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.”

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.

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

“No borders, no wall, no USA at all!”

That’s what Antifa hoodlums chanted in Washington D.C. last weekend while trying to pick fights with anyone who looked remotely to the political right of them. While they were mostly mindlessly chanting as directed, one could give them credit for succinctly expressing the formula they and their fellow travelers are using to kill the United States. Because without any borders, without any walls, there won’t be a U.S.A. at all. Or any other nation, for that matter.

And that’s the real goal of the globalists. Too many people think “globalists” is just a quasi-conspiratorial term, but it’s a very real phenomenon. A significant number of Western leaders act as if they owe more loyalty to their transnational peer group than they do to the people they supposedly serve at home. The same holds true of most transnational corporations, whose leaders are more concerned with international access and profits–even if it means bowing to autocrats–than they are with domestic considerations or notions of representative government. This has created a political and technocratic worldwide “ruling class” and, as writer Sarah Hoyt points out, a developing version of the same sort of neo-feudalism that existed under communism:

…communism was not discredited where it counted. There were no long-running exposes of exactly how bad it was in the Soviet Union, or the other communist countries, nor of the massive number of people – at least a hundred million, but quite likely more – that these regimes sent to their graves. There was no explanation about how imposing this kind of regime from above always leads to a quasi-feudal existence, in which the functionaries at the top are kings and everyone else serfs because it has to. Because the people at the top are still human, which means they not only have no idea what is “each’s need” or “each’s ability” but they have their very own greed and desire and other issues the same as any robber Baron. Only at least the robber Barons had to establish some industry, create some empire, finagle some monopoly. Those at the top of the planned economy have full power and cart blanch to JUST rob.

The development of this international club goes a long way explaining the horrified reaction to the election of Trump. The constant harping on his personal moral failings conceals the real anger: he doesn’t play “One World” with the other would-be aristocrats. From all appearances Trump is implementing the promised “America First” policies he campaigned on. Such nationalism—particularly from a key center of power like the U.S.—is intolerable to the globalists.

So they have unleashed their modern brownshirts – the Antifa (another Orwellian misnomer, since they are quite fascist in their attitudes and activities). These street brawlers, like their Nazi forebears, are an army of “useful idiots” to break down the fabric of representative governance so it can be replaced with something more to the totalitarian’s liking. Most of these black-hoodie footsoldiers have no idea they are helping destroy the very system that makes their self-absorbed grievance-mongering possible:

…Antifa, an assemblage of the psychotic and the helpless and mostly both, people who couldn’t catch a clue if the clue was on crutches, people who – from the exemplars caught and exposed – either exist in the sheltered bubble of Academia or in the equally sheltered bubble of their parents’ basements, people who, if they have any job it’s the equivalent of barista.  These people, who would have trouble existing in the relatively harsher environment of Europe… only survive because the US is so prosperous and so secure that – outside of a few Democrat fiefdoms like Chicago or East St. Louis — it’s almost impossible to get yourself killed for gross and offensive stupidity…

Perhaps Antifa activists should reflect on the fate of D.C. denizens Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin, whose belief that people everywhere enjoy the same basic goodness and resulting security led to their deaths on a bicycling trip through Tajikistan:

…Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own [wrote Austin] By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”

This same misguided idea that “people are basically good” – which runs completely counter to the Christian worldview – is the foundation upon which the idea of communism (and globalism, its current incarnation) is built. It fails to take into account, as Hoyt pointed out, the inherent fallibility of our decisions, as well as the self-interested motives that often color them. This is one of many reasons globalists are opposed to authentic, evangelical Christianity. The Bible makes clear “there is none righteous; no, not one,” and the litany of accounts in its pages go on to prove even the most well-intentioned people will always be flawed.  As a result, the Founders understood that nobody should wield unchecked power over others.  Barack Obama’s famous “I have a pen and phone” statement of intent to use executive power to achieve what he could not through legislation ran completely contrary to American tradition.  And yet he had his supporters, his own cult of (manufactured) personality.

Perhaps, then, from a Christian perspective Antifa is best understood as a cult. They have a worldview, require professions of “faith” from their fellow travelers, and viciously ostracize any who challenge their viewpoints. Unlike other cults, however, this one is not just a danger to its own members. Left to themselves, they will bring our nation crashing down.  They seek to erode patriotism, faith in our Constitutional institutions, and any sense the U.S. is special.  Nations cannot survive without these.

The United States has never been perfect. But it has resulted in more opportunity, peace and prosperity for more people than any other nation in history. It has yielded to the temptations and sins of great-power politics, but nevertheless on balance has been a positive influence in the world. The system of human organization from which it springs is an infinitesimal rarity in all of history. As such, it is worth defending, lest this part of the world cease being the “last, best hope for mankind,” and revert back to what history shows is the default result of unfettered power over the masses.

Why is this even an issue?

And why did it take the Administration six months to enact ANY penalties?

The Department of Justice is cracking down even further on so-called sanctuary cities, saying that cities with such policies are not eligible for a federal assistance program used to help fight violent crime.

According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, four cities — Albuquerque, N.M., Baltimore, Md., San Bernardino, Calif., and Sotckton, Calif. — have expressed interest in the department’s Public Safety Partnership, or PSP, program.  The initiative was launched in June in 12 cities that the Justice Department said needed “significant assistance” in combating “gun crime, drug trafficking and gang violence.”

Now, in letters to those cities, which limit cooperation with the federal government when it comes to immigration law, Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson tells the police chiefs they must show a “commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration” in order to be added to the PSP program.

The four cities must prove to the Justice Department by Aug. 18 that they will give federal immigration agents access to jails to question immigrants, as well as provide 48 hours notice to the Department of Homeland Security regarding the release date and time of someone who has been flagged for violating federal immigration law.  The cities must also show they do not block communication between local police and federal immigration agents.

The basic premise of “Sanctuary Cities” is flagrant disregard of federal law.  The Federal government shouldn’t just withhold funding from a new program.  Any such declared “Sanctuary city” should lose ALL federal funding of any kind (not just from the Justice Department), and any public officials who have declared intent not to comply should be removed from office under the Constitution’s supremacy clause.

This is a national security issue — one of the very few areas where I believe the Federal government has the main role.  The costs of our lax and negligent enforcement of immigration law has led directly to the rape and murder of U.S. citizens.  No State or local government complicit in such defiance and mayhem has any legitimate claim to ANY Federal funds of any kind.

I am not a fan of strong Federal government, but where it has been tasked specifically by the Constitution to do certain things it should do them vigorously and well.  To that end, the President should immediately do the following:

  1. Suspend ALL federal funds to any declared “sanctuary city.”
  2. Arrest ALL officials who have openly supported such areas as having knowingly aided and abetted illegal immigration and the crimes that result from it
  3. Refuse to allow Congress to recess until it has passed full funding of enhanced border security (including the wall) and eliminated the H1B and H2B visa programs.

The administration’s current push toward prioritizing legal immigration to those who already speak English and have skills to offer is but a tiny step in the direction we must go.  And it’s good to see an official remind the press that a poem added to the Statue of Liberty 18 years after it was erected does NOT constitute national immigration policy.

Open borders and a welfare state are NOT compatible.  I’ve said it before: there should not be unemployment benefits at the same time we’re importing foreigners to “do the jobs Americans won’t do.”  Close the borders, and the wages for jobs will rise until people ARE willing to do them (cutting off unemployment benefits will be a motivator as well).  The administration is absolutely right to say that immigration policy should be based first on what is good for America and the people already here.

That includes repatriation of all those who are here illegally, no matter how long they’ve managed to “live in the shadows.”  Lawbreaking is lawbreaking, period.

The truly sad thing about the Left’s abuse of the appeal to compassion and emotion is that, for people like me, it’s been worn out.  NOTHING short of full-up globalism will satisfy these people, and that is not in anybody’s interest except for a handful of string-pullers behind the scenes.  Although well-traveled, I am NOT a “citizen of the world.”  I am an American, one who’s worn the uniform to defend my patrimony, and I’ll be damned if idiots like CNN’s Jim Acosta are going to simply give away what I and generations before me have fought to preserve.

As for the Republicans who’ve done all they can to stymie Trump, I’ll simply say this: he’s not our last chance.  He’s your last chance.  A last chance to show the system is in any way responsive to the problems facing real Americans.  And if you undermine that chance, you do so at the very real peril of convincing those who love what America once stood for that our government has become destructive of Life, Liberty and property, and that we need to institute new safeguards for our liberties.

If (when?) it comes to that, it’ll be, in the words of the President, “sad.”  But also necessary.  And probably long overdue.

Same pablum, different day

This article is worth your attention, as it encapsulates the feelings of an already large and growing number of people (myself included):

The sad truth, and getting sadder with every attack, is that the political class has little interest in doing what would really be necessary to combat Islamist terrorism, let alone talk about it. They don’t want to talk about how Britain’s (the West’s) lax immigration policies over decades led to hundreds of thousands of immigrants entering the country with varying degrees of willingness to assimilate and adopt Western values. They don’t want to openly criticize the blatant problems with the multiculturalism the UK (West) has pursued for years and the obvious impact it has had on the immigrant population.

Oh no. This would cost them too much. It would shatter the façade of political correctness that’s been constructed over our “civilized” western world, and destroy the illusion, so vital to the political class, that Western values are universal.

The politicians are only willing to give speeches about how united we are and how terrorists cannot tear us apart. But the truth—so clear and obvious—is that with every attack the West becomes more and more divided. We are not united, not by a long shot…

There’s little to no tolerance in polite society for the kind of honesty for which many in the West are hungry…

Our political leaders are basically telling us that this kind of terrorism, random and deadly, is the price we have to pay for their policies of multiculturalism and political correctness. They know that their weak platitudes can’t stop terrorism, and so do the people. They might as well come out and say what they mean: get used to the new normal.  ((slight editing and emphasis by yours truly))

Close the borders.  Send the illegals home.  And stop importing more of the medium — hundreds of thousands of Muslims from broken and radicalized countries — in which this ideology flourishes.