Tag Archives: Mexico

Dear Orange Blossom, Perhaps if you understand titties you can comprehend why we don’t tick off our milk and cheese buying partners?

Dear Pootus, I am taking a page from the good people at the EU who decided that the way to explain trade policy to you was to provide colorful cue cards.  I will not burden you with graphs (and those tricky x and y axes), nor will I encumber you with charts, which you might have to interpret in light of some very common tricks producing “Gee Whiz Graphs” and other illusions.  Let’s just keep this simple.  If you understand the concept of titties, then you should be able to comprehend the idea of international commodity trading — like milk and milk products.

milk cow 1  Step One: COW 

Notes for your experts who can explain more if you feel the need.  The milk comes from the COW, more specifically from the FEMALE.  This happens BEFORE the milk is in the carton in your refrigerator, or the cheese (made from milk) is inside the fridge too!

milk cow 2 Step Two: Female Cow

The titties portion of the female cow is where the milk comes from.  It is called the udder.  There are many cows, and therefore many udders.  Many udders make lots of milk.  Notes for your experts who can explain more if you feel the need.  There are approximately 8.75 million milk cows in the United States.  Female cows — the ones with the udders — produced about 17.2 billion pounds of milk in June 2018.  This is the highest productivity rate since 2003.  You might wish to take credit for all the milk being produced from all those udders — more than under any other President EVER!  Not that your presidency has anything in the world to do with cow productivity, but since you delight in taking credit for everything else that happens — even if it doesn’t — on your watch, why not take credit for milk production?

milk cow 3 Step Three:  Milk Comes From Cows

There is a surplus of milk on the market.  As of last May dairy farms were getting hammered by low prices for milk because there was too much of it on the market.  Therefore, you might want to be very careful about crowing about those production numbers?  Notes for your experts who can explain more if you feel the need.   There were things dairy farmers wanted your administration to do. For example, they suggested putting a floor on milk prices at $20 per hundred pounds.  They suggested stabilizing volatile markets.  They suggested government purchases of milk for public food pantries.  (That’s NOT panties for the udders, that’s pantries for people who need food assistance.) [USAT]

milk cow 4 cheese Step Four: Cheese and other products come from milk.

In order for the dairy farmers to stay in business someone needs to buy the milk produced by their cows.  Some of the milk is purchased for domestic consumption. That means “here at home.” Some of the milk is purchased by our trading partners.  Notice that one of our major trading partners for exported cheese is Mexico. In fact, US Export Data shows Mexico as the Numero Uno buyer for cheese exported from the United States.

Am I getting the message across to you yet?  When all those titties (udders) produce all that milk, the milk must be sold for the dairy farmers to make a profit.  Cheese is made from milk, and Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Middle East/North Africa, Australia, Central America, SE Asia, Canada, and China are our biggest buyers for cheese products.

Have you suggested setting a floor on milk prices?  No?  Or, stabilizing volatile markets (including the international ones)? No? Or creating new markets for American milk and cheese products? No?  Or, supporting the USDA food assistance programs like public food pantries? No?  So, what have you been doing?  Oh, that’s right — slapping tariffs on our trading partners…

“In the past few months, Trump’s administration has proposed steel and aluminum tariffs, and increased tensions with trade allies in Europe, Asia, and North America. This week, reports of a White House proposal that would call on the United States to disregard World Trade Organization rules are making lawmakers on both sides of the aisle fret that the United States could be staring down a trade war — one that is likely to hit the agricultural industry the hardest. On Thursday, Mexico announced 15 to 25 percent retaliatory tariffs on dozens of US goods, mostly on agricultural products — including cheese.”  [Vox 7.5.18] (emphasis added)

One more time: Milk comes from cows; cows have udders; too many udders are producing too much milk; too much milk is being stored as cheese (because it doesn’t spoil like fresh milk); there are not enough buyers for our cheese; and, therefore, the price of milk and cheese decline.  When the prices decline below the break even point the dairy farmer is out of business.   When the farmer is out of business he can no longer buy the Red Hats you had manufactured in China.  NOW, are you getting the point?

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out a way to make this any simpler for you.  I will now return to writing posts for the adults in the room.  Thank you for your limited attention.

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Filed under Economy, Farm Subsidies, trade deficit

Distraction to Destruction: The Great Immigration Diversion

If a political party doesn’t want to discuss problems like, say, income inequality? Or, gun violence? Or, vote suppression? Or, Heaven Fore-fend, the interference in our elections by a hostile foreign power? — Then what better diversion than Immigration.  Better still, the issue can be framed such that it appeals to the lesser little devils of our nature like racism, and thus be an “acceptable” way to insert racism into our national political discourse as if it were a legitimate topic of immediate consideration.

“Immigrants today account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, nearly triple the share (4.7%) in 1970. However, today’s immigrant share remains below the record 14.8% share in 1890, when 9.2 million immigrants lived in the U.S.”  [Pew]

Thus much for the Huge Wave of Immigrants. It shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that the immigrants being vilified are coming to our southern border. Those would be the Mexican immigrants, and those from Central American nations — probably the brown versions of human beings, and therefore not likely to assimilate.

“Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2015, 11.6 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 27% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (5%) and El Salvador (3%).  By region of birth, immigrants from South and East Asia combined accounted for 27% of all immigrants, a share equal to that of Mexico.”   [Pew]

Oops, there goes another bit of nativist mythology.  Interesting, those crowds bellowing “Build The Wall” aren’t chanting about the 27% of immigrants from South and East Asia.  We can drill down on this a bit more:

“About 1 million immigrants arrive in the U.S. each year. In 2015, the top country of origin for new immigrants coming into the U.S. was India, with 110,000 people, followed by Mexico (109,000), China (90,000) and Canada (35,000).

By race and ethnicity, more Asian immigrants than Hispanic immigrants have arrived in the U.S. each year since 2010. Immigration from Latin America slowed following the Great Recession, particularly from Mexico, which has seen net losses in U.S. immigration over the past few years.”  [Pew]

The “Build The Wall” Gang seem to have missed this point.  To miss the point is to base one’s perception of immigration on the situation before 2010.  Moreover, the Wall is whatever the audience wants it to be.  It’s a real, physical barrier [ChiTrib] [vox] or a metaphor for making white Americans feel like the government is ‘protecting’ them (and their privileges) from incursions by brown people. [Hill] [VanityFair]

What is generally missing from coverage of the administration’s use of the Build The Wall campaign litany is any factual context.  It seems sufficient to the corporate media to show clips of the incantations of “Build The Wall” during rallies, without offering any information explaining that the pretext is a vision of American immigration which is at least eight years old, and is currently statistically indefensible.

It’s also readily apparent the corporate media would rather not discuss the elephant in the room — the underpinning of this perspective on immigration is partially if not essentially racist.  This shouldn’t be too surprising.  This would be the same press that can barely enunciate the word, and applies a host of euphemisms to describe racist remarks as “racially charged,” “distasteful,” “derogatory,” and “racially tinged.” [HuffPo] Again, this would be the same DC press which keeps labeling Trumpian expressions as “counterfactual,” “factual shortcut,” “stretched truth,” and “misleading statement,” [Week] instead of the more accurate old fashioned term — L.I.E. [NYT]

The current occupant of the Oval Office may be right about one thing — his is a made for TV administration, replete with a continuing fountain of daily (hourly?) emissions which fill what might otherwise be dead air.  It is, “news” from a fire hose.  The problem is that it floods any time which might be spared for context and analysis.  Should even tenuous contextualization, analysis, and evaluation be applied the Occupant screams “fake news,” and the chanting rally crowds applaud Dear Leader.

Caveat Emptor.  The chanters are investing in a distraction to divert them from the destruction of their own economic well being, and sense of community.  Arguing with them doesn’t work; their fact-free bubble of Faux News precludes any analysis in conflict with their fundamental racism.  Better to speak to and for those who advocate for a rational and comprehensive immigration policy, and out-vote the ditto-heads who chant “Build The Wall,” and “Amnesty,” whenever it might be suggested that a rational comprehensive policy would be preferable to emotional, irrational, racism.

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Filed under Immigration, Politics

Unpleasant Questions about Unpleasant Subjects

The Senate investigators of Trumpster ties to the Putin regime have called for the retention of all relevant documents and communications. However, the body count of Russians associated with the dossier, and diplomacy with the US, seems to be escalating, beginning with the January death of Oleg Erovinkin. Perhaps we should be investigating before too many more Russian officials bite the dust?

How about a bit more emphasis on fighting anti-Semitism? It’s also hitting too close to home:

“A student says to another, “We need to send you to the oven so you can be with your people,” a man engraves a swastika onto a marble column in front of a synagogue and trespassing teenagers yell anti-Semitic epithets at children at a Hebrew academy.

Those are some of the many anti-Semitic incidents recently reported in the Las Vegas Valley, part of an uptick in cases logged across the country in the past year, said Jolie Brislin, Nevada regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. The rhetoric and threats have intensified in the past months, she added.”

While the President may be appalled at these incidents, and has recently spoken about the problem, this doesn’t negate the fact that some of his core supporters feel that his elevation excuses their anti-social, biased, and belligerent behavior.  They’ve taken his “tell it like it is” and “no more political correctness” approach to mean they have license to spew hate and act out their white nationalist-supremacist feelings.  Perhaps we should be investigating the rise of domestic hate groups? Oh, wait, the Justice Department will now be focusing on radical Islamicist foreign inspired terrorists…

And the Mexicans will pay for it…only in this instance it’s the administration policy to deport undocumented non-Mexican immigrants and asylum seekers to Mexico. [The Hill] “Elements still need to be worked out in detail…” and how, pray tell, are we supposed to work out these details when the administration is busy demonizing Mexicans and their government?

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Filed under Mexico, Nevada news, Politics, racism, Republicans

O Mexico

Mexico is one of the top US trade partners. Its president has just cancelled a trip to Washington.  This has implications.  Remember that major US corporations have primary, secondary, and tertiary economic interests in that nation.  While the anti-immigrant rhetoric may warm the hearts of Republican party voters, policies which diminish those trade relations have serious consequences for our own economy.

Re-negotiating NAFTA will be a complicated process, scrapping it would allow the Mexican government to restrict primary activities (mining, agriculture), impose restraints on secondary elements such as trucking and transportation, and inhibit retail operations like those of Walmart. This is not to argue that there are elements of the trade agreement which couldn’t do with some reform – labor rights, environmental protections, etc. – but that blanket proclamations and nativist  rhetoric are dangerous insertions into the debate.

And, yes, it’s not going to be a wall, it’ll be a fence; and the Mexican government isn’t going to pay for it, US taxpayers will be footing the bill, no matter how Republicans try to manipulate the arithmetic.

There is another, more amorphous, concept to contemplate regarding the current administration’s posture on our relationship with our southern neighbors.

There appears to be a very uncomfortable level of commentary regarding Mexicans. Mexicans are taking American jobs? Mexicans are flooding over our borders? Mexicans are criminals? All of these statements are demonstrably false, but that may not matter.

It’s refreshing to note that there is an increased interest in the work of Hannah Arendt, especially “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” in which she describes the process by which a nation devolves into the abyss.  The process requires suspension of belief in facts and the adoption of prophecy.  If the economy becomes weakened it will be because Mexicans are taking away American jobs. If the institutions of American democracy are crumbling it must be because Mexicans are voting illegally in American elections. If crime rates are up (which they are not) it must be because of criminal behavior by Mexican immigrants.

The process also requires conflation. There are eerie reminders of Leonardo Conti’s notion that a “half Jew must be treated like a full Jew.” Are second and third generation Mexican-American citizens to be classified as less than full citizens?  Why is the current administration seeking daily lists of crimes alleged to have been perpetrated by immigrants?  Does this register with our consciences as being just a bit too similar to the inquiries of the Nazi’s Institute for Study of the Jewish Question?”

What are the consequences of associating Mexican, and all other Central American immigrants, with corruption and crime? What might be a consequence of identification of all Hispanic individuals as immigrants rather than as second or later generation citizens?

Does this mindset make it easier to adopt patently racist voting rights restrictions in the name of “election integrity?” Does this make easing regulations concerning workplace and job discrimination more acceptable in the name of “America First,” a slogan associated with the pro-nazis of the 1940s? Does this atmosphere create an environment where being tough on crime means being rough on members of our Hispanic population?

The president of Mexico is right to cancel his trip.  The current administration is not speaking to how things are (there was no significant voting fraud) (more manufacturing jobs have been lost to robots than other people) but to paint a picture of an authoritarian government staunchly defending our “integrity and values” until we don’t have any left.

Should the administration continue this route the wall, as some pundits are saying, may well serve to keep Americans in, rather than to keep Mexicans out.

Now, go to your favorite book store and get some Orwell and Arendt.

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Filed under Politics

Bait Switch Switch Bait: Trump’s Wall

It’s not like the discussion of immigration is some theoretical exercise in Nevada; the population is 28.1% Hispanic (as of 2015.)  Discussions about “building a wall” present blatantly white supremacist imagery to some and a direct threat to the familial security of others. 

Along this spectrum there are economic concerns (they take jobs) although we know from economic studies immigration tends to create jobs. [Atlantic, Business Insider, AmImC] Also there’s a spectrum of anti-immigration fervor reaching back to the ages when “the French would spread their revolution,” the “Germans refused to speak English,” “No Irish Need Apply,” Italians, Jews, and Eastern Europeans were not to be trusted; and, the Chinese were to be excluded.  Trumpsterism taps into this egregious strain of American political thought and was manifest in “Build the Wall.”

The Something For Nothing crowd was also appeased by the notion that the Mexican government was somehow supposed to pay for this.  How much of this was an almost pure con job is well illustrated by comments made by candidate Trump back in January 2016:

“Mr. Trump invents his positions as he goes along. His supporters say they don’t care. What they may not know is how deliberately he is currying their favor. At a meeting with The Times’s editorial writers, Mr. Trump talked about the art of applause lines. “You know,” he said of his events, “if it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, ‘We will build the wall!’ and they go nuts.” [NYT]

Nuts they may have gone, but the Mexican government has made it clear since August 12, 2015 it has no intention of paying for any wall Trump may construct.  The Mexican government restated this point on November 9, 2016:

“Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu reiterated that Mexico would not pay for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S. border. The threat that Mexico will pay for the wall was a key feature of his stump speeches.” [ADN]

As it became ever more obvious that the Mexican government wasn’t going to get out its check book, the Trump campaign offered other suggestions as to how “Mexico would pay.”

If the Mexican government refused to write a check for the wall, of say $5 to $10 billion, then the administration would include wire transfers as part of a plan to disallow monetary transfers from the U.S. to Mexico made by undocumented individuals.  The obvious problem with this approach is that there is nothing to prevent someone who is a legal resident or citizen of the U.S. from making the transfer.

“It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5 (billion)-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year,” Trump said on his campaign website.” [Politifact]

It’s just as easy a decision to have someone who is a citizen or legal resident facilitate the transfer.  It’s also unclear what percentage of the transfers are already made by those who are in this country perfectly legally, and what percentage comes from those who are without documents.

Okay, if this is fuzzy, then Trump added another element – fees.

“Trump said on his campaign website that he would generate money for the wall by increasing fees for visas and border crossing cards and by enforcing trade tariffs.Experts have told us there isn’t a connection between the U.S.-Mexico trade deficit (about $50 billion) and finding money for a wall.”  [Politifact]

There’s no connection between trade and “the wall” construction, and increasing fees for visas and border crossing cards isn’t likely to generate the kind of revenue needed to say “the Mexicans paid for it.”  Nor did the Trump campaign clarify that border crossing cards are also issued to Canadians.  Eventually we have to get to the matter of how much this proposal is going to cost – anyone or everyone.

If his followers had pictures of a “really high” precast concrete wall, they were shortly to be faced with a shrinking image.

“Trump has said the wall could cost $8 billion to $12 billion, be made of precast concrete, and rise 35 to 40 feet, or 50 feet, or higher. He’s said the wall doesn’t need to run the nearly 2,000 miles of the border, but half of that because of natural barriers.”  [Politifact]

Now it’s only half the 2000 mile border… pedestrian fencing costs range from $400,000 to $15.1 million per mile (average $3.9 million per mile) and vehicle fencing ranges from $200,000 to $1.8 million per mile. “Topography, type of fencing and materials used, land acquisitions and labor costs all impact costs per mile.” [Politifact] [GAO pdf]

By January 2017 the Wall was reduced to fencing.

“Most experts viewed such promises as unrealistic and impractical, and Trump himself sometimes allowed that the wall would not need to span the entire length of the border, thanks to natural barriers like rivers. After winning the election, he said he’d be open to stretches of fencing.”  [TPM]

Thus much for the precast concrete rising from 35 to 50 feet.  And, who’s going to pay for it? At the moment it’s the American taxpayer:

“Under the evolving plan, the Trump administration would rely on existing legislation authorizing fencing and other technology along the southern border. Congress would be asked to ensure that enough money is appropriated to take additional new steps — but would not pass a stand-alone bill authorizing a big new wall. CNN separately reported that Trump would ask Congress to appropriate US tax payer money to pay for the “wall”.” [TPM AP]

The evolution is almost complete. From Wall to Fence. From Mexico to U.S. taxpayer.  The president-elect intends to “negotiate” with the Mexican government about paying for it.  

“We’re going to get reimbursed,” Mr. Trump said during a brief telephone interview. “But I don’t want to wait that long. But you start, and then you get reimbursed.” [NYT]

He now says:

“In the interview, the president-elect insisted that Mexico would ultimately reimburse the United States. He said that payment would most likely emerge from his efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Mexican government.

“It’s going to be part of everything,” Mr. Trump said of the cost of building the wall. “We are going to be making a much better deal. It’s a deal that never should have been signed.” [NYT]

We already know that there’s no realistic connection between trade deficits and money to “build a wall,” or even to stretch a fence.  Here are a few of those previously cited experts:

“Trump’s connection of the trade deficit with a Mexican border fence is just nonsense,” said Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Just because the Mexican economy has a trade surplus relative to the United States doesn’t mean the Mexican government has the resources to build a border wall. It would be like me threatening my neighbor to build a new fence or else I’ll stop shopping at Walmart.”  

Mark Perry, a University of Michigan professor and scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the trade deficit is based mostly on trading and investment by private individuals and companies — not the government itself.

“It’s not like there is $54 billion sitting around somewhere in Mexico, like a magic pile of dollars, that could be used to build a wall,” he said.

The Mexican government does not have adequate funds to pay for health, education or roads — much less build a wall, said Gary Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think tank that analyzes globalization.

“The trade surplus does not represent money in some idle bank account controlled by the Mexican government,” he said.” [Politifact]

What are we going to do? “Stretch a Fence!” Who’s going to pay for it? We are!

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Filed under Immigration, Nevada, Nevada politics