Letter to a Trump Supporter #2: Path to Citizenship

This is the second in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

In keeping with the immigration theme, he sent me a video of Bill Clinton, as president, vowing to increase deportations. I responded:

Yes, President Clinton said that, and his administration did conduct a lot of deportations. But you know who ordered more deportations than any other president? Barack Obama.

Anyone who tells you that today’s Democratic Party is trying to encourage undocumented immigration is lying to you. The Democrats just don’t engage in race-baiting and fear-mongering, so they don’t get the headlines.

To this, my friend asked, “Do you agree to limit the number coming or agree to increase as Hillary wants?”

Below is my response.

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Dear Mr. ——,

Good question, but I might need to clarify it a bit.

Hillary Clinton has never said that she wants to increase the number of immigrants coming into the United States without limit. Her website lists her immigration proposals, which don’t say anything about an unlimited increase in immigration.

Current immigration law does have annual limits, and Secretary Clinton has not proposed to change them.

There are a couple things you might be referring to.

She has said that she wants to allow 65,000 Syrian refugees into the country. This would be a one-time increase representing 0.02% of the American population. That is a cap, of course, and a very small one at that.

She has also said that she would give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, but that’s only for people who have already immigrated here. So it wouldn’t change the number of immigrants at all.

This is not a particularly liberal stance. In fact, the leaders of both parties supported a pathway to citizenship in 2013 when they tried to pass immigration reform.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning news outlet ProPublica recently published a fascinating behind-the-scenes investigation into the failure of that effort. The Senate had passed a bill. The House was negotiating a bill. They had gotten 140 Republicans onboard. They were literally celebrating that a majority of both parties were ready to vote yes…and then Eric Cantor, the number-two Republican in power, was defeated in the primary by a conservative challenger who campaigned against his support for immigration reform. The Republican reformers all realized they were in danger of losing their seat too, so they abandoned the negotiation and the bill died.

If extremists like Donald Trump had not been allowed to hijack the debate, we probably would have passed immigration reform.

It even had the support of Sean Hannity, who said, “It’s simple to me to fix it. If people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done.”

And Paul Ryan, who said, “I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do, because I’m Catholic, and my Christian values say we cannot have millions of people in second-tier status.”

So, yes, to answer your question, I agree with Sean Hannity, I agree with Paul Ryan, and I agree with Hillary Clinton. Mass deportation is cruel and infeasible. A pathway to citizenship is in keeping with American values, Christian values, and common sense.

Best regards,
Anthony

How We Stopped Investing in the Future: A Florida Case Study

In June 2009, ten Florida Congressmen sent a letter to the Department of Transportation, requesting over $2 billion from the federal government. They wanted to build a high-speed rail line, shuttling passengers from Tampa to Orlando and eventually Miami in only two hours. The money was supposed to come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion “stimulus” bill that newly-elected President Barack Obama signed in February of that year.

Of the ten Florida Congressmen, three were Republicans, and all three had voted against the stimulus: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Adam Putnam.

This kind of about-face wasn’t unusual. Many Republicans were begging for a piece of the stimulus after they had tried to kill it in Congress. Even party leaders like Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor got in on the action.

John Boehner defended this contradiction by saying that the stimulus would fund “shovel-ready projects that will create much-needed jobs.” Only a few months earlier, he had been saying the exact opposite — and relentlessly trashing anyone who dared to disagree with him.

The Tampa-Orlando rail line really did fit Boehner’s definition. It was shovel-ready because almost all the land and permits were already lined up, and according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, it would create 27,000 jobs.

Moreover, it was good fiscal policy. According to two separate reports, the project would produce an annual surplus of $31 million to $45 million by 2026 — and that didn’t include the much more profitable connection to Miami that was likely to follow.

And it was good environmental policy. High-speed rail emits far less greenhouse gas than cars, especially in densely populated regions like central and southeastern Florida, which is why overflowing cities in China, Europe, and Japan have surged so far ahead of us in this vehicle of the future. It saves time, money, and pollution. Unsurprisingly, it’s very popular.

Fifty years ago, this would have been a no-brainer. In the 1950s and the 1960s, politicians were dedicated to investing in new technology and staying one step ahead of the Soviet Union. It’s no coincidence that economic growth was faster and more widespread in those days.

Back then, the federal government spent 2.6 percent of the nation’s income on nonmilitary investment. In the last twenty years, it has averaged 1.8 percent per year. That difference of 0.8 percent may not seem like a lot, but it adds up to trillions and trillions of dollars that could have gone into research and development, education, and new infrastructure — and, if previous investments are any indication, would have yielded benefits many times higher than the costs.

As economist Eugene Steuerle put it, “We have a budget for a declining nation.”

On January 28, 2010, the White House granted Florida’s request. By December, the Department of Transportation had allocated $2.4 billion against a cost of $2.65 billion, and they promised to cover any cost overruns. Had Florida accepted the money, its workers would be laying rail for the Sunshine State bullet train at this very moment.

Instead, Governor Rick Scott rejected the deal, citing cost concerns that didn’t make much sense since the feds were on the hook for any losses.

Thus did the dreams of high-speed rail die in Florida. Thus do many dreams of the future die in the modern political arena.

In Tampa, there’s a street called Bayshore Boulevard. It’s the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. It’s a beautiful walk, with a balustrade that overlooks the water below. It was built in the 1930s by the Public Works Administration, part of the federal government’s response to the Great Depression. It’s just one of many breathtaking feats of construction that dot this great land of ours, each a reminder that, as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said during the high-speed rail fiasco, “We still know how to do big things in this country.”

I’d like to think that’s true. I’d like to think we still care about the future. I’d like to think we can build a better tomorrow. I only wish Governor Scott and his fellow ideologues felt the same way.

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This op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The Charming Republicans: Issa, Ryan, and Cantor

by Norman Horowitz

In 1960, at Screen Gems International, I met a “tall, dark, and handsome” man named Larry Hilford.

Larry was very smart and very charming when he wanted to be. He was a Yale graduate, as well as a Harvard MBA, all of which I could tolerate. But I will never forgive him for his “movie star” good looks.

Larry and I both worked for Lloyd Burns, a South African/Canadian who was the personification of “two faced.” Lloyd had a farbissina punim, which, loosely translated from Yiddish, means that he was sourpuss. He saved his farbissina punim for people like me and other junior staff people. He was at his charming best when with our major customers and senior management.

Yes, he was smart, but to me smart is not enough for an executive (or politician) to function as effectively as possible.

Larry and Lloyd were a study in contrasts. Larry would cringe when anyone called him a salesman, but that’s what he was: a well educated man of vision who could sell what he believed.

I have noticed in my career that people like Larry, an actual operating executive and salesman, were not then, nor are they today, respected as they should be. America has bought into the notion that MBAs and lawyers are somehow qualified to run operating divisions or companies. Nowadays, it seems that senior management executives are mostly operationally inexperienced and sport their farbissina punims as a badge of honor.

The combination of intellect and charm and operating experience matters, and to me the political poster child for this would be Bill Clinton.

Antithetical to this would be Congressmen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Darrell Issa.

While I never agreed with the policies of the Bush boys or Ronald Reagan, none of them could be referred to as having a farbissina punim. The same cannot be said of these three infantile Republican Congressmen who, not too long ago, were setting sail for a witch hunt against Eric Holder, while a good deal of the world is falling apart.

Much to the chagrin of many of my Republican friends, our President Barack Obama is bright, charming, and ingratiating, and I would ask those who might be open to it to compare the countenance of Barack Obama to our three resident farbissina punim champions, Darrell Issa, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor.

I’m reminded of my days at MGM, where I was accused of being a bad manager because I was “too nice.”

Welcome to America.

The Bird and the Wolf

by Norman Horowitz

Last week, Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, denounced the “Occupy Wall Street” protests as “mobs,” and Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, charged demonstrators with “trying to take away the jobs of people working in this city.”

Cantor’s net worth is approximately $4.8 million. Bloomberg is worth $20 billion.

Cantor spent his childhood at the elite Collegiate School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where the annual tuition is $37,500. He then attended George Washington University, where the annual cost is $58,148. He received a Juris Doctor degree from William & Mary Law School, where the annual cost is $52,000. He also holds a Master’s in Real Estate Development from Columbia University, where the annual cost is approximately $54,000.

Bloomberg didn’t have an upbringing as privileged as Cantor’s, but he did attend Johns Hopkins University, where the annual tuition is $40,680, followed by Harvard Business School, where the annual cost is a whopping $84,000.   Continue reading “The Bird and the Wolf”

Mongo Only Pawn…in Game of Life

by Norman Horowitz

In 1960, I worked for Lloyd Burns at Screen Gems International. Lloyd was very smart, but in retrospect he was the victim of an inflated ego.

Helios Alvarez, a very smart Brazilian, ran the company’s “complex” operation in Sao Paulo.

Helios was in the process of renegotiating his contract for the third or fourth time in a year. He was on the phone with Lloyd, who was getting angrier and angrier by the minute. He pushed the phone’s “hold” button and said to me, “That little son of a bitch thinks he has me by the balls…and he does.”   Continue reading “Mongo Only Pawn…in Game of Life”