Friday, December 26, 2014

An unsettled argument about the Great Depression

What if the US owed its former marvelously robust middle class to anti-competitive regulations from Franklin Roosevelt? Would that make the heads of conservatives and libertarians explode? Well, folks, especially those from the aforementioned groups, that is a very strong possibility.

Lots of politically-minded people have reasons to try to tear down FDR's legacy. (I suppose a similar number have political reasons to bolster it. I'm not neutral, but, as always, I tend to bow to evidence.) A gem fell in the laps of anti-FDR folks in the form of a study from two UCLA economists claiming that some FDR policies slowed recovery from the Great Depression by seven years. Specifically:
"So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."
Suppose you don't focus on the second half of that paragraph (the stalling of a 'beautiful recovery'), but instead focus on the policies that allowed businesses to collude as long as they paid their workers more.

Wow! This sounds like paying factory workers well. They can then afford to buy homes, let their children stay in school, enjoy occasional vacations, and generally live a decent life due to their decent wages. This also sounds like the American dream.

So there are all sorts of conservatives and libertarians beating up on FDR, but perhaps he was responsible for the well-paid, productive US factory workers who were the backbone of the halycon 1950's. When conservatives and libertarians say that we can have a much better, more productive economy, aren't they subliminally asking us to imagine the 50's? I think so. I don't think they're asking us to envision the periods when steel companies crushed strikes or when meatpacking companies cared little about the deaths of their workers.

What if the greatest period in US history is the product of the paternalist and socialist tendencies of FDR, and not the due to the vitality of American industries and the work ethic of their employees?

Well, if we're honest, no one thinks we can go back to the 1950's. We were the only industrialized country that hadn't been devastated by war, so we didn't have the international competition that we have today. We also have tapped out some of the resources we had back then, which is another reason we can't go back.

We can't go back to times that conservatives and libertarians consider 'better.' However, we can't use the same policies that FDR used either. Would we accept public works jobs that paid the present-day equivalent of $1 a day (as the WPA paid) and housed workers in dormitories? I can't imagine that we would. No, solutions to today's economic and employment problems aren't going to be found among New Dealers, or Austrian/libertarians, or nostalgic tea partyers, or staunch supply-siders.

. . . but maybe we'll try them all before we realize that.

WPA sewing project

Extra. More revisionist history about the Depression that isn't quite accurate. A fascinating discussion of the monetary policy before and after the crash of 1929.

Update 2/20/17. Possibly some more evidence of this. From a fascinating article about how modern capitalism is about to face a huge pushback, here are two graphs showing how workers are losing their share of the economic pie while the rich are taking it:


This isn't supposed to be a zero-sum situation. Supposedly, we can all get richer together, so it doesn't matter if the ultra rich become ultra richer. But maybe we're experiencing that it does matter.

Update 10/25/17. Some extra information. A graph showing income gain (or loss) over 6 decades. Yes, increases in income used to be shared more evenly across the spectrum than it is now. This article credits the Wagner Act of 1935 concerning collective bargaining for the increase in workers' wages.

Update on voter fraud

Prior to the November 2014 election, I collected several articles on voter fraud, a topic I've discussed before. The usual spiel on voter fraud is 1) it's committed by the Democrats regularly (and is the only reason they win, according to some), 2) let's laugh at the zany claims made by those zany conservative hicks.

I don't want to do a piece that falls into either of these categories, but what's left? How about a sober evaluation of the claims? Here's what I found:

Local investigation in Florida of non-citizens voting. This seems like a level-headed initial investigation into real (not imagined) fraudulent voting by non-citizens. However, it leaves unanswered how these non-citizens ended up on the voter roles. Were they registered by default or by honest error when they obtained or renewed a driver's license? Were they registered in a voter drive by unscrupulous operators? Is the mistake and/or fraud different in many of the cases? We don't have those answers, and the non-citizens aren't shining much light on how this happened. The reporters aren't doing a good job either because they cite 100 possible cases, but not how wide an area they came from? Is it just one county, all of Florida, or what? Perhaps this isn't so much a real investigation as a bait for a particular segment of the audience.

Non-citizens voting in Virginia. This is skirmish in the voter fraud war. The Electoral Board did some research using juror records, and found approx. 300 possible non-citizens who were on the voter roles. They forwarded the information to the local prosecutor, but got no response.

Here are some others:

  • Iowa cases, 200 not 3.5K.
  • Non-citizens voting far fewer than the margin of victory in Ohio.
  • No non-citizens voting in Boulder. Another similar case of GOPers trying to root out voter fraud. The local DA's response: "We don't need state officials sending us on wild goose chases for political reasons."
  • Isolated fraud incident in Colorado.
Do these cases change anything? No. The typical charges of 'massive voter fraud' originate with conservative talk radio demagogues, and these guys don't care about truth, evidence, or investigations. So we'll continue to hear these claims of voter fraud, and they'll be unchanged by the reality of minimal numbers. The only reason I bother to note this information is in preparation to refute the argument. Not that I'll convince any true believers, but sometimes I just want to get some truth out there.

Voter fraud! (assumed)

Update 3/4/17. Here's a report from Ohio on one type of voter fraud--non-citizen voting. In 2017, that would be a staggering 82 of them. I guess the million of non-citizens voting for Clinton came from other states.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Brilliant or crazy: Was Moynihan a neocon?

I have to repeat the headline: is it a brilliant insight or insanity to list Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a neocon?

You may be wondering where this crazy notion came from. Honestly, I never would have thought of it myself, so of course it came from some reading on the web. Specifically, it came from this article:
"A historian of American intellectual thought would probably conclude that once there were actually serious neoconservative thinkers like Daniel Bell, Nathan Glaser, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Irving Kristol who published original and ground-breaking works on social and economic policy, some of which have become classics in the field. But when it comes to the field of international relations, neoconservatism has failed to produce any great thinkers, and will instead be remembered for its many pundits and operators, or policy entrepreneurs..."
The article is a reflection or complaint about neoconservative foreign policy, and is worth reading. But what really lit my fuse was the reference to Moynihan as a neocon. Is it possible that he actually was a neocon?

I have a few memories of Moynihan, who was senator from New York (my home state) from 1977 to 2001. He seemed to have a clearer insight into problems than other politicians, and he wasn't afraid to depart from the party line. In that vein, he raised concerns about welfare and its effect in breaking down black families. He was decades ahead of others with that insight (though it doesn't tell the whole story of family breakdown).

I know I can't rely on my memory to answer the question of whether Moynihan was a neocon, so I went to my constant friend Google. It brought me to another fascinating article about Moynihan's long history in politics. The article contains a hint that perhaps Moynihan was a neocon:
"He had predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union as early as 1979 (all those years spent studying ethnic conflicts and failed economic development projects were not in vain). As the Berlin Wall came down, he began to rethink the world in the most sweeping terms. He decided that that moment was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish global rule of law. Needless to say, that project didn’t come to anything. But his letters on the subject still make for fascinating reading."
Luckily, he couldn't have been full neocon because he voted against authorization of the first Gulf War. Perhaps he could be classified as a social neocon since he voted for outlawing partial-birth abortions (more properly called dilation and extraction abortions). But his voting record is quite mixed--against welfare reform (strangely), against the Defense of Marriage Act--so he doesn't seem like a social conservative either.

The upshot is that it seems a stretch to define Moynihan as a neocon. Phew, that's a relief!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Short: Can Jeb win the GOP nomination?

According to most conservatives expressing an opinion (on the online forums I read), NOOOOO! For a more accurate assessment of his chances, read this from 538. Jeb is slightly more moderate than Romney, but he's also more outspoken on his moderate positions. Current estimates for his chances of being the GOP nominee: 20-25%.


Monday, December 15, 2014

The theory that white southerners are still racist

There is a common meme that the white southern racists left the Democratic Party and joined the GOP. It's one that I believed until recently. It goes something like this:After Reconstruction the whites in the southern states shut blacks out of voting. The whites all joined the Democratic Party out of anger with Lincoln and his Republicans. When the coalition between national Democrats and southern Democrats started breaking down in the 40's, the southern Democrats started leaving the Democratic Party. Eventually, they migrated to the Republican Party, encouraged by Nixon's southern strategy and GOP talk of states' rights and welfare abuse.

The theory sounded plausible to me, and it has a lot of evidence behind it. I remember the southern strategy, the GOP talking points, the Lee Atwater quote that you can't say 'nigger, nigger, nigger' anymore. This post lists a lot more evidence, going era by era. However, the last data point is the Willie Horton ad of 1988. That's 26 years ago. Everything else in the post is interpolation:
"...they are the party where white racists are welcome, where 'Barack the Magic Negro' is funny, and people email each other photos of Obama with a bone through his nose..."
I doubt that overt white racists are welcome in the GOP. Overtly racist statements aren't. As for tasteless jokes spread by email, all political parties have that, I'm guessing. I prefer individual accountability (name and shame) to across-the-board generalizations.

It's very difficult for me to believe that all GOPers or even most harbor racist attitudes. The idea of the inherent superiority of the white race has been so discredited in these days of Barack Obama, Colin Powell, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Who still believes it's correct to keep blacks in their place? Nobody I know.

So the question has moved to covert racism. Those charges are easy to make, and impossible to prove or disprove. So, what are some of these charges based on? In this post, the author talks about the assumption among southern whites that all other southern whites detest Obama, so it's completely safe to "blithely say hateful and racist stuff about Barack Obama" to any white southerner.

Is this racism, or is it dislike of Obama for political reasons? There are reasons in abundance for conservatives to detest Obama: huge deficits, spending tilted toward poverty programs ("dependence"), the blocking of budget cuts, creation of an expensive new federal health program, repudiation of activist foreign policy. support of marriage equality, etc. Why assume it's racism? If a person is generally saying racist things, then the assumption makes sense. Otherwise, though, you can apply Occam's razor and assume the dislike is due to differences over political policies. This approach also avoids virulent anger from GOPers who are labeled as racist, and very much resent it. Who doesn't resent unfair labeling? Not just blacks and liberals.


Extras. Is the conservative distaste for poverty programs due to racism? Maybe yes for some. However, is all distaste for poverty programs due to racism? I hope not, because I'm ambivalent in supporting poverty programs. I worry a lot about dependence and the sapping of the work ethic.

As for whites in southern states becoming almost all Republican, it's partly due to their gradual migration from traditionally being Democrats. It's also due to voters aligning with parties that reflect their principles. Southerners tend to be more conservative (and more evangelical), so it only makes sense for them to migrate to the GOP.

Update 1/13/15. A House GOP leader, Steve Scalise, spoke in 2002 to a group aligned with David Duke, a Louisiana white supremacist. Does that show Scalise is a racist, or just a conservative hunting for votes? Try proving it one way or the other.

The pro-torture political party of America

It's disgusting that we have one party in this country that seems to be in favor of torture, despite our constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments and our commitment to the Geneva Convention. Well, it's hard to say how committed some conservatives are to the Geneva Convention since it's obviously foreign.

We also have one party that's against torture, which is the Democratic Party.

This is ridiculous. I can't believe that we have people who are gung-ho on torture. I guess it's been too long since World War II and the horror of the Nazi and Japanese death camps. Someone needs to remind the Republicans of what torture is and why it's immoral.

The stranger part is that there's a partisan divide. It seems as though most people just follow their party's line. Do devout religious people who are Republicans support torture? I suppose some do, if Sarah Palin is to be believed.

Jonathan Bernstein, one of my favorite bloggers, is deeply worried about this partisan divide. He's afraid the GOP will permanently become the 'torture' party. Whenever a GOP president is in the White House, he'll issue an executive order allowing torture just like all GOP presidents have issued changes on birth control and abortion in US-funded foreign aid programs. So a change of party will bring back the torture protocols or suspend them, just like changing the curtains in a house.

I hope JB is wrong, and that the next GOP president doesn't do that. After all, we've managed without torture for 6 years now, so maybe we won't need to torture under the next president either. But I'm worried. Very few Republicans have joined John McCain in denouncing torture. Instead, they've lined up to denounce Democrats for being unAmerican in talking about it. Their argument seems to be:
  1. It's not torture. It's perfectly legal 'enhanced interrogation.'
  2. Talking about it exposes the US to unfair and untrue charges that hurt our reputation.
  3. How dare you care about terrorists more than our soldiers and citizens who might be targeted by foreigners who are angry about this. 
  4. We have to do this, but we also have to keep it quiet. 
  5. Correction. Republicans can talk about it proudly, but dissenters have to keep quiet.
I remember a simple rule of thumb for whether something is torture: if you don't want it done to American POWs, it's torture. If you can countenance our enemies (Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, Stalin) doing it to our guys (including you or your adult children in military service), then it's not torture. Somehow, I don't think these GOP supporters would be volunteering for being chained to a ceiling or a nice long session of waterboarding . . .  minus the safe word, of course.


Extras. So many. Background article on the torture report by the Senate committee headed by Dianne Feinstein. The irony of Dick Cheney saying that the torture report is deeply flawed because the committee didn't interview CIA operatives. The irony is that the architect of this repugnant policy would claim a report is deeply flawed.

Jonathan Chait (excellent writer, generally good arguments) reams the GOP for their hypocrisy on evil. An examination of a flaw in the report--of course the president knew about the torture. The strategy of torture-defenders. John Brennan, current head of the CIA, not denying pretty much everything in the report--watch the whole video. Yep, the CIA tortured interrogated with enhanced methods that they aren't using anymore.

WaPo on the importance of keeping a taboo on torture. Oops, this wasn't an anomaly: our history of being torture instructors to Latin America. A convincing article against torture in The Economist that I read years ago but still remember. An even better quote from another article:
"The most relevant case is Israel, where the ticking-bomb rationale has been used to justify the 'physical coercion'...  This practice has never been explicitly legalised, but received something close to legal sanction after a commission headed by a former [Israeli] Supreme Court justice recommended in 1987 that 'moderate physical pressure' in interrogations should be allowed after psychological pressure had failed. For years after that, the Israeli Supreme Court declined to take torture cases. But the abuse of Palestinian prisoners became so widespread, and so routine, that in 1999 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the coercive methods employed by Shin Bet, the security service, were illegal. Nevertheless, according to human-rights groups, the regular torture of Palestinian detainees has continued."
When you start to torture, it spreads beyond the limited cases where it might be justified. This is true among the British questioning IRA suspects, among the Israelis, and among the US intelligence services. Where hasn't this happened? This was the most compelling argument I found against torture, no matter how awful the prisoner is. It seems to be a guaranteed slippery slope to practices that any moral person would find repugnant.

Update 12/20/14. Here are some conservatives who care about torture. They are also very religiously-minded. I'm glad to find them.

Update 1/29/15. The CIA knew it was going to be breaking laws against torture, and asked for immunity from prosecution. This was before the weasly torture memos.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Short: Interesting discipline for internet threats

I assume that most people have heard that female game reviewers are intimidated by male gamers. This being electronic and internet-related, of course the gamers are amazingly uncivil. The insult of choice is to threaten to rape the female reviewer.

Now one of these reviewers has a great response. She contacts the mothers of these internet thugs, and let's them know what their little darlings have written. I hope it's not too late for these gamers to change--most are 10-15 years old. Let's hope this works.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

My bias regarding police

I tend to be biased toward believing a police officer's account in a controversy. However that doesn't mean my bias is rigid--I absolutely know that there are rotten, lying, prejudiced cops who shouldn't be believed. So I make sure to be alert to inconsistencies in a cop's story.

I got to observe my bias at work with the Ferguson shooting. My guesses about what had happened went back and forth, showing the interplay of my biases and the weight of evidence. Here's the account of how my thinking evolved.


At first, the witness's story seemed logical and consistent. A cop got pissed off at the two young men, provoked an argument, grabbed one of them, and then shot him dead. It's certainly possible.

However, this witness (Dorian Johnson) was soon discredited. Video showed that he and Michael Brown were at a store where they allegedly stole some cigars and Brown pushed and intimidated a clerk. From the video, you can't tell either the cigars were stolen or not, but the pushing and lunging are clear enough.

Also, in the meantime, the cop's background was reported as being clean--no prior issues with excessive force. A clean record isn't what I'd expect from a cop who had a bad enough temper to shoot an innocent person on purpose. But a record can be misleading. Perhaps the cop had always managed to avoid disciplinary measures while still being aggressive. This 'fact' is not as convincing as the video.

With these two new 'facts' to mull over, I revised my initial opinion. It now seemed likely that Brown was very much at fault. He had just committed a crime. The witness's story that the cop grabbed Brown was dubious, and instead it seemed likely that Brown grabbed the cop.

At this point, my usual bias toward believing the cop was supported by evidence, or it seemed that way to me. I was still gathering information and evaluating the testimony of the witnesses who went public. I was waiting for photos showing any wounds the cop (Darren Wilson) might have received. I was also waiting to hear what the autopsy showed. This evidence took a long time to arrive and is still subject to dispute. The conclusions of the county medical examiner don't completely match the conclusion of the medical examiner hired by Brown's family.


So did the 'facts' depart from what I expected at all? Yes, and that's where I learned something new. The people of Ferguson had a particular reason to be angry. They were being plagued with punitive fines and enforcement aimed at extracting as much money as possible (more details here).

Of course, the burden of excessive fines doesn't excuse theft or assaulting an officer, but it explains some of the response. Nonetheless, most of the response is due to bigger issues such as the history of police aggression against minorities and cultural clashes between law enforcement and a 'no-snitching' ethos in black communities. I wish there was a giant reset button we could push that would erase the historical animosity and let people start fresh. But there isn't, so we are doomed to reinforce our biases unless we actively work against them.


Update 12/8/14. I recant what I said about the 'giant reset button.' That disrespects the legitimate and deeply-felt grievances minorities have. There is no wiping the slate clean. Instead, there should be amends, trust-building, and reconciliation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Declining GDP, declining population

Japan has been mired in recession for maybe two decades now. The government has tried to spend its way out with major infrastructure stimulus, but to no avail. It's ironic, but perhaps this comment is the best diagnosis that I've read:
The reason Japan has had no economic growth over the past 20 years has nothing at all to do with the Bank of Japan and everything to do with its aging and declining population. All the monetary tinkering can't generate increases in aggregate demand in the face of decreases in aggregate human activity and population.
It's not surprising if Europe is facing this. Maybe the US is facing it too, but not yet. Maybe most countries will be facing it in time.

However, this isn't the worst thing that could happen--that growth slows to a pittance and we end up in a steady state. Endless population growth and population pressure seem much more frightening to me. But perhaps that's just a prejudice of mine--preferring a leveling off or decline in population to increasing population.  However, I think it's more than just a preference. I have to wonder whether the Japanese are suffering from their population and productivity decline, and compare that with places where overpopulation is a problem. When I look at Japan versus Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Nigeria, and others, I see much less suffering in Japan. In countries with high population growth, I see a lot of current suffering and a bleak future.

Instead of fearing slowing growth, we should be figuring out how to manage it for the best outcome possible. But even without the best management, we're better off than if we were among the 40% (and growing) number of unemployed in Kenya.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Immigration reform is a massive hot potato

How much immigration reform have we had in the last 30 years? Aside from the amnesty in 1986, we haven't had much. And since then, we've had roughly one million per year of legal immigrants and large numbers of illegal immigrants.

Our policy ... and our real policy

Our de facto national policy has been to tolerate illegal immigration. There are been very few sanctions against employers of illegal immigrants, or landlords, or merchants who sell to illegal immigrants. Schools are required to teach children who are illegal immigrants, and hospitals are required to treat them. Considering this, it's not surprising that illegal immigrants numbers have grown in the country.

The lure is pretty clearly jobs and a better life in the US. Wages are lower in Latin America; crime and corruption are higher. Of course the US will be a magnet. Yet we haven't changed our policies to counteract those forces that draw immigrants here. Why not? Well, just take a look at who benefits from illegal immigration.

Pros and Cons

Different groups have different reasons for supporting illegal immigration. Humanitarian groups see the conditions the immigrants are fleeing, and they are sympathetic to their plight. I'm pretty sure this is reasonable, up to a point. Businesses like hard workers who can't or won't demand higher pay--it's good for their profit margins. This is less defensible. However, if your competition is hiring illegal immigrants and paying less, you may have to do the same or shutter your business. Businesses also benefit from a larger consumer base, and they won't complain about that. Democrats like illegal immigrants because supporters/allies of illegal immigrants also generally support of most of the Democratic agenda--social spending, cultural diversity,  . . . and voting Democratic, naturally.

Actually, it sounds like everyone should like illegal immigration. I must have neglected the downside. Let's see . . . it costs extra to educate them, provide medical care, jail them, enforce laws, etc. They are stiff competition for desirable jobs. Some people dislike that they are Latino (or Asian or black) rather than European stock like the majority of the country, but I strongly disagree with that as a valid reason.

So with a bunch reasons to support illegal immigration and also a bunch of reasons to be against it, it's no wonder that we haven't controlled the level of illegal immigration that well.

The Unspoken Reason for Allowing Illegal Immigration

I think I forgot to mention another major reason to support illegal immigration: it helps prevent wage and price inflation. For some economists and a bunch of politicians, that is a major reason to tacitly support it. Inflation is quite the bogeyman, but if you can prevent it, you can have all sorts of wonderful growth numbers that make you look like a shining success. You can have growth in housing (built for less using illegal immigrant labor), growth in jobs, growth in GDP, growth in tax revenue--all these good things without the growth in costs. You don't have to give the economy a dose of that nasty anti-inflation medicine of raising interest rates to prevent overheating.

Yes, this is the biggest reason that we haven't exercised control over the level of illegal immigration. It's because the economy as a whole benefited in the short term. It's too bad that it was actually a bubble, and had to pop sometime. Now, we have over 11 million illegal immigrants, most of whom are working, are integrated into our economy and communities, and many of whom have American-born or naturalized family members. How are we going to disentangle this situation?

Incomplete Solutions

I don't see a good solution. Much of the GOP (except for the businesses that benefit and the economists who like very low inflation) don't really have a solution to offer. Some GOP-led states have tried to make employment and renting difficult for illegal immigrants, forcing them to move to other states or go back to their home countries. (I wonder how they go home. Do they have passports in order to board planes and cross borders? I don't know.)

I don't think that this squeezing has actually worked, though it seems like it should. There is certainly a lot of resistance to these tactics. It's not a humanitarian course--making life so inhospitable that people give up and go home even though the home country is a wreck. You've not only angered the illegal immigrants, you've also angered all their supporters. And, those state laws have been mired in the courts, so they haven't had a noticeable effect.

The GOP also says that it wants much tighter border security. I've read that the border is so wide open that anyone can cross. I doubt this, but I'm not close to any border, so I don't know if it's true or not. Border security sounds reasonable, but it's limited in its effectiveness. Many illegal immigrants come to the US in legal ways--on visitor or student visas, and then stay on. Border security isn't going to do anything about that. I seriously wonder how much improvement can be made. Should we erect walls like Israel has? We haven't even started the discussion and assessment to make a cost-conscious decision on this.

I don't hear the GOP talking as much about putting the screws on employers so they won't hire illegal immigrants. This should be part of their proposal, except that it antagonizes businesses, who are necessary GOP allies. That's yet another case of political necessity trumping principle.

The Democratic proposals are even weaker. Most Democrats want amnesty for illegal immigrants and a path to citizenship (and voting for Dems in elections). They don't say much about preventing further illegal immigration.


I don't have a good proposal myself. I lean towards deportation, but that may be economically disruptive and it's a humanitarian nightmare. Is there a way to legalize the good illegal immigrants, send the marginal ones back, and then cut off the flow in the future? That's what I'd like, but I don't know how to accomplish that. So I'd appoint a bipartisan commission, have them study the issues and make recommendations. And unlike other times with other commissions, I'd actually listen very carefully to what they recommend. That's how I'd handle this hot potato--give it to people who are smarter than me.

Do you want to know what's the most ironic thing here? Both sides say they want 'comprehensive immigration reform.' HAHAHAHAHA. Yeah, right. That's why we've had so much progress in the last 28 years.


Extras and sources. Watered down employer sanctions and other problems in the 1986 reform. Texas is still not ready to hold employers accountable. Anti-immigrant site with its take. Does the announcement on immigration fall under the mantle of legitimate discretion? It's not lawless, according to a conservative legal scholar. What can the GOP actually do about Obama's plan? A history of the recent promises of immigration reform.