Friday, May 17, 2019

Designed Failure

Uncredited installation art illustrating "Zero Tolerance", from 7 May, AP Photo/Susan Walsh.

More on Wonder Boy Jared Kushner and his fabulous immigration plan, from Politico:
Kushner has been talking up his immigration plan with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation, which detractors have derided as laughably simplistic. In the version he debuted to lawmakers on Tuesday, the slides showed circles placed next to each other representing different potential immigration reforms and flags denoting “peer nations” that have adopted merit-based immigration systems such as Canada, Australia and Japan, according to two Republicans who have viewed the presentation.
The Washington Post coverage notes who the people were who stepped in when he couldn't answer questions: Stephen Miller—
At times, Miller jumped in to assist Kushner, especially on questions about how the plan would deal with low-skilled workers. “Miller interrupted him a lot,” the individual said.
The same problems plague the Middle East peace plan, the Politico report says,

Kushner is presenting his political inexperience as an asset, telling lawmakers he is free of preconceived notions that stymied previous attempts. His air of breezy self-assurance in the private meetings he is conducting to tease his plans at times astounds the battle-scarred veterans of past such efforts. Critics complain, too, that his briefings are often woefully short on detail.... Kushner has convened dozens of journalists at the White House with the goal of getting them on board with the plan, but declined to discuss the details -- though he promises to unveil "the most detailed plan ever," according to two people who have attended these meetings. In his conversation with [Washington Institute's Rob] Satloff, he described it as more of an “in-depth operational document.”
That promise—"the most detailed plan ever" but nobody ever gets a glimpse of the details and he doesn't seem able to name what kinds of deals he might have in mind—sounds uncomfortably like his father-in-law, and the taking pride in his ignorance does too. "Trust me, I don't know anything so I'll never lead you astray." And I don't know what "in-depth operational document" might mean, but I'm pretty sure it means there isn't any plan yet or prospect of one.

On the immigration front, Donald has rolled out the new "plan" in a Rose Garden speech (though somebody was saying on the radio that there still isn't any actual document), and it's clearly not even meant to be a plan, as I kept hearing yesterday. Its purpose is to "unite the Republicans", meaning its purpose is not to pass the House and become law. For example, Ramsey Touchberry reporting at Newsweek:
“I don’t think it’s designed to get Democratic support as much as it is to unify the Republican Party around border security,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters Tuesday after a caucus lunch that featured Kushner and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller pitching the proposal to the party. 
I don't know about the border security angle. The Times manages to note Trump briefly mentioning that the plan "calls for construction of some of the border wall" in a "relatively low-energy address after which Mr. Trump uncharacteristically did not take questions from the news media", and Trump did in fact say that
The proposal begins with the most complete and effective border security package ever assembled by our country — or any other country, for that matter.  (Applause.)  It’s so important.
—lol Donald always ready to set the example for those who are shy about praising him—but since nobody's been allowed to see the proposal, beginning or middle or end, we don't know how, except that they've offered some kind of mechanism whereby he'll get to spend money without having to ask Congress
our proposal creates a permanent and self-sustaining border security trust fund.  This will be financed by the fees and revenues generated at the border crossings itself.
(This is no joke: CBP collects more than $44 billion per year, according to themselves.)

Which the media doesn't seem to have noticed at all. Say what you will about Kushner, but when it comes to stealing money for funding something nobody wants he makes Oliver North look like an amateur, at least in theory. Looks like that real estate background was good for something after all. It won't become law in this Congress, obviously, but maybe it will remain one of those zombie Republican ideas that kicks around forever, and could, some day, be realized.

The part of the "plan" that's getting some attention is Trump's old obsession of reducing family-based immigration (what he calls "chain migration", the program that brought most of his in-laws to the United States) and expand "merit-based" immigration on the basis of a point system similar to those used in similar programs used in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada (Canada has actually been "lowering" standards in its Skilled Worker program over the past couple of years in an effort to increase the numbers, which remain behind the numbers for family reunification, in which Canada continues to be very generous as well as extremely welcoming to refugees) and tests of a kind Donald would be unlikely to pass. Or to steal more jobs from American engineers and computer scientists and health professionals and fewer from all those American fruit pickers and hog-factory slaughterers and Mar-a-Lago gardeners, oh wait, American citizens don't do those jobs. It looks to me like a plan for reducing legal immigration over all (those engineers and computer scientists and health professionals are going to prefer going someplace like Canada where they have hopes of bringing their family along, just the way the common folk do) and increasing the illegal (that's who takes up the slack in the peach orchards and hog factories and hotels, and the plutes love that, they're more vulnerable and easier to exploit than the documented).

And no explicit ideas whatever for dealing with the real problem of 11 million or more immigrants without legal status in the US, or the million-plus "Dreamers", none about the crisis of asylum seekers from Central America except the old illegal idea of getting CPB agents to serve as batch-processing judges, disguised as "relief" (that word is such a Stephen Miller touch):
My plan expedites relief for legitimate asylum seekers by screening out the meritless claims.  If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted; if you don’t, you will promptly be returned home. 

From the Democratic standpoint, it doesn't address any problem that needs to be solved, while Republican hardasses are disgusted by the lack of explicit nastiness. It's as dead as can be, and I'm sorry for the press feeling obliged to pretend that anything just happened on this issue. They might as well call it Infrastructure Week.

If there's any insight at all to be squeezed out of it, it might be on Kushner himself, and his role in the administration, which could be to design things that are not meant to succeed. And on Middle East peace being one of those things. Just as everybody involved, except for the press, understands that the immigration proposal isn't intended to do anything whatever, merely to represent the concept that Trump cares about it, in the same way the Israel-Palestine proposal may be designed to ensure that nothing happens, and that nobody thinks anything will happen other than those same ever-optimistic journalists.

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