Immigration and Trade: Trump’s Iraq

President Donald Trump, our Markov-chain in Chief, had been an ill-weather critic of the Iraq war, and over time his criticism developed to the point where, in the face of intelligence that the Russian Federation acted to unlawfully tamper in the 2016 election, he claimed we cannot trust the intelligence community.

But Trump himself is cooking the books on immigration and trade. With respect to undocumented immigration and with respect to documented immigration from Muslim-majority nations, he is over-blowing the threats while ignoring the benefits. He pretends that the reality warrants his response, when it does not. And again on trade, where he sees an economic world very different from the one that exists. Taken together, this is Trump’s (first?) Iraq.

It will not be as bloody, and it may only be a fraction as expensive in direct costs, but it is still a major blunder supported only by faulty intelligence and an administration hell-bent on pursuing a policy while ignoring all the red flags.

Donald Trump would have (is having) the USA invade itself. In the wake of this invasion, there will be economic calamity. There will be huge disruption to the lives of many innocent people. It is an asinine vision from a cross-eyed administration that cannot seem to admit when it has made a mistake.

All the while, he is treating the budgeting process as a piggy bank ripe for the hammer. He is proposing a number of major spending initiatives and his only hope of paying for them is that the economy would grow so fast that the interstate highway system would develop stretch marks.

But that’s not going to happen. Worse, the opposite is sure to pass if we see the expected downturns in tourism, agriculture, construction, and other sectors that will be mauled by his anti-immigrant lunacy. The projections that this administration would have us believe excuse not paying for spending up-front will look like cruel jokes.

All the while, the debt grows, the politicians become more reluctant to spend correctly in the face of their past mistakes that were all caused by incorrect spending… This is not the path to a great America. They tried the austere path in Europe, and they’re still trying to figure out what’s what.

All the while, the likelihood of another recession grows. The inability to regulate industry properly makes recession worse. It makes the global threats of war worse. It increases the inevitable flow of economic refugees and helps guarantee a future of climate refugees.

We cannot afford to have an Iraq happen with every other president. Mistakes are one thing, but easily recognizable blunders need to stop. Trump’s immigration policy and trade policy are just that.

Pause 2.0

This is going to take some time. Please continue to be patient.

Post images will continue to be missing for now. Theme will be abnormal. “All is calm, all is bright…”

Economic Problems

We see it on education. On healthcare. On climate. On recreational drugs. On abortion. On practically every issue our nations face.

Our debate isn’t really about any issue, per se. It’s all come down to the economic structures we use to do work.

Take education. We know how to teach people things, more or less. While there are challenges, the fundamental question of education is one of funding. The conservatives want to have McSchools pop up across the land, where you go in and order a number six with cheese and you learn how to do algebra (with cheese). The liberals want to continue to have school lunch: you go to school and the meal is the meal.

In both scenarios, the mechanism of learning is basically the same: read, hear, watch, then practice. The idea that we need to undercut the fabric of education, that this has to be a debate rather than an experiment, is silly, but for scarcity of time and money.

The same is true on healthcare. There’s nobody saying we need to trepan patients’ skulls to let the demons out. The medical science is advancing as it is, more or less on schedule. The argument is over how much money should be made, and how should it be allocated. The courts are currently blocking the march to private-single-payer with their rulings on anti-trust actions by the DOJ.

And climate, where the oil companies aren’t arguing that global warming isn’t real (not really), that the disasters aren’t coming, but that we should pay for it by enduring its effects, rather than mitigating it. Or, as some Republicans now push for a carbon tax over regulation, maybe there can be a market structure.

Reduced to this high-level view, our problems are fundamentally about who profits and how much, a frank discussion that is sorely needed but that is continually obfuscated by pretending it’s about healthcare or abortion.

We should not be fanatical about which side of the imaginary public-private line a service like education or healthcare resides on. But, more importantly, the people should demand high-quality and low-cost with protections and rights retained wherever the service lives. That includes representation, due process, fiduciary duties, and the like.

The politicians need to stop having fake arguments about issues and start having the real argument about the monetary structures of society.

In unrelated news, 1.5% of the current presidential term is already over. Just remember, every fortnight is 1% more of the term gone.

The High Price of Non-regulation

The Republican Unified Government (RUG), high off the fumes of kerosene they have bathed over the regulatory state, should open a window and call their accountants.

Regulation has a cost (nearly $900 billion for the past eight years, according to one study). But burning the check on externalities and leaving consumers unprotected has a cost, too. The RUG should be wary of its plan to abolish the sensible regulation alongside the onerous.

Consider the concept of healthcare, of medicine. When doctors diagnose an illness, it incurs a cost. That worker may need time off to recover, or may suffer under the side-effects of their prescription. The business may pay out some money to cover treatments. They may have to make accommodations for the worker’s weakened state, temporarily or permanently.

But the alternative, a worker dying on the job, the fear of other workers that they will arrive in the same state, is untenable. Worse, to fire someone for an illness, undermines the argument that employment is a stable, dependable method for allocating value to the individual.

Or consider food regulations, whether from the FDA or the USDA. Those hard-won protections of food quality arose from public outrage at the contaminated foodstuffs that people were buying. Maggoty bread and spoiled meat may fit with the latest RUG-endorsed diet fad (“The That Food Looks Rancid Diet”), but most Americans want wholesome meals for them and theirs.

No. Slash-and-burn regulatory policy will result not in record gains, record wealth, but will instead only hasten the adoption of stricter regulation in the years that follow. It will hasten migration to the states that hold fast to their own regulations, as millions in places like Flint, Michigan start to recognize that it’s not worth it to live somewhere with poison water.

The cost of incompetent government is too high, and the Muralists are teeing themselves up to be a memory that will echo for generations against the emergence of any future RUG.

Things that are properly regulated stipulate a “pay me now or pay me (more) later” arrangement. Just like with health insurance, paying up front is cheaper and easier than paying in the rear-view. The RUG would do well to study the problem and only eliminate or recast regulations that fail the obvious test of appropriateness.

The Trump ARG

“Alternative facts?” Try alternate reality. Alternate-reality games are a kind of live-action game where people have to cooperate to find clues and solve riddles.

But in the context of the new administration, there’s a new kind of ARG. The Trump administration sees the world as a game. It’s right there in his obsession with the “achievement” of winning the presidency—never mind that the presidency is no prize, but a job of enormous responsibility.

To the Muralists, it is a game. Of course, it’s always been a game, and a prize, of a certain sort. All presidents have had a certain level of gamesmanship-via-bullshit, as do all politicians. But at present, whether owing to the particular disposition of the president or to the level of game-ness the administration views the world with, the limits are far higher.

The willingness to march in front of the press and chastise them for reporting the truth, along with the feints toward curtailing access, point to an administration that believes it is freed from the restraints of the past. They believe that they can do big things, which is good, but they believe to do them they must break rules, which is bad. And, the things they seek to do are quite bad, too.

Worse, they believe they are living in an alternate reality game, where the victory is not measured by real outcomes, but by their ability to spin whatever outcomes occur.

There was lackluster turnout at the inauguration. Is that a defeat? Not if they deny the fact. But they believe, according to the rules of the game, it would be a defeat. So they play the game, denying reality.

Would it be a defeat if they admitted the fact? Of course not. Yes, Trump is unpopular. He will remain so until he repents his sins. He will remain so until he can point to real accomplishments and not just a lot of bullshit. But defeat is not found at any given point in a presidency, only at the whole.

Trump can always, to paraphrase Armstrong, direct his feet to the sunny side of the street, if he so chooses. But he chooses to walk in the shade. As does his administration. In the hot sun, they would find the game is not a game at all. They would have to face the reality they are positioned to manage.

I never believed they would be equipped to handle that reality. And so far, they don’t seem equipped to even confront it, preferring their game instead.