The Trump Trifecta

October 26, 2018

Since taking office in January 2017, Donald Trump has stood with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to proclaim various ‘victories’ for the American people.  Here are what seem to be the top three, A.K.A. “The Trifecta”:

  1. Complicit with Russia, Saudi Arabia and several other suspect regimes. Trump has continued to send public messages which downplay and/or absolve bad actors from behaviors which are contrary to existing international standards.

One clear reason:  Trump — and his close advisor Jared Kushner —  is involved in highly leveraged real estate development.  Neither Trump nor Kushner have the liquidity or availability of traditional financing sources to invest their own money.  Instead, they are forced to chase shady money from around the world, including huge sums of money sourced from Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, etc.

Essentially, Trump (along with the Kushner Companies) is beholden to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Vladimir Putin; various Chinese investors; along with ‘dark money’ sources in Cyprus, Panama and the Cayman Islands, among others.

2. The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA) was passed in late 2017 incorporating some modest temporary individual and small business tax cuts while focusing in on very substantial big business and corporate tax cuts.

Traditional economic models, developed and refined over countless economic cycles, encourage tax cuts and deficit spending during economic downturns as a means to stimulate economic growth.  During times of economic expansion, increased government revenue from tax collections is then used to pay down public debt and help stabilize the economy.

N.B.  There was a strong case to be made for a modest corporate tax cut as the U.S. economy began to improve post 2012; there was zero legitimate case to be made for the magnitude of the corporate tax cut which was a cornerstone of the 2017 TCJA.

The foundation of the TCJA was a promise that slashing corporate taxes from a maximum 35% rate to a 21% cap would result in dramatic increases in capital investment, resulting in job creation and wage growth.  Americans for Tax Reform, a vocal advocate for the plan, generated promises of employee bonuses, increased wages, increased retirement contributions and/or expanded business operations as a result of the TCJA.

Actual outcomes of the Tax Cuts?  Record stock buybacks; extraordinary executive compensation; flat employee compensation; and continued failure of venerable American corporations.

Definitive proof of the foolishness of cutting taxes in a time of economic expansion?  A rapidly expanding federal budget deficit.  According to the final monthly Treasury Statement for Fiscal Year 2018 (the year that ended on 9/30/2018), the deficit was $779 Billion — a $113 Billion (17%) increase over the$666 Billion deficit recorded from FY 2017.

Perhaps most egregious to the American people?  Mitch McConnell is blaming self-funded safety net programs [Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid] as the root cause of our rising federal deficit.  Visualize McConnell as he does a little smile; looks straight into the camera; and then blatantly lies to the American people.  Was he also lying when he took the Oath of Office?

3.  Incendiary, Irrational and Emotionally-Inspired Immigration Policy:

Right or wrong, the U.S. economy depends on immigrant workers – documented or undocumented. Industry sectors which rely on immigrants for between 1/4 and 1/2 of their employment needs include: agriculture; hospitality; construction; textile, apparel and leather manufacturing; food manufacturing; and private households.

Through a series of small moves that add up to dramatic change, the Trump administration has bypassed Congress to create new process and procedures which could have lasting effects on how the US welcomes and evaluates immigrants.

In his election campaign in June 2015, Trump told us, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…”

By painting virtually all immigrants with a broad brush as criminals; as a national security threat to the U.S.; as bad people; as people who steal jobs from Americans;  he has created a hostile environment on the world stage, offering fear and fallacies with no attempt to find viable and sustainable solutions.

In late October 2018, facing a ‘caravan of migrants’ moving north from Central America toward the U.S. Southern border, Trump has proclaimed that there are ‘criminals and people of Middle Eastern descent among the migrants within the caravan’ and has pointed to it as evidence that the U.S. has weak immigration laws. He has also threatened to cut off aid to Central American countries in response to the caravan.

An internal report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General found that the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” crackdown at the border in early 2018 was troubled from the outset by planning shortfalls, widespread communication failures and administrative indifference to the separation of small children from their parents.

It has been said that the Trump Child Separation Policy is related to the worst abuses of humanity in history.  Child separation is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery, and which dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families.

What’s the point?

The point is that differences of opinion are a cornerstone of society, and a critical ingredient of humanity.

The very essence of Debate relies on formal discussion on a particular topic.

In an honest debate, opposing arguments are put forward to argue for opposite  viewpoints. Genuine and honest debate can occur in public meetings, academic institutions, and in legislative assemblies.

A genuine debate requires some ground rules, particularly in the areas of logical consistency and factual accuracy, yet it also allows some degree of emotional appeal to the audience.

Sadly, today’s discussions on topics of importance to the American People seem to lack any rules about civility, logic or even factual accuracy.

Turn on the television and we find absolutism, tribalism and a “win at any cost” approach to delicate yet important societal issues. Dialogue has effectively been replaced by diatribe.

Worse, people can select news sources which support and reinforce their biases, finding comfort in “being right” by selective listening or watching. No time or need to consider other options when the platform has been fully developed to mirror your comfort zone.

Add to this dilemma the continuing disenfranchisement of American adults from the political process.

More adult males in America today are able to recite NFL statistics than are able explain issues facing American society, and women are not far behind.

Voter turnout in the United States fluctuates in national elections. In recent elections, about 60% of the voting eligible population votes during presidential election years, and about 40% votes during midterm elections. Turnout is lower for odd year, primary and local elections.

If we compare national voter participation in the 2016 presidential election to viewership of the 2016 Superbowl, we find a dead heat at around 112 Million.

Not necessarily the same people, but it does strike me that we have a real disconnect between the American public and our governance model, perhaps helping to explain why our system seems to be in need of some serious adjustments at this point in time.

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“We Fed an Island”

September 15, 2018

While U.S. President Trump continues to blame the people of Puerto Rico and their elected local leadership for delays, inefficiencies and various failures in the response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria (2017), Trump is lavish with praise for the wonderful response by his administration.

“I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success,” Mr. Trump said.  “I actually think it is one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”

Meanwhile, other sources do not agree with President Trump’s assessment.

One of the true unsung heroes involved in the Island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria is José Andrés, a chef and restaurateur who helped organize others from the food industry to form a veritable army comprised of both professionals and volunteers to feed residents, medical professionals and other disaster response workers.

A year after the initial response to Maria began, José Andrés has released a book reflecting on his experiences and lessons learned from the disaster response.

This article from the Washington Post describes his passion and introduces the book in a manner I wish I was able:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/jose-andress-riveting-we-fed-an-island-calls-for-a-revolution-in-disaster-relief/2018/09/05/b126d766-ad70-11e8-b1da-ff7faa680710_story.html?utm_term=.df529f66adc0

Let’s step back, look in the mirror and be really honest.

Who knows someone who desires to abruptly leave home in the dark of the night; taking only what they can carry; dragging along young children who are already traumatized; and expecting to travel hundreds – maybe thousands – of miles to a strange land where they don’t speak their language and where they know no one?

People who fall into this dilemma are sometimes called:  Refugees;  Migrants; and/or Asylum seekers. Whatever label seems most appropriate, they tend to number around one million people annually across the globe.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was created in 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes as an outcome of WWII.

Over the ensuing 68 years, UNHCR has become the premier expert on migration, working with 128 countries and assisting well over 50 million refugees to successfully restart their lives.

Mixed movements (or mixed migration) refers to flows of people traveling together, over similar routes and using the same means of transport, yet often for different reasons.

The men, women and children traveling in this manner often have either been forced from their homes by armed conflict or persecution, or are on the move in search of a safer (better) life.

People traveling as part of mixed movements have varying needs and may include asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless people, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied or separated children, and migrants in an irregular situation. Mixed movements are often complex, and can present challenges for all those involved.

An asylum-seeker is someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed. National asylum systems are in place to determine who qualifies for international protection. During mass movements of refugees, usually as a result of conflict or violence, it is not always possible or necessary to conduct individual interviews with every asylum seeker who crosses a border. These groups are often called ‘prima facie’ refugees.

Donald “King of the Con Men” Trump has the attention span of a gnat, the moral turpitude of a ‘made man’ and the integrity of a Carnival Barker.

Mr. Trump has leveraged his expertise as a Carnival Barker to master the classic Shell Game which relies on distraction to temporarily fool the audience toward a false conclusion.

For weeks, Trump — in cahoots with his acolytes and sycophants – has maintained that potential asylum-seekers entering the U.S. at legal border crossings would not be prosecuted, and would be processed in turn.

Sounds good, right?  Except these elected and appointed U.S. officials concurrently made it virtually impossible for these migrant asylum seekers to cross the border legally and enter their petition for sanctuary.

These elected and appointed U.S. officials have consistently denied that their evil policy to criminalize mothers fleeing unimaginable atrocities in their home countries and accompanied by young children who cross into the U.S. at any place other than a legal border crossing – even those who tried to enter at an official entry point but were prevented by arbitrary and capricious gate keepers – was intentional, discriminatory and dangerous.

Most egregious:  We have recently learned that Stephen Miller, the White House senior advisor who is the architect of many of the Trump administration policies on immigration, is the great-grandson of a Jewish immigrant who fled the poverty and pogroms of the Russian Empire in the early 1900s.

Stephen Miller may have a serious learning disability which has prevented him from learning the lessons of history which help inform the thoughts and actions of informed, compassionate and successful servant leaders.  Perhaps Mr. Miller needs some medical intervention which could help him focus on humane, considerate and civilized thoughts and behaviors?

This event — June 20, 2018 — represents a fabulous ‘photo op’ for Trump, and it results in a Pyrrhic victory for oppressed and victimized mothers and their minor children who are fleeing horrific conditions in their homelands of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala -the so-called Northern Triangle.

Read between the lines of Trump’s Executive Order and you will find little change in the draconian American policy of abusing and torturing women and children.

Trump and his administration have embraced a tactical wholesale approach to focus, apprehend and detain the most vulnerable – and least dangerous – people who seek asylum in the U.S.

Trump has – and continues to – proclaim that “..most immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together – only released.  These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation which we don’t want.”

Probably not true, and even if true, completely irrelevant.

Statistics tell us that:  (1) Immigrants who come to United States seeking asylum from horrible conditions in their countries of origin are generally women with minor children who pose little to no criminal or other risk to the U.S.;  (2) Immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking work to support families left behind in their country of origin are predominantly men who strive to make enough money to send for the rest of their family to bring them into a positive environment.

Yes, each of these scenarios illustrates a likely violation of current U.S. immigration laws.

However, let’s not lose sight that the foundation of immigration laws of the U.S. is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, sometimes known as the McCarran–Walter Act.  Yes, 1952.

Parts of that Act remain in place today.  It has been amended several times and was modified substantially by the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965.  Yes, 1965.

No doubt, there exist a small percentage of people who illegally enter the U.S. with nefarious intent. It seems that most of these ‘bad actors’ do not travel with children; are not female; and do not enter over the southern border.

If Trump — and his band of complicit Republican cronies – really desire to improve our national security through better immigration strategy and policy, they need to focus on fact-based, root cause analysis, and to invest in solutions which utilize “evidence-based targeting,” an approach which uses objective data to focus limited resources toward those individuals who pose the highest risk of danger to the U.S.

Evidence-Based Targeting is a strategic approach which requires planning; careful research; and a blind approach to race, religion, gender, national origin or other irrelevant factors.

Yes, Mr. Trump, we are in lock-step with you on secure borders.  We – even those of us who are not registered Republicans – demand secure borders and we want to have modern policies and procedures in place which keep bad actors out of the U.S.

That said, we need to ask you to stop acting as a bully, stop picking on defenseless women and children, and start focusing on Evidence-Based Targeting to help protect our domestic security.

And, concurrently, it would be really great if you could work with Congress to modernize that 1952 McCarran–Walter Act which probably made sense back then, but seems to need some tweaks to address the huge demographic changes which have occurred since then.

Please, Mr. Trump:  Stop the puerile ‘Beavis & Butt-Head’ rhetoric and start acting like a leader.

Another branch of our armed forces?

I just can’t imagine an Industrial Engineer who would look at the current structure of the Pentagon and the U.S. military and not conclude that we have an extraordinarily inefficient approach to defense.

Air, land and sea.  Sounds good, right?

Except that we have 5 branches which overlap, compete with each other directly and indirectly, and don’t always communicate well.

Now, the Master Obfuscator and Distracter-in-Chief wants to start a 6th branch!

I can only conclude that The Donald is running wild trying to divert attention away from some of his self-created demons: Immigration; His war on Canada; His new love affair with Kim Jong Un; A ‘tax reform’ plan which will leave America bankrupt; The deterioration and ultimate disintegration of the American health care system; The ‘Russia thing’; Cyber security intrusions and risks across the entire U.S. public and private sector; Rapidly deteriorating physical infrastructure across the U.S.; Escalating gun violence, the NRA and 21st century gun control; Mueller and his ‘Russian Witch Hunt Hoax’; Stormy Daniels; and Dozens of other critical issues which need to be addressed in an honest, responsible and strategic fashion.

Donald J. Trump has the attention span of a gnat, the moral turpitude of a ‘made man’ and the integrity of a Carnival Barker.  Despite that, he is our POTUS, and he continues to dash along his path toward fooling many of the people most of the time.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 was approved by the One Hundred Fourth U.S. Congress, and was signed into law by President Clinton on September 30, 1996.

The evolution of this federal law began just after Republicans assumed majority party status in the House and Senate after the 1994 mid-term elections. Moved forward under the leadership of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the evolution of this Act was long and contentious.

The Act was a major step forward on securing our borders. Among other things, it provided for a dramatic increase in the number of Border Patrol agents; allocated $12 Million for a 14-mile triple fence along the US border from San Diego eastward; provided funding to the INS for acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment including aircraft, helicopters, night vision goggles and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

A critical focus of the Act was to provide stronger enforcement efforts and penalties for persons who: attempt to enter the U.S. illegally; smuggle immigrants into our country; or live inside U.S. borders without proper documentation.  A key driver of the legislation was a popular groundswell to improve oversight of immigrants to reduce and/or eliminate those aliens who had strong propensities toward bad behaviors.

By way of background, a wave of people fleeing from Central America’s ‘Northern Triangle” in the 1980’s –El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – helped to create a perfect storm to challenge U.S. immigration enforcement.

The great percentage of these Northern Triangle immigrants were people who wanted to find a stable environment for their family; to assimilate; and to become productive members of their new community.

A small number of these individuals were survivors who had fought in civil conflicts — some of whom were naturally drawn into street gangs, including MS-13 — most of whom were unattached males with no children.

One of the tenets of this 1996 Act clarifies and codifies the role of an examining immigration officer to determine when an arriving alien is inadmissible for admission to the U.S. for having engaged in fraud or misrepresentation, or because the alien lacks valid documents.  The Act empowers the officer to order the alien removed without further hearing or review, unless the alien states a fear of persecution or an intention to apply for asylum

It further provides that an alien subject to expedited removal who states a fear of persecution or an intention to apply for asylum shall be referred for interview by an asylum officer, and if that officer finds that the alien has a credible fear of persecution, the alien shall be detained for further consideration of the application for asylum under normal non-expedited removal proceedings.

When the asylum officer determines that the alien does not have a credible fear of persecution, the asylum officer will order the alien removed from the United States.

The alien may then request a review by an immigration judge of the asylum officer’s credible fear determination. If the immigration judge also finds that the alien does not have a credible fear of persecution, the alien will be removed from the United States pursuant to the asylum officer’s order.

What is missing from the Act is a clear prohibition of separating immigrant children from their parents.

Why is that prohibition missing from the Act?

One has to conclude that no one in 1996 – not even Newt Gingrich – could have imagined that any official in the United States would consider this approach to be a viable solution.

True, Bill Clinton signed the law which made some major strides forward in our responsible and rational enforcement of U.S. immigration policy.

Yet, there is nothing — NOTHING — in this — or any law — which encourages separation of children from their parents.