Judging Seriousness

Americans are a practical people but willing to try anything, as long as someone answers one basic question. How is that supposed to work? They’ll try the new thing if they see how it will work, or how it might work. All they need is a little explanation and they’ll go for it – what the hell – but this is where Donald Trump might run into some difficulty.

Donald Trump wants to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, until we figure things out – but he’ll make exceptions for the good ones, and maybe for the new Mayor of London – but how does he know who the good ones are? Does one just know these things? Is it how they dress, or smell, or whether they’re selling us oil at a good price? Has someone vouched for them? Can whoever vouched for them be trusted? How do we know that? And what about the ordinary folks who just show up at the border on their way to Disneyland? If they’re from Belgium, but we think they might be Muslim, do we ask them if they’re actually Muslim? What if they lie? Or what if some Lutheran with a sense of humor says they’re Muslim, just to mess with us? And what do we do with Muslims who don’t take Islam all that seriously, like lapsed Catholics or secular Jews? Do we assume they’re jihadists, when they’re really just a bit bored with it all? How is that supposed to work? And how do we know when we’ve figured things out? We’ve been fooled before, by the Saudis.

Banning all Muslims from entering the United States sounds pretty cool until you try to figure out how that’s supposed to work and come up with nothing but questions, and it’s the same with deporting eleven million immigrants here with no legal right to be here. How do you round up eleven million people in the proposed eighteen months? How do you find them, and then what do you do with them? Donald Trump has said he’d put Rudy Giuliani in charge of that, but Rudy has been silent on the matter. He must be thinking about it, hard – and then there’s building the giant wall along our entire border with Mexico, and getting the Mexican government to pay for it. How’s that supposed to work? That too sounds pretty cool, but it also sounds like nonsense.

Donald Trump says it isn’t nonsense – trust him – but many Republicans sense danger here, and Lauren Fox at Talking Points Memo reports on how they’re now saying that Trump wasn’t really serious:

During his primary, Donald Trump swore he could deport an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country, illegally. In fact, with “really good management,” he vowed to get it done in two years. Then, he’d call on Mexico and get them to build a beautiful wall. But now that Trump is the presumptive nominee, many Republicans in Congress are keeping their distance from what has become their nominee’s signature campaign issue and instead dismissed it as little more than stump speech bravado.

“Logistically that is an impossibility,” Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), who has endorsed Trump and is facing a primary challenge from her right in June, told TPM. “It would cost the taxpayers of America. We would never get there… It would be an endless pursuit.”

Ellmers point was echoed by many experts and commentators when Trump first introduced his plan last summer. How would a Trump administration track down millions of people who were in the country illegally? Where would the estimated billions it would cost to deport them come from? And who would be tasked with carrying out such a massive deportation? Not to mention the moral and legal questions.

Ellmers said she believes Trump is just trying to send a broader message. He is telling Republican primary voters what they want to hear: it’s time to make a change in immigration policy.

In short, Trump wasn’t really saying what he was saying, as he was really saying something else, which was a bit unfortunate:

“That’s not realistic. I think that most people who look at that issue want a solution. They want tougher border enforcement, and they want to make sure that the people who are here illegally – particularly those who are committing crimes and have law enforcement issues – get sent back, but as we look at these issues, you have to consider what is actually doable,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Thune said that a lot of Republicans have raised the issue with Trump that deporting 11 million immigrants living in the shadows is probably out of the question. And many, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), have pointed out Trump could soften the tone he is sending to the Hispanic community.

They plan to talk to him about this:

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, says he plans to bring it up with Trump when he sees him for a meeting in the upcoming weeks.

Mulvaney said he never “believed we were going to deport 11 million people.”

“Don’t know how you would even go about doing it,” Mulvaney said. “I look forward to having that debate with our presumptive nominee once he comes to meet with us.”

Maybe they’ll talk some sense into him, but that doesn’t help congressmen and senators facing re-elections in swing states and swing districts, who cannot wait for what may not change anyway:

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) says he won’t be supporting Trump at all in part because of his immigration policy.

“I called it a fraud from day one, from the day he announced it. It’s not a plan, alright, and it is unrealistic and it’s not a solution. It’s a good sound bite.”

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – all running for re-election – flatly said they didn’t support Trump’s deportation policy, although no one was anxious to spend time Wednesday talking about why.

When asked if he supported the plan, McCain – who has worked extensively on immigration reform on the Hill and supports a path to citizenship said – “of course not, but I’m in a Trump-free zone.”

It was probably best to simply hide:

Others teetering on the edge of re-election played coy. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) paused for nearly 20 seconds before saying, “I have discussed my views on immigration pretty extensively and you can find that on my official website.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said he hadn’t seen Trump’s signature plan for deportation.

“I haven’t seen any plan to do that,” he said. 

They know the real problem here:

In 2012, after Republican Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Latino vote, Republicans sought to find ways to do better with the Hispanic community.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) doesn’t support Trump’s plan. He said he’s confident that Trump’s idea is more talk than serious policy.

“He’s not gonna deport 11 million people,” Gardner said with a laugh.

What, you took Donald Trump seriously? Maybe you just don’t understand the guy, but Josh Marshall reports on something even more mysterious:

Buffalo New York Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) was the first member of Congress to endorse presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and he’s become a key campaign surrogate for the reputed billionaire businessman. But in a Tuesday interview with The Buffalo News, Collins said he believed two of Trump’s signature campaign proposals would never be carried out.

Collins said he believed the wall Trump promised to build along the US-Mexico border would be more an idea than a physical wall. “I have called it a virtual wall. Maybe we will be building a wall over some aspects of it; I don’t know.”

Collins also said that Trump’s controversial plan to deport roughly 3% of the current US population would be a “rhetorical” exercise rather than a physical deportation.

Collins actually said this:

“I call it a rhetorical deportation of 12 million people,” Collins said.

He then gestured toward a door in his Capitol Hill office.

“They go out that door, they go in that room, they get their work papers, Social Security number, then they come in that door, and they’ve got legal work status but are not citizens of the United States,” Collins said. “So there was a virtual deportation as they left that door for processing and came in this door.”

Collins added: “We’re not going to put them on a bus, and we’re not going to drive them across the border.”

Collins then went on to say that he was sure Trump would deny all this, but everyone knows all this was only a series of “opening gambits in a long negotiation” – as if everyone knows that, which is unclear. 

Salon’s Amanda Marcotte says that’s playing with fire:

It’s not nuts to think that it might work for Republicans to frame Trump’s deportation-and-wall scheme as a con that everyone just happens to be in on (except when they’re not).

However, there’s a real danger in Republicans employing this strategy, which is that rise of Trump suggests that the base is getting a little sick of playing this game. They are quite vocal about their belief that the “elites” are putting them down and treating them like a bunch of know-nothing yahoos who can be exploited for their votes and then written off as too stupid and unimportant to be heard in non-election years. They hate the “political correctness” that forces them to play the “just kidding, I don’t believe that” game in front of non-right-wingers. They just want to let their right-wing-nut flags fly.

In other words, they want their damn wall and they don’t want to have to placate the forces of “political correctness” by pretending that they were kidding when they said they wanted their wall.

Someone needs to be careful here:

When Gardner or Ellmers or Collins writes off Trump’s deportation-and-wall talk as so much hot air, that says to people who got caught up in it that they are a bunch of morons who got hoodwinked by obvious lies. That dismissiveness can cause defensiveness, and cause people who believe the lie to double down.

To make it worse, these comments are coming from people that right-wing voters already think of as liars and sellouts. They sent these folks to Congress in order to get rid of Obama and shut down the government and usher in the new right-wing utopia where you never have to press “1” for English again, and the lack of progress on that front is frustrating them and making them feel lied to – which is why they turned to Trump in the first place.

Having the same people openly scoff at Trump fans, portraying them as a bunch of rubes that buy into easily debunked lies (however true that may be) will just double right-wing suspicions that these folks, not Trump, are the con artists and liars. That might help Trump’s chances, but it is not going to serve these Republicans well in the long run.

And then there’s Ted Rall:

Expecting Trump to renege on deportations would be like Bernie Sanders asking Goldman Sachs for donations or Hillary Clinton changing her gender – it would betray the whole raison d’être of his campaign. On deportations, Trump can’t back down without losing most of his support. … For Trump, deportations are a political necessity he has based everything around.

He cannot back down now, but there’s still the question of how all this works, and Julia Preston and Alan Rappeport and Matt Richtel report on the difficulty in answering that question:

Mr. Trump has a simple plan to reduce the population of 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States: Deport them.

How? He says he would follow the example of the military-style roundups authorized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. The initiative, known as Operation Wetback, expelled hundreds of thousands of Mexicans.

Mr. Trump contends that the start of deportations would show immigrants he meant business and prompt many to leave on their own, and that it would take about two years to finish the job. There, the specifics end.

And there the problems begin:

Former senior immigration and border officials are skeptical, to put it mildly. Deportations have peaked recently at about 400,000 a year, so the increase in scale to reach Mr. Trump’s goal would be exponential. And many legal procedures and constitutional constraints on the police did not exist in the Eisenhower era.

“I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years where we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant,” said Michael Chertoff, who led a significant increase in immigration enforcement as the secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

But a police state might be inevitable:

Finding those immigrants would be difficult, experts said. Police officers across the country would need to ask people for proof of residency or citizenship during traffic stops and street encounters. The Border Patrol would need highway checkpoints across the Southwest and near the Canadian border. To avoid racial profiling, any American could expect to be stopped and asked for papers.

To achieve millions of deportations, the Obama administration’s focus on deporting serious criminals would have to be scrapped, said Julie Myers Wood, a director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, under Mr. Bush. “You would not care if the person had a criminal record,” she said.

And add this:

Large-scale raids, rare under Mr. Obama, would resume at farms, factories, restaurants and construction sites, with agents arresting hundreds of workers and poring over company records. And prosecutors would bring criminal charges against employers hiring unauthorized immigrants.

Mr. Trump has said he would triple ICE’s deportation officers, to 15,000 from about 5,000. But even if that could be accomplished quickly – difficult given the vetting and training required – it would still be insufficient, experts said. The FBI and other agencies would have to set aside some of their missions to help. …

John Sandweg, who led ICE for seven months under Mr. Obama, said wholesale deportations could make it easier for immigrant gang members and drug traffickers to escape detection. “If the agents are looking for volume, they won’t spend the time to do the detective work tracking down the high-value bad guy who has fake documents, the hardened criminals in the shadows,” he said.

And add this:

To prevent flight after arrest, the authorities would have to detain most immigrants awaiting deportation. Existing facilities, with about 34,000 beds, would have to be expanded to hold at least 300,000, Mr. Sandweg estimated, perhaps with tens of thousands of people in detention camps, similar to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Most deportations must be approved by judges. But backlogs in the 57 immigration courts are already severe, with waits as long as two years for a first hearing. The federal government would have to open dozens of emergency courts and hire hundreds of judges, shortcutting the painstaking selection process.

The millions of immigrants from Central American countries, China, the Philippines, India and other noncontiguous nations would have to be flown home at the federal government’s expense. Arranging flights would in itself be a huge and very costly task.

This isn’t going to work:

By any tally, the costs would be enormous. The American Action Forum, a conservative-leaning research group, calculated the federal outlay to be at least $400 billion, and then only if the deportations were stretched over 20 years.

But the proposals’ main flaw, former officials said, is that they are unrealistic. “Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea,” Mr. Chertoff said, “it ain’t happening.”

But assume it was happening:

Mr. Trump has shared few details. He has said that the wall would be built from precast concrete and steel and that it could be 50 feet tall, if not higher. After calling for it to extend across the entire 2,000-mile southern border, he more recently said half that length could be sufficient because of natural barriers. He has pegged the cost at $4 billion to $12 billion, most recently settling on around $10 billion.

Some see that as low. “There’s a lot of logistics involved in this, and I don’t know how thoroughly they’ve thought it out,” said Todd Sternfeld, chief executive of Superior Concrete, a Texas-based builder of walls. “The resources alone would be astronomical.”

Mr. Sternfeld, who has led major wall projects across the country and approached the Trump family last summer, suggested that Mr. Trump was overly optimistic about the cost and was underestimating the complexity of the undertaking.

Running the numbers, Mr. Sternfeld said a 40-foot-tall concrete wall using a “post and panel” system that went 10 feet below the ground – to minimize tunneling – would cost at least $26 billion. The logistics would be nightmarish, including multiple concrete casting sites and temporary housing for a crew of 1,000 workers if the job were to be completed within Mr. Trump’s first four-year term.

Maintenance would be an additional recurring expense, said Walter W. Boles, an engineering professor at Middle Tennessee State University who specializes in concrete construction. Deep trench work would also be necessary for keeping a wall of that height from toppling, he said, and seismic sensors to detect digging would be wise for preserving its integrity from below.

“That’s one heck of a construction project,” said Mr. Boles, who assessed Patrick J. Buchanan’s 1996 proposal for a border barrier. “It’s certainly a lot more ambitious than I was imagining.”

It seems that those forced to take Trump seriously cannot believe he’s serious:

Walls tend to be crude solutions to complex problems and are evidence of geopolitical failure, said Michael Dear, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in the border with Mexico.

“People always find a way to go above or below or through a wall,” said Professor Dear, the author of “Why Walls Won’t Work.”

“It’s just political window dressing and rabble-rousing of the worst order.”

It’s worse than that, according to a Reuters item from early May:

Donald Trump’s vow to round up and deport all of America’s undocumented immigrants if he is elected president could shrink the economy by around 2 percent, according to a study to be released on Thursday by conservative think tank the American Action Forum.

The research adds to concerns about the Republican presidential nominee’s policy proposals, which range from tearing up international trade agreements to building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

About 6.8 million of the more than 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally are employed, according to government statistics. Removing them would cause a slump of $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion in private sector output, the Washington-based non-profit said in its analysis.

The study added that removing those workers could leave potentially millions of jobs unfilled due to a lack of legal workers willing to do them. Industries with the highest share of undocumented workers include farming, construction and hospitality, according to the research.

“The things Donald Trump has said are utterly unworkable,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the forum’s president, and the top economic adviser to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

And that guy was also Director of the Congressional Budget Office (and was born and raised in Pittsburgh and has an undergraduate degree from Denison University, like some of us) so he’s not fooling around:

The American Action Forum analysis used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate the value of the output from undocumented immigrants. The study did not factor in potential impacts of mass deportations on consumption, investment and other economic factors, the group said.

That cannot be easily calculated, but even so, the GDP takes a big hit:

The U.S. economy is projected to produce some $18.7 trillion worth of goods and services in 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund. A loss of $400 billion in output would amount to about 2 percent of that figure.

So, Donald Trump cannot be serious, can he? How the hell is any of this supposed to work? The choice seems to be between taking him at his word, that he’s serious about all of this – as the Republican base understands – or to realize his brilliant negotiating skills – he doesn’t really intend to do any of this but only wants to force the other folks to make concessions they’d never otherwise make – as every other Republican running for office is now saying, hoping that’s true. The rest of us just don’t know – but it’s probably best to take him at his word, and vote accordingly.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Donald Trump, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s