“The last two years was great for retailers because consumers were buying everything they had to offer,” Liza Amlani, founder of Retail Strategy Group, which works with brands on their merchandising and planning strategies. “They just can’t do that anymore. You have to understand what the consumer wants more now than ever.”

In July, U.S. retail sales were virtually unchanged, according to data from the Commerce Department released Wednesday. Excluding the sales of gas and cars, retail sales actually increased 0.7 percent. But 85 percent of U.S. consumers said that inflation is altering the way they shop, according to a survey released this week from Morning Consult.

Most retailers are hoping this pullback period is only temporary. In the meantime, companies are trying to signal to customers that it’s worth doing what spending they do in their stores. Kohl’s, for instance, said that its private-label brands outperformed the national ones it carries last quarter, and that shoppers gravitated toward buying more basic apparel that could be worn with many different outfits.

Retailers are also turning to the familiar strategy of discounting merchandise to entice shoppers to open their wallets. It’s one they didn’t have to deploy for most of the pandemic, when people showed they were willing to pay full price for a wide range of items. Target, Walmart and Ross Stores all said they have marked down goods in recent weeks. In turn, retailers like BJ’s Wholesale Club — even if they were content with their balance sheets — said they lowered prices on some categories in order to stay competitive. Robert Eddy, chief executive at BJ’s Wholesale Club, even said that the company was willing to “alter the scope and the depth of those promotions” for the holiday season.

The strategy of discounting might not actually get to the root cause, analysts say.

“There is a point at which lower prices don’t trigger incremental demand because the consumers already have it,” said Simeon Siegel, a managing director at BMO Capital Markets. “It’s not an indication that the company is dead. It’s not an indication that they’re never going to buy it again. They just need the time lag.”

Retailers need to realize that consumers are thinking differently, Mr. Siegel said. Some big-ticket purchases — like an exercise bike, living room couch or patio grill — will happen just once. In other cases, the amount of time between purchasing and replenishing will be longer. A person might now buy a candle every few months, compared to doing it every month in the early stages of the pandemic when they were home more often. And more people are choosing to spend their money on things like air travel and movie tickets this summer compared to last.

With all of these variables, lowering prices might not trigger the demand a retailer wants, Mr. Siegel said. It might simply just cut into a company’s profits.

For the stores that did see sales growth, like the big-box retailers Walmart and Target, most of that volume was attributed to higher food prices. Groceries have narrower margins than, say, a retailer’s private-label dress brand, and the shift in sales from one category to another affects the company’s overall profitability.

Along with pricing, retailers need to figure out how to deal with their inventory issues, especially with the all-important holiday season just a few months away.

“Getting through the inventory levels allows them to have a cleaner store, a cleaner supply chain,” said Bobby Griffin, equity research analyst at Raymond James. “They won’t be able to predict it perfectly, but getting through excess inventory will give them more flexibility to try to adapt to what the holiday is throwing at them.”

For all the challenges, some retailers saw a brighter path ahead. While inventory at TJX, the owner of the T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s chains, was up 39 percent for the quarter, the company said it was comfortable at that level because they had what shoppers actually wanted.

“They’re looking for an exciting treasure hunt, an entertaining shopping experience in stores,” Ernie Herrman, TJX’s chief executive, said in a call with analysts, “and along with that value equation, we continue to provide those two things.”

Isabella Simonetti contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Apple Warns Of Security Flaw For iPhones, iPads, Macs

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 19, 2022

Apple did not say in the reports how, where or by whom the vulnerabilities were discovered. In all cases, it cited an anonymous researcher.

Apple disclosed serious security vulnerabilities for iPhones, iPads and Macs that could allow attackers to take complete control of these devices.

Apple released two security reports about the issue on Wednesday, although they didn’t receive wide attention outside of tech publications.

Apple’s explanation of the vulnerability means a hacker could get “full admin access” to the device. That would allow intruders to impersonate the device’s owner and subsequently run any software in their name, said Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security.

Security experts have advised users to update affected devices — the iPhone6S and later models; several models of the iPad, including the 5th generation and later, all iPad Pro models and the iPad Air 2; and Mac computers running MacOS Monterey. The flaw also affects some iPod models.

Apple did not say in the reports how, where or by whom the vulnerabilities were discovered. In all cases, it cited an anonymous researcher.

Commercial spyware companies such as Israel’s NSO Group are known for identifying and taking advantage of such flaws, exploiting them in malware that surreptitiously infects targets’ smartphones, siphons their contents and surveils the targets in real time.

NSO Group has been blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department. Its spyware is known to have been used in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America against journalists, dissidents and human rights activists.

Security researcher Will Strafach said he had seen no technical analysis of the vulnerabilities that Apple has just patched. The company has previously acknowledged similarly serious flaws and, in what Strafach estimated to be perhaps a dozen occasions, has noted that it was aware of reports that such security holes had been exploited.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Stocks Slip On Wall Street, Erasing Weekly Gains For S&P 500

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 17, 2022

Pricey technology companies and retailers had some of the biggest losses. Utilities and energy stocks held up better than the broader market.

Stocks are moving broadly lower on Wall Street in afternoon trading Wednesday, led by drops in big technology companies and erasing the S&P 500’s gains for the week.

The S&P 500 fell 0.6% as of 2:07 p.m. Eastern. Trading has been choppy throughout the week as the benchmark index comes off a four-week winning streak.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 124 points, or 0.4%, to 34,025 and the Nasdaq fell 1.1%.

Small-company stocks fell more sharply than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 fell 1.6%.

Pricey technology companies and retailers had some of the biggest losses. Utilities and energy stocks held up better than the broader market.

Wall Street was absorbing a mix of retail updates that showed inflation pressure continues to affect businesses and consumers, but also shows that spending remains strong.

Target fell 2.3% after reporting a nearly 90% plunge in second quarter profits as it was forced to slash prices to clear unwanted inventories. The retailer warned earlier this summer that it was canceling orders from suppliers and aggressively cutting prices because of a pronounced spending shift by Americans as the pandemic eased.

Children’s clothing and accessories chain Children’s Place fell 12.4% after reporting a surprise second-quarter loss as it faced supply chain problems and pressure from inflation.

Bond yields rose significantly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.89% from 2.81% late Tuesday.

Sales at U.S. retailers were unchanged last month, according to the Commerce Department, and economists had expected a slight increase in July. Part of the weakness came from a 1.8% drop in gas sales, reflecting lower prices at the pump.

Wall Street has been closely reviewing the latest economic data and corporate updates to get a better sense of how inflation is affecting businesses and consumers and whether the hottest inflation in 40 years is peaking or beginning to cool. Investors are also monitoring inflation to determine how much further central banks have to go in their fight against higher prices.

Britain’s inflation rate rose to a new 40-year high of 10.1% in July, a faster pace than in the U.S. and Europe as climbing food prices in the United Kingdom tightened a cost-of-living squeeze fueled by the soaring cost of energy. Inflation pressures prompted the Bank of England to boost its key interest rate by half a percentage point this month, the biggest of six consecutive increases since December.

The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates in order to slow the economy and temper inflation, but investors remain concerned that it could hit the brakes too hard and send the economy into a recession. The Fed in July raised its benchmark interest rate by three-quarters of a point for a second-straight time. Wall Street will get more details on the process behind that decision when the Fed releases minutes from that meeting later Wednesday.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. Retail Sales Were Flat In July As Inflation Takes A Toll

By Associated Press
August 17, 2022

Overall spending has weakened, and it has shifted increasingly toward necessities like groceries and away from discretionary items.

The pace of sales at U.S. retailers was unchanged last month as persistently high inflation and rising interest rates forced many households to spend more cautiously.

Retail purchases were flat in July after having risen 0.8% in June, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

America’s consumers, whose spending accounts for nearly 70% of economic activity, have remained mostly resilient even with inflation near a four-decade high, economic uncertainties rising and mortgage and other borrowing rates surging. Still, their overall spending has weakened, and it has shifted increasingly toward necessities like groceries and away from discretionary items like home goods, casual clothes and electronics.

The government’s monthly report on retail sales covers about a third of all consumer purchases and doesn’t include spending on most services ranging from plane fares and apartment rents to movie tickets and doctor visits.

Though overall inflation remains painfully high, consumer prices were unchanged from June to July — the smallest such figure in more than two years.

Still, inflation is posing a serious threat to families. Gasoline prices have fallen from their heights, but food, rent, used cars and other necessities have become far more expensive, beyond whatever wage increases most workers have received.

Despite a still-robust job market, the U.S. economy shrank in the first half of 2022, raising fears of a potential recession. Growth has been weakening largely as a consequence of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes, which are intended to cool the economy and tame high inflation.

The impact of the Fed’s hikes has been felt especially in the housing market. Sales of previously occupied homes have slowed for five straight months as higher mortgage rates and high sales prices have kept many would-be buyers on the sidelines.

But the most important pillar of the economy — the job market — has proved durable. America’s employers added a hefty 528,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate reached 3.5%, matching a near-half-century low reached just before the pandemic erupted in the spring of 2020.

As consumers have shifted their purchases more toward necessities, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, on Tuesday reported sales and profit results that topped expectations. Walmart said more of its customers were favoring lower-priced grocery items.

But the company is benefiting from higher-income shoppers who have been trading down to Walmart to try to reduce their grocery bills. The company, long associated with price-conscious and lower-income consumers, disclosed that roughly 75% of its grocery sales last quarter were to households with incomes of at least $100,000.

At the same time, in recent weeks, Walmart and its rival Target have issued profit warnings, noting that their shoppers were reducing their discretionary purchases.

And last month, Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain, cut its annual sales and profit forecast, saying inflation had dampened consumer spending on gadgets.

Still, as a whole, America’s consumers have been showing the steady willingness to spend, though at a more modest pace. Home Depot on Tuesday reported sustained demand among its customers for goods related to home improvement projects despite surging prices and mortgage rates for homes.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. Economy Shows Another Decline, Fanning Recession Fears

A key measure of economic output fell for the second straight quarter, raising fears that the United States could be entering a recession — or perhaps that one had already begun.

Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That drop followed a decline of 0.4 percent in the first quarter. The estimates for both periods will be revised in coming months as government statisticians get more complete data.

News of the back-to-back contractions heightened a debate in Washington over whether a recession had begun and, if so, whether President Biden was to blame. Economists largely say that conditions do not meet the formal definition of a recession but that the risks of one are rising.

a bid to tame inflation, and the White House has argued that the slowdown is part of an inevitable and necessary transition to sustainable growth after last year’s rapid recovery.

“Coming off of last year’s historic economic growth — and regaining all the private-sector jobs lost during the pandemic crisis — it’s no surprise that the economy is slowing down as the Federal Reserve acts to bring down inflation,” Mr. Biden said in a statement issued after the release of the G.D.P. report. “But even as we face historic global challenges, we are on the right path, and we will come through this transition stronger and more secure.”

rising consumer prices and declining spending, the American economy is showing clear signs of slowing down, fueling concerns about a potential recession. Here are other eight measures signaling trouble ahead:

“When you’re skating on thin ice, you wonder about what it would take to push you through, and we’re on thin ice right now,” said Diane Swonk, the chief economist for KPMG.

Matthew Martin, 32, is paying more for the butter and eggs that go into the intricately decorated sugar cookies he sells as part of a home business. At the same time, his sales are falling.

“I guess people don’t have as much money to toss at cookies right now,” he said.

Mr. Martin, a single father of two, is trying to cut back on spending, but it isn’t easy. He has replaced trips to the movies with day hikes, but that means spending more on gas. He is hoping to sell his house and move into a less expensive place, but finding a house he can afford to buy has proved difficult, especially as mortgage rates have risen. He has thought about finding a conventional 9-to-5 job to pay the bills, but he would then need to pay for child care for his 4-year-old twins.

“Honestly, I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m going to do,” he said.

defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months,” and it bases its decisions on a variety of indicators — usually only months after the fact.

Some forecasters believe a recession can be avoided, if inflation cools enough that the Fed can slow interest rate increases before they take too much of a toll on hiring and spending.

The economy still has important areas of strength. Job growth has remained robust, and, despite a recent uptick in filings for unemployment insurance, there is little sign of a broad increase in job losses.

Households, in the aggregate, are sitting on trillions of dollars in savings built up earlier in the pandemic, which could allow them to weather higher prices and interest rates.

“What drives the U.S. consumer is the healthy labor market, and we should really focus on job growth to capture the turning point in this business cycle,” said Blerina Uruci, an economist at T. Rowe Price. The Labor Department will release data on July’s hiring and unemployment next week.

The lingering effects of the pandemic are making the economy’s signals harder to interpret. Americans bought fewer cars, couches and other goods in the second quarter, but forecasters had long expected spending on goods to fall as consumers shifted back toward prepandemic spending patterns. Indeed, economists argue that a pullback in spending on goods is needed to relieve pressure on overstretched supply chains.

At the same time, spending on services accelerated. That could be a sign of consumers’ resilience in the face of soaring airfares and rental car rates. Or it could merely reflect a temporary willingness to put up with high prices, which will fade along with the summer sun.

“There is going to be this element of, ‘We haven’t had a summer vacation in three years, so we’re just going to take one, no matter how much it costs,’” said Aditya Bhave, a senior economist for Bank of America. “The question is what happens after the summer.”

Avital Ungar is trying to interpret the conflicting signals in real time. Ms. Ungar operates a small business running food tours for tourists and corporate groups in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

When restaurants closed and travel stopped early in the pandemic, Ms. Ungar had no revenue. She made it through by offering virtual happy hours and online cooking classes. When in-person tours came back, business was uneven, shifting with each new coronavirus variant. Ms. Ungar said demand remained hard to predict as prices rise and the economy slows.

“We’re in two different types of uncertainty,” she said. “There was the pandemic uncertainty, and then there’s the economic uncertainty right now.”

In response, Ms. Ungar has shifted her focus to higher-end tours, which she believes will hold up better than those aimed at more price-sensitive customers. And she is trying to avoid long-term commitments that could be difficult to get out of if demand cools.

“Every annual plan I’ve done in the past three years has not happened that way,” she said. “It’s really important to recognize that what worked yesterday isn’t going to work tomorrow.”

Lydia DePillis contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. Economy Shrank 0.9% Last Quarter, Its 2nd Straight Drop

The report comes at a critical time as consumers and businesses struggle under the weight of punishing inflation and higher borrowing costs.

The U.S. economy shrank from April through June for a second straight quarter, contracting at a 0.9% annual pace and raising fears that the nation may be approaching a recession.

The decline that the Commerce Department reported Thursday in the gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of the economy — followed a 1.6% annual drop from January through March. Consecutive quarters of falling GDP constitute one informal, though not definitive, indicator of a recession.

The GDP report for last quarter pointed to weakness across the economy. Consumer spending slowed as Americans bought fewer goods. Business investment fell. Inventories tumbled as businesses slowed their restocking of shelves, shedding 2 percentage points from GDP.

Higher interest rates, a consequence of the Federal Reserve’s series of rate hikes, clobbered home construction, which shrank at a 14% annual rate. Government spending dropped, too.

The report comes at a critical time. Consumers and businesses have been struggling under the weight of punishing inflation and higher borrowing costs. On Wednesday, the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate by a sizable three-quarters of a point for a second straight time in its push to conquer the worst inflation outbreak in four decades.

The Fed is hoping to achieve a notoriously difficult “soft landing”: an economic slowdown that manages to rein in rocketing prices without triggering a recession.

Apart from the United States, the global economy as a whole is also struggling with high inflation and weakening growth, especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent energy and food prices soaring. Europe, highly dependent on Russian natural gas, appears especially vulnerable to a recession.

In the United States, the inflation surge and fear of a recession have eroded consumer confidence and stirred public anxiety about the economy, which is sending frustratingly mixed signals. And with the November midterm elections nearing, Americans’ discontent has diminished President Joe Biden’s public approval ratings and increased the likelihood that the Democrats will lose control of the House and Senate.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell and many economists have said that while the economy is showing some weakening, they doubt it’s in recession. Many of them point, in particular, to a still-robust labor market, with 11 million job openings and an uncommonly low 3.6% unemployment rate, to suggest that a recession, if one does occur, is still a ways off.

“The back-to-back contraction of GDP will feed the debate about whether the U.S. is in, or soon headed for, a recession,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. “The fact that the economy created 2.7 million payrolls in the first half of the year would seem to argue against an official recession call for now.”

Still, Guatieri said, “the economy has quickly lost steam in the face of four-decade high inflation, rapidly rising borrowing costs and a general tightening in financial conditions.”

Thursday’s first of three government estimates of GDP for the April-June quarter marks a drastic weakening from the 5.7% growth the economy achieved last year. That was the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984, reflecting how vigorously the economy roared back from the brief but brutal pandemic recession of 2020.

But since then, the combination of mounting prices and higher borrowing costs have taken a toll. The Labor Department’s consumer price index skyrocketed 9.1% in June from a year earlier, a pace not matched since 1981. And despite widespread pay raises, prices are surging faster than wages. In June, average hourly earnings, after adjusting for inflation, slid 3.6% from a year earlier, the 15th straight year-over-year drop.

Americans are still spending, though more tepidly. Thursday’s report showed that consumer spending rose at a 1% annual pace from April through June, down from 1.8% in the first quarter and 2.5% in the final three months of 2021.

Spending on goods like appliances and furniture, which had soared while Americans were sheltering at home early in the pandemic, dropped at a 4.4% rate last quarter. Bit spending on services like airline trips and dinners out rose at a 4.1% rate, indicating that millions of consumers are venturing out more.

Before accounting for surging prices, the economy actually grew at a 7.8% annual pace in the April-June quarter. But inflation wiped out that gain and then some and produced a negative GDP number.

Against that backdrop, Americans are losing confidence. Their assessment of economic conditions six months from now has reached its lowest point since 2013, according to the Conference Board, a research group.

Recession risks have been growing as the Fed’s policymakers have pursued a campaign of rate hikes that will likely extend into 2023. The Fed’s hikes have already led to higher rates on credit cards and auto loans and to a doubling of the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage in the past year, to 5.5%. Home sales, which are especially sensitive to interest rate changes, have tumbled.

Even with the economy recording a second straight quarter of negative GDP, many economists do not regard it as constituting a recession. The definition of recession that is most widely accepted is the one determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a group of economists whose Business Cycle Dating Committee defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.”

The committee assesses a range of factors before publicly declaring the death of an economic expansion and the birth of a recession — and it often does so well after the fact.

This week, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, lowered its profit outlook, saying that higher gas and food prices were forcing shoppers to spend less on many discretionary items, like new clothing.

Manufacturing is slowing, too. America’s factories have enjoyed 25 consecutive months of expansion, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, though supply chain bottlenecks have made it hard for factories to fill orders.

But now, the factory boom is showing signs of strain. The ISM’s index dropped last month to its lowest level in two years. New orders declined. Factory hiring dropped for a second straight month.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Sec. Yellen Downplays U.S. Recession Risk As Economic Reports Loom

By Associated Press
July 25, 2022

Reports will be released this week that will shed light on an economy currently besieged by rampant inflation and threatened by higher interest rates.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday said the U.S. economy is slowing but pointed to healthy hiring as proof that it is not yet in recession.

Yellen spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” just before a slew of economic reports will be released this week that will shed light on an economy currently besieged by rampant inflation and threatened by higher interest rates. The data will cover sales of new homes, consumer confidence, incomes, spending, inflation, and overall output.

The highest-profile report will likely be Thursday, when the Commerce Department will release its first estimate of the economy’s output in the April-June quarter. Some economists forecast it may show a contraction for the second quarter in a row. The economy shrank 1.6% in the January-March quarter. Two straight negative readings is considered an informal definition of a recession, though in this case economists think that’s misleading.

Instead, the National Bureau of Economic Research — a nonprofit group of economists — defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.”

Yellen argued that much of the economy remains healthy: Consumer spending is growing, Americans’ finances, on average, are solid, and the economy has added more than 400,000 jobs a month this year, a robust figure. The unemployment rate is 3.6%, near a half-century low.

“We’ve got a very strong labor market,” Yellen said. “This is not an economy that’s in recession.”

Still, Yellen acknowledged the economy is “in a period of transition in which growth is slowing,” from a historically rapid pace in 2021.

She said that slowdown is “necessary and appropriate,” because “we need to be growing at a steady and sustainable pace.”

Slower growth could help bring down inflation, which at 9.1% is the highest in two generations.

Still, many economists think a recession is on the horizon, with inflation eating away at Americans’ ability to spend and the Federal Reserve rapidly pushing up borrowing costs. Last week, Bank of America’s economists became the latest to forecast a “mild recession” later this year.

And Larry Summers, the treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, said on CNN’s “GPS” Sunday that “there’s a very high likelihood of recession,” as the Fed lifts interest rates to combat inflation. Those higher borrowing costs are intended to reduce consumer spending on homes and cars and slow business borrowing, which can lead to a downturn.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is likely to announce its second 0.75% point increase in its short-term rate in a row, a hefty increase that it hasn’t otherwise implemented since 1994. That will put the Fed’s benchmark rate in a range of 2.25% to 2.5%, the highest level since 2018. Fed policymakers are expected to keep hiking until its rate reaches about 3.5%, which would be the highest since 2008.

The Fed’s hikes have torpedoed the housing market, as mortgage rates have doubled in the past year to 5.5%. Sales of existing homes have fallen for five straight months. On Tuesday, the government is expected to report that sales of new homes dropped in June.

Fewer home sales also means less spending on items that typically come with purchasing a new house, such as furniture, appliances, curtains and kitchenware.

Many other countries are also grappling with higher inflation, and slower growth overseas could weaken the U.S. economy. Europe is facing the threat of recession, with soaring inflation and a central bank that just last week raised interest rates for the first time in 11 years.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde also sought to minimize recession concerns in a news conference last Thursday.

“Under the baseline scenario, there is no recession, neither this year nor next year,” Lagarde said. “Is the horizon clouded? Of course it is.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Secret Memo Links Citizenship Question To Apportionment

Some Trump administration officials had initial doubts that it was legal to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Trump officials tried to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census in a move experts said would benefit Republicans despite initial doubts among some in the administration that it was legal, according to an investigative report released Wednesday by a congressional oversight committee.

The report offers a smoking gun of sorts — a secret memo the committee obtained after a two-year legal battle — showing that a top Trump appointee in the Commerce Department explored apportionment as a reason to include the question.

“The Committee’s investigation has exposed how a group of political appointees sought to use the census to advance an ideological agenda and potentially exclude non-citizens from the apportionment count,” the report released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said.

It has long been speculated that the Trump administration wanted the citizenship question in order to exclude people in the country illegally from apportionment numbers.

The report includes several drafts showing how the memo evolved from recognizing that doing so would likely be unconstitutional to coming up with other justifications for adding the citizenship question.

The apportionment process uses state population counts gathered during the once-a-decade census to divide up the number of congressional seats each state gets.

Experts feared a citizenship question would scare off Hispanics and immigrants from participating in the 2020 census, whether they were in the country legally or not. The citizenship question was blocked by the Supreme Court in 2019. In the high court’s decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said the reason the Commerce Department had given for the citizenship question — it was needed for the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Voting Rights Act — appeared to be contrived.

The Commerce Department oversees the Census Bureau, which conducts the count used to determine political power and the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year. Then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before the oversight committee that apportionment wasn’t the reason for the citizenship question, even though the Commerce Department memo suggests otherwise, the House report said.

“I have never intentionally misled Congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath,” Ross said during a 2019 hearing before the oversight committee.

According to the House committee report, during planning for the citizenship question, an adviser to the Commerce Department reached out to a Republican redistricting expert who had written that using citizen voting-age population instead of the total population for the purpose of redrawing of congressional and legislative districts could be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

The August 2017 memo prepared by senior political appointee James Uthmeier went to the heart of interactions by the Commerce and Justice departments to come up with a contrived reason for the citizenship question, the House report said.

An initial draft of the memo raised doubts that a citizenship question would be legal since it can only be added to the once-a-decade census if the Commerce Secretary concludes that gathering that information in survey sampling is not feasible. But a later draft removed that concern and added that the Commerce Secretary had the discretion to add a citizenship question for reasons other than apportionment.

An even later draft removed apportionment as an exception to the Commerce Secretary’s discretion and added “there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about adding a citizenship question.”

An early draft of the memo also noted that using a citizenship data for apportionment was likely unconstitutional and went against 200 years of precedent, but that language also was removed in later drafts.

The Founding Fathers’ “conscious choice” not to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the count “suggests the Founders did not intend to distinguish between citizens and non-citizens” for apportionment,” Uthmeier wrote in the early draft.

The House report says Uthmeier researched using Voting Rights Act enforcement as a reason for the citizenship question three months before the Justice Department requested it, and hand-delivered his memo with that suggestion to the Justice Department in order to avoid a digital fingerprint.

Uthmeier, who now is chief of staff to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, didn’t immediately respond to an email inquiry Wednesday.

In an effort to prevent future attempts at politicizing the census, members of the oversight committee on Wednesday debated a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that would require new questions for the head count to be vetted by Congress, prohibit a Census Bureau director from being fired without cause and limit the number of political appointees at the Census Bureau to three.

Even though many of the Trump administration’s political efforts ultimately failed, some advocates believe they did have an impact, resulting in significantly larger undercounts of most racial and ethnic minorities in the 2020 census compared to the 2010 census.

Republican lawmakers said the bill would make the Census Bureau director unaccountable and limit the ability to add important questions to the census form. They offered an amendment that would add a citizenship question to the next census and exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the apportionment count, claiming their inclusion dilutes the political power of citizens. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that all people in each U.S. state be counted for apportionment.

Committee members voted down the amendment and passed the bill Wednesday afternoon.

“What this bill does, it more completely delegates Census Bureau activity to the bureaucracy,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. “When you delegate to the bureaucracy, you are taking away the power of the American people.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<