Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Trump’s Racist Immigration Policy May Leave Food To ‘Rot In The Fields’

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Early signs show that the systems that get fresh fruit and vegetables to American homes is strained and may experience major failures. The Trump administration is only making matters worse, allowing his racism against Mexicans to inflict damage on American farms that depend on legal labor from south of the border.

In Florida, winter crops are rotting in the fields because the prime products like blemish-free squash, spinach and lettuce—sold to restaurants—lack buyers, according to the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. It offers members extensive advice on how to stay in business during the pandemic. 

U.S. farmers depend on more than  200,000 Mexicans who get visas each year to pick apples, pears and other crops. 

“Nearly all of our fruits and vegetables are not automated and you need a strong labor force to handpick those crops,” John Walt Boatright of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation told the Palm Beach Post.  “We are hearing a lot of concerns from the blueberry industry and other labor-intensive crops, and working to find a solution.”

U.S. farmers depend on more than  200,000 Mexicans who get visas each year to pick apples, pears and other crops. 

Yet Mother Jones magazine reports that the American consulate in Monterrey, Mexico’s third-largest city, and other consulates have closed. That means most Mexican farmworkers have no way to get annual work visas. Unless the visas are issued much of this year’s American fruit and vegetable crops will not be harvested, barring some other unexpected development.

Internet Meme

Each year as president, Donald Trump has gotten such visas for Mar-a-Lago while assiduously avoiding the many qualified workers in Palm Beach County, many of whom are African American. Federal law allows such visas for chambermaids, cooks and waitstaff only when no Americans are available.

Truckers Affected

So far the trucking networks that move perishable foods from farm to supermarket have not been affected, though some truckers say that they are finding it more difficult to buy food on the road. Most big rig trucks come with small built-in refrigerators or space where a portable one can be placed, electricity obtained through a cigarette-lighter type plug.

Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) says that delays in issuing visas to farm laborers are a serious threat to vegetable and fruit growers who, unlike grain farmers, don’t have federal crop insurance. “If delays continue” in issuing visas to Mexican farmworkers “we’re going to see crops rotting in the field,” Scott said.

The number of these Mexican farm labor visas has grown more than six-fold since 2000, a revealing indicator of how much America depends on Mexican labor to supply fresh fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. 

Not Issuing Visas

Of course, Trump is hostile to all Mexicans and his administration has shown no signs it wants to resume the issuance of visas for Mexican farm laborers who take most of their money home with them. Trump thinks like a 16th Century mercantilist, believing any dollar that leaves us makes America worse off. It’s discredited and downright crazy economic thinking that hurts America more than Mexico, not that Trump understands this.

A lack of imported farm labor means not just the loss of those foodstuffs, but of income for farmers and those in the related packing, processing and shopping businesses, worsening the cascade of economic damage.

Labor intensive crops such as strawberries and crops that require placing beehives for pollination will be most affected by a shortage of labor.

Tree fruits require intensive labor not just to harvest, but also to cut away diseased limbs and plant replacement trees. Not minding the trees each year means reduced production in future years.

Other Countries Affected

This shortage of farm labor isn’t limited to America in this global pandemic. 

In Britain, the National Farmers Union says that without government intervention, “Growers who rely on seasonal workers to pick, pack and grade our fruit and vegetables are extremely concerned about their ability to recruit workers this year.”

The British government is working on a “Pick for Britain” campaign to get thousands of unemployed to work the fields, British newspapers report.

A similar approach is taking place in France. That government urged those who have been laid off to join “France’s great agricultural army” so unpicked crops don’t rot.

In Germany, a government spokesman said “Seasonal and harvest workers will no longer be allowed to enter Germany.” The ban includes workers from other European Union countries. 

So far, Trumpian policy is more Germanic than Francophile or British. Trump’s de facto policy: Crops be dammed, just keep Mexicans out.

The Amazing Fall Of Donald Trump’s Wall

Big, high walls can be troublesome. Ask Humpty Dumpty. Or consider the Canaanite city of Jericho: According to a Biblical tale, its walls came tumbling down when Joshua and the Israelites encircled it and blew their horns.

However, for a real-life, epic story about wall troubles, ponder the trials and tribulations of our very own president. He trumpets that he is the most bodacious barrier builder of all, yet he can’t seem to get his one “big, beautiful wall” funded or even taken seriously, much less built. Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has continuously stamped his tiny feet and demanded that Congress shell out more than 10 billion of our taxpayers’ dollars to erect a monster of a wall across some 2,000 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico. Like a flimflamming snake-oil peddler, he rants that his magnificent edifice would magically keep “aliens,” “rapists,” “murderers,” “terrorists,” “drugs” and “cartels” from entering the U.S. from the south. But even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress, the presidency and the courts, his grand scheme went unloved, unfunded and unbuilt.

Still, he kept insisting … and persisting. In January, he directed his Customs and Border Control officials to put up a short section of his 30-foot-tall wall on the border at Calexico, California, to show the world how effective the Trump bulwark would be. Alas, though, the thing blew over! Not from a hurricane-force storm but from moderate winds topping out at only 37 miles an hour. The metal panels flung over into Mexico. Embarrassing.

More embarrassing was a personal visit Trump made to San Diego last September for a media event hailing a new supertech model of a wall that the master builder declared to be “virtually impossible” for violators to climb. Calling the design “amazing,” he used a Sharpie to sign his name on the structure, declaring to the media: “I tell you this strongly: No more people can come in.”

A month later, a climbing group in Kentucky built a replica of that wall and held an up-and-over competition. Winning time was 13.1 seconds! Sixty-five competitors easily topped it, including an 8-year-old girl and a guy who climbed it one-handed while juggling various items with his other hand.

Trump has, however, proved that one thing truly is impenetrable: his head. Absolutely no embarrassment, logic or factual evidence can enter his locked mind and deter his extravagant folly.

Remember when candidate Trump promised repeatedly that not only would he wall out all migrants crossing our Mexican border but — by gollies — he would also see to it that Mexico would pay the tab for his xenophobic wall?

Mexico hasn’t paid a peso … and won’t. So, just as he did in building many of his luxury condos and resorts, Donald Dealmaker ran to the government, demanding that it pony up the unlimited billions of dollars for his pet political project. Aside from a token appropriation in 2018, however, Congress has said, “Ummmm … no.”

But that’s no hill for a narcissistic climber. Unable to get tax money legitimately, Trump has simply stolen it, reaching into the Pentagon’s budget for military funding. Ignoring the constitutional mandate that only Congress is empowered to direct the flow of money from the people’s purse, Trump filched $6.1 billion from our military last year, snatched another $3.8 billion this month and intends to swipe at least another $3.4 billion before the year is out.

This executive “reprogramming,” as the White House euphemistically calls its daylight robbery, is being pulled off by masking Trump’s wall obsession as a “national emergency.” To fulfill the president’s whimsical political desires, Pentagon brass has been yanking funds for military equipment and construction projects from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard … and, ultimately, from our fighting forces.

Presidential autocracy aside, Trump’s massive larceny raises three other interesting issues of public morality. One: His trickery sets a precedent not only for future presidents but also for our young people’s behavior. Two: Our Congress critters, especially Trump Republicans, set a new standard of craven meekness in the face of this direct assault on their authority and our democracy. Three: The Pentagon, by simply kissing off a budget loss of more than $13 billion, saying it’s in excess of the military’s needs, is admitting that the war machine is routinely taking away too much of the public’s money.

Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes “The Hightower Lowdown,” a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

How Trump’s Tariffs May Kill The Economy

Donald Trump tweeted in May that by imposing a 25 percent tariff on $250 billion of Chinese goods “China would greatly slow down, and we would automatically speed up!”

But that’s not what’s happening, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported today. Economic growth is easing in developed countries with one big exception – China.

In a report released today, the OECD provided four revealing graphics covering the United States, the 32 OECD countries from New Zealand to Austria, the Eurozone which uses a common currency and China.

Notice that each line ends on the right pointing down except for China, which is trending up.

The blue triangles above indicate the start of clear trends showing either improved economic growth or slowing growth. Triangles without shading indicate trends that are not so clear and may reverse.

There are signs aplenty that the American economy is slowing down. In May just 75,000 new jobs were added, bringing the average so far this year down to 164,000 jobs, well below the kind of job growth since the recovery from the Great Recession started in early 2010.

Manufacturing jobs, which Trump said would blossom on his watch, were flat in May. Give that U.S. exports of goods fell by 4.2% in April the outlook for manufacturing jobs this summer is not good.

Don’t expect Trump to speak of this, however, at least not in any logical and structured way. The self-proclaimed “very stable genius” demonstrates again and again that he doesn’t understand economics even though in 1968 Penn gave him a degree in the dismal science.

While Trump claims to be a world-class expert on tariffs, his own words show he does not even understand the basics. Consider this tweet:

Wrong. Totally, completely, 100% wrong.

Tariffs are paid to Treasury by American companies that import goods, not China.

Companies that import Chinese goods must either absorb the cost of the tariffs, which makes them less profitable or pass the cost on to consumers by raising prices. Guess which option is overwhelmingly more likely.

Raising prices on imported goods to cover the cost of the Trump tariffs means that domestic companies can raise their prices, too. Generally, domestic companies can hike prices up to the level of the imported goods plus tariffs.

That means American consumers pay more even if they buy American made products instead of imports from China.

Companies that import goods from China could move production here. The problem is that this is not just expensive, and takes time, but the money would be wasted if Trump suddenly ends the tariffs.

That is exactly what we say with Trump’s vow to impose a five percent tariff on goods imported from Mexico starting Monday, June 10. Trump reversed himself before the Mexican tariffs would have taken effect, claiming he had just made a great deal with Mexico.

Trouble is, Mexico agreed to some Trump demands late last year, as the Trump administration told Congress in December.

The smart money holds that Trump never intended to impose those tariffs, which were part of a ploy to proclaim himself a great negotiator who got Mexico to change its policies.

And the claim by Trump and Pence that they just reached a secret deal with Mexico that will soon become public? The Mexican government says that’s sheer fantasy.

While Trump proclaims himself the greatest ever tax-cutting president his administration has nearly doubled tariffs on imports.

Tariffs are taxes. They function like the retail sales tax added to your purchases at the cash register except that they are invisible to you since no law mandates listing tariffs on receipts. Think of Trump’s tariffs as a stealth tax hike on consumers.

Since the start of the 2019 federal budget year, which began Oct. 1, tariffs totaled just shy of $40 billion, Treasury data shows. That’s almost double the tariffs imposed during the same period three years ago under former President Barack Obama.

Trump insisted Monday, June 10 that he will soon have a great trade deal with China.

“China will, in my opinion, based on a lot of facts and a lot of knowledge, China’s going to make a deal because they’re going to have to make a deal,” Trump told Joe Kernen of CNBC.

Then Trump veered off into nonsense. “If you look at China, China, as great as they are and they are great, they are near the capability of our geniuses in Silicon Valley that walk around in undershirts and they were not $2 billion a piece.”

Even Trump can’t have meant what he said, talking of underwear that costs $2 billion per piece. Let’s hope so.

But delusional statements, which I’ve watched Trump make for three decades, permeate much of what he says.In the past Trump has told lurid tales of imaginary lovers and imaginary executives, as I documented in my biography The Making of Donald Trump. On CNBC Monday Trump called upon his imaginary “they” to invent a conversation with the paramount leader in Beijing:

President Xi, we have a great relationship.

I say, “How is it possible that you got away with this for so long?”

And he said, “Because nobody ever asked us to change.”

It’s true.

And they said to me, “We expected that somebody would call and say, ‘You cannot do that.’ Nobody called so we left it.”

And I don’t blame them. We should have been doing the same thing to them. But we didn’t.

What’s going on here? Fear. Trump lives in fear. He fears people will see his tax returns and bank records, exposing his claims of being worth billions as pure fantasy. He fears what those around him may say so he makes them sign lifetime nondisclosure agreements.

How fear of China consumes Trump was revealed in a story that did not get much attention in April.

Flying back from China on Air Force One, Trump telephoned former President Jimmy Carter, who in 1979 normalized diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Trump expressed fears about China overtaking the United States as an economic and political power, Carter told his Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. “China is getting ahead of us,” Carter quoted Trump as saying.

Carter then made an interesting point, noting that the United States has been in wars for all but 16 years since its founding 242 years ago.

Wars are a costly drain on an economy, diverting money that could go to productive civilian use into financing the death and destruction caused by bombs and other weapons. Much of the cost of war is spending overseas rather than at home, exactly what Trump claims is the reason he imposed tariffs on Chinese goods.

Emma Hurt, a reporter for WABE public radio in Atlanta who broke the story, quoted Carter as saying China is not engaged in war anywhere and has not been for decades:

Carter suggested that instead of war, China has been investing in its own infrastructure, mentioning that China has 18,000 miles of high-speed railroad.

“How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?”

Zero, the congregation answered.

“We have wasted I think $3 trillion,” Carter said of American military spending. “… It’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”

Trump just sent ships and troops to the Middle East in what he said he hopes will not become a war with Iran. That is a reversal of his campaign promise to get America out of Middle East combat.

But, hey, Trump tariffs are sure to make China poor and all that money Trump imagines is flowing into the Treasury Department will pay for any new wars, right?

Only in Donald’s jumbled mind. Meanwhile, hold fast to your wallet if you can because Trump’s tax increases, euphemistically called tariffs, are going to make it thinner.



Mexico Releases Text Of ‘Secret’ Agreement With US On Refugee Policy

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

When President Donald Trump announced last week that he would not be imposing tariffs on Mexican goods being imported to the United States as he had threatened, he said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government had agreed to major concessions on refugee policy.

The New York Times quickly pointed out that the concessions the governments had agreed to had already been established months before, making it look like Trump had simply backed down from an empty threat. But Trump insisted this was wrong. There was, he said, a secret additional agreement with Mexico that included even more significant concessions.

And on Tuesday, Trump even waved around a folded piece of paper in front of reporters, claiming it was the secret deal. One intrepid reporter took a close-up shot of the paper, and because of the sunlight shining through it, parts of the text were visible. I suggested that, though it wasn’t entirely clear what the deal amounted to, the visible text indicated it was mostly vague promises.

On Friday, Mexico actually released the full page of text, as Bloomberg’s’ Mexico Bureau Chief Carlos Manuel Rodríguez reported:

So what does it all amount to? As I had inferred, there’s little substance to the agreement. It simply was an agreement to enter into further talks with the United States about a potential deal that would force Mexico to accept and process any refugees who came through Mexico from a third country to the southern U.S. border. This is a big priority for the Trump administration, and indications thus far have been that Mexico does not want to agree to this policy. If Trump could actually get this deal, he would claim it as a major win.

But an agreement to talk about another potential agreement is not really a substantive concession from Mexico, which explains why Trump kept this part of the agreement secret for so long. At best, it’s smoke and mirrors that could potentially precede a real development — at worst, it’s yet another country showing it can string Trump along to get its way.

IMAGE: Speaking with reporters, President Trump brandished “secret” letter of agreement with the Government of Mexico on June 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C.