Welcome to the Trump Years

Officially, now, Donald John Trump the First is the 45th President of the United States of America. He has 1460 days to make America great again, which means:

  • Raising 30,000 people up from poverty per day
  • Legalize and stabilize some 7500 undocumented immigrants per day
  • Rehabilitate and release some 1500 state and federal prisoners per day
  • See 17,000 undereducated individuals achieve at least a GED per day
  • Employ or improve the employment of 11,200 unemployed or underemployed persons per day
  • Repair or replace 41 bridges per day, among other infrastructure improvements needed
  • Cut the carbon emissions another 1.25% per year to reach the 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020

And so on.

It will not be an easy task, and it will be all the harder for the resistance to greatness that the Republican party loyalists in Congress cling to. They seek not to address these problems with an eye to solution, but instead to focus on limited agendas to improve the bottom lines of a few corporations.

If President Trump truly wants to make America great, he will have to stave off the legislative assassins who will gut any real reforms he might seek.

Greatness is not a measure of the stock market. It is not found on balance sheets. It is quantifiable, but only in the quantity of humans who are prosperous. And prosperous not for a day, a week, a month, a year, or a presidential term, but for their lives. For their children’s lives. And on down the road.

If President Trump does not address the measures above, and others, he will not have succeeded in making America great. He will be held to that standard by history. He can either go down as another in a line of those he would say to, “You had four years, and yet you did not succeed.”

It is a weighty task. There is much to be done. But it is doable. It has always been doable. It will take a lot of work, but any president that is willing to put in the effort can achieve great things.

So, go ahead, punk. Make America great. I dare Trump. I double-dog dare Trump. What is Trump, a chicken? Bok-bok!

Whatever happened during the 2016 election, Trump is now president. He ran to make the country great, to shed the shrouds that have weakened us. Now he must perform.


Trump Built a Wall Around His Campaign

And he’s going to make the Republicans pay for it. We’ve seen enough off-the-cuff discussion of immigration from Trump to show he understands at least some of the problems with his policy, and yet, given the opportunity to attempt a real, earnest reset, he chose to stay where he is. He continues to hold up his broken immigration policy proposal as the cornerstone of his campaign.

He even bothered to bring up global warming during his speech, to mock it. An issue that will cost the generation known as Millennials $8.8 trillion by one estimate, versus an issue that, managed correctly, actually generates revenue (so could climate mitigation, of course, if action were taken).

Likewise, on the issue of Colin Kaepernick’s protest, he missed a key opportunity to appeal to minorities. All he had to do was disavow the protest itself, while being sympathetic to the issues it represents. Instead it was something like, ‘go find a new country.’

He’s bad at this, folks. He seems to believe he can win with white men alone. He largely did that during the primaries, but the last primary was three months ago. Nobody told Trump, apparently.

He keeps hiring people to fix it, but they’re all on the outside of his wall. Inside? Probably just him, realistically. His kids, he pays attention to the kids. But as I’ve said before, they probably agree with him no matter what, as it’s their inheritance on the line. They can’t really be the changemakers. As the new staff gets frustrated, they try to breach that wall, only to find themselves resigning or fired because the Trumps like their wall right where it is.

The best that they can hope for is that they can get Trump to leave the wall, since they’re not going to get in there. Leave some KFC buckets outside, and set up some big fans to blow the scent in there. Or maybe try to smoke him out. Something.

In all probability, he just doesn’t understand how it works. He thinks leaders are elected by their staff. If only he hires the right people, it’ll all work out. He doesn’t understand that it’s up to him to do the work, and the Republican leaders haven’t impressed upon him that the damage he is doing will leave scars. But they can’t, because he’s not a politician anyway. He has no real skin in the game. He can always go back to being a two-bit billionaire, which he’s already said he’ll gladly do.

That’s good for the country, at least. The Republicans are left with another bout of obstructionism ahead as their only real strategy beyond actually changing some of their policies. It will take more electoral defeat to convince them to change, something that will only occur over the next few decades, unfortunately.


Immigration Reform the Right Way

The United States, depending upon labor for both high-end and low-end industries, depends upon immigration. Currently a large swath of the low-end work like farm labor depends largely upon illegal immigration. Closing the borders will not fix that problem. Technology may, in time, supplant human labor with robotics, but we’re not there yet.

As with other black markets and gray markets, the best solution is to move everything above board. This allows for proper accounting, elimination of abuse, and recourse at law.

The situation can be similar in the high-end work, although it is mostly already in a white market. Maintaining standards of liquidity, for example, are important in labor markets, and H1B does fail in that, along with some other issues it has.

A fix for immigration has been on a lot of to-do lists for a long time. The blockage has been entirely with a subset of congressional Republicans. They blocked it under Bush, they blocked it under Obama, and they will at least attempt to do so under Clinton. Under a hypothetical Trump presidency, the blocking would not shift to the majority. In theory, a President Trump would then be in a position to make a deal, but the irony there is that any such deal would likely be blocked by the same Republicans that support Trump on immigration!

In other words, the entire immigration system is being held hostage by a few extremists. This is anti-capitalist political behavior that is thwarting economic growth and social justice. They want the same sort of draconian policy that Trump advocates: close the borders, deport offenders, and gloat about it.

As with many other issues, they offer no explanation of how that position will improve things, who will pick the crops, and so on. They are in the same boat as anti-trade folks, who pretend that not trading makes jobs come back (or labor abuses in other countries go away). To solve the problems we have with labor and immigration, we must think about the economic implications much more carefully, but instead we find ourselves locked into a suboptimal situation where we are at the mercy of the laws of economics.

During booms, we see the uptick in illegal immigration. During downturns, net immigration reverses. Both make sense, but the swings are more dire than need be simply because in a gray or black labor market there is less maintenance of labor during changes in the economic climate. There are no planners or hedges being built on labor, as we have in other industries for other economic inputs.

We should reform our immigration system, in a balanced fashion that improves the lot of those who lose their jobs due to immigration of labor. Instead, it looks like the status quo will maintain, and folks like Donald Trump will continue to be the source of inaction rather than the heroes they pretend to be.

More importantly, on this and so many important issues, the solutions are basically known. The missing piece is simply the passage of reform. And that’s wholly on the minority of absolutists on the right that are blocking progress.


The Politics of Trust

The Brexit, now affirmed by referendum, was about trust. Issues of immigration, terrorism, and gun control are trust issues. Trust is a very tricky thing.

How can we trust immigrants to be positive additions to our countries? How many can we afford to misplace trust in before it is our undoing? It’s the same question as how the hell can we trust someone with a dangerous weapon they could use to harm us.

The Democrats wonder why we trust people to buy guns when we don’t trust them to fly on airplanes. The Republicans counter that we can’t trust the government to make those decisions without due process.

The Brexiters don’t believe they can trust their country to retain its character in the face of both European and other immigration. They voted to leave behind their associates on the Continent because they do not trust them. In turn, Scotland and Northern Ireland will undoubtedly attempt to leave the UK, because they feel betrayed by a country they thought was smarter than to abandon the union.

The United States has a system of government built upon the idea that trust is hard. Rather than trusting one authority, the Constitution spreads power among three branches, to protect against the abuse of power. And ever since, we’ve sought to improve our ability to create institutions that can be operated without relying too much on blind trust.

But, again, the problem with guns and immigration is that they’re the same issue talking past itself. How can we trust the individual, be they a refugee of war or someone seeking to buy a weapon?

The Democrat’s answer is that we can’t trust either one blindly. Trust, but verify, they say. Background checks and block purchases for those who appear to pose harm. Background checks and block immigration for those who appear to pose harm.

The Republican’s answer is that we can’t trust one group, refugees and immigrants, but we can and should blindly trust the other group, gun buyers.

In the UK’s case, the remain folks believe that they can trust Europe, and that the EU’s binding ties ultimately set up the incentives to enforce trust. If the EU screwed the UK, it would hurt the rest of the EU, and vice versa. The leave position inherently says that Europe can’t be trusted to look after themselves, that they would screw everyone, and that the UK is better off alone with less influence on its neighbors.

It’s also important to recognize how much damage the intentional souring of trust has done. From the beginning President Obama was painted as untrustworthy by the right, and the country has suffered for it, through a strengthened executive and less functional courts and legislature. In the UK the UK-first tripe has set up a series of obstacles going forward that will strain relations both inside the UK and with Europe for decades to come.

How can we trust a terrorist to buy a gun? Are other citizens not owed due process in firearm sales? How can we trust an immigrant to not be a terrorist? How much vetting is sufficient? How can the British betray the Continent and expect the world to respect them?


The Muslim Gun Paradox

Trump wants to ban Muslims from coming to the USA. Many other Republicans have called for similar shifts, though only applied to refugees. In general, there is a right-wing consensus that Islam is a problem.

Meanwhile, many on the left want more gun control (or gun safety as they are wont to say). The New York Times even came darn close to the watchword of confiscation, saying some guns should be given up by lawful owners as part of a gun control platform.

The right wing says we either need super screening of incoming Muslim refugees, or maybe we should ban them all from coming. The left says we need super screening of gun owners, or maybe we should ban (at least some) gun ownership.

There’s some sort of pattern there. Something about needing to feel safe, being able to trust people. And both sides seem to agree that it’s needed. And yet they’re arguing as though they are living on different planets.

Why shouldn’t the right-wing admit that screening is a tool, whether it’s for immigration or gun ownership? Why shouldn’t the left-wing admit that, for the same reasons that anti-immigration agendas from the right won’t really do much, gun control isn’t a magic bullet?

Thing is, most of the people support a good screening. You don’t want to go to the doctor and she half-asses the prostate check. Get up in there. Make sure it’s nice and smooth. Maybe get a picture taken, for your social feed. You don’t want to go to the mechanic and she doesn’t change the oil filter, making the new oil just get cruddy double-time. And you don’t want people who aren’t thinking straight just going out and getting guns. You don’t want disturbed refugees to come in and spoil things.

It seems sensible to admit the irony. We need to screen, wherever someone comes from, but with greater scrutiny when they come from a warzone populated by people who might be part of a death cult. And certainly, when someone wants to buy a lethal implement, they should be given a good once-over. If someone wants to borrow your car, you tend to want to know who they are and a few more details like if they can drive, have a license, etc.

Thing is, as far as I can tell the Democrats want to screen refugees, and at least some Republicans want to have better background checks for gun sales. The fact that there are loud arguments seem to be the result of a bunch of idiots. So maybe the real screening needs to be in who we choose to listen to in arguments such as these.