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Ernest Zampelli: An Open Letter to the President of the United States

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An Open Letter to the President of the United States

By IPR Fellow Ernest Zampelli

 

Dear President Trump,

Before offering my assessment of your first days in office, transparency compels me to disclose that I voted for Hillary Clinton. Moreover, you should know that in a previous post of mine (http://iprcua.com/2016/11/11/ipr-fellows-post-election-reflections/) I wrote that absolutely no one could ever offer me an even remotely convincing argument for even considering voting for you—it is simply an exercise in trying to defend the defenseless. And though many, hopefully most, of your supporters do not hold the extreme views of the misogynists, racists, xenophobes, and white nationalists who were unabashedly and shamefully courted by you and your campaign, they nevertheless stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Sadly, that is something they cannot disavow—they own it.

That said, let me now turn to your first week in office. It was largely taken up by your signing of a series of executive orders, the justifications for which are unsurprisingly based on the same falsehoods and exaggerations that you peddled during your campaign. Your executive order that sets the stage for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is based on a simplistic, naïve, and harmful view of what “free” markets are capable of doing as well as on exaggerated and false claims regarding the problems of Obamacare. Listening to the your and your party’s rhetoric, one would think that increases in insurance premiums and difficulties in finding affordable insurance were unheard of before the ACA. In fact, both were rampant. Under the ACA these problems tend to be localized in certain markets. Most other markets are doing pretty well. You and your party excoriate the individual mandate to buy insurance and the associated penalties for non-compliance, ignoring the fact that the mandate is a necessary component to circumvent the adverse selection problem (only sick people in the insurance pool) and the consequent “death spiral”. You and your party continue to peddle health savings accounts, tax credits, and high risk pools as the mandate’s replacement, but fail to mention that such mechanisms were in place before the ACA and met with very little success. So best of luck in trying to come up with a replacement for the ACA under which no one has to buy health insurance, everyone is covered by something more than just a bare bones health plan, those with pre-existing conditions cannot be declined affordable coverage, and state budgets do not collapse under the strain of providing health insurance to low income citizens.

So then, you sign an executive order to build a wall on our 2,000 mile border with Mexico and make the extraordinarily laughable claim that Mexico will somehow pay for it. We are being overrun with illegal immigrants who are rapists and murderers, taking our jobs, and who must be stopped you claim. Really? Last time I looked at the data and the research, the number of illegal immigrants coming to the U.S. from Mexico has been declining steadily, a decline that would be even higher if not for the migrants (who some might call refugees) traveling through Mexico from Central America. Oh, and the illegal immigrant population, as a whole, in the U.S. is pretty much the lowest it has been in ten years. So much for illegal immigrants “pouring in”. Of course, the irony is that such a wall is not going to stop immigrants from entering the U.S. illegally—they will climb over, tunnel under, or somehow go around it! So really, the wall, if built, will turn out to have been a gargantuan waste of money. Oh, wait, no it won’t because you said that Mexico will pay for the wall. That’s right, the 20 percent tariff (or five to 15 percent on the backpedal) on imported Mexican goods will pay for it. Sorry, Mr. President, that’s not how it works. That tariff, whatever percent is, will be paid by American consumers in the form of higher prices on those Mexican goods—that’s where the tariff revenue will come from. And, more than likely, American consumers will pay higher prices for the domestic versions of those goods as well. As far as immigrants taking our jobs and lowering our wages, I covered much of that in a previous blog which can be found in its entirety at http://iprcua.com/2016/08/31/a-trumped-up-charge/. The bottom line was this: “By far, the preponderance of evidence suggests, at worst, very small to no impacts of immigration on the wages and employment of natives and at best, small positive impacts on both.” So, nice job on insulting our third largest trading partner, a neighbor, a friend, and an ally—whose help we need in dealing effectively with other problems—for absolutely nothing.

Oh, and here’s a brief addendum addressing your executive order rescinding our participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Free trade pacts like the TPP and Nafta have very little impact on the overall level of employment in the U.S. What they do change is the sectoral mix of employment. They also afford American consumers and businesses lower prices for the numerous final and intermediate goods that they purchase. Certainly, there are elements of Nafta that warrant re-examination and possibly re-negotiation. But, please, stop with the hyped-up rhetoric that Nafta is a disaster and the worst deal ever because it just isn’t true.

And now to the granddaddy of your executive orders—the temporary ban on immigrants from Syria and from other “terrorist prone” Muslim nations. For some of this, let me rely on recent research conducted by the Cato Institute, a very bigly conservative think tank, which examined every terrorist attack committed by an immigrant or tourist in the U.S. from 1975 to 2015. Applying basic risk analysis, the study concludes that “…Americans should not be so worried: the chance of being killed in a terrorist attack committed by a foreigner is about 1 in 3.6 million per year.” (The reason for the probability being even this high is because of 9-11.) There’s a greater chance of being killed in a car accident or in a railway accident or in the bathtub or from your clothes melting and igniting! The study continues with some rather thoughtful and reasoned discourse.

“Obviously, terrorists should not be allowed to come here. But too much damage is caused if the government bans everybody from certain countries just because somebody else born there killed Americans in a domestic attack. Think of it this way: from 1975 to 2015, more than 1.13 billion foreigners entered the U.S. legally and illegally. So, more than 28 million foreigners entered the country for each successful terrorist who actually managed to kill somebody in a domestic terrorist attack. Punishing 28 million innocent people—not to mention the countless Americans who want to marry the foreigners, hire them, or sell them products—is a gross overreaction to this danger.”

To justify your executive order based on keeping America safe from foreign terrorists is utter nonsense and has no basis in reality. But here is what is most troubling about your executive order Mr. President–it is an ugly scar on the very soul this country. It demonizes one of the world’s great religions in Islam. The 9-11 hijackers, the members of Al-Qaeda and ISIS are no more radical Islamists than abortion provider murderers Paul Hill, Scott Roeder, John Salvi, and Robert Dear are radical Christians. These people are not driven by radicalizations of their faiths but by perversions of those faiths. Make no mistake and have no illusions—your and your party’s continued references to radical Islam and radical Islamic terrorists effectively demonize all Muslims and put American Muslims at far greater risk of harm from their fellow citizens. The refugees you ban are themselves fleeing from terror and horrific treatment at the hands of those who would do us harm as well. They are the “huddled masses” to whom the inscription on the Statue of Liberty refers. They are the ones we have always received and should continue to receive with open arms. They are the ones to whom we should say “Welcome to your safe place.” It already takes 18 to 36 months of vetting before these people are allowed entry into the U.S. How much longer will they have to wait and how much longer will they have to endure humiliation because of your baseless national security propaganda? Next time you’re in Trump Tower, take a long hard look at the Statue of Liberty Mr. President. It is in her that you will find the soul of the “shining city on the hill”.

 

Respectfully yours,

EZ