Here are a few immigration headlines plucked at random from Google News:

  • New York Times: Immigrants Hide, Fearing Capture on ‘Any Corner’
     
  • LA Times: 'You can't even walk anywhere without fearing you may get caught': Immigrants in U.S. illegally prepare for possible deportation
     
  • USA Today: It's a frightening day to be an undocumented immigrant in America
     
  • Fox32 Chicago: Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines, won't even go outside
     
  • WFAA Dallas: Immigration fears: Dreamer arrested in Dallas

It's not (yet) clear that ICE is rounding up any more immigrants than in the past, but they're doing it way more loudly and with way more headlines than before. As you'd expect, this is scaring the hell out of people. Ed Kilgore comments:

“Fear in the immigrant community” is itself a crucial tool for this administration given the signs that it would prefer that as many as possible of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country decide to self-deport. It is certainly less expensive and visible than running down huge numbers of people, holding them in detention facilities, and then shipping them out of the country.

....If the self-deportation strategy doesn’t work substantively or politically, then we will find out whether Kelly and Trump have the stomach for the police-state tactics that would be necessary to deport many millions of people by force.

My guess is a little different. I doubt that this noisy crackdown will cause very many undocumented workers to go back to Mexico or Central America. This is not the first time they've been the target of a grandstanding politician, and for the most part they'll ride it out, just as they have with previous crackdowns.

However, it might very well dissuade further illegal immigration. What with the wall and the increased border security and the raids, a fair number of people might decide that the benefits of migrating to El Norte aren't worth the risk. In other words, Trump's style of TV-driven governing with little substance behind it might actually work here.

The question, of course, is how long it will work. Not forever, because TV will soon get bored and move on to something new no matter how much ICE tries to amp up the outrages to get ever more coverage. So maybe it buys Trump six months or a year. After that, if he really wants to cut down the flow of illegal immigration across the border, he's going to have to adopt an actually effective policy, something he hasn't yet shown an aptitude for. He's also going to have to deal with all the good Republican business owners who are going to get increasingly antsy for as long as this keeps up. They need workers, and they won't be happy if Trump gets too carried away with all this.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback slashed taxes when he took office five years ago, and since then the state's economy has, for lack of a better word, sucked. The state legislature, which eagerly supported Brownback at first, has finally gotten tired of the obvious problems the tax cuts have produced, and tried this month to raise more revenue. It almost worked, but Brownback vetoed the bill and the state senate fell just short of overturning it. So the tax cuts stay in place for now, and the Kansas budget remains enormously in the hole.

Allow me to illustrate how this has worked out using my new favorite toy, GeoFRED. Here is employment growth over the past year:

Woot! Kansas isn't in last place. It's fourth from last. Here's growth of gross state product in 2015 (the most recent year available):

Better! Kansas is 8th from last (counting Alaska, not shown). When the 2016 figures are available, maybe Kansas will move up to ninth or tenth from last.

There you have it. A picture is worth a thousand words, so that's 2,000 words I've just saved you. You're welcome.

Bloomberg reports on Ivanka Trump's first foray into policymaking:

Members of the House and Senate met with the president’s eldest daughter in the Roosevelt Room at the White House last week to discuss her proposed child care tax benefit, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting....It’s not clear whether Ivanka Trump is finding much appetite on Capitol Hill for her proposal. A deduction for child care expenses is both costly and regressive because it would favor wealthier families with two working parents. The deduction would cost the federal government $500 billion in revenue over a decade, according to an estimate by the Tax Foundation, a politically conservative, nonprofit research group.

Let's see. It would cost $500 billion and fund a touchy-feely welfare program. On the bright side, it would benefit wealthy families more than the poor. Decisions, decisions....

As for the regressiveness, here's a quick stylized example for a plan that allows, say, a deduction of up to $5,000 for child care expenses:

  • Income of $500,000, tax bracket = 39.6 percent, total value of deduction = $1,980
  • Income of $70,000, tax bracket = 15 percent, total value of deduction = $750
  • Income of $25,000, tax bracket doesn't matter because you're not paying any income taxes, total value of deduction = $0.

Everybody in the world with even a passing knowledge of tax policy is well aware of all this. Tax deductions are next to useless for the working and middle classes. That's why anyone who actually wants to help the non-rich proposes tax credits with a fairly low income cap.

In other words, this is typical Trump. Launch Ivanka onto Capitol Hill with a high-profile proposal and get plenty of good PR for it. But the proposal itself does little for the working class, and Congress won't pass it anyway. I think I should start keeping a list of Trump proposals that fit this model.

From Colonel Pat Ryder, an Air Force spokesman, on President Trump's claim that he had saved $1 billion on the development program for a new Air Force One:

To my knowledge I have not been told that we have that information.

Roger that. Ryder added that reporters would have to ask the commander-in-chief to clear this up. Unsurprisingly, Bloomberg reports that a White House spokesman "didn’t respond to repeated inquiries about Trump’s comments."

Here's a loyal reader who knows how to punch my buttons:

Fine. What fresh hell do we have today?

“In Denmark, we are observing a trend toward a much more law-abiding youth,” said Rannva Moller Thomsen, an analyst with the Danish Crime Prevention Council. A recent long-term study funded by the council found that the share of 14-to-15-year olds who confessed to shoplifting at least one time dropped from 46 percent in 1989 to 17 percent in 2016.

....There are numerous possible explanations....But the most surprising explanation may be the simplest one: the Internet. “When young people spend time together in public spaces or meet privately and unwatched, the likelihood of them committing crimes increases,” said Moller Thomsen. “Many young people spend significantly more time online today than they did a few years ago. Overall, they are less social — but also less criminal.”

....In Britain, where youth crime levels have also sharply fallen, government and privately owned initiatives have been praised for creating organized activities that keep kids away from both the streets and from their computers and smartphones.

Right. In Denmark juvenile crime is declining because teens are all hunched over their smartphones instead of hanging around corner shops. In Britain, juvenile crime is down because of innovative programs that pull kids away from their smartphones. So let's take a look at crime in Denmark. I will give myself a maximum of five minutes to research this. Starting...now.

I'm back. That took longer than I expected. I'm sure there's better data out there, but here's what I found after six minutes of googling. The numbers are from Table 8 in Nordic Criminal Statistics 1950–2010:1

I've overlaid the shoplifting statistics, and as you can see they pretty much follow the overall crime stats for Denmark. There's a divergence between 2006-10, when overall crime increased, but the rest of the time both crime and juvenile shoplifting move pretty much in sync. I doubt very much that smartphones are responsible for the decline in murder and rape and fraud and so forth, so I doubt it's responsible for the decline in juvenile shoplifting either.2

Besides, give me a break. Shoplifting declined by nearly half between 1989-2005, when smartphone penetration was about zero. This whole theory is ridiculous. I really wish everyone would knock it off with the outré just-so stories every time they run across some kind of crime statistic. Seriously, folks, what are the odds that smartphones have put the kibosh on shoplifting?

1Just because I love you all so much, I went ahead and filled in the 2011-16 crime figures from Danmarks Statistik.

2I think everybody knows what I do think is responsible, so I won't mention it.

Over at Politico, Tara Palmeri has an entertaining story about how Trump's aides desperately try to keep him from exploding on Twitter too often:

The key to keeping Trump’s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up — and make sure it made its way to Trump’s desk....A former senior campaign official said Nunberg and his successor, former communications director Jason Miller, were particularly skilled at using alternative media like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, Fox News, Infowars and the Daily Caller to show Trump positive coverage.

....They would also go to media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists to encourage them to tweet out the story so that they could print out and show a two-page list of tweets that show that they were steering the message. While Trump still couldn't contain his Twitter-rage with [Alicia] Machado, and ended up tweeting about a mystery sex-tape of the Hillary Clinton surrogate, aides say they dialed back even more posts.

"He saw there was activity so he didn't feel like he had to respond," the former campaign official said. "He sends out these tweets when he feels like people aren't responding enough for him."

For the record, here are Trump's post-debate tweets about Alicia Machado:

And yet, Trump's aides say they "dialed back" even more posts. The mind reels. I wonder they prevented us from seeing? What did Trump really have in mind down in the lizard-brain regions of his medial hypothalamus that relentlessly goad him into an uncontrollable rage whenever someone doesn't love him enough?

I forgot about this until Rachel Maddow mentioned it on her show last night:

A Democrat on the Federal Election Commission is quitting her term early because of the gridlock that has gripped the panel, offering President Trump an unexpected chance to shape political spending rules.

The commissioner, Ann M. Ravel, said during an interview that she would send Mr. Trump her letter of resignation this week. She pointed to a series of deadlocked votes between the panel’s three Democrats and three Republicans that she said left her little hope the group would ever be able to rein in campaign finance abuses.

“The ability of the commission to perform its role has deteriorated significantly,” said Ms. Ravel, who has sparred bitterly with the Republican election commissioners during her three years on the panel. She added, “I think I can be more effective on the outside.”

Ravel is not the first Democrat to resign a post early after Trump's election win. SEC Chair Mary Jo White is another high-profile Democrat who's resigned, and there have been several others as well.

Why? With Republicans in control of everything, isn't this precisely the time when Democrats should want to retain as much power as they can muster for as long as they can? Ravel's resignation will break the FEC's frequent deadlocks, but it will break them by almost certainly giving Republicans total control over election policy. This is precisely the thing that Ravel has been fighting against the past three years.

I don't get it. What am I missing here?

Last year, the Obama administration issued a directive telling public schools to allow transgender students to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identity. This week, that turned into a fight between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over an order that would repeal the Obama directive:

Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it....Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent.

....Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said, telling Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her objections. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.

This is going to happen a lot. Even on issues where Trump might be personally flexible, he's now surrounded by hardcore ideologues who will push him as far to the right as public opinion will allow. We basically live under a Pence administration with Trump acting as head carnival barker and showman.

Over at Bloomberg, Noah Smith argues against getting too worked up over immigration:

Illegal immigration to the U.S. ended a decade ago and, according to the Pew Research Center, has been zero or negative since its peak in 2007....Why? One reason might be economic....The economy has improved, and the fertility rate has fallen a lot, meaning that young Mexicans are needed back in Mexico to take over family businesses and take care of aging parents....A third reason is increased border enforcement. For years, many Americans demanded that the border with Mexico be secured in order to stem illegal immigration. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did exactly that. Obama, especially, stepped up the pace of deportation.

OK. But how do Americans feel about immigration?

Here too, surveys show that there isn’t really a problem. The percent of Americans telling Gallup that immigration should be decreased went up after 9/11, spiked again during the Great Recession, but has since fallen to about a third. As of 2016, a clear majority say that immigration should either be kept at its present level (38 percent) or increased (21 percent) — hardly a mandate for immigration restriction.

Quite so. Here is Gallup's chart of public opinion:

But that tells only half the story. Here are all the recent Gallup polls I could find that break out Republican responses about immigration:

Smith argues that "there is no big anti-immigrant wave in the U.S....Instead, the current anti-immigrant fervor among Trump’s hardcore supporters might simply be a brief spasm of anger by a strident minority." But that doesn't seem to be the case. For at least the past decade, a strong majority of Republicans has favored decreasing immigration—and if the question were limited to illegal immigration, the numbers would certainly be higher.

This is no brief spasm. The country as a whole may be getting friendlier to immigration, but Republicans decidedly aren't. If Democrats ever want to pass some kind of comprehensive immigration reform, they're going to have to figure out some way to get Republican votes for it, but that's not going to happen as long as the entire GOP—not just diehard Trump fans—is dead set against it.

Charges of hypocrisy in politics are kind of tedious. However, last night TPM reported a bit of hypocrisy that's considerably worse than the usual kind. It's all about a suit brought by House Republicans against Obamacare that would have killed any payouts to insurance companies for something called Cost Sharing Reduction. These are additional subsidies that reduce your out-of-pocket max, and they apply only to silver plans for families who make less than about $40-50,000. In other words, the working class and the working poor.

CSR subsidies are paid directly to insurance companies, but Republicans argued that although Obamacare authorized the subsidies, the House hadn't voted to appropriate the funds—and had no plans to do so. If Republicans won the case, it would have caused considerable chaos in the market as insurers scrambled to make up for payments they had been promised but weren't going to get.

Last year a judge ruled in favor of the Republicans, and the Obama administration appealed. In December Republicans asked for a temporary stay to give them time to sort things out legislatively now that they controlled all branches of government. The stay was granted, and now Republicans are back in court. Here is Alice Ollstein:

In a joint motion (see below) filed Tuesday, the two branches of government asked the court not to rule yet on the legality of these subsidies "to allow time for a resolution that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action.”...The new motion seeks to extend the current stay indefinitely to give lawmakers on Capitol Hill time to figure out the future for the entirety of the health care reform law, including the cost-sharing subsidies.

Translation: back when Democrats would have been responsible for the chaos this ruling unleashed, Republicans were all in favor of unloading both barrels on Obamacare. But now that Republicans would have to deal with the chaos, they've suddenly gotten gun-shy.

Republicans understood perfectly that winning their suit would hurt not just the insurance industry, but probably millions of workers as well. They didn't care, as long as Democrats got the blame. Now that Republicans would get the blame, they want the temporary stay to be made permanent.

This, ladies and gentlemen, demonstrates just how much Republicans really care about the working class voters who are the ones who mostly benefit from CSR payments: they don't. They're just pawns in the GOP's endless partisan wars.