"On Friday, White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders asserted on Fox News that "nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists that CPB picked up [in fiscal year 2017] came across our southern border." That assertion is both false and familiar.
During the pre-election migrant-caravan panic, Vice President Pence told a Washington Post forum that "in the last fiscal year we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as 'other than Mexico'―that means from the Middle East region." That 10-a-day stat is a staple of administration propaganda about the southern border. And it's "eye-poppingly bogus," in the words of The Washington Post's Aaron Blake.
In fact, according to an NBC News report yesterday, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018." More:
Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons.Further, the State Department concluded in July 2017 that there was "no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States." So where does that 10-a-day stat come from?
On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.
Border patrol agents, separate from CBP officers, stopped five immigrants from the database between legal ports of entry over the same time period, but it was unclear from the data which ones were stopped at the northern border versus the southern border.
It seems to be the conflation of two separate numbers—the 3,755 people from the government's Known and Suspected Terrorist (KST) list who were stopped at all points of entry (mostly at airports) in fiscal 2017, and the 3,028 "special interest aliens" (SIAs) who were flagged at the southern border. So who are those eight (not 10) SIAs we're catching every day down south?
The Department of Homeland Security's own press release from yesterday trying to put the best possible gloss on recent numerical/classification controversies acknowledges that "the term SIA does not indicate any specific derogatory information about the individual," and that "[not] all SIAs are 'terrorists.'" What are they, then?
Generally, an SIA is a non-U.S. person who, based on an analysis of travel patterns, potentially poses a national security risk to the United States or its interests. Often such individuals or groups are employing travel patterns known or evaluated to possibly have a nexus to terrorism. DHS analysis includes an examination of travel patterns, points of origin, and/or travel segments that are tied to current assessments of national and international threat environments.As The Washington Post's Salvador Rizzo reported in a useful explainer yesterday:
Alan Bersin, an assistant homeland security secretary in the Obama administration, described them in 2016 as "unauthorized migrants who arrive in the United States from, or are citizens of, several Asian, Middle Eastern, and African countries." For example, a GAO report from 2010 lists "Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan" as special interest countries.So we've gone from 10 "known or suspected terrorists" caught on the southern border each day to eight people who show up on a not-necessarily-terrorist watchlist, a "large majority" of whom are "actually fleeing violence." No wonder Nielsen is backpedaling behind a cloud of authoritative-sounding vagueness:
"While many citizens of these countries migrate for economic reasons or because they are fleeing persecution in their home countries, this group may include migrants who are affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations, intelligence agencies, and organized criminal syndicates," Bersin testified in March 2016. (Emphasis ours.)
Bersin also testified that "the majority of individuals that are traveling, be they from special interest alien countries or other places, we found the large majority of these individuals are actually fleeing violence from other parts of the world[."]
The threat is real. The number of terror-watchlisted individuals encountered at our Southern Border has increased over the last two years. The exact number is sensitive and details about these cases are extremely sensitive. But I am sure all Americans would agree that even one terrorist reaching our borders is one too many.Those italics, contained in the source material, are a useful reminder of what Trump and his administration have really been up to: trying to spin ghastly and all-too-real criminal anecdotes into stubbornly elusive data, in order to sell impossible-to-attain zero tolerance policies that remain popular (solely) among his core base of supporters despite sacrificing the rights of U.S. citizens. Trumpian conservatism, which is the type that currently holds sway in the national GOP, apparently requires vast presidential power grabs and the obliteration of private property rights in rural Texas in order to achieve its politically unpopular goals.
Exaggerating and lying is what the unscrupulous do when they lack confidence in the persuasive power of existing facts. There's no reason not to expect more of it tonight."
"Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making headlines calling for raising the top individual income tax rate to 70 percent to fund a Green New Deal. Sympathetic commentators are saying that such a high rate on the wealthy is no big deal because the top tax rate used to be 70 percent and above. Noah Smith at Bloomberg says the congresswomen’s plan would be “a return to the 20th century norm.”
The problem is that globalization has dramatically changed the economy over recent decades. High tax rates were not a good idea back then, but they would be disastrous now.
Before the 1980s, capital controls under fixed currency exchange rate regimes kept money bottled up within countries, keeping taxpayers in national economic prisons. That regime broke down, and today trillions of dollars flows over borders under flexible exchange rate systems, while industries and entrepreneurs have become highly mobile. Tax bases are far too movable these days for governments to sustain yesteryear’s excessive tax rates, as I discuss in Global Tax Revolution.
Every industrial country has figured that out, and their policy decisions refute the soak-the-rich tax dreaming of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. Top income rates have plunged around the world since 1980 under governments of both the political left and right.
The chart shows the average top federal-state income tax rate for 26 core OECD countries that have good data back to 1980. The average top rate among these high-income nations fell from 68 percent in 1980 to 47 percent today. The average rate for all 35 OECD countries today is 43 percent. The top U.S. federal-state tax rate at 46 percent in 2017 was above the OECD average. The recent GOP tax cut dropped the top federal rate a few points, but raised the effective state rate by capping deductibility. On individual income taxes, America is not a low rate country.
The 26 countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States. Data for 2000-2017 from the OECD. Data for 1980-1995 from Global Tax Revolution."