Well, who saw this one coming? Americans elected Joe Biden as president partly because of widespread Democratic, journalistic and smart-set mockery (but I repeat myself) of immigration restrictions as “putting children in cages”. And now there’s a flood of migrants to the southern border unlike anything seen in decades and they’re desperately placing youths in lockable detention facilities. Almost as if incentives matter.
So who saw it coming? Nobody who’s anybody foresaw the consequences, including the journalists Matt Taibbi recently mocked as having embraced a one-party orthodoxy redolent of the old Soviet press. But all the nobodies did who study economics and try to apply it to public policy.
We may be a dwindling group. But conservatives have, or once had, a habit of comparing the laws of economics to those of physics, saying you ignore either at your very real peril.
Ignore gravity and take a painful fall. Raise the minimum wage, and put teens, women and the poor out of work. And among these laws, an important place was once given to the law of unintended consequences. The point being that if you have your intentions right but your incentives wrong, you won’t get the results you wanted. And it might properly be called the law of unintended but predictable consequences, because we know incentives matter.
No, really. In our personal lives, if for instance our kid’s sunglasses are covered by the company plan, we’re going to get a more expensive pair than if it’s an out-of-pocket expense. Not one person in 50 fails to make that calculation and not one in 10 has to think about it first. Shout “free beer” and see what happens.
Alas, when it comes to public policy, people appear to lose focus. Suddenly 2+2=4 turns into one over the square root of (one minus v squared over c squared) and they can’t figure out what to do next so they ignore it and hope it’s gone in the morning.
It’s not. Instead this one started, for me at least, with a March 8 New York Times email saying “The number of migrant children detained at the border has tripled in two weeks to more than 3,250, as the U.S. struggles to find room in shelters.” Which is a far cry from “Trump puts kids in cages”.
At least it’s a far cry as a headline. But as NBC conceded the same day, “More than 3,200 unaccompanied migrant children are being housed in Customs and Border Protection holding facilities, two sources confirmed to NBC News. Nearly half of the children have been held beyond the three-day legal limit in small concrete cells with no beds, known as iceboxes.”
Oh dear. Orange man bad. But still…
The next day the Epoch Times, which bears no resemblance at all to Pravda, reported that “DHS Pleads for Volunteers to Assist With ‘Overwhelming’ Surge at Southern Border”. So what was to be done?
The Washington press corps was busy fawning over Biden, or would have been if he were having press conferences, so instead they were fawning over Jen Psaki as she circled back to not answering softball questions, and then running stories about how great Biden’s dog Major is that amount to unconscious self-satire, or how “Comedians are struggling to parody Biden.”
At least that one continued “Let’s hope this doesn’t last” because the problem isn’t that Biden isn’t funny, in a creepy way. It’s the abdication of the duty to criticize, and the capacity to, if the person is left-wing. And that abdication is no service to anyone including the left-wing. For instance with this increasingly problematic border issue.
By March 13 NBC was reporting “FEMA to help with influx of migrant children at U.S.-Mexico border” and adding “’A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,’ said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas.” But there’s an absolutely classic case of substituting saccharine sentiment for serious analysis, and staring stunned as the LUIC returns with flaming brand like one of Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings. Because if unaccompanied minors are sent into the United States (and not all of them are seven and just wandered up to the lack of wall by the way) you either turn them away, let them in or put them in a facility.
There’s no fourth choice. As you should have foreseen. And it gets worse.
If you make a big hoohah about how the other guy was a monster for adopting the third choice, and you can’t or won’t adopt the first, or the second, you… uh… say. This game is hard. You adopt the kid-in-cage choice without meaning to, preparing for it or acknowledging it. And meanwhile you’ve sent a gigantic signal that the border is open to the land of opportunity, so more and more people come and your problem becomes worse and worse and your sickly sweet rhetoric more and more revoltingly irrelevant.
As NBC finally warned on March 14, the election being safely won, “Playing to the Democratic base on the issue while ignoring the need for more enforcement has merely exacerbated the problem.” Gosh. Ya think? How’d that happen?
Oh right. If you think all the way back to the 2016 election, anybody who was anybody directed a two-minute hate at Trump for his border wall, declaring it evil and impractical. Actually more like a five-year hate. But his stand on immigration was an important reason for his victory.
Of course his wall never did get built, partly because of his deplorable habit of not thinking things through either. But by failing to contemplate whether it really was evil, whether it really was impractical, and what if any relationship exists between the two, the Democrats and their media and cultural sympathizers dug a big pit they just tumbled into going “Aaaaah, what fool put this pit here?”
You did. Not just by failing to anticipate this predictably unpredicted visit from the Gods of the LUIC. By your far more general disposition to shout angrily that all you need is love, practicality is a trick of the hard-hearted and problems will vanish if only we elect Joe Biden as saviour of the universal human race.
C’mon, man, as someone might say. Think like grownups. Or even like migrant youth, who see perfectly clearly what hey, Trump’s gone and the border’s open means. Why didn’t you?
Photo Credit: Slate
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