Newspaper column: DACA rhetoric just muddies the waters

Pro-DACA gathering in Las Vegas earlier this month. (R-J pix)

The vitriol being spewed over President Trump’s suspension of Obama’s executive fiat to defer deportation of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children is nothing more than pretentious and pointless political patronizing.

Nevada’s Democratic delegation to Washington was unmatched in its heated hyperbole.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto called Trump a racist and a xenophobe, firing off a missive declaring the “decision to end DACA protections for DREAMers is not guided by sound policy, but by xenophobia and myths. DREAMers who benefit from DACA know no other country other than the U.S. Denying them DACA protection unjustly rips away their future, exposes them to job loss, and threatens them with deportation from the only country they have ever known.”

For the acronym deprived, DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the name given by Obama to an executive order to defer deportations of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. DREAMers is a derivation of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, which has been pending in various forms in Congress since August of 2001 without passage.

When Congress failed to act, Obama took it on his own in June 2012 to do what Congress had not.

Even though Trump gave Congress six months to remedy his rescinding of DACA and pass the DREAM Act, Rep. Jacky Rosen declared it was wrong to invite “these young people to come out of the shadows, raise their hands, and make themselves known, the United States made a promise to those who came here as children. President Trump is now reneging on that promise …”

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, making the obligatory observation that he was once an undocumented immigrant brought here by his parents, said in an email that the decision tramples this country’s values and shatters the hopes and dreams of the 800,000 who have signed up for DACA. He called the decision “heartless and cruel.”

Rep. Dina Titus said, “Ending DACA appeals to xenophobic beliefs and goes against the founding principles of our nation” — ignoring the fact it was Obama who made a promise he had no power to make.

In a statement announcing the DACA decision, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.

“In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”

In contrast to Nevada’s Democratic delegates, its Republicans reacted by saying it is now time for Congress to do its job.

Sen. Dean Heller issued a statement to the Reno newspaper saying, “While I remain concerned about the way in which DACA came to life, I’ve made clear that I support the program because hard working individuals who came to this country through no fault of their own as children should not be immediately shown the door.”

Heller noted that he is a cosponsor of the Bridge Act, which provides legal status for so-called DREAMers while Congress works toward a permanent solution to immigration problems.

“Just as I have in the past, I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to reform our broken immigration system and that must start with securing our borders …” Heller’s statement continued.

Rep. Mark Amodei put out a statement noting that he is a sponsor of a bill called Recognizing America’s Children Act, which would provide a way for childhood immigrants to earn legal residency.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve called on congressional leadership to act on immigration reform. I would always rather be criticized for attempting to move this issue toward a solution, than criticized for repeated inaction,” Amodei said in a statement. “Now, Congress has six months to do the job it’s supposed to do according to the Constitution. If we’re unable to do that job, then 800,000 immigrants will be affected.”

Amodei further noted that Congress has not passed any substantive immigration reform since Ronald Reagan was president, three decades ago, adding that if any blame is to be attached to this it is rightfully Congress’.

The Democrats’ rancorous rhetoric does nothing to move toward a compromise and might well jeopardize that goal, especially if they categorically reject border security as a part of the package.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

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Zinke recommendation to reduce Gold Butte Monument size met with usual blather

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s memo to President Trump recommending an unspecified reduction in size of several recently created national monuments — including the 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument in Clark County — has sent the usual suspects into apoplexy.

Democrat Rep. Ruben Kihuen, whose district includes Gold Butte, screeched, “The latest leaks from this administration show that once again Secretary Zinke is ignoring the will of Nevadans by recommending that the size of Gold Butte National Monument be reduced. This decision will not only be detrimental to Nevada’s economy and shared cultural heritage, but it is further proof that the monument review process has been rigged from the start. Secretary Zinke promised that Nevadans’ voices would be heard. Instead, we got half-hearted attempts to meet with stakeholders and secret memos cooked up behind closed doors, all when the outcome was predetermined from the beginning. When it comes to altering our monuments and impacting our livelihood, Nevadans deserve more than unofficial leaks and uncorroborated reports. Secretary Zinke should look Nevadans in the eye and give it to us straight, rather than hide behind the administration’s continued shroud of secrecy.”

Secretary Ryan Zinke talks to media in Bunkerville during a visit to Gold Butte. (R-J pix)

Actually, the residents of Mesquite welcome the reduction, especially if the free land assures the town it will have access to springs in the region that will be needed to supply the growing community with drinking water in the future.

Zinke’s memo specifically noted that the water district has historic water rights to six springs and five of those are within the Obama-designated national monument boundaries.

Democrat Rep. Dina Titus weighed in by proclaiming, “Secretary Zinke leaked a memo in the middle of the night because he knows his plan to hack away at monuments like Gold Butte is an overreach opposed by the majority of Americans. Gold Butte’s opponents have created a straw man argument about water rights without mentioning that the monument’s proclamation includes language to protect them. Now we must recommit our effort to protect these precious public lands in the courts and send a strong message to Zinke and Trump to keep their hands off our monuments.”

Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen claimed, “No President has unilateral power to revoke a national monument under the Antiquities Act and any decision to redefine protections for Nevada’s national monuments is a blatant overreach. This rash decision by the Trump Administration will not only endanger Nevada’s natural beauty and chip away at our cultural heritage, but it will also hurt our state’s outdoor recreation economy by eliminating jobs that have contributed significantly to our local tourism industry. I’ll continue to stand up to this administration, in every way I can, to protect Nevada’s public lands.”

Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the past has opposed reducing the footprint of any national monument.

But Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei had opposed the designation of Gold Butte and the 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument in Nye and Lincoln counties. Zike’s memo makes no mention of Basin and Range.

Heller said, “As a strong proponent of states’ rights, the Obama Administration’s decision to bypass Congress and designate two national monuments in Nevada despite widespread disagreement at the local level is an example of extreme overreach and the failed Washington-knows-best mentality. That is why I welcomed Secretary Zinke to Nevada to see first-hand the impact of monuments designated under the Antiquities Act with no local input. After talking to and meeting with the Secretary several times, I am pleased that he has taken my recommendation to ask the President to modify Gold Butte’s boundaries to allow the Virgin Valley Water District to access its water rights that were lost under the previous Administration. These actions recommended by me and Secretary Zinke prioritize local concerns over the opinion of Washington bureaucrats, and I hope that President Trump will agree with the Secretary.”

Frankly, the designations as national monuments did little more than create paperwork, because the all the land was under the jurisdiction of various federal land agencies, primarily the Bureau of Land Management. The monument designation does nothing to add actual protection for the few petroglyphs and other artifacts that are located on the sites.

Zinke noted this lack of protection and wrote that his agency “should work with Congress to secure funding for adequate infrastructure and management needs to protect objects effectively” in Gold Butte.

As we have already noted, these monuments need not be so large.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was passed in order to protect prehistoric and Indian ruins and artifacts on federal land in the West and the law limits such designations to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects.” While earlier monuments averaged 422 acres, several of Obama’s designations exceeded a million acres.

The Gold Butte portion of the Zinke memo:

Democrats dead set on punishing the rich no matter the outcome

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer opposes any tax cuts for the rich. (Getty pix)

In the wake of Trump’s tax reform speech in Missouri, Democrats are doubling down on their No. 1 priority — rich people must be punished for the sin of success and not be allowed to get one red cent in tax relief ever.

Pay no attention to the fact taxes are meant to fund the services needed by the people, to Democrats taxes are a weapon of social redistribution and retribution.

Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer said Democrats would not support any plan that cuts taxes for the top 1 percent of earners.

This echoes a letter signed by 45 Senate Democrats — including Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto — on Aug. 1. That letter states “any reform effort should not benefit the wealthiest individuals, who have already seen outsized benefits from recent economic gains while working-class wages have remained stagnant. … Tax reform cannot be a cover story for delivering tax cuts to the wealthiest.  We will not support any tax reform plan that includes tax cuts for the top one percent.”

The letter also declares, “We will not support any effort to pass deficit-financed tax cuts, which would endanger critical programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other public investments in the future.”

Where have they been for the past couple of decades as deficit spending has skyrocketed?

Rep. Dina Titus also echoed the party line class warfare paean by saying, “The President’s so-called tax reform plan, which is full of vague promises, rigs the system to benefit the wealthy. We should know by now that ‘trickle down’ economics is a myth which allows the rich to get richer while causing middle-class families to fall further behind.”

But tax cuts can stimulate the whole economy, whether you call it trickle down or the Laffer Curve.

You tax the rich for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks, because that is where the money is, not as punishment.

If everyone gets to spend more of their own money, rich or poor, that will spread the wealth.

Democrats are short sighted. They can’t see past their hatred of the rich and their special interests.

For example, Titus recently said, “It is important that any federal tax reform keeps in place the ability to deduct state sales tax,” which of course would also keep the income tax deduction.

Pay not heed to the fact Nevada is in the bottom 10 of states for benefiting from local and state tax deductions, and that cutting the deductions could cut Nevadans’ actual overall tax rate.

 

 

A guide to political language in the ObamaCare debate

In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. — George Orwell

The political dictionary turns words and thoughts on their heads. Coercion is virtuous. Ending extortion is thievery.

This week the Senate voted 48-51 against the so-called “skinny” ObamaCare repeal. The bill would have ended the mandate that everyone must purchase health care insurance or pay a stiff penalty. The “skinny” bill lowered the penalty to $0. It also ended the requirement that employers with 50 or more employees provide a specific amount of health insurance or pay a penalty.

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller voted for taking the gun away from the heads of Americans and let them decide for themselves whether to purchase health insurance.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto voted against the repeal and is quoted in the morning paper as saying:

“In the dead of night, Senate Republicans tried and failed to rip away the health care of hundreds of thousands of Nevadans and millions of Americans. Their failed attempt is the result of overwhelming public opposition – your calls, letters, protests and tweets put Republicans on notice.

“The Affordable Care Act has provided lifesaving, affordable health care coverage to millions. …”

Las Vegas Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who has said she will seek to unseat Heller, was quoted as saying that Heller had promised he wouldn’t vote for a bill that takes health care from hundreds of thousands of Nevadans, but, “Last night he voted to do just that.” (The quote is in the print edition, but not the online version.)

See. Ending extortion is theft.

But this is nothing new when it comes to discussing ObamaCare. Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the Supreme Court decision upholding ObamaCare points out the newspeak and doublethink required:

The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed (“penalty” means tax, “further [Medicaid] payments to the State” means only incremental Medicaid payments to the State, “established by the State” means not established by the State) will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.

 

Catherine Cortez Masto at UMC. (KSNV pix)

 

 

Democrats losing elections and argument against Citizens United

Jon Ossoff loses George House race despite far outspending his Republican opponent. (Getty Images)

Not only are Democrats wrong on principle in their unified effort to legislatively repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling, they are wrong in their rationale.

The 5-4 Citizens opinion stated it is unconstitutional on First Amendment free speech grounds to limit spending on political speech by corporations and unions.

At one point Sen. Harry Reid, in arguing for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens, stated:

But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced. Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy and put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons. It is time that we revive our constituents’ faith in the electoral system, and let them know that their voices are being heard.

His heir in the Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto, has taken up the cudgel, saying in a press release in support of another attempt February to amend the constitution:

The U.S. Constitution puts democratic power in the hands of the American people — not corporations or private companies. Since the Citizens United decision, big corporations have gained unprecedented influence over elections and our country’s political process. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation; it’s critical that we end unlimited corporate contributions if we are going to have a democratic process and government that will truly work for all Americans.

The Democrats in the Nevada Legislature waded in with a resolution urging Congress to amend the First Amendment and overturn Citizens. It passed without a single Republican vote.

This week their bleating about elections being bought and paid for by the wealthy was proven dead wrong, again.

Not only was President Trump outspent by loser Hillary Clinton by two-to-one, but now in a race for a Georgia House seat the Democratic candidate outspent his Republican opponent by seven-to-one and still lost.

And talk about special interest money. The Democrat Jon Ossoff, between March 29 and May 31, reported receiving 7,218 donations from California, but only 808 donations from Georgia. Overall, he got $456,296.03 from Californians, compared to $228,474.44 from Georgians.

The Democrats are not only losing elections, but are losing the argument about the effectiveness of the influence of outside money. Being able to spend your own money on political speech is tantamount to free speech, but not to convincing speech.

In Citizens, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

The (First) Amendment is written in terms of “speech,” not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is “speech” covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise.

 

Newspaper column: Nevada Democrats wrongly predict disaster over Paris Climate Accord pullout

Trump explains amount of global temperature increase. (Reuters pix via R-J)

The caterwauling over President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and renegotiate was quick, loud and anguished — including from Nevada’s usual Democratic suspects.

Freshman Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto fired off this prediction of doom and gloom: “Withdrawing from the deal would weaken efforts to combat one of humankind’s biggest threats, not only risking irreversible damage, but also harming our economy. President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement is the height of irresponsibility and an affront to our moral duty to protect our planet.”

Rep. Dina Titus of Clark County was equally over the top: “Any move to abandon this agreement will jeopardize our physical wellbeing, further undermine our standing as a world leader, and endanger our economic vitality for years to come.”

Freshman Congressman Ruben Kihuen, who presents much of Southern Nevada, chimed in by bemoaning: “Now is not the time for America to be stepping away from our leadership role on the world stage, especially when it comes to the future of the planet.”

Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen of Clark County joined the chorus with this statement: “This decision not only places our country at an economic disadvantage relative to other countries in clean energy production and innovation, but it places us in harm’s way.”

At least Republican Sen. Dean Heller was realistic, while expressing his support for renewable energy development: “Our country will continue to move forward with the development of innovative new energy technologies that make our state and our nation’s energy supply cleaner, more affordable, and more reliable — with or without our participation in the Paris Agreement.”

Was anyone really listening to what Trump said?

Just what is the “irreversible damage?” What is the jeopardy to “our physical wellbeing” and the “future of the planet?” And how are we placed in “harm’s way?”

“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree — think of that; this much — Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount,” Trump said in his half-hour long Rose Garden speech this past week. “In fact, 14 days of carbon emissions from China alone would wipe out the gains from America — and this is an incredible statistic — would totally wipe out the gains from America’s expected reductions in the year 2030, after we have had to spend billions and billions of dollars, lost jobs, closed factories, and suffered much higher energy costs for our businesses and for our homes.”

(According to a Heritage Foundation report, if the entire industrialized world cut carbon emissions to zero, global warming would be reduced by four-tenths of a degree Celsius by 2100.)

Just how many jobs and dollars would it take to avert this impending climate cataclysm?

Citing an economic study, Trump stated that by 2040 the Paris Climate Accord would cost the economy $3 trillion in lost gross domestic product and 6.5 million in industrial jobs, as well as reduce the incomes of households by $7,000 each.

Then there is the fundamental unfairness of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration but never ratified by the Senate.

“Not only does this deal subject our citizens to harsh economic restrictions, it fails to live up to our environmental ideals,” Trump said. “As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States — which is what it does — the world’s leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.”

In fact, the United States over the past 14 years has already reduced carbon emissions by 10 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, and that is not due to wind and solar power generation, which still accounts for only 3 percent of the nation’s energy output. It is largely due to fracking producing cheaper, clean-burning natural gas to replace coal-fired generation.

But under the Paris Accord, China will be allowed to increase its emissions for another 13 years. India’s participation is contingent upon receiving billions in foreign aid, largely from the United States.

“China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants,” Trump reported. “So we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”

Trump noted the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it merely transfers them overseas.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Newspaper column: Nevada politicians balk at Trump’s budget

The Obama administration managed to increase the national debt from $10.6 trillion in 2009 to nearly $20 trillion in 2016, meaning the cost of serving that debt has doubled and will rise as interest rates rise.

But when President Trump proposes a budget that would cut spending by $4.23 trillion over the next decade there is wailing and gnashing of teeth — including from the majority of Nevada politicians.

Much of the lamenting is over the budget’s proposal to carry out the House-passed modest rollback of Obamacare, specifically rolling back Medicaid eligibility. Previously, Medicaid covered low-income children, pregnant women and disabled, but largely excluded other low-income adults. Obamacare allowed just about anyone earning below 138 percent of the poverty level to become eligible.

Nevada was one of the 31 states to expand Medicaid eligibility since the federal government promised to initially pick up 100 percent of the increased cost and 90 percent in later years.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he intends to protect Medicaid funding “at all cost” — meaning your cost. The expansion has added 220,000 Nevadans to Medicaid.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller also said he is concerned about the budget’s cuts to Medicaid and its affect on Nevadans now covered by it.

Freshman Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto joined other senators in signing a letter to Trump bemoaning the proposed Medicaid cuts. She noted that more than 18,000 veterans in Nevada are covered by Medicaid. How many were previously covered or still would be after a rollback was not stated.

“Your proposed cuts to Medicaid and your efforts to take away people’s health coverage are inconsistent with the promises you made to America’s veterans. They deserve better,” the letter states.

Spending as well as cuts are drawing fire.

There is that $120 million in Trump’s budget to restart the licensing process for Yucca Mountain to become a nuclear waste storage site, a measure apparently opposed by a majority of state politicians.

This prompted Heller to say, “From slashing funding for important public lands programs to its renewed effort to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, the President’s budget request contains several anti-Nevada provisions. While Congress ultimately has the power of the purse, I will continue to stand up for Nevada’s priorities by defending our important public lands programs and fighting any effort to turn Nevada into the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Yucca Mountain is dead …”

Rep. Dina Titus of Clark County fired off this missive: “President Trump wants to fund a revival of the failed Yucca Mountain boondoggle that will ultimately cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. Just as his budget overlooks the needs of the America people, Trump’s Yucca Mountain line item ignores the majority of Nevadans who don’t want this dangerous project rammed down their throats.”

On the other hand, Nye County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen sent out a statement saying, “I am pleased that the just published fiscal 2018 budget submitted by President Donald Trump includes funding that will continue the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain Waste Repository in Nye County. The promise of a safe and secure site for nuclear waste has been promised to the nation for more than three decades.”

Time to negotiate for benefits?

Then there is the plan in the budget to save $10 million a year by finally following the provisions of the original 1970s act to protect wild horses by allowing excess animals to be sold for slaughter instead of being warehoused at taxpayer expense.

The wild horse management budget has doubled under Obama to more than $80 million a year. The usual suspects decry this trim.

Few seem willing to throttle back on the government largesse, even though the economy has picked up a bit since the depths of the recession and unemployment has fallen from October 2009’s 10 percent peak to 4.7 percent.

Trump’s budget proposes to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade, and trim $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs — all of which have increased in recent years.

Medicaid enrollment has grown by 47 percent since 2006 and spending by 75 percent — to $554 billion in 2015. Food stamp recipients have increased by 11 million.

Trump’s budget is 55 percent larger than 2007’s, though inflation has been 20 percent.

As Ronald Reagan once remarked, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Yucca Mountain (CBS pix)