Editorial Roundup: United States
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on immigration
Border Patrol agents are stopping unauthorized migrants coming from Mexico at record levels. Little wonder more than half of Americans now say an “invasion” is underway at the southern border, according to a recent NPR/Ipsos poll.
At the same time, net immigration in the United States — the number of all foreign arrivals, including illegal ones, minus the number of departures — has been on a downward slope for five years, partly but not only because of the pandemic. As the Economist noted recently, migrants added just 247,000 people to the U.S. population in the year that ended in July 2021, the smallest increase in three decades and an amount equal to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the country’s population. The Trump administration, having launched an assault on legal as well as illegal immigration, drove down the number of entries through red tape even before covid-19’s arrival.
Two things are simultaneously true. First, the Biden administration has mishandled immigration messaging by telling migrants not to come even as it pressed for more humane — meaning relaxed — border policies. Second, without a more forward-looking immigration policy, one more closely aligned with labor-force demands in an economy starved for workers, the nation’s long-term economic growth prospects will be stunted.
For now, the former has fouled the prospects for the latter. Despite the fact that most apprehended migrants are sent back to Mexico under a public health edict the Trump administration imposed, Republicans predictably weaponize the surge of migrants at the border, using it to scare Americans and score political points. The fact that net immigration is tumbling and contributing to labor shortages — and thereby also to inflation, by helping to drive up wages — is lost in the tsunami of political rhetoric about an “invasion.”
Credit where it’s due: Despite its contradictory messaging, the Biden administration has taken measured steps to funnel migrants legally into seasonal nonagricultural jobs in sectors where they are desperately needed. This summer, it made available an additional 35,000 temporary visas — more than double the usual cap — to help meet demands from hotels, landscaping businesses, restaurants and amusement parks, among other employers. The new summer visas were on top of an extra 20,000 seasonal visas aimed at addressing labor shortages last winter.
The bad news is that those numbers are too modest and will not offset projected stagnation in the U.S.-born labor force over the coming two decades. The nation’s anemic birthrate, which has declined in every year but one since 2014, will sap economic vitality in the absence of a robust flow of immigrant workers.
The way out of that dead end is for Congress to overhaul the immigration system to allow for higher inflows of legal workers and a path to legalization for some of the estimated 10 million undocumented migrants, many of whom have been in this country for 15 years or more. Unfortunately, there is little prospect of that in a political environment where Republicans falsely equate immigrants with higher crime, draining welfare programs, and smuggling fentanyl and other drugs. If immigration is forever wielded as a political cudgel, and not as a policy component of economic growth, everyone will suffer.
The Wall Street Journal on Joe Biden’s rallies mirroring Donald Trump’s
It’s been obvious for years that while Democrats claim to fear and loathe Donald Trump, they really can’t live without him. They need him around, they want him around, because they think he’s their ticket to remain in power.
Any doubt about that proposition vanished with President Biden’s Thursday night speech that had a single political purpose: Elevating Mr. Trump to the center of the fall campaign. Forget all the high-minded talk about saving democracy, which is hardly in danger in a midterm election in which Mr. Trump isn’t even on the ballot. Democrats want to pretend the former President is on the ballot to campaign against as the great Democratic foil.
The strategy is especially helpful for Mr. Biden, whose main (and perhaps only) utility to Democrats is as the man who defeated Mr. Trump. Without Mr. Trump to kick around, the unpopular 79-year-old President will likely be nudged, or perhaps elbowed, aside by younger Democrats in 2024. But if Mr. Trump runs again, Mr. Biden has a raison d’etre. As our columnist Holman Jenkins has argued, the two men are political co-dependents.
That’s why Mr. Biden has so pointedly goaded Mr. Trump and his followers with the “MAGA Republican” label. His escalating rhetoric is intended to smear the GOP as under Mr. Trump’s sway and “semi-fascist.” If voters believe the stakes in November are the future of democracy, the autumn debate will shift from inflation, rising crime and woke ideology. More Democrats might vote, and the party might hold Congress.
All of this is deeply cynical and divisive. It contradicts Mr. Biden’s pledge, during the 2020 campaign and in his inaugural address, that he would unite the country. He repeated that claim of “unity” on Thursday but by now it is a throwaway line.
His strategy is to out-Trump Trump by polarizing the electorate around the former President because he thinks a majority will come his way. Even as we write this, his own party is running ads in New Hampshire to support the most MAGA Republican in the GOP Senate primary. A group allied with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is supporting the other main GOP candidate.
In his broadside, Mr. Biden is maligning half the country and the 70 million Americans who voted for Mr. Trump. He includes a line that “not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans” are MAGA, but that too is a token gesture. He quickly moves on to say that “there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans and that is a threat to this country.”
Yet the people who really saved American democracy after the 2020 election and on Jan. 6 were Republicans:
• governors, secretaries of state and legislators who resisted Mr. Trump’s demand to change slates of electors to the Electoral College;
• judges appointed by Mr. Trump who followed the evidence and the law in assessing claims of election fraud;
• lawyers at the White House and Justice Department who refuted the claims of Mr. Trump’s clown-show legal team of Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell;
• and above all Mike Pence, the Vice President who followed the Constitution in rejecting Mr. Trump’s private and public pressure to stop the counting of electoral votes that certified Mr. Biden as the victor.
If Mr. Biden believed his saving democracy rhetoric, he’d include those Republicans as heroes of the cause. But he won’t because his democracy line is a political gambit. He has to smear most Republicans as would-be fascists to make swing voters believe none of them can be trusted with power.
It’s possible this will work for Democrats in November, especially if Mr. Trump keeps taking Mr. Biden’s bait. Mr. Trump did precisely that on Thursday night with a typically ad hominem rant in response to the speech, which is exactly what Democrats want.
But we wonder if the voters will be as gullible. They’ve been able to observe over the 20 months of the Biden Presidency that Democrats have their own authoritarian temptations and have acted on them when they can.
Mr. Biden forgives half-a-trillion dollars in student debt without the assent of Congress. White House aides collude with tech platforms to silence dissenting voices on Covid. His regulators stretch the law beyond previous understanding to impose more control over the private economy. And that’s before they get the votes to break the Senate filibuster, add new U.S. states, override 50 state voting laws, and pack the Supreme Court.
Mr. Biden has become his foe’s polarizing mirror image. It is exactly what he promised as a candidate he wouldn’t do.
The Guardian on the evidence of shameful abuses against Uyghurs
China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang – including mass extrajudicial detentions, family separations and forced labor – is by now well documented, despite the secrecy surrounding it. Yet when Michelle Bachelet visited the region earlier this year, the usually outspoken UN human rights chief adopted some of the Chinese Communist party’s framing of the issue. As a long-awaited report into the region remained unpublished on her desk, human rights groups grew concerned that it might be watered down or suppressed entirely.
But on Wednesday night, months after its completion and only minutes before she left office, she finally issued the document. Reading its 46 pages, it is little surprise that Beijing sought to block its release. It states clearly that “serious human rights violations” against Uyghurs may amount to crimes against humanity. China embarked on what it portrays as a counter-extremism and counter-terrorism crackdown after deadly attacks inside and outside Xinjiang. But as the report makes clear, the official conception of terrorism and extremism is so vague that an extraordinarily wide range of normal activity has been targeted, to devastating effect.
“Resisting government propaganda” and closing restaurants during Ramadan have been listed as signs of extremism. Detainees have reportedly been sent to “vocational education centers” – Beijing’s term for the detention camps, when it finally acknowledged them – for speaking to relatives abroad or for having too many children; some were told that a quota had to be filled. Former detainees describe enduring torture, including beating with electric batons, forced sterilization and sexual violence. The report describes these accounts as credible.
None of this is new. A mass of evidence has emerged from former detainees and their families, as well as scholars and campaigners combing through official Chinese documents, satellite photos and other data. But its publication by the UN, and especially by Ms. Bachelet, whose visit had been described as “vindication” by one Chinese diplomat, gives it a status that Beijing cannot ignore. (Instead, China released its own report, blaming “anti-China forces” for a document that “wantonly smears and slanders” the country and interferes in its internal affairs.)
Companies and countries can no longer claim, as they have done, that it isn’t clear what is happening in the region, or that action can be left to the UN. China has said the centers have closed; while at least some have done, many of the detainees appear to have been transferred to work in factories or jailed on the flimsiest grounds. Intensive surveillance polices Uyghurs outside custody. Families remain separated. Countries – including the many Muslim-majority nations that have remained silent – should take this report as a spur to action and an opportunity to press China on these terrible abuses. It must now be tabled at the Human Rights Council, where member states should push hard for investigation. The council also notes the credible accounts of “intimidations, threats and reprisals” – including the prospect of forced return – for Uyghurs campaigning from abroad, without whom many abuses would not have come to light. They must be given the protection that other countries cannot provide to Uyghurs inside China.
China Daily on how sanctions against Russia are effecting energy costs
With energy bills soaring in the country, about 70,000 demonstrators gathered in Wenceslas Square, Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, on Sunday to demand an end to sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, which they blamed on the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Many members of the EU have seen similar displays of mass anger as the price of natural gas, a major source of energy in Europe, has rocketed 10 times the average price over the past decade and the current natural gas price in the United States.
But Europe has probably not experienced the worst of it yet. Russia, which accounts for about 45% of Europe’s imports of natural gas, suspended its supply to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline last week, and with the Nord Stream 2 not yet operational, the EU has only had an intimation of the probable coldness of the yet-to-come winter.
The EU’s blind joining of the U.S.-led sanctions against Russia has not brought the latter to its knees, instead it has made the EU collateral damage in the United States’ proxy war against Russia. On the one hand, the acute shortage of energy has not only inflated commodity prices but also forced some countries, including Germany, to turn to coal, which they had been trying to phase out. The EU has also surrendered its hard-earned strategic independence to the United States, which has harmed the EU’s interests as it has become more dependent on the U.S. for security and energy.
As a result, they are not on an equal footing, and in almost all cases, it is the EU that has to compromise its interests to serve the United States’ narrow ends. That is being demonstrated by the Ukraine crisis. While the U.S. is gaining tremendously from prolonging and escalating the crisis, the EU’s suffering is increasing.
Reportedly, each liquid natural gas tanker that arrives in Europe from the United States can earn about $100 million net profit on average for the U.S. suppliers. Meanwhile, the U.S. tells the EU the reason why the current sanctions have not worked is that they are not harsh enough.
True, Brussels has vowed to make adjustments to the EU’s energy market, but it has few cards to play to plug the gap created by Russia suspending supplies of natural gas in the short term. And that ambition is similar to what the same group of EU politicians were saying just months ago when they were playing into Washington’s sanctions trick without weighing the dire consequences the EU would have to face.
The EU countries should be aware by now that no matter how honey-mouthed Washington politicians may be about the value of the transatlantic alliance, the two sides diverge deeply in their attitudes toward economic globalization, multilateralism and global governance, and that dramatically shrinks their common interests.