Sunday, January 31, 2016

Guest Post: Trump's Targets

Peter Sage:    Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both make strong cases against the corrupting forces hurting "regular Americans."  In my previous post I said that Sanders focused on the corruption of American politics by economic elites: the lobbyists, K Street, big corporations, big political donors--all of them taking care of themselves at the expense of  regular people.   Sanders punched up.   Trump, I said, mostly was punching down, focusing on immigrants, refugees, the undeserving poor and on interlopers and upstarts attempting to rival America economically or militarily,  including China and Russia.

Guest poster Thad Guyer is a litigator who specializes on whistleblowing employees.   He looks closely at what kinds of messages are persuasive to judges and juries.

He argues that in taking on big media (including the Republican Fox News) while simultaneously condemning the influence of big money in politics, which as a participant he said he understood thoroughly and affirms its corrupting influence, he shows himself to be a populist condemning both poor and rich punching out, not just down.

But Guyer's more ominous warning for progressives is his belief that Trump has found and amplified a powerful theme: consciousness of who is and is not an American.  Immigration is an issue that people care about, Republicans and Democrats both.  The Democratic candidate needs to voice a policy that addresses this concern, or the issue will be conceded to the Republicans.

Thad Guyer's comment

Trump Punches Outward for “Citizens America”

I generally agree with the Up Close metaphors of Trump punching down and Sanders punching up. But I’m a little disoriented about up and down on Trump. I agree that not many Trump voters will go for Sanders, but I have no doubt that many Sanders voters are going to go Trump—secretly and anonymously. He will win millions of them.

Here is whom I see Trump punching in addition to your list:
• The Republican Establishment- one of the most powerful and richest institutions in world history.• The Mainstream Media (left and right)- the near monopoly opinion-makers guild since World War II, which is now controlled by moguls like Jeff Bezos and Rupert Murdoch. The New York City based NYT and Fox are primary guild members.• Islam as controlled by theocratic royalty on the Shia (moderate) and Sunni (right) continuum. These are oil kingdoms that fund militants and terrorists in their proxy orbits worldwide.• Global free-trader oligarchs who chase cheap inhumane labor wherever it can be found, and by whom American jobs and well-being are bartered. 

Trump punches hard and up at this axis of powers. His punching down at illegal immigrants and political-correctness claimants will be the bigger vote getter, and certainly will be the one with the greatest cross-over appeal to alarmed “Citizen America”. Citizenship itself is now nearly a politically incorrect term, and you would be controversial if you wore a button saying “Proud citizen of the USA”, or even “God Bless America”, our national anthem.  
Citizen America includes white, black, brown and yellow, left and right, educated and uneducated bound in a thing called “citizenship”. Trump understands that illegal immigration concerns all citizens, it is the ultimate non-partisan multicultural issue in the US and Europe. 

Polls consistently show Trump already has at least 25% immigrant-citizen support nationally, see The Economist/YouGov Poll (November 5 - 9, 2015), and other polls place his non-white support much higher. “A quarter of the British public support Donald Trump's plan to ban all Muslim immigration”,  

Trump’s popularity is punching neither down nor up— - it is punching outward. Outward is where the illegal immigrant invaders, currency trade manipulators, and infidel-hating religious cultures are amassing at the gates. Punching outward is how Donald Trump may well become the vanguard of the post-establishment political revolution. 

And if it comes to a general election between Trump and Sanders, then Trump will definitely be punching in one direction—down. With Hillary, he would be punching up. 

Trump and Sanders

Trump supporters have a grievance and they think Trump may be the solution.   They are angry and resentful over changes in America that are displacing them. The traditional social order of white, male, Christian, heterosexual primacy is eroding.  They have become one group of many, and less special, and political correctness requires them to suck it up and give overt respect to the people stepping into their space.   The threat to this come from below.

   ***from foreign workers in low-wage countries
   ***from immigrants competing in the work force
   ***from poor people getting public benefits, including eduction and health care
   ***from different cultures and languages which seek equal status and respect,
       thus eroding the special place of traditional social hierarchy
   ***from foreign countries who no longer give America "respect" as the sole economic
       and military hegemonic power
Bad immigrants, low-wage workers, Mexico, Muslims

The threats come from below, either from the weak or from upstarts daring to threaten the mighty.   Trump punches down.   Trump endlessly picks on Jeb Bush, the weakling, the loser.   He disses Carly, the ugly CEO who failed twice.  Rubio is a "little boy" who "sweats a lot."  When Cruz moved from acolyte to rival (i.e. became an upstart) Trump smashed him, the interloper Canadian everyone hates.

Pundits have thought they were criticizing Trump for being a bully, which they think is beneath him.   They miss the point.   Trump punching down is his brand.  It doesn't diminish him.  It confirms his role.   He protects himself--and will protect America--from threats.  You spray for cockroaches and ants; it isn't wrong; it's common sense!

Trump punches down.

Bush: loser cockroach
Meanwhile, Sanders supporters have a grievance and they think Sanders may be the solution.   I met Sanders supporters at rallies, primarily college kids from Harvard and MIT and other fancy schools around New Hampshire, students who skipped classes to drive to see the man himself.   (In 1968 my roommate skipped classes and shaved his beard to be "clean for Gene", i.e. Eugene McCarthy.  I didn't.  I stayed at school, did my papers and read my books.  I regret the choice.  But I am making up for it now.)   

Plus, I participate in a long running e-mail conversation with my fellow college alums, a great many of whom support Sanders.  And at home I live and converse within a circle of liberal, environmentalist, college educated, professional people, lots of Democrats, and they generally like Sanders.

What is their grievance and what is the solution?   They are angry about the corrupting influence of big money throughout our political system.   They don't like Super PACS, they don't like tax breaks for big companies and the very wealthy, they don't like the carried-interest tax loophole, they don't like financial and pharmaceutical companies paying big money to former legislators to give speeches, they don't like K Street, they don't like financial executives escaping prosecution, they don't like lobbyists writing legislation.  They think the system is rigged for the benefit of the powerful against the interests of everyone below.  

They resent the power of the one percent at the top, and Sanders is the solution because Sanders is uncompromised by money and Sanders punches up.

Jeremiad: the corrupting influence of money

(From their point of view Hillary is a weak and unsatisfactory alternative to Sanders.  Sure, she is better than Trump or Cruz or Rubio or whomever, but Hillary isn't at war with the one percent.  She and Bill are well inside it and they are very comfortable--way too comfortable--with the rich and powerful.  That's where they gave speeches for money and that's where the Clinton Foundation gets its dough.)

My liberal friends tell me that Trump voters will like Sanders and that Sanders has great crossover appeal.   I think not.   

The primary grievance for each set of supporters comes from opposite directions.   Trump is no enemy of the one percent.   They are winners.  He will appoint Carl Icahn to the Cabinet. Trump's tax plan doesn't punch up, except for the carried interest loophole, the bright shiny doomed sacrificial lamb that everyone knows is on notice.  Trump's tax plan cuts taxes on the wealthiest (as does the tax plan of every other Republican.)  

Trump punches down, and Sanders punches up.  Very different. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Top Dog

Observing the enthusiasm

Republican candidates for president--led by Trump but echoed by others--are angry and resentful over changes happening in America.   Marco Rubio speaks of the last 7 years as being a downward spiral of increasing misery, and audiences believe it and cheer.   

The past seven years have been a decline???   Things have gotten worse???

How can that be?    Seven years ago we were in a crisis of bankruptcies, foreclosures, massive layoffs, and economic collapse.   The largest banks (Citi and Bank of America), the largest investment firms (Goldman and Morgan Stanley), the largest insurance companies (AIG) and the largest industrial conglomerate (GE), and the largest industrial firms (General Motors and Chrysler) required emergency support.   It was a disaster back then.

Yet supposedly things are worse now, with unemployment down below 5% and home prices back up enough that homeowners have equity once again???

Who could possibly believe that?     Answer:  Lots of people.   They are responding to a decline in something other than the objective economy and health of America.  They are responding to their rising sense of resentment and anger over changes in the social fabric of America and America's place in the world.    

And that generalized resentment has a voice: conservative political/media complex of talk radio, and Fox News, plus the large audience receptive to it.  I saw and heard myself up close in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada

Donald Trump found it, speaks to it, and amplifies it.

Many Americans feel pressured and displaced by changes taking place which reduce the privilege and status of previous winners in the traditional social order.   It used to be an understood "given" that to be white, male, Christian, heterosexual, native born, married, and healthy were positions of honor and deference.  Such people were "normal".  But now, thanks to social and legal changes, plus the burden of "political correctness", the handicapped get special door knobs, crosses get removed from public parks, Christian prayers aren't said at schools, gays get wedding cakes, women get hired as managers, and phone menus require one to "push one for English."    

And post WW2 America was the sole standing industrial nation.  Now we are first among many, a decline in status.  Obama says we are "exceptional", but says that others think they are exceptional.   "First among many" is a much different--worse--thing than "the very, very best, the City on the Hill, top dog period!"

Thus the call to "take America back", because the old America is disappearing.   Demographic and social changes have made America less white, the workforce less male, etc. and the legal landscape has made it necessary to watch ones language.   Political correctness:  a guy can't say bitch, chink, colored, fag, queer, or retard.  One can never tell when someone might get all upset because you assumed the woman in the hospital was a nurse not the doctor.  

There are events in the news that reinforce the point.   
   ***the woman killed by an immigrant here illegally in San Francisco, a sanctuary city
   ***neighbors who saw the San Bernardino shooters "putting things" into a garage but who didn't feel comfortable reporting it as suspicious
   ***shootings in Paris, assaults in Germany, riots in Baltimore
   ***instances of taxpayer support for the undeserving rich (banks and car companies) and the undeserving poor (lazy native born and immigrants)

Trump and Fox and talk radio understand their audience's feeling of anger, frustration, and resentment.   They "get" their audience.   

Lots of Americans (including ones who won't admit it) are in fact made nervous by Muslims in public transportation, especially airplanes.  They resent the fact that they aren't supposed to say anything.   They want TSA person to give them an extra dose, or two, or three of inspection, and doesn't want any nitpicker objecting to it.  

The thing that has gone deeply "wrong" in the last 7 years is growing resentment over social changes, over not being able to voice them openly, and the belief that the president is accelerating those changes rather than resisting them.   And Obama has in fact accelerated them.   And so has Hillary.   Obama supported TARP, allows sanctuary cities, urges police to be color blind in profiling, supports women equality in the workplace, etc.   Obama is a liberal progressive.   And he's half-black.   Obama thinks that respect and empowerment of the variety of people in America is a good thing, that the old traditional social order embodied prejudice, a bad thing.    Obama thinks that speaking respectfully of Muslims is a good thing generally and a necessity for our foreign policy.   

Republican primary voters and Fox and Trump understand Obama.  He is on the side of the side of political correctness.   They aren't.

Trump's policies are undefined but his goals are clear:  assert American nationalism and assert the interests of traditional Americans against the usurping elites of the corrupting rich who buy favors and the undeserving poor and foreigners who are a financial burden and security risk.    

Politicians who think it is about policy are missing the big wave:  Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and John Kasich talk about bipartisanship and governance and they are underperforming what the political cognoscenti think is their due.   The solution isn't policy because the problem is not policy.   The problem is resentment over lost honor.

Trump was politically smart to boycott the Fox debate.   His honor was tweaked by Megan Kelly and Fox.   He considered himself dissed.  He wouldn't have it.  

 HIs critics observe that the slight was petty and it was personal.   Yes, it was petty--that is the point.  Trump demonstrated that he is capricious and unpredictable.  He sent a message that ANYONE messing with his honor creates a risk.  Fox learned a lesson and so did Mexico, China, Putin, and Hillary Clinton.  You cannot tell what might set him off.   Better give him wide berth.  Trump won't be dissed.    If you didn't know before, now you do.

For Americans looking for a leader who will re-assert the honor and status of people feeling diminished by multiculturalism, the United Nations, by international trade agreements, by having to pretend they aren't made nervous by Muslims sitting in the airplane, by people resentful of having to watch their language when describing protected classes of people  then Trump speaks to them and for them.

Which is why Trump is a very formidable political voice in America.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Debate Scorecard

Ever watched a flock of swallows or sparrows fly together in undulating swarms?  


Somehow they are communicating with one another, moving as a group.   I have no idea how they do it.   Humans do it, too--attach and communicate non verbally.

Even rational people who pay attention to issues, who think they are logical, strategic, detail-oriented, even number-crunching engineers,  operate partially as social animals with herd instincts. 

Here is my point about the campaign.    I think yesterday's Republican debate, and the Trump boycott of it, were important pieces of big, non-verbal communication, confirming and modifying the basic understanding people have of the candidates.   Voters' impressions were affected.  

Here's what happened last night:

Trump:   He confirmed his brand.   He won't get pushed around and he stands his ground.  He is a little bit un-trustworthy because it is pretty obvious that he was motivated partially by thin-skinned pique, not principle.    But the big message is clear and generally it confirms what people like about Trump: cross him and he makes you pay.  And he can feel "crossed" by little things, personal things.   So watch out.   People can imagine how he would deal with China, Russia, Democrats, Republicans, regulatory agencies.   Trump would be forceful and bold and insofar as his enemies are America's enemies, they had better give him what he wants. 
Defend Orthodoxy

Cruz and Rubio:   They confirmed that they are smart, verbally adept, and that they changed their minds on immigration/citizenship and that they think these little distinctions are important.   They confirmed they are smart and competent, but they are mere legislators who fight over little points.   This makes them OK as plan B.

Bush:  Bush modified his image.  It is probably too late for him but he made a virtue out of the debate that Cruz and Rubio are having, converting Bush into a genuine alternative to them.   While Cruz and Rubio tried to insist that they are pure and steadfast in opposing citizenship for immigrants Bush said just the opposite, without apology.   And that is the point: he said, without weakness or apology, that their original plan to include immigrants was actually OK.    Bush is making the same argument as Hillary, that progress is hard in the real world of politics and competing interests.  It involves bipartisan compromise.  Bush wasn't weak.  He said something likely unpopular and stood by it.  Republicans many not want a grownup, but Bush now, finally, sounds like one.   

Previous Megan Kelly
Fox News:  They confirmed they are the orthodox Republican news outlet.  Their press release teasing Trump showed they were willing to fight to remain the centerpiece of Republican opinion, punishing heretics who would challenge the Catholic orthodoxy of Pope Roger Ailes.  They defended their brand at the risk of the pretense of journalistic impartiality.   But their brand is not impartiality, it is Republicanism, so they did what they needed to do.   Trump may need to kneel in the snow for 3 days to come back into the fold.

Megyn Kelly:   She modified her image.    She cut her hair.   She went from news kitten to news assassin.  She used "Daily Show" type presentation of video archives to trap Cruz and Rubio in their hypocrisy   exposing their own past with their own faces and words.  Since Cruz and Rubio themselves have defined switching positions as anathema, they are trapped by their own definitions.   This gave Bush the opportunity to say that they were right in the first place and should not have "cut and run."   By showing the past videos rather than using her own voice to quote Cruz and Rubio she looked like a tough journalist with facts on her side rather than the mean spirited personal accuser she appeared to be in the first Fox debate, when she described past behavior in her own voice.   Megan Kelly was the big winner on Thursday.

The New Megan Kelly

Underneath all the policy talk it is my view that voters prefer or oppose candidates based on the simple communication that is as invisible but powerful as whatever attaches birds to a flock.  It isn't the detail, it is the simple impression, the tone and manner and look they present.  You like it or you don't, and you don't get talked out of it easily.

Trump:   Wont get pushed around
Cruz:      Competent strong uncompromising mean-looking Senator
Rubio:    Competent handsome young Senator
Bush:     Competent earnest establishment Bush

Fox:       Orthodox Republican Institution
Megyn:  Actually a journalist

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Trump Achilles

Focus on Trump: will Achilles leave his tent?
My memory is that the Iliad starts off looking at Achilles, petulant in his tent, unhappy about some slight.   

In one sense the great Greek warrior hero is seen as diminished by boycotting the fighting.   Warrior heroes are there to fight, not pout.   But notice that the subject of the book is Achilles: the focus is on him.

Trump may well have the winning hand here.   People are talking about him, not about the other guys.   And possibly this is a general election move, acknowledgement to the non-Fox world that he, too, finds Fox objectionable.

But mostly we are seeing what happens when Trump negotiates.  If you want someone unafraid to take on someone big, someone who will force them to make some concession or will do walk away from the table and do his own thing--well, you are seeing it now.

Trump said Megyn objectifies herself with this photoshoot
Fox is attempting to describe this a Trump being weak and afraid of big, bad Megyn Kelly.   Wrong move: Trump cannot be made to look afraid.    But he can be made to look like a prima donna.    And the rich guy who insists on his own way because he is a spoiled and selfish would hurt his brand even as the rich guy who insists on his own way projecting power and self confidence IS his brand.

Trump is in the catbird's seat.   He has the power to define what happens today:

 Plan A:    If he gets some sort of Fox concession he can go onto the debate stage and trumpet his negotiating prowess--just how he will treat China and Mexico and Putin.

Plan B:    He goes to Drake University, holds some sort of interesting TV event, raises money for Wounded Warriors, says that Fox never promised him or the Wounded Warriors that they would donate the money from the extra ratings to help America, that he was tired of Fox taking advantage of him and stiffing our beloved vets.   Then he could promise to make it up to Iowa with yet another day of Town Halls in Iowa.   Good for Iowa, good for veterans, gave people a better show than yet another debate,  made Fox look petty and selfish instead of him.

Either way he wins.    Oh, and meanwhile people are talking about him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Liberty or Death

In my youth I encountered the excitement and romance of revolution.

   My cohort of people marched on Washington.   There were a million of us.

      Our music was revolutionary.  The Beatles.  Jefferson Airplane, up against the wall, motherfuckers!   They said "motherfuckers", sang it.  How free.  How exhilarating!

      The government wanted to send us off to fight a war of decadent colonialism, America stepping in for the French in a hopeless effort.  They wanted to draft us, a form of enslavement.  It wasn't just ok to resist this; it was a moral requirement.

      The colleges were in on it.  Strike and protest them.

Fighting for Freedom, back in the day
      We could return to a Walden Pond of simplicity.   Back to the land, live in a commune, smoke grass, exit the great machine.  Some people picked up and did it.

      We could change the world.   Good journalists like Woodward and Bernstein could speak truth to power and bring justice.    A good lawyer, a good journalist, a good politician even could change the world for the better.

     We had our own cars, small ones, especially VWs.

     Some guys wore beards--a symbol of independence.

     We had a military cadre of bad-asses who carried guns: the Black Panthers.

     We had tee shirts quoting Jefferson:  "when any form of government becomes destructive of those ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government."

I still sort of believe it, but I have discovered that the world doesn't want to be changed, so I drifted into the humdrum workaday life of hoping to make some tiny difference, one person at a time, maybe, while attempting to live my life.   Some would say I grew up.   Forty five years ago I would have said that I lost my soul--which is possibly what happens when one grows up.

LeVoy Finikum, militiaman and Freedom Fighter, killed yesterday
Now to the Tea Party and Harney County.     There is another group out there now with a revolutionary fervor, and they are on the opposite side of the revolution in consciousness I described above.   They have the same romantic idealism but they are primarily in opposition to the counter-cultural impulses of the 1960s and 1970s.

I saw them up close at the South Carolina Tea Party Convention and I read about them in a remote part of Oregon, in Harney County.   They share some of the same convictions that some of us in my generation felt 50 years ago:

     The society and particularly the government is deeply corrupt.

     There is a deep sickness in fundamental values in the culture which is reflected in the government.

     It is OK, indeed required, to resist and to overthrow this.

     They celebrate rural life and a rural culture that is counter to urban "New York" values.

     They have their own vehicles: pickup trucks.

     Lots of beards on guys.   Big, big beards, Duck Dynasty beards.

     They have their own politicians expressing their views, the anti-establishment group of Republican candidates:  Donald Trump the nationalist, Ted Cruz the ideologue, Rubio the next generation rock star, Ben Carson the gentle poet.
Duck Dynasty revolt against a corrupted culture

     And they have their own version of the Black Panthers, the militia men who display flags like "Don't Tread on Me", and bumper strips that declare government can take their guns only "From My Cold Dead Fingers", and then the people who take things to the next step, the Freedom Fighters who occupied the Wildlife Reserve in Harney County.

These people declared their romantic idealism:  LaVoy Finikum, the man killed during the arrest of the occupiers of the federal property had declared he would not let himself be arrested: "I have no intention of spending any of my days in a concrete box. There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them."     His words were repeated with respect among his Facebook friends.   Give him liberty, or give him death.

The Republican presidential candidates treated these men gingerly.   Rubio and Cruz have acknowledged and supported the grievances of western ranchers who want access to mining, ranching, and timber assets, but there had been a shift in the optics since the first occupation by Cliven Bundy in 2013.   In that occupation armed white militia men were shown pointing sniper rifles at uniformed law enforcement people and their cause was celebrated by talk radio, Fox, and the candidates.   But in the aftermath of Ferguson and Baltimore, and lines being drawn between protesters and police the candidates have made their choice: support law enforcement.

But we have observed something--the dog that did not bark.   There are no candidates out here in Oregon.  And no statements of support along the lines of those given the candidate support given to the Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, or to the earlier standoff with the elder Bundy.    The protesters stood alone and began to look foolish then lonely.   No candidate could support people taking arms against law enforcement people who were acting with apparent restraint.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guest Post: Muslims in America

Hillary; Muslims are the front line of defense against Muslims

Peter Sage:  Guest Poster Thad Guyer has argued that Hillary, Bernie, and the progressive left generally has failed to recognize and validate the discomfort many Americans feel about Islam and Muslims.  He has argued that liberal orthodoxy of inclusion and support for multiculturalism has betrayed the progressives' own interests:
  **it ignores illiberal beliefs within Islam including disrespect for women
  **it is political suicide, since it ignores or shames many voters with legitimate concerns forcing them to leave the Democratic party to find a home with Trump
  **it creates an atmosphere of excessive political squeamishness so that legitimate issues simply cannot be voiced without being accused of racism.

He has been waiting and hoping for Hillary to acknowledge publicly that there are dangerous Muslims who require watching.  This validates the discomfort many Americans feel about Muslims, communicating that she, too, recognizes a point of potential vulnerability.    Iowa gave her the opportunity to send this message within the context of her religion--expressed as a lifelong Christian--and in the context of answering the question of an American veteran, a Muslim.   

She told the Muslim that she understood and condemned Islamaphobia, then told the Muslim questioner that Muslims would be both the "suspect" and the "police."    By acknowledging that Muslims are a concern for herself and for others she brought herself back into a mainstream of American thought.   But by positing loyal Muslims and Muslim communities as our country's best watchdog and policeman she validated inclusion and respect for minorities. 

Guyer says he is pleased that Hillary has found a rhetorical route to solving the dilemma, supporting both the inclusion AND the police power.   It is the equivalent of Reagan's "Trust but Verify."

Thad Guyer is an attorney specializing in representing whistleblowing employees.   He pays close attention to how arguments are shaped in order to persuade judges and juries.

Thad Guyer:   
Thad Guyer

Hillary Shifts the Fault Lines of Political Correctness to the Right on Christ and Radical Islamic Immigrants in America 

For political candidates, Iowa is both a holy land and place to deal with political realities. Complete with references to “the Lord”, “salvation” and “Sermon on the Mount”, Hillary has embraced Jesus in public policy unambiguously. See, “Hillary Clinton Gets Personal on Christ”,

“I do believe that in many areas judgment should be left to God … My study of the Bible, my many conversations with people of faith, has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do…”

The Christ issue-- done and done! Next she moved to Islamic extremism and immigration.

Democrats will not win without acknowledging the danger of Islamic extremism in America and validating fear of it. It was a complete surprise to me that she came prepared to do it in such explicit and evocative terms at the town hall. Clinton would have waited in vain for a pre-approved question like “how will you protect us against domestic jihadists?” That question never came. But she saw her opening to make a carefully scripted statement when an Air Force veteran wearing a hijab asked a different question: “How would you protect Muslims from Islamaphobic Americans?” Unfortunately, you have to go to YouTube to see both parts of her answer, as the mainstream media so far is ignoring the second part of her answer, and extolling only the first. See, “At town hall, Clinton Says Presidency is More Complicated”, Clinton proclaimed Muslim terrorism is a threat from which “we have to protect ourselves in America”. See,, minute 2:50. As the cameras did a split screen of Clinton and the questioner, the latter’s facial expression grew darker as Clinton warned that American Muslims must watch for radicalized neighbors and report them to police. I felt sorry for the questioner because she certainly did not intend to unleash this proclamation. But Clinton was explicit that Muslims in the U.S. must protect themselves from—Muslims in the U.S. Regarding a “big group of Somali Americans” she had met with she said:

“But they are also on the front lines of trying to protect their children from radicalization. They are on front lines in Minneapolis of working with law enforcement to make sure that what they see and hear they report in case there are any problems. We have to protect ourselves in America in a unified way. That means making sure that our Muslim friends and neighbors are part of us, they are with us. They are on the front lines of defending themselves, their families, their children and all the rest of us.”

This is a point that Trump makes at every rally—American Muslims know what is going on and they need to report Muslims who are going radical to the police.

Clinton will probably put Jesus on hold after Iowa but resurrect Him as she heads into the Bible Belt. But by in effect acknowledging that Trump and Cruz are correct that Americans—Iowans-- have legitimate fear of homegrown Islamic terrorists, she has moved the bounds of liberal political correctness to the right. In a mere 24 hour period, Clinton dispatched the naysayers who think she never looks to Jesus, and that she is blind to domestic Islamic terrorism. And she raised the question of whether Sanders is just a socialist, or indeed a godless socialist who could care less about Islamic extremism. Bravo Democrats! We may yet have a chance to save Obama’s legacy and the Supreme Court.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Immigration and Minimum Wages

Which candidate will address the economic anxiety of voters?

Middle class incomes have not rebounded over the past 7 years even though real estate and stock market asset prices have rebounded nicely.

Waiting for Hillary at the U of New Hampshire

Fewer people are under water on their mortgages.  Good.    And 401k balances have recovered--at least for people who had investment assets in the first place.   Also good.

People with assets have done well.  But people living on their incomes have not.  incomes have stayed flat.  People are unhappy.   As Bill Clinton's campaign noted 24 years ago:  "It's the economy, stupid."

Trump made news on day one of his campaign by mentioning Mexican rapists and criminals, and maybe a few good people.   Instead of this burying his campaign, it launched it.   He uncovered a great reservoir of resentment of immigration, both legal and illegal.  Events helped him: the Boston Marathon bombing, the San Bernardino shootings, the murder of the woman in San Francisco, the shootings in Paris. 

Americans have been rattled and Trump has defined this debate as a matter of American pride and safety, plus resentment at uninvited and unwelcome guests at the American dinner table.

The progressive left orthodoxy is about multicultural inclusion.  So if the issue is respect for ethnic diversity vs. disrespect for it, Trump took the fear and resentment side and Democrats are taking the respect side.  Trump appears to be winning.  People are worried and angry.    The Republican voters have very little interest in the establishment candidates who speak of inclusion of Hispanic and Muslim immigrants.  Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham saw their crowds and poll numbers collapse.   I heard with my own ears the boos they get at Tea Party events in South Carolina, Graham's home state.

 Hillary speaking on college debt costs
But there is a principled and consistent position for a Democrat to take regarding immigration, a position which would be consistent with Democratic candidate claims to be for the forgotten middle class, for youth employment, and for a minimum wage that brings a person out of deep poverty: limiting immigration.

Fifty years ago Medford youth routinely thinned pears in the orchards in June then picked ripe pears in August and September.   Orchards supplied school buses to pick young people up in front of a few schools to drive people out to the orchards at 7:00 a.m. and return at 3:30.  No longer.   Those jobs are now done by people from Latin America.

I was a guest at a holiday staff party in January for a local fine-dining restaurant and inn.   I thought I knew most of the staff; I eat there frequently.   But I didn't recognize over half the people--the housekeepers and kitchen staff.  They were almost entirely Hispanic, with limited English.   They brought their whole extended families to the event, spouses and children.   There are, in effect, two staffs at the restaurant, a "white" staff of hosts and servers, visible to the public, and an Hispanic staff behind the scenes.  The restaurant owner explained, saying that you could not run a hotel or restaurant without Hispanic workers.  They have been there the whole time, behind the swinging double doors in the kitchen and changing the bed sheets in the guest quarters.

What would happen if immigration were dramatically reduced?   Presumably the demand for those orchard and back-of-the-house jobs would continue and employers would need to raise wages to bring native born young workers back into those jobs.   When I was in college a young person could work his way through a state university by working those jobs summers and part time during the school year.    In my own case, in 1970, tuition at Harvard was $2,000 a year, and the part time job I had at slightly better than minimum wage paid $2.20 an hour.   It took 900 hours per year of that job to pay a Harvard tuition.   Today that same job pays $11/hour and Harvard tuition is $45,000.  It would take over 4,000 hours to earn the same amount.  (Actually more.   In 1970 a person earning the $3,000 a year I earned from various summer and school-year jobs paid essentially no income tax.   A single person would need to earn $60,000 to net $45,000 after taxes today.)

Tuition at Oregon state colleges are about $7,500/year and students find jobs paying just a bit over minimum wage, about $8.50-$9:00 an hour.   It would take about 900 hours at such a job to equal tuition at the local state university.   

Think of the implications:  a young person hoping to work her way though college at a state university now takes the same effort--900 hours--as it used to take to work ones way through the most expensive college in the world fifty years ago.    College is expensive, wages are low.

The result is that college students take on debt to attempt to cover the gap.  Hillary Clinton says we need debt refinancing for students.

But the source of the problem isn't interest on debt, it is the wages for low skilled jobs in relation to the prices of things.   Trump is on the dangerous side of this argument.  Trump says he would not change the minimum wage.   Trump's solution to the anxiety and resentment is to treat it as an issue of culture and ethnicity.  

But there is another approach, open to Bernie and Hillary, if they will take it. They could discuss the consequences of immigration on young American workers, on agriculture and construction labor markets.  They could affirm their first duty is to Americans attempting to get onto the first rung or two of the job and experience and career ladder.

Does it need to be hard-hearted?  Well, it might make the first focus of their compassion American workers.  Those Americans may like that.   But what about the Latin American and Middle Eastern potential immigrants, and their problems, and the desire for new families here to unify?  Their interests might come second.  How will that play?   

I don't know.   Maybe like they are being a commander in chief putting the interests of American troops first.   American troops might feel good to know that.

Neither Bernie nor Hillary will feel comfortable discussing immigration as an economic issue for working people because the issue has been commandeered as an ethnic pride and homeland security issue by Trump's campaign.    And white resentment of needing to "push one for English" is easier to rouse up than it is to discuss the supply and demand curve for youth employment.    

But immigration is in fact an economic issue, with great importance to the people who pollsters say is the Trump base of support, adults without college.  Those people used to be Democrats.   If Democrats won't put their interest first, they will look to someone else who will.

The problem with immigrants is not that they are bad people, it is that they are excellent employees, depressing the wages that might be paid to excellent job-seeking American employees.   But that is a path toward a policy that might well address the problem of the students in the photos above: jobs for Americans first.

One of the big questions facing American voters this year is which party will address the economic anxieties of the American working people.   Trump has proposed a solution.  Hillary and Bernie should do the same.   They don't have to be racist or xenophobic to do so.  They just have to be willing to say that they put the interests of American workers ahead of the interests of foreigners who want to be American workers.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Immigration Burn

Immigration is on the front burner in the Republican primary election.   But immigration is an issue that can burn the Democrats.

Slow Assimilation
Frequent guest blogger Thad Guyer warns about an attitude toward immigration of Muslims that is an ominous dark cloud for the progressive left.  Lots of people are concerned about immigration, not just Republicans.   A great many Americans--are hiding under the surface, silenced by fear of being called xenophobic or racist.  They feel immigration of Muslims to America is risky, but feel Democrats aren't listening to them.  They may recognize that assimilation of new immigrants has has always caused tensions, but consider the gulf in attitudes, religion, culture and customs between new Middle East Muslim immigrants and the America they are coming to be so profound that the normal process of American assimilation is difficult or impossible.    In any case, it is not happening.

And they fear--worse, they observe--some immigrants come here to kill us.   And others come here, live a while, become radicalized while here, and then want to kill us. 

Guyer warns: there are a lot of people who feel that way and they have evidence to support their belief--the Boston Marathon bombers, the San Bernardino couple,  the Fort Hood shooter.

Here is a link to a long New York Times Magazine article on a Syrian family that has immigrated to America and has been settled in Aurora, Illinois.

They found safety in America, but are unhappy.   Things are hard for them here, they are financially struggling, and customs are strange.  The author's tone was generally sympathetic to the family, and the title is "Why is it so Difficult for Syrian Refugees to Get into the U.S.?", but possibly unintentionally the article contradicted its own premise.  Or, rather, it answered its own question.   It described a family that is making minimal efforts for assimilation.  Their minds are still back in Syria.  I will let Thad describe his reaction to the article in his own words.

Thad Guyer:  'When I read the comments which overwhelmingly reject the NYT perspective, I see why the Republicans are probably going to win with a lot of Democratic votes, even liberal votes. These aren't raging conservative comments, these are thoughtful and analytical comments. That the NYT expected sympathy from this story is mind-boggling, a Syrian refugee family that shows literally zero interest in assimilation, already bargained their 19 year old daughter into an arranged marriage with an older man, let their two teens stream Arabic video of ISIS war while they are failing English classes, and lamenting they have to work for low pay because the US won't give family unification to their adult children still in the Middle East. I assume the NYT just could not find a Muslim refugee family trying to assimilate. The NYT just keeps fueling the Trump and Cruz campaigns."

Republican candidates are arguing around the margins whether to stop immigration, to allow small amounts of Christian immigrants, whether to allow citizenship and in what amounts.   The Republican campaigns are highlighting the small differences into great points of conflict but the overall tone is that Republicans are generally oriented toward limiting immigration.  

And the two remaining Democratic candidates, Hillary and Bernie, are generally open to immigration.  They denounce discussion of immigration limits as xenophobic, racist, and contrary to American tradition.   They do not advocate open borders or un-vetted immigration but their general tone is opposite to the Republicans.  

But by shaming people who express reservations and fears about whether immigration is working for America right now they create a silent underground of people who are progressive, but who have concerns they feel cannot be aired within their party.  

This creates a gigantic political problem for the progressive left; an issue that cannot be discussed cannot be politicked-out or accommodations be reached.  Given globalization of manufacturing, and now thanks to high speed internet, the globalization of lots of back office administration, workers can serve the American market while living in China, Indonesia, Mexico, or anywhere.  Many American workers are badly squeezed by globalism in a way that was not true 100 years ago when Americans accepted the "tired, the poor, the huddled masses."

The progressive left wants a $15 minimum wage and simultaneously wants low skilled immigrants who come to America and find jobs promptly, in competition with low skilled American workers.   This is a contradiction that needs functioning politicking.

Plus something dear to the progressive left is a new consciousness about the appropriate relation of men to women and the integration of homosexuals into society.  Immigrants from traditional cultures don't share these attitudes--at all.   Progressives are put in the position of advocating the immigration of people who consider women inferior and whose behavior fluctuates between boorish and criminal.  Plus they abhor homosexuality.  This, too, needs politicking.

And politicking needs discussion that cannot happen.

As Hillary and Bernie fight over who is the more pure and effective progressive they make it harder and harder for the progressive left to deal with a concern that is out there in the public mind:   immigration of foreign workers--particularly from the Middle East--is a worry for many.

Meanwhile, the Republican candidates fight within easier political terrain: nasty anti-immigrant attitudes.  A great many Republican voters know exactly what they don't like.

Here is a letter I was sent by a Medford area Republican, Robert Casebier,  who has been explaining Christian conservatism to me.   He is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church locally.  He says Jesus Christ actively approves of dishonesty (false witness) so long as the person being lied about is Hillary or Obama or some other stigmatized group.  Lies are parables, told to communicate a greater truth, he explained to me.  The letter below has circulated among his friends, and it reflects an attitude toward Mexican immigration--that Mexicans come illegally, commit crimes, live off welfare, have large families, remain unassimilated, and consider themselves entitled to unearned benefits--an attitude I found endemic within Tea Party circles.

Casebier sent a mock news article: 

      "Illegal immigrants are boycotting Arizona by the thousands, showing their outrage with Donald Trump’s proposed law of sending illegal immigrants back to Mexico by moving elsewhere. In the small town of Guadalupe , AZ, south of Phoenix , Manuel Renaldo is one of those who is punishing Arizona by leaving. 

     As he loaded his stolen car with his stolen belongings and family of ten, Renaldo told this reporter through an interpreter "It's a matter of principle; I refuse to be supported by a state that treats me like a criminal!"

The effects of the exodus are being felt by Arizona retailers, who are reporting dwindling sales of beer, spray paint, and ammunition. Also hit hard are the state hospitals, which have reported a dramatic decline in births and emergency room visits. Tattoo parlors are in a state of panic.  

     Renaldo told a reporter through an interpreter that he and his family are moving to Canada , with a Liberal government and high taxes, where hard working people will support him and his family with dignity! "

The New York Times Magazine article--probably unintentionally--provides evidence to support the attitudes underlying the above mock news report.  In the case of the story the immigrants were Syrian.   But they weren't becoming Americans anytime soon.