Immigration and Elections

Elections have consequences, a man said. Among those consequences is the shape of subsequent elections, I say.

Republicans in the new Congress are preparing their own immigration legislation, with the first batch centered on better border security and easing immigration requirements in technology, agriculture, and some other areas of interest to employers.

A question in too many minds, though, is whether President Barack Obama would veto such legislation, either because the bills might restrict his “executive actions” involving refusing to enforce existing immigration law or because, Republican.

The question is in too many minds because it might impact whether Republicans pass the legislation at all.

The Flexibility of No More Elections

Some high points of President Barack Obama’s activities since the 2014 midterm elections—the last elections he’ll ever have to face, even vicariously through his party.

He’s chosen to give favor to Cuba’s Castro brothers, while receiving nothing of value to the US in return.

He’s chosen to extend favor to Iran and their nuclear weapons program while assuring all who can hear him that he’ll veto any Congressional move to extend sanctions.

He’s chosen to suspend enforcement of immigration law while assuring all who can hear him that he’ll veto any Congressional move to force enforcement.

Tax Reform

…with a Republican Congress and a Democrat President.

[W]ith Barack Obama in the White House and enough Democrats in the Senate to uphold a filibuster, Republican lawmakers are quietly playing down any hope of comprehensive tax reform and instead have set their sights on just the corporate portion of the tax code.

The GOP favors a simplified tax code with a lower, but broader, tax base.

That proposal is a nonstarter with Democrats because while it would reduce taxes overall, it would draw tax revenue from more people on the lower end of the income spectrum.

Good Medicine for Bad Bankers

That’s the title of an Alan Blinder op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. It’s subtitled One way to keep bankers from behaving badly is to hit them in their pocketbooks with penalties that affect bonuses.

Blinder cited remarks by New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley:

Mr Dudley highlighted the “ongoing occurrences of serious professional misbehavior, ethical lapses and compliance failures” at giant financial institutions. And he warned the audience, which included a number of the world’s leading bankers, that unless the epidemic of bad behavior stops, “the inevitable conclusion will be reached that your firms are too big and complex to manage,” in which case “your firms need to be dramatically downsized and simplified.”

A Misunderstanding of Economics and Human Nature

Plainly, too many have never read Adam Smith, whose Wealth of Nations showed that allowing individual self interest—personal greed—to operate in unfettered in a free market was the fastest, most efficient way to broad prosperity for the entire population of economic actors. Apparently we don’t teach basic economics in school, anymore.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed about the failure of Vermont’s overt move toward a single-payer health system, the paper noted that Harvard’s William Hsiao and MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, architects of that state’s plan, had assured all concerned of the following:

Obama and Economics

In the question and answer period following President Barack Obama’s end-of-year Friday press conference, Obama offered this regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, gas prices in the US, and global markets [emphasis added]:

So there’s no—I won’t say ‘no’—there is very little impact, nominal impact, on US gas prices—what the average American consumer cares about—by having this pipeline come through. And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here. And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States. It’s not. There’s a global oil market. It’s very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to US consumers. It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to US consumers.

Misunderstanding

…by Howard Kurtz in his recent Fox News piece.

Sony’s unforgivable blunder was in making this misbegotten movie in the first place. I mean, an assassination “comedy” that includes Kim Jong Un’s head being blown up, with an internal debate over how much his hair should be on fire? As Greta Van Susteren tweeted, “Anyone who has been to NK knows how dangerous it is and would not have been so stupid to make that movie.” Sony Pictures and Seth Rogen didn’t even have the wit to make it about a fictional regime with a short leader.

Is Sony Dissembling?

President Barack Obama said Sony “made a mistake” when they decided not to release their movie in surrender to northern Korea’s hacker threats.

Sony had this in response to Obama’s recognition:

Let us be clear: the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

On Trade with Cuba

Doug Erwin, an Economics Professor at Dartmouth, writing in The Wall Street Journal, had a thought.

Restoring trade ties and expanding commerce would revolutionize the Cuban economy and transform Cuban society. It would spur the growth of a business class, creating competing pockets of power and new, wealthy groups that would challenge the ruling Communist Party. It would give Cuban citizens access to more information, and information about the outside world destabilizes any repressive regime. What would happen if every Cuban citizen had access to a smartphone, could organize protests via Twitter, and spread the word about government outrages?

Obama’s Cuba Normalization Move

It’s certainly true that 50 years of trade embargo and absence of formal—normalized—relations between the US and Cuba have not brought about increased freedom or prosperity for the Cuban people. Neither had 45 or more years of Cold War containment succeeded in giving the Russian people, or the other peoples trapped behind the USSR’s iron curtain, a chance at improving their lot. Until it did.

Normalization isn’t the necessary change in policy here.