Thursday, November 8, 2018

Weird and Wild

I have followed politics closely for over 50 years. For some of those years I was not just an interested observer on the sidelines. I was in the arena. I helped to organize and lead a statewide ballot initiative in Ohio, I managed a local political campaign and I provided political consulting services on a number of campaigns.

In all those years I have never seen an election as weird and wild as this year's mid-terms.

Most elections have a theme, a consistency or common denominator.

It might be anti-incumbent, a red wave, blue wave or it might be an election that no one ever gets excited about. That theme carries through most of the elections throughout the country. The rhythm stays consistent.

2018 had none of that. It defied almost all of the rules.

Let's look at this in closer detail.

First, the turnout in the 2018 mid-terms was off the charts. An estimated 114 million ballots were
cast. That was 47.5% of the voter-eligible population. There has been nothing approaching that level of participation in over 50 years.

Let's put that in context. Only 83 million votes were cast in 2014. 138 million voters went to the polls in the 2016 Presidential election year. We exceeded 114 million votes in a mid-term!

You have to give credit to that turnout to Donald J. Trump. What other explanation is there? You cannot argue with the energy Trump has created on both sides. Everyone says we need more participation. This year we got it.

We are also continually told that Republicans are responsible for suppressing the vote. 30 million more people voted in this midterm with Trump as President than voted while Barack Obama was President in 2014! What voter suppression?

We also heard in the months leading up to the election that there was going to be a 'blue wave' of Democrats being voted into office. The Democrats did gain control of the House of Representatives by gaining 30+ seats (final number to be determined). However, the Republicans gained 3 seats in the Senate pending final counts in Arizona and Florida.

This might not seem like a big deal if you don't have a historical perspective on mid-term elections. However, consider that in the last 80 years the President's party has collectively only picked up a total of 7 seats in mid-term elections. And Trump's GOP picked up 3 in one election! That is pretty remarkable.

At the same time, there are disconnects. That is the reason I call the election weird.

Let's look at Ohio.

The Republicans retained the Governor's office. Mike DeWine (R) defeated Richard Cordray (D) for the seat held by term-limited John Kasich.

Republicans also won every other state office (Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary of State).

The GOP also held every House district in the state as did the Democrats.

Credit: RealClearPolitics

A ballot issue that would have decriminalized many drug offenses in the state lost 63%-37% despite $10 million being spent to support the measure.

However, two-term liberal Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown was reelected by 7 points over Jim Renacci. There is no theme there.

It gets even weirder when you look at Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont.

These are deep blue states. Trump lost each of them by 26-27 points.

However,  Republican Charlie Baker (MA) (+34 points, Republican Larry Hogan (MD)(+14 points) and Republican Phil Scott (VT) (+15 points) each won re-election in these states. Even more remarkable is that at the same time Republican Baker was winning Massachusetts by 34 points Democrat Socialist Elizabeth Warren was winning in the same state by 24 points. In Vermont, Independent  Socialist Socialist Bernie Sanders was winning by 40 points when the Republican Scott was winning by 15 points!

How does this happen if we are supposed to have these political party differences that are supposed to so irreconcilable?

The answer here is the power of incumbency. All of those cited above were running as incumbents. It is a powerful advantage particularly when things are good and the economy is humming along as it is.

If that is the case, why didn't the good economy help the Republicans in the House more?

A big reason is that almost 40 Republicans in Congress did not run for re-election. Some ran for other offices (like Renacci in Ohio). However, more than half retired, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy from South Carolina. Losing the power of incumbency makes a huge difference in a political race. Name ID for a politician is their most valuable asset. New names requires a lot more money to promote. Money spent on name ID for a new candidate takes away from all the other GOP candidates as well.

In my view, this was the major reason for the loss of the House by the GOP.

Why did so many retire? Many probably believed they were facing a blue wave that did not materialize. They did not want to be in a fight. Many certainly did not relish being in the minority party having been in the majority for a few years.

The irony is that it ended up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Others question why the great economy did not help the GOP House retain control. Many political pundits blamed Trump for not putting more focus on the economic accomplishments of the last two years. They said he talked too much about illegal immigration.

I think this criticism is misplaced. Trump talked about the economy plenty. Let's face it, Trump is never shy about talking about his accomplishments.

The polls actually showed that healthcare and immigration were more important issues with voters.

This is also natural. Human beings tend to not focus on those things that are going well in their lives.
We have a tendency to take the good for granted. We only get excited and motivated about those things that we are not happy with or think we should have that we don't.

"You don't have a job" or "You don't have health care" is a more motivating message than "You do have a job" and "You do have healthcare".

There was also a lot of talk before the election about the new wave of Socialist Democrats who were going to save the Democrat party. Yes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won in New York City. However, she did not have any competition in the general election in her deer, deep blue district. She effectively won the seat when she beat the old, traditional Democrat in the primary.

How did some of the other Far Left liberals do in competitive districts?

Every one of them lost. It is true that Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams all came close. However, they all lost. As did other like-minded leftists in House districts. This handy list was provided by PowerLine.

Those Democrat House members who won tended to be moderates. In addition, many of them campaigned stating that they would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. I think those freshmen Democrats are going to find out very quickly how the power game works in the Democrat caucus. You can say anything at home as long as you vote the right   Left way in D.C.

We also are now over 48 hours after the polls have closed and two of the biggest counties in Florida (Broward) and Arizona (Maricopa) have not completed counting their votes. How is this possible? These are two of the larger counties in the United States. How come all the other counties can get the job done and they can't? How do we know that fraud is not occurring? When in our lifetime has a big pile of votes come in late and pushed the Republican to a win? Weird and wild.

Has anyone also noticed the change in tone from the Democrats in two short days?

During the campaign we didn't hear anything about Russian collusion. We didn't hear anything about impeachment. Or investigations. It was all supposed to be about Democrats focused on the issues for you. And working in a bi-partisan basis with the President for solutions to our problems.

Get ready. I warned you. Talk is cheap. Let's see what they do. And this is already not starting well.

If you think the election was weird and wild. Fasten your seat belt for the next two years.

As I stated before the mid-terms, all of this might very well work to the advantage of Donald J. Trump. He now has someone to blame if the economy or stock market goes south. If nothing is done on health care or immigration he also has someone to share the blame. The Democrats will be a great diversion and punching bag for any problems that arise.

All of this is undoubtedly not good for the country but it may be a gift for Trump heading into re-election.

Always remember...

In the end, the voters always get what they vote for.

This is what they voted for. Weird and wild.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Day After

If there is one big takeaway from the 2018 election results it once again displayed the genius of the constitutional framework that our Founding Fathers established.

We have heard incessant complaining, crying and gnashing of teeth about the evil Donald Trump and his Republican colleagues in Congress for two long years. Yesterday was the chance to do something about it. All 435 members of Congress were up for re-election. 35 members of the Senate also faced the voters.

Our governmental system is designed to allow voters to send a loud message every two years with that power. Voting for all House members assures that voters . However, it is also constructed to protect us from the short-term whims of a bare majority so that we don't veer wildly off course or trample minority rights in the process. The six year terms of the Senate assures that.

We saw exactly that last night.

The Democrats look to have picked up somewhere around 30 seats. It was about average for a mid-term election. However, the Republicans look like they picked up 3 Senate seats. That is unusual considering the Democrat victories in the House.

Both results were right in the range that I was expecting. The Republicans were facing an uphill battle to retain their majority due to historical trends in the midterms and 40 Republican incumbents who did not run in 2018 due to retirements. Those were big obstacles to overcome.

Democrats had a similar problem in the Senate. They were defending 26 seats. The GOP was only defending 9. That was not an easy task.

The people had their say. Was it a rebuke and repudiation of the direction Donald Trump and the Republicans are taking with America?


Was it a message that there are some issues that Americans are concerned with about some aspects of the direction?


To use an analogy about what happened yesterday think about it as if I am driving down the road and Mrs. BeeLine softly say to me, "Are you sure we are on the right road, honey?". Compare that to what happened in 2010, after Barack Obama's first two years, were the tone might have been louder and angrier "You have us on  the wrong road. How did you get us lost so quickly?".

For those who lack the historical context, here are the changes in Congressional seats at the first mid-term election for all Presidents since Reagan.
                               House                Senate

Reagan                    -26                        0
Bush I                      -8                        -1  
Clinton                    -54                      -9
Bush II                    +8                       +1
Obama                    -63                       -6
Trump*                   -27                       +3

* preliminary per RealClear

Despite the evidence of the clear genius of our system I continue to marvel at how unhinged liberal Democrats always are about our institutions if things don't go their way. Somehow everything is great when they are in power (Presidential powers, Senate, House, Supreme Court) but everything is wrong about our Constitution when they are not in power.

I was not happy when Barack Obama was elected President. I thought the American people made a terrible decision compounded by giving the Democrats massive majorities in the 2008 election. I did not cry. I did not confront people on the streets or elected Democrats in restaurants. I did not call the President a fascist. You did not see other Republicans doing that either. Our constitutional system eventually took care of the problem.

Sure, Obama and the Democrats did some damage while they were in power. However, the integrity of the system did not allow them to wreck it. We have come out the other side better for it.

Why can't the Democrats have a similar view?

Despite their gains yesterday there are Democrats who are still unhappy. I could not help but chuckle at a few of the complaints I have seen on Twitter.

Here is Joy Behar saying that the Democrats lost the Senate because of gerrymandering.

How do you gerrymander an entire state?

Joy Behar, I have found the people responsible for gerrymandering the Senate.

Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison. Those are the crazy guys that "gerrymandered" the Senate by writing the Constitution.

Sadly, that is the way many liberals think.

Behar is not the only one. This is from another guy who should know better.

Josh, that is why we have a House of Representatives. Did you skip Civics class in school?

Memo to Josh--the Founders never designed a democracy. We have a constitutional republic.

It is also worth remembering that our Constitution has already been amended once (17th) to make it more “democratic” to provide for the direct election of voters. The original document provided for Senators to be selected by the individual state legislatures. The  Founders designed a republic in order to better protect minority rights. There is a reason that the Senate and House are different.

Power, politics, greed, bias, conflicts of interest, oppression. There is nothing going on today that our Founders did not anticipate.

Due to the intelligence and insights of our Founding Fathers, they wrote a document that considered all of the above and more in writing the U.S. Constitution.  They knew that instability, injustice and confusion within the institution of government had caused many to fail.  They were determined to build a governmental structure that could endure for the ages.

Federalist Paper #10 was written (by James Madison) to describe "How the Union Will Act as a Safeguard Against Domestic Division and Rebellion". The Founders understood that opposing political factions were the greatest potential threat to any government and that the the only redress was often violence. They wanted to insure that factions could not wield power that would be dangerous to either the rights of other citizens or the common good.

They also knew that good thinking people would not always be in positions of power. They knew that there would always exist a human instinct that could result in "wicked and improper projects" (the exact words used by Madison). They wanted to avoid situations where the "here and now" interests of the party in power would prevail at the expense of the rights of others and the good of the whole under a pure democracy..

They understood the danger of factious and fringe candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Maxine Waters receiving votes and attaining power. They saw the danger of those with radical religious views gaining a foothold in our government. As a result, the Constitution was designed to deal with all these risks. This is the actual language in Federalist #10.

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.

It is a brilliant design. And it works. We keep seeing that over and over again.

Yesterday. The Day After.  We will also see it work in the days ahead if we allow it to work as designed.

Why do so many Democrats only understand and accept it when they are in power?

Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton and Madison understood the problem. That is why the Constitution was written the way it was.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Mid-Term Musings

Several BeeLine readers have reached out to me and asked me my predictions on the upcoming mid-term elections.

The 2012 Presidential election taught me to never make a political prediction again. Let's call this blog post my musings about the election rather than a prediction.

It seems that other people in the polling business should be taking the same advice. They were just a tad off in their projections in 2016.

2012 Election

This is what I wrote on the morning of the 2012 election in "If I Am Wrong, I Am Wrong About America".

There are people making predictions about today's Presidential election that are going to be very right or very, very wrong.

I have looked at a variety of polls.  I have looked at past elections.  I even watched the NFL games yesterday because somebody said they have been an election indicator in the past.  Supposedly if the Washington Redskins lose at home in the last game before the election it spells doom for the incumbent.  I guess if President Obama loses he can blame it on Robert Griffin III. Wouldn't you know it is another guy from Texas.

I am throwing all of that stuff out the window.  I am making my prediction based on one belief.  I refuse to believe that we still do not have a majority of people left in America who believe in America. People who don't vote on revenge.  People who still care more about the country than themselves. People who still believe in the United States of America rather than the Divided States of America. People who still believe that we remain the last real hope for the world.

My prediction is based on the two factors that I have written out before-- Turnover + Turnout.  I believe there have to be a significant number of Americans who voted for Obama in 2008 that will not do it again.  I estimate that turnover has to be at least one voter in every ten.  Some voters who voted for McCain will switch to Obama but it will be far fewer than those that turn on Obama. 

There will also be significantly higher turnout by Republican-inclined voters compared to 2008. There will not be a seven point Democrat edge at the polls as there was the last time.  I would expect it to be no more than a couple points advantage. It might even reach parity like 2004 and 2000.

I predicted a Romney win with at least 295 electoral votes.

I was wrong and it shook me to the core. It was not the fact that my prediction was wrong but that so many of my fellow Americans could have such a different view about the job that Barack Obama had done as President. It was discouraging and disheartening.

I fully understood Obama's win in 2008. He said all the right things. Four years later more people should have understood it was just words. He might have had some style but there was no substance behind it.

2016 Election

I was smarter in 2016. This is what I wrote on the Sunday before the 2012 election in "Predictions, Words and Actions".

I don't make election predictions anymore. I especially don't make predictions when you consider that the pollsters who do this for a living do not seem to have a clue.

For example, consider these two national tracking polls that came out this morning. They could not be further apart.

LA Times-Trump + 5.6%

ABC- Clinton + 5.0%

Of course, what really matters is the electoral college tally. However, state polls in the key battleground states also do not "predict" anything. All of these states are tied or well within the margin of error.

North Carolina
New Hampshire

As I have written before, this election will be decided on turnout. Will the traditional Democratic constituencies--African-Americans, Millennials, Single Women---turnout like they did for Barack Obama? If they do, Hillary Clinton will win. If they don't, Donald Trump can close the history books on the Clintons and The White House. However, it remains to be seen whether the FBI investigation of the Clintons will open a completely new chapter to close the book once and for all.

The first six states on my list above all went to Trump. He also won Wisconsin which I thought was outside his reach. Trump lost New Hampshire by 0.5% and Nevada by 2.5%. He lost Colorado by just under 5%.

That night restored my faith in the American people. It was a 180 degree turn in my emotions compared to four years prior.

What is going to happen in this year's election?

The Republicans have an uphill challenge to retain the House. The party in The White House has lost an average of 33 seats in midterm elections since 1938. The Democrats need to win 23 seats to gain control.

The GOP is also dealing with the retirement of almost 40 House members. That eliminates the significant advantage of incumbency in those districts.

The Democrats have also been energized all year. We saw that energy in almost every special election.

Republican voters did not turn out in those races and it indicated to me that a Blue Wave could sweep a number of Democrats into office as a result.

However, in the last month, GOP enthusiasm seems to have returned in the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing.

The Democrats also have the challenge of defending 26 of the 35 Senate seats up for election. 9 of these are also in states that Trump won in 2016. The numbers clearly favor the GOP in the Senate races.

Enthusiasm from both Democrats and Republicans is in uncharted territory for a midterm election. Look at this poll from Gallup on relative enthusiasm about voting in the mid-term in the years 1994-2018.

There is no precedent for this. Therefore, making a predictions about this election is very risky. There is nothing that looks like this in recent history.

Many of the polls that you are seeing predicting a blue wave are based on the final vote count only being composed of 25% Republicans, 33% Democrats and 42% Independents. That seems to assume that many Republicans will stay home. For example, Republicans made up 33% of the voters in 2016 (Dems 36%, Independents 31%). In the 2014 mid-terms Republicans made up 36% of the voters (Dems 35%, Independents 28%). 

The enthusiasm factor suggests that the GOP turnout is going to be higher than many of these polls are suggesting. So does early voting results. More on that below.

The other factor that is difficult to assess this year is the impact of early voting on the election. Historically, absentee voting favored Republicans but with many states implementing early voting separate from absentee ballots this has added an additional factor that is hard to assess in any prediction model.

Early voting this year is through the roof. It seems we have reached the point where voters are becoming comfortable with the convenience this option affords them. I have seen some projections that suggest that almost 40 million votes may be cast early. To put that in context, about 78 million votes were cast in the 2014 midterm. This means that early votes in this election are approaching almost half of the what the total votes were in the last midterm election.

Since early voting was implemented it has been dominated by the Democrats. The Democrats had a fantastic mobilization effort and concentrated on getting their voters to the polls during early voting. Their strong presence in urban areas made this easier for them to do than it was for the GOP. The Democrats could send a bus to a community center or church and get dozens to the polling place easily. This is not easily done in rural or suburban areas. Those voters need to show up one by one.

Republicans reliably have showed up at the polls on election day over the past election cycles and this advantage was enough in most years for the GOP to prevail in many races across the country despite losing the early vote. It should be remembered that Republicans have captured over 1,000 state, local and federal offices from the Democrats since 2009.

This year the Republicans have flipped the script and in many states the GOP is leading in early voting.

Here are some early vote totals from a few key states. This is taken from a website TargetEarly which gathers early voter information and them models the vote based on available information (party registration, etc) between Democrat, Republican or Unclear.  It does not tell us the exact vote but it has proprietary methods to determine voter affiliation. Even then, the affiliation of the voter could still be incorrect. For example, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump in 2016 might also vote for a Republican for Congress. Likewise, a registered Republican who dislikes Trump could have lodged their protest by voting for a Democrat Senator.

(numbers in thousands of votes)

Arizona        578.6 D       758.9  R
Florida       1,999.9 D     2,142.7 R
Michigan      284.6 D        438.7 R
Nevada         297.7 D        278.4 R
Ohio             379.3 D        465.4 R
Tennessee     395.9 D        861.3 R
Texas         2, 235.9 D    3,038.6 R

Based on this analysis, Nevada is the only state Democrats are leading in early voting in these key states. Democrats typically come out of early voting with the lead. This early vote may not predict GOP wins in these states but it certainly does not look like a blue wave election. Republican turnout is too high.

This is an impressive turnout for the Republicans but does it simply mean that the traditional election day advantage for the GOP has been cannibalized? This is a big question that remains to be answered this year.

The Trump Effect

The other big factor this year is the "Trump Effect." Donald Trump is not on the ballot but his presence looms over every race. Will his 2016 supporters turnout to defend his agenda by voting Republican? Will his detractors turnout to vote Democrat as much to protest Trump as anything else?
It is another question that is unanswered at this point. It is particularly interesting as Trump had the support of a lot of blue collar Democrats in 2016. This made the difference for Trump in winning Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Will these traditional Democrats crossover again and vote for Republican candidates in Senate and House seats in this election.

What is undisputed is that no President has ever worked harder on the campaign trail in a midterm election than Donald Trump. I have never seen anything close to the work ethic and effort this President has put in. The 72-year old President will have done 30 large rallies since Labor Day  For example, on Monday, November 5 he is scheduled to do three rallies (Cleveland, OH 3:00pm EST, Fort Wayne, IN 6:30 EST and Cape Girardeau, MO 9:00pm CST). In addition, he is participating in a telephone town hall meeting at 10am in the morning with swing-state and swing-district voters explaining why he needs their vote to support his agenda.

Ironically, from a strictly personal political perspective you can argue that Trump would be better off with a Democrat Congress heading into the 2020 Presidential election. Things have been very good economically under Trump. If the economy falters, or the recent stock market correction turns into a big fall, it will be easier for Trump to shift blame away from himself. "If only we had not messed things up by returning the crazy Democrats to power." It is something Trump is very good at.

Final Musings

The fact that there are only 35 Senate seats up for election makes it a little easier to guess how it will turn out. My guess (not a prediction!) is that the Republicans should net 2-4 seats on the night.

435 seats in the House make that a much tougher task for guesstimates. I am thinking that we will end up with a very evenly split House of Representatives whichever way it goes. If the Republicans retain control it will be a margin in the single digits. That means they will lose anywhere from 14-22 seats.

If the Democrats take control it will also be a margin that will be less than double digits. If this scenario occurs it means a pick up from 23-33 seats which would be right in the range of average turnover of seats in midterm elections for the opposition party.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, a nightmare scenario would be if the House margin is a couple votes either way. That will insure that every special election the next two years will be something akin to the Kavanaugh nomination and a Presidential election all rolled into one. Control of the House could conceivably rest on the results of a single House special election. It is the last thing we need in the country right now.

It is time to vote if you did not vote early. It is then time to tabulate the results.

Crying or cheering comes next.

Been there and done both. As a result, I predict I will be well prepared for whatever the numbers show on Tuesday night (which will undoubtedly end up being Wednesday morning). I am not sure that some others can say the same based on what we have seen over the last two years.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Anchors Away

President Trump has stated that he is considering changing the policy of providing birthright citizenship to babies born on U.S. soil to illegal alien parents by executive order. These babies are popularly referred to as "anchor babies".

This is an issue I wrote about in these pages back in 2015 entitled, "An Anchor Around Our Necks" detailing the compounding costs of birthright citizenship.

The United States is decidedly in a distinct minority in providing citizenship this way. Among developed countries, Canada is the only other country to provide birthright citizenship.

In fact, the trend has been to eliminate birthright citizenship in recent years. Ireland was the last European Union country to eliminate it in 2005. France did away with it in 1993. The UK in 1983.

Australia and New Zealand are other countries that eliminated birthright citizenship in recent years.

There are those who state that birthright citizenship is a constitutional right provided by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and therefore can only be eliminated by constitutional amendment. However, this question has never been directly decided by the Supreme Court.

What does the 14th Amendment actually say which was enacted originally to insure that slaves would be recognized as citizens.

Amendment XIV, Section 1, Clause 1:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." (emphasis added)

That seems fairly clear except for the words I underlined above..."and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."

Is a child born in the United States to parents who are illegal immigrants "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" when those parents are unlawfully present in our country?

This is the crux of the argument that is made by those (Donald Trump included) that believe that the 14th Amendment does not automatically confer birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. At a minimum, they believe that Congress has the right to define what "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means. It has already been accepted that this means that children born to foreign diplomats do not gain U.S. birthright citizenship nor do members of certain Indian tribes.

I would further argue that the very actions of the federal government in not enforcing the immigration laws means that illegal immigrants that are here have effectively not been "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" by the consistent failure of our government to enforce the country's jurisdictional borders.  How can an illegal immigrant be considered to be subject to the jurisdiction of our country if they are here illegally but our government is doing nothing about it?

There were an estimated 300,000 children born in the United States last year to mothers who are illegal immigrants. To put that in perspective, that is about 1 out of every 12 births in this country!
Aa result of the prevailing interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution each of these children are considered to be United States citizens.

Another 500,000 children are born to legal immigrants. Taken together, births to immigrants make up about 20% of all U.S. births today.

U.S.-born children of illegal aliens are also eligible to sponsor the immigration of family members once they come of age. At 18, an “anchor baby” can sponsor an overseas spouse and unmarried children of his own. At full majority age at 21, he or she can sponsor parents and siblings under our "chain migration" laws.

Can you imagine anyone who voted for the 14th Amendment in 1866 at the federal or state level thinking that we would be conferring citizenship to this many as a result of this provision?

In fact, Senator Jacob Howard was one of the authors of the 14th Amendment and specifically offered the amendment language that added the words, "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof". This is his explanation of the reasons for that language and its import.

I doubt that Senator Howard or others at that time could have envisioned a time in which Chinese, Russian, Mexican or Honduran women would come to the United States specifically to gain citizenship for their child.

I recently had dinner with someone who had just returned from a visit to China. They commented to me that they were shocked at the high number of pregnant Chinese women on their flight from Shanghai to Los Angeles. They told me their flight was loaded with pregnant Chinese women.

What were they doing on the flight? They were on their way to Chinese immigrant birth hotels in Los Angeles specifically to gain U.S. citizenship for their child.

This article from NBC News earlier this year explained what is going on after Homeland Security raided 20 sites that were housing Chinese women awaiting the birth of a child in the United States.

Southern California apartment complexes that doubled as "maternity hotels" for Chinese women who want made-in-America babies were raided early Tuesday, capping an unprecedented federal sting operation, officials said.
NBC News was on the scene as Homeland Security agents swept into The Carlyle, a luxury property in Irvine, California, which housed pregnant women and new moms who allegedly forked over $40,000 to $80,000 to give birth in the United States.
The organizers who allegedly ran the Carlyle site, Chao Chen and Dong Li, used a website to drum up business, touting the benefits of a child with U.S. citizenship: 13 years of free education, low-cost college financial aid, less pollution, and a path for the entire family to emigrate when the child becomes an adult. 
They were funneled to several Orange County hospitals to deliver, but they didn't pay full price — approximately $25,000 — for medical services, officials said. Instead, they got reduced rates for the indigent, ranging from nothing to $4,000, the court papers say.
That translated into big losses for the hospitals. More than 400 babies linked to the scheme were born at just one facility in a two-year period, investigators said.

Of course, this birth tourism is nothing compared to the thousands of women who have entered the United States illegally and then end up giving birth to a baby in the United States.

For example, Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas reported that 70% of all its births in 2006 (16,000) were to illegal alien mothers. It is no longer reporting this number ( I wonder why?) but you have to imagine it is even higher today.

The costs of all of this are enormous. 67% of all illegal immigrant births are paid for by Medicaid (in other words--YOU).  The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that the Medicaid costs for births and early infant care for immigrants (legal and illegal) is over $5 billion per year

41% of the illegal mothers of these children have less than a high school education. 40% of these mothers are living in poverty. What do you think the chances that these children will also end up in poverty and on some form of public assistance? As I wrote in 2015, the compounding costs of anchor babies is mind boggling.

President Trump is unlikely to be able to change the policy through an executive order. However, who would have thought that Obama could have implemented DACA in that same manner.

Trump deserves credit for attempting to elevate this issue to public debate. It is an issue that deserves public scrutiny and discussion. Whether it goes anywhere will likely be determined by the midterm vote next Tuesday. Should the Democrats take control of the House you can be sure they will do everything to insure that there is no debate. If the Republicans maintain control, there might be half a chance at a debate. Why do think that Trump wants to use an executive order?

Trump is literally saying "Anchors Away" in more ways than one.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Consequential Election

It seems that over the last few elections we have been told that each has been "the most consequential of our lifetimes".

2008 was consequential because it was the first time that an African American was on the ballot for President of the United States.

2010 was consequential because it was the opportunity for voters to register their displeasure with the passage of Obamacare and the leftist agenda of the President who was elected in 2008.

2012 was consequential because it represented the opportunity to turn completely away from that leftist agenda.

2014 was consequential because the consequences of six years of failed liberal policies were beginning to be felt by more and more people.

2016 was consequential because it represented not only a difficult choice between what many believed were two flawed candidates but also a choice between starkly different visions for the future of America on taxes, trade, immigration, the Supreme Court and other issues.

We are once again being told that 2018 is the most consequential election of our lifetimes.

Despite the hype, that may actually be the case this year.

If we think we see chaos in Washington now, think for a second what things will look like with a Democrat Congress.

I can assure you that there will be almost nothing of value done legislatively for the next two years with the Democrats in control.

The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing should give you an idea of what to expect. It will be ugly and it will be relentless.

Things might not be much different should we see a slim Republican majority in the House or Senate. Assume that there is a one, two or three vote margin. That will mean that every special election over the next two years will take on the importance of a Supreme Court nomination like Kavanaugh to the Democrats (or Republicans). It will not be pretty and it will not be good for the country.

There is little question that we are a country that is deeply divided politically.

What I find most interesting is that the Democrats seem to believe that their political failures since 2010 have been the result of not being radical enough.

Since the election of Donald Trump we have seen the sobs of Hillary's supporters turn into mobs on the streets. We have also seen Democrat candidates go even further left in their public stances thinking that will be their ticket back to political relevancy.

Open Borders
Abolish ICE
Voting Rights for Illegals
Medicare for All
Free College for All

These used to be radical fringe ideas that any pragmatic politician would know are not realistic proposals.

Who really believes that we can have a country without ANY border controls?

Who really believes that you can provide free health care and college and not MASSIVELY increase the tax burden on the middle and lower income groups?

We are in the midst of a political war right now.

Wars only end when one side is vanquished and surrenders. They accept the results and no longer resist.

It is the exception rather than the rule to see Congress evenly split. Most of the time one party or the other has a clear majority in Congress. When one party is in control, history indicates that they tend to stay in control. This is a chart that shows the party composition of Congress going back to 1901. Look at the unchallenged control the Democrats had in Congress for 60 years (1933-1993).

Credit: Wikipedia

If Democrats make inroads in November with their radical political agenda it will further embolden them. It will undoubtedly make things even worse than they are today. The political war will continue and intensify. The divide will only get larger. You can count on it.

In addition, there seem to be many Democrats who believe that the 2016 election of Donald Trump was an aberration. It was random and not real. They can't believe that the "progress" made with Obama could possibly be undone so quickly. That is why they want to double down on an agenda that is even more progressive and radical. They cannot believe the mainstream is not with them.

However, it is interesting to note in the chart above that with both the elections of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the country veered to the right in Congress in the midterm election immediately after in response to the liberal agendas being implemented in these Democrat administrations. In other words, voters soon found out that the modern Democrat party was far different than the Democrat party of FDR, Truman or John Kennedy that their grandparents or parents spoke fondly about.

For the good of the country (and for what used to be the Democrat party) the only way I see for us to move forward is for the Democrats to take another shocking loss on November 6. It is the only hope we have to restore some order to our politics.

There should be many things that Donald Trump, the Republicans and Democrats can and should be working together on in a bipartisan manner.

After all, Donald Trump was a Democrat a good part of his life. He is not an ideologue. He is a man that likes to get things done.

Infrastructure, Trade and Immigration are prime examples.

My hope is that this "consequential" election will really, really teach Democrats that "elections have consequences". My hope is that they learn they have moved so far from the mainstream that they are in danger of becoming a fringe party with fringe ideas. They need to rethink what they are and what they need to do to become assets to the process rather than the asses they have become.

The consequences of this election will also go far in shaping the list of potential 2018 Presidential contenders.

Will we get a radical or a realist as the Democrat Presidential nominee in 2020?

Will we get a Congress focused on legislation or on investigations?

Will we be a country of laws or of mobs?

Can we have intelligent discussions rather than in-your-face intimidation tactics?

Republicans, Independents, (and even smart thinking Democrats) need to think very carefully about what their vote means next week.

It is consequential and it will have consequences.

Think and act accordingly when casting your vote.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tricks and Treats

The origins of Halloween reportedly can be traced back over 2,000 years to a pre-Christian Celtic Festival celebrating summer's end.

Trick or treating by children in costumes did not begin in the United States until World War II.

Halloween is now big business. An estimated $9 billion will be spent this year on Halloween in the United States on costumes, cards, decorations and candy.

In my recent visit to China I was surprised to see that Halloween has also become big business there as well. I came across several shops in Shanghai peddling Halloween decorations. I guess it makes sense. They are making most of the stuff. It stands to reason they would start buying it as well.

Halloween Store in Shanghai, China

However, the Halloween factoid that I found most interesting is the fact that Americans will spend an estimated $500 million this year on costumes for their pets! It is estimated that this will be done by 31 million Americans.

What is fueling this trend? A big factor is the Millennial generation who want to post a picture of their pet on social media sites such as Instagram.

The most popular pet costumes characters are pumpkin, hot dog, bumble bee, devil and cat (for dogs).


What more do you need to know that Americans have a pretty good thing going in our standard of living that we can spend $500 million on Halloween costumes for pets?

Of course, at the same time, 25% of these Millennials state that they are suffering PTSD because of the 2016 elections.

It makes you wonder what the PTSD percentage will be if Republicans hold on to control of the House and Senate in the midterms.

Considering that level of angst, I found these early voting totals as of this morning in the battleground states of Florida, Arizona and Nevada to be interesting. Here is the breakdown by age on those who have voted thus far in those key swing states.

Florida    Ages 18-29   7.6% of total votes   Ages 60+  60% of total votes
Nevada   Ages  18-29   5.0% of total votes   Ages 60+  59% of total votes
NC          Ages  18-29   6.4% of total votes    Ages 60+  58% of total votes

The 60+ age group usually votes much more for Republicans while the 18-29 vote is typically solidly in favor of Democrats.  Democrats need high turnouts of young voters and minorities to create a blue wave.

To put those numbers in context, when Barack Obama won in the Democratic wave election in 2008, the age 18-29 demographic made up 19% of total votes.

If the 18-29 age turnout is not considerably better than what we are seeing in these three states when the final vote tally on November 6 is counted, the trick will be on those PTSD Millennials. The treats will likely go to all the Republicans.

Read my blog post on "Blue Wave of Red Wall" to understand how important turnout is among various demographic groups in determining election results in midterm elections.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reflections on the Far East

I have just returned from a month's long cruise that took me from Los Angeles to Shanghai with stops in Alaska, Japan and South Korea before arriving in China.

The trip included five days at seas crossing the North Pacific between Kodiak, Alaska and Yokohama, Japan in which we were battling high seas and sustained winds of 50-60 knots for several days. One night we were battered by 75 knot winds which is equivalent to 90 mph with seas at 20-25 feet.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean in those conditions you gain a unique perspective of just how insignificant many things are in the greater scheme of your life.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean in gale conditions

A few photos and observations from the trip.

Theres are still large glaciers in Alaska. Most are receding but they have been doing that since the end of the Ice Age when the earth began warming. Let it be said that was well before there were any man made effects that could have caused it.

This is a picture from Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. To provide some perspective, that ship next to the glacier is around 16 stories tall and 1,000 feet long. That is a lot of ice!

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Those of us in the United States have little perspective on just how many people there are in Asia. This is a graph that I published previously which is worth looking at again that shows the world's population by longitude. If looked at this way the Western Hemisphere looks like the rural outpost of the world.

We docked in Yokohama, Japan which is about an hour from Tokyo. However, since Mrs. BeeLine and I has previously been to Tokyo we decided to spend our time in Yokohama which we were pleased to find was a marvelous city.

When in Japan it is difficult to fathom that we were in mortal combat with these people a couple of generations ago. It should be a lesson that all divisions can be healed.

It is hard not to respect the Japanese culture where you walk clean streets, you see no graffiti, you feel completely safe and they are offended if you try to tip them for their service. That being said, the Japanese have become very Westernized since World War II. You see it foremost in the clothes, music and brands. T-shirts almost exclusively have English words. You hear many American songs playing in the stores.

Oktoberfest in Yokohama, Japan

You gain further perspective on how far things have come in Japan when visiting Hiroshima. Traveling the city I could not help thinking that every tree, every blade of glass and almost every building did not exist 73 years ago.

Hiroshima after the Atomic Bomb
Credit: Shigeo Hayashi

This is what the area around what has become known as Peace Memorial  Park looks like today.

A-Bomb Dome
The building closest to the hypocenter of the atomic bomb

I was interested to hear what our Japanese guide (who was in her late 60's) would say about the reasons behind the decision for the Americans to use the atomic bomb. She was surprisingly candid in stating that the Americans used it to save lives. She understood that an invasion of Japan would have resulted in many more deaths. She openly admitted that the Japanese had made a mistake in going to war with the United States and the people were brainwashed by the government into believing they could win. It was an interesting admission. Of course, she was also speaking to a group that was largely made up of Americans.

I have written before that there is no better evidence of why capitalism is superior to communism than looking at South and North Korea. We saw it first hand on a trip to the DMZ. On the South Korea side there is prosperity. In fact, there was an amusement park that was adjacent to the DMZ in South Korea. Barely a mile or so away to the north you see a barren land where most of the trees are gone because the people have been taking the bark off the trees to make soup and using the wood to stay warm in the winter.

I asked our guide (who was also in her 60's) if she thought we would see unification of North and South Korea in her lifetime. She said she doubted it because the Chinese do not want to see a free Korea bordering their country. Interestingly, she referred to Kim Jung Un as "Rocket Boy" when she spoke of him. Donald Trump's influence knows no boundaries.

For those who are not familiar with the geography of the Korean Peninsula, this is what she is talking about.

This is a view looking into North Korea across the DMZ.

The flag is at the center of what is called "Propaganda Village" by the South Koreans. Why?  It is really a fake city. The LA Times explained in this story earlier this year.

From their hilltop checkpoint, the soldiers who guard South Korea's border can see for miles across the Demilitarized Zone, to a small city in the distance on the north side.
This tidy collection of high-rises and low-slung buildings is surrounded by agricultural fields. North Koreans call the place Kijong-dong, or Peace Village.
The multinational troops on the South Korean side have a different name for it.
Propaganda Village.
South Korea has long contended that Kijong-dong is a fa├žade manned by the North Korean military.
Some of the buildings have their windows painted on, said Cmdr. Robert Watt of the combined Southern forces. Other tall structures appear to be shells; when night falls, light shines brightly in upper windows but is dim closer to the ground, suggesting there are no floors or walls inside.
Music blares from loudspeakers, drifting eerily across the winter-browned countryside. A towering flagpole rises high above.
North Korea created all this, Watt said, in hopes of persuading South Koreans to defect, as in: What a nice city. I'd like to live there.

Our final stop was in China. The highlights were a visit to The Great Wall and to Shanghai.

The Great Wall of China

A few things I observed in China.

Enormous spending on infrastructure. Massive boulevards and roads with few cars outside major cities. Hundreds of high rise apartments being built. You rarely see any parent that has more than one child in tow (the one child policy). Masses of workers in Shanghai cleaning and fixing sidewalks, landscaping and providing a security presence. A large police presence. CCTV cameras are very prevalent. You definitely sense that the Chinese are aware that someone is watching and conscious of their "social credit" score. 

It requires a lot of workers to make something like this look so good.
Note the flowers up the boulevard as well.

Shanghai is almost indescribable. The downtown area is a combination of Las Vegas, New York City and Beverly Hills. You see a lot of Mercedes on the street in addition of Range Rovers with some Bentleys and Rolls Royces. The only American car brand you generally see is Buick. A lot of high end retail.

Inside a mall in Shanghai

You know it is a communist country but capitalism has been very, very good to China.

Shanghai at night

The building on the right is the Shanghai Tower. It is currently the second tallest skyscraper in the world at 2,073 feet in height. That is about 300 feet taller than the new One World Trade Center in New York City.

It was nice to see all of this but it was even better to return to the United States of America. Nothing else compares and I am thankful ever day that I can call it home.

Of course, even 7,500 miles away from home it is hard to escape this man. The Chinese might understand his true colors even better than half of my fellow Americans. He is the man who famously told an audience of youths in Argentina that "there's little difference between capitalism and communism."

Tell that to the people of North Korea or Venezuela.

Oba Mao
For sale in a shop selling Communist themed apparel and other merchandise in Shanghai

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Sky's The Limit

I recently came across an interesting graphic that shows the number of skyscrapers by state.

For this purpose, a skyscraper is defined as a building at least 500 feet (152m) in height.

You don't get an appreciation for the size of the buildings in New York City until you look at this map.

267 skyscrapers in the state of New York. Only two of those skyscrapers are not in New York City. There is in one in Buffalo and one in Albany. That leaves 265 in NYC.


However, the information in the map above might be dated as The Skyscraper Center website lists 330 buildings in New York City to be at least 500 feet in height including those currently under construction.

Look at the map above.

19 states do not have any skyscrapers.

There are more skyscrapers in New York City than there are in all 24 states west of the Mississippi.

Chicago also has its share of skyscrapers. It has more than California and Texas combined.

Here is a list of the 25 tallest skyscrapers in the United States, including those under construction.

16 out of the 25 are in New York City. 5 are in Chicago. Only 4 are outside these two cities.

An interesting fact (explaining why the map above is a little dated) is that over half of these skyscrapers were (or will be completed) between 2017-2021.

Of course, if you want to look at skyscrapers from a global perspective, the United States is lagging. Consider that the Jeddah Tower that is under construction in Saudi Arabia will be almost twice the height of the new One World Trade Center in New York City.

14 of the tallest 25 skyscrapers globally will be in China by 2022.

History shows that the sky's the limit in building tall buildings when the economy is strong.  Look no further than the number of building cranes on the skyline in a city to confirm it. However, nothing lasts forever. Every boom seems to be followed by the inevitable bust.

This is a rendering of 111 West 57th Street in New York City that will become the fourth tallest building in the city (1,428 feet) when it is completed next year.

It will contain 60 condominiums. Starting price---$18 million. The penthouse is $59 million.

The Jeddah Tower under construction in Saudi Arabia.


Rendering of the completed project.

Credit: Jeddah Economic Company

The Saudis clearly think the oil is going to continue to flow for a long, long time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Melting Pot

The population of New York City was over 8.2 million people according to the 2010 Census.

It continues to be the largest city in the United States by a large margin. Number two Los Angeles has less than half that number.

New York City has long been a melting pot. It has been the entry point and the home for many immigrants in the United States throughout its history.

That is even more so today than almost any point in American history. Today New York City is home to 3.3 million people who were born outside the United States of America. That is equal to about 40% of the population of New York City.

The foreign born population in New York City is larger than the total population of Chicago, the third largest American city.

There are also more immigrants living in New York City than any other city in the world. (Some argue that London has overtaken NYC in this regard).

At various stages in American history, English, Irish, Eastern European Jews, Germans or Italians were at the vanguard of immigrant waves into New York City and the United States.

We tend to think of the late 19th century and early 20th century being the period of a lot of immigration into the United States. However, New York City has about the same percentage of immigrants today as it did during that period.

Moreover, the percentage of immigrants living in New York City is about double what it was 50 years ago.

The mix of immigrants has also changed considerably over the years.

I came across this interesting graphic recently that shows the change over the last 50 years in the mix of where immigrants who live in New York City come from.

People from countries like Italy, Poland, Germany, Russia and Ireland made up the bulk of immigrants living in New York City in 1970.

The largest immigrant populations in New York today are from the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Mexico and Guyana.

I was surprised to find that the largest immigrant population in New York City is from the Dominican Republic. Nearly 500,000, almost one in six immigrants in New York City, are from this Caribbean country of just a little over 10 million inhabitants.

What about Guyana in the fifth spot? There are over 140,000 people that were born in Guyana living in New York City. The entire country of Guyana has a population of just 770,000.

How does something like this happen?

It has to be chain migration which allows green card holders or other legal residents of the United States to sponsor a family member for immigration to the United States.

About two-thirds of legal immigration to the United States (which has been over 1 million per year) over the last decade has been through chain migration.

You have to ask whether there will be anyone left at all in the Dominican Republic, Guyana or Jamaica in a few years if chain migration continues? These are very small countries but an inordinate number of their population is ending up in the United States.

At the same time, talented people from China (1.4 billion and India (1.3 billion) have a hard time gaining entry to the United States due to the fact that chain migration ends up determining so many of the legal entrants.

Let's put those numbers in context.

The number of Guyanans who live in New York City is equal to 18% of the total population of Guyana.

The number of Dominicans who live in New York City is equal to over 4% of the total population of the Dominican Republic.

The comparable numbers for China and India?



When you see these statistics it does seem to underscore the wisdom of President Trump in suggesting the heavy reliance on chain migration be ended in place of a merit-based system as part of the reform of our outdated immigration system.

Perhaps New Yorker Donald Trump understands all of this a fair measure better than the political pundits give him credit for?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Welfare State

Hillary Clinton famously stated that "it takes a village to raise a child."

I called that statement into question recently citing how our schools and churches seem to not be giving us the support we need to instill the right morals, character and values in our children today.

What is absolutely true is that it takes the village's taxes to raise a child. I am not just talking about property taxes for your local public schools.

More than half of all children (52%) under the age of 18 today are living in a household that is receiving "means-tested assistance" from the federal government, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In households with single mothers, 78% are receiving some form of government assistance. That compares to 41% in married couple family households.

There are 73.6 million children under the age of 18 in the United States. 38.4 million of them live in households in which someone in the home is receiving mean-tested government aid.

What type of assistance are we talking about?

These include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the National School Lunch Program.

36% of all Americans live in a household in which someone is receiving mean-tested government assistance.

None of these programs include Social Security or Medicare or other payments to individuals that the federal government makes.

If you consider the federal budget as a whole, 70% all expenditures are in the form of "Payments of Individuals." Welfare payments, social security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, government pensions student loans and the like.

Therefore, "Payments for Individuals" effectively represents what amounts to the redistribution of income from one person to another with the federal government serving as the middle man.

These are not outlays for the common defense, common good, public works, public safety or public interest. These are government payments that are intended to benefit select individuals based on their age, their income, their health or any one of a number of other distinctions.

This totals $3 trillion per year out of total spending of $4.2 trillion!

The remaining 30% goes for what we traditionally think of as spending for government services. Those things that benefit the public interest and the common good. Defense, Law Enforcement, Public Health, Prisons, Parks, Transportation and interest on the federal debt.

If Defense spending is excluded (arguably the one function of the federal government that is probably most essential), as well as interest on the federal debt, direct payments to individuals account for 93% of all federal spending.

To put that in context, in 1945 only 3% of the federal budget were "Payments to Individuals."

Even as late as 1986, only 46% of the budget were "Payments to Individuals."

I am not suggesting that all of these programs that involve "Payments to Individuals" are ill-considered or bad. After all, Social Security and Medicare are there for everyone. Workers pay into these programs and deserve a return of their investment without someone drastically changing the rules on them just as they near retirement.

However, we all need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we have allowed what began as well-meaning social safety net programs to reach the point that they now account for 70% of federal spending and the majority of our children are living in households that are dependent on federal handouts.

How did everyone survive in 1875, 1945 or 1985 without all of this?

We keep hearing how bad everything is today.

We hear that we need a universal guaranteed income. We need universal health care. We need universal child care.

Where does it end? When Payments to Individuals are 100% of the federal budget? Is that what the primary function of government is supposed to be? To take money from one group, run it through the federal bureaucracy, and hand it out to another group?

Is this really the primary role of government? Do we really think we are solving problems effectively in this way?

It might be wise to consider the words of Ronald Reagan in relying too much on government to solve the ills of the world.

"Government does solve problems, it subsidizes them."