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Published: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 08:51:02 -0400


Mexico's 'Silicon Valley' Offers Different Image for Americans: New at Reason

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 17:25:00 -0400

(image) "Right now in the U.S. there is a deficit of 1-million-plus technology jobs," says Anurag Kumar, CEO of iTexico, an Austin-based software-development company. "We're not lifting and shifting anything from the United States to Guadalajara. We're helping companies in the U.S. by providing talent that they don't have here. … We're helping U.S. companies build jobs faster."

Many Americans want to have it both ways. They complain when U.S. companies create jobs in other countries, then complain also when people from those other countries immigrate to the United States to get meaningful work. I'm not concerned about immigration, but those who are ought to see the value of developing solid industries in Mexico so that industrious people don't need to wait in immigration lines (or sneak across the border) to come here.

The free market is the best way to increase prosperity for everyone. Lower-cost alternatives reduce wages in certain industries because of the resulting competition. But it's not a zero-sum game. Because I was able to outsource that website mentioned above, I was able to cost-effectively start a project. Low-cost labor allows people with new ideas to start businesses, and such enterprises create more jobs in the long run. That's how free economies work., writes Steve Greenhut.

Read the whole thing.

Mexico's 'Silicon Valley' Offers Different Image for Americans

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

GUADALAJARA, Jalisco—Perhaps I shouldn't have referred to Mexico's second-largest city, Guadalajara, as a south-of-the-border version of Silicon Valley. J.P. Lopez, who heads business development for a nonprofit called Ijalti that promotes the state of Jalisco's high-tech business "clusters," was shaking his head when the words spilled out of my mouth. "We're a unique hub" with its "own DNA," he objected. The city's technology boom has been decades in the making, after all, and has grown organically. It's certainly not a copy of anything. I get the point, but still slapped "Mexico's Silicon Valley" in the headline for a decidedly north-of-the-border reason. In the age of Donald Trump—and what news isn't about Trump these days?—it's useful to discuss our southern neighbor without referring to drug cartels, crime and illegal immigration. Even Americans' positive views of Mexico are limited, and are epitomized by a T-shirt sold in a tourist shop in beachfront Puerto Vallarta that welcomes Americans to "the fun side of the wall." Mexico beach resorts certainly are entertaining, but there's more to the country than these things. That's why I took the three-hour flight south, where I was the guest of an Austin-based software-development company called iTexico. The firm specializes in "nearshoring" for U.S. companies, which is an alternative to "offshoring" operations in places such as India or China. A few years ago, I developed a start-up website but couldn't afford a local developer. I contracted with a company in India, but learned about the difficulties of that approach. It's 8:32 a.m. in Sacramento now, but 9:02 p.m. in Bangalore. You work on the site, come up with a question and email it to India, but the developer is asleep. When he wakes up, he answers the question and emails it back — but you're asleep. It can take weeks to resolve simple matters. And then there are language and cultural barriers that complicate the process. During my stay in Mexico, I worked just as if I were at home. Jalisco is in central time. The software-development team spoke perfect English. It's easy to fly to Texas to meet with clients. One of my Mexican hosts attended college in Boise, Idaho. And Americans and Mexicans are far more similar culturally than our president would have us believe. It's not much different than working with a company in the Midwest or the South. Aren't nearshoring firms stealing American jobs? That's an inevitable question given the fixations of the current administration. "Right now in the U.S. there is a deficit of 1-million-plus technology jobs," said iTexico CEO Anurag Kumar. "We're not lifting and shifting anything from the United States to Guadalajara. We're helping companies in the U.S. by providing talent that they don't have here. … We're helping U.S. companies build jobs faster." There are cost savings, but those are secondary, he added. Many Americans want to have it both ways. They complain when U.S. companies create jobs in other countries, then complain also when people from those other countries immigrate to the United States to get meaningful work. I'm not concerned about immigration, but those who are ought to see the value of developing solid industries in Mexico so that industrious people don't need to wait in immigration lines (or sneak across the border) to come here. The free market is the best way to increase prosperity for everyone. Lower-cost alternatives reduce wages in certain industries because of the resulting competition. But it's not a zero-sum game. Because I was able to outsource that website mentioned above, I was able to cost-effectively start a project. Low-cost labor allows people with new ideas to start businesses, and such enterprises create more jobs in the long run. That's how free economies work. You can't write about Mexico without addressing crime. There's no sugarcoating the problems the country has with drug-related murders. But as I asked a friend who expressed fear about traveling to Mexico, "Would you walk around south Chicago or [...]

How Ponchos Got More Authentic After Commerce Came to Chiapas

Sat, 10 Mar 2018 06:00:00 -0500

In 1969, the Zinacantec Maya of Mexico's Nabenchauk Valley all wore essentially the same clothes: square ponchos and shawls over simple cotton shirts, shorts, and skirts. Their outfits bore red and white stripes, with the proportions dictated by the type of garment. Ponchos and shawls had a lot of red and a little white, making them look pink from a distance, while women's blouses were mostly white with two narrow red stripes dividing them into thirds. "All clothing, for toddlers up to adults, conformed to a closed stock of about four patterns," Patricia Marks Greenfield recalls in her book Weaving Generations Together: Evolving Creativity in the Maya of Chiapas. When she first came to the valley in the southern Mexican state that year, the clothes, like Zinacantec culture, had barely changed in decades. The standard designs reflected the villagers' reverence for tradition, expressed in their Tzotzil language as baz'i, or the "true way." "To learn to weave," writes Greenfield, a University of California, Los Angeles developmental psychologist, "was to learn to reproduce those patterns." There was no room for self-expression or experimentation. Greenfield lived in Nabenchauck in 1969 and 1970 while studying how girls there learned to weave. Zinacantec women used traditional backstrap looms, a simple but versatile technology in which warp threads wind back and forth around two parallel sticks, crossing in the middle. One stick is attached to a strap wrapped around a tree or post, the other to a strap around the weaver's waist, allowing her to adjust the tension by leaning forward or back. Greenfield returned to Chiapas in 1991. In her absence, Zinacantec life had changed radically. Villagers had shifted from subsistence farming and weaving to commerce, leaving their homes in the isolated valley for contact with the larger world. They now grew flowers to sell in Mexico City and ran shops on the main road selling snacks and textiles to tourists. Men wore store-bought shirts and work pants. Some owned vans and ran transit businesses connecting the village to larger towns. Women bought blouses imported from nearby Guatemala and furnished their own looms with acrylic yarns made in distant factories. Many had invested in sewing machines. When someone wanted an especially fancy blouse for a fiesta, she might hire another woman to make it for her. Specialization and trade had come to the valley. In the well-established romantic narrative, all this change would represent a devil's bargain: shoes, running water, and telenovelas at the cost of beauty, identity, and meaning; uniqueness exchanged for homogenized global culture. But what Greenfield found challenges that all-too-common fable. Instead of erasing Zinacantec distinctiveness or replacing artisanship with standardized products, commerce and industry led to an efflorescence of textile decoration. Women and girls continued to weave garments on backstrap looms, but instead of following the same stock designs, they invented new ones. Far from representing cultural loss, the evolution of Zinacantec weaving demonstrates how commerce can unleash creativity while affirming identity. Take the man's poncho. Its underlying structure remained constant: two square pieces of cloth sewn together at the top, with an embroidered slit at the neckline and tassels running through embroidered holes on each side. In 1969, every poncho was white with thin red stripes and plain red embroidery. The only variation might be one or more thin lines of brocade—weft threads added on top of the main weave—near the bottom. A 1991 poncho, by contrast, looked red from a distance, not pink or white. The white threads were still there, but the proportions had shifted dramatically. Whereas the old white cotton yarn was much cheaper than red, once acrylics arrived the two colors cost the same. Zinacantec weavers could now indulge local tastes without busting their budgets. "I asked which was better, the old or the new," Greenfield writes. "I was told that [...]

The 5 Best Arguments Against Immigration—and Why They're Wrong

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 11:15:00 -0500

No issue is more hotly contested today than immigration, with restrictionists calling for the deportation of illegals and a 50 percent cut in legal immigration. Here are the five strongest arguments against immigrants and immigration—and why they're wrong. They take our jobs and lower wages. President Donald Trump has said that illegals, who are mostly low-skilled, "compete directly against vulnerable American workers" and that reducing legal immigration would "boost wages and ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first." But as the president himself likes to point out, unemployment across virtually all categories of workers is at or near historic lows, so displacing native-born workers isn't much of an issue. Virtually all economists, regardless of ideology, agree that immigrants, both legal and illegal, have little to no effect on overall wages. The most-vulnerable workers in America are high-school dropouts and economists say that low-skill immigrants from Mexico reduce that group's wages by less than 5 percent—or that they increase drop out wages by almost 1 percent. But it's also true low-skilled immigrants make things cheaper for all Americans by doing jobs such as picking fruit or cleanup on construction sites. And consider this: In the developed world, "There is no correlation between unemployment and immigration rates." Immigrants go to hot economies and they leave when the jobs dry up. More important, immigrants grow the population, which stimulates economic growth, the only way over the long term to improve standards of living. They're using massive amounts of welfare. Since the late 1990s, most legal immigrants and all illegals are barred from receiving means-tested welfare. The only real taxpayer-funded services most immigrants use are emergency medical treatments that account for less than 2 percent of all health-care spending and K-12 education services for their children, who often times are U.S. citizens. For those immigrants who do qualify for programs such as Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), or supplemental Social Security income (SSI), they use all these programs at lower rates that native-born Americans or naturalized citizens. It's also worth noting that immigrants come here to work, not collect WIC. Legal immigrant men have a labor-force participation rate of about 80 percent, which is 10 points higher than that of natives. Illegal immigrant men have a participation rate of 94 percent, precisely because they can't access welfare. They don't pay their fair share. Whether legal or illegal, all immigrants pay sales taxes and property taxes (the latter are factored into the cost of rental units for people who don't own homes). And all legal immigrants pay all the payroll and income taxes that native-born Americans do. Amazingly, most illegals also cough up income and payroll taxes too. That's because most of them use fake Social Security cards and other documents to get hired. Somewhere between 50 percent and two-thirds pay federal income and FICA taxes. In 2010, for instance, administrators of Social Security said that "unauthorized immigrants" contributed $12 billion to Social Security trust funds that they will never be able to get back. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, about half of illegals paid state and local taxes worth over $10 billion. They broke the law to get here and they're bringing all their relatives. Critics of illegal immigration often say that unauthorized entrants refuse to stand in line and wait for their turn. That's true but misleading. For many immigrants, especially low-skilled immigrants from countries such as Mexico, there is really no line. In 2010, for instance, just 65,000 visas were given to Mexicans, with the overwhelming majority going to close family members such as spouses and minor children. The wait list had 1.4 million people on it, effectively meaning there is no chance of ever getting in the country. Similarly long wait lists exist for the Phi[...]

Mexican Radio in Los Angeles Crashes—And Down With It Comes An Anti-Immigrant Fable

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 11:22:00 -0500

"Spanish-Language Broadcasters Take a Fall," read a front-page headline in the December 3 edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal. In just the past year, according to the accompanying article, the audience share of Spanish-language radio stations in the L.A. market fell two points, from 21.6 to 19.4, while their English-language counterparts saw an increase from a 56 to 58 share. It was a "dramatic drop for several outlets that spent years at or near the top," according to the paper. One of the big factors: a "shift in preferences among younger listeners in Spanish-speaking communities for English-speaking media." The story hasn't gotten much traction outside of media circles. But it's a big one in the continued assimilation saga of Mexicans in the United States. And it's one giant chinga tu madre to anti-immigrant types who have spent the last 25 years decrying the Mexican takeover of "American" airwaves in Southern California. One of their main proofs that unassimilable, backwards Mexican culture had taken over the Southland is the continued switchover of crappy pop and adult alternative stations to Latino formats. First they flooded our schools, then they took over welfare. Now their tuba music is all over the dial, and it probably plays hidden messages about how to sacrifice gringos with an obsidian knife! But L.A. radio station owners don't flip formats because of Reconquista, but because it makes business sense. Mexicans, like all people, are consumers. And Mexicans change their tastes as well—you know, like other people. So the industry keeps evolving. This is a story I've had the advantage of growing up in. I remember a January 6, 1993, Los Angeles Times story that reverberated across the country. KLAX-FM 97.9 ("La Equis"—The X) had topped the local Arbitron ratings with a formula used by all stations in the United States for decades: genius marketing, wisecracking on-air personalities, and a hot new genre that set it apart from rivals. Except this time, the language was Español. And the music was Mexican. KLAX's victory was so unexpected that classic rock station KLSX 97.1 "expressed concern" to the Times "that some of their audience may have gotten the call letters mixed up and that those listeners may have been attributed [in the Arbitron ratings] to KLAX." It was a line repeated by Howard Stern, who saw his reign as king of the L.A. airwaves toppled by what he dismissed as "some Mexican station." (KLAX, the Times reported, responded by sending Stern "a funeral wreath with a note reading: 'Thanks for helping us remain No. 1.'") KLAX's win started a good 15 years of Spanish-language domination of the Southern California airwaves, as other stations emerged to take turns at the top. The same began to happen across the United States. Smart programmers took advantage of changing demographics, and Mexican-Americans no longer ashamed of their ethnic background (see: Linda Ronstadt recording a mariachi album in 1987) wanted to listen to genres like banda sinaloense, pasito duranguense, and rock en Español that were previously available in el Norte only live or on pirated CDs. The influence of Spanish-language radio in the United States reached its peak in 2006, when DJs from across the country set aside their rivalries and urged their respective listeners to take to the streets in support of amnesty; the resulting protest marches were the largest in American history until the Women's March earlier this year. I remember this era well. My cousins and I had all grown up with the music of our parents and liked it enough, but we never thought of it as cool. KLAX changed all that. Suddenly, my older cousins went to quinceañeras decked out in tejanas (Stetsons), silk shirts, and cintos piteados (leather belts with arabesque designs). I'll spare you the visuals of me dressed like this as a gawky 13-year-old nerd, but I can say this: All along, we primarily spoke English and listened to hip hop at home. To a[...]

Chicano Yaktivists Be Damned; Regular Mexicans Are Wild for Coco, Disney

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 11:00:00 -0500

Pixar's Day of the Dead-themed Coco was the biggest movie in the United States over the Thanksgiving holiday. The CGI flick gets Mexican culture right yet crosses over to the mainstream with muy Disney messages about the importance of family and finding your own way—¡AJUA! It's already the top-grossing film ever in Mexico, beating that other paragon of mexicanidad, The Avengers. But it also unwittingly reveals two inconvenient truths about "regular" Mexicans that the Chicano Left will never admit. Regular Mexicans—that is to say, the vast majority of Mexican Americans, like my cousins who live and breathe Raiders and Dodgers and are too busy working to give a shit about cultural appropriation and other issues that obsess the political left—will gladly support corporations they feel do right by them. And the corollary to that is even when a complaint is legit, the masses won't get up in arms just because aggrieved activists tell them to. For decades, the Mouse has been a cucuy (the Latin American version of the bogeyman) for Chicano intelligentia. Famous artworks have imagined Mickey as an Aztec sacrifice, as smiling witness to the genocide of Native Americans or as what the New York Times described as an "imperialist icon." Chicano Studies types have long griped over the 1944 live-action cartoon The Three Caballeros for its supposed "commodification of the Latina body" and its simplification of a Mexican rooster character as a "bandito" (never mind that Panchito Pistoles is Donald Duck's pal in the film). I remember a class at UCLA I took in the early 2000s that taught us that the following scene in Pixar's A Bug's Life was a dog whistle for Americans to freak out about the Reconquista. Why? Because it happened in a mosquito cantina! src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Disney in the Chicano Left imagination stands for everything evil about the United States: corporate, capitalistic, ignorant of Mexican traditions at best and blatantly racist at worst. The company has deserved such criticisms: In 1994, when Disney donated money to then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, legendary Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz imaged Mickey as "Migra Mouse" because Wilson had campaigned on the xenophobic Proposition 187, which sought to do all sorts of bad things to illegal immigrants. More recently—which brings us to Coco—Disney tried to trademark Dia de los Muertos in 2013, in anticipation of their then-untitled film on the subject. A furious online backlash (one that I helped to promote along with Alcaraz, who did a great parody of Mickey as "Muerto Mouse" coming to "trademark your cultura" ) rightfully forced Disney to back off, because their move was tone-deaf and just plain pendejo. But then Disney did what any smart corporation would do: They hired someone to teach them how to do things right. Better yet, they hired Alcaraz as a cultural consultant for Coco. That led armchair Aztecs to accuse Alcaraz of being a vendido—a sellout. Even allies of Alcaraz engaged in a lot of Facebook hand-wringing and asked Alcaraz why he decided to help his Moby Dick try and tackle a Mexican holiday. But regular Mexicans gave Disney the benefit of the doubt with Alcaraz on board—or, most likely, never even heard about the controversy. His help proved crucial to ensure Coco's success. And because it's a legit product, Mexicans have supported the film in droves, armchair Aztecs be damned. This isn't the first time the Chicano Left have swung and missed on Disney with regular Mexicans. For most of this decade, UNITE HERE Local 11 (which represents hotel workers at the Disneyland Resort, the collective name for the Happiest Place on Earth and its low-rent cousin, Disney California Adventure) have aired their complaints to the public, sometimes even dressing up as Disney characters for the camera-friendly spectacle of havin[...]

Brickbat: From the Farmhouse to the Outhouse

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Officials at Troy University, a state school in Alabama, have punished members of the FarmHouse fraternity for a skit in which frat members playing Donald Trump and Border Patrol agents chased a Mexican immigrant over a wall. Members of the fraternity were ordered to complete "education and training on the importance of unity, respect and diversity on campus" and perform "acts of service."

The Death of a Nacho King Proves the Media Are Cultural Appropriation’s Biggest Enablers

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 15:23:00 -0500

For the past couple of years, the biggest issue in food media has been cultural appropriation: who can cook what, whom can write about it, and how "privilege" trumps hard work and originality to keep people of color down and lift up bearded white hipsters. The heat really gets caliente when it comes to Mexican food, where it seems like every yoga-loving millennial wants to open a Mexican fruit stand in the barrio or bug Mexican women in Ensenada for their burrito recipes. The topic is generally a non-starter to me. Anyone can and should cook comida mexicana, because (as I argued in my 2012 Reason story on the subject) it keeps the cuisine innovative and thus popular, unlike, say, liverwurst. And I've seen nouveau riche "privilege" burn millions of dollars on shitty tequila bars that close within a year while Mexican immigrants create fast-food empires on nothing but sweat and the perfect French fry–stuffed burritos. But the death of the 84-year-old San Antonio native Frank Liberto is a reminder that cultural appropriation's biggest enablers aren't entrepreneurs but rather clueless reporters who'll swallow any Montezuma's Revenge that PR hacks and Google feed them. Liberto died on November 6, one day before National Nachos Day—fitting, because he helped push the cheesy, crunchy meal beyond the American Southwest and into leaky concession-stand cartons and souvenir ballpark baseball helmets nationwide with a cheese sauce that didn't need to get refrigerated. Liberto debuted these prefabricated nachos at Arlington Stadium during a Texas Rangers game in 1976, and consumers haven't stopped squirting watery queso since. Liberto didn't invent nachos. That genius was Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, who whipped up a quick meal of fried tortilla strips, melted cheese, and pickled jalapeños for hungry American military wives at his Piedras Negras restaurant in 1943. But facts didn't stop the San Antonio Express-News, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post from calling Liberto the "Father of Nachos," even as they all acknowledged Anaya's innovation—and betcha more media outlets will do the same in the days to come. Why? Because the National Association of Concessionaires deemed Liberto as such in 2004, then Smithsonian Magazine did the same in 2013, so why not? Media love to use the Big Lie (Hey, I just broke Godwin's Law in an article about nachos! That must be some sort of record!) with Mexican food, because it precludes them from speaking with actual Mexicans. That's what I discovered when doing research for my 2012 book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Newspaper articles and cookbooks I scoured passed off as fact multiple dubious creation stories about Mexican foodstuffs: that the margarita was named after Rita Hayworth when she was a dancer in Tijuana (the screen goddess' birth name: Margarita Cansino), that chili became popular because the Texas delegation to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair set up a stand, that Rick Bayless is the greatest Mexican chef in the United States. No interviews, no research: just regurgitation of other food writers, who did the same ad infinitum. When I finally found the source for most of these origin stories, it turned out they were outright lies created to feed into American preconceptions of Mexicans as stupid, lazy beaners. Such dereliction by writers not only erases Mexicans from their own history but becomes its own fuel for the hype fire that sets off most cultural appropriation controversies in the first place. Why look for Mexicans cooking Mexican food when it's easier to find whites and Asians doing the same? And why go to a Mexican restaurant run by Mexicans when they don't get the attention others do? You can't blame restaurateurs for wanting to make money, but you should blame the people whose job it is to promote the Next Big Thing. If food writers (and social media influencers) wou[...]

South of the Border: Mexican Populist Presidential Candidate Runs Against Trump While Copying His Campaign

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 17:15:00 -0400

A left-wing populist and outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is the perceived frontrunner in Mexico's 2018 presidential race. His rising popularity south of the border can be seen as both a reflection and a result of Trump's rhetoric and policies. Lopez Obrador, or "AMLO" via his name's initials, spoke in Washington, D.C., last week at the Woodrow Wilson Center. His remarks came two weeks after the publication of his book, "Oye, Trump," ("Listen up, Trump"), a compilation of recent speeches made in eight U.S. cities this year. Lopez Obrador is positioning his campaign as a populist response to Trump, but he's attempting to appeal to the same crowd—those left behind by globalization and angry at the country's elites—where Trump's campaign found fertile support in 2016. "The countryside is not only where food is produced, there is a lifestyle there which must be valued again," Lopez Obrador said Tuesday, just down the street from the White House. Discarding that lifestyle, he said, has strained families and increased crime. The elites are to blame, he says, because they lack understanding of the ill effects of a globalized economy on the country's rural areas. They instead chose to bar themselves off in their cosmopolitan centers and are unaware of those struggling in the countryside. "When technical people simplistically decide that you could abandon the countryside," he warned. "They're making a major mistake." In other ways, too, Lopez Obrador has sounded almost Trumpian, even while campaigning as a Trump critic. He has criticized the Trump administration for suggesting the imposition of tariffs on Mexican goods, but has echoed Trump's calls for NAFTA to be renegotiated. This is Lopez Obrador's third crack at the Mexican presidency. He previously declared himself the "legitimate president" after losing in 2006 and has remained adamant that the election, as well as his second loss in 2012, were stolen from him from shadowy interests controlling the corrupt political establishment. The former mayor of Mexico City has developed his populist bona fides over the years. Though some of his economic views could put him in Donald Trump's camp, it may be more accurate to compare him to Bernie Sanders. Some media outlets such as The Guardian have compared him to other left-wing populist figures, such as Ralph Nader and the UK's Jeremy Corbyn, who Lopez Obrador subsequently met following his recent trip stateside. But the comparison to Trump only goes so far. Unlike Trump, who effectively rose to the presidency by executing a hostile takeover of one of the two major political parties in America, Lopez Obrador is running outside Mexico's main political parties, promising to end corruption and to expand public expenditures while cutting taxes. These are standard populist tactics, like his tactic of contrasting the culture of the rural and urban populations, but some observers worry that Obrador has more in common with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez than with the current occupant of the White House. Reason TV's Nick Gillespie interviewed Cato Institute scholar Roberto Salinas-León last month to discuss the future of NAFTA. Salinas-León warned the policies of protectionism and anti-immigration policies of Donald Trump could embolden Lopez Obrador, whom he described as the Mexican "equivalent of Hugo Chávez. A rabid, primitive, vitriolic, populist." Though Lopez Obrador and his supporters decry the accusation as scaremongering, he doesn't do himself any favors. He seemed reluctant this past Tuesday to condemn the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro, which continues to collapse under the weight of its socialist economic policies. He has also been an advocate for "self-sufficiency" and views foreign trade in the agricultural and energy sectors as problematic—centr[...]

Hey Libertarians for Trump, How Much More #Winning Can You Take?

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 14:35:00 -0400

It's almost nine months into Donald Trump's presidency and here's a question for the old "Libertarians for Trump" crowd: How much more winning can you take? There was a small but vocal band of limited-government folks who vocally supported the billionaire real estate mogul on the grounds that he couldn't possibly be as bad as Hillary Clinton or even most of the other Republican candidates, especially when it came to foreign policy. Leading the pack was economist Walter Block, who beat me in a competitive debate in New York City right before the election. Block's argument was that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" and "the Donald is the most congruent with [the libertarian] perspective" especially on foreign policy. Trump has turned out to be anything but an isolationist. He promised to bring fire and fury to North Korea, "the likes of which this world has never seen before." He bombed Syria on the same humanitarian grounds he explicitly denounced during his campaign. He escalated war efforts in Yeman and Iraq, And more recently, announced plans to "win" in Afghanistan. His secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, declared that while the United States might not walk away with a "battlefield" victory in the graveyard of empires, neither will the Taliban. That's not inspirational, it's stupid. Apart from his foreign policy follies, this anti-free-trader and nativist has turned out to be even less libertarian than advertised during the campaign. He's continued giving mealy-mouthed support to white supremacists and pardoned Joe Arpaio, "America's toughest sheriff," who was found in contempt of court after he continued to illegally racially profile and detain Latino suspects. And his attorney general is walking back a decade of incremental progress on criminal justice reform. There's no question that the Trump administration is doing some good things, such as deregulatory moves related to the FCC, the FDA, and the EPA. His Education department is supporting school choice to the extent that the federal government can do so. His deregulatory push is all to the good, but it's overwhelmed by Trump's other policies. There's also no question that at this point Trump is doing virtually everything else he can do to alienate libertarians who believe in shrinking the size, scope, and spending of government. And the excuse that Hillary Clinton would have been worse is getting older than Bernie Sanders. The perfect is the enemy of the good, but what Donald Trump has shown us so far just isn't good enough. Produced by Todd Krainin. Written by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Jim Epstein. Production assistance by Andrew Heaton. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]

Why Trump's Wall Is Not Going to Happen

Sun, 27 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Donald Trump has served one-seventh of his constitutionally allotted term of office, and given his talent for self-destruction, there is no guarantee he will get to serve the remaining six-sevenths. But whether he does or not, one thing is a safe bet: When he leaves the White House, there will not be a wall running the length of our southern border. This may come as a shock to his more devoted followers. They cheered madly, and still cheer madly, at his promises to build a wall that Mexico will pay for. "Believe me, one way or the other, we're going to get that wall," he told a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday—even "if we have to close down our government." Between now and the end of September, Congress needs to pass legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling and extend funding to keep the government operating. Trump's threat is to veto any such bill unless it features money for the wall. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, however, said, "There is zero chance, no chance, we won't raise the debt ceiling." House Speaker Paul Ryan scoffs at the idea of a government shutdown. To get a bill with wall funds through the Senate would require 60 votes. Every Republican and eight Democrats would have to agree, and that is not going to happen. Both Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi have invited Trump to take a long walk off a short pier. They say they won't support the barrier under any circumstances. This response no doubt makes many Republicans secretly grateful, because they regard the proposal as what the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan referred to as "boob bait for Bubba"—a tough-sounding but dumb idea useful for appealing to a certain segment of the electorate that is not well-informed or discerning on matters of policy. Plenty of GOP members would rather put Barack Obama on Mount Rushmore than underwrite this addled project. The Department of Homeland Security says it would cost $22 billion—and a study by the Democratic staff of the Senate homeland security committee priced it at nearly $70 billion. In April, The Wall Street Journal reported, "Not a single member of Congress who represents the territory on the southwest border said they support President Donald Trump's request for $1.4 billion to begin construction of his promised wall." That's one reason he's angry with Arizona's two Republican senators. Doubt has seeped out of Trump's Cabinet room. As secretary of homeland security, before becoming White House chief of staff, John Kelly admitted, "It's unlikely that we will build a wall or physical barrier from sea to shining sea." Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has also been equivocal. Trump faces some daunting obstacles in trying to get his way. One is that the wall is not very popular. A poll by Rasmussen Reports found that only 37 percent of likely voters support the idea. Another is that Trump is not very popular, with an approval rating matching that of the wall. Those numbers won't intimidate many members of Congress. Shutting down the government would be bad for GOP lawmakers, who recall the negative fallout when they did it in 2013. But it would be worse for Trump. If the president threatens a closure and it happens, he will be slathered in blame from head to toe. Let's not forget the comical absurdity at the center of this dispute: Voters were assured by Trump that the cost of his barricade would fall exclusively on our southern neighbor. But Mexico has declined the opportunity. In a January 27 phone conversation with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Trump pleaded: "I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period." It didn't work. Pena Nieto said bluntly, "My position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying [...]

Brickbat: Good to the Last Drop

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The United States government agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Cruz Velazquez Acevedo, who died after Customs and Border Protection officers encouraged him to drink liquid meth. Cruz, 16, was crossing the border from Mexico to San Diego with what he said was apple juice. The officers told him to drink some to prove that's all it was. The officers were not disciplined.

Ending NAFTA Would Decimate American Jobs

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 12:52:00 -0400

"The intellectual backwardness of many of Trump's trade advisors contrasts dramatically with some of the very good advice he's gotten in terms of deregulation," says Roberto Salinas-León, president of the Mexico Business Forum and adjunct scholar at the CATO Institute. "Talking about your second most important trading partner in that [derogatory] vein—that's not the 'art of the deal.' That's just very bad business." Salinas-León, an expert on trade and monetary policy, says that if Trump ends the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it would decimate jobs on both sides of the border. "Does Indiana depend on jobs because of its trade with Mexico? Does Ohio? Texas? You want to shut down NAFTA? That turns Texas into a Democratic state overnight." Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Salinas-León at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas to discuss NAFTA's economic impact, his heated confrontation with Trump at Freedom Fest 2015, and how the president's anti-Mexico rhetoric propelled leftist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador ("a rabid, primitive, vitriolic, populist") to the top of the polls. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Justin Monticello and Meredith Bragg. Badass by Bensound is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Strange Stuff by Matt Harris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. ( Source: Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Gillespie: Let's talk about NAFTA first and your role in it. Is NAFTA a good thing or a bad thing for Mexico, Canada and the US? It's getting a lot of heat lately. Salinas-León: In the early 1990s, we thought, "Well, wow! Mexico's already a story of trade liberalization. We're exporting 35 billion dollars a year worth of products and so on." Today that number is 365 billions, so from a trade perspective, and this is a trade agreement, from a trade perspective, I don't think there's any question that NAFTA has been a success in the sale side. And then you go to the purchase side, in other words, imports, and you find that you're also importing a vast amount. Guess where those imports come from? In about 80 percent, the United States. Gillespie: Yeah, exactly. Salinas-León: So those in Indiana depend ... I mean, speaking of Mike Pence, does Indiana depend on jobs because of its trade with Mexico? Does Ohio? Texas? You want to shut down NAFTA? That turns Texas into a Democratic state overnight. Gillespie: Where do you think the animus against NAFTA, particularly in the United States, and I mean, this is something that Donald Trump ran on. It's also something that Bernie Sanders brought up a lot, the idea that somehow free trade agreements suck jobs out of America and they put them in third-world countries, which due to a lot of economic ignorance, often times they're talking about Mexico as a third-world country, as well. Where does the resentment of something like that come from? Salinas-León: I think that was one of the great lessons of the Trump campaign, the Bernie Sanders campaign. It's not something that discriminates between Republicans and Democrats or between the right or the left or whatever. What you found out is that there is anger because there's displacement. There is job displacement, and that's a very serious concern. But are we going to address it by closing our economies? By bui[...]

Former DHS Official: Let's Declare War on Mexico!

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 14:05:00 -0400

As addiction researchers and health care providers search for a scalable response to heroin- and fentanyl-related deaths, a former senior official in the Department of Homeland Security has proposed a simpler solution: Congress should declare war on Mexico. "It sounds crazy, I know—unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with Mexico," Matt Mayer writes in U.S. News and World Report. "Short of such an all-out military effort, has anyone offered a realistic way to defeat the drug cartels and stop the flow of death drugs? Crushing the supply of opioids and other death drugs from Mexico will allow our treatment activities to gain ground against the epidemic and one day get ahead of it." Mayer worked at DHS under President George W. Bush, and his proposal draws inspiration from that period of foreign policy: Let me put this issue in perspective. Since the first al-Qaida terrorist attack in Yemen in 1992, fewer than 5,000 Americans have died in terrorist attacks, with many of the deaths occurring on Sept. 11, 2001. In response to terrorist attacks, we waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on external and internal security measures to detect and to prevent future attacks. If we did all of that in response to radical Islamic terrorism, why is it so crazy to consider using our military power to defeat the Mexican drug cartels which have inflicted far more death, mayhem and costs on America than al-Qaida and the Islamic State group combined? I cannot argue with Mayer's math, though he's calculating on a slippery slope. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and we know what causes it: lack of exercise, poor dietary habits, and/or tobacco use. Should we raze the sugarcane fields of South Florida and the cornfields of Iowa? What about napalming Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina, which produce the bulk of America's smoked tobacco? It sounds crazy, I know—unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with heart disease. Mayer goes on to suggest how we might conduct this war without provoking retaliation from the Mexican government: Ideally, as our fight is not with the Mexican government, its military or its people, which try to weaken the cartels, we would try to partner with those entities against the cartels, much as we partnered with the South Vietnamese government and military against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army. I have read just enough about Vietnam to know it's not a model for success. I might also point out that 85 percent of the global heroin supply comes from Afghanistan, which we invaded 16 years ago. Instead, I'd like to talk about the Mexican military, which is perhaps the most efficient killing force on the planet. Last year, The New York Times reported that military conflicts generally produce a injure-to-kill ratio of four to one. That is, for every four combatants injured, one combatant is killed. The Mexican military writ large has a injure-to-kill ratio of one to eight, meaning they injure one person for every eight they kill. The Mexican Marines kill 30 people for every one person they injure. In fact, the Mexican military kills so many people while injuring so few that most informed observers believe the country is violating international laws regarding human rights and warfare. Considering how good Mexico's government is at killing its own people, Mayer's proposal has me wondering what the value-add of a U.S. invasion would be. Washington hasn't merely turned a blind eye to human rights abuses south of the border; it has poured money into Mexico's drug war for nearly two decades, along with military advisers and weapons. Declaring war would be the next step in an in[...]

Trump Targets NAFTA, But Will an 'Update' Just Be an Excuse for More Government Meddling?

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:45:00 -0400

(image) President Trump's push on trade and NAFTA this week appears more motivated by the symbolic 100 day mark emphasized by Trump and the media than any coherent approach to trade neogtiations.

The Trump administration followed up the imposition of a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber—a long-standing stalking horse for the timber industry—earlier this week by floating the idea that the U.S. would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which liberalized trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Shortly after, the White House announced that in phone calls with Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto, President Trump "agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time" and that the two leaders " agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries."

As Republicans alarmed by the prospect of a NAFTA withdrawal speculated yesterday, the threat was a "negotiating tactic" to bring Mexico and Canada to the table or otherwise extract a better deal. Yet there's little indication either Mexico or Canada needed such a push for new negotiations. The election of Trump, who campaigned on a protectionist platform that was one of a few principles he's held on to consistently for decades, sufficed.

The perception of bringing Mexico and Canada to the negotiating table over NAFTA can be chalked up as a victory, but it doesn't contribute to any clarity on what might happen next. Trump has not articulated what kind of "improvements" he wants to negotiate. His trade views are mostly based on the idea that foreign competition is bad, and that returning Americans to factory jobs would make America great again. The whole thing could just more noise signifying nothing, a tactic explained in the Art of the Deal.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told senators the administration was interested in "updating" NAFTA, not not withdraw from it, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told Politico. Given the prevailing anti-trade mood in Washington, it's doubtful that such an update would involve reducing government interventions instead of increasing them.

The troubling migration of anti-trade rhetoric from left to right is nevertheless unsurprising. It's easier to convince people their problems are caused by foreigners than by their own government's policies, and more politically beneficial for those deploying such rhetoric in a quest for public office, especially when politicians who understand that free trade benefits everyone are unwilling or unable to articulate it effectively.

Related: Have Republicans Turned Against Trade? We Asked Them.

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