Category Archives: Uncategorized

55 It’s Not 1934

Wanted: A name for the hypertrophied fear of Trump that’s overcome so many — maybe most — of his opponents.  Do you really need examples? There was the ThinkProgress editor terrified of his plumber:

He was a perfectly nice guy and a consummate professional. But he was also a middle-aged white man with a Southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this weeks news. … I couldn’t stop thinking about whether he had voted for Trump, whether he knew my last name is Jewish … I couldn’t shake the sense of potential danger. I was rattled for some time after he left.

More recently, here’s Adam Gopnik in one of  those New Yorker paragraphs so classily convoluted you don’t notice the embedded hooey:

Assaults on free speech; the imprisoning of critics and dissidents; attempts, on the Russian model, likely to begin soon, to intimidate critics of the regime with fake charges and conjured-up allegations; the intimidation and intolerance of even mild dissidence (that “Apologize!” tweet directed at members of the “Hamilton” cast who dared to politely petition Mike Pence); not to mention mass deportations or attempts at discrimination by religion—all things that the Trump and his cohorts have openly contemplated or even promised—are not part of the normal oscillations of power and policy. They are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse. … [**]

The best way to be sure that 2017 is not 1934 is to act as though it were.

Of course, you don’t need these examples if you have Democratic Facebook friends.  Just read their posts — alarms about journalists jailed and killed, brownshirts, ethnic cleansing, pervasive surveillance, people living in fear, exterminationist violence, the whole nein yards. They’re scared.

The thing is, they’re not poseurs — they’re sensible citizens. They are, many of them, my friends. They’re in no way ignorant. That’s why the dismissive label “Trump Derangement Syndrome” doesn’t seem an accurate description (in addition to being belittling and ineffective). If they see the seeds of authoritarianism in Trump’s “Hamilton” tweet — or more plausibly in his suggestion that he might pick and choose which reporters can attend briefings … well, sure. Those are seeds. There’ve been seeds before, of course. There were the seeds of authoritarianism in Truman bullying a press critic who panned his daughter’s singing. There were more than seeds in Roosevelt’s NRA, in Nixon’s wiretapping and J. Edgar Hoover’s longrunning COINTELPRO surveillance and harrassment of dissenters.

It’s not deranged to extrapolate from seed to tree, and to worry that the relative handful of alt-righters (50,000 ?) and smaller handful of anti-Semitic trolls (1,600?)  might produce something very bad. You can imagine a world where Jews are attacked by their plumbers. My mother grew up in such a world (Frankfurt, Germany in 1933) and I’m here because her parents had the good sense to flee.

It’s thinking that such development–from seed to tree–is at all likely today that seems … well, wrong. Let’s call it wrong!  We have strong counter-majoritarian institutions (including an independent judiciary) and a culture that supports them. The idea that Trump is going to mobilize some army of thuggish supporters to intimidate the press, the courts, the opposition party and half of his own party seems a fever dream, no less feverish because of its rational basis.

Yet those who adhere to this unnamed tendency — let’s call it ’34ism, unless you can come up with a better name *** –allow the power of their terrifying dream to overwhelm sober consideration of everything Trump does or intends to do, good or bad (on trade, taxes, regulations, immigration, etc). We’re supposed to draw up sides — condemning (and ostracizing) those who are “complicit” in Trump’s administration and welcoming those who “stand on the right side of history” — even before we know whether the authoritarian seed will grow or wither, disregarding all the other positively auspicious seeds (reform of trade, control of borders, fewer foreign miliary adventures,  ending the Republican threat to Social Security and Medicare, etc.) that might flourish instead. In Slate 34ist Yascha Mounk’s head it’s practically Life During Wartime already, with brave Trump critics fired from their jobs, sleeping on the couches of their secret colleagues in the Resistance. Keep the car running.

Suggested alternative: See what happens first! Don’t let the reaction to Trump be dominated by one extremely unlikely bad possibility, at the expense of nurturing the far-more-likely good possibilities.

Coming in next post: How does 1934ism go away? Is it enough that the brownshirts don’t appear? (Spoiler: Maybe not.)


**– The Hooey: Gopnik says authoritarian measures against critics “are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse.” This is fatuous on both counts. 1) Even direct assaults on free speech are far from unprecedented –e.g. the Sedition Act of 1798, passed not too long after our nation’s founding, or the imprisonment of Eugene Debs for opposing World War I. 2) They also haven’t been that hard to reverse. The Sedition Act was repealed in Thomas Jefferson’s term expired in 1801 after Jefferson campaigned against it and the House voted down an attempted renewal. It’s highly doubtful that Debs could be imprisoned under current First Amendment law — the opposite of what Gopnik declares “history tells us”.

*** — Better name ideas appreciated — just put them in the comments section below, or tweet them to @kausmickey. Thanks.

4 No, Robots Don’t Kill Trumpism

R.U.R vs. M.A.G.A.: The New York Times suggests that Trumpism is undone by robots:

Donald J. Trump told workers like Ms. Johnson that he would bring back their jobs by clamping down on trade, offshoring and immigration. But economists say the bigger threat to their jobs has been something else: automation.

Sure … but while it may be true that over time automation has been eating up unskilled (and skilled) jobs by the millions, that doesn’t vitiate Trump’s point.

a) For most unskilled jobs shipped offshore (like assembly line work) maybe robots would’ve “eventually eliminated those jobs anyway.” But not for all of them. Call centers, for example, haven’t been completely automated out of existence. Yet they can be (and are) offshored. Bringing them back would bring back some un-robotized jobs.

b) Even if all jobs global trade has sent offshore were instead done by robots, there will still be some unskilled jobs left that have to be performed here. Do we let undocumented immigrants stream into the country to do those jobs more inexpensively? Or do we tell American employers they have to hire from the finite pool of citizens, legal residents, and legal immigrants? “Clamping down on immigration” suddenly becomes more important, not less, as automation makes unskilled jobs less abundant.  If stopping outsourcing no longer has much impact (when robots take all the once-outsourced jobs), controlling immigration may be the main lever we have left if we want to tighten the labor market (and raise wages) for the unskilled jobs that remain.

In the not-so-distant future we may even come to regard unskilled jobs as precious assets, to be reserved for our fellow citizens and residents. After all, the alternative for those who can’t easily acquire marketable skills is unemployment or some kind of dignity-sapping dole (e.g. disability, or the much-discussed universal dole, or UBI).

That seems like an alternative to be avoided as long as possible. ….



Apologies: The robot that painstakingly transferred my tweets to this site appears to have quit. Perhaps it attained consciousness. Fixing this problem turns out to be more difficult than expected.  We may need a new robot. It should be working again shortly. Meanwhile, you can still read the tweets on Twitter — I’m  @kausmickey. And all regular (non-Twitter) blog items are still posted here.

6 Borjas for Council of Economic Advisers

Here’s why Harvard economist George Borjas would be an inspired choice to run the Council of Economic Advisers in Trump’s White House. Put aside questions of formal qualifications, of which he has plenty— Prof. Borjas may be the nation’s most prominent economist when it comes Trump’s big issue, immigration. He’s certainly the most prominent economist sympathetic to Trump’s side. Specifically, Borjas refutes the comforting “narrative” that more immigration is “good for everyone,” arguing that it helps some groups (immigrants, employers) but hurts others — especially low-skilled Americans (and immigrants already here), against whom the newcomers compete. That’s the same group most obviously hurt by global trade. And it’s the heart of Trump’s winning constituency.

What happens if Trump names Borjas? He’ll be highly controversial. Which is great. There’ll be hearings — attention-getting hearings at which Borjas will be attacked as borderline deplorable by the small industry of well-funded economists and think-tankers who argue, counterintuitively, that immigration is an area where the laws of supply and demand don’t apply. (Flooding the market with new workers doesn’t lower wages! Not a #Slatepitch.) These critics may well have some good points to make (though in his latest book, We Wanted Workers, Borjas leaves one of the more prominent critics, Giovanni Peri, for dead like Darth Vader laid out on the lava banks of Mustafar). But if there’s a real argument, so much the better for the cause of making the Dem-leaning press aware that immigration control isn’t a matter of racism, or fear of “the other,” but largely a question of hard, dollars-and-cents economics for those (lower skilled workers) already hurt by modern economic trends (automation as well as trade). Let’s have it out! It’ll be like Kellyanne Conway vs. Mitt Romney, or Kellyanne Conway vs. Jennifer Palmieri! The noisier the better. Borjas will more than hold his own.

In the process, he might also address some other confounding issues (confounding to me, anyway): how, exactly, would mass immigration cure Lawrence Summers’ “secular stagnation”, as advertised, in a way that benefited the average worker? Is there really a skills “bottleneck” holding back production, or is that a fiction devised by employers who want to bring in cheaper foreigners? Will more immigrants help save Social Security? Is there any hope of luring more Americans into the labor force? The last chapter of Borjas’ book suggests he’ll address these, and other, issues with a mixture of professional creativity and humanity. (Example: Borjas estimates every 10 percent increase in the supply of unskilled labor lowers wages 3 to 10 percent. But he still favors a “mixed-skill” policy that lets in some unskilled immigrants for non-economic, humanitarian reasons–though maybe not from the Middle East.) He’s pro-assimilation, while worried about evidence of our eroding ability to assimilate the immigrants we’re getting.

Above all, he’s learned the hard way about the conformist power of PC narratives and conventions (e.g. “today’s immigrants are just like yesterday’s!”) — and the need to upend them when they don’t match reality. On Trump’s best days, that seems to be his calling as well.

47 Watch Out, Trump

New Republic’s Brian Beutler makes a good point: Once Congressional Republicans get an acceptable (to them) Supreme Court nominee, and some tax and regulatory cuts, they have vastly less need for Trump, no? They are likely to stop defending him and maybe even go on the attack. The outlines of a paranoid-but-plausible Ryan restorationist strategy now seem pretty clear: Step 1) Take up all available legislative space with tax reform, regulatory reform, the SCOTUS nominee and Ryan’s wildly unpopular grand plan to turn the bedrock Medicare program into a “premium support” (i.e. voucher) plan. No room for any controversial Trump legislation that would need the “100 days” honeymoon to push through; Step 2) Once SCOTUS and tax cuts are in hand, and Medicare voucherization bogs down or dies, declare that the country has been saved,  turn on Trump, and effectively end his presidency one way or another. **… The upshot is that if Trump wants to pass any legislation that Ryan/Pence/Priebus/Singer/Senor/Norquist don’t want (i.e. relating to immigration and trade) he’d better do it quickly, before he lets them achieve their two immediate goals. …


** — It only takes a majority to impeach. But Republicans could simply not pass anything Trump proposes, while launching investigations into his executive actions.


My Democratic friend P. (who I assume voted for Hillary) emails: “i get particular[ly] incensed by the Hitler / nazi name-calling which 1) debases political discussion 2) trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust and 3) belittles the sacrifice of, for ex, my father shot at the Battle of the Bulge.”  Well-put! …

81 No Time for Showtime

Does President-Elect Trump understand:

1) That the immigration issue is at the heart of his election. The Trump supporters who voted on the issue not only reflect majority support for most of his policies, but they tend to care about the issue intensely. If Trump backs down on the clear policies in his big August 31 immigration speech, including

On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, power, beautiful southern border wall.

he will dissolve this base of support. Since he has no other big base of support — not the Democrats who hate him, not established Republicans, who may hate him even more — he’ll be Wile E. Coyote in mid-air, with nothing under him.  (Psst. It takes a simple majority to impeach.)

2) That by design, tradition, and circumstance, it’s grindingly hard for a president to get new laws through Congress. Our presidents are weak that way. One of the few proven openings for action is the first 100 or so days of a new administration, when the public’s most willing to give an incoming chief executive the chance to try his policies. If Trump doesn’t appoint people who will push hard from their first minute in office, he’s unlikely to get the laws — to expand the E-Verify system (to check the status of new hires), lower future legal immigration levels, maybe funding for the wall  — he needs.

3) That a lot can be done with executive orders — and by simply reversing Obama’s enforcement priorities — but this requires near-obsessive leadership (at a minimum) in place at both the Justice and Homeland Security departments. The DOJ job has been filled with Sen. Jeff Sessions— Trump couldn’t have picked a better person. But the Homeland job is vacant. Why? You get the impression Trump thinks it’s a second tier position. Not for immigration it isn’t! For example, the infamous Morton memos, backing off interior enforcement, may be largely responsible for the surge of illegals from Central America — they’re the basis for the (accurate) coyote wisdom that if you can sneak past the border into the interior of the U.S., you’re home free. But the Morton memo was a Homeland Security directive, not a Justice directive.

Not to mention the Wall, which will be hard enough to get built — even under Department of Defense auspices — but which will certainly not get built without full support from Homeland Security.

4) That Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, is the sort of appointee who’d need no break-in period and who could be counted on to pursue border security measures as vigorously as possible. But while Kobach has been left twisting in the wind, TrumpWorld’s been popping out names of candidates who are likely to go wobbly on Day Two, if not Day One. Chris Christie, for example. Christie actually supported the dreadful 2013 “Gang of 8” Amnesty-First bill — his appointed cat’s paw senator voted for it, after Christie was lobbied by Chuck Schumer. He ain’t the right guy.

Even the transition “landing team” is co-headed by James Jay Carafano, a Heritage official who argues for new guestworker programs— even unskilled guestworkers who compete with the worst paid American workers. (“We also need low skilled workers.”) Carafano seems to be the immigration expert at Heritage who is most sensitive to employer (donor?) concerns. He opposed the precursor of E-Verify on the grounds that:

trying to enforce and make man­datory a worker verification system to ensure that every unlawfully present individual is denied a job would unnecessarily hamper American business …

While Carafano now seems to accept E-Verify as a voluntary program for employers, he isn’t known as a proponent of mandatory E-verify, which is what’s needed.**

5) Trump’s cabinet selection process seems, from the outside, like it’s driven by a need for ethnic and gender diversity, as well as the desire to assemble a team of already-famous star players. That seems unfortunate as a matter of general personnel  policy — but fine, let Trump go for star power or diversity at Agriculture, or HUD, or the Labor Department (where Peter Kirsanow would be distinguished choice). Trump didn’t run on reforming Agriculture or HUD or Labor. He ran on building the wall and securing the border. He needs someone to get the job done. Homeland Security is too important for Transition Theater.


** — The closest I can find it is page 110 of this document, which endorses “moving toward” an E-Verify requirement.

49 The Big Flip?

Is it in the Democrats’ interest to finally put the immigration issue behind them? Here’s my thinking: Democrats always seemed to want to keep the immigration issue alive — it was supposed to be the key to mobilizing Latino voters. So Democratic leaders were comfortable resisting any kind of deal unless it was the total victory they wanted, namely a deal that (by placing amnesty before enforcement ) held out the prospect of large future flows of immigrants (i.e. Democrats). Anything less than that … well, don’t even think about a deal. They’d rather ‘have the issue.’

But now Democrats have learned a) the Latino vote is a whole lot less immigration-obsessed than the immigration-obsessed pollsters at Latino Decisions would have you believe; and b) Democrats desperately need a way to make populist common cause with the working class whites who responded to Trump’s border-control rhetoric.  One obvious way to win those white voters back is by taking immigration ‘off the table,’ allowing Dems to make their traditional, effective pitches about Social Security, Medicare, wages, trade, Wall Street, etc.

I don’t expect a Dem pivot in this direction anytime soon — the party, and especially its activists, are too immured in identity politics. But you’d expect at least some self-interested Congressional Dems to be much more open to an Enforcement First compromise along Trumpish lines: Do what has to be done to secure the border, then, eventually, do something to legalize the undocumented who are still here.

The future votes Dems would give up — no never-ending waves of illegal migrants to  eventually convert into voters, sorry! — would be more than compensated for by short and medium term access to the Trump Belt voters Dems fatally lost in ’16.**


** — Immigration amnesty  was supposed to be a “threshold issue” for Latinos. But maybe border control is a threshold issue for the bulk of working class voters in the same way controlling welfare handouts (by requiring work) was a prerequisite for the success of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — if you don’t get that issue right, don’t bother talking to them about anything else.

39 Gotta Vote Sometime

Election Day arrives. What to do? Here’s my thinking.

1. Like Peggy Noonan, I’m all for Sane Donald Trump (for the reasons she gives).  But Real Donald Trump is a little crazy, no? He’s had a whole campaign to convince us otherwise — it’s really all he had to do! — and he’s been at best semi-successful. If he’s actually not crazy — if the calmer Trump we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks is the real man — this failure is even more inexplicable.  If he loses, that will obviously be the main reason. Sane Trump would win in a landslide (as Noonan notes).

2. What about the alternative to Trump? The big problem with Hillary Clinton isn’t that she promises a dreary and unimaginative continuation of our current course (“Inertia“), though she does. Or that, undeterred by her disastrous judgment on Libya, she seems almost W-like in her eagerness to prosecute an idealistic-but-unnecessary confrontation with Russia. Or that she may be a “crook.”** I don’t care about her damn emails. There are bigger things at stake.

Presidential terms tend to get measured — rightly — by large pieces of legislation. The Social Security Act. The Wagner Act. The Civil Rights Act.  Medicare. NAFTA. Obamacare. The Constitution makes it hard to pass these bills; when we do it’s a big deal. The main problem with Hillary, then, remains that she’s committed to her party’s highly irresponsible legislative push regarding who gets to become an American, a push that threatens to over time dissolve our national project through what will effectively be “open trade and open borders.”  One of Hillary’s first acts — if not the first — will be to run to Congress to get them to pass an amnesty-first-enforcement-maybe immigration law that, in practice, will commit the U.S. to serial amnesties of people who come here illegally — people whose numbers are likely to increase as succeeding generations abroad realize that if they can just reach U.S. soil they’ll qualify for the next amnesty.*** Maybe this legislation can be stopped in a Republican House currently led by a pro-amnesty Speaker. Maybe it can’t. But the prospect of losing effective control of our borders is an “existential threat” far greater than any posed when a blustering Trump suggests he’ll protest losing the election or sue his enemies.

You can look at what is happening in Europe now for a taste of what uncontrolled borders would mean. Most significantly, they’d make it virtually impossible to maintain the kind of tight labor market that would reliably boost incomes of Americans who perform basic labor (the very people who’ve done the worst in recent decades) and force American capitalists to draw those wavering near the margins of society into the work force.

I don’t doubt ‘free movement of goods and people’ would  produce a higher GDP. But it would also pull our country apart and make the traditional American idea of social equality near-impossible. We’d move to a (high growth!) Hong-Kongish, beehive-like meritocracy in which richer, smarter people can’t help but look down on a poor, dispensable low-paid (and increasingly subsidy-dependent) unskilled work force. Those invidious attitudes are already in evidence.

Trump opens up a different path, where we are willing give up a few points of GDP — slowing trade, controlling the influx of eager new workers — in order to have the kind of society we want, where communities are displaced more slowly and “we are equal in the eyes of each other.”**** We could still let in plenty of newcomers, of course. But we would democratically choose to do so.

Add to this Trump’s seeming intention to protect entitlements from Ryanesque plans that subject them to market-like uncertainty, and his resistance to regime-changing military adventures, and you’ve beneficially transformed the Republican party along four major axes.

3. If Trump were clearly going to lose, I’d definitely vote for him! An actual Trump victory (as Ann Coulter says) is the clearest way to send both parties a definitive message: ‘Stop trying to cram uncontrolled trade and immigration down our throats.’ A big, almost-winning Trump vote is the next best way to send that message.

But Trump’s not doomed. He might win. I don’t have that out.

4. He’s doomed in California, though!  And I live in Los Angeles. So I will vote for him without further agonizing, secure in the knowledge that it can’t possibly affect who is actually elected.  It will, however, help send the message that even in a one-party blue state (blued by immigration) there are dissenters.

5. Is that a cop-out? Well, yes, it is.  When people ask me whom I’ll vote for they really want to know if I’d rather Trump be President than Clinton. My thinking on this, alas, hasn’t much changed since I tried to answer the question last year. Trump is a candidate of high risks ***** (including the foreign policy risk described by Ross Douthat here) and high potential rewards (see #2, above). But — domestically, at least — the courts and Congress will have a fine old time keeping him under control. Clinton’s risks are substantial too — including the risk of war with Russia — but more limited, as are the potential rewards (and even those, like fixing Obamacare, seem remote if Republicans retain Congress).

It’s one of those lifeboat questions you ask yourself when you aren’t being ‘mindful’ — whom do you throw overboard, your sister or a prize-winning scientist? — and then learn not to ask yourself. I don’t think anyone can honestly answer it without knowing their own, individual appetite for risk, including serious risks (like war). I’d take the Trump risk. You may choose otherwise.


**–The nation might be well-enough served by “a crook who knows her business,” as Jackie Mason might put it.

*** — Do political consultants say we have to have an amnesty to avoid alarming Latino and Asian voters? If that’s true, then the next time around there will only be more voters to placate. Hence, amnesty after amnesty.

**** — Preserving social equality won’t solve the problem of atomization — loneliness and lack of  community. It won’t tell us what to do when more and more unskilled (and skilled) work is taken over by robots. But I’d hope it’s a feature of whatever solutions we might come up with. And the principle of tempering the pursuit of maximum GDP — in the name of other values –seems important.

***** — Yes, this Includes a very small but not completely nonexistent risk of stumbling into a use of  nuclear weaponry.  I urge you to read this underpublicized piece by Ron Rosenbaum — on Trump’s nuclear arms-control obsession in the late 80s — before you get too worried, though.


Tom Hayden: Jill Stewart, veteran Southern California political writer (and kind of a radical centrist) posted this about Hayden on her Facebook page:

In my decades as a journalist, only two elected officials always said what they believed, did what they believed, and never fell into the parsing and co-opting and deal-cutting that has given us our tainted political class in Los Angeles. Tom Hayden was one of those great, rare, true, solid rocks. (The other such person in LA is on the other side of the political aisle.) Tom was incredibly smart. But most important, he was fearless and spoke truth to power like no other.


One reason vote-rigging fears may have special valence this year: Sure, there hasn’t been that much vote-rigging in the past. But if avoiding nuclear war and semi-extinction is really at stake in this election, as some anti-Trumpers claim, they are almost under a moral obligation to rig the vote, no? Or even manipulate digital results, Mission Impossible style. Can’t let voters in one democracy screw it up for everyone! … The mainstream press has never so blatantly campaigned against a candidate before either, after all. …

It isn’t crazy to worry about unprecedented anti-Trump measures. It’s all hands on deck!

18 My “Rant”

Enjoyed the “Left, Right & Center” live show last night . (Listen here.)  At the end of the show, everyone gives a short “rant.” This is what mine should have been:

There are at least three forces conspiring to devalue unskilled labor. 1) Trade (the work is done by cheaper workers overseas). 2) Immigration (the work is done by cheaper workers who come to this country). And 3) technology (the work is done by robots).

Trump plans to restrain at least two of the three (1 and 2).
Hillary would embrace 1 and make 2 worse.
Nobody has a plan to address 3.

8 They’ll none of them be …

GOP Comprehensivists Facing Oblivion: Sure seems like a lot of vulnerable House Republicans — e.g. Coffman, Curbelo, Denham, Valadao, Issa, Ros-Lehtinen, to name six — are supporters of immigration amnesty. That’s to be expected, of course, since GOP members from the most heaviliy Latino districts would be the most politically threatened  (Latinos being “natural Republicans” only in GOP lobbyists’ fantasies.)  But it means that if Republicans do hold the House, their caucus might be missing some of its loudest pro-amnesty voices. … That would seem to make it harder for Paul Ryan (if he’s Speaker) to do what he clearly wants to do, namely bring an amnesty bill to the floor. …

97 No New Crowleys!

5 Facts Not to Check: Like many Clinton supporters, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wants the press to fact-check Trump (and presumably Clinton), calling out “lies.” But even he admits that, in the most famous recent case of this sort of epistemological assertiveness, CNN’s Candy Crowley screwed it up:

In a 2012 presidential debate, the moderator Candy Crowley backed President Obama when Mitt Romney accused him of not having promptly called the Benghazi attacks terrorism. In fact, the point was ambiguous — Obama had used the phrase “acts of terror” but wasn’t clearly referring to Benghazi.

As a starter guide for debate moderators who might want to avoid Crowley’s epic and consequential mistake, here are some other prominent “facts”  that (often cocooned) partisans believe are “true” but that are actually in some — often considerable – doubt:

Mexico won’t pay for the wall: This is Kristof’s example of valid potential fact-check:

And we all know that Trump will not build a wall that Mexico will pay for (estimates are that it would cost $25 billion). If we know this, we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves.

“[W]e all know …” Unfortunately for Kristof, his column ran the day after former Mexican foreign secretary Jorge Castaneda noted Trump “has many ways of getting many Mexicans to pay for the wall,” including various tolls, fees, taxes on remittances, etc. — some of which do not require Congressional approval.

Crowleyism’s 0 for 2 so far.

Crime has not been increasing: This is a favorite fact-check response to Trump’s Giuliani-like pitch. Except on many measures crime (including homicide) is rising.

Homicides increased 9% in the largest 63 cities in the first quarter of 2016; nonfatal shootings were up 21%, according to a Major Cities Chiefs Association survey. Those increases come on top of last year’s 17% rise in homicides in the 56 biggest U.S. cities, with 10 heavily black cities showing murder spikes above 60%.

That doesn’t mean they’ve reached the levels of the bad-old days of the early ’90s. But any increase in crime is a legitimate public concern.

Trump even sometimes phrases his point with lawyerly precision (“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed …”). He still gets dinged by AP’s wannabe Crowleys — for “ignoring some big increases in spending” under Obama. Spending! If anti-crime spending were the same as actual drops in crime, we’d be living in Eden.

Illegal immigration from Mexico has stopped: There was indeed a reversal of the flow in the last half of the oughts (after the economy tanked, and … George W. Bush’s amnesty plan failed, and many states got tough on immigration). This decline is reflected in stats that end in 2014. But It’s not 2014. Since then, illegal immigration has surged again — mainly from areas other than Mexico, like Central America. But also from Mexico.

Obama deported record numbers of illegal immigrants: According to the administration’s  stats, deportations peaked at record numbers in 2012. But that was the result of finagling in the official numbers — specifically, “counting many people caught at the border [and immediately returned to the other side] as deportations, which they were not previously.” Since 2012, even official deportations have collapsed. (See also here.)

Trump did not oppose the 2003 Iraq War: As Byron York notes, this is #1 on the Hillary campaign’s must-fact-check-in-real-time hit parade. Trump did mouth weak support for the war on a radio show 6 months before it started (“Yeah, I guess so.”) Did he nurse growing misgivings in the tumultuous succeeding months of the run-up to war– as many did? Who knows? He didn’t vocalize clear Obama-style opposition.** He passed up a chance to blast the war in a Cavuto appearance four and a half months later — but he didn’t support it and expressed some doubts. (“I think the economy is a much bigger problem.”)

If I remember right, this was a time when publicly opposing the war had a social cost among East Coast political and journalistic types — I remember admiring Mike Kinsley for opposing it without angst, while many of my Democratic colleagues at SlateSlate! — who are now trashing Trump supported it. And it was only once the war started that Trump’s public disdain materialized. A few days after the invasion — still way early, compared with actual war supporters — he called it a “mess.”

So Trump didn’t have Obama’s balls. That doesn’t mean he supported the war, or that in his what-would-I-do-as-President mode he didn’t oppose it, or that the whole issue lends itself to “the cathartic, true-false, black-white ‘You lie!’ moment Democrats would like,” as York puts it.

He was somewhat against the war, or partially against the war, or mostly against the war, or mildly against the war, or kinda against the war.

So is that the point the Clinton campaign would like Lester Holt to make?

Looks like a quagmire to me.


** — Remember how grateful David Axelrod was that a tape of then-state-senator Obama’s anti-Iraq-War speech existed. Why? Because otherwise it would be difficult to document even Obama’s exact position. Likewise, Trump’s.

74 What part of “Enforcment First” don’t you understand?

As Powerline notes, the press has been flummoxed by Trump’s immigration speech of last week: Should they trash him for “shelving” his mass deportation plans or for not shelving them? After initially flirting with the former they seemed to settle on the latter, only to backslide into tactical sparring over whether Trump has been explicit enough about the full details of his shelving. (Is it “2 to 3 million” or 5 million that he’d prioritize for deportation?)

The idea that Trump might indeed have shaved some of the less sensible edges off his previous positions and wound up with a coherent and detailed-enough approach seems to have been unthinkable from the outset. But that’s what he did.

Here are the edges that have been shaved off:

1) We now know that Trump doesn’t think he can deport 11M (or 20M, or however many) illegals now in the country. He will focus on

removing criminals, gang members, security threats, visa overstays, public charges. That is those relying on public welfare or straining the safety net along with millions of recent illegal arrivals and overstays who’ve come here under this … administration.

The “public charges” category could be smaller or larger depending on whether Trump counts illegals whose households receive, say, food stamps because they have kids who were born on US soil (which makes the kids citizens under existing law). But, either way, the clear implication is Trump wouldn’t try to deport all illegals and wouldn’t get around to the low-priority cases (though all remain subject to deportation the way all speeders are subject to speeding tickets).

2) For the illegal immigrants who aren’t deported, and stay ‘in the shadows,’ Trump dangled the possibility of an amnesty at a future date, if control of the borders is in fact achieved:

Importantly, in several years when we have accomplished all of our enforcement and deportation goals and truly ended illegal immigration for good, including the construction of a great wall, which we will have built in record time.

… And the establishment of our new lawful immigration system then and only then will we be in a position to consider the appropriate disposition of those individuals who remain.

That discussion can take place only in an atmosphere in which illegal immigration is a memory of the past, no longer with us, allowing us to weigh the different options available based on the new circumstances at the time.

This wasn’t a promise of future amnesty. It ‘s saying that the policy (of amnesty, or no) will be decided later. I would have maybe done a bit more dangling — but, for Trump, admitting that amnesty’s a possibility is a big deal. And it’s obvious why he might not want to hang a bigger lantern on it — explicit mention of the possibility would itself attract more illegal immigration and raise the pressure to fudge enforcment goals.

You can disagree with this policy or not, but it’s a policy.  It’s not” incoherent,” just as it’s not incoherent to say “I’ll decide what to eat when we reach Cincinatti.” (“No, you have to tell us now,” the press demands.)  What part of “later” doesn’t the press understand?

3) Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” has now been permantely turned into a much more anodyne plan to “suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur.” That would include Syria and Libya, Trump said, but beyond that the DHS and DOJ are tasked with developing “a list of regions and countries.”

This completes the evolution away from a religious test that Trump began after Orlando, even though the New York Times and others strenuously attempted to deny it. (Trump also advocates an “ideological” screening test,  directed at detecting “views about honor killings, about respect for women and gays and minorities.” Presumably many Muslims would pass this test, and many Christians would flunk it.)

4) Trump’s feared “deportation force” has now been reduced to a mere “task force” within the existing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureaucracy and “focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants,” (a goal Obama, for one, agrees with). It’s not focused on rounding up non-criminals. In other words, it’s no longer anything remotely controversial. Forget about it.

More important, if you value coherence, is the conceptual shift the speech announced. Trump’s original idea, remember, was that every illegal had to leave and the “good ones” would be allowed back in in “expedited” fashion. This plan really was vague — was it another attempt to use the “touchback” gimmick to efficiently give amnesty virtually all who are here? Or would only a small minority count as “good ones” and be allowed to return? Did all this happen before or after the wall, etc.?  In any case it’s a bit of a wacky idea.

There wasn’t much left of it in last week’s speech.** It’s been replaced by a sturdier, more conventional, less gimmicky, “Enforcement First” structure. The idea is that we’ll do what we have to do to control who comes in — including a border wall, a system to check on legal status at the point of hiring, and a system to track visa overstays — plus deporting the categories of people Trump says he’ll deport. Then we can talk about amnesty for those who are left here. Do it the other way around — “Amnesty First,” as in the 1986 Reagan “reform” and the now-dead Senate “Gang of 8 bill” — and you’re  inviting the immigration lobby to undermine enforcment efforts in the courts and bureaucracy at the same time the amnesty is attracting another wave of illegals.

That’s what happened after ’86. It’s what might happen in some pro-amnesty versions of Trump’s earlier “touchback” scheme. Instead, Trump said, he was determined to

break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration.

Doesn’t seem that hard to understand.


** — Trump did mention that those who leave might then be able to return “under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined,” and subject to forthcoming “caps and limits.” Those rules and caps would presumably include his plans to  “keep immigration levels measured by population share within historical norms.” Taken together, these restrictions seem to throw cold water on the Pence “touchback” amnesty, which involves special treatment and few limits. But I admit Trump didn’t totally close the door.


Little Note on Public Apologies: A public apology, like last night’s from Trump, is meaningful even if it’s completely insincere. A proud man has been forced to at least slightly (not much!) humble himself, which is a penalty paid even if paid in bad faith (which I’m not saying it necessarily was). True, this isn’t like “little notes” of congratulation which, Mike Kinsley once argued, are more valuable the more insincere they are, and most valuable when sent through gritted teeth. But it shares some of the same qualities: even if inauthentic it’s a sign of respect for voters’ values. …

33 Five (5) Points on New Trump

New Trump— Charlotte Speech: 1) So all the analysis about Trump now not being able to reach out beyond Breitbart was BS; 2) Speech should terrify Hillaryland. It’s already alarmed Bill Kristol, who conjured a tweetstorm to assure us not to worry, Trump’s still finished (“the equivalent of a losing army shuffling generals around”); 3) Trump’s language remains a bit … um, egomaniacal: “I speak the truth for all of you, and for everyone in this country who doesn’t have a voice.” Do people feel they don’t have voices? Does Trump do the talking for them? Slightly condescending, no? How about “I’m speaking the truths we all know and have avoided or not been allowed to say for too long.” 4) Where’s the Wall? Where’s raising wages by controlling immigration? Emphasizing ISIS/terror at the expense of immigration economics is the trademark move of … Roger Ailes, allegedly now a Trump adviser. Troubling! With Bannon and Steve Miller on board, however, I’m not worried those missing immigration pieces will be ignored forever. The same goes for “globalism” — another Trump concept that was MIA in Charlotte. It’s as if the “insiders” and “powerful” Trump attacked are motivated by dull kleptocratic greed, as opposed to the coherent, powerful delusion of a borderless world. … 5) This is the long-awaited test of whether the press’ alleged desire for a plot twist outweighs its desperate underlying Stop Trumpism. Rich Lowry thinks it will. I bet it doesn’t. (In other words, the MSM will downplay the speech. It’s not like there was a gafffe!). …

62 Trump Can Impose His Tax Cuts Without Congress

Donald Trump recently proposed a dramatic tax reform plan that lowers the top income tax rate to 33% from the current 39.5%. It also cuts the tax on “pass through” income — the partnerships and S Corporations often favored by the rich — to only 15%. Media outlets have speculated about whether these measures could quickly pass Congress, if Congress remains in Republican hands. Trump himself suggested his proposed rates would change after they’re “negotiated” with the legislators, many of whom (especially Dems) would complain the cuts are regressive.

This is all silly. Trump doesn’t need Congress to effectively lower tax rates. All he needs is two words: “prosecutorial discretion.” As president, he could simply have his Internal Revenue Service announce that, while existing law seems to require the rich to pay at 39.5%, it will choose (as it must, given its limited resources!) not to prosecute any individual taxpayer who pays at least 33%. Same for “pass through” recipients who fork over 15%.

Of course, these taxpayers would have to comply with various other criteria that Trump’s tax authority will reasonably take into account: Have they used the proceeds to buy American-made goods? To invest in American factories that refuse to ship jobs overseas? To respect First and Second Amendment rights? All laudable goals! Those that meet those criteria — spelled out in some detail in the fine print — would be rewarded with a letter from the IRS to show investors, saying that they are in the clear.

The inherent executive authority to do this is “well established,” according to Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid.**


** — Of course, Reid was commenting on President Obama’s action to give work permits to — and rule out prosecution of — “dreamers” and certain other undocumented immigrants who met his criteria.  But what difference, at this point, does that make?