by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
A crowd of more than 200 business and community leaders gathered to hear North Texas U.S. representatives Pete Sessions and Marc Veasey address the issues of free trade, public aid and a new citizenship-related question proposed for the 2020 U.S. Census.
The event, which was held by the Dallas Regional Chamber, occurred at the Fairmont in downtown Dallas on Oct. 19.
While both Congressmen agreed that renegotiated trade deals with Canada and Mexico would pass, they had different takes on how the White House approached the task.
“Increasingly, we have products and services back home that we want to protect,” said Sessions, whose 32nd Congressional district includes northern Dallas, Richardson and Garland. Sessions said the updated trade agreements – in particular, as they pertain to preserving energy property rights in Mexico, and improving intellectual property protections – were sorely needed.
Veasey, meanwhile, said while he supported updating the treaties, President Donald Trump overstated how bad the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was.
“While campaigning, the president said that NAFTA was … the worst deal ever,” said Veasey, whose 33rd Congressional District spans from portions of Fort Worth to Arlington to Irving to portions of Dallas. “Of course, the people in the business community in this state and in this city would disagree with that. They would say that NAFTA was actually good for the local and state economy. Nevertheless, people just wanted to change the name of it.”
Veasey said he took issue with how President Trump went about changing the agreements.
“As you know, Canada and Mexico are two of our largest trading partners,” he said. “Canada is one of our strongest allies. The way he wanted to put them under certain classifications, that would make them a threat to U.S. security, was completely unnecessary.”
Sessions said that the Trump administration accomplished what the Obama administration couldn’t.
“The previous administration was incapable of organizing itself around any trade deal, or trade practice,” Sessions said. “It’s one thing to argue, ‘I don’t like that, I don’t like that.’ I want someone to do something about it. I think we did something about it.”
Public Assistance Policies
In light of a new proposed rule by the Administration that would penalize the use of public assistance programs by legal immigrants, the representatives launched into a divided discussion on entitlement programs as a whole.
Veasey said it was once a bipartisan notion that it should be relatively easy for children to get educations, and that low-income individuals should receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly known as food stamp) benefits. Improper nutrition can lead to health problems, costing more in the long run, he said.
Sessions said Republicans are advocating for a 20-hour-per-week work or volunteer requirement for those who receive public assistance. He added public assistance isn’t supposed to be a permanent fix for able-bodied people. People are abusing the current system, and that it’s costing taxpayers hundreds of billions, he said.
“There is a federal law that allows every single able-bodied male between the ages of 19 and 50 to receive food stamps,” he said. “I don’t think they should be on food stamps.”
“These are the kinds of battles that take place (between Republicans and Democrats),” he said. “It’s not about children or women. It’s about people who should not be there, crowding in and out from people who actually need it: Disabled people, children (and) women.” he said.
Veasey said Republicans have long tried to demonize and stereotype individuals who draw public aid.
“Back in the ‘80s, there was the fictitious welfare queen,” Veasey said. “I don’t know how many of you have toured a public housing project, but they’re not palaces. Why they decided to make this person a ‘welfare queen,’ I have no idea.”
“Most of these people who use these benefits, are working,” Veasey said, adding that transportation issues and mental illness often hamper people from improving their situations. “The stereotype that these people are sitting on their can, watching TV all day, is just not true.”
Proposed citizenship status question on the 2020 Census
“Counting people is hard,” Sessions said. “Getting people to answer the door is hard. They ask a bunch of questions, including how many toilets you have in your house. They ask about what language is spoken. I think it would be important for us to know demographically … I would say, it’s fair to ask the question, ‘Are you here as a United States citizen?’ If they asked the question, ‘Are you here illegally?’ I probably would not be for that.”
Veasey said that the insertion of that question into the biennial Census is an attempt to undercount residents, to effectively disenfranchising voters.
“If you read our Constitution, it says everyone should be counted,” Veasey said. “There are a lot of benefits that would go to the Republican Party if certain people were not counted. Including how we do our reapportionment” of Congressional seats every 10 years. Veasey said that when minorities or undocumented people don’t complete their Census forms, they aren’t included in demographic data used to determine congressional representation.
Sessions said the proposed question has nothing to do with disenfranchising voters.
“People who are here legally can go and register to vote, they can make those decisions,” Sessions said. “This is (about) counting people.”
Rectifying the U.S.-China Trade Relationship
“There are people on [the President’s] economic team, who have told him these tariffs are very bad,” said Veasey, citing roughly $13 billion in bailouts U.S. farmers have received as a result. “We impose these tariffs, and they retaliate, and suddenly, we have no markets for these (agricultural) products.”
Sessions said, “The presumption is that we have a fair trade deal with China. It presumes things are going well. The Chinese are brutal with the United States, in the way it does business. They steal. They thieve. They manipulate and they deceive. In the Dallas market, we’re familiar with a number of famous cases where a Chinese partner came in, took all the intellectual property, and fled. And sold their share to the government of China, which then claimed sovereign immunity.”
Intellectual property theft is rife in Shanghai, Sessions said.
“When Donald Trump became president … it changed the landscape. We played hardball with the Chinese. You just can’t allow somebody to steal and thieve … you were taking advantage of us, and expecting us to turn our head. We’ve been putting up our white flag at the Chinese for too darn long.”
Veasey agreed that some Chinese companies are bad actors, and that the U.S. needs to protect its intellectual property. At the same time, President Trump needs to tone down his rhetoric and tariffs, or he risks permanently losing markets for U.S. farmers.
Gold-level sponsors for the event include Advocare; Lockheed Martin; and Texas Central; silver-level sponsors include Boeing and Texas Instruments Incorporated.
Dear DRC Members,
This Saturday, June 16, Dallas County voters will elect the Dallas Independent School District trustee for District 9 in a run-off election.
Voting in local elections has an outsized impact. Past Dallas ISD trustee elections have been decided by as few as 400 votes, so every vote counts. Last May, only 7.8% of registered voters in Dallas turned out to the polls, selecting the leaders who make decisions on behalf of the 2.55 million residents in Dallas County.
Dallas ISD has made tremendous progress over the last several years with innovative programs, from the opening of 23 early college academies (where students can graduate high school with a two-year associate’s degree), to the launch of full-day pre-school for 4-year-olds and half-day for 3-year-olds, to the improvement in the quality of education for all students, including turning around virtually all 43 “Improvement Required” schools in Dallas ISD in the past four years.
Continuing this momentum is paramount if we want to have the community and workforce necessary to continue to grow Dallas’ economic success.
Please remember to vote this Saturday, June 16, and encourage your colleagues, friends, and family members to do so as well.
All best wishes,
President and CEO
Dallas Regional Chamber
by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Texas senior Sen. John Cornyn told a crowd of more than 200 attendees that he will continue to work with President Donald Trump and his peers in Congress to preserve trade agreements, to avoid a trade war and to resolve conflicts over immigration.
Cornyn spoke Friday, May 4, at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Legislative Speaker Series at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. Former U.S. Ambassador and current Hunt Consolidated executive Jeanne Phillips hosted the conversation with him, leading with a question over the Trump administration’s trade policies.
“It’s hard, in the Trump administration, to know what is theater and what’s reality, and that’s just sort of the way the administration operates,” Cornyn said. “And they negotiate in ways that are not what I would call orthodox when it comes to politics or international relationships.”
Cornyn said Trump’s instincts on the economy, taxes and regulations are very solid. Trade is another question, he said.
“The trade part confuses me because I think the president, his rhetoric — which is, I think, more populist than policy-oriented — I think he blames trade for a lot of things that are not necessarily directly trade related.”
Trump is gaining an appreciation for the potential retaliation that can occur with heavy tariffs, Cornyn said.
“So, I think what we’ve tried to do on NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and on the tariffs, and on China, is to try to work with the president, encouraging him in ways that would first do no harm,” he said. “NAFTA, is, I think, very important to Texas. Five million American jobs… depend on that binational relation with Mexico. Eight million with Canada. This is really important.”
Cornyn, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, mentioned that preserving the agreement is especially important to some of those in attendance, including Toyota Motor North America.
“There is a point at which we can kill the goose that laid the golden egg, and I think that would be a terrible, terrible mistake,” he said.
Cornyn said while he agrees that President Trump’s approach has been correct in addressing China over its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and to defend American intellectual property, Trump sometimes ties U.S. trade policies to such behaviors.
“We hear a lot from her ranchers and farmers who are particularly beleaguered, and, in the end, nobody really wants a trade war,” he said.
When asked about the conflict over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Cornyn said opponents to Trump’s solution chose to make it a campaign issue, rather than resolving it when they had the chance. President Donald Trump proposed a path for citizenship for roughly 1.8 million DACA-eligible young adults, and a border wall with Mexico.
“There is a saying in Washington, D.C., that some people want a solution, while others want an issue they can use for the next election,” Cornyn said “I’m afraid… we’ve become captive of people wanting to preserve the issue for the election, rather than solve the problem, and that’s a real shame.”
Cornyn said, “In America, we don’t hold children responsible for the mistakes their parents made… We had to demonstrate, ‘Yes we want border security, yes, we want the rule of law, but there is a role for compassion and pragmatism, when it comes to DACA, and the president’s proposal to generate a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA-eligible young adults was extraordinarily generous,” he said. “It came with a price. The president said he wanted money for border security and here again some of the rhetoric on border security like, ‘The wall tends to be divisive,’ and people sort of ridicule that, from the standpoint of, ‘Well, that’s not a real solution. You need more than just physical infrastructure,’ and that’s true… but that’s a critical piece of the puzzle.”
In January, Democrats and Republicans presented a compromise agreement involving DACA; that deal was rejected by President Trump.
The DRC supports the continuation of DACA and has been actively engaged in the dialogue by sending multiple letters to elected officials and signing on to a national coalition letter with other chambers and the New American Economy. The DRC will continue to emphasize DACA’s importance to our skilled workforce and regional economy.
Cornyn said that resolving the immigration issue is key in meeting industry demands for qualified workers.
Phillips also asked Cornyn about whether the tax reform faces any revisions.
“We all know how complex and how self-defeating our tax code had become particularly when it comes to our top business rate, which was the highest in the world, at 35 percent,” he said. “Getting it down to 21 percent – which we did – which is the average of the industrialized countries in the world, I think is going to have a lot of benefits.”
Cornyn said he’s starting to seeing major businesses including AT&T, Southwest Airlines and others give bonuses and make commitments to infrastructure investment.
“You’re gonna see a lot of money coming back, that’s parked overseas, because people didn’t want to pay taxes twice on it, coming back to the United States, being invested in businesses and jobs here,” he said. “So, I think we’re going to see a huge benefit… Now, we could screw it up, and if we don’t get the trade thing right, [we] could well do that. But it is it is really encouraging.”
The Men and Women of Hunt Consolidated, Inc. was the gold sponsor of the event; Texas Central Partners was a silver sponsor.
Dear DRC Members,
On Saturday, May 5th, Dallas County voters will elect the Dallas Independent School District trustee for District 9 and the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) trustee for District 7. Voters outside of Dallas County will be electing mayors, city councilmembers, and deciding bond elections across the region.
Voting in local elections has an outsized impact. Past Dallas ISD trustee elections have been decided by as few as 400 votes. Last May, only 7.8% of registered voters in Dallas turned out to the polls, selecting the leaders who make decisions on behalf of the 2.55 million residents in Dallas County.
Please remember to vote on Election Day on Saturday, May 5, and encourage your colleagues, friends, and family members to do so as well.
All best wishes,
President and CEO
Dallas Regional Chamber
Leading Chambers of Commerce in Texas unveiled a poll today of its members, finding that most say the state’s economy is headed in the right direction but more must be done to shore up education, transportation, infrastructure and workforce development.
The joint survey also showed that most of the chambers’ members believe the debate over a transgender bathroom bill has hurt Texas’ efforts to attract and keep talent. And, many say, Washington’s inability to resolve immigration is negatively affecting their businesses.
The survey – by chambers in Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio – provides a timely outlook on business trends in Texas. Its release comes as primary voters begin deciding local, legislative, statewide and congressional races.
“The statewide results of this survey validate what we hear from our business leaders in Dallas,” said Dale Petroskey, president and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber. “They want low taxes and reasonable regulations, and they also want investment in our children’s education, and in infrastructure to keep pace with our strong, growing economy.”
“Infrastructure, education and workforce development have long been priorities on our legislative agendas,” said Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. “These findings confirm that those are still well-founded and give us data to help shape our federal and state policy recommendations for addressing these issues.”
“As the survey supported, our members are committed to championing economic and community prosperity,” stated Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber. “Arlington manufacturing, entertainment and health sciences companies have a consistent voice that a world-class education, infrastructure and business environment is required for maintaining our position of economic leadership.”
Among other highlights, the poll of business leaders from across the state found that:
On the so-called bathroom bill, nearly two-thirds of chamber members say the state discussion about that issue has had a negative effect on perceptions of Texas’ ability to attract or retain qualified employees for its businesses. Of those polled, 44 percent say it has had a very negative effect.
The Legislature last year debated but did not pass a bill that would restrict bathroom use for transgender Texans in public facilities. Many of the state’s most recognized companies and business groups opposed the measure.
On immigration, 44 percent of chamber members polled say that federal discussions and actions over immigration are negatively affecting their business. Almost half say it has had no impact and 8 percent say it has been positive.
The survey went beyond an assessment of top business issues, offering solutions by chamber members to keep Texas moving. Among the findings:
The chambers sponsoring the survey collectively serve thousands of Texas companies that employ a large portion of the state’s workforce. The chambers have focused largely on economic development, mobility and other policies to benefit state and local economies. They are part of the Metro 8.
The online poll of 454 chamber members was conducted Feb. 9-18 by Research+Data Insights, a national polling firm based in Texas that is part of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which has offices in Dallas, Austin and Houston.
Dallas Regional Chamber
Andra Bennett House, APR
Vice President Communications
Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce
Vice President, Marketing & Business Development
Arlington Chamber of Commerce
ABOUT THE DALLAS REGIONAL CHAMBER
The Dallas Regional Chamber is the voice of business and the champion of economic growth and development in the Dallas Region. Our mission is to make Dallas the best place in America to live, work, and do business. We work with 1,200 member companies to strengthen our business community by advocating for pro-growth public policy, improving our educational system, attracting the best and brightest workers from around the world, and enhancing the quality of life for all in the Dallas Region. The DRC is a not-for-profit organization comprised of businesses, which represent all facets of the Dallas Regional business community. For more information, please contact the DRC at 214.746.6600 or visit www.dallaschamber.org.
ABOUT THE FORT WORTH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, with 2,000 member businesses, is one of the largest chambers in North Texas. Through its core functions of business attraction and retention, talent development, small business and entrepreneur support, and government advocacy, the Chamber’s mission is to bring the Fort Worth region together to identify issues, solve problems and help align resources resulting in a stronger business climate and greater economic prosperity for all.
ABOUT THE ARLINGTON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Arlington Chamber’s mission states “Together, we champion economic and community prosperity.” We focus on four key priorities: 1) growing our members business, 2) fostering economic prosperity, 3) providing a unified voice for business and 3) developing our community’s future. We strive to build upon being the “American Dream City.” For more information, please contact the Arlington Chamber at 817-275-2613 or visit www.arlingtontx.com.
We welcome your questions and comments. To request more information about area businesses or to share an idea, contact us: