Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Week After Attacking Biden, Democrats Are Poised To Pass Hyde Amendment

It seems like only last week that Democrats were excoriating Joe Biden for his support of the Hyde Amendment. Actually, it really was only last week. That’s why many observers are somewhat surprised that House Democrats just passed a bill that keeps the Hyde Amendment alive for another year.

Last week, the pro-abortion left viciously attacked Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden for his continued support of the Hyde Amendment, a series of laws that prohibit using taxpayer funds for abortion. The backlash against Biden’s deviation from the leftist norm was so swift and severe that the candidate reversed himself quickly from a position that he had held for nearly a half-century.

“Circumstances have changed,” Biden told his supporters.

Now, a few days later, CNN reports that the Democrat-controlled House is scheduled to vote on a major spending today that will include the Hyde Amendment. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) introduced an amendment to remove the Hyde Amendment language from the bill, but the House leadership denied her a vote after the House Rules Committee determined that Pressley’s amendment decided it violated rules.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has urged his caucus to support the minibus spending bill, which includes funding for a wide range of federal departments and services. Democrats say that they don’t see a way to remove the Hyde Amendment language at the moment.

Biden’s reversal was “probably a rational decision for him to make,” Hoyer said, but added, “We have to deal with the legislative process here in the Congress.”

The Democratic conundrum on the Hyde Amendment is similar to the Republican problem on defunding Planned Parenthood and Obamacare or passing funding for the wall. Democrats control only one house of Congress while legislation must pass through the Senate and cross the president’s desk before it becomes law. If House Democrats pass a bill without the Hyde Amendment, it would be DOA in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.

The standoff would set up a confrontation over spending of the sort that has resulted in brinksmanship or government shutdowns in the past. Such standoffs usually reflect poorly on both parties and tend to be unwinnable.

Added to tactical concern is the fact that Democrats are out of the mainstream when it comes to federal funding for abortion, just as Republicans are on defunding Planned Parenthood and building a wall. Slate cites a bevy of polls that show that most Americans don’t want abortion to be a service funded by taxpayers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did signal that the Hyde Amendment is definitely a target for Democrats should they win enough votes. “I wish we never had a Hyde amendment,” Pelosi said, “but it is the law of the land right now and I don't see that there is an opportunity to get rid of it with the current occupant of the White House and some in the United States Senate.”

The bottom line is that Democrats really don’t want the Hyde Amendment, but, having seen Republican frustrations with trying to force controversial items through Congress, they know that it is much easier to stop a piece of legislation than to pass one. Democrats don’t want to be viewed as obstructing a necessary spending bill just prior to the election. If Republicans blocked the bill without the Hyde Amendment, Democrats would be forced into a lose-lose situation of either publicly surrendering or shutting the government down and then publicly surrendering while fighting for an unpopular position.

Democrats aren’t necessarily being hypocritical on the Hyde Amendment. Instead, they are being pragmatic and acting strategically. They haven’t changed their core principles of supporting abortion and spending more taxpayer money, but they do realize that it would be counterproductive to their cause to push the issue now.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Cruz And AOC Are Coming Together On Contraception

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows and nowhere is that more true than the unlikely alliance between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and self-identified democratic socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The two, who are polar opposites in almost every way have indicated their agreement on a bill to prohibit former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists and now seem to have found common ground on birth control.

Cruz reached out to AOC yesterday on Twitter after the New York leftist tweeted that birth control should be available over the counter. Cruz responded that he agreed and offered to team up on a “simple, clean bill” that would make birth control available without a prescription.  At press time, AOC had not yet publicly responded to Cruz’s offer.

Making birth control more readily available is an idea that makes sense. Over recent decades, out-of-wedlock births in the United States have risen dramatically. The CDC reports that births to unwed mothers now account for almost 40 percent of births. The unmarried birth rate for women under 44 is slightly higher than 40 percent.  

The reason that the government and taxpayers should care about the unmarried birth rate is that when an unmarried parent raises children, the family often qualifies for federal benefits. The growth in the entitlement state driven by single-parent families contributes to both the increasing federal deficit and the increasing American dependence on the government. Children raised in single-parent households are also more likely to have a variety of bad outcomes such as becoming a juvenile delinquent, poor performance in school, abuse alcohol or drugs, and becoming a single parent themselves.

Although the Census Bureau reported in 2016 that the majority of American children live in two-parent families, the share of children in two-parent households has fallen by about 20 points since 1960. About 23 percent of American kids live in a single-parent household headed by their mother. Of the children in two-parent households, about 99 percent live in homes where the parents are married.

The hope is that if birth control is more readily available then fewer parents will choose to have children before getting married. If birth control is available and used consistently, it might also help to reduce the number of abortions. The most common reasons given for abortion all revolve around the mother’s belief that she is not ready to have a child, i.e. abortion is being used in lieu of birth control.

One of the biggest potential problems with the increased availability of cheap birth control is that the US birth rate is already too low. The birth rate has been declining for several years and is already below the level at which the current population will replace itself. The coming population decline could have negative effects on everything from economic growth to maintaining America’s global dominance.

There might be more problems with the legalization of OTC birth control from AOC’s side of the aisle. Reason Magazine described earlier this year how, despite years of usage and research that prove the safety of birth control medications, Democrats and Planned Parenthood started resisting the idea of cheap, OTC contraception just as Republicans were warming to the idea.

This isn’t the first time that Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez have teamed up. The two have previously worked together to push for a ban on former congressmen becoming lobbyists. As with birth control, the roots of the congressional lobbying ban idea came from Twitter with Cruz responding to an AOC tweet. So far, the duo has not presented legislation to Congress.

As a conservative, I have more problems with a ban on lobbying than with cheap contraception. Even though lobbyists are never popular with voters, the profession is specifically protected by the First Amendment on two grounds. First, lobbyists enjoy the same free speech rights as other citizens and, second, the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances” is also included at the forefront of the Bill of Rights.

Nevertheless, I do applaud Cruz and AOC for having the courage to reach across the aisle in an environment where compromise is considered to be toxic by many. For Cruz’s part, it represents a significant departure from his “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude seen in the 2013 government shutdown. His compromises with AOC may mean that the Texas senator is maturing as a legislator.

The truth is that compromise is the only way to get things done in Washington. That’s not a bug either. It’s a feature that the framers built into the Constitution to prevent a tyranny of the majority. The authors of the Constitution wanted Americans to work together to solve their problems and make the country better, not simply denounce the other side as traitors or criminals and issue Executive Orders or national emergencies. 

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Trump’s Re-election Chances Are Slim But Not None

I’ve long been skeptical about Donald Trump’s chances for re-election. The mere fact that the president started with a popular vote loss and then proceeded to become even more unpopular due to his behavior and policies while in office is an obvious sign that his battle for re-election will be fought in an uphill fashion. Now, as more and more polling comes in about potential matchups with Democrats, the data confirms that Trump is in for a hard fight.

I have noted in the past how President Trump’s approval has fallen almost everywhere since the 2016 election. The president’s popularity has sagged to the point where even many red states now look like battleground states. This is particularly true in those states where farmers have suffered from the trade wars.

Josh Kraushaar recently wrote in National Journal that Trump is “in the weakest political shape of any sitting president (Republican or Democrat) since George H.W Bush.” He continues, “Trump hits 50 percent disapproval... in North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Iowa — all states he carried in 2016.”

Now, The New York Times reports that even Mr. Trump’s own internal polling shows him to be trailing Joe Biden in the states that he needs to carry in order to win the election and the president seems to be in denial of that fact. “After being briefed on a devastating 17-state poll conducted by his campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, Mr. Trump told aides to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing Mr. Biden in many of the states he needs to win,” the Times said this week. “Trump instructed aides to say publicly that other data showed him doing well.”

If you’re a Trump supporter, you’re probably thinking that you’ve heard all this before. The polling up to Election Day showed Mr. Trump being soundly defeated by Hillary Clinton and he won. The pundits gave Hillary a 99 percent chance of winning and she lost. The polls were wrong then so they are garbage now.

Not exactly.

If we look back at archived national polls of the 2016 election on Real Clear Politics, the average of polls gave Hillary a three-point lead. That is almost exactly identical to the national popular vote result. The split between the popular vote and the Electoral College came down to about 53,000 votes spread over five key states. Most of the polling in these states also showed a close race. Polling was substantially off in only one state, Wisconsin, where Hillary’s eight-point lead in the polls turned into a one-point loss.

Some analysts realized that the race was closing in the final days of the election. The wonks at FiveThirtyEight gave Trump an almost one-in-three chance of winning in a forecast that is still archived. While they still figured Trump to be an underdog, a 30 percent chance of winning is a far cry from a 99 percent chance of losing.

Even with stolen Democratic emails dribbling forth throughout 2016 campaign, it took yet another October surprise to put Donald Trump over the top. Polling showed that James Comey’s memo to Congress was the deciding factor in pushing voters toward Trump. The president cannot depend on a similar fortunate circumstance to save him next year, however.

An unnamed “ally” of the Trump campaign made Trump’s case to Axios, saying, “Trump has always under-polled. Until it's actually a binary contest, though, these polls really don't matter.”

“When Trump gets a shot at defining someone one-on-one,” the Trump surrogate said, “They're no longer going to be what they are now, which is, for the most part, a 'generic Democrat,’” He added that the Trump campaign hopes to define the eventual Democratic opponent by support for such policies as the Green New Deal and Medicaid-for-all, policies that he hopes will frighten away most Americans. Finally, the solid economy is what the Trump campaign hopes will be its ace-in-the-hole.

“Historical data says that with the economy roaring like it is, the incumbent always wins,” the Trump ally says.

The problem with this strategy is that Trump previously faced the candidate widely panned as the worst in modern American history, a candidate who also had a radical agenda that included a public health insurance option, and he still failed to win a majority of the popular vote and came within a whisker of losing the Electoral College. Likewise, voters twice refused to be put off by Barack Obama’s radically leftist ideas. Portraying the Democratic candidate as a radical will motivate the Republican base but won’t necessarily win swing voters.

Likewise, depending on the economy is not a sure thing. Just ask Hillary Clinton who was running on the promise of “four more years” in an economy that was not so different from the current one. Unemployment has been trending down since the Great Recession ended in 2009 while the stock market has continued a ten-year climb. Economic growth under Trump is only marginally better than it was under Obama.   

Another problem with relying on the economy is that the trade war is taking a toll. I recently reported how the tariffs were offsetting the benefits of tax reform for both individuals and businesses. With the Chamber of Commerce and agriculture groups signaling opposition to the tariff war, President Trump may be about to lose core Republican constituencies such as businesses and farmers despite the good economy.

Worse, there are signs that economic growth may be slowing due to the trade war. One leading indicator is the transportation industry. Forbes recently reported that rail shipments were down almost every month of 2019. There are other indicators as well, such as last week’s disappointing jobs report and slowing transaction volume for businesses, which may be partly due to trade uncertainty. A recession is not a foregone conclusion, but if one occurs President Trump will own it.

The 2018 midterm elections should have been a wakeup call for Republicans. Despite the good economy and Trump’s control of messaging in the final weeks of the election, the GOP took a beating in the House and only maintained control of the Senate through a very favorable map that allowed red state Republicans to eke out victories. Swing voters who supported Trump in 2016 swung back toward the Democrats in 2018.

The wild card is Russia. In 2016, Trump benefitted from Russian interference even if the Trump campaign did not actively work in concert with the Russian government. Few steps have been taken to protect the election infrastructure from similar interference next year. If the Russian government does launch new attacks on the 2020 elections, there is no guarantee that they will benefit Mr. Trump this time.

The bottom line is that neither President Trump’s personality nor his policy has endeared him to swing state voters as they have to his base. While Trump cannot be counted out for re-election, he faces a difficult campaign. If he can stay off Twitter and not act crazy for the next 18 months, his odds would improve greatly, but both are unlikely. On the other hand, if the economy softens in the months leading up to the election, Trump’s goose is likely to be cooked.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Justin Amash Splits From Freedom Caucus

CNN reports that Amash said in March that he had stopped attending Freedom Caucus meetings due to disagreement with other members over the direction of the country under President Trump. Other Freedom Caucus members unanimously opposed the call for impeachment from Amash, who has one of the most conservative voting recordsin Congress.
The group seems to have parted ways amicably. “I have the highest regard for them, and they’re my close friends,” Amash said. “I didn’t want to be a further distraction for the group.”
While Amash has been almost universally criticized by other Republican officials, his constituents seem happy with his stance. At a town hall in May, Amash received a standing ovation from voters and many expressed support for the congressman who says his job is to uphold the Constitution.
Other Republicans seem to focus on supporting the president. As Donald Trump repeats his tactic of using emergency declarations to bypass Congress and bending the law to use tariffs to pressure US trading partners, few Republicans, including those on the Freedom Caucus, have stood up against the abuses of presidential authority, much less Mr. Trump’s bad behavior with respect to the Russia investigation. Republicans who criticized Barack Obama’s abuses of executive authority have shown little interest in reining in President Trump.
There is speculation that Amash’s divorce from the Freedom Caucus is part of the groundwork for a run for president, possibly as a Libertarian. Amash himself has given no indication of this but has not ruled out a presidential run. Amash told the Detroit News last week that he plans to run for re-election to his congressional seat as a Republican.
Rep. Amash formally left the Freedom Caucus this week, but, in truth, the Freedom Caucus left Amash long ago. Like the Republican Party in general, the group’s principles now seem to reflect not what is constitutional, legal, ethical, and moral but what President Trump says.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Trump's New Tariff Threats

In the days following the announcement of the Trump Administration’s border security deal with Mexico, President Trump has doubled down on his use of the what often seems to be the only arrow in his quiver.

“Tariffs are the answer,” the president told CNBC.

“As soon as I put tariffs on the table, it was done. It took two days,” Trump said. “If we didn’t have tariffs, we wouldn’t have made a deal with Mexico.”

Over the weekend, the New York Times disputed that claim, citing reports from negotiators on both sides that said that the major components of the deal had been reached months before. The timetable of the asylum agreement and the number of Mexican troops deployed to the country’s Guatemala border were apparently adjusted after Mr. Trump threatened to launch a new trade war.

Regardless of how true the president’s claim that tariffs saved the day is, Trump seems determined to repeat the strategy again and again. In fact, he has already threatened another country with a new round of tariffs.

On Monday, the president threatened to impose new tariffs on China if President Xi Jinping does not attend the G-20 meeting later this month. In a phone interview with CNBC, President Trump said that he would immediately implement tariffs on the approximately 60 percent of Chinese imports that are not currently subject to import taxes. American consumers ultimately pay the tariffs on imported goods, but the higher cost of the imported goods decreases demand and lower sales ultimately hurt the foreign companies… or so protectionists hope.

China is “going to make a deal because they’re going to have to make a deal,” Trump told the CNBC host, claiming “China is getting absolutely decimated by companies that are leaving China, going to other countries, including our own, because they don’t want to pay the tariffs.”

For their part, China has threatened to shut off supplies of rare earth minerals to the US. China controls 90 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, which are vital to the construction of electronic items such as smartphones, electric vehicles, and weapon systems.

If that weren’t enough, President Trump is already threatening to raise tariffs on Mexico once again. In a Monday morning tweet, the president said that if Mexico’s legislature failed to approve the deal, “tariffs will be reinstated!”

Mexico and the United States have a new trade treaty pending ratification by both countries and Canada. Trump’s repeated tariff threats against Mexico may make ratification difficult.

President Trump’s tendency to go back to the well on the tool that he is able to implement without congressional approval is proving to be a problem. While the self-proclaimed “Tariff Man” says that “tariffs are a beautiful thing,” others disagree.

Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, warned against Trump’s use of tariffs, saying, “The weaponization of tariffs, the increase of threats on our economy, on our farmers, on our manufacturers, our consumers, is going to hurt our country. It also creates uncertainty with our trading partners.”

Trump fired back that Brilliant was “not so brilliant” and said, “He’s not protecting our country. He’s protecting companies who are members” of Chamber. The Chamber of Commerce represents American companies.

Mr. Trump’s tariff war runs risks both at home and abroad. Retaliatory tariffs by foreign trading partners hurt American exporters while Trump’s trade taxes are being paid by Americans, wiping out the gains from his tax reform. The constantly changing tax structure for imports and exports makes it difficult for American companies to plan for the future. If the trade war persists until the election, Republicans might find that businesses abandon them for Democrats who are perceived as more pro-business than a party that won’t challenge Mr. Trump’s erratic tax increases.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, June 10, 2019

Focus Group Shows Pennsylvania Swing Voters Standing By Trump

President Trump’s 2016 Electoral College victory ran through Pennsylvania and the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. While several polls have shown that Trump’s support in these states where he won narrow victories has eroded, a new focus group of Pennsylvania voters suggests that many Trump swing voters have not abandoned the president.

A recent focus group of Pennsylvania voters gives hope to Trump supporters that the president can pull off another upset victory in 2020. The Engagious/FPG focus group, which is discussed in an Axios article, contained several Obama/Trump voters who were unanimous in their continued support for Donald Trump.

Although they were not happy with Trump’s behavior, the focus group voters did like his performance on the economy. One of the voters, Tara Biddle, a 37-year-old kindergarten teacher, said, “I would be willing to vote for someone other than Trump who would continue the initiatives he's started” on the economy, trade, and immigration.

“The only thing I would say, I'd like someone to get his Twitter account away,” commented Tim G., 52.

When it comes to the Mueller report, the focus group’s swing voters were not impressed. “You could investigate every president; they’re all shady," said Jessica G. "Let’s just move on and let him do his job.”

The swing voters described their ideal leader as “assertive,” a “negotiator,” “powerful,” and “Christian.” Many of them agreed that these words also described President Trump.

The Pennsylvania voters stand in contrast to similar focus groups in Ohio and Wisconsin. Ohio voters yearned for Barack Obama while the Wisconsin voters liked much of Trump’s policy but were put off by his personality and temperament. Both groups seemed ready to abandon Trump for a Democrat.

The downside for Trump supporters is that the Pennsylvania focus group contained only eight swing voters, which is far too small to constitute a statistically viable sample. While the focus group’s voters solidly stand by their man, polling tells a different story.

One of the few polling firms that does regular state-level polling of President Trump’s approval rating is Morning Consult. The earliest poll in the series is January 2017, just a few months after the election. At that point, Trump had a net approval rating of 10 points. The most recent survey found the president underwater with a net approval rating of negative seven points. Another poll of Pennsylvania voters back in March yielded similar results with 61 percent of voters saying that Trump should not get a second term.

In 2016, Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania was a slim one. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percent of votes cast, just over 68,000 votes. A swing of 17 points in his approval over the past two years could indicate that Trump’s support in the state has cratered despite the backing of the eight members of the focus group. It would take relatively few Trump voters going back to the Democrats to turn the state blue again.

While Pennsylvania with its 20 electoral votes is not a must-win state for Trump next year, his path to victory becomes much more difficult without it. Assuming all other state outcomes remain the same as 2016, if Trump loses Pennsylvania, he would lose the election if he also lost either Florida or Ohio.

With its mills benefitting from the president’s protective tariffs on steel and aluminum, Pennsylvania is one of the states most positioned to benefit from the trade war. If President Trump cannot win there, it is unlikely that he can carry the other Rust Belt states that he needs. Meanwhile, red states such as Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Texas are becoming battleground states, largely due to the impact of the trade war on farmers.

In the end, the picture of Pennsylvania is mixed. Neither Democrats nor Republicans can be certain of the holding the state at this point. President Trump’s re-election cannot be written off either is it assured.

“I’m not saying [Trump] will win the state,” pollster Terry Madonna told Philadelphia website Billy Penn in March. “I’m merely pointing out we better be careful about saying he can’t win the state.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Tariff Wars Are Killing Tax Reform’s Boost

Tax reform is so far the one significant legislative victory of the Trump Administration. The law that brought corporate tax rates down to a point where they were competitive with the rest of the world was sorely needed and individual tax cuts were the icing on the cake. However, the president’s tariffs, which are defined as “a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports,” are offsetting the competitive advantage that tax reform brought to American companies as well as the tax cut for consumers.

In a report that focuses on the individual aspects of tax reform, Bloomberg reports that middle-class earners got an average tax break of about $931 per the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. The New York Federal Reserve estimates that the tariff wars have already cost the average household about $831. On average, the trade wars have eaten up all but about $100 of the benefits of tax reform for the middle class.

The report also cites estimates on new tariffs threatened by President Trump. The tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods would be estimated to cost an average family of four about $2,294 annually according to Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a coalition of business groups opposed the trade war. Gary Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Mexican imports could cost households an additional $1,700 annually if the tariffs reach the highest level threatened by the president. The combined total cost of $3,994 annually to American families would be more than four times the average benefit from tax reform.

Many other taxpayers may have already passed the point where tariffs have eaten up any advantage from tax reform. A Tax Policy Center analysis of IRS tax data found that low-income households got an average tax cut of only about $40. Since low-income households rely disproportionately on cheap imports from China and elsewhere, tariffs have likely already eaten up any advantage that these households received from tax reform. About six percent of taxpayers received a double whammy when they paid more under the new tax law and then were forced to pay tariffs (and/or pay higher prices for domestic goods due to decreased competition) as well.

The effect of tariffs reaches beyond American households, however. Data on the effect of the corporate side of tax reform is harder to come by, but Accounting Today reported last year that the cost from the steel and aluminum tariffs was larger than the tax savings from tax reform for major automakers General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler for the first quarter of 2018. The report, made in July before the trade war heated up, forecast that tariffs could eat up a third to a half of the benefit of tax reform.

“The steel and aluminum tariffs hurt,” Ed Cohen, Honda Motor Co.’s vice president for government and industry affairs, said at the time. “The tax bill was intended to spur economic activity and this will have the opposite economic effect.”

The Tax Foundation estimated that, if fully implemented, the tariff war would offset about half of the benefit of tax reform, reducing US GDP by about 0.79 percent or $196 billion. The group also forecast that wages would fall by 0.51 percent and more than 600,000 jobs would be lost.

A recent poll from Monmouth University found that Americans overwhelmingly oppose Mr. Trump’s tariff war. Almost half of respondents - 47 percent - said that tariffs hurt the US economy compared to 25 percent who think they help. Sixty-two percent believe that US consumers will be stuck with the bill for the tariffs.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform agreed, saying, “Tariffs are taxes. They are very disruptive. Trade wars are civil wars and the losers are both Americans.”

Even Republican politicians agree that the tariff war is harmful. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said that tax reform “vaulted America back into the most competitive economy” but that “higher tariffs and the uncertainty that comes with trade disputes” are not good for the economy.

President Trump’s approval has already slumped in red states since the onset of the trade war. Farmers, a core Trump constituency, have been particularly hard hit by Trump’s trade policies. The Rust Belt states, home to many factory workers impacted by the tariffs, also show high disapproval for Trump in recent polling.

Even before the tariff taxes took a bite out of tax reform, the law was unpopular due to tradeoffs and flaws in its implementation. Changes to withholding tables led many taxpayers to be surprised by smaller than expected refunds or, worse, by unexpected tax bills that required them to write checks to the IRS. Individual tax revenues increased after tax reform, partly due to higher wages and economic growth, but total federal tax revenue fell by 0.4 percent as corporate tax payments dropped sharply. Thus far, the deficit has increased due to flat tax revenues and increasing federal spending.

With consumers paying more taxes due to President Trump’s tariff war and many seeing scant benefit from tax reform in either paychecks or tax refunds, Mr. Trump has given the Democrats a number of talking points as the nation careens toward the 2020 elections. Unless the president can start claiming some victories in the trade war soon, Republicans might find that businesses are exiting their coalition to support a pro-trade Democratic candidate.

The Resurgent

Trump Should Accept Mexican Concessions To Avert Trade War

In an effort to avert a trade war that could damage the economies of both countries, Mexico is reportedly offering concessions to President Trump. Mr. Trump’s threatened tariffs on Mexico are slated to go into effect on June 10 and would likely provoke a targeted response from our neighbor to the south.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Mexico was offering two major concessions to head off a new tariff war. First, the Mexican government offered to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to its border with Guatemala, a major entry point for Central American migrants on their way to the US.

Second, Mexico is proposing changes to its asylum rules that would allow refugees to be returned to the first nation that they entered after leaving their home country. For example, Guatemalans would typically remain in Mexico while their request for asylum is processed and Salvadorans and Hondurans would have to remain in Guatemala.

Administration officials cautioned that there is currently no deal and cautioned that the concessions might not be sufficient to avoid the trade war. The president has not yet responded to the Mexican offer publicly, but tweeted on Wednesday that talks were progressing “but not nearly enough.”

Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News on Thursday that the US was encouraged by the Mexican proposal, but that tariffs were still scheduled to be implemented on Monday. Fox cited two additional Administration officials who said that reports of an imminent deal were untrue.

In other developments, Mexican security forces intercepted a caravan of about 1,000 Central American migrants and detained more than 400 of the marchers per the AP. The migrants, who said they were fleeing gang violence, extortion, and corruption in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as well as a severe drought in the region, intended to seek asylum in the US. Reuters also reported that Mexico had frozen the bank accounts of 26 people accused of human trafficking.

As we’ve pointed out before, Trump’s tariffs actually tax American purchasers of imported products, not foreign manufacturers. Although the higher cost of imported goods reduces demand and can eventually hurt foreign companies, Americans bear the brunt of the tax increase. Decades after NAFTA, many US companies have supply lines that run through Mexico and products often cross the border several times during the manufacturing process. The tariffs would increase the cost of many products finished in the US and would ultimately kill many American jobs.

Recent polling shows that Americans oppose Trump’s tariff policies by a two-to-one margin and since the onset of the trade war the president has lost ground even in many red states. Mr. Trump’s approval in the Rust Belt states that propelled him to victory in 2016, states that would be hard hit by a trade war with Mexico, is already underwater.  Earlier this week, a new poll from Texas, another state with close economic ties to Mexico, found Donald Trump trailing Joe Biden.

The new tariffs would have to be applied by declaring a new national emergency since the applicable law was not cited in the president’s previous emergency declaration. However, more than half of voters have consistently opposed the use of national emergencies to tackle the problem of illegal immigration across the southern border. The idea is drawing widespread criticism from Republicans in Congress and could spark a backlash that is large enough to override a President Trump’s veto.

If President Trump agrees to the concessions, it would represent a major victory for his strategy of threatening tariffs to force compliance. However, if the president allows the tariffs to go into effect, he could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The defeat could extend beyond an embarrassing rebuke from Congress to a humiliating landslide loss next year as farmers and factory workers impacted by the tariffs abandon both the president and the Republican Party.

Originally published by the Resurgent

Joe Biden Flops Back On Abortion

Yesterday, I wrote about how Joe Biden was bucking the Democratic abortion extremists and doubling down on his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits federal funds from being spent on abortion. As I almost wrote yesterday, it was too good to last. It should have been apparent that the twin priorities of legal abortion and spending federal money are too significant to be resisted by national Democratic candidates.

Thursday afternoon at a fundraiser in Atlanta, Biden flipped back. The candidate told supporters, “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment.”

In the Associated Press account of the speech, Biden’s speech was primarily focused on voting rights and issues that were important to the black community, but he opened with a reference to this week’s controversy over stance on federal funding for abortion, saying, “I’ve been struggling with the problems that Hyde now presents.”

“I want to be clear: I make no apologies for my last position. I make no apologies for what I’m about to say,” Biden said, arguing that “circumstances have changed” after a number of states recently passed laws that heavily restrict the practice of abortion.

In the speech, Biden said that he believed that there were now too many restrictions on abortion and that many women were left without the option. He said that his flipflop on the issue was the result of his development of a detailed healthcare proposal, which he described as a Medicare-type public option that would encourage universal coverage. Biden said that universal care means that women should have access to abortion.

While the radical abortion-rights crowd will celebrate the newfound lack of diversity on the issue among their presidential candidates, not all Democratic voters will be happy with the change. As I pointed yesterday, a poll from earlier this year showed that a third of Democrats consider themselves to be pro-life. The intolerance of pro-life positions could especially hurt the party in the Bible Belt where pro-life Democrats such as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards have shown the ability to win statewide races but pro-abortion candidates such as Stacey Abrams of Georgia always seem to come up just short.

“Sure, most of the hardcore left don't want any restrictions, but the majority of Americans do,” said a commenter on yesterday’s story about Biden. “I am a Democrat, yet I approve and support the Hyde Amendment. Biden is looking more and more like my likely choice.”

There is no word from this commenter yet on whether he will still support Biden after his flipflop on the Hyde Amendment, but it is likely that he will. There simply aren’t any better pro-life options among the Democratic candidates.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Tucker Carlson: Elizabeth Warren ‘Sounds Like Trump At His Best’

No, that’s not a typo. Proving once again that Fox News is not a monolithic hotbed of conservatism, Tucker Carlson heaped praise upon none other than Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on his show last night. A few months ago, I pointed out that the Fox host sounded a lot like Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Now, he is openly praising Warren’s economic policy.

Carlson began by quoting a long, anti-corporate diatribe by Warren in which the Massachusetts liberal said, “Giant American corporations… wave the flag — but they have no loyalty or allegiance to America.”

“These American companies show only one real loyalty,” Warren said, “to the short-term interests of their shareholders, a third of whom are foreign investors. If they can close up an American factory and ship jobs overseas to save a nickel, that’s exactly what they will do — abandoning loyal American workers and hollowing out American cities along the way. Politicians love to say they care about American jobs.”

“But for decades, those same politicians have cited ‘free market principles’ and refused to intervene in markets on behalf of American workers,” Warren continued. “And of course, they ignore those same supposed principles and intervene regularly to protect the interests of multinational corporations and international capital. The result? Millions of good jobs lost overseas and a generation of stagnant wages, growing inequality, and sluggish economic growth.”

“What part of that statement did you disagree with?” Carlson then asked. “Was there a single word that seemed wrong? Probably not.”

“Many of Warren’s policy prescriptions make obvious sense,” Carlson added before gushing, “She sounds like Donald Trump at his best.”

I’m not sure whether that is more of an indictment of Trump or Warren.

Despite his embrace of Warren's economic policies, Carlson did stop short of endorsing her completely. He decried her “race hustling, gun grabbing, abortion extremist” positions and then said, “That is exactly the problem, not just with Warren, but with American politics.” In Carlson’s world, both Democrats and Republicans are “resolutely libertarian” while Democrats “nod in total agreement” because they are “on the same page” with respect to the defense of free markets and liberal social issues, such as the legalization of marijuana.

Carlson embraces President Trump’s “innovative new way to protect American workers from the ever-cascading tidal wave of cheap third-world labor flooding this country,” his plan to tax American consumers and businesses in hopes that the economic pain will trickle across the border to Mexico where it would, ironically, probably spur more economic refugees to cross the border in search of new opportunities in the United States. He also fails to note reports that Donald Trump supports legislation that would allow the states to decriminalize marijuana.

What Carlson admits that he wants is not a small government, conservative policy but big government economic policy paired with conservative social policies. In his own words, Carlson wants candidates who are “nationalist on economics, fairly traditional on the social issues.”

“Would you vote for someone like that?” Carlson asks. “My gosh. Of course. Who wouldn’t? That candidate would be elected in a landslide. Every single time.”

The Fox host asks rhetorically, “What if the Republican leadership here in Washington had bothered to learn the lessons of the 2016 election? What if they’d understood, and embraced, the economic nationalism that was at the heart of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign?”

Yet Carlson overlooks the fact that Donald Trump did not win in a landslide in 2016, losing the popular vote and winning the Electoral College by a margin of only 50,000 votes over a handful of states. He also seems to forget the drubbing that Trumponomics took in the 2018 midterms. Donald Trump’s economic policies have propelled him to a 42 percent average approval rating and, since the onset of the trade war, President Trump is even underwater in many typically red states. Polling shows that Americans are opposed President Trump’s tariff war by about a two-to-one margin.

Carlson is correct that “almost nobody speaks for the majority of voters,” but not in the way that he means. Where the parties come together is on spending more and on expanding government influence to control a larger share of American life. They just don’t agree on what to spend on or how they want to exercise that control. Voters need a candidate and party that will leave them alone to live their lives without government interference.

I’d vote for that.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Joe Biden's Abortion Flipflop

Joe Biden has put himself squarely in the sights of the Democratic abortion extremists.

Yesterday it Joe Biden bucked the Democratic orthodoxy on abortion by defending the Hyde Amendment, the law which prohibits federal (i.e. taxpayer) funds from paying for abortions. Biden’s confusing stance on the amendment, which was first passed in 1976 and has been renewed annually ever since, opens questions about the candidate’s thought process and puts him at odds with the extreme pro-abortion faction of the Democratic Party. Support for the amendment was historically bipartisan until Hillary Clinton called for its repeal in 2016.

Biden’s campaign expressed support for the Hyde Amendment to NBC News in an article published on June 5. The piece noted that while in the Senate Biden consistently voted against federal funding for abortions, even for victims of rape and incest.

Biden explained his position to a constituent in 1994, writing, “I will continue to abide by the same principle that has guided me throughout my 21 years in the Senate: those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them. As you may know, I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions.”

In 2007, Biden wrote in his book, Promises To Keep, “I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than 30 years. I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding.”

Yet in May of this year, when Biden was confronted by an ACLU activist who asked him if he would repeal the Hyde Amendment, Biden answered, “Right now it has to be… It can’t stay.”

The Biden campaign subsequently told The Hill that Biden misheard the question and thought that the activist was referring to the Mexico City policy, which prohibits federal funds from going to foreign groups that perform abortions.

The Hill quotes a response from the Biden campaign that said, “He supports the repeal of the Mexico City rule because it prevents critical aid from going to organizations even if abortion is a very small fraction of the work they are doing. He has not at this point changed his position on the Hyde Amendment.”

The reversal is curious because it seems that it would have been difficult to misunderstand the activist, who was very close to the candidate, and the two policies sound nothing alike. It raises the possibility that Biden did not remember what the Hyde Amendment was or his longtime opposition to it.

Interestingly, it would have been politically easier for Biden to let his statement supporting repeal of the policy stand than to walk it back. He seems to be the only Democratic candidate who supports maintaining the amendment. His position will put a target on his back for radical pro-abortion activists who seem to resist any limits on abortion rights.

Support for the Hyde Amendment does not mean that Biden is pro-life, however. He supports Roe v. Wade even though he is a Roman Catholic who claims to be personally opposed to abortion. Jamal Brown, Biden’s press secretary, told NBC that the candidate believed that Roe was wrongly decided when he was first elected to the Senate, but now “firmly believes that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should not be overturned.” Brown pointed to Biden’s pro-abortion record that included blocking measures to criminalize abortion and voting against justices such as Bork, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas.

Biden’s mixed record on abortion may turn out to be a blessing. Polling shows that Americans are closely divided on abortion with very few supporting either an outright ban or abortion on demand without restrictions. A Marist poll from earlier this year showed that even a third of Democrats identify as pro-life. Biden’s middle-of-the-road views on abortion may actually be more in line with the majority opinion of most voters than either the radicals to his left or the Republicans to his right.

I’ve long suspected that Biden would secure the Democratic nomination in a manner similar to how Donald Trump won the GOP nomination in 2016. So far, that prediction seems to be holding true. Biden is claiming the moderate niche, which few other Democrats have targeted, while the plethora of candidates to his left fight over fractions of the radical leftist bloc.

Nevertheless, Biden’s response to the ACLU activist and subsequent reversal represent a dangerous gaffe for his campaign. The very public reversal drew attention to his pro-Hyde Amendment position and gave rise to questions about why the candidate would agree to repeal a policy that he has supported for decades.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

A Republican Revolt May Be Brewing On Mexico Tariffs

President Trump’s announcement of the implementation of graduated tariffs on Mexico came as a surprise to pretty much everyone last week. The announcement upended the successful completion of the US-Mexico-Canada agreement, which was nearing ratification and may be sparking a Republican revolt against the president.

On Twitter yesterday, the Cato Institute’s resident trade lawyer, Scott Lincicome pointed out that five days after the president’s announcement of the new tariffs and less than a week before the new taxes are slated to take effect, there has been no documentation from the White House about the new policies.

“And no tweets do not count jeez,” Lincicome added. (I’ll plug Lincicome as a very entertaining and informative account to follow if you are interested in trade issues.)

As it turns out, the new policies may not have been written yet. CNN reported that Republican senators met with White House and Justice Department officials on Tuesday who could not explain the tariff plan.

“They were asked repeatedly how this will work and they couldn't answer,” said an unnamed Republican Senate aide. “They must've seen it coming.”

“What we are seeing now is a giant game of chicken,” said Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “It's like two trucks headed straight at each other on a country road. If the outcome of this is that Mexico blinks and they turn, and they actually become active, productive partners in helping stop illegal immigration, that would be a good outcome, but if the outcome is massive new tariffs that destroy jobs in Texas and the rest of the country, that would be a terrible outcome.”

The report begs the question of whether the new offensive in the trade war was planned in advance or whether the move was an example of spontaneous “Twitter diplomacy” by the president. If so, this would be a similar move to Trump’s original steel and aluminum tariffs that began the trade war last year.

CBS News reported in March 2018 that then-economic advisor Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had advised the president to wait, but that Mr. Trump “ran out of patience” and announced the tariffs to the press before US trade officials could brief a Chinese delegation or Republican congressmen. As with the current Mexican tariffs, the steel and aluminum tariffs had to be quickly written after the presidential announcement. From the looks of things, Republicans weren’t notified this time either.

Few Republicans are speaking out publicly against the president’s new strategy, but Politico reported that officials in both parties believe that the president may have to declare another national emergency under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which allows the president to regulate trade with “any unusual or extraordinary threat" to national security. The national emergency declared earlier this year cited a different law.

Declaring another national emergency would risk another legislative rebuke from Congress. After the first national emergency declaration earlier this year, Congress passed a resolution of disapproval with the help of 12 Republican senators. President Trump vetoed this resolution and override attempt failed in the House. Eighteen House Republicans joined Democrats in the override attempt.

The next national emergency might yield a different result. Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said that he expected more Republicans to oppose the Mexico tariffs than those applied to China, but he did not speculate on whether there would be enough opposition to override a veto.

“There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that's for sure,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. When asked if Senate Republicans would vote against the tariffs, McConnell said, “We're hoping that doesn't happen.”

Other Republicans at the meeting included John Cornyn (R-Texas), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). All three states would be hit hard by tariffs on Mexican imports. Texas shares a long border with Mexico and the many manufacturers in the industrial Midwest have supply chains that run south of that border. The president’s net approval rating is already underwater in Ohio and Pennsylvania and in single digits in Texas. After Ted Cruz’s close electoral call in 2018, many other Republicans in affected states will be looking over their shoulders.

President Trump does not seem worried that Republicans will desert him, however. Speaking at a press conference in London, the president said, “I don't think they will do that. If they do it's foolish.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, June 3, 2019

A Pastor’s Perfect Prayer For President Trump

When Franklin Graham originally pitched the idea of a National Day of Prayer for Donald Trump, he did so with a partisan bent. However, when the president walked into a Virginia church on Sunday morning, the pastor there delivered a perfect nonpartisan prayer for Trump and congressional leaders.  

Graham’s tweet on May 26 contained a video in which he said, “I don’t believe any president in the history of this nation has been attacked more than Donald Trump… If he succeeds, we all benefit, but if his enemies are allowed to destroy him and pull down the presidency it will hurt our entire nation.” The implication from Graham, who has warned that impeachment could spark a civil war, was that Christians should pray for Trump to triumph over his enemies although he did later tell the Christian Post, “My prayer is not an endorsement of the president.”

Imagine then, the pressure that a pastor would feel if the Trump, clad in a sport coat over golf attire,  walked into his church on a day that was designated as a day of prayer for the president. The tension and awkwardness would be especially bad if said president visited a church in a state that he had lost and where he remains unpopular. Trump’s approval among evangelicals remains higher than with other Christian groups, but a large minority is critical of the president. Introducing politics into churches is a recipe for division and distraction from the true mission of the church, that of spreading the gospel and saving souls.

That was the case when President Trump visited the McLean Bible Church just outside of Washington, D.C. It would have been easy for Pastor David Platt to flatter the president by beseeching the Almighty to smite his enemies and bestow a second term upon him. Alternatively, he could have used the opportunity to slam the president with a prayer like the one many evangelicals prayed for Barack Obama that cited Psalm 109:8. Either course would have reflected poorly on the church and introduced unnecessary conflict within the church.

What Pastor Platt did was to embrace the spirit of what a presidential day of prayer should be. Despite Graham’s overtly partisan tone in announcing the day of prayer, subsequent advertisements referenced 1 Timothy 2:1-2, in which Paul instructed Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

That is what Pastor Platt did. With one hand on the president’s back and the other holding an open Bible, here is what Platt prayed:

"Oh God, we praise You as the one universal king over all. You are our leader and our Lord and we worship You. There is one God and one savior and it's You. Your name is Jesus and we exalt you, Jesus.

"And we know, we need Your mercy. We need Your grace, we need Your help, we need Your wisdom in our country. And so we stand right now, on behalf of our president, and we pray for Your grace, and Your mercy, and Your wisdom upon him.

"God, we pray that he would know how much You love him. So much that You sent Jesus to die for his sins, our sins, so we pray that he would look to You. That he would trust in You. That he would lean on You. That he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, and good for righteousness, and good for equity, every good path.

"Lord we pray, we pray that You would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways we just saw in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, that will lead to peaceful and quiet lives, Godly and dignified in every way.

"God, we pray for your blessing, in that way, upon his family. We pray that you would give them strength, we pray that you give them clarity, wisdom.

"Wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Please, oh God, give him wisdom. And help him to lead our country, alongside other leaders.

"We pray today for leaders in Congress. We pray for leaders in courts. We pray for leaders at national and state levels.

"Please, oh God, help us to look to You. Help us to trust in Your word. Help us to seek Your wisdom and live in ways that reflect Your love and Your grace, Your righteousness and Your justice. We pray for Your blessings on our president toward that end. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen."

Platt’s prayer was Biblical and nonpartisan. It would be difficult to find fault with his request that the president be blessed with wisdom, grace, and divine guidance. It was a unifying, non-political prayer of the sort that could be prayed in good conscience by any American Christian, regardless of political affiliation.

Originally published on The Resurgent