President Trump Has a Bold New Plan. It’s a Winner.

President Trump’s latest executive order is not getting the attention of the immigration order, but it is worth considering. It will have a more far reaching, longer term impact than the immigration order.

Under the new executive order, signed yesterday, President Trump is ordering the Executive Branch to undergo a downsizing and reorganization. He wants to eliminate duplicate and unneeded positions. Under the executive order, the Office of Management and Budget will

submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.

Not only that, but the OMB Director, when structuring his plan, must consider several things the Executive Branch has long needed to do, including:

(i) whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the Federal Government or would be better left to State or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise;

(ii) whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program;

(iii) whether certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program;

(iv) whether the costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides; and

(v) the costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff.

This executive order has the potential to have far more lasting and long term consequences than any of the other executive orders signed by President Trump. It is also a very good thing.

Trump Is Repeating Obama’s Mistakes

 

After only a few weeks, it is far too early to judge the eventual outcome of the Trump Administration. Nevertheless, there are disturbing signs that, in some ways, President Trump is following in the footsteps of none other than Barack Obama and may be repeating some of his predecessor’s worst mistakes

One of the most obvious parallels between Presidents Trump and Obama is their tendency to go it alone. President Trump started his administration with a flurry of Executive Orders, some rolling back Obama’s executive actions and some starting his own initiatives. Some of this was to be expected since Trump promised to end several of Obama’s executive actions. More disturbing to those who support the rule of law, during the campaign Donald Trump said that President Obama “led the way” on Executive Orders, hinting that he may use them to bypass Congress as Obama did.

When President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration lost several prominent court cases, the president’s reaction was similar to what one might expect from President Obama. Trump attacked the judges who ruled against him on Twitter.

Trump’s attacks hearken back to President Obama’s own antagonism against judges. In 2010, Obama attacked the Supreme Court, not on Twitter, but in his formal State of the Union Address. The remark in the wake of the Citizens United decision was Obama’s most famous attack on the bench, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. Obama frequently criticized the Court and tried to influence its decisions on cases, including the challenges to the Affordable Care Act. The fact that Obama’s challenges to the independence of the judicial branch were not delivered via Twitter does not make them any less problematic.

Even after losing in court, President Trump’s response is to craft a new Executive Order rather than work with Congress in an attempt to find a bipartisan solution to the immigration problem. This echoes President Obama’s strategy of circumventing Congress after Republicans won control of the House. Reports from Republicans indicate that Mr. Trump has been uninvolved in the process of crafting a replacement for Obamacare even though his own party controls both houses of Congress. Voters have indicated that their preference was for both presidents to work with Congress, rather than go it alone.

The two presidents also tend to personalize any criticism of their administrations or their policies. President Obama typically refused to consider that his opponents were patriotic Americans who had genuine disagreements on policy. According to Obama, his Republican opponents were anti-science, warmongers, and prejudiced against minorities and immigrants. He called Republicans “hostage takers,” saboteurs and “deadbeats” to name a few insults. Largely forgotten now, President Obama even had problems with the press and was accused of trying to censor the media.

President Trump has done nothing to elevate the level of political discourse. President Trump’s numerous insults to anyone who criticizes him, from Khizr Khan to Ted Cruz, are numerous and well known. Even after taking office, Mr. Trump’s penchant for insulting his critics has continued and even gone international as he engaged in tiffs with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia. Trump also frequently attacks the press and, of course, a wide variety of Democrats.

The insults form a part of the strategy of division and victimhood of both presidents. President Obama marshaled his supporters against the “bitter clingers,” the wealthy and any hint of racism. For his part, President Trump focuses his supporters against the establishment, the press and foreign influences of trade and immigration. In both cases, the strategy is one of unifying the base against ideological bogeymen, rather than attempting to unify the country as a whole. Rather than bringing people together, both presidents stir up factions against each other.

Further, the two presidents share an affinity for campaigning, even after the campaign is over. President Obama was often criticized for his frequent fundraising and political rallies. This weekend, a month into President Trump’s term, he returns to the campaign trail with a political rally in Florida. The coordinator of the rally told Fox News that the event was Trump’s “first re-election rally.” The election is 44 months away.

The love of partisan audiences may reflect the need of both men for adulation and affirmation. It is much easier and more rewarding to deliver a stump speech to throngs of admirers than to engage in the gritty work of legislative “sausage making.” It is this work of governing that determines the success or failure of a president, however.

All this leads to the most serious mistakes that President Obama made for his party: Overconfidence and overreach. In January 2009, President Obama told congressional Republicans, “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” By that he meant, I get what I want. Obama quickly poisoned the well and made future cooperation with Republicans difficult, if not impossible.

Donald Trump is heading down that road as well. Like Barack Obama, President Trump currently has majorities in both houses of Congress. It is easy to imagine that the Trump Administration has a blank check to enact whatever initiatives President Trump deems appropriate. However, the president and the Republicans must realize that, unless Mitch McConnell eliminates the filibuster, bipartisan cooperation is going to be needed to advance any bill past a cloture vote in the Senate. The withdrawal of Andrew Puzder should serve as a warning that the president does not get everything he wants.

President Obama’s eight years are over. His legacy is being erased and he will be judged a failure, largely because he was unable to build a consensus and compromise. After Republicans took control of the House in 2011, President Obama never passed any significant legislation. All of his landmark laws were passed with Democratic majorities in both houses.

The question is whether President Trump will repeat his mistakes or will use the historic opportunity that he has been given to make America great again. To do so, the new president will have to drop the role of the victim and look beyond his base to build a majority. To be successful and build a lasting legacy, President Trump must win over at least some of the voters who didn’t vote for him. He must work with Congress to pass legislation that is more durable than an Executive Order. President Trump needs to stop preaching to the choir and start working on converting the masses.

IRS on Obamacare Mandate: Do Not Resuscitate

Our friends at Reason.com are now reporting that the Internal Revenue Service has issued a rule that it will accept tax returns filed without proof of health insurance coverage:

Following President Donald Trump’s executive order instructing agencies to provide relief from the health law, the Internal Revenue Service appears to be taking a more lax approach to the coverage requirement.

 

The health law’s individual mandate requires everyone to either maintain qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty, known as a “shared responsibility payment.” The IRS was set to require filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty by filling out line 61 on their form 1040s. Alternatively, they could claim exemption from the mandate by filing a form 8965.

 

For most filers, filling out line 61 would be mandatory. The IRS would not accept 1040s unless the coverage box was checked, or the shared responsibility payment noted, or the exemption form included. Otherwise they would be labeled “silent returns” and rejected.

 

Instead, however, filling out that line will be optional.

In other words, while the Affordable Care Act still requires individuals to prove they have health insurance on their tax forms, the IRS will no longer be enforcing that provision.

Whether or not this is actually legal remains a gray area, but from a political standpoint this is very smart.  It cements Donald Trump as a man of action who keeps his promises, while at the same time undermining an important foundation of the hated law.  Without the mandate to prop it up, the ACA–which is already on shaky financial ground, what with insurers pulling out left and right–will only accelerate its demise.  This, in turn, puts even more pressure on the Republican Congress to move forward with a full repeal and replace, rather than just nibbling at the edges as some members would prefer.

On the other hand, from a Constitutional perspective, there isn’t much to like.  Defying the law through executive orders was something that conservatives howled about during Barack Obama’s tenure, and rightly so.  Presidents are not kings, free to enforce the laws they like while ignoring the ones they don’t.  And–as Obama has discovered to his own chagrin–that which is deemed by executive order can easily be rescinded by executive order.  In the long term, it’s not really a solution if it can be scrapped with the stroke of another president’s pen.

Let’s just hope that this prods Congress into fulfilling its own promises to replace Obamacare with something that actually works,

WOW. 72 Convicted Terrorists Came From Countries Listed On Travel Ban

Many news outlets have reported that there had been no Americans killed by terrorists from any of the countries that were part of the temporary travel ban imposed by President Trump’s Executive Order. It is true that no successful attacks were carried out by immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan or Syria, but it now appears that there is more to the story.

The Washington Times reports that at least 72 immigrants from the countries that make up the ban have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes since Sept. 11, 2001. The data compiled by the Senate Judiciary Committee and analyzed by the Center for Immigration Studies also points out at that at least 17 of the convicted terrorists entered the country through the federal refugee program singled out by Mr. Trump. Many of the immigrants were convicted of minor crimes such as fraud, but the report indicates that more than 30 of the convicts served at least three years in jail for their crimes.

One of the most serious incidents involving a terrorist from the countries singled out by Mr. Trump was the Nov. 28, 2016 stabbing spree at Ohio State University. The perpetrator of the attack was a Somali refugee who had also lived in Pakistan. The attacker injured 11 people before killed by a police officer.

The Times noted that James Robart, the federal judge who originally blocked the Executive Order, was unaware of any of the arrests and seemed to be unaware of the OSU attack as well. Judge Robart asked a lawyer for the Justice Department, “How many arrests have there been of foreign nationals for those seven countries since 9/11?” The lawyer was unable to answer the question.

“Let me tell you. The answer to that is none, as best I can tell,” Robart replied. “So, I mean, you’re here arguing on behalf of someone that says ‘We have to protect the United States from these individuals coming from these countries,’ and there’s no support for that.”

The issue surfaced again on appeal when a three-judge panel noted in its ruling that the government “has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.” The lawyers for the government apparently failed to present any of the convictions or the reports of the OSU attack as evidence to support their case.

Records of the terror convictions should have been easily accessible to both the lawyers arguing the case and the judges ruling on it. Jessica Vaughan, who authored of the CIS report, said the information could have been found quickly “if they or their clerks had looked for it.”

Recalling news reports of a terror attack that occurred only three months ago would not have even required legal research. A researcher would only have had to google “Somali terrorist,” but apparently no one did.

The revelations of numerous terror convictions that were never presented into evidence, even when a judge directly questioned a Justice Department attorney about them, raise new questions about the competence of the Trump Administration. Was the Administration aware of these terrorists when it crafted the temporary immigration ban? If so, why were they not presented to support the Administration’s policy until after it had lost in, not one, but two court appearances?

Spelling and grammar errors in government documents and releases make the Trump Administration look amateurish and inept. Failing to do such basic research before such a high profile case is even worse.

Why Polls Diverge On Trump’s Immigration Ban

There has been much celebrating in Republican circles over the recent poll results showing that slim majorities approve of President Trump’s Executive Orders including the controversial temporary immigration ban. One poll doesn’t represent the full picture, however, and other recent polls show that the waters of public opinion are sufficiently muddy to keep either side from claiming the support of a majority of the public.

The most recent poll, from Morning Consult/Politico, shows public opinion in favor of all of Trump’s Executive Orders. The immigration ban ranks as one of the most popular with 55 percent approval to 38 percent disapproval.

Interestingly, one day earlier, Politico headlined an article about another poll “Majority of U.S. voters oppose Trump immigration actions.” The Politico piece detailed a Quinnipiac poll that showed that voters disapproved of the immigration ban. Quinnipiac broke the Executive Order into parts and found that voters opposed the 90-day ban on immigrants from the seven listed nations by 51 to 46 percent. They also opposed the 120-day suspension of the refugee program by 60-37 percent and the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees by 70-26 percent.

CNN released a poll last week that also showed that public opinion was not on President Trump’s side. The CNN/ORC poll found that 53 percent opposed the travel ban while 47 percent were in favor.

All three polls also give an approval rating for President Trump. Morning Consult puts the president’s approval highest at 47 percent. Quinnipiac rates him lowest at 42 percent. CNN/ORC is in the middle at 44 percent.

So who is right when polls report different results? The tendency for many people is to simply pick the result that we like best, use it reinforce our preconceived ideas about what the rest of the country thinks and move on. President Trump, who recently tweeted that “any negative polls are fake news,” is a prime example of this mentality.

Some indicators of accuracy can be found by looking at the nuts and bolts of the polls. Often, a link to the actual poll can be found in news articles. If not, a web search can sometimes turn up the raw data that is available to journalists. I have linked directly to the raw polling data for the three polls discussed above.

The first indication of accuracy is who was polled. “Likely voters” are the most prized sort of sample group in polls. These are considered to be people engaged and informed enough to vote and who plan to do so. “Registered voters” are next best thing. These are people who probably have some awareness of current events and who have probably voted at some time in the past. From there, poll results get less accurate as we go to “adults” and “Americans.” These samples don’t necessarily screen for the ability to vote or interest in doing so.

Polling data will also give the sample size. Obviously, a larger sample is better and generates a smaller margin of error.

Often, polls will describe how the poll was conducted as well. This could be in person, on the telephone or on the internet. The methodology can affect the results. Politico notes that Trump’s numbers are better in online surveys than in polls conducted by phone. If the poll is a straw poll conducted on the internet by anyone who can get to the website, it is worthless for determining true public opinion.

So how do the samples in our recent polls stack up? The Morning Consult poll was conducted online among 2,070 registered voters. This generated a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points. The Quinnipiac poll used landline and mobile phones to contact 1,155 voters. The smaller sample gives it a margin of error of 2.9 points. Finally, CNN/ORC interviewed 1,002 “adult Americans” by telephone. The margin of error on this poll is three points.

So all of the polls have pros and cons. The Morning Consult poll has the smallest margin of error, but the methodology may have inflated the pro-Trump score. Quinnipiac’s margin of error is larger, but telephone calls are more accurate, especially when mobile phones are included. CNN’s small size and sample that wasn’t restricted to voters is the least accurate.

Additionally, when examining polls, consider the way the question is asked. Is it asked in a misleading or biased way? Are there numerous possible answers or is it a binary choice? How many respondents chose “undecided” if that is an option?

Also consider the reputation of the pollster. Some polling firms are associated with a political party. For example, Public Policy Polling is a Democratic firm and their results may reflect a partisan bias. Rasmussen and Gallup are the gold standard of polling, but most polls that are associated with legitimate news sites are reasonably accurate. Morning Consult, Quinnipiac and CNN are all reputable pollsters.

It is worth noting that Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll shows Trump with 53 percent approval and 57 percent disapproval. Gallup, on the other hand, shows almost a mirror image with Trump’s approval at 43 percent and 52 percent disapproval.

So how should we interpret the varying results of polling on Trump’s Executive Orders? The best solution is to not put our eggs in one basket with any one poll. Consider each poll a snapshot of a landscape that is changing. The real answer is most likely somewhere near the average of the results.

Don’t just look at the raw numbers of the polls, especially if the differences are close, as there are. Instead, look for trends and the general direction of the movement of the numbers. Are things looking better for Trump, or worse? Is his margin increasing or narrowing? Discard outliers, polls that are dramatically different and isolated in their results, unless there is good reason to believe that trends are changing rapidly.

The most important takeaway on the current batch of polls is that the nation is split down the middle on the Executive Orders. Whether there is a slight majority in favor of President Trump’s actions or a slight majority against him, polling definitely shows that the president and the Republicans face opposition from a large segment of the electorate.

Next Trump Executive Order May Revise Visa Program

Donald Trump isn’t done with immigration. In spite of the criticism that the president has taken over his Executive Order establishing a temporary ban on immigrants from certain countries last week, the Wall Street Journal reports that the next step may be a move to restrict work visas for skilled employees.

A draft of the order received by the Journal instructs the government to reexamine and prioritize several different visa programs to protect “the jobs, wages and well-being of United States workers.” Leaders at tech companies fear the Order is aimed at reducing legal immigration through the H-1B visa program.

Many industries, but tech companies in particular, make use of the H-1B visa program to bring skilled workers into the United States. H-1B visas require applicants to have a relationship with their prospective employer, the job must be a specialty occupation, typically requiring a bachelor degree or higher, and the applicant’s field of study must be in the same specialty field.

At the same time, legislation in Congress proposed by Senators David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) would reduce legal levels of immigration. The bill would restrict the numbers of visas for refugees and extended family members as well as eliminating the “diversity lottery” that grants visas to applicants from underrepresented countries.

CNN reports that there are at least two bills in Congress that would reform the H-1B visa program as well. Many in Congress would like to make the visas more expensive and complicated for companies to use. The number of visas available might be restricted further as well.

For years, the US has had a shortage of domestic students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Only about 14 percent of undergraduates enroll in STEM fields. According to Georgia Tech, only about 40 percent of degrees earned by men and 30 percent of degrees earned by women in 2015 were in STEM.

More and more of graduate degrees in STEM fields are going to foreign students on student visas. If these students cannot get a work visa that allows them to stay in the US after graduation, they must leave the country and work for companies that compete directly with American businesses.

H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 per year, but there are an estimated 500,000 high-skilled IT and computer jobs that are unfilled according to Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy.com. Irving writes that these so-called “genius visas” are vital to the US economy because of the lack of qualified American workers and warns of “serious consequences for US-based tech companies’ ability to hire elite global talent” if the Trump Executive Order is signed.

“To be clear,” Mr. Irving wrote, “the entire US economy is at stake with this draft order and tech leaders need to speak out on its dangers.”

 

 

A Big Promise Kept. Another Promise Broken.

On the campaign trail, President Trump made two promises to evangelical Christians. He promised he would nominate to the Supreme Court someone in the mold of Antonin Scalia. President Trump also promised to reverse a Barack Obama executive order that prioritizes the gay left’s agenda at the expense of helping the poor. He kept the first, but he has broken the latter.

President Trump has set up the Supreme Court for a generation of sound jurisprudence with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch. The odds are that President Trump will get one or two more picks and should be able to decisively shift the Court to the right. That would be a good thing for business, culture, and small government.

I cannot understate the relief Gorsuch’s nomination should give to Trump skeptics and critics from the right. At this point, if you cannot say thank you just for this nomination, you are more ill-mannered than a critic. Gorsuch is a grand slam, and the President deserves our thanks for it.

But President Trump has also walked away from a core commitment to the poor and to evangelicals who supported him. He should not be allowed to hang his hat on one Supreme Court nominee when there are so many other areas in which the Obama administration wrecked havoc. He should explicitly not be allowed to hang his hat on this nomination to avoid keeping a promise that, if kept, would help the poor.

President Obama, with the support of the anti-Christian left, signed an executive order that prohibits discrimination by any federal contractor, without exception, against the gay community. It sounds both good and noble. The problem is those religious organizations adhering to their faith cannot now compete on a level playing field. President Obama and now President Trump are precluding organizations that excel at feeding the hungry, taking care of the downtrodden, and rebuilding lives from helping others through the federal system.

Christian and Muslim organizations are not suddenly going to abandon their multi-thousand year old sexual ethic and views on marriage to get federal contracts. They are not going to buy into politically correct lies about human sexuality when it would mean running afoul of their faith. The result is that the religious cannot compete. This executive order treats the faithful adherents of major religions as second-class citizens when it comes to competing for government contracts. The government should not force people to abandon their faith to compete for government contracts, especially for needs-based programs that help the poor.

Catholic charities that excel at serving the homeless cannot compete for federal funds to help the homeless though no one doubts their abilities and efficiencies. Baptists, who are often first on the ground in disaster areas ahead of both the Red Cross and FEMA, cannot compete for federal funds to aid those in disaster areas.

President Trump promised to repeal that executive order because he recognized that it amounted to discrimination against the religious by forcing them to buy into secular lies about human sexuality and it hurts the poor by advancing a politically correct agenda at the expense of helping the poor and needy. Violating that promise suggests President Trump is comfortable resting on a Supreme Court pick for affirmation while still operating under the assumption that Christians can be treated as second class citizens by the government.

President Trump should be praised for Neil Gorsuch’s nomination. But that does not mean we should let him off the hook when he violates key promises and leaves in place federal policies that treat many of his core supporters as second class citizens and objectively advances a leftwing agenda at the expense of helping the poor.

And if President Trump thinks that he will be liked by doing this, he should look around. Gay rights groups yesterday strongly condemned him for even suggesting he might repeal this executive order and never praised him for keeping it. So perhaps the President should keep this promise too and help the poor.

Evan McMullin Has Found His Brand

As any marketing exec would tell you, branding is everything.  It’s the thing that imprints a product on your mind and immediately causes you to make an association whenever you think of that product category.  It’s why we say “Coke” when we’re talking about cola, or “iPad” when we’re talking about a computer tablet.

Well, Evan McMullin seems to have decided on his brand, and guess what?  It’s #NeverTrump:

That’s right, folks.  When you order up a big, steamin’ pile of #NeverTrump, Evan McMullin wants you to think of him.  Not conservatism, or principles, or federalism, or any of that other stuff he prattled on about when he ran his quixotic presidential campaign.  Nope, he just wants you to know that he is now part of #TheResistance, and what he is resisting is Donald J. Trump.

Not Trump’s policies, mind you, but the man himself.  The tweet above pretty much spells it out.  On no planet known to man would a conservative standing on principle advocate an attorney general (acting or no) openly defying an executive order from the president.  If Sally Yates truly felt that she could not enforce the order in good conscience, her only acceptable course of action would be to resign.  As it stood,  Yates–who was on her way out the door as soon as Jeff Sessions is confirmed–only wanted to score some cheap political points to elevate her status in the Democrat Party.  McMullin, who is not a rube, understands this perfectly well–and yet here he is defending Yates in the cynical hope that his Mouse That Roared antics might raise some jack for his new Stand Up Republic PAC.

Hey, Evan–news flash:  there really are those of us out here who want to help keep the Trump administration on a conservative path.  You’ll only make that job harder if any criticism gets cast as knee-jerk opposition spewing from a bunch of #NeverTrump poseurs.  If that’s the best Stand Up Republic has to offer, let me give you a piece of free advice:  sit the hell down.