03-05-2020 Letters and Commentary

Did we gain anything?

Dear Editor, During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as “the worst trade deal ever” and promised a vastly better agreement. After three years of negotiations, a slightly revised deal – the U.S., Mexico and Canada Agreement (USMCA) – was agreed to. The Democratic-controlled House refused to approve the USMCA until stronger protections were added for labor rights and a giveaway was removed for the pharmaceutical industry which would have allowed them a 10-year protection from less expensive generic biologic drugs. The final USMCA has a few advantages: Autos sold here require 75% of components manufactured in North America, up from NAFTA’s 62.5% requirement; U.S. farmers gain more access to the Canadian dairy market; 40% of vehicles sold here must originate where workers earn at least $16/hr.; Mexico must allow workers to form unions which in the long run makes U.S. jobs more competitive by increasing wages in Mexico. These advantages are real, but overall, we didn’t gain much from the USMCA. Why? The International Trade Commission calculated the USMCA would add only 176,000 jobs over six years, a small number within the U.S. $22 Trillion economy supporting 152 million nonfarm jobs; auto makers have continued to downsize and move jobs to Mexico even after the law was signed so hundreds of thousands of jobs will not return here as Trump has touted; USMCA allows food imports that don’t meet U.S. safety standards; USMCA doesn’t establish liability standards for counterfeit products; USMCA will probably increase car prices for the average U.S. consumer. Three years of Trump threatening Canada and Mexico doesn’t give us much more than we had with NAFTA. It’s time the administration starts negotiating trade deals that actually benefit U.S. workers and consumers, rather than attempting to give Trump a political advantage. Ken Peterson, Buchanan

Postal inspectors warn consumers of impostor scams;

offers tips to combat them

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is urging consumers to remain alert to scammers posing as representatives from various federal government agencies, including the Postal Service, Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. Usually, these scammers will call or email unsuspecting people; use misrepresentations and threats; and demand immediate payment to resolve an issue specific to the scam. The scammers will then direct victims to remit payment via a variety of methods, including cash or check in the U.S. Mail, FedEx or UPS. Victims may also be instructed to pay via gift cards, virtual currency or wire transfer. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2019, impostor scams were the number one fraud reported, with people losing more than $667 million in that year alone. Social Security impostors were the top government impostor scam reported. Already in 2020, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has seen an increase in scammers who impersonate the Postal Service; often through email scams. How can these impostors be combated? The U.S. Postal Inspection Service reminds consumers: Don’t be pressured into making immediate financial decisions; talk with your family and friends before any scammers strike and come up with an action plan on how to handle any suspected scams; consult with a trusted friend or family member before making a payment; don’t give your financial or personal information to anyone you don’t know and don’t trust; reduce unwanted telemarketing calls by taking advantage of call blocking services—some of which are free. Contact your telephone carrier for more information. The Postal Service, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration and other government agencies will never call you and ask for payment over the phone or ask for your personal information. Always ask for the billing information in writing before paying. Never make payments via gift cards, wire transfers, virtual currency, or other non-traditional payment methods. Report scams to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov. For more information about fraud prevention and consumer protection tips, consumers should visit www.uspis.gov. MDARD announces Value-Added Grant opportunity (Press Release) The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is now accepting applications for its latest round of value-added grants. The Value-Added Grant Program is designed to help retain, expand, attract or develop agricultural processing in Michigan through targeted investments in technology and equipment, feasibility studies, healthy food access, regional food systems, and urban agriculture. Grant proposals must be received by 3:00 p.m. (EST) on April 2, 2020. The maximum grant award eligible is $125,000 per proposal. Each project will require a minimum 30 percent match. The value-added proposals will be evaluated through a competitive selection process. Applicants for grant funds will be asked to describe how the project will impact and produce measurable outcomes for Michigan’s food and agriculture industry. MDARD is accepting proposals intended to help expand value-added agricultural processing and food hub development in the state, as well as access to fresh nutritional Michigan grown foods. Those interested in applying should visit www.michigan.gov/mdardgrants to view the application and grant guidelines. Any additional communications concerning this Request for Proposal should be sent to mda-grants@michigan.gov. Additionally, proposals must be received via email at mda-grants@michigan.gov no later than 3:00 p.m. (EST) on April 2, 2020. Proposals received after 3:00 p.m. will not be considered.

What lasts forever? There’s a story about a conversation at a funeral about the person who had died. One person asked another, “I wonder how much he left behind?” The reply was short: “All of it.” The sobering truth is that no matter how well we plan, how many counselors we engage for advice, or how much we have accumulated, it all gets left behind when we meet our Maker. In one sense that might indicate that accumulating wealth is useless. Yet we are wise to try to prepare for the future both for ourselves and for those for whom we want to provide. So where’s the balance? In a parable about wealth, Jesus spoke about someone who had evidently invested wisely during his lifetime. As a result, he had a nice surplus. He decided that in order to store his vast wealth he would have to tear down his smaller barns and build bigger ones. That in itself was not a problem. Yet Jesus labeled him a “fool”. Why? Because he was going to die that night, and he hadn’t thought beyond his nose about more important things. The story is in Luke 12: “…But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” A little further down in the account we hear Jesus direct: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near no