Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Immigration ban could be expanded, even as resistance grows

Reince Priebus suggested on Sunday that President Trump could expand his immigration ban to other countries, even as resistance to the initial order grew. The White House Chief of Staff said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that the president could issue new Executive Orders that might include restrictions on such countries as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt.

The ban on the initial seven countries has caused as uproar as visitors to the US with valid visas were detained at ports of entry. A federal judge issued a ruling temporarily preventing the Trump Administration from deporting these detainees

The Wall Street Journal reported that the ban was enacted suddenly and secretly to prevent terrorists from circumventing the new security measures. Many immigration officials did not see the Order until after it was signed.

There were reports that several of the countries in the initial travel ban were considering retaliatory measures. CNN reported that Iran intended to take “reciprocal measures” to protest the Trump policy. An Iraqi investment magazine, the Baghdad Investor, reported that Iraq had implemented a policy similar to Mr. Trump’s on US citizens entering Iraq.

In many cities around the country, protesters took the streets to protest the policy. The Wall Street Journal reports that the State Department is taking the unusual step of drafting a cable to be signed by dissenting officials. The cable has not yet been released but reportedly has been signed by more than 100 mid-to-high level officials both in Washington and posted abroad.

Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a joint statement criticizing Trump’s ban. “It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted. We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.”

The senators note that the ban also applies to Iraqis who fought alongside American soldiers against ISIS and al-Qaeda and that the policy may backfire. “This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country,” they write. “That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

Fortune lists a growing number of Republicans who have gone on record as opposing Trump’s ban. Currently the list includes 18 Republican senators and congressmen from across the country.

Polling on the immigration ban has not yet been released, but Gallup’s daily approval rating showed a sharp uptick in disapproval of President Trump since the announcement of the ban last week. Disapproval of Trump now stands at a majority, 51 percent, while 42 percent approve.

Originally posted on The Resurgent

Is Trump conservative? Does it matter?

One of the big criticisms of Donald Trump from the right during the campaign is that he wasn’t a conservative. Trump embraced many policies, such as his proposal for a new childcare entitlement and his promise to outspend Hillary on an infrastructure stimulus, that made him seem somewhat liberal to many of us. After a week in office, it’s still hard to tell whether Trump is a conservative, a liberal or something in between. Now, however, there is a new question: Does it matter?

Donald Trump was definitely not the most conservative candidate in the Republican Primary. With the exception of John Kasich, it’s hard to identify any of the candidates that I would have considered less conservative than Mr. Trump. This may have actually helped him win.

Many of us have argued for years that the Republican Party needed to appeal to moderate and independent voters to win. As evidence of this, consider the fact that John Kasich, considered by many to be a “RINO,” polled better in head-to-head matchups with Hillary Clinton than any other candidate. Kasich could not bring together the GOP base to win the primary, however. Trump, for all his faults, managed to eke out a primary victory and then win 88 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of independents in the general election according to CNN exit polling.

Could any other candidate who could have won the Republican nomination succeeded in winning Ohio and Florida, not to mention Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin? There is no way to know for sure. What is certain is that Trump, with his moderate to liberal background on many issues, did do exactly that.

Trump’s performance in the first week of his presidency is undoubtedly preferable to Hillary Clinton. In spite of some missteps, President Trump seems genuinely interested in paying back the people who put him in office. Can anyone seriously argue that President Clinton would have restored the Mexico City Policy or the Keystone and Dakota pipelines? Would Hillary have instructed HHS not to enforce the Obamacare mandate? Certainly not.

The flip side is that President Clinton may not have withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though she professed opposition to the trade deal. President Clinton definitely would not have adopted policy and made comments that would place the United States on the verge of a trade war with its second largest trading partner.

The rub is that Donald Trump’s protectionist position on trade cannot be blamed solely on lack of conservatism.  Numerous polls show that about half of Republican voters believe that free trade deals have hurt their communities. Over the past ten years, party views on free trade have flipped to the point where more Democrats are now in favor of free trade than Republicans.

Much of the Republican angst over trade can be traced to the stagnation of the Obama era, the loss of jobs to automation and a lack of spirited defense of trade by Republican and conservative leaders. In contrast to the 1970s when economist Milton Friedman was able to describe the benefits of free trade and economic freedom of choice to the common man in a witty and entertaining way, there seem to be no voices today answering the charge that “America never wins anymore.”

Likewise, Trump’s unconservative promise to spend billions on an infrastructure stimulus draws support from Republicans as well as Democrats and independents. A Public Policy Poll from September found that 72 percent of Americans favored more federal spending on roads and bridges. The traditional conservative view is that such projects should be the responsibility of state and local governments.

The problem on many issues isn’t so much that Donald Trump isn’t conservative, it’s that many Republican voters aren’t conservative on many issues. It is difficult to fault President Trump for being insufficiently conservative when he ran on a moderate platform and was elected by voters who knew exactly what he stood for.

Regardless of Trump’s personal beliefs on policy and issues like abortion, he seems willing to work toward the beliefs of the people who put him in office. Does it really matter what Trump believes about abortion if he is willing to pass pro-life legislation and roll back the Obama Administration’s pro-abortion policies?

At this point, with the Trump Administration established in the White House, it matters less whether he is a true believer in conservative principles than if he is willing to use his position to advance conservative ideas. Where liberals often seem to feel that motives are more important than results, I would be happy to have a president who enacts good, practical, conservative ideas even if it goes against some of his own beliefs.

A positive thing about Donald Trump is that he is a dealmaker, not an ideologue. He realizes that deals require give and take. In that sense, it is even possible that more conservative reforms can be enacted under President Trump than under a conservative version of President Obama, an ideologue who refused to compromise to get things accomplished for the good of the country. With a slim majority in the Senate, cloture votes will require deal-making with Senate Democrats to pass almost any legislation and break the partisan stalemate.

With respect to the issues where Donald Trump does not take the conservative position, such as free trade and the Keynesian belief in stimulus spending, it will be up to Republican leaders and conservative thinkers to convince both the president and the members of the party’s base to take the conservative tack. The right shouldn’t just oppose centralized government planning and micromanagement when it is done by Democratic administrations, it should oppose the expansion of government under Trump as well.

So does it matter if President Trump is not a conservative? Sometimes it does. Republicans should rally behind him when he enacts conservative policies, but oppose him when he advocates policies that are not in line with conservative principles. Convincing the president on these issues will mean persuading his supporters with conservative arguments. That, in turn, will require much better communication from Republican leaders than what we have seen over the past eight years.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of President Trump's First Week

As President Trump’s first week on the job takes its place in the history books, we can take a moment to look back on the good and the bad of the new administration. I was not a Trump supporter. I did not vote for Mr. Trump or for Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, as a conservative, I can find things to applaud in Mr. Trump’s effort. Unfortunately, I can also find some of the things that made it impossible for me to vote for him in the first place.

Let me say first that many of Mr. Trump’s appointments have been very good. It seems that his appointments for military and security jobs are particularly sensible. Most of the issues that I have with his cabinet and staffers relate to economic positions where it seems that the president and his advisors lean toward a Keynesian viewpoint.

On his first day in office, Mr. Trump issued an Executive Order that directs the Department of Health and Human Services to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” parts of the Affordable Care Act that place a financial burden on individuals, health care providers or states.” The order effectively tells the HHS not to enforce the Obamacare mandate. This is a partial fulfillment of a major campaign promise.

On Monday, President Trump began with an assault on free trade pacts. President Trump, in keeping with his campaign promises, signed a memorandum to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and signaled his intention to reopen negotiations on NAFTA, the free trade agreement with America’s two largest export markets. Scuttling NAFTA could lead to major problems for the US economy while the dissolution of the TPP could give China a major window for expansion. Neither would be good for American businesses and consumers.

Other new policies are better news for conservatives. The president ordered a hiring freeze of nonmilitary government workers in an effort to reverse the growth of the federal government. The order “prevents filling vacant positions and creating new positions except when necessary to meet national or public security responsibilities,” press secretary Sean Spicer told CNN. The order also states that “contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted,” closing a major loophole of previous hiring freezes.

In another move that should please pro-life conservatives, the president restored the Mexico City Policy which prohibits international groups that perform or promote abortions from receiving federal funds. The policy was implemented by President Reagan and rescinded by President Obama in 2009.

On Tuesday, the president signed memos that would revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The Keystone pipeline would run from the Canadian Oil Sands of Alberta to Nebraska while the Dakota pipeline would go from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Illinois. Both projects languished under President Obama and are important for the economy and energy independence. At the same time, Mr. Trump ordered federal departments to help streamline permitting and regulations for manufacturing projects.

On Wednesday, Trump fulfilled another campaign promise with two Executive Orders. The first established the “construction of a physical wall on the southern border” as official US policy and called for hiring 5,000 new Border Patrol agents. ABC News reports that Republican congressional leaders will back Trump’s plan for the wall with plans to authorize $12-15 billion for its construction. Last July, Politico wrote that many Border Patrol agents, even those who supported Trump, consider the wall “an expensive, pointless boondoggle, [that] wouldn’t solve the main problems with border security.” Trump’s second immigration order sets priorities for deportation of illegal aliens and aims to strip federal funds from sanctuary cities.

The Trump Administration continued to maintain that Mexico will either pay for the wall or reimburse the US for its cost. On Thursday, press secretary Spicer suggested that a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports could be used to fund the wall, prompting Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a planned meeting with President Trump. Millions of Americans whose livelihoods depend on trade with Mexico doubtless hope that relations between the two countries can be patched without a trade war.

On Friday, Trump signed another Executive Order, at least parts of which will please many conservatives. President Trump suspended the Syrian refugee program and halted immigrations from the countries of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days. The Order also suspended the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days until it is reinstated for refugees that can be properly vetted. The total number of refugees that the US will admit will be reduced from 110,000 annually to 50,000.

The order also gives the Department of Homeland Security the ability to prioritize Christian refugees from the Middle East. According to CNN, the Order allows DHS to give priority “on the basis of religious based persecution” as long as the person applying for asylum is “a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality.”

The Mexico kerfuffle is probably the ugliest aspect of the week, but Mr. Trump’s penchant for taking his eye off the ball and making off-the-cuff remarks and tweets also caused damage. Among the things better left unsaid were Trump’s unsupportable claim that 3-5 million illegal immigrants voted in the election, the pointless argument over the size of the crowd at the inauguration, his apparent endorsement of torture and his threat to “send in the Feds” to Chicago. That the new administration is now indelibly linked to the phrase “alternative facts” is disconcerting.

Though well-intentioned, there are obvious problems with President Trump’s use of executive actions to advance his agenda. Using Executive Orders to bypass Congress was a major complaint of conservatives about President Obama. Additionally, these orders may last only as long as President Trump’s term. Mr. Trump’s successor could change these Executive Orders as easily as Mr. Trump changed President Obama’s. Many of them do chart a course that will please Republicans, but ultimately Mr. Trump will have to make these changes permanent by working with Congress and persuading some Democrats to back his agenda.

Even though I didn’t support Trump as a candidate, so far he has proven to be a better president than Hillary Clinton would have been. Admittedly, that sets a very low bar. I still can’t consider myself a Trump supporter, but I will support and encourage him when he makes the right choices as he did on several of his executive actions this week and with many of his appointments. On the other hand, when he needs to be criticized, as he does on trade, some aspects of his immigration policy and saying things that are not thoughtful or presidential, conservatives should nudge him in the right direction. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, January 27, 2017

Energy Department 'Scrubbed' Climate Change References Before Trump Took Office

Federal employees at the Department of Energy allegedly spent the last days of the Obama Administration scrubbing documents of the phrase “climate change.” The purpose of the “cleansing” was to prevent the Trump Administration from cutting projects that believers in man-made climate consider important.

The report in the Daily Caller is based on claims made in a podcast called “This American Life” dated Jan. 20, President Trump’s inauguration day. A DOE employee identified only as “Laura” told the podcast producer how she and others had been “going through all their internal documents that describe ongoing projects and just scrubbing them, deleting the parts where it says ‘and here’s how this can help us combat climate change.’” David Kestenbaum, the producer of the podcast, described how renewable energy programs were being rebranded as “a jobs program.”

“Most federal projects have a reason for their existence,” Kestenbaum said, “Why draw attention to something by putting the words ‘climate change’ in the description?”

This may actually be a corrective action. For years, climate change has been incorporated into a broad variety of scientific studies. Many critics charge that scientists try to find a tenuous link between climate change and their field of study in order to gain access to grant money.

Several industrious skeptical sites have put together lists of the things that climate change has been blamed for. One of the most comprehensive is the “Not Quite Complete List of Things Supposedly Caused by Global Warming” on WhatReallyHappened.com. The list provides links to articles blaming global warming, which has since been rebranded as “climate change,” for a variety of bad – and some good – conditions. Among them are hotter summers, colder winters, Antarctic ice shrinking, Antarctic ice growing, rainfall increases, droughts, beer shortages, better beer, the Arab Spring and Hitler.

The move by the DOE employees may actually be in line with Trump Administration policy. Reuters reports that the Trump Administration instructed the EPA communications team to remove the agency’s climate change web page. The page contained links to climate research and detailed data on emissions.

More action on the climate may be coming soon. Mr. Trump was critical of the Paris agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that was negotiated by the Obama Administration. According to The Hill, Rex Tillerson said in his confirmation hearings that the US should not withdraw from the deal in order to keep its “seat at the table.” Nevertheless, since Congress never ratified the treaty, it does not have the force of law and the Trump Administration could ignore the agreement with no consequences. 

Originally published on the Resurgent

Democrats try to intercept nuclear ‘football’

Once again Democrats have launched an utterly hopeless, totally symbolic attempt embarrass President Trump. Two Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would strip President Trump of the right to launch a nuclear strike without congressional approval on the basis that Mr. Trump cannot be trusted with the responsibility to not accidentally start a nuclear war.

Foreign Policy magazine reports that Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced bills to both houses of Congress that would restrict the president’s ability to order a nuclear attack. Specifically, the bills would prohibit the president from ordering a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war from Congress.

The last time that Congress issued a formal declaration of war was June 5, 1942 against the Axis allies Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. Declarations of war against Japan, Germany and Italy had been issued in December 1941 shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Yet, President Trump has suggested that he would consider launching nuclear attacks against terrorists,” Sen. Markey said in a statement excerpted in Foreign Policy. “Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy provides him with that power. In a crisis with another nuclear-armed country, this policy drastically increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation.”

Likewise, during the campaign, Hillary Clinton had charged, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

Others, such as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists also share the view. The group moved its Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight this week and blamed one man for the decision. “Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter,” two of the group’s members wrote in the New York Times. They cited Trump’s comments about “expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal” and his climate change skepticism as reasons for the change.

Still, there seems to be no hard evidence that the world is in more danger with President Trump’s finger on the nuclear button. While Mr. Trump has signaled that he is not afraid of a trade war and has already continued the shooting war against ISIS and al-Qaeda, there doesn’t seem to be any sign that he is ready to launch a nuclear first strike.

There seem to be only two pieces of evidence that the nuclear worriers have against Donald Trump. The first is that he makes off-the-cuff remarks and tweets. While the tweets and comments are sure to cause problems – see this week’s rift with Mexico – it is unlikely that they will escalate into a shooting war, much less a nuclear one.

The second is that Trump won’t ignore things like China’s military expansion in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear missile program. The problem of choosing whether to appease the world’s dictators or resist them is one that Hillary Clinton would face as well. In fact, the second charge against Trump is remarkably similar to a spurious claim made by Trump supporters that a “Hillary Clinton presidency means nuclear war” with Russia.

There are signs that the new president is taking the responsibility of holding the nuclear “football” seriously. In an interview with ABC News, Trump said, “When they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment, yes. It’s very, very scary, in a sense.”

The Democrat proposal has exactly zero chance of becoming law. With Trump allies in control of both houses of Congress and without dangerous rhetoric coming from the Trump Administration on the issue, the bills will be dead on arrival. In reality, the bills were never meant to pass. They were meant to embarrass the president. Instead, they may embarrass the Democrats among more moderate voters by showing them to be shrill alarmists.

Since his election, there are indications that President Trump is rising to the occasion. The seriousness with which he seems to take his responsibility as commander-in-chief of the US military is one such example. It’s a pity that Democrats aren’t doing the same.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A battle over spending is shaping up between President Trump and congressional Republicans. Many of Trump’s campaign promises involved spending large amounts of tax money on items from the military to infrastructure. Now budget hawks in Congress are gearing up to try to prevent the deficit from exploding over the next four years.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the tensions surfaced in the confirmation hearing of Mick Mulvaney, a South Carolina congressman who has been nominated by Mr. Trump to head the White House Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney faced sharp questions from two different camps in the GOP. On one side were defense hawks who were concerned about Rep. Mulvaney’s past votes to cut military spending. On the other were those at odds with Mr. Trump’s campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare.

While the Trump Administration has indicated that it plans some cuts in government spending, the elephant in the room is that programs like the National Endowment for the Arts and the Center for Public Broadcasting aren’t what’s busting the federal budget. Even foreign aid only represents about one percent of federal spending.

Let’s face it, America. We have an entitlement problem.

Entitlements make up about half of the federal budget. The largest entitlement of all is a program that many don’t even think of as an entitlement. Social Security accounts for 24 percent of the federal budget and is the largest single budget item. Health spending in the form of Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Obamacare subsidies account for another 25 percent. Defense spending is a distant third at 16 percent. Entitlement spending is expected to rise even further as Baby Boomers age and leave the workforce.

“I’m not looking to pick a fight with the president of the United States, but if his goal is to put the country on a fiscally sound course, he’s going to have to address entitlement reform,” Rep. Tom Cole (R., Okla.) told the Journal. “Anybody who is going to balance the budget on discretionary spending [cuts] is on a fool’s errand.”

A fight that is likely to come before entitlement reform is Mr. Trump’s plan for an infrastructure stimulus. Rep. Mulvaney and many Republicans were critical of the infrastructure spending plan before the election, but a separate Journal article noted that Democrats were embracing the $1 trillion proposal.

“We’re challenging him to join us even if his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate aren’t for it,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. This raises the possibility that President Trump could form a bipartisan alliance with congressional Democrats to enact his spending proposals as well as block conservative attempts at entitlement reform.

The Republican budget hawks will have allies in the Trump Administration. Mr. Mulvaney, a proponent of entitlement reform during his four terms in Congress, said, “I haven’t been quiet and shy since I’ve been here. The president knew what he was getting when he asked me to fill this role.”

Likewise, the fiscally conservative Heritage Foundation was influential in the Trump transition team. Since the group holds President Trump’s ear, reports like the one that advise him to “not be taken in by hyperbolic rhetoric about the state of the nation’s infrastructure or lured by false promises of stimulus-induced job creation” may prove influential in the long term.

The Trump campaign has led to a Trump Administration that is filled with contradictions. Trump’s promises of spending, some made as recently as last week, conflict with his appointment of fiscal conservatives like Mulvaney. Other appointees, such as Steven Mnuchin, seem to be more squishy on deficit spending.

Will Trump follow his advisors or his instincts? Will Republicans back him if Trump follows his liberal inclinations on spending? Stay tuned and find out.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Our broken immigration system requires complete reform

As President Trump rolls out his new immigration initiatives, it will likely be a mixed bag. Some of Trump’s proposals, like border security and ending the Syrian refugee program, make a modicum of sense. Others, when viewed in the context of the current immigration mess, sound good but aren’t practical in the real world. It’s easy to say “enforce the law” on the campaign trail, but more difficult to put that philosophy into practice when the law doesn’t take economics and public opinion into account.

The law should be enforced. The problem is current immigration system is a mess because the law hasn’t been enforced for decades. Now the law doesn’t reflect the current reality on the ground. Additionally, immigration law probably doesn’t actually say what many people think it does.

For instance, illegally crossing the border into the United States is not a felony. It isn’t even a misdemeanor. It’s a civil infraction akin to a traffic fine. The US Code sets the penalty for “improper entry by an alien” at “$50 and not more than $250 for each such entry” with no mention of jail time or deportation. Marriage fraud by an alien is punished more severely (imprisonment up to five years, a fine up to $250,000 or both) than illegally crossing the border.

Today the immigration problem is really two problems. One is the national security aspect of having thousands of unknown, unvetted people cross the border or overstay visas. The other is related to jobs and the economy.

National security is the constitutional responsibility of the federal government. In 2001, I would have thought it inconceivable that 15 years later the border would still be relatively porous. My chief concern with the border issue is keeping terrorists out. A secondary concern is the humanitarian need to prevent immigrants from secretly crossing into the arid regions of the Southwest where many ultimately die in the desert.

Mr. Trump’s signature promise of The Wall purports to address border security, but it really isn’t that simple. Congress passed a bill authorizing a border fence in 2006, but the project ran into many problems. A large issue is that the Rio Grande defines the border between the US and Mexico, but ranchers need access to the river’s water for their cattle. Further, The Wall would do nothing to stop the problem of people who come into the country legally and overstay visas. This represents about 40 percent of illegal immigrants.

The second issue, that of jobs, is related to the first. Currently, many industries use migrant workers who come across the border illegally. If the border is secured, companies and farms will still need access to these workers. Without the pool of migrant labor, prices for many items will increase, hurting American consumers.

It may sound trite to say that there are some jobs that Americans won’t do, but it is true. Harvesting crops is backbreaking work. Past shortages of migrants have illustrated that there are some jobs that native-born Americans won’t do at any price.

When my native Georgia passed a strict immigration law in 2011, the result was a shortage of labor on farms and in hotels. As the Law of Unintended Consequences kicked in, crops rotted in the fields because there weren’t enough workers to harvest them. Agricultural losses were estimated at $140 million for the year. Other states have had similar problems. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that California farms couldn’t find enough harvesters even though they offered $17 per hour.

This creates a political problem for immigration hardliners. If the Republicans pass a law that cuts off the source of labor for farms and businesses, then those businesses will quickly flock to the Democratic Party, which advocates for a full amnesty of illegals and, in some cases, open borders. Businesses are a chief ally of the Republican Party, but if the GOP adopts anti-business policies that will change.

A Pew survey of illegal immigrants estimated that five percent of the US workforce was made up of illegals. The economic effect of deporting all of these workers could be catastrophic for the economy. There would be an immediate shortage of labor causing a dramatic increase in both wages and prices of goods, possibly triggering inflation or a recession. This doesn’t include the cost of mass deportation itself, which the Wall Street Journal estimated at $400 billion in new federal spending and which would reduce the US GDP by about $1 trillion. The cash-strapped federal government would be spending billions to destroy the economy.

The final problem with the current immigration system is that it is fundamentally unjust and inequitable. The barriers to immigrating legally are so high that they actually encourage people to immigrate illegally. If an immigrant chooses to follow the current law, they might wait as long as 24 years – about a third of the average lifespan - due to backlogs of applicants. Bureaucratic problems mean that not all legal visas available are actually issued. Illegal immigration would be less of a problem if the legal process was easier and less time consuming.

The DREAMers, children who came to the US illegally as minors, present a particular legal and moral problem. These children had no intent to break the law, they simply stayed with their parents. Now, years or decades later, they have no real connection to their birth countries and no practical way to stay in their adopted country. Many don’t even speak the language of their native country. President Obama’s deferred deportation program for DREAMers overstepped his constitutional authority, but it was overwhelmingly supported by voters as a fair solution.

The fact is that most voters don’t want to deport all illegals. Numerous polls over the years show strong support for the idea of a pathway to citizenship. Even exit polls among 2016 Republican voters show that most supported a pathway to citizenship and very few were in favor of Trump-style mass deportations.

The pathway idea is not amnesty, but a plan for illegals to pay back taxes, pay fines, endure waiting periods and undergo background checks before being given legal status. They will pay their debt to society, but their current status as workers in the American economy would be acknowledged. Why should wanting to make a better life in America be the only crime that is unforgivable? If I was a Mexican peasant, I would probably try to come here - legally or illegally – as well.

In my view, the conservative position on immigrants is that people who want to come here to work should be allowed to do so if they are needed. My tendency toward small government leads me to reject the creation of an expensive new federal police bureaucracy to track down and deport illegals who are quietly going about their lives and jobs.

The border needs to be secured, but immigration reform is needed to adapt to the workforce changes that will result. As the border is secured, the law should be changed to allow people to legally immigrate more easily. A guest worker program should be created for migrant workers. Logic dictates that fewer people will sneak across the border if they can come here legally. Everify should be fully implemented to allow businesses to check immigration status of workers.

In return for the easing of immigration policies, enforcement should be stepped up. It should be a felony to cross the border illegally, punishable by jail time and deportation. “Catch and release” of illegals should end. Businesses should be punished for hiring illegal workers. Those who come here on legal visas should be tracked and deported if they overstay.

This sort of comprehensive solution makes economic as well as political sense. Democrats still have enough votes to filibuster a hardline immigration bill. A pathway to citizenship paired with strong enforcement could earn bipartisan support. Trump, as the immigration hardliner, could have a Nixon-goes-to-China triumph.

Donald Trump wasn’t elected because of his hardline immigration ideas. He was elected in spite of them. Americans don’t want mass roundups and deportations of illegals any more than they wanted Obamacare. If President Trump and the Republicans try to use their majority to force an unpopular policy on American voters, they may repeat the Democrat experience of the past few years and quickly find themselves to be a minority once again.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump sets record for low approval on Inauguration Day

There was much consternation over the weekend about how many people showed up for President Trump’s inauguration and whether more or fewer people saw him take the oath of office than previous presidents. The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter. The number of people who make a pilgrimage to Washington has no bearing on how a president should govern. Aside from that, counting inauguration viewers is largely a subjective task.

There is a more objective way to determine a president’s popularity. It’s called polling and yesterday Gallup released a poll showing President Trump’s approval rating as compared to other presidents on their Inauguration Day. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, the poll shows him to be the least popular newly inaugurated president of modern times.

The poll found that American adults were evenly split with 45 percent approving of Trump and 45 percent disapproving. The country was split along party lines. Mr. Trump had 90 percent approval among Republicans and 81 percent disapproval with Democrats. Forty percent of independents favored him with 44 percent disapproving.

Trump’s strongest demographics were non-Hispanic whites (56 percent approval) and the over-65 age group (53 percent). His strongest disapproval came from college graduates (57 percent) and 18-29-year-olds (54 percent).

The 45 percent approval rating makes Trump the least popular president at inauguration since the question was first asked as Dwight Eisenhower took office. The second worst inaugural approval was a tie between Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush. Both men took office with 51 percent approval, but had few who disapproved of them. Barack Obama took office on a high note of 68 percent approval.

The flip side of the poll is that Trump’s disapproval is also higher than past presidents. No other president comes close to Trump’s 45 percent disapproval on Inauguration Day. The second highest disapproval was for George W. Bush, another president who lost the popular vote. Bush had a 25 percent disapproval rating.

One bright spot for the Trump Administration is that rival pollster Rasmussen showed a somewhat better 55 percent approval rating for Mr. Trump on Monday. This poll showed an almost identical 44 percent disapproval.

The difference in approval may be because Rasmussen polls likely voters where Gallup asks adults. Rasmussen also doesn’t include “no opinion” as an answer. Ten percent of respondents in the Gallup poll chose this option.

Both polls show a starkly divided country. President Trump and the Republicans control the levers of power, but they would do well to remember that a large part of the country does not support them. If they charge ahead with divisive policies rather than building a consensus of public opinion, voters may quickly turn against them.

If you think this is unlikely, remember that it happened to President Obama and the Democrats very recently.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump to continue love-hate relationship with FBI's Comey

Donald Trump has had a love-hate relationship with FBI Director James Comey. The new president alternately criticized and praised the chief of the FBI during the campaign and post-election Russian hacking scandal, but now it seems that all is forgiven. Numerous sources are reporting that President Trump plans to keep Director Comey on the job in the new administration.

Back in July, after the FBI declined to recommend an indictment for Hillary Clinton, Trump accused Director Comey of corruption on Twitter, “FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem.” He also tweeted, “The system is rigged. General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very [sic] unfair! As usual, bad judgment.”

In October, when Comey sent a letter to Congress advising them of newly discovered emails in the Clinton case, Trump praised the director. “I have to give the FBI credit,” Trump said in Politico, “It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. You know that. It took a lot of guts.”

A few days later, Trump reversed course again when Comey excused Clinton a second time. Trump accused Comey of lying to cover Clinton, telling The Sun, “You can't review 650,000 emails in eight days. You can’t do it, folks.” Trump added, “Right now she’s being protected by a rigged system. It’s a totally rigged system. I’ve been saying it for a long time.” Trump even explicitly accused the FBI of covering for Hillary saying, “Hillary Clinton is guilty, she knows it, the FBI knows it….”

After the election, Trump also had sharp words for the FBI over the agency’s conclusion that Russia purposefully worked to help Trump win the election. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it... No, I don’t believe it at all.”

Now, four days into the Trump Administration, President Trump is apparently past all his concerns about Director Comey’s competence and integrity. Although the Trump Administration has not publicly confirmed that Comey will continue his 10-year term which began in 2013, the New York Times reports that Comey told top agents at the FBI that he had been asked to stay in his position. If true, there may be future chapters in the love-hate saga between President Trump and his FBI head.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Planned Parenthood President’s Shocking Reason For Aborting Her Baby

I remember the days when Bill Clinton talked about abortion. President Clinton’s mantra was nobody wanted to get an abortion. He said that it should be “safe, legal and rare.” Likewise, when the pro-choice crowd challenges legal restrictions on abortion, much of the time it is because the laws allegedly don’t contain strong enough provisions for hardship cases such pregnancies that result from rape, incest or that threaten the life of the mother.

There is some logic to these arguments. Americans can argue in good faith about if it is ever moral to kill an unborn baby. While I believe that abortion is murder and morally repugnant, I can concede that there are gray areas where there are no good choices. With deep moral and logical arguments to be made on both sides, it is all the more shocking to hear Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards justify her own abortion.

In an interview with Katie Couric in 2015, Richards described her decision to take the life of an unborn baby. “It was a decision my husband and I made. It was a personal decision. And we have three children that we adore and that are the center of my life. And we decided that was as big as our family needed to be,” said Richards. “It wasn’t anything more dramatic than that. But I can’t imagine a woman being in that circumstance — with an unintended pregnancy and not being able to make her own decision about that pregnancy.”

“It wasn’t anything more dramatic than that.”

Cecile Richards is the daughter of former Texas governor, Anne Richards (who notably coined the nickname “Shrub” for George W. Bush). She comes from an affluent family. Lifenews estimates the salary of the younger Ms. Richards at “around $600,000.” She is a one-percenter in her own right. Yet she chose to end the life of her baby, the sibling of her other three children, because “we decided that was as big as our family needed to be.”

This is no hardship case. This is not a gray area. This is a case of a wealthy woman who apparently was not on birth control or using contraceptives deciding that she didn’t want another child.

The Cecile Richards abortion is an example of the dishonesty of the abortion movement. The vast majority of abortions are for convenience or quality of life reasons, not for medical emergencies or due to sexual assaults. According to the Guttmacher Institute, rape and incest cases make up less than one percent of abortions. Abortions due to the health of the mother account for only 12 percent of abortions. Concerns about the health of the baby lead to 13 percent.

The most common reason cited for having an abortion? “Having a baby would dramatically change my life.” Cecile Richards’ excuse, “have completed my childbearing,” was given by 38 percent of women who had abortions.

The pro-choice movement is fundamentally a selfish one. At its core, it is all about “me.” The slogan “my body, my choice” puts all other considerations below the mother’s preference. The fact that a human being is killed, the desires of the father, even the possibility of problems with the mental and physical health of the mother are pushed aside.  

Abortion is not a necessary medical procedure to protect the life of the mother in most cases. Abortion is a tool with which people can escape the consequences of their actions.

Ironically, the extremist position of abortion for any reason may be hurting the pro-choice cause. Since the 1990s, the percentage of pro-choice Americans has plummeted while the pro-life position has increased. The country is equally split between the two viewpoints according to Gallup. On closer examination, the majority is neither pro- nor anti-abortion. A majority, 50 percent, of Americans believes in the middle ground that there should be legal abortion with restrictions. Most of these (37 percent) believe that abortion should be legal in only a few circumstances, presumably the traditional exceptions of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.

The change in attitudes about abortion helps to explain another shocking statistic. American abortions are their lowest level since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The pro-life viewpoint is winning. Perhaps this is why abortion activists are sounding increasingly shrill and extreme.

(Hat tip to at Amanda Prestigiacomo at the Daily Wire for finding the 2015 interview.)

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump declares war on trade pacts

It’s only the beginning of his first week as president and Donald Trump is already moving to keep his campaign promises to trash free trade agreements. Before the coffee was cold Monday morning, President Trump had already announced his intention to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to sign an Executive Order to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We will be starting negotiations having to do with NAFTA,” Trump said Sunday at a swearing-in ceremony for his top White House advisers covered by NBC News. “We are going to start renegotiating on NAFTA, on immigration and on security at the border.” The Executive Order withdrawing from the TPP was expected to be one of Mr. Trump’s first acts on Monday according to CNN. As I write this, the TPP page has already been removed from the US Trade Representative website.

During the campaign, Trump was critical of trade agreements that he called a “bad deal” for the United States. Trump blamed NAFTA for the migration of many US companies and factories to Mexico and other countries.

In spite of Trump’s claims, the website of the outgoing US Trade Representative shows that NAFTA has benefitted the US as well as Mexico and Canada. US exports to Mexico have increased by 468 percent since 1993 when NAFTA was implemented. Contrary to the popular belief that free trade is a one-way street, Mexico is the second largest export market for the US, accounting for almost 16 percent of all US exports. Only Canada imports more US goods.

While President Trump and the anti-traders among both parties blame cheap Mexican labor for enticing American companies to relocate, the real story is not that simple. When Trump negotiated a deal to keep an Indiana Carrier plant in the US, the company ended up eliminating many jobs due to automation anyway. The high cost of labor in the Indiana plant was not cost-effective for the low-tech products made there. Reneging on free trade agreements will not make American labor more cost-effective than machines.

The Carrier deal also hinged on tax credits for the company. The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the free world. Only the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico, a bankrupt US territory, are higher. At 30 percent, Mexico’s corporate tax rate is above the international average, but still far lower than the US rate of 38.9 percent.

Ironically for Trump’s anti-trade agenda, another part of Mexico’s economic success is the country’s commitment to free trade. Mexico has numerous free trade agreements with countries in Central America, South America and Europe as well as with Israel and Japan. The ability to make products in Mexico and ship them abroad without taxes that would be incurred on US exports has attracted some US manufacturers.  When Ford announced that it was moving small car production to Mexico, a key reason was that most of those vehicles would be sold in countries where Mexico had free trade agreements.

If Trump can wring a few concessions out of other countries to improve trade deals, then the US may benefit. If he ultimately plans to scuttle NAFTA as well as the TPP, then it will be bad for US companies, workers and consumers.

According to Yahoo News, Trump claims to favor trade treaties with individual countries rather than multinational trade pacts. Trump’s plan would, for a similar amount of effort, craft a trade deal with one country rather than a dozen. It would also leave US businesses to navigate a patchwork of trade regulations that vary from country to country rather than a consistent set of rules for North America and the Pacific countries.

The Center for Automotive Research estimates that withdrawal from NAFTA or implementing punitive tariffs could cost 31,000 US automotive jobs. Prices for cars sold in the US would almost certainly rise due to both tariffs and the higher cost of manufacturing in the US. As a result, fewer cars would be sold.

An additional factor is that if the US withdraws as a free-trade partner, it is likely to be replaced by China. In addition to loss of market share for US companies, that would entail a loss of leadership in setting regulatory standards since, without NAFTA, the US small car market is smaller than that of China and the European Union. American standards and engineering would have less influence on auto design and construction as the American market for small cars shrinks.

By rejecting the TPP, the Trump Administration may well be pushing other nations of the Pacific Rim toward a free trade agreement with China. CNN Money reports that the Chinese are already inviting many countries that would have been in the TPP to form a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The RCEP may ultimately include staunch US allies like Australia and Japan as well as allowing China to make further inroads to Latin America.

Overall, there is a large potential downside to tinkering with a free trade agreement that has been an enormous success and scuttling another that will open a door to Chinese expansion. Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNN Money that he was “baffled” by Trump’s protectionist hostility to the trade treaties.

Alden questions Trump’s penchant for deal-making. “Trump has single-handedly given away an enormous source of leverage over China,” Alden said. “The first rule of negotiating is don't give away something for nothing, and he's done that right off the bat.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trump's First Drone Strike Kills Three in Yemen

MQ-9 Reaper drone (Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguso  USAF/freestockphotos.biz)
The first drone strike of the new Trump Administration is reported to have occurred in Yemen. Local security and tribal officials told the Associated Press that the two strikes on Saturday, the day after President Trump’s inauguration, killed three al-Qaeda officials. The strikes reportedly killed Abu Anis al-Abi, an area field commander for al-Qaeda, and two others who were not identified by AP.

Drone strikes in Yemen are nothing new. Standoff missile attacks by the unmanned aircraft were the Obama Administration’s weapon of choice in the War on Terror. According to Newsweek, between January 2009 and December 2016, President Obama ordered 526 drone strikes in various countries.

It was a 2011 drone attack in Yemen ordered by Obama that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a member of al-Qaeda who was a US citizen. This attack in particular was criticized from both the right and left. Leftists have been critical of the drone war in general while many conservatives condemned the killing of an American citizen without a trial even though Awlaki was beyond the reach of the US criminal justice system.

Yemen’s role in the War on Terror goes back beyond the September 11 attacks. In October 2000, the USS Cole was attacked by al-Qaeda suicide bombers while on a refueling stop in Aden, killing 17 US sailors. The attack was one of several that foreshadowed the worst terror attack in US history.

Today, Yemen is engaged in a civil war that involves both al-Qaeda and Iran-backed Shia rebels from the Houthi tribe. A Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia is supporting forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is also backed by the US.

During the campaign, Trump supported drone strikes, saying, “The U.S. needs to use all means necessary to combat terrorism,” but argued that the US should not get involved in the Yemeni civil war

Originally published on The Resurgent

Rubio to support Tillerson

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) has announced on his Facebook page that he will support the nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Senator Rubio had been the last Republican holdout after Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced their support for Trump’s pick over the weekend.

Many senators were concerned about Tillerson’s lack of diplomatic experience as well as his ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. As head of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson had negotiated oil deals with Russia and was awarded an Order of Friendship medal by the Russian president in 2013.

In his statement, Rubio said that Tillerson allayed many of his fears during the confirmation process. “He acknowledged that Russia conducted a campaign of active measures designed to undermine our elections,” Rubio wrote. “He stated that Russia’s taking of Crimea was illegal and illegitimate. He affirmed that our NATO ‘Article V commitment is inviolable.’ He endorsed the Magnitsky Act. He accurately characterized the conflict in eastern Ukraine as a Russian invasion, and he supports providing defensive weapons to Ukraine.” Tillerson differs with President Trump on several of these issues.

Rubio was also critical of Tillerson’s reluctance to be tough on Russia. “Despite his extensive experience in Russia and his personal relationship with many of its leaders, he claimed he did not have sufficient information to determine whether Putin and his cronies were responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissidents, journalists, and political opponents. He indicated he would support sanctions on Putin for meddling in our elections only if they met the impossible condition that they not affect U.S. businesses operating in Russia. While he stated that the ‘status quo’ should be maintained for now on sanctions put in place following Putin’s illegal taking of Crimea, he was unwilling to firmly commit to maintaining them so long as Russia continues to occupy Crimea and eastern Ukraine.”

Nevertheless, Rubio wrote, “I must balance these concerns with his extensive experience and success in international commerce, and my belief that the president is entitled to significant deference when it comes to his choices for the cabinet.”

The support of Rubio, Graham and McCain means that Tillerson is certain to be confirmed as Secretary of State. With 48 votes (including two independents), Senate Democrats cannot block the nomination without Republican help. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) eliminated the filibuster on most presidential nominations in 2013.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obama's legacy of failure

As the Obama era draws to a long awaited close, it’s appropriate to look back on the past eight years and contemplate the legacy of Barack Obama. For those seeking to put a positive spin on President Obama’s seemingly endless administration, I’m reminded of Mr. Chow’s standard of excellence from the “Hangover” movies: “Did you die?” No, I didn’t die during Obama’s tenure, but by any other standard his administration will probably be judged a failure by history.

Mr. Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the law that bears his name in popular culture, is a failure and its days are numbered. The Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” has not lived up to its name. Health insurance premiums have increased sharply under Obamacare, even as deductibles and coinsurance have increased. This means that Americans are paying more for healthcare both at the insurance office and the doctor’s office. And, of course, Barack Obama’s promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” went down in history as the Lie of the Year.

Even by the standard of providing coverage to the uninsured, Obamacare is a failure. The uninsured rate is at a historic low, but remains above 10 percent. For its enormous cost and disruption, Obamacare hardly ushered in an era of universal healthcare.

Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan is largely forgotten now, but it is part of his legacy. The plan failed to stimulate the economy, but the Obama era has been a period of heady deficit spending. The borrowed $787 billion stimulus set the tone for the rest of Obama’s presidency. In the final analysis, President Obama nearly doubled the national debt. According to data from USgovernmentspending.com, the total federal debt has increased to more than 100 percent of GDP under Obama. The debt increased from $12 trillion under President Bush to about $23 trillion today. That is more than a trillion dollars per year of debt for every year of the Obama presidency!

Even after inflating the national debt, the US has still not fully recovered from the Great Recession. Even though unemployment has stabilized and decreased, the labor participation rate, the metric that shows how many Americans are in the work force, has decreased throughout Obama’s presidency. To find a historic level that is as low as the current level under Obama, you’d have to look all the way back to 1978 and the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

One part of the Obama legacy that will stand, for better or for worse, is the redefinition of marriage. While this was an action of the Supreme Court and not the president, Obama failed to adequately defend marriage laws in court and appointed justices that helped to upend thousands of years of tradition. As the first sitting president to embrace same-sex marriage, the landmark decision will be linked to his presidency.

Barack Obama also has a secure place in history as the first black president. His election did not heal the racial divide among Americans however. His tenure was marred by racial tension, especially over shootings by police, and race riots. A CNN/ORC poll in October found that more than half of Americans think that race relations have gotten worse under Obama.

President Obama’s record on foreign policy isn’t much better than his domestic record. One of the first things that comes to mind with President Obama’s efforts at diplomacy is the withdrawal from Iraq. President Obama campaigned in 2008 on withdrawing from Iraq and, in 2012, made good his promise after failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement that would permit US troops to remain in the country.

In 2012, Iraq was a stable and functioning democracy. A short time later, after US troops left the country, the Islamic State launched an offensive and gained control of large parts of both Iraq and Syria. Military leaders say that Obama ignored their advice to maintain a US force in Iraq to stabilize the region. The hundreds of thousands of dead, many brutally murdered by ISIS, are a part of Obama’s legacy as well.

The Middle East is not the only region where America’s enemies advanced during the Obama years. Russian President Vladimir Putin brazenly annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia has been fighting a proxy war against the Ukraine ever since. The Ukraine had relied on US and British protection under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which Ukraine gave its nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for “security assurances.”

In Asia, China has not fired shots in anger, but the communist country has illegally been turning South China Sea atolls into artificial islands. Military bases are being built on the islands that could threaten many US allies in the region.

Obama’s seminal foreign policy achievements are abject failures. His nuclear deal with Iran was never ratified by Congress and is already being violated by the Iranians. The Trans Pacific Partnership, one of Mr. Obama’s few conservative achievements, was pronounced dead on arrival by President-elect Donald Trump, who is on par with Bernie Sanders when it comes to free trade agreements.

Ironically, one of the biggest legacies of Obama, the champion of the nanny state, is the loss of faith in government among Americans. Gallup shows that American trust in government peaked in 2003 when 60 percent of Americans believed that government would do the right thing most of the time. The current number is lower even than when President Bush left office amid the Iraq War and the Great Recession. In spite of – or perhaps because of – Obama’s conviction that government is the solution to every problem, only 19 percent of Americans now trust the government. Gallup also shows that 67 percent of Americans see government as the biggest threat facing the country. This is a 13-point increase over Obama’s term.

The falloff in trust in government may explain another Obama legacy. Under President Obama, the Democratic Party has been devastated at the state and local level. During Obama’s eight years, the party of Big Government lost more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures, governorships, Congress and the White House.

Even though President Obama leaves office with a respectable approval rating of 57 percent, his coattails have been short to nonexistent. Barack Obama’s personal popularity has not translated into popularity for his party or his ideas. With few rising stars surviving the Republican electoral victories of the past four years and Democratic ideas rejected by voters, the Democratic Party has a difficult road ahead. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Assange reportedly ready to surrender

There are reports that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is willing to face extradition to the United States. WikiLeaks has published classified information stolen from the US government on numerous occasions, but there is currently no indictment against the group’s Australian founder.

On Jan. 12, WikiLeaks tweeted that “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.” Yesterday, President Obama announced that he would commute the sentence of Bradley “Chelsea” Manning, the US Army soldier convicted of stealing 750,000 pages of army documents and videos and giving them to WikiLeaks.

Among the documents that PFC Manning gave to WikiLeaks were incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that mentioned the names of civilians working with coalition military forces. WikiLeaks published these documents without redacting the names. The Taliban subsequently announced that it was using the WikiLeaks documents to track down Afghans aiding the US military. “If they are US spies, then we know how to punish them,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman quoted in The Telegraph.

A second tweet on Jan. 17 said, “Assange lawyer @themtchair on Assange-Manning extradition 'deal': ‘Everything that he has said he's standing by.’” It is not clear if Assange considers Obama’s commutation of Manning’s sentence, which fell short of a full pardon, to be sufficient to trigger his promise to surrender to authorities.

Assange has been protected from extradition by his residence in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012, but it isn’t the US that has been trying to bring him to justice. Sweden has been seeking Assange’s extradition so that he can stand trial on charges of the rape and sexual assault of two women in 2010. Assange could also face charges in Britain for violating bail.

Even though there is no formal indictment of Assange in the US, the WikiLeaks founder has maintained that he was fearful of extradition to the US if he left the Ecuadorean embassy. WikiLeaks tweeted a link that purports to show documents indicating that there are current “pending proceedings” against Assange by the US Department of Justice.

An additional tweet on Jan. 17 said, “Assange is confident of winning any fair trial in the US. Obama's DoJ prevented public interest defense & fair jury.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump and Pence plan 'big' infrastructure spending bill

There have been indications in the past that the Trump Administration is planning to start with another infrastructure stimulus package. Now Mike Pence, the incoming vice president, has said openly that one of the first items on the agenda of the Trump Administration will be a big infrastructure spending bill.

“I called [Trump] this afternoon to tell him I was coming by,” Pence told the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in The Hill. “In addition to urging me to send along greetings, he said, ‘Tell them we’re going to do an infrastructure bill — and it’s going to be big.’”

But maybe not “yuge.” The Hill notes that Trump proposed a plan that would give $137 billion in tax credits to private companies that form public-private partnerships to build transportation infrastructure projects. At other times, Trump proposed doubling Hillary Clinton’s proposed $275 billion infrastructure stimulus. In either case, Trump’s spending would fall short of President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package in 2009 that had negligible effects on the economy.

Trump may find that his stimulus is attacked from both sides. Democrats may argue that the smaller figure is not enough to properly address the country’s aging roads, bridges and airports while Republicans will be concerned about adding billions of dollars to the national debt.

Nevertheless, Trump’s infrastructure stimulus may present an opportunity for Trump to cobble together a bipartisan majority to pass the project. Democrats are proven supporters of debt-financed, infrastructure spending. While most Republicans normally resist the siren song of borrowing and spending on public works, many might be swayed if the bill is backed by Donald Trump. With conservative Trump supporters like Mike Huckabee and Mike Pence in favor of more infrastructure spending, many Republican congressmen may vote for the bill.

Originally published on The Resurgent