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.

The Enduring Catholic Imagination of Bruce Springsteen | America Magazine

As a Protestant (I don’t think I will ever really wrap my heart or head around certain parts of Catholicism), I would posit that all Christian artists should function this way. Far easier said than done.

https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2018/04/18/enduring-catholic-imagination-bruce-springsteen

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.

The Oppressive Metrics of Being Dug

I have been in the midst of a Facebreak. I didn’t delete or hide my account.  I just took the app off my phone.

It wasn’t a Lenten practice, but a bid to rediscover my own personal, emotional, political, and spiritual baselines.  These are easy to lose in an echo chamber, and hard to recover without stepping away.

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Something I read right after the Cambridge Analytica story has stuck with me: what if our species is not meant to be connected in this way?  We’re certainly meant to share connections, but what if social media, along with the good it can do, also amplifies our anxieties and passive aggression?  What if it really does take us out of our everyday moments?  What if it really does affect our moods? Our habits? Our appetites?

I have been listening to “When Doves Cry” an awful lot.  That’s probably not germane, but it might be.  Dig, if you will, this picture:  in 2018, the lyrics are about the metrics of not being dug.  No likes on your latest clever status?  How could your friends leave you standing/alone in a world so cold?  Maybe you’re just too demanding, maybe you’re just like your @Father/ too bold?  Maybe you’re just like your @Mother/she’s never satisfied…

We now know that there’s never really such a thing as enough likes. We know the feeling of validation and the primal act of gathering approval are both psychologically addictive. We fret about who liked a post instead of loving it.  We vow to do better next time.

“It’s just exhausting,” Melvin Udall said, “talking like this.”  He was referring to inane conversation in person.  I can’t even image what he’d do with Facebook.