Tag Archives: immigration

Critique: 5 Reasons why MAGA Never Made Any Sense

As I said in my most recent blog post over a month ago (ha), I intended to be much more active in getting my ideas in text. Off to a rough start as I’m minutes away from February already.

Today (actually yesterday now that it’s 1:35am) I stumbled on this op-ed by Paul Starr, titled “5 reasons Why MAGA Conservatism Has Never Made Any Sense”. Instead of doing a grand analysis of the piece as a whole, or even point by point, I’m doing it line by line. I’ve found that when trying to critique most pieces, you hit the big points but you gloss right over some of the smaller, jagged points. Little sub-textual cues, rhetorical wizardry, that most people consciously ignore but are subconsciously suggested by due to the sly nature of the wording itself. The only way to address this is to compartmentalize each point and address it one on one. Let’s start from the very beginning.

“MAGA hats have become a symbol of support not just for Donald Trump but for a return to a lost world of white privilege.”

Direct quote. We’re only one sentence into this piece at Mr. Starr has already revealed his hand, failing to resist the urge to conflate MAGA- Trump-what-have-you with white privilege, and by extension, racism. Not even MAGA, specifically MAGA hats. He says this as if it’s an objective fact, as if that’s simply what the hat means, as opposed to subjective interpretation – what the hat means to some people. Neither MAGA nor MAGA hats are a symbol of white privilege to me, and I’m Hispanic. I doubt most of the people who wear the hats themselves imbue them with that kind of symbolism. I doubt any of the non-white individuals in these photos think that’s what it means.

We’re only one sentence in… this is going to be a doozy.

Mr. Starr continues…

In the slogan “Make America Great Again,” the operative word is “again.” The slogan points vaguely to a time in the past when things were “great,” when white men were free to push black people, women, and immigrants around

My above argument applies here too, however I do want to expand on this, and it’s a point I have often thought about but never thought that it needed articulation as it always seemed so obvious to me. Speaking as a MAGA supporter myself, I never thought of one specific time or aspect of our country when things we’re all around better, that I wanted to capture again. When I think of making American great again, it’s more of a collage, a collection of various aspects of the America of old which I like, melded together. A little of this, a little of that. They need not be mutually exclusive, they need not even be political, or even on a national scale.

I’m from San Diego and I remember a time when even during rush hour you could zip to any part of town and your speed would never dip below 55 mph. Now, even on Tuesday at 1pm the freeways feel sluggish. My neighborhood was once peaceful, quaint, quiet, and clean. The past several years have brought an uptick in crime, litter, graffiti, loitering, cars blasting music at all hours, vehicles speeding through the neighborhood where they used to cruise at a respectful pace. Recollecting back, my community used to be great. Maybe less so now, and I’d like to make it great again. Halloweens used to be be a revolving door of kids yelling TRICK’R TREAT! and even in our early twenties my college roommates and I we’re happy to hand out candy to youngsters (given the 31st didn’t land on a Friday or Saturday night). Now, October 31st is a sad, pathetic affair. I want to make Halloween great again! We used to be able to drink on the beach in San Diego, and that was made illegal, I’d like to make summers great again! These aren’t things Trump can fix, but I want to illustrate how when people say MAGA, they aren’t talking about one thing, one time, that’d they’d like to wind the clocks back to and set it on Groundhog Day mode.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s admit the possibility of a more generous interpretation. In the wake of the Great Depression, many Americans during the mid-20th century—white Americans chiefly—experienced greater social mobility and economic security than at any time since. In the generous interpretation, “Make America Great Again” could mean let’s rebuild an America with that high level of opportunity and security. On its face, it could even mean let’s create those conditions for all Americans today.

But that generous view runs into a problem. The kinds of policies Trump and his party favor won’t bring back those conditions even for whites who are voting Republican, much less for everyone. 

… even when he’s being generous he just can’t help but take a jab at white people. This is truly going to be a grueling one. On to the meat and potatoes.

Here are five reasons why make-America-great conservatism has never made any sense on its own terms.
1. If we want to make America great, we need an updated understanding of the economy. The jobs of the future aren’t going to come from industries that belong to a fading past. Trump’s promises to revive coal and protect steel reflect an image of the economy and sources of employment that comes from a half-century ago. Coal is in the midst of an inexorable decline because of technological change, quite apart from environmental regulation

What I find particularly interesting is how Mr. Starr, and many others, seem to suggest that certain industries belong in the past. As if this is written in the stars somewhere and we’re all obliged to follow some prescribed blueprint for society. Who says certain industries belong in the past? I don’t know much about the coal industry, but is it still profitable? If so, I would argue that, as an industry, it very much belongs in the present. And if it declines because of natural market forces, then so be it, the end of the coal industry it is. No tears from me. But is it the role of third parties to dictate which industries should thrive, and which should fail?

The left does this with many things. He makes too much money. She isn’t paid enough. Starting ideas with everyone should… instead of I would prefer it if people did... These claims all revolve around the concept that they, and they alone hold the answers to all of life’s riddles, as opposed to simply having and being entitled to an opinion like everyone else.

slapping tariffs on imported steel raises the price of inputs for other manufacturers and makes their goods less competitive. As the minor modifications Trump negotiated in NAFTA show, he was never going to reverse America’s interdependent trade relationships and bring significant numbers of high-paying jobs back that way.

Except many of those jobs have indeed come back. Read this piece from Chuck DeVore, a contributor at Forbes that talks about the Trump manufacturing job boom.

All the false hopes he has aroused have mainly served as cover for the one major economic policy the Republicans have passed—the 2017 tax legislation, with its giveaways to the rich.

This barely merits a response. Allowing people to keep more of their own money is not giving away anything. By Mr. Starr’s logic, I have given away millions of dollars by not robbing banks.

2. If we want to make America great, we need to avoid a declining and aging population. Child-bearing in the United States has fallen below the replacement rate; in 26 states, there are more deaths than births among the white population. In that light, you’d think conservatives would recognize the need for policies to reduce the costs to families of raising children.

Reducing the cost of living for Americans is a good thing. I think that much Mr. Starr and I can agree on. What is unclear in this statement, and take note that Mr. Starr specifically didn’t touch on the issue, is whether or not he is arguing that reducing the costs of raising kids will incentivize Americans to have more kids, and therefore avoid a declining population, to use his words. Basically, does he think people will have more kids if they have more money? I’ll wager that he intentionally left this out, because the numbers say that no, more money doesn’t mean more kids. In fact, numbers suggest the opposite.

Birth rate in the United States in 2015, by household income

The movie Idiocracy brushed up on this concept in it’s introduction, where the less intelligent presumably economically under-performing Clevon spawned several litters, while the hyper intelligent, very well-to-do Carol and Trevor died childless and alone.

That would mean providing public support for child care and paid family leave; it would mean help for families with housing costs and college costs.

The jokes write themselves these days.

Who doesn’t have housing costs? Who are these lucky people? Conservatives actually do try to address this, and it’s a great place to start. For most Americans, especially those in Democrat strongholds where real estate prices are the highest, housing costs are a family’s single greatest expense. You can cut coupons, get energy saving light bulbs, and bike to work to lower your food, utility, and transportation expenses respectively, but rent/mortgage is inescapable. So it should be something we try to address, and we have, in efforts to curtail rent control, which actually has an adverse effect on many tenants. Yes, rent control inadvertently results in rents going up, or more correctly, transfers the cost of rent from one group of renters to another. In San Francisco, these groups were usually cost shifts from older renters to younger renters, or in other words, from people without kids and without colleges costs, to those more likely to have one, the other, or both. Read more about the study conducted by Stanford.

Their opposition to immigration compounds the danger. 

Yahtzee! There it is. I smelled this coming around the bend before I got to it. I’ll spoil the movie for you. “Americans, have more abortions, even late term abortions! What’s this? Americans aren’t breeding enough? It must be because of conservative policies. Lets import people!” Americans are reproducing. Left leaning people… not so much. I won’t bore you with the details, so read here, here, and here (2006). Considering 50% of conceived black children in New York (Democrat stronghold) are aborted, I think we have very confidently identified the solution to avoiding a declining and aging population. Democrats, stop killing your babies.

Deporting millions of undocumented here would create an immediate economic crisis; businesses would go bust, and whole towns would die off. The higher birth rate among immigrants is a blessing; it helps counteract the falling birth rate of the native born. 

Maybe deporting them all at once would hurt. But done so gradually, over say, the course of 5 years, I think would do this country wonders. Just a couple sentences ago Mr. Starr mentioned housing costs. Lets talk about the relationship between population size and rent rates in any given area, since the two are very closely tied together (learn, learn more). The San Diego Union Tribune reported that San Diego is home to 170,000 illegal immigrants as of 2014 – which roughly translates into 1 in 20 residents of the county, or 5% of the population. Imagine if these 170,000 people were no longer in the country, and all their housing units we’re freed up. For the sake of argument, lets pretend these are large families averaging 7 per household, that works out to about 24,285 housing units these people occupy. Imagine if these 24,000 houses/apartments were freed up. How would that affect rents in San Diego? For the 19/20 other San Diegans, it would be greatly reduced rents. Imagine 24,000 new homes built in San Diego, without the added traffic that normally accompanies it. Then factor in the impact on school crowding, traffic, infrastructure, health care and emergency services, and the benefits to legal Americans is great.

How would businesses go bust? After all, isn’t it illegal to hire illegal aliens? We know of course some businesses still do, and in the absence of sub-minimum wage workers, those businesses would be forced to hire legal Americans, and pay legal, higher wages. Leftists like Mr. Starr can’t argue that this would be bad for the economy, because this is the very argument they use in justification and defense of raising the minimum wage. Check mate. Oh, and Mr. Starr, since you mentioned earlier that reduced housing costs would help families with kids and college costs, you win twice brother!

MAGA supporters ought to recognize that they will need enough workers to pay into Social Security while they’re collecting it. So if for no other reason they should favor immigration reforms that legalize the status of the undocumented who have long been here and that welcome immigrants in the future.

Legalizing illegal activity incentivizes more illegal activity. Imagine if you robbed a store, and the government just decided to “legalize” the stolen property, everyone is square, it would motivate people to do it again realizing that eventually once the problem hit critical mass, there would be another round of legalization.

We’re finally to point 3!

3. If we want to make America great, we need to support science and the universities, not undermine them. The conservative antagonism to knowledge-producing institutions makes no sense from the standpoint even of people who will never set foot in them.

I’m going to use my crystal ball here and guess that this is a jab at climate change. Let’s set that to the side for a second and continue. I’m giddy with anticipation. Conservatives aren’t against “knowledge-producing institutions” but my concern is that many on the left seem to think that the only such places worth their while are liberal arts colleges. I went to such a college, San Diego State University, and got a Bachelors of Science. I’m not knocking college, but to act as though the options are college or jail, as Bernie Sanders put it, is a false dichotomy, and misguided advice that has resulted in millions of young Americans falling into the trap of student debt. I’ll try to dedicate a separate piece about why college is so expensive in the United States but let’s all just agree that for what ever reason, it is expensive. There are plenty of other careers paths towards financial security (and economic prosperity for the country) that don’t involve going to college. Vocational and technical schools, trade schools, military, firefighting, and law enforcement, to name a few. I know a good many realtors and loan officers who make six figures and then some without a college degree. I know many successful business owners with no degree, who also do very well for themselves. In hindsight I wonder if I had started my current career sooner in lieu of college, I may very well be retired by now at the ripe age of 32. The point I am trying to make is college is not the end all, be all of success. For many people, it has spelled financial ruin, and for others college has worked beautifully. As far as the antagonism goes, it probably doesn’t help when academics in their ivory towers choose to be condescending to those “who will never set foot in them”.

There is no economic alternative to investing in advanced research and education. That’s true not only for the familiar reason: new knowledge will be the basis for future growth. It’s true also because new knowledge is needed to regulate emerging technologies in the public interest.

I think I know what he’s trying to say here, but damn if that doesn’t wreak of Orwellian intent.

4. If we want to make America great, we have to face up to environmental realities. Denying climate change won’t stop it from happening, but it is blocking us from making necessary adjustments in our way of life and necessary investments to limit global warming and prepare for changes that can no longer be averted. 

This is another one of those things, where leading messaging is baked in. It assumes that we all really know that anthropogenic climate change is real, but some of us just pretend it isn’t. I used to be on the climate change train, and as I have read more I’ve become sort of agnostic on the issue, but to claim that people who are skeptical of something simply aren’t facing up to reality is a slap in the face. I won’t get into climate change here, but how exactly are MAGA hats “blocking us from making necessary adjustments in our way of life”? Want a Prius? Drive a Prius. Want to bike to work, do that. Telecommute, carpool, vanpool, hold e-meetings, use skype, install solar panels, insulate your attic, take shorter showers, buy used clothes, recycle. To the best of my knowledge all of these activities are still very much legal in spite of whatever opinions people hold. What Mr. Starr seems to be implying here is that if the government doesn’t do it, it can’t be done.


5. If we want to make America great, we need partners in the rest of the world. MAGA conservatism is not only backward-looking but inward-looking. It assumes that the United States was once great because it could push other countries around. But the real greatness came from alliances and cooperation. Globalism isn’t a conspiracy; it’s a necessity in a world with highly integrated economies, facing climate change, and trying to contain the risks from nuclear weapons and terrorism. 

MAGA conservatism isn’t anti alliances, or anti partner. It is about taking a second look at some of those alliances and partnerships to make sure that they are equitable, not lopsided. A line from the greatest rom-com Christmas movie ever, Love Actually, comes to mind. Prime Minister Hugh Grant said “I love that word “relationship”. Covers all manner of sins, doesn’t it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to Britain. […] And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger.”

In that line, Grant wasn’t saying that the U.S. and the U.K. we’re no longer allies, but was inferring that the relationship had soured, and that things needed to change in order to improve said alliance. It wasn’t introversion, it wasn’t escapism, or isolationism, but it was in the interest of self preservation. The notion that because someone is our friend, we must allow them to take advantage of us, is silly. Other nations cannot be faulted for doing what they can to get terms most desirable for it’s own people – that is exactly what a nation’s leaders are supposed to do – at our expense. In some areas, U.S. foreign policy and trade policy needed a little re-calibrating to bring things back to a level paying field, and that’s what MAGA conservatism is advocating.

I’ve met many MAGA enthusiasts from across the country, from all walks of life, races, religions, and all two genders. Their view of MAGA and Trump couldn’t be further from what the opposition and individuals like Mr. Starr think of it. The notes Trump hits resonates with a lot of people, and falls on deaf ears or even deafens others. I think a lot of that is due in part to the fact that there was a media blitz that started in 2015 and continues to this day to paint everything MAGA, everything Trump as sinister, backwards, and stupid. Trump’s style of communication admittedly isn’t for everyone. However I also think that some of these misgivings of MAGA conservatism, or conservatism in general can be alleviated by trying to have civil conversations with members of the MAGA crowd instead of instinctively writing them off as ugly, blind, inward-looking, backward-looking, conspiring, denying, beholden, antagonizing, undermining, fading, and nonsensical – all borrowed words from Mr. Starr’s writing.

The truth is, I don’t think most leftists, liberals, Democrats – pick your word – are evil, or racist, or stupid as I have been called before on many occasions simply for my political bend. I think they are people with their own experiences, who have been exposed to things and simply had a different take away from it. I also truly believe that if they picked the minds of people like myself, some of them might be persuaded that MAGA conservatism actually does make sense.

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My Stance on Issues: Part 1

As I’ve stated before, when I started this blog I originally intended it to be a place where I could vent about things that are controversial issues being discussed in society, but which I thought were too long to post on Facebook, and I certainly didn’t want to argue with strangers on the internet.

Like most people I am a bit reluctant to talk about controversial stuff. Many people who know me would probably disagree with that statement. But it’s true, I am reluctant. Very reluctant. But I push past it.

There’s a lot of controversial things out there which have flared up in recent years, even this past year (2015). Especially with it being all about the 2016 elections, we have every buried issue getting unearthed all at once.

What’s more is that in addition to people thinking I’m some loud mouth, I feel like a lot of people, even my close friends, think I’m an asshole for saying it. I’m an asshole for thinking it. For believing it. For wanting to share my thoughts about it. And that’s the hush hush world we live in now where though police shame people who disagree with them into not expressing themselves.

But I don’t think I’m an asshole and I want to let everyone know what I think about the issues of our time, because I have a voice, and I think it matters.

Generally Speaking

I’m a libertarian. I’m all for live and let live. Legalize and regulate. Keep things simple and practical. Individuals must be responsible for themselves. And individuals must be responsible for only themselves. That’s the gist of my approach and I try to be as consistent as possible in how I apply it.

Now for the juicy stuff.

Weed

I don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t smoke weed. I have smoked weed, but I don’t smoke weed. Does that make sense? I’ve done it but I’m not a habitual user and I can probably count the number of times I have used wee on my fingers. It’s not for me, but then again neither is pistachio ice cream. Weed doesn’t hurt anyone, but if it does, it’s only the person using it. I think it should be legal.

Whose bright idea was it to take something horrible and turn it into a dessert?

Apparently there are even medicinal purposes for it. But I don’t think someone should be required to have a special medical card or prescription to get weed. I think it should be fully legalized for recreational use for anyone 18 or over.

That being said, I think it should be treated like a mixture of alcohol and cigarettes. You can drink, but you can’t drink and drive. You can drink, but your ass might get fired for showing up to work drunk. (Not me, because I’m awesome and drink at my desk regularly). As much as I think you have the right to use weed, I think that employers ought to maintain the right to hire or fire based on whether or not you use it, with the exception being legit medicinal purposes, and not just “glaucoma”.

Abortion

First off, let’s walk briskly past the whole life of the mother thing. Yes, I got it, if the mom faces health problems, or the baby is missing half a heart or something then no argument there. Do what needs to be done.

This is a tough issue though, it really is. Of course we’ve got the whole “women’s rights” and that whole spiel. (Oh, on a side note I do have a tinsy winsy thing I’d like to inject here, for the sake of keeping this semi-short, please refer to my future blogs)

But then let’s be real, there is the very real baby thingamajig inside the womb. Here’s a thought… if a woman who had every intention of coming to term fell down a flight of stairs and lost her child, no one would dare say “oh well it technically wasn’t even alive yet.” because they’d be the biggest most heartless douchebag in the world and run out of town. But when a doctor does it surgically, it’s considered by some to be less horrible. So it is at least disingenuous to play the whole “it’s not a life” card. A fetus might not meet the textbook definition of a life, but it’s definitely not nothing either.

If abortion was illegal, there arises the dilemma of coming up with a suitable punishment, and that’s a can of worms in itself. A mom with two kids gets an abortion because she can’t afford to feed a third mouth? Whatcha gonna do? Throw her in prison and deprive the other two of a mother?

My thought is that no legal punishment will have as much of a lasting effect as someone’s own sense of guilt. The picketers, the rioters, possible jail time. All of that pales in comparison to the weight of such a decision.

The truth is every pregnancy is different. Ever set of parents and their life situation is different. But what all of them have in common is that getting an abortion is probably not (hopefully not) an easy decision, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. And for those who feel no guilt, the ‘repeat offenders’ who have no qualms whatsoever about abortions…. Just maybe the world is better off without them as parents.

I’m not pro abortion. I’m not anti abortion. I’m thankful I’ve never been in a position where I had to make that choice. And heaven forbid I was, I sure as hell wouldn’t want an already complicated situation compounded and exacerbated by politicians.

Also, this song.

Guns

My more left oriented friends probably think I’m a gun nut. To them I say, you’ve never met a real gun nut.

Again, my stance is legalize and regulate. I think guns should be legal but just like with the law, the rule ought to be innocent until proven guilty…or in this case, incompetent.

By default everyone can have guns, but then we set up some parameters like you have to be of age, you have to be mentally sound, you can’t have committed a violent crime, and you can’t have a restraining order against you. Stuff like that.

I’m also for digging a little deeper. I think people with a history of reckless driving behavior should probably undergo some extra scrutiny. Do we want a guy with 5 accidents, 8 tickets and a DUI handling a gun? Guns are deadly, no argument there. And just as doing stupid shit can cost you your license, I am surprisingly not opposed to it costing you your right to bear arms.

Honestly, I can name a few people who shouldn’t be anywhere near a firearm, and for good reason. As a gun owner, I’ll be the first person in line to admit that yeah, guns are dangerous in the wrong hands.

And now for what I consider the ‘peripheral attacks’ on firearms. The big distractor, the go to red herring used by ‘gun control’ advocates is the fallacious argument that “no one is trying to take away all your guns”. I call bullshit.

There are literally laws in the U.S. that restrict:

  • how long or short a gun can be
  • how long or short the barrel can be
  • what type of bullets can be fired
  • what materials a bullet can be made of
  • how many bullets a magazine can accommodate
  • the physical mechanism for releasing a magazine
  • the shape of a rifle stock
  • whether or not a rifle stock can extend
  • how many guns you can buy at once
  • how long you have to wait to pick up a gun you purchased
  • how you can store guns
  • how you can transport guns
  • features that are purely aesthetic or ergonomic in nature have been outright banned, such as a barrel shroud, a muzzle brake, or a flash suppressor.

The truth is most guns in this country sit in a safe 360+ days per year collecting dust. In 2011 there were about 8,583 gun deaths in the U.S. There were about 270-310 million privately owned guns, both legally and illegally. The population coincidentally was about 311 million. Using that figure there is/was a .00275% chance that a gun/gun owner would shoot you dead.

That same year, 32,479 people died in car accidents. Almost four times as many. When four times as many people are dying accidentally, as are being murdered intentionally, I think that shines a light on the larger problem.

Why are you arguing with me? Willy Wonka said it, goosh…

I don’t think gun laws are the problem, therefore I don’t think more gun laws are needed. I think this country has a cultural problem, and gun violence, rape, texting and driving are all symptoms of that one illness.

Immigration

I don’t think it’s outlandish to claim that a country can’t just let in anyone and everyone. I don’t know that we need a fence along the entire border, but I also don’t think that enforcing your borders is xenophobic. It’s just prudent.

Pretty much every country in the world enforces its border, or at least those with the resources to effectively do so. But in the U.S., such a practice is considered racist.

I think of a country as a giant house, and the citizens as a giant family. If someone broke into your house (crossed your border) and squatted in your garage, do you think you should be obligated to leave them be? Now imagine that person broke in and had a bunch of kids? Are you now required to let them all stay? Are you required to feed them? Pay their medical bills? Pay for their kids school supplies?

But I’m not heartless. Think about how dire your situation has to be that you would risk life and limb, and even the safety of your family, to abandon your home for a land where you have nothing, know nothing, and don’t speak the language. Most of the people coming here are looking to provide for their families and I give them a hell of a lot of credit for that. They’ve crossed a desert, crossed a border, to work. I know some American born people who at times couldn’t be bothered to cross the living room to apply for a job.

That being said, the law is the law. If you got caught sneaking into Mexico, fat chance you’d be treated as a victim. And no one calls the Federalis xenophobic. I think we should allow more people to work here without necessarily being citizens. Give them a higher income tax rates to encourage US businesses to hire domestic first, but at least make the process legit.

Conclusion

It’s late. I’m tired. I’ll write some more later.