Tariffs and national self-interest

Patrick Buchanan provides a succinct summary of why Trump’s emphasis on tariffs in the relationship with China is hardly unprecedented.  In fact, one could say it’s a return to the policies that once made a young nation great:

A tariff may be described as a sales or consumption tax the consumer pays, but tariffs are also a discretionary and an optional tax. If you choose not to purchase Chinese goods and instead buy comparable goods made in other nations or the USA, then you do not pay the tariff.
China loses the sale. This is why Beijing, which runs $350 billion to $400 billion in annual trade surpluses at our expense is howling loudest. Should Donald Trump impose that 25% tariff on all $500 billion in Chinese exports to the USA, it would cripple China’s economy. Factories seeking assured access to the U.S. market would flee in panic from the Middle Kingdom.
Tariffs were the taxes that made America great. They were the taxes relied upon by the first and greatest of our early statesmen, before the coming of the globalists Woodrow Wilson and FDR.
Tariffs, to protect manufacturers and jobs, were the Republican Party’s path to power and prosperity in the 19th and 20th centuries, before the rise of the Rockefeller Eastern liberal establishment and its embrace of the British-bred heresy of unfettered free trade.
The Tariff Act of 1789 was enacted with the declared purpose, “the encouragement and protection of manufactures.” It was the second act passed by the first Congress led by Speaker James Madison. It was crafted by Alexander Hamilton and signed by President Washington.

As Buchanan mentions, tariffs were once an integral part of an economic policy that became known as “The American System” — a policy so successful that other nations emulated it.  It’s worth noting the Federal government undertook its first infrastructure projects with almost no other source of funding other than tariffs (land sales being the main exception).  I’ll admit: I’m not a fan of the Federal government doing public works projects.  But the limited revenue stream tariffs provided kept such activity modest in the early republic, and for the most part it’s easy to see the wisdom of such projects as lighthouses, postal routes and the Cumberland Road.

Still, public works projects were controversial, even then.  Many in the South believed tariffs disproportionally benefitted northern industrial interests through protectionism and infrastructure.  Tariffs sparked the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina, and was cited as one source of discontent as States left the Union after Lincoln’s election in 1860.  Sectionalism aside, the nature of tariffs as a voluntary tax that promotes national self-reliance and internal growth recommends it as one of the best ways to fund a limited government.  Certainly, the explosive growth of Uncle Sam after institution of the Income Tax is evidence of that.  I’ve said before that a national sales tax would be preferable to an income tax (provided it didn’t result in both being in effect).  Many of the same reasons apply to tariffs.

Buchanan rightfully points out that abandoning so-called “free trade” for a tariff system that enforces fair trade will be painful in the short term, much like a junkie getting over their addiction.  American wages have been stagnant in inflation-adjusted terms since the 1970s.  The only reason we appear to have a higher material standard of living is the influx of overseas goods that appear cheap on the price tag, but which in reality take a heavy toll on the nation in terms of lost industries, disappearing jobs and a growing economic dependency on outsiders.  That doesn’t even take into account that many of the reasons goods made in places such as China are ‘cheaper’ is that they lack protections for workers and the local environment — impacts we considered so important here that we willingly added them to the economic burden of production.  In short, “free trade” as it’s currently practiced is an apples-to-oranges comparison that hides or downplays the negative aspects of globalism.

This -n- That

There’s been a lot going on this week.  While I haven’t had time to write a long-form post till now, here are a few scattered thoughts on recent developments:

It’s interesting that for a couple days it looked as though Trump were going squishy on demanding funding for border security (the wall).  But as with many issues in this administration, it often seems the news coverage greatly exaggerates the death of the president’s resolve on key issues (and this may the media’s intent).  It says something that within 24 hours the talk went from Trump being stymied by his own party in the House, to Speaker Ryan very publicly bending to the administration’s wishes.  In short, Trump comes out of this with a stronger hand, not a weaker one, even if the Senate fails to follow through.

Meanwhile, in the tradition of Tocqueville’s observations about Americans self-organizing, “we the people” are making a stab at ‘doing the jobs our government won’t do,’ to appropriate a phrase.  In less than 4 days, a private fundraising effort for the wall has drawn nearly 200,000 donors and, as of this writing, over $12.1 million.  While this large sum is dwarfed by the estimated $5 billion to build the wall, the enthusiasm being shown may well have tipped the balance for the actions in the House yesterday.  There is, after all, more than one way for the citizens to make their point, if they are determined to do so.

The departure of Secretary of Defense James Mattis set many tongues wagging yesterday.  Mattis was a highly regarded Marine general and military intellectual, known as the ‘warrior monk’ before putting on the suit and taking over as SECDEF.  But as others have pointed out, having operational and tactical savvy doesn’t necessarily translate into strategic acumen.  Regardless, it appears his resignation was predicated on disagreeing with Trump’s intent to disengage from Syria and greatly reduce our footprint in Afghanistan.  If they fundamentally disagreed on these policies, the honorable thing was for him to resign, not to backbite the president from the official perch at the Pentagon.  So regardless whether Trump’s policy proves wise or not, I respect Mattis for his action.  I also respect Trump for following through on a campaign promise to stop policing the world.  Unless someone can articulate a very clear, rational vision of what staying in Afghanistan can achieve, it’s time to recognize 17 years of occupation is long enough.  Let Syria and Afghanistan figure out their own destinies, and let’s free America to do the same by extricating ourselves from all these nebulous multilateral commitments.

That includes immigration.  The United Nations lived up to its reputation as wanting to be a global proto-government by creating a “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”  In other words, facilitating the mass movement of peoples into alien lands.  The United States was one of only five nations who refused to sign onto the compact, correctly noting it was an attempt to create international “soft law” that would infringe on our national sovereignty.  The other four refusals came from Israel, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic — all of whom have been under pressure for months due to their refusal to allow open passage across their borders.  Instead, they are putting the needs of their own citizens first… and what’s so immoral about that?

The real immorality today is the utter lack of accountability shown by the leaders of these various nations to the aspirations of their people and the requirements of the law. Whether it’s Theresa May slow-rolling the Brexit process, Emmanuel Macron trying to tax his people in the name of dubious “climate change” fearmongering or former FBI Director James Comey showing his utter disregard for legal protocols, the attitude is the same.  The main question today is how much longer will these globalist charlatans escape consequences for their actions.

Les Deplorables

Little mainstream media attention has been focused on events in France, but they are well worth noting:

Millions of French citizens have been violently demonstrating across France for the last month.  They are known as the gilets jaunes, or “yellow jackets”. The protestors wear the yellow high-viz jacket, that is common on building sites and airports.  It’s a powerful totem for the French deplorables, a unifying symbol of ordinary, working class folk across the nation…

Many still understand France through the lens of Vogue magazine covers: a nation of affluent, happy people who live in elegant homes, with endless holidays, wine and food.  A 24/7 utopia of chic, elegance and style.  Important to note: that France does exist. It is the world of the French ruling class, less than 1% of the population.  This small group of citizens have dominated the business, banking, legal and political scenes for decades.

The ruling class comes from a small group of grandes ecoles, or elite colleges. There are only 3 or 4.   …These people are arrogant. But they are also ignorant. Raised in very wealthy families and cosseted in the networks those families are part of, they have no understanding of ordinary people and their real lives.

Arrogance and ignorance is a very toxic mix. 

What makes the gilets jaunes protests unique?  Their main gripe?  Elites blaming ordinary people, for problems that the same elites have caused.  Elites never being held accountable for their incompetence. And elites never having to experience the conditions, that their failed ideas cause.  French people are sick of being held in chains by a ruling class. They are sick of being poor and unemployed.

They want a new direction for their beloved nation.  Sound familiar?

The U.S. can relate to this more than many people realize.  The current Supreme Court is composed entirely of graduates from either Harvard or Yale.  The four presidents immediately prior to Trump studied at either Yale, Harvard or Oxford.  Chuck Schumer, the current Senate Minority Leader, is a Harvard grad.  In fact, nearly every headline-making political figure these days can be traced to one of the eight “Ivy League” schools.

That’s highly problematic, given the track record of those schools.  Harvard and Yale both earned “D” grades over their graduation requirements (or lack thereof) concerning seven core subjects: composition, U.S. government or history, economics, literature, college-level math, science and intermediate-level foreign language.  These are the foundational studies of a ‘university’ model, as opposed to vocational or technical training.  Yet a 2007 report found that Ivy League graduates actually knew less about American history, government and economics after their four years of allegedly elite education.  This goes far in explaining the lack of respect for the genius of the Constitution as written, and the value of longstanding American traditions.  Indeed, many of these grads consider themselves ‘citizens of the world,’ viewing patriotism merely as something to steer the rubes in ‘flyover country’ with, and national identity as a threat to their globalist agendas (spoiler: it is).

These schools are not imparting the very knowledge one would expect of an entrenched governing class.  Worse, despite their cheers for “diversity” in society, they fail to practice what they preach, with the result students are not forced to develop critical thinking skills by being exposed to a range of ideas and opinions.  In short, they are enormously expensive echo chambers of indoctrination, whose only apparent practical value is in building up networks with other chosen insiders.

Is it any wonder, then, that many Americans — like their French counterparts — feel completely disconnected from their self-appointed betters, who largely aren’t affected by the ill-advised public policies they pursue?  As the main linked article notes, national identity and character doesn’t die easily.  That’s the primary reason why the elites around the world have been encouraging mass migration, the dilution of nation-states, and the constant creation of extra-national entities like the European Union and the recently-renegotiated North American Free Trade Area.  It is a literally diabolical agenda.

After years — decades, really — of observing how the policies of the various elite university cohorts fail the commoners, it appears the long-suffering but newly militant “normals” may finally be reasserting themselves.  It’s about time.

But isn’t it interesting to note that after a month of “yellow jacket” protests put Macron and the French elites on the defensive, that a “known Islamic radical” with a lengthy criminal history suddenly shoots up a Christmas market and somehow escapes the police (some 89,000 of whom had been deployed to counter the anti-government protests across France?

It’s not as if those in power want to change the subject, right?

Facts versus feelings

The issue of illegal immigration is an emotionally charged one.  I believe far too many of our leaders enable its continuation due to cynical political calculations: if the American people won’t vote them greater powers, they’ll import a people who will.  But for the average citizenry, those who support the continued entry of hundreds of thousands of migrants each year are largely driven by genuine compassion.  Indeed, it’s hard not to compare the conditions many of these people are leaving to those in the U.S. and not feel a sense of obligation to help.

That is why dispassionate examination of the facts of the matter is absolutely essential.  Simply put, this ongoing, unprecedented wave of migration is demonstrably harmful to the citizenry already living within the United States:

A majority of “non-citizens,” including those with legal green card rights, are tapping into welfare programs set up to help poor and ailing Americans, a Census Bureau finding that bolsters President Trump’s concern about immigrants costing the nation.

In a new analysis of the latest numbers, from 2014, 63 percent of non-citizens are using a welfare program, and it grows to 70 percent for those here 10 years or more, confirming another concern that once immigrants tap into welfare, they don’t get off it…

“Concern over immigrant welfare use is justified, as households headed by non-citizens use means-tested welfare at high rates. Non-citizens in the data include illegal immigrants, long-term temporary visitors like guest workers, and permanent residents who have not naturalized. While barriers to welfare use exist for these groups, it has not prevented them from making extensive use of the welfare system, often receiving benefits on behalf of U.S.-born children,” added the Washington-based [Center for Immigration Studies].

The numbers are huge. The report said that there are 4,684,784 million non-citizen households receiving welfare… Compared to native households, non-citizen households have much higher use of food programs (45 percent vs. 21 percent for natives) and Medicaid (50 percent vs. 23 percent for natives).

The American people have historically been a generous one, no doubt in large part to the legacy of Christian charity.  The current level of charity, however, is both unsustainable and unfair to the Americans who have paid into various systems like Social Security and are now unlikely to realize their promised benefits because those funds went to others.  The injustice of transferring wealth from citizens to those who have entered the country (legal or illegal) only to become a burden on it should be obvious.  Given the fact the United States is already flirting heavily with insolvency, carrying trillions of dollars in debt and routinely hearing warnings about Social Security and other programs running out of funds for promised benefits, it’s clear the current situation cannot be tolerated.

The soothsayers who want to allow the status quo to continue try to shame concerned Americans by pointing to our history as a ‘nation of immigrants.’  In doing so, they omit certain critical data points:

  • Past waves of immigration, such as the early 1900s, were conducted according to strict legal protocols, requiring processing at such places as Ellis Island.  It was not a free-for-all “rush for the border” as we have today.
  • Previous immigrants had to prove, among other things, that they had the means to be self-supporting.
  • Previous sources of immigration were mainly from Western European nations with at least a tenuous connection with the English social and political context that framed the United States.  Today, not so much.  (Note the dramatic change on this animated map, both in terms of volume and sources of immigration, starting about 1970.)

This is not to say that individual people from other parts of the world are any less human. It acknowledges, however, that culture is an essential facet of any country, and is not easily discarded in favor of a new worldview. In short, we have allowed alien ways of thought to establish themselves among us, with major implications for the future of our Constitutional heritage.

Much, if not most of our current inflow of people is from Latin America.  Is it not prudent, then, to examine the fact Latin America is “the murder capital of the world?”

With just 8% of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for roughly a third of global murders. It is also the only region where lethal violence has grown steadily since 2000, according to United Nations figures. Nearly one in every four murders around the world takes place in just four countries: Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia. 

The linked article goes on to note most of these murders are never solved, a result of the very weak legal systems and lack of accountability that exist in most of the countries south of the Rio Grande.  Gangs like MS-13 represent the effective local authority, and it should be no surprise that as we continue to receive large numbers of people from this area, that the established gangs export their influence north with it.  It’s understandable to want to help people fleeing such lawlessness.  But such an impulse has to be tempered by at least two questions:

  • Given the pervasiveness of violence and lawlessness, are we willing to import the entire populations of countries like El Salvador or Honduras to allow their people to escape it?  For how many nations are we willing to do this?
  • Does it do any good to permit large-scale immigration from this region that results in importing to the U.S. the very social problems so many profess to be fleeing?

The first duty of any legitimate government is the protection of its own citizens, not provision to outsiders.  Yet many of our leaders seem to turn that on its head, viciously attacking and slandering any who then question their priorities.  In turning the U.S. into the world’s charity, we have forgotten a warning given to us in the famous parable by C.S. Lewis:

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.

Indeed, the benevolence we think we bestow when we allow people to move to America only to become trapped in ethnic enclaves as wards of the state, is indeed largely imaginary.  Worse, it breeds understandable resentment among citizens who see their job prospects (see: H1B) and sources of public support diverted to newcomers, many of whom already broke our laws just coming here.

Our commendable compassion is being used to subvert us, and it’s well past time that stopped.  It isn’t compassionate to destroy one’s own nation trying to provide dubious help to others.  Universal birthright citizenship and the resulting “anchor babies” need to go, as does the vast majority of immigration of any kind for the foreseeable future.  When the lifeboat is already leaking and listing as the U.S. is, it’s suicidal to keep adding to the passenger list.

The morning after

In an unsurprising (but disappointing all the same) development, Americans have handed control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats for the next two years.  Republicans, however, have tightened their grip on the Senate, picking up seats there.  My initial thoughts:

  • Pelosi, Waters and their crew will use their restored subpoena power to make the administration as miserable as possible until 2021.  Buckle up for the ugliness.  That said, Democrats are probably regretting the precedents Obama’s administration set of ignoring such requests from Congress.  Trump won’t have forgotten that.  What goes around…
  • Retaining control of the Senate means the administration can continue building what may be Trump’s most enduring legacy: resetting the Judiciary by appointing judges who view the Constitution through an ‘originalist’ lens and are less likely to engage in policy direction by judicial fiat.  The impact of these appointments will be felt for decades.
  • There will be no funding for a border wall any time soon, unless Trump tries to coopt Defense Department money through Executive direction.  At the same time, the Senate will be able to prevent Democrats from undoing very much of the last two years (tax cuts, deregulation, etc).
  • There are still strong rumors (especially from the “Q” quarter) that ongoing investigations into prominent Democrats may soon yield indictments and the full declassification of the FISA court shenanigans.  One theory is that Trump held off pulling the trigger on these so as to avoid accusations of politicizing the investigations during an election cycle.  If true, that’s likely a wise move.  It also means the Democrats may soon be more on the defensive than their win of the House would normally indicate.
  • It will be instructive to see what independent counsel Robert Mueller’s next move is.  He, too, is said to have held back during the election season.  With that over, I suspect he’ll be under increasing pressure from both sides to show his hand and “put up or shut up.”

In short, while disappointing, I don’t yet see last night’s results as a full-blown disaster.  As many pundits noted, the President’s party usually loses seats in Congress during his first midterm election.  There is one ominous thing to point out, however.  Overall the Democrats ran a much more openly leftist/globalist agenda this cycle… and they still picked up considerable support.  That a candidate like Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke could challenge Ted Cruz so strongly in Texas is not a good long-term signal.  Nor is having Florida’s gubernatorial and Senate races within a percent of each other.  (Related note: the vast majority of Beto’s funding came from outside Texas, something that in my mind should be prohibited.  Residents of one State have no business trying to buy elections in another one.)  We are a deeply divided nation with two incompatible worldviews vying for dominance through government force.

Demography and the long-term effects of leftist indoctrination in our education system are having the intended effects.  That’s why this Trump period is so important.  So far it has been the only successful push back against the Left’s “long march” of the past three decades.  But unless traditional Americans break the lock the globalists have on the education of the next generation, it’s only a matter of time before an ignorant population rejects the birthright their ancestors worked so hard to achieve.

“When an opponent declares, “I will not come over to your side,” I calmly say, “Your child belongs to us already… What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.”  Adolph Hitler, May 1937

Why are we buying from China?

It’s no secret the U.S. and China are increasingly at odds with each other.  China fully recognizes — even embraces — this development, pouring effort into projects like the Confucious Institutes and developing spies among the key staff of important members of Congress.  China holds a significant fraction of the U.S. public debt — a potential lever in any showdown, given our nation’s reliance on deficit-spending.  While we’ve heard nothing but “Russia, Russia, Russia” since the 2016 presidential election, it’s China that poses the most long-term threat to U.S. national security.

And yet, we continue to enable them:

There are two ways for spies to alter the guts of computer equipment. One, known as interdiction, consists of manipulating devices as they’re in transit from manufacturer to customer. This approach is favored by U.S. spy agencies, according to documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The other method involves seeding changes from the very beginning.

One country in particular has an advantage executing this kind of attack: China, which by some estimates makes 75 percent of the world’s mobile phones and 90 percent of its PCs

Supermicro had been an obvious choice to build Elemental’s servers. Headquartered north of San Jose’s airport, up a smoggy stretch of Interstate 880, the company was founded by Charles Liang, a Taiwanese engineer who attended graduate school in Texas and then moved west to start Supermicro with his wife in 1993. Silicon Valley was then embracing outsourcing, forging a pathway from Taiwanese, and later Chinese, factories to American consumers, and Liang added a comforting advantage: Supermicro’s motherboards would be engineered mostly in San Jose, close to the company’s biggest clients, even if the products were manufactured overseas.

Today, Supermicro sells more server motherboards than almost anyone else. It also dominates the $1 billion market for boards used in special-purpose computers, from MRI machines to weapons systems. Its motherboards can be found in made-to-order server setups at banks, hedge funds, cloud computing providers, and web-hosting services, among other places. Supermicro has assembly facilities in California, the Netherlands, and Taiwan, but its motherboards—its core product—are nearly all manufactured by contractors in China…

“Think of Supermicro as the Microsoft of the hardware world,” says a former U.S. intelligence official who’s studied Supermicro and its business model. “Attacking Supermicro motherboards is like attacking Windows. It’s like attacking the whole world.”

The entire, detailed article, is worth reading. As you do, consider that our government increasingly uses server-enabled cloud computing, even for the most sensitive of information. Does it make sense for our government and military to use hardware produced by our all-but-in-name adversary? What carefully implanted surprises now await us in an actual showdown with this emerging power? Shouldn’t our policy be to encourage cost-effective manufacturers here at home?

Over the past 30 years the world became obsessed with obtaining cheap products from China. We’re finding out now they may have cost more than we ever suspected.

Make America great again — make America self-reliant, manufacturing its own goods again.

Make the border real again

Liberals are hyperventilating because Trump today advocated simply returning border jumpers to their home country without letting them clog up our judicial system in the process:

Trump - immigration

“But… but… due process!” Trump’s opponents shout.  Here’s the thing: if we’re not going to execute, incarcerate or fine them, exactly what are they “due?”  If caught in the act of crossing our border, what is there to “process?”  I’ve seen people online quoting the Supreme Court ruling that “the Due Process Clause applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanentZadvydas v. Davis (2001).  Okaythe Fifth Amendment specifically says no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”  I fail to see how immediate return of lawbreaking border jumpers to their country of origin runs afoul of that provision.  Detention while awaiting swift deportation is not the same thing as incarceration.  No matter how much Democrats want to treat them as citizens, illegal immigrants aren’t.  Because we believe in the sanctity of God’s creations, we don’t simply shoot on sight.*  Nor do we deprive those in our custody of food, water and shelter.  But beyond that, America owes them nothing.  No day in court.  No welfare subsidies.  Especially no drivers license or voter I.D. card.  Nothing.  I’d even be in favor of making them pay the cost of their “return to sender” transportation (although that admittedly would likely require more “process” than it’s worth).  After all, many of them seem able to come up with money to pay “coyotes” to smuggle them here, so why shouldn’t we get a cut of that for our troubles?  As for repeat offenders, I’ve addressed that before.

The President is correct: our current system is a mockery.  It encourages foreigners to try their luck to see if they can break into America, and there are few real penalties for failure and repeated attempts.  Various well-funded organizations actively abet those who come here in defiance of our laws.  In the process, they have called into question the process of requesting asylum, since that claim is now greatly abused.  Exhausting Americans’ potential sympathy for those truly needing refuge from persecution is hardly “compassionate,” liberals.  We are a generous people, but there are limits to everything when one realizes others are taking advantage of their good nature.

No matter how much leftists muddy the waters with emotion, this is a simple issue.  Either we are a sovereign nation, or we aren’t.  Either we get to decide who comes to live among us, or we don’t.  Either the people are in charge, or unaccountable globalist elites rule our land.

Which is it?

* This restraint alone shows the difference between America and much of the world. Sadly, though,  in the long run it may come to “shoot on sight” in order to restore a proper deterrent and respect for our immigration laws.  If that day comes, globalists and open borders advocates will have only themselves to blame for encouraging a situation requiring such measures to bring back under control.