The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Small Anecdotes about Illegal Immigration Can Have a Big Impact

The NFL linebacker you have probably never heard of is likely to become the new Kate Steinle – an innocent victim of an illegal immigrant who violated U.S. laws time and time again, with minimal consequence:

The man suspected of driving drunk and fatally striking an Indianapolis Colts player and his Uber driver early Sunday had twice been deported and was in the country illegally, police confirmed Monday. 

Police say Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit when he hit and killed Edwin Jackson, a 26-year-old Colts linebacker, and 54-year-old Jeffrey Monroe, Jackson’s Uber driver, around 4 a.m. Sunday.  

Orrego-Savala is from Guatemala, according to Indiana State Police. He was first deported in 2007 and again in 2009 following arrests in San Francisco, according to a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE officials say Orrego-Savala has a prior conviction in California for driving under the influence.

Unsurprisingly, there are now voices lamenting that Jackson’s death should not be “politicized.” This inevitable discussion is not politicizing what occurred; it is vividly illustrating the consequences of when a governments decides, without much public debate, that certain laws like entering the country illegally may be violated without much consequence. Yes, some people enter the country illegally as adorable moppets and grow up to be high school valedictorians. But some people who enter the country illegally end up becoming drunk drivers. When you’re convicted of a DUI and then deported, we must have an ability to ensure those people will not come back.

Don’t Panic, Investors!

I guess yesterday morning was a good time to warn you about a stock market correction, huh?

You’re an educated audience, so you probably know this already, but one-day or even two-day drops shouldn’t generate a panic. If you look at charts of the stock markets over most periods of time, you see a jagged line gradually going up. The good news is that the markets overall — if not particular stocks — usually go up over time and generally represent a sound long-term investment. (Look, I’m neither a financial advisor nor a financial columnist, so may the buyer beware.) But those jagged lines mean that there are days the market will decline, sometimes steeply.

An important, and perhaps under-remarked, milestone from January 18: “the Dow has spiked more than 7,000 points, or about 40 percent, since President Trump’s election.”

Now, ask yourself: are shares of the stock of the companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average — companies like Apple, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Disney, IBM, Nike and Visa  – really 40 percent more valuable than they were fifteen months ago? No doubt they’re more valuable by some percentage. The growing economy and wages mean that the outlook for sales is good. The corporate tax cuts mean that the companies will be keeping more of their profits, and dividends to stockholders should be higher. The companies have less fear that Washington will suddenly impose some new regulation that will be costly, complicated, or divert resources. The outlook for most or all of these companies is bright.

But is it 40 percent brighter? Probably not quite that high. In January, the Dow Jones rose 1,000 points in five days, by far the fastest 1,000-point rise on record. A rise that far, that fast, probably reflects what Alan Greenspan used to call “irrational exuberance.”

From the Associated Press:

For now, the economy remains on firm footing, even with the prospect of somewhat higher inflation. The inflation concerns escalated after Friday’s monthly U.S. jobs report showed that average wages surged 2.9 percent in January from 12 months earlier — the sharpest year-over-year gain since the recession.

“What we’re seeing right now is an economy overall that is doing quite well and has strong fundamentals,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “The economy remains on track to expand at a fairly solid pace, and along with that comes inflation.”

An All-Too-Easily Forgotten Veterans Scandal in Wisconsin Resurfaces

Concerned Veterans for America is launching an advertising campaign reminding Wisconsinites about Senator Tammy Baldwin’s failure to address an opioid over-prescription scandal at the Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center in 2015.

The story faded from the headlines, but represented the sort of scandal a senator dreads:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office received an inspection report last summer detailing high amounts of opiates prescribed at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tomah, but there is no indication her office took action on the findings until last week, when she called for an investigation after a news report revealed a veteran died from an overdose at the facility.

The report by the VA inspector general, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY, noted that two practitioners at the center were among the highest prescribers of opiates in a multistate region — at “considerable variance” compared with most opioid prescribers. That, the report said, raised “potentially serious concerns.”

A whistleblower who learned in November that Baldwin had had a copy for months and hadn’t acted, repeatedly emailed her office asking that she do something to help the veterans at the center, according to copies of the emails obtained by USA TODAY.

In them the whistleblower — former Tomah VA employee Ryan Honl — asked that Baldwin call for an investigation, that she push colleagues on the Veterans Affairs committee to take action, and that she help bring the issues in the report to public attention. The report had not been made public, but Baldwin’s office received a copy in August.

Honl, a Gulf War vet and West Point graduate who left the Tomah facility in October, said in an interview Monday he believes Baldwin’s inaction after receiving the report is a “travesty.”

If that sounds indefensible . . . well, it is:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin said Friday she is disciplining her chief of staff and two other aides for failing to take appropriate action on complaints about improper care of veterans at the Veterans Affairs’ medical center in Tomah where a veteran died in August.

In an interview Friday, the Madison Democrat said that at every level, her office made mistakes in handling an inspection report, which found “serious concerns” about “unusually high” opiate-prescription rates in Tomah. She said subsequent pleas from a whistleblower also were mishandled.

As a result, Baldwin said, she is fining her chief of staff, demoting the director of her Wisconsin offices, reassigning a veterans’-outreach staffer and looking for a new aide in Milwaukee.

“Mistakes were made, and I’m taking the action that I need to assure the people of Wisconsin that we are not going to make these mistakes again, and I’ll renew my reputation for excellent casework,” she told USA TODAY.

Concerned Veterans for America is backing the Veterans Community Care and Access Act, a bill introduced by Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and John McCain of Arizona, which would expand veterans’ opportunities to seek out care from private hospitals. The legislation is also supported by the American Legion and AMVETS, and the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee is expected to consider the legislation tomorrow.

One of the provisions of the bill would make the VA responsible for coordinating the prescription of opioids, which would be directed to VA pharmacies for dispensing, except in the case of a prior authorization or when the provider determines there is an immediate medical need for the prescription.

“We plan to make veterans health care a major issue this year as part of our long-term campaign to reform the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) delivers care to our veterans,” said CVA Executive Director Dan Caldwell. “Part of this effort includes highlighting when elected officials like Senator Tammy Baldwin fail to ensure that the veterans they represent are being properly served by the VA. Senator Baldwin put Wisconsin veterans in danger when she failed to act on reports of serious misconduct at the Tomah VA. In order to ensure that veterans in Wisconsin aren’t trapped in failing VA hospitals like the one in Tomah, Senator Baldwin needs to step up and support legislation that offers real health choice for veterans at the VA.”

Concerned Veterans for America is one of the groups that is part of the Koch Seminar Network, and Baldwin is one of the group’s top targets in the 2018 cycle.

Reexamining the Costs of the Iran Deal

In Slate, Joshua Keating reevaluates the Iran Deal that he once supported:

While the Obama administration kept its public expectations low, the president also suggested it was possible the deal might impact Iranian domestic politics by empowering moderates within the ruling regime. After all, moderate President Hassan Rouhani was elected on the premise that through improved relations with the West, he could deliver economic growth to Iran. Rouhani got his nuclear deal and won re-election last year, but it’s hard to say that his faction has been “empowered” beyond that. In the months following the deal, the conservative hard-liners who had opposed it stepped up arrests of political opponents in what was seen as a bid to re-establish their position. Human Rights Watch noted that “Iranian dual nationals and citizens returning from abroad were at particular risk of arrest by intelligence authorities, accused of being ‘Western agents.’ “Iran led the world in executions per capita in 2016 and global democracy monitor Freedom House stated last year that there was no indication that Rouhani’s moderates were “willing or able to push back against repressive forces and deliver the greater social freedoms he had promised.”

The protests that swept the country in January, sparked by economic grievances, suggest that most Iranians have not benefited from the lifting of sanctions, and the thousands of arrests and dozens killed in those protests certainly don’t indicate that Iranian security forces have become any more tolerant of dissent. The more recent acts of defiance by women protesting the country’s mandatory hijab rules may be another sign that Iranians are tired of waiting for the regime to reform at its own pace-and that the deal did not motivate the change they so desperately desire . . . 

Many critics, including former members of his administration, have charged that Obama’s reluctance to intervene to a greater extent in Syria was motivated in part by the desire to achieve the nuclear agreement with Bashar al-Assad’s patron, Iran. In the new documentary, The Final Year, which follows Obama’s foreign policy team throughout 2016, adviser Ben Rhodes essentially legitimizes this claim by defending Obama’s hands-off policy in part by saying that if the U.S. had intervened more forcefully in Syria, it would have dominated Obama’s second term and the JCPOA would have been impossible to achieve. Rhodes may be right, but it’s less and less clear as time goes on that this was the right trade-off. Looking at the devastating consequences of the Syrian war, not just for that country but for the region and the world, it’s hard not to argue that Obama should have made Syria his main and overwhelming foreign policy focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, Iran deal be damned.

It appears no one has a reliable, recent number of the death toll in Syria; estimates range from 320,000 to 470,000, and even that high number comes from February 2016. (Official estimates of Iraq War casualties range from 110,000 to 460,000.) U.S. military intervention can generate hundreds of thousands of casualties . . . just like what happens when the U.S. military stands on the sidelines.

ADDENDUM: When President Trump, seemingly in jest, suggests that Congressional Democrats committed “treason” by not applauding during his State of the Union speech . . . if the president doesn’t pay much attention to what he says, or seems to not know or care the meanings of the words he uses . . . why should we?

Most Popular


In Defense of the Electoral College

Senator Elizabeth Warren has joined a growing chorus within the Democratic party in calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. Speaking at a forum in Mississippi on Monday night, Warren said that she hoped to ensure that “every vote matters” and proposed that “the way we can make that happen is ... Read More

Stick a Fork in O’Rourke

If, as I wrote last week here, Joe Biden may save the Democratic party from a horrible debacle at the polls next year, Beto O’Rourke may be doing the whole process a good turn now. Biden, despite his efforts to masquerade as the vanguard of what is now called progressivism, is politically sane and, if ... Read More
National Security & Defense

In Defense of the Iraq War

Today is the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and Twitter is alive with condemnations of the conflict -- countered by precious few defenses. Yet I believed the Iraq War was just and proper in 2003, and I still believe that today. When Donald Trump condemned the war during the 2015 primary campaign and ... Read More