering) backing them up. Fighters cannot abide balky equipment.

Tariffs as politics. President Xi Jinping and top Chinese officials have signaled their willingness to accept some pain at home under U.S. tariffs rather than agree to major concessions. China experts say the political cost to Xi of yielding to Trump could be more damaging than living with the tariffs as Xi seeks to solidify his power in the Communist Party while expanding influence over the world economy (The Hill).  World's biggest economy spars with world's biggest population.

Yes today, no tomorrow. President Trump told his advisers that he doesn’t plan to try to bypass Congress and lower capital-gains taxes by indexing gains to inflation, according to three people familiar with the matter. [Wall Street Journal, Sep 11, 19] More important, who would invest where government policy and leaders change at the whim of the executive?  Trump disdains our stable government structure wherein law determines the policies and Congress approves the Executive Branch leaders. 

Holos (Madison, WI; founded 2015) software startup just landed its second contract from the U.S. Air Force to make virtual reality and augmented reality training programs. Holos announced that it has received a $750,000 Phase II SBIR contract with the Air Force. Holos said it will help the Air Force develop VR maintenance and repair training programs. It will also develop a prototype for the Air Force’s Multi-Domain Command Control system. Holos creates VR and AR education software for classrooms, giving teachers and students the ability to create, organize and learn in 3D. For its Air Force applications, the technology is largely the same, but loaded with different content, the company told Wisconsin Inno earlier this year. Holos likens its product to a 3D version of Powerpoint. [Jim Dallke, WisconsinInno, Sep 5, 19] What's the SBIR problem here: What is SBIR for? Like almost every software contract, the contractor can certainly do what it proposes: a sound engineering job by competent engineers. The bureaucratic question for software SBIR is not technical mysteries, but will anyone buy the product - a question best left to ordinary investment and R&D programs. But with agency authority to fund any R&D thing they want with SBIR, mission agencies chose utility while both agency and company claim innovation.

Advisors beware. Regardless of who has advised Mr. Trump on foreign affairs — generals and corporate tycoons, seasoned pros and amateurs — all have proved powerless before a zest for chaos that would have thwarted George Marshall. [NYTimes ediotrial, Sep 11, 19] Trump Rule: When I want your opinion, I'll tell you what it is. Trump will have trouble finding a Kissinger for his Nixon, because as David Graham (WashPo) notes: The problem is not that Trump failed to get along with John Bolton—it's that he doesn't want a national security adviser in the first place.

Uncoupling. Instead of giving in to Mr. Trump’s demands, Huawei recently introduced its own operating system, Harmony, an alternative to Android that will reduce Huawei’s reliance on U.S. technology. ...the president’s erratic approach has aggravated the situation by encouraging Mr. Xi to embrace decoupling on his own terms. [Stephen A. Myrow, Wall Street Journal, Sep 3, 19] Meanwhile, President Trump said  that Chinese manufacturing would “crumble” if the country did not agree to the United States’ trade terms, as newly released data showed his trade war was washing back to American shores and hurting the factories that the president has aimed to protect. [Ana Swanson, New York Times, Sep 3, 19]  Trump marches boldly at the head of the America Alone parade, apparently without looking over his shoulder to see who is following.

Tax cuts were once critical to the Republican Party’s electoral success. Now, polling data show that few Americans believe taxes are the most important issue facing the nation. [Jackson Gode and Vanessa Williamson, Brookings, Sep 3, 19] Which means that Trump and the Republican Congress got away with their tax cuts for the wealthy, nothing for the middle and lower echelons, and a big national debt increase, all justified by a fantasy supply-side economics argument.  Now the Republicans will shift back to the case for cutting public spending benefitting the undeserving unwealthy. 

A team led by Dynetics (Arlington, VA and Huntsville, AL; at least 30 SBIRs) technical solutions business will develop prototypes of the Common-Hypersonic Glide Body system under a potential three-year, $351.6M other transaction agreement with the U.S. Army. Dynetics said it will work with Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Atomics’ electromagnetic systems business on the C-HGB prototype development project. [Jane Edwards, GovConWire, Aug 30, 19]

There are twice as many workers over age 60 as there are under 30. [Courtney Buble, GovExec, Aug 30, 19] Fresh blood needed; please ignore the current President's rantings and sign up for the long haul of successive presidents and reasonably stable laws.

Is nothing sacred? President Trump appears to have taken the highly unusual step of releasing an official and relatively high resolution annotated U.S. intelligence image. [New York Times, Aug 30, 19] A gift for all those enemies out there who did not know how good our satellite vision is. Yet simultaneously excoriating an FBI head who sought outside advice about sensitive but unclassified information in a difficult political situation. The bottom line: who is not with me is against me.

Who me, wrong? President Trump rejected the notion that his trade policies were having a negative impact on the U.S. economy, instead blaming “badly run and weak companies” for any business setbacks. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 30, 19]

Reversal. The .gov now says that children born to US military and USG employees overseas will still be automatically US citizens if the parent is.  

Slippery Slope. Trump said he'll pardon U.S. government employees who break laws [seize private land and disregard environmental rules] while working on border barriers, the Washington Post reports. [Defense One, Aug 28, 19]

Discouraging military and diplomtic service. Trump administration said that children born to U.S. military members and government employees working overseas will no longer automatically be considered United States citizens. [Morgan Chalfant, The Hill, Aug 28, 19]

Zero meets 12000. “No, I don’t think this president has lied,” she [campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany] told Cuomo, before repeatedly backing the honesty of Trump, who has given more than 12,000 false or misleading statements during his presidency, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. [Timothy Bella, WashPo, Aug 28, 19]

Taking the Long View. The Fed’s rationale for ignoring Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign is grounded in cold equations. Years of academic research and history show that nations that allow politics to guide interest rates risk more rapid inflation and are prone to painful boom-and-bust cycles. Most of the economics profession sees a monetary policy system free of political influence as an essential precondition for stable growth. [Jeanna Smialek, New York Times, Aug 25, 19]

Thumb on the scale. The daily news briefing, which is sent to the [Department of Justice]'s 400-some immigration judges, included a link to a website that has been a known platform for white supremacists. [Reis Thebault, WashPo, Aug 22, 19]

Enjoy the ride. The federal government will rack up $12.2 trillion in deficits through 2029, according to a new projection from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), an $809 billion increase from its last projection in May. CBO, Congress’s official budgeting scorekeeper, said that the deficits would average 4.7 percent of GDP through the next decade, a significant increase from the 2.9 percent average over the past 50 years. [Niv Elis, The Hill, Aug 21, 19] Economically it means the federal government will spend that much more every year with borrowed money. And since the world is awash in investable cash, there will be little crowding out of private investment by a high cost of private debt. It's a partly Trumpian wonder world if you close your eyes to any eventual demand for debt repayment. It has worked for Trump for decades.

Confident but worried. Trump said he is considering measures to bolster the economy [which he lauds in great helth], including a possible [standard trickle-down] reduction in capital-gains taxes, and continued to press the Fed to [huge] cut rates even as he played down warning signs of a possible slowdown. [ Rebecca Ballhaus, Andrew Restuccia, and Richard Rubin, Wall Street Journal, Aug 20, 19]

Pay later .. or never. The U.S. budget gap widened further in July as federal spending outpaced revenue collection, bringing the deficit to $867 billion so far this fiscal year, a 27% increase from the same period a year earlier. [Kate Davidson, Wall Street Journal, Aug 12, 19]  The wondrous USG credit card with no bank to force re-payment. With neither the Congress nor the POTUS willing to tell their supporters NO.

in the latest survey 87% of [economist] respondents were good to go with “trade war.” [Josh Zumbrun, Wall Steet Journal, Aug 8 19] 

SSTI and NSF are collaborating to bring important sessions for attendees at this year's conference on how to help your entrepreneurs access SBIR/STTR and how to support commercialization in your region. [SSTI, Aug 7, 19] See conference Agenda. Note that the only listed government SBIR speaker is from NSF, which while it has an interesting SBIR, cannot speak for the mission agencies with over half the SBIR money and a completely different help-ourselves approach.

This, too, shall pass. Trump, who has developed a pattern of endorsing and then abandoning proposed federal responses in the wake of mass shootings, knows the realities of the public debate: Congress has not passed major gun control legislation in two decades. [The Hill, Aug 7, 19]

Few perfect voters. Voters who are highly informed, ideologically consistent and politically active make up a minority of the electorate. [Nate Cohn, NYTimes, Aug 5, 19] The rest are unpredictable.

Discovering the Constitution. the “committee approval” requirements “are unconstitutional and are without legal effect,” say the USDA legal eagles to justify Ag's moving its research stuff to Kansas City for questionable reasons. The POTUS [temporary] chief of staff admitted it was for the purpose of shedding employees without seeking Congressional approval. The few Ag SBIR companes can expect turmoil and uncertainty as half the affected employees said "no go." 

Pumping the economy. Federal contract spending in fiscal 2018 increased for the third straight year to $559 billion, a 9% increase over 2017 spending and the highest level since 2010, when agencies spent $562 billion. [Courtney Buble, govexec.com, Aug 1, 19] the pump comes from not collecting enough taxes to pay for the stuff. Just like your credit card. Are you at least getting your share of the spending? 

Always about me. “If they don’t want to trade with us anymore, that would be fine with me,” Mr. Trump said. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 1, 19] as he announced more tariffs against China. “Both sides now seem to be settling in for a broad and unremitting trade war that will last at least through this term of Trump’s presidency.” said Eswar Prasad, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division. [New York Times, Aug 1, 19] from fantasyland: "China, they have to pay it," Trump told reporters. "They're paying for these tariffs. We're not. …Until such time as there is a deal, we'll be taxing them." [The Hill, Aug 2, 19] Sure, somebody pays taxes into the US Treasury, but it's almost always paid directly by the importer (usually a domestic firm), and never by the exporting country.. [taxpolicycenter.org]  

the uncertainty created by Trump’s policy by whim — nobody knows what he’ll hit next — has surely deterred investment. Why build a manufacturing plant when, for all you know, next week a tweet will destroy your market, your supply chain, or both? [Paul Krugman, NYTimes, Aug 1, 19]  

Backward step. The president said a new deal with Beijing may not come until after the 2020 election, a significant departure from his earlier attempts to exert pressure on China. [Taylor Telford, Damian Paletta, David J. Lynch, Washington Post, Jul 30, 19] Meanwhile, Trump lashed out at China and the Fed, unsettling investors worried about mounting risks to the global outlook. [James Politi and Colby Smith, Financial Times, Jul 30, 19] China is not just another real estate financier to be horn-swoggled by big talk.

The simple math that should keep Republicans up at night: The most common age of Hispanics in America is 11. For whites? 58. [Philip Bump, Washington Post, Jul 30, 19]

Populism politics. Short-term tax breaks and giveaways from public funds for client groups whose votes you hope to win, combined with a determination to scapegoat and squeeze minorities and the ‘undeserving’ poor, is the very essence of populism. So is the assumption that patriotic-cultural gestures and spectacles like the launching of aircraft carriers will serve as compensation for mean lives. [James Meek, London Review of Books, Jul 26, 19]

Yes men more comfy. Mr. Ratcliffe, a third-term Republican from Texas and a former prosecutor, has embraced Mr. Trump’s theories about the Russia investigation and was among the sharpest questioners of Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, at last week’s hearings. [Maggie Haberman, Julian E. Barnes and Peter Baker, New York Times, Jul 28, 19] Qualification for nation's chief intelligence officer? Won't interfere with the emperor's partisan policy making [increasingly surrounded by loyalists].

Trade wars easy to .... iRobot The maker of the popular Roomba line of robot vacuums launched its latest iteration called the s9 in late May with a starting price tag of $999. Unfortunately, that is also when tariffs on goods imported from China kicked in. iRobot thus had to raise the price of its already-pricey new vac by $100 to compensate, along with similar increases across several of its other models. [Dan Gallagher, Wall Street Journal, Jul 25, 19] ... easy to lower American profits

Don't answer? EPA filed changes to its FOIA rules to the Federal Register, which became effective immediately. The changes affirmatively grant that political appointees, including the administrator and deputy administrators, can respond to FOIA requests, either releasing or withholding documents. [Erich Wagner, govexec.com, Jul 22, 19] Oh, no, says the Congress. The FOIA law specifies only a few reasons [proprietary, investigatory, classified, legal advice] for not releasing the requested document(s). And political embarrassment is not one of them.

America First — and by ourselves — is now the policy. .. The GOP was once the party of economic expansion through access to world markets. Trump and his team have turned this approach on its head. .. This new party is one that merely responds to the president’s whims, as expressed in tweets of limited depth and base vocabulary. His ideas can and do change without notice or discernible ideological reason. [Judd Gregg, The Hill, Jul 22, 19]

They got their wish. Cotton farmers in Arkansas are hoping for a swift resolution to the trade spat with China. [Wall Street Journal, Jul 22, 19] They enthused for Trump who promised "trade wars are good"'.  Now they have both with neither doing well.

The scent of politics and revenge. Trump Says He May Intervene in Huge Pentagon Contract Sought by Amazon. ... For the president to weigh in on the award of a major government contract would be highly unusual, raising questions of improper political influence. [Scott Shane and Karen Weise, New York Times, Jul 19, 19] What relevant and proper contribution could a president make in a contract selection competition within the announced criteria? If he did so, the contract would be tied up for years in the courts, and the DOD would fall even further behind in adapting to the cloud.

Net loss tariffs. According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the tariffs President Trump has imposed on Chinese imports have generated $20.8 billion so far, Ana Swanson and Jim Tankersley of The New York Times reported Tuesday. ... But Swanson and Tankersley point out that the president has committed about $28 billion to payments for American farmers hurt by his trade war, leaving a net loss on that basis alone. [Michael Rainey, Financia Times, Jul 16, 19] But have faith, Trump says, "Trade wars are good, and easy to win." and most recently Trump said that there’s still a long way to go to reach a deal with China, threatening to slap tariffs on another $325 billion of Chinese goods. [Yun Li, CNBC, Jul 16, 19]

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $24 million in funding for 77 projects through its Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), which will be matched by funds from the private sector.  Third party validtion does have its merits for government "investment."

Spend same, tax less, grow debt, beg for re-election. The U.S. budget deficit grew 23% in the first nine months of the fiscal year [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, Jul 12, 19] while Treasury Secretary Mnuchin warned that the federal government could run out of cash sooner than expected [Fiscal Times] Imagine that, the supply-side dream again collapses, repeatedly over its forty years.

Xi, however, apparently believes he will not be able to realize his outsized ambitions unless he can shut off China while, at the same time, obtaining access to other markets. Beijing and Washington are promoting two irreconcilable visions of that country’s future. [Gordon Chang, Hoover Institution, Jul 11, 19] Meanwhile our Twittering leader says Trade wars are good, and easy to win. And his "base" seems not to mind his cynical exploiation of them.

And the winners are ... . Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in recent days urged U.S. suppliers of Huawei Technologies to seek exemptions to resume sales to the blacklisted Chinese firm. [Kate O’Keeffe and William Mauldin and Asa Fitch, Wall Street Jounral, Jul 10, 19] And with no law to ordain criteria, an amoral executive is free to pick whomever he arbitrarily chooses to get a profitable license. What true red-meat free-market Republican would stand for such bribery bait from a Democratic president?

Our [Revolutionary] army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory. [Donald Trump, July 4, 2019]

The U.S. Army’s new Futures Command is accelerating research into synthetic biotechnology to help the military develop next-generation living camouflage and other never-before-seen organisms and materials. [Patrick Tucker, DefOne, Jul 2, 19]

Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to present President Trump with a set of terms the U.S. should meet before Beijing is ready to settle a market-rattling trade confrontation, raising questions of whether the two leaders will agree to relaunch talks, Lingling Wei and Bob Davis report. Beijing is insisting the U.S. remove its ban on the sale of U.S. technology to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and wants the U.S. to lift all punitive tariffs. Officials also want Washington to drop efforts to get China to buy even more U.S. exports than discussed when the two leaders last met in December. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Jun 26, 19] The challenge for both sides is a mercurial tariff-lover running for re-election who wants arbitrary authority to dictate trade terms. After all, the other side's leader has that kind of arbitrary authority. 

RE2 Robotics (Pittsburgh PA; no SBIR says SBA database), a leading developer of robotic manipulation systems, announced that the company was awarded an [Army] Phase III SBIR grant from the Army and the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA) to continue the development of its LIFELINE system, which is designed to assist combat medics in the field. [company press release, Jun 24, 19] Note: Phase III is SBIR in name only, no SBIR money, just a competitive edge for sole-source follow-on work. Also got $2.9M AF SBIR in 2018, a Phase II Navy SBIR and a Phase II Army in 2017, $1M Phase II in 2016, a Phase II Army in 2012, and of course a Phase I SBIR contract before every Phase II [data from company website]. Warning: do not trust SBA database for accurate SBIR award info. 

The lion’s share of the U.S. drone fleet is easy prey for advanced air defenses. “Current generation drones simply can’t operate effectively in contested airspace. [Patrick Tucker, Defense One, Jun 20, 19] But the Mississippi Congressional delegation forced the Navy to spend a decent part of its money on building ships the Navy didn't want.

Cat's away, mice can play. The Trump administration has found a way to deregulate: don't hire people to enforce the rules. [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, Jun 24] That attitude of arbitrary failure to "faithfully execute" could spread to programs like SBIR unless and until Congress steps in.

Peers v users. NIH awards are much less concentrated than those awarded by the DoD. Firms receiving at least 10 awards during the 10-year period received more than half (51 percent) of all DoD SBIR/STTR awards from 2008 to 2017, while similar firms received just 11.6 percent of NIH SBIR/STTR awards, according to an SSTI analysis. The total size of NIH SBIR/STTR awards, the relative lack of concentration, and the availability of plentiful proposal data make the agency ideal for the following Useful Stats analysis. [Jonathan Dworin, SSTI, Jan,, 3, 19] The effect of NIH peer review versus DOD user review.  Users fund what they intend to use or would make government smarter.  

SBIR success rates 2008-2017 published by SSTI - a misleading but easy to collect figure. A low success rate means that the agency is not clarifyng the realities of what succeeds, and a lot of useless work by hopeful proposers for free money. It's all a natural consequnence of Congress's inventing a handout program for a favored constituency with no oversight on efficiency for all concerned. And, no, there is no prospect for fixing the problem.  Read the analysis .

U.S. businesses beg to be left off Trump's tariff list. [Reuters, Jun 17, 19] Corruption invited when executive has arbitrary power to award favors. Rule-of-law would specify conditions and criteria for imposition and exemption of such favors as trade tariffs. But Republican Senate too terrified of reaction by Trump "base" to reining in their hero.

deciBel Research (Huntsville, AL; $10M SBIR) won a potential 60-month, $172.6M contract to help the Missile Defense Agency develop software and model applications to support ballistic missile defense system operations. [Brenda Marie Rivers, GovConWire, Jun 17, 19] Military software makes useful R&D and sometimes build government confidence in a contractor, especially one near the flagpole. Which gets the gov R&D done with little chance of technical failure, but opens few windows for innovation with long range consequences. It all comes from Congress's wish to help small biz without annual appropriations wrestling.   

Tell whom what? Multiple administration officials also told the [New York Times] that they do not believe Trump was briefed about the plans to deploy computer code into Russia's grid. Some officials within the Pentagon and intelligence community told the Times that there was hesitation to give Trump details about the operations. [Justin Wise, The Hill, Jun 16, 19]

It seemed good politics.  The Wisconsin group that negotiated $3 billion in tax incentives for Foxconn Technology Group has problematic oversight practices, a state audit has found, highlighting fresh concerns about the costly incentives states use to attract economic growth. [Shayndi Raice, Wall Street Journal, Jun 11, 19]

The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Technological University recently awarded a combined $302,000 in funding to four projects from researchers across the state. [all at Michigan universities] [MTRAC press release, May 29, 19]

Another fake exposed.  a new [IMF] research paper says there is still no consensus on whether that [gleefully promisd] investment boost has in fact occurred. Outgoing White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett has linked better-than-expected GDP growth to a rise in business investment spurred by the tax cuts, but many analysts outside the Trump administration say the evidence is weak to nonexistent. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Jun 5, 19] Trump and rich supporters got their taxes cut; the people in the street got nothing. Vote Republican if you want to keep those promise-makers in office.

The proposed census changes have a similar goal: If you’re losing in the game of numbers, change the way you count. [Charles Blow, NYTimes, Jun 5,19] Stalin said: It's not who votes, it's who counts the votes.

Going Big. [NIH] awarded up to $35 million to an international consortium led by a top San Diego virologist [Erica Ollmann Saphire of the La Jolla Institute of Immunology]to find treatments for viral threats, including Ebola and Lassa fever. [Bradley Fikes, San Diego Union Tribune, May 29, 19]

The career G-man [Special Counseel Robert Mueller] is bound by the rules. He made it clear that the president is bound only by Congress. [Russell Berman, govexeec.com, May 30, 19] At least a few people still respect rules in a political arena mostly ruled by partisan myopia. Lose your rules, lose your counter-balancing mechanisms.

Tariffs for all seasons. Trump said the U.S. would impose a 5% [and growing monthly] tariff on Mexican imports in frustration over the continued flow of asylum-seeking Central American families to the southern border. [Wall Street Journal, May 31, 19]  With enough tariffs he thinks he can build his castle walls for America Alone.

Expecting ethical government? The [Washington] Post writes about how Trump has repeatedly pressured the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Homeland Security to award a contract for building a wall at the southern U.S. border to a North Dakota company headed by a leading Republican donor.  ...  [company CEO] has wisely made himself a fixture on Fox News, which the president watches obsessively. [David Graham, DefenseOne, May 28, 19]

Up the blocked staircase. The CIA-affiliated venture-capital firm In-Q-Tel has nurtured many promising technology start-ups with seed money. But getting any technological innovations to take root inside the intelligence agencies has been a challenge, thanks to embedded contractors with their own financial incentives, bespoke and aging information technology systems, and sclerotic, risk-averse acquisition policies that make it exceptionally difficult for commercial companies, especially start-ups, to work with the government. [Amy Ziggart and Michael Morell, Foreign Affairs, M/J19] The inventors of SBIR claimed that getting more private firms into federal R&D would improve the adoption of new technology. The wiser heads in Congress knew better but were carried along on the chance to reward a politically favored group.

Big ideas too big. A $10 billion data cloud, giant ray guns in space, a sixth-generation fighter jet — these are just some of the biggest ideas out of the Pentagon in the last several years. But they’ve failed to impress the House Appropriations Committee. [Patrick Tucker, Defense One, May 22, 2019]

Threatening paralysis. President Trump abruptly blew up a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders, declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him. [NY Times, May 22, 19] A reactionary dream: the goverrnment promises nothing to discomfort the comfortable, plus an executive  threat to attempt rule by decree. Eventually even the Republicans will object. SBIR's problem: the agencies will likely protect their mainline programs by deferring SBIR awards until the last week of the fiscal year.

Usual SBIR politics. The Senate Small Business Committee held a hearing on “Reauthorization of the SBA’s Innovation Programs,” which had a heavy emphasis on SBIR/STTR. Earlier in the day, Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) published a report on business investment, which places many shortcomings of the national economy at the feet of “sharedholder primacy” and calls for policies to incentivize investment by businesses into research and innovation. Among the topics raised during the hearing were making SBIR/STTR permanent, faster contracting, and additional support for innovative companies. [Jason Rittenberg, SSTI, May 16, 19] Usual noises that beneficiaries love SBIR for three decades, but no defensible economic evaluation. No matter, small money for beloved constituency, little harm done to government R&D.

Mr. Trump’s tariffs have been fully borne by Americans, at a net cost to the country of $1.4 billion per month. ... but the tariffs are a drop in the bucket for a $21 trillion economy. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 19]

Arbitrary firing law fails. Rather than defend a law that the president loves, the VA will reinstate a [civil service] hospital director whom it twice tried to fire. ... the government said it would give Hawkins his job back rather than defend the statute in court. [Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica, May 16, 19]

More trade war. President Trump signed an executive order that would let the U.S. ban telecommunications gear from “foreign adversaries,” underscoring tensions with China even as the U.S. said it would likely resume trade talks soon in Beijing. [Wall Street Journal, May 16, 19] Do he and his Cabinet of big biz anti-regulation executives know what they are doing in international strategy?

Democratic paeans to checks and balances conceal plans for a historic power grab. [Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 19] The complainers about Congressional investigation and action could notice that the US Constitution gives the Congress ultimate power of impeachment and removal of any US government official.

NASA has awarded $106M in total [SBIR Phase II] contract funds to 129 small businesses to further develop technology platforms that may help sustain human presence on the moon and Mars. ... also said it will help fund the commercialization of resulting platforms in the third phase. [Brenda Marie Rivers, GovConWire, May 15, 19]

Ten startups whose products piqued the interest of the [DOD] have completed the joint startup accelerator between Techstars and the U.S. Air Force in Boston. Among the 10, half are focused on either drones or cybersecurity. [Boston Business Journal, May 15, 19]

Counter-strike. After vowing over the weekend to "never surrender to external pressure", Beijing has defied President Trump's demands that it not resort to retaliatory tariffs and announced plans to slap new levies on $60 billion in US goods. [Tyler Durden, zerohedge.com, May 15, 19] Perhaps Trump's sacred "base" will realize that they are the chumps in the game of autocratic power.

Trust me, I know. The president, in a series of tweets, said a prolonged trade war would be good for America even as negotiators returned to the table. [New York Times, May 11, 19] President W said much the same line in 2003 about fixing Iraq.  But W at least had editors to help keep the story straight.   On the Iraq question: The Iraq war was not a tragedy. It was more like a crime, compounded by the stupefying incompetence of those who embarked upon a patently illegal preventive war out of a sense of panic induced by the events of 9/11. [Andrew J. Bacevich reviewing LEAP OF FAITH Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy By Michael J. Mazarr, New York Times, April 19, 19]

Be careful what you tweet for. Trump, has repeatedly badgered Europe to increase defense spending. But now that Europe is taking concrete steps to boost a pan-European defense industry, Washington is reportedly howling mad, according to Spanish daily El Pais. [Foreign Policy.com, May 13, 19]

Opportunity. U.S. Air Force plans to launch a $48M R&D program to integrate autonomous systems and sensors for potential use in U.S. military operations across cyber, air and space domains. A presolicitation notice posted [May 7] on FedBizOpps stated the Multi-Sensor Exploitation for Tactical Autonomy initiative will explore sensing autonomy platfoms in areas such as simulation and analysis, multidomain and multisensor data management, learning and computing for knowledge and understanding. The open BAA will cover basic, applied and advanced research, development, assessment, demonstration and transition of the technologies [Darwin McDaniel, GovConWire, May 10, 19] In principle, 3% of that should go to SBIR.

Dealing with politicians:  Responding on Twitter to a Texas pediatrician, a Texas state legislator has drawn national attention for calling vaccines “sorcery.” [Ben Fidler, xconomy.com, May 10, 19] Democracy does have the downside of installing into office some really awful people's representatives. Which should remind people that the best protection for government is an educated electorate. 

Small biz back-blast. U.S. tariffs could inflict significant damage on China. Small, private companies are key to China’s job market and growth. They had a harrowing end to 2018 for three reasons. 1.) They are far more exposed to trade than their large state-owned peers, and suffered as exports collapsed. 2.) The crackdown on shadow banking starved them of capital. 3.) A stock-market collapse, due partly to rising trade tensions, made things worse because many business owners had pledged shares in return for loans, and were at risk of losing their equity, Nathaniel Taplin writes. The new tariffs, therefore, risk knocking out two legs of China’s private-sector-business recovery. [Jeff Sparshott, WSJ, May 10, 19] Back-blast form the tariffs could have the same effect on US small companies, which apparently are not a concern to a real-estate mogul.  Congress could wake up to the threat that an unrestrained president can wreak great havoc on our economic system. The Founders knew the problem and built a government to contain power, a system that has miraculously endured since 1787. 

1920s redux. The U.S. increased tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% Friday as President Trump ratcheted up pressure on Beijing and threatened to impose additional levies on virtually everything China exports to the U.S. [Wall Street Journal, May 10, 19]  Who collects? The government. Who pays? US consumers, who don' t seem to get the memo. It's a 1920s idea that devestated the 1930s., now invoked by a president who proudly reads nothing beyond  half-page with visuals.

President Trump said that the Mueller report showed “essentially no collusion.” Jimmy Fallon responded: “That’s like a waiter walking over and going, ‘Here’s your salad. There’s essentially no E. coli in it.’” [Chris Stanford and Mike Ives, New York Times, May 10, 19]

a striking decadeslong decline in American entrepreneurship: Between 1978 and 2011, “the firm entry rate—or firms less than one year old as a share of all firms—fell by nearly half.” [Edward Glaeser reviewing Grube and Johnson's Jump-Starting America, Wall Street Journal. May 8, 19] SBIR has had three decades to jump-start Amrican high tech small biz. Unfortunately Congress gave the federal R&D agencies unilateral authority to choose its innovation awardees, but with no incentive for the agencies to do other than support their own internal programs.

Spin-In tech. The Army is partnering with the Pentagon’s internal startup accelerator to adapt small commercial drones—think hobbyists’ quadcopters—for the battlefield. The Defense Innovation Unit announced it will begin offering its expertise to the Army’s Short Range Reconnaissance program. [Jack Corrigan,.nextgov.com, Apr 29, 19] The difficulty comes when the Army writes a doctrine and instructions for use of technology that it did not develop. Nice idea; how do we use it, buy it, supply it, carry it, and service it? The Army's backpack is already overflowing and battery demnd is skyrocketing.  

the biggest success of the Trump Presidency has been the economy. .. the “reformacons” on the right who derided deregulation and corporate tax cuts as an out-of-date agenda should admit how wrong they were. [Wall Street Journal editorial, Apr 27, 19] The braggarts over the recent economic growth conveniently ignore the contribution of putting hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the federal government on the national credit card of deficit finance (think a $trillion a year). With enough loans, anyone can look like an economic genius, even the self-styled "king of debt".

The CIA-affiliated venture-capital firm In-Q-Tel has nurtured many promising technology start-ups with seed money. But getting any technological innovations to take root inside the intelligence agencies has been a challenge, thanks to embedded contractors with their own financial incentives, bespoke and aging information technology systems, and sclerotic, risk-averse acquisition policies that make it exceptionally difficult for commercial companies, especially start-ups, to work with the government. [Amy Zegart and Michael Morell, Foreign Affairs, Apr 24, 19]

Innovation leaders often cite Eastman-Kodak as an example of an enterprise that was too dim-witted to see the writing on the wall and so fell from its lofty perch. But Kodak’s executives weren’t ignorant. They knew technology was changing and in fact invested billions of dollars in digitization. Kodak’s fatal problem was an inflexible organization that couldn’t adapt quickly enough to forces outside of its control. [Zachery Tyson Brown's  All This ‘Innovation’ Won’t Save the Pentagon, DefenseOne, Apr 23, 19] Sounds like IBM's story with the PC. 

China’s Subsidized Conquest of Trade. U.S. industry fades away as state-owned companies undersell the competition. [William Galston, Wall Street Journal, Apr 23, 19] Latest US victim industries: subway cars and 5G components. In the foreign competing countries, their people are paying taxes to the state to support the state subsidies to chosen industries, something not likely to be popular in tax-cut-merica.  Trump is groping with a false sense of (smartest guy in the room) self-confidence to fix the problem while desparately concealing his actual financial track record to keep the sunshine from the magic. 

Trump called Congress “very partisan.” [The Hill]  Imagine that!

Faster pay, maybe. A bill introduced last week in the House of Representatives would accelerate payments to small businesses that do work for the federal government. The Accelerated Payments for Small Business Act of 2019 would direct federal agencies to disburse payments within 15 days of receiving a proper invoice if a specific payment date is not established, rather than the current 30-day standard. The bill impacts only small businesses. (Washington Business Journal) Nice thought, BUT, faster pay means more people, or more robots, to process AND VERIFY the claims.

More science, or else. It is hard to maintain leadership in any field with five decades of shrinking budgets. Science is no different—especially when your competition is devoting hundreds of billions, year after year, to beating you. ... The solution? America needs to do what it does best: compete. The U.S. has the world’s best research universities, a great scientific talent pipeline and a strong culture of innovation. Now Washington needs to invest more—much more [Alex Beam, Wall Street Journal, Apr 19, 19] Reaistically, every scientist sees a need for more knowledge but has little appetite to compete for political attention.

Not Nothing. A plausible title for the paperback editions that will soon be in bookstores might be, “We Didn’t Not Find Anything.” [Dwight Garner, reviewing the Mueller report, NYTimes, Apr 20, 19]

Brussels sets out $20bn list of US goods facing tariffs. [Jim Brunsden, Financial Times, Apr 17, 19] Tit-for-tat on tariffs truned out really ugly in the 1930s, an historical fact appaprently irrelevant to the White House's American-alone campaign for American isolation. 

Semantic City. “I believe the government spied on the Trump campaign,” said Mr. Barr in a town where semantic directness is simply not practiced among the political pharisees and their pilot fish in the media who seek to preserve a certain order by obfuscating true intent. [Kevin Brock, TheHill, Apr 16, 19]

A President of [just] His People? The message seems clear and so does the audience: more red meat for red-state Americans who have been the foundation of his political enterprise since his against-the-odds campaign for the White House. [Peter Baker, New York Times, Apr 16, 19]

Being ahead of one’s time may impress posterity; it is no advantage at the polls. .... The authors blame it on voters who stress “hollow celebrity and contrived popularity” at the expense of “competence and rational judgment.” [Richard Norton Smith reviewing The Problem of Democracy By Nancy Isenberg & Andrew Burstein, Wall Street Journal, Apr 12, 19]

Don't need no outside advice neither. Pentagon officials are killing JASON in all but name.For decades, JASON studies helped DOD and other agencies get outside perspectives on scientific and technical topics. [Patrick Tucker, DefenseOne, Apr 11, 19] Just send DOD more money and cut soft stuff like food stamps, says Trump as America-alone fortress builder.

In the age of Trump, national politics is showbiz — self-righteous performance art to make the base feel good about itself. [David Brooks, NYTimes, Apr 11, 19]

When Impulse Rages. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s firing is the plainest example yet of the futility of trying to restrain Trump from inside—and the personal cost to those who try. [David Graham, The Atlantic, Apr 8. 19]  The Founders foresaw such power grabbing and built checks and balances into the federal government structure.  The federal judiciary, appointed for life, are demonstrating the check system to keep the executive within the law. 

Up to $5 million of the $20 million allocated by ARPA-E under Design Intelligence Fostering Formidable Energy Reduction and Enabling Numerous Totally Impactful Advanced Technology Enhancements (DIFFERENTIATE) program, funding opportunity will be made available specifically for small businesses under ARPA-E’s SBIR.   ...Submit trial balloon concept papers  by May 20, 2019.   [ARPA-E newsletter, Apr 5, 19]

Writing after the release of the Pentagon Papers, Hannah Arendt crystallized the essence of today’s obfuscatory media atmosphere: “Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear.” [Alan Hirshfeld reviewing Robert Crease's The Workshop and the World, Wall Street Journal, Apr 5, 19]

Satire overwhelmed. The danger, of satire: not that it mocks and belittles respect-worthy pieties, not that it “punches down,” but that it has become impossible to separate it cleanly from the toxic disinformation that defines our era. [Justin E.H. Smith, philosophy professor, NY Times, Apr 5, 19] Free speech enables truth itself to be overwhelmed. with enough media and enough liars. 

Tariff, the go-to tool. The Trump administration’s demand that punitive tariffs remain to ensure Beijing enacts genuine overhauls has emerged as one of the biggest sticking points as U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators opened new talks. [Bob Davis, Wall Street Journal, Apr 3, 19] Worked to punish everyone in the 1930s.

Lower taxes- gut IRS. A Hollowed-Out IRS Workforce Has Led to a 91 Percent Drop in Investigations of Non-Filing Businesses, [CAO says] The agency is ignoring even tax returns with obvious discrepancies because it no longer has the resources to follow up on them. [Eric Katz, govexec.com, Mar 27, 19]  Only suckers pay taxes. -- Donald Trump, Sep 27, 2016  

Puritanism as a political project failed, and for a host of reasons. The Bible is too big and complex a book to inspire a single doctrine of human government. Also, the Puritans’ intense work ethic tended to generate prosperity and markets, and markets are no place for narrow orthodoxy and severe morality. [Barton Swain revieiwng Michael Winship's Hot Protstants, Wall Street Journal, Mar 27, 19]  Politicians and voters could take note that evangelicals' fervor for righteousness makes a poor base for practical governance.

Shrinking government.  Key Federal Agency Doesn't Have the Staff to Oversee $35B in 2017 Hurricane Recovery Money. Slow process has led to four states and territories devastated by hurricanes receiving virtually none of the funds Congress appropriated. [Eric Katz, govexec.com, Mar 25, 19]

Pentagon: We're Buying Boeing F-15s to Keep 2 Fighter Makers in Business. ... The acting defense secretary's ties to the company had nothing to do with the decision, a senior defense official said. [Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One, Mar 25, 9] Oh, right.

Employees as commodities. Trump proposes to integrate the functions of the Office of Personnel Management into the General Services Administration, Defense Department and the Executive Office of the President, although much remains contingent on Congress approving legislation. [Erich Wagner, govexec.com, Mar 21, 19]   Don't expect Congress to agree to remake USG into Trump Tower Inc with an arbitrary dictator. 

All the federal government’s initiatives and resources around [AI] can now be accessed on one dedicated website, AI.gov, which the White House launched. [Brandi Vincent, nextgov.com, Mar 19, 19] 

Governor Cuomo announced companies in 43North’s portfolio have created more than 400 jobs in Western New York. 43North is the startup competition that invests $5 million annually to attract start-up companies to Western New York and cultivate their growth in the region. Since launching the competition in 2014, 43North has invested in 44 companies. [43North press release, Mar 7, 19]

Include Us Out. U.S. semiconductor companies want no part of any trade deal that calls for stepped-up purchases from China. Washington has pressed Beijing to buy more than $1 trillion in U.S. goods and services as part of an agreement, and China has offered to buy $30 billion of U.S. chips over six years. But U.S. chip makers have told President Trump’s administration not to include them, Bob Davis reports. Why? Because U.S. production costs are so high, mandatory-purchase quotas would essentially force U.S. chip makers to open new factories in China and give Beijing bureaucrats more sway over the U.S. firms. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Mar 19, 19]

Making government like a real estate biz. The Trump administration has long expressed a desire to make the federal non-salary compensation system more in line with private sector employers, who mostly have abandoned offering pensions to employees. .... “We believe it is the first step to eliminating any kind of defined benefit pension plan for federal employees,” [AFGE Senior Policy Counsel Richard] Loeb said. “Despite [the administration’s] claims to the contrary, they’re not doing this to enhance retirement benefits. They’re doing it to reduce their costs.” [Erich Wagner, govexec.com, Mar 15, 19]

President Trump is making the trade deficit bigger. "Pretty much anyone with a passing knowledge of macroeconomics could have predicted that this would be the likely result of moves by Trump and Congress to stimulate the U.S. economy with bigger federal deficits," Justin Fox writes at Bloomberg Opinion. "That Trump himself did not see this coming is another indication that, as someone recently said, the man doesn’t understand much about macroeconomics." [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Mar 14, 19] Or he simply has no connection to truth when spouting.

Trump warned Beijing he would not sign off on a trade deal that didn’t meet U.S. demands, Jong Un, Bob Davis, and Alex Leary report. ... a sharp departure from his recent optimism; it's not clear if they're a negotiating tactic or a sign of some underlying impasse in talks. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Mar 14, 19] Unlike the US Congress Republicans, the Chinese don't worry about angering Trump's "base" who believe/hope in his omnipotence.

Prepare to prepare. (NSF) has instituted a new requirement that is going to affect everyone who wants to submit a Phase I SBIR or STTR proposal, starting immediately. And if you don’t react ASAP, you may well be precluded from submitting a proposal in the current solicitation “window” that ends June 13th—and you may even be precluded from submitting if you react quickly but not well to the new requirement. [Greenwood [SBIR] Consulting, Mar 12, 19]  All agencies have a problem with piles of proposals with no chance of funding. Lots of work for the agency and lots of wasted work by the proposers. Meanwhile, Trump keeps trying to chop the agencies' workers. One solution is a clear agency message on what kinds of proposals have a reasonable chance.  Help them and yourself - see what they fund, learn what they want.

Don't need no dadgum gummint. Thirty-five Congressional mandates sit unanswered, on everything from minimum seat space to secondary barriers protecting cockpits. The top job at the Federal Aviation Administration has been open for 14 months. Enforcement fines against major U.S. airlines have dropped 88% in the past two years, even as three-hour tarmac delays have more than doubled. [Scott McCartney, Wall Street Journal, Mar 12, 19]

Always about "me". Trump: Making daylight saving time permanent is ‘OK with me’ [AP News, Mar 11, 19]

The Army is all in on innovative startups, but it will likely rely on tried and true contractors to get the tech over the finish line, Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley told SXSW. [nextgov.com, Mar 9,19] As usual, the military wants new ideas that have been thoroughly tested.  Advantage: established companies. But then, the Army could be at war tomorrow in any climate, especially with a loose-cannon President.

‘The comic thing about this drama is that no one is even pretending there is a real emergency.” So says Neeraj Kaushal, 57, a professor of social policy at Columbia who has just published a bracing book on U.S. immigration policy. Her thesis: Far from presenting an emergency, as President Trump contends, America’s immigration system is the best in the world. [Tunku Varadarajan, Wall Street Journal, Mar 8, 19] Except for Trump's view as he echoes his "base." Unfortunately, Trump is classic political theatrical exploiter of convenient myths. The real Trump is playing a character called Trump who is anti immigrant because thats what the voters in middle America want. [commenter, WSJ,Mar 9, 19]

Buy American goes to China. The Sichuan provincial government has stipulated that for 15 types of medical devices, hospitals will be reimbursed only for procedures that use Chinese-manufactured devices. [ELIZABETH C. ECONOMY, Foreign Affairs, Mar 6, 19] With Trump alienating all and sundry, China will look more and more attractive to other countries despite Xi's control fetish.

Anything Goes. When America, the world’s most influential democracy, has a leader without shame, who is backed by a party without spine willing to prostitute itself to Trump no matter how low he goes — and both are protected by a virtually state-run network without integrity, called Fox — it becomes a hunting license for leaders everywhere to go after their own domestic opponents and cross any human rights redline to stay in power. [Tom Friedman, New York Times, Mar 6, 19]

Hunkering down. DOE has drafted new restrictions on research collaborations between the scientists it funds and certain foreign governments suspected of trying to steal sensitive technologies. DOE officials are still debating the scope of the new rules. [Jeffrey Mervis, Science, Feb 15, 19]

Like Spain in 1796, the U.S. is at the apparent apogee of its power, consciously facing a post-hegemonic future but uncertain about how to proceed. Like the Spanish monarchy then, the U.S. today is riven between hostile constituencies—radical and reactionary, Christian and secularist—with no formula for reconciling them. [Felipe Fernández-Armesto reviewing Carrie Gibson's El Norte and Robert Goodwin's America, Wall Street Journal, Mar 2, 19]

Few law enforcement jobs are more coveted than the FBI’s special agent positions. But the tightest labor market in decades is forcing the bureau to aggressively recruit candidates. [Wall Street Journal, Feb 25,19] Consequences of a sleazy president attacking his own government.

Danger words. Trump claims "absolute right to .... " declare an emergency despite the clearly framed emergency law that allows Congress to stop such a declaration.

Five [DARPA funded] research teams will study the behavior of marine organisms to develop sensors designed to detect and track manned underwater vehicles and drones in strategic waters. [Jane Edwardson, GovConWire, Feb 19, 19]  no small biz

Love that limitless credit card. It’s no longer cool to talk about the federal budget deficit. President Trump didn't talk about it during his State of the Union. Neither did Stacey Abrams in her Democratic response. All told, Washington’s red-ink alarms have gone dead, even though the annual deficit will pass the trillion-dollar mark starting in 2022. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Feb 19, 19] 

The Trump Administration Can’t Get a United Front Against Iran [Defense One, Feb 19, 19] who would trust any Trumpian figure to act in the group's interest?

End the ending, prime the pump. Federal Reserve officials are zeroing in on a strategy to end the wind-down of their $4 trillion asset portfolio [Wall Street Journal, Feb 15, 19] national economic mirage relies on government debt boosting by posturing free-market politicians

The Army has activated an Artificial Intelligence Task Force on the Carnegie Mellon University campus in Lawrenceville, Pa., that is home to the National Robotics Engineering Center. The university has made many robotic advances, including creating flexible, soft and inflatable robots able to move over rough surfaces. What to watch: The task force is expected to spread to other institutions as the Army searches for cutting-edge advances in robotics and autonomous systems. [Association of the U.S. Army news, Feb 8, 19]

In the long run, a third or so of the country cannot effectively govern the other two-thirds with an unpopular agenda and a Twitter account. [Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, NYTimes, Feb 8, 19]

Trump loves the new NAFTA. Congress doesn’t. and both Democrats and Republicans say it has little chance of passing without significant changes. [Jim Tankersley, New York Times, Feb 7, 19] Trump and any other aspirational leaders must face the reality that the US Constitution gives Congress the ultimate power in any disagreement. There is no binding Treaty until Congress ratifies it. And once ratified, it is the law of the land that the Executive Branch must adninister.

A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a [famous whistle-blowing] Pentagon official tasked with analyzing project expenses died at 92. At one point he noted that any high cost Pentagon system was a bundle of overpriced spare parts flying in close formation. He served in an isolated office, with secretary, from 1970 to 2006. He also cited as Fitzgerald's law that “There are only two phases of a program. The first is, ‘It’s too early to tell.’ The second: ‘It’s too late to stop.’ ” [Harrison Smith, Washington Post, Feb 7, 19]

Money does not spend itself. A new study released by the Senior Executives Association paints a dire picture of the federal workforce, one that is stretched too thin, hampered by old technology and the target of partisan attacks. Without a significant overhaul, agencies may fail to provide adequate services when they are needed most, the researchers found. [Erich Wagner, Government Executive, February 5, 2019] Since 1960, 15% more employees and 400% more money to be spent.  Polticians love to demand more from government while shrinking it and its pay rate.

Startup Act reintroduced, would expand federal innovation support. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), co-signed by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), re-introduced the Startup Act today. The bill would enact an array of innovation policies, including reauthorizing Regional Innovation Strategies, creating a new commercialization grant program, and implementing a startup visa. SSTI has endorsed the bill and hopes to see the legislation passed by the 116th Congress. Read more. Sounds good to politcians, BUT, who would fund it, run it, and on what criteria?

Miracle cancelled.. [Taiwan] Electronics giant Foxconn reversed course and announced that the huge Wisconsin plant that was supposed to bring a bounty of blue-collar factory jobs back to the Midwest — and was lured with billions in tax incentives — will instead be primarily a research and development center staffed by scientists and engineers [for college graduates].....  company originally planned to build high-tech liquid crystal display screens in a project President Donald Trump had proudly pointed to as a sign of a resurgence in American manufacturing. ... because the [2017] global market environment has shifted. [AP, Jan 30, 19]

"They are wrong! Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!" [Twitter-in-Chief].  Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also weighed in. “The President has a dangerous habit of undermining the intelligence community to fit his alternate reality. People risk their lives for the intelligence he just tosses aside on Twitter.” [WashPo, Jan 31, 19]

Fantasy exposed, again. “A large majority of respondents—84%—indicate that one year after its passage, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has not caused their firms to change hiring or investment plans,” said Kevin Swift, president of NABE and chief economist at the American Chemistry Council. [Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey, Fiscal Times, Jan 29, 19] Trickle-down benefits of tax cuts for the wealthy remain a fantasy.

at the annual meeting of the National Tax Association in November 2017, one of the keynote speakers began his remarks by asserting that if one set a monkey in front of a typewriter and, after some period, saved only those parts of what had been typed having to do with tax reform, the resulting tax law would be better than what the Republicans were poised to legislate. The speaker was Harvard economist and former Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers. [Joel Slemrod, J Economic Perspectives, Fall 2018] Taxation always suffers from the political fantasy that what the present power group wants would be good for everybody.  One-year economic returrns say that the critics were right. 

Tell us that tale again.  Trump advisers lied again and again, Mueller says. The question is, why?  [WashPo, Jan 27, 19] Let's consult our mirrors for the culprit as we insist our politicians and the media tell us what we want to hear. That tax cuts will boost everyone's economic health, that a concrte wall will stop narcotics, opiods, and hard-working immigrants.  And the internet lets us choose our own supporters and echo chambers.  

New data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests the extended government shutdown is having a significant adverse effect on 41,000 small businesses across all 50 states. Small government contractors have lost $2.3 billion in revenue thus far 34 days into the shutdown, with another $29 billion at risk if the shutdown continues, Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters. [Frank Konkel, NextGov, Jan 24, 19] Small biz thinking about who has responsible attitude for election 2020?

Trump fore-runners. Conflict of Inerest. George Washington was a stockholder when the [Bank of England] was financing the war to put down his rebellion. ..... Ready, fire, aim. The charismatic Montague Norman, is attributed with a large role in the development of the ‘“mystique” of the central banker’. He hated experts, and preferred to make decisions by instinct, turning to economists not to tell him what to do, but to supply explanations for things he had already done. [Jamie Martin reviewing David Kynaston's history of the Bank, LondonRB, Jan 24, 19]

Russia Says He’s a Spy. His Lawyer Says He Just Wanted Photos of a Cathedral. [New York Times, Jan 23, 19] Rule: avoid places without rule of law, or you could become a trading asset. .  

Eden no more. Sir David Attenborough [long time naturalist] has warned that “the Garden of Eden is no more”, as he urged political and business leaders from around the world to make a renewed push to tackle climate change before the damage is irreparable. [Grahame Wearden, The Guardian, Jan 22, 19] as Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting at such an accelerated rate [more than 400 billion tons per year] that it may have reached a “tipping point,” and could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a study [just] published .[John Schwartz, New York Times, Jan 21, 19]

The Pentagon’s out-there-thinking department, DARPA, is working on autonomous attack swarms more like a murmuration of starlings than a formation of fighter-bombers. What human operators could co-ordinate such dynamics? [The Economist, Jan 18, 19] Note: DARPA is required by law to put 3% of its external contracts into SBIR, and looks for novelty; why not for you, out-there-thinker with swarm control ideas.

Trumponomics disappoint. The tax-cut steroid wore off within six months of its passage. Corporate investment rose at a 10% annual rate in the first half of 2018 but then slowed to 2.5% in the third quarter. According to the Institute for Supply Management, new orders for manufacturing equipment plunged 11 points in December. The logical explanation is that corporations won’t invest unless they expect an adequate return on such investments. That return depends on there being enough buyers for the goods and services they produce. But there aren’t enough. [Robert Reich, The Guardian, Jan 18, 19]  No matter: Trump's base doesn't read eonomics, they just applaud his atmospherics. 

Lessons Learned. The Army published a study of the U.S. war in Iraq that criticizes decisions of some of the service’s most senior officers and outlines hard-learned lessons from the conflict. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 19] The Army believes in learning lessons from its adventures. 

The [SBA] has stopped approving routine small-business loans because of the shutdown. The result: Business owners are halting plans for expansion and repairs, and considering costlier sources of cash, Ruth Simon reports. [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 19]

Re-launch the viewgraphs, and now power-points. the new[Trump announced]  missile-defense strategy rests most of its hopes on other technologies that essentially do not exist, and may never do so. The review says, for example, that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could be networked with new sensors and outfitted with new missiles to take out adversary missiles on the launch pad. Tests have shown that the F-35 can do this. But the jet has to be in the enemy’s airspace already. [Patrick Tucker, DefenseOne, Jan 17, 19] We have added defense with the Trump reality show. 

by being so brazen and uncooperative during its rise, China has actually activated the antibodies that will help prevent its success. [Kori Schake, in her book Safe Passage, 2017] a lesson to be recognized about the Trump adninstration, if not within

Lipstick for the pig. U.S. officials are debating ratcheting back tariffs on Chinese imports as a way to calm markets and give Beijing an incentive to make deeper concessions in a trade battle that has rattled global economies. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 17, 19] Expect such a concession to be touted as one step back to take two steps forward.

If not evidence, what? We're pleased to release a new evidence report as part of our Straight Talk on Evidence initiative. The report—"FDR’s call for 'bold, persistent experimentation': An antidote to 40-year stagnation in key areas of social policy (part two in a series)"—is posted on the Straight Talk website.  Straight Talk on Evidence is an initiative of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation's (LJAF) Evidence-Based Policy team. [Jon Baron, VP of Evidence-Based Policy, Laura and John Arnold Foundation] Jon was a House staffer on SBIR and then an imaginative head of DOD's SBIR office in the Clinton Years.

What price glory, for a Wall? Federal contractors can’t count on receiving any compensation for lost labor. With nine of the 15 major federal agencies unfunded, some federal contractors and their employees are taking drastic measures to try to stay afloat. Low- and middle-wage workers are looking for new jobs, small- and medium-size firms have stopped paying employees and may have to fire some people, and the financial institutions that support those companies are assuming greater risk, Andrew Duehren reports. “How long can it go on? We’re counting the days until we’re out of business.” —Gary Shumaker, president and CEO of C2 Solutions Group. ... President [glory-seeking] Trump's top economic adviser said the broader impact of the shutdown remains fairly limited [Jeff Sparshott, Wall Street Journal, Jan 15, 19]  The President doesn't need his salary, and his staff dare not speak truth. 

Modern science depends on money, institutions and oodles of brainpower. Partly because its government can marshal all three, China is hurtling up the rankings of scientific achievement. An analysis of 17.2m papers in 2013-18, by Nikkei, a Japanese publisher, and Elsevier, a scientific publisher, found that more came from China than from any other country in 23 of the 30 busiest fields, such as sodium-ion batteries and neuron-activation analysis. [The Economist, Jan 12,19]

Yesterday's Solution.The Trump administration is readying guidance that could let states remodel their Medicaid programs to more closely resemble block grant proposals, according to people familiar with the discussions. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 12, 19] Republicans love to propose block grants that would transform the idea of a United States into the original idea of confederation of states. The people who hate the federal income tax seek the same backwalk without admitting the reality that led to federal direct taxation.  Perhaps SBIR could also evolve from a national competition to a formal fair-share program. Why all this talk: today's problem was yesterday's solution. 

Discussion. Trump's Day: The president meets with state and community leaders at the White House this afternoon to discuss border security. [Jerry Seib, WSJ, Jan 11, 19] Look for the conventional Army idea: If I want your opinion, I'll tell you what it is.

La meme chose. Although he had little understanding of the challenges, he parlayed a line of blather into a seat at the table. Before long, there was a proposal..... No, no, not a Wall in 2016; a nineteenth century railroad .... to build a Pan-American Railway, backed by governmental subsidies. [Charkes Morris reviewing Rutkow's The Longest Line on the Map, Wall Street Journal, Jan 8, 19] Le plus ca change, la meme chose.

Got/need security clearance during shutdown? finances continue to top the reasons for security clearance denial and revocation. ... security clearance holders do have good reasons to be concerned that financial hardships brought about by the shutdown could affect their security clearance. [Lindy Kyzer, govexec.com, January 7, 2019] Taking heart because you trust The Donald to act in your best interest? 

Thousands of federal contractors are already feeling the pinch. According to Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle and Paul Murphy, contractors could see more than $200 million per day in lost or delayed revenue due to the shutdown. Not all contractors are suffering equally, though, since they vary considerably in size and include defense giants such as Boeing and General Dynamics that can more readily weather the storm. [Fiscal Times, Jan 7, 19] Note that funded agencies, like DOD, have the money to pay the contractors.

[L]et me beat any unreformed supply-siders to the punch on one final topic: There is little or no evidence that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 had much of an impact on wages — and certainly workers haven’t seen the absurd $4,000 per employee windfall President Donald Trump’s economic advisers and political allies made before the tax cut was passed by Congress. [Barry Ritholtz, Fiscal Times, Jan 7, 19]

There was no flag that he could wrap himself in. He didn’t brag; he didn’t boast; he didn’t use personal insults. He knew the world was watching, and he held everyone — most of all himself — to the highest ethical standards. Indeed, at first, some people thought Washington was too modest to lead an army. [Brad Meltzer, talking about his The First Conspiracy The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington,WashPo, Jan 5, 19]

The smell of fair-share politics. A significant majority of [NIH] SBIR and STTR grants awarded to small businesses in any given year end up in just a handful of states. For example, the percentage of all 2017 SBIR/STTR awards made to companies in the 23 states and Puerto Rico eligible to participate for funding from NIH’s Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program was only 8 percent – 97 of the 1,218 awards made across all phases of both innovation funding programs. For comparison, the same states account for 15.8 percent of the estimated U.S. population in 2017. NIH wants to change that discrepancy. [SSTI, Jan 2, 19] If SBIR is a national competition there is no reason to expect any particular distribution related to population. The awards would naturally go to plaes where innovation self-assembles. If Iowa or Oklahoma wants more, it must first create the conditions for innovation to self-assemble there.   SBIR was first invented for fair-share to certain types of small biz, and now would further fair-share on a population basis. 

FOIA re-write brainstorm. [Trump] appeared to order Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan to stop releasing Inspector General reports to the public. [DefOne Jan 3, 19] How convenient to hide Executive Branch shenanigans. 

Immigrants in demand. The Labor Department received nearly 100,000 temporary-worker visa requests in the first five minutes of New Year’s Day, an unprecedented demand that caused the online submissions portal to crash.  [Wall Street Journal, Jan 3, 19]

[Economists] may simply have to accept the inevitable: convincing most people of the value of free trade is a losing fight. ....  most people—and therefore the politicians who represent them—see no contradiction in supporting technological advances while opposing freer trade. Raging at the machine seems stupid, but raging at foreigners does not.  [Alan Blinder, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb2019]

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