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Finance

Trump Predicted Slump Under Biden — But Markets And Jobs Are Surging

Screenshot from official @POTUS Instagram

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Donald Trump often said ahead of the 2020 election that if Joe Biden were elected, gains in the stock market would be destroyed.

"If he is elected, the stock market will crash," Trump said in a presidential debate on October 22, 2020, one of dozens of times he made the claim during the campaign, according to transcripts gathered by Factbase.

Yet 72 days into Biden's first term as president, the stock market has not only gone up, but it has set multiple records, including on Thursday, when the S&P 500 surpassed 4,000 for the first time in history.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has also broken records multiple times since Biden was elected, beginning with the day Biden was sworn in. Since then, the Dow has surpassed 33,000 for the first time in history.

CNN reported in January that since Biden was elected in November, the stock market has had the "best post-election market performance for a new president in modern history."

The latest stock market surge follows the announcement of Biden's new infrastructure plan, which could be behind the record stock market performance. Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan would modernize the country's roads, bridges, and airports, as well as focus on modernizing infrastructure to help battle climate change.

The stock market news also comes as the vaccine rollout accelerates, and after Biden successfully pushed through a coronavirus relief package in March to help aid the economic recovery effort — without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate.

Experts predicted the relief package would bring "an almost immediate boost to the U.S. economy," the New York Times reported, with $1,400 checks and a $300 weekly increase to unemployment insurance likely to increase consumer spending as parts of the economy most hard-hit by the virus, including hospitality and tourism, began to show signs of life again with increased vaccinations.

On Friday, those predictions were bolstered when the Department of Labor announced that employers created a massive 916,000 jobs in March, including more than 200,000 jobs at restaurants, bars, and hotels. That's even more than the 675,000 jobs predicted in a survey done by Dow Jones last month, according to CNBC.

Stock market futures continued to rise Friday morning.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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President Joe Biden

Photo by the White House

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

Money laundering, both for terrorist finance and tax evasion, threatens national security. Now a private group that watches the quality of anti-money laundering efforts has put forth a smart plan to modernize and upgrade our government's capacity to track illicit cross-border financial transactions.

This is news you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Global Financial Integrity has a plan, and it's a good one, to better America's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. FinCEN, as it's known, is a critical government agency housed at Treasury and staffed heavily with IRS financial sleuths. It doesn't get nearly the respect or budget it deserves.

Global Financial Integrity is itself an under-appreciated Washington nonprofit funded by a host of sources including the Ford Foundation and five governments, though not the United States. On a budget of not much more than $1 million per year, it has done solid work calling attention to the growing problem of illicit finance.

Jim Henry, DCReport's economics correspondent, has spent decades documenting the flow of illicit money. He estimates from analysis of official banking and trade documents that at least $40 trillion of illicit money sloshes around the globe. The total may be $50 trillion.

To get an idea of the gigantic size of that bag of corrupt money consider this: Henry's lower-end estimate almost equals the combined annual economic output of the world's two largest economies, America and China.

Global Financial Integrity, in a report titled "Enhancing National Security by Re-imagining FinCEN," makes these recommendations:

  1. Give the FinCEN director a seat on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council (NSC) to raise the agency's stature within the national security community.
  2. Create within FinCEN a National Anti-Money Laundering Data Center for advanced data collection, synthesis, analysis, and distribution to law enforcement for AML activity.
  3. Establish a "Manhattan Project" to identify, develop, and use state-of-the-art technologies needed to fulfill the technology for that data center.
  4. Launch within FinCEN a National Anti-Money Laundering Training Center which will be an anti-money laundering knowledge and education hub for FinCEN staff, financial institution regulators, law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels and for both state and federal prosecutors.
  5. Create a Strategic Analysis Team to examine emerging and long-term trends in money laundering methods and computer technologies to counter those threats.

Those are superb ideas all. But will Congress care?

A core problem with hunting for terrorist finance is that the tools used to sift through billions of transactions involving trillions of dollars are the financial equivalent of trawling the ocean bottom for cod. Trawlers catch plenty of cod, but they also drag in many unwanted species.

Tax Cheats Off The Hook

The George W. Bush administration was averse to a serious hunt for big-league tax cheats. It disconnected from a nascent movement by major countries to coordinate their tax policies, a boon to tax cheats. It even refused to hire 80 more IRS investigators to hunt for transactions by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the wake of 9/11.

Source: UN Office on Drugs and Crime

The official excuse was that taxpayers couldn't afford an extra $12 million in spending. That is an absurdity when trillions were being spent on the wars in Afghanistan, still underway, and Iraq. But the funding denial made perfect sense if you knew that anti-money laundering nets catch tax cheats along with terrorists. And since the political donor class is rife with tax cheating, catching tax cheats can be inconvenient for politicians in power, and fellow party members, as a Congressional staffer recently reminded me.

In writing about money laundering in casinos since 1988, in my coverage of taxes since 1995, and on terrorist finance after 9/11, I developed a deep appreciation for the unsung work of FinCEN – and recognition of its weaknesses.

More People, Better Tech

What is needed now to strengthen FinCEN: more staff, super-sophisticated computers on par with the National Security Agency, and, most of all, adding a seat for FinCEN at White House National Security Council meetings.

A FinCEN director once told me that given enough time and resources his staff could find a single $19.99 credit card transaction anywhere in the world. The 9/11 attacks were cheap, costing only about $100,000. We shouldn't forget that relatively small expenditures can be used to cause enormous harm.

To find the little transactions behind big attacks in the future FinCEN needs enormous computer power to separate golden nuggets of fact from the massive overburden of routine financial transactions. FinCEN also needs to be set free to find not just terrorists, but tax cheats.

With trillions of dollars of illicit money in the hands of criminals, kleptocrats, and terrorists, and hundreds of billions of dollars of federal income taxes evaded each year, it's long past time to upgrade FinCEN.