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Is the Trump Border Wall Really Where Our Money Should Be Going?

An important measure of a country’s “greatness” is how it spends its money. When Trump and others talk about “making America ‘great’ again,” they’re almost always aggressively non-specific about how. By whose definition? And more importantly, is greatness a thing we can buy with dollars?

It turns out there is a measurement of a country’s greatness — rather, a measure of the quality of a country’s democracy — as well as a way to, after a fashion, buy your way to the top. In 2016, unfortunately, America continued its long and heartbreaking decline by failing to place in the Global Democracy Index’s top 15 nations. Our terrible national priorities are to blame.

As more civilized people than our leaders have already discovered, a country is only great if it seeks to ensure equality for all its people. We’re not necessarily talking about equality of wealth, but rather equality of opportunity — coupled with a guaranteed safety net for your health, and reasonable financial protections should capitalism fail you.

This equality of opportunity is far more likely to occur if a government invests heavily in the well-being of its citizens. One has to wonder: With so many more enticing definitions of greatness, why spend our money on a wasteful and totally unnecessary boondoggle?

Health Care

This topic should never have even come up for debate in a country that claims to be the strongest in the world. Health care is, and always has been, a right for all people who call themselves civilized. And the most logical, affordable form of health care is the universal kind. You’ll also hear it referred to as Medicare for all, single-payer and socialized medicine.

Yes — socialism! Many under-informed people still quake in their shoes when they hear this word, so let’s clear the air: Anybody who pays taxes is a socialist.

That’s right, you’re already practicing socialism, even if you don’t recognize it. The simplest definition of socialism is paying into a communal fund through tax dollars. What better way to share burdens and care for our neighbors than to pool our resources and our talent in favor of practical applications for our tax dollars — including medicine?

We already take various benefits of citizenhood for granted, including paved roads, first responders, the postal service, national parks, infrastructure, and a vast selection of other sensible institutions that make life fuller — and, in many cases, more possible — for average voters and working Americans. When you average out the cost of adding universal health care, the price is considerably lower per person than if you privatize every piece of this beautiful apparatus and lock it all behind a corporate paywall governed by boardrooms.

Universal health care is vastly more affordable, eminently sensible, less redundant and far easier to administer than the appalling, unsustainable and basically abusive system we have in place now. It is, to borrow a phrase, the “fiscally responsible” thing to do.

Education

Americans didn’t always take access to elementary, middle and high school for granted. We had to decide basic schooling was something we valued. And so we added it to the list of benefits enjoyed by American citizens. Public education as we know it today was born.

I’d say we’re standing at a similar crossroads right now, but we’re not. We can’t talk about even higher education — “free” public college — yet because we’re still fighting about the importance of primary education. The appointment of billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos as secretary of education — who came into her role with zero experience in school governance — is corporate America spitting in the face of anybody who values the quality and integrity of public education. And for many, many Americans, public education is the only option available.

Oh, and by the way, we used to have tuition-free public colleges in America. They went away as a national priority after the Nixon administration created the Student Loan Marketing Association in 1972.

Democracy Itself

In America, the “two sides” may not be who you think they are. One side is corporate interests. The other is the real needs of real people.

So how do we elect representatives who serve the latter instead of the former? Turns out it’s pretty easy: Ban private campaign donations from corporations and all other private interests, and run elections off the public treasury. America needs to institute publicly funded elections today if we want to be taken seriously as a real, grown-up democracy tomorrow.

Equality

Yes, it is possible to spend money on spreading the ideal of equality. No, it has nothing to do with selling weapons across the world and engaging in endless “democracy-building” conflicts.

Under far more reasonable and tolerant administrations than this one, Americans have enjoyed the presence and benefit of nonprofits that actively promote equal housing and hiring practices, lobby for minority rights and march to stop the democracy-ending practice of gerrymandering voting districts.

Under the current leadership, we suddenly can’t find the money to support pro-social groups like these anymore. These leaders aren’t just ignorant of the zeitgeist — they’re fighting for a set of values straight out of medieval times.

And that brings us back to Trump’s folly — the wall on the border with Mexico — which feels like an attack on the very idea of unity. Rather few people cross borders in a permanent way unless they really want or need to — and that means refugees, immigrants and other asylum-seekers who just want a better life need our help, rather than our scorn. Consider for a moment what would happen to our gifted minds and pools of talent if we spent our money uplifting people in desperate need, instead of actively shunning them.

If nothing else, self-interest reigns as it always does: It’s well-documented that immigrants are actually good for a country’s pocketbook. If the moral angle won’t sway us, there’s always the almighty dollar to fall back on.


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Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about politics and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, Only Slightly Biased. You can also email her at kateharveston@gmail.com with questions or writing opportunities.

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137 thoughts on “Is the Trump Border Wall Really Where Our Money Should Be Going?

  1. America continued its long and heartbreaking decline by failing to place in the Global Democracy Index’s top 15 nations. Our terrible national priorities are to blame.

    The “best” countries (norway, switzerland, sweden, finland, denmark) from that list all have low populations, are monocultural, mostly don’t have minorities, and pay a lot of attention to inequality. That last is mostly funded by having lots of mineral (or whatever) wealth relative to their population.

    That answers the issues of “how do they pay for their socialism” and “why doesn’t it cost them a lot more”. I suspect we don’t have the money to properly deal with inequality the way low-population high-resource low-multicultural countries do.

    Having said that, I agree the Wall is a bad idea, ideally we’d be handing out Green Cards like candy… or at least stapling one to back of every College Diploma. On the other hand I suspect the Wall is pretty cheap given our population and the rest of our budget, especially if it buys enough time/support for actual solutions.

    Universal health care is vastly more affordable, eminently sensible, less redundant and far easier to administer than the appalling, unsustainable and basically abusive system we have in place now. It is, to borrow a phrase, the “fiscally responsible” thing to do.

    UHC’s proponents keep proclaiming it cheaper, but also keep flinching away from how much it will cost when it comes to politicians enacting it. There’s a disconnect there which really should be faced dead on.

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    • The Scandinavian countries are also less socialist than we are. In the 60’s Sweden tried socialism light and they went a couple of decades without adding any private sector jobs, so they abandoned it.

      The Scandis are ahead of us on the minimum wage, though. Having set it at zero, they can up it by ten or twenty percent a year and it’s still zero. The best of both worlds! They also kick in their high tax rates pretty much on the first dollar, so panhandlers can enjoy the luxury of paying taxes that are almost as high as the rates paid by their wealthiest citizens.

      I hear socialism is working pretty well in Venezuela, though.

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    • The “best” countries (norway, switzerland, sweden, finland, denmark) from that list all have low populations, are monocultural, mostly don’t have minorities, and pay a lot of attention to inequality.

      Well, I’m not sure why low population is relevant, and for the latter, isn’t that exactly the point? They pay a lot of attention to inequality, and we don’t.

      As for being monocultural and having fewer minorities, it’s not clear how any of that would actually make a robust safety net cheaper.

      That last is mostly funded by having lots of mineral (or whatever) wealth relative to their population.

      I’d be interested to see how much mineral wealth Sweden, say, has compared to the US, which is not exactly bereft of lucrative extractive industries.

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      • As for being monocultural and having fewer minorities, it’s not clear how any of that would actually make a robust safety net cheaper.

        It’s not the “cheaper”, it’s the reduction in friction when it comes to the whole “Trust and Collaboration” thing. If you want a high collaboration society, you need high trust. The theory is that monoculture helps maintain the high trust necessary to maintain high collaboration.

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        • Er except that is not necessarily true. There are homogeneous countries with paltry welfare states and I think a lot of American right-wingers overstate the homogeneous nature of a lot of European countries.

          France is a very diverse country and has overseas departments (their versions of state) that are what Americans would describe as “majority-minority” departments. France manages to have a good welfare state. The UK is diverse. Canada is diverse.

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          • Also, it’s interesting how one-sided the refusal to fund the welfare state is. Liberal Blue Staters don’t actually trust conservative Red Staters at all, but that doesn’t seem to have dampened their enthusiasm for a welfare state. If anything we’ve seen the opposite occur.

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            • Liberal Blue Staters like the welfare state enough, as long as the people are using it in their own neighborhood, and going to their own neighborhood public schools.

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                • Here’s the deal six figure income Acela and California people have made – they’ll support, notionally, the welfare state, and Democratic politicians for national office, but in return, they get a kickback on their fed taxes from all the money they’re plopping down on state income and local property taxes (California has more of the former, Acela has more of the latter).

                  In addition, nobody futzes around too much with zoning codes and especially with school enrollment boundaries. (It also goes without standing that the long term crime decline is baked into this agreement, and is only possible if that is sustained)

                  (a lot of the ‘makers and takers’ net tax thing is also where the military and public land spending is, normalized per capita, and especially all the olds moving to Florida and the Sun Belt and taking their Social Security monthly payments with them)

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                  • Yes, that is the deal. But despite the kickback we get on our property and income taxes (I live in NJ, and we have plenty of both) we still pay a good deal more in federal taxes than people living in red states.

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                  • but in return, they get a kickback on their fed taxes

                    is that the line on state tax deductions now? “Kickbacks”?

                    Funny, I normally hear that referred to as “double taxation”. How quickly the tune changes.

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          • South Korea and Japan being the two biggest examples of homogeneous countries without a welfare state. Canada built its welfare state at the same time it decided to change from a relatively homogenous anti-immigrant Anglo Protestant and French Catholic country to a secular multicultural country. Liberalized immigration policy and the welfare state went hand in hand in politics.

            Switzerland is also a non-homogenous country because it consisted of a combination of German, French, and Italian speakers and Protestants and Catholics. The Nordic countries are also growing more diverse and multicultural and have been since the mid-20th century.

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          • I think the question is what was the diversity when key institutions were created. All of the most successful states in the world, other than the United States, are nation states, for which ethnicity is a central factor. A number of European nation-states have recently increased the portion of the population that is minority ethnic, and we’ll see how that goes.

            (The U.S. is a creedal state, and the Left is seeking to destroy the creed, and we’ll see how that goes)

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              • I think what PD Shaw meant is that at least a plurality of Americans had a “Don’t Trend on Me” homesteader ideology from the start of the United States and that they see this as an American creed. It goes against the social democratic ethos in many ways. Liberals generally point to the general welfare clause and the Puritan New England/ Quaker Pennsylvanian tradition as counterpoints.

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                    • The Apostle’s Creed is:

                      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

                      The Nicene Creed goes down to:

                      Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

                      After that we’re in to specific condemnations and heresy’s as further defined by the various councils.

                      Personally I understand what PDS is getting at vis-a-vis right/left (I think)… though I’d put it that we’re no longer in agreement where the foundations of the creed lie and to where they point.

                      Both Left and Right will argue that they are the proper interpreters of the creed. But, that’s what schism looks like.

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            • The United Kingdom is a very successful country that never had a unifying ethnicity. They always recognized that the English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish were distinct ethnicities with their own cultures and sometimes own languages. Switzerland is extraordinarily successful and was a combination of French, German, and Italian cultures and was divided between Protestants and Catholics when Europeans were hacking themselves to death over that. Canada defined itself as bicultural country of Anglo Protestants and French Catholics from the get go. The French conceived of French identity in civil rather than blood terms.

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          • Here’s a great little anecdote from SSC:

            I do occasional work for my hospital’s Addiction Medicine service, and a lot of our conversations go the same way.

            My attending tells a patient trying to quit that she must take a certain pill that will decrease her drug cravings. He says it is mostly covered by insurance, but that there will be a copay of about one hundred dollars a week.

            The patient freaks out. “A hundred dollars a week? There’s no way I can get that much money!”

            My attending asks the patient how much she spends on heroin.

            The patient gives a number like thirty or forty dollars a day, every day.

            My attending notes that this comes out to $210 to $280 dollars a week, and suggests that she quit heroin, take the anti-addiction pill, and make a “profit” of $110.

            At this point the patient always shoots my attending an incredibly dirty look. Like he’s cheating somehow. Just because she has $210 a week to spend on heroin doesn’t mean that after getting rid of that she’d have $210 to spend on medication. Sure, these fancy doctors think they’re so smart, what with their “mathematics” and their “subtracting numbers from other numbers”, but they’re not going to fool her.

            At this point I accept this as a fact of life. Whatever my patients do to get money for drugs – and I don’t want to know – it’s not something they can do to get money to pay for medication, or rehab programs, or whatever else. I don’t even think it’s consciously about them caring less about medication than about drugs, I think that they would be literally unable to summon the motivation necessary to get that kind of cash if it were for anything less desperate than feeding an addiction.

            All that to say, I think you should give how useful that conflation happens to be another thought.

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                • I don’t see social shaming as particularly incompatible with enthusiastic support of a welfare state.

                  Heck, I’ve even noticed a measure of overlap between people who cite multiculturalism as an obstacle to establishing a welfare state and people who express concern over the willingness of welfare state advocates to engage in social shaming.

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                      • So the argument is that Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark are multicultural and they’ve managed to maintain a robust welfare state?

                        My counter-argument to that is “your threshold for ‘multicultural’ is lower than mine.”

                        I mean, if I argued that a company that had the demographics of one of these countries was “diverse”, I’d be laughed out of the room.

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                        • No, I’m arguing that the constituencies within the United States that aggressively advocate for the welfare state are profoundly distrustful of other subcultural groups, and show no particular reluctance for engaging in social shaming.

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                          • Well, social shaming is one of the things that I think robust welfare states need as part of the high trust thing… someone who is visibly defecting needs to be told to get back in line and start collaborating again.

                            As for the “constituencies within the United States that aggressively advocate for the welfare state are profoundly distrustful of other subcultural groups”, that’s certainly true. But these constituencies don’t live in the robust welfare state. They merely want to.

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                              • For me, the question is “what do high trust/high collaboration societies have in common?”

                                Of course we *WANT* a high trust/high collaboration society. Everybody wants that.

                                The problem is that the only part of that that can be implemented by the government is the high collaboration part and if you do that part without the trust part, you’re going to find yourself with toilet paper shortages before long.

                                In any case, why is low trust a political obstacle to welfare state implementation? Because in a low trust society, you’re going to have a huge chunk of people will tend to think about all of the people defecting rather than all of the people collaborating. God help you if this huge chunk of people also sees themselves as the ones shelling out for others. And you won’t have a snowball’s chance if this huge chunk of people also votes.

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                                • Because in a low trust society, you’re going to have a huge chunk of people will tend to think about all of the people defecting rather than all of the people collaborating.

                                  But this clearly isn’t inevitable. After all, you also have, as an empirical fact, a large chunk of people—comparable in size, even—who don’t think that at all.

                                  Not to mention other curious factors, like an industry devoted to fabricating and promulgating spurious tales of defection for an audience that enthusiastically embraces them.

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                                  • I don’t know how we’re measuring “don’t think that way at all” because I can find no shortage of “Red States are the *REAL* Welfare Queens!” articles online (sometimes they use the word “moochers”).

                                    Those are words used to describe defectors.

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                              • But if low trust and collaboration are not incompatible with wanting a welfare state, why are they huge political obstacles to implementing a welfare state?

                                No politician wants to be asked: “Why are you using my tax dollars to encourage drug dealing and out of wedlock procreation?”

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                                • True. But the fact that the question is out there to scare politicians isn’t solely an issue of low trust and collaboration. Lots of people would never think to ask that question of a politician, and it’s not because they’re wonderfully trusting and eager to collaborate with their out-group.

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                                  • True. But the fact that the question is out there to scare politicians isn’t solely an issue of low trust and collaboration. Lots of people would never think to ask that question of a politician, and it’s not because they’re wonderfully trusting and eager to collaborate with their out-group.

                                    What are you trying to say here?

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                          • and show no particular reluctance for engaging in social shaming.

                            Social shaming has to be inside your own group for it to have any meaning. Me “shaming” my cousins in California has no impact since I don’t live there and never talk to them.

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                            • Hmm. People seem to spend a lot of time worrying about shaming originating from outside their circles. Now some of this is driven by the forced immediacy of the social media age, I’m sure, but quite a bit isn’t.

                              I tend to think people have really bad intuitions about many things, but the effect of shaming is not among them.

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        • I feel like the shorter way of summarizing this is that while a more generous safety net may or may not work in the US, it will never pass in the US because white people don’t like the idea of support going to non-white people. If that’s the summary, then I agree that it’s probably true.

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          • …while a more generous safety net may or may not work in the US…

            IMHO there’s an argument that it’s currently not working for everyone.

            We’ve got scary high levels of single parent families in certain subcultures and multi-generational issues.

            I’ve repeatedly had pregnant relatives explain they’re not get married to get better benefits. The most recent was with someone who is just as much a math guy as I am.

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            • That’s a fine argument to make and it may or may not be correct. I’m just saying that, “But those countries are, like, 99% white!” isn’t the same argument. It’s either a really bad argument or simply an indictment of our citizens that doesn’t address the usefulness of the policy at all.

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              • “Minority” doesn’t mean “not-White”. The Irish used to be “minority” in this country.

                I’m talking about “how uniform is the population in terms of culture”. Bluntly: Do these programs help me and my group or are we being taken advantage of?

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                • Substitute white for “star bellied sneetches” if you like, the summary is exactly the same. The most generous possible interpretation of that reasoning is that independent of the program’s costs and benefits, people don’t like it because they don’t like to see support going to the other.

                  Which, again, I agree with. I just think it’s a confession rather than a good reason for failure.

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                  • The most generous possible interpretation of that reasoning is that independent of the program’s costs and benefits, people don’t like it because they don’t like to see support going to the other.

                    That’s half of it. The other half is still “multiple cultures implies you can have different reactions to the same policies.”

                    Granted the reasoning is intuitive rather than logical, but the larger problem is whether or not this line of reasoning is actually correct. “Low Trust” doesn’t mean “Wrong”.

                    Maybe it’s actually a bad idea to offer “social safety net” policies which pay people more than someone’s economic prospects, and to offer “unwed child benefits” to groups that put lower levels of social pressure on getting married.

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          • “…white people don’t like the idea of support going to non-white people.”

            First, not sure our safety nets and bottom tier living standards are all that bad.* Our longer term poor (which is a tiny percent of the poor) are doing quite nicely when considering all the billions in programs, EITC, and off market activity. I am pro safety nets, but I am strongly opposed to iatrogenic institutions which foster the very behavior they propose to mitigate. Intergenerational single parenthood and career disability for young men is a national disgrace, and easily remedied, leaving more to the deserving poor.

            Second, it’s probably best not to try to make arguments by implying the racism of those with opposing views. There are great reasons to question the efficiency and effectiveness and benefits of some of our safety nets which don’t require negative assessments of the opponents’ motives.

            * average consumption standards are so much higher in the US (around 50% higher than Europe, or specifically Swedens) , it is unlikely the lifetime median earnings of a person born poor in the US would be less than impressive, especially when considering that most born in the lower quintiles quickly move into higher.

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            • Second, it’s probably best not to try to make arguments by implying the racism of those with opposing views. There are great reasons to question the efficiency and effectiveness and benefits of some of our safety nets which don’t require negative assessments of the opponents’ motives.

              That’s not what I’m doing. I’m just noting that, “Those other countries are racially / culturally homogeneous” as an explanation for greater (perceived or real) effectiveness/generosity of their safety nets boils down to one of two claims:

              1) White people can be trusted with social welfare and nonwhites make it impossible to have nice things.

              or

              2) White people are happy to give other white people benefits but they don’t trust nonwhites not to live on the dole.

              I don’t find either of those to be particularly compelling, but if one is likely to be true, it’s #2. If there’s a third way of reading that oft-repeated argument that makes more sense, I’m interested in hearing it.

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      • Well, I’m not sure why low population is relevant…

        If your country has some unique fiscal resource (oil, minerals, ports, the financial sector) and you’re depending on that bounty to end inequality, then it helps a LOT if your population is low. If your population is high then you have to tax one set of people to give their money to another set.

        As for being monocultural and having fewer minorities, it’s not clear how any of that would actually make a robust safety net cheaper.

        Assume everyone in the country has a college education and a “tiger mom”. The safety net’s use is rare and random. You can set the amount of money given out really high and it will still be lower than their earning potential. You can also rely on their cultural work ethic and expect they’ll not be on it long without darn good reason.

        Now assume no one in the country has a college education (so their earning potential is lower but still uniform), and there aren’t cultural forces which force people off the dole. We can still put together a decent safety net, it will just hand out less money and make different assumptions on behavior.

        Now mix those two groups. The safety net from the first group may be higher than the second’s earning potential, so the second group is actually better off if they go on the dole and stay on it. What would be a good safety net for the first group is funding dysfunctional behavior for the second.

        There will also be other behavioral incentives which are badly set for one group but not the other. Numbers matter a lot on this issue. If the second group is a tiny minority (or if the bounty of money being harvested is absurdly large) then many issues can be hand waved.

        I’d be interested to see how much mineral wealth Sweden, say, has compared to the US, which is not exactly bereft of lucrative extractive industries.

        Sweden is described as an “export-oriented economy aided by timber, hydropower, and iron ore” whereas the US is described as a “mixed” economy. (wiki)

        The US has great mineral wealth but, measured as a percentage of the economy, nothing dominates. We don’t have a “windfall” industry which can be used to pay for massive social programs. Part of that is because we have lots of people, part of that is we’re really rich in general.

        Norway has oil (20%+ of economy). Switzerland has it’s banks. Denmark… also has oil but I couldn’t figure out how significant that was.

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    • “The “best” countries (norway, switzerland, sweden, finland, denmark) from that list all have low populations, are monocultural, mostly don’t have minorities, and pay a lot of attention to inequality. That last is mostly funded by having lots of mineral (or whatever) wealth relative to their population.”

      Riffing on your setting “best” in quotes, I would have to add-on that she failed to make any serious argument that this fuzzy democracy index is synonymous with “best.” I could also argue for things like median standards of living adjusted for PPP, economic dynamism and other measures where the US is clearly in the lead (not that anything Trump is doing would help).

      The US is the dynamic leader in entrepreurial and technological creativity and investment. The US is the lead economy which less dynamic cultures, with lower skill and risk payoffs, draft upon. Said another way, the US not only funds our safety nets, it takes the economic (and military) lead which enables the “cuddlier capitalist” states to free ride on. Someone has to support the dynamic, risk taking, entrepreneurial activity of the world.

      “That answers the issues of “how do they pay for their socialism” and “why doesn’t it cost them a lot more”. I suspect we don’t have the money to properly deal with inequality the way low-population high-resource low-multicultural countries do.”

      I think you are underselling the extent of safety nets in the US. most of the true poor here have health care, they have larger houses than the median European, they are well fed, and they spend between two and two and a half times more on consumption than the official source list that they supposedly make.

      I am not saying our poor are better off than the poor of Luxembourg. Honestly I don’t really know. But there are not many places on earth where one is better off being born poor than in the US. Forty million immigrants seem to agree. Even if the other countries pay a higher percent to transfer programs, it is a higher percent of a lower number, not necessarily a lower absolute number.

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  2. There are obviously better uses for American money than a border wall that won’t work. Even if your a type that wants to get touch on immigration, there are better ways to get tough on immigration than a border a wall like getting rid of cash and converting to an entirely electronic currency. The border wall has advantages of being a big showy project that can lead to a lot of graft though. Thats important to Trump.

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  3. I don’t understand this post. Mexico’s going to pay for the wall. For the record, tho, I totally agree there are better ways to spend Mexico’s money than on a border wall.

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  4. I completely understand your frustration and revulsion at the Trump administration, I share it too though I at least have the benefit of not having it happen to my country. That said, I do take issue with some of your policy ideas.

    1) It’s true that a government-funded system would be more efficient than what you have now. But then, practically anything would be more efficient than what you have now. A well-crafted policy intervention uses the strengths of the market and government together to produce a result that outperforms either. The market is an extremely powerful problem-solving engine, but only does things that there is profit in doing. Governments, by contrast, are slow-moving, inconsistent and have very poor learning systems. But, through taxation, can resource things the market won’t touch. Basically, the market steers but government delivers the power.

    Your healthcare system works the other way around – the funding of healthcare for the poor is fobbed off onto insurance companies, who are understandably unwilling to act as welfare agencies. Meanwhile government so heavily wraps the insurance companies in mandates, the market is utterly incapable of performing its problem-solving role.

    2) I can’t help but feel your reason to DeVos is a little exaggerated. Charter schools do not represent the death of a right to education. Even if public schools were totally privatised and all education funding replaced with vouchers, this would just be single-payer education – the exact same solution you are calling for for health.

    3) Are you sure you want the government to have total control over political speech? Leaving aside the blatant First Amendment violation, given how your legislators abuse their power over electoral boundaries, I don’t see how giving a federal agency the power to decide who can say what about politicians ends up going anywhere good. And what about the pro-incumbency effects? Now are any new ideas supposed to challenge the existing political parties when they have total control over campaign funding?

    4) I do agree with you with the wall, its a pointless symbolic gesture and one that will do little good for those who voted for Trump.

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    • Ceteris paribus, I’d prefer a more market-oriented, multi-payer system, too, but the nature of the US administrative state would means the ceteris are not remotely paribus, and the additional complexity and weight of a regulation necessary to keep such a system working smoothly makes it much more vulnerable to a malicious Executive Branch. Like the one we have now.

      As for single payer systems, the extant ones really do perform OK. They fix prices, but all the other UHC systems I’m aware of also have a government agency setting reimbursement rates, including market-oriented ones like Switzerland and Singapore.

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    • Nicely done.

      This is an interesting observation:
      Even if public schools were totally privatised and all education funding replaced with vouchers, this would just be single-payer education – the exact same solution you are calling for for health.

      Two ways to play it:
      1. Re-brand Charter as single-payer Obama-Ed and see how the other side fumes.
      2. Embrace single payer and make a grand bargain… Single payer Ed and Health. I’d make that deal from the right.

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      • I would be somewhat open to the idea of “single payer” schools if it came with the same standardized level of service and centralized price-setting that you see in a single-payer healthcare system. Or really any UHC system.

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        • Yeah, and that’s where we’d probably start pointing fingers and banging shoes on tables in disagreement.

          Setting the regulatory thresholds of what constitutes a “School” and what constitutes “Healthcare” are part of the fight, er debate. Personally I’d push for liberal definitions of both… but maybe not Liberal definitions.

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  5. I agree with you on substance but I always find these essays rather confusing. Yes this is a horrible waste of money but it is also clear to me that lots of Americans want the wall and are not keen on spending the money you want and I want to spend on.

    They might not be a majority but they are not a small minority either.

    I believe in liberalism but not one that thinks it can kindergarten away the darker parts of human nature. Politics is always a fight yet it seems like the goal of so much of the left is for a post politics world.

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    • Nearly every religion or political ideology needs to believe deep down that everybody believes the exact same things you do because otherwise that might mean a series of messy compromises or continual blood-drenched conflict in politics and life. Its hard to build the social justice utopia or a religious theocracy when you have hundreds of millions or billions of people that believe otherwise. That being said, there is something more annoying that everybody deep down is what I call a “secret Disney liberal” is somehow more annoying than everybody deep down is an Evangelical Protestant or Fundamentalist Muslim. Maybe because I suspect liberals to know better.

      An interesting things is that you sometimes get everybody is a “secret Disney liberal” and “our political enemies are deplorable monsters” from the same people and in the same essay. Both can’t be true. For “our political enemies to be deplorable monsters” some of them must really and truly believe in their ideology.

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      • I would suspect that your preferring liberals is a chicken/egg thing. I would also suspect that conservatives feel roughly the same re: conservatives. For the same reason/s.

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      • For “our political enemies to be deplorable monsters” some of them must really and truly believe in their ideology.

        In many cases all that’s required for the claim “our political enemies are deplorable monsters” to be true is that those people don’t believe in/agree with the speaker’s own ideology.

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        • True that. Remembering that our political enemies are human to is extraordinarily tough for many people. What I was remarking on though is the ability for people to think that both everybody deep down really agrees with me and that my political enemies are deplorable monsters at the same time.

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          • No, you see, they’re particularly deplorable monsters because deep down they know you’re right but persist in opposing you for reasons that are obviously corrupt.

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          • What I was remarking on though is the ability for people to think that both everybody deep down really agrees with me and that my political enemies are deplorable monsters at the same time.

            I came to my ideas by clear thinking and intelligent thought (and by never talking with anyone outside my bubble), and these solutions/policies are clearly the only workable ones.

            The other side’s people are intelligent, so they MUST understand this.

            If they oppose me, it can only be for crass political reasons. They understand that opposing me will get people killed, but they’re doing that anyway for their own selfish benefit.

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    • If I had to come up with a list of stupid policies to support as a concession to the other side, I’d put wasting money on a border wall up toward the top. Aside from being a bad use of resources and kind of embarrassing, it’s pretty much a nothingburger, and they seem to want it so much.

      That being said, I would like to see the “Mexico will pay for it” part front and center in all of this. How’s that going?

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      • If I had to come up with a list of stupid policies to support as a concession to the other side, I’d put wasting money on a border wall up toward the top.

        That’s a good point. The problem is that almost all congressional GOPers *also* realize The Wall is a stoopid waste of money, which diminishes the role it can play in legislative bargaining.

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            • The Wall seemed to work best in the Rust Belt, where there…aren’t a lot of immigrants.

              But there are a lot of lost factory jobs and a hollowed out middle class.

              And the truth about those jobs is unpleasant, so they’d much rather hear Mexicans are stealing their jobs and a Wall will stop them then….those jobs have been replaced by robots, and the ones that haven’t have already moved through like five different countries by now and will only come back because America’s better at maintaining robots…

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              • Right. I think most Rust Belters who support building the wall don’t really believe it will increase their wages, or help bring back jobs. I think it’s largely symbolic even on their terms. It’s like planting a flag on the King’s land, and saying “this is our land and we’ll defend it against all challengers!” More of a clanish thing than anything. And I don’t think it’s primarily racist, tho racists surely will find the idea appealing. I think it’s more about rallying behind a symbol which puts White American’s interests front and center in the policy debate. A form of reclaiming what they view as lost terrain or moving the center-of-political-gravity back in their direction. Either way, it strikes me as a purely political symbol that needs to be realized – by building it – only to solidify the commitments the symbol contains and at the end of the day has very little to do with keeping out Mexicans.

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                • The last few months have made me decide America is a heck of a lot more racist than I had thought. And I wasn’t terribly optimistic in the first place.

                  And I suspect it will get worse before it gets better.

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                • And I don’t think it’s primarily racist, tho racists surely will find the idea appealing. I think it’s more about rallying behind a symbol which puts White American’s interests front and center in the policy debate.

                  These two sentences appear to completely contradict one another.

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                  • These two sentences appear to completely contradict one another.

                    Do you consider BLM to be racist? Affirmative Action? Any policy which puts minority interests first?

                    If the answer is “no”, then you shouldn’t have a problem with the “White” equiv of those.

                    And it’s probably better if we don’t consider all “Whites” to be from the same culture and the same social-economic group. Trump won because he identified an underserved group and paid attention to them. That others who share their skin color are doing really well doesn’t change that they think they’re not.

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                    • If the answer is “no”, then you shouldn’t have a problem with the “White” equiv of those.

                      Why not?

                      And it’s probably better if we don’t consider all “Whites” to be from the same culture and the same social-economic group.

                      Indeed. This suggests that there’s a serious problem with your analogy IMO.

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                  • These two sentences appear to completely contradict one another.

                    I’m not sure I understand. Is the reasoning that if you’re pro-X you’re not only necessarily anti-Y, but motivated by anti-Y sentiment? If so I think that begs the question, doesn’t it? Sorta along the lines that Dark suggested?

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                    • No, that’s not the reasoning.

                      I think there’s a ton of asymmetry in racial categories, and the idea of advancing the specific interests of white people as almost always racist in one way or another (the mythology underpinning racism is complex enough that it doesn’t boil down to one thing). Nor is racism necessarily a simple matter of anti-Y sentiment, though that’s a bit of side issue.

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                        • Oh, because one of the most important underpinnings of racism in the US is the belief that white people need protection and have distinct interests that are routinely ignored or stymied. My understanding is that, historically, it’s actually more important than outright animus against other racial groups (who were often described in paternalistic terms, say), and in more extreme forms it’s fundamental to contemporary white nationalist rhetoric.

                          Still, in retrospect, describing those two sentences as “completely contradictory” was an overstatement. I do think there’s a fair amount of tension between them, though.

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                          • Oh I agree there’s a fair amount of tension between the two statements I made because there are, in fact, a lot of racists included in group I referred to. I concede that.

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                      • Ie., is it the “asymmetry in racial categories”?

                        If that’s correct, we’re in “woke” reasoning land where not being sufficiently pro-Y means you’re consciously anti-Y and we’re back to the same problem.

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                        • I’m not sure which comment you meant to reply to here.

                          I don’t think it’s a matter of being “insufficiently pro-Y”, nor do I think that being racist is best described as a matter of being “consciously anti-Y”.

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                      • I think there’s a ton of asymmetry in racial categories…

                        …the idea of advancing the specific interests of white people as almost always racist…

                        (Let’s put on someone else’s point of view for the rest of this post)

                        I’m a generic stereotypical Trump voter, I work hard, I’m white, I’m seriously struggling and haven’t seen much economic progress in my neck of the woods in the last 20 years.

                        From my point of view, That is my “racial category”. Everyone I know is more or less like me. There are few, if any, blacks around but if there are, then they’re like me too. I voted for Obama, he was something of a disappointment but he didn’t crash the economy like Bush so whatever.

                        When people claim my “racial category” has done well what they’re really talking about are the elites on the coasts who have done well. Most Blacks that I know of are famous elites. Obama, Oprah, various singers, actors, and other elites. They’re doing way better than me and everyone I know.

                        Affirmative Action is about helping them because of the color of their skin and not me in spite of the lack of color in my wallet. It’s basically a scam where elites help other elites. Various other “racial” policies are boondoggles designed to funnel money to poor blacks in exchange for their votes to keep elites like HRC in power.

                        And it’s “racist” for me to ask, “what about me and others like me?”

                        It’s pretty clear that elites have set up the game so guys like me basically can’t win, and can’t even question the rules without announcing “I’m a racist scumbag”, and that in spite of voting for Obama.

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                        • Sure, let’s roll with this.

                          I’m a generic stereotypical Trump voter, I work hard, I’m white, I’m seriously struggling and haven’t seen much economic progress in my neck of the woods in the last 20 years.

                          From my point of view, That is my “racial category”.

                          There seems to be a pretty obvious difference between, say, working class people hit hard by deindustrialization and “white people”. Hell, your hypothetical white working class person who has been hit hard by deindustrialization seems to be aware of this himself:

                          There are few, if any, blacks around but if there are, then they’re like me too.

                          So I’ll stipulate voting for Trump because you were disappointed in Obama or you think that, regardless of race, you personally, or your family, or your town has been hit hard and Trump will fix do better: not racist. Awful idea, but not racist.

                          That’s different from voting for Trump specifically to benefit white people. The fact that such a desire is rooted in a bunch of weird and wrong ideas doesn’t really change this. Racism is usually rooted in a bunch of weird and wrong ideas.

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                          • There seems to be a pretty obvious difference between, say, working class people hit hard by deindustrialization and “white people”.

                            And who is going to point out this difference? Accusations of racism is a club to be used when it’s politically useful (like during a Presidential election)… and that’s if the media even knows the difference which seems doubtful.

                            Further I doubt my stereotype guy himself knows the difference between “working class people hit hard by deindustrialization” and “white people”. What he knows is he, an Obama voter, is supposedly a racist for not voting for whatever elite the Dems put up, even if she’s running on policies which clearly aren’t designed to help him but he’ll have to pay for, and if that’s the definition of “racism” then he doesn’t care.

                            That’s different from voting for Trump specifically to benefit white people.

                            If I’m black and I voted for Obama specifically to benefit black people, does that make me racist?

                            For these rules to make any sense, it has to be that only whites can be racist, because of their power. Except we’re talking about a group of whites who uniformly don’t have power and are being ignored/hurt by the government. So all the current reasons why Blacks can’t be racist also apply to them.

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        • Take a two-lane concrete road, flip it up on its side, and you have a wall. The wall doesn’t have to be as structurally sound as a highway because it doesn’t have heavy trucks running over it day in and day out, and it doesn’t have to be extremely smooth and level. The US has built not just a thousand miles of concrete road, but 158,000 miles of concrete roadway, along with about 2.5 million miles of other paved roads.

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          • Take a two-lane concrete road, flip it up on its side, and you have a wall.

            Ahh. So when Trump said Mexico is going to pay for the wall he just meant they’ll pay for digging up a bunch of our roads and trucking them to southern Arizona.

            When you explain it like that it doesn’t seem nearly so crazy.

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    • Two days ago the House approved $10 billion for wall construction. The estimated cost of the whole length is $20 billion. Yesterday they were showing competing prototype construction near San Diego.

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  6. We already take various benefits of citizenhood for granted, including paved roads, first responders, the postal service,

    The following countries in the top 15 have privatized postal services – The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Austria, and The UK. Both France and Canada have been on the verge of doing so, but haven’t gone all the way yet Sweden and Denmark merged their systems into a supranational combined entity.

    (the government being in the business of paving the roads is why we have climate change)

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    • (the government being in the business of paving the roads is why we have climate change)

      That line took me back to my childhood stomping grounds; Nova Scotia, Canada. When I was a teen there was a politician running for a seat in the state legislature who made a promise to the people in my locale: if he were to be elected the Mosher Road would be paved. Now the Mosher Road was one of those long winding hilly Nova Scotian roads that eats tires and suspension for breakfast. Worse it was one of those round about routes that exist to give access to old homes and access ways when, in more modern times, other more direct and congenial roads had been made that were paved so it was lightly used. In any event the politician was duly elected and the wily old crook went and fulfilled his promise: he changed the name one of those newer more modern (and already paved) roads from “Route 10” to “the Mosher Road” and lo and behold the Mosher Road was paved!

      I bring this up because Kolohe’s comment made me think of it and because I anticipate that Trump’s wall will be executed in much the same way that the Mosher Road was paved. Also because recounting the story makes me sound like Grandpa Simpson.

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      • From what I saw, the paving projects eventually did make their way through everywhere, because it gives people jobs and connects the Halifax (and New England/New York) folks to their beach homes.

        My grandmother grew up and eventually moved back to (for the summers) Rose Bay. My parents said that the road to lower Rose Bay was paved in the 70s, and I myself saw the roads immediately around Hirtles and Kingsburg paved in the 90s and 00s. I also have seen on google street view in the past few years that Indian Path Road (which I remember them just calling and labeling Indian Path) is finally paved, which to me really seems like the end of an era.

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        • Oh yes, everywhere within an hour of the coast is paved. But Mosher Road as I recall is in Lunenburg county quite far inland in the New Germany-Barss Corner area almost out to the Roaring Fourties and nobody cares about stuff in deep inland Nova Scotia.

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          • Still not paved, in fact (I just did some research and found home listings with “at end of pavement, bear right”). Plenty of unpaved roads left in PEI too, even in the places that are less than an hour from the coast. (Hard to be MORE than an hour from the coast in PEI!)

            Those kind of stories are oh so very familiar to me – in PEI they get passed down as oral history :D. Thanks for the story!

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            • Yeah PEI has, I presume, an entirely different dynamic with wealthy home buyers interested in coastal real estate.

              Thank you for researching that for me Maribou. Yeah the Maritimes have a political culture all of their own (read: crooked as a dogs hind leg).

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              • The only highly similiar political culture I’ve ever come across is Japanese rural culture as described in some village ethnographies from the 70s/80s.

                This led to some confusion in the history class where we were reading them, “Why does all of this seem intuitive to Maribou while we are all exclaiming at how fished up it is???” ‘Cause it was *my* kind of fished up, that’s why :D.

                One of the stories in one of those ethnographies literally involved partially paving a road to nowhere…. I can only imagine the befuzzlement of my fellow students if they’d instead just changed the names to achieve a similar effect :D.

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      • Mosher Road made me giggle a bit too hard because the idea of a municipality naming a road after moshing is really funny. Yes, I realize that was probably named after somebody named Mosher but still. It really should be named after moshers. If Washington State could retroactively decide that Kings County is now named after MLK rather than some Confederate than the good people of Nova Scotia can decide that Mosher Road is named after moshers.

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        • As my Father told the story he was. The people who lived on what is now called the Old Mosher Road have been die hard Grits ever since but everyone else in the county just heard that the Mosher Road is paved and wrote it off as a promise kept.

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  7. Other than the definition and measurement of greatness and socialism, the significance of an actual wall, and the sub-sections on equality, health care, education and democracy, I agree.

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  8. From The Hill:

    The country’s top immigration cop said Friday his agents “will have no choice” but to conduct workplace and neighborhood immigration raids in light of California’s new sanctuary law.

    [snip]

    “ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at work sites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community,” Homan warned.

    Looks like the California legislature shot themselves in the foot again. Minorities hardest hit.

    From one of the comments on the article:

    [Hungarian] Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Chief Security Advisor, György Bakondi, announced that the fences have caused illegal immigration to collapse from 391,000 in 2015, to 18,236 in 2016, to just 1,184 in 2017.

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    • From Fox News: The poll finds a record-high 83 percent of voters support setting up a system for all illegal immigrants who are currently working in the country to become legal residents, up nine points since last year. Just 14 percent say “deport as many as possible,” down from a high of 30 percent in July 2015. … Moreover, 63 percent of Trump voters favor granting Dreamers citizenship.

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      • We already have such a system. It’s called legal immigration. It takes a while.

        The question is what to do about those who are here illegally. It looks like California is going with the “deport them all” option, even though Trump was focused on deporting ones who are committing additional crimes.

        Once the wall is built we’ll have a lot more flexibility because our actions won’t cause a flood of new entries. As it is, I would say that illegals who own significant property could stay because they’ve invested into the system. Illegals who bring me free chips and salsa can also stay because that’s a nice thing to do. It’s hard to even get a wife who consistently does that.

        .

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        • George,

          I strongly — very strongly — support a liberal legal immigration policy. I support millions of law abiding people with skills and work ethic coming annually to the US for a job from a diverse range of countries.

          What I do not support is millions of illegal immigrants and partial enforcement. It totally undermines the rule of law. I also do not in any way support unlimited free migration. I believe it would thoroughly destroy the culture and institutions which are attracting immigrants in the first place.

          Not sure how much more of a wall we need, the populated areas around where I have lived (San Diego and Texas) already have extensive walls (or a river) and border control. Oddly, the link the author of this article connects shows that just talking about actually enforcing the laws has substantially reduced the illegal flow. Good start.

          Personally, too much of what this author writes reeks of partisan political tribalism. I detest political propaganda as it is resistant to any discussion or logic as it is not intended to illuminate.

          But on the topic, I am a huge fan of a large, well coordinated legal immigration and work plan combined with no tolerance whatsoever with future illegal immigration.

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          • Not sure if you’re relatively new around these parts, but we do ask and expect that commenters will be respectful to other commenters, but particularly to the authors of posts.

            “Personally, too much of what this author writes reeks of partisan political tribalism.” crosses that line. It doesn’t have to be a direct personal insult to still be a personal insult, and there’s no question that this is one.

            Statements like this will in future almost certainly be redacted and they may quite likely result in suspensions.

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            • This is probably coming up on soon my second decade here, but I no longer comment and haven’t for years. I will try to behave, and thanks for your note. One reason I left was MA and Blaise insulting everybody with every comment. Glad to see it policed now.

              It is textbook political partisanship though imo. By this, I mean there is no point in addressing it with her, as it doesn’t read to me as the opinion of a person who is open to a good discussion on the factual or normative pros and cons of any of the issues she touches on. Yeah, paying taxes is socialism… whatever.

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              • If there’s no point (in your view) in addressing it with her, there is also no point in addressing it sideways by complaining about her, either. I have zero problems with the rest of your original comment from a moderating standpoint, but try to give the authors a break (even when you think it’s pointless to do so). Engage with them intensely, disagree with them all you want, but just try not to critique their writing quality / insult them / complain about them / mock them.

                I’m very invested in making sure the authors we have (whose pieces you can assume we value pretty much by virtue of us being willing to run / feature them) feel like they aren’t going to get sniped at unnecessarily. Since they’re writing for free, offering them interesting comment sections where no one will complain about their writing (even if they disagree most heartily with their arguments) is one of the few things we have to offer them that makes us more appealing than other venues!

                I realize fussing at you about something like this is probably rather a shock compared to the MA/Blaise comments I can remember, so no hard feelings going forward, and I hope you’ll continue to stick around.

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          • Oddly, the link the author of this article connects shows that just talking about actually enforcing the laws has substantially reduced the illegal flow.

            Deportation-rate’s are lower under Trump than they were under Obama. So if it’s true that flows are lower now than before, which I’ll assume for sake of argument, it isn’t caused by enforcing the law.

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            • Exactly. It is caused by projecting the desire or intention to enforce the law. Certainly you support either changing or enforcing the law, right? (I prefer changing it, but regardless, it is imperative we enforce what we have.)

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