Sunday, August 23, 2015

Right Wing Affinity Fraudsters

The U.S. 14th Amendment famously confers citizenship to anyone born in the United States, be they direct descendants of Asians who crossed the land bridge 13,000 years ago, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, Chinese coming to the Gold Mountain in the 19th century, undocumented immigrants in the 21st century, or a tourist passing through American airspace on a flight from Vancouver to Mexico City.

Donald Trump wants to put an end to it. He wants to end birthright citizenship. This would require a constitutional amendment, of course, so it's not like this is something he or a Republican Congress could actually just do.  So he's talking to exploit sentiments, he's not talking real policy.

But what about Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, who was born to Indian parents in the U.S. on a student visa?  Last week he tweeted "we need to end birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants." What about Ted Cruz, the supercilious Senator from Texas. He "absolutely" supports ending birthright citizenship (according to a Bloomberg Politics reporter). Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban national father and a U.S. mother.  Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida--born to Cuban national economic refugees who came to the U.S. before Castro's rise to power, and who were NOT citizens when Rubio was born--is on board with Trump: he says "he's open to doing something" about people who "deliberately come to the U.S. to take advantage of the 14th Am." If this does not mean people like himself, what does this mean?

Funny thing about those Republican candidates for President who want to do away with birthright citizenship even though they are the direct beneficiaries of it!

Brad DeLong calls it "Right Wing affinity fraud"--  "pretending to believe, or convincing even oneself that one does believe, patently unbelievable things in order to demonstrate group allegiance."

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission defines "affinity fraud" as follows:
Affinity fraud refers to investment scams that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly, or professional groups. The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are - or pretend to be - members of the group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times, those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster's ruse.
Affinity fraud is a common sin of politicians of course, but this crop of Republican candidates is over the top. As my grandmother would have said, "PFUI!"

In the meantime, there is strong scholarly consensus that immigration is a net positive (NYT, 2012) to the fabric and economy of the United States:
[W]e commissioned some of the most meticulous research done to date about the effects of immigration on a cross section of American communities — urban, suburban and rural. The scholars who participated were in remarkable agreement: while new immigrants are poorer than the general population and face considerable hardship, there is no evidence that they have reshaped the social fabric in harmful ways. America is neither less safe because of immigration nor is it worse off economically. In fact, in the regions where immigrants have settled in the past two decades, crime has gone down, cities have grown, poor urban neighborhoods have been rebuilt, and small towns that were once on life support are springing back. Scholars can’t say for sure that immigration caused these positive developments, but we know enough to debunk the notion that immigrants worsen social ills.
Republican's need 40% of the Latino vote to win the presidency, says a study by Latino Decisions.  So what are these affinity fraudsters thinking?

David Gergen, in a recent talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, says that Trump has no expectation of becoming president. He just wants to rabble rouse and build the Trump brand. But what about Rubio, and Jindal and Cruz? They must realize that they are not ready for the presidency in 2016--so the game is to make a splash with the base in order to build up support for a future run?

The electorate has short memories.

Jeb Bush, meanwhile, has come out against the affinity fraudsters. He supports (Politico) birthright citizenship as a constitutional right.

Ex New Jersey governor Chris Christie--he with staff who vindictively caused traffic jams, he who vetoed legislation to prohibit the cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs in pens (overwhelmingly passed by his state) because he wanted to pander to Iowa hog farmers--is hedging. He has said that he has reconsidered his 2010 stance in support of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers who have long contributed to our economy. On birthright citizenship, he has called Trump's position "an applause line."