Emergency over the wall

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FILE - In this March 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego. California's attorney general filed a lawsuit Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, against Trump's emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying 16 states — including California — allege the Trump administration's action violates the Constitution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE - In this March 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego. California's attorney general filed a lawsuit Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, against Trump's emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying 16 states — including California — allege the Trump administration's action violates the Constitution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Trump says he has ‘absolute right’ to declare emergency


Associated Press

Wednesday, February 20

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump declared Tuesday that he would prevail over a multi-state lawsuit challenging his emergency declaration to pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he expected to do “very well” against the suit, adding that he had an “absolute right” to make the declaration.

“I think in the end we’re going to be very successful with the lawsuit,” Trump said. “I actually think we might do very well, even in the 9th Circuit, because it’s an open and closed case.”

A group of 16 states, including California, New York and Colorado, filed a lawsuit Monday against Trump’s emergency declaration. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Trump’s declaration is unconstitutional.

All the states involved in the lawsuit have Democratic attorneys general.

Using a broad interpretation of his executive powers, Trump declared an emergency last week to obtain wall funding beyond the $1.4 billion Congress approved for border security. The move allows the president to bypass Congress to use money from the Pentagon and other budgets.

Trump’s use of the emergency declaration has drawn bipartisan criticism and is already facing a number of legal challenges. Another suit was filed Tuesday in the Northern District of California by the American Civil Liberties Union. Filed on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, it says there is no emergency to justify the president’s action and accuses Trump and other members of his administration of violating Constitutional limits on their authority.

Democrats are also planning to introduce a resolution disapproving of the declaration once Congress returns to session and it is likely to pass both chambers. Several Republican senators are already indicating they would vote against Trump — though there do not yet appear to be enough votes to override a veto by the president.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, would not explicitly say Tuesday whether she would support a resolution of disapproval if one came before the Senate. But she made clear she was worried about the precedent that could be set by Trump going around Congress to fund the wall.

“I’ll be very direct. I don’t like this. I don’t like this. I think it takes us down a road, and with a precedent, that if it’s allowed, that we may come to regret,” said Murkowski, who said she supports efforts to bolster security at the border but is concerned about an erosion of checks and balances.

A top White House adviser said Sunday that Trump was prepared to issue his first veto if Congress votes to disapprove his declaration of a national emergency. Stephen Miller told “Fox News Sunday” that “the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration.”

Trump argued Tuesday that the wall was needed to “stop drugs and crime and criminals and human trafficking.” He has repeatedly sought to paint a dire picture of conditions at the border, though illegal border crossings are down from a high of 1.6 million in 2000.

After weeks spent battling with Congress over border funding and what constituted a wall versus a fence, Trump said, “I can call it a barrier, but I think I don’t have to do that so much anymore, we’ll call it whatever we want.”

Democrats quickly seized on the move as an example of executive overreach. The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a press release Tuesday that stated: “No one is above the law. Republicans must join Democrats to uphold the Constitution and stand with the American people — against the President’s brazen assault.”

Earlier Tuesday, Trump singled out California for its lead role in the suit, seeking to link the state’s high-speed rail project to his plan for the wall.

On Twitter, Trump claimed the “failed Fast Train project” was beset by “world record setting” cost overruns and had become “hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!”

The estimated cost for a San Francisco-to-Los Angeles train has more than doubled to $77 billion. That’s about 13 times the $5.7 billion Trump sought unsuccessfully from Congress to build the wall.

Hours later, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it planned to cancel $929 million in federal money allocated to California’s rail project and seek to claw back $2.5 billion the state has already spent.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom charged it was a reaction to the lawsuit and pledged a fight to keep the money.

“It’s no coincidence that the Administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the President’s farcical ‘national emergency,’” Newsom said in a statement. “This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by.”

The spat over the rail project comes after Newsom said last week the project “as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long.” He said the state would focus on completing a shorter segment in the state’s Central Valley while seeking new funding sources for the longer route.

Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Calif., contributed.

This story corrects that the 16-state lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, not the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Immigrants Aren’t the Emergency

Communities like mine, in small-town Michigan, are told to blame immigrants when unchecked capitalism hurts us. We don’t buy it.

By Sarah Schulz | February 20, 2019

Midland, Michigan, where my husband and I are raising our two young children, is a small town surrounded by rural communities. Many of us living here have seen, generation-by-generation, that we’re falling behind.

Our anxiety is real, but we wholeheartedly reject attempts by those in power to blame immigrant families who have their own struggles, or to suggest that a made up “national emergency” is any kind of solution. We know better.

One of my friends and her husband both work full time and each have separate health insurance through their jobs — but their three children aren’t insured. Their income is too high for the kids to qualify for the MIChild insurance the state offers children of working families. But their income isn’t high enough to allow them buy coverage independently.

Their third child was born just a few months ago. She doesn’t have paid maternity leave, so even though she should’ve recovered at least six weeks after a necessary C-section, she went back to work after three weeks.

“We shouldn’t have to just get by each month,” she said to me. “We should be able to get ahead like our parents did. But we can’t, and now we are just kinda living here — where one unplanned $20 expense means you can’t buy groceries, and you’ve lost hope of ever paying your bills.”

Her family is falling through the cracks. Like so many Michigan small town and rural families, they’re working hard, doing all the right things, and just barely getting by. Forty percent of our households in Michigan struggle to afford the basic necessities, like housing, food, and health care.

In situations of growing desperation, it’s natural to want to blame someone or some group of people, especially when our loudest leaders are constantly presenting us with an enemy to focus on. We’ve been inundated with messages in the last three years inciting us to blame immigrants for all our troubles, whether it’s lack of jobs or the cost of health care.

Baloney. We all know that our system of unchecked capitalism is to blame.

Too many profitable companies don’t insure their employees or their families. Mega-corporations like Amazon pull in billions — and pay no federal income taxes — while their workers go on food stamps. Others, like General Motors, take tax huge tax breaks only to ship thousands of jobs overseas.

My small-town Michigan neighbors understand that other people, struggling just as we are, aren’t the ones to blame for these harms.

As parents, we share the impossible agony of the mom at the southern border forced to return to her country of origin without her 5-year-old child. As neighbors, we recognize our immigrant friends attending church, school meetings, and soccer practices beside us.

These one-on-one interactions prove over and over that we all desire the same security, stability, and community. We all have the same love for our families, and hopes for a better future.

The mantra of “immigrants are taking our jobs” comes from people with virtually no first-hand knowledge of any immigrant taking the job of any citizen we know. The jobs held by immigrants are often either the low-skilled jobs that U.S. citizens often don’t take, or high-education jobs in our science labs, hospitals, and engineering firms that similarly benefit us all.

Up here, we’re the first to see through the fallacy of walls as we look across our lakes and rivers to Canada. There’s no talk on this border of a permanent concrete wall to stand as a forever monument to xenophobia and the ego of our current leaders.

We know at heart there’s only one reason — sheer racism — that we’re asked to believe the need for a wall on one border is an emergency, while there’s no talk of one on the other border at all.

Powerful people stoke this racism and fear to keep the poor at each other’s throats. That kind of thinking isn’t our way and shouldn’t be welcome in our communities, our state, or our nation.

Sarah Schulz is a human resources executive, community organizer, and activist. She lives in Midland, Michigan with her two children and her husband,a public school teacher. She’s a member of Michigan United, part of the People’s Action network. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

The Conversation

Why cities should stop playing Amazon’s game and quit offering companies tax incentives

February 21, 2019

Author: Amihai Glazer, Professor of Economics, University of California, Irvine

Disclosure statement: The Program in Corporate Welfare at UC Irvine supported this research. The Program has received funding from the Charles Koch Foundation and from the Troesh Family Foundation.

Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

New York City should count its blessings.

Amazon’s decision to walk away from its plan to build a new headquarters in Queens stunned city and state officials, who had promised US$3 billion in incentives in exchange for some 25,000 jobs. They had never questioned whether the promised jobs and economic stimulus would actually appear.

In my own research as an economist studying corporate welfare, I have found and reviewed much evidence on the effectiveness of tax and other incentives. My conclusion: Incentives just don’t work.

Corporate ‘downsizing’

That’s in part because companies aren’t obligated to follow through on their promises. Just ask Boston.

In February, around the same time Amazon walked away from its NYC plans, General Electric announced it will cut back on jobs and investment in its new headquarters in Boston. Only three years ago, the company’s plan to relocate from Connecticut in exchange for $25 million in tax breaks was touted as a big deal for Boston.

Or consider General Motors, which in 2012 said it would build a new electric vehicle facility in White Marsh, Maryland, after receiving a subsidy of $105 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, $6 million in grants from Baltimore County and $4.5 million in state grants for economic development and job training. This past November, the automaker announced it will shut down the plant as part of a restructuring effort.

Or Foxconn. In 2017, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced that the electronics giant would build a new factory in the state. The $10 billion investment was supposed to create as many as 13,000 jobs housed on a high-tech campus the size of 11 Lambeau football fields. Walker, who was described, during the announcement, as “a picture of grinning, fist-pumping excitement,” offered more than $4 billion in tax incentives in return.

With only 178 jobs created as of January, now the plans for a large factory to build large TV screens are in doubt. Instead, Foxconn said it plans to work on a research and development facility in the state.

Business as usual

And for those that do stay, the benefits to the city or region aren’t all that great.

A 2016 study by economist Carlianne Patrick compared counties that won large new factories with those that lost out during the bidding process. She found that they typically did not generate more revenue for the local government than it spent on incentives, even if they did induce small increases in economic activity.

Another study by Patrick found that making it easier for local governments to offer aid to companies reduced employment in rural counties. And in 2018, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research concluded that factories and offices that received an incentive had employment growth 3.7 percent slower than those that didn’t receive the inducement.

More than that, a review of 30 different studies by the Upjohn Institute found that incentives actually influence a company’s decision to invest in less than a quarter of cases. In other words, most of the time, a company would have made the investment with or without the tax break or other incentive.

Incentives fail

In my own study, I collected data on 82 companies that invested in new plants and factories across the U.S. from 1982 to 1993 and then tracked them for a a couple of decades. I also collected data on the various tax incentives and other inducement policies each state offered.

As of 2010, when the last data were available, 52 were still in operation. Twenty-four of them closed. I couldn’t find data on the other six.

The point of providing companies with tax incentives and other subsidies is that they are supposed to lead to economic growth and make a facility more viable. On the contrary, I found that the plants in states with higher tax incentives were actually slightly more likely to have gone out of business by 2010.

What is going on here?

My theory, based on other research I’ve conducted, is that a company that is offered a large incentive package is incentivized to build a plant or office early rather than doing sufficient due diligence to ensure the decision is the best one.

Another possibility is tied to politics: The company wants to ink the deal and secure the subsidy while the governor who offered the deal is still in office. That appears to have happened in Wisconsin, where Walker lost his re-election the year after he offered Foxconn the large subsidies.

Economic realities

It is striking that Amazon, in announcing its cancellation of the New York headquarters, didn’t signal it was reopening the bidding process for one of its new headquarters.

Nowhere did it say that it would still hire the 25,000 workers it had said it would in New York City, though it still plans to create that many jobs in Virginia.

While Amazon said it pulled out because of political opposition, another reason may be that the lure of the subsidies blinded Amazon to economic realities and that it’s second-guessing its investment. In which case, perhaps Amazon should count its blessings as well.

At a Climate Crossroads: Nonviolence or Violence

By Andrew Moss


Sixty-one years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King declared, “Today the choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.” Emboldened by the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott two years earlier, King saw nonviolence not only as a powerful strategy for achieving social change; he viewed it as a philosophy and way of life that gave the world its only genuine alternative to the doomsday scenarios posed by the cold war arms race. As he said, “In a day when Sputniks and Explorers dash through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, nobody can win a war.”

Today, as efforts to control nuclear proliferation appear to be unravelling or failing, and as countries like the U.S. and Russia are engaging in a newly intensified arms race, Dr. King’s words carry new urgency. But there’s another reason for urgency: climate change. Recent scientific reports, including a report issued this past October by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predict that at the present rate of fossil fuel consumption, the earth will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels by 2040, decades earlier than previously predicted. Severe impacts (major coastal flooding, intense droughts, increased levels of poverty around the world) will likely occur within the lifetimes of many people living today.

These developments carry profound implications for human society – and for the issues of war and peace. Many researchers and policy makers acknowledge climate change as a major driver of human migration. Increasing numbers of people, displaced by flooding, decreasing crop productivity, and water shortages, will be forced to leave their homes in search of habitable spaces and viable livelihoods. The World Bank issued a report last March predicting that as many as 150 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia could be displaced within their home countries by mid-century. The United Nations has issued similar predictions as well.

In the United States, defense analysts and policy-makers, have, however, tended to frame these climate-related issues in conventional terms of national security, i.e. climate change as a “security threat.” This past January, for example, the Director of National Intelligence issued a “Worldwide Threat Assessment” in which climate change, along with other environmental factors, is seen as “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” Back in 2017, the U.S. Congress included language in a defense policy bill to indicate that climate change “is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and is impacting stability in areas of the world where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist.”

The problem with this kind of framing is that it omits any larger considerations of justice. Certainly increasing numbers of people today have expressed outrage at our government’s treatment of people seeking asylum and safety at our borders – and have been appalled by the dehumanizing language used to paint migrants as “criminals” and “terrorists.”

But now climate change, along with the expectation of millions of people being forced to move from their homes, is magnifying the challenges facing us. In the coming decades, environmental disruption will challenge many of us to rethink our ideas about justice, about borders, about our responsibilities to people beyond our borders, and about our interconnections with all human beings. Because of the issues related to migration, climate change also adds to the urgency of the quest for renewable energy.

As Dr. King declared, “true peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” As I continue to visit detainees at a local immigration detention facility, I can only ask what kind of justice incarcerates an undocumented person for a minor traffic infraction. What kind of justice allows Exxon executives to be amply compensated for conducting disinformation campaigns on climate science while being fully aware of its validity?

Dr. King wisely noted that nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. It is not about retribution but about so dramatizing the injustices that genuine change can occur. It is a lens for clarifying the values and choices before us – helping us see which paths lead to mutual destruction, and which to human thriving and well-being. We are at that crossroads today.

Andrew Moss, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is an emeritus professor at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he taught a course, “War and Peace in Literature,” for 10years.

FILE – In this March 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego. California’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, against Trump’s emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying 16 states — including California — allege the Trump administration’s action violates the Constitution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122359059-00a04730b84a47b48c62ef22cc35f7d2.jpgFILE – In this March 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego. California’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, against Trump’s emergency declaration to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Xavier Becerra released a statement Monday saying 16 states — including California — allege the Trump administration’s action violates the Constitution. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
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