Business briefing

The daily business briefing: August 16, 2017

Walmart's CEO criticizes Trump's Charlottesville response, Trump orders faster permitting for infrastructure projects, and more

1

Walmart CEO becomes latest business critic of Trump's Charlottesville response

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon on Tuesday said President Trump "missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together" with his controversial response to the deadly violence at Saturday's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. McMillon participates in the administration's strategic policy group, and said, "[W]e should stay engaged to try to influence decisions in a positive way and help bring people together. ... I will continue to strongly advocate on behalf of our associates and customers." Five business executives have resigned from President Trump's American Manufacturing Council as Trump faced criticism for appearing to equivocate in condemning white supremacists for the violence. Trump said the departing executives were "not taking their jobs seriously" and left "out of embarrassment."

2

Trump orders faster permitting for infrastructure projects

President Trump said Tuesday that he had signed an executive order to speed up federal environmental permitting for construction, water, and other infrastructure projects. "It's going to be quick, it's going to be a very streamlined process," Trump said. "And by the way, if it doesn't meet environmental safeguards, we're not going to approve it. Very simple. We're not going to approve it." Trump also revoked former President Barack Obama's order requiring projects built on flood plains to take rising sea levels into account. Trump has said predictions about rising seas due to climate change have been exaggerated. Construction industry groups had said the flood plain order pushed up building costs.

3

CBO: Trump's threatened ObamaCare cuts could push up premiums by 20 percent

Many Americans' ObamaCare health-coverage premiums could rise by 20 percent in 2018 if President Trump follows through on a threat to cut off payments to help low-income families pay for out-of-pocket expenses, according to a report the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released Tuesday. The CBO said ending the cost-sharing reductions, which amounted to $7 billion in 2017, would leave five percent of Americans in areas with no insurer in the individual market next year. Trump has called the cost-sharing payments a "bailout" for insurers. Several insurers, most recently Anthem, have pulled out of some states, citing uncertainty over the fate of the payments. The next installment on the payments is due Aug. 21.

4

DOJ fights Dreamhost for data on visitors to site on Trump protests

The Justice Department is fighting to make an internet hosting company turn over information about people who have visited a website used to organize protests during President Trump's inauguration. Federal investigators launched the privacy battle last month, getting a judge to issue a search warrant demanding that the company, Dreamhost, turn over data identifying visitors to the website and what pages they viewed or uploaded. Dreamhost is fighting the warrant, calling it an unconstitutionally broad attempt to "identify the political dissidents" and "understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website." Federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia declined to comment but said in a filing that Dreamhost "has no legal basis for failing to produce materials" under the search warrant.

5

Americans' debt level reaches record high

Americans' debts reached a record high in the second quarter as mortgage, auto, and credit card balances rose modestly to push total U.S. household debt to $12.84 trillion, up $552 billion from the same time last year. Delinquencies on credit card balances also "ticked up notably," according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report published Tuesday. That change, a potential red flag, came as loosening lending standards have helped borrowers with lower credit card scores get credit cards. "The current state of credit card delinquency flows can be an early indicator of future trends and we will closely monitor the degree to which this uptick is predictive of further consumer distress," Andrew Haughwout, an in-house economist, said in the report.

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