How To Skeptically Look At Polls

It’s election season. The time when a political junkie’s fancy turns to polls, polls, and more polls. With so many polls being released, many of the polls will show results that are contradictory from each other, which one do you believe? Should you believe any of them?

Conservatives have long been leery of polls, but that skepticism reached its height after Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016. Much of this skepticism lies in a misunderstanding of how to look at polls and what they represent. Some of this misunderstanding is fed by media outlets and politicians that misuse polls.

When considering polls, keep a few simple rules of thumb in mind:

Polls are historical, not predictive. They provide a snapshot of public opinion when they were taken. By themselves, they do not forecast the outcome of elections. Polls are lagging indicators that measure public opinion as it was on a given date.

Look at the trend of all the polls. To see which way public opinion is moving, don’t just look at one poll. Look at similar polls taken over a period of time and compare the results. For example, one poll on Donald Trump’s approval rating isn’t very useful, but if you look at the trend of all polls showing the presidential approval rating you can see whether it has improved or declined.

Real Clear Politics is a useful site that acts as a clearinghouse of polls. You can look up individual poll types such as President Trump’s approval, individual races such as Ted Cruz v. Beto O’Rourke, or generic ballots.

RCP shows all the polls of each particular type, which makes it easy to see trends. For instance, the page of Cruz-O’Rourke polls shows 10 polls going back to April. The trend shows a surge by O’Rourke in which Cruz moved from a double-digit lead to a statistical tie.

Discard the outliers. Politicians and the media often trumpet shocking poll results such as the recent Rasmussen poll that showed President Trump’s support among black voters at 36 percent. Polls that differ wildly from other polls are outliers and should be treated with suspicion.

One way of reducing the effect of outliers is to take an average of polls. Both Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight have pages that show the average of polls asking about President Trump’s approval rating that go all the way back to his inauguration. These are useful tools for getting the big picture of the longterm trends in presidential approval.

Look at the nuts and bolts of the poll. Not all polls are created equal. You can get an idea of how reliable a poll is by looking at who it surveyed. The most accurate polls talk to likely voters. Polls of registered voters are less accurate while those that survey adults are the least accurate.

Pollsters also must make assumptions about who will show up to vote. These assumptions are used to weight the data from the poll, but there is no way to test their validity until Election Day when we find out who comes out to vote. Many polls give information about the weighting and the mix of Democrat and Republican respondents if you read the fine print.

Consider the margin of error. No poll is exact because they all represent only a sample of the population. The accuracy of the poll can be calculated and is usually disclosed as the “margin of error.” A large sample size is more accurate and reduces the poll’s margin of error.

The thing to remember is that the closer a poll is, the less it can be used to predict a specific outcome. For example, the most recent Cruz-O’Rourke pollthat showed a one-point race had a 4.4-point margin of error. This is known as a statistical tie. The one-point difference is well within the margin of error so the key takeaway from the poll is that the race is currently too close to call, not that Ted Cruz would win the election by one point.

If a poll shows a large difference discrepancy between two viewpoints, you can be reasonably confident that the general breakdown is correct, even if the specific percentages are not. For example, when 72 percent opposed the Trump Administration policy of separating immigrant children from their parent and only 27 percent were in favor in a June CBS News poll, there was little doubt that Americans strongly opposed the policy.

Consider polling difficulties. The smaller the race, the tougher it is to get good polling. National polls are the most accurate, but state and district polls are more questionable. There might be no public polling at all in some House and Senate races.

The root cause of much of the 2016 polling problem was polling at the state level in a few Rust Belt states. By Election Day, national polls were showing a close race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The RCP average gave Hillary Clinton a 3.1 point edge, within the margin of error of most polls. In the final tally, Clinton won the popular vote by 2.1 points which was very close to what the polls showed.

Of course, the popular vote does not decide presidential elections and the predicted outcome of elections in key states turned the Electoral College results. An after-action report by the American Association for Public Opinion Research noted that “eight states with more than a third of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency had polls showing a lead of three points or less”and that “polls on average indicated that Trump was one state away from winning the election.”

The outcome in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin was the surprise for forecasters that turned the election to Trump, yet the polling in both Michiganand Pennsylvania showed a close race. In both states, the last poll before the election favored Donald Trump. The polls were only substantially off in Wisconsin where the last poll favored Hillary by eight points, but Trump won by less than one point.

In the end, most polls did not capture a late surge by Donald Trump in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s memo to Congress. The lagging indicators were too far behind to include the rapidly changing landscape but did reflect a very close race in most cases. The AAPOR after-action report also faults an overrepresentation of college graduates in many polls that would have favored Clinton.

Polling is not an exact science. Poll results shouldn’t be considered to be gospel, but neither should they be ignored. By looking beyond the headline, you can determine whether a poll is reliable and how it fits into the big picture of the election.

Originally published on Sept. 3, 2018

Chris Wallace Sets Record Straight On Terrorists Illegally Crossing From Mexico

A major talking point of the Trump Administration has been that the border wall is vital to national security. As part of their argument, President Trump has made the claim that terrorists have been apprehended crossing the southern border with Mexico. This and similar claims became the focal point of a heated discussion between White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chris Wallace of Fox News yesterday.

On Fox News Sunday, Wallace cited Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s statement that CBP had stopped more than 3,000 special interest aliens at the southern border and explained that “special interest aliens” are “people who come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist.” Wallace added, “They aren’t terrorists themselves” and noted that the State Department said that there was “no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.”

Sanders responded, “We know that there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.”

Wallace interrupted, “I know that statistic. I didn’t know if you were going to use it, but I studied up on this. You know where those 4,000 people come from, where they are captured? Airports!”

“Not always,” Sanders retorted.

“The State Department says there hasn’t been any terrorist that they’ve found coming across the southern border,” Wallace fired back.

“It’s by air, it’s by land, it’s by sea, it’s all of the above,” Sanders answered.

“But they’re not coming across the southern border, Sarah,” Wallace said, ‘They’re coming and they’re being stopped at airports.”

I had also heard the Homeland Security statistics and Trump’s claims about terrorists coming from Mexico. They didn’t ring true. Think about how the Trump Administration reacts when an illegal alien commits a violent. Both perpetrator and victim are featured prominently in talking points and the president’s tweets. Over the past few years, we have seen this pattern with Kate Steinle, Mollie Tibbets, and the recent murder of police Corporal Ronil Singh in California.

But when it comes to terrorists crossing the Mexican border, the Trump Administration has been astonishingly silent. If terrorists were being captured as they crossed the border from Mexico, it seems likely that the Trump Administration would be marching them before the media to make the case for the border wall. They haven’t.

Instead, we have a bait-and-switch. Trump surrogates like Sanders make two separate claims and link them together. On one hand, Sanders makes the verifiable claim that “there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally.” On the other, she offers an opinion that “our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.” Sanders dishonestly leads the viewer to make the erroneous connection that the 4,000 terrorists were apprehended at the Mexican border, when, in fact, they were apprehended at airports.

Border security is a legitimate concern, both at the Mexican border and at airports, but the revelation that the Trump Administration has been purposely misleading the country about how terrorists enter the country undercuts the already shaky case for a border wall.

In fact, current security at the Mexican border seems to be working pretty well. The migrant caravan, which was pitched as an “invasion” in October, is still sitting in Tijuana where its members are waiting to legally apply for asylum. Illegal border crossings have already been declining for years, hitting a 46-year low in 2017. For more than a decade now, most illegal aliens have entered the country legally and overstayed visas rather than sneaking across the Mexican border. By 2014, two-thirds of new illegals were visa overstays.

While it certainly isn’t impossible that terrorists could sneak across the Mexican border, possibly through one of the innumerable tunnels that run underneath current physical barriers, there is no evidence that they are doing so. If conservatives want to make dispassionate policy decisions and use taxpayer money to the greatest advantage for the country, facts support the idea that border security money should be focused toward tracking aliens who enter the country legally on visas and then drop out of sight.

The Trump Administration loses more of its credibility, which is already in short supply, when they make false claims such as advancing the idea that terrorists are streaming across the Mexican border. Kudos to Chris Wallace and Fox News for setting the record straight.

 

Why Democrats Won’t Impeach Donald Trump

As the 116th Congress begins, the question on the minds of many political observers is, “Will they or won’t they?” Democrats will control the House of Representatives, the congressional body that is responsible for impeaching elected officials, so will they impeach Donald Trump?

The answer is a definite maybe.

On NBC’s Today Show this morning, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that impeachment would be very “divisive” for the country. She added, “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason.”

Some Democrats are anxious to begin impeachment proceedings. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) is already planning to introduce articles of impeachment based on the allegation that Trump obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James Comey. Sherman originally introduced the articles in 2017 but they went nowhere in the Republican-controlled House.

But just because the legislation is being introduced does not mean that it has the support of House Democrats or their leadership. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush in 2008 but the effort went nowhere. Nancy Pelosi was speaker then as well.

Whatever you might think of Nancy Pelosi, one thing is certain: She is politically shrewd. Pelosi undoubtedly realizes that as long as Senate Republicans remain united, there would be no point in impeaching President Trump.

The House could pass the articles of impeachment but to what end? The second phase of impeachment is a Senate trial to determine whether the president would be removed from office. With Republicans in control of the Senate, it is a certainty that this effort would fail.

Pelosi is more likely to bide her time and wait. If the Mueller investigation uncovers evidence of more wrongdoing by Trump, then it is possible that she will consider pursuing impeachment in the future. This is particularly true if the revelations about Trump’s actions cause a split in the GOP that enables her to pick up enough Republican votes to remove Trump from office.

Looking back to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, this was the error that Republicans made. House Republicans impeached the president but he was acquitted in the Senate even though Republicans held a majority in that body as well. A number of Republican senators voted “not guilty” and Clinton was allowed to remain in office. President Clinton’s popularity reached its highest points during and after his impeachment.

Bill Clinton was in his second term in 1998 and could not run for re-election. If Donald Trump is impeached in 2019, however, the Democrats run the risk that he will become more popular. A failed impeachment might give Trump the edge he needs to win re-election.

Napoleon is said to have advised, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Speaker Pelosi is likely to take this advice to heart.

While impeaching Trump would be emotionally satisfying for many on the left, Pelosi will play the long game. Her focus will not be on a feel-good impeachment, it will be on winning the Senate and the White House in 2020. This year’s midterm elections showed that the best chance for Democrats in 2020 is to keep Trump in office. His divisive temperament and unpopular policies led Republicans to a suburban rout in 2018 and more of the same is likely in 2020.

On the other hand, a successful impeachment of President Trump would result in Mike Pence becoming president. Pence is a much more experienced and competent politician who would stand a better chance of being re-elected than Donald Trump. Pence would also benefit from a united Republican Party that would rally avenge the ouster of President Trump.

A lot can happen in two years but at this point, it seems that Pelosi’s best strategy would be to keep impeachment on the back burner. If the opportunity to oust Trump presents itself, she will be prepared to jump on it, but her best bet would be to sit back and allow Trump to defeat himself and fracture the GOP in the process.

Justin Amash’s Twitter Mic Drop In Defense Of Tax Reform

Justin Amash, a Republican congressman from Maine, isn’t typically the one you’d expect to drop the mic on Twitter, but he did so over the weekend. NBC News correspondent Kasie Hunt alleged that tax reform was responsible for the exploding deficit and Rep. Amash set the record straight in less than 180 characters.

On Sunday, Hunt tweeted an observation about Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s conversation with CNN’s Jake Tapper in which Mulvaney said that the $2 trillion deficit increase under President Trump required Democratic votes. Calling the comment “an outright falsehood,” Hunt added, “They used budget reconciliation to pass tax reform so they wouldn’t need Democrats.”

https://twitter.com/kasie/status/1081947628265443329

The problem for Hunt is that tax reform did not run up the deficit as Amash pointed out. “Do you believe tax reform caused a $2 trillion debt increase in one year?” he tweeted. “Tax reform is roughly $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The debt increase is almost entirely due to bipartisan discretionary spending increases and bipartisan apathy toward ever-increasing mandatory spending.”

https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/1082010264642428929

Is this an example of he said/she said or is one of the two definitively right?

To settle the dispute, we only need to look back a few months to the end of the federal fiscal year in September. At that time The Resurgent described how the deficit had risen to the highest level in six years:

“Total outlays for 2018 were $4.108 trillion compared to $3.981 trillion in 2017. The spending increases were driven by rising interest costs paid on a greater amount of federal debt as well as increased military spending, which rose by six percent, and Social Security spending which increased by four percent.”

Amash is correct that the majority of the increase in the deficit was due to increased spending. Some of these costs were mandatory spending which was originally authorized by both Democrats and Republicans. The increased cost of interest on the national debt and the rising cost of entitlements like Social Security were bipartisan commitments.

So was the increase in defense spending. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased military spending to $716 billion, an increase that President Trump celebrated as the “most amount ever.” As its name suggests, this spending bill was passed with broad support from both parties.

This isn’t to say that tax reform has no part in the deficit increases, however. Amash’s use of the qualifier “almost entirely” suggest that he agrees that tax reform did play a role. There are two components to the deficit, spending and revenue, and both were factors in the deficit.

As we discussed back in October, federal revenue for the year was almost flat despite the booming economy:

“According to Treasury Department statistics, flat federal revenues were part of the deficit problem. Total federal receipts were $3.329 trillion in 2018compared with $3.316 trillion in 2017. FY 2018 included three months – October, November and December 2017 – at higher tax rates. This means that the 2019 revenue picture looks even worse.”

So, the bottom line is that revenue for 2018 did not increase while spending did. Because revenue did not go down, it isn’t accurate to say that tax reform drove the increase in the deficit. It is fair to say, however, that without decreasing corporate tax rates, there would have been more revenue and the deficit would have been smaller. In fact, even as the economy boomed, tax revenues from businesses fell by more than 30 percent. Still, if spending had not increased, the deficit would not have increased.

It’s true that cutting corporate tax rates to make them more competitive with the rest of the world was the express purpose of tax reform. It’s also true that without tax reform there might have been a downturn rather than an economic boom, especially considering President Trump’s war on trade. The loss of tax revenue, which was retained by businesses and used by many for capital investments, was a driving factor in this year’s economic growth.

The big question is whether federal revenues will recover in coming years or whether the lost tax receipts will be a bigger driver of the deficit in the future. The conservative gamble is that revenue will be replaced by economic growth. If the government takes a smaller slice of a bigger pie, it will theoretically get the same total amount of pie, if not more.

The problem for conservatives in the Trump era is that the president’s trade policy is at odds with his tax policy. While tax reform let businesses keep more of their own revenues, tariffs and trade restrictions mean that many businesses will have fewer revenues to keep in the first place.

Amash is absolutely correct that spending remains the biggest problem, however. The ongoing shutdown illustrates that about three-quarters of the federal government is on autopilot and does not require appropriations from Congress. It is entitlement spending that is breaking the federal budget.

Meanwhile, neither party seems concerned with the deficit. Where the Republican Party of the Obama era held a hard line on spending, current Republicans have forced a shutdown to because they don’t think the government is spending enough.

Virginia Gun Owners Should Worry About Governor Northam’s Gun Control Package

Earlier today, Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA)  announced his intention to promote a “reasonable” package of legislation aimed at “preventing gun violence” and “improving “the safety of Virginia’s citizens and communities” during the upcoming General Assembly session in Richmond, VA. Session will commence on January 9th.

“We lose too many Virginians each year to senseless gun violence, and it is time we take meaningful steps to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” said Governor Northam. “I look forward to opening a dialogue with the General Assembly on this legislative package of reasonable gun violence reforms, which appropriately balances Second Amendment Rights with public safety.”

The provisions included in this package are the following:

  • Establishing an Extreme Risk Protective Order
  • Reinstating the  previously enacted One Handgun a Month law;
  • Prohibiting individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms under red flag laws;
  • Banning so-called “assault firearms”—largely semi-automatic in nature
  • Preventing children from accessing firearms
  • Requiring individuals to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement more quickly
  • Banning magazines exceeding 10 rounds

 

Virginia gun owners should contact their state lawmakers and attend Lobby Day on January 21st, 2019, to lobby their delegates and state senators to vote down this legislation.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Wants to Emulate FDR on Taxes to Fund Green New Deal

The new congresswoman from the Bronx believes this will fund the Green New Deal. She’s off-mark.

There are many issues awarding the newly-minted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) too big of a platform before serving in Congress.

She’s the future of the Democrat Party, some observers declare, given her socialist chops. The new-found embrace of socialism by the Democrat Party isn’t so new. That party has toyed with socialism for decades; they are just more transparent about it now.

It can be strongly argued she hasn’t earned her stripes yet to be elevated to great heights. Who am I, a 27-year-old female, to say this? But I agree with former Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskil (D-MO), a rarity I must say, that she’s hasn’t served in Congress long enough to be elevated.

McCaskill (D-MO), who was handily defeated by her successor Senator Josh Howley (R-MO), remarked that Ocasio-Cortez is a “bright and shiny new object” but cautioned she hopes Ocasio-Cortez “realizes that parts of the country that are rejecting the Democratic Party…need to hear how their work is going to be respected.”

It’s fair to criticize Ocasio-Cortez on her preposterous policy proposals like the Green New Deal and blunders like unemployment is low due to people having two jobs but not so much her dancing skills from her high school days.

What is fair game, however, is her complete and utter misunderstanding of economics. Case in point: her recent call for taxing up to 70 percent of high income earners who should pay “their fair share” fund outlandish proposals like a Green New Deal:

Embedded video

Jon Levine

@LevineJonathan

On 60 minutes, @AOC calls for raising taxes up to “60 or 70 percent” for highest earners

“People are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes”

869 people are talking about this

“What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?” Ocasio-Cortez asked. “There’s an element where yeah, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes.”

During the 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, he probed her about whether such a proposal makes her a radical, to which she replied in the affirmative—likening herself to fellow “radical” President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s. FDR famously taxed Americans at a 94% income tax rate and felt a kinship with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who also taxed and collected 90% of income for those he oppressed. I guess that’s a great radical to emulate.

Here’s a taste of FDR’s economic policies for your reading pleasure:

Congress reduced taxes. Income tax rates were cut across the board. FDR’s top marginal rate, 94% on all income over $200,000, was cut to 86.45%. The lowest rate was cut to 19% from 23%, and with a change in the amount of income exempt from taxation an estimated 12 million Americans were eliminated from the tax rolls entirely.

Corporate tax rates were trimmed and FDR’s “excess profits” tax was repealed, which meant that top marginal corporate tax rates effectively went to 38% from 90% after 1945….By the late 1940s, a revived economy was generating more annual federal revenue than the U.S. had received during the war years, when tax rates were higher. Price controls from the war were also eliminated by the end of 1946. The U.S. began running budget surpluses.

UCLA put out a 2004 study by economists Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian that found that FDR’s policies — including high taxation — prolonged the Depression by seven years.

“Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump,” said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA’s Department of Economics. “We found that a relapse isn’t likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies.”

“President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services,” said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. “So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies.”

“High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns,” Ohanian said. “As we’ve seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market’s self-correcting forces*.”*

Giancarlo Sopo, a self-proclaimed Democrat with family who fled communist Cuba, sounded the alarm on the danger of his fellow embracing Ocasio-Cortez’s policies, which his family escaped. Sopo wrote:

Democratic socialism is a lot like the system my family fled, except its proponents promise to be nicer when seizing your business…Despite my working-class immigrant roots, I am concerned by the popularity of socialism within my party. On the night of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York, I thought her use of the term was a misnomer. Then I began studying the views of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the rapidly growing national organization she belongs to, and was disturbed by what I learned.

Like those of yesteryear, today’s socialists believe the government should nationalize major industries, propose eliminating private ownership of companies, and reject profits. In other words, democratic socialism is a lot like the system my family fled, except its proponents promise to be nicer when seizing your business.

When I confronted some progressive friends about this, they initially dismissed my concerns. After sharing some articles with them, the conversation shifted to “they just want us to be more like the Nordic countries” and “they’re not like real socialists!” Both are reductionist, self-delusions to avoid confronting difficult truths.

The latter is a particularly absurd fallacy because it requires one to believe that adults who willfully join socialist organizations, sound like socialists and call themselves socialists are not what they claim to be.

Unbeknownst to Ocasio-Cortez and her acolytes, unleashing market-based economic policies globally has substantially reduced economic inequality here and abroad.

In 2015, the Huffington Post published a piece on how capitalism—not high taxation or nationalizing business—can reduce income equality.

The answer to fixing the deficit and fixing income inequality is innovation driven through capitalism. Many of the best ideas that work in anything are the non-linear strategies, or the non-obvious ways of getting things done. When the obvious doesn’t work, which it isn’t right now, it’s time to look at the problem in a non-linear fashion.

If you want to help balance the budget and reduce the federal deficit, instead of putting a gun to the head of the wealthy and forcing them to pay more in taxes, play to the vanity of large corporations and sell them the naming writes to streets, parks and other publicly held properties.

Even the New York Times argued income inequality was on the decline as recent as 2014. Moreover, the World Bank noted that although the population grew by about 2 billion, roughly 1.2 billion people moved up and out of extreme poverty. The more economically prosperous a country—especially when the wealth generators and highest income earners aren’t burdened by high taxes—the less income equality the world sees.

I implore my fellow Millennial, the newly-elected Congresswoman from New York, to not take cues from The Communist Manifesto on economic policies. High taxation and nationalization of industries doesn’t reduce economic inequality; it aids and abets it by lending itself to creating equal miserable outcomes.

Kim Jong Un Warns Trump He May Take ‘New Way’ Unless US Removes Sanctions

President Trump was quick to celebrate peace on the Korean Peninsula after his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un last year. Since then, however, progress has been mixed as North Korea refrained from nuclear testing and held high-level talks with the South but also failed to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Now, in his New Year’s address, Kim Jong Un is warning President Trump that unless the United States “takes genuine measures for building trust” the North may return to its old ways.

In the speech, reported by Politico, Kim noted steps that he had taken toward the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula saying that he agreed “that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures” to fulfill this promise. He then challenged President Trump with two words: “Your turn.”

What Kim wants is illustrated by a statement issued in December through North Korean state media. “When we refer to the Korean peninsula, they include both the area of the DPRK and the area of South Korea where aggression troops including the nuclear weapons of the U.S. are deployed,” the statement said and then continued, “When we refer to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, it, therefore, means removing all elements of nuclear threats from the areas of both the north and the south of Korea and also from surrounding areas from where the Korean peninsula is targeted.” The statement called on the US to lift the sanctions on North Korea as well as for “completely removing the nuclear threats of the U.S. to the DPRK.”

Essentially, Kim is telling President Trump that the North Korean position on denuclearization is unchanged. The North rejects unilateral denuclearization and wants the US to remove its nuclear weapons from the Korean theater. The US removed its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, but in his speech, Kim said that “strategic assets,” which North Korea often understands to include anti-ballistic missile systems as well as submarines and aircraft carriers, “should no longer be permitted” in or near the Korean Peninsula.

Kim also wants to be rewarded for the actions that he has already taken over the past year. His price for the détente with South Korea is the removal of US sanctions.

Kim also sought to drive a wedge between the US and South Korea. While President Trump is pushing South Korea to based on the peninsula, Kim encouraged the South to participate in several bilateral projects that exclude the United States.

In the speech, Kim warned that North Korea “might find ourselves in a situation where we have no other choice but to find a new way” if the US did not uphold its end of the bargain. While Kim was not specific about what “new way” the North might take, most observers doubt that it would involve a resumption of nuclear testing.

“One thing is clear: Kim is not going to return to any sort of posture where the US or its allies would consider a military attack, and that means no missile or nuclear tests for the foreseeable future,” Harry Kazianis of the Washington-based Centre for the National Interest told the South China Morning Post.

Ruediger Frank, an analyst at 38 North, believes that the entreaties to South Korean President Moon provide a clue as to what Kim’s “new way” would be. The speech was a message to Donald Trump, he writes, saying, “You are not our only option for security and economic development. If you refuse to be cooperative, we will ignore you and turn to China. Oh, and we will take South Korea along.”

Kazianis agreed, “Kim can present Trump with a choice: Either play ball with me on a negotiated nuclear settlement and reduce sanctions or I will go to China for help and get the economic development I want and keep my nukes.”

President Trump’s trade war now places him in an awkward position with respect to Korea. President Trump signed a new trade deal with South Korea last year that limits South Korean steel and aluminum exports to the US. The trade spat with China means that Trump now has less leverage with the Chinese against the North Koreans. The three geographical neighbors may become closer trading partners at the expense of US influence in the region.

If North Korea can pull the South into China’s orbit, it would be a major blow to the United States. South Korea is one of America’s largest trading partners in terms of both imports and exports. The nation is also home to 15 US military bases that provide a counterbalance to China as well as protecting South Korea from Northern aggression.

President Trump responded to Kim’s challenge with a New Year’s Day tweet, saying, “I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1080240049780940800

Trump: ‘I Would Be Foolish’ To End Shutdown

President Trump met with Democrat leaders on Wednesday, but there was no apparent progress in reopening the government. The meeting which also included Republican congressional leaders seemed to leave both sides with positions unchanged.

Wednesday morning House Democrats announced a plan to reopen the government by passing six separate bills that would fund most government departments through the remainder of the fiscal year. A seventh bill would provide temporary funding for the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8 but would not include funding for the wall. Democrats plan to pass their proposals on Thursday.

At the meeting on Wednesday afternoon, President Trump and Republican leaders said that the Democrat plan would be a nonstarter. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate would not vote on the Democratic measures and would not take up any bill that the president would not sign.

“The Senate will be glad to vote on a measure that the House passes that the president will sign. But we’re not going to vote on anything else,” McConnell told CNN after the meeting, adding that he hoped that a deal could be reached within “days” or “weeks.”

When asked by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer why he would not support a partial reopening of the government, President Trump replied, “I would be foolish if I did that.”

At issue is funding over President Trump’s proposed border wall. The president is asking for $5 billion for his pet project and Democrats have only been willing to agree to $1.3 billion for border security. Trump also rejected a compromise by Vice President Pence that would have provided about half of the president’s funding request.

The current shutdown has already lasted for 13 days. The longest shutdown on record occurred from December 1995 through January 1996 and lasted 22 days. A shutdown in 1978 that lasted 18 days and the 2013 shutdown that lasted 16 days are also so far longer than the current shutdown.

With the shutdown occurring over the holidays, the effect of about 25 percent of the government being closed has been muted. As the nation goes back to work, however, the nuisance of having government offices closed will increase. About 380,000 federal workers have been told to stay home and another 420,000 have been told to work without pay. At this point, there is no way of knowing when they will be paid again. Among the government functions halted by the shutdown are the issuance of USDA rural loans and E-Verify checks of the immigration status of new employees.

Neither party has the votes to force their will on the other. A funding bill would have to navigate the Democrat-controlled House as well as the Republican-controlled Senate. Legislation in the Senate also needs Democrat votes for cloture. President Trump also has the power to veto legislation that does not meet his requirements.

Any resolution to the shutdown will require both parties to compromise. So far, neither has shown any sign of willingness to do so. The only strategy of either party is to blame the other side and hope that they eventually give in.