Thumbs down to the ongoing trade war with China, which is causing ever more serious damage to the Midwest economy.

A new monthly survey of business supply managers showed the economy is growing slowly in nine Midwest and Plains states, with the trade war taking a bigger toll here than in much of the rest of the country. That's because the trade war hits agriculture and manufacturing, two staples of the Midwest economy, hard.

But the weakness in the economy is now spilling into other areas of the Midwest economy. In the past 12 months, the region has added jobs at an annual pace of just 0.7% — less than half the national rate.

The Creighton University economists who oversee the survey say they expect slow growth the first half of next year in the Midwest, but the trade war is continuing to hammer the region. 

The Trump administration needs to put a higher priority on reigniting talks with China.

Young Women's cabinet

Thumbs up to two area women being chosen to serve on the Young Women’s Cabinet.

The task force is a joint effort between the state of Minnesota and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, aiming to improve gender equity and equality throughout the region.

Bla Yang, 21, is a Minnesota State University student majoring in social work who serves on the Student Senate. Benya Kraus, 24, of Waseca, is co-founder of a national nonprofit that creates fellowships for recent college grads, particularly grads of color, to work in local governments.

They are looking forward to formulating a plan to help support women and strengthen their roles in Minnesota and will be working with state government leaders, including Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. 

This region benefits from having participants on the Young Women's Cabinet and area residents can be proud they are being represented by these smart, motivated women.

Superfund underfunded

Scott Pruitt, President Trump's first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, defended the administration's plan to pull back on enforcing pollution laws by saying they would prioritize Superfund cleanup of badly polluted sites.

Some three years later, the Superfund program has been a casebook example of "watch what we do, not what we say." The EPA quietly revealed over the holidays that the program now has its largest backlog of unfunded projects in 15 years.

And the Trump administration consistently submits budgets that reduce money going to the Superfund program.

Congress has not gone along with those cuts, but the administration's actions speak louder than its words. Superfund is not a Trump priority. Nothing environmental is.

Slavery reference

Thumbs up to St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell for pushing to have a reference to slavery removed from the Minnesota Constitution.

The reference Axtell pointed to is a section of the state’s constitution that reads: “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted.”

Axtell brought up the issue after seeing it raised in other states.

Kudos also go to Minnesota House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who vowed to hold legislative hearings on an amendment to remove the reference, which would need to be approved by the state's voters.

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