Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pillory Hillary; Dump Trump (part 2)

This is the second of a two-part post. Click here for part 1.

As a Libertarian, both the Left and Right sides of the political spectrum accuse you of being on the other. And both sides think you should be on their side because you're closer than those "wackos" on the other side. And both sides think you're a traitor when you don't agree. In part one I discussed my opposition to "the 800 pound gorilla", Hillary Clinton. I also disposed of the idea that you cannot win with a third-party candidate.

De-toxing the Trump Kool-Aid

One of Trump's lemmings told me the following:
I'm not voting for the "lesser of two evils". I'm voting for the man with the best skill-set for the job of anybody who has run for President in the last 2 decades. And maybe since Dwight Eisenhower.
Still no.
Wikimedia Commons
Clearly, the man is misinformed. There is so much to disembowel in that short statement, starting with exactly the same kind of sycophantic hyperbole that I blogged about at the start of the Obama administration. Nevertheless, I still wasn't in the mood to waste breath. Folks who drink the Kool-Aid aren't persuadable. So I responded with a simple, "I disagree." I did that a couple of times, actually, and was told I hadn't researched, and then I was no good at research, etc. The Trumper pretty much stuck to an issue-free, fact-free approach of denigration and insults.

If you pay any attention to the Left, they use the same techniques of denigration and insults. Those who disagree with them are "stupid" and "racist" and "homophobic". If you ask for evidence, those who demand evidence are "anti-science". People who responsibly exercise their Second Amendment rights are "gun nuts". Recently the Right, led by Trump, has started doing the same sort of thing, and it's no more attractive when they do it.

Scott Adams (the Dilbert cartoonist) has on his blog made a hobby of deconstructing and explaining the methods of persuasion used by the various campaigns. His analysis is often spot-on. Trump runs a fact-free campaign because emotional appeals work.  Note when I say "fact free campaign" I'm simply pointing out that facts don't matter. If what Trump says aligns with reality, then that's pretty much a bonus, but mostly it's a campaign of emotion. Facts are optional, and he doesn't care in the slightest.

Case in point: Immigration

A portion of the current wall with Mexico.
Let's take as an example just one issue. And let's make it Trump's core issue: immigration. He's convinced millions of people that he's going to build a wall with Mexico and deport millions of other people because the illegal immigrants are stealing their jobs and benefits. And he'll make Mexico pay for the wall.

Let's first note that Trump himself notes that his opening bid in any negotiation is aggressive. So whether any of these campaign promises will get accomplished is complete conjecture. Maybe he'll try, maybe he won't. I don't know and don't care. I want to look at his premises. And incidentally, I also want to look at them as they are perceived by his supporters, because that's what's maintaining his support. So here is Trump's detailed position statement. It includes these three bullet points in summary:
  1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.
  2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.
  3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.

A nation without borders is not a nation

The first item is a very general emotional statement that doesn't necessarily lead to the specific conclusions he draws. For instance, almost all nations don't have border walls. They still have borders and they are still nations. But rather than explain the statement, Trump's detailed exposition simply assumes the conclusion and starts by insisting that Mexico pay for it. To do that he would impound wire transfers from the US to Mexico... which is identical to using US money from the US to pay for it. But that's sleight of hand that you're not supposed to catch.

A nation without laws is not a nation

Few people would argue with the second item. It's just a tautology to anyone but an anarchist. Laws should be enforced. However, that's not the crux of our current problem. Our problem is that a great deal of law is affected by precedent, and here we're talking about laws that they have not been strictly enforced for many, many decades. We now have 11 million illegal workers, and Trump's idea is to round up those 11 million people and send them to Mexico, leaving 11 million job vacancies along with the accompanying economic upheaval.

A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation

And few would argue with the third item as stated. There should be a clear delineation between the responsibilities and benefits of citizens and non-citizens. If a nation provides no benefit to citizenship, then there it provides no incentive to exercise the responsibilities. And to prevent subjugation a nation must provide its citizens with some measure of security, both physical and economic.

The question is, does Trump's plan do that?

Trump's economic argument focuses on his belief that these immigrants are stealing benefits and stealing jobs. This is expressed emotionally, as "stealing" or "taking". Who's not motivated when someone steals from him? But there's a bit of cognitive dissonance here. It's evident when you hear his claims as spoken in his voice, and moreso when you hear it repeated by his followers. Recently a caller to WORD radio in Greenville SC opined, "Rounding these people up ain't rocket science. Just go to the local welfare office and find out where they send the checks! Hyuk, hyuk!" (the "hyuks" were in there). Another complained about "stupid Mexicans".

The problem with that idea is that a great majority of these Mexicans aren't getting welfare checks. They're getting paychecks. They're paying in to the welfare system, not draining it. And they're getting these paychecks not because they stole the job from an American, but because the job couldn't be filled otherwise. You can't have it both ways. They're not working your job and taking your welfare check. And many more of them are working than not.

We have an entire generation in this country who have been raised to believe that they cannot get a "good job" without a college degree. And as a result they are passing up perfectly good jobs that they could fill, but won't. Not "can't"... won't. There is a reason that so many Mexicans work work in 'menial' jobs, and it's not because they're stupid. It's because they're intelligent enough to know that there's no such thing as a bad job. There's no shame in labor. They're savvy enough to go where the work is. And they're bright enough to do it in a second language when most of the US college grads have trouble with English alone. So your roofer and landscaper are Mexican in no small part because you make people feel inferior for being roofers and landscapers, and you refuse to pay more for those services. Meanwhile the jobs still need to be done, and they need to be done here in the US. It doesn't service your nation to ignore that.

Trump cites unemployment figures among poorly educated poverty-stricken people. What he fails to note is that those same people are still not applying for those jobs. He has an idea that is not supported by experience... that if the Mexicans are removed, then the jobs will suddenly be filled with eager Americans who will be taking home more money because those Mexican "criminals" aren't suppressing wages.

For the most part this is a fantasy. First of all, Mexicans aren't suppressing wages. They're working for what the market bears. Secondly, many make fun of Occupiers for crying about the supposed "fact" that $15/hour is not a "living wage" while they simultaneously use the exact same argument here while also claiming that Mexican workers not only work for half of that, but also live on even less, shipping enough money across the border to pay for a several billion dollar wall.

But for the sake of argument, imagine their fantasy is real. If so, white-collar and service workers will not see their wages rise because those of factory workers go up. As the cost of factory labor goes up, the cost of goods will go up across the board. Real wages... buying power... will decrease for everyone. Many industries will find a hard limit to the amount that they can raise their prices. Their choices will be cheap labor, cheap automation (i.e. less labor), or bankruptcy. Many companies could just pick up and move their operations to other countries, as Ford has done.

Furthermore, the jobs that will be vacated aren't necessarily where the jobless Americans are. And as persuasive as Trump is reputed to be, he won't get them filled. Not to put too fine a point on it, I'd like to see him try to convince an out-of-work African American from Chicago to move south so he can spend his days in the field picking crops. Good luck with that. There's nothing wrong with the work... it's just not going going to be filled by the Black Americans that Trump has identified as being the highest percentage unemployed demographic.

He references H1B visas while ignoring the fact that the employers who utilize these visas are not isolated little American firms ignoring the local populace to import cheap labor. Rather, they're international companies that may be based in America or may be headquartered elsewhere with facilities in the United States. They do business globally, and these visas are issued for legit, permanent employees who are in the US temporarily due to business need. Our own white-collar workers do the exact same thing, spending time in England, France, Germany, India, Japan, China, Argentina etc., due to business need. What if we weren't able to do that? What would happen to our position as an economic world leader? Again, it's very easy to conclude that these visas are "stealing" jobs when you've been starved of the facts. But the facts don't support Trump's position, and his plan doesn't benefit the US economy.

If I have a choice between the company going bankrupt because it can't find labor; moving its operations to Mexico to pay Mexican labor; or hiring Mexican labor in the US so that it can be taxed in the US and the paycheck spent in the US, I'm going to advocate imported Mexican labor. If I have a fourth choice... that of hiring US workers... I will take it preferentially, as would any US employer. You don't need the government to enforce that. What you need is a supply of workers who will apply for the jobs and come to work. A wall with Mexico doesn't provide that. A better plan is to is to issue work visas. The workers are documented, they pay taxes that offset any benefits they might consume, and it's clear that as workers, not immigrants, and as non-citizens, they're not allowed to vote... something that's very difficult to police with non-legals who have forged documents.

Trump is simply wrong about immigration and jobs.

Trump's remaining point is that Mexican immigrants are criminals. Well, he's right; they've all illegally crossed the border and are working with forged documents or none at all. But he's not talking about that. He has made this specific claim:
"Our leaders are stupid, our politicians are stupid, and the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning, and they send the bad ones over because they don't want to pay for them, they don't want to take care of them. Why should they, when the stupid leaders of the United States will do it for them? And that’s what’s happening, whether you like it or not."
Donald Trump, 1st Republican Debate.
He claims that the Mexican government is deliberately sending criminals to the US. There's no evidence of this. Politifact rates it "Pants on Fire" and provides sources. Even when we drop the tin-foil-hat conspiracy aspect of it and ask whether these immigrants include a disproportionate number of criminals, the facts are lacking. The Guardian reports a lower than average crime rate. The Washington Post agrees with The Guardian, and provides exhaustive detail debunking Trump's claims.

It's an emotional claim; a hallmark of a fact-free campaign. It's a claim that caters to the confirmation bias of Trump's supporters. After all, they're here illegally so they're already criminals, and they're stealing jobs... why should they stop at that? Trump's supporters have talked themselves into believing any claim, evidenced be damned. Even fundamentalist Christians rationalize that "God worked through flawed individuals like King David," and make the mental leap that Trump must therefore be doing God's work. It's a complete non sequitur. The most generally true statement about Trump's campaign is that he tells people what they want to hear. And they abet him by hearing only what they want to hear and ignoring what he tells other groups.

And that's just one issue.

Personally, I don't care if there's a wall. But a wall should have a gate. And the primary problem with these illegal immigrants is simply that they are illegal. It is possible to make them legal without making them citizens and voters, and thus maintain economic stability while while addressing the real fear of the Right... that this is an influx not of Mexicans, but of Democrats. I incidentally support the idea that the the Fourteenth Amendment should be clarified to disallow the "anchor baby" interpretation. It was not intended to be so abused that the child of a tourist is suddenly a citizen. If the parents are legal immigrants, then it makes sense that the child be a natural born citizen, but not otherwise.

Scott Adams posted on his blog "How to Un-Hypnotize a Rabid Anti-Trumper". In it he lists four objections to Trump and how to counter them. Here they are:
  • Objection 1: Trump is a loose cannon who might offend other countries and maybe even start a nuclear war.
  • Objection 2: Trump is terrible at business because he has several bankruptcies.
  • Objection 3: Trump is a racist.
  • Objection 4: Trump is anti-women and anti-LGBT
Notice that they're all emotional arguments from the Left. They're low-hanging fruit because they're easy to rationalize or debunk. But my objection to Trump has nothing to do with any of these. But Adams (who endorses Hillary for his own safety) doesn't recommend changing the mind of someone who opposes Trump on rational grounds. This is "for ethical reasons" one of which I'm quite sure is that it doesn't work.

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