A developer is certainly free to decide whether building another hotel in downtown Albany is a wise investment or not. But it isn't the role of taxpayers to underwrite this sort of speculation.

Yet here's Albany once again being asked to forgo more than $7 million in taxes to help Pioneer Companies of Syracuse build a $30.4 million hotel at 705 Broadway. Put another way: If the city agrees, it will be asking property tax payers to essentially subsidize nearly one-fourth of the project cost.

Pioneer originally came in with a somewhat more attractive idea that included apartments — which would contribute to what downtown Albany may need most: a critical mass of residents, enough to make it worthwhile to open the kinds of businesses that support vibrant neighborhoods, like a supermarket and retail shops. But the developer says construction bids came back too high, so it then scaled back the project to be just a hotel.

How this makes business sense in a downtown with multiple hotels already is questionable enough. It's all the more so in a crowded hotel market where the Hilton Albany, already enjoying tax breaks, sought $14 million more over 30 years just to do repairs (and avoid the full tax bill that's coming due a few years from now).

Grants and tax breaks can certainly help stimulate private investment. But communities must consider just where they really need to target such stimuli. Could money be better spent on attracting more residential projects downtown? Or on breaks to encourage small businesses in neighborhoods elsewhere in the city that lack certain services?

There are other ways besides corporate welfare to welcome investment — such as streamlined, responsive planning, zoning, permitting and inspection processes, or well-kept roads and sidewalks and sound infrastructure. Those strategies also more broadly benefit the community rather than just fatten profits for a developer or business or investor.

As for Pioneer, which has already invested $10.5 million to buy and clear the site, if it believes downtown needs another hotel, it's welcome to take that risk.

— The Times Union, Albany

The world turns even if America doesn't. That's certainly true on trade, where a rebranded Trans-Pacific Partnership has begun with the new year in 11 countries two years after President Trump withdrew. The biggest losers are American producers.

The CPTPP, as it's known, entered into force in Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore last week, where it will slash 95% of tariffs on goods among its members, which account for 13% of global GDP. The others include Vietnam, where CPTPP is in force Jan. 14, and Brunei, Chile, Malaysia and Peru, which are in the midst of ratification.

All but 20 or so of the more than 1,000 provisions in the original TPP remain in the revised agreement. Suspended provisions include U.S. priorities such as longer copyright periods and eight years of patent protection for biotech drugs. But other advances in intellectual property remain, as well as provisions protecting foreign investors and making state-owned enterprises more competitive.

Despite the U.S. withdrawal, member economies still stand to make significant gains — some $147 billion in global income benefits, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The research finds Malaysia and Singapore would see additional increases of 3.1% and 2.7% in real income by 2030, respectively. According to another estimate, Vietnam will see textile and apparel exports grow $3 billion among CPTPP countries.

U.S. Wheat Associates President Vince Peterson said in Washington last month that U.S. producers' 53% market share in Japan risks "imminent collapse" upon implementation of the CPTPP. U.S. wheat exports to Japan will face an effective 40-cent a bushel price disadvantage with Canada and Australia.

The news isn't much better for U.S. pork, as Europe exceeded American pork exports to Japan in dollar value in 2017 for the first time in a decade. An imminent EU-Japan free-trade agreement will increase the European advantage. U.S. pork exports to China also face a 62% duty from Beijing's retaliation in response to Mr. Trump's tariffs.

— The Wall Street Journal

How fitting is it that President Trump's first Oval Office address, which he requested be televised live in prime time by every major network, was aimed at stirring up the American public about a crisis largely of his own making?

Pursuing poorly thought-out and even more poorly executed policies on the pretext of battling a nonexistent national security crisis, Mr. Trump has helped create a pressing humanitarian one. Desperate migrant families being detained en masse at the border are overwhelming a system pushed beyond its limits by an administration that chose to ignore the implications of its actions — overcrowding, children falling gravely ill and, paradoxically, the haphazard release of throngs of detainees into border communities stretching from California to Texas.

Mr. Trump is now invoking the urgency of the situation as a justification for pursuing more wasteful, hard-line measures that most Americans do not support, chiefly the ludicrous border wall over which he has shut down critical pieces of the government. The president and his enablers have been busily knitting together inaccurate data, misleading anecdotes, exaggerations and other "alternative facts" about the flow of criminals, drugs and terrorists across the southern border.

With his demagogy, Mr. Trump managed to fuel a sense of insecurity and unease throughout his campaign, along with the idea that he alone could Make America Great Again. Shutting down the government is only the most recent effort at getting what he wants by traumatizing the nation he has sworn to serve.

— The New York Times

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