Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Trump’s Next Great Hire – WSJ

Trump’s Next Great Hire - WSJ
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This week has been a perfect microcosm of the Trump era. A partisan media suppresses news about a Trump rival’s corruption scandal while demanding that the president explain a bizarre retweet. And there’s an encouraging sign of economic revival. Also, another outstanding Trump appointee prepares to perform an invaluable public service. More good news is that the great Trump hires are not going to end with Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

As for the economic rebound, the American consumer is exceeding expectations. The Journal’s Harriet Torry reports:

Retail sales, a measure of purchases at stores, restaurants and online, rose a seasonally adjusted 1.9% in September from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Friday.

“The gain marked the fifth straight month of retail-sales growth,” adds Ms. Torry.

As for Judge Barrett, the Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel notes:

Mr. Trump won over any number of uncertain voters in 2016 with a pledge to put qualified originalist judges on the federal courts. More than 200 appointments later—soon to include a third Supreme Court justice—voters this week were reminded that the stakes in this election transcend Mr. Trump’s tweets…

Americans for three days watched a talented jurist answering complex questions without notes, expressing her love for her family and country, and promising her fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law.

What’s also cool for Americans is if officials in the other branches of government are equally committed to the rule of law. And the president seems to have picked another winner for a key position regulating the financial industry. Brian Brooks is the acting comptroller of the currency. President Trump should immediately ask the Senate to take the “acting” out of Mr. Brooks’S title so he can continue to push back against the politicization of U.S. credit allocation.

A disturbing government habit under Mr. Trump’s predecessor was to encourage banks to refuse to do business with companies disliked in Washington. Phil Gramm and Michael Solon explained the problem in a January op-ed:

Banking was used as a weapon against legal, solvent businesses by the Obama administration during Operation Choke Point, a program to deny the disfavored access to banking services. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. labeled certain businesses “high risk,” including firearms and ammunition dealers, check-cashers, payday lenders and fireworks vendors. Unelected regulators, not Congress or courts, marked these industries as “dirty business” and made it “unacceptable for an insured depository institution” to offer them banking services.

As the acting comptroller, Mr. Brooks has been seeking to ensure such abuses aren’t repeated. But Democrats in Congress, without enacting any law, have succeeded in pressuring big banks to avoid financing domestic petroleum production. Their new legislative version of Operation Choke Point is working, and it’s not just beating up niche industries, but a foundational piece of the American economy.

Last year this column noted that

Goldman Sachs,

despite a history of dealing with countries run by sweethearts like Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Maduro, was signalling its virtue by declining to finance new oil projects in Alaska. Now five of the top six too-big-to-fail banks in the U.S. are sending the same outrageous signal. And the problem may not be limited to the Arctic.

A prominent investment banker tells this column that funding from giant U.S. banks for U.S. oil and gas projects is drying up. Energy companies now have to pay higher rates for loans–if they can find them at all–and more expensive financing is a brutal burden with oil around $40 per barrel. The i-banker warns that California’s “rolling blackouts” could be a preview for consumers nationwide if banking giants will only lend to alternative energy companies.

Fortunately the acting comptroller seems to hold the quaint notion that banks should follow the law, not the whims of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.). And some congressional Democrats may soon be hoist on their liberal petard as the “fair access” language they’ve enacted in banking law prevents discriminating against law-abiding customers who happen to work in underappreciated industries.

Mr. Brooks has been investigating the issue and wrote in a July letter to Alaska’s Sen. Dan Sullivan (R., Alaska):

I had hoped that the banking industry’s experience with, and the eventual discrediting of, Operation Chokepoint would be a sufficient object lesson about the perils of discriminating against businesses that, while unpopular to some, are nevertheless legal for all and demanded by many in our market economy.

Many consumers share his hope. The president can help end the Obama era of politicized credit by sending the permanent appointment of Mr. Brooks to the Senate.

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Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”

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Follow James Freeman on Twitter.

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(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web.)

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Mr. Freeman is also the co-author of “Borrowed Time.”

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