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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Donald Trump’s Army Is Transforming the GOP - Populist agenda trumps traditional conservative ideologies for the new breed of Republican voter

Gerald Seib writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Amid all the odd changes unfolding in this election cycle, the most startling may be the way the Republican Party is transforming right before our eyes.

Whether Donald Trump is responsible for this transformation, or merely the beneficiary of it, is a chicken-and-egg question for history to decide. But the change now has been unleashed regardless of his electoral fate.

Through balloting in three states, it appears that a new set of voters is driving the GOP now. Their agenda is more populist and less ideological than has been the case for Republican voters in the past. They are prepared to break with the party’s traditional positions on a number of fronts, particularly on issues important to the Republicans’ core business constituency. They have little respect, and to some degree outright antipathy, for the party’s leaders.

Some of these voters appear new to the GOP, but many have been bouncing around in the party, lured in over the years by their differences with Democrats on cultural issues. The difference now is that they are energized, as opposed to apathetic, and united behind a single candidate. They are driving the primary process and changing the party in the process.

The voters Mr. Trump has pulled together in winning New Hampshire and South Carolina and coming in second in Iowa is a coalition of the economically and culturally alienated, voters who look angry but also a bit frightened. It is a far cry from the traditional GOP winners’ coalition.

In each of the first three states that have voted, Mr. Trump has carried by a wide margin Republican voters with a high-school education or less, according to polls of voters. In New Hampshire, he won almost half of such voters. In South Carolina, he also won 40% of those with some college education but not a college degree.

He also has won in each of the first three states among ideologically moderate Republicans and among those who consider themselves politically independent. He does better among older voters than younger ones; in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, he won among those age 65 and older. He does better among those on the lower half of the income scale than those on the upper half.

It’s important to note that Mr. Trump is drawing votes from across a broad spectrum of Republican voters; he fishes in every pond. But his core voters are in this new populist alignment.

To some extent, the Trump core looks like the voters who propelled Pat Buchanan, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in earlier Republican election cycles. But not exactly: Their coalitions were more heavily tinged with evangelical voters, who are part of but not the heart of the Trump crowd. And those earlier contenders eventually became marginal candidates, not front-runners.

To some extent, this coalition also is a descendent of the tea-party movement that sprang to life in 2010, largely in response to the health-care law of President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party. Yet this coalition is different from that as well. Tea-party adherents were, by and large, ideologically conservative. The Trump coalition isn’t conservative in the traditional sense, or ideological at all.

This isn’t the country club, Wall Street, Chamber of Commerce or religious-conservative set within the GOP. It isn’t the deficit-hawk coalition, either, for Mr. Trump has proposed a tax plan that, according to outside analysts, would blow the biggest hole in the side of the budget. And he’s the GOP candidate most outspoken about not cutting benefits for Medicare and Social Security recipients.

Nor is this the coalition of neo-conservatives on security policy, for Mr. Trump has blasted the Iraq war those neo-cons inspired, and has kind words to say about Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader they abhor.

Ronald Reagan used to define the Republican Party as a three-legged stool made up of social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and national-security conservatives. The Trump coalition isn’t precisely any of those three.

This is a populist coalition, and Mr. Trump has won its support in part by breaking defiantly with traditional Republican economic policies. He mocks free-trade agreements that have had broad support within the party, and particularly within its normally powerful business wing. He has shredded the more open Reagan philosophy on immigration. He can sound more like a Democratic populist than a Republican one when talking about taxing hedge funds and private-equity firms.

He has openly ridiculed the last three presidential contenders of the Republican Party: Sen. John McCain, former President George W. Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He is critical of his party’s leaders in Congress and mocks his party’s donor base.

The voters drawn to these apostasies have moved from the GOP fringes to its heart—and other candidates trying to catch Mr. Trump ignore them at their peril.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Thorny Economics of Illegal Immigration - Arizona’s economy took a hit when many illegal immigrants left, but benefits also materialized

From The Wall Street Journal:

MARICOPA, Ariz.—After Arizona passed a series of tough anti-immigration laws, Rob Knorr couldn’t find enough Mexican field hands to pick his jalapeño peppers. He sharply reduced his acreage and invested $2 million developing a machine to remove pepper stems. His goal was to cut the number of laborers he needed by 90% and to hire higher-paid U.S. machinists instead.

“We used to have many migrant families. They aren’t coming back,” says Mr. Knorr, who owns RK Farms LLC, an hour’s drive from Phoenix.

Few issues in the presidential campaign are more explosive than whether and how much to crack down on illegal immigration, which some Republican candidates in particular blame for America’s economic woes. Arizona is a test case of what happens to an economy when such migrants leave, and it illustrates the economic tensions fueling the immigration debate.

Economists of opposing political views agree the state’s economy took a hit when large numbers of illegal immigrants left for Mexico and other border states, following a broad crackdown. But they also say the reduced competition for low-skilled jobs was a boon for some native-born construction and agricultural workers who got jobs or raises, and that the departures also saved the state money on education and health care. Whether those gains are worth the economic pain is the crux of the debate.

Gordon Hanson, a University of California at San Diego economist who has studied the issue for the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, has detailed how large-scale immigration undermines wages for low-skilled workers. In Arizona’s case, he thinks the state is paying an economic price for its decision. “As the U.S. economy continues to recover, the Arizona economy will be weighed down by slower growth and by less export production in traditional industries” such as agriculture where illegal immigrants play a big role, he says.

Proponents of doing more to curb illegal immigration say the mass departures helped the state economically in several ways. Government spending on health care and education for illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children dropped. Wages for plasterers, landscapers, farmworkers and other low-skilled laborers jumped because of scarcity, according to employers and federal data.

“Even if the size of the state’s GDP decreased, the decrease in immigration redistributed income from employers to employees, particularly at the bottom end of the labor market,” says Steven Camarota, research director of the Center for Immigration Studies, in Washington, which favors reduced illegal immigration. “That’s a good deal.”

 Big drop

Between 2007 and 2012, Arizona’s population of undocumented workers dropped by 40%—by far the biggest percentage decline of any state—according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank whose numbers are cited by pro and anti-immigration groups. California, the biggest border state, lost just 12.5% of its illegal immigrants during that time period. Since 2012, Arizona’s illegal-immigrant population hasn’t grown much, if at all, according to state economists and employers and preliminary data from Pew. Since 2007, about 200,000 undocumented immigrants have left the state, which has a population of 6.7 million.

The cost of illegal immigration has been a big political issue in Arizona for years. But pinning down exactly how much it costs the state, and how much is collected from illegal immigrants through taxation, is surprisingly hard to do. The state doesn’t count it. Estimates vary widely, depending in part on debatable issues such as whether to include the cost of educating U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

In 2004, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington-based group that seeks to reduce immigration, calculated that undocumented workers cost Arizona taxpayers more than $1 billion a year for education, medical care and incarceration, after subtracting the estimated taxes they pay.

Four years later, Judith Gans, then manager of the immigration-policy program at the University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, examined the issue for all immigrants, not just illegal ones. She concluded that immigrants accounted for nearly $1 billion more in annual tax revenue than they cost the state.

Moody’s Analytics looked at Arizona’s economic output for The Wall Street Journal, with an eye toward distinguishing between the effects of the mass departures of illegal immigrants and the recession that hit the state hard beginning in 2008. It concluded that the departures alone had reduced Arizona’s gross domestic product by an average of 2% a year between 2008 and 2015. Because of the departures, total employment in the state was 2.5% lower, on average, than it otherwise would have been between 2008 and 2015, according to Moody’s.

The recession, of course, also hurt the state’s economy. Mr. Hanson, the immigration economist, said the economic downturn led many migrants to leave.

Economic activity produced by immigrants—what economists call the “immigration surplus”—shrank because there were fewer immigrants around to buy clothing and groceries, to work and to start businesses.

These days, construction, landscaping and agriculture industries, long dependent on migrants, complain of worker shortages. While competition for some jobs eased, there were fewer job openings overall for U.S.-born workers or legal immigrants.

According to the Moody’s analysis, low-skilled U.S. natives and legal Hispanic immigrants since 2008 picked up less than 10% of the jobs once held by undocumented immigrants. In a separate analysis, economists Sarah Bohn and Magnus Lofstrom of the Public Policy Institute of California and Steven Raphael of the University of California at Berkeley conclude that employment declined for low-skilled white native workers in Arizona during 2008 and 2009, the height of the out-migration. One bright spot: the median income of low-skilled whites who did manage to get jobs rose about 6% during that period, the economists estimate.

Arizona’s population of illegal immigrants grew nearly fivefold between 1990 and 2005, to about 450,000, according to Pew Research. Starting around 2004, the state approved a series of measures, either by ballot initiatives or legislation, aimed at discouraging illegal immigration. Undocumented immigrants in Arizona, about 85% of whom came from Mexico, are barred from receiving government benefits, including nonemergency hospital care. They can’t receive punitive damages in civil lawsuits. Many can’t get drivers’ licenses and aren’t eligible for in-state tuition rates. Arizona developed a national reputation for tough enforcement of the rules.

Some current Republican presidential contenders also take a tough line on immigration. GOP front-runner Donald Trump backs a “deportation force” to send home those here illegally, and he wants to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep out others. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also wants a wall and would end Obama administration measures that have halted deportations of many undocumented workers.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would allow illegal immigrants already here to become citizens, and would continue the Obama administration policies.

Arizona’s immigration flow started to reverse in 2008 after the state became the first to require all employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system, which searches Social Security records to check whether hires are authorized to work in the U.S. That law coincided with the collapse of the construction industry and the recession. The combination persuaded many illegal immigrants to leave for neighboring states or Mexico.

In 2010, as the state economy began to recover, the Legislature stepped up pressure. Under a new law, SB 1070, police could use traffic stops to check immigration status. Another section of the law, later struck down by the Supreme Court, made it illegal for day laborers to stand on city streets and sign up for work on construction crews.

“It was like, ‘Where did everybody go?’ ” says Teresa Acuna, a Phoenix real-estate agent who works in Latino neighborhoods. Real-estate agent Patti Gorski says her sales records show that prices of homes owned by Spanish-speaking customers fell by 63% between 2007 and 2010, compared with a 44% drop for English-speaking customers, a difference she attributes partly to financial pressure on owners who had been renting homes to immigrants who departed.

SB 1070 prompted some unions and other organizations to boycott the state, in some cases canceling conventions. In Latino neighborhoods, sales declined at grocery stores and other businesses catering to migrants. At the Maryvale Market, in an immigrant community of ranch homes, Ashok Patel says his business is down by half since 2008.

On the other side of the economic ledger, government spending on immigrants fell. State and local officials don’t track total spending on undocumented migrants or how many of their children attend public schools. But the number of students enrolled in intensive English courses in Arizona public schools fell from 150,000 in 2008 to 70,000 in 2012 and has remained constant since. Schooling 80,000 fewer students would save the state roughly $350 million a year, by one measure.

During that same period, annual emergency-room spending on noncitizens fell 37% to $106 million, from $167 million. And between 2010 and 2014, the annual cost to state prisons of incarcerating noncitizens convicted of felonies fell 11% to $180 million, from $202 million.

“The economic factor is huge in terms of what it saves Arizona taxpayers,” primarily on reduced education costs, says Russell Pearce, who as a state senator sponsored SB 1070.

Worker shortage

As the Arizona economy recovered, a worker shortage began surfacing in industries relying on immigrants, documented or not. Wages rose about 15% for Arizona farmworkers and about 10% for construction between 2010 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some employers say their need for workers has increased since then, leading them to boost wages more rapidly and crimping their ability to expand.

Before the immigration crackdown, Precise Drywall Inc., of Phoenix, would deploy 50 people for jobs building luxury homes. “I could pull out phone books where I had 300 or 400 guys’ numbers” to fill out crews, recalls company President Jeremy Barbosa. No longer. Many immigrants left and haven’t returned, while other workers moved on to other industries.

“Now you have to put out feelers, buy ads, go on Craigslist, tap job agencies just to get a few men,” says Mr. Barbosa. “Growth is based on the ability to hire.”

At a Home Depot store in Maryvale recently, a dozen men from Mexico and Central America milled around the parking lot looking for work. Juan Castillo, a gregarious Mexican who said he had regularly crossed the border illegally over the past 10 years, said he and his colleagues can do landscaping, concrete work, drywall or whatever else is needed.

Before E-Verify, 30 to 40 men would show up at 4:30 a.m. and would usually find jobs by 10 a.m. Since then, the job seekers rarely thin out during the day despite the worker shortage because employers are shying away from hiring undocumented workers.

“E-Verify is a problem for us,” Mr. Castillo said. “We can work for a week. It takes that long for the paperwork. Then we’re out.”

Another would-be worker, Manuel Bernal, noted that because the Mexican economy has improved, laborers with families in that country are more inclined to stay there. Pew Research says that, nationally, more Mexicans now are heading home than coming into the U.S. The Center for Migration Studies estimated the number of undocumented immigrants fell to 10.9 million in 2014, from 12 million in 2008.
The labor shortage has caused some wages to rise. Carlos Avelar, a placement officer at Phoenix Job Corps, a federal job-training center, says graduates now often mull two or three jobs offers from construction firms and occasionally start at $14.65 an hour instead of $10.

At DTR Landscape Development LLC, the firm’s president, Dick Roberts, says he has increased his starting wage by 60% to $14.50 an hour because he is having trouble finding reliable workers.

One immigrant-heavy industry, construction, has added about 15,000 jobs in Arizona since 2011 and now has total employment of 127,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half the number of 2006. Employment in farming, which also depends on immigrants, has rarely exceeded 9,500 since 2008, according to the bureau, whose numbers mainly cover workers on large farms.

Mr. Knorr, the pepper grower, says he planted just 120 acres last year, down from as many as 550 in years past, because he couldn’t find enough harvest workers.

Some peppers he was unable to harvest by Thanksgiving turned red on the vine—“chocolate,” in farmer parlance. That made them useless to salsa makers, who want only green peppers. He plowed the plants under.

He says mechanization is his future. He continues to pour time and money into a laser-guided device to remove stems from peppers, which pickers now do by hand in the field. Another farmer in the area developed a mechanical carrot harvester.

Mr. Knorr says he is willing to pay $20 an hour to operators of harvesters and other machines, compared with about $13 an hour for field hands. He says he can hire skilled machinists at community colleges, so he can rely less on migrant labor.

“I can find skilled labor in the U.S.,” he says. “I don’t have to go to bed and worry about whether harvesting crews will show up.”

Write to Bob Davis at bob.davis@wsj.com


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad answer on whether she’s ever lied

Chris Cilllizza writes in The Washington Post:

CBS's Scott Pelley interviewed Hillary Clinton on Thursday night. One exchange tells you everything you need to know about Clinton's struggles in the Democratic primary race so far and why she continues to be dogged by questions about her honesty and trustworthiness. Here it is:

PELLEY: You know, in ’76, Jimmy Carter famously said, “I will not lie to you.”

CLINTON: Well, I have to tell you I have tried in every way I know how literally from my years as a young lawyer all the way through my time as secretary of state to level with the American people.

PELLEY: You talk about leveling with the American people. Have you always told the truth?

CLINTON: I’ve always tried to. Always. Always.

PELLEY: Some people are gonna call that wiggle room that you just gave yourself.

CLINTON: Well, no, I’ve always tried —

PELLEY: I mean, Jimmy Carter said, “I will never lie to you.”

CLINTON: Well, but, you know, you’re asking me to say, “Have I ever?” I don’t believe I ever have. I don’t believe I ever have. I don’t believe I ever will. I’m gonna do the best I can to level with the American people.

I mean, what? W-H-A-T? "I've always tried to" tell the truth? On what planet is this a good answer for a politician?

The answer, of course, is on no planet. While I am less familiar with politics on Mars than I am with those on Earth, I am pretty sure that being unable to simply say, "Yes, I have always been truthful with the public," would be a problem on the Red Planet, too.

This a double whammy of bad for Clinton.

First, it does nothing at all to quell concerns about her ability to be honest and straightforward. In the New Hampshire exit poll, more than one in three (34 percent) of all Democratic primary voters said that honesty was the most important trait in their decision on which candidate to support. Of that bloc, Bernie Sanders won 92 percent of their votes as compared to just 6 percent for Clinton.

That's broadly in keeping with national polling over the last year, which has consistently shown large majorities of voters voicing skepticism about Clinton's trustworthiness. Her answer to that criticism has, to date, been to blame it on a Republican Party obsessed with her and willing to say or do anything to tarnish her reputation. There's truth in that, but, as the New Hampshire exit numbers suggest, the problem is bigger than just Republicans out to get her.

Second, the answer from Clinton on honesty reinforces a perception that the former secretary of state tries to play with words, giving a heavily couched response when a simple one would — and should — do. You can imagine people rolling their eyes or saying, "Why doesn't she just answer the question?" while watching that painful response by Clinton.

I think I understand why she answered the way she did. She knows she has been in public life for a long time and that she has said lots and lots of things. Because of that, it's possible that at some point in the future, someone will unearth a statement in which it could be construed that she wasn't telling the whole truth. Clinton is protecting against the damage incurred by such a revelation.

But when you have the problems regarding honesty and trustworthiness that Clinton does, the only right answer to Pelley's question is: "Yes, I have always been truthful. Of course." That Clinton didn't give that simple answer suggests she is either (a) unaware of or doubts the depth of voters' concerns with her ability to be honest, or (b) she is so naturally cautious as to get herself in trouble even on a question she has to know is coming.

Either way, Clinton just made things harder for herself with that answer to Pelley.