Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Immigration shaping up as leading election issue

PA: For Republican Rep. Scott Perry, the influx of Central American children who have crossed illegally into the United States has propelled immigration to a top concern for voters in his heavily rural district far from the Texas border, eclipsing the new health care law and the federal deficit.

“I think people are very upset, and people have really been awakened to the immigration issue where they haven’t been before,” the first-term congressman from southeast Pennsylvania said in an interview at a bus leasing company, where he recently met with a group of small-business owners. “Right now at this current time, I would say immigration is the No. 1 issue on people’s minds.”

It’s the same story around the country this summer as polls show the crisis of unaccompanied children at the border has made immigration a pivotal issue with November elections approaching.
Republican Senate candidates in three contested races have focused ads on the issue, and it has the potential to affect campaigns in unpredictable ways that hold risks for members of both parties and for President Barack Obama.

For now, Republicans like Perry are able to boast that the House took action to address the border crisis before leaving Washington for its August recess, even though the Senate and Obama did not.
Republicans “demanded that we stay and pass a bill so we could show the American people ‘This is what we stand for,”’ Perry told the business owners, referring to the House GOP’s legislation to spend $694 million on the border and make controversial policy changes to return the migrants home more quickly, as well as end an Obama program that granted work permits to more than a half-million immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as kids.

How the issue plays out over the fall depends both on what happens in South Texas, where border arrivals have declined in the summer heat, but could rise again, and in Washington, where Obama is weighing extending deportation protections and work permits to millions more people already living in the U.S. illegally.

Such a move could upend the politics around immigration yet again, thrilling Latino voters who will be crucial for the 2016 presidential election. But it could also rile up Republican base voters, who are more likely to turn out this November and could make the difference in a handful of GOP-leaning states where vulnerable Democratic incumbents are trying to hold on.

Perry and other Republicans warn the president would pay a steep price politically for taking such a step.  “I think there will be a backlash, not necessarily that people will automatically come to vote for Republicans, but like in so many elections they might just stay home because they’re disgusted,” Perry said.

Indeed, Senate Democrats seeking re-election in red states, including Arkansas’ Mark Pryor and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, have cautioned Obama against proceeding unilaterally.

But there’s also a risk for Republican lawmakers such as Perry and Rep. Joe Pitts, whose district borders Perry’s and includes Lancaster. They already are hearing from angry constituents who want Obama impeached, and executive action by the president would likely only increase such demands. That’s an unwelcome prospect for most Republican officeholders who see impeachment as a political loser, since it would be certain to energize Democratic voters and likely turn off many mainstream Republicans.

“It’s just absolutely ridiculous. We’re not going to do that,” Pitts said in an interview in Quarryville, 40 miles east of York through rolling green hills, after a local dairy farmer declared that any president should be “automatically impeached” for taking as many executive actions as Obama has.

The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., said Republicans could end up in trouble if Obama’s moves on immigration increase calls for impeachment.

“The problem that Republicans have right now is that they have engineered a strategy to turn out their base voters in a midterm election and that may backfire against them as their base voters demand that House Republicans keep going farther and farther to the right,” Israel said in an interview.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee, countered in a statement that voters want someone who will secure the border, and “Republicans have a very clear and consistent message about the need to provide an appropriate check and balance on this administration.”

Still, the border crisis has already scrambled the politics of immigration.

Establishment Republicans have feared that given the growing number of Latino voters, they would pay a political price over their inaction on comprehensive immigration legislation, which died this year in the House.

That may prove true in the presidential election in 2016, but so far this year Democrats have sometimes been on the defensive, as polls show the southern border crisis has caused support for comprehensive reform to dip while voters embrace calls for border security.

“Want to know why there’s lawlessness on our border? Ask Sen. Shaheen,” Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown asks in one ad against incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. “She voted against border security twice, and for amnesty. It’s time for us to secure the border and enforce the law.”



The dependency state grows to 175 million

Don’t think the government is ubiquitous? Consider the following data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2012, 109.6 million Americans were on some form of means-tested welfare, including Medicaid, food stamps and public housing. Another 43.7 million were on Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and other government programs.

Add to that another 21.9 million government employees working at the federal, state, and local level according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you wind up with a grand total of 175.2 million people dependent on the government one way or another — more than 56 percent of the population.

That’s a clear majority.

But what about the voting age population?

There’s about 50 million children on Medicaid, food stamps and other welfare programs.

Meaning, when they’re subtracted out of the total, there’s still about 125.2 million adults that are government-dependent in some way, shape, or form.

That’s still about 53 percent of the 235.6 million voting age population who at least nominally have a majoritarian interest in the continued expansion of government.

Many commentators comfort themselves and their readers by not including government workers or seniors in these government dependency indexes, but that is as every bit misleading as excluding others who financially benefit from the government treasury.

For example, the Census figures do not include the many millions more who qualify for things like student financial aid, student loans, home loans financed by Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, a multitude of tax credits, or the employees of subsidized industries and of private contractors that work for the government.

This seemingly benign intrusion into almost every aspect of our lives has one assured impact: it creates a perpetual incentive for more and more government.

The point is not to belittle or besmirch those who are on the take, nor to overlook those who paid taxes into these vast programs. The fact is, it is virtually impossible to get through modern life without taking advantage of them.

All you have to do is live to the age of 65, and you are guaranteed enrollment in the dependency state. That is, whether you wanted to pay the payroll taxes or not. Whether you thought you would have invested that money better yourself or not. Whether you like it or not.

For, there is no choice in the matter.

In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison warned that in democracies, “governments are too unstable, [and] the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”

Madison and the Framers thought that through the scheme of elected representatives, state legislatures appointing senators, plus having a large, geographically wide republic and constitutional limits on the powers of government, a tyranny of the majority would not appear.

But did it work?

The American experiment with constitutionalism was supposed to have cured what Madison called the “mischiefs of faction.” Yet, as the limits on government have been peeled away by successive administrations and Congresses over decades, and tens of millions have become enrolled in the dependency state, sadly, it would appear it was as effective as every failed experiment that came before it.



Eric Holder’s great bank robbery

And the need for lobbyists

Extortion is an ugly word.  It is even uglier when it is the U.S. government holding the gun, even when the victims are some of the least sympathetic one’s found in history — big banks.

The Obama Administration’s Justice Department announced a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America over allegations that they sold bad loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is the ultimate gun to the head deal.

While it is hard to shed tears for B of A, the hard truth is that the company’s leadership was at best encouraged and at worst coerced to take on the failed Countrywide Loan and Merrill Lynch portfolios as part of the government’s response to the credit crash in 2008.  The thanks the company has received is non-stop federal government led and encouraged litigation for the actions of the two companies that the Feds begged them to buy to keep the mortgage crisis from getting even worse.

Let me be clear, personally, I have no love for the banksters who preyed on seniors and others with false loan promises that led to many of the bankruptcies that plagued our nation.  A quick Google check might even reveal a personal story written a few years back that chronicled my personal fight with one such bank named after a combination of President Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary and the island where the Empire State Building can be found.

However, the extortion of more than $16 billion from Bank of America, because the company made the mistake of doing the nation’s political and economic leaders a favor that was needed to save the nation’s financial system is beyond the pale.

To paraphrase a friend, “this is why big businesses shrug when the IRS targeting of tea party members became public, they have been in this type of targeted crosshairs for years and nobody cared.”

While it is fashionable and even right to denounce the corporate cronyism that seems to pervade D.C., it must be remembered that most corporations pay lobbyists as a defensive move.  They don’t expect much of a return on investment, they only hope to stop the government from imposing regulations, taxes or spending that keep them from doing their real jobs.

This process has subsequently evolved whereby some corporations use their acquired clout to encourage regulations that give their company a competitive advantage, or significantly harm the bottom line of competitors.

It is just one reason why the GM bailout and federal government involvement in its management was so troubling.  At the same time the federal government was attempting to help right the GM ship, Toyota was accused of a sudden acceleration problem, which they eventually paid a fine to make it go away.  Toyota’s federal government problem, directly helped GM’s bottom line as the automaker increased market share at the Japanese company’s expense, a clear conflict of interest for the federal government regulators that created lingering doubts about the veracity of the claim.

Similarly, natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy not only pushed EPA regulations to force public utilities to convert from burning coal to their product, they also gave the Sierra Club $27 million to fund their “Beyond Coal” campaign that promoted the company’s interest.

Chesapeake Energy’s actions are a prime example of a company using government as a weapon against their competitors, and is an indictment of the amount of power to regulate and destroy entire industries.  At the same time, with the government having this much power, it  is easy to understand why companies throw millions of dollars into public affairs to defend and promote their own interests.  Failure to do so, only puts that company at risk from a rapacious competitor, like Chesapeake Energy, that doesn’t have any scruples in its attempt to earn market share through any means possible.

Even an obscure agency like the National Labor Relations Board can destroy entire business models through a single decision, as they are attempting to do through a recent decision that allowed McDonald’s corporation to be held liable for the actions of their independent franchisees.  This single decision threatens to end the franchise business model that has been at the center of the explosion of small business ownership.

When you combine this wayward NLRB decision with attempts by the First Lady to force America’s children to eat brussel sprouts at lunch, and Big Labor’s effort to force mandatory wage increases, does anyone still wonder why the restaurant industry not only has a vibrant association representing them, but also individual companies hire bevies of lobbyists?  Failure to do so would be a dereliction of their duty to shareholders.

It is that simple, much-maligned lobbyists exist because corporations need them as protectors against the exact kind of extortion that Bank of America faced, or the regulatory death sentence the EPA is creating for the coal industry.

And the ultimate irony of the Bank of America case is that the bank has been fined not only for taking on companies that the Feds urged them to, they have been fined for writing the exact kind of high risk loans that the federal government required them to write under the Community Redevelopment Act.  A deal that the banks accepted over strong protests in exchange for being able to merge financial services, banking and insurance services.

So don’t expect a lot of teary eyed sympathy from the denizens of K Street, as the federal government turns its sights on political activists.  After all, their clients have been in survival mode for years.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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