Welcome back to the No Labels Movement. Don't forget to sign in so that you can continue taking part in the conversation.

How to Get Involved with No Labels

Help ensure the commonsense majority of America has a choice in 2024

  • Kurt
    Yesterday at 12:24 AM



    Immigration policy and administration face a sharply pointed dilemma – an obvious need to reform policy, and an intractable requirement that we enforce our existing laws.


    Let’s start with the need for change.  The points listed below can be reordered in any fashion the reader may wish.


    I will start with the moral imperative.  For me, one of the most powerful parables in the Christian gospels concerns the story of the starving, sick Lazarus at the rich man’s gate (Luke 16:19-31).  I don’t read that story as an absolute command to devote all of our wealth to the welfare of others in the world, although another passage suggests that (Matthew 19:16–22); but it does command us to do two things that the rich man did not do: pay attention, and try to help.  To say that our country is “full” and there is no room for newcomers is not justified by the facts, and is deeply immoral.


    Next is a matter of brute Darwinian necessity.  Just as it was 500 years ago, the North American continent is a relatively unpopulated, fertile and temperate zone that has been discovered by starving masses of people in all of the rest of the world.  A nation of 330 million people cannot compete in the long run with potentially hostile countries or regions with populations of more than a billion people.  To segue into hydraulics, we need enough people in this country, with a full buy-in to our founding ideals, to resist the pressures of tyranny and ethnic warfare that beset so much of the rest of the world.  I have no worries about the democratic spirit and enthusiasm of millions of persons who wish to join the American experiment.


    Perhaps the most immediately obvious point is that post-pandemic, we are missing large portions of our work force.  A closed borders policy puts our economy, and the material well-being of all of us, on a path to deterioration and rot.  We need to welcome new workers at all skill levels.


    On the other side of the issue, we cannot simply smile and wave as long lines of people cross our borders without proper authorization.  The rule of law matters.  Persons who are lawbreakers the moment they cross the border are not likely, without major reform of our laws, to be the persons who will join us in advancing our ideals.  An unarmed invasion is still an invasion.  While reform efforts are bottled up, the present problem is to stop that flow of illegal immigration without engaging in carnage.  If carnage occurs, those who resist reform carry the responsibility for it.


    To start with a big-picture view, we need to provide incentives and also to take preventive measures.  What if the text of our constitution mandated a policy of maintaining U.S. population at no less than six percent of the world’s human population – about where it was in 1960, but about 150 million short today – but also repealed citizenship by stealth, not granting it automatically to the future children of those who have illegally crossed our borders?  That would be a difficult proposal to swallow for both of the polarized factions in our immigration debate, which in my view is one of its virtues.  But we can’t wait for a constitutional amendment; we need to invoke our normal legislative process to increase opportunities for immigration.


    While that may be a dream, implementing a policy of population growth by expanding legal immigration would be a good start toward realizing it.


    Considering that both Canada to the north and Mexico to the south are democracies, it is not necessary to take asylum applications at our land borders.  Applicants passing through those countries should make their applications at U.S. embassies and consulates distant from our borders, and wait at the place of application until their cases are finally decided.  Exceptions are possible in rare cases in which Mexicans or Canadians themselves may be need asylum from their own governments or due to local circumstances.


    Kurt M. Anderson

    Minneapolis, Minnesota

    September 27, 2023


  • Kurt
    last Saturday


    In 1862, Congress passed the Homestead Act in order to give Americans an opportunity for small land ownership and self-reliance through farming.  Those values are still important today, but are challenged by the never-ending cycles of economic crisis, and the increasing concentration of land ownership.  We need to avoid becoming a nation of landed oligarchs.  


    In my legal aid and later bankruptcy practice I spent 34 years (1981-2015) representing farmers in financial crisis.  The early 1980s found me in rural west central Minnesota surrounded by a bewildered population whose fortunes were rapidly going into the tank.  I moved back to the Twin Cities (MSP) metro in the middle of that decade, with some notion that I was leaving this field of practice behind me.  But lo and behold, it followed me.


    My frequent disclaimer to new farm clients was that I had grown up in a Minneapolis suburb, gotten my legal education in a quaint hamlet called Greenwich Village, and had no idea what end of a pig to milk.  But I had critically reviewed countless farm financial analyses, and knew how to steer farmers through a world of debtors and creditors.


    Again, I am looking back and condensing some notes I made in the 1980s.  We have been in a long conversation about "sustainable agriculture".  An indispensable companion to this idea is sustainable agricultural policy.  We must not continue to implement policies driven by extremes of ideology or interest group pressure, only to be reversed by overwhelming political or market conditions.


    The essential problem for farmers, in good times or in bad, is an imbalance of market power.  Relatively few suppliers of farm inputs, and relatively few buyers of the raw farm products, speak with more authority in the marketplace than the hundreds of thousands of producers in setting agricultural input and commodity prices.  


    Farm price supports were introduced in the 1930s as a response to the agricultural depression that had actually preceded the Great Depression by several years.  The pattern of foreclosure and financial ruin in rural America was unprecedented.  The weak bargaining power of farmers gave them little power to respond to the "panics" and rural depressions that occurred periodically (1870s, 1890s, 1920s) due to deflation and high interest rates.  Modern farm programs have had the goal of guaranteeing an income for participating farmers while requiring the participants to cut back production in order to limit supply and raise market prices.


    Those who blame government involvement in agriculture for farm problems have a poor sense of history.  However, there is plenty to criticize and to reform in the current farm programs.  A sustainable agricultural policy should (1) aggressively target program benefits to family-sized farms; (2) utilize a supply management approach to price supports without prejudicing our agricultural exports or benefitting our international competitors; (3) measure farm size in terms of amount of commodity marketed, rather than acreage planted or amount produced; and (4) have the potential to drastically reduce the cost of farm programs.


    Few politicians address agricultural issues without paying rhetorical homage to the "family farmer".  This reflects a long-established cultural and political value.  Unfortunately, quite often larger farmers and other interests manage to attach themselves to the "family farm" bandwagon, diluting scarce resources and perverting well-intentioned public efforts.  


    We should recognize family farmers by the volume of farm products they market each year, not by the nominal size of the farm.  For example, a farm family that markets 30,000 bushels of corn (the product of about a half-section of land in southern part of my home state of Minnesota) should be recognized as a family farmer based on modern standards.  Similarly, an operation marketing 750,000 pounds of milk (efficient production with a 50-cow herd) is family-sized.  We could define similar equivalents for other commodities, that could be "mixed and matched" (e.g., 15,000 bushels of corn and 375,000 pounds of milk marketed, probably with additional corn used for feed on the farm) to assess the size of diversified farms.  As a matter of policy, we should encourage diversity in order to lessen a farmer's economic dependence on the market for a single product.  Therefore, we should allow slightly larger marketing limits (and higher price-supported income) for diversified farms.


    In general, the price support program should provide a family farmer with fair ability (say, the 40th percentile farmer on a hypothetical scale of efficiency) with an average annual family income level, varying according to weather and fortune, of approximately twice the poverty level for a family of four.  Price supports should be uniform nationwide for each commodity, to encourage production where the commodity is best suited to climate and topography.


    We should phase out price supports as a farm gets larger than the defined family farm level.  


    Eligibility for supports should expand when an embargo against a foreign country contracts international demand for American products.  The expansion of eligibility should be commensurate with the contraction of international demand.  When food is used as an instrument of our foreign policy, to meet common goals, the costs of meeting those goals should not fall solely on farmers.


    When we tell an industrial enterprise that it must reduce carbon or other pollutants, it can pass the costs of this environmental compliance on to the consumer.  When an environmental demand is made on a farmer, the cost cannot be passed along unless it is built into the price support program.  We must assure that all of us, as the consumers of agricultural products, share the costs (as well as whatever savings may be achieved as a result) of sound environmental practices in agriculture.


    Generally, we should require foreign nations wishing to sell agricultural commodities that are price-supported in the United States to sell goods, at the port of departure, ay the targeted domestic prices in the United States.  This would prevent undercutting of our price support programs.  However, we should give special consideration to developing democracies.


    In the agricultural field, to qualify as a developing democracy a country would not only have to meet the definition suggested in a previous section, but it would also have to have a fair land distribution or implement land reform.  Once the State Department certified eligibility, the Department of Agriculture would be obliged to allocate a share for the country's principal commodities (rice, sugar, etc.) in our domestic market.  To the extent practical, we should prefer smaller producers, measured in the context of the exporting country.


    Believe it or not, this is a highly condensed version of my notes on the subject.  Thanks again for your patient attention.


    Kurt M. Anderson

    Minneapolis, Minnesota

    September 23, 2023

  • Kurt

    James - no risk of electing Trump if the ticket is tailored to the discontented persons who left Obama, Sanders, etc. behind and gravitated to him.  Specifically, the ticket should be tailored to winning back blue collar workers and farmers, while broadly appealing to others at or near the center of the political spectrum.

  • Kurt

    So, how should this country accommodate farmers and hourly workers?  The topic is practically infinite, but I will start with international trade.  For the most part, these are thoughts I put in writing more than 35 years ago, long before the word “globalization” came into common use.  


    A race to the bottom in farm prices, environmental standards, wages, and work safety, is not a legitimate objective of international trade.  U.S. consumers need to know that our cool electronic gadgets come from overseas with a long tail of environmental degradation.  When the government sets price standards for agriculture (a topic I hope to cover in another comment), imported commodities should adhere to those standards when they enter our markets.


    But in this comment, I want to focus on wage and job safety standards.  By way of full disclosure, I grew up in a blue-collar union family although my career as a lawyer did not involve joining a union.  The view that the bar associations are de facto unions makes for interesting – but ultimately misleading – rhetoric.


    Here’s the deep dive.  Except for the most highly paid workers, there is no justification for requiring American wage earners to compete against what Marx called the "reserve army of the unemployed" in developing countries. Multinational companies selling their products in the United States should not be allowed capriciously to export American jobs and then return to the American market with the products of cheap overseas labor. The appropriate mechanism for correcting this problem is a wage equalization tariff, which would take into account the difference in hourly labor costs between the foreign product, including its components, work standards, and overhead, and the similar costs of a competing American product.


    With an allowance for transportation costs, the wage equalization tariff would be based on the hourly difference in labor cost between the foreign and the American product, multiplied by the number of labor hours required to produce the product in the more efficient of the two countries. The comparable American wage should be subject to a maximum percentile wage (say, the 70th percentile of all wages and salaries), to moderate wage demands at the high end of the American labor scale – and to minimize the prices our lowest-paid workers in this country pay in consumer prices.


    I also advocate special consideration for the products of countries that are democratically governed.  In reformulating our trade policy, we should seek to use it as a strong, if not overwhelming, incentive to poorer countries to become democracies. Wage equalization and similar barriers initially would have an enormous impact on developing countries by removing lower wages and similar factors as competitive advantages to them. Therefore, special trade preferences for developing democracies would have an even stronger incentive effect after wage equalization is implemented than they would if implemented now.


    Special consideration for democracies would moderate the impact of the wage, work safety, and environmental tariffs on the assumption that in a democratic system, the foreign workers and citizenry would be in a better position to organize to improve their wages, job safety, and environment, and that they would be less vulnerable to exploitation in these areas. Because the full impact of these equalization factors would be felt by undemocratic countries, the democratic countries could maintain their competitive advantage against undemocratic countries in the American market while improving their domestic social conditions.


    I define a democratic country as one that (1) choses its leaders through a free, pluralistic, and open election process; (2) guarantees civil liberties and permits vigorous political debate; (3) protects human rights; (4) enforces the rights of all of its adult citizens to participate in its economic and political systems on the basis of equal opportunity; and (5) protects the rights of its farmers and workers to organize for better wages and prices. I exclude any country that, although it met the above criteria, either allied itself militarily with a country hostile to the United States or adopted a posture of consistent hostility to the United States (and as far as I can discern, in today’s world that exclusion is completely hypothetical).


    Sorry, here comes the math.  I support giving the products of a developing democracy a credit against all American tariffs, except retaliatory tariffs, based on the difference between some measure of wealth in that country (for example, per capita income or per capita gross national product) and the same measure for the United States. The tariff credit would be a multiple of the percentage differences between the foreign country and ours, with a part of the difference ignored.


    For example, if a country qualified as a developing democracy, it might produce a product with a $100 United States tariff for wage or other equalization. If its per capita income is approximately 20 percent of the same figure for the United States then the percentage difference, less a disregarded percentage (50 percent would exclude some developed countries from the definition of a "developing" democracy), would be multiplied by a uniform factor (say, 1.5) to determine the percent credit.  100-20=80; 80-50=30; 30x1.5 = 45.  The country would be given a $45 credit against what otherwise would be a $100 tariff.


    That’s enough for now.  If you got to this point, thanks for your polite attention.


    Kurt M. Anderson

    Minneapolis, MN

    September 21, 2023


  • James

    I certainly hope that you people are not as insanely stupid as your published information would indicate. As close as this presidential election seems to be, your fielding an alternate presidential slate insures the reelection of Donald J. Trump. You will be the direct and absolute cause of the demise of this country.

    Can your arrogance and consider realistically what is best for this country.

    P.S Joe Mansion it isn't.

  • Lynn

    Let's unite and give our democracy a fighting chance!!!! Let's begin with a 3rd option in the 2024 Presidential election.