Arizona’s GOP Has Become a Trump Cult

“Once upon a time, the Arizona GOP nursed a distinctly individualistic skepticism of government and politicians. Long-time U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater famously wrote, “my aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them.” A hand-wringing September 2020 Kurt Anderson column in The New York Times held Goldwater responsible for introducing Milton Friedman’s free-market economic ideas to a wide audience during events that “opened the door to libertarian economics.”

Sam Steiger, a colorful five-term member of the House of Representatives, said there were some of his colleagues “you wouldn’t hire to wheel a wheelbarrow.” He ran for governor as a Libertarian in 1982, earning 5 percent of the vote. When he returned to the Republican fold to unsuccessfully seek the party’s 1990 gubernatorial nomination, the Phoenix New Times noted that while he had backed off advocacy of drug legalization, Steiger “is an admitted ‘Libertarian at heart.'”

Those were Republicans you couldn’t really imagine assuring party faithful that a politician “loves” them. Grudging tolerance for an officeholder was more characteristic for their breed.

Since then, however, the Arizona GOP has undergone a strange transformation. It took a distinctly nativist and nationalist turn, best exemplified by Joe Arpaio, who held the office of Maricopa County sheriff for 24 years.

Where Goldwater promoted a Bracero-type temporary worker program to make illegal border crossings less tempting, and Steiger accused the Immigration and Naturalization Service of exaggerating illegal immigration in order to pad its budget requests, Arpaio made border enforcement the focus of his local law enforcement department. He went so far as to ignore a judge’s order to stop detaining people his officers suspected of undocumented status—earning himself a conviction for contempt of court in the process. (Trump pardoned the former sheriff.)”

“The party isn’t yet entirely consumed by Trumpism. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has championed old-school issues such as school choice. He’s been savaged by the usual suspects for his relatively light touch in terms of mandated restrictions and lockdowns in response to the pandemic. Ducey also appointed libertarian legal scholar Clint Bolick to serve on the Arizona Supreme Court.

But the governor’s defense of the integrity of the state’s voting process won him a juvenile slap from Kelli Ward, who tweeted #STHU (shut the hell up) at her party’s own elected official. Ward had unsuccessfully challenged the vote tally after the presidential election.

The Arizona Republican Party’s transformation into a Trumpist cult isn’t just antagonizing a governor elected from its ranks, it’s eroding the organization’s support by alienating whole segments of the population. After Flake decided against running for reelection, his former seat went to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in 2018. Democrat Mark Kelly defeated incumbent Trumpist Republican Martha McSally (who was appointed) for the other seat in 2020. And, in a squeaker of a vote, the state’s electoral votes went to Joe Biden in the latest presidential contest.”

Jail Deaths Are a National Disgrace

“More than 7,500 Americans died in jail during the last decade, and two-thirds of them were never convicted of a crime. Those are the stunning topline numbers from an investigation that Reuters published in October.

Anyone who has paid attention to the issue has known for a long time that jail deaths from neglect and occasional malevolence are a nationwide problem—especially when jails become the de facto solution to mental health and drug addiction crises. Last summer, for example, Reason reported on the story of 46-year-old Holly Barlow-Austin, who suffered from medical neglect for months at a Texarkana, Texas, jail before being transferred to a hospital and eventually dying of sepsis due to fungus, cryptococcal meningitis, HIV/AIDS, and accelerated hypertension.”

“Of the 7,571 jail deaths Reuters identified, most were due to illness. But “more than 2,000 took their own lives amid mental breakdowns, including some 1,500 awaiting trial or indictment,” it reported. “A growing number—more than 1 in 10 last year—died from the acute effects of drugs and alcohol. Nearly 300 died after languishing behind bars, unconvicted, for a year or more.””

“We can’t solve a problem we can’t see or measure. The Justice Department needs to release the full data it collects on jail deaths, while states and counties must hold law enforcement leadership accountable for the lives under their lock and key.”

Biden is allowing asylum seekers caught by Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program to cross the border

“Some 28,000 asylum seekers — primarily Cubans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans — have active cases in former President Donald Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which became known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. It is one of many interlocking Trump-era policies that, together, have made obtaining asylum and other humanitarian protections in the US next to impossible.

On Friday, the Homeland Security Department announced that it had allowed 25 of those asylum seekers to cross the US-Mexico border at the San Ysidro port of entry, which connects the city of Tijuana with San Diego, California. International organizations, including the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), had registered the asylum seekers in advance and given them an appointment to show up at the border during which they verified their eligibility to enter the country on a US Customs and Border Protection mobile app and tested negative for Covid-19.

“Today, we took the first step to start safely, efficiently, and humanely processing eligible individuals at the border,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Friday. “It is important to underscore that this process will take time, that we are ensuring public health and safety, and that individuals should register virtually to determine if they are eligible for processing under this program.””

The best stimulus idea Democrats are leaving on the table

“A growing chorus of lawmakers and experts argue Congress could further improve jobless benefits by adding something called “automatic stabilizers” into the equation. That would mean that benefits would be tied to certain economic conditions — say, the unemployment rate — and would phase out as the economy gets better. They would be triggered on and off according to what’s actually happening in the economy for businesses and for workers.

“A ton of resources are wasted during a really crucial time … just having to go through this ad hoc stimulus and relief and recovery, and it just doesn’t have to be like that,” said Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute and former chief economist at the Labor Department. “We can automate things to make it so Congress could step in if they ever needed to do more relief, but it would mean that the basic structure of relief and recovery would be there already.””

“The government already has in place automatic stabilizers, including unemployment itself, which is intended to stabilize the economy — not only do they replace income for people who lose jobs, but they’re also meant to help prop up the economy in moments of downturn and keep consumer spending going. When an unemployed worker can’t pay their rent, it’s bad for both the tenant and the landlord.
Because the unemployment system has become so whittled down over the years, benefits are less effective at supporting the economy than they used to be — food stamps tend to be more impactful — but it varies by state. “Unemployment insurance is a much better stabilizer in Massachusetts and New Jersey than it is in Texas and Virginia,” said Wayne Vroman, a labor economist at the Urban Institute.

But with federal interventions during the pandemic, that has changed somewhat, at least temporarily. Expanded unemployment benefits appear to have been quite useful in helping people spend what they need, which in turn helps businesses dependent on those customers. Research shows they actually helped many people with savings, and they likely made the recession less severe. They also reduced some inequalities in how Black and white workers access benefits and the amount of benefits they receive. This makes the argument that they should continue as long as the crisis continues make sense.”

Leave now, extension, or indefinite stay: Biden’s 3 bad Afghanistan options

“Today, the insurgents control more territory in Afghanistan than they did in 2001 when the US invaded”

“President Joe Biden has been presented with three broad options for how to prolong or end America’s involvement in the 20-year Afghanistan War — and all three have significant drawbacks for the administration and the Afghan people.
Here’s what Biden’s military and intelligence advisers offered up in recent days, as reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, details of which I later confirmed.

The first option is to adhere to former President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban, which would require Biden to withdraw all remaining 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan by May 1. The second is to negotiate an extension with the insurgent group, allowing American forces to remain in the country beyond early May. And third is to defy the Trump-Taliban pact altogether and keep fighting in Afghanistan with no stated end date.

Each plan has serious pitfalls”

“If the US leaves in the next three months, it’s likely the Taliban will overrun the US-backed Afghan government and once again make life worse for millions of Afghans, especially women and children.

Staying in Afghanistan just a little bit longer would likely delay that takeover, but would also expend any diplomatic capital the US has left with the Taliban and keep US troops in harm’s way.

Finally, violating the terms of the agreement and remaining indefinitely will almost certainly lead the Taliban to restart its campaign, put on hold ahead of the May 1 deadline, to kill American service members in the country.”

“Multiple US officials told me in recent days that the administration’s Afghanistan policy review is nearing its end, with one telling me they expect Biden to make a decision “very soon.””

“There’s just no guarantee that the Afghan government and the Taliban will actually make a deal. After months or even years of talking, it’s possible neither side will make concessions to the other to hash out a comprehensive peace pact. If that’s the case, US troops will have remained in danger for little to no progress.”

Biden’s Pick To Run the Commerce Department Is No Progressive

“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, one of the few members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to serve the full four years, memorably made a fool of himself by promising that tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would hardly be noticed by most businesses and consumers. It was an argument that undermined itself—the tariffs were intended to force businesses to make different purchasing decisions and thus would have to be noticed in order to work. Worse, Ross approved the vapid “national security” rationale for imposing those tariffs, then oversaw the development and operation of an opaque, confusing, and easily corrupted process to determine which American businesses could dodge those tariff costs.

Ross also led Trump’s unsuccessful effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census, which would shift the once-per-decade redrawing of congressional districts and politically disenfranchise parts of the country with high immigrant populations.

In short, the Commerce Department for four years has been a tool for expanding bureaucratic control of the economy under the false premise that federal officials know how to run businesses better than the people who actually do—and for politicizing the normally rote functions of the government.

And that was before Democrats took charge. Thankfully, Raimondo seems like an unlikely candidate to double down on the past four years of economic foolishness.”

Big Government Is a Bipartisan Problem

“If limited government is what you’re after, neither political party is your friend, since government expands under both. What’s more, the rate at which it expands depends less on which big spenders are in power than on whether we have divided government.

For evidence, consider President George W. Bush’s presidency, when, for a time, Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. During that time, we saw the creation of a new department (Homeland Security) and of a new entitlement (Medicare Part D), and spending exploded. We didn’t see any restraint during the two years when Republicans were fully in control under Trump, either. Further data confirm that unified government does not keep government restrained, even if the controlling party is supposedly the enemy of big government.

Divided government, on the other hand, encourages more restraint, no matter who is in power or who controls which branch of government. Divided government doesn’t stop the government from growing; both parties are always happy to spend more money on defense, infrastructure, and education, just to name a few favorites. However, the Democrats tend to limit the Republicans’ hunger for wars, and Republicans prevent the worst of Democrats’ fantasies about foisting greater government control on the economy.”

“the incentives for good management in government are very weak, because politicians make decisions using other people’s money. As a result, their exposure to the risk of a bad decision is limited, while there’s rarely any reward for spending taxpayers’ money wisely or providing a service more effectively or efficiently.

Furthermore, each individual voter bears a very small part of the costs of bad government decisions. Politicians can thus shower special interest groups with subsidies at our collective expense, grant costly tariff protection to politically powerful producers, and generally waste our money for their individual political advantage.”

“In politics, decisions aren’t driven by the profit motive like they are in the marketplace. Instead, they’re overwhelmingly driven by the desire to get reelected. Special interests can help with that. In fact, public choice economists have shown that government officials receive more benefits when they act on behalf of special interests than for the public good. This finding doesn’t depend on who is in power.”

The Texas Blackout Is the Story of a Disaster Foretold

“it wasn’t as if those running the Texas energy system’s various fiefdoms—the grid, the power plants, the natural gas–production facilities—hadn’t been warned about the dangers of severe weather. Hell may not freeze over, but history suggests that Texas’s energy system does—and with some frequency. In 1989, in 2003, and in 2011, the state experienced, to varying degrees, simultaneous shutdowns of power plants and parts of its natural gas–producing infrastructure, as significant swaths of both of those critical systems were incapacitated by arctic temperatures, triggering blackouts.

The frigid weather during the first four days of February 2011 knocked off enough power generation throughout ERCOT—about 29,000 megawatts of capacity—that ERCOT initiated blackouts affecting about 3.2 million customers, according to a voluminous postmortem of the failure produced in August 2011 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. That report suggested the state add teeth to its effort to gird its energy infrastructure for wintry weather. Among its policy recommendations was that in states in the Southwest, including Texas, legislatures require power companies to submit winterization plans and give their public-utility commissions the authority to require senior executives of power companies to sign off on those plans and the authority “to impose penalties for non-compliance.” Magness, the ERCOT chief, said that in the wake of the 2011 report he and others met with Texas power generators to suggest that they better winterize their facilities. He was asking, not telling. “It wasn’t a conversation like, `I’m your regulator and you have to do this,’” he recalled. “It was sharing those best practices.””

“Under the deregulation scheme passed by the Legislature more than two decades ago, Texas has a market design that allows generators to make money only by selling juice—not for investing in equipment that could help produce extra power in the event of an emergency. Critics contend that this approach, part and parcel of Texas’s aversion to regulation, makes the state’s energy system less reliable, even as it boosts profits for some market participants. Based on their biographies on the ERCOT website, at least eleven of the fifteen ERCOT board members have current or prior ties to the energy industry.”

“Texas lawmakers, as they investigate what went wrong this past week, ought to explore weatherization mandates.”

“better weatherizing power infrastructure, like inducing electricity producers to invest in extra generating capacity, likely would raise Texans’s electricity rates. “Is it worth the cost to consumers?” he asked. I asked him if ERCOT had any answer to that question. “I am not aware,” he said, “that we have ever conducted a real cost-benefit analysis on that topic.””

“the electricity blackout and frozen pipes in Texas had significantly curtailed the state’s production of oil and natural gas. IHS estimated that nearly 20 percent of natural-gas production, and perhaps an equal or greater percentage of oil production, in the continental U.S. in the first half of February had been shut in—and that the Permian Basin, the big oil-producing region that sits largely in West Texas, accounted for the biggest share of that production drop.
A couple of hours later, the governor, who earlier in the week had called for top ERCOT leaders to resign, issued an announcement. Years after Texas officials had been advised to do so, Abbott said he would ask the Legislature to mandate the winterization of power plants across the state—and to “ensure the necessary funding” for it.”