Eliminating political careerism

A columnist from Massachusetts points out that Elizabeth Warren’s failed run for the presidency resulted in a loss of representation for the State:

According to ProPublica, Warren has missed 53.5% of her votes during this session of Congress. This makes her the third-most absent member of the Senate. (Remember: We lowly taxpayers pay Warren $175,000 for this job.)

She clearly decided that running for president was a valid excuse to neglect and ignore her Senate duties. Yes, this despite the fact that she pretty much promised Massachusetts voters in 2018 that if they reelected her, she would not run for president. Then, of course, she changed her mind just a few months later and decided to run and skip out on her current office to do so.

This is a slap in the face to the people of Massachusetts, who elected her to a six-year term just in 2018, undoubtedly with her promise to actually serve this term in mind. Turns out, serving in the Senate was just a backup option for Warren in case her presidential aspirations didn’t work out.

In other words, it’s all about serving her interests, not those of her constituents, whom she failed to represent in Washington more than half the time.  This is a bipartisan problem, and I’ve written about it before.  Elected officials should never take their current office as a given, even while reaching for more influence. 

Aside from term limits, the best way to end political careerism is to require people to serve out the full elective term of office (barring debilitating illness, injury or misconduct), and to ban the practice of running for more than one office at once (i.e. president and senate).  It’s bad enough how much running for reelection shapes an officeholder’s term.  Trying to grab the next rung of the ladder while keeping one hand on the current one “just in case” is the opposite of public-mindedness.  Too many special elections (which cost taxpayer $$) occur because John Q. Politician was elected to two different offices simultaneously, or else was picked as a political appointee while serving in an elected office.  In a country of nearly 330 million people, nobody is that indispensable.  If someone believes they are called to greater responsibility, they should demonstrate a commitment to it by fulfilling any current public obligations, then focusing on convincing the public or an executive to give them such an opportunity.  Such an expectation by the people would mean candidates would be out of political work from time to time.  And that’s not a bad thing, considering that also happens from time to time to the citizens they allegedly represent.  Let our would-be representatives live like the rest of us occasionally.

A pivotal pathogen?

COVID-19 is now the topic du jour across the planet.  Perhaps nothing exemplifies the interconnectivity of our world than a novel virus that appears in China, then spreads to every continent but Antarctica.  As such, it’s causing humanity to rethink a number of trends.  We may look back on this time as a pivotal one.

The reaction to the excesses of globalism had already begun with the election of Donald Trump, who appealed in 2016 to those most left behind by the paradigm.  For the first time since Ross Perot warned in 1992 of the “giant sucking sound” of industry that would be pulled out of America through the North American Free Trade Agreement and similar arrangements, a president openly questioned whether the status quo was truly beneficial to America.  Long-ignored trade deficits with potential rivals such as China came under scrutiny, as did the practice of obtaining essential goods through such sources.

Today’s coronavirus scare will accelerate that trend, regardless how mild or deadly the virus is in the end, because for the first time, the vulnerabilities inherent in globalism are easy to understand:

While many are rightfully concerned about stopping the virus, few are focused on the fact that the more it spreads, the more the U.S. ability to treat any Americans who are stricken is vulnerable to the tender mercies of the Chinese Communist Party because of a strategic shift in health care that occurred without debate or decision in Washington.

Everything from antibiotics to chemotherapy drugs, from antidepressants to Alzheimer’s medications to treatments for HIV/AIDS, are frequently produced by Chinese manufacturers. What’s more, the most effective breathing masks and the bulk of other personal protective equipment — key to containing the spread of coronavirus and protecting health care workers — and even the basic syringe are largely made in China. The basic building blocks of U.S. health care are now under Xi’s control.

The list doesn’t stop at medical commodities, either.  The Trump administration has recognized how dependent the U.S. had become on China as a source of rare earth minerals, a strategic category of raw materials upon which many modern devices depend.  The U.S. has deposits of such minerals, but largely lacks the capacity to mine and process them — after all, everything is done more cheaply in China, right?

We are beginning to realize the multifaceted hidden costs of offshoring — costs that were never publicly factored into the promotion of globalism.  Over time, the public has come to appreciate how many manufacturing jobs were lost — jobs that provided useful work and a “living wage.”  Most criticism of the emerging global economy has been predicated on that aspect.  But what was good for the corporate bottom line devastated families both in the U.S. (unemployment and despair as skills became irrelevant) and in China (sweatshop hours, bad working conditions and little pay).  In fact, one of the revelations of the current crisis is just how bad China’s industrial and urban pollution has become.  In short, it’s cheaper to make things in China because labor can be underpaid or even conscripted, there are no Occupational Safety and Health Administration-type standards to worry about, and none of the manufacturers there have to worry about mitigating pollution (at least, until it embarrasses the government).  Those tacky inflatable holiday lawn figures (sorry, personal pet peeve) and other assorted non-essential trinkets cost far more than what WalMart charged the consumer who purchased them.

Globalism isn’t the only paradigm that will be questioned in the weeks ahead. Ever since the dawn of the Industrial Age, work increasingly has been performed outside the home, concentrated first in factories and then offices.  This drove a reorganization of society.  Families spent more time apart, as fathers, then mothers, increasingly found their sustenance by working for others.  This led to children learning more from schools and other institutions than from growing and learning within a family economy.  People left the countryside for the cities to find work.  The rise of suburbia cemented the necessity of automobiles and led to the invention of the traffic jam as infrastructure failed to keep pace.  Only since the creation of the internet has there been a serious attempt to change this equation by finding ways to work from home.

While it isn’t practical for every type of work, telecommuting may be about to get a huge turbocharge:

In the past week, companies across the U.S. have started canceling major conferences, halting most business travel and urging employees to work from home in response to the growing viral outbreak in the country. Few will require telecom operations as vast and complicated as ICANN’s, but as companies such as Twitter and Microsoft start shifting to virtual work en masse, the vision of a decentralized work world long promised by telecommuting evangelists is starting to materialize.

Even if businesses intend for their policies to be a temporary response to COVID-19, once it’s discovered that desk-based workers can be productive — possibly more so — without being corralled into cubicles, the public may seriously question a return to the old ways, with its long commutes, office squabbles and occasional control freaks.

Higher education has been gravitating toward more online learning for some time now.  As a result, many universities and colleges are somewhat prepared to continue their activity remotely by scaling up what they’re already doing in some areas.  The same cannot be said of most public elementary and secondary schools.

What if this pandemic led to decentralization, more time with family instead of traffic, increasing interest in homeschooling options, a desire for national self-sufficiency and security, and a return of well-paying industrial jobs to the U.S.?  There is a possibility the blight of COVID-19 may contain the seeds of long-term benefits.  The city of Enterprise, Alabama, has a monument to the boll weevil, an insect that devastated the cotton economy of the southern U.S. in the early 1900s.  Despite the infestation, farmers were reluctant to abandon cotton, due to its profit and ability to grow on land few other cash crops could tolerate.

Enter the lowly peanut.  An Enterprise (and enterprising) man convinced some farmers to switch to peanuts, and those who did found their fortunes rising.  By 1919, as the boll weevil continued its destruction, the county around Enterprise, Alabama, was the largest producer of peanuts in the country, and shortly began to produce peanut oil.  Local farmers continued to diversify their crops, adding sugar cane, potatoes and others, and the area found renewed prosperity.  All because of necessity brought on by a bug.

What lasting changes will today’s “bug” bring?

Quote of the Day

From the always-worth-reading Victor Davis Hanson:

It is easy to say that 2020 seems to be replaying 2016, complete with the identical insularity of progressives, as if what should never have happened then certainly cannot now. But this time around there is an even greater sense of anger and need for retribution especially among the most unlikely Trump supporters. It reflects a fed-up payback for three years of nonstop efforts to overthrow an elected president, anger at anti-Trump hysteria and weariness at being lectured.

A year is a proverbial long time. The economy could tank. The president might find himself trading missiles with Iran.(*)  At 73, a sleep-deprived, hamburger-munching Trump might discover his legendary stamina finally giving out. Still, there is a growing wrath in the country, either ignored, suppressed or undetected by the partisan media. It is a desire for a reckoning with ‘them’. For lots of quiet, ordinary people, 2020 is shaping up as the get-even election — in ways that transcend even Trump himself.

(*) Don’t think for a second the unelected Deep State is above engineering either or both of these possibilities, among endless others that would be bad for the nation but possibly good for them.

Decorum and Defeat

The Christianity Today news site weighs in on impeachment:

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

Translation: “yes, Trump managed to put a wedge between Planned Parenthood’s abortion empire and federal funding; yes, Trump has reversed some of Obama’s specific policy targeting of Christian groups; yes, minorities and the underprivileged are faring better economically than they have in ages; yes, Trump is completely reshaping the Federal judiciary by appointing people who respect the Constitution; yes, Trump is resetting trade policy to protect the U.S., and pressing allies to shoulder their share of the defense burden… despite all that, he’s crude, rude, uncouth and must be removed.”

In other words, better to go down to polite defeat than to get dirty while fighting.  What a joke.  I remind this magazine of the personality contrasts between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.  The former was fond of alcohol and cigars (which killed him), was notoriously unkempt, and lacked any political polish whatsoever.  In contrast, Lee was the so-called “marble man,” — the West Point graduate who did four years without a single demerit… the consummate gentleman of refined manners and a personal ethos that inspired others to follow him.

Lee lost.

When confronted after the battle of Shiloh about Grant possibly crawling back into the bottle, Lincoln refused to remove him, saying “I can’t spare him… he fights.”  For anyone who wants to see America safe and strong, the same is true of Trump.  I don’t idolize the man (or any other, for that matter).  But results matter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t address one other part of the editorial:

…the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

That is but one interpretation of what happened, and I don’t believe it to be the correct one.  Here’s an “unambiguous fact:” former Vice President Joe Biden openly (and profanely) admitted in a public forum that he withheld U.S. aid from the Ukraine until they agreed to fire a prosecutor.  One who just happened to be looking into a company for which Biden’s son was paid thousands a month to “consult,” despite having no relevant experience.  This is what Trump asked Ukraine to look into — whether the former U.S. vice president had abused his office.  Looking after the nation’s vital interests surely must include investigating possible corruption, right?

To the writers of the editorial, though, that’s abuse of power by Trump.  Sorry, that position is more alchemy than Christianity.  The same people screaming “no one is above the law” are also yelling it’s wrong to look into actions Biden has acknowledged, because he’s a presidential candidate.  So which is it?  Can one now avoid scrutiny simply by throwing their hat in the ring?  The writers of this editorial have swallowed a Democratic talking point without showing any discernment whatsoever.

It’s proper to be concerned about our witness, individually and as the Church.  And it’s a good thing to strive for leaders we can emulate.  We must be careful, however, of allowing the Enemy to use that concern to neuter effective resistance to godless globalism.  I hope Christianity Today is enjoying all the temporary plaudits they’re receiving from people who detest everything Christianity actually represents.  They fell for the trap, creating yet another crossfire that can only benefit the other side.

For all the public fables of Washington and the apple tree, or Lincoln and his log cabin, we never have or ever will elect a perfect man.  I would love Trump to be more Christ-like as a person.  But I need him to be an effective defender of America, its people and its traditions as a president.  I don’t know why that is so hard to figure out.

Request: A weekend of prayer

The next couple of days may prove to be “the deep breath before the plunge.”  Not to be melodramatic, but as Gandalf told Pippin, “the board is set, the pieces are moving.”  I believe the weeks ahead, between now and the 2020 election, are some of the most critical our country has faced.  As many of our past leaders have noted, our greatest dangers come not from external enemies, but rather from within.

So how is the board set, and what pieces are in play?  First, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a public statement today, finally publicly directed her party’s committee chairs to begin drafting formal articles of impeachment against President Trump, despite the fact any fair observer of the “inquiry” thus far would note it has hurt, rather than helped, their case.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler announced the committee will hold hearings toward that end, beginning Monday morningBut that’s not the only piece moving on Monday.  That same day, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is scheduled to finally release the report on his investigation into possibly serious improprieties by the previous administration to justify spying on the Trump campaign in 2016.  These are suspected to include, according to many sources, FBI personnel tampering with interview documentation and concealing potentially exculpatory evidence from their requests to the FISA Court for warrants on various Trump allies.  The IG’s semiannual report to Congress at the end of September noted it had 48 open cases regarding official misconduct by Department of Justice employees.  It’s not unreasonable to think that might be related.  The new report due Monday is rumored to be around 1,000 pages.  As some commentators have noted, it doesn’t take 1,000 pages to say there was no wrongdoing.  But if one is making a detailed case… or in fact has already referred charges to U.S. Attorney John Durham for prosecution, such a lengthy report would be expected.

The release of the report will be followed by an appearance by IG Horowitz before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, two days after the report’s release.  These two dates — December 9th and 11th — have been public for a while.  So it’s likely not a coincidence Speaker Pelosi told her House to get moving with impeachment today.  The Democrats’ own day of reckoning may be imminent, and it’s been clear this week they’ve been counter-programming the public narrative against any potential negative revelations.

What I can’t understand is why the Democrats would formally impeach the president, forcing a trial before the GOP-controlled Senate.  The Democrats have been patently unethical in their conduct of the “inquiry” to date, refusing to allow the GOP to call their own witnesses (with one exception), limiting GOP members’ access to interviews and documentation, and generally riding roughshod over any notions of fairness to the accused.  This, of course, is now standard procedure for the Left (see: Brett Kavanaugh).  Pelosi’s partisans deliberately have presented a warped, one-sided perspective of the issues at hand (much as they’re alleged to have done with the FISA Court), and their allies in the press have been their megaphone.  Representative Nadler’s opening assertion that “the facts are not in dispute” is about as true as “the science is settled” when it comes to global warming climate change climate crisis.

The Senate, as the Founders intended, tends to be more sober and dignified about such things, so there’s not likely to be a “payback is a b–ch” approach to their own proceedings when the ball lands in their court.  But I strongly suspect there’ll be a concerted effort to make sure America gets, in the words of the late Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story.”  That possibility alone should make the Democrats think twice about handing off the baton to the Senate.  There’s already enough evidence that’s been made public that puts the lie to the narrative they’re selling.  But as Glenn Reynolds has said repeatedly about the odds of a Trump reelection, “all the Democrats have to do is not act crazy… and they can’t even do that.”  So here’s hoping they try to hand the Senate a lit stick of dynamite, only to have it blow up in their own face, like Wile E. Coyote.

While I could be wrong, I only see two possible outcomes at this point.  One is that the president is removed from office.  Such a result will, I believe, only convince many (including me) who love this country that it no longer represents them and will not tolerate them interfering with the agenda of their self-declared betters.  The Democrats underestimated the anger that helped propel Trump into office.  I don’t think they have any notion of the anger that would result from his removal, either.

The second outcome is for the administration to successfully pull the covers off the Deep State shenanigans that began even before Trump took office, and to do so in a way the public and press cannot ignore.  There is every reason to believe that if a full public accounting took place, the outcry for justice would be deafening.

Either way, the result will occur in a nation that is armed to the teeth.  I generally see that as a good thing.  But given the chasm that has opened among us, it’s also a sobering thing to remember.  Sure, the “side” I identify with likes to joke that we have most of the guns since the Left finds them icky.  I enjoy ribbing the other side as much as the next guy.  But as a historian I also know in 1860 both the Union and Confederates held each other in martial as well as social contempt, convinced the war would be quick and easy over their “deranged” opponents.  How’d that work out for them?  Most wars start with such ill-considered bravado.

The day may come when ballots fail and bullets are required, if we are to remain free.  Americans have faced such situations before, and must be prepared to face such again.  But let no one kid themselves about what that may mean for all we hold dear.

So I ask that this weekend be one of prayer — a deep breath before the plunge of next week.  Prayer for the truth to be fully revealed, no matter where it leads.  Prayer that our country will once again value truth over shading information for partisan or personal advantage.  Prayer for our leaders — on both sides of the aisle — that they will be honest with us, sober, and careful with the governance of our nation.  Prayer that our disputes will be resolved peacefully, rather than in the streets (*).  Prayer that for each of us, God may guide our words and our actions, balancing the requirements of justice and mercy, passion and restraint.  And most importantly, prayer that the Spirit may bring revival in this land, restoring the fellowship and discipleship of repentant believers that was so vital to its founding.  For everything, we are told, there is a season.  May God show us what this season is, and what is required of us in response.

God bless you, and God bless America.

(*) I believe many in our nation fail to realize how the peaceful resolution of the disputed election in 2000 was a historical anomaly for the world, and a testament to the strength of our society.  We should never take such for granted.  

When all politics aren’t, in fact, local

Former U.S. House Speaker “Tip” O’Neal is most commonly associated with asserting that “all politics is local.”  As we’ve moved away from Federalism and republicanism toward democratic homogenization in this country, I think that’s become less and less true:

Coloradans are drawing a line in the asphalt when it comes to California’s growing influence on their SUVs, trucks and votes.

The Colorado-based Freedom to Drive Coalition filed a lawsuit this month against the state’s adoption of California’s zero-emissions vehicle standards, arguing that the rules violate state law and would add thousands of dollars to the cost of the heavy-duty vehicles favored by drivers navigating Colorado’s snowy roads.

Meanwhile, supporters of the Electoral College are balking at the lopsided flood of cash pouring in from California to prevent Colorado voters from overturning the National Popular Vote bill, which Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed into law in March.

Figures compiled by Protect Colorado’s Vote show that more than 98% of the donations to Yes on National Popular Vote have been from Californians, while Coloradans have contributed 99% of the revenue raised to exit the compact.

“Obviously, California is incredibly engaged in getting Colorado’s votes,” said Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who heads the referendum campaign.

This situation exemplifies why the Electoral College was put into place.  Without it, just 9 States (California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Florida) could elect the president, since they account for just over half the U.S. population.  Other States would become mere subsidiaries of one of these population centers.  Those who want the popular vote to prevail in presidential elections know they face an uphill battle to amend the Constitution.  Thus the “National Popular Vote” bill effort in many states, trying to put together a coalition to lump together a bunch of States to do what I believe to be an unconstitutional end-run around the Electoral College.

As the article above shows, what may work for California (and that’s arguable) may not apply to the conditions of another State, like Colorado.  This is one of many reasons the Founders intended most governance to be local (State and below), with the Federal government largely charged with handling the external affairs of the federation of States.  Too much of the divisiveness in this country is driven by efforts to impose “one size allegedly fits all” solutions from Washington, D.C. (or Sacramento, in this case).  What’s tragically ironic is that the loudest proponents of unitary government suddenly find their inner secessionist whenever the Federal Government goes against their agenda.  States like New York are passing local bills enshrining the legality of abortion, since many expect Roe v. Wade to be reviewed, revised or overturned in the next few years by a Supreme Court with more constitutional originalists on its bench.  The Left will stick up for “States’ rights” in such a scenario, but more times than not, they are happy to use Federal power to bludgeon the entire nation into compliance with their agenda.

Campaign financing has been another insidious erosion of local politics.  Note in the linked article who is funding the two sides of the National Popular Vote campaign.  Why are Californians allowed to contribute to campaigns in Colorado?  Another example is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes.  Once she won her primary in 2018, out-of-state money provided the majority of her general election campaign financing.  How does this square with the idea a ‘representative’ reflects local opinion and priorities?  (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)

What this does is turn every Congressional/Senatorial race into a national campaign.  We hear about the outsize influence of billionaires.  Well, guess who has the wherewithal to fund candidates all across the country?  That’s not the vision the Founders had in mind.  Want to reign in the influence of campaign contributions?  Two steps: only allow individual citizens (not corporations, PACs or any other organizational source) to contribute, and require them to contribute only to their State/local races.  As is often pointed out, only the office of the presidency was designed to be elected by the entire nation.  The current campaign financing model undermines that.

A truly federal system allows for variations and experimentation of policy to best meet local conditions and aspirations.  We have moved away from that to our great detriment.  How about some of that magic “diversity” when it comes to letting locals set their own agenda?  Save the Federal power for things that truly matter to everyone — like upholding the “Life” part of “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” by protecting the unborn.

Out-Reaganing Reagan

For four decades, Ronald Reagan has been the benchmark against which ‘conservative'(*) candidates have been measured.  Following the misery of the Jimmy Carter years, Reagan posed a simple question during his re-election campaign in 1984: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

It would appear President Trump could easily do the same:

3 yr returns

It’s worth noting that FDR’s results followed that of Herbert Hoover (of the “Hoovervilles” Depression-era fame).  In other words, FDR had lots of room to run just digging out of the smoking hole that followed the 1929 market crash.  Truman and Eisenhower both benefited from the post-World War II era, when the U.S. economy was more than a quarter of the entire world’s Gross Domestic Product.  That was the era when “Made in the U.S.A.” took off, while other countries dug out of the destruction of the preceding years.  Trump, on the other hand, has had to renegotiate or abandon bad trade deals (*cough* NAFTA *cough*) and reverse the huge regulatory burden strangling small business growth.

I focused on the stock market returns to this point simply because that’s a common metric the chattering class uses to gauge a presidency’s success.  Given these results, I’m sure they’ll find another yardstick to use over the next year.  But it’s not an isolated marker.  Minorities are enjoying record unemployment rates.  Three years into Obama’s first term, overall unemployment was 8.3%.  Three years into Trump’s, it’s at 3.6%.  Reversing the Democrats’ war on energy production allowed the U.S. to become the world’s largest oil producer for the first time since 1973.

But economics is not the only measure of a president.  Trump’s greatest legacy may be reshaping the judiciary, returning it to a more originalist interpretation of the Constitution.  He has also been willing to confront long-standing arrangements, such as NATO, that may have outlived their utility or else continue to exist only by mooching off of America.

Given all this, it’s no wonder so many of his supporters (including me) are willing to overlook his many personal foibles.  Trump will never be a great communicator as Reagan was.  But what he lacks in polish he makes up for in brash willpower.  And in the end, that might leave him as the new benchmark for successful governance from a traditionalist perspective.

___________

(*) One has to wonder at the term “conservative,” considering how much America has been remade by ideologies hostile to its traditional way of life.

That which can’t continue, doesn’t

The fiscal day of reckoning may be close at hand for the United States:

According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Debt Management, the U.S. government is just five years away from the point where every new dollar it borrows from the public will go toward funding interest payments on the national debt.

That is the main takeaway from the Debt Management Office’s Fiscal Year 2019 Q1 Report, which featured the Office of Management and Budget’s latest projection of the U.S. government’s borrowing from the public…

Net interest on the national debt has become one of the fastest growing segments of federal spending. When the national debt reaches the point where all newly borrowed dollars must be used to pay this mandatory expenditure, the U.S. government will have passed the event horizon that marks the boundary of the national debt death spiral.

Cities and territories in the United States that have crossed that crisis point have either gone through bankruptcy proceedings or their equivalent, or they have implemented major fiscal reforms that reversed their fiscal deterioration, wherein the best-case scenarios, they acted to restrain the growth of their previously out-of-control spending to restore their fiscal health.

Interest on the national debt is going up quickly for two reasons.  Obviously, the government continues to spend waaaaaaaaay more than they squeeze out of the economy (us) through taxation, adding to the total amount it owes.  More importantly, however, the many record deficits recorded over the past 10 years were done so at historically low interest rates (engineered by the Federal Reserve, which in the process robbed productive citizens of some of the proceeds they would normally have earned through their savings).  Inevitably, those rates have begun to climb again.  It may seem incremental on a chart, but keep in mind that just one percent of $22 trillion is $220 billion.

Continue reading

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.

The Enemy doesn’t get to define us

One thing about the Trump era: it’s caused a lot of people to confront the misplaced notion that Christians are supposed to be all about inoffensive sweetness and niceness, and only support politicians of that variety:

There are innumerable examples of people who are wonderful but unaccomplished just as there are many notable examples of people with serious personal failings who nonetheless have excelled in other parts of their lives: artists, scientists, parents, and even politicians.

And yes, I’m not so subtly making a point about President Trump. His private failings have been made very public prompting some Christian pundits to say that not only do those failings disqualify Trump from office, but they are so egregious as to make supporting him sinful for Christians.

It should be obvious that support for a political candidate does not mean a blanket endorsement of every aspect that candidate’s life. It is merely an endorsement of that person’s policies and an assessment of his ability to perform in office. What’s more, it’s often not even a blanket endorsement of that, it’s a practical decision that Candidate A, while imperfect, is preferable to Candidate B…

The question is, by what standard should a Christian judge a candidate or an officeholder? Part of the answer is that the Christian and non-Christian ought to judge in the same way: what can the candidate do to protect the peace and prosperity of the nation and its citizens? Christians would add that they require political leaders that will protect the right of the Church to worship freely and its members to practice their faith in peace.

If personal sin were disqualifying, who could lead? Christians in particular, for whom recognition of indwelling sin is both a predicate and a sustainer of faith, should know this. I suspect what the Frenches really want is a prophet, a priest, and a king to rule in this secular age, a political leader in which they can invest their highest hopes. But in doing so, they are placing upon liberal politics a weight it cannot hope to carry and are headed for disappointment.  The good news is, if they want a prophet, a priest, and a king, they already have one . . . in Christ.

As a presidential candidate in 2012, [Mitt Romney] was weak and ineffectual, letting Barack Obama walk all over him and run away with the race. But vote for him because he’s polite and he doesn’t curse!  Voters, many of them Christians, decided that the time for beautiful losers is over.

Exactly.  As I watch my country overrun by uninvited invaders, beset by hostile ideologies growing within and enemies gathering without, I am really not concerned with parlor games and political pleasantries anymore.  It’s no exaggeration to say our birthright freedoms are in a fight for their very survival.  In such a situation I’ll take a committed patriot with the manners of Genghis Khan over a manicured globalist who’s a disciple of Ann Landers; a Patton, not a Pope.

And as for Christianity requiring a milquetoast demeanor… our adversaries would have us forget that Our Lord’s example includes such pleasantries as flipping tables, driving people with whips, calling deceivers ‘vipers‘ and children of Satan, and calling down woe on feckless leaders more interested in themselves than in those they were called to lead.  Christ isn’t just the Lamb… He’s also the Lion of Judah.  “Not a tame lion,” either, as C.S. Lewis once pointed out.

So despite his many past moral failings, maybe… just maybe… Trump’s on to something here.  I’ll certainly never confuse him with Christ.  But Twitter aside, regarding the manner in which he is governing I’ll say he is more Christ-like than many of the false-faced Wormtongues who surround him in Mordor.  It’s amusing: the Left always screeches that Christian faith should never influence public policy.  But faced with Trump, who has committed the unpardonable sin of actually trying to govern as he campaigned, the Left — which recognizes no restraints of civility on its own quest for power — is more than willing to use a watered-down, denatured vision of the Christian walk to try to shame people out of supporting him.

I mean it literally when I say “to hell with that.”