Compassion and Its Consequences

Compassion is an admirable quality, most of the time, but should always be administered with a commensurate amount of common sense and a careful calculation of the possible consequences. Otherwise, you wind up with something like the humanitarian crisis now unfolding on the southwest border of the United States.
A recent surge of illegal immigration in that region has left more than 47,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody since October, with another 60,000  expected to arrive within a year, and most are currently being held among thousands more adults of all sorts in overcrowded and under-supplied make-shift facilities in Texas and Arizona. The White House acknowledges this is a humanitarian crisis, calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take charge and asking Congress for $1.4 billion to pay for it, but insists that that it has nothing to do with the executive order issued in 2012 that allowed minor illegal aliens to delay deportation for two years. Two weeks ago the administration the rolled out guidelines allowing an extra two years, which was also explained in terms of compassion for those unfortunate children who happen to find themselves illegally in the United States of America.
That those unfortunate children who happened to find themselves illegally in the United States were there because their parents thought it would put them at the front of the line for citizenship after word got out about the executive order is not at all a compassionate theory, but it’s hard to think of a more plausible explanation. The administration is claiming the influx is due to the recent unrest in Central America, but the unrest there is not recent. American media are notoriously indifferent to Central America and might well have have ignored the social upheaval there until tens of thousands of refugee child wound up in over-crowded and under-supplied make-shift detention accounts in the southwestern United States, but even the administration’s State Department has failed to issue any alarmed statements about the developments there. Press accounts suggest that most of the recent arrivals have come from Guatemala and Honduras, and the only recent advisories to be found at the State Department’s web site warn that Honduras has had the world’s highest murder rate since 2010. Life is tough all over Latin America, and in rain-soaked and strife-torn Venezuela the celebrated compassion of the socialist government has even resulted in a shortage of drinking water, but it’s odd that those make-shift camps in the southwestern United States didn’t start filling up with children until after the executive orders had been made to give them at least four years in the government’s care.
Perhaps the recent influx is due to word getting out across Central America that the United States economy is chugging along so well that a record number of people have stopped looking for work, and the ambitious parents figured that their children could snatch up all the jobs that are being created, but not even the White House seems willing to venture this theory.
Even with the handy and ever-present excuse of Latin American political and economic dysfunction, the White House is likely to have yet another public relations problem with situation. The state of Arizona, which was blocked by the federal courts from enforcing the federal laws that White House had decided the federal government would not enforce, is complaining loudly about the “dumping” of thousands of illegals in their state and in conditions they cannot condone. The city of El Paso, Texas, will likely be none too pleased that thousands of other illegal immigrants are being released on the their own recognizance in that city. In Tennessee, the destination for at least one of the illegals being released in El Paso, according to an interview with the local newspaper, might also find fault in the administration policy. Republicans everywhere who have become convinced that no immigration reform should be negotiated with this president because he cannot be trusted to enforce any law passed will likely become more resolute in the conviction, more compassionate Republicans who bought into this nonsense, such as House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor will find themselves all the more vulnerable in their already-close primary races against more rock-ribbed challengers, and Democrats will have to explain what they’re going to do about tens of thousands illegal urchins without being so heartless as to send them back to their parents and home.
Yet another executive order has now been issued requiring that all of the children be appointed legal representation, which seems not only a compassionate but probably necessary thing to do, and when word gets out in Central America that the four free years in the United States come with a lawyer we’ll deal with the increased arrivals. It’s more work for those unemployed law school grads, and more government will be required, so at least for the Democrats there is some upside. Still, the White House has been sending out word that it will be willing to work with such compassionate Republicans as Cantor on some sort of compromise, which should be annoying to the likes of White House domestic policy director Cecilia Munoz, who was previously the the head of the Latino rights organization La Raza, which for the remaining majority of Americans who don’t habla Espanol translates as “The Race,” which basically sums up its racialist ideology. It is not clear what sort of compromise these two sides of the compassionate coin will arrive at, but we expect it will sound very compassionate.
The idea of telling desperate Central American families that they could give their children a shot at the American dream by dumping in the harsh deserts along the borders of Texas and Arizona sounded very compassionate, too, and has created a humanitarian crisis. There are still political pressures being exerted on an already sympathetic administration to end all deportations, with arguments even more compassionate about the poor souls merely seeking a better life in the land of opportunity, and when the word gets out and the make-shift camps proliferate even more compassionate remedies will be required. A better policy would be to tell those desperate Central American families that their children are best of at home, and they should force their own governments to address the socialistic causes of their poverty rather than exporting the human misery to a United States that is now reeling from its own socialistic policies and cannot competently manage the problems its indebted government faces, but that won’t sound very compassionate in the inevitable attack ads against any candidate who takes such a stand. The results that have followed those executive aren’t at all humane, as the administration is forced to acknowledge, yet to argue against these policies is thought heartless.

— Bud Norman

The Sequester Question

To hear the president tell it, this “sequester” business is darned scary.
According to the president’s account, if those rich-folk-loving Republicans don’t accede to his demand for more taxes there is absolutely nothing he can do to prevent “about a trillion dollars” of “arbitrary budget cuts.” This will be about the worst thing that ever happened, the president explained on Tuesday, as this “meat cleaver approach” will hinder the nation’s military readiness, “eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research,” reduce the hours worked by Border Patrol agents, furlough agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, force prosecutors to let criminals run amok, cause further delays at airports, lay off thousands of teachers, cause tens of thousands of parents to “scramble to find childcare for their kids,” and leave hundreds of thousands of Americans without health care. The president also noted, as a group of uniformed emergency responders sat grimly behind him, that “their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded.”
None of which, the president seemed quite pleased to report, is in any way his fault. It’s all because Congress passed a law which forced itself to agree on a plan to cut $4 trillion of deficits or face this dire outcome. Alas, the president sadly noted, “They haven’t come together and done their jobs, so as a consequence, we’ve got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday.” Being a reasonable sort of fellow, the president assured those emergency responders and the rest of the nation that he would have preferred a “balanced approach” of tax hikes and “smart cuts” to “spending that we don’t need” and “programs that aren’t working,” but that he can’t bring himself to sign any bill that doesn’t further soak the rich because it “would hurt the middle class.”
This makes the sequester seem so frightening, and the president so sensible, that one might not notice that it’s all nonsense.
The president was the one who cooked up the sequester plan, as the formerly revered Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has documented, and anyone with a “Schoolhouse Rocks” level of education knows that the bill Congress passed didn’t become a law until the president signed it. Furthermore, the Republican-controlled House has passed two attempts to undo the sequestration agreement but could not get them through the Democrat-controlled Senate, and a series of more sensible cuts could still be quickly agreed upon if the president were willing to compromise his redistributionist principles.
One should also note that none of the dire consequences that the president describes will come to pass unless he wills it, as the executive branch will decide how the mandatory cuts to each agency are enacted. Competent chief executives of many enterprises have made similar cuts in their organizations without calamity, so the smartest president ever should be able to do the same.
Nor is there any reason to believe that the consequences will be so dire as the president claims. The defense cuts are worrisome, but not nearly so much as a country that will believe Barack Obama’s accusation that it is the Republicans who are eager to undermine the nation’s military readiness. Those job-creating “investments” in energy are creating jobs at a cost of $4.8 million a piece, a rate that will bankrupt the country long before it reaches full employment. Border Patrol administrators rather than agents could have their hours cut, although that might have the unintended consequence of making the border more secure. Teachers and emergency responders will still be generously funded at the state and local level, assuming the economy doesn’t collapse under the weight of the national debt. Better prioritizing could prevent the other horrific outcomes, as well, although we’d still be treated to sob stories about the poor bureaucrats tossed out of their plush offices by the heartless Republicans.
If the president truly believes that there is “money we don’t have to spend” and “government programs that don’t work” he could easily arrange an agreement with the Republican leadership to cut those, but so far he has failed to identify anything in government that he doesn’t want. During the past campaign he made clear that subsidies to the multi-million dollar Sesame Street producers were sacrosanct, so it is hard to imagine anything else the federal government is doing that the president won’t deem essential.
No cuts will be entirely pain-free, of course, but a failure to get the government’s spending within the nation’s ability to pay for them will soon wind up hurting a great deal more. The president should know this, but he seems confident that the Republicans will wind up with the blame and he’ll avoid the scariest consequence of all.

— Bud Norman

In Quite a State

The state of the union, according to the president’s latest annual oration on the topic, is stronger. Presidents always say this sort thing in State of the Union addresses, regardless of the circumstances, so perhaps President Barack Obama can be forgiven for merely following form.
There isabundant evidence that the state of the union is not nearly so strong as it was when Obama gave his first address, however, and his arguments to the contrary were not convincing. He touted an end to a “decade of war” despite the growing dangers of the world, and boasted of a Fed-inflated stock market bubble. He argued that his massive new bureaucracies mean “consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever,” presumably from those nasty corporations, but seemed unconcerned about what will protect them from the bureaucrats. He further claimed that “we have cleared away the rubble of crisis,” but left unmentioned that we have also piled up an additional $6 trillion or so of debt in the process.
Nothing else in the speech offered much hope that thing the country will soon be strengthened in any noticeable way. Obama threw in some boilerplate language about encouraging free enterprise and rewarding individual initiative, but he seemed to rush through it on his way to calls for higher taxes, more government spending in areas of the economy that have traditionally been left to private enterprise, and an unmistakably collectivist ethic. All of this was couched in the language of “revenues,” “investments,” and “helping folks,” of course, but the point was still clear. He also argued that the government should become “smarter,” a worthy goal, but still seemed smitten with the alternative energy “investments” that have thus far been an expensive diversion from the potential traditional energy boom. Obama’s opponent in the past election was provably smart about investing, though, and Obama managed to convince a majority of voters of that the poor overly-rich fellow should be reviled for it.
The speech also stressed the need to “forge reasonable compromise” to make “some basic decisions about our budget” to avoid the so-called “sequestration” cuts, lamenting the government’s tendency to “drift from one manufactured crisis to the next” without mentioning that the sequestration cuts were his idea. Nor did he mention that the government hasn’t had a budget at all during his time office due to his party’s control of the Senate. He was slightly bi-partisan in noting that “both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, meaning that they agreed to not go yet another $2.5 trillion in debt, but it was still understood as a warning to the Republicans they should cave early in the upcoming budget negotiations.
More talk of reasonable compromises followed, with Obama generously agreeing to “modest reforms” of the entitlement system so long as they are accompanied by yet another round of “revenue increases.” The multi-trillion dollar shortfalls in the entitlement programs require only slight tweaking, apparently, and so long as those darned rich people pay more Obama seems willing to go along.
Obama added some talk of illegal immigrants and guns, threw in a subtle allusion to homosexuality, and finished with the usual tear-jerking shtick about the little people out there. We were to stunned to follow it after the part about Obamacare driving down health care costs, though, and we assume it was much the same as in past speeches. This was the fifth Obama State of the Union address and there only three to go, unless he decides that those pesky term limits are of more consequences than the rest of the Constitution, so we do feel slightly strengthened by that.

— Bud Norman