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The 10-Point: My Guide to the Day's Top News

The Wall Street Journal
Good morning,
Fiscal Instability
Republicans are on the verge of passing a historic tax bill but might also be ushering in a period of instability in the U.S. tax system. The plan, which includes $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over a decade, lacks bipartisan support and contains expiration dates that guarantee it will be revisited for years. If passed, the bill would be the most sweeping rewrite of U.S. business and income taxes since the Reagan era, but to get enough votes, Republicans made parts of the bill, including individual tax cuts, time-limited. Many Republicans say a future Congress would lock the changes in place before the Dec. 31, 2025, expiration date, but there is no guarantee. In the latest development in the Russia probe, a lawyer for the Trump transition team said Robert Mueller’s investigators improperly reviewed emails from transition officials. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office challenged the allegations, which are the latest in a series of criticisms of Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Meanwhile, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll offers warning signs for the GOP. Asked which party they prefer to lead Congress after next year’s midterms, 50% of respondents said Democrats and 39% said Republicans. In the past, Democrats have needed a double-digit advantage on the question to make electoral gains.

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Rewriting the Playbook
Monday afternoon, President Trump will unveil a national-security strategy that describes an “America First” approach to a world full of heightened rivalries and potentially dangerous competition. The plan, with an emphasis on confronting unfair trade practices and precluding rivals from stealing U.S. technology, holds potentially far-reaching implications for relations with China, while Russia is portrayed as a dangerous rival using state-funded media and cyber elements to undermine Western democracies. Much of the 67-page document is focused on economics, including domestic policy. The strategy casts the tax-overhaul plan and regulatory reductions as essential steps to strengthen the U.S. as an economic and military power. However, it isn’t clear how the Trump administration will meet some of its goals. Despite planned cuts of more than 30% to the State Department’s budget, the strategy calls for upgrading U.S. diplomatic capabilities to foster more “competitive diplomacy.” The drafting of the national-security strategy is mandated by Congress; some past strategies have been derided as heavy on platitudes and short on policy prescriptions.
The Price of Milk
Food costs are ticking up, but they mostly haven’t trickled down to consumers because grocers, discounters and online retailers are all holding down prices to win business. The spread between producer and retail prices is the widest in more than three years, according to Barclays. Higher prices for vegetables, beef and eggs in November helped fuel a 3.5% gain in the food portion of the producer-price index from a year ago, according to the Labor Department. However, consumers paid only 0.6% more for groceries that month than a year earlier. The gap is putting pressure on grocers as they try to manage shrinking margins without losing customers. Some executives, worried they can’t afford to raise prices as deals are getting easier to find online, say they are looking for new ways to cut costs. Many grocers are investing in e-commerce operations to keep up with Amazon, which has slashed prices since it acquired Whole Foods this past summer. Grocers say they are focused on holding down closely watched prices of staples such as milk, eggs and meat.
Trans-Pacific Deals
China has been exporting goods to the U.S. for decades. Now, Amazon is giving Chinese entrepreneurs a way to sell directly to Americans, if the sellers can crack the code and figure out what U.S. shoppers want. Picking the right product is the first challenge, while it is also crucial to navigate language barriers to find the right search keywords. Americans can be demanding: After customer complaints, a seller of Christmas tiaras had to add more glue to keep her products’ fake jewels from falling off. Yet, for Chinese businesses, U.S. consumers are prized quarry, seen as less price conscious and freer spending than their Chinese counterparts. Sellers in China have flocked to Amazon, which holds regular conferences there to promote its platform, explaining the logistics and support services it offers. Business-intelligence group Marketplace Pulse estimates that the e-commerce titan has roughly one million active sellers and that one-third are from China, 250,000 having joined this year.
TODAY'S VIDEO
‘Star Wars’ Haters
That Was Painless
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has opened to generally positive reviews. However, 40 years after the original “Star Wars” hit cinemas, a small band of rebels have had enough—despite their love for the early films.
TOP STORIES
U.S.

To Recruit Workers, Manufacturers Go to Parents’ Nights

Electricity Restored to Atlanta Airport After Outage Snarls Travel
WORLD

China Appears to Provoke South Korea With Warplanes After Summit

India’s Ruling Party Wins State Election, but Rival Makes Gains
BUSINESS

CSX Chief’s Death Prompts Tough Questions About Move to Hire Him

GM Faces $1 Billion Reckoning in Disputed Ignition-Switch Settlement
MARKETS

Anonymous Email to Visa CEO Led to Top Executive’s Firing

Bob Wilmers, Banker Who Created Regional Powerhouse, Dies at 83
NUMBER OF THE DAY
$20,650
The price of the first bitcoin futures contract for January expiration in the first trade after CME Group began trading the futures at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday. That was more than 6% higher than the price of bitcoin at that time, when the cryptocurrency was trading at $19,395.84, according to CoinDesk.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I want it to be known here in Lexington … if you get convicted of dealing in heroin and a death results, 20 years isn’t enough...Time for coddling is over.
U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood, a Vietnam War veteran who was appointed to the bench in 1990. As U.S. drug deaths hit record levels, prosecutors and police are using tough-on-crime legislation born of the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s to hold drug distributors liable for overdose deaths.
TODAY'S QUESTION
Going back to our story above, what are your thoughts on the long-term prospects of the GOP tax bill? Send your comments, which we may edit before publication, to 10point@wsj.com. Please include your name and location.
—Compiled by Charity L. Scott
READER RESPONSE
Responding to Friday’s question on the FCC’s decision to roll back net-neutrality rules, Bob Jones of New Jersey wrote: “This is a win for consumers. Since net neutrality was imposed in 2015, investment in broadband has fallen, after growing every year before then. By returning to the conditions that existed before 2015, hopefully we’ll see more investment in internet pipes, and hence better service.” Catherine Learoyd of Texas stated: “Some amount of government regulation is good and necessary to assure a balance between the people’s right to open access and competitive capitalism. The unfettered capitalism being unleashed by repealing net-neutrality rules will smother the right of free speech. Corporations should not have more freedom and liberty than we, the people.” And Charlie Van Pelt of Florida said: “The answer here seems to be a compromise that will prevent arbitrary slowdowns while incenting access providers to build-out underserved areas and permit some ‘premium’ speed access sales that don’t infringe unfairly on other customers’ access.”

This daily briefing is named “The 10-Point”after the nickname conferred by the editors of The Wall Street Journal on the lead column of the legendary “What's News” digest of top stories. Technically, “10-point” referred to the size of the typeface. The type is smaller now but the name lives on.

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