Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • Republicans

The Senate Owns This Shutdown

How is the current partial government shutdown going to end? That’s the question echoing down the halls of empty congressional chambers, talk radio, and cable news shows.

On Thursday, the Senate made a part of the outcome obvious. After retreating for the Christmas holiday, the Senate returned to work—for all of three minutes. The Senate came into session on Thursday afternoon, and then gaveled out again three minutes later, until January 2. The upper chamber is determined, it seems, to avoid a vote on the House bill to fund the government—a bill that also provides $5 billion for President Trump’s border wall.

Senators would rather wait it out until January 3, when the gavel falls on the 116th Congress and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) takes charge again. Until that happens, it’s become quite clear that the McConnell Senate will not have a single vote to fund the government, Trump’s wall, or anything else.

The last two years should perhaps have made this outcome obvious. This is the same Senate that failed to repeal Obamacare, fought against holding votes to defund Planned Parenthood, and repeatedly shut down opportunities to offer even mainstream Republican policy priorities.

With friends like these, who needs Democrats?

When conservatives would push back and press for their own priorities, they were told “but 60 votes! We need 60 votes!”

And yet, in the same breath, the Republican establishment passed tax reform, a partial repeal of Dodd Frank, gun control, a carve-out for industrial hemp, and several other priorities you haven’t heard of and don’t care about unless you live and work among the corporate interest lobby on K Street (or in Kentucky). And they did it all without 60 Republican votes they so desperately claim they need as a prerequisite for action.

This is also the Senate that, bizarrely, left key procedural opportunities on the table. Reconciliation, a vehicle that requires only 51 votes (and which was employed to pass tax reform in 2017 and parts of Obamacare in 2010), went unused.

So, too, did any effort to make life the least bit painful for Democrats. The fight (or, really, lack of fight) over the wall is Exhibit A. Rather than put the House funding bill on the floor and force Democrats to filibuster it, Senate Republicans did what they do best. They simply retreated, shrugged their shoulders, and conceded in the face of Democrat opposition.

This is the Republican establishment logic. Unless it’s a K Street priority, it gets the brush off. Without 60 votes, why bother? It’s just wasting time.

But there is ample evidence that “the fight” so roundly decried by establishment Republicans actually has tangible impact. When past Senates brought bills to the floor and allowed time for amendments and debate, cloture (the 60-vote requirement) was required very rarely. Rather, consensus (or exhaustion, an equally valuable tool in the Senate) was reached, and the body decided to move forward at a majority threshold.

That is unheard of in today’s Senate, which rarely, if ever, boasts an open legislative process or debate. Remember, this is the Senate that couldn’t even stay in town to debate the current shutdown!

The conflict over border wall funding represents the clash that has been in the making for the last two years. Since President Trump’s election, there has been a visceral and visible tug of war between the two poles of the Republican party: the establishment, D.C.-based big government Republican party of George W. Bush, and a more populist, grassroots constituency—the “country class,” as Angelo Codevilla calls it—that prefers more limited government, feels passionately about pro-life issues and strong borders, and actively opposes Obamacare.

For years, the former has pandered to the latter, running on flashy promises, like the one Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2013: “We will repeal Obamacare root and branch.” The current Republican majority ran on a platform of strong border security—in addition to the most pro-life platform the party has ever ratified. In January, departing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and McConnell—with the same House and Senate they have now—pledged to fund Trump’s wall up to $15 billion.

They promise it because they want to get elected. Because they know what matters to you, and to me. But then when it really counts in Washington, they turn the other way.

In the case of Trump’s wall, where 65 percent of Republicans did not want a compromise, Senate Republicans quite literally turned heel, and walked out the door. They haven’t been in Washington or voting since December 21. They won’t be back until Wednesday.

So, when you hear another pundit wondering aloud about how this shutdown will end, you already know. The Senate has told you. No funding bill can pass, or even be debated, without the Republican Senate in session. And they’ve already hung up the cleats.

Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • Republicans • the Presidency

Obstructionist Republicans vs. Trump

Washington is staring into the abyss of its third shutdown in two years. Say what you want about the political utility of a shutdown (and, believe me, the talking heads will spare no words), but one significant advantage they provide is to clarify the field of battle.

Thanks to the ongoing shutdown theater, two things are now obvious.

First, Republican leadership in Congress had no intention of even trying to fund Trump’s wall, much less actually doing it, despite repeatedly promising to do so.

And second, Trump is being exactly who he said he was, and doing exactly what he said he’d do, and all of greater Washington is still shocked—shocked!—by it.

To the first point, departing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been leading Trump down the primrose path on the wall since January 2017. Days after the president was sworn in, Ryan and McConnell held a joint press conference pledging that they would use their unified government to, among other things, repeal Obamacare, pass tax reform, pass an infrastructure bill, and give the president $12 to $15 billion for the wall.

None of that, save tax reform (these are still Republicans, after all, so corporate priorities!) got done. Excuses were made. $1.6 billion for border security was tossed into the March omnibus, with prohibitions on any of it being used to build Trump’s wall prototypes. When Trump got restless before the midterms, Ryan and McConnell held him off by promising “a big fight”on the wall in the lame duck.

None emerged, so here we are.

Instead of making good on his promise to “try really hard” (McConnell’s words) the leader’s first move was to cut a deal with Senate Democrats on a bill without wall funding, and pass it. When Ryan tried to do the same, rank and file House Republicans revolted—and with good reason.

House members, who by design are far closer to the whims and will of the voters than their Senate brethren, seemed to understand what most mainstream Washington Republicans do not: you cannot keep failing to deliver again and again and again and expect the voters to keep trusting you. At some point, the constant failures become too much, particularly on an issue where 65 percent of Republicans don’t want a compromise.

On this, the fight over funding for the wall has become a proxy battle between establishment Republicans who have no intention of helping the president, and the more conservative members who want to deliver on their campaign promises.

Establishment Washington has believed for years that it can run on platform issues like repealing Obamacare, defunding Planned Parenthood, and reforming the immigration system, but then provide dozens of excuses as to why these objectives can’t be met.

First, Republicans said, they needed the House. Then the Senate. Then the White House. But of course, once all of those were delivered, it still wasn’t enough. Now they need 60 votes in the Senate or nothing can happen! They believe that voters are, in fact, dumb enough to keep buying what they’re selling.

Gone unmentioned, of course, is the fact that establishment priorities somehow never face that “need 60 votes or it ain’t happenin’” hurdle.

The GOP still managed to pass tax reform last year without 60 votes, and in the face of significant opposition from Democrats. McConnell spent months pushing the farm bill over the finish line to get a special carve out for industrial hemp in Kentucky—again, without 60 Republican votes. The giant increases in defense spending, opposed by Democrats? They pass every time, always without 60 Republican votes.

Moreover, there are strategies available to McConnell to get around Democrat obstruction. He simply chooses not to use them. McConnell made the baffling decision this year not to use a reconciliation vehicle, which passes the Senate at 51 votes (the same vehicle used to pass tax reform in 2017, and which Democrats used to pass part of Obamacare in 2010). This is akin to failing to fire a silver bullet.

He also refuses to enforce the rules of the Senate against Democrats, which would make obstruction physically tiring and grueling to maintain. McConnell could be forcing Democrats to speak during the floor time they demand, instead of simply conceding it. When confronted with that option, anonymous Republican leadership aides object to the strategy because, to paraphrase, “It’s hard. We might have to work nights.”

But to the second point, President Trump exists outside of establishment Washington. He doesn’t play by the same rules, and has never claimed to. Yet somehow, this very obvious fact continues to befuddle The Swamp, which, after two straight years of asking, is still surprised that Trump wants border wall funding and is unhappy that he doesn’t have it.

The same is true when it comes to Trump’s recent decision to accept the resignation of General James Mattis. Mattis’s resignation letter made clear he is departing due to substantive foreign policy differences with the president, particularly over Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Mattis’ departure has led to yet-unseen levels of hysteria from Washington’s establishment.

But, again, this is really not that unheard of. For one thing, defense secretaries leave fairly regularly; Mattis lasted longer under President Trump than former secretaries Panetta, Hagel, and Carter did under President Obama.

But second, what did people expect? Trump ran on a platform of reducing America adventurism in endless wars. He repeatedly asked Mattis to get troops out of Syria. Mattis resisted. He repeatedly asked for a solution to drawing down the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. Again, Mattis gave him no options. Instead, Mattis focused his energies on issues like approving transgender soldiers in the military—not quite high on the MAGA agenda.

We can debate the merits of pulling out of Syria (and the heads exploding in the foreign policy establishment suggest we will), but there’s no denying that Mattis is opposed to the president’s foreign policy, and that, as Mattis’s resignation letter suggested, the president “has a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned” with his own.

Again, Trump is kicking the conventional finger wagging “we know best” wisdom of the Washington establishment down the corridor. Is that really such a bad thing? At the very least, maybe it will force Congress actually to debate how and where our troops are deployed overseas, instead of shrugging and refusing to confront itt.

It’s unclear how this shutdown will end. Contrary to the talking heads, shutdowns don’t always end poorly for Republicans. They poll terribly, but rarely does that ever translate to action at the ballot box.

Whether Trump gets his wall funding or not, this shutdown will have the effect of making it very clear who the president’s obstructionists are in both parties. And, to paraphrase the ancient strategist Sun Tzu, it’s always preferable to begin a battle first by clearly identifying your enemy.

Photo Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

2016 Election • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • the Presidency

The Wall is Trump’s ‘Read My Lips’ Moment

A major reason that George H. W. Bush was elected in 1988 was his pledge, dramatically enunciated at the Republican National Convention in August of that year, not to raise taxes. Congress will push me to raise taxes, said Bush, and I’ll say “no”; they’ll push again, and I’ll say “no”; and they’ll push again and I’ll say to them “read my lips: no new taxes.”

It was a nice performance. The “read my lips” wheeze is of course the most famous bit. I’m sure it was scripted, as was the amusing play on “resort.” My opponent says he’ll only raise taxes as a last resort, said Bush, “but when a politician talks like that you know that’s one resort he’ll be checking in to.” Throw that speechwriter a bone!

A pledge not to raise taxes is something that is easy to check up on. You look at the weekly pay packet and count the drachmas. If there are fewer now than before, you can bet your local IRS agent that the hand of government is reaching a little deeper into your pocket than before.

The Democrats understood this. And although Dems, as a class, enjoy spending other people’s money, the more the merrier, they don’t necessarily want to be seen as the ones who are pilfering the pelf. They’d take all of your money if they could get away with it, but they wouldn’t want to be blamed for that government-sponsored larceny. Much better, from a reelection perspective, to contrive to shift the blame on to the Republicans.

Given that ambition, George H. W. Bush’s promise was an irresistible challenge. “Read my lips,” he said. OK. We read you loud and clear. And if we can browbeat you into capitulating, even as a “last resort,” to our demand that you raise taxes, then we’ll have you by the short and curlies. We’ll play that video where you made the promise on an endless loop on the lead up to the 1992 election and crush you.

And so it came to pass. It wasn’t fair. Bush didn’t want to raise taxes. The Democrats strong-armed him into it. Then they turned around and said he had broken his promise. Not nice, not nice at all. But it was just business as usual in the world of politics, especially Democratic politics.

Bush could have resisted. He could have vetoed the tax bill. He could have shut down the government. He could have been the dispenser instead of the recipient of pain. Contemporary versions of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi would have screamed bloody murder. The media would have pilloried Bush and called him mean names. People would say he was being grossly irresponsible, that he was sowing chaos, that he was hurting thousands of government workers.

George Bush was a gentleman. He didn’t like it when people called him mean names. He was offended when the media ganged up on him and said he was a terrible person. So he caved. He didn’t want to. He said he didn’t want to. He probably thought about saying he did it only as a “last resort.” Doubtless the memory of politicians checking into that resort stopped him.

There is a lesson in Bush’s pursed lips for President Trump. Bush was elected in large part because of his promise not to raise taxes. Similarly, a major reason that Donald Trump was elected was his promise to build a wall on our southern border. The wall was just a synecdoche for border security and an America-first immigration policy. But it was a vivid, concrete (no pun intended) manifestation of that determination. It was, politically, the sine qua non of that policy.

President Trump has kept an astonishing number of his campaign promises, from his Scalia-like judicial nominations to moving our Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. He has begun hacking away at the stifling regulatory environment built up by the administrative state and he has inaugurated a much-needed renovation of the United States military. He has cut taxes (though not enough) and eviscerated Obamacare. He has, just a few days ago, announced that the United States would be pulling out of Syria and there are plans, at long last, to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Promises made, promises kept.

But there is one critical promise he has, so far, been unable to keep. The wall. He has to build the wall. It was the cornerstone of his campaign.

Again, the wall, like lines in the Constitution if you are a left-wing jurist, has plenty of emanations and penumbras. It means robust border control. It means an America-first immigration policy. It means lots of things.

But the wall is the indispensable objective correlative of those things. Donald Trump has to build the wall, and he has to be seen to have built the wall. If not, he will lose in 2020.

The Democrats know this, which is why they are moving heaven and earth—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, with Virgil, “flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo” (“if I cannot bend the heavens, I will move hell”)—to prevent the wall.

It’s a dangerous game of chicken. Who will blink first? On Friday, we learned that the impasse on the issue had shut down some “nonessential” parts of the government. I think there are a lot more parts of the government that are “nonessential” and should be shut down—permanently—than are generally recognized, but that is another story. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is adamant: Donald Trump will not get the wall. He should give it up.

If Donald Trump were George H. W. Bush, he would be thinking about checking into that resort about now. But clever readers will have noticed something important: Donald Trump is not George H. W. Bush. He does not care if Chuck Schumer says mean things about him. Wolf Blitzer’s or Don Lemon’s or Rachel Maddow’s or Anderson Cooper’s little tantrums do not disturb his sleep or his enjoyment of a Big Mac. He does not mind it when Bill Kristol or Max Boot or Jennifer Rubin tweet savage things about him. The two self-appointed pastors in the Church of NeverTrump, Pete Wehner and David French, preach their sermons from pulpits Donald Trump does not attend.

A week ago, at their reality-show like White House meeting, Trump told Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that he would take responsibility for a government shutdown if they refused to fund the wall. “I will take the mantle,” he said to Schumer, “I’m not going to blame you for it.”

Take a look at the video link above and note Schumer’s body language when he hears the president say that (at about 10 minutes). He grins and rocks back and forth. “Oh boy,” he seems to say, “Now we’ve got him. He’ll shut down the government at Christmas time and everyone will blame him. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.”

I am surprised at you, Chuck. Didn’t you know better?

First, most people don’t care—actually, they rather like it—if the government shuts down. Second, Donald Trump is not going to back down over this. As he just tweeted, the government will be shuttered for a “very long time” if that’s what it takes. “People don’t want open borders and crime.” And third, who is getting blamed? Not Donald Trump. As Hugh Hewitt noted, “It’s all on Chuck Schumer. Period.”

It’s a Bishop Berkeley moment: to be is to be perceived. Schumer is the perceived owner of this drama, Hence he is the owner.

The border wall is Donald Trump’s “read-my-lips” trial. For a brief moment last week, he seemed to waver. But it seems now that was mere appearance, a feint, not reality. He has dug in more firmly than ever. One way or another, he will get the wall. If it were up to me, I’d take the advice of a friend and begin by mining the border, but no one has asked for my opinion. We probably won’t get the mines. We will get the wall.

Maybe Trump will order the Army Corps of Engineers to build it. I have no doubt that another friend is right that, should that happen, the Ninth Circuit or some other anti-American judicial redoubt would intervene and forbid it. Trump should then study the conflict between Lincoln and Chief Justice Roger Taney and ignore the injunction. In any event, Trump will get the wall. He has to. Therefore he will.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • Republicans

Trump Is Right About the Shutdown

President Trump once again did something very few thought he would or should do. He hosted a meeting in a camera-filled Oval Office with Vice President Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), during which he brazenly and passionately said:

If we don’t get what we want . . . I will shut down the government, absolutely; and I am proud to shut down the government for border security . . . I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. … I will take the mantle of shutting down, and I’m going to shut it down for border security.

If the government does partially shut down on Friday, President Trump just handed the Democratic Party a ready-made, 30-second attack ad. Tactically, it seems foolish to have played into their hands the way Trump did. That may be the case. But, as is so often the case with Trump’s tactical “failures,” this one also could end up being a strategic victory.

Regardless, as a nation we need to start thinking more rigorously about government shutdowns, events we have been scaremongered into believing are the end of the republic, if not the whole world.

I submit that we—Republicans, conservatives, those on the political Right—should be happy to shut down the government in service of attaining political must-haves, like control of our porous southern border. Without a strong border, sovereignty is a farce: “A country without borders is not a country at all,” as President Trump is fond of saying.

The U.S. government exists at our sufferance to secure our rights. You can read all about it in the Declaration of Independence. When it fails to do so or actively undermines the will of the sovereign American people, then it deserves to be shut down.

The government “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed” and exists to serve us, not the other way around. It’s really that simple.

If Republicans truly believe their copious rhetoric about federalism and how America is not synonymous with Washington, D.C., then a partial shutdown of the federal government is not “Apocalypse Now.” It’s just a way for We the People to reassert our sovereign prerogative to have a government that looks out for our interests and gives us what we overwhelmingly support: a strong border and sensible immigration system that benefits us as a polity.

When did it become taboo to use a government shutdown as leverage in a legislative negotiation? And when did that result—a shutdown—become the political equivalent of gleefully killing a puppy? Once again, President Trump’s plain-spokenness is shattering congealed illusions and faux norms—constructed over many decades by those who despised the original Constitution bequeathed to us by the Founders. He is saying what everyone knows at a gut level to be true but, for whatever reason, refuses to acknowledge in public as the truth.

Some things merit shutting down the government. Things like a just immigration system that advances America’s interests in our fast-paced, ever-more-dependent-on-technology world.

Even so, when did keeping the federal Leviathan happy, well-fed, purring, and chugging along become a conservative priority? I must have missed the memo.

As anyone with eyes and a bit of common sense knows, the bureaucracy is dead-set against the GOP as a matter of course and in a manner wholly consistent with its nature; it cannot be otherwise. The administrative state was a progressive creation, and, fundamentally, it serves only its progressive masters’ progressive ends, ratcheting one way—to the left—in perpetuity. Anyone who tries to tame it or even just redirect its energies becomes its sworn enemy, and it reacts savagely when threatened by those even remotely hostile to its power and prestige, let alone its existence.

Lawless as it often is and as alien as it is to the tripartite federal structure of our constitutional republic, it nonetheless remains formally under the president’s control since it is housed in the executive branch, of which the president, per Article II, is the sole head: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” (emphasis added). Not “some” or “most” of that power. Not whatever power career bureaucrats with their own agendas—which are often adverse to the desires of the American people—“allow” him to exercise. And not whatever power happens to accord with the tastes of an intelligentsia which too-often disdains American citizens.

No, the office of the president has all of the executive power. Period.

So, if the American people don’t get what they want—if the country’s immigration policy doesn’t advance the national interest—from a federal government completely controlled by Republicans until January 3, 2019, then why shouldn’t some basically unfireable federal employees with plum jobs feel the heat?

When did “career federal bureaucrat” become a religious position: sacred and untouchable? I must have missed that memo, too.

President Trump was elected in an historic upset in 2016 on the strength of few vital promises. One of those promises was to build a wall to secure our border with Mexico. This really isn’t difficult. Democrats, when they have power, constantly make good on promises to their voters. For example, from 2008 through 2010, they labored unceasingly to overhaul the healthcare system, knowing that the bureaucracy, again, always has their back, and they were punished, cycle after cycle, for their steely resolve. But behold what still lives (at least for now): Obamacare. Republicans need to charge through the fire in like manner.

Sure, they’ll be smeared as “racists” and tarred as “xenophobes” and other such nonsense. But they will have delivered on a big promise. That’s what elections and politics are supposed to accomplish.

But a betrayal of that promise while it easily can be delivered would be a political disaster, a disaster worse than serving up an attack ad on a silver platter to the Democrats by explicitly owning a government shutdown. It would unleash a 2020 backlash that would make the 2010 Tea Party wave elections look like gentle ocean tides. And it would be deserved.

Republicans, Mr. President: We sent you to Washington, D.C. to build the wall, government shutdown be damned. So do it.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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America • Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post

The Future of U.S.-Mexico Relations Is Bright

While the Democrats reflexively oppose all of President Trump’s solutions to fix the crisis at our southern border, the president suddenly and surprisingly seems to have a much more willing partner in Mexico.

Thanks to the president’s campaign of pressure and persuasion, the Mexican government’s new leadership is showing signs that it is willing to join him in his fight to address the border crisis that continues to put lives at risk on both sides of the border.

President Trump effectively has employed rhetorical pressure to achieve that remarkable result, coaxing, cajoling, and even shaming Mexico into taking responsibility for the migrant caravan as it crossed the country on its way to the United States.

In April, for instance, the president directly urged Mexico to take stronger action on immigration, criticizing its prior effort to fight drug crime on the border.

“Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S.,” he tweeted. “They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”

In October, as the latest caravan containing thousands of would-be illegal immigrants began to march north, the president asked Mexico “in the strongest of terms” to “stop this onslaught.” Within a few hours, he was able to tweet his thanks to the Mexican government for sending riot police to its border with Guatemala.

President Trump’s strategy clearly is starting to pay off, because the Mexican government has begun to take an increasingly active role in helping U.S. efforts to stop the invasion.

In an attempt to deter the caravan, Mexico offered the migrants temporary work permits if they applied for asylum and stayed in the southern part of the country. The deal also included temporary ID cards, medical care, schooling, and housing initiatives.

Mexican police also have repeatedly clashed with caravaners who have tried to break the law, and even assisted U.S. officials in turning back the recent rush on the border.

Moreover, Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office recently, signed a deal with Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador designed to deter future caravans as one of his first official acts. The agreement aims to promote economic stability and combat violence in the region to address the root causes of illegal migration to America.

The very next day, Tijuana’s municipal government announced that it had closed down a migrant shelter near the border and transported migrants to a new facility located 10 miles away from the U.S. border and 14 miles from the nearest port of entry at San Ysidro.

The official reason given for the move was “bad sanitary conditions,” but the timing—roughly one week after hundreds of caravaners assaulted U.S. Border Patrol agents while trying to storm the border—suggests it may have been intended, at least in part, as a gesture of good will toward President Trump.

Putting greater distance between the migrants and the U.S. border makes it easier for authorities on both sides to predict, prepare for, and ideally prevent recurrences of the recent lawlessness—and that’s exactly what President Trump has been demanding.

Thanks to these developments, the future of U.S.-Mexico relations looks brighter today than it has for many years.

Mexican President Obrador has already signaled his willingness to work with President Trump on a number of key issues, including immigration and trade. President Trump likewise has expressed his desire to partner with Mexico, and graciously congratulated Obrador on his election.

“Congratulations to newly inaugurated Mexican President Obrador,” President Trump tweeted. “He had a tremendous political victory with the great support of the Mexican People. We will work well together for many years to come!”

In a further gesture of goodwill, the president also sent both Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, to attend Obrador’s inauguration, which took place just days after outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto presented President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with the highest honor that the Mexican government can bestow on foreigners, the Order of the Aztec Eagle.

Liberals love to portray President Trump as out-of-step with other world leaders, but Mexico’s new cooperation with the president’s plan to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the United States shows that his persistence at seeking solutions can draw new and even unlikely supporters in time.

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images

Democrats • Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post

Trump Runs Out of Patience on the Wall

President Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer met for a televised Oval Office meeting on Tuesday and it was arguably the greatest 20 minutes of television that Washington has ever seen.

There was bickering, sighing, eye rolling, finger pointing, ridiculing, cross talk, and repeated pleas from Chuck and Nancy to take this “away from the cameras.” (Translated: Please can we just make this a backroom deal?)

“It’s called transparency!” Trump retorted to the third or fourth complaint from Pelosi about the public nature of the meeting.

Trump opened the discussion with statistics on the effectiveness of border walls, as well as apprehensions. Pelosi quickly claimed that Trump’s numbers “were not factual,” but at no point did she counter them with any of her own statistics. Or, as one might say, she did not offer any of her own alternative facts.

And then there was the politicking. At one point, Pelosi went on a rambling tear, claiming Trump’s policies lost the Republicans their House majority. Trump, reminding Pelosi that Republicans gained seats in the Senate, was interrupted by Schumer, who deadpanned to the observing press pool that “when the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he’s in real trouble.”

“But I did! But we did win North Dakota and Indiana!” Trump emphatically retorted, with what seemed to be a mixture of indignation and glee.

At another point, Trump commented that it was “difficult for Nancy to talk right now,” presumably referring to the fact that she has yet to secure the votes of her conference to assume her previous role as speaker of the House.

“Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting,” Pelosi replied tartly, in what will surely launch a cavalcade of feminist hashtags and memes, all of which will overlook the fact that Pelosi didn’t come out of the meeting looking particularly in charge of anything, least of all Trump.

The group therapy session meeting ended in a sparring match between Trump and Schumer, with Trump roaring that he would gladly shut down the government if Congress refused to give him the $5 billion he requested. “I will proudly shut down the government for border security,” he declared, leaving Schumer looking confused as to whether he should be pleased or terrified.

As soon as the meeting wrapped, Chuck and Nancy, who minutes before had been complaining about the cameras, ran straight to the cameras, where Pelosi promptly questioned Trump’s manhood. (And mangled the old adage about fighting with skunks.)

All of Washington took a collective breath and then lost their minds.

Journalists were “stunned.” A member of the New York Times editorial board lamented the next two years as a “freak show.” One departing GOP congressman told Politico (anonymously, of course) that he found the meeting “unbelievable. I literally couldn’t believe a president of the United States was acting that crazy.”

A few thoughts.

First, to the press pool and cable news hosts, I can’t even with you. This is the same group of people who routinely tout Trump as the “enemy of the press,” who loudly complain about access to the White House and moan about the lack of televised press conferences.

But then Trump gives them access to a real-time, high-stakes negotiation in the Oval Office no less, and what do they do? Feign indignation and bemoan it as “spectacle” and “a reality show.”  Please. No one’s listening anymore. The fake sanctimony has grown so tiresome.

Second, as all of Washington should at least understand by now, this is how Trump does business. Sure, it’s unorthodox. But contra congressional Republicans, who flee in the face of Democrat narratives on immigration, Trump has decided to make Democrats own their policy positions in public—along with their hypocrisy.

This is not a president who is going to let Democrats demagogue him to the TV cameras while cutting deals with him behind closed doors. If they want to negotiate, they’ll have to publicly defend why they block legislation to fix family separation at the border; why, after losing their minds over U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement officers using tear gas to repel a border surge, they didn’t raise a single peep when President Obama allowed the use of tear gas against border surges more than 50 times during his administration; and why, after voting to authorize 700 miles of double layered fence in 2006, they refuse to cooperate on a border wall this time around.

Third, and perhaps most important as we creep toward the end of the year funding deadline, can we all stop obsessing over shutdowns?

The press and the GOP establishment are fixated on the idea of avoiding a shutdown, for which they assume Republicans will be blamed. They frantically tell anyone who will listen that they will avoid a shutdown at all costs—and in doing so, trade away all of their negotiating leverage.

If we’re going to generalize about shutdowns, it’s also worth pointing out that they don’t always fail. The 16-day government shutdown in 2013 was a public relations disaster for Republicans, according to the polls. But a year later, the voters handed the GOP broader control of the House, and a majority in the Senate for the first time in six years. The 1996 shutdown, for which Republicans were also blamed, resulted in the GOP winning a net gain of two seats in the Senate and only losing two seats in the House in the 1998 midterms. And let’s not forget the Democrat-led shutdown over DACA earlier this year, which was a boon for Senate Republicans.

If Republicans can tear themselves away from their anti-shutdown fixation, they might realize that going to the mat on border security is exactly what their base wants. Sixty-three percent of Americans want to see a deal on immigration that includes a border wall. A stunning 65 percent of Republicans do not think Trump should compromise on the issue.

On this, Trump seems to understand what congressional Republicans never have: there is no ability to compromise if threats aren’t made real. Pelosi and Schumer have made it clear they have no intention to work with Trump on this or much else. And the $1 billion they are offering as a “compromise” is so heavily restricted that it won’t allow construction of a wall.

Generally speaking, the answer from congressional Republicans in these cases is always to give lip service to negotiations, while privately planning to concede. But Trump is not a creature of Washington, and accordingly, he doesn’t play the same games. After asking Congress to fund his wall for two years, he is understandably out of patience.

Congressional Republicans have two choices. They can find the nerve and do the work necessary to fund the border wall. Or they can continue to fuss and bluster while doing absolutely nothing. The former would make them heroes to their base. The latter will simply confirm how wildly out of touch they are with what their voters want.

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Donald Trump • Immigration • Infrastructure • military • Post

Seriously, Just Order the Pentagon to Build the Wall

The estimated price tag on President Trump’s “big, beautiful” southern border wall is $25 billion—a paltry sum compared with the ways government otherwise fritters away taxpayers’ dollars. Yet a government shutdown looms—and Democrats can’t have that.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) paid a visit to the White House on Tuesday to make a deal with the president to pass a continuing budget resolution that would keep the government running through March. Trump said he would be more than happy to deal—as long as Congress gives him his wall.

Democrats can’t have that, either.

Pelosi, who will almost certainly be the new speaker of the House when the new Congress convenes in January, told reporters on Thursday that Trump won’t get his wall and vowed to keep the government “closed forever” if that’s what it takes.

For his part, Trump has insisted that if negotiations with Congress fail, he will simply direct the Pentagon to build the wall.

It’s strange that the president already hasn’t ordered the Pentagon to build the wall. After all, border security is a basic and vital function of the military. The military, however, has been reluctant to engage in this timeless endeavor. When President Trump in October ordered the Pentagon to deploy several thousand U.S. troops shore up the southern border against yet another caravan of illegal aliens, top brass balked. Many argued in the press that the mission was a distraction for the military’s far more important duties, like endlessly and ineffectively securing Afghanistan’s borders.

Understand, the Department of Defense has a budget in excess of $700 billion. The Pentagon is so big and bloated, with a budget process so unwieldy, that for years officials resisted any form of audit. Until this year, when the DOD spent more than $400 million auditing some $2.7 trillion in assets. It will come as no surprise that the budget uncovered a great deal of waste (though not necessarily fraud).

Given all the money sloshing around, it’s fair to say the Pentagon has the cash on hand to build a $25 billion border wall and still have money to spare to continue building and maintaining warplanes that can’t fly.

Yet, this has not happened. The Pentagon continues evading presidential directives to enhance border security, preferring instead to hand off responsibility to the boondoggle that is the Department of Homeland Security. For $25 billion, the entirety of America’s southwestern border could be reinforced with a modern, strong wall. Pentagon leaders insist their budget must go toward “national security priorities.”

What are these priorities? What threats transcend the necessity of defending America’s geographical borders?

In September, the Pentagon was so flush with cash that it engaged in an obscene spending-spree in which it “rushed to spend $111 billion of its $700 billion budget before the end of the fiscal year.” On what did the Pentagon decide to spend the public money that had been lavished upon them—by a supportive President Trump no less?

According to Open the Books, a nonprofit dedicated to government transparency, much of your money has been spent on things ranging from office supplies (such as coffee mugs for the Air Force costing $1,000 each) to weapons for non-military agencies, to alcohol supplies (you read that right). This isn’t the first time the Pentagon has opted to go on a last-minute spending spree. Last year, the Army spent “$6,600 on fidget spinners, $35,000 on an arcade machine and $62,000 on snowboards and paddle boards. In addition, defense contractors were paid $11 billion in seven days.”

So, it’s interesting watching the cogitations of desperate Democratic leaders like Pelosi and Schumer debate the finer points of border security with the president. One of the big takeaways from their public row was that the Democrats will never accept that a physical border wall needs funding, let alone needs to be built. They’ve bought into the bizarre, vaguely Orwellian notion that one can have border security but not build a border wall (kind of like, “if you like your doctor, you can keep him.”)

But just as former President Obama routinely evaded Congress’ authority through unlawful executive orders and other administrative tricks, President Trump can easily outmaneuver Congress when it comes to funding and building the wall.

Forget negotiating with Congress. It’s a dead-end. Just as he ordered the Pentagon to send the troops to the border, he could order the Defense Department to begin construction on the wall immediately. There’s nothing stopping him from doing so. It’s the only way the president will get the wall.

Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump • Elections • Immigration • Infrastructure • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • the Presidency

Is There a 51 Percent Solution for Trump?

President Trump’s challenges are not really his economic policies and foreign affairs agendas. For the most part, they are supported by the American people and are resulting in prosperity at home and security abroad.

The economy continues to deliver near-record-low unemployment, wage gains, strong growth and unmatched energy production.

No nation can remain sovereign and secure with insecure borders. There are few ways to stop massive illegal immigration other than building a wall, insisting on employer sanctions and recalibrating legal immigration to be measured, diverse and meritocratic.

For all the hysteria over Trump’s foreign policy, many observers quietly concede that the U.S. is far tougher on Vladimir Putin and Russia now than Obama was in 2016: stronger sanctions, more help to the Ukrainians and greater NATO expenditures.

America had reached a point of no return with China. It either had to renegotiate its enormous trade imbalances and confront regional Chinese aggressions or simply acquiesce to China’s agenda of predetermined global superiority. Yet there were few levers other than temporary trade tariffs to force China to trade equitably and to follow global commercial norms.

The status quo that Trump inherited with North Korean nuclear-tipped intercontinental missiles was an unsustainable proposition. So was an Iran deal that would have guaranteed eventual Iranian nuclear capability.

Yet Trump cannot consistently reach 50 percent approval in the polls. And, like most presidents, he experienced a rebuke in the House during his first midterm elections.

So, what might Trump do to translate his policy successes into 51 percent majority support?

He needs to pick up more minority voters, perhaps winning about 20 percent of the African-American vote and 40 percent of the Latino vote. That is a difficult proposition for any Republican in general, and in particular Trump, who is loathed by Democratic and identity-politics activists.

Yet Trump’s economic policies have achieved record-low minority unemployment. His immigration policies will eventually curb illegal immigration and give clout to entry-level workers, who will have less competition from imported low-wage labor.

Trump should go into minority communities and hold frank discussions with local leaders, many of whom oppose him politically, about policies geared toward economically empowering inner-city youth.

Trump’s message should be that his economic agenda is aimed at ensuring that minority workers regain some clout over employers. In a growing economy short of labor, those who were once bypassed and ignored now for the first time in decades have the ability to choose from among multiple job options and enjoy rising wages.

Trump also must pick up 5 percent to 10 percent more of suburban centrists and Republican voters, many of whom privately support the Trump agenda but publicly recoil at Trump’s sometimes blunt (though usually accurate) assessments of political opponents, celebrities and foreign nations.

The obvious complaint among these swing voters is not so much with Trump’s substance as with his style—which nonetheless appeals to millions in the Trump base who are sick and tired of political hedging and politically correct sentimentalism.

Referring to opportunist Stormy Daniels as “horse face” or to often-erratic Rep. Adam Schiff as “Little Adam Schitt” is unnecessary to secure a base already appreciative of the fact that Trump has done what he said he would do while on the campaign. His gratuitous slurs of enemies turn off voters who otherwise appreciate the security, prosperity and confidence that Trump has returned to America.

In this regard, Trump is at his best when he is funny and self-deprecating—attributes that play especially well in suburbia.

During the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation circus, an all-too-human Trump joked, “I never had a glass of alcohol. I never had alcohol, for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had? What a mess I would be. I would be the world’s worst.”

When Trump campaigns and holds rallies, he is the rare politician who sincerely uses a plural possessive pronoun of endearment to talk of Americans as “our farmers,” “our soldiers,” “our miners” and “our workers.” His speeches about reviving the deindustrialized Midwest show more empathy than the usual boilerplate from free-trade libertarians or social-welfare liberals.

Trump does not have to win over all minority voters and suburbanites. He just needs to recalibrate his messaging and re-emphasize his solid achievements, reminding those he has benefited why and how he has helped them—and why he is not the ogre so often stereotyped in the media.

Otherwise, Trump will end up getting results without getting political credit for it.

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Center for American Greatness • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Post • Technology • The Culture • The Left

The Snowflake Barons Are Security Risks

If it is true that “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” then the present trajectory of America’s Internet giants may knock the earth a little off its axis. Or at least, that is if you follow the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ.

For stock watchers, wobbly tech stocks are cause for concern. For those of us who are concerned about the safety of American citizens, it is welcome and overdue. The past few weeks have laid bare what many of us who regard America’s tech sector with a jaundiced eye have long suspected, and even feared—that far from being the bulwarks of innovation that their defenders imagine, the most dominant tech companies are plagued by anti-American sentiment, riddled with technical and security failures, or completely dishonest with consumers—and often all three at once.

In short, Silicon Valley’s Snowflake Barons are increasingly looking not just like a danger to American principles but also to the United States itself.

Let’s start with Amazon. Now, to its credit, the retail giant at least provides items of value to its consumers, unlike some of the other offenders I’ll discuss. The problem with Amazon, however, is the extent to which it abuses its market power for the purposes of acting as a political cudgel. And no, I’m not just talking about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ decision to turn the Washington Post into a vehicle for anti-Trump jeremiads, without regard for their quality or even sanity. I’m talking about the behavior of Amazon itself, which shows not just a bias against conservative voices, but an active disregard for the promotion of anti-American causes abroad.

It was not so long ago that Amazon banned the Alliance for Defending Freedom from its Amazon Smile program, which enables users to donate to their favorite charities. Their reasoning was that the group had been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its opposition to gay marriage-related causes. This alone was troubling, seeing as it showed that Amazon was willing to outsource its ethics to an industrial strength left-wing smear manufacturer. But it didn’t actively threaten national security.

Now we know that at the same time Amazon was trying to kick Christian groups off its platform, its Amazon Smile program was simultaneously facilitating donations to the radical Islamist preacher Haitham al-Haddad. Needless to say, Haddad’s religious views make the Alliance for Defending Freedom look like GLAAD, and that’s not even getting into his rabid anti-Semitism, support for female genital mutilation, and defenses of pedophilia.

It says something that even in the United Kingdom, where political correctness is so extreme that mild anti-Muslim satire can get one banned from entering the country for life, Haddad is regarded as beyond the pale and dangerous. Despite thin denials of support for ISIS and al-Qaeda, Haddad is almost certainly also responsible for radicalizing young Muslims in Britain, where he is based. And this is the person Amazon has been funding without the slightest ounce of regret.

This matters, and not just because it shows an utter lack of moral clarity on Amazon’s part. It matters because Amazon increasingly has begun migrating the U.S. government’s data onto its cloud computing servers, and has been so aggressive in trying to gain government contracts that it may have broken the law in at least one case.

A company so blasé about inadvertently funding anti-Western extremists should be nowhere near classified information, let alone Department of Defense data, which (among other things) enables America’s military drones to stay afloat and effective. Amazon has the right to pass on customer dollars to whomever it likes, but it has no right to massive government subsidies. Period.

Compared to Amazon, the other big tech firms look like malware sites with delusions of grandeur.

Google, as I have noted in the past, is probably the worst offender in terms of its Snowflake political ideology, and thus its leaders are arguably the OG Snowflake Barons. If you can name another company where employees are invited to give talks on what it means to sexually identify as a yellow-scaled Dragonkin, I’ll frankly be shocked.

But worse than this has been Google’s behavior over the past month. Consider its refusal even to try to work with the United States Department of Defense because of its long commitment (which dates from roughly five minutes ago) to not building AI that can be used for weapons; or, its decision to build a censored and privacy destroying search engine for the totalitarian Chinese government; or, its having to shutter Google+, its widely mocked social media site, because of a bug that exposed the data of hundreds of thousands of users; or, its open admission in an internal company document that it plans to use its market power to censor the internet in order to be more attractive to authoritarian regimes as a business partner.

Given all these problems, Americans should thank their lucky stars that Google isn’t willing to work with the Department of Defense, because heaven knows the company’s institutional values are anti-American, its products shoddy, and its company culture a virtual black box of non-transparency. Its willingness to work with major American rivals marks it as a clear security risk for the United States, as does the . . . well, insecurity of its data.

And then there’s Facebook. It would be unnecessarily cruel to rehearse the myriad ways in which Facebook’s data repeatedly and humiliatingly has been compromised over the past few months, but what is more shocking is that Facebook also actively lies to its users and advertisers about where traffic numbers go.

In particular, the company tried to claim that Facebook video traffic numbers were far higher than they were, driving a huge shift toward video among media companies, and arguably killing huge swathes of the journalism industry in the process. I’m not usually one to be sympathetic to journalists, but when it comes to tech literally manipulating their craft in order to pad their own bottom line, I think there is no argument whatsoever that even the Fake News media has reason to be upset.

In short, not only is Facebook’s data laughably insecure, but its own reporting about that data is plagued with fundamental and protracted dishonesty. This is the kind of thing that normally only happens when dealing with mysteriously well-heeled Nigerian princes, yet Facebook is somehow still regarded as a pillar of America’s tech sector, even as it goes out of its way to conspire to kick political enemies off the internet.

In some ways, these embarrassing failures by Facebook and Google are to be expected. The sites charge nothing to use them, after all, because what they provide is largely either valueless or actively harmful to the point of mimicking the effects of illegal drugs. But that is no excuse, and certainly no reason they should avoid scrutiny.

The Snowflake Barons are, as one, running anti-American operations, and endangering the privacy and security of the American people. It’s time they got treated not as pillars of American capitalism, but as scams by a group of overgrown children mouthing left-wing pieties to avoid scrutiny. Maybe then we’ll have not just a freer and more secure internet, but a freer and more secure America as well.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

China • Donald Trump • Economy • Foreign Policy • Infrastructure • Post • Technology

How Trump’s Tariffs Will Make Goods Cheaper

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC last week that President Trump’s tariffs wouldn’t hurt American consumers, noting that because the price increase would be “spread over thousands and thousands of products, nobody’s going to actually notice it at the end of the day.”

Needless to say,  poor Ross was summarily tarred-and-feathered by “experts.” What doesn’t this kook understand? Tariffs are a tax, and taxes are always bad.

The logic seems straightforward enough: tariffs increase costs and these costs invariably get passed on to consumers. Thus, tariffs won’t punish China—they’ll punish American consumers. We will pay the price for Trump’s ignorant bravado.

But, as always, the “experts” are wrong. Tariffs will not hurt American consumers, they’ll actually make America richer in the long run.

The Brave Little Toaster
The main reason why so many Americans oppose tariffs is that they don’t understand them. They think tariffs are just another sales tax, and assume that imposing a 10 percent tariff on a product will increase that product’s price by 10 percent. That’s not how it works.

Unlike sales taxes, American tariffs are not applied to a product’s retail price, nor are they applied to the wholesale price. In fact, they’re often not even levied on the entire import price. Instead, tariffs are levied on the first sale price—the price paid to foreign vendors by American companies or their middlemen.

This method of calculation reduces the tax burden on American consumers, but preserves the tariff’s punitive effect on foreign producers.

For example, suppose President Trump were to impose a 10 percent tariff on all Chinese toasters.

Black & Decker makes toasters in China. These toasters sell for $60 in American stores. That’s the retail price. Are tariffs imposed on retail prices? No. This means that the price of toasters will not rise by 10 percent—$66 toasters are a media-concocted boogeyman.

So just how much would this hypothetical tariff increase the price of toasters?

American stores buy their toasters from Chinese manufacturers. But because of China’s (intentionally) convoluted regulatory framework, they often buy them via middlemen located in Hong Kong, Singapore, or Taiwan. These middlemen charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 per toaster.

And of course these middlemen don’t work for free: they buy the toasters directly from Chinese factories for $7 per toaster. This is the first sale price, and tariffs are calculated on this figure. Thus the tariff charged on a Black & Decker toaster that retails for $60 works out to just 70 cents.

American consumers don’t pay 10 percent more for toasters—they pay just 1.15 percent more. And that’s assuming Black & Decker doesn’t simply source its toasters from one of China’s competitors, in which case consumers may not see any prices increase whatsoever.

This same rule applies to component pieces, meaning that toasters assembled elsewhere using Chinese parts would only increase in price relative to their proportion of Chinese origin. For example, if a Taiwanese factory assembles $7 toasters using foreign parts, half of which are from China, then tariffs would apply only to half of the value. The final retail price of this hypothetical Taiwanese toaster would increase by just over one-half of 1 percent

Americans consumers may not notice the tariffs, but Chinese producers will. After all, the only reason Americans manufacture in China is because they’re cheap. If Trump’s tariffs change this fact then American companies will do business elsewhere—ideally in America. China is vulnerable and Trump knows it.

In this way tariffs give America leverage over China—leverage we can use to achieve important goals. For example, China steals up to $600 billion in American intellectual property every year. Tariffs could coerce the Chinese into enforcing American IP law (which they pledged to do when they joined the World Trade Organization), thereby generating astronomical amounts of cash and upholding the rule of law.

Innovation Expands Economies and Tariffs Push Innovation
Tariffs will also enrich America because they help expand the economy. Here’s how:

America’s economy grows when we make more or better stuff—more cars or more luxurious cars, more software or faster software.

Great minds from Plato to Adam Smith to Henry Ford recognized that one way to make more stuff is to divide our labor more efficiently. When people specialize in making only what they’re best at, and trade for what they’re not, they can make and consume more stuff overall. Henry Ford took this principle to its logical conclusion by perfecting the assembly line, and unlocked enormous prosperity as a result.

But there’s a problem: we can only divide labor so efficiently. Once we reach the limit, growth will stop.

Thankfully there is another way to make more stuff: increase productivity, make more stuff in the same amount of time. How? Invent and adopt better technology.

Technology is also the key to making better stuff—it’s why today’s iPhones are more powerful than computers that filled buildings in the 1970s. Or why a trip from London to New York takes six hours by airplane, as opposed to three-and-a-half days by steamer.

Technology makes us richer. Economic growth is a predicate of technological progress, it is a footnote to the story of mankind’s creativity.

Everyone I speak with understands this point intuitively. But let me flesh it out with an example.

There are two islands. One island is home to the Flintstone culture: a technologically primitive, yet industrious people. The Flintstones worship their deity, Adam Smith, by dividing their labor and trading as much as possible. In return, Adam Smith blesses them with prosperity. He is a generous god.

The second island is home to the Jetson culture. Unlike the Flintstones, their technology is highly sophisticated—far more advanced than our own. For example, their crops are drought, disease, and pest-resistant, highly nutritious, and whole fields can be harvested in an hour, by a single man riding a floating tractor.

Who’s richer? The Flintstones or the Jetsons?

Obviously the Jetsons. No matter how efficiently the Flintstones divide their labor, no matter how freely they trade, they will always produce less than the Jetsons. Stone tools cannot compete with hover-tractors (or the parochial diesel-powered ones Americans use).

America Must Retain Our Advanced Industries
If we want to grow the economy we need to improve our technology. How?

We cannot simply force people to invent “the next big thing” any more than we can force them to compose like Beethoven or perform like Daniel Day Lewis. Instead, we must create an economic climate that maximizes our exposure to technological discoveries. Doing this requires tariffs.

Most discoveries are generated by America’s technologically advanced industries—sophisticated manufacturers, information technologies, pharmaceuticals. The Brookings Institute focused on the economic impact of “advanced industries” in a recent report. The study found that although such industries employ just 9 percent of America’s workforce, they file 85 percent of all patents, provide 90 percent of private sector research funding, and employ 80 percent of America’s engineers.

Advanced industries are the engine of growth—and we’re losing them.

Not only is it cheaper to make bobble heads in China, it’s also cheaper to make automobile components, computer processors—everything. It’s also cheaper to perform basic research and product design abroad now that many developing countries are training large numbers of (relatively) competent engineers and scientists.

Without tariffs to equalize cost differences, America’s advanced industries will continue to leave, taking with them our jobs, our prosperity, and our economic future. President Trump’s tariffs on China are a good start, but they’re not enough.

The problem isn’t that our industries are leaving for China, it’s that they’re leaving to begin with. Where they end up isn’t all that important. For this reason President Trump should protect America’s industry from asymmetrical foreign competition wherever it lurks. And he needs to do it quickly, while there’s still something to protect.

Photo Credit:  Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Administrative State • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • GOPe • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Post • Republicans

It Takes a Veto

All summer long, Republicans have been touting their success in passing spending bills. The problem? There are no Republican policies in them.

The bill the Senate passed earlier this week—which combines three spending bills into one package and extends government funding through December 7—fails to address any Republican policy priorities. It somehow manages to spend even more than the $1.3 trillion omnibus Congress passed in March. Obama-era programs that the president targeted for repeal or roll back are fully funded. There’s a reason, after all, that the people praising the bill the loudest are Senate Democrats.

The last two years have demonstrated that the Republican Congress has little interest in putting up a fight for conservative priorities, and even less interest in fighting on behalf of the president’s agenda. The state of the current spending bill makes this plain.

If congressional Republicans won’t assert themselves on behalf of the voters who elected them, then the president must. It’s time for President Trump to whip out the veto pen. Here are three reasons why.

In March, Trump promised he would “never sign a bill like this again.” Trump was clearly irritated with the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that Congress sent him in March, calling the process of passing the 2,232-page bill in less than 24 hours a “ridiculous situation.” He also took issue with the price tag, and the many “things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill.”

Well, here’s some news. The bill that will land on his desk next week is almost exactly the same thing, except it does even less on policy while spending $33 billion more.

Republican leaders are trying to hide behind the technicality of not sending the president one giant omnibus—so instead, they sent him two. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Oh, you didn’t like that crap sandwich we served you last time? Okay, here, try two halves instead of one whole.”

It’s also a classic D.C. misdirect, where people intentionally miss the point (Trump doesn’t want to sign massive spending bills) while pretending to adhere to it (we listened, and technically, this is not an omnibus!). This is the type of disingenuous swamp-speak which only survives as long as everyone plays along. Trump shouldn’t fall for it.

This bill doesn’t fund any Republican policy priorities. It’s hard to overstate how hard Senate Republicans whiffed on the opportunities to get good policy into this bill. Or even to try.

The true power of a majority is its ability to write bills that reflect exactly what it wants—and then to force the minority, in this case, the Democrats, to fight to take them out. But these are Republicans, so the approach was just the opposite: Yield to Democrats at the outset by continuing all Obama-era policies, block conservatives from offering any amendments, and then engage in self-congratulation for passing the most uninspiring piece of legislation imaginable.

The bill the Senate just passed maintains the status quo on Obamacare, fully funds Planned Parenthood, continues research on fetal tissue harvested from abortion, does not allow for conscience protections for doctors and hospitals, keeps nearly all of Obama’s social and education programs, makes no effort at civil service reform, does nothing on border security, fully funds sanctuary cities and spends more than the entire budget of the federal government in 1991.

Trump’s veto pen is the last measure of accountability for congressional Republicans before voters wield the ultimate measure in November.

It’s now or never for Trump’s border wall. Congress has played hide-the-ball on Trump’s border wall for the better part of two years, and that’s not going to change.

For example, take the $1.6 billion that Congress “gave” the president for his border wall in March. That money is there, but is prohibited from being used on any new construction, or on any of Trump’s wall prototypes. It’s that crap sandwich again, but this time dipped in chocolate: Looks good, actually tastes, well, like crap.

Republican leaders have assured Trump that they will address these issues in the lame duck session, after the November elections. While this doesn’t reach the threshold of an outright lie, facts on the ground and recent history make it hard to see how this is a serious offer.

First, as a rule, lame-duck sessions do not breed good policy outcomes. This is obvious when you consider that they are constituted by a bunch of Members of Congress who either have just been reelected, who have lost, or are retiring. Either way, all of them have one thing in common: they are the furthest removed from the accountability of an election that they ever will be. For the losing or retiring members, the accountability is zero. They can vote on legislation without any consequence. And this is where Republican leaders are going to pass Trump’s border wall? Highly doubtful.

Second, we’ve seen this same promise collapse before. At the end of 2014, conservatives cut a deal with then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow a one-year funding extension in exchange for a promise to address President Obama’s executive amnesty policies in early 2015. It was a promise never intended to be kept. As Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said at the time, “Since December, the outcome has been baked in the cake. It was abundantly clear to anyone watching that leadership in both houses intended to capitulate on the fight against amnesty.”

There is nothing to suggest the same outcome won’t occur in December. The dynamics are nearly identical. Moreover, these Republican majorities have failed repeatedly to mount a successful (or serious) effort to pass immigration reform. Why expect a different outcome from similar attitudes?

Trump on Thursday took to Twitter to castigate congressional Republicans: “I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms?”

His instincts are right. If Trump truly wants a different outcome, however, it’s going to take more than a tweet. It’s going to take a veto.

Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

America • Conservatives • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Infrastructure • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Are We on the Verge of Civil War?

Americans keep dividing into two hostile camps.

It seems the country is back to 1860 on the eve of the Civil War, rather than in 2018, during the greatest age of affluence, leisure and freedom in the history of civilization.

The ancient historian Thucydides called the civil discord that tore apart the fifth-century B.C. Greek city-states “stasis.” He saw stasis as a bitter civil war between the revolutionary masses and the traditionalist middle and upper classes.

Something like that ancient divide is now infecting every aspect of American life.

Americans increasingly are either proud of past U.S. traditions, ongoing reform, and current American exceptionalism, or they insist that the country was hopelessly flawed at its birth and must be radically reinvented to rectify its original sins.

No sphere of life is immune from the subsequent politicization: not movies, television, professional sports, late-night comedy or colleges. Even hurricanes are typically leveraged to advance political agendas.

What is causing America to turn differences into these bitter hatreds—and why now?

The internet and social media often descend into an electronic lynch mob. In a nanosecond, an insignificant local news story goes viral. Immediately hundreds of millions of people use it to drum up the evils or virtues of either progressivism or conservatism.

Anonymity is a force multiplier of these tensions. Fake online identities provide cover for ever greater extremism—on the logic that no one is ever called to account for his or her words.

Speed is also the enemy of common sense and restraint. Millions of bloggers rush to be the first to post their take on a news event, without much worry about whether it soon becomes a “fake news” moment of unsubstantiated gossip and fiction.

Globalization has both enriched and impoverished—and also further divided—America. Those whose muscular labor could be outsourced abroad to less expensive, less regulated countries were liable to lose their jobs or find their wages slashed. They were written off as “losers.” Americans whose professional expertise profited from vast new world markets became even richer and preened as “winners.”

Geography—history’s intensifier of civil strife—further fueled the growing economic and cultural divide. Americans are increasingly self-selecting as red and blue states.

Liberals gravitate to urban coastal-corridor communities of hip culture, progressive lifestyles and lots of government services.

Conservatives increasingly move to the lower-tax, smaller-government, and more traditional heartland.

Lifestyles in San Francisco and Toledo are so different that it’s almost as if they’re two different planets.

Legal, diverse, meritocratic and measured immigration has always been America’s great strength. Assimilation, integration, and intermarriage within the melting pot used to turn new arrivals into grateful Americans in a generation or two.

But when immigration is often illegal, not diverse and massive, then balkanization follows. Currently, the country hosts 60 million non-natives—the largest number of immigrants in America’s history.

Yet unlike the past, America often does not ask new immigrants to learn English and assimilate as quickly as possible. Immigration is instead politicized. Newcomers are seen as potentially useful voting blocs.

Tribalism is the new American norm. Gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, and ethnicity are now essential, not incidental, to who we are.

Americans scramble to divide into victimized blocs. Hyphenated and newly accented names serve as advertisements that particular groups have unique affiliations beyond their shared Americanism.

America is often the target of unrealistic criticism—as if it is suddenly toxic because it is not perfect. Few appreciate that the far worse alternatives abroad are rife with racism, sexism, civil strife, corruption, and poverty unimaginable in the United States.

The last few elections added to the growing abyss.

The old Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton is now trending into a radical democratic socialist party. Meanwhile, the old Republican Party is mostly gone, replaced by Tea Party movements and the new Donald Trump base.

Former President Barack Obama came into office from Congress with the most left-wing voting record in the Senate. Trump was elected as the first president without either prior military or political experience.

Obama issued dozens of controversial “pen and phone” executive orders, bypassing Congress. And Trump is systematically overturning them—doing so with similar executive orders.

Will America keep dividing and soon resort to open violence, as happened in 1861? Or will Americans reunite and bind up our wounds, as we did following the upheavals of the 1930s Great Depression or after the protests of the 1960s?

The answer lies within each of us.

Every day we will either treat each other as fellow Americans, with far more uniting than dividing us, or we will continue on the present path that eventually ends in something like a hate-filled Iraq, Rwanda or the Balkans.

(C) 2018 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Administrative State • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Post

Amazon Soars on the Wings of Cronyism

In recent weeks, Amazon.com stock jumped in value, making the company the second (after Apple) to achieve a market cap of $1 trillion. Analysts barely took a breath before declaring the company could be the first to top $2 trillion.

“Amazon has increased its profitability as cloud computing, advertising and its marketplace for third-party retailers have powered growth,” TheStreet.com reported. But those aren’t the only factors pushing Amazon to new heights. Cronyism and cozy deals with government entities help as well.

For example, Bloomberg Businessweek magazine recently reported that in some places, Amazon isn’t paying for all the electricity it uses to run its web servers. Instead, it cuts deals to pass the costs on to neighboring consumers.

“In at least two states, [Amazon] also negotiated with utilities and politicians to stick other people with the bills, piling untold millions of dollars on top of the estimated $1.2 billion in state and municipal tax incentives the company has received over the past decade,” Mya Frazier writes. “Amazon stands out for its success in offloading its power costs and also because it dominates America’s cloud business, which has gone from nonexistent to using 2 percent of U.S. electricity in about a decade.”

All right, so Amazon is practicing cronyism to advance its cloud computing empire at the local and state levels. How about at the federal level? Well, yes, Amazon works to nab special deals there as well. Consider JEDI.

It stands for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, and it’s a $10 billion, winner-take-all contract to handle all of the Pentagon’s cloud computing needs. The initial contract could be extended to 10 years, and let’s face it: once one company has all the Pentagon’s data (classified and unclassified), that company will never lose the contract. JEDI could be a huge moneymaker if it’s awarded to just one tech firm.

That’s the problem: why make it winner-take-all? Cloud computing is a fast-maturing field. Many companies are having success using more than one cloud provider; playing them off against each other, if you will. The Pentagon should do the same thing. That could get it better service at better prices as time goes on.

Instead, it looks as if Amazon has fixed the bidding. “Much of the language of JEDI, in fact, seems specifically tailored for [Amazon owner] Jeff Bezos,” May Jeong writes in Vanity Fair. “To even make a bid, a provider must maintain a distance of at least 150 miles between its data centers and provide ‘32 GB of RAM’—specifications that few providers other than Amazon can meet.” Jeong adds that one rival bidder told her that: “Everybody immediately knew that it was for Amazon.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos isn’t taking chances. “Amazon now has an army of nearly 100 lobbyists at more than a dozen lobbying firms working on a list of issues,” the Wall Street Journal reported this year. The company spends some $13 million each year lobbying. Even his charity may have another purpose. Bezos and his wife will donate $10 million to the Super PAC “With Honor Fund,” an organization dedicated to electing military veterans to public office. That single gift is $3 million more than the PAC had raised on its own up until then. “A donation like the one Bezos just made could be the nudge the military community is looking for to feel it is safe in Amazon’s cloud-computing hands,” Business Insider writes.

Bezos is making himself at home in Washington, too. He bought the local newspaper a few years ago, which should ensure positive coverage. He’s bought a local mansion and plans to play the genial host. He understands the game of how things get done in the swamp. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should play along.

It’s not too late to demand the Pentagon open up the bidding on its JEDI contract. If Amazon still wins, that’s fine. But it should win fairly, not by fixing the process through Washington-style cronyism.

Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Democrats • Europe • Government Reform • Immigration • Infrastructure • Libertarians • Post • The Left

Immigrants Won’t Pay for Our Pensions—We’ll Pay for Theirs

Ask any Democrat why they support open borders and invariably they will respond with one of two pre-packaged answers: because “diversity is our strength” or “we need immigrants to pay for our pensions.”

The first argument is a sham: if liberals valued diversity they would welcome conservatives to college campuses and tolerate them online. They don’t. Instead, they protest when anyone to the right of Marx dares speak on campus—remember the “progressive” response to Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley? It was an orgy of violence and rioting. Likewise, the Left enthusiastically de-platforms conservative voices on social media.

For Democrats, diversity means intellectual and political homogeneity—with a smattering of ethnic restaurants. Exposing this hypocrisy sufficiently rebuts this nonpoint.

The second argument—that immigrants will pay for our pensions—is far more persuasive. Most people instinctively defer to the “experts” when it comes to economics: “because Milton Friedman said so” is a compelling statement, despite being a perfect example of the call to authority fallacy. Who cares what economists think? What do the data say?

On this point the data are conclusive: immigration will not save America’s welfare system, it will bleed it dry.

Worshipping Ponzi
In an article for the New Yorker, John Cassidy explains why America needs more immigration:

Demographers and economists have been warning that the aging baby-boomer population presents a serious challenge to the nation’s finances, as the ratio of seniors to working-age adults—the age-dependency ratio—rises. The reason is straightforward: Social Security and Medicare are largely financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, which means that some of the taxes paid by current workers are transferred to current retirees. If the dependency ratio rises, the financial burden on the working-age population also increases.

Cassidy’s diagnosis of the problem is correct. America’s population is aging, and this is a problem because our welfare state is structured like a giant Ponzi Scheme. Although taxpayers contribute to the system throughout their lives, they never see this actual money. Instead, they pay for the previous generation’s retirement with assurances that the next generation will pay for theirs. Welfare is a vampire that requires fresh blood to survive. And herein lies the root of Cassidy’s error.

Cassidy proposes three possible solutions. First, we could “reduce the level of retirement benefits significantly—but that would be very unpopular and difficult to achieve politically.” He’s probably right, and any viable reform likely would require a decade of latency in any event.

Second, Cassidy suggests raising the workforce participation rate, which he notes has fallen from 64.6 to 60.4 percent since 2000. (It’s currently around 62.7 percent.) He says this could work temporarily, but it’s just a bandage solution—eventually people will retire. This is also true.

After dismissing the above two options, Cassidy settles upon increasing immigration as the best way forward:

The final option is to welcome more immigrants, particularly younger immigrants, so that, in the coming decades, they and their descendants will find work and contribute to the tax base. Almost all economists agree that immigration raises G.D.P. and stimulates business development by increasing the supply of workers and entrepreneurs.

In essence, immigrants would replace the sons and daughters Americans never had, thus perpetuating the current system indefinitely. This is a bizarre conclusion to draw for the simple fact that immigrants are a net burden on the welfare state—how will they pay for our Medicaid tomorrow when we’re paying for their Medicaid today?

Bloodletting Leviathan
The preponderance of data show that immigration and socialism are incompatible.

A 2017 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that although America’s immigrant population is (theoretically) revenue-neutral, most immigrants are actually a drain on the system. The economic impact of immigrants follows a Pareto Distribution—commonly known as the 80-20 Rule, this just means that a hyper-productive few immigrants provide most of the economic gains, while the majority of immigrants contribute (less than) nothing.

Specifically, half of all immigrants actually receive more in government handouts than they pay in taxes, while another third contribute roughly as much as they receive. Only around 15 percent of immigrants contribute to the economy in a meaningful way.

Cassidy overlooks the significance of this non-linear data: if immigration as a whole is revenue-neutral then increasing the immigration rate will do nothing to save the welfare system. Instead, we should cut immigration by (at least) half to reduce the strain on the current system, and focus on attracting more high-performers.

When it comes to immigration, less is more.

Other major studies in other Western countries reach similar conclusions.  For example, a study conducted by Denmark’s Ministry of Finance found that immigrants were a net drain on the nation’s welfare state. In fact, non-EU immigrants, and their descendants, consumed 59 percent of the tax surplus collected from native Danes. This is not surprising, since some 84 percent of all welfare recipients in Denmark are immigrants, or their descendants. Immigration is a net burden on Denmark.

Another major study from the University College of London found that immigrants in the U.K. consumed far more in welfare than they paid in taxes. The study looked at the Labour government’s mass immigration push between 1995 and 2011. The researchers found that immigrants from the European Economic Area made a small, but positive net contribution to the British economy of £4.4 billion ($5.7 billion) during the period. However, non-European immigrants (primarily from South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa) cost the British economy a net £120 billion (around $156 billion).

Together, these studies show that mass immigration undermines domestic welfare systems for the simple fact that most immigrants take more than they give. They also show that the economic benefits of immigration are non-linear: a minority of immigrants contribute the majority of the gains, whereas most immigrants contribute little or are a net drag on outcomes. In light of these facts, Cassidy’s conclusion that immigration will save the welfare state clearly is wrong.

Finding Narnia
Not only is Cassidy wrong, his argument is based on a false dilemma: his three solutions are not the only options. In fact, they’re not even among the best options.

To “pay for our pensions” Americans do not need entitlement reform, a higher workforce participation rate, nor do we need especially high rates of immigration. What we need is economic growth—real, sustained, economic growth, the sort that’s driven by the invention and adoption of better technology.

Unlike immigration, which grows the economy in a linear way, technology can result in exponential growth. Consider the Industrial Revolution: Edmund Cartwright’s power loom increased the productivity of British textile weavers by a multiple of 40. To grow the economy an equal amount via immigration, Britain would have needed to import 39 additional weavers for every British weaver. Clearly technology is the better option—and yet Cassidy argues in favor of immigration.

If you want a contemporary example, just look at Japan. Japan has an aging population—it’s even older than America’s. And yet, Japan has no intention of opening its borders to mass immigration. Instead, the Japanese are investing heavily in technology and infrastructure that is designed to make Japan more productive rather than more populous. So far, it’s worked. Consider that despite Japan’s demographic crunch, their economy grew faster than America’s over the last 40 years (when measured on a per person basis). Technology grows the economy, not immigration.

If we want to save America’s welfare state—and that’s a big if—we need to restrict immigration and expand the economy. Everything else is just rhetoric.

Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

America • Donald Trump • Economy • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post

NAFTA 2.0 Won’t ‘Bring Back Our Jobs’

In 1993, President Bill Clinton promised that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would create “a million [American] jobs in the first five years.” He also said NAFTA’s “side agreements” would “make it harder than it is today for businesses to relocate solely because of very low [Mexican] wages or lax environmental laws.”

Bill Clinton lied.

More than 800,000 American manufacturing jobs moved to Mexico since 1993, “solely because of very low [Mexican] wages or lax environmental laws.” Not only was Clinton wrong, NAFTA also caused numerous unintended harms: the post-NAFTA unemployment wave is largely to blame for the proliferation of Democratic governments in Midwest—a former GOP stronghold, I might add—wage stagnation, the opioid crisis, and general economic malaise.

President Trump is right: NAFTA is one of the “worst” deals in American history. And yet, the President’s replacement deal is little better. Although Trump’s deal mitigates NAFTA’s downsides, it fails to address the underlying problem: asymmetrical competition.

Between Scylla and Charybdis
NAFTA was a bad deal, no question—and not just for Americans. Most Mexicans and many Canadians also got burned. The only people who really benefited from NAFTA were globetrotting plutocrats.

America was hurt primarily through offshoring—the displacement of domestic production with imports. Before NAFTA, tariffs protected American industries from asymmetrical Mexican competition. This resulted in balanced bilateral trade—America actually ran a modest trade surplus with Mexico in 1992. NAFTA eliminated market barriers, forcing American workers to compete with far-cheaper Mexican workers. This remains true even today: America’s average annual wages are four times higher than Mexico’s (at purchasing power parity), according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Long story short: NAFTA unified its members’ labor supplies without harmonizing their labor laws or monetary systems (or addressing any of the other economic asymmetries). This created a powerful incentive to move American factories to Mexico—and move they did.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, estimates that NAFTA redistributed a net 840,000 American manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute estimated in 2013 that NAFTA displaced a net 700,000 American jobs. Finally, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer noted in a press release that NAFTA cost America 700,000 jobs. Remember, these are net figures: they include the jobs NAFTA creates by boosting American exports.

Not only does NAFTA displace at least 700,000 American manufacturing jobs, it also displaces a large number of service jobs. This is because manufacturing is an anchor industry upon which predicate industries depend. A factory is like an oil field or a mine; it brings wealth into a community and supports an ancillary service sector that otherwise would not exist. Hairdressers and accountants need factory workers and miners more than the reverse.

This concept is well understood. In fact, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that each dollar of manufacturing output supports $1.48 in spinoff service output. Thus, one factory job supports roughly 1.5 other jobs. This multiplier effect is real, and not subject to Henry Hazlitt’s popular “broken windows fallacy” critique for the simple fact that factories don’t redistribute wealth, they generate it. Accounting for this means NAFTA likely costs America a net 1.7 million jobs.

The geographic concentration of unemployment in America’s industrial heartland—now known as the rustbelt—magnified the problems. Factory closures impoverished whole towns overnight, flooding the labor market with job-seekers. This tidal wave of unemployment reduced wages for transient employees and stagnated the wages of those with permanent positions.

Moving beyond mere economics: a large number of unemployed and impoverished people turned to the government for help—after all, the government got them into this mess. The Midwest, once a Republican stronghold, turned blue. The Democrats then did what they do best: they made the economy worse by raising taxes to pay for their welfare schemes.

Of course, the Republican solution is no better: if NAFTA got us into this mess then NAFTA 2.0 certainly won’t get us out.

Dia de los Muertos
Ironically, Mexico was also harmed by NAFTA.

In 1992, Mexico’s economy was highly bifurcated: a relatively advanced industrial core coexisted alongside an even larger traditional economy. This division is common among developing countries: India is paradoxically home to some of the world’s most innovative technology companies, and yet much of the country has changed little since the Gupta Empire.

In any event, NAFTA allowed America’s heavily subsidized and highly efficient agricultural industry to pulverize Mexico’s farmers. In total, over 1 million Mexican peasants lost their livelihood—it’s been 25 years and Mexico’s unemployment rate still hasn’t rebalanced completely. These people flocked to the cities, increasing the strain on Mexico’s infrastructure and saturating the job market.

Many of those people also began working for Mexico’s drug cartels, which benefited from higher trade volumes and America’s growing addiction crisis. Although it would be overreaching to suggest that NAFTA caused Mexico’s war on drugs, it clearly boosted American demand and increased the cartel’s manpower—it made a bad situation worse. How many Mexicans died because of NAFTA is anyone’s guess, but with at least 130,000 dead, there’s plenty of blame—and blood—to share.

Finally, I must mention that many of those unemployed peasants sought sanctuary in America. In fact, the current wave of illegal immigration earnestly began just after NAFTA was signed. This shouldn’t be surprising: massive economic disruptions often have massive, unexpected social consequences.

Economists should expect the unexpected.

And Now, NAFTA 2.0
While it’s clear that NAFTA failed, it’s less clear what should be done. The most likely option before President Trump is that he will move forward with his new deal, which redresses some of NAFTA’s problems while preserving its core structure.

Of particular interest are the provisions regarding labor laws and those governing the automobile industry. Regarding labor laws: Mexico has agreed to let workers freely form unions and it will give all unions more teeth. Ideally, this will result in higher wages and better working conditions—thus bringing Mexico’s costs in line with America’s. Further, Mexico says it will conform its labor laws with (higher) international standards, as set out by the United Nations.

Regarding automobiles: manufacturers must now produce 75 percent of the automobile’s value in North America to avoid punitive tariffs (up from 62.5 percent under NAFTA). Likewise, automakers must use more domestic raw materials, and must pay 40 percent of their Mexican workforce at least $16 an hour.

Basically, the deal will make Mexico more expensive, thus reducing the economic incentive for American companies to move abroad. This makes some sense, but it’s far too little too late. NAFTA is 25 years old and most of the businesses that would gain from relocating production to Mexico have already left—you cannot retain that which you do not have.

Further, relocating a factory back to the United States also has a high transaction cost (it’s expensive and disruptive), so there’s little reason to relocate production unless the savings are significant and likely to last. For example, American automakers initially moved their factories to Mexico because they could cut their labor costs by more than 75 percent—the savings were big enough to justify the capital costs and business disruption associated with offshoring.

Although Trump’s new trade does make Mexico more expensive, it doesn’t come close to reaching the tipping point where American businesses could save money by relocating to America. In fact, it doesn’t even equalize costs—Mexico will still be cheaper and will continue to attract American investment. NAFTA cannot be saved and it’s not worth saving. It’s the root of the problem.

If President Trump is serious about “bringing back our jobs” he needs to build tariff walls—not just physical ones.

Photo Credit:  Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images

China • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Infrastructure • military • North Korea • Post • Russia

America and the Risk of Pearl Harbor 2.0

In 1940, America launched an embargo against Japan. In 1941, Japan responded with a surprise attack on America’s Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Fast forward to today. America could be in a similar situation against even more dangerous foes.

President Trump has made sanctions a cornerstone of his foreign policy. This includes “maximum pressure” against North Korea, a reinstatement of sanctions against Iran, and—in a similar manner—substantially higher tariffs on Chinese goods.

Trump just put new sanctions on Russia, too—awfully bold for a leader ostensibly beholden to Vladimir Putin. Reports indicate that these sanctions are a significant escalation and may include “downgrading diplomatic relations, suspending the state airline Aeroflot’s ability to fly to the United States and cutting off nearly all exports and imports.”

A Corrective to Appeasement 
This is a sharp break from previous American policy. President Clinton, despite facing ongoing nefarious Kremlin activities, gave the Kremlin billions of U.S. tax dollars. President Bush was too busy chasing Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (the latter being one Bush never could catch) to give due attention to bigger players. President Obama pursued a pro-Kremlin line which meant bringing Russia into the World Trade Organization, a “reset button,” and greater “flexibility” to downgrade U.S. missile defenses in Europe after his reelection.

Trump’s sanctions are a correction to Obama’s naïve policy of appeasement that emboldened American adversaries into ever more dangerous, degenerate, and subversive activities.

As a correction, however, they are also a significant change, and these countries will get a chance to respond. It’s not clear that Putin, Xi, Khamenei, and Kim are all on board meekly to give in.

Who Has More to Lose?
The problem is if they—or even just one of them—responds as Japan did in 1941, when facing similar pressure, it’s not at all clear that America is prepared to handle the consequences.

Most Americans prefer to assume that an attack from these adversarial countries is impossible. But the reasoning to justify this assumption is often nothing more than a collection of rationalizations to avoid thinking about something scary. That’s not a good basis for national security.

The thought leaders in Washington, D.C, who consistently have gotten just about everything on foreign policy wrong, argue that China won’t become involved in a serious war because it would hurt their economic self-interest. But China is Communist. General Secretary Xi recently affirmed this when he gave a long homage to Karl Marx for his 200th birthday. These are not people known for making the most enlightened decisions.

Iran supposedly can’t attack America because it means America will kill the mullahs. But that fails to consider matters from their perspective. They are hurtling towards regime change and face the prospect of being strung up by the neck. Who knows what theocratic mullahs will do under the circumstances. Maybe they’ll consider it their religious duty to attack America before they depart this world for Allah. Maybe they think they can draw Russia or China in to their defense. Maybe they will try to frame someone.

Iran could surprise Americans with how much damage they can cause. If Iran has terror cells in America and they destroy just nine key interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer then America could be blacked out for 18 months.

Russia supposedly can’t attack America because civilization would end. Actually, only Americans think that. The Kremlin has planned extensively for war. They may think they can launch a nuclear Pearl Harbor and win.

Lights Out
Here is possibly the scariest reason why an attack may come. North Korea could actually beat America in a war.

If North Korea detonates a single nuclear warhead miles above America they would cause an electromagnetic pulse that destroys America’s electric grid, putting America in a prolonged blackout, and ending America as it’s known today. America’s EMP Commission has reported that 90 percent of Americans could die in such an attack.

North Korea may have that capability already.

They launched two satellites into orbit which the Obama administration ignored. The Kim regime claims they are part of a program to explore the moon. Expert Peter Pry and his colleagues, however, warn that given the satellites’ altitude, size, and trajectory right over the heartland of America, they could easily hold nuclear bombs and pose an immediate and existential danger to Americans.

It is not safe to assume that the American government has accounted for each of these possibilities. Remember, the American military answered to Clinton, Bush, and Obama. The Department of Defense remains riddled with Obama holdovers.

To be clear, Trump is not causing this potential conflict today. All of these countries have been pushing America for a long time. Trump just started pushing back. If they escalate yet again it would be their moral responsibility entirely.

More important than moral responsibility though is the actual outcome. Pushing back against nuclear-armed tyrants is dangerous. Are Americans ready? Is Mattis ready? Is the American electric grid ready? It wouldn’t be so easy to come back from a modern Pearl Harbor.

Photo Credit: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

American Conservatism • Congress • Donald Trump • Elections • GOPe • Government Reform • Immigration • Infrastructure • Mueller-Russia Witch Hunt • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • taxes

The Paul Ryan Express: Punching His Ticket to K Street

Months after announcing his plans to retire from Congress, why is Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) still Speaker of the House?

It’s hard to imagine anyone less willing or able to lead House Republicans into a must-win November election than this guy. At this point, it’s not clear Ryan even wants his side to win. Joining the disruptive element is not how you cash in after a long career on Capitol Hill.

Keep in mind, Washington’s political economy makes lobbyists some of the best-paid middlemen in the business, a business that likes harmonious predictability. So it’s not surprising that roughly 25 percent of all former members follow the path of least resistance to an office on K Street.

But for a top prospect like Ryan transitioning to the life of a seven- or eight-figure lobbyist is complicated by fallout from what might be called the “Trump effect.”

The congressional brand can only lead to greener pastures as long as it’s not tainted by sustained public criticism. That’s the problem. Attacking the entire political class, including Congress, is how Donald Trump got elected president, and since then there’s been no let-up.

Retiring members used to have little trouble selling their services as honest brokers. Now, thanks to Trump, they’re seen as swamp creatures, no better than the bottom-dwelling lobbyists many want to become.

And that was before the Russia probe, Spygate, and the latest inspector general’s report sent shock waves far and wide. The resulting sense of uncertainty already has some of K Street’s biggest customers downsizing their investment in lobbying. Not good news for Ryan and many of his departing colleagues.

Does anyone really care if lobbyists are having a tough time? Not most Americans. But Paul Ryan does. They’re his constituents. His modus operandi has always been to defend them any way he can.

In fact, the only person in Washington Ryan will not defend is President Donald Trump.  

When asked during the campaign if he would be supporting Trump, Ryan famously replied, “I’m not there yet.” Congress-speak meaning: “What’s in it for me?”

With Trump in the White House, Ryan has made it obvious he’s not backing a president who’s a threat to Washington’s lucrative status quo.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)—doing the work Ryan refuses to do—has been waiting for over a year for the Justice Department to stop stonewalling. What Nunes wants are documents related to the original FBI investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion, documents almost certain to prove the accusation completely bogus.

At a recent press conference, Ryan said: “We received an oral briefing two weeks ago. But what we are asking for—and what we require and we expect, is the corroborating documents that back up that oral briefing.”

Then in pleading tones, he added, “Honestly, it’s our job to conduct oversight.”

Ryan could have taken much more forceful measures long ago to compel delivery; true to form he didn’t do anything that might make waves.

October will mark Ryan’s third full year serving as the speaker at an annual salary of $223,500. If he waits to retire until next January, his yearly pension would be $84,930, according to an analysis by Business Insider. If he retires now, his pension would be reduced, but not by much. And it’s not like he’ll need the money.

Is Ryan, 48, who’s spent 24 years working on Capitol Hill, hanging on to the Speaker’s job for an extra few thousand in benefits? Retirement-obsessed Washington bureaucrats do that all the time.

Whatever the case, a groundswell is building in the Republican Caucus to push Ryan aside. Many are hoping it succeeds—and soon.

Meanwhile, every time Ryan makes Trump look bad the opposition media praises him as a decisive leader. It doesn’t take a political scientist to see he’s just the opposite. Ryan has been a total failure as House Speaker. He’s a careerist, who never says or does anything that involves the slightest risk.

Compare him to Nunes, who’s been relentless in his pursuit of high-level wrongdoing in the Justice Department, FBI, and elsewhere, while Ryan pretends not to notice.

As for swamp draining, don’t look to Ryan for any parting instructions. With six months to go before the current Congress reaches his “sell-by” date, Paul Ryan has already shown what he’s worth.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Infrastructure • Middle East • military • NATO • North Korea • Post • Republicans • Terrorism

Trump’s Revolutionary Foreign Policy: Defend the Homeland

Of all the ways President Donald Trump has revolutionized American politics, foreign policy easily ranks among the most important. Whether it was in his efforts to decimate ISIS or opening up, finally, a path to negotiate nuclear disarmament with North Korea after almost 70 years of stubborn belligerence, the Trump Doctrine has proven a success in almost every corner of the globe.

But recently, the president has made several moves that reveal another aspect of his foreign policy. And these are moves he foreshadowed during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Foreign Policy is Key to the Greatness Agenda
A friend of mine once told me that Trump ran and won on 
a “tripod of issues”—three core issues that ultimately carried him to victory. Originally, I thought he was talking about Trump’s emphasis on immigration, trade, and infrastructure. But my friend instead suggested that one be swapped out; replace infrastructure with foreign policy. While infrastructure is a more detail-oriented policy that also holds appeal for the working-class and for all Americans who just want to take pride in their country, it was foreign policy where Trump truly shined for one key reason: It was his top outlet for showcasing just how different he was from all past Republican candidates and nominees.

When had any other major Republican candidate openly attacked former President George W. Bush the way Trump did, and with such sharp and painfully accurate criticisms? By relentlessly bashing the dominance of an ultra-hawkish neoconservative foreign policy, Trump once again displayed his crossover appeal among both Republicans and Democrats; whether it was Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Obama in Libya and Syria, Trump never hesitated to take shots at all who were guilty of this policy of recklessness overseas. Theirs was not only a foreign policy that falsely assumed you could invade away all problems, but one that also sorely neglected the most important obligation of all: Defending the homeland.

President Trump repeatedly has invoked the fact that the $6 trillion wasted in our Middle East crusades could have rebuilt our entire infrastructure several times over. In the last week, he took it even further than that. Nothing can undo all the damage that has been done abroad, and thus the damage that was not addressed at home, but we can still return to a common sense approach. That is the definition of America First.

Buttress the Border, Leave Syria
And that is why two of the president’s most recent announcements could not be more necessary or more welcome.

First, in the latest development on the southern front, the president has proven that he truly does mean business when it comes to defending our borders. With the news of a caravan of thousands of illegal aliens from Central America marching toward the United States, President Trump took no chances and correctly treated this as a serious national security threat. His announcement that he will deploy the National Guard to help protect the southern border is a shining example of our armed forces doing what they do best as they serve their number one purpose: Protecting America at home from enemies abroad who seek to undermine our nation and endanger our people.

At the same time, the president has proven his commitment to doing the right thing on the other side of the world as well. While he rightfully did commit American troops to a foreign wasteland to eliminate an evil menace, he has made clear that he will not be led astray from the original goal; and that when that job is done, it is truly done and the troops can come back home.

That is why, with the physical caliphate of ISIS just about completely eradicated, the president announced that American troops would be withdrawing from Syria. He reaffirmed that when our part is done, even though the damage in that country and the surrounding region has not yet been undone, it will be up to Syria and its neighbors to rebuild—not us. Not anymore.

“America First” Doesn’t Mean Abandon the World 
Despite past calls to intervene more directly in the ongoing Syrian civil war out of some misguided and self-righteous sense of “humanitarianism,” President Trump has put his foot down and said, once and for all, no more unnecessary foreign wars.

One of the biggest “concerns” that the establishment leveled at then-candidate Trump was that he would be an “isolationist,” like Ron and Rand Paul. But President Trump has consistently proven them both wrong and right at the same time; yes, he is committed to defending America first more than any president in recent memory, but that does not mean a collapse in American hegemony either.

America has quickly become respected on the international stage again. Sanctions and tariffs against China and other cheating trade partners have been met with calls for trade negotiations, rather than the ever-feared possibility of a “trade war.” ISIS has been demolished with remarkable speed. North Korea appears to be on the verge of denuclearizing. Saudi Arabia, with pressure from Trump, is modernizing and taking a leading role in combating terrorism in the Middle East now more than ever before. We have reaffirmed a hardline stance against the Communist regime in Cuba and the Islamic theocracy in Iran.

And President Trump has done all of this, and so much more, without invading a single country or starting another pointless war. Instead, he is balancing America’s role as a peacekeeper with its top priority of protecting itself at all costs. That is just one more facet in the emerging success of the Trump Doctrine.

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Administrative State • Deep State • Department of Homeland Security • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Infrastructure • Libertarians • military • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • taxes • Technology • The Left • The Media

Trump Is Right to Fear Amazon

President Trump’s feud with the shopping giant Amazon is both welcome and overdue. Welcome, because Amazon’s ambitions extend well beyond the monopoly power that Trump has presciently warned about in recent months. Overdue, because while Trump has been complaining about the company since August, his complaints only lately reached the level of alarm that is actually warranted by the rise of the online shopping giant.

And make no mistake, Amazon’s rise warrants both political and economic alarm. The protestations of partisan fact checkers notwithstanding, a few things are obvious about Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos. First, as even the fact checkers admit, Amazon does not pay taxes on roughly half the sales that go through it—namely, the sales that take place through third-party sellers.

Second, Amazon gets a special rate from the U.S. Postal Service compared to other companies—an implicit form of favoritism that most definitely advantages the company, seeing as they send about 40 percent of their sales through the mail.

Third, retailers that do not compete with Amazon have had a better time of it economically than competitors that do. Granted, this last point can be chalked up to more than just competition with Amazon, but taken with the other facts, it most definitely lends credence to the argument that Amazon is beginning to become dangerously overpowered in today’s market. Nor does it help Amazon’s case that Bezos is indisputably, and by a wide margin, the richest man on earth.

Further, Trump’s political arguments against Amazon and Bezos carry a particular sting. No other tech billionaire owns a major paper of record with the pedigree of the Washington Post. The closest equivalent is Chris Hughes, who though he once owned The New Republic, sold it in 2016. But even if he still owned it, The New Republic carries a well-known partisan slant and always had a specialized audience. The Post broke the Watergate story. The two aren’t remotely comparable in terms of reputation or influence upon the popular imagination.

So, naturally, Trump’s decision to attack the Post as a “lobbyist” for Bezos has drawn blood, as it should. All the indignation of the paper’s editors aside, It is hard to imagine how the Post could scrutinize Bezos at all, what with it being his money that sustains them. For any paper to have its hands tied in dealing with the richest man on earth is cause for concern, but when their motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” well, it looks even worse.

Nor is it only the Post that Bezos aspires to use to control the flow of information. Indeed, there is one way that President Trump could easily cut off Amazon’s rapidly rising power at the knees, and prevent it from acquiring even more. He could direct Defense Secretary James Mattis not to migrate all the Defense Department’s data to the Amazon Cloud.

The plan to get the Pentagon to migrate its data is something Mattis’s department has been attempting to execute for the past few months, often at the bidding of former Amazon employees. It would probably be the single biggest coup that the shopping giant could pull off, both economically and politically. Economically, it would land Amazon an actual (if also, technically, virtual) monopoly on cloud services, effectively ending the quest for innovation in that sphere. Politically, it would hand them control of all the Defense Department’s top secret data: not exactly a reassuring state of affairs, should Amazon ever decide it wants to punish President Trump or weaken his government. Say, because of a few tweets that tanked their stocks?

So yes, Trump is right to be worried about Amazon, not least of all because the company and its leaders are trying to buy his government out from under him, and to hound him out of that government in the pages of D.C.’s major paper of record. Trump owes it to his convictions and his constituencies to stop the entrenchment of Amazon as the de facto owners not just of online retail, but of the swamp itself.

After all, a swamp controlled by Amazon is a swamp that no one, except Jeff Bezos, will ever have the right to drain. Least of all the American people.

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2016 Election • America • Americanism • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • Terrorism

The Wall is National Defense

In a report from the Army’s Command and Staff College detailing a tactical success during the French Counterinsurgency in Algeria, we learn the following:

In the spring of 1957, the French began construction of an elaborate barrier–the Morice Line–along 200 miles of the frontier with Tunisia. Anchored by the Mediterranean Sea in the north and the Sahara Desert in the south, it was a miracle of modern technology. Its main feature was an eight foot high electric fence through which a charge of 5,000 volts was passed. There was a 45 meter minefield on either side of it, and on the Algerian side there was a barbed wire entanglement, and then a footpath, patrolled day and night. If the fence was penetrated, an alarm was automatically activated which brought instant fire from 105 mm howitzers and attack from mobile strike forces consisting of helicopters, tanks, and airborne infantry. Some 80,000 French soldiers defended the line. During the remainder of 1957 and 1958, Tunisian-based guerrillas tried every conceivable means of breaching the wire using high tension cutters, Bangalore torpedoes, tunnels, ramps, and even assaults by entire infantry battalions. French countermeasures, however, in every case proved to be decisive. By the end of 1958 the guerrillas had lost over 6,000 men and 4,300 weapons to the deadly combination of the barrier and mobile strike forces.

This accords with the intuitive conclusion of millions of American voters: Walls work.

Billions for the Pentagon, But Not a Penny for the Wall
The pyrrhic budget victory of last week included $718 billion for defense. Republicans gave everything up and allowed funding for Planned Parenthood, midnight basketball, and God knows what else, in order to keep the Department of Defense and its contractors in style. In keeping with their Reagan-era nostalgia, the congressional GOP is acting as if it were 1988, and the Cold War is in full swing. In real terms, the budget exceeds spending at the height of the Iraq Campaign, as well as the Reagan defense buildup.

What is defense? Is it not to make Americans safe from foreign attack? To prevent foreigners from imposing their way of life upon us, through invasion or other means? To maintain the independence, peace, and prosperity of the already-existing American people? Very little of what the government does in the name of defense accomplishes these things.

America maintains hundreds of overseas bases, builds and develops increasingly sophisticated conventional arms, continues to slog on inconclusively in Afghanistan, and, in spite of a smallish uniformed military, still spends mountains of money. This activity all occurs in pursuit of a broader strategy to “sustain American influence and ensure favorable balances of power that safeguard the free and open international order.” Since the focus is all on offense, perhaps we should consider going back to the old name, the Department of War.

Defense from What?
The substantial defense budget does nothing to prevent foreigners—whether mere economic migrants, violent drug gangs, or Islamic terrorists—from entering through our porous southern border. Instead, it funds bases, multiple aircraft carriers, and super-weapons to protect us from . . . who exactly? America’s death toll from the combined actions of the Russian, Chinese, and North Korean militaries over the last 20 years is exactly zero.

There, of course, have been American combat deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, but these occurred over a period of 17 years and were mostly perpetrated by “non-state actors.”

In spite of these expensive efforts overseas, American soldiers and civilians have continued to be killed by periodic attacks by Islamic terrorists at home, including the 55 victims of the Pulse nightclub attack, the five dead from the Chechen refugees who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing, the five victims of Muhammad Abdulazeez, who shot up a military base in Chattanooga Tennessee, and the 14 victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attackers, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. In the case of the Boston bombing and the San Bernardino attacks, the perpetrators were not only Islamic immigrants but were permitted to enter the country after the 9/11 attacks.

Americans know they are just as in need of defense when the violence comes from a foreign-born criminal or a recently arrived Islamic extremist, as they are from the extremely remote chance that Russian (or Chinese) bombers appear overhead raining down cluster bombs on some American city. Moreover, we know that the latter scenario is almost certain not to occur while the former is unlikely to stop.

Americans, quite reasonably, expect the government to function so as to prevent these kinds of attacks, not least because a certain percentage of the defense budget is already devoted to preserving an existing nuclear arsenal. Our nuclear deterrent practically eliminates the possibility of a conventional war with a “near-peer competitor.” This permits our country to follow the counsel of George Washington, who pleaded that “our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course,” rather than participating in the internecine and bellicose jockeying of overseas empires.

The advantages of an ocean on either side of us, a nuclear arsenal, and a $700 billion defense budget do little good when enemies can enter through the front door and roam freely within the nation’s interior.  

The 9/11 hijackers exploited our lax immigration enforcement with deadly consequence. In different ways, other foreign invaders—such as the MS-13 gang from Central America—have brought our people harm because of our unwillingness and inability to police the borders.

Liberalism Thwarts Our Most Effective Defense
Our current situation would be comic if the consequences were not so deadly. It is as if we went to war with the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany in 1941, amassing a huge conventional force and dispatching troops to France, Okinawa, the Philippines, and North Africa, all the while letting in several hundred thousand Germans or Japanese who could make their way through the Sonoran Desert.

In fact, the situation is worse. In addition to mostly economically motivated illegal immigration from Latin America, immigrants from other, less friendly countries also try to make their way into the country through Mexico. At the same time, we are letting in a great many unvetted immigrants from hostile populations, as if their mere arrival on our shores will somehow vouchsafe their loyalty. As we saw in San Bernardino, where the foreign-born wife of Sayed Farouk joined him in his massacre, this is simply not the case.

We must be realistic; the Wall is part of a broader commitment to border security, but not the only part.

A Utopian Approach Will Kill Us
But our approach to defense is profoundly unrealistic. We invest massive sums in technology and a forward-deployed military posture, while neglecting border security and allowing in potentially deadly, unvetted immigrants from hostile countries. This lack of realism arises from two liberal impulses: technocratic utopianism and the liberal nondiscrimination principle.

The whole idea that we must invade, occupy, police, and reform Islamic lands in order to “fight them over there” and “turn them into democracies” is the utopian part. It is similar to the 1960s view that crime could only be fought with extensive anti-poverty efforts. Like the War on Poverty, our overseas War on Islamic Extremism has done little to stop the ferocity, persistence, and growth of this movement, just as urban renewal did not stop crime when criminals were given short sentences in the vain hope of rehabilitation.

What can we learn from this? Just as cops, jails, long sentences, and gated communities did much to stop the domestic crime wave of the 1970s, the most cost-effective means of addressing certain persistent problems is not to attack “root causes,” but instead to address symptoms as they appear, engage in appropriate punitive actions, and cordon off zones of safety from zones of disorder.

In his attempt to “make the world safe,” George W. Bush believed in America, but he also believed in a utopian story that everyone is, at heart, an American who wanted the American way of life.

Thus, we would “defend ourselves” by spending eight years giving the Iraqis democracy. Obama had an instinctive aversion to this kind of nation-building, because, being a more consistent liberal, he considered this all mildly imperialist. Bush and Obama both, however, denied the moral right of Americans to secure their borders by discriminating between Americans and non-Americans, even though this is an essential part of defending the actual American people.

Donald Trump’s promotion of merit-based immigration policy and “extreme vetting” for immigrants from Islamic countries affirmed a simple idea contrary to the dominant liberalism of his predecessors: Americans exist as a people, they are distinct from non-Americans, and we have a moral right to decide who gets to be in the club. That’s how the Wall became the iconic symbol of his campaign.

Trump will find his support evaporate if he does not follow through; this would go beyond a political failure, it would render the government as a whole a failure in its most basic duty to defend the American people. Unlike our many bases in Niger, Djibouti, Germany, Okinawa, South Korea, and Estonia, the Wall will actually function to protect Americans.

If France after the devastation of World War II could find the will and the funding to accomplish such a feat in one of its colonies, maybe we can spare an F-35 or two in order to do so at home.

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