Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Elizabeth Warren Is Revolting

Elizabeth Warren is revolting. No, not that way. She's leading a rebellion against moderate Senate Democrats. A partial rollback of Dodd-Frank regulations has enough bipartisan support to give it a real chance of passage and Sen. Warren (D-Mass.) doesn't like it.

Warren sent out a fundraising email attacking the Democrats who supported the banking reform bill. The email led in turn to a contentious meeting of Senate Democrats. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.), who doesn't officially support the bill, has not been vocal in his opposition. Schumer reportedly urged Warren to temper her criticism by focusing on facets of the legislation that she opposes rather than engaging in intraparty warfare.

“This is what I said I was going to do,” Warren reportedly told Schumer per Politico sources. “This is why I ran for the Senate.”

The bill, officially titled the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act,” but dubbed the “Bank Lobbyist Act” by Warren, has done what Republicans have been unable to to accomplish in other areas: split the Democrat caucus. The bill, which is favored by housing industry groups, counts 12 moderate Democrats among its cosponsors, more than enough to ensure cloture and passage.

The schism between leftist and moderate Democrats could easily lead to an intraparty rivalry similar to what Republicans experienced during the later Obama years. Moderate Democrats may find themselves pitted against the party's left wing and derided as “Democrats in name only” who are not liberal enough. It's easy to imagine Warren, the leftist stalwart, in the role of Ted Cruz, vying for the reins of the party and trying to steer it toward the left and away from compromise.

The problem for Democrats is that a strategy of going left is likely to have disastrous electoral consequences. Doug Jones in Alabama and Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania have demonstrated that moderate Democrats can be competitive in deep red Trump country, especially if Republicans continue to nominate flawed candidates, but the Warren strategy of forcing these moderates to the hard left after they are elected would invariably lead to a Republican wave similar to 2010 and 2014.

Schumer seems to realize this. His decision to allow moderates to work on the bipartisan bill to reform Dodd-Frank may have been made with the upcoming elections in mind. The success of the bill would allow moderates to crow about a positive accomplishment rather than being forced to run on opposition to President Trump.

DNC Chair Tom Perez hinted at a similar strategy in a recent segment on CNN. When asked about a Conor Lamb ad in which the candidate distanced himself from Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Perez replied, “Listen, Democrats are going to do what they believe is best to win their races.”

Dana Bash then asked, “So you don't think that Nancy Pelosi is a drag on Democrats in tough races?”

Perez deflected the question, but the answer is obvious. “San Fran Nan,” who isn't even popular with liberals these days, would be the kiss of death for moderate Democrats in red or purple states.

Democrats hope for a “blue wave” this November, but to make that a reality they will have to nominate candidates that are a good fit for the local electorate. Candidates for swing states will need to be more moderate than the Democratic Party at large and may not fit with the liberal orthodoxy on issues like guns, taxes and especially cultural matters such as gender and abortion. This is a recipe for conflict down the road.

The paradox of winning a majority is that Democrats will find that a larger congressional caucus means that the party is more moderate. While the Elizabeth Warrens of the left may not like this move to the center, to force representatives of swing districts into hard left voting patterns would mean that any majority would be short-lived.

Originally published on The Resurgent

The Deportation of Buba Jabbi Is An Injustice

In a story that is becoming increasingly commonplace, ICE agents deported the father of two young American citizens to the West African nation of Gambia last week. Buba Jabbi, 41, was married to Katrina Jabbi, also an American citizen, who is pregnant with the couple's third child.

It's tempting to for many to say, “Good riddance” to Mr. Jabbi, who entered the country legally in 1995, but overstayed his tourist visa. However, a closer look reveals the broken nature of current US immigration law.

Mr. Jabbi came to the US in 1995 to attend the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and never left. Per USA Today, Jabbi eventually wound up in Wisconsin working as a truck driver. He met Katrina in 2009 and they married in 2013. They currently have two daughters, Nalia, 5, and Aisha, 1.

Jabbi tried for years to become a legal resident of the US. After filing the paperwork incorrectly, he was subjected to removal proceedings, receiving a final order of removal in 2010. His deportation was delayed for years because Gambia refused to provide travel documents for his return. While he waited, he was given orders of supervision and a work authorization. He was required to report to ICE annually. It was on one of these visits that Jabbi was detained last month and subsequently deported.

"We were confident that [Buba] doesn't have a criminal record and that he's working, there is no trouble with our family." Katrina told WAOW News in Wisconsin. "We were confident we would be able to sort this out in the next few years."

Jabbi was not accused of a crime. “Overstaying a visa is not a criminal offense,” wrote Elizabeth Kozycki, an immigration attorney, on The offense is a civil violation and a not a criminal one under current US law.

Nevertheless, points out that current US law does not provide exceptions for illegal immigrants who are married to American citizens. Illegals who have been in the US for more than a year or who have returned illegally after being deported must wait 10 years after they last left the US to apply for re-entry.

Does the penalty of deportation and exile for at least a decade fit the civil offense of overstaying a visa? It does not seem so.

Mr. Jabbi was not a criminal and had no violent history. He was gainfully employed and providing for his wife and daughters who are all US citizens. Mrs. Jabbi is employed part-time. The odds are that she will now need government assistance to provide for her children in the absence of their father.

In deporting Mr. Jabbi, the federal government not only incurred thousands of dollars of legal costs, it deprived the economy of a willing worker who was contributing to the good of the nation as well as his family. Mr. Jabbi's absence will likely add four people who had been part of a self-sustaining family to the entitlement rolls.

The lack of a father figure also leads to bad outcomes for children. Children of absent fathers often make poor life choices that lead to substance abuse and becoming single parents themselves. This perpetuates the cycle of entitlements and adds to growing national debt.

Those who say that immigrants should just “follow the law” and “get in line” fail to understand that the current law is unworkable. Even before the Trump Administration reduced the number of legal visas, wait times for legal immigrants could take decades. The State Department visa bulletin notes that an unmarried Mexican child of a US permanent resident would have to wait 21 years merely to file an application for an immigrant visa. For people who came to the US illegally, there is no clear path to legalization unless they fall within the exceptions granted by the DACA program. The future of DACA is currently in doubt as well.

While the federal government has the right and duty to control its borders and set immigration standards, it is not justice to require illegal immigrants, especially those who have American families, to do the impossible. The United States clearly has a national interest in deporting violent criminals such as members of MS-13, but what is the interest in deporting law-abiding, peaceful family men like Mr. Jabbi?

Jabbi's case is similar to that of Jorge Garcia, the married father of two from Detroit who was deported to Mexico, a country he had not seen in 30 years, in January. Garcia was brought to the US as a 10-year-old, but was too old to qualify for DACA. Garcia, who was employed as a landscaper, had no criminal record. Garcia had been working toward legal status since 2005 and had spent about $125,000 in the process.

Allowing immigrants like Mr. Jabbi to stay with their families would not require an amnesty or pardon for their immigration sins. It would require immigration reform. Reform bills proposed in the past would require illegals to undergo background checks and pay fines and back taxes as restitution for illegally entering the US.

Deportation is not the only way of making right the wrong of illegal immigration. In the case of people like Buba Jabbi, deportation is not the best course for the immigrant, their family or the United States. If conservatives can forgive President Trump for his numerous indiscretions, it seems appropriate to offer some small measure of grace to immigrants who only want to peacefully support their families in the land of opportunity. Hardworking, family-oriented people are the sort of citizens – or residents – that America should welcome.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

AR-15 Ban Would Not Satisfy Anti-Gunners

In the weeks since the Parkland massacre, liberals and anti-gunners have launched a blistering attack on the AR-15. The rifle has been demonized as a weapon of war with no legitimate purpose other than killing large numbers  of people. If only AR-15s could be banned, the anti-gunners argue, mass killings could be stopped. It isn’t that easy and a ban of AR-15s would not satisfy the anti-gun movement.
Contrary to popular anti-gun opinion, the AR-15 is not markedly different from many other types of rifles. It is not a “machine gun.” It is a semi-automatic rifle. For those unaccustomed to gun terminology, that means that it fires only one bullet for each pull of the trigger.

“AR” does not stand for “assault rifle.” It stands for “Armalite Rifle,” a reference to the original manufacturer in the 1950s. The patent for the design has since expired and the gun is now manufactured by a number of companies under different names.

The AR-15 is also not an especially large caliber rifle. Although there are several different versions, most AR-15s are chambered in .223 caliber or 5.56 mm. The caliber refers to the diameter of the rifle’s bore in inches.

There are a number of other rifle calibers that are larger than that of the AR-15. Other popular hunting rifles include .308 and .3006 calibers. The M1 Garand carried by GIs in WWII was a .30 caliber rifle.

Nor is the AR-15 singularly dangerous in terms of muzzle velocity as some anti-gunners claim. Depending on the cartridge, a.223 bullet fired from an AR-15 typically has a muzzle velocity of about 3,000 feet per second. This is faster than a handgun bullet due to the rifling, larger cartridge and longer barrel, but is not abnormal among rifles. Muzzle velocities for the .223 are not markedly different from the .243 or the .3006, two other popular hunting rifle calibers.

Likewise, the AR-15 is not imbued with a mystical quality that turns anyone who holds it into a remorseless killer. The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that there are approximately 15 million AR-15s in civilian hands in the US, but they are only rarely used in crimes. Assault rifles account for only about two percent of annual gun deaths noted the Huffington Post.

They also are not ubiquitous in mass shootings. The Virginia Tech shooter used 9mm and .22 pistols to kill 32 people. The Washington Navy Yard shooter used a 12 gauge shotgun and a 9mm pistol to kill 12. The Fort Hood shooter used two pistols of different calibers to kill 14 people.

On the other hand, AR-15s can save lives. An NRA instructor, Stephen Willeford, armed with his AR-15 stopped the massacre at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church and saved the lives of many in the congregation.

An AR-15 ban would not resolve the problem of school shootings and it would not be the end of the gun ban movement. The gun is not markedly different from a large number of other sporting rifles. If AR-15s were banned, these similar guns would soon be in the sights of anti-gun groups. Gun owners know this instinctively.

Fears of broad bans are not unfounded. Many anti-gun politicians have openly stated that an end to civilian gun ownership is their aim. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said of her 1994 “assault weapon” ban, “If I could have outright ban – ‘Mr. and Mrs. America turn in your guns’ – I would have.” Barack Obama advocated laws similar to the ones in Great Britain and Australia that totally banned private ownership of guns and required them to be surrendered to the government. A bill already introduced would ban 205 rifles, pistols and shotguns that the Democrats deem “semiautomatic assault weapons.”

The leftist quest to ban AR-15s is a distraction. Anti-gun groups are using the Parkland tragedy as an excuse to go after popular semi-automatic rifles rather than focusing on ideas that could actually make schools safer. The dishonest rhetoric and overreach contributes to the distrust that gun owners feel and ultimately makes the problem of mass shootings harder to solve.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Democrats Are Their Own Worst Enemy

Democrats assumed that taking on Donald Trump would be easy. That has not turned out to be true. Once it seemed that the Democratic opposition was assured of at least taking control of the House in this year's midterm elections, but the result now seems increasingly like a tossup. There are several reasons for this, but looming large among them is the Democrats' own tendency to overreach and make unforced errors.

The Democrats' first miscalculation was on DACA. Democrats forced a shutdown over DACA in January even though President Trump offered them a sweetheart deal. In the end, Democrats rejected the deal and eventually caved, allowing the shutdown to end with nothing to show for it. It was an ignominious defeat similar to the 2013 Republican shutdown over Obamacare.

In their surrender, the Democrats lost a chance to please their base and split the GOP at the same time. Instead, Democratic leaders angered both progressives and Dreamers. In a stunning turn of events, some DACA recipients have even protested against the Democratic National Committee.

Of course, the risk in accepting the deal would have been to hand Trump a victory on immigration and the possibility of losing their grip on the Hispanic vote. The best course for Democrats would have been not to force a shutdown in the first place while continuing to press for a DACA deal.

The second Democrat error of 2018 was their overreach on gun control. When President Trump extended an offer to help Democrats with their gun control effort, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) literally jumped for joy and the party jumped at the chance.

What emerged from behind the closed doors of the Democrat caucus was a bill that included a laundry list of gun control measures that will likely mobilize gun owners to get out the vote in November. Chuck Schumer's (D-N.Y.) bill includes an “assault weapons” ban, expanded background checks and gun violence restraining orders which would allow family members to get a court order to prevent dangerous individuals from getting a gun. A second bill, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), would ban the “sale, transfer, production, and importation” of 205 semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns that can hold more than 10 rounds.

While President Trump might have embraced a more modest gun control bill, these Democratic bills have almost no chance of becoming law. With Republicans in control of Congress, Democrats would need 11 Senate Republicans to defect in order to get cloture. That won't happen without significant arm-twisting from President Trump, which is unlikely.
The third Democrat error was unveiling a new plan to raise taxes if they win control of Congress. The Democrat plan is a multi-faceted approach with an increase in the top marginal income tax rate, increasing the corporate tax rate to 25 percent (tax reform cut this rate to 21 percent from 35 percent), bringing back the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and restoring the standard deduction for the estate tax (i.e. the “death tax”) to its pre-reform level.

The Democrats' gamble here is two-fold. First, they assume that tax reform has remained as unpopular as it was before passage. In reality, as companies announce expansion plans and employee bonuses in the wake of tax reform, the new tax law is increasingly popular. The New York Times found that a majority of Americans currently approve of the Republican law.

The second gamble is that voters will favor the Democrat plan if it is cloaked in the guise of “soaking the rich.” The proposal seems specifically designed to not directly affect the average voter, but to target “other people's money.” Few voters are in the top income tax bracket or have estates worth more than $5.5 million.

A platform of tax increases and gun control may please progressives, but it is unlikely to inspire the moderate and independent voters needed to sway an election. In fact, the Democrat agenda seems more likely to send Republican voters to the polls with an attitude of “at least they're better than the Democrats” than to win new converts. Paired with the disillusionment of immigration voters in the Democrat base, the results could be disastrous for the opposition party.

A better strategy for Democrats would be to appear nonthreatening and positive, a sane and rational alternative to President Trump. Instead, the current plan seems to be to convince voters that Democrats are coming for their guns and money. That may play well with the Democrat base in deep blue districts, but it will be less effective in the purple heartland areas that Democrats need to win in order to take control of Congress.

To be fair, Republicans, led by President Trump, also seem to be actively trying to avoid becoming too popular with voters. The new tariffs and potential trade war may undermine pent-up economic growth that is already starting to result from tax reform.

With both parties making errors and advocating for unwise policies on a daily basis, a reliable forecast for the midterm elections is impossible. In the end, the outcome of the elections may depend on the news cycle when voters go to the polls.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Explaining Trump's Polling Bump

President Trump's approval rating is on the upswing or so a recent flurry of polling articles would have us believe. CNN and others have trumpeted the news that “Trump's job approval at the highest since taking office.” If even CNN admits that polling shows Trump as more popular than ever, it must be true, right? The reality isn't so clear.

The most obvious caution is that the Marist poll that CNN refers to is a single poll and any individual poll should be viewed in the context of other polls and the historical trends of that particular pollster. The second problem for Trump supporters is that the headline leaves unspoken the fact that the poll shows Trump's approval at 44 percent with 49 percent disapproval. While comparing this poll with previous Marist polls over the past few month does register a positive trend, Mr. Trump is still underwater in every poll listed on Real Clear Politics.

Because polling is not a precise science (see the 2016 election as exhibit A), it is helpful to look at polls in the context of similar polls from other sources. Both Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight have graphs that incorporate the average of all presidential approval polls to aid in this analysis. FiveThirtyEight's average of polls shows Trump's highest approval as president on January 25, 2017 at 47.8 percent. This is the only period when his net approval rating was positive.

When these graphs are examined, we find that Trump's approval has been mostly flat since last spring, but it does show an increase from January to February followed by a sharp dip and recovery in late February. We can examine the news cycle to determine what has impacted President Trump's approval rating both positively and negatively.

The rise in President Trump's approval rating can be traced to December 17, 2017. This was the final stages of the tax reform fight in Congress. Initially, the tax reform bill was unpopular, but as voters came to understand that the bill included cuts for the majority of taxpayers, the bill gained favor. After the passage of the law, the economy picked up quickly with employers offering bonuses and announcing expansion plans. This good news, along with workers finding more money in their paychecks in January and February, obviously helped buoy Trump's approval.

The rise in the president's approval suffered a minor blip in late January. His average approval rating fell about two points from January 17 through January 24. Taking the polling lag into account, this coincides perfectly with run-up to the government shutdown that lasted from January 19 through January 22.

President Trump reached his peak approval in recent months on February 15, one day after the Parkland, Fl. school shooting. Trump's approval again fell two points over the next 10 days until it began to rebound on February 26. What happened around this date to turn things around?

The answer is in Trump's sudden embrace of gun control. On February 21,CNN reported that President Trump announced a de facto executive ban on bump stocks. The next day, Trump tweeted his support for mental health background checks and raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 as well as reiterating support for the bump stock ban. On February 26, Trump was in the midst of a series of attacks on the NRA. Although elected as a pro-gun candidate, Trump likely tapped into an upswing in support for anti-gun measures in the wake of the Parkland massacre that included 53 percent support from Republicans for new gun laws.

Trump's surge in popularity plateaued in the first days of March. This immediately followed his February 28 meeting in which he promised his support to congressional Democrats for a laundry list of gun control measures, making Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) giddy with anticipation. It was also at this meeting that Trump said, “Take the guns first, go through due process second,” prompting a backlash from conservative gun owners that could explain the abrupt halt in his rising approval.

At this point, President Trump's overall approval rating has been flat since the beginning of the month. His surprise announcement of tariffs on March 1 did little to move his approval rating in either direction. Polling showed that voters were roughly split into thirds over the plan with 40 percent approving, 35 percent opposing and 25 percent with no opinion. It is ironic given the free-trade and anti-tax history of the GOP that 65 percent of Republicans favored the new taxes on trade compared with 25 percent of Democrats. The real test will come after tariffs are implemented and begin to have an effect on the economy. Reaction from other countries and the possibility of a trade war will also impact Trump's approval.

In spite of the headlines, President Trump's approval rating appears to have recovered from a summer slump and is near its historic average. The reasons for the surge are not necessarily a reason for conservatives to celebrate. Part of Trump's approval is due to the quick success of the tax reform bill, which is a vindication of conservative economic principles. On the other hand, the president also got a quick boost from embracing liberal positions on gun control and the NRA. After discarding his pro-gun position so easily in the face of falling poll numbers, conservatives should be concerned about the future.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, March 9, 2018

Trump's Stealth Appointment of Radical Lesbian To EEOC

President Trump has garnered much praise for his judicial nominations, but another nomination made by the president has largely escaped notice until now. Last December, in the midst of the fight over the tax reform bill, Donald Trump quietly renominated a radical Obama appointee to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Newsweek reported at the time that Trump's appointment of Chai Feldblum to a second term at the EEOC means that she will keep her job until 2023. Feldblum, a militant lesbian, was appointed to the agency that polices workplace discrimination by Barack Obama in 2010.

During her tenure so far, Feldblum has worked to expand homosexuality as a protected class at the expense of religious liberty. Bloomberg News once referred to her as “Washington’s strongest champion for the idea that anti-gay and anti-trans biases constitute discrimination ‘because of sex.’”

Ben Shapiro at Daily Wire compiled a list of quotes from Ms. Feldblum that should alarm anyone concerned about religious freedom:

  • When sexual orientation and religious freedom come into conflict, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win… Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”
  • “Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect the ability of LGBT people to live in the world.”
  • “For all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed and breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the ‘zero sum’ nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And in making the decision in this zero sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.”
  • “I believe granting liberty to gay people advances a compelling government interest, that such an interest cannot be adequately advanced if ‘pockets of resistance’ to a societal statement of equality are permitted to flourish, and hence that a law that permits no individual exceptions based on religious beliefs will be the least restrictive means of achieving the goal of liberty for gay people.”

Feldblum clearly believes that sexual freedom, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, should trump religious freedom, which is clearly defined in the First Amendment. The obvious question is why President Trump, who claims to be a proponent of religious liberty, would make an appointment that would set up such a clear conflict between two competing freedoms.

So far, there are no obvious answers to President Trump's reasons for keeping Feldblum on the job. The White House had no comment on the appointment in December and seems to have had none since.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Trump Tariffs Are A Solution In Search Of A Problem

President Trump seems determined to press forward with the fulfillment of his campaign promise to enact protectionist tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Many on the right are asking why. The industries that Mr. Trump seeks to protect – and American manufacturing as a whole – are doing quite well.

In contrast to Mr. Trump's tweets claiming that the steel and aluminum industries are “dead” and in need of government revival, official statistics show a different story. Per a Commerce Department report, US steel production in 2017 increased by 3.4 percent. Steel mills were running at 74 percent of full capacity, a slight increase over 2016. At the same time, imports were slightly higher than in 2016, but fell in the last months of 2017.

A look at the long-term history of steel and aluminum production in the US shows that both are considerably above historic lows. Both industries have rebounded since the Great Recession and production appears relatively stable.

While the president has often targeted China with his anti-free trade rhetoric, China ranks eleventh on the list of steel exporters to the US per Marketwatch, making up less than three percent of American imports. Canada and Mexico rank first and fourth with 16 percent and nine percent of US steel imports respectively, yet President Trump has floated the idea of exempting the two NAFTA members from the tariff. With 25 percent of steel imports not subject to the duty, the effectiveness of the protective tariff would be undermined.

The situation is similar with respect to aluminum. At 56 percent, Canada is the largest importer of the metal to the United States per CNBC. It is followed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and China. The fifth place category is “other” at 23 percent of imports. Even though, at six percent, China has a larger share of aluminum imports than steel, the proposed duty on aluminum is 10 percent, far less than the proposed 25 percent on steel.

Even the Aluminum Association, the trade group for aluminum producers, is opposed to the global tariff on aluminum. “We fear that the proposed tariff may do more harm than good,” Heidi Brock, the head of the association, told President Trump in a letter. Brock said that the group favors tariffs targeted toward China, whose overcapacity in the wake of a domestic downturn has led to increased exports and falling prices.

In essence, the proposed Trump tariffs are a mixture of bad possible outcomes. If the tariffs are successful in protecting the steel and aluminum industries, they will hurt other American businesses and consumers and possibly start a trade war in which countries apply tariffs to more and more goods. If the president decides to exempt our NAFTA partners, then the effectiveness of the tariffs will be undercut. Prices will still rise, but the US steel and aluminum companies will see a smaller benefit.

A better solution would be for the US to deal with China directly about concerns that it is flooding the market with cheap steel and aluminum rather than taking a shotgun approach. If it is absolutely necessary to take action against China, then it would be much better to single out Chinese exporters rather than antagonizing allies and larger trading partners.

The entire question of whether cheap imports from China are a bad thing should also be carefully considered. If China is sending us raw materials at a cost below market prices, they are in effect subsidizing American consumers at their own taxpayers' expense. American manufacturers and consumers benefit from China's money-losing strategy.

Originally published on The Resurgent