“After reading as much as I can about the latest surge in illegal immigration along our southern border, I’m still not clear how much is seasonal, how much is triggered by President Biden’s announcement that he was halting construction of Donald Trump’s border wall and reviewing Trump’s asylum policies, and how much is just the lure of jobs in a rapidly vaccinating United States.
But this latest flood of illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers — more than 170,000 apprehended in March alone, including thousands of children, mostly fleeing chaos in Central America — only reinforces my view that the right border policy is a high wall with a big gate.
I wish we could take in everyone suffering in the world and give each a shot at the American dream, but we can’t while maintaining our own social cohesion, which is already fraying badly enough. So, making immigration policy today requires a tough-minded balance between hardheartedness and compassion.
If we just emphasize the high wall, and wear cruelty as a badge of honor, as Trump did, we lose out on the huge benefits of immigration. But if all we do is focus, as many on the left do, on the evils of a wall and ignore the principles of a big gate — that would-be immigrants and asylum-seekers need to get in line, ring our doorbell and enter legally, and those who don’t should be quickly evicted — we will also lose out on the huge benefits of immigration.
Why? Because so many Americans will think that the border is open and out of control that they will elect leaders who will choke off all immigration, which is the lifeblood of our country. Have no doubt, a seemingly out-of-control border would be a godsend for the Trump G.O.P. — an emotional club even more evocative than the mantra “Defund the police” with which to beat Democratic candidates in the midterms.
Bravo and thank you Thomas Friedman. I strongly second this opinion piece. Joe Biden is doing a great job on many fronts. Since I think climate change is an existential threat, Joe Biden gets my support for taking this giant threat seriously. But I, like most Americans, want to end illegal immigration, and see a regulated immigration system that serves the needs and desires of the country. Biden will be handing the government back to the Republican party of Trump, and the anti-science modern versions of the know nothings and white supremacists set back by Abraham Lincoln. I expect Friedman understands that his high wall, is really a hardened wall, which isn’t always a physical wall at all. There are plenty of technologies and policy choices to harden the border, without the environmental degredation of a physical wall. I would add to his list of ideas, that we amend the 14th amendment to do away with automatic citizenship for even illegals and tourists born here. We need to expand our guest worker program, so that guest workers are not exploited by rapacious employers. We need to clean up this poitical hot potato of illegal immigration, so we can focus on the host of other problems that threaten the United States and the world.
Mr. Alter is a journalist and the author of “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.”
Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Joe Biden may become fused in history by the size and breadth of their progressive ambitions.Credit…Left, Popperfoto, via Getty Images; right, Oliver Contreras for The New York Times
” “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” Mark Twain (supposedly) said. If so, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. could be a couplet. With a few breaks and the skillful execution of what seems to be a smart legislative strategy, President Biden is poised to match F.D.R.’s stunning debut in office.
That doesn’t require Mr. Biden to transform the country before May 1, the end of his first 100 days, the handy if arbitrary marker that Mr. Roosevelt (to the irritation of his successors) laid down in 1933. But for America to “own the future,” as the president promised last month, he needs to do amid the pandemic what Mr. Roosevelt did amid the Depression: restore faith that the long-distrusted federal government can deliver rapid, tangible achievements.
With one of the biggest and fastest vaccination campaigns in the world and the signing of a $1.9 trillion dollar Covid relief package, the president has made a good start at that. His larger aim is to change the country by changing the terms of the debate.
Just as Mr. Roosevelt understood that the laissez-faire philosophy of the 1920s wasn’t working anymore to build the nation, Mr. Biden sees that Reagan-era market capitalism cannot alone rebuild it.” . . .
“What is the quintessential American act? It is the leap of faith. The first European settlers left the comfort of their old countries and migrated to brutal conditions, convinced the future would be better on this continent. Immigrants all crossed oceans or wilderness to someplace they didn’t know, hoping that their children would someday breathe the atmosphere of prosperity and freedom.
Here we are again, one of those moments when we take a leap, a gamble, beckoned by the vision of new possibility. The early days of the Biden administration are nothing if not a daring leap.
I asked Anita Dunn, one of President Biden’s senior advisers, to reflect on the three giant proposals: Covid relief, infrastructure and the coming “family” plan. What vision binds them together? What is this thing, Bidenomics? Interestingly, she mentioned China.
This could be the Chinese century, with their dynamism and our decay. The unexpected combination of raw capitalism, authoritarianism and state direction of the economy could make China the dominant model around the globe. President Biden, Dunn said, believes that democracy needs to remind the world that it, too, can solve big problems. Democracy needs to stand up and show that we are still the future.
I asked Cecilia Rouse, the chair of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, where our vulnerabilities lie. It is in our public goods, she said, the degradation of our common life.
“The model of the past 40 years has been to rely on the private sector to carry the load, but that sector is not best suited to deliver certain public goods like work force training and infrastructure investment,” she told me. “These are places where there is market failure, which creates a role for government.”
Brian Deese, the director of Biden’s National Economic Council, said that Bidenomics has three key prongs: an effort to distribute money to those on the lower end of the income scale, an effort to use climate change as an opportunity to reinvent our energy and transportation systems, and an effort to replicate the daring of the moon shot by investing big-time in research and development.
Some people say this is like the New Deal. I’d say this is an updated, monster-size version of “the American System,” the 19th-century education and infrastructure investments inspired by Alexander Hamilton, championed by Henry Clay and then advanced by the early Republicans, like Abraham Lincoln. That was an unabashedly nationalist project, made by a youthful country, using an energetic government to secure two great goals: economic dynamism and national unity.
Bidenomics is a massive bid to promote economic dynamism. It’s not only the R&D spending and the green energy stuff; it’s also the massive investment in kids and human capital.” . . .
“Joe Biden didn’t wake up one day and realize he’d been wrong for 30 years.
I covered him in the Senate, in the Obama White House, in the Democratic Party’s post-Trump reckoning. Biden was rarely, if ever, the voice calling for transformational change or go-it-alone ambition.
But you’d never know it from his presidency. The standard explanation for all this is the advent of the coronavirus. The country is in crisis, and Biden is rising to meet the moment. But I don’t buy it. That may explain the American Rescue Plan. But the American Jobs Plan, and the forthcoming American Family Plan, go far beyond the virus. Put together, they are a sweeping indictment of the prepandemic status quo as a disaster for both people and the planet — a status quo that in many cases Biden helped build and certainly never seemed eager to upend.
Over the past few months, I’ve been talking to White House staff members, to congressional Democrats, to policy experts and to the Biden administration’s critics to better understand why President Biden is making such a sharp break with Joe Biden. Here are a few of them, though this is by no means a complete list.
The collapse of the Republican Party as a negotiating partner.” . . . “
The piece goes on with a section, We all trust economists less than before.
“. . . The backdrop for this administration is the failures of the past generation of economic advice. Fifteen years of financial crises, yawning inequality and repeated debt panics that never showed up in interest rates have taken the shine off economic expertise. But the core of this story is climate. “Many mainstream economists, even in the 1980s, recognized that the market wouldn’t cover everyone’s needs so you’d need some modest amount of public support to correct for that moderate market failure,” Felicia Wong, the president of the Roosevelt Institute, said. “But they never envisioned the climate crisis. This is not a failure of the market at the margins. This is the market incentivizing destruction.”
Deese, the N.E.C. head, is notable for being a climate wonk who’s now in charge of the nerve center of White House economic policymaking. And the scale of the climate disaster, and the speed at which it must be addressed, simply demands a different role for the government. “If you think across the big systems in our country — the transportation system being one, the power and energy system being another — in order to actually solve climate change, we’re going to have to transform those systems,” he told me.” . . .
“. . . The Biden administration infrastructure fact sheet alludes to part of that history, declaring that the plan “will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the space race.” Indeed, one way to think about the Biden program is that it’s an attempt to bring back the Dwight stuff — that is, in fiscal terms it would represent a partial return to the Eisenhower era, when we had much higher government investment as a share of gross domestic product than we do now, and also much higher tax rates on both high-income individuals and corporations.
The era of big government investment and high taxes on the rich coincided, not incidentally, with the U.S. economy’s greatest generation — the postwar decades of rapidly rising living standards.
But the story of public investment and progressive taxation in America goes back much further than the ’50s.
We’ve relied on government infrastructure investment to jump-start economic growth ever since the construction of the Erie Canal between 1818 and 1825. Unlike the privately owned canals that had proliferated in 18th-century Britain, the Erie Canal was built by the government of New York State, at a cost of $7 million. This may not sound like a lot, but the economy was vastly smaller then, and prices much lower too. As a share of state G.D.P., the canal was probably the equivalent of a $1 trillion national project today.
And a big public role in infrastructure continued down the generations. Land grants were used to promote railway construction and higher education. Teddy Roosevelt built the Panama Canal. F.D.R. brought electricity to rural areas. Eisenhower built the highway network.
So when Republicans denounce the American Jobs Plan as an “out-of-control socialist spending spree,” remember, large-scale public investment is the American way.
We can say much the same thing about Biden’s tax proposals.
Actually, given extremely low borrowing costs it’s not obvious that we would even need a tax hike if infrastructure spending were the end of the story. But we will need more revenue to pay for the whole Biden program, which everyone expects will eventually include another round of spending targeted on families. So it makes sense to tie tax hikes to the jobs plan; polling suggests that paying for public investment with taxes on corporations and the rich increases support for an infrastructure plan, and that something along the lines of the Biden proposals will command very high public approval.
Republicans will no doubt denounce the idea of taxing the rich as un-American class warfare. In reality, however, such taxation is another long tradition in this country. As Thomas Piketty, the inequality scholar, likes to put it, America basically invented progressive taxation.” . . .
“After our presidential election I wrote that what had just happened felt to me as if Lady Liberty had been crossing Fifth Avenue when out of nowhere a crazy guy driving a bus ran a red light. Thankfully, “Lady Liberty leapt out of the way barely in time, and she’s now sitting on the curb, her heart pounding, just glad to be alive.” But she knows just how narrowly she escaped.
I hoped that once Joe Biden took charge my anxiety over how close we came to losing our democracy would soon fade. It hasn’t.
Just listen to Donald Trump or Senator Ron Johnson or Fox News whitewashing the ransacking of the Capitol as a Republican white boys’ picnic that just got a little rowdy. Just listen to Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell trying to escape a lawsuit by arguing that no serious person would have believed her claims that Dominion Voting Systems machines had helped to perpetrate a stolen election. Just watch Georgia’s legislature pass a measure supposedly designed to prevent the very fraud that Powell now says never happened by creating obstacles for Black voters — even making it a crime for anyone to serve water to someone waiting hours in a voting line.
Yes, that crazy bus driver is still out there and Lady Liberty is still in danger of being run over.” . .
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Thomas Friedman for making this day a good one. You had so many good paragraphs, here are my favorites: “What would Trump do if he presided over such a boom? HE’D PUT HIS NAME ON IT. That’s what Biden should do. If it comes, call it the “Biden Boom” — and celebrate entrepreneurs, capitalists, job creators, farmers and all those who work with their hands. Make clear that they all have a home in the Democratic Party, not just left-wing educated elites. That’s how you win the midterms. . .
. . . Then, once these green technologies are affordable, said Harvey, “you stimulate the private sector to make them steadily cheaper and more efficient by having the government set improved performance standards every year” — like California recently did, requiring the end of internal combustion engines in cars by 2035, and the way Obama did in 2012, when he required U.S. automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025.”
A few commenters were upset about your call for a dash of Reagan. Let me try and explain to them, Reagan had a long list of faults as well as strengths. He was a brilliant marketer, even if of mostly right-wing ideas. He increased military spending, which I was against, but it contributed to the bankrupting of the Soviet Union and it’s collapse.
Sun Tzu wrote, know your enemy better than you know yourself. I heartily support Friedman’s points, especially, borrow a page from Trump, the media maestro, and call your work the Biden Boom. Don’t follow Obama, who famously forgot to win elections.
“$4 billion for the supply chain. The relief package appropriates $4 billion for a handful of supply chain support measures, including grants and loans for personal protective equipment, funding for Covid-19 testing in animals, and help for small meat processors who have struggled to pay overtime bills to inspectors. It’s likely the largest portion of this money will go toward purchasing food for redistribution to food banks and other nonprofits, a la the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will continue to operate the program, which is currently under review, or whether it will roll out its own food aid initiative. As in previous Covid relief bills, the legislation leaves wide latitude for USDA to decide how to spend the funds.”
“. . . And looking forward, why should we expect the G.O.P. to do any better in opposing Biden’s longer-term initiatives?
Bear in mind that both infrastructure spending and raising taxes on the rich are very popular. Democrats seem united on at least the principle of an invest-and-tax plan — and these days they seem pretty good at turning agreement in principle into actual legislation.
To block this push, Republicans will have to come up with something beyond boilerplate denunciations of socialists killing jobs. Will they? Probably not.
In short, the prospects for a big spend-and-tax bill are quite good, because Democrats know what they want to achieve and are willing to put in the work to make it happen — while Republicans don’t and aren’t.” -30-
“WASHINGTON — Joe Biden never had a seat at the cool kids’ table at the Obama White House.
Heading into 2016 and 2020, if you told the hotshots from Obamaworld that you thought Biden would be a good candidate, they would uniformly offer a look of infinite patience, tolerance and condescension and say something like, “Well, I could understand how someone would think that.”
The message was unmistakable: Biden was not part of the Obama entourage. He was sort of a goofball and windbag. He was a member of an older, outmoded generation. In other words, uncool.
The West Wing attitude was that Biden should simply be grateful that the Great Obama had handed him a ticket to ride. Biden was viewed as a past-his-sell-by-date pol who needed the president’s guiding hand to keep Uncle Joe from making a fool of himself as vice president.
In 2012, Biden faced “friendly fire” from the West Wing, as one outraged Biden family member put it to me back then. Obama aides were furious when Biden went on “Meet the Press” and made a glorious gaffe, blurting out support for gay marriage while his boss was still dragging his feet. They trashed him anonymously to reporters, froze him out of meetings and barred him from doing some national media.”
David Lindsay: While this column by Maureen Dowd has some flaws, it made me smile, since I too think Obama was an pretty bad president. Obama was and is a great guy, but he was an inexperienced and cautious politician. One could even hold Obama accountable for the rise of Trump. Obama wasted a lot of his political capital waiting for Godot, for the GOP to compromise and help him help the country. His emergency bailout and stimulus package was half of what was needed in hindsight, and he followed the wrong advisors at the time. He failed to put bankers and fraudsters from Wall Street in jail, taking the advice of Wall Street chiefs, and enraged many less fortunate Americans, hundreds of thousands of whom lost their houses as the sub prime mortgage market collapsed. He unwisely took Pelosi’s advice, and in his first two years when he had a Democratic congress, he put heath care reform ahead of infrastructure and jobs, and then with the obstruction of the GOP led by Mitch McConnell, his presidency was doomed. Nothing else of consequence happened, since he lost the house in the mid terms. We made or continued the big international trade agreements, but didn’t do the job of finding or making work for the Americans displaced by the competition of world trade and the move towards automation is US manufacturing. The anger in white working class America was volcanic, and unaddressed, since the GOP wouldn’t let any of Obama’s responses go through.
The last item on my short list is perhaps the most controversial. Obama was shy in foreign policy in Syria. He failed to follow the advice of his Joint Chiefs Staff and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and make war on Bashar Al Assad, after he crossed an expressed US red line, and used chemical weapons on the farmers, protestors and rebels from the north, who protested the lack of government aid while they combatted a severe drought attributed to climate change. The rebels of Syria begged for at least a no fly zone to protect their schools and hospitals. Syria had about 21 million people. It is now an ugly state with perhaps 5 million refugees, 6 million displace persons, and a half million casualties, and there is a group of analysts who think we missed an important opportunity to remove or handcuff or limit Assad to his southern enclave. Trump removed almost all of just 500 US troops from northern Syria, where they kept the peace, and we then witnessed the slaughter of our close allies the Kurds and the northern rebels, both of whom were betrayed by Trump. It was mainly the Kurds who did the fighting to defeat ISIS, with our backing and air support. They lost over 10,000 soldiers in that war with ISIS in Iraq.