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Published: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400

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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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Sen. Ted Cruz Wants to Pay for Border Wall with Asset Forfeiture (UPDATE: Criminal Forfeiture Only)

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:45:00 -0400

President Donald Trump is having a bit of a challenge actually finding the funding to build the border wall he promised in his campaign. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who himself campaigned for president partly by saying he would be even tougher on illegal immigrants than Trump, thinks he has a solution. He wants to use federal asset forfeiture funds to build the wall. Axios notes that Cruz wants to introduce legislation named after famed Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo to help pay for the wall. The feds are trying to seize $14 billion from the drug lord. Cruz said in a statement, "Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons, and individuals across our southern border." There are a couple of issues to worry about here (besides the most obvious one that the wall is a stupid idea that won't work and should be abandoned). First is the likely incorrect assumption that the federal government will be able to get its hands on all that El Chapo money. Axios notes that Cruz's proposed bill (he hasn't even posted the text up on his own Senate page yet so we don't really know what it says) would "use asset seized from drug lords such as El Chapo." Italics mine. Cruz's statement on his Senate page uses similar language. It doesn't sound like this legislation would be confined to taking money from El Chapo. This is significant because police and prosecutors and like-minded supporters of asset forfeiture always attempt to present this process as taking the ill-gotten gains of the drug cartels and keeping it to fund law enforcement. But that's not actually how it plays out. In reality, police and prosecutors tend to abuse the civil asset forfeiture process to harass travelers who are carrying cash, claim that it's all part of the drug trade, and attempt to keep it for themselves without ever providing any proof a crime happened. Civil asset forfeiture has become a massive source of controversy because it's been abused to take money and property from citizens without due process in order for police departments to fund themselves. So if this legislation is not written in such a way that it requires these "drug kingpins" to actually be convicted of crimes before their money is seized, and the Trump administration becomes dependent on using this money to pay for this wall … you can see where this is going, can't you? FBI, DEA officers and federal prosecutors are going to have even more incentives and pressures to attempt to seize the property of greater numbers of people. And they're going to fight tooth and nail to keep from having to give it back even if they never actually charge people with federal crimes. Cruz has previously said that he supports asset forfeiture reforms as a "property rights" issue. But he's flip-flopped on criminal justice issues before, supporting the easing of mandatory minimum sentences before turning against changes. If he wants that wall hard enough (and he does want that wall), is he willing to turn is back on asset forfeiture abuses? IMPORTANT UPDATE: The legislation has been posted and will apply specifically only to actual criminal forfeiture of the assets of a convicted member of a drug cartel. Read the proposed text here.[...]

Good Neighbors Can Make Good Fences

Sun, 09 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0400

Good fences make good neighbors, or so Robert Frost reminds us in his annoyingly overused and frequently misquoted high school literature class staple. The poem that made the adage famous actually offers a more ambiguous take on the utility of border barriers than its signature line would suggest, with the speaker musing: "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offence." The question of what exactly is being walled in or walled out by Donald Trump's barrier—he issued commands for the "immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border" in a January 25 executive order—is trickier to answer than it initially appears. The short answer, illegal immigrants, is an unsatisfactory one, in part because so many other goals tend to get lumped in once the policy rationalization process gets rolling, including drug interdiction, terrorism prevention, and tariff enforcement. The question of who will be offended is easier. From Trump's unflattering remarks about Mexican immigrants while announcing his candidacy in June 2015 to his ongoing insistence that Mexico will pay for the wall, much offense has been given, and much taken. During the campaign, Trump flew to visit Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Upon returning home, the candidate claimed that they had discussed the wall but not who would pay for it—an assertion his counterpart denied. Shortly after his inauguration, tensions built around a planned visit by the Mexican president to the north. "If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall," Trump tweeted, "then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting." When Peña Nieto did just that, Trump made it clear that he would consider garnishing some of the $26 billion in annual remittances from the U.S. to Mexico. The Associated Press also reported the following astonishing threat by Trump, gleaned from (disputed) transcripts of a phone conversation between the two men: "You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it." Simultaneously on the table during that period: A 20 percent tax on goods at the Mexican border, though that idea was withdrawn almost as quickly as it was proposed. When Trump addressed a joint session of Congress on February 28, he reiterated his intention: "We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border," he told the assembled lawmakers. This time, notably, he didn't say that Mexico would pay for it, reportedly as part of a deal he struck with Peña Nieto. The following day, however, his vice president reiterated that this was still the plan. "He didn't say Mexico is going to pay for it," said George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. "Well, they are," Mike Pence quickly replied. In Mexico City in late February, when I visited for a conference sponsored by Arizona State University, the chattering classes were waiting with bated breath to hear whether Trump's capricious treatment of their leader would be returned. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were cooling their heels before a planned meeting with the Mexican president. Would they be turned away? In the end, the three men spoke briefly before the American officials returned to U.S. soil. While the intrigue was titillating, the general sense was that conversations with Cabinet members didn't much matter, because Donald Trump could and would do whatever he liked. "The only thing that is certain is uncertainty," said El Universal columnist and journalism professor Ricardo Raphael. "Trump talks about renegotiating [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and figuring out Mexico's 'debt' for the wall later, but we have no way of knowing how he will extract what he imposed. Some ways will be worse than others." That sort of uncertainty is a tax on human activity. It makes every decisio[...]

Trump's Wall Is Already Collapsing

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 00:01:00 -0400

Donald Trump spent more than a year rousing crowds with a simple promise: "I'll build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall." As the campaign wore on, it got so he could ask "Who's gonna pay for the wall?" and the audience would roar, "Mexico!" It was fun while it lasted. But now, in the cold light of day, some facts are coming into focus: It may not exactly be a wall. It won't be paid for by Mexico. And it may not get built. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is one of the people backing off from this promise. Non-wall options, such as electronic sensors, will have to be considered in some places, he said. You see, "the border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall." Not only that but where would we locate it? "The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall?" Zinke asked. "We're not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we're probably not going to put it in the middle of the river." The Mexicans won't invite us to erect the structure on their side. So siting may be a problem. That's not all the Mexicans won't do. President Enrique Pena Nieto has said repeatedly and unequivocally that his government will not bear the cost. Trump had the chance to out-negotiate Pena on the wall when he met with him in Mexico City last summer—but Trump chose not to even raise the payment issue. The Mexican president was supposed to come to Washington for a White House meeting in January. But when Trump said it would be better to cancel the trip if Mexico was not willing to pay for the wall, Pena canceled the trip. Trump said that rather than make Mexico pay for it upfront, "we'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico." So we'll send the invoice and they'll mail a check? Well, not exactly. "There will be a payment," he told ABC News. "It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form." No one on Capitol Hill seems to share Trump's confidence. When Politico's Jake Sherman asked Mitch McConnell whether Mexico will pay for the wall, the Senate Republican leader couldn't suppress his mirth at the very idea. "'Uh, no,' he shot back, chuckling," Politico reported. House Speaker Paul Ryan said with solemn vagueness, "We will be working with (Trump) to finance the construction of the physical barrier, including the wall, on the southern border." Faced with the funding disagreement with Mexico, Trump included money for the wall in his budget outline, with the funds taken from other programs. Republican enthusiasm is not abundant. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said recently that "billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed." Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina agreed it is "probably not a smart investment." Democrats have promised to block any bill that includes money for the wall, which means they could force a government shutdown if Republicans attach it to the emergency spending measure that needs to be approved by April 28. Ryan said Thursday that the wall appropriation will be dropped to avert a shutdown. But there may not be much interest in funding it afterward, either. The House Freedom Caucus is generally not fond of spending money, and Trump's declaration of war on the group will not make its members more eager to indulge him. Plenty of Senate Republicans are also skeptical. "If you're going to spend that kind of money, you're going to have to show me where you're going to get that money," Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said in February. "We can't pay for it out of thin air," said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. There don't seem to be many people in Washington who think the wall can be built as Trump claimed or that it would work very well. Not to mention that it sounded a lot better when Mexico was going to pay for it. Trump fooled a lot of voters when he made that promise, and he may have even fooled himself. But at some point, you run out of fools[...]

Trump the Weakling

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 00:01:00 -0500

When rocker Tom Petty found out Republican George W. Bush was blaring his song "I Won't Back Down" at campaign rallies in 2000, he sent a cease-and-desist letter. Maybe the reason Donald Trump avoided the song in his campaign is that he didn't want similar trouble. Or maybe it's because he will, in fact, back down. After a federal court blocked his February travel ban, Trump tweeted, "See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!" From that bold declaration, you would expect him to fight all the way to the Supreme Court. But he didn't. On Monday, he caved in and issued a new travel ban designed to appease the judiciary. Backing down is not a departure from his usual style. It is his usual style. Trump is not a guy who can be counted on to stand his ground. Often, he crumbles under the slightest pressure. Ask the Chinese. Shortly after he was elected, he took a call from the president of Taiwan, in defiance of the long-standing U.S. policy of recognizing only one China. Then, when the Beijing government took offense, he snapped back on Twitter, asking, "Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency?" Conservatives applauded his manly bravado. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said Trump was alerting the Chinese that "nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to." Actually, somebody in Beijing does. His name is Xi Jinping. He's the president of China, and he refused to speak with Trump on the phone until he agreed to eat his words. As China's government media reported, Trump tamely assured Xi that "the U.S. government adheres to the One China policy." Sean Spicer did his best to mask the humiliating retreat. Asked whether the president had gotten anything in return, the press secretary insisted, "The president always gets something." Of course he does. In this instance, he got a lesson in the ancient Chinese art of kowtowing. The surrender came as no surprise to anyone who watched him during the campaign, or after. After months of promising his supporters that he would build a border wall at Mexico's expense, he paid a visit to President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City and, at a news conference afterward, admitted he didn't even raise the topic: "We didn't discuss payment of the wall." In fact, Pena Nieto said later that during their session, he informed his guest that Mexico would not pay for it. Only when he was safely back across the Rio Grande did Trump dare to repeat that our neighbor will foot the bill. During his second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump informed her, "If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception." He hasn't. After his boast about grabbing women by the genitals came out on video, several women came forward to accuse him of groping or kissing them without their consent. He denied it and announced, "All of these liars will be sued after the election is over." When is that lawsuit going to be filed? Probably right after he finishes fighting the lawsuit against Trump University. Oh, wait—he has already finished that fight, by capitulating. "I don't settle cases," he said last year about the dispute. "Watch how we win it." But in the end, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to the people accusing him of fraud. Idle threats are his specialty. Last year, he pledged to "immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties," one of which allowed unauthorized immigrants brought here as children to stay and work. But that order is still in place, to the disgust of anti-immigration groups. "His thinking is: 'We don't have to deal with this right now,'" explained Spicer in February. Oh, you thought "immediately" meant "right now"? On torture, NATO, seizing Iraq's oil and the Iranian nuclear deal, Trump's Cabinet officers have contradicted him—and he has let them. When confronted by people with sturdy backbones, Trump has real trouble[...]

Mexico Fires Back Against Trump With Plan to Target U.S. Farmers

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:55:00 -0500

(image) The United States is currently the largest producer and exporter of corn, but that title may take a hit if Guerrero Sen. Armando Rios Piter gets his way. CNN reports that the Mexican lawmaker will introduce a bill that would require all of that country's corn imports to come from Brazil or Argentina rather than the U.S.

The move is political: Piter explained to CNN that it's a "good way to tell them that [President Donald Trump's] hostile relationship has consequences, hope that it changes."

Trump has been vocal about his views on Mexico, insisting that the neighboring country will pay for a wall along the U.S.'s southern border and threatening to impose a hefty import tax on Mexican goods if the country doesn't comply. Trump has also lambasted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he blames for U.S. jobs going to Mexico.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service released a report in 2015 that contradicts Trump's claims about the trade deal. "In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters," the authors of the report wrote. "The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest."

Trump has criticized NAFTA as being one-sided, but the numbers suggest otherwise. A study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2012 found that "trade with Canada and Mexico supports nearly 14 million U.S. jobs, and nearly 5 million of these net jobs are supported by the increase in trade generated by NAFTA."

U.S. farmers also benefitted from NAFTA, with CNN reporting that corn exports to Mexico rose from $391 million in 1995 to $2.4 billion in 2015.

"Prior to NAFTA, Mexico's tariffs were highest for agricultural products," the Chamber of Commerce report explains. "NAFTA allowed American farmers and ranchers to get past those barriers. As a result, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico have quintupled since NAFTA entered into force, and the United States today supplies three-quarters of Mexico's agri-food imports."

Piter's corn bill threatens this boon to U.S. farmers.

Economic protectionism comes with a price tag, and it will be the United States who ends up footing the bill. While Trump may argue that his policies will bolster the U.S. economy and its workers, he's far more likely to start a trade war, which in turn will hurt those he claims to want to help the most.

Update 2/14/17: Mexico is, of course, not in Central America.

Legalizing Marijuana Would Hurt Mexican Drug Cartels More Than Trump's Border Wall

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 09:48:00 -0500

A crucial part of President Donald Trump's rationale for building a wall along the United State's border with Mexico is that it would help to stop the trade of illegal drugs, including marijuana. "I want to build the wall. We need the wall," Trump said at one of the presidential debates last year. "We stop the drugs. We shore up the border." There's other reasons for building the wall, of course. It would help to staunch what Trump sees as a flood of illegal, migrant workers from Mexico and would serve a symbol of the Trump administration's protectionist, America-first policies on trade—the physical embodiment of Trump's efforts to undo NAFTA. Beyond that, it would be a big, expensive building project and Trump likes big, expensive building projects. Still, the idea of stopping the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico remains central to the border wall's function. Kellyanne Conway, Trump's White House counsel, said as much last week in an interview with CBS. Mexico doesn't want to pay for the well, Conway told CBS News' Gayle King, "because they want to continue to allow people and I assume drugs, since they're not doing much to stop that, pouring over our borders." If the Trump administration wants to stop the flow of drugs over the border, though, building a wall might not be the most effective policy, says David Bienenstock, the head of content at High Times and a reporter with 15 years of experience covering marijuana markets and the federal government's war on those markets. Instead of increasingly militant and expensive measures designed to stop the flow of drugs, Bienenstock told Reason in an email interview this week, Trump should be backing the legalization of marijuana, which has already begun to cut into the drug cartels' profits while creating American jobs. "It's important to understand that the Drug War created the cartels, not the other way around," says Bienenstock. "We've been wasting trillions of dollars for nearly 50 years on wholly ineffective, and even counterproductive, efforts to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, and those efforts have only made the cartels bigger, stronger, and more dangerous." Even by the wasteful standards of the War on Drugs, Trump's wall looks like a boondoggle. Reason's Shikha Dalmia did the math on The Wall this week, and the numbers are sobering. "Just a single-layer fence—not a wall—on the 1,300 miles of the open Southern border will cost upwards of $6 billion—assuming, as per a CBO study, pedestrian fencing costs of $6.5 million per mile and vehicle fencing costs of $1.7 million per mile," she wrote. "A single Border Patrol agent costs about $171,400 annually. So tripling that force would add up to a whopping $7 billion or so more a year, according to the CBO. Annual maintenance costs would be hundreds of millions of dollars. In short, the total hit if cost projections don't balloon—a big if, assuming that Trump won't use illegal Mexican workers and will use only American steel—would be somewhere close to $15 billion upfront." Trump says Mexico is going to pay for the wall, but slapping higher taxes on imports will force American consumers to bear most of the cost. And for what? If Trump actually builds the wall, the cartels will only build more and better tunnels, as the New York Times reported in September, citing Border Patrol agents who have worked to find and destroy drug tunnels for years. Trump says the wall will include technology to detect tunnels, but that technology doesn't exist yet and would only add to the project's price tag. Securing the full length of the 1,900-mile southern border is virtually impossible. "No amount of enforcement, even military-level, can remove the financial incentive of the black market," says Bienenstock, the author of How To Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High. "In fact, every increase in enforcement only makes the black market mor[...]

Trump's Irrational Immigration Crackdown

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 00:01:00 -0500

Give Donald Trump credit where it's due: He promised an irrational crackdown on immigrants, and he delivered it the first week of his administration. Trump began his presidential campaign with a speech in which he described most Mexican immigrants as rapists, drug dealers, and other criminals, adding that "some, I assume, are good people." During his campaign, he repeatedly said that as president he would deport all 11 million people who live in the United States without the government's permission. Last August, Trump signaled what he described as a "softening" of that position. "We are not looking to hurt people," he told Sean Hannity on Fox News. "We have some great people in this country." Trump suggested he was open to legalizing unauthorized immigrants, a policy supported by most Americans. If they "pay back taxes," he said, he would be willing to "work with them," although there would be "no citizenship" and "no amnesty as such." Less than a week after he was elected president, Trump again indicated he did not plan to carry out the sort of mass deportation he had advocated during the campaign. "After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized," he told Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, "we're going to make a determination on the people that you're talking about, who are terrific people." An executive order that Trump signed last week contradicts these assurances. The order instructs the Department of Homeland Security to "prioritize for removal" not only unauthorized residents who "have been convicted of any criminal offense" (including misdemeanors and nonviolent drug offenses) but also those who "have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense" (meaning a conviction is not required) and those who "have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency." That last category includes anyone who has falsely claimed to be a legal resident on an official form or used a fake Social Security number to obtain a job. For good measure, the order also approves removal of anyone else whom an immigration officer deems "a risk to public safety or national security." The order thus lays the ground for ejecting virtually all illegal residents, regardless of how long they have lived in the United States, how peaceful and productive they have been, or how much they have paid in taxes. Trump seems bent on deporting millions of "terrific people." Another immigration-related executive order that Trump signed last week suspended admission of all refugees for 120 days, blocked Syrian refugees indefinitely, cut this year's refugee cap in half, and banned travelers with passports from any of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. It fell short of Trump's 2015 recommendation urging "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." But what the order lacked in scope it made up for in casual cruelty, arbitrarily disrupting and endangering thousands of lives. It separated parents from children, kept students from returning to school, put the kibosh to new jobs, stopped patients from obtaining treatment, and blocked war refugees from settling in the United States. It even prevented legal permanent residents from returning to their homes, until the Trump administration reversed that part of the policy. The official justification for Trump's half-baked order—protecting Americans from terrorists—is hard to take seriously. Refugees and green-card holders are already subject to extensive screening, refugees very rarely carry out terrorist attacks in the United States, and since 2001 no American has been killed in the U.S. by a terrorist from any of the seven countries covered by Trump's order. As in the speech that launched his presidential bid, Trump is sca[...]

Immigration Reform in the Era of Trump

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 13:35:00 -0500

As president Trump's immigration crackdown prompts nationwide protests, Reason Foundation convened three policy experts in Washington, D.C., to discuss the moral and economic case for reform.

The experts' conclusions are startling. Left unchanged, the current immigration system is likely to prevent the president from reaching his four percent economic growth target. Further tightening of immigration regulations could provoke a recession. Foreseeable consequences of a continued crackdown against immigration include the loss of entrepreneurship, a major financial blow to American higher education, and the creation of a police state.

Panelists differed on whether Trump's so-called "Muslim ban" was motivated by incompetence or malice.



Ilya Somin - Law professor, George Mason University. Contributor, The Volokh Conspiracy, at The Washington Post.

Tim Kane - Economist, Hoover Institution at Stanford University; editor of Peregrine, an immigration journal.

Shikha Dalmia - Senior Analyst, Reason Foundation.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Krainin and Ian Keyser.

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Trump's Immigration Crackdown Will Backfire

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 00:01:00 -0500

Government failures come in two basic forms. The first kind is not achieving the intended result—say job training that leads to no jobs or a Marine recruiting campaign that gets few takers. The second kind is doing damage that wouldn't have been done otherwise. It's roughly the difference between a cigar that fails to light and one that explodes. The immigration measures announced Wednesday by President Donald Trump fall in the latter category. The consequences will mostly be more or less the opposite of what he and his supporters imagine. His promised wall is supposed to stop the flow of unauthorized immigrants and reduce the number of undocumented foreigners living here. But it's not likely to do either. Stop the flow? Even if you assume smugglers won't find ways to breach the wall or tunnel below it, it will continue. On a typical day, more than a half-million people stream over the border from Mexico with the required documents. Some 40 percent of undocumented foreigners living in the United States came legally and overstayed their visas. Putting up a wall won't keep out people we knowingly admit—and it won't help find those who decline to leave. It will merely encourage more people to drive or fly in on a tourist visa rather than swim the Rio Grande. If past measures to fortify the border shut some unauthorized foreigners out, they also kept millions of others in. Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey notes that in 1986, nearly half of the Mexicans here without permission eventually went back to Mexico, knowing that they could always change their minds. But when enforcement was stepped up, they learned a lesson: Once you're here, you had better stay. The number choosing permanent residence rose. How's that for a solution? One complaint about people sneaking over the border comes from ranchers whose lands they cross and befoul. But the migrants are there because of tight enforcement. In the old days, they sneaked across in border cities. "It used to be that you could literally sit at a bar in Tijuana, Mexico, look across the border into San Diego, wait for the Border Patrol to drive in the other direction and make a run for it,'' Steve Atkiss, a former chief of staff of Customs and Border Protection, told The Washington Post in 2015. When security improved at major ports of entry, it pushed illicit migrants into areas with more rattlesnakes than people, which are harder to police. That phenomenon would persist if the 653 miles of fencing now in place were extended, because filling in the other 1,300 miles would take years. In the meantime, landowners who have rarely, if ever, seen migrants before may play host to a steady procession of furtive skulkers. Trump also wants to punish sanctuary cities—whose policies bar police from making arrests for immigration violations or asking people about their immigration status. He decries these accommodations as a threat to public safety. In fact, they enhance it—by encouraging the 11 million undocumented foreigners living here to cooperate with cops. The Major County Sheriffs' Association warned in 2015 that cutting off funds to these cities would "prevent law enforcement from effectively protecting their communities and themselves." Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told USA Today, "If people are afraid to come to the police, that domestic violence incident today will be a homicide tomorrow, and that's in no one's interest." Most of what Trump says on this topic is lacking evidence. During his campaign, he accused undocumented immigrants of "taking our jobs." But if he expects tougher enforcement to create jobs and raise wages for American workers, he's in for a crushing disappointment. A report last year commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences detected "little evidence that immigr[...]

Sorting Through Trade, Tariffs, Taxes, and Trump on SiriusXM Insight from 12-1 p.m. ET

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 10:52:00 -0500

Today at noon eastern I am once again guest-hosting The Dean Obeidallah Show on SiriusXM Insight, channel 121, and we will be engaging in some mixture between TGIF and ICBIOBOW (I Can't Believe it's Only Been One Week). In the second half of the program I will be joined by the invaluable trade attorney/commentator Scott Lincicome, to sort through the confusing bluster surrounding Donald Trump's feud with Mexico, his plans for a 20 percent "border tax," and what other euphemisms for tariff we can expect.

And for the duration of the show I'll be joined by the provocative and original thinker/doer James Poulos, author of the brand new The Art of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselves. We shall certainly apply his insights to the dawning Age of Trump. Please call the program any time (at least while I'm on it), at 1-877-974-7487.

Poulos two weeks ago was interviewed by Nick Gillespie for the Reason podcast. Listen to that below:

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You Do Realize that if You Keep All the Jobs in America, the Mexicans Will Return?

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:45:00 -0500

God bless President-elect Donald Trump, who hath already saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs from running to Mexico like desperadoes fleeing south from the scene of a crime! That's swell, but even he can't repeal the law of uninteded consequences, can he? And the fact of the matter is that if you build jobs here explictly at the cost of jobs in Mexico, you will start to see Mexicans migrating northwards That's the way immigration works for most people. They go to where the jobs are and they stop coming when the jobs dry up. In an open society, you can either have a whiz-bang economy or little-to-no immigration. Even Donald Trump can't have it all. In recent weeks, Trump has taken credit for keeping 700 or 800 jobs at an Indiana plant for Carrier and some more at a ball-bearing factory in the Hoosier State (needless to say, taxpayer-supplied sweeteners were part of the deals). After railing against GM and threatening punitive tariffs on autos made in Mexico and sold here, the car maker changed plans to placate Trump. Ford Motors proactively announced it was keeping a plant open in Michigan, earning this badge of honor: Thank you to Ford for scrapping a new plant in Mexico and creating 700 new jobs in the U.S. This is just the beginning - much more to follow — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017 This is just the beginning, vows Trump, much more to follow! Who knows where next he'll strike, but if his twitterhea is any indication, it'll be against another car maker: Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2017 Actions have consequences, though, and not always the ones people expect or want. Consider what is likely to happen if U.S. investment in Mexico slows down or stops completely. America is Mexico's biggest trading partner and we get a bunch of stuff from them—trade isn't a one-way street, which is one of the great things about it. From the New York Post: Ford's announcement sent shockwaves across Mexico, which has become tightly meshed with the U.S. economy since the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement, sending 80 percent of its $532 billion in exports across the border in 2015. The U.S. government says $100 billion of that was in vehicles and parts, making Mexico the biggest exporter of automotive products to the United States. Mexico's auto plants now account for 20 percent of all light vehicles built in North America, industry figures say.... Four clustered states in central Mexico — San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Aguascalientes and Guanajuato — have seven auto assembly plants that are operating or will be within the next two years. Around them are nearly 800 auto parts suppliers, Puente said. In San Luis Potosi alone, between 50,000 and 60,000 jobs depend on the auto industry. An average worker in Mexico costs automakers $8 an hour, including wages and benefits, compared to the $60 an hour that Ford said it was spending on an auto worker in the U.S. at the end of 2015. In Villa de Reyes' town square, residents said the younger generation would be hurt most by the cancellation. Retiree Ignacio Segura Rocha said fewer people from town are migrating to the U.S. now because the crossing has gotten harder than when he went in 1977 and 1978. He said the auto industry offers good alternatives for kids growing up on the region's isolated ranches. "They were already dreaming of going there (to Ford), and at the last minute there's nothing," he said. Read more here. Two things to consider: How much more expensive will cars (and other products) become once Trump has made all the calls to CEOs he's threatened to make? If labor c[...]

Texas Is a Model for a More-Libertarian, More-Diverse America: Avik Roy

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 16:15:00 -0500

"In Texas, the Mexicans have always been there.... There's not this sense that Mexicans are foreigners," says Avik Roy, Forbes opinion editor and the co-founder and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP).

Roy believes Texas, a majority-minority state, offers a good counter-example for libertarians and conservatives anxious about immigrants and non-Europeans changing American political culture. The Lone Star State is not only doing very well economically, says Roy, there's a sense of inclusion that doesn't exist in many other states.

"It's not just a free state in the sense of policy, but there really is a sense that everyone feels, whether Anglo or Latino, that freedom has made their lives better," Roy tells Reason's Nick Gillespie. "This indigenous thing called Tex-Mex has been around for a very long time. It's simply not treating the others as if they were others...that attitude makes a huge difference."

According to Roy, who has advised politicians such as Rick Perry and Marco Rubio, one of the goals of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity is to challenge the conservative view that holds racial and ethnic minority groups can only be appeased through more statism and redistribution and should thus be written off when it comes to building political and economic coalitions.

"Free markets have lifted more people out of poverty than anything that has been invented by man," says Roy, "We don't usually talk about free markets in that way."

Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Austin Bragg and Meredith Bragg. Music by Simon Mathewson.

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The Mexican Town That Kicked Out the Cartels—and Told the Police and Political Parties to Get Lost Too

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 12:25:00 -0400

Almost a thousand miles south of Houston, the Mexican town of Cheran was once afflicted by gangsters who had branched into the timber trade. They killed, they kidnapped, and they kept cutting down trees that they didn't have a right to take. And so, the BBC reports,

(image) on Friday 15 April 2011, Cheran's levantamiento, or uprising, began. On the road coming down from the forest outside Margarita's home, the women blockaded the loggers' pick-ups and took some of them hostage. As the church bells of El Calvario rang out and fireworks exploded in the dawn sky alerting the community to danger, the people of Cheran came running to help. It was tense—hotheads had to be persuaded by the women not to string up the hostages from an ancient tree outside the church....

The municipal police arrived with the mayor, and armed men came to free their hostage-friends. There was an uneasy stand-off between the townspeople, the loggers and the police. It ended after two loggers were injured by a young man who shot a firework directly at them....

The police and local politicians were quickly driven out of town because the people suspected they were collaborating with the criminal networks. Political parties were banned—and still are—because they were deemed to have caused divisions between people....

Meanwhile armed checkpoints were established on the three main roads coming in to town.

Today, five years later, those checkpoints still exist. They are guarded by members of the Ronda Comunitaria—a militia or local police force made up of men and women from Cheran.

Now that the gangsters are no longer raiding the forest, the locals manage the resource, in what sounds like the sort of community-based system that the late Elinor Ostrom frequently wrote about. Meanwhile, the BBC's writer notes that "in the last year there have been no murders, kidnaps or disappearances" in Cheran, even as such crimes are common in communities just a few kilometers away. The place hasn't declared independence—various sorts of government funding are still flowing, and when serious crimes do occur the attorney general can prosecute them—but the town of 20,000 has achieved a remarkable level of autonomy.

To read the whole thing, go here. To read about some other efforts in the area to battle the cartels outside the state, go here—and to see how the state eventually absorbed those efforts, go here. And even further south, to read about a village in Colombia that kicked out all armed groups, from right-wing paramilitaries to left-wing guerrillas to officially sanctioned soldiers and cops, go here.

First 'Three Parent' Baby Born in Mexico

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 09:30:00 -0400

Great news! American fertility specialists replaced defective mitochondria in a embryo resulting in the birth of a healthy baby boy five months ago. The bad news is that due to a fifteen year Food and Drug Administration ban, the procedure had to be performed in Mexico. Mitochondria are the energy producing organelles in each of our cells which carry their own small genomes and are passed down to children from their mothers. Broken mitochondrial genes cause a wide variety of illnesses from which about 1 in 4,000 people suffer (that is about the same rate as cystic fibrosis among European-descended Americans). In this specific case, the mother carries a mitochondrial mutation associated with Leigh's Disease that causes brain lesions and which killed her first two children. The cure was achieved, as the New Scientist explains: [New Hope Fertility Center specialist John] Zhang ... removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg – with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor – was then fertilised with the father's sperm. Zhang's team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later. Hearty congratulations are in order to the parents, the baby, and the team that made it possible! Well, not everyone actually agrees with that sentiment. CNN reports: "It's unfortunate to have people decide they're just going to quite willingly engage in this kind of reproductive tourism -- to go outside of a system that is in place to create the safest, most scientifically reproducible way forward," said Lori P. Knowles, assistant professor, adjunct, at the University of Alberta School of Public Health. "That's the precedent then, that if you think you can do it, then let's just hop the border and see what happens, hope for the best." Cannot bioethicists hear themselves! Having endured four miscarriages and two dead children, this mother had already seen "what happens," so of course, she was hoping for best. So should we all. The parents in this case obviously felt forced to engage in reproductive tourism because the "system that is in place to create the safest ... way forward" has, in fact, blocked all progress in this field for a decade and a half. While headlines around the world hailed this achievement as the first three-parent baby, that's actually not the case. Back in 2000, researchers at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey developed the same technique that Zhang used. As I reported earlier: Researchers hit on the idea of curing mitochondrial diseases by replacing defective mitochondria with healthy ones derived from eggs donated by other women. Back in 2001, fertility specialist Jacques Cohen and his colleagues at St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey transferred ooplasm containing mitochondria from healthy donor eggs to the eggs of women experiencing infertility. The experiments resulted in the births of 15 healthy babies. ... When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) got wind of the new development, the agency asserted that it had jurisdiction over the treatments and promptly banned them. And that is where matters have ever since stood, as women continued to endure infertility and more babies were born suffering from mitochondrial diseases. Very ethical. The "safest system" is evidently the system that says take no risks at all. Better more babies born naturally with dread diseases than allowing parents to try to have healthy children by availing themselves of the unnatural methods of science. If regulators and bioethicists do[...]