Aug 21, 2019

Did Trump just call himself Jesus?

Did Trump just call himself Jesus?

Also, we explore the cost of immigration.

What’s this?

Tangle is an independent, ad-free, non-partisan politics newsletter where I answer reader questions from across the country and break down the day’s biggest news. Each newsletter will take less than 10 minutes to read and show up in your inbox around lunch time (EST). If someone forwarded you this, they’re asking you to subscribe. If you want to ask a question, simply reply to this email.

Sign up now

A quick programming note.

Yesterday, a few people wrote in to say their Tangle newsletter mysteriously showed up in their “promotions” or junk folders. Substack is looking into it, but newsletters can be funky sometimes. Be sure to “favorite” this email or mark it as important — right now! — to make sure it arrives in your inbox every day. Drop me a line if you notice any issues.

Today’s read: 8 minutes.

Lots of Trump stories. Plus, a reader question about the cost of immigration.

What D.C. is talking about.

Trump’s tweets. In the last six months, President Trump has been less successful driving the news and narrative through social media than he was two years ago. Back then, his style was so unorthodox, so outlandish and so over the top that every tweet, name-calling rant or unexpected declaration was chased for hours. Some people wondered whether that effect was wearing off in the last few months. And then the last 24 hours happened. I could explain what he said, but instead I’ll just show you:

All this came after last night, when POTUS announced that he was cancelling a trip to Denmark because Greenland wasn’t for sale.

What Democrats are saying.

Is he okay? Most Democrats believe President Trump is unhinged or unwell, but the latest string of tweets have really cut to the core of what they’ve been saying. Does he think we can just buy a country that’s not for sale? Is he really such an egomaniac that he believes he’s the second coming of G-d? Did he actually just cancel a meeting with the leader of another country because he couldn’t buy a country that was never for sale? These are all the things that Democrats are asking — and their tone is somewhere between astonishment and disgust.

Oh, also, that guy he’s quoting? Wayne Allyn Root? About him:

What Republicans are saying.

Mostly laughter. This is what makes Trump endearing and awesome to so much of the country and so many of his supporters. Triggered liberals are upset over… this? What’s the big deal? He’s quoting a mega-fan and doing the most American thing ever: wondering out loud what he could buy. As Matt Taibbi recently wrote in Rolling Stone: “The average American likes meat, sports, money, porn, cars, cartoons, and shopping. Less popular: socialism, privilege-checking, and the world ending in 10 years.” How do you think this gusto is going over with the average American? Probably not too badly. This is all just Trump being Trump, and the people who are so outraged by it have too much time on their hands. Republican politicians have — for the most part — just ignored it. Fox News hosts defended the idea of buying Greenland (there are natural resources there, of course) with “varying degrees of straight-facedness,” as Matthew Gertz (who is not a Republican) put it.

As for the never-Trump conservatives… this was their moment to unload:

My take.

It’s hard to decide whether to take the bait or not. I wasn’t even sure if it was worth leading with this story in today’s newsletter. Trump’s greatest talent is that he is so good at sending reporters scurrying around like a swarm of bees trying to dissect the most absurd and obviously dumb lies, ideas or plans that more important news will often be buried underneath a sea of hot takes and shocked pearl-clutching. Some people think he’s playing 3D chess, the most shrewd media manipulator of our time. Others think he’s manic and erratic. Part of why I made this newsletter in the first place was to cut through all that crap. But, some days, the tweeting is just too extraordinary to ignore — even for me. Quoting a well-known conspiracy theorist who called Trump “king of the Jews” is almost as absurd as attempting to buy a country that isn’t for sale. As POTUS enjoys doing, this seems like him throwing a bunch of things against the wall and seeing what will stick. Is there support for buying Greenland? Will Jews or other religious folks warmly receive his declaration that he is the second coming of G-d? It may seem absurd on the face of it, but crazier things have gotten traction during his presidency.

Speaking of Trump.

Yesterday, a reader wrote in about anti-Semitism in the Democratic ranks and I took a dive into The Squad and whether or not they “hated Jews” (you can read that here). It’d only be fair to point out that, hours after sending that newsletter, Trump employed a classic anti-Semitic tropes by suggesting that liberal Jews were being disloyal to Israel. Of Jews who vote for Democrats, he said: "it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." The remark drew scorn from Jews on both sides of the aisle who, for far too long, have been accused of having “dual loyalty” to Israel and not the United States. Some made jokes out of it. The Republican Jewish Coalition, however, came to Trump’s defense on Twitter.

Your questions, answered.

Has anyone been talking about how much money actually gets spent on immigrants for the social plans that Trump is using to limit green cards/visas? Better yet, if there is a percentage that goes to immigrants!

- Trevor, Gilbertsville, PA

The question of how much illegal immigrants “cost” Americans is a crucial one in the immigration debate. Republicans often say that immigrants (documented and undocumented) are a huge burden on the American taxpayer. Democrats often note their positive impact on the economy. To some degree, both have valid points.

First, it’s absolutely true that undocumented immigrants use benefits programs and “cost” a lot of money, even though Democrats always claim they don’t. One 2017 study from an admittedly anti-immigration organization claims that illegal undocumented immigrants are a net consumer of taxpayer benefits worth more than $100 billion a year, not including the cost of enforcing the border. That’s about the highest reasonable estimate and the study has been criticized mightily. Still, some of the cherry-picked numbers are straight from the government. Trump has repeatedly claimed undocumented immigrants cost $275 billion a year and that, too, has been ripped apart. What’s apparent from this conversation is you can inflate or deflate the cost of immigrants by making various kinds of assumptions.

The biggest and most obvious cost of undocumented immigrants comes from education. There are  approximately 4 million children of undocumented immigrants and states will enroll them in public schools. On average, the cost to send a child to public school for a year is $10,615. Multiply that by 4 million and that’s a lot of money.

But undocumented immigrants are technically not eligible for food stamps, social security or most welfare programs. There are workarounds; children born in the U.S. are eligible for some programs, like SNAP, so often times undocumented parents with American children might be living on food stamps. Undocumented immigrants can also receive emergency care in hospitals and can also get money from programs like Woman, Infants and Children —  which provides food and formula for pregnant or breastfeeding moms. 25,000 undocumented immigrants receive subsidized housing, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association said one insurance program cost $2 billion a year in emergency treatment, not including the $1.24 billion in infant delivery expenses, all spent on undocumented immigrants. Then there are sanctuary cities, which offer various kinds of benefits for undocumented immigrants (New York state gives up to $300 a month in assistance).

But the other side of the coin is what undocumented immigrants add. Even fervent immigration restrictionists will admit that undocumented immigrants work at higher rates (76 percent) than native-born Americans (73 percent). About half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants have fake Social Security numbers and pay taxes, which sends some $11 billion to the federal government’s pocket. Some estimates are as high as $19 billion. They also pay sales taxes in purchases and fund property taxes when they pay rent.

All of these numbers can be manipulated in various ways. Some studies include American-born children of undocumented immigrants, who are American citizens, in the cost of undocumented immigration to inflate the numbers. Others make broad assumptions about the health of undocumented immigrants to deflate the numbers. Some studies include the tax revenue undocumented immigrants generate and others don’t. David Dyssegaard Kallick, the deputy director of the nonpartisan Fiscal Policy Institute, once put it to NBC News like this: "Fundamentally I think it’s the wrong question. The right question for undocumented immigrants and any group is, 'Are they paying their fair share of taxes and getting their fair share of service?' You’re talking about people who work for very low wages and are excluded from nearly all social services. It takes a real act of will to say they're exploiting us."

Even when it comes to education, discussing the “cost” is problematic. Plenty of immigration restrictionists will concede that they want undocumented immigrants — or their children — in American schools learning English and about America’s history. So how do you quantify the value of that? In short, lots of people have been trying to determine the cost of undocumented immigration for a long time, but the nature of undocumented immigrants, and the extreme partisanship of so many studies, makes it difficult. It’s safe to assume that they use billions of dollars of tax revenue, but also put lots of that money right back into the economy and definitely receive fewer benefits than most other Americans. I know that’s not the most satisfying answer, but it’s the most honest one I can muster.

A story that matters.

Speaking of undocumented immigrants and buried news… amidst all the chaos, the Trump administration announced a new regulation that would allow it to indefinitely detain migrant families who cross the border illegally. Previously, the government could only hold migrant children in custody for 20 days before having to deport them, send them to families or send them to foster care in the United Stats. You might remember this from last year, when Trump began intentionally separating families so the government could detain the adults for longer than 20 days. Trump has pointed to the process of detaining and releasing children as a “catch and release” program that promotes undocumented immigration. “This rule allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress,” Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, said.

Sidebar: Family immigration cases can drag on for months, or even years, and it appears Trump’s plan is to detain the children and adults for as long as it takes for a case to close. The 20-day rule came from the 1997 Flores settlement, a federal class-action lawsuit that pointed out the harm done to children who were kept in confinement. Other administrations have tried to change the law, but the public outcry or courts have stopped them. Trump appears prepared to fight both. The new regulation will be challenged immediately and needs to be approved by a federal judge before going into effect.

Some pretty wild numbers.

A new JPMorgan analysis says that the average American family will pay an additional $1,000 a year if the planned additional tariffs on China go into effect. That number would essentially wipe out the $1,300 of savings the average American family got from Trump’s tax break. This isn’t a liberal talking point — it’s coming from a JPMorgan analysis. And it’s got some Republicans worried about the political damage these tariffs might do. If you missed the Tangle on China and tariffs, you can read that here.

59 percent of Republicans or leaning Republican Americans now say universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in America.

About that gun control law coming.

Several Republican insiders claimed Trump was considering reforming the laws around owning a gun after another series of deadly mass shootings. I was quite skeptical. And now it appears that skepticism was with good reason:

Have a nice day.

A new flagship trial at Stanford University is successfully helping people with severe food allergies build up a tolerance to the ingredients that bother them most. The treatment works by slowly exposing patients to tolerable amounts of the ingredient and adding onto it bit by bit. Some patients who had fatal peanut allergies can now eat one or two peanuts without issues. It’s a monumental piece of news for the 8 to 10 percent of American children who suffer from a food allergy. has more here.

Subscribe to Tangle

Join 100,000+ people getting Tangle directly to their inbox!