Glad I Didn’t Say That! A Weird NY Times Definition of “Polarizing”

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Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis “has become a

polarizing leader in the resistance to lengthy pandemic lockdowns,

ignoring the advice of some public health experts in ways that have

left his state’s residents bitterly divided over the costs and benefits of

his actions.”

The New York Times, April 10, 2021

Latest two DeSantis Florida approval ratings: 53 % & 60 %

Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, March 2, 2021 and The Florida Times-Union, March 4, 2021

 

(Sources: “Could Ron DeSantis Be Trump’s G.O.P. Heir?  He’s Certainly Trying,” by Patricia Mazzei, The New York Times, April 10, 2021, Could Ron DeSantis Be Trump’s G.O.P. Heir? He’s Certainly Trying. – The New York Times (nytimes.com); “New poll shows 53% of Florida voters approve of DeSantis, a big increase from July,” by Zac Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 2, 2021, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/politics/state/2021/03/02/florida-governor-ron-desantis-approval-rating-sees-big-increase-covid-pandemic-anniversary/6877677002/; and “UNF poll: Gov. DeSantis approval at 60 percent,” The Florida Times-Union, March 4, 2021, UNF poll: Gov. DeSantis approval at 60 percent – News – The Florida Times-Union – Jacksonville, FL )

Following Up: A Lippmann Gap Still Could be a Big Threat to Biden’s Foreign Policy

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Late last month, I worried here that President Biden could open up a dangerous “Lippmann Gap” in U.S. foreign and national security policy by proposing a defense budget incapable of supporting his expansive ambitions. Yesterday, the administration came out with its first official budget request, and although it lacks the detail to justify firm conclusions, I’m still worried.

The nub of the problem is this: The President has repeatedly announced his intention to reverse course from his predecessor’s America First strategy and return U.S. foreign policy to its decades-long pre-Trump sweeping global activism and engagement. And since Mr. Biden’s “America is back” declarations clearly entail at the least a determination to fill an allegedly vital gap left by Donald Trump, and probably to pursue an even more expansive agenda, logic and common sense alone dictate that he request much more defense spending than at present.

It’s true that Pentagon budget and the military forces it supports are by no means the only tools available to the nation to carry out its international aims. It’s also true that defense spending can be made more effective without boosting overall spending levels by spending existing funds more efficiently and wisely. The latter’s potential won’t start to be revealed until the more detailed budget request is made later this year.

But for now, what is known is that Mr. Biden will ask for some 1.6 percent more for the Defense Department proper for the coming budget year (fiscal 2022) than the resources allotted to the Pentagon during the Trump administration’s final year (fiscal 2021). When adding in national security funds not provided to the Department itself (mainly for maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile – which is handled by the Energy Department), the Biden increase is also about two percent over the funding appropriated during the final Trump year.  (This figure is calculated from here and here.)

Knowledgeable observers of defense spending may note that these Biden fiscal 2022 requests are considerably bigger than the Trump fiscal 2021 requests. These sought just 0.1 percent more for the Pentagon itself than was spent in 2020, and 0.34 percent more for that larger national security budget including the non-Pentagon money. (These figures are found here and calculated from here and here.) 

But Mr. Biden charged that the Trump national security agenda was sorely inadequate. So it’s natural that he’d want more military spending than his predecessor. What’s noteworthy, however, is that the Biden request isn’t that much more. In fact, if inflation takes its expected course this year, this latest military spending proposal will leave the Defense Department and the other agencies responsible for national security with less money when adjusting for rising prices than they spent last year.

Moreover, even in terms of “top-line” spending figures, this Biden request is hardly the last word. The Democratic Congress is practically certain to make further cuts.

Again, wiser spending could fill some of this gap. But what the Biden administration has said about its priorities isn’t all that encouraging, either. Just one example (but a big one): The administration stated yesterday that its military spending request “prioritizes the need to counter the threat from China as the [Defense] Department’s top challenge. The Department would also seek to deter destabilizing behavior by Russia.”

It’s still possible, as suggested above, that moving funds into U.S. China- and Russia-related accounts from lower priority accounts could accomplish these aims even though overall outlays decline in real terms. But in the very next sentence, we learn that the administration isn’t confident that these moves would be the answer (assuming they’re even being contemplated). For it claims that

Leveraging the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and working together with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, DOD [the Defense Department] would ensure that the United States builds the concepts, capabilities, and posture necessary to meet these challenges.”

That is, help from allied countries supposedly will be crucial to countering the Chinese and Russian threats. But not only have these countries skimped on their own defense for decades. For the time being, the President has decided not to press them overly hard to share more of the defense burden (as documented in my original “Lippmann Gap” post).

To repeat: I’m not calling for more U.S. military spending. In fact, I’d like to see Pentagon budgets shrink. But this position reflects my judgment that the nation can be adequately safe and sound by doing less in the international sphere. As long as President Biden wants to do more – not only than me, but also than Donald Trump – the only responsible policy would be to boost military spending. Anything else amounts to inverting former President Theodore Roosevelt’s approach of speaking softly and carrying a big stick – which history teaches never, ever ends well.

Im-Politic: Why Democrats’ Latino Problem is Much Bigger Than They Think

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You know that “Wow!” emoji, with the wide open mouth and eyes? Here’s some political news genuinely deserving that reaction. Remember how all the presidential election exit polls last November showed significant gains by Donald Trump among Latino voters? And how so many analysts attributed this progress to the former President’s “macho” appeal to Latino men – an appeal that was so strong that it overrode Trump’s supposedly obvious anti-Latino racism and xenophobia?

Well, at the beginning of this month, a major survey of Latino voters found that, actually, the Trump Latino vote was driven by women.

Big deal,” you scoff? Absolutely. Because the results indicate that these voters’ backing for Trump didn’t stem mainly from his personality traits, which are not only pretty peculiar to him, but which repel at least as many voters of all kinds as they attract. Instead, the findings suggest that Latinos’ growing Trump-ism owes more to support for his economic message and record (including on immigration) – which signals big opportunities for other Republican/conservative populists not saddled with Trump’s often -putting character, but who focus on issues that will remain crucial to much of the Latino and overall electorate long into the future.

Examples of the “macho” theory include this piece from the New York Times and a later article in the Washington Post Magazine. And they nicely illustrate how it also reenforced the impression of Trump voters generally as “deplorables” that’s been spread relentlessly by the former President’s opponents of all stripes, and that conveniently strengthens the case for seeking to ignore and marginalize them.

It’s true that both these analyses recognized that Trump’s own business experience and the state of the economy for most of his presidency also attracted many Latino males. But their greater emphasis was on how these voters liked the fact that, as the Times piece put it, Trump is “forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation.”

The Post Magazine article was much more nuanced and even-handed, but the author nonetheless described a not-trivial number of Latino men (using his own father as an example) as “archconservatives” and “conservative talk radio” fans. He also presented plenty of analyses from supposed experts likening them to low-status males desperately clinging to any patriarchical life-saver to preserve their remaining self-esteem, and consequently as prime suckers for any “self-made man” and any other bootstraps-type myths contributing to the brand Trump cultivated.

The Post Magazine piece also contrasted these Latino male views with

the experiences of Latinas, many of whom are running their households, managing child care or employed as front-line and domestic workers — nurses or caretakers for the elderly. ‘They are making sure their kids are prepared for Zoom school,’ [one expert] explains. ‘I think there’s a fundamentally different experience that Hispanic men and women have in both what they experience day to day and what information they consume.’”

In other words, Latino men: kind of neanderthal and delusional. Latino women: nose-to-the-grindstone essential workers and heroines who are not only staffing the front lines at work, but keeping ther households together. Therefore, even if you were willing to hold your nose and wanted any opponents of conservative populists to reach out more effectively to Latino men, you’d have to admit that many are too unhinged to be reachable.

Significantly, the new findings – by a data firm called Equis Research – don’t dispute that Trump did better among Latino men than among Latino women. Equis did, however, generate data showing that, between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the Trump Latino male vote grew by three net percentage points, but his Latina vote grew by eight percentage points. That’s what’s called “statistically significant.” And poll skeptics should note that Equis interviewed 41,000 Latino voters in battleground states, and studied voter file data, precinct returns, and focus groups.

Equis didn’t endorse any explanations for this Latina shift, although a Democratic analyst named David Shor believes that “the concentration of Trump’s gains among Latinas is consistent with his hypothesis that ‘defund the police’ influenced Hispanic voting behavior since, in his polling, women rank crime as a more important issue than men do.”

But to me, the new findings matter most for a more fundamental reason:  They further debunk claims from Never Trumpers in both parties that Trump’s Latino gains resulted from appeals to some Americans’ worst (i.e., most sexist) instincts (as mentioned above), or from simple misinformation, or from the Democrats’ alleged failure to court Latino voters ardently enough – that is, from problems that either shouldn’t be fixed, or that can easily be solved without compromising the party’s strong shift to the hard Left on issues across the board.

Instead, Equis’ report adds to the case that  a huge part of the problem is the shift itself – and with Americans of all races, colors, and creeds.

Special thanks to old friend Ruy Teixeira, a distinguished opinion analyst in his own right, for calling this news to my attention. And for a very good summary and analysis of the findings, see this piece from New York magazine (in which you’ll find David Shor’s arguments).

Making News: Podcast On-Line on Biden’s Infrastructure Plan and China…& More!

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I’m pleased to announce that the podcast is now on-line of my latest interview on John Batchelor’s nationally syndicated radio show. Click here for a timely discussion among John, co-host Gordon G. Chang, and me on whether President Biden’s infrastructure and competitiveness package really will strengthen America’s position relative to China. Oh yes – we also speculated about the fate of former President Trump’s China tariffs in the Biden era.  

In addition, yesterday, Gordon quoted my views on the matter in a post for the Gatestone Institute. Here‘s the link.

Finally, on March 31, IndustryToday.com re-published my RealityChek post on recent U.S. manufacturing data strongly indicating that those Trump tariffs have greatly helped domestic industry weather the CCP Virus pandemic and subsequent recession in impressive shape. Click here to read (or re-read!).

And keep checking in with RealityChek for news of upcoming media appearances and other developments.

Im-Politic: Texas-Sized Goofs from the Experts on the Lockdowns

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This is getting embarrassingly easy. The so-called experts along with control freak politicians keep making apocalyptic predictions about decisions at any level of government in the United States to relax CCP Virus-related curbs on personal behavior and business activity. And they keep getting it laughably wrong. The latest example: Texas’ decisions last month to reopen its economy fully and lift its state-wide mask mandate, both effective March 10, and similar announcements by Mississippi effective March 3.

The blowback was swift and harsh. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, longtime director of the federal government’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical adviser, on March 3 attacked the moves as “quite risky.” And citing a recent plateauing of new infections in both states, added “That’s a dangerous sign because when that has happened in the past, when you pull back on measures of public health, invariably you’ve seen a surge back up.”

Mr. Biden was much blunter, contending on the same day that both states were making “a big mistake” that stemmed from “Neanderthal thinking.”

Well now it’s a little more than a month later and it sure looks like the know-nothings are in Washington, D.C. As of yesterday, according to the Washington Post‘s virus tracker, the seven-day average of daily new reported cases in Texas is down by 40.60 percent since March 10, and in Mississippi it’s plunged by 61.37 percent since March 3.

Even more revealing, while reported infections in these troglodyte states were sinking, guess what happened to reported cases nationally? Between March 3 and yesterday, the seven-day new infections average rose by two percent. And needless to say, this nation-wide figure includes many states that have retained mask mandates and other extensive behavior and economic curbs.

By the way, I’m fully aware that case numbers are a deeply flawed measure of pandemic spread and progress against it, due to flaws in states’ reporting systems, varying definitions of “case,” the undoubtedly large numbers of asymptomatic infections throughout the country, and now, surging numbers of vaccinations. I’m also aware that we’re now dealing with different strains of the virus with differing degrees of virulence.

But reported new infections are one of measures emphasized by Fauci in particular. And it seems safe to assume that he and the President know about the different strains. So live analytically by the chosen statistic, and die by it.

I’m also aware that neither Texas nor Mississippi was turning its back totally on the mitigation measures stressed by the Feds. For example, the former exempted areas “with high hospitalizations,” and those counties are entirely free to retain or impose significant restrictions. And businesses all over the state can still require mask-wearing and other hygiene measures.

Mississippi also still mandates mask-wearing where its not possible to follow its remaining social distancing rules (which are still noteworthy, especially in schools and for their extracurricular activities – including sporting events – at all levels, from kindergarten through university). Further, counties and municipalities are fully free to adopt stricter rules if they wish except for businesses providing essential services.

But Fauci and the President surely read the actual Texas and Mississippi executive orders – didn’t they?

It’s entirely possible that in the coming days and weeks, states that start or keep easing anti-virus mandates of all kinds will see rising case numbers. In fact, that appears to be the situation in Michigan now – even though its rules are still pretty restrictive. But actually, that’s the point. If comparable masks and lockdowns etc policies and comparable policy changes are producing dramatically different results, then clearly something, or some things, other than these restrictions and their status are mainly responsible. And recognizing this logic is crucial given that the economic curbs haven’t exactly been cost-free either in terms of the economy or public health.

For the time being, though, there’s one dimension of the CCP Virus story that seems firmly established. For the experts and the political leaders who profess to be simply “following the science” on pandemic forecasts, being whoppingly off-base means never having to say you’re sorry.

(What’s Left of) Our Economy: A Record U.S. Trade Gap – & Cause for Trade Optimism??

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Despite the overall U.S. trade deficit hitting an all-time monthly high in February, the new trade figures released by the Census Bureau this morning contained lots of encouraging news – including for fans of the Trump tariffs on China and on aluminum and steel (like me). I’m wary of running or continuing a victory lap, because there’s still too much short- and perhaps longer term economic noise surely masking the underlying trends. But the case for trade optimism and its possible policy causes deserves attention.

As for that economic noise, it comes of course not only from the ongoing stop/start CCP Virus- and lockdowns-/reopenings/vaccinations-related distortions of all economic data, but from the harsh winter weather that depressed February economic activity in key areas of the country like Texas; the global shortage of semiconductors that’s impacting output throughout the manufacturing sector (and that’s due in part to the pandemic); and the big backups at the West Coast ports that are greatly slowing the unloading of container ships containing lots of imports from China and the rest of Asia.

As for the data, the combined goods and services trade shortfall of $71.08 billion in February surpassed the previous record, November’s $69.04 billion, by 2.95 percent, and represented a 4.80 percent increase over January’s downwardly revised level of $67.82 billion.

The increase resulted both from a rise in the goods trade gap (of 3.27 percent, to its own record of $88.01 billion) and a shrinkage of the services surplus (of 2.93 percent, to $16.93 billion – the smallest since August, 2012’s $17.08 billion).

Trade flows not setting records, though, notably included any of the imports categories – despite numerous reports of the rapidly rebounding U.S. economy sucking in massive amounts of products (though not services, which have suffered an outsized CCP Virus blow) from abroad.

For example, total merchandise imports actually fell on month in February – by 0.89 percent, to $221.14 billion, from January’s record total of $221.12 billion. Still, the February figure remains in second place historically speaking.

Non-oil goods imports inched up by 0.38 percent sequentially in February – from $85.36 billion to $85.68 billion. But they still fell short of the November record of $86.40 billion. As known by RealityChek regulars, this trade category sheds the most light on the impact on trade flows of trade policy decisions, like tariff changes and trade agreements. (Hence I call the resulting shortfall the Made in Washington trade deficit.) But despite the lofty level, they’re actually down on net since November. Could it be those West Coast ports snags or the harsh winter storms of February or semiconductor-specific problems? Maybe.

The evidence for those propositions? U.S. goods imports from Pacific Rim countries – which are serviced by the West Coast ports – did sink by 11.81 percent on month in February. That’s a much faster rate than the 1.54 percent decrease in overall non-oil goods imports (a close proxy).

But goods imports from China dropped by a greater 13 percent even, which points to some Trump tariff effect as well. In fact, the $34.03 billion worth of February goods imports from China was the lowest monthly number since pandemicky last April. And February’s $24.62 billion bilateral merchandise trade deficit with China was 6.22 percent narrower than the January figure, and the smallest such total since April, too.

America’s goods deficit from Pacific Rim countries in total fell slightly faster than the gap with China (6.84 percent). China’s economy and its exports, however, are supposed to be recovering at world-and region-beating rates, so if that’s the case, it appears that the Trump trade curbs are preventing that rebound from taking place at America’s expense.

U.S. manufacturing trade numbers were encouraging, too, though again, the impact of tariffs as opposed to that of the virus distortions or the February weather or the ports issues or the semiconductor shortage or some combination thereof  is difficult to determine. But industry’s trade shortfall did tumble by 10.53 percent in February, from January’s $99.79 billion to $89.29 billion. That figure also was manufacturing’s lowest since June, 2020’s $89.16 billion and the 10.52 percent decrease was the by far the biggest in percentage terms since November, 2019’s 12.70 percent.

February manufacturing exports declined by 2.64 percent sequentially, from $81.66 billion to $79.51 billion. But the much greater volume of manufacturing imports sank by 6.98 percent, from $182.46 billion to $168.79 billion.

The China and manufacturing numbers could certainly change – and boost these U.S. trade gaps and the overall trade deficit – as Americans begin to spend their latest round of stimulus checks, as the U.S. recovery continues, and as the West Coast ports and semiconductor issues clear up. 

But especially due to those Chinese exports, this worsening of the U.S. trade picture was reported late last year. And the official U.S. trade figures show that such a surge simply never took place. Moreover, if executed properly, President Biden’s Buy American plans for federal government procurement and support for strengthening critical domestic supply chains could boost American manufacturing and other goods output without increasing imports. His budget requests for major subsidies for key U.S.-based manufacturing operations could help brighten the trade picture, too. Mr. Biden has also decided for now to retain the Trump trade curbs. And P.S. – those clogged West Coast ports hamper American exports as well.    

In addition, trade problems could reappear at some point due to the President’s proposed green energy mandates and corporate tax increases that would inevitably hike the relative cost of producing in the United States. But right now, it looks like due to ongoing and possibly upcoming economic nationalist American policies, the burden of proof is on the U.S. trade pessimists. And that’s quite a switch.

(What’s Left of) Our Economy: Why Biden’s Trade Policies are Looking Trump-ier Than Ever

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As the author of a book titled The Race to the Bottom, you can imagine how excited I was to learn that the main rationale of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s new proposal for a global minimum tax on corporations is to prevent, or bring to an end, a…race to the bottom.

But this idea also raises a question with profound implications for U.S. trade and broader globalization policies: Why stop at tax policy? And it’s made all the more intriguing because (a) the Biden administration for which Yellen surprisingly seems aware that there’s no good reason to do so even though (b) the trade policy approach that could consequently emerge looks awfully Trump-y.

After all, the minimum tax idea reflects a determination to prevent companies from engaging in what’s known as arbitrage in this area. It’s like arbitrage in any situation – pitting providers and producers that boast little leverage into competition with one another to sell their goods and services at the lowest possible price, and usually triggering a series of ever more cut-rate offers.

These kinds of interactions differ from ordinary price competition because, as mentioned above, the buyer usually holds much more power than the seller. So the results are too often determined by considerations of raw power, not the kinds of overall value considerations that explain why market forces have been so successful throughout history.

When the arbitrage concerns policy, the results can be much more disturbing. It’s true that the ability of large corporations to seek the most favorable operating environments available can incentivize countries to substitute smart policies for dumb in fields such as regulation and of course taxation. But it’s also true, as my book and so many other studies have documented, that policy arbitrage can force countries to seek business with promises and proposals that can turn out to be harmful by any reasonable definition.

Some of the most obvious examples are regulations so meaningless that they permit inhumane working conditions to flourish and pollution to mount, and encourage tax rates to fall below levels needed to pay for public services responsibly. Not coincidentally, Yellen made clear that the latter is a major concern of hers. And the Biden administration says it will intensify enforcement of provisions in recent U.S. trade deals aimed at protecting workers and the environment – and make sure that any new agreements contain the same. I’ve been skeptical that many of these provisions can be enforced adequately (see, e.g., here), but that’s a separate issue. For now, the important point is that such arbitrage, and the lopsided trade flows and huge deficits they’ve generated, harm U.S.-based producers and their employees, too.

But as my book and many other studies have also documented, safety and environmental arbitrage aren’t the only instances of such corporate practices by a long shot. Businesses also hop around the world seeking currency arbitrage (in order to move jobs and production to countries that keep the value of their currencies artificially low, thereby giving goods and services turned out in these countries equally artificial, non-market-related advantages over the competition). Ditto for government subsidies – which also influence location decisions for reasons having nothing to do with free markets, let alone free trade. The victims of these versions of policy arbitrage, moreover, have been overwhelmingly American.

The Biden administration is unmistakably alert to currency and subsidy arbitrage. Indeed a major element of its infrastructure plan is providing massive support for the U.S. industry in general, and to specific sectors like semiconductors to lure jobs and production back home and keep it there. Revealingly, though, it’s decided for the time being to keep in place former President Trump’s steep, sweeping tariffs on China, and on steel and aluminum.

So it looks like the President has resolved to level these playing fields by cutting off corporate policy arbitrage opportunities of all types with a wide range of tools. And here’s where the outcome could start looking quintessentially Trump-y and America First-y. For it logically implies that the United States shouldn’t trade much – and even at all – with countries whose systems and policy priorities can’t promote results favorable to Americans.

Still skeptical? Mr. Biden and his leading advisers have also taken to talking about making sure that “Every action we take in our conduct abroad, we must take with American working families in mind.” More specifically, the President’s White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, wrote pointedly during the campaign that U.S. leaders

must move beyond the received wisdom that every trade deal is a good trade deal and that more trade is always the answer. The details matter. Whatever one thinks of the TPP [the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal], the national security community backed it unquestioningly without probing its actual contents. U.S. trade policy has suffered too many mistakes over the years to accept pro-deal arguments at face value.”

He even went so far as to note that “the idea that trade will necessarily make both parties better off so long as any losers could in principle be compensated is coming under well-deserved pressure within the field of economics.”

But no one should be confident that economic nationalism will ultimately triumph in Biden administration counsels. There’s no doubt that the U.S. allies that the President constantly touts as the keys to American foreign policy success find these views to be complete anathema. And since Yellen will surely turn out to be Mr. Biden’s most influential economic adviser, it’s crucial to mention that her recent speech several times repeated all the standard tropes mouthed for decades by globalization cheerleaders about U.S. prosperity depending totally on prosperity everywhere else in the world.

Whether she’s right or wrong (here I presented many reasons for concluding the latter), that’s clearly a recipe for returning trade policy back to its pre-Trump days – including the long-time willingness of Washington to accept what it described as short-term sacrifices (which of course fell most heavily on the nation’s working class) in order to build and maintain prosperity abroad that would benefit Americans eventually, but never seemed to pan out domestically.

Nor is Yellen the only potential powerful opponent of less doctrinaire, more populist Biden trade policies. Never, ever forget that Wall Street and Silicon Valley were major contributors to the President’s campaign coffers. Two greater American enthusiasts for pre-Trump trade policies you couldn’t possibly find.

And yet, here we are, more than two months into the Biden presidency, and key pieces of a Trump-y trade policy both in word and deed keep appearing.  No one’s more surprised than I am (see, e.g., here).  But as so often observed, it took a lifelong anti-communist hardliner like former President Richard M. Nixon to engineer America’s diplomatic opening to Mao-ist China. And it took super hard-line Zionist Menachem Begin, Israel’s former Prime Minister, to sign a piece treaty with long-time enemy Egypt. So maybe it’s not so outlandish to suppose that a died-in-the-wool globalist like Joe Biden will be the President establishing America First and economic nationalism as the nation’s new normals in trade and globalization policy.  

Im-Politic: An Open Borders Mainstay Shoots His Cause in the Foot

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The current crisis on the U.S.’ southern border is President Biden’s fault. His predecessors’ immigration policies were working. The new administration’s reliance on stemming the migrants’ tide by Building Back Better in Central America won’t work for the foreseeable future, if at all. When folks like Mr. Biden talk about “fixing a broken system,” they really mean reorienting that system to maximize immigration. And – most damning of all – bolstering America’s well-being and security shouldn’t be the main aims of U.S. immigration policy.

Don’t take my word for it. Take that of Jorge Ramos. Because these dangerously radical and indeed – in one instance, un-American – points were exactly what the Univision anchor and long-time supporter of Open Borders by Any Other Name just admitted openly in a column in last Friday’s New York Times.

On responsibility for the current border crisis? According to Ramos:

‘The border is not open,’ the U.S. secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, told me in an interview. ‘What we have discontinued,’ Mr. Mayorkas promised, ‘is the cruelty of the previous administration.’”

Well, apparently, in Central America, people only heard the bit about ‘cruelty’ being over, which is why so many migrants are heading north toward the border. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers, mostly from Central America, have waited for over a year in Mexican border towns and they will not waste this opportunity.”

Don’t think for a minute, incidentally, that the small Central American countries will be the only sending countries – even in the Western Hemisphere. The polling organization Gallup has recently determined that no fewer than 42 million Latin Americans want to move to the United States permanently. And as Ramos makes clear, no one should be startled in the least:

It should come as no surprise that this [migration flow] is happening along a border that divides one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world from one of its most economically unequal regions. Latin America’s poor and vulnerable — struggling amid a pandemic, the devastation of climate change and the violence of their homelands — are moving north to a safer, more prosperous place. It’s that simple. And this will keep happening for a long time.”

On the effectiveness of President Trump’s policies, Ramos writes that they “reduced annual net immigration to its lowest levels since the 1980s.” It’s true that he denounces them as “racist,” “anti-immigrant,” “inhuman,” and “repressive.”

But as long as he’s being so candid, he and others of his ilk need to ask “compared to what?” As Ramos himself reports,

According to the head of the U.S. Northern Command, 30 percent to 35 percent of [Mexico] is under the control of ‘transnational criminal organizations.’ This means that any migrants traveling north through Mexico are in immediate danger.”

Indeed, the present U.S. immigration system is now “a dangerous system that encourages human trafficking controlled by drug cartels and other organized crime networks.”

What should U.S. immigration policy aim for? What could be clearer than Ramos’ answer that it “must involve accepting many more authorized immigrants”?

Or than Washington must “create a system that can legally, efficiently and safely absorb more of these immigrants and refugees. They will keep coming; there is no other solution”?

Or than “[T]he United States should start accepting between one and a half and two million authorized immigrants every year. Entry into the United States must be legalized and optimized….”? (At the same time, given the powerful forces Ramos describes as fueling continuing hemispheric migration to the United States, what makes him think that such a U.S. quota would prevent much greater migrant flows from continuing to come to America’s doorstep?)

Nor does Ramos evidently think much of the near-term potential of turning Central America into the kind of place people wouldn’t seek to flee in the first place:

The $4 billion investment in Central America that President Biden has promised is a good starting point for tackling the origins of migration in the region: poverty and a lack of opportunity. That project, however, will take years to yield results.”

But the key to understanding Ramos’ position, and possibly those of many other supporters of more lenient U.S. immigration policies, is recognizing that U.S. interests – safeguarding the nation’s security and prosperity – isn’t his top priority.

Thus the author’s argument that “It’s clear that America’s immigration system is broken and outdated” because “it doesn’t reflect the new needs of the United States or its southern neighbors.” And why else would he emphasize that “all along the U.S.-Mexico border, the aspirations of new immigrants are colliding with a country reluctant to revamp its way of welcoming and absorbing newcomers.”

Ramos doesn’t neglect the case that ramping up immigration is in America’s interests, too, focusing in particular on familiar arguments that many more newcomers are needed “to support the nation’s beleaguered economy, replace its growing population of retired workers and make up for the country’s low birthrate.”

Although I and others have repeatedly debunked these claims (see, e.g., here and here), they’re entirely legitimate to debate. So is the insistence that America has a moral duty to accept more of the world’s tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free – to paraphrase the (justly) famous Emma Lazarus poem at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

But the judgment about the economic impact of greater immigration flows, and about the country’s moral obligations, must be made by Americans alone. Otherwise, kiss goodbye the country’s sovereignty and independence. Ramos’ suggestion to the contrary should go far toward intellectually (though not legally!) disqualifying him from the American immigration policy debate.

Except he’s did such a great job in this Times column of unwittingly confirming some of the strongest indictments of lax immigration policies and the worst fears of border realists about the agendas of their backers. In fact, to paraphrase a classical Greek general’s reported lament after a costly victory, another such column (or a couple), and the Open Borders cause may be undone.

Im-Politic: Maybe American Higher Education Isn’t a Completely Lost Cause?

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The late Native-American leader Wilma Mankiller wisely observed that “Whoever controls the education of our children controls the future.” It’s a great way to explain why it’s so important to determine whether the country’s schools at all levels generally have stayed in the business of transmitting knowledge and learning techniques to students, or whether they’re becoming propaganda operations.

Scarily, there’s abundant and seemingly surging evidence of the latter, and though I’m not big on arguing by anecdote, I certainly was alarmed by my stepson’s own recent experiences at Dickinson College, where in his humanities and social science courses, he contended he was both fed a diet of woke-ism and regularly belittled for being a white male.

So when I first heard about a massive new report on “Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination, and Self-Censorship,” I was expecting to see a detailed case that American higher education had passed the point of no return on political correctness, critical race theory, and intolerance of dissents from them. Instead, the March study from the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology contained a noteworthy amount of evidence that traditional notions of academic freedom – which logically, anyway, go hand-in-hand with non-overtly politicized notions of education – retain surprisingly (to me, anyway) strong support on U.S. campuses.

Not that the study, by University of London political scientist Eric Kaufmann, doesn’t serve up plenty of findings to worry about. But these were some of the most encouraging of the many results compiled and discovered by the author that stood out:

>Of the academics surveyed in various studies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada who consider themselves to have ever been victims of what Kaufmann calls campus authoritarianism, only 0.03 percent report being dismissed from their jobs or being “deplatformed” (barred from forums or debates held either in person or on social media). And the U.S.-specific numbers are probably lower, since elsewhere in the study it’s made clear that academic freedom’s position in the United Kingdom and Canada is much more precarious. (p. 13)

>A much higher but still distinctly minority share (23 percent) of such respondents report being “threatened by disciplinary action for speech.” (p. 13)

>Only seven percent of U.S. respondents in a survey conduced by the author would favor a “campaign to oust” an academic for “dissenting” (i.e., negative) views on the value of diversity. Only eight percent would support similar efforts either regarding a colleague believing traditional parenthood as superior, or one backing a “restrict immigration” position. A higher, but still decidedly minority (18 percent) would support such a campaign against a colleague believing that “a higher share of women and minorities lowers organizational performance.” (p. 23)

These findings cover what Kaufmann calls “hard authoritarianism” in higher education. But he’s also studied forms of “soft authoritianism,” which he defines as “not being hired, promoted, awarded a grant, or published in a journal.” Of course, he notes, “both matter for academic freedom. Active social bullying is more punishing than social ostracism, which is in turn worse than socially avoiding someone or not including them in one’s social circle.” And all can damage careers. But here the picture looks unexpectedly encouraging, too. For example:

>Kaufmann admits that the sample size is very small, but his own poll found that just 22% of US academics “admit they’d discriminate vs a [Donald] Trump supporter in hiring.” He claims, however, to have come up with a methodology that can determine the share of respondents who would act on such views without admitting to them; This figure is a much bigger 40 percent – but still a minority. (p. 139)

>A separate, larger study found that “17% of [U.S.] conservatives and 16% of centrists would discriminate against a leftist hire whereas only 14% of American academic leftists would discriminate against a conservative hire.” Not only are these percentages low, but I interpret them as showing that such prejudices can work both ways – and possibly cancel out each other’s impact to some extent. (p. 146)

>Similarly, and returning to his own surveys of U.S. academics, Kaufmann found that “24% of leftist academics would rate a right-leaning grant lower while just 16% of right-wing academics would rate a left-leaning grant lower. However, in terms of papers, right and left discriminate against each other at a similar rate (13- 14%), and for promotion, right-wing academics are somewhat more likely to discriminate against the left than vice versa (16% vs. 13%).” (p. 150)

>Using his methodology for uncovering concealed biases, the author writes that 26- 48 percent of American left-wing academic staff would discriminate against a right-leaning promotion, grant, or paper and 26-32 percent of those on the right would do so against their left-leaning equivalents. Again, these more controversial numbers are higher, but still represent minorities. (p. 150)

And positive results aren’t simply confined to the realm of actions and potential actions. For example:

>Kaufann’s survey found that Americans academics profess to prioritize “academic freedom” over “social justice” by 58 percent to 26 percent. Moreover, only 38 percent of American academics in the social sciences and humanities (SSH) view themselves as “activists” – and they’re clearly among the most politicized groups on campuses. (pp. 59 and 100)

>Moreover, according to the author, it’s not even clear that “academics are more likely to discriminate on political grounds than professionals in other sectors.” (p. 182) In other words, there may be no special discrimination problem in higher education – although its aforementioned crucial role in “controlling the future” arguably makes its politicization more dangerous.

In this vein, Kaufmann’s report does present evidence that the presence of activist, agitprop-spouting professors is having an outsized and damaging impact on students. Thus he cites a 2019 U.S. study reporting that:

…55% of students feel that the ‘campus climate prevents me saying things I believe.’ Fully 82% of conservative students said they had self-censored at least once in class, compared to 40% of liberals. On politics, race, gender, and sexuality, about 30-35% of Republican students are reluctant to share their views in class compared to 15- 25% for Democrat students. While these numbers show a substantial chilling effect, they indicate that right-leaning students are somewhat less inhibited in expressing their views than right-leaning academic staff.” (p. 170)

In addition, there’s reason to think that the (largely woke) politicization of American colleges and universities could worsen in the coming years, as Kaufmann presents considerable evidence showing that younger academics tend to be less tolerant and more willing to act on their progressive biases than their older counterparts.

But perhaps most revealing was Kaufmann’s decision to end his analytical section on an unmistakably bright note: “Fair-minded leftist academics outnumber the hard-authoritarian left by a factor of two or three (even in SSH fields), and offer an important base from which to build a future consensus in favor of academic freedom.” And if someone who’s investigated the subject so thoroughly, and clearly began with such grave concerns, can see reasons for hope – albeit with the need for continued vigilance and pushback – who am I to disagree?

(What’s Left of) Our Economy: March U.S. Manufacturing Job Gains Lagged – For a Good Reason

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This morning’s figures from the Labor Department show that U.S. domestic manufacturing was a bit of a jobs creation laggard in March – and that was good news. The reason? The employment gains for the rest of the economy were so enormous.

This latest monthly U.S. jobs report showed that non-farm payrolls (the definition of the U.S. jobs universe used by the Labor Department, which tracks these data), rose by 0.64 percent in March – to 144.210 million. Job-creation in the private sector advanced at a virtually identical rate.

Payrolls in manufacturing were up by a lower 0.43 percent – to 12.284 million. But they still increased by 53,000 – their best performance since September’s 55,000. It’s also possible that hiring in the automotive sector was held down by a global shortage of semiconductors – which has led to production cutbacks and even some layoffs.

The only disappointment in the new manufacturing jobs numbers concerned revisions – which were mostly negative. February’s initially reported 21,000 net employment gain is now estimated at 18,000. January’s 14,000 job loss (already downgraded from an initially judged 10,000) is now pegged at a still greater 18,000. But December’s improvement was upwardly revised again – from 34,000 to 35,000.

As a result, manufacturing has now regained 63.83 percent (870,000) of the 1.363 million jobs the sector shed during the peak CCP Virus lockdowns period of last March and April. That’s fewer relatively speaking than the recovery in private sector employment – 66.88 percent (14.172 million) of the 21.191 million jobs it lost during that period.

But because of continuing weakness in the public sector – which has recovered just 66.42 percent of its 22.362 million job loss last spring – manufacturing’s payrolls’ rebound is still ahead of the entire economy’s. In fact, manufacturing jobs now account for a higher (8.52 percent) of total non-farm employment than during the last full pre-pandemic data month (8.39 percent in February, 2020).

The biggest manufacturing jobs winners in March? Far and away the champ was the big fabricated metals products industry, which expanded employment by 13,700 – more than a quarter of the manufacturing total. Next came two smallish sectors – miscellaneous non-durable goods and printing and related support activities (up 7,400 and 5,900, respectively). Encouragingly, jobs increased by 3,500 in the big machinery sector – whose products are used throughout not only the rest of manufacturing but the entire economy.

The worst performers were transportation equipment – whose 3,000 lost March jobs included 1,000 in the automotive sector, which has been forced into production cutbacks and some layoffs due to the global semiconductor shortage – and furniture (down 1,300).

Unfortunately, these latest figures indicate that employment in many CCP Virus-fighting goods continues to lag. To be sure, their payrolls seem to be up from the last pre-pandemic levels whereas overall manufacturing jobs are down (by 4.02 percent). But given the nature of the emergency, and the shortages it revealed, it’s surprising they’re not higher still.

The relevant numbers only go through February, and in the broad pharmaceuticals sector, employment rose by 1,600 sequentially. And January’s initially reported 700 job loss has been upgraded to a decrease of only 100. But the sector’s payrolls have grown by a mere 2.60 percent since that last pre-pandemic month of February, 2020.

The performance of the pharmaceuticals subsector containing vaccines was considerably better. February payrolls expanded by 1,300 sequentially, and January’s gains are now estimated at 500, not 100. As a result, this vaccine-related sector’s employment levels are now 6.23 percent higher than in February, 2020.

The story, however, has been more discouraging lately in the manufacturing category containing personal healthcare-related protection devices (PPE) like facemasks, gloves, and medical gowns. Payrolls were flat on month in February, and the initially reported January job loss of 800 was only upgraded to a decline of 700. Still, payrolls in this sector have climbed by 7.98 percent since February, 2020.

Interestingly, despite the rebounding orders for Boeing’s popular but previously grounded 737 Max jetliner, the recovery of national and global travel, and the resumption of deliveries of its also-troubled 787 Dreamliner, none of these positive developments has shown up in the aerospace jobs numbers.

For example, aircraft employment in February (also the latest available figures) grew by only 1,000 on month and not only remains down 10.66 percent on year, but substantially lower than all of last year’s safety crisis- and the worst of the CCP Virus-plagued months. Similar trends hold for aircraft engines and engine parts, and non-engine aircraft parts.

The outlook for domestic manufacturing job creation still seem bright, as vaccinations are being administered rapidly, reopenings are spreading, igniting renewed overall economic activity, Boeing does seem to be emerging from its safety and manufacturing-related troubles, and the high, sweeping Trump tariffs keep pricing many Chinese goods out of the U.S. market, thereby creating new opportunities for American producers.

But that global semiconductor shortage, which will eventually affect much more than automotive output, may not end until late next year. It’s tough to know the overall impact of the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan and other Build Back Better virus recovery proposals on the one hand, and the tax increases proposed to pay for them on the other, as well as the new regulations that will be involved – assuming even that they pass Congress reasonably intact. And vaccines production won’t be booming forever.

So no one concerned about domestic manufacturing’s health and prospects has any excuse not to peruse carefully all the industry-related data and news that are in store in the weeks and months ahead.