I usually write my column on a single topic. But several things occurred recently that I believe are worthy of comment.
One is that the nation was shocked when two mass shootings occurred less than 24 hours apart; one in El Paso, Texas, and the other in Dayton, Ohio. Liberal Democrats were quick to blame President Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and call for stricter gun laws, while conservative pundits blamed video games, a lack of religion in our lives and mental health issues. Gun violence is certain to be a prime issue in many election campaigns next year. But what do we really know about mass shootings and the people who commit them?
For starters, data indicate that mass public shootings are not occurring more frequently than in the past; it just seems like they are because when they do occur they are more deadly — 12 of the 25 deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred in the past four years — and they garner sensational headlines.
The reason these attacks are more deadly is that the shooters are using more sophisticated and deadly weaponry. Would tougher guns laws help? Perhaps, but mass shootings are seldom spontaneous acts. The vast majority are planned for weeks, months or even years before the shooter finally strikes. In 40 percent of the attacks, the shooter obtained his weapons legally; however, it is not clear whether those shooters who could not obtain their weapons legally would have abandoned their plans for carnage and infamy.
We also know that mass shooters are almost exclusively carried out by a male, though not one disproportionately from any particular race or ethnic group. In many cases, aggressive behavior by the shooter was observed and reported by others prior to the mass shooting. But the targets of this aggression vary: immigrants, African-Americans, homosexuals, the police, Muslims, Christians, Jews, co-workers, classmates. The lack of a consistent profile other than “angry male” makes intervention prior to a mass shooting very difficult.
The second event that caught my attention occurred when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided seven food processing plants in Mississippi and detained 680 “removable aliens.” According to a federal prosecutor it was the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history.
Reaction to the raid was mixed: Trump administration officials hailed it as a return of the rule of law in our country, while many liberals were dismayed over that fact that it occurred on the first day of school and hundreds of school children returned home to find their parents were not there.
My initial thought was “what led ICE to raid these poultry packing plants?” Clearly the decision was intended to make headlines and show that the Trump administration is taking action to enforce our immigration laws. But they weren’t rounding up members of gangs like MS-13, drug dealers or human traffickers. They were rounding up poultry packers: those who do a tough, low-paying job that few U.S. citizens are willing to do.
This was a large, costly operation (and from what I’ve read, it was done very professionally). But is this really a top priority for immigration enforcement?
My second thought was “what are they going to do to the employers?” Most of the plants raided by ICE were operated by large corporations with a long and well-known history of employing undocumented workers. While many of the workers now face deportation and their families being broken apart, the consequences to the employers are usually very minimal.
If the Trump administration really wants to crack down on undocumented workers, they should start at the top by going after those who profit from employing undocumented workers. Otherwise, it’s like cracking down on prostitution by arresting the women (arguably the victims) and letting the pimps go.
My third thought was that neither political party wants to solve our immigration problems because they both believe they are benefitting from them. And my final thought was that the price of chicken will be going up in the near future.
The third recent event was that the stock market appears to be tanking over fears of a global recession. Investors around the world are putting their money in “safe havens” like gold, U.S. dollars, U.S. treasury bonds and bitcoins. Over the last year, gold has gone from $1,280 an ounce to $1,496 (up 17 percent); the value of dollars in foreign exchange has gone from 115 to 130 (up 13 percent), the value of a bitcoin has gone from $3,756 to $11,413 (up 300 percent) and U.S. bond yields are now at an all-time low. Meanwhile, Congress just raised the federal government’s debt ceiling (again), and the budget deficit is now 27 percent higher than last year’s deficit.
When the value of the dollar increases, it is good news for those who are planning a trip to Europe this fall because everything over there will cost less. On the other hand, if you are a farmer or manufacturer who exports goods, the increase means your products are going to cost more in foreign markets.
This situation is confounded by our need to borrow increasing amounts of money from foreign sources to keep our federal government afloat. This borrowing competes for the same dollars as our exports; thus, we can anticipate a growing trade deficit similar to the one that arose during the global recession in 2008. This could be bad news for Lake Charles, which has one of the most export-intensive economies in the nation.