Nel's New Day

February 21, 2019

Sue Hardesty: The Wall Continues 

In a poll taken since Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced that he was building a wall at the southern U.S. border because of a “national emergency,” polls indicate a disagreement from the people of the United States:

  • 61 percent do not approve of the “emergency.”
  • 58 percent believe an “emergency” does not exist.
  • 58 percent think that DDT misused his power by redirecting funds toward the wall.

Sue Hardesty shows from her FB writings that she’s in the majority of people not approving of an “emergency” and believing that there is no emergency and DDT misused his powers. A few pieces from the past month (lightly edited). She wrote these pieces after her first commentary on walls.

Did you know that for the year of 2015 the IRS reported 4.4 million workers (mostly undocumented immigrants) without a Social Security number paid $23.6 billion in income taxes? And that these same undocumented workers pay $7 billion each year into Social Security. The tragic thing is they are paying all these taxes for benefits they cannot even use like Medicare and Social Security. The reason they did file is that paying taxes leave a paper trail proving how long the immigrant has been in the U.S., one of the requirements toward becoming a citizen. The half of the undocumented workers who did not file still paid taxes which adds billions more every year. These workers are also doing critical jobs, especially in the food industry, that natural born whites refuse to do.

  *  *  *

Sorry. My political side is back. I received so many responses to my page on Trump’s wall that I decided to continue the debate. On crime committed by immigrants, I found that “the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. tripled between the 1990s and 2013, while violent crime declined 48% and property crime fell 41% over that period.” Recent research sources on immigration and crime concluded:

“There are two broad types of studies that investigate immigrant criminality. The first type uses Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data from the institutionalized population and broadly concludes that immigrants are less crime prone than the native-born population. It is important to note that immigrants convicted of crimes serve their sentences before being deported with few exceptions.”

Not only have immigrants committed less crime, there is an abundance of research that immigrants even bring the crime rate down. The second type of research at a macro level analysis generally found, “increased immigration does not increase crime and sometimes even causes crime rates to fall.”

I guess what breaks my heart are the asylum seekers caught in a war we likely caused and are only asking to live. Tell me we have room for them.

Another of Sue’s entries after she read about how private prison conglomerates take cash from immigrants seeking asylum:

I think the government should never hire outside contractors for any job having to do with taking care of any living thing because greed usually wins, especially when rich corporations such as GeoGroup and CoreCivic are involved. On the average, ICE pays around $62 dollars a day for each detainee, giving $38 million to CoreCivic alone last year. When it comes to corporations and the bottom profit line, anything is never enough. In addition to starving prisoners so that they have to work for as little as $1.00 a day, they are overcharged for anything they buy such as a can of tuna, paying four times what it cost outside. Or a dollar’s worth of Dove soap $2.44. Companies also take ten percent of money from inmates waiting for asylum for “fees.” One more nail of shame.

In response from one of Sue’s readers, an 11-minute video about the effect of the wall on Arizona’s Tohono o’odham, whose land is approximately the size of Connecticut [transcript included]. Full one-hour PBS presentation.

A comprehensive view of Arizona’s Tohono o’odham dilemma from the Smithsonian American Indian Magazine. 

Addenda from Nel:

DDT started the wall as a memory device to remind him to talk about his hatred for immigrants; now he says that his Space Patrol started as joke. “I was not really serious,” he said about his first mention. Now he has ordered the DOD to establish a new military branch for the purpose of fighting threats in space—which the Pentagon already does in a Space Command. DDT still needs congressional approval.

DDT demanded the wall because of his “gut feeling” that drugs don’t come through ports of entry. ICE disagreed because drug smuggling has turned to large truckloads—such as the 254 pounds of Fentanyl that Customs found a few weeks ago “under the rear floor of a tractor-trailer.” The discovery didn’t deter DDT’s claims, but facts disprove his false claims again. Yesterday, Customs announced the find of 906 pounds of meth hidden in a trailer with frozen strawberries. A wall would not have blocked either of these enormous drug shipments.

Last week, DDT said the wall wasn’t being built; this week he says the wall is being built—but it’s only a renovation of an existing wall approved in 2017. The video that he parades is almost two years old.

DDT said he would be sued over the wall, and he’s right.

  • A coalition of 16 states filed a federal lawsuit to block DDT’s building the wall without congressional permission.
  • The Sierra Club, the ACLU, and a coalition of environmental groups have filed suits in two other jurisdictions.
  • Three Texas landowners are suing to keep their land on the border from DDT’s wall. One of them said she had never seen undocumented immigrants crossing the border in 40 years.
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a suit seeking documents about DDT’s legal reasoning for declaring the emergency.
  • El Paso County has joined the Border Network for Human Rights to sue DDT in a lawsuit designed to prevent the wall. They argue that the emergency declaration damages the city’s reputation and economy.

Arguments against the constitutionality of DDT’s emergency include no emergency exists (DDT waited two years until he got a Democratic House), the Congress refused the money, apprehensions of undocumented immigrants are down, immigrants aren’t responsible for massive crimes, and drug trafficking won’t be blocked by a wall.

More opposition:

  • The House is preparing to vote on a bill opposing the “emergency.”
  • More than one-third of the money said he would take from other federal programs will probably be unavailable. DOD said only $85 million remains unspent in the $2.5 billion anti-drug funds that DDT targeted.
  • At least eight GOP senators and possibly more, openly oppose the emergency declaration and DDT’s taking money from military construction funds because military bases won’t get the renovation that they need.
  • Representatives are equally unhappy, even our Trumpist Greg Walden (R-OR).

For now, the law that gave DDT only $1.375 billion for a barrier that can’t be concrete has protected areas in the Rio Grande Valley:

  • The National Butterfly Center, an ecotourism destination.
  • Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, an international area for bird watching.
  • Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, exempted in last year’s budget.
  • La Lomita, an historic Catholic chapel that lost a court fight a week ago.
  • Area designated for the commercial spaceport for SpaceX, a space transportation company designed by Tesla founder Elon Musk.
  • Starr County, second-poorest county in Texas, permitted mandatory “mutual agreements” with DHS about barriers.

Losers are the 154-year-old Eli Jackson cemetery, an indigenous burial ground, and 600 owners of private land that can be taken by eminent domain. Every protection is gone if DDT’s “national emergency” succeeds.

DDT is increasing human trafficking by transferring money from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to ICE that focuses on low-level “coyotes” and finding law-abiding undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for decades. HSI investigations have dropped by other 50 percent because of less than half its former staff in DDT’s first full fiscal year. Although the number of people charged with “bringing in and harboring certain aliens rose statistically by 18 percent, DDT had lowered the standards for smuggling.

Taxpayers are paying $12,000 for DDT’s wall around his Florida golf course to block the press’s view. Last year, he put journalists in basements and covered windows with black plastic so that they couldn’t see his frequent golf games. Taxpayers have already given DDT $17,000 to build a wall at Mar-a-Lago.

June 20, 2015

Congress Struggles with Defense, TPP Bill

Conflicting headlines this past week show the confusion with the defense bill in the Senate. On Thursday, senators passed the $612 billion defense policy bill that would ban torture and authorize weapons for Ukraine. The 71-to-25 vote also tightened restrictions on resettling detainees in other countries, blocking President Obama from closing the Gitmo detention facility by requiring congressional approval. The bill included a $38 billion slush fund for war, the same fund that allowed George W. Bush to spend billions outside the budget for his wars and sidestepped the sequester law restricting expenditures. GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY), the only Republicans to vote against the bill, joined Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 22 Democrats to oppose the bill. President Obama said he would veto the bill because it violates the sequester law.

Immediately after this vote, the Senate rejected a measure to pay for the defense bill because it didn’t lift spending limits in other areas of the budget. The bill to fund the defense budget failed to overcome a filibuster, 45 to 50, with only the only positive Democratic vote from Indiana’s Sen. Joe Donnelly.

While the Senate was struggling with defense bill, the House passed the TPP fast-track for the second time, still trying to give the president the authority to close trade deals. Last week, the vote was 219-211, but the companion measure, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to help workers displaced by trade failed. This week the vote was the bare minimum of 218 to 208 with the promise the Republicans will support the TAA at some other time.

William Pitt described how the “trade adjustment” works. A worker for a software company gets a living wage and health benefits by doing customer assistance on the phone. The TPP can air-mail the job to the Pacific Rim because those workers get paid much less–$0.56 an hour in Vietnam, for example. All the other jobs have been sent across the ocean, too, leaving the jobless destitute. The “assistance” is the part that didn’t get passed although Republicans said they would get back to it—sometime. It’s a guarantee that TPP will kill jobs, and without the minimal “assistance” for “trade adjustment, ex-workers will have nothing instead of very little.

The GOP-dominated Senate requires two 60-vote majorities to pass the TPA (ability to fast-track the TPP without the bother of amendments or debate) and TAA separately before trying to connect them for return to the House. Representatives will have to vote on it and then provide reconciliation and another passing vote. The president has sworn that he won’t sign the fast-track without the money piece, but he may be desperate enough to get the TPP passed that he may change his mind.

Even legislators with good intentions have folded on their principles. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) passed out of committee an amendment to the TPP to bar Tier 3 nations, offenders of human trafficking, from being a part of the trade deal. The White House called the amendment a “deal breaker” because it wants Malaysia, and Menendez watered down his amendment to state that Tier 3 countries would have to make “concrete efforts” to stop human trafficking, also commonly known as slavery. President Obama is willing to accept slavery in order to get his trade deal.

On the same day last week that Congress slowed down the TPP by voting against the TAA, the House voted to overturn rules requiring country-of-origin labeling for meat. Support for the law came from a response to 1999 World Trade Organization rules while opposition declared that labeling the meat was “unfair” to foreign countries and worried about sanctions or lawsuits from countries sending meat into the United States. Overturning a labeling law would keep people from being informed consumers, supporting U.S. farmers, or knowing that their meat had been inspected.

The House struck down a law because they were afraid of international tribunals that adjudicate trade disputes. This Investor-State Dispute Settlement process is primarly controlled by corporations and their lawyers.  Trade agreements erase the ability to regulate commerce and finance which raises prices and guts laws for the common good.

Columnist David Brooks’ column about the harm from the defeat of the TPP needs fact-checking:

Claim: Damage the U.S. economy as evidenced by the growth in the nation’s manufacturing exports from earlier trade treaties. Fact: Lori Wallach reports that on NAFTA’s 20th anniversary, the U.S. has a $181 billion trade deficit with Mexico and Canada with a related loss of 1 million net U.S. jobs and over $360 million paid to corporations because of the “investor-state” tribunal attacks on, and rollbacks of, domestic public interest policies. The United States Department of Agriculture has projected that GDP gains from the TPP is approximately zero.

Claim: Stifle future innovation. Fact: Proposed TPP copyright provisions silence businesses, researchers, and artists while expensive cost of enforcement would impede new Internet-based start-ups. Excessive copyright terms prevent artists and creators from accessing, remixing, and recreating new works out of existing ones.

Claim: Imperil world peace. Fact: With the conservative enthusiasm and history in attacking the Middle East, and now considering an attack on Russia because of Ukraine, this statement smacks of hypocrisy. Brooks claims that the TPP protects the U.S. from being controlled by China, yet there’s nothing preventing China from joining the TPP and taking over because corporations are in control of it.

money capitol tppLegislators are making millions of dollars—200 of them, to be exact—from their votes in favor of TPP. The highest paid representative was House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who brought in $5.3 million for his yes vote; Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was second at $2.4 million, the same as Paul Ryan (R-WI). Fourth spot was $1.6 million for Pat Tiberi (R-OH), the same as Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who changed to nay and got only $282,710 for that vote. Other House members getting over $1 million for yes votes are Joe Crowley (D-NY), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Richard Neal (D-MA).

 

For representatives who voted against the TPP, TPP lobbyists—security brokers, investment companies, and bankers—paid over $23 million to oppose them..

Information about the TPP:

With no currency provisions, the TPP will not help U.S. economy. Companies like Walmart and GE benefit from an over-valued dollar, since it allows them to buy and/or produce goods cheaply abroad.

Trade agreement will not increase the number of jobs in the U.S., but it increases barriers in copyright protection for drugs and Hollywood media and raises prices for drugs and media content.

The ballooning trade deficit from trade agreements weighs down economic growth and wages. For example, the agreement with South Korea increased U.S. exports by $1 billion while increasing imports by $12 billion. It cost the United States 75,000 jobs.

The TPP is weaker than the 2007 deals with Peru, Panama, and Columbia.

The TPP allows corporations to sue sovereign governments–such as the United States–for monetary damages in what companies perceive as “expected future profits.”

Only corporations can sue governments; workers don’t have that right.

In seeking to “harmonize” regulations, trade agreements set a regulatory ceiling that will, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, said, “punch holes in Dodd-Frank without directly repealing it,” by forcing regulators to roll back capital or leverage requirements. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Congress, “Normally in a trade agreement, the pressure is to lower standards [on regulations] and that’s something that we just think is not acceptable.” President Obama may try to hold the line, but a future GOP president will definitely use trade deals to further undermine regulations.

Weak “rule of origin” guidelines allow China to import goods into TPP member countries without any tariffs, while freed from following any TPP regulations.

The TPP is a secret deal that most members of Congress have not gone to the effort to read. Even if they have, they are forbidden from telling anyone what is in the agreement.

President Obama’s claim that everyone opposing the TPP is just a “politician” overlooks the fact that the president, too, is a politician. The TPP gives nothing to the United States and erases progress, going so far as to replace parts of the constitution.

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