The Superman Effect: Suppressed Refugee Report Confirms Huge Contributions to American Wealth and Well-being

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Every major news outlet is reporting that the Trump administration is actively suppressing the findings of a study it commissioned on the economic impact of refugees coming to and living in the United States.

It turns out that over the last 10 years, refugees have added $63 billion (with a b) to the United States economy.  That’s a far cry from the “our people first, because asylum seekers are a drain on our resources!” trope that dominates so much conventional wisdom.  Clearly the administration wanted a different outcome with this report, something that would instead confirm what many, many people have wrongly intuited for a very long time.  But the numbers tell the truth:  refugees help make a America great.  They always have, and they always will.

Call it the Superman Effect.

I’ve been reading Brian Michael Bendis’ weekly Man of Steel series, which is meant to lay the groundwork for where he’ll take the Superman titles during his newly-begun tenure at DC Comics.  Yesterday, I saw some tweets reminding everyone that Superman, that paragon of truth, justice, and the American way, is, himself, a refugee.  He may as well also symbolize the outsized contributions refugees have always made to America, especially given the findings of this new report.   In fact, he already does.  The American way, if it’s anything, is the open embrace of people longing for a better, freer life.

Update: You can read the full report here.

Opinion | Republican or Conservative, You Have to Choose – The New York Times

This piece by David Brooks is smart and insightful.  He makes a compelling case for the communitarian roots of Conservatism as an ideology.  “Being a Republican” or “being a Democrat” are not ideologies.  They are means to power, more so now than ever.  While Brooks is focusing on Conservatism, the same separation between Democrat or Progressive has been getting made on the other side for years.  (One concise, if broadly-stroked and not entirely generous way to frame the considerable anecdotal evidence would be to recall how establishment Democrats told Progressives that Bernie Sanders was not a means to power, how establishment Democrats shamed Progressives, especially young, progressive women, for ever trying to go there).

It’s long been a trope of academic Conservatives to say that their conservatism is meant to preserve what liberalism has traditionally been: “Conservatives are simply modern-day classical liberals who believe in limited government and the absolute sovereignty of the individual in matters of state and conscience.”  But Brooks locates the true origin of Conservatism in an overall agreement with Lockean liberalism with one important distinction: “Conservatives said we agree with the general effort but think you’ve got human nature wrong. There never was such a thing as an autonomous, free individual who could gather with others to create order. Rather, individuals emerge out of families, communities, faiths, neighborhoods and nations. The order comes first. Individual freedom is an artifact of that order.”

That’s a tremendously important difference between Conservatism as such and classical liberalism, one that has never been honestly and robustly explored in popular discourse.  “The practical upshot,” Brooks says, “is that conservatives have always placed tremendous emphasis on the sacred space where individuals are formed. This space is populated by institutions like the family, religion, the local community, the local culture, the arts, the schools, literature and the manners that govern everyday life.”

The piece is short, precise, and incredibly important.  It also sets up an unexplored discussion about the differences between true Conservatives, and, say, Libertarians, in addition to the call to parse Republicanism (a Jacobin means to power, really), and Conservatism rightly understood.

I take it that for Brooks, a Conservative regime would not be separating families at the border.

Overreach and Progressive Stamina

I’m going to say something that might seem counterintuitive.  It may also seem like I’m swiping at your political beliefs (regardless of what they are).  I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of conservatism, liberalism, or progressivism as we tend to imagine them.  I’m just going to make a point about stamina, in this case, the stamina of the progressive agenda as I understand it at the moment.

The greatest threat to progressive stamina right now isn’t from Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell, but from the predictable overreach of a certain set of so-called liberals who remain fundamentally detached from the experience of the American working class.

Overreaching on Roseanne doesn’t build capacity for basic universal income, even though the Connors would likely benefit from Bernie-Sanders-style economic policies. At the same time, I recognize that a progressive focus on class that doesn’t also speak to systemic racism is counterproductive and likewise problematic.  That said, it bears repeating: when BLM protestors confronted Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries, she “explained” why they were “wrong” about her record, values, and agenda.  When BLM protestors confronted Bernie Sanders, he sat down and ceded the stage.  He literally gave them a platform.  Maybe that’s too nuanced a distinction in an era of increasingly frenzied (if still anemic) values-signaling.  Our current discourse is basically like Starbucks: overpriced, no real substance or nutrition, whipped and frothing in the hopes of producing an illusion of value for the sake of profit.

Feel free to discuss.

Note:  Since I used Starbucks’ products as a metaphor, I should be very plain and clear: the incident in Philadelphia is all the proof anyone should need that systemic racism is deeply rooted and sinfully thriving.  I’ll come back to this later today.  Right now, I have to make an inventory run for the truck.

UPDATE: The Roseanne reference was made before the events that resulted in Roseanne Barr losing her television show.  Here I’m speaking about earlier criticisms of the initial reboot that seemed misguided and underdeveloped.  I don’t retract those concerns, even though Roseanne Barr (not Roseanne Connor) has since said things that have seriously undermined whatever point of view she may have shared with her fictional counterpart.

Burns Strider, Clinton Campaign Aide

A Hillary Clinton aide was accused of repeated sexual harassment on the 2008 campaign.  Her campaign wanted to fire this aide, and Hillary Clinton refused.  The aid was docked pay and sent to counseling. He kept his job and the woman who accused him was moved to a different role.

This same male aide was brought back into the Clinton fold in 2016.  He was accused of repeated harassment of another women in that year’s losing effort and fired.  Time, it seems, was finally up.

His role in the first campaign was faith adviser.  Seriously.  The Clintons have access to a host of faith advisers.  For whatever reason, Mrs. Clinton chose Burns Strider.  That’s fine.  She then chose to protect him.  That’s not fine.

Is it?

“Why Liberalism Failed” by Patrick Deneen

Has liberalism failed? In a new book from Yale University Press, Patrick Deneen says yes, (and how).

“Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. This has created a peculiar situation in which liberalism’s proponents tend to forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution. As Patrick Deneen argues in this provocative book, liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has given rise to the most far-reaching, comprehensive state system in human history. Here, Deneen offers an astringent warning that the centripetal forces now at work on our political culture are not superficial flaws but inherent features of a system whose success is generating its own failure.”

Source: Why Liberalism Failed | Yale University Press

I’ve been writing about the “end of history” recently in relation to contemporary Christian theology.  It’s important to note, as this blurb about Deneen’s book does, that so often, we really do “tend to forget that [Western liberal democracy] is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution.”

We forget it because we’re meant to.  We forget it because for most of the founders, liberalism was the natural end-state of human political evolution.  It was observable and empirically true, Jefferson said, written by the laws of nature and nature’s God.  The founders knew that the US Constitution was not the end-point, but most believed that political evolution in this vein would continue until all people everywhere were free.

That western liberalism is built on inherent contradictions isn’t breaking news.  It’s a scion of the Enlightenment, after all.  But Deneen’s juxtapositions seem particularly timely.

I’m afraid that he’s wrong about fascism being dead, and neither am I certain that non-fascist communism was ever on the table in any 20th-century regime.  With those caveats, this looks like a good read.