What We Read This Week: Our Investigative News Roundup
New Tax Law Works for Billionaire and Goldman Sachs
Under a six-lane span of freeway leading into downtown Baltimore sit what may be the most valuable parking spaces in America, report ProPublica and WNYC as part of their continuing Trump Inc. series. Lying near a development project controlled by Under Armour’s billionaire CEO Kevin Plank, one of Maryland’s richest men, and Goldman Sachs, the little sliver of land will allow Plank and the other investors to claim what could amount to millions in tax breaks for the project, known as Port Covington. They have Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul law to thank. The new law has a provision meant to spur investment into underdeveloped areas, called “opportunity zones.” The idea is to grant lucrative tax breaks to encourage new investment in poor areas around the country, carefully selected by each state’s governor. But Port Covington, an ambitious development geared to millennials to feature offices, a hotel, apartments and shopping, is not in a census tract that is poor. It’s not a new investment. And the census tract only became eligible to be an opportunity zone thanks to a mapping error.
Drug Running on Canada’s Southern Border
Lija Greenseid, a rule-abiding Minnesota mom is steering her Mazda5 on a cross-border drug run. Her daughter, who is 13, has Type 1 diabetes and needs insulin. In the United States, it can cost hundreds of dollars per vial. In Canada, you can buy it without a prescription for a tenth of that price. So, reports The Washington Post, Greenseid led a small caravan last month to the town of Fort Frances, Ontario, where she and five other Americans paid about $1,200 for drugs that would have cost them $12,000 in the United States. The organizers of the caravan—their word, a nod to the migrants traveling in groups through Mexico to the U.S. border—are speaking out about their trip because they want Americans to see how drug prices push ordinary people to extremes. “When you have a bad health-care system, it makes good people feel like outlaws,” Greenseid said.“It’s demeaning. It’s demoralizing. It’s unjust.” They’re planning another run to Canada this month to stock up on insulin—and to call attention to their cause. This time, they’ll be taking the scenic route, driving from Minnesota through Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan en route to London, Ontario, where Frederick Banting began the work that led to the discovery of insulin nearly a century ago.
Police Officers Disciplined for Hateful Internet Posts
The Philadelphia Police Department has re-assigned 72 officers after The Plain View Project, a watchdog group that monitors social media posts, revealed thousands of offensive postings by current and former officers. Police officials in Philadelphia are describing the action as the largest removal of officers from the street in recent memory. “We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross. It is the latest fallout since the advocacy group earlier this month released thousands of Facebook posts and comments by current and former police officers that range from racist memes to posts celebrating violence and messages containing Islamophobic themes, among other offensive material.
Trump Gets Ready to Demote Fed Chairman
Trump has told confidants that he believes he has the authority to replace Jerome Powell as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Bloomberg reported. In Trump’s line of thinking, he could demote Powell to be a board governor, but isn’t planning to do so right now, the people added. The people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations, said Trump’s frustration with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is limited to his recommendation to pick Powell as Fed chair. Mnuchin is otherwise in good standing with the president, they said. Trump’s attacks on the Fed are a departure from almost three decades of caution in the White House about making public comments on monetary policy, out of respect for the independence of the central bank. It’s typical for administration appointees to step down if they lose the president’s confidence, but the Fed is different. The central bank has a long tradition of being accountable to Congress, not the White House. Trump told ABC News last week that he disagreed with Powell “entirely,” adding that “if we had a different person in the Federal Reserve that wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much,” economic growth would have been stronger.
Featured image: A rendering of the Port Covington project in Baltimore. (Weller Development)