Friday, November 09, 2018

You Won’t Hear the Media Say It, But Last Night Trump Made History

While Tuesday night’s elections gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives, the media will likely ignore President Donald Trump’s big win in the Senate, where the GOP held onto its majority and is just awaiting the results of extremely close races to see how big that majority is going to be.

Democrats, meanwhile, suffered a devastating loss in the Texas Senate race, with Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke losing to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Republicans gained three new Republican senators with outright wins in North Dakota, Indiana, Florida and Missouri and likely a fourth in Florida, where Republican Rick Scott appears to have defeated incumbent Bill Nelson, though the winner hadn’t officially been declared as of Wednesday afternoon.

Some of the Democrats who lost might have been hurt for voting against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

For example, support for incumbent North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who lost to Republican Kevin Cramer, began slipping in the polls after her vote against Trump’s Supreme Court pick.

One thing we know for sure about these midterm elections is that Trump made history with his Senate gains — even if the media isn’t going to say it.

In Twitter posts early Wednesday, Trump quoted conservative political commentator Ben Stein, who had explained the historic significance of the Republican Senate victories Tuesday on Fox Business Network Tuesday night.

“There’s only been five times in the last 105 years that an incumbent president has won seats in the Senate in the off-year election,” said Stein, author of “The Capitalist Code.” “Mr. Trump has magic  about him.”

That’s a detail — and an opinion — that you won’t hear from the establishment media. But Trump was more than happy to publicize Stein’s take.



Republicans Maintain Majority of Governorships

All told, Tuesday featured 36 gubernatorial contests across the nation. All but a handful were relatively perfunctory affairs. It was the exceptions that are of particular interest, as is the fact that Democrats netted an overall pickup of at least seven governorships. Still not bad considering that Republicans were defending 26 of 36 posts.

In perhaps the most-watched race in the country, Democrat Socialist Andrew Gillum lost to Republican Ron DeSantis. Florida is a critical bellwether state, and DeSantis’s victory — combined with outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s win over incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson — is a welcome sign. And yet there’s a cloud. Also on Tuesday, Florida restored voting rights to 1.5 million felons, who vote overwhelmingly Democrat. Donald Trump won Florida in 2016 by a little over 100,000 votes.

Neighboring Georgia remains uncalled, as Democrat Socialist Stacey Abrams refuses to concede until “every vote gets counted,” but as we go to press, Republican Brian Kemp leads by nearly 100,000 votes out of almost four million cast. Two factors are at play in the race remaining uncalled. First, Georgia law requires the winner to exceed 50%, which Kemp currently does at 50.5%. Abrams is hoping that absentee and provisional ballots will pull Kemp under that 50% threshold and put the two in a December runoff. Second, and maybe more to the point, Abrams’s entire campaign was built on painting Kemp as a racist vote suppressor. As executive director of the New Georgia Project, she worked to flood Secretary of State Kemp’s office with voter registrations and then insisted he was racist for working to weed out the fraudulent ones. She’s dedicated to keeping that message going.

Notably, Barack Obama hit the trail for both Gillum and Abrams and appears to have come up empty.

Other notable races include Scott Walker’s defeat in Wisconsin. He won two terms and a recall, but he couldn’t keep the streak alive in a state that isn’t as red as Republicans once hoped. Likewise, Kansas turned blue, as incumbent Republican Kris Kobach couldn’t overcome the negative baggage of Sam Brownback’s administration, and Illinois ousted the worst Republican in the country, Bruce Rauner, opting for unified Democrat control under governor-elect J. B. Pritzker. Yet in the Northeast, Republicans held on in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, meaning they still hold four of 10 governorships in the region. And Republican Mike Dunleavy flipped Alaska, even after the incumbent independent dropped out and endorsed Democrat Mark Begich.

Much of the nation’s economic progress depends on state administrations, and Republicans will still control a majority of governorships.



1,834 Refugees Admitted in October: 77.7 Percent Christians

The first month of the new fiscal year saw 1,834 refugees admitted to the United States, more than three-quarters of them Christians, as agencies involved in resettlement began operating under the lowest refugee admission cap set by an administration since the Refugee Act was enacted in 1980.

Despite the 30,000 ceiling set for fiscal year 2019 – down from 45,000 in FY 2018 and 85,000 two years earlier – more refugees were admitted during October than during the same month last year (1,248), although significantly fewer than the numbers admitted in October 2016 (9,945) and October 2015 (5,348).

Of the 1,834 newcomers, 1,425 (77.7 percent) were Christians of various denominations, and 362 (19.7 percent) were Muslims (including Sunnis, Shi’ites and Ahmadis.) Ahmadi beliefs are deemed heretical by many mainstream Muslim clerics and outlawed in the criminal code of Pakistan – the country of origin of the 15 Ahmadi refugees admitted in October.

Rounding out the October refugee admissions were 47 non-Christian and non-Muslim refugees, including 17 Buddhists, five animists, four Hindus, three Jews, and several others who gave their religious affiliation as “other” or “none,” according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

The countries accounting for the largest contingents of refugees arriving in October were the Democratic Republic of Congo (612 refugees, all but 33 of them Christians), Eritrea (358 refugees, including 107 Muslims), Ukraine (345 refugees, all Christians bar three Jews) and Burma (304 refugees, mostly Christians but including 131 Muslims, 13 Buddhists, five animists and three Hindus.)

The countries of the Central American “northern triangle” accounted for just 28 refugees – 23 from El Salvador, three from Guatemala and two from Honduras. Twenty-five of the 28 were Christians.

From key Islamic countries, October’s arrivals included 34 refugees from Afghanistan (including one Christian and six refugees with “no religion”), 24 from Pakistan (including the 15 Ahmadis and four Christians), six Iraqis (all Muslims), five from Sudan (all Muslims), three from Somalia (all Muslims), two Syrians (both Muslims) and one refugee from Iran (a Christian).

Early last month President Trump signed an executive order setting the ceiling for refugee admissions in FY 2019 at 30,000.

The regional breakdown for the allocations was: 11,000 from Africa, 9,000 from the Near East/South Asia, 4,000 from East Asia, and 3,000 each from Europe/Central Asia and Latin America/Caribbean.

(The order does authorize unallocated places from any region being used to accommodate refugees from other regions.)

According to a report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions for FY 2019, individuals suffering religious persecution in the ten countries currently designated by the State Department as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) for egregious religious freedom violations may be eligible for “priority one” referral by a U.S. Embassy or the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR..

The ten CPC countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan, which the Trump administration last year placed on a second-tier watch list that falls short of CPC designation, is added to the ten, the report states.

(“Priority one” does not affect the order in which cases for refugee status are processed. Applications in all three “priority” groups undergo the same processing steps.)

A common theme running through the CPCs (and Pakistan) is persecution of religious minorities at the hand of the state and/or hostile religious majorities. Victims include Christians of various denominations, Muslims (including Rohingya, Shi’ites and Ahmadis), and in China, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong adherents.

The last fiscal year saw the U.S. admit a total of 22,491 refugees, well below the 45,000 ceiling and the smallest number in the history of the modern refugee resettlement program established in 1980.

By contrast, the Obama administration resettled numbers ranging from a low of 56,424 refugees in FY 2011 to a high of 84,994 refugees in FY 2016.

Even under the Trump administration, the U.S. admitted more refugees – 33,368 – in calendar year 2017 than any other country. The next biggest intakes of refugees that year were in Canada (26,600), Australia (15,100), Britain (6,200) and Sweden (3,400).



Routine Election Monitoring Spurs ‘Suppression’ Claims From Left

In a routine pre-election action, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will monitor polling sites in a total of 35 jurisdictions in 19 states.

Some left-leaning websites cast the move as a voter-suppression effort because the attorney general’s announcement talked about voter fraud. In a press release Monday, Sessions said voter fraud “corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”

President Donald Trump later tweeted that fraudsters at the polls would face “maximum criminal penalties.”

The Obama administration’s Justice Department sent out nearly identical press releases about plans to monitor election sites ahead of the four national elections in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Each press release from the Obama administration talked about prosecuting fraud in the context of enforcing elections laws and the right to vote.

This year, the Justice Department said it will send monitors to election sites in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

The total of 19 states actually is scaled down from 2016, when the Justice Department monitored 67 jurisdictions in 28 states. In the preceding national election in 2014, the Justice Department monitored 28 jurisdictions in 18 states, slightly less than this year.

Nevertheless, The Daily Beast warned about a “last-ditch effort of voter suppression” in a story that combined the press release and Trump tweet.

The news and opinion website noted: “The DOJ plans to send officials to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states in an effort to monitor the vote on Tuesday—especially in places Republicans would ordinarily win, like North Dakota and Georgia, who’ve already experienced suppression efforts at the polls.”

The Washington Post appeared alarmed, reporting:

But the statement from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the department plans to investigate voter fraud, something President Trump has claimed, without evidence, to be a huge problem since he was a candidate. … The statement doesn’t say what specific fraud-related issues the Justice Department personnel will be looking out for, and how much of their time will be spent investigating impediments to voting as opposed to claims of fraud.

The website AlterNet said: “Jeff Sessions is bending to Donald Trump’s false accusations of voter fraud.”

A database maintained by The Heritage Foundation contains 1,178 proven instances of voter fraud. They include 1,020 criminal convictions, 48 civil penalties, 81 diversion programs, 14 judicial findings, and 15 official findings.

“Voting rights are constitutional rights, and they’re part of what it means to be an American,” Sessions said in his statement Monday, adding:

The Department of Justice has been entrusted with an indispensable role in securing these rights for the people of this nation. This year we are using every lawful tool that we have, both civil and criminal, to protect the rights of millions of Americans to cast their vote unimpeded at one of more than 170,000 precincts across America.

Citizens of America control this country through their selection of their governmental officials at the ballot box. Likewise, fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing federal voting rights laws.

“This is nothing unusual,” Han von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at The Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department lawyer, told The Daily Signal. “The Civil Rights Division has been doing this on a regular basis. They always send out press releases, usually announcing where the monitors will be.”



Skin in the Game

By Walter E. Williams

In describing the GOP tax cuts, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that they and bonuses American workers were getting were "crumbs." They were "tax cuts for the rich." Some argued that the tax cuts would reduce revenues. Pelosi predicted, "This thing will explode the deficit." How about some tax facts?

The argument that tax cuts reduce federal revenues can be disposed of quite easily. According to the Congressional Budget Office, revenues from federal income taxes were $76 billion higher in the first half of this year than they were in the first half of 2017. The Treasury Department says it expects that federal revenues will continue to exceed last year's for the rest of 2018. Despite record federal revenues, 2018 will see a massive deficit, perhaps topping $1 trillion. Our massive deficit is a result not of tax cuts but of profligate congressional spending that outruns rising tax revenues. Grossly false statements about tax cuts' reducing revenue should be put to rest in the wake of federal revenue increases seen with tax cuts during the Kennedy, Reagan and Trump administrations.

A very disturbing and mostly ignored issue is how absence of skin in the game negatively impacts the political arena. It turns out that 45 percent of American households, nearly 78 million individuals, have no federal income tax obligation. That poses a serious political problem. Americans with no federal income tax obligation become natural constituencies for big-spending politicians. After all, if one doesn't pay federal income taxes, what does he care about big spending? Also, if one doesn't pay federal taxes, why should he be happy about a tax cut? What's in it for him? In fact, those with no skin in the game might see tax cuts as a threat to their handout programs.

Whenever tax cuts are called for, it's not long before they are called tax cuts for the rich. Let's look at who pays what in federal income taxes. Using IRS data for 2015, the latest year available, the Tax Foundation reports that the top 1 percent of earners made about 21 percent of the nation's income, but their share of federal income taxes was 39 percent. They paid more in income taxes than the bottom 90 percent, who paid 29.4 percent of federal income taxes.

In 2015, the top 50 percent of taxpayers paid 97.2 percent of all individual income taxes. Also, the top 1 percent had an income tax rate of 27 percent, while the bottom 50 percent had a tax rate of less than 4 percent. It turns out that 892,420 households — out of roughly 34 million total households — paid 39 percent of federal taxes that year. Most Americans have little or no federal income tax obligation, so how in the world is it possible to give a tax cut to them?

Another part of the Trump tax cuts was with corporate income — lowering the rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. That, too, has been condemned by the left as a tax cut for the rich. But corporations do not pay taxes. Why? Corporations are legal fictions. Only people pay taxes. If a tax is levied on a corporation, it will have one or more of the following responses in order to remain in business. It will raise the price of its product, lower its dividends to shareholders and/or lay off workers. Thus, only flesh-and-blood people pay taxes. We can think of corporations as tax collectors. Politicians love our ignorance about this. They suggest that corporations, not people, will be taxed. Here's how to see through this charade: Suppose a politician told you, as a homeowner, "I'm not going to tax you. I'm going to tax your land." I hope you wouldn't fall for that jive. Land doesn't pay taxes.

Getting back to skin in the game, sometimes I wonder whether one should be allowed in the game if he doesn't have any skin in it.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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