Saturday, December 29, 2018

Democrats Say They Will Refuse To Seat NC Republican Linked To Voter Fraud

Earlier this month The Resurgent described the case of the North Carolina ninth congressional district where the election of Republican Mark Harris has still not been certified. An investigation found a suspicious pattern in absentee votes for Harris and prompted the board to delay certification of the election results. On Friday, the board disbanded without certifying the election despite a last-minute petition by the Harris campaign. The dissolution of the board leaves the outcome of the election in uncertainty, but incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says that the House will not seat Harris.   

In an interview on MSNBC Friday, Hoyer said, “I simply said if Mr. Harris is not certified as the duly, fairly, legally elected member, we would certainly oppose his seating. And as I understand it, that verification has not come. In fact, Republican leaders in North Carolina have said that there is substantial question as to the validity of the outcome of the general election. That's in court now as you know.”

“We'll see what the court does, but it is clear apparently from all sides that there was fraud committed by certain participants in the administration of the election,” Hoyer continued. “Under those circumstances, we ought to have a new election for the general election, not the primary. The primary was not contested, but for the general election.”

If the House refuses to seat Harris, then a new election will be held in the district. New elections would include new primaries the Republican and Democratic nominations as well as the Libertarian Party which also fielded a candidate. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, December 28, 2018

Why The Wall Is Not The Solution To Illegal Immigration

Donald Trump’s wall has been a centerpiece of Republican immigration policy since 2015. The bruising fight over wall funding led the current government shutdown that, at this point, is certain to last into the new year. Aside from funding, however, there is another big problem with the wall: It won’t do what it is intended to do.

The idea of the wall is established on the premise that a physical barrier running the entire length of the US-Mexico border is the only way to prevent illegal immigration. The total length of the US-Mexico border is 1,989 miles (3,201 km) and the sheer length of the border would make the construction of a wall along the southern border a massive undertaking.

Still, a wall of that length is not impossible to build. China’s Great Wall is 5,500 miles (8,850 km) long. Contrary to popular belief, however, the Great Wall is not entirely composed of the wide stone walls that we know from pictures. While about 3,900 miles are constructed wall sections, there are also 225 miles of trenches, and 1,400 miles of natural barriers such as hills and rivers.

Natural barriers are also present along the southern US border. While many Americans picture the Mexican border as a flat, desert wasteland, in reality, there are many different types of terrain. As pictured in an interactive map from USA Today, the border geography ranges from urban areas in places like San Diego and Laredo to the sheer rock cliffs of Texas’ Big Bend to coastal marshes and salt flats along the Gulf of Mexico near Brownsville, Texas.

One of the largest obstacles to the construction of a wall is that 1,260 miles of the border are defined by the Rio Grande. The entire border between Texas and Mexico is defined by this river, which in many places is shallow enough to walk across. At its deepest point, the Rio Grande is only 60 feet deep and at times the river is a mere trickle if there is a surface flow at all.

Walling up the Rio Grande may be possible from an engineering standpoint, but the river raises a different sort of problem in Texas. In the arid regions of south and west Texas, ranchers depend on the Rio Grande to water both crops and cattle. If the wall is erected on the northern side of the river, it would be equivalent to ceding the region’s primary water supply to Mexico. The Mexicans would most likely not cooperate with placing the wall on the southern side and a wall built in the center of the river would not only be structurally unsound but could alter the course of the river, a violation of treaties with Mexico.

At present, many plans for the border wall in Texas would be set back from the Rio Grande. The problem here is that it would not keep people from crossing the border illegally. It would only impede them in moving from the border region to the interior of the country. Such a wall would be more effective against smugglers than refugees seeking amnesty, who would easily cross onto US soil. It would also be a major inconvenience for American citizens who live or own property south of the wall.

Because much of the border land in Texas is privately owned, the federal government has had to use eminent domain laws to condemn and seize land where it plans to build the wall in Texas. After passage of the after the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Noel Benavides of Roma, Texas lost a swath of land that had been in his family since 1767 to a wall that has yet to be built across his property.

Wall-building would also be difficult in the desolate areas of west Texas. The southwestern United States contains rocky mountains and sheer cliffs that are reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote cartoons. This terrain is ill-suited to construction but is passable to determined travelers.

Even after the wall is built, the need for maintenance would be constant. Earthquakes, rock slides, floods, erosion, corrosion, and, of course, vandalism could cause damage to sections of the wall. The structure would have to be constantly monitored and repaired.

Would the wall be worth the time, trouble, and treasure that it would take to build and maintain it?

There are already about 650 miles of border fence along the borders of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. The current fencing consists of a mix of vehicle barriers and pedestrian fencing that vary in height, construction, quality, and condition.

While the wall is a centuries-old technology, the current fencing has shown that the concept can be defeated by other old technologies such as ladders, ramps, and tunnels. A 2010 viral video showed two young women scaling a border fence unaided by ladders or climbing gear in 18 seconds.  Last November, we witnessed members of the migrant caravan climbing the fence near Tijuana. In 2012, a smuggler’s SUV got stuck crossing the border fence with the aid of ramps. It is uncertain how many similar attempts were not detected. More recently a plethora of smuggling tunnels underneath the border has been found in areas where there are physical barriers above the surface.

The bottom line is that a border wall is no panacea. While the wall might make it more difficult or costly to cross the border, smugglers and illegal immigrants will find a way unless they are physically stopped by Border Patrol agents.

Even though a wall backed up by sensors and Border Patrol agents would be at least partially effective, the immense investment in time and money would leave open another route for illegal immigrants. The Center for Migration Studies reports that visitors who enter the US legally and then overstay visas have exceeded those crossing the border illegally every year since 2007. By 2014, two-thirds of new illegals were visa overstays.

The bottom line is that assuming that a wall is feasible to build at all in areas that have not already been fenced, it will be much more difficult and expensive and much less effective than Republicans generally assume. If the fight to build it is ever won, the wall will still require a significant Border Patrol presence as well as constant maintenance. Even then, the wall would do nothing to prevent visa overstays, a larger source of illegal immigrants than the southern border.

H.L. Mencken famously said, “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” As conservatives, we should look beyond simplistic and emotional arguments to determine the facts before spending untold billions of dollars. Those facts tell us that a wall is not the best solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Fencing is appropriate for some areas but doesn’t make sense for the entirety of the border. Wall funding is almost certainly the wrong hill to die on, especially since most polls show that a majority of Americans oppose the wall.

The inability to control the border isn’t a problem unique to the southern United States. Walls didn’t work well for the Chinese either. The Great Wall didn’t prevent its defenders from being overrun on multiple occasions. No less than four times the Xiongnu, the Jurchens, the Mongols, and the Manchus pierced the defensive barrier.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Guess Which Abortion Provider Is Still Being Funded During the Shutdown

The government shutdown has reached the one-week mark and there has been much discussion of what services are not available and which government workers are not getting paid, but one organization has been overlooked. Despite years of Republican efforts aimed at defunding the abortion provider, even shutting down nonessential government services doesn’t appear to have cut off the group from its government money.

The reason that Planned Parenthood continues to get federal checks when air traffic controllers, park rangers, and members of the Coast Guard do not is that most of Planned Parenthood’s federal money comes through the Medicaid program. As with most of the federal entitlement programs, Medicaid money continues to flow during the shutdown. Kaiser Health News reports that Medicare and Medicaid are already funded through the second quarter. That would take the health programs through the end of March.

There are some aspects of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding that could be interrupted by the shutdown. In addition to Medicaid, the group is a major recipient of Title X family planning grants. According to the group’s website, Planned Parenthood serves 1.5 million of the approximately 4 million Title X patients. The Title X grants make up about 19 percent of revenue for participating clinics. These grants could quickly expire in a protracted shutdown.

Defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t the goal of the current government shutdown, but it would have been a nice added benefit, especially since Democrats don’t seem any more inclined to deal on the wall than they were a week ago. However, even if all federal money dried up, it wouldn’t totally bankrupt the group. Planned Parenthood gets about a third of its funding from the government and the rest from private donations.   

For years now, Republicans have embraced a number of quixotic goals such as defunding Planned Parenthood, repealing Obamacare, and building a border wall. They have also embraced government shutdowns as a tactic in achieving several of these goals. Obamacare survived a shutdown in 2013 that also left Planned Parenthood funding intact. This year it appears that the wall will not be funded but that Planned Parenthood will.

Perhaps it is time for Republicans to find a new strategy.

Originally published on The Resurgent

What If They Shut Down The Government And No One Cared?

As the government shutdown stretches toward a week with no end in sight, most Americans seem unaffected and possibly even unaware that nonessential government services are shut down. Unlike previous shutdowns, there is little media coverage of closed parks and offices or furloughed federal workers. Even more odd, there seems to be little interest from either side in reaching an agreement to reopen the government.

The shutdown officially began at midnight on Friday, Dec. 21 and negotiations stalled almost immediately as members of Congress left on their Christmas break. Both Houses are reconvening today, but the two parties seem further apart on an agreement than they were last week, chiefly because President Trump is insisting on the apparently arbitrary number of $5 billion for wall funding.

Rather than working towards a deal, the two sides are pointing fingers at each other. Democrat leaders accuse President Trump of using “scare tactics” in attempt to build support for his pet wall project while the president tweeted, “The Democrats now own the shutdown” shortly after talks in Congress failed on Dec. 21 and said, “Nancy is calling the shots” on Dec. 26.

The president’s accusations that Democrats are to blame stand in stark contrast to his statements a few weeks ago. In a televised brouhaha with Pelosi and Schumer earlier this month, Trump boasted, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”

In fact, the evidence points towards Trump being responsible for the shutdown. The Senate passed a compromise temporary spending bill that would have funded the government until Feb. 8, but the House responded with its own bill that included money for the wall. The House bill could not win cloture in the Senate and President Trump refused to sign any bill without wall funding, threatening to veto the Senate compromise. Republicans in both chambers have said that there will be no more votes until there is an overall agreement that the president will sign.

“I’ve made my position very clear: Any measure that funds the government must include border security,” Trump said last week.

Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security that does not include funding for the wall. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for the wall.

At this point, neither side seems to have any incentive to give in. If the shutdown extends into the next Congress, which convenes at noon on Jan. 3, the new Democrat majority in the House will give them a stronger bargaining position. On the other hand, Trump knows that if he ends the current shutdown without wall funding, he is extremely unlikely to receive the money next year from the Democrat-controlled House.

Through all the political theater, Americans have collectively yawned and turned back toward their holiday celebrations. The shutdown has not affected air travel during the busy holiday season and the Post Office, which is independent of the federal government and funded by revenue from its services, has stayed open to deliver packages and Christmas cards. The topsy-turvy stock market and President Trump’s post-Christmas trip to Iraq have also provided distractions.

The shutdown has primarily affected nonessential federal employees and contractors. Military personnel – with the notable exception of the Coast Guard – continue to get paid during the shutdown. Some federal workers such as air traffic controllers are expected to work without getting paid during the shutdown. National parks may be technically open but without most of the members of their staffs.

A sign at the entrance to the Antietam National Battlefield warned visitors, “Park visitors are advised to use extreme caution if choosing to enter a (National Park Service) property, as NPS personnel will not be available to provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response. Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk.”

Even if people at home don’t care about the shutdown, the Stars and Stripes pointed out that it has far-reaching effects around the world. The US government employs people around the world. Like American federal employees, essential workers will probably get back pay when the shutdown ends, but other nonessential employees and contractors may not. US government services such as the US Geological Survey are not operating due to the shutdown. This meant that the respected agency could not provide data on the recent Indonesian tsunami. The shutdown also means that embassies are not providing many services to Americans and others abroad. One of the biggest effects of the shutdown is the loss of prestige to the US constitutional system.  

Contrary to popular belief, government shutdowns don’t save taxpayer money. Shutdowns are more expensive than keeping the government open. Revenue from museums and parks is lost and federal employees spend thousands of hours preparing for shutdowns and then reopening the government. This work includes shutting down systems and securing facilities that will be unmanned. Most workers receive back pay when the government reopens even if they were furloughed and told to stay home during the shutdown. The added cost of shutting down the government typically adds up to tens of millions of dollars per day.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the government shutdown is how much of the federal government is not subject to congressional appropriations. The largest part of federal spending, which includes most military spending and entitlements, is essentially on autopilot.

President Trump said on Wednesday that the shutdown would last as long it took to secure funding for the wall, telling reporters in Iraq, “Whatever it takes, we're going to have a wall, we're going to have safety. We need safety for our country.”

But as I wrote earlier this month, there is no clear path to victory in the shutdown strategy. Getting wall funding is contingent on getting a bill past the Democrat filibuster in the Senate. So far, there are no signs that any Senate Democrats are about to break ranks and vote for cloture on the president’s bill. That means that there is no end in sight for the shutdown. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Born To Die

Almost everyone is familiar with the Christmas story. The tale of how Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn and gave birth to the Son of God in a stable is traditional holiday fare. Even those who consider the story to be a myth have at least heard it and recognize the characters.

That familiarity can be a problem. Many of us have heard the tale so often that it loses its impact. We have heard the story for so many Christmases now that it becomes part of the background, like Christmas carol muzak in a department store or mall, and we fail to appreciate the impact of Christmas.

The real impact of Christmas lies beyond the manger scene. Christmas is really about what the newborn infant would do some 30 years later as an adult.

Christmas reminds me of the scene in Talladega Nights in which Will Ferrell leads his family in a mealtime grace, addressing the prayer to “little baby Jesus.” Baby Jesus in the manger is a nonthreatening image that is easy to celebrate because a newborn infant is not controversial and makes no demands of us.

The problem with limiting our view of Christmas to the manger scene is that the babe in the manger came to shake things up and make difficult demands of us. The newborn baby was an infant on a mission. The baby Jesus was born to die.

If we fast forward about 30 years to see the ministry of the adult Jesus, we would get two central themes to his message. One, that we should love our fellow man, is another common Christmas theme. As Bill and Ted put it, Jesus taught that we should “be excellent to each other.”

But Jesus’ second theme is even more important. Beyond loving others, Jesus taught that we should love the God who created us and seek after him.

In fact, the most important message from Jesus’ preaching can be distilled down to two verses. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” In this verse, Jesus made the controversial and earthshattering claim that he is God. A few chapters later in John 14:6, he made another extraordinary claim. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus said. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” In two short statements, Jesus overturned the conventional wisdom that priests and sacrifices were needed to approach God.

Jesus’ statements were either the ravings of a madman or the herald of a new way of looking at life and God. After a few short years of itinerant preaching, he would be executed by the Romans with the complicity of Jewish leaders. Far from being a tragedy, however, Jesus’ death sealed his victory. It was why he had come in the first place. As Jesus had previously explained to his disciples, he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

You see, like Jesus, we are also born to die. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “Life is sexually transmitted and always fatal.” We are dying from the day we are born.

Unlike Jesus, who as the Son of God holds the ultimate power over death, we are its mercy. As sinners, we are doomed to eternal separation from God as punishment for our misdeeds. It is in this realization that Jesus’ mission is made clear. He did not come to bring world peace or military triumph. Contrary to what prosperity gospel preachers say, he did not come to give his followers worldly wealth or to heal the sick. Even though he is capable of doing all these things, Jesus came to give us a chance at eternal life and the ability to triumph over death.

Christmas is about hope. The hope that would ultimately be fulfilled by the adult Jesus on the cross. The baby in the manger would grow up to sacrifice his life for ours, but the gift of sacrifice must be accepted.

While the baby in the manger makes no demands of us, the resurrected Jesus who died on the cross demands that we put aside all other paths to God, believe in him, and make him Lord of our lives. In return, we receive salvation and eternal life, the ultimate Christmas gifts. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, December 24, 2018

Erratic Trump Drives Erratic Markets

Once a bright spot of the Trump presidency, the stock market is continuing in an extended rout that began earlier this year after reaching a high in early October. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attempted to shore up the market with a phone call to bank executives over the weekend, but federal reassurances did little to calm jittery investors in trading on Monday.

Secretary Mnuchin announced in a tweet Sunday night that he had spoken with the CEOs of America’s six largest banks: Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo. In an attempt to reassure investors that may have had the opposite effect, a Treasury statement attached to the tweet said that the “CEOs confirmed that they have ample liquidity available for lending” and that none “have experienced any clearance or margin issues and that markets continue to function properly.”

Per the statement, Mnuchin said, “We continue to see strong economic growth in the US economy with robust activity from consumers and business. With the government shutdown, Treasury will have critical employees to maintain its core operations.”

While the US economy seems to be working well, the same cannot be said of the US government. Nonessential government services are closed in a shutdown that may last well into the new year because the two parties cannot agree on how much to increase spending for the wall. The president’s unilaterally declared trade war is adding unnecessary costs to American business and consumer spending. The world watches as many of the most experienced and stable members of the Trump Administration exit the White House. In a number of cases, the departures are explicitly tied to President Trump’s capricious leadership.

President Trump sees the situation differently. In a tweet, the president said, “The only problem our economy has is the Fed.” Trump argued that the Fed does not understand “necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders.”

“The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch,” the president added, “he can’t putt!”

While it’s true that the Fed has been raising interest rates this year, it’s also true that the move was long overdue. The Fed kept rates near zero during the apostle-recession years of the Obama Administration, which penalized savers and investors. Increases to interest rates now are a sign that the Federal Reserve views the economy as healthy.

Is it any wonder that investors are nervous?

With Monday’s close, the S&P 500 followed the NASDAQ into official bear market territory. The half-day of holiday trading left the S&P 2.7 percent lower for the day at 2,351. This is more than 20 percent lower than its previous intraday peak and defines the onset of a bear market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 650 points, losing 2.9 percent of its value, but technically remained clear of bear status. Today’s session was the worst-ever Christmas Eve for the Dow.

While many fundamentals of the US economy remain strong, President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin are missing the point. Investors are concerned precisely because the Trump economic policy includes massive taxes on trade in the form of tariffs and trade wars, because the government is stalemated and incapable of solving even simple problems, and because President Trump’s style of governance thrives on chaos and instability, the very things that markets abhor.

In fact, rumors are beginning to appear that Mr. Trump will attempt to force the removal of his latest whipping boy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. It is Donald Trump and his lack of coherent policy that is driving markets lower, not some concern about bank liquidity.

“Until this weekend, markets were not that concerned about liquidity or clearance issues,” WinThin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman told the Financial Times. “At best, Mnuchin made a rookie policy mistake in trying to reassure markets; at worst, Mnuchin knows something that the markets don’t.”

The bottom line is that the Trump Administration cannot protect the markets from the president. Trump’s erratic behavior is translating into erratic markets. With two years to go in President Trump’s term and the senior members of the White House daycare staff hitting the exits, hopes for change seem far away.

The best gifts that Donald Trump could give to the nation this Christmas to end the trade wars, fund the government, and stay off Twitter. Unfortunately, the likelihood of these events is about the same as having Santa rappel down the White House chimney tonight.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Why Was The Christmas Star Visible From Afar But Not Noticed In Bethlehem?

There are many mysteries about the miracles that form the basis of Jesus Christ’s claim of divinity. Jesus is claimed to have healed the sick and raised the dead of the Roman province of Palestine during his short ministry. These miracles made him famous and inspired disciples to follow him but from a modern perspective, they are impossible to verify. The witnesses to these miracles are long dead. Even Lazarus and the others that Jesus restored to life eventually returned to the grave. However, there is one miracle associated with the life of Jesus that should be easy to verify because it was apparently visible from around the world.

The miracle of the Christmas star occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth and according to the Biblical account was visible to learned travelers from a distant land. Matthew tells us that the Magi saw a star that they recognized as symbolizing the birth of the king of the Jews and traveled to Jerusalem “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea” (Matt. 2:1). The star apparently appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth (2:7) and lasted months until the Magi could make their journey from a distant land. The problem for Christian believers is that other observers of the time don’t report significant astronomical events around the time of Jesus’ birth. The lack of reports would seem to rule out stars as well as nebulas and comets.

Beyond the lack of extrabiblical support for a stunning celestial display, there is another problem with the story of the Christmas star. There is a paradox in the Bible’s claim that the Magi could see the star from thousands of miles away while King Herod seemed ignorant of it only five miles away in Jerusalem. Any obviously bright star would be easily visible to anyone who looked up at night, yet Herod and his court were unaware of it.

Further, consider that stars typically seem to move when viewed from the earth’s surface. The location of stars is fixed in space, but the earth’s rotation makes them appear to move. A star that rises in the east would set in the west a few hours later yet the Bible says that the star “stopped over the place where the child was” (2:9). The typical depiction of the Christmas star as an immense, blindingly bright star hovering above the Bethlehem stable seems more and more unlikely.

The problems with identifying the star of Bethlehem seem insurmountable. The star was allegedly seen clearly from a great distance away but unobserved in and around Bethlehem. The meaning of the star was so obvious that the Magi left on an international trip yet other astronomers around the world missed it entirely. Stars normally move but this one was reportedly stationary. The problems are so difficult that many consider the Christmas star to be nothing more than a myth.

A clue to the answer can be found in the original Greek text of the New Testament. In his fascinating look at the historical foundations of the Bible, “The Bible As History,” Werner Keller pointed out that in verse two, the Greek word translated as “star” for thousands of years is actually plural rather than singular.

Keller offers a theory as to the identity of Matthew’s Christmas stars. For hundreds of years prior to the time of Christ, Jewish exiles had lived in Babylon. Babylon, located to the east of Palestine in present-day Iraq, was also the home of an advanced school of astronomy. Clay tablets discovered by archaeologists that date back to more than 400 years before the time of Christ detail calculations by which the Babylonians could predict the paths of the planets, which of course look like stars when viewed without a telescope.

Two planets in particular may have been of interest to the Magi. Jupiter, the king of the planets, was considered to be a royal star and was also associated with luck. The second largest planet, Saturn, was associated with Israel according to ancient Jewish traditions described by Tacitus, a famous Roman historian. 

Keller describes how Jupiter and Saturn came together not once but twice in 7 BC. The first conjunction occurred on May 29 and was followed by a second on October 3. He writes that the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would have taken about six weeks by camel caravan in Biblical times. It would have been unwise to undertake such a journey across Middle Eastern deserts at the beginning of summer but an October departure would have placed the Magi in Jerusalem in late November. This would place the birth of Jesus prior to the onset of winter in Palestine when shepherds would have still had their flocks in the fields (Luke 2:8).

Frederick Larson of has a similar theory but arrived at a different date for the star’s appearance. Larson looked at the movements of the heavens and found an interesting occurrence over a period of months in the years 3 and 2 BC. At that time, Jupiter and Regulus, a star the Romans considered royal, entered a triple conjunction that would certainly have attracted the attention of Babylonian astrologers.

Larson also provides an answer for how the star could have stopped above the stable in Bethlehem. If the Magi were observing Jupiter from Jerusalem as it entered retrograde, the planet would have appeared to stop over the town of Bethlehem, five miles to their south. One of the dates that this could have occurred was December 25, 2 BC.

Regardless of which celestial event is the particular one observed by the Magi, the theory that the eastern travelers observed astrological signs that pointed them to the newborn Messiah is an idea that can overcome the difficulties inherent in a traditional reading of the Christmas story. The astrological event would have been visible to trained observers but would not have been apparent to King Herod or the people of Judea. The meaning of the signs would have been lost on other astronomers who were not aware of the association of various planets and stars with Israel and Judaism.

The search for the Christmas star has lessons for those who are seeking God. At the outset, it seemed that it was impossible that the account of the star could be more than a myth. The very idea seemed to make no sense and the problems presented by skeptics seemed insurmountable.

Upon closer inspection, however, when the original writings and understanding of the Bible’s writers were taken into account, it turns out that there is a rational explanation that can back up the story of Matthew’s Magi. As it was with the ancient Jews, who thought the Messiah would be a military leader who would overthrow the hated Romans, our problem with the Christmas star lies in our lack of understanding of what the Bible’s writers were trying to convey. When we put aside our preconceived ideas about what the star must have been, we find the answer was there all along.

The lesson of the Christmas star is that God answers those who seek him. While not all of the answers and explanations to Biblical questions are readily apparent, we do have enough answers to know that Christian faith can be based on verifiable facts and does not have to be a blind faith. The Bible’s accuracy is a launching point for the relationship with Christ that offers our only hope for conquering death.

That is the true meaning of Christmas. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Trump To Mattis: You Can't Quit. You're Fired.

In 2016, Donald Trump called James Mattis a “true general’s general.” Now it seems that the two can’t part company fast enough. Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Mattis submitted his resignation with an effective date of Feb. 28, 2019. Apparently, that wasn’t soon enough for the president who announced that Mattis would be leaving at the end of the year.

In a tweet this morning, President Trump said, “I am pleased to announce that our very talented Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, will assume the title of Acting Secretary of Defense starting January 1, 2019.”

Patrick Shanahan is a native of Washington State who has been in the position of Deputy Secretary of Defense since his confirmation on June 20, 2017. Prior to joining the government, he was an executive at the Boeing company where he had worked since 1986. Shanahan has never served in the military but worked on several defense-related programs as vice president of Boeing Rotorcraft Systems.

Last Thursday, Secretary Mattis submitted his resignation letter in response to President Trump’s unilateral decision to withdraw American soldiers from Syria where they had been deployed to fight ISIS. Trump’s move leaves the Kurds, American allies in the fight against ISIS, to the tender mercies of their ancestral enemies, the Turks and the Arabs.

Mr. Mattis’ resignation letter singled out the abandonment of America’s allies in the region as a reason for his departure. “We cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies,” Mattis wrote to the president. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis added.

President Trump places a high priority on loyalty from his subordinates – if not to his allies – and this open criticism from his “general’s general” seems to have been too close to the mark for the president to keep working with the Gen. Mattis for another two months. In addition to being already confirmed by Congress and therefore eligible to move into the Defense Secretary slot under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Shanahan also has not publicly criticized the president.

In contrast, Mattis, along with Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was rumored to have banded together to rein in the president and protect the country from Trump’s most destructive tendencies. As 2019 begins, all three of those experienced, senior advisors will be absent. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, December 21, 2018

Welcome To Trump Unchained

For the past two years, Donald Trump has governed largely as any other Republican president would have when it came to policy. The president successfully passed tax reform and appointed judges to federal courts that looked like they could have been picked by any Republican president of the past. It was mainly with his trade policy and his tweets that President Trump seemed different than past presidents.
I have long theorized that Trump’s normalcy and measured success over the first two years of his presidency was due primarily to traditional Republicans who influenced him and kept him on the reservation. Paul Ryan helped to orchestrate tax reform and Mitch McConnell was instrumental in getting Trump’s judges confirmed. The conservative Federalist Society seems to have actually picked most of the actual judges, although Trump deserves credit for sticking to their recommendations. White House appointees like John Kelly and James Mattis kept the president from straying too far from established norms.
Now, after two years of restraint, the influence of the traditional Republicans seems to be over. Over the past few months, President Trump has fired or forced out many of the cooler heads that surrounded him. While some advisors have richly deserved to be let go, the departures of calmer voices such as Chief of Staff John Kelly, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Defense Secretary James Mattis are extremely worrisome for those who want to see that America‘s influence as a world leader is preserved. Rumors that Trump is considering replacing Mike Pence in 2020 may mean the vice president’s influence is also waning.
The departure of the cooler heads seems to be partly a result of Trump’s more erratic behavior and partly a contributing factor. The president‘s behavior seems to have deteriorated since the midterm elections when the GOP took heavy losses. Since then, Trump has been forced to deal with Democrats who know how to push his buttons.
Trump trusts his own instincts above all else. As he tunes out his advisors, they resign in protest and leave the president with even fewer stabilizing influences. Essentially, the Trump Administration is in a death spiral as responsible Republicans lose their influence and jump ship.
We are now entering a phase where Donald Trump is left to his own devices with no one to check his behavior. In this phase, we can expect the president to pander to his base by embracing policy positions that he has been advised against until now. He has already signaled his willingness to withdraw from NAFTA and may remove the US from other international agreements as well. It is not inconceivable that the president will leave the United Nations. Trump’s isolationist tendencies will be on display as he brings troops home from Syria and Afghanistan. We may see retreats from Korea and Europe as well. These moves will embolden Iran, China, and Russia.
President Trump’s real passion is immigration. He previously announced his intent to try to curb illegal immigration with an Executive Order that restricted birthright citizenship. Although considered unconstitutional crazy talk by many, this idea will probably be resurrected soon along with other attempts to restrict immigration by executive decree.
We may also see a resurgence of Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin. Trump’s admiration for Putin always seemed to lurk just beneath the surface. It bubbled up occasionally at their summit meeting and more recently when the president dropped sanctions on a Russian oligarch and left Syria to Putin’s devices. In 2019, President Trump will probably be more open about his desire for friendship with Putin‘s Russia.
Also expect more tweets from the president. Lots of them.
Trump unchained is not a conservative. He is an isolationist and populist who veers from one policy decision to the next based on his gut. Trump unchained has the depth of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the integrity of the Clintons, and the pen and phone of Barack Obama.
This month seems to have marked a turning point in the Trump presidency. There is a tectonic shift between traditional Republican influences and Trump unchained. As the president goes off the rails, the chances will increase that Republicans will either join Democrats in an impeachment effort or seek to remove Trump from office in a 25th Amendment solution.
Fasten your seatbelts. The next few years are going to be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

General: Trump's Cut-And-Run From Syria Is A 'Serious Strategic Mistake'

President Trump’s surprising decision to cut and run from Syria is being panned by military analysts as “a serious strategic mistake” that ranks with such errors as President Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq and the abandonment of South Vietnam. Trump’s decision to retreat from Syria reportedly went against the advice of Defense Secretary James Mattis and other top generals.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria,” Trump said in a tweet justifying his unilateral decision to withdraw American troops from the embattled Middle Eastern country.

But other analysts, such as Jack Keane, a retired four-star general and army vice chief of staff, disagree. Keane, now a military analyst for Fox News, lashed out at the president, calling the move “a serious strategic mistake” with “dire consequences.”

Keane, who has generally supported Trump’s foreign policy, told Trish Regan on Fox Business that, “It’s a decision that the president will come to regret.”

“The obvious analogy is a simple one,” Keane said. “How you end a conflict is more important than how you start one and history will tell you that. When we stayed in post-World War II Germany, Italy and Japan, we helped to stabilize those countries. We did the same thing in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

However, he added, “When we prematurely withdraw forces because we’re tired or it or we’re frustrated by the time it took – Vietnam, Iraq, and now Syria – the consequences are usually unfavorable and quite dire.”

“It is not speculation that ISIS will indeed reemerge,” Keane said. “Our intelligence services have already forecasted that. The reality is they will come back. They are conducting terrorist operations around Raqqa right now on a low level.”

Keane said that ISIS leaders around Raqqa had been telling people there that the Americans had not followed through with their promises to rebuild schools, power plants, and other infrastructure destroyed in the war against the terror group. ISIS will use the unkept promises and withdrawal of American troops to recruit and gain influence.

“The Iranians, which are a much greater threat than ISIS, will now own all of Syria,” Keane said. “That is a fact. They will encroach on the sovereignty and security of Israel.”

Keane also warned that the withdrawal would have implications beyond the Middle East. “Russia and our adversaries will look at this, not as a victory for the United States,” he said. “They will look at this as weakness. It will impact North Korea in terms of the stalemate we have with them right now. It impacts Russia in terms of our ability and willingness to confront them and have some impact on them. And certainly, it’s going to impact also with China…. It’s going to encourage them and embolden them. All these things are related to one another.”

Keane acknowledged Trump’s concern for casualties and the fact that ISIS was temporarily on the run in Syria, but said, “The one thing I think history has also told us is the Middle East is a breeding ground for radical Islam and it’s also the place Iran wants to dominate and control.”

Keane said that Trump’s withdrawal is already encouraging ISIS to reemerge. Noting that the president said he was willing to redeploy forces to Syria if ISIS returns, Keane asked, “Why? If you’re willing to do that let’s finish it. Let’s stay the course and finish this thing once and for all.”

The Trump withdrawal closely mirrors Barack Obama’s premature withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Against the advice of military leaders, Obama removed the US military and the resulting power vacuum allowed ISIS to flourish and gain control over large swaths of both Iraq and Syria. The expansion of ISIS required the US to recommit troops to the region and gave Russia a pretext for sending a large military force to Syria in 2015. Additionally, the Syrian unrest created a refugee crisis that led to a wave of terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Trump policy threatens to undo progress made on those fronts. American forces in Syria have subdued but not destroyed the ISIS threat and provided a counterbalance to Russian and Iranian influence in the region. An American withdrawal that allows ISIS to reform would also likely create new waves of refugees fleeing to Europe.

Another big winner from Trump’s isolationist policy is Iran. USA Today points out that the US-controlled eastern portion of Syria had posed an obstacle that prevented the Iranians from being able to move by land from Iran all the way to Lebanon, home base of their ally Hezbollah. Without American forces in the way, Iran can ship heavy weapons all the way to the Israeli borders with Syria and Lebanon. Where Barack Obama gave Iran billions of dollars, President Trump just gave the mullahs something much more strategically valuable.

 Originally published on The Resurgent

North Korea Says No Thanks To Denuclearization

A week of policy failures and missteps for President Trump just got worse as North Korea announced that it would never denuclearize unless the US first removes its nuclear threat. After Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in June, the president claimed that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat and even suggested that he deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on nuclear disarmament.

Now, six months later, North Korea’s official Korean Central News statement says that the rogue nation will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons. Instead, the North Koreans place conditions on disarmament that include a complete or partial withdrawal of American soldiers and nuclear weapons from near the Korean peninsula. This has been the traditional North Korean position in negotiations with past administrations as well.

“The United States must now recognize the accurate meaning of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and especially, must study geography,” the North Korean statement said per the AP.

“When we talk about the Korean Peninsula, it includes the territory of our republic and also the entire region of (South Korea) where the United States has placed its invasive force, including nuclear weapons. When we talk about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it means the removal of all sources of nuclear threat, not only from the South and North but also from areas neighboring the Korean Peninsula,” the statement continued.

Meanwhile, as talks deteriorated between the US and North Korea, the Trump Administration raised the possibility of humanitarian relief from sanctions in exchange for nuclear concessions. In the past, the West has given sanctions relief to the North Korean regime in deals on which the hermit kingdom failed to follow through.

Last spring and summer, there were reports that the North was dismantling some nuclear test facilities. Other reports in recent months have indicated that the Koreans were continuing to work on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at secret sites.

“If we unilaterally give up our nuclear weapons without any security assurance despite being first on the U.S. list of targets for pre-emptive nuclear strikes, that wouldn’t be denuclearization — it would rather be a creation of a defenseless state where the balance in nuclear strategic strength is destroyed and the crisis of a nuclear war is brought forth,” the North Korean statement said.

What many experts predicted now seems obvious: The North Koreans will never willingly surrender their nuclear capability which is the one weapon that ensures the survival of the Kim regime. The talks with the Trump Administration seem to have been nothing more than a play for time and a ploy to negotiate for the removal of sanctions.

Expectations of a Nobel Prize for President Trump appear to have been very premature. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Retreat On Wall Funding And Bump Stock Ban May Cause Cracks In Trump's Base

Donald Trump boasted during the 2016 campaign that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters.” Until now that has been true. No matter what Trump has done or what revelations have come out his supporters have stuck with him. This week may have been the breaking point for some Trump supporters, however.

Core Trump supporters have a few issues that rise above all others. For many, guns and immigration top the list and this week saw President Trump take positions on both issues that are unpopular with many members of his base.

First, Trump, who many supporters lauded as a fighter, surrendered to Democrats on a temporary funding bill for the government. As recently as last week, Trump had vowed not to sign a new spending bill that did not include $5 billion in funding for his border wall. On Tuesday, however, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders retreated from that position, telling reporters, “At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government. We want to shut down the border.”

Trump supporters almost universally support the border wall, even to the point of launching a GoFundMe campaign that has so far raised $1 million for the project. Many were also strongly in favor of a government shutdown over funding for the wall. The White House acquiesence to a temporary funding measure will be viewed as a defeat by many members of the base.

Even worse for Trump is the long-awaited bump stock ban. The Second Amendment is considered untouchable by many Trump supporters and conservatives yet President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to outlaw the rapid-fire devices and require Americans who own them to either turn them in or destroy them within 90 days. There is no provision for compensating bump stock owners for their devices which could cost hundreds of dollars. Worse, the ATF under President Obama told Congress that the government did not have the authority under current law to ban the devices.

The Trump Administration’s ban has brought criticism from many Second Amendment supporters. Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry, told the Atlanta Journal, “When you start banning accessories to firearms, then you really get on a slippery slope. It doesn’t change the function of the firearm, and therefore it shouldn’t be banned.”

“It is nibbling away at our second amendment rights,” Janelle Westrom, owner of Davenport Guns, told Iowa’s TV-6. “I don't like the decision but, myself personally, it doesn't affect me,” she added.

“I don't care about bump stocks,” tweeted Sean Davis, Trump supporter and a founder of The Federalist, “but I care a great deal about lawless government power grabs, based on utter lies, that will instantly turn innocent people who did nothing wrong into felons and be used to justify nationwide confiscation regimes.”

Davis also noted in a separate tweet, “Under the new rule, an individual who illegally brings a loaded rifle into an elementary school will get a shorter maximum prison sentence (5 years) than a woman who has a bump stock in her garage but doesn't own any actual guns (10 years).”

On the other hand, some people do support the bump stock ban. “I have to agree with the ban,” Geoff Wilson of Hendersonville, N.C. told WLOS TV.. “Turn them in, get rid of them. And like I said, I’m a full supporter of the Second Amendment.”

Another supporter of the ban is Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat state representative who introduced a similar bill in the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year. Rep. Oliver’s bill went nowhere but she told the AJC, “I’m delighted that I can say that President Trump did something that makes me happy.”

While some Trump supporters will rally around the president and deny that the bump stock ban is an infringement of the Second Amendment and an unconstitutional overreach of executive authority, for others Trump’s moves will be a breach of trust. Where Trump’s past statements in support of gun control can be overlooked by many, the bump stock ban initiated by the president without getting anything in exchange cannot be explained away as a bargaining ploy or mere rhetoric.

Trump’s support won’t evaporate overnight but this week may mark a turning point with his base. Issuing an ultimatum on wall funding to Democrats and then backing down smacks of weakness while the bump stock ban calls into question Trump’s core principles. Supporters who have not doubted the president up to this point may now start to do so. Trump’s base won’t vote Democrat but they may stay home. This may be the president’s Fifth Avenue moment.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Donald Trump Just Restricted The Second Amendment More Than Barack Obama

Although he is still endorsed by the NRA, President Trump just presided over the biggest federal restriction on the Second Amendment since President Clinton signed the assault weapons ban in 1994. On Tuesday, the Trump Administration officially banned bump stocks in a regulatory move that bypassed Congress.

In a scenario reminiscent of the worst fears of gun owners, the new federal regulation makes it illegal to possess a bump stock. Any person who possesses one of the rapid-fire devices must either surrender it to authorities or destroy it when the new regulation takes effect. Per the Associated Press, the deadline to comply will be 90 days after the regulation is published in the Federal Register. That is expected to happen Friday, meaning that bump stock owners will have until late March to decide how to dispose of their property.     

The regulation was signed into law by President Trump’s newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. The president had directed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns” last February. CNN reported in November after the election that the regulation had been finalized and would be issued soon.

The bump stock ban seems to be a solution in search of a problem. The devices, which use the recoil of the gun to help the shooter pull the trigger rapidly, are not typically used in crimes. The exception was the October 2017 Las Vegas massacre in which the murderer used a rifle with a bump stock to kill 59 people. Bump stocks make it difficult to aim and shoot accurately, but concert-goers in Las Vegas were packed into such a tight area that aiming was hardly necessary.

Ironically, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms under Barack Obama determined that a regulatory bump stock ban was not legal under current law. In 2013, the assistant director of the ATF wrote to a member of Congress that bump stocks “are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes” and were therefore legal. The letter stated that the devices did “not provide an automatic action — requiring instead continuous multiple inputs (trigger pulls) by the user for each successive shot” and were therefore not subject to the Federal Firearms Act. In the expert opinion of the ATF, a bump stock ban would require Congress to pass new legislation.

Now, five years later, the Trump Administration is arguing that the Obama-era ATF was wrong and that bump stocks are in violation of the Federal Firearms Act. The laws of physics have not changed over the past five years. Guns with bump stocks still require separate trigger pulls to fire multiple times. Neither has the Federal Firearms Act changed. The only thing that has changed is the Trump Administration’s interpretation of the law.

Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, told the AP that the organization was “disappointed” by the ban. Baker said that the regulation “fails to address the thousands of law-abiding Americans” who bought the devices before the Trump Administration deemed them to be illegal and argued that current owners should be grandfathered in with an amnesty.

The Trump bump stock ban contains many of the worst aspects of liberal gun control plans and sets a dangerous precedent. First, the ban is arbitrary and will have little, if any, effect on public safety. The rationale for the ban, that no one really needs a bump stock, is the same rationale that many liberals use to advocate banning AR-15s and guns in general. Proponents say that bump stocks are a gun accessory and not protected by the Second Amendment, but the same argument could be made for many other items including scopes, reloading equipment, magazines, and ammunition.

More disturbing is that the Trump Administration is bypassing Congress to invoke the ban in violation of the Federal Firearms Act. Current law defines a “machine gun” as “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” However, as the ATF pointed out in 2013, that does not describe a bump stock’s operation. Reading the law to mean something that it does not say is usually strongly criticized by conservatives.

The new regulation goes further in restricting the Second Amendment than anything successfully enacted by Barack Obama, who was notoriously anti-gun. The Republican Congress killed Obama’s proposed gun restrictions limiting the former president to issuing a series of Executive Orders that fell short of banning any weapon or accessory.

President Trump’s bump stock ban is a blueprint that future anti-gun Democrat presidents can use to bypass Congress and further restrict the Second Amendment. In addition to being an anti-gun measure, the move is a flagrant abuse of executive authority.

There is no word on whether the NRA will endorse President Trump for reelection. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

With No Wall Funding, Trump Retreats On Shutdown Threat

After issuing an ultimatum to Democratic leaders last week, President Trump is backing down on his threat to shut down the government if Congress does not approve funding for his border wall project. Yesterday the White House suggested that the president was willing to reverse his position that any funding measure must include $5 billion for the border wall and today Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears ready to move forward on a measure that would fund the government through February 8. Without a deal, nonessential government operations would shut down on December 21.

On Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News, “We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion” and would “work with Congress” to that end. Sanders said that the Trump Administration could support the $1.6 billion on border security funding proposed by Democrats and that the president would seek to “couple that with other funding resources” to reach the $5 billion target.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government,” Sanders said. “We want to shut down the border.”

This marks a reversal from last week when President Trump boasted to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), “I am proud to shut down the government for border security because the people of this country don’t want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn’t work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.”

The White House retreat comes amid a turbulent week for the Trump Administration. The Dow fell more than 500 points on Monday and former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan warned that investors should prepare for the worst. At the same time, Trump called his former attorney Michael Cohen “a rat” on Twitter and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn continues to cooperate with federal investigators. Mr. Trump’s charity, The Trump Foundation, is also being shut down amid allegations of corruption by the New York Attorney General.  

The wall was a core promise of President Trump’s campaign but funding for the project has so far proved elusive. Even though Republicans control both houses of Congress, Democrats have enough seats to filibuster bills that fund the wall. The problem will become even worse for the president next year when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.  Given Democrats’ strong opposition to the wall, it seems unlikely that the president’s promise will ever be fulfilled.

The good news is that Democrats have indicated that they don’t oppose border security in principle, they just oppose the wall. By holding them to this position, the Trump Administration might be able to negotiate funds to secure the border by other methods that would be even more effective and less expensive than a wall. These methods would include virtual walls of sensors, more Border Patrol officers, and fencing in certain areas. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, December 14, 2018

Federal Deficit For November Hits Record High Despite Tax Reform

Tax reform stands as the one major legislative accomplishment of the Trump Administration. The measure became law a year ago and, as forecasted, jumpstarted growth in an economy that had been largely stagnant since the Great Recession. Unfortunately, tax reform has so far not lived up to its promise of paying for itself with that increased growth. In fact, the deficit for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended in September, is the largest in six years despite increased growth and revenues.

Figures from November show that the budget deficit was the largest ever recorded for that month. The Treasury Department reported Thursday that federal spending increased by 18 percent to $411 billion for the first two months of FY 2019.

Despite the tax reform and the increased tariff taxes on trade, revenues were flat at $206 billion, about half of what the government spent. The deficit of $205 billion, 49.8 percent of spending, was almost twice as high as last November’s $139 billion deficit. Increased tariffs led to an 86 percent increase in customs duties received but still only accounted for $11.8 billion in revenues.

As Resurgent noted in October, the deficit problem is two-fold. Data from FY 2018 show that while individual tax receipts increased by one percent, overall tax revenues were flat because corporate tax receipts fell by 30 percent. Total federal receipts were $3.329 trillion in 2018 compared with $3.316 trillion in 2017.

The other side of the coin is that spending continues to increase while revenues are stagnant. Military spending increased by 27 percent over the same two months last year per the Wall Street Journal[DT1] . Interest payments on the ever-growing national debt increased by seven percent, partly due to higher interest rates.

The core problem is that the economy is growing but borrowing and spending are growing even faster. Over the past 12 months, spending increased by 5.1 percent while revenues only increased by 0.2 percent. The Trump Administration says that deficits will shrink in coming years as tax reform spurs growth and investment. In the meantime, the deficit is expected to reach the Obama-esque level of $1 trillion in the current fiscal year.

Other factors will drive increased spending that will compete with growth in coming years. Spending on Medicare and Social Security is projected to rise as more Baby Boomers retire. Interest payments on the debt will also increase as the Fed raises interest rates.

In the meantime, Trump Administration trade policy counteracts the economic benefits of tax reform. While businesses benefit from lower corporate tax rates and deregulation, tariffs and trade restrictions make it more expensive and difficult to import and export raw materials and finished products.

As the deficit rises, there is little reaction from either party in Congress. Where Republicans went to the mat to curb President Obama’s spending, most seem to have no qualms about the spending increases under President Trump. In fact, the big news on the budget lately is that Republicans are prepared to shut down the government if Democrats don’t agree to authorize even more taxpayer dollars for President Trump’s pet border wall project.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Fingers Point After Seven-Year-Old Girl Dies After Crossing The Border Illegally

A seven-year-old girl from Guatemala has died while in the custody of the Border Patrol. The girl, who crossed the border with her father on Dec. 6, was part of a group of migrants that crossed the US-Mexico border illegally and turned themselves in to authorities. The girl had been in custody for about eight hours when she died of dehydration.

The incident was initially reported by the Washington Post and confirmed by US authorities. Per the report, CBP records indicate the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10:00 p.m. on Dec. 6. near Lordsburg, N.M. The pair were part of a group of 163 people who illegally crossed the border and then approached Border Patrol agents to turn themselves in.

Government records show that the girl began having seizures at 6:25 a.m. Emergency medical personnel responded and found her temperature to be 105.7 degrees. CBP told the Post in a statement that she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

The girl was transported by helicopter to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, about 150 miles away. Per the statement, she went into cardiac arrest and was treated, “however, the child did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported.” The hospital listed the cause of death as septic shock, fever, and dehydration.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said in the statement to the Post. The girl’s father is reportedly still in El Paso awaiting a meeting with Guatemalan consular officials. The identities of the girl and her father have not been released.

“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances,” Meehan said. “As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

The Post notes that food and water are normally provided to illegal immigrants in federal custody, but it was not known whether the girl had received either before suffering the seizures. The AP reports that migrants often spend as much as 72 hours in custody at a Border Patrol facility before being transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or being deported back to Mexico if that is their country of origin. The size of the group that the girl was with may have resulted in longer than usual processing times for the small Border Patrol station at Lordsburg.

On Tuesday, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told the Senate that current facilities are not prepared for the new reality of large groups of migrant families crossing the border illegally. “Our Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody, not families and children,” he said.

The CBP said that they plan to do an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, but that results will not be known for several weeks. An internal investigation is also underway to determine whether proper procedures were followed.  

Even though the facts are not all in, both sides are taking aim at their usual targets. Already, some on the right are taking to social media to blame the girl’s father for her death. From the left, the blame is being placed squarely on law enforcement.

The death of a Guatemalan seven-year-old girl is a tragedy, but it is a tragedy with more than one cause. When examining aviation accidents, we look at the error chain. If any of the links in the chain is broken, the accident might have been avoided.

In the girl’s death, the chain begins with the poverty and violence in Guatemala. I’ve traveled through Guatemala and seen the squalor of the small villages where people have few opportunities to make their lives better. The chain continues with the long walk north that covered thousands of miles and left a small girl exhausted. The next link is the final stretch of the journey that led across the arid wastes of northern Mexico where there is little water. And, yes, a link in the chain is the fact that the lack of a security barrier encourages migrants to undertake this perilous journey.

To be fair, another link in the chain is our broken immigration system. Under our current system, legal immigration is so difficult that it incentivizes illegal immigration. Unrest in Central America and new Trump Administration restrictions on legal immigration, such as a reduced number of work visas, have made the problem worse. There is an increasing desire to immigrate and a decreasing number of slots. For many migrants, the need to find a job in the US to support their families makes the walk across the border enticing.

The final links in the chain that led to the girl’s death seem to have been the size of her group and the wait time at the Border Patrol station. It is likely that she sat for hours, quietly dying, unnoticed while other migrants were booked into the facility. By the time she started having seizures, it may have already been too late to save her life.

There is so far no evidence that the Border Patrol acted improperly in the situation, but that doesn’t make the girl’s death any less of a tragedy. I certainly don’t believe that they intentionally let a child suffer and die, but the truth is that by refusing to fix our immigration system, we played a role in her death.

As I’ve written before, there is only one way to resolve the crisis at the border and that is with comprehensive immigration reform that includes both stepped-up security including at least a partial barrier and an overhauled legal immigration system. The carrot-and-stick approach of stiffer penalties for illegal immigration and more opportunities to come here legally is the only approach that has any chance of becoming law. The longer we take to acknowledge this, the more little girls will die in the desert.

Originally published on The Resurgent