Monday, May 14, 2018

Ted Cruz Says US Taxpayers Funding Authoritarian Nicaraguan Regime

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says that American taxpayer funds are being used to help prop up the Nicaraguan regime of Daniel Ortega. Thousands of Nicaraguans have taken to the streets over the past month to protest the authoritarian government of Ortega, who many believe is attempting to set up a family dictatorship.

Describing the current situation, Cruz said last week in a speech to the Heritage Foundation, “At the end of the last month, half a million Nicaraguans took to the street to protest the corrupt Ortega regime – many of them students. These protests were sparked due to proposed changes to their national social security program. The Sandinistas predictably deployed their national police force, and the violence escalated. Dozens were murdered. Hundreds were injured, detained, or missing.”

He continued, “The press that tried to cover these crimes has been censored, and reporters have been harassed by agents of the government. Five TV stations have been taken off the air and a Facebook live video has been circulated, purporting to show a journalist being murdered while covering the violence. The police confiscated water, food, and medical supplies from volunteers helping the protesters.”

Cruz says that the Ortega government receives money from organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank. The US is the largest contributor to these institutions. Cruz has sponsored the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act to tie investment in the country to democratic reforms.

“This bipartisan legislation directs U.S. officials to oppose international loans to the government of Nicaragua until the Ortega regime is held accountable for its oppressive, anti-democratic actions and the secretary of state certifies that Nicaragua is taking effective steps to hold free and fair elections,” Cruz said.

“What NICA does,” Cruz said, “is prioritize loans for the promotion of democracy and basic human needs. In order to gain U.S. approval, they would need to show marked improvement on human rights, hold free and fair elections, strengthen the rule of law, and protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, and human rights defenders.”

For those familiar with the Nicaraguan civil war of the 1980s, the name “Daniel Ortega” might seem familiar. Ortega was the communist Sandinista dictator from 1979 to 1990. When the Sandinistas held free elections in 1990, Ortega lost. He staged a political comeback and was re-elected to the presidency in 2006. Since Ortega regained power, the government has abolished presidential term limits and changed election rules to make it more difficult for candidates to oppose the ruling Sandinistas.

The senator compared the country to Venezuela, saying, “This is a desperate dictator in the style of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez or Nicolás Maduro, grasping for control. He faces the largest uprising since the civil war ended, almost 30 years ago. And as money from Venezuela dries up, the Nicaraguan people are under a morally and financially bankrupt regime.”

“Venezuela’s influence is crumbling along with its economy,” Cruz added. “The reason Venezuela is hurting so much… is the inevitable effect of socialism and communism. But nonetheless the bonds between these radical regimes remain strong.”

Cruz also noted that Central America has a long history of authoritarian strongmen. “This legacy has echoed throughout the Caribbean, throughout Central America, throughout South America, and across the Atlantic to Angola. Socialist strongmen still struggle to hold on to power,” he said. “By the way, if socialism is such a utopia why do you always need a brute squad to oppress the people into accepting it?”

Cruz also saluted the Nicaraguans who are risking their lives by opposing the Ortega regime, telling them, “There will be an expiration date for the Ortega regime. The American people stand with you in your fight for freedom and for the rule of law.”

Originally posted on The Resurgent

MAGA: Bring Back Civility And Respect

If you’re like me, your mother passed down a lot of wisdom and instruction on how to behave, especially in public. Don’t talk with your mouth full and don’t interrupt are two bits of motherly advice that many moms have passed down to their children over the years. Another important instruction is, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It is this third bit of advice that Americans seem to have forgotten.

Maybe it all started with the left. Leftists have been yelling profanities at the American public since the 1960s. In recent years, it hasn’t gotten any better. Leftist vulgarity has extended from mere words to wearing hats shaped like female genitalia and placing statues of a naked Donald Trump in public spaces. Wouldn’t mom be proud?

If vulgarity, profanity and incivility in modern politics originated with the left, the right is trying hard to catch up. While I opposed Barack Obama for his entire career, many of the right-wing attacks on the president went over the line and probably backfired against Republicans by making them seem like racist wearers of tinfoil hats. In particular, personal attacks on Michelle Obama, who was always more popular than the president himself, made conservatives look small. Likewise, right-wing comments and memes about immigration, race riots and Islamic terrorism often take an ugly, stereotypical tone.

Over the past week, right-wing vulgarity seems to have reached a new low. In the wake of Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) revelation that the McCain family intended to not invite President Trump to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) funeral. Hatch called the family’s plan “ridiculous,” sparking an intraparty battle over whether Mr. Trump should go the funeral of a man with whom his relationship can best be described as “strained.”

Trump supporters took the plans to bypass the president for Vice President Pence personally. Popular memes on social media showed President Trump digging McCain’s grave and summoning a hearse after being dissed.

If the reaction of Trump’s grass roots supporters was bad, the reaction from the White House was even more troubling. On Thursday, White House aide Kelly Sadler reacted to McCain’s opposition to President Trump’s nominee for CIA director by saying, “He's dying anyway.”

The remark at an internal meeting was neither officially confirmed nor denied by the White House, which also did not apologize to Sen. McCain and his family, but unofficially a White House staffer called it a “joke that fell flat.” CNN reported that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who recently was the target of a leftist comedian’s attacks, dressed down the press staff for both the leak about the comment as well as for the disrespectful nature of the remark itself.

Keep in mind that both Donald Trump and John McCain are members of the same party. McCain had even endorsed Trump in 2016. After the controversial “Access Hollywood” tape, McCain, along with many other Republicans, withdrew his endorsement, but usually seemed to try to be objective in his dealings with the president.

I have never considered myself a McCain supporter. I’ve disagreed with him on many issues from climate change to campaign finance reform and especially for his regrettable vote to kill the Republican health care reform bill in 2017. The current issue is not one of politics, however. It is one of human decency.

If President Trump and his supporters truly want to “make America great again,” a good place to start would be to extend an olive branch to the McCain family. Frankly, there is probably no reason that Donald Trump would want to go to John McCain’s funeral except to use the occasion as a political photo op. Making peace with the terminally ill McCain would not necessarily secure a spot at the funeral for the president, but it would make Trump seem to be a bigger and more mature person. This is an image that he desperately needs to cultivate.

Reaching out to a dying and defeated rival would also set a precedent that might possibly lead to more civility and respect in the national political debate as well. The president sets the tone for the national dialogue and making peace with Sen. McCain would be a radical change from the past few years. It would be a good thing for the entire country if we could move beyond tit-for-tat insults and focus on the larger issues that face us as a nation.

Many of the problems that confront Americans require some semblance of national unity to resolve, not just executive actions or party-line congressional votes. Unity is not going to be found by tweeting snappy comebacks at detractors. Unity requires a statesman who can rise above the furor and chaos of the political landscape and draw Americans together.

Maybe Republicans didn’t start the uncivil political war, but they should put an end to it rather than adopting the left’s own tactics. This is particularly true of the Christian right who was charged by Jesus to “turn the other cheek” and counseled that “a soft answer turns away wrath.”

Do your part to make America great again by making politics a more civil endeavor. Treat your political enemies with Christlike kindness rather than returning their hate and anger in kind. Maybe then your mother won’t have to wash your mouth out with soap.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Health Care Frustrations Emerge As Election Issue

As health insurance companies set rates for 2019, the country is about to be reminded of one of President Trump’s biggest failures, the failure to repeal or reform Obamacare. Republicans made several attempts in 2017 to reform the Affordable Care Act, but failed to garner even the simple majority required to pass the measure under budget reconciliation rules. Now their inability to fix the law is coming home to roost in the form of higher insurance premiums for many Americans.

If you listened to President Trump last December, you might think that Obamacare was repealed. In reality, Republicans repealed the law’s individual mandate, but left most of the ACA intact. Repeal of the mandate might actually worsen the problem of rising premiums as young, healthy insureds flee from the expensive policies still mandated by Obamacare.

In March, the Wall Street Journal forecast that health insurance premiums would be an election issue after Congress failed to agree on a stabilization (i.e. subsidy) bill to shore up the individual health insurance markets. Now that forecast is starting to come to fruition as the first announcements of premium increases are being heard. Maryland, one of the first states for which information about the new insurance rates has become available, has insurers proposing an average increase of 32 percent. The proposed increases range from 18 to 91 percent.

Announcements of rate hikes, along with news of insurers withdrawing from Obamacare marketplaces, have become an annual tradition in the years since Obamacare was implemented, but rising health insurance costs don’t just affect those Americans on individual plans. Marketwatch recently reported on a study that showed that rising health insurance costs contribute to slower wage growth among the nation’s workers, many of whom are covered by group plans purchased by their employer. Group health insurance premiums were forecast to increase by about four percent for 2018.

Americans are getting less coverage despite paying higher premiums. Spending on deductibles and coinsurance, the patient’s share of medical bills, has increased in recent years as copayments have covered less. Whether you have an Obamacare plan or an employer-based plan, you are probably paying more out of your own pocket for health care than you were just a few years ago.

There are also hidden limitations that you only find out about when you have a claim. As an example, my wife had to go to the hospital in an ambulance last year. Six months after her hospital stay, we received a bill from the ambulance service asking us to pay more than $4,000 for a 30-minute ride. When I followed up with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, our insurance company, I was told that the ambulance service was out-of-network. When I pressed further, I found that Blue Cross did not have any ambulance providers in their network in the entire state of Texas. As a result, Blue Cross paid less than $1,000 on a total claim of more than $5,000.

In the United States, the way that we buy health care is totally disconnected from markets and economic reality. If you have any idea what you will owe a doctor for something as simple as an office visit, you are in a minority of consumers. The problem is even worse if you go to the hospital for tests or surgery where several billing entities from the doctor to the anesthesiologist to pharmacies and labs and the hospital itself are involved. Prices are not known until after the service is provided. In many cases, the patient doesn’t even know what services are being provided or by whom.

In another personal experience, I went for a colonoscopy a few years ago. I discussed the cost of the procedure with the doctor and the hospital before I was admitted, but when the bills came later, it was more than three times what I had been told to expect. After months of running between the hospital, the doctor and the insurance company, I traced the problem to an error in the diagnostic code. It took many more hours on the phone to get this code corrected. Many patients probably simply pay incorrect medical bills without questioning whether they are correct or taking the time to investigate.

An accounts receivable representative for the ambulance service that we used told me that, because Blue Cross is hesitant to pay ambulance bills, they often send shockingly large bills to the patient. Part of the goal is to get the patient to put pressure on the insurance company to pay up. The provider doesn’t necessarily care where the money comes from as long as they get paid and the insurance company is happy if patients pay the bills and let them off the hook.

Because of the lack of competition in the healthcare system, Americans are left without options when health insurance companies misbehave. The majority of Americans who get their health insurance through an employer have no input into the choice of a health insurance provider. You can only decide whether to participate in or drop an employer health plan during open enrollment. If you decide to buy insurance from a company other than your group health provider, you lose the employer contribution to the premium. This means that you end up paying far more to buy your own health insurance that you would if you participated in the group plan.

The problem is similar for workers who like their company’s group health plan, but who leave their job. Coverage may not start at a new company for several weeks. In the meantime, health insurance premiums for your old plan may from a few hundred dollars to more than thousand.

Frustration with the existing health insurance system is probably a major reason why a majority of Americans now favor a single-payer system (i.e. government-run universal healthcare). Several recent polls have shown growing support for more government involvement in health care. In April, a Washington Post – Kaiser poll found that 51 percent of Americans favored single-payer. Gallup and Pew found similar results last year. The increasing costs and decreasing value of private health insurance is undoubtedly leading many Americans to embrace this radical idea.

Republicans have damaged themselves on the issue. The Republican health bills of 2017 were so unpopular that they turned public opinion around on Obamacare. After years of favoring repeal of the ACA, more Americans now oppose repeal than support it. CNN polling from March shows Democrats with a 20-point lead over Republicans when voters are asked which party would do a better job on health care, the largest gap of any issue.

At this point, there are no signs that Republicans are interested in fixing the health insurance problem. President Trump is basking in recent foreign policy successes, but Republicans may be hurt in the midterms if attention shifts to domestic issues like healthcare. Korean détente may mean that voters focus more on pocketbook issues instead of national security. If health insurance prices spike in October and November as Obamacare exchanges and employers hold open enrollment for 2019 health plans, it could provide Democrats with a much-needed issue with which to hammer Republicans.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

NC Republican Is First Incumbent To Lose In 2018

Among the other election news from Tuesday were reports of the first incumbent to be ejected from Congress. The unlucky congressman was Robert Pittenger, a Republican from North Carolina’s 9th district.

Mark Harris, a conservative pastor, upset Pittenger in a race that focused largely on the two candidates’ allegiance to Donald Trump. The Weekly Standard notes that the two men hotly debated who was the first to support Trump in 2016. Harris also criticized Pittenger for his vote for this year’s omnibus spending bill.

Pittenger defeated Harris in the Republican primary by 134 votes two years and then went on to win the general election by 16 points. Trump carried the district by 12 points. On Tuesday, Harris won by two percent or about 800 votes according to unofficial results.

Mark Harris is a Baptist minister and a past president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention. He was heavily involved in the fight to protect traditional marriage in the state.

The 9th district may be competitive in the fall even though a Republican has held the seat since 1963. Dan McCready, the Democratic nominee, is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War, a small business owner and a Harvard graduate. McCready notes on his website that he “was baptized in water from the Euphrates river.”

The 9th district runs from Charlotte east toward Fayetteville and encompasses a wide variety of voters. In addition to Charlotte’s eastern suburbs, it also includes Ft. Bragg and several poor counties in between.

McCready, a moderate Democrat similar to Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb, has several potential advantages in the race. His military background may play well in the Ft. Bragg area. His website calls for pro-business and fiscally responsible policies in addition to typical Democrat issues such as healthcare and the environment. McCready also promised not to support Nancy Pelosi if he is elected.

In contrast, Harris is vulnerable to attack on some key issues. North Carolina’s WSOC-TV points out that unswerving allegiance to Trump may be a liability in a swing state where the president’s popularity is not high. A recent poll of North Carolinians showed Trump with 43 percent approval and 50 disapproval.

Harris is also likely to excite his Democratic opposition due to his role in the controversial “bathroom bill.” In 2016, Mother Jones described how Harris was among the leaders of opposition to a Charlotte “antidiscrimination” ordinance that would have allowed men who identify as women to use the women’s restroom. Harris’ notoriety means that liberals from around the country can be counted on to support his opponent.

Cook Political Report previously rated North Carolina’s 9th district as “lean Republican” with Pittenger as a candidate, but the seat may become a likely pickup for Democrats now that Harris is the nominee. The combination of a more right-wing Republican and a moderate Democrat could spell trouble for the GOP in November. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, May 7, 2018

White House Asks Congress To Rescind Spending

In March, Republicans were outraged that their party, with control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, would pass an omnibus spending bill that increased federal spending by $143 billion. In April, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel proposed using a little-known law to rescind some of the spending. Now it looks as though the Trump Administration is actually going to do it.

Politico reports that the White House plans to ask Congress to rescind $15 billion in spending. The figure is higher than the $11 billion originally proposed by the White House, but lower than the increase in spending over this year’s original discretionary spending caps.

“It's better than nothing,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a member of Freedom Caucus, told The Hill. Davidson added that the savings might be applied toward Trump’s infrastructure spending requests.

Rescinding congressionally authorized spending is allowed by the 1974 Impoundment Act. As The Resurgent described in April, the president can order the rescission of specific funds under the little-used act. Congress must then approve the rescission within 45 days. Unlike most bills, the Senate can approve the rescission request with a simple majority vote that is not subject to a filibuster. When the request is submitted, the money is frozen for 45 days or until Congress rejects the measure.

Politico notes that the $15 billion in proposed cuts will not come from the 2018 omnibus bill, but will consist of unspent money from previous years. Republican leaders resisted the temptation to target the omnibus, which was negotiated with Democrat leaders. Congressional leaders were concerned that breaking the deal with Democrats would endanger future negotiations. Instead, the funds will be cut from money that was authorized but never spent on programs such as the 2009 stimulus, Obamacare and the Ebola response.

The cuts represent a minute portion of the federal budget, but passage may still present a challenge for Republicans. The House overwhelmingly approves of the cuts, but margins are slimmer in the Senate. The 51-vote Republican majority can be stymied by only two senators crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats against the request.

“This is not a deficit reduction exercise, but more of a public relations exercise to soothe the base and convince them that the White House is fiscally responsible,” said G. William Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “If they are finding unused budget authority and putting that in a special package to Congress as appropriators are trying to put together the [fiscal] 2019 bill, it may have the effect of creating more spending for 2019 rather than less.”

The cuts will barely be a blip on the federal deficit, which is slated to increase to more than $1 trillion annually by the time Trump leaves office in 2020. The massive cuts needed to eliminate the deficit require reform to entitlement programs such Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Healthcare and Social Security alone make up 53 percent of the federal budget.

Nevertheless, any decrease in government spending is a positive step as well as a rare one. Republicans should be applauded if they can pull it off.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Republicans Fear Roy Moore Repeat With Ex-Con Candidate

For years, it seems that Republicans have been plagued by bad candidates. Even before last year’s Roy Moore fiasco in Alabama, there was Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin in Missouri who claimed in 2012 that a woman’s body could “shut down” a potential pregnancy during a rape. In 2010, Christine O’Donnell told Delaware voters, “I’m not a witch.” Before that, there was the time when Louisiana Republicans nominated a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, for governor. Now there are fears that Republican voters may be about to make a similar mistake.

The fears are not about Arthur Jones, the 70-year-old white supremacist who won the Republican nomination in the Illinois third congressional district. Jones was unopposed in the Republican primary last March after the party essentially wrote off the district, which has been represented by Democrat Daniel Lipinski since 2005. Illinois Republicans have disavowed Jones and refuse to support him.

It also isn’t California that has Republicans worried. Last week, the California GOP ejected Patrick Little, a Republican candidate seeking to challenge Dianne Feinstein (D) for her Senate seat. Little was polling in second place among Republican hopefuls even after praising Adolf Hitler and calling for “limiting representation of Jews in the government.”

The current candidate that has Republicans in a panic is West Virginia senatorial hopeful, Don Blankenship. Blankenship is among the Republicans attempting to unseat Joe Manchin (D), a popular former governor who was elected to replace Robert Byrd (D) in the Senate in 2010. Any Republican challenging Manchin is in for a tough race.

As far as we know, Blankenship isn’t a white supremacist or a witch. At this point, his views on “legitimate rape,” are also not known. The problem with Blankenship is that he is an ex-convict.

In West Virginia, a coal mining state, Don Blankenship went to prison for his role in the deaths of 29 miners in 2010. Blankenship served one year on a misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to violate federal safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine after being acquitted of several felony charges. Blankenship was released in May 2017 and immediately began a Twitter feud with Sen. Manchin. Because Blankenship was not convicted of a felony, he did not lose his right to vote. On his campaign website, he calls himself a “political prisoner.”

So, why would anyone vote for Don Blankenship? Blankenship is positioning himself as the Trumpist candidate in a state that Donald Trump won by more than 40 points in 2016. His primary strategy of running against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is similar to that of Roy Moore in Alabama.

In April, the ex-con candidate released a campaign ad referring to McConnell as “Cocaine Mitch,” a Trumpesque nickname. In a press release accompanying the ad, Blankenship explained that McConnell’s father-in-law, one of his campaign donors, owned a shipping company that “was implicated recently in smuggling cocaine from Colombia to Europe, hidden aboard a company ship carrying foreign coal was $7 million dollars of cocaine.”

Also similar to the Alabama race, there are two other likely Republican candidates, U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Both have vulnerabilities. Jenkins is a former Democrat who switched parties several times, the last in 2013 for his successful congressional campaign. Morrisey is former pharmaceutical company lobbyist and his ties to pharmaceutical companies raised questions during his time as attorney general. Blankenship has attempted to tie Morrisey to the opioid epidemic. Morrisey also ran an ad in which he said he wanted to “not to just change Washington, but to blow it up and reinvent it.”

The only public poll for the primary shows Jenkins in the lead with 25 percent and Morrisey with 20 percent. Blankenship trailed in the mid-April poll with 16 percent. Politico reports that internal surveys show Blankenship gaining ground. To avoid a runoff, a candidate must receive 50 percent of the vote so if Blankenship is among the top two finishers on Tuesday he has a chance to win the nomination.

President Trump is among the Republicans who realize the danger of nominating Blankenship. Trump tweeted this morning, “Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State...No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!”

Trump also didn’t support Roy Moore initially. The president backed Luther Strange, the incumbent appointed to take the seat of Jeff Sessions. Alabama voters rejected the president’s endorsement and concerns about Moore’s electability.

If Blankenship does not win the nomination, he may still scuttle the eventual Republican candidate. He has vowed not to support Morrisey and says he is considering a third party candidacy, even though West Virginia has a “sore loser” law against such campaigns.

If West Virginia Republicans back Blankenship in this week’s primary, Republicans may lose one of their best chances to pick up a Democrat Senate seat and enlarge their majority. The nation will find out tomorrow whether Republican voters learned a lesson from Roy Moore’s candidacy or whether they still prefer eccentric, anti-establishment candidates regardless of the risk.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, May 4, 2018

Can Democrats Win Back Trump Voters?

When Donald Trump won the election in 2016, it was not because he turned out the Republican base. Although important, that was not enough to sweep him to victory. This is illustrated by the fact that Mr. Trump lost the popular vote. What made the difference was that Trump was able to win just enough Obama voters in the right places – Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – to eke out an Electoral College win. The question for 2018 and beyond is whether Trump can retain his hold on these voters or whether Democrats will be able to woo them back.

Elections are normally won by the voters who care least about them. Even though political parties often focus on turning out the base, neither party has a majority of voters. Even including “leaners,” the most recent Gallup polling shows Republicans at 39 percent and Democrats at 49 percent. Although the percentages vary by state, the dominant party in every state must win some independent voters to carry the election.

It’s difficult for political junkies to believe, but many of these independent voters are not even thinking about the upcoming election yet. In a New York Times piece today that interviewed people who voted for both Obama and Trump, one of the scariest quotes to the politically tuned-in comes from 28-year-old Sharla Baker of Ohio.

“Honestly, it hasn’t crossed my mind really at all,” Ms. Baker said, when asked about the upcoming midterm elections, which are just six months away.

What Ms. Baker is telling us is that the crucial demographic that decides most races, the late-deciding independent voter, has not even begun to think about who they will vote for. These voters can be swayed by late-breaking “October surprises,” flashy ad campaigns and the roll-of-the-dice that is the daily news cycle in 2018. Any polling at this point should be taken with a grain of salt and an eye toward the percentage of undecided voters.

The 38 voters in 14 states interviewed by the Times is not large enough to form a statistically valid sample, but their comments do provide insights. The group almost uniformly did not like Mr. Trump as a person, but many did like his policies. In particular, tax reform and attempts at curbing illegal immigration were popular.

“Only a few regretted their vote,” the Times notes in a sentence that must fill Democrats with foreboding.

The voters said that they still liked Obama, but did not want to vote for Hillary Clinton. In fact, many voted for Donald Trump for the same reason that they voted for Barack Obama: A desire for change.

Charlotte Griffin, of Bear Grass, N.C., said that Trump was the first Republican she had voted for in 50 years. Her vote was based on anger at both political parties and frustration at the government’s inability to get things done.

“Did I really like Trump? No. I still don’t,” Ms. Griffin said. “But at least I thought we might move. We were in a stalemate. We were at dead center zero. We were just sitting there spinning our wheels.”

She added that Trump’s behavior is “severely testing my sensibilities.”

Sharla Baker was disappointed that Mr. Trump had not raised the minimum wage and forced companies to expand employee benefits. “He’s not there for the poor and the middle class,” she said. “I thought he would be, but he’s not.”

Brad Ziegler, a 68-year-old retiree from Warren County, Ill., regrets his vote for Trump, who he says he thought would be “contained” by his advisors. Ziegler, who seems representative of the middle-of-the-road voters who feel alienated by President Trump, is open to voting for Democrats, but complains that the opposition party has moved too far left.

“The Republicans are about money and big business and the Democrats have lost their way,” he said. “They are not taking care of that core group they know is out there.”

Some of the voters say they intend to vote Democrat this fall while others plan to cast their ballot for a Republican. Most are undecided.

Many Trump voters are open to Democratic candidates and, while they don’t like Donald Trump on a personal level, do like the extra money from the tax reform that he signed. While President Trump’s character isn’t going to be enough to push these voters into the arms of the Democrats on its own, it does provide Democrats with an opening. Republicans who claim that voters don’t care about Trump’s erratic behavior are wrong, but voters may look past Trump’s foibles to consider the Republican record of accomplishment.

Democrats need a positive and not-too-radical agenda to pair with President Trump’s unpopularity. For their part, Republicans have a record to stand on that includes more money in people’s paychecks, but must balance loyalty to the president in the primary with distancing themselves from his behavior in November.

President Trump remains unpopular outside the GOP, but his unpopularity may not be enough to win back Democrat Trump voters. The Democrats are in danger of blowing what could be a monumental midterm election by assuming that dislike of Trump is akin to embracing far left political positions. It isn’t.

Where Democrats have succeeded in special elections is where they have run competent candidates with moderate political views. Conor Lamb, the Democrat who won in a red Pennsylvania House district, disavowed the unpopular and extreme Nancy Pelosi and did not throw mud at President Trump. A successful national strategy could include working with Republicans on popular reform bills, but also holding Trump accountable for bad behavior, something most Republicans have been hesitant to do.

Congressional elections and presidential elections are different, but the 2016 status quo would favor Democrats by default. Since Donald Trump won with a minority of the popular vote, Democrats need fewer gains than Republicans to win the next elections. This is a goal that could be accomplished simply not running Hillary Clinton.

In contrast, barring a repeat of Trump’s unlikely Electoral College victory, Republicans need to flip more voters than the Democrats do. There is little evidence that is happening.

The midterms are currently shaping up into yet another election in which voters without a political home will have to decide which party they dislike less. It frequently seems that both parties are doing their best to push voters in the opposite direction. Considering the up-and-down news cycle of 2018, the unpopularity contest may go down to the wire.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Kanye Walks Back Slavery Comments

Fresh from embracing Donald Trump as a fellow “dragon energy,” rap star and possible 2020 presidential candidate Kanye West inserted his foot firmly into his mouth this week. In an interview with TMZ, West said that slaves made a “choice” to stay in slavery. Now West is walking back those comments.

When asked by TMZ about his MAGA hat, Kanye responded, “It was really just my subconscious. It was a feeling I had. You know, like people were taught how to think, were taught how to feel. We don’t know how to think for ourselves. We don’t know how to feel for ourselves. People say, ‘Feel free,’ but they don’t really want us to feel free, and I felt a freedom. First of all, just doing something that everybody tells you not to do.”

“I just love Trump,” Kanye continued, “That’s my boy. You know, it’s like so many rappers, you look at a video of Snoop Dogg loving Trump, but then he gets in the office and don’t love him. Trump is one of rap’s favorite people.”

From there, the conversation continued into independent thought, lately a favorite topic of West's.

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years – for 400 years! – that sounds like a choice,” Kanye said later. “Like you were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all? You know like, it’s like we’re meant to be in prison. I like the word ‘prison’ because ‘slavery’ goes too direct to the idea of blacks. It’s like slavery and Holocaust. Holocaust is Jews. Slavery is blacks. So, prison is something that unites us as one race, blacks and whites being one race. We’re the human race.”

The interview became heated after this comment when Van Lathan, a TMZ correspondent took issue with Kanye’s history lesson. Kanye stormed off the set, yelling, “Do you feel that I’m feeling? That I’m being free? That I’m thinking free?”

“I actually don’t think that you’re thinking anything,” Lathan answered. “I think that what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought.”

Earlier in the day, West had criticized the choice of Harriet Tubman for the $20 bill in another interview with Charlamagne The God. “It’s like all the slave movies, why you gotta [sic] keep reminding of us slavery? Put Michael Jordan on the $20 bill,” Kanye said. “Certain icons are just too far in the past.”

The left’s reaction was swift and harsh with numerous celebrities and politicians denouncing Kanye’s comments on slavery. The criticism piled on last week’s attacks on West for his admiration of Donald Trump. There was little reaction to the comments from Republicans who had previously applauded West for his support of President Trump.

West walked back his comments on Twitter. “To make myself clear. Of course, I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will,” he wrote. “My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.”

Ironically, Kanye undermined his own argument with his criticism of Harriet Tubman. While slavery was not a conscious choice for most slaves, some, like Tubman, made the choice to escape. Tubman escaped slavery in Maryland in 1849 and returned to rescue her family. She kept returning to rescue dozens more slaves via the Underground Railroad. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, she escorted her “passengers” all the way to Canada. When the Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army as an armed scout and spy, eventually becoming the first woman to lead an armed expedition.

Kanye West is a troubled figure. In the interview with Charlamagne, he admitted to a previous addiction to opioids resulting from a liposuction surgery. He also admitted that he is currently on medication. It is possible that his current erratic behavior is chemically-induced. In any case, regardless of West’s affinity for Trump, it seems less and less likely that he will represent the minority conservative role model that Republicans hoped for.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Iran Says 'No Deal Left' If US Leaves Nuclear Agreement

Amid the recent speculation that President Trump will not continue the Obama nuclear deal with Iran, the stakes have just gotten higher. An Iranian representative ruled out modifications to the deal and say that if the US withdraws from the agreement, “it means that there is no deal left.”

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “The consequence would be that Iran would in fact be ready to go back to the previous situation.”

The ambassador further explained, “It could be enriching uranium, it could be redefining our cooperation with the agency [IAEA], and some other activities that are under consideration.”

President Trump has suggested that the Iran deal is flawed and needs to be renegotiated, but Baeidinejad rejected that possibility as “totally unacceptable.”

“JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the Iran deal] was negotiated on its own merits, and still it's working and it should be continued to be enforced,” he said.

In response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allegations that Iran has been “brazenly lying” about complying with the deal, Baeidinejad said, “There have been some allegations against conducting of such activities in Iran, but never was there ever any proof presented to Iran.”

Under the terms of the deal, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance. The deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for reducing Iran’s ability to create plutonium and uranium, two key components of nuclear weapons. The deal’s 10-year sunset clause is one of its most controversial aspects.

In October 2017, Trump decertified Iran’s participation, but did not withdraw the US from the agreement. In January 2018, the president again continued the deal, but said that absent “fixing significant flaws in the deal… the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.”

Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal may complicate the ability of the Trump Administration to make a similar deal with North Korea. If the US pulls out of the Iran deal without sufficient justification, North Korea could be hesitant to enter into a new deal.

President Trump told reporters, “I think it [threatening Iran] sends the right message” to North Korea.

“In seven years that deal will have expired, and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons,” the president said. “That's not acceptable.”

President Trump must make a decision on whether to certify and continue the Iran deal by May 12.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump Is Committed To Higher Steel Prices

President Trump seems determined to raise the price of steel and aluminum. Mr. Trump’s efforts, which would also raise the price of products made from the restricted metals, began in March with threats to place import taxes of 25 and 15 percent on the two metals. Then the Trump Administration began to hand out exemptions to steel-producing allies. Now, however, a White House advisor says that even untaxed imports will be limited.

“The guiding principle of this administration, from the president down to his team, is that any country or entity like the European Union, which is exempt from the tariffs, will have a quota and other restrictions,” White House trade advisor Peter Navarro told steel executives at the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Steel Manufacturers Association. In the meeting, which was reported in Politico, Navarro also said that the protectionist measures “are necessary to defend the aluminum and steel industries from imports in defense of our national security.”

The steelmakers at the meeting heartily approved of Navarro’s comments even though they had hoped for the high tariffs on the imports that compete with their companies. John Ferriola, CEO of Nucor, was disappointed that the Trump Administration had extended its deadline for Canada, Mexico and the European Union to reach deals to avoid tariffs by 30 days.

“Frankly, we're disappointed,” said Ferriola. “We were hoping for the actions to be taken yesterday.”

While fewer countries might be subject to direct tariffs under the new Trump policy direction, the quotas, justified under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, will probably still please Ferriola and the other steel executives. Both import taxes and quotas on imports have the effect of making imported steel cost more, which is good for American steel companies, but bad for pretty much everyone else.

It is obvious how tariffs raise the price of steel and other imported goods. The American buyers of steel products will pay the price charged by the seller as well as a 25 percent tax. The effect will be that imported steel will cost 25 percent more than before.

The effect of import quotas will not be as drastic, but will still benefit American steel and aluminum producers. The Commerce Department says that total US steel demand is about 105 million metric tons while annual US steel production is about 84 million tons. US steel manufacturers are running at about 72 percent capacity. In theory, if the US steel mills ran at full capacity they could produce enough steel to meet domestic demand. This seems to be the Trump Administration’s target.

The problem for consumers of steel is that increasing capacity will also increase costs. Currently the US imports about a third of its annual steel demand. If imports are restricted, the reduction in the steel supply would mean that the cost of steel will increase. As American companies ramp up production to meet demand, steel prices will eventually stabilize at a higher price.

Higher steel prices will please the steel companies and President Trump, but purchasers of steel and steel products will not be happy. The higher steel prices will translate into higher costs for buildings, cars, appliances and mechanical equipment. The protectionist policy will cost American consumers and businesses money even before our trade partners retaliate.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

C-130 Crash In Savannah

A Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130 crashed at 11:30 this morning at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Savannah, Ga. Reports indicate that the military transport plane crashed after takeoff and came to rest on Ga. Hwy. 21, which lies on the east side of the airport.

“As far as we know, no cars were hit which is an absolute miracle,” Gena Bilbo, public information officer for Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN during a press conference.

A truck driver who witnessed the crash, Roger Best, said, “The guy is a hero he barely made it over the tree line looked as if he tried to turn and nose dive straight into the ground right in front of me.”

A spokesman for the Georgia Air National Guard, Capt. Jeff Bezore, told CBS News that there were at least five fatalities aboard the C-130. There are no reports on how many people were aboard the airplane or whether there may have been some survivors. There are no known fatalities on the ground.

The accident aircraft was a WC-130 variant of the large turboprop transport, used for weather research such as penetrating hurricanes. The first C-130 flew in 1954, but the aircraft is still in production. More than 60 countries around the world operate variants of the C-130, known as the “Hercules.”

The aircraft was enroute to Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona. The cause of the crash is not known, but the airplane has four engines. The loss of one engine takeoff is not normally catastrophic.  

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Won the Night

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has become the unlikely heroine of the debacle that was the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Comedian Michelle Wolf savaged Administration figures over the weekend at the traditional roast and Sanders bore the brunt of the attack.
When attending a roast, the guests of honor should be prepared to be insulted and to accept it with good nature and Sanders did so. An eyewitness at the event, Benny Arthur Johnson, wrote a touching defense of Sanders on his personal Facebook page. Johnson, a reporter for the Daily Caller, wrote that it was Sanders who possessed “real power,” “strength,” and “class.”
In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I have not listened to Wolf’s routine in its entirety. The portions that I have listened to have been so unfunny, even to a critic of the Trump Administration, that I have no desire to sit through the full 20 minutes, particularly after having heard the shrill voice in which Ms. Wolf delivered the routine. Roasts are supposed to be savage, but they are also supposed to be funny. The funniest comedic insults are those that are based in truth, not simply an exercise in viciousness and meanness.
Johnson agrees that Wolf failed at being funny. “You could not really see it on TV, but virtually no one in the room was laughing,” Johnson wrote. “I saw even some of the most liberal reporters in the profession cringe with disgust,” adding that members of the White House press corps planned to send her a flower basket.
Johnson then tells the story of an MSNBC after-party following the dinner where he spoke with members of Sanders’ staff. “They were disgusted by the remarks - and tell me that the plan was for Sarah to walk-out if they got too personal. Sarah however, stayed firm,” he said.
“’I don’t know how she does it,’ one of her closest confidants told me, ‘She kills them with kindness - she puts up with it. Good-hearted American people see that - and then she wins,’” Johnson added.
“Then, Sarah Sanders walks into the party,” Johnson said. “The MSNBC party. A network that lives to savage and promote the godless vitriol that just attacked her. Guess what? Sarah Sanders was smiling. She owned it. I asked her about the attack and she shrugged with a smile and just said the attacks didn’t bother her and that she’s praying for the comedian. That is the kind of woman she is.”
Other attendees agreed with Johnson’s assessment. New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted, “That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out,on national television, was impressive.”
Sanders’ response to the vicious attack also stands in sharp contrast to how her boss would have handled the situation. Where the press secretary reacted with silence and poise that made her seem strong, the president would certainly have fired back with a Twitter fusillade that would have seemed childish and only provoked further attacks and degenerated into an endless tit-for-tat.
I am not particularly a fan of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Her job defending the often-indefensible behavior of President Trump is not one that I would want and I probably would not last very long in that role.

Nevertheless, I can appreciate her poise and grace in responding to Wolf’s attack. Her mature and dignified reaction certainly won the admiration of much of the country. Her maturity and strength are traits that the America sorely needs.

Originally published on The Resurgent