Political Shutdown Games

I am not normally political. This post will be an exception because I am an American and I am concerned.

Please allow me to frame the issues involved with “the wall” in its actual terms. Despite what the media is saying, this is not about Democrat vs. Republican. In short, the executive branch of our government is threatening to declare a national emergency since the legislative branch will not authorize the seizure of private American property for a federal works project nor will fund it. The executive branch has already shut down the federal government. It is currently threatening to extend this government shut down for however long it takes for the legislative branch to cave.

Let us break this down. 

First of all, the framework of our government is based on checks and balances. Power is divided into three branches: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. The Legislative branch controls the purse strings of government and creates laws. The Executive branch carries out those laws. The Judicial branch tells us whether the laws are constitutional or not. Each branch was designed to be able to balance the other branches.

Why? As shown by our original rebellion, Americans didn’t want a King or a Dictator when we were setting up our government. We were not particularly thrilled with a House of Lords telling us what we could or could not do either.

In this case, the executive branch wants to:
(1) take governmental cash; 
(2) create its own law; 
(3) take away private property from American citizens; 
(4) create its own federal works project. 

At least three of these functions fall within the power/ responsibility of the legislative branch. So, what is the problem? This is one of the most naked power grabs by the executive branch over the others in recent history. Once that power is exercised, it is going to be difficult or impossible to regain any balance again. The executive branch was never meant to have that much power (see our country’s previous concerns about Kings and Dictators). Is this constitutional? Very doubtful. Should all Americans be concerned? That is a question for you to answer yourself. 

Second, a “National Emergency” is generally declared under these general conditions: 
(1) Natural disasters including hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes to name a few; 
(2) Public health emergencies such as significant outbreaks of infectious diseases;
(3) Military attacks; 
(4) Civil insurrection;
(5) Any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy.

Now the first 4 aren’t applicable. The last category was meant to be short-term only. It was designed to be reviewed by the legislative branch every year after it’s enacted (because again; the check and balance is fundamental to how we operate).

So, what is the problem here? If national emergencies can be declared by the executive branch for non-emergency purposes which vest power in one branch of the government why would that branch ever let go of that power again?

Third, the seizure of private property (known as “eminent domain”, a body of law which says the government cannot just take your home without due process). You are joking, right? No. The US/Mexican border is 1,933 miles long. It runs through 4 states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). Only 33% of that land is actually owned or managed by the Federal Government. A sizable percentage of that land is owned by the Indian nations. It is land preserved for those tribes by treaty and land given under treaty is not land owned by the United States. These tribes already have a lot of reasons to be angry at the Federal Government. This would be pouring additional gas on an open flame.

The other 64% of that land is privately owned. 

How much land would have to be taken? The amount of land that the Federal Government would have to take would likely run 1,237 miles long to 12,371 miles deep (assuming a 1 to 10-mile DMZ from the border into the United States). Even if we could only take 100 to 500 ft of land in densely populated areas, that is a lot of private property that is going to be seized by the Federal government. 

The land necessary for this project would also run through some highly populated areas in the US such as San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo. There will be a lot of Americans who are going to have their homes and businesses taken by the federal government. Which will also mean a lot of lawsuits.

In terms of the federal works project, these types of works include hospitals, bridges, highways, walls and dams. These projects may be funded by local, state, or federal appropriations. If they are federal, they are funded by the legislative branch of our government (the same branch that our executive branch is currently trying to take power from). Is the seizure of power constitutional? Not likely given the separation of powers discussed above.

Finally, these considerations do not take into account the sheer cost, human and monetary, that will be involved. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the current cost at $21 billion for construction alone (not counting costs of maintenance or costs associated with increased military/federal patrolling). 

Ask yourself a simple question. When was the last time that you saw a governmental project brought in under time and under budget? Does anyone remember the “big dig” in Boston, Mass? The actual costs are likely to be much higher. This estimated cost also does not include compensating folks for taking their land or the associated impact upon their businesses. 

The Federal budget deficit grew to $779 billion dollars in 2018 according to the Treasury Department. How are we, as a country, going to fund this project? How are we, as a country, going to deal with the additional debt? Unlike private businesses, our country cannot declare bankruptcy. 

This is not about Democrat vs. Republican. It is not about who has the best zingers measured in 10 second sound bites. It is about our country. The core of this issue deals with the profound and immense changes the outcome will have on the structure of our nation. This is the way that we, as a country, should be framing these issues. Please think about it.

The Wall Won’t Work

I am aware that the United States is a nation of immigrants. I have been trying to wrap my head around the immigration problem and why it is so politicized. The Pew Research Center says that there were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. President Trump has made claims that our illegal immigrant problem has cost the United States $113 billion annually. Some U.S. based research groups from both the left and right conclude that illegal immigration impacts nearly $2.5 billion in the fraudulent use of Medicaid and potentially $9 billion in unpaid hospital visits or uninsured medical claims. Of course, these are estimates, and each side of the political coin will have differing opinions and data interpretations.

 

An issue that I was unaware of is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) better known as food stamp programs. An illegal immigrant is ineligible for the SNAP program. However, if an illegal immigrant has an American-born child or children, then the child qualifies and any supporting parent or parents. This is where the law has much gray area. The child cannot be deported because he/she is an American born citizen. Social Services are reluctant, and rightfully so, to report illegal visitors because it would burden an already full child foster program. Next the American child, under federal law, immediately qualifies for Medicaid and the illegal parents can get an emergency waiver if they are in a capacity to support the child. Granted, all the bills are paid but at what cost. I think this is where the political right may have a compelling argument, based on that information, where illegal immigrants are impacting our economy.

 

The flip side to this discussion is that illegal immigrants do spend a lot of money in this country. Illegal immigrants, despite being taken advantage of financially, will work in jobs that many Americans won’t work or apply for. I can remember a time where construction sites were heavily dominated by American workers usually high school dropouts, perhaps a few nicks on the criminal record or those that enjoyed building in general. Fast forward today, and nearly every construction contract and employment site seem Latino. Why? Are American construction companies exclusively seeking Latinos or are Americans declining that type of work? The same story and observations can be at just about any business today. Has the landscape of America changed so rapidly that legal immigrants are being identified as illegal? There seems to be an argument that this is the case.

 

In all honesty, a wall on the American-Mexican border is not going to stop illegal immigration. What could change is how the United States current birthing policy may need a refresh. Another suggestion is to halt companies from paying under the table or skirting illegal hiring practices. We could learn valuable lessons from our allies overseas that deal with illegal immigration and businesses that hire them. The penalties are harsh and send a powerful message to play by the rules and pay their fair share.

What Will a Trump Presidency Look Like?

It has been a few weeks since Trump was elected President of the United States. Naturally being a registered democrat I would have liked to have seen Hillary win, but it didn’t happen. But what draws me to a bit of disappointment in my own party is how Democrats overall have handled the post-election situation. Let’s face it, Donald Trump will be an unconventional president. Sure, Trump ranted during the election cycle about what he would and wouldn’t do only to change his mind like the wind. But to be candid nearly all past political winners did the same thing – but perhaps a bit more diplomatic.

I think it is safe to say that many Americans are growing tired of the politically correct atmosphere of this nation. I admit that I do enjoy the rare benefit of civility and speaking well of my neighbors even during opposition. However, the division in our country is so toxic that civility and respect for one another are no longer swept under the rug. Instead, it is shoved out the door! I have always supported a free press. What I do not support is a free press that interprets issues as if they are facts. I am beginning to see the free press somewhat morph into a level of hysteria and a quasi-form of a branch of government. Funny that the same press that wanted to hang and convict Edward Snowden is somewhat embracing the Snowden effect. Put it this way, with the election of Trump newspapers and the media may see an increase in revenues because of the entertainment value of how this administration will operate in unconventional methods.

Will Trump drain the swamp? Effectively, no. Trump is a businessman, and if you ever watched his reality TV show, you will know he seeks experience while enduring pressure. If that doesn’t seek in then, start watching Gordon Ramsey Hell’s Kitchen to better understand that concept. There will always be large fish in the water that keeps the swamp filled with legendary tails and stories to last for quite some time.

Will Trump build a wall? Yes and no. The Berlin Wall style along Mexico won’t happen. A fence? Yes. But there will be a comprehensive deportation schedule assembled, to begin with, those charged with crimes that still remain in our jails and prisons. A problem Trump will have is a new crime wave of Cartels and criminals attempting to sneak across the border. Those Cartels and others will begin to build elaborate tunnel systems. It won’t matter about a wall. Our nation will be spending tons of money to sniff out tunnel systems.

Speaking of drain the swamp. Unconventional methods mean unique styles on both sides of the political isle. The general public enjoys popularity instead of stability. The populist style may be the death of not the republican party but the democratic party too. Trump snatched the typical Republican establishment just like Sanders somewhat did with the Democrats. They styles were from the hip and very populist in general. This is the future of our politics for now and perhaps on both sides of the political coin.

The media should stop slamming Trump about his Twitter account. Trump and Twitter keep Trump alive and controversial and scores trends always for Trump. He knows this and his staff knows this. It won’t change anything. Sure, it’s not presidential or diplomatic. But it is controversial and unconventional. Most of all it is popular. The only people that really get upset is the media – especially when Twitter is a media style application! The press should begin to use Twitter to change behaviors and own it. There is a big difference between Twitter and standing before the American people. Basically, the press has to become a bit controversial themselves without breaking the ethical standards or laws to keep up with this presidency.

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