Category Archives: Opinion

Trump’s Protectionist Economy

Trump’s nomination had little to do with social issues. Yes, Donald Trump promised to ban Muslims from entering the country. Yes, Trump claimed a ruling on his for-profit scam university was biased because the deciding judge was Mexican. And yes, Trump probably still thinks that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But none of that is why Trump won the Midwest. President-elect Trump won the Midwest because of his protectionist economic and trade policy. For the part of America that has been left behind by globalization and the economic recovery, Donald Trump’s policies offered hope.

Post-election exit polling supports this contention. According to CNN exit surveys, in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the economy was the most important issue to a majority of voters. And though Hillary Clinton did hold a narrow margin lead over Trump among these voters, her lead evaporated when trade came up. 48 percent of Ohioans and half of Wisconsinites felt that trade hampered U.S. jobs, and of these voters, two-thirds broke for Trump. Additionally, 54 percent of Wisconsinites, 52 percent of Ohioans, and 52 percent of Iowans agreed that Trump would handle the economy better than his opponent.

Exit polls are not the best way to predict who will win an election because their samples are not always random. But they still can help us understand how different demographics voted—and why they did.

Employment numbers in the Midwest are abysmal when compared to the rest of the US. According to the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Wisconsin did not reach pre-recession employment levels until September 2015. But measured from before the Great Recession, the state’s growing working age population resulted in a job deficit of 102,060 by September 2015, which means that there were 102,060 fewer jobs available than Wisconsinites could find. In Ohio, the same holds true. Only 62.3 percent of Ohio adults are still in the labor market, and the state has not only seen a decrease in the number of jobs available but also in inflation-adjusted wages.

It is also important to look at the industries that represent Middle America. Alabama, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Louisiana, Oregon, and Indiana are the 10 states that in 2012 relied the most on manufacturing for state GDP. According to the Federal Reserve Economic Data database, this is the quarterly percent change in manufacturing output in the United States since Q2 2012:

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The Fed collects this data every three months. To get the simple percent change in manufacturing output, we subtract the current quarter’s output from the previous quarter’s output and then divide that new quantity by the previous quarter’s output. The small changes seen here illustrates a stagnant sector; since 2015, the net change in manufacturing output is almost exactly zero. By contrast, manufacturing output increased around 2% during the economic expansions in the 1990s and 2000s. This decline in manufacturing is the main reason that nine of the ten states that most depend upon manufacturing voted for Trump, as he promised to put in place tariffs and other economic policies that would protect American manufacturing and save blue-collar jobs.

But Trump’s policies will not help manufacturing. Abandoning free trade agreements that have allowed the United States to remain an economic superpower will damage our GDP by raising the price of goods. The more expensive the product, the less of the good that is bought. Coupled with the deadweight loss that would ensue with a protectionist policy, the total amount spent on consumption as well as market efficiency would decrease. Consumption has made up at least 75 percent of U.S. GDP since 1960, and a decrease in GDP leads to recession. Just as our country climbs out of its last recession, Donald Trump’s protectionism will lead us back into one.

What Donald Trump sold Middle America was false hope. The manufacturing jobs that he promised to bring back can only be saved at a devastating cost, and that is a hard truth nobody wants to hear. Because of this false economic hope that Trump promised—and will fail to fulfill—Trump won the Midwest and the election. And because Trump won, we are now stuck with a man supporting protectionist policies that certainly will not make America great.

Pomona College May Have Violated 501(c)(3) Tax Status to Fund Anti-Trump Protesters

By funding the transportation of students to and from anti-Trump rallies in the Los Angeles area with tuition dollars, Pomona College’s Draper Center for Community Partnership may have violated IRS regulations prohibiting tax-exempt educational institutions from engaging in partisan political activity.

On Wednesday, November 9, the day after Republican Donald J. Trump became president-elect of the United States, anti-Trump protests sprung up throughout the country. Some of these protests were against the hate and violence activists have associated with Trump and his followers towards Jewish, immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ communities, among others. Some protests were against Trump himself.

For one protest, which took place on Wednesday evening outside of Los Angeles City Hall, Pomona College’s Draper Center for Community Partnership organized buses to take students to the protest and offered to reimburse other students who attended for their travel costs.

As the Independent reported this morning, the Draper Center has also funded “anti-hate” rallies with anti-Trump undertones. But since these protests deal explicitly with issues rather than candidates, the Draper Center is likely within its legal rights to support them, even if some may object to an organization that espouses community partnership involving itself in political issues.

Wednesday’s protest at the L.A. City Hall, however, was explicitly anti-Trump. On Facebook, its organizers wrote that “[i]t is imperative that all people unite to resist this vile racist and sexist demagogue…. Only the people can put a stop to this. Let’s unite Los Angeles from day one to say, ‘Down with Trump!’”

Representatives of the Draper Center knew of and appeared to support the partisan objectives of the protest. In a post shared in several private Facebook groups for Pomona College students, the student coordinator of the Draper Center solicited attendees for the protest. “The Draper Center is organizing a bus that will take students to downtown LA TONIGHT to stand against Trump,” she wrote, linking to a sign-up form entitled “Bus Ride to Rally Against Trump in LA.”

The Draper Center is not a student-run organization. Rather, like KSPC, the campus radio station, it is an organization staffed and funded by Pomona College. The College pays the salaries of the Draper Center’s staff, and Maria Tucker, the director of the Draper Center, also serves as an associate dean of students on campus. The Draper Center also receives funding each year from the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), which in turn draws over 98 percent of its income from mandatory student fees.

As an educational institution, Pomona College is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This designation permits alumni to donate to the College tax-free and exempts the College from federal income taxes. However, this special status comes with certain conditions, including a prohibition on partisan political activity.

According to the IRS, “all 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” Although Donald Trump’s official candidacy for the 2016 general election ended on November 8th, he began accepting donations for his 2020 primary campaign on the 9th, the same day Pomona College’s Draper Center began organizing and reimbursing transportation to anti-Trump rallies. According to federal guidelines, this makes Mr. Trump a political candidate. The Draper Center’s actions also come in the context of an ongoing effort to persuade members of the Electoral College—the body of electors that officially selects the next president on December 19th—to vote for Clinton.

Funding opposition to a political candidate, as the Draper Center did, would appear to violate the IRS’ prohibition of partisan political activity by 501(c)(3) educational institutions. And in light of a recent campus-wide email blast from a high-level campus administrator promoting an anti-Trump march on campus, the Draper Center’s conduct is even more difficult to explain.

The Independent has reached out to the Draper Center for comment and plans to update this story accordingly

After the Election: Trump, Clinton, and the Death of Dialogue

No matter which candidate wins tonight’s presidential election, the American people have already lost. This isn’t because both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump are poor choices; as I have written before, I think Secretary Clinton would make an excellent president. Rather, the American people are losing because we’ve lost the ability to communicate with each other

It is easier than ever today to entomb oneself in an echo chamber. Schools today are more homogeneous than ever, social media allows for the selective consumption of news, and political gerrymandering has created an environment in which likeminded individuals are lumped together in the same congressional district. In our society, there are now far fewer places in which dialogue between differently minded groups can occur and our dysfunctional schools, bottom-line-focused media, and politically drawn legislative districts exacerbate this trend. Trump supporters and Clinton supporters no longer have access to fora in which they can communicate with each other; instead Trump supporters instinctively distrust all things Clinton and Clinton supporters condescend to all things Trump, including his supporters. Have you recently had a respectful conversation with someone who supports a candidate other than your own? American politics has always been rancorous, but this death of dialogue has created a new level of polarization.

Polarization has also gridlocked our legislature—the most recently completed 113th Congress was the second-least productive in history, second only to the 112th Congress. And as our legislative branch has been crippled, the presidency has been endowed with unprecedented levels of power. The president can now effectively unilaterally declare war thanks to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), can effectively enact treaties with a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than having to cobble together a supermajority thanks to the rise and acceptance of so-called congressional-executive agreements, and can wantonly choose which laws to enforce due to lax applications of the Constitution’s Take Care Clause.

This inflation of presidential powers has only served to further exacerbate the polarization in the country. Suddenly, a President Trump could by himself decide to send troops into Syria thanks to the AUMF or withdraw from NAFTA without congressional approval since it’s a congressional-executive agreement and not a treaty. A President Clinton could decide to cease all deportation immediately now that the Constitution’s Take Care Clause is no longer enforced. With so much power endowed to one individual, voters can no longer risk listening to and electing someone who doesn’t share their party line.

So how can this polarization be overcome? The only way forward is to repair basic American institutions so that they promote dialogue between those of differing views. First, colleges should try to enroll politically diverse student bodies and actively promote civic discussion among them, not focus all of their attention onto the proliferation of safe spaces. As a liberal college student myself, I was drawn to write for this publication because of the diversity of political and social views that are professed in its articles and the dialogue it fosters on campus, despite the fact that said dialogue can get rather heated at times. The drawing of electoral districts should be delegated to independent committees. Social media should change their algorithms so that users aren’t just fed articles with which they already agree. And people should reflect on the tone of this election and think about how they could have made it just a little less nasty through proactive engagement. Once this occurs, polarization will return to previous levels, the legislature will once again become vibrant and again become a check on the executive office, which will in turn serve to further decrease polarization as presidential elections become less important and thus less nasty. We didn’t accomplish this in time for this election cycle, but hopefully the sheer vitriol of this race will serve as a wakeup call before the next one.

The Clinton Emails You Haven’t Heard About

Hillary Clinton’s emails have been a thorough topic of debate, but the information that has been made readily public is only a small part of the scandal. Many people simply assume that the only topics of interest in her emails are Benghazi and corporate interests, but the emails contain far more secrets that were hidden until Julian Assange released troves of previously submerged documents with massive implications.

First off, Morocco contributed 12 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation and her campaign. Huma Abedin in 2014 disclosed, “The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting. It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many opportunities to do it in the past few months.” This quotation taken directly from the emails draws a clear connection between the two, but Politico later reported that while $1 million can be directly traced, the Clinton Foundation has refused to release reports on the other $11 million given for largely unknown reasons. While it is true that she was not Secretary of State at the time, and that there is no direct wording within the documents that would imply she received these donations for political favors, it does raise the question as to why Morocco would generously give such a substantial sum out of the kindness of their hearts.

Initially, governmental funding of the Clintons may not sound like much, but the problem lies in emails that were sent at the beginning of 2014, where she maps out certain ISIS endowments. Specifically, the email reads, “The Governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Two days ago, Reuters confirmed that Clinton’s charity had received $1 million dollars from the government of Qatar while she was Secretary of State in exchange for a meeting with former president Bill Clinton and John Podesta. In essence, the same government that is currently funding ISIS and has been accused of countless human rights abuses has significant ties to the Clintons, starting when she was still in a major seat of power. Saudi Arabia specifically has donated between $10-25 million dollars under the proxy foundation “Friends of Saudi Arabia” since 1997. The only problem with honing these numbers down to a more specific amount is that finding the information from either the Clinton Foundation or private reports are difficult at best. The end result to take away from this is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two governments that directly support ISIS financially and logistically, have supplied millions to the Clintons and their foundation both during president Bill Clinton’s administration and during Hilary’s time as secretary of state. ISIS and the Clinton Foundation are being bankrolled by the same governments.

During Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, not only were questionable donations made, but she approved surprising arms sales between the Unites States and Saudi Arabia. Julian Assange stated, “Under Hillary Clinton, and Clinton emails reveal a significant discussion about it, the largest ever arms deal in the world was made with Saudi Arabia. More than $80 billion dollars.” Along with the $80 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, the total dollar amount of US arms sales internationally doubled during her time as secretary of state.

Besides the financial support of these Middle Eastern governments, some speculation on the word “logistics” used in Clinton’s emails could imply that guns sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States could have been in turn given to ISIS by Saudi Arabia. While there is admittedly no proof of this, it is curious how a state with as small of a military as Saudi Arabia could make use of $80 billion dollars of US arms on their own. While Hillary Clinton may have only been a part of all these backroom dealings that the American public has been largely kept in the dark on, it must be noted that she has played an instrumental role in the massive sales of munitions between the United States and certain Middle Eastern governments.

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Image: Flickr

Should I Vote?

When the two most popular candidates are as disliked as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it becomes difficult to decide whether or not to vote. Our more ardent friends tell us that voting is a constitutional obligation. They say that it stands for all the people who died for our right to vote, but neglect to say that you ought to vote for your values. Voting for one’s values has been the way that America has operated for generations. This can be seen in the election of 1912, with Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Eugene V. Debbs, and Theodore Roosevelt. The election held four parties: democratic, republican, socialist, and the progressive party, and each one adequately represented a different sector of the voting base. The democrats with Woodrow Wilson took just over 41% of the popular vote, but won by a landslide in the electoral college due to the diverse options that the American people were given. Even the most removed candidate, Eugene V. Debbs with the socialist party, received 6% of the popular vote, which is more than what Gary Johnson is currently polling nationwide.

If the candidate does not represent you, why should you vote for them? Recently, the question has changed from “Who should I vote for?” and has become “Who should I vote against?” With the assistance of party-line voters, more elections are being decided on the lesser of two evils rather than a popularly appealing candidate. This consequentialist mindset can be extremely dangerous. On one hand, it allows an individual to assess the “greatest good,” but it also reduces the possibility for change. Third party candidates are at the mercy of party-line voters, who make up such a strong majority of the voting population that the candidate on the outside has to fight against the predisposition to vote for whichever party the voter is affiliated with. Specifically, the fear that the more radical and ignoble side will win. This encourages a false dichotomy that forces the potentially interested voter to act out of fear of the opponent rather than out of an interest in improving the country because the chances of a third party candidate are almost entirely ruined by party-line voting.

The other major problem with consequentialism is that it devalues individuals’ ideals. In the 1964 election, voters overwhelmingly voted for Lyndon B. Johnson not because they particularly liked him or agreed with his values, but rather because Barry Goldwater was so extreme and bigoted that no one wanted to be associated with his name. The electoral vote was a landslide, with 486 for Johnson and 52 for Goldwater. This doctrine places the consequence of the election above what the individual actually desires. Voters may be forced to compromise their values in favor of a net beneficial effect. Further, when compromise is made, internal party reform becomes challenging. If the individual concedes on topics that may be critical to them, they will have to accept whatever outcome they receive regardless of their ideals. The consequences of these outcomes inevitably degrade the voter’s values. At some point, they may sacrifice enough of their morals that they do not even know their own values anymore. When they come to the point where their moral inconsistency is acceptable, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the opposition they find so heinous.

The conclusion of this argument implies that you should only vote to your values and disregard the consequences, but there are major problems that follow with this train of thought as well, which lie in the neglect of the consequences. This may sound odd given the problems with solely valuing the consequences, but entirely disregarding them can also be problematic. While stating that no compromises can be made does solve the problem of internal value degradation, it implies that if a candidate does not fulfill every last one of your values, then they are not worth voting for. This can lead to an outcome where extremely harmful and disadvantageous political candidates are able to win because their values resonated with the largest group of voters, even though their supporters may be a national minority. For example, if only a tenth of the population held the same set of extreme values, and the remainder of the population held differing moderate positions, then a candidate who represents the smaller portion could win if the remaining eligible voters abdicated their vote because they did not connect enough with a representative. This can lead to harmful long-term effects on the nation as a whole, as the candidate who held the values of that decile of the population now holds the power of the nation.

The final option between values and consequences lies in compromise. Someone can understand that consequences are important but also take into account that they need to consider their values. The difficulty here is finding the proper balance between these ideals. From voter to voter they will be different, and perhaps they will even be indescribable, but as long as people understand that a proper vote requires consideration of both of these things, then perhaps we could have a viable election that balances the ideals of the people. When answering the question, “should I vote?” only the voter can decide by weighing their values against the dangers of the opposition.

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Image: Flickr