Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thoughts on Immigration

President Obama's recent decision to use executive order to bypass immigration laws is a lawless act, but it may end up being politically successful because it does raise uncomfortable questions for his opponents.

First, let's quickly dispense with any doubt about its lawlessness. The order was defended as "prosecutorial discretion" by Janet Napolitano, but discretion cannot meaningfully apply in this case. Suppose a Republican president issued an executive order directing federal authorities to stop enforcing penalties on capital gains tax collection (as John Yoo suggested) or federal assault weapon laws. Would there be any doubt that such an order would be interpreted (correctly) as an attempt to bypass Congress? The Obama order should be viewed identically. Prosecutorial discretion is when a prosecutor uses discretion in an individual case. The executive order applies to an entire class of people.

The problem for Republicans, though, is that many of the people who would be helped by the executive order are sympathetic figures. The media has predictably singled out the straight-A students and success stories among them, but one can easily sympathize with any kid brought to the U.S. at a young age and now facing deportation through no fault of his or her own. However, it's for just such stories that prosecutorial discretion was invented. If the DHS chose - on an individual basis - not to deport in such cases, only the most hard-hearted would balk. Republicans need to emphasize this: that the problem isn't one of sympathy, but of Obama's naked politicization of the problem by ignoring the law and issuing the order.

On a larger scale, the reason for the problem in the first place is the ease with which illegal immigration has occurred. It's because there are 800,000 such sympathetic cases that this is such a massive problem. If it were 800 it would never even be noticed. And the reason there are so many is that we have a major illegal immigration problem. It's temporarily been reversed by a stagnant economy, but that will change. Unless reform is implemented to stop future illegal immigration, eventually the problem will recur. One reason it's been difficult to create reform is that neither the left nor the right is willing to make many concessions: the left views illegal immigration as, frankly, good politics (immigrants in general trending leftwards) and the right wishes to avoid the aftermath of the Reagan Amnesty, which promised to legalize many immigrants with the quid pro quo that future illegal immigration would be enforced. The actual result of the amnesty was even more illegal immigration.

Romney has taken a pretty good line in his responses, avoiding fire-breathing while pointing out the legal problems with the President's order. That needs to continue. The best way to avoid this in the future is to make sure the current President is no longer in office come January 20, 2013.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Student Loans Make College More Expensive

And here's a good article explaining why. Basically what it boils down to is that as more money is made available for student loans, universities expand their spending, but not necessarily by expanding their student base. Rather, spending per student goes up. Which means tuition goes up. Which leads to calls for more student loan funding, and so on.

From the article:

Was college worth it? A huge part of the problem relates to federal financial-aid programs. Annual student loans, Pell Grants, tax credits and other federal assistance totaled some $169 billion a year in 2010-11 - more than 1 percent of national output. These programs are based on two erroneous premises: that almost everyone needs higher education for vocational success, and that they reduce student costs.

More than 25 years ago, Education Secretary William Bennett argued that federal aid programs benefited colleges more than students. Recent studies by Stephanie Riegg Cellini of George Washington University and Claudia Goldin of Harvard University, as well as by Andrew Gillen for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, support that hypothesis.

A new study by Nicholas Turner of the Office of Tax Analysis in the U.S. Treasury Department argues that when tax-based aid goes up, institutional scholarships go down, dollar for dollar.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Liberal Disingenuousness

Yes, yes, conservatives can be disingenuous, too. But hear me out on this.

Here's two example over the past two days, and these are mere examples of a very widespread phenomenon, in which liberals get away with making unchallenged claims about conservatives that simply would not stand if made from the other direction.

The first was Daniel Klaidman, author of the book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, about drone strikes. The NPR show was about the contradiction that under President Obama drone attacks have increased enormously, even to the point of taking out U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, even though attacks of that nature were deplored under Bush. Klaidman went on and on about how carefully Obama, and his legal adviser Harold Koh, had thought through the question of drone strikes, whether they were legal, etc. And he admitted that even though Koh had vehemently opposed U.S. military action prior to 2009, his opinion changed when his perspective did.

At no point did the NPR interviewer ask where this perspective was during the Bush years. Did he not imagine that the people making the tough decisions then might have had similar quandaries? If Koh felt so strongly, he should have not taken the appointment, or resigned when he found that Obama would be overriding him constantly. Instead, he "thoughtfully" came down on the side of strikes and defended their use. But doesn't this entirely exonerate the Bush strategy of using them and other targeted methods of going after terrorists?

Not for Klaidman. His parting shot was to mention that he was glad, with all the power drone strikes bring to the table, that the person in the White House making the calls was "so thoughful and deliberative", unlike, it did not need saying, its previous occupant. How convenient. So we are to judge a policy by the thoughtfulness of its executive? To Klaidman, the same policy can be deplored in one case and celebrated in another, because the amount or type of thought behind it came from a different man.

The second case comes from an old standby, Howard Dean. On MSNBC recently he said: "People fundamentally don't trust Mitt Romney; they believe he only cares about people who have great wealth, which is probably true." (My emphasis.) Which is probably true! I'm trying to imagine the titanic backlash that would come from a conservative saying that people believe that Obama only cares about people of color, "which is probably true." We'd never stop hearing about it.

And liberals tell me that their problem is they're too nice. Pshaw.

Monday, June 11, 2012

You Are Not Special

Terrific commencement address: