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Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker takes Trump to task on taxes, trade

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Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker takes Trump to task on taxes, trade

(Reuters) – Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker warned the Trump administration’s handling of domestic issues as well as trade talks with China is hurting the United States’ long-term prosperity.

FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker speaks at a news conference in New York, June 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo

“We have not been on a constructive track,” Volcker told Bridgewater co-chief investment officer Ray Dalio, in a podcast video released on Tuesday. “I think that’s fair to say.”

Volcker, widely credited with ending the high levels of inflation seen in the United States during the 1970s and early 1980s, said Trump’s big tax cuts and spending increases underscore the lack of transparency of the president’s administration.

“We rammed through a massive tax bill. Whatever you think about that tax bill, it shouldn’t have been rammed through Congress without any debates at midnight on Dec. 31,” Volcker said.

On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, shrinking the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and cutting taxes on private businesses by about 20 percent. It was passed without a single public hearing.

Volcker cites Alexander Hamilton, his hero and first secretary of the Treasury, as saying “the true test of good government is its ability to administer” which Volcker said “we lapse in.”

Trump has had a strained relationship with the Federal Reserve. As Fed rate increases continued through last year, Trump called the central bank “crazy,” out of touch with markets, and according to reports, explored whether he could remove current Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Volcker said the China trade negotiations have been particularly worrisome for the United States’ future over the next 10 years.

“It sounds terrible but I respond more favorably to what the president of China is saying than the president of the United States,” Volcker said. “The president of China, at least, says he’s looking forward to a harmonious relationship over time…But looking for peaceable outcomes, where we are all threats and demands, so it’s a different story being told.”

U.S. and Chinese officials expressed hopes on Monday that a new round of talks would bring them closer to easing their months-long trade war. Beijing and Washington are trying to hammer out a deal before a March 1 deadline, without which U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent.

All told, Volcker said: “Faith of the America people in our government today is really distressing. There’s been polls taken every year that ask the same question … Do you trust your government to do the right thing most of the time? You get maybe 20 percent to say ‘yes.’ You ask about the Congress, it’d be less than 20 percent. It’s no great secret that we are torn about by ideological and other differences now.”

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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Washington state could become first state to allow human composting

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Washington state could become first state to allow human composting

Washington state lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that would allow residents take part in “natural organic reduction” of human remains, citing in part research that said careful composted human remains could be safe for use in a household garden, reports said.

The Seattle Times reported that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s office on Friday said he did not review the final legislation. Inslee– who is running for president— has been active on Twitter since the state Senate and House of Representative passed bill 5001, but did not mention the bill in any posts. The bill reportedly passed easily and had bipartisan support.

The report pointed out that the measure has been several years in the making. There was a trial that involved six backers who agreed to organic reduction. The results were positive and “the soil smelled like soil and nothing else,” the report said.

Troy Hottle, a fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told the paper that the method is as “close to the natural process of decomposition [as] you’d assume a body would undergo before we had an industrialized society.”

An NBC News report last year said the procedure could cost $5,500.

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“People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves,” Democratic state Sen. Jamie Pedersen told NBC.

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Ben Carson explains benefits of investing in ‘Opportunity Zones’ for areas facing economic challenges

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Ben Carson explains benefits of investing in 'Opportunity Zones' for areas facing economic challenges

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke on “The Next Revolution with Steve Hilton” in an interview that aired Sunday about proposed new regulations aimed at making it easier for investors to take advantage of tax breaks for investing in “Opportunity Zones” in low-income areas.

“Policies have been pretty much aimed at putting people into programs,” Carson said, and now the Trump administration is trying to get poor Americans “out of the programs and self-sufficient.”

President Trump said last week that 8,700 neighborhoods across all 50 states and U.S. territories have received the Opportunity Zone designation and would be eligible for the federal tax incentives he’s proposed.

“The entire island of Puerto Rico is an opportunity zone,” Carson said.

“We are very concerned about the rural areas, too,” he added.

Trump’s proposed regulations were issued by the Treasury Department. They sought to clear up questions that were keeping some investors from using the incentives.

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The program was included in the $1.5 trillion tax cut legislation that Trump pushed through Congress in 2017.

The new Opportunity Zones were set up to enable private investors to re-invest profits into designated areas.

“They are going to invest that money somewhere,” Carson said.

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He noted private investors would do what they do because they “want to be successful.”

As White House officials have explained, investors in Opportunity Zones could get tax benefits by deferring their capital gains taxes invested in the zones until 2026. They also could receive discounts of up to 15 percent on capital-gains profits invested in the zones and would pay no capital-gains taxes on investments in the zones held for at least 10 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tulsi Gabbard: Mueller report found ‘no collusion took place,’ Dems shouldn’t push to impeach Trump

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Tulsi Gabbard: Mueller report found 'no collusion took place,' Dems shouldn't push to impeach Trump

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a 2020 candidate for president, told Fox News on Sunday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found “no collusion” between President Trump and Russia — and that it’s time for the country to focus on the issues that matter most to Americans.

Gabbard, a Democrat, told “America’s News HQ” that while she supported the Mueller investigation, “the conclusion that came from that Mueller report was that no collusion took place. Now is the time for us to come together as a country to put the issues and the interests and the concerns that the American people have at the forefront, to take action to bring about real solutions for them.”

She continued, “I don’t think that we should defeat Donald Trump through impeachment. I think it’s really important for us, in this country, to come together and have the American people vote to take Donald Trump out of office in 2020.”

Gabbard’s position came in direct contrast to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who last Friday called on the House of Representatives to start impeachment proceedings. Warren explained Saturday at an event in New Hampshire, “I know people say this is politically charged and we shouldn’t go there, and that there is an election coming up, but there are some things that are bigger than politics.”

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Also Friday, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, another 2020 candidate, said launching impeachment proceedings would be “perfectly reasonable.”

Gabbard countered, “What I am worried about is the continued divisiveness and putting partisan political interests ahead of the interest of the people,” citing a voter’s concerns about making ends meet while struggling with the costs of health care.

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The Justice Department released a redacted version of Mueller’s report last Thursday. Mueller wrote that he found no proof of collusion between Trump and Russia, and did not draw a conclusion over accusations the president may have obstructed justice.

For his part, President Trump tweeted on Sunday, “Despite No Collusion, No Obstruction, The Radical Left Democrats do not want to go on to Legislate for the good of the people, but only to Investigate and waste time. This is costing our Country greatly, and will cost the Dems big time in 2020!”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Leland Vittert contributed to this report.

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