Those Random Acts of Meanness

It’s a tired old trope, but useful enough. The Republican Party is the “Daddy Party” – the party of the largely absent taciturn father who, when necessary, beats the crap out of the kid, to beat some sense into the kid, for the kid’s own good, to teach the kid some damned personal responsibility, but otherwise lets the kid sink or swim on his or her own, for the same reason. Inflict pain. Random acts of meanness help too. That builds character. No one whines. And keep government small – largely absent and taciturn. The absence of government is freedom.

That’s how government should work, and of course the Democratic Party is the “Mommy Party” – nurturing and supportive. No child (or adult) should be left behind. People don’t whine. They’re really in trouble – and random acts of kindness do a whole lot of good in this sorry world. Charity doesn’t ruin everything. The Democratic Party is the party of empathy – and that means they’re real losers who seem to want to turn all good Americans into whining losers too, as any Republican will tell you. The government isn’t your mother.

That’s shorthand for this. Liberals believe in community and cooperation and inclusivity. Everyone, without exception, should have affordable health care, and quality education, and some help in hard times. There should be a social safety net, and those left behind by past nastiness of any kind should get special consideration now, with Affirmative Action and that sort of thing. And black lives matter too – the cops need to back off a bit. We’re all in this together, after all – and of course war is a stupid waste of the nation’s blood and treasure. International cooperation, or at least long stalemates, is better for everyone. Long stalemates are uncomfortable but at least no one dies. National pride is a fine thing but too often that’s just jingoism – and posturing will get us all killed.

Conservatives go the other way. They believe in freedom, defining freedom as autonomy. Rugged individualism made this nation great. There should be more of that, more of people taking personal responsibility for their lives. The government is not there to solve their problems, problems which are their own damned fault. Conservatives see a world of Makers and Takers, with the morally inadequate demanding hard-earned goodies from the “good” people. That’s why they often define taxation as theft – theft from the good people – and define more government as the problem, never the solution. That’s what Ronald Reagan kept saying. The less government the better – deregulate everything and let free men and the free market sort it all out – and the free market will sort it out. Adam Smith said so – the Invisable Hand of Competition will produce the greatest good for the greatest number at the lowest cost. That’s why private for-profit schools are far better than public schools, and so on. Sure, some people will be left behind, but that may be as it should be. Maybe they’re just miserable useless people. The government shouldn’t fix that. The government can’t. There’s no implicit “social contract” that says the government should.

These are two vastly different views of how things should be. There are “moderates” who seem to think there’s a middle ground in all this, who want the nation to find that sweet spot, but there are few of those left. The second President Bush offered “compassionate conservatism” and no one knew what he was talking about. He didn’t seem to know either, so he simply stopped talking about that. There was no point. There was history – after Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive “trust busting” and Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations idealism, Calvin Coolidge shut the government down. It should do little, so it did little. Herbert Hoover wondered about that but in 1929 everything fell apart for him. The economy collapsed – but the Republicans still hated everything that FDR did to try to fix things – the WPA and the SEC and Social Security and unemployment insurance and all the rest. They still hate that sort of thing. In 1961, Ronald Reagan argued that Medicare would end all freedom in America – but LBJ got his Great Society anyway – Medicare and Medicaid and Head Start and those civil rights acts too – which Ronald Reagan had to live with when he became president. He didn’t have to like any of that, and conservatives still don’t like any of that. Their recent issues with Obamacare were old issues.

Obama had argued the other way – we’re all in this together and need to have each other’s backs – like with Obamacare. America agreed, for eight years, and then America changed its mind. America elected Donald Trump. He promised to rid the country of anyone who wasn’t really an American, one way or another. That would be Mexicans and Muslims and gays and urban hipsters and young black thugs and fancy-pants experts and so on, but what’s going on right now isn’t just a culture war. Think of it as a war on the concept of community, of a society that uses the institutions of government to offer certain basic protections to all its members. Others see public action for the public good, no matter how justified, as part of a conspiracy to destroy our freedom. Donald Trump offered them the opposite of community, and of course he doesn’t like government much, even his own. That’s the “Deep State” and it’s out to get him, and to ruin America. He just happens to be in charge of it at the moment. He pretends he isn’t. That explains his odd tweetstorms.

That might explain his random acts of meanness too, like this one:

President Trump is sending a plan to Congress that calls for stripping more than $15 billion in previously approved spending, with the hope that it will temper conservative angst over ballooning budget deficits.

The same argument continues:

Almost half of the proposed cuts would come from two accounts within the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that White House officials said expired last year or are not expected to be drawn upon. An additional $800 million in cuts would come from money created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010 to test innovative payment and service delivery models…

If approved by Congress, the reductions would represent less than 0.4 percent of total government spending this year.

It’s small, but it’s mean, and really, it’s necessary:

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said in an interview that conservatives were given assurances from the White House that this package would be the first of several, and he said lawmakers were anxious to get started on the cuts. “I hope it’s never painted that this is just symbolic or a political gesture,” Walker said. “We think it’s very legitimate.”

A senior administration official said Democrats should recognize that much of this package represents untapped accounts and that cutting the money would create savings without affecting operations.

The other side wasn’t buying that:

Many Democrats have called for expanding programs such as CHIP, not cutting them, and they are often fiercely protective of anything related to the Affordable Care Act.

“Let’s be honest about what this is: President Trump and Republicans in Congress are looking to tear apart the bipartisan [CHIP], hurting middle-class families and low-income children, to appease the most conservative special interests and feel better about blowing up the deficit to give the wealthiest few and biggest corporations huge tax breaks,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday.

Schumer framed this as a war on the American community, as any Democrat would do, but another issue is a matter of reneging on a painfully worked-out settled firm deal:

Conservatives erupted in March after Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending package that included a number of budget requests from Democrats, and they pushed for a rescission package to pare it back between $30 billion and $60 billion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and others argued that that would amount to going back on a bipartisan deal.

The money the White House is proposing to cut in its new request has all been appropriated at least one year ago, and the plan would not touch the $1.3 trillion spending bill Trump signed in March. The White House is working on other proposed spending reduction packages that would try to claw back some of that money, the senior administration official said…

The March spending bill led to such outrage among Republicans that just hours before signing it into law, Trump said in a Twitter post that he might veto it. He backed down and said the spending agreement was a necessary compromise to secure more money for the Pentagon, but he vowed to never sign a bill like it again.

Now he’s saying his signature means nothing, his word means nothing. That’s all Deep State nonsense, and there is this too:

Trump has demanded that Congress give him the power to use a “line-item veto” on spending bills, which would mean he could simply eliminate any part of a spending package he did not want. Such a veto was ruled to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Yeah, well, what do they know? They’re part of the Deep State too. So is the Constitution.

Heather Long also notes this:

Since becoming president, Trump enacted a massive tax cut for corporations and many individuals that is projected to add at least $1.3 trillion to the deficit over the next decade (plus additional interest costs), according to the Congressional Budget Office. Then Congress and the president agreed to a two-year budget deal that will add $300 billion more to America’s debt, the CBO says.

After approving an additional $1,600,000,000 in spending since December alone, Trump now wants to cut $15,000,000 (or 0.9 percent).

It’s small. That’s nothing compared to the massive damage done by those massive tax cuts for the “good” people. It won’t fix anything. But it’s dramatically mean. That’s the point. This government isn’t run by the Mommy Party any longer.

That might explain this random act of meanness too:

In stark terms, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday warned families from Central America and elsewhere that they will be broken up if parents try to sneak their children into the United States illegally.

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said at a law enforcement gathering in Arizona. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

This government will gleefully break up families, and should, because things have changed:

“We are not going to let this country be invaded. We will not be stampeded. We will not capitulate to lawlessness,” Sessions said Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., as he touted his new “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border.

“This is not business as usual. This is the Trump era,” he added.

And he’s that mean and deadly daddy you don’t want to anger:

Nearly one of every four Border Patrol arrests on the Mexican border from October through April was someone who came in a family, meaning any large increase in prosecutions is likely to cause parents to be separated from their children while they face charges and do time in jail.

Children who are separated from their parents would be put under supervision of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, Sessions said…

A heckler interrupted Sessions on a megaphone, shouting, “Why are you doing this? Do you have a heart?”

There’s the short answer. No. There’s the long answer. Sit down and shut up. There are those who don’t like either answer:

Advocacy groups blasted the moves as cruel and heartless, especially in cases where the family is seeking asylum in the United States.

“Criminalizing and stigmatizing parents who are only trying to keep their children from harm and give them a safe upbringing will cause untold damage to thousands of traumatized families who have already given up everything to flee terrible circumstances in their home countries,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said, “Criminalizing parents seeking protection for themselves and their children is inhumane, excessively punitive, and can deliberately interfere with their ability to seek asylum.”

And there’s the resistance:

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the practice in a case involving a Congolese asylum seeker who was separated from her 7-year-old daughter for five months and a Brazilian woman who was separated from her 14-year-old son after being arrested and serving nearly a month in jail for illegal entry. At a hearing in San Diego last week, a Trump administration lawyer did not dispute a report in the New York Times that more than 700 children had been taken from their families since October.

Trump administration did not dispute anything here. They’re the good guys after all. The strong daddy with the belt punishes bad little boys and girls, and now no one can run to their mommy. It’s another random act of meanness, to prove a larger point – but there are larger acts of meanness, and Dara Lind covers the largest:

By January 2020, the Trump administration will have turned 400,000 people who are currently in the US legally into unauthorized immigrants.

The administration announced Friday that it is going to stop granting Temporary Protected Status — a protection given to people in the wake of humanitarian disasters in their home countries – to 57,000 Hondurans who’ve been living in the US for 20 years. They’ll have one last chance to apply for TPS for 18 months and will lose their protections on January 5, 2020 – making them unable to work in the US legally as of that date, and vulnerable to deportation.

Over the next two years, the Trump administration will strip TPS from immigrants from six different countries – all but strangling the program.

But the Trump administration has its reasons:

It’s doing so because it claims that Honduras has recovered enough from a 1998 hurricane to be safe to return to. The fact that, right now, Honduras is a place people are trying to flee due to systemic gang violence and civil unrest isn’t an argument in TPS holders’ favor, to this administration. If anything, it’s another strike against them.

That systemic gang violence and civil unrest is their problem not ours. We want none of that here. Let them die at home, but that wasn’t the original idea:

Temporary Protected Status serves as a form of humanitarian relief, offered to nationals of countries struggling with the aftermath of war, natural disasters, or other humanitarian crises where conditions on the ground make it difficult for people to return safely. Ten countries – El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – are currently in the program, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security and is granted in six- to 18-month intervals that can be renewed as long as DHS deems a designation necessary. Honduras has been granted TPS since 1999, in the wake of a 1998 hurricane.

And this isn’t a gift:

To enter the program, nationals of a designated country must clear a number of conditions: They must maintain a relatively clean criminal record and pass a background check, they must pay a $495 processing fee when they first apply for the program and every time their status is renewed, and they must reside in the United States at the time of their country’s designation. This usually means that TPS beneficiaries are undocumented immigrants who were already in the US, those who overstayed a visa, or those who hold some other form of temporary immigration status.

TPS beneficiaries are granted authorization to work in the US (and in some cases the ability to travel internationally) and a reprieve from deportation. But outside of that, TPS doesn’t grant many other benefits; beneficiaries do not have legal permanent resident status, and while a small number of beneficiaries may be eligible for green cards through the sponsorship of a US citizen family member, the program is not intended to provide a path to citizenship.

In practice, that means that once a country’s TPS is up for review, presidents have two choices: They could renew TPS for that country, kicking the can down the road; or they could terminate it and give thousands of people no way to stay in the US legally.

Donald Trump did promise to rid the country of anyone who wasn’t really an American, one way or another, and this is it:

The administration has announced that it is winding down TPS, with one final extension, for six of the 10 countries that currently have it: Sudan, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Nepal, and now Honduras. Three of those – Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras – make up the vast majority of all TPS recipients.

The Trump administration has extended TPS for two countries, South Sudan and Syria, though it’s prevented any Syrians who’ve fled to the US since August 2016 from signing up. (It hasn’t had the opportunity to review the TPS designations of Somalia or Yemen yet.)

The administration’s actions have extended TPS for about 7,600 people. They’ve marked an end to it for about 390,000.

This government isn’t run by the Mommy Party any longer:

Trump’s break with precedent on TPS reflects a philosophical difference. For past presidents – and many, if not most, Americans – an immigrant who’s lived, worked, and raised a family in the US for several years (especially if they’ve done so legally) is more sympathetic than a similar immigrant who’s never lived here. And to most politicians, it’s important for the US to continue to take in at least some people fleeing humanitarian peril.

This administration strongly rejects any idea that it bears a humanitarian responsibility toward migrants. To the contrary: Immigrants who come from countries the Trump administration looks down on or distrusts are often judged for that reason. The premise of the Trump travel ban is that the US’s assessment of a foreign government should control whether or not it accepts its nationals as visitors or immigrants.

And there are multiple reports suggesting Trump himself thinks people from poor and unstable countries – “shithole countries,” if you will – should be treated with prejudice…

The fact that these people have now largely settled here is one of the chief arguments for keeping TPS protections – indeed, that’s the logic that’s led the government to renew TPS for Hondurans 10 times already. But to the Trump administration, this is evidence that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the TPS program.

And so it begins:

On November 2, 2018, approximately 1,000 Sudanese will lose TPS and become vulnerable to deportation.

On January 5, 2019, approximately 5,300 Nicaraguans will lose TPS and become vulnerable.

On June 24, 2019, approximately 9,000 Nepalese will lose TPS and become vulnerable.

On March 23, 2019, up to 3,600 Liberians will lose their protections under Deferred Enforced Departure (a similar program to TPS) and become vulnerable.

On July 22, 2019, approximately 59,000 Haitians will lose TPS and become vulnerable.

On September 9, 2019, approximately 260,000 Salvadorans will lose TPS and become vulnerable.

On January 5, 2020, approximately 57,000 Hondurans will lose TPS and become vulnerable.

There’s only one problem with this:

That’s nearly 400,000 people who have legal status right now but who, by 2020, will become unauthorized immigrants. The Trump administration doesn’t have the resources to deport 400,000 people the minute they lose their protections.

That means that nearly 400,000 people who have lived here for many years, playing by the rules, will now live in constant fear that they could be deported at any moment, or not. Consider that another random act of meanness, stretched over many years – just to make each and every one of these people feel uncomfortable and unwanted anywhere.

That’s the plan. Think of it as a war on the concept of community. And then sit down and shut up. Daddy is angry. Hide.


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.
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4 Responses to Those Random Acts of Meanness

  1. This country isn’t being run by a mere “Daddy” or a bunch of Daddies, it’s being run by an abusive Daddy & a bunch of abusive Daddies. My own Daddy was a hard-ass but he never & I mean NEVER hit me. Not with his hand & never with a belt. His worst punishment was making me read Lincoln’s Essays & having me write commentaries on them (thank you, Daddy, for that punishment).

  2. Russell Sadler says:

    Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand is neither invisible nor divinely guided.😇

  3. barney says:

    When republicans damage the community by degrading the social safety net it ends up costing the community a whole lot more money and loss of human potential. A stark example of this are the monumental costs of America’s ever expanding prisons, police and judiciary.

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