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Sunday Political Brunch—The Looming March Madness of Politics February 18

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Mark Curtis

We are kind of in the odd political no-man’s land between President Trump’s State of the Union Address, and the spring primary elections. Some of those primaries will be held over the next few months, and what’s on the political agenda in Washington, D.C. could be a critical factor. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The State of the Union” – As I always preach, it’s an overrated speech, no matter who is President. This year is no different. President Trump talked a lot about immigration reform, the economy, terrorism, and lots of other feel-good legislation. But the big test is “where the rubber meets the road,” as the old tire commercial said. Yes, it sounds good in January, but is it still alive in July? Has anything become law? Stay tuned!

“All-in-All It’s Just Another Brick in the Wall” – Here’s one of the darkest secrets on Capitol Hill. A lot of Republicans – who don’t want to speak out publicly – don’t want the border wall with Mexico. I should be more specific. It’s not that they don’t want the wall; they just don’t want to pay for it. President Trump says Mexico will eventually pay for it, but there are no guarantees. Few in Congress want to go out on a multi-billion-dollar limb and pay for something, that may never get paid back. In other words, if you’re a GOP candidate in Nebraska, how do you convince voters this is a good idea? It’s a tough sell.

“An Olive Branch Cut Off” – A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators crafted another immigration compromise this week that would deal with DACA – the kids brought here illegally by their parents – many of whom are now productive adults. The President shot it down (even though he previously indicated he’d accept what Congress negotiated). What this President still needs is an olive branch – where he can include Democrats and Republicans in the victory rally. I’m convinced this is still the issue to do just that, but I don’t think it will happen.

“Immigration Imagination” – Why is this issue so hard? Why haven’t we had any significant immigration reform in over 30 years? Here’s one of the worst kept secrets in Washington: Democrats do not want to solve illegal immigration, because they view those coming here as a source of potential Democratic voters. Republicans don’t want to solve illegal immigration because it still provides a cheap, underground labor force that helps a lot of GOP business supporters, i.e., the farming and hospitality industries. Pardon the edgy pun, but it’s a “Mexican Standoff” of the political variety.

“Infrastructure Structure” – If there was one bit of advice I could pass on to incumbents of both parties, it would be to pass some form of the President’s infrastructure bill by June 1st. This country’s roads, highways, and bridges are in sad shape overall. A strong infrastructure is the sign of a strong nation. Plus, it creates jobs and a lot of economic stimulus. Here’s the problem: the nation’s unemployment rate is at historic lows. So, who will fill these jobs? West Virginia – which past a billion-dollar road bond in October – is a microcosm of the problem. Thousands of new jobs are coming. Will some have to be filled with immigrant labor?

“Timing is Everything in Politics” – Having championed infrastructure bills, there is an important caveat. Let’s say Congress passes it tomorrow and the President signs it the next day. It’s likely that almost all bids for contracts won’t be awarded over the next several months, and it’s doubtful any of the construction could begin before Election Day 2018. Therefore, the public has seen no direct benefit that might influence a vote. Remember President George H.W. Bush coming off a huge military victory in the first Persian Gulf War? He finally passed a bill with one of the greatest nicknames of all time, “The Ice-Tea Bill”, in December 1991. The acronym was ISTEA, for Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, but most of the jobs were not created until after Bush was defeated for reelection in 1992 by Bill Clinton. Again, timing matters! If you fix someone’s potholes – but not until after Election Day - it may not matter.

“Market Turmoil” – The bizarre ups and downs of the markets the past two weeks have got to shake up the White House, not to mention everyone else in official Washington, and the financial markets. The President got a huge boost when he and Republicans passed the tax reform bill at Christmas-time. The markets were already cooking, and many companies started offering bonuses and pay hikes. The party may be short lived on inflationary jitters. Things may stabilize and bounce back, but then again, election year politics may weigh in.

What are your thoughts about the current state of politics and the economy? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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