By Mason Krohn
For most of the FDA researchers at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, May 3, 2017 was a somewhat uneventful day — except for those who kept their eyes peeled on the campus televisions. Alas, as a leaked email from the department reveals, the Trump administration instructed the department to lock every screen in the building on the Fox News channel. The lack of remotes and plethora of Laura Ingrahams yelling into the halls of the FDA may seem inconsequential, but, in truth, the gesture symbolizes the growing conservative tilt within health agencies under the Trump administration. As RPR contributor Injae Lee investigated, within his first year in office, Trump banned words including “evidence-based”, “fetus”, and “transgender” from CDC reports. Furthermore, in surveys conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 32 percent of FDA staff and 48 percent of CDC workers reported that the consideration of political interests at the agencies hinder science-based decision making. The Trump administration has even gone so far as to terminate federal recognition of trans identities by commanding the Department of Health and Human Services to alter the definition of gender under Title IX. In all cases, it appears that the federal government is chipping away at the research and study of LGBTQ+ issues through politicized attacks. However, these curtailments of governmental science are minor when compared to the slow and silent persecution of transgender communities perpetuated by the FDA, the healthcare system, and the pharmaceutical market in the form of injectable estrogen shortages.
For trans women, high doses of injectable estrogen are necessary to achieve desired feminine characteristics such as curvy hips, breasts, thinning face and hair growth. Though medical intervention is not necessary to be considered trans, a great amount of trans people opt for hormone therapy as a life-saving tool to alleviate their gender dysphoria. Researchers note that, for many patients, sex reassignment therapy (including hormone therapy) contributes to significant reductions in anxiety, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, hostility, and overall psychoneurotic distress. Any reduction in these symptoms is vital for members of the trans community in America, which faces a suicide rate 26 times the national average as reported by the largest survey of trans Americans to date. As renowned actress of Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox, eloquently remarked, “Healthcare for trans women is a necessity. It is not elective. It is not cosmetic. It is life saving.”
Regardless of the evident cruciality of trans medical access, the path to hormone therapy is strenuous.Trans women seeking estrogen injections must first seek out a provider to write out a prescription. It seems like a simple task, but for trans women, this procedure is laden with barriers. First of all, 31 percent of transgender Americans lack regular access to health care. Discrepancies in access stem from stigma and ignorance from healthcare professionals; in fact, 22 percent of transgender people report avoiding doctors for fear of discrimination, which is of particular concern for sexual minorities in rural areas. Under the Church Amendments passed by Congress in the 1970s, medical practitioners in the United States reserve the right to reject any patients if the service contradicts their religion. Hence, even if trans women can overcome the fear of stigma, many doctors can turn them away out of hostility or sometimes out of pure lack of experience with trans patients. After all, in a Stanford University School of Medicine report, only 40 out of 132 U.S. and Canadian medical schools included content on gender transition in their curricula. Ultimately, stigma, inexperience, and legal discrimination have driven transgender patients away from medical spaces.
After jumping through the many hoops of trans primary care, severe shortages of injectable estrogen compound the difficulties of hormone therapy. Presently, a duopoly controls the market for injectable estrogen, leaving trans women with Delestrogen (a product of Par Pharmaceuticals) or Estradiol Valerate (a generic manufactured by Perrigo). A shortage of both substances commenced in July of 2016 and endured until June 12, 2017, but the only reasoning listed by the FDA was “shortage of an inactive ingredient component” for Estradiol Valerate and “other” for Delestrogen”. When the 2016 shortages took effect, Perrigo refused requests for comment by the Chicago Tribune, the Guardian, and Vice, offering no explanation for their withdrawal from the market. Par Pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, disclosed that when their supplier of Delestrogen’s main active ingredient pulled out, they had to alter their supply chain. By August 9, 2016 (within a month of the shortage commencing), Par representatives stated that thousands of Delestrogen vials were ready for sale. Nevertheless, Par had to await FDA approval of its new supplier before distributing the new Delestrogen. Therefore, the FDA is culpable for injectable estrogen shortages for over 10 months. It is understandable for the FDA to review the manufacturer for safety concerns, however, given the nature of the shortage, the FDA’s disregard for timeliness is more of an affront to the trans community than a sign of caution. Moreover, the FDA’s long winded scrutiny is suspicious given that there are 17 estrogen medications with approval from the FDA for cisgender menopausal women. Due to partial FDA incompetence and the lack of distributors in this field, trans women were left to suffer the consequences.
The question then arises: how did trans women who had been injecting high doses of estrogen last almost a year without any available supply? For some, the shortage entailed turning to the black market. Vendors on Deep Web marketplaces like Hansa and Valhalla link trans women to illicit producers largely based in India and the Philippines. Participating in these markets is dangerous, because hormones found there might be diluted or laced with harmful ingredients including but not limited to chalk and boric acid. Unfortunately, the only alternatives to the black market are estrogen pills or patches. Pills are less effective than injectable estrogen vials, come in lower doses than necessary, and pose the risk of blood clots. Patches are prohibitively expensive and are just as ineffectual as pills. At the end of the day, the shortage left trans women vulnerable and cut back on the progress many of them achieved with hormonal therapy.
Even though the combined shortage of Delestrogen and Estradiol Valerate concluded last year, the supply of injectable estrogen is still broadly sporadic and inaccessible. The cheaper generic, Estradiol Valerate, has repeatedly gone out of stock; in fact, the FDA currently lists the drug as “in shortage”. Hence, trans women’s only option is the name brand version, which is often outside of their budgetary restraints. Even then, Delestrogen tends to only be available in urban areas with steady demand, including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. For Par Pharmaceuticals, there is little incentive to keep a supply in rural pharmacies, given that the trans community is only 0.6% of the US population and many trans Americans move to urban areas. Since Par faces little competition in the field, it can single-handedly decide the fate of trans citizens seeking hormone therapy by deciding price and distribution of the product.
So long as market barriers remain steep, no trans woman can count on the ready availability of the next prescription of estrogen. Without this access, issues of gender dysphoria and outrageously high suicide rates that are already alarming will proliferate in the trans community. Put simply, a quintessential treatment has been withheld from a disadvantaged group. It ultimately prompts the question: would trans women still face this reality if, instead of Fox News clamors, it was their painful stories that reverberated through the halls of the FDA?
by Mason Krohn
This year’s breakout romantic comedy, Crazy Rich Asians, depicts the upper echelons of Singapore with imagery of immense fortune and extravagance. For the most part, their portrayal of the Singaporean elite is true to the country’s density of wealth and billionaires. In fact, one in 34 people in Singapore are millionaires, making the miniscule Southeast Asian nation the sixth most millionaire-dense country in the world. Many credit this preeminence to factors that attract wealthy immigrants including Singapore’s low tax rate and well-regulated banking system. Yet, for all their luxury, 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing, a policy typically utilized to serve low-income populations in the US. From the American standpoint, it is unusual that this program exists in the land of millionaires when affordable housing is an indicator of the stark inequality in the United States. Alas, the proliferation of government-built domiciles in Singapore is a product of efficient governance, and it has become a tool by which the state engineers social policy.
The climb of public housing began directly after Singapore’s independence from British rule. In 1959, just two years after Malaysia gained freedom from the United Kingdom, only 9% of Singaporeans resided in public housing. In 1960, the state formed its Housing & Development Board (HDB), which was originally intended to house poor residents, but eventually shifted to supply homes to the masses. The Bukit Ho Swee Fire in 1961, which burned down a squatter settlement and left 16,000 homeless, was the impetus for widespread support for housing initiatives. The government responded quickly to the housing crisis by completely rehousing all of the victims within a year. By 1965, the HDB constructed more than 51,000 apartments, thereby providing housing for a fourth of the country’s population. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s prime minister from 1959 to 1990, heralded the HDB’s initiatives and led the way for the nation’s housing expansion. The government steadily acquired an increasing amount of property to support its developments, and it now holds 90% of Singapore’s territory. Alongside gargantuan subsidies totalling S$1.19 billion in 2017, HDB lures homeowners by allowing them to pay for housing with the Central Provident Fund, which is a mandatory savings plan wherein working Singaporeans must set aside a portion of their salary for retirement, home ownership, insurance, and education costs. The planning and administrative work that allows the HDB’s programs to function epitomizes Singapore’s effective policy, but the feat of housing the majority of the population is not the only quality that sets this program apart; it is also their orchestration of deciding who lives where that makes Singapore seem like science fiction.
Early in Singapore’s existence as an independent nation, racial tension was at its peak. Under the colonial system, communities were largely segregated by ethnicity, leading to many clashes between the Chinese majority and Malay minority. On July 21, 1964, a racial dispute devolved into rioting when a procession of 20,000 Malay Muslims gathered to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Chinese agitators interrupted the celebration, causing widespread violence. Post-independence Singapore sought to reframe their societal structures by prioritizing multiculturalism, thereby dissuading racial conflict. S. Rajartnam, Minister for Culture from 1959 to 1965 stated that “we start with the irrefutable proposition that the alternative to multi-racialism… is genocide in varying degrees.” The HDB was the frontrunner in designing and enforcing this proposed multiculturalism with its Ethnic Integration Policy. Simply put, Singapore categorizes its ethnic makeup into four primary groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Others. Within public housing units, the HDB attempts to model the racial makeup of the entire country by establishing quotas for the amount of each ethnic group for every neighborhood. Consequently, every community is a racial microcosm of the country as a whole, eliminating what Singapore’s government sees as potentially harmful ethnic enclaves. Singaporeans still have a choice in the level of quality of their abodes, since they apply for different classes of housing. However, they must apply for housing through the HDB, submitting to their racial sorting. The question becomes: does the HDB overstep its boundaries by controlling this aspect of Singaporeans lives? They justify that “a culture is formed not through piecemeal incidents, but through regular encounters and interactions.” Yet, what remains of the cultures of communities with common ethnicities?
City planners and sociologists have long debated the preservation or dissolution of racial enclaves, but a variance in research has resulted in opposing conclusions. There are two frameworks to evaluate the effectiveness of racial distributions: economic success of communities and social flourishment. In regards to economic achievement, New York’s Chinatown serves as an example in favor of enclaves. The neighborhood benefits from an interconnected economy in which money circulates and multiplies, attributing to reinvestment patterns that lower unemployment. Nevertheless, the enclave of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles presents lower wages for immigrants than those who leave the city, pointing to competition in common laboral fields. In regards to social cohesion, Singapore credits the reduction of racial violence to forced integration that maximizes interaction, but their claim is difficult to substantiate. On the other hand, enclaves have produced some of the most profound cultural blossomings in history; take, for example, the Harlem Renaissance. In the end, social policy is predominantly guesswork, but the HDB remains steadfast in its belief that Singapore’s public housing structure is the future for the developed world.
Born out of widespread violence and disastrous shortages, Singapore’s public housing now proves to be one of the most astounding metropolitan projects in the world. It remains unclear whether or not other nations can replicate this infrastructure and its associated racial quotas or even should try for these policies. However, the world is watching as the HDB builds into the sky, and Singapore crafts a crazy rich, multicultural, and harmonious society.
By Mason Krohn
To say that President Donald Trump has been ungrateful for the support of American farmers would be an understatement. At the American Farm Bureau Annual Convention, he remarked, “Oh, are you happy you voted for me. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.” But despite our New York native President’s ingenuine response to agricultural support, his campaign inspired farmers and captured 55 percent of their support (compared to Clinton’s 18 percent) in the 2016 election. Yet, in the midst of an escalating trade war initiated by the United States, Trump’s policy and impassioned rhetoric has touched upon the anxieties of American farmers. Firing back at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump tweeted that “Canada has treated our Agricultural business and Farmers very poorly for a very long period of time.” However, after enacting tariffs on dozens of EU nations, Mexico, Canada, and China, Trump has simultaneously set profits on farm goods spiraling. The question, then, arises: were farmers lucky to have voted Donald Trump into office?
Despite comprising just 1.5 percent of the American workforce, farmers wield tremendous voting power. For Republicans and Democrats alike, this demographic finds political prestige in its rural presence. Numerically, rural Americans have greater representation than the average citizen. In fact, states containing just 17 percent of the American population can elect a Senate majority, and at the state level, bills preferred by urban delegations are far more likely to be rejected. The farm vote is even more pertinent in terms of the 2018 midterm elections, where farmers targeted by Mexican tariffs populate congressional districts that could lose their Republican seats. In addition to their powerful voting force, farmers have a strong lobbying arm tied to the Farm Bureau, which spent over $3 million for lobbying efforts last year. Evidently, Donald Trump and the Republican party owe much of their dominance in the federal government to agricultural votes. On that same token, pursuing farmers’ votes ought to be a chief goal for any successful campaign in upcoming elections.
Given President Trump’s recent prerogatives, however, the Executive Branch is not meeting the needs of its farming constituents. The predominant issue is trade. Principally, President Trump’s instigation of a trade war with China (and later a plethora of US allies) was poorly timed. Prior to Trump’s announcement of the first set of steel tariffs in March, federal data projected that, this year, farm incomes would hit their lowest point since 2006. Meanwhile, borrowing costs for agriculturalists are rising and foreign rivals like Russia and Brazil are beginning to damage America’s dominance in the global grain trade. Hence, placing metal tariffs on Mexico and Canada (who import $39bn in US agricultural goods), China ($20bn), and the EU ($12bn)--all of which have promised retaliatory tariffs aimed at American farmers--puts a damper on an already sluggish agricultural sector. For some producers in the pork industry, trade barriers are already taking a hit; but, even more worrisome, greater than 14 percent of $140 billion in annual U.S. farm exports have been or will likely be hit by retaliatory tariffs in trade disputes with major international buyers China and Mexico. Even if President Trump’s The Art of the Deal skills shine through and retaliatory tariffs are dissuaded while providing the US with a fairer stance in global trade, farmers will still miss out. That’s because uncertainty about US trade restrictions has led international buyers to turn towards other suppliers. In the first week of April, Chinese buyers ordered about 255,000 metric tons of U.S. soybeans, but sales for the rest of the month totaled just 11,000 metric tons. Further, 76,000 metric tons’ worth of orders were canceled over that same time period. For countries like Brazil, this doubt provides a viable opportunity for their farmers to expand their hold in international markets, and supplant American suppliers to China. Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) is pushing for legislation to restrain Trump’s powers to restrict trade, but unless his actions create immediate results, it will be too late to fix the devastating consequences of tariffs compounded with agricultural decline.
Smiling before Twitter this week, Enrique Pena Nieto celebrated the announcement of North America’s joint hosting of World Cup 2026, proclaiming, “we’re deeply unified”. Perhaps Enrique Pena Nieto is either really good at facades or truly loves soccer, because in the wake of Trump’s abusive tariffs on Mexico, NAFTA countries are far from unified. Trump’s war of words with Mexico has toxified US-Mexico relations since his campaign, but alongside his action on trade, Trump is now pushing his immigration agenda, producing inopportune outcomes for American agriculture. Trump’s rally against immigrants he sees as “Drug dealers, criminals, rapists” from “shithole countries” first came into fruition through his termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA’s downfall put 800,000 immigrants’ legal status in the US at risk. From there, Trump called for 4,000 members of the National Guard to join the border patrol in April. Recently, Trump’s border policy took an even more inhumane turn when his administration began separating children from their parents at the border. The Deputy Chief of the Operations Program for Customs and Border Protection reported to Congress that 658 children were split from their parents in just two weeks of May. Beyond the Mexican-American border, Trump disrupted immigration precedent by ending Temporary Protected Status for 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans who have resided in the US for decades. Trump’s immense changes to immigration policy are tearing apart families, dangerously sending immigrants back to their home countries, and, surprisingly, damaging American farmers. While the farming population is traditionally conservative, Trump’s strict immigration policies profoundly disservice their sector. American agricultural necessitates the flow of foreign workers into the country since more than half of farm laborers are undocumented. Critics of open borders would argue that native-born American citizens can fulfill this shortage, but precedent says otherwise: A 2013 study of North Carolina’s agricultural labor market by economist Michael Clemens concluded that even in recessions, Americans are unwilling to uptake manual farm occupations. From 2007 to 2010, unemployment rose by 6.2% in the state, but there was no correlation between the rising unemployment rate and referrals to farm work nor the starting of farm jobs by native North Carolinians. In 2011, just seven native workers completed the growing season (occupying 0.1% of all open farm jobs). Moreover, in 2017, the losses from unharvested crops because of labor shortages numbered in the billions. Trump’s immigration policy isn’t only dehumanizing--it’s taking a toll on American farmers, the very people who took to the voting booths for him.
Luckily, Congress is making an effort to minimize the impacts of Trump’s chaotic policies. As aforementioned, Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) hopes that his legislation to require congressional approval when the president enacts tariffs under the veil of national security will limit agricultural hardship. Simultaneously, the Legislative Branch is looking to pass a new farm bill. Every five years, Congress is tasked with renewing the omnibus bill which encompasses agricultural subsidies and food assistance programs. Its passage is quintessential for American farms and decisions made during its legislative process tremendously impact our economy. With the current farm bill expiring in September 2018, Congress is running out of time to introduce and pass new legislation. In May, the House Farm Bill was rejected primarily because conservatives intertwined its fate with looming immigration decisions. The final vote was 198-213, with every Democrat in opposition and thirty Republicans belonging to the Freedom Caucus. On June 8th, a Senate committee released a second version of the bill entitled the the "Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018." The measure reaches across the aisle by leaving the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program unaltered, which is an inviting move for Democrats, many of whom denied the House bill because of its added work requirements for food stamps. On June 21st, the House passed its farm bill without a single Democrat vote. If the House Bill succeeds in the Senate, 400,000 households would lose SNAP benefits and thousands of students would lose access to free and reduced lunch. Regretfully, the House Bill also undercuts USDA conservation programs. Where the House Bill lacks, the bipartisan Senate Farm Bill makes strides for farmers. The Senate legislation provides high-speed internet for rural communities, supports new farmers entering the field, renews and expands conservation efforts, and, of utmost importance to many Democrats (which is crucial for passage in the Senate), it preserves SNAP work requirements. Although neither bill addresses major inequalities in agricultural subsidy distribution, the passage of the Senate Farm Bill would stabilize the agricultural industry in spite of Trump’s evolving trade policies. If senators and representatives alike hope to hold onto their positions in Congress during this upcoming midterm election, they have to voice the needs of their farming constituents and craft policy that heals the wounds the Trump administration inflicted.
The first set of Trump’s tariffs takes effect on July 6th. Until then, members of the Trump administration can pressure him to change his directive and Congress can scramble to reduce his authority. But, as farmers watch a presidential trade war devolve into economic downfall and strict immigration policies weaken their labor force, they will decide if they truly were privileged to vote for President Trump and side with the GOP. And, maybe, they will be privileged enough to vote him out of office.
By: Mason Krohn
After Rex Tillerson’s tweet-based firing in early March, Exxon Mobil’s command over international affairs seemed fleeting, especially for a company that once had its press releases copied verbatim in White House statements. Yet, the oil giant’s long-lasting sway over global conflict has proved itself unrelenting even in the face of Mr. Tillerson’s departure. Most notably, due to Exxon Mobil’s discovery of oil in the Caribbean sea, a century-long debacle over the true border between Venezuela and Guyana has reignited.
Dating back to 1831, Britain initiated the cartographic dispute by hiring Robert Schomburgk to survey their colonial territory in Guyana and set a westward border on their claim. Extending far into Venezuelan land, Britain approved the Schomburgk Line, gaining an additional 33,000 square miles for the colony. Rightfully upset with the expansion, Venezuela called on the United States to invoke the Monroe Doctrine and protect the independent Latin American nation from foreign influence. In 1895, US Secretary of State, Richard Olney demanded that Britain submit the dispute to international arbitration, receiving backing from President Grover Cleveland while rumors of war upon Britain circulated in US press coverage. To Venezuela’s dismay, even after Britain agreed to arbitration, the boundary committee ruled in favor of British Guyana, enforcing Schomburgk’s demarcation, despite Venezuela’s hopes that Britain colonial expansion would be curbed at the Essequibo River.
Unsurprisingly, the feud did not end at the turn of the 20th century. In 1941, one of the lawyers representing Venezuela in the late 1800s tribunal case, Severo Mallet-Prevost, published a memorandum that denounced the arbitrators’ decision as the result of a political deal between Great Britain and Russia. Citing Mallet-Prevost’s worries over corruption in the ruling, Venezuela declared the arbitral award “null and void”. To this day, Venezuela recognizes the termination of its eastern border at the Essequibo River, encapsulating two-thirds of Guyana’s territory in a disputed area.
Tensions subsided for the latter half of the century, but Exxon Mobil disrupted the order in South America by announcing the discovery of rich reserves directly off the coast of Guyana’s disputed land. Known as the Stabroek Block, an estimated 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil lie within the depths of Guyanese waters. Exxon has reported that its drilling will begin as early as 2020. Accordingly, after Exxon’s first discovery in 2015, officials in Caracas and Georgetown have been fighting for the profit from the reserves. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro labeled the Guyanese president a “hostage” to Exxon and cut off all rice purchases from Guyana. Meanwhile, Guyana’s Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge asked Google to remove all Spanish street names in Essequibo from its maps. Further provoking its neighbor, Venezuela has moved a significant troop presence eastward, garnering complaints from Guyanese business that are losing foreign investors because of Venezuela’s threats.
Seeking resolution, the United Nations proposed handing the decision to the International Court Of Justice. Guyana welcomed the plan, but Venezuelan officials rejected the ICJ, leaving them with few opportunities to assert their claim over Essequibo. Due to their limited approach diplomatically, Venezuela may turn to military force in order to retake their former territory. This February, Brazilian president Michel Temer approved a trip by his Defense Minister and Institutional Security Cabinet Chief to Guyana and Suriname for the stated purpose of approving border security. Brazilian paper O Antagonista challenged this profession, declaring in an unconfirmed report that the actual intention behind the trip was to share Brazilian intelligence about Venezuela’s consideration of an incursion into Guyana. The seizure would be unchallenging given Venezuela’s superior forces, and it offers two benefits to the struggling country. First, the incursion would delay a final decision by the ICJ, which would set the border in stone. Second, Maduro could use the occupation of Guyana as leverage with the United States while negotiating an amnesty plan for himself and members of his party. With tremendous food insecurity and hyperinflation, Venezuela also has a lot to lose if the international community has reason to employ heavier sanctions and take military action in defense of Guyana. As of now, invasion stands as a rumor, but the Venezuelan autocracy has repeatedly shocked the world with unpredictable measures, so there is no telling whether or not Guyana is safe in the near future.
Sadly, no matter the outcome of the Essequibo conflict, neither country has much to gain for its impoverished populace. A startling 35% of Guyanese citizens live below the poverty line, so receiving under $50 a barrel for the hundreds of thousands that could be extracted daily should paint a bright future for the nation of just 737,718 citizens. However, without a significant amount of engineers or developed industry, Guyana cannot capitalize on its own reserves. Likely, all of the refining will take place offshore while the oil is immediately sent to foreign markets. Consequently, the only way oil can improve Guyana is if its elected officials direct the tax revenue towards efforts that assist the people. Looking at past precedent, the Guyanese should not have faith in their government. After the discovery of diamonds and gold, Australian and Canadian firms boosted export earnings and contributed taxes to the nation, but small local-based firms smuggled the minerals abroad, evading taxation. Making matters worse, Guyanese politicians squandered the finite tax dollars on subsidies for state-owned sugar producers. Natural resources minister, Raphael Trotman, hopes to correct Guyana’s prior mistakes by signing on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and monitoring mineral revenues to prevent theft. However, his maneuver cannot account for a history of corruption nor the inefficiencies in Guyana’s polarized political atmosphere. The two major parties are divided along racial lines: the predominantly Afro-Guyanese People’s National Congress (PNCR) and the primarily Indo-Guyanese People’s Progressive Party. The PNCR, which has historically rigged elections, is in a standoff with the opposition over the appointment of a new head of the electoral commission. But, without resolution, the constitution enables presidential appointment, advancing even more corruption in favor of the PNCR. Coincidentally, the elections will coincide with Exxon’s planned initiation of extraction, so only ballots can tame the corruption of oil.
Venezuelans, the victims of repression and starvation, will not witness relief from seizure of the Essequibo. Venezuela already has the most proven crude oil reserves in the world (over 300 billion barrels), but as Chavez once did, Maduro has not invested in the necessary infrastructure to boost production. In fact, in 2016, Caracas imported 50,000 barrels of light crude oil just to prepare heavy crude oil for export. Moreover, Venezuela's aged tankers are prohibited from leaving ports by international maritime law, and because of a history of poor payments, the global marketplace is weary of selling modern tankers to the autocracy. The country will more than likely default on its $50 billion debt to China even with current reserves. Hence, the Essequibo venture has no payoff for everyday Venezuelan citizens who have been denied a voice and nutrition by their government.
No matter where Guyana’s border stands, at the end of the day, Venezuela is on the verge of collapse and Guyana’s economy is spiraling downward. As Exxon fuels the ever-growing threat that climate change poses to the world, only corporate America succeeds, albeit the emptied reserves at the mouth of the Essequibo River. Little did Robert Schomburgk know in 1831 that his fabricated demarcation would pit two Caribbean nations against each other while an oil giant would scour the resources of Guyana.
By Mason Krohn
Every year, approximately 900,000 Hispanics born in America reach voting age and America’s Hispanic population is forecasted to double by 2050. As a result, politicians across the nation are pining for Hispanic votes that are increasingly a deciding factor in the results of elections. Take, for instance, Scott Fistler, an Arizonan who ran for office as a Republican in Arizona’s Seventh Congressional District in 2012. After losing two campaigns, Fistler became a Democrat and renamed himself to Cesar Chavez (a Mexican-American labor rights activist), in the hopes of appealing to his district’s numerous Hispanic voters. In an interview with Arizona Republic, Chavez claimed, “People want a name that they can feel comfortable with.” Thankfully, Chavez lost in the race against two candidates, one of which marched for farmworker rights in the 1970s alongside the actual Cesar Chavez. Yet, Arizona’s tasteless candidate is not the only politician who gave Latino voters ill-suited hispandering, which linguist Ben Zimmer defines as, “political pandering by elected officials or candidates seeking to win over Hispanic voters,” in place of actual promises for change. Both candidates in the 2016 election attempted to use artificial gimmicks in order to relate to Hispanic audiences while ignoring the real issues affecting this prominent American minority group.
Hillary Clinton’s most blaring offense was an article her campaign team released entitled, “7 Ways Hillary Clinton Is Just Like Your Abuela.” The list included “She reacts this way when people le faltan el respeto” (lack respect) with a gif attached of Clinton looking unimpressed during her congressional testimony about Benghazi. Of course, Clinton’s campaign team was naive to believe that this list could capture the experience of every Latino-American’s relation with their abuela. Shortly after receiving criticism, the campaign team renamed the list to “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” and today the article is no longer on her website. But, the damage was already done, and Twitter erupted with #NotMyAbuela in tweets like “My Abuela came to this country with a 6th grade education and worked in favorites for 50 something cents to a Man's dollar” as well as “[Hillary] is ... #NotMyAbuela because I was separated by mine by many miles, and a militarized border.” At the end of the day, Clinton was out of touch to claim that, as a privileged white woman, her experience was equal to the struggle of abuelas in America. Perhaps the better call would have been for Clinton to publish more articles about the benefits of her immigration reform plans.
Behind Clinton’s staffers’ mistake, though, was a larger choice that influenced her campaign as a whole: the selection of Tim Kaine as running mate. Immediately after Clinton chose Kaine as her hopeful vice president, her campaign touted his fluency in Spanish through his introduction as her running mate to a crowd in Miami and an interview with Telemundo, all in the language he learned as a missionary in Honduras. However, since Clinton weighed Kaine’s linguistic skills as a factor placing him over potential Latino running mates like Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, it calls into question whether Kaine's proficiency in communication and work in Honduras qualifies him as a sufficient representative of the issues Latinos face. Chuck Rocha, the former senior adviser for Bernie Sanders (who many voters affectionately called “Tío Bernie”) and a third-generation Mexican-American, commented, “I was looking for a VP choice that showed my son that one day he could be president — not that he needs to work on his Spanish.” A poll by the Spanish-speaking network Univision supports Rocha’s view by finding that 68% of Hispanic voters say that the fact that a candidate might speak Spanish fluently will not influence their vote. In addition, many Latinos do not speak Spanish today as bilingualism fades into English for third or fourth generation citizens. The Pew Research Center found that 87 percent of U.S. born Latinos and 81 percent of registered voters believe the ability to speak Spanish is "not necessary to be considered Latino." All in all, Clinton misread the desires of Hispanic voters in regards to her running mate for the 2016 election.
Unlike Clinton’s occasional slip-ups in relating to Hispanic voters, current president Donald Trump distinctly alienated these voters with offensive Hispandering throughout his campaign. The prime example of Trump’s problematic message to Hispanic voters was his tweet on May 5, 2016 proclaiming, “Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!” After Trump posted the insensitive message alongside a picture of him smirking with his imitation of Hispanic cuisine, it became clear that Hispanics in no way loved him. The first clear issue is that not all Hispanics celebrate Cinco de Mayo, only Mexicans celebrating a victory in the Second French Intervention in Mexico, meaning 36.7 percent of Hispanics in the United States #cantrelate. Ironically, in 2017, Trump cancelled the annual White House Cinco de Mayo celebration, a 16-years-running tradition that Obama used to connect with members of the Hispanic community including Cabinet members, Latino celebrities and Mexican Embassy officials. Instead, he let Mike Pence hold a private event elsewhere with a limited guest list. Second, taco bowls are not authentic Mexican food, adding to the list of evidence that establishes Trump’s tweet as tone-deaf. Never mind the fact that, at the time, taco bowls were not served at the Trump Tower Grill and food critics considered the dish “passable at best, mediocre at worst.” Given the level of falsity and hypocrisy in Trump’s tweet, it raises the question whether Trump knew his post would actually garner backlash. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager and current suspect in the Russia investigation, reportedly warned Trump that the tweet may come off as condescending, nevertheless he failed to heed Manafort’s advice, and later insisted, “the people who were offended were people we wanted to offend.” Therefore, it appears that Trump utilized the tweet to distance America’s Hispanic population in order to closer align himself with his white voters. He hoped to stir the pot and anger Americans who clearly were not part of his voter base (he only gained 28% of the Latino vote). Furthermore, it would be close to impossible to persuade Hispanics already offended by his declaration of Mexicans as rapists and criminals, his forceful removal of Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos from a press conference (followed by him shouting “Go back to Univision”), and his claim that a Mexican-American judge should not rule on a lawsuit against him because of his race. In many ways, Trump behaved far worse than Clinton because he purposely belittled a part of the American population in order to gain closer ties with people that disrespect them.
On the other hand, because of Trump’s adoption of a confused definition of pandering, he has propagated discrimination. When asked about who the Trump campaign might choose for vice president, Manafort explained, “The campaign probably won’t choose a woman or a member of a minority group. In fact, that would be viewed as pandering, I think.” Thus, the Trump campaign promised a white male as their running mate, recruiting from just 31 percent of the American population, and that was what we got. Given that Manafort left his role in Trump’s campaign a month after VP selection, he stuck to his statement and influenced today’s leadership in the Executive Branch by excluding minority Americans in favor of a homophobe. What Trump and Manafort did not understand is that representation is not pandering. Having more minority members in office is exactly what disenfranchised Americans need, not pictures of taco bowls nor inauthentically parading a Colombian woman across a stage. In 2020, Trump might regret his marginalization of Latino voters and his failure to properly embrace minorities in his campaign, but in the meantime, America is left with a president that shoots paper towels at victims of Hurricane Maria.
In 2016, Hispanics deserved better. Hispanic-Americans account for 17% of our nation’s population and have a combined purchasing power equivalent to the 16th largest country, but they still face severe inequality in America. The median wealth of Hispanic households is 8 times smaller than that of white ones and 16.9% of Hispanics remain uninsured (more than twice the white uninsured rate). For undocumented Latinos, life is even worse. According to the Pew Research Center, 47% of Hispanic adults, regardless of their immigration status, say they worry “a lot” or “some” about deportation. The lack of resolution on the White House’s repeal on DACA provides even more fear for families that could be split apart. While Washington politicians attempt to sway Hispanic voters with inauthentic lists of comparison to their abuelas, Spanish-speaking running mates, taco bowls, and legal name changes to Cesar Chavez, they have yet to substantially deliver on the issues hurting Latinos in the United States. With a new year brings new elections, so in 2018, we will see if candidates will actually communicate with Hispanic voters or utilize the familiar meaningless tactics of 2016.
By Mason Krohn
“I want to say to the speaker, don't you fly over our country in your luxury jet and lecture us on what it means to be an American.” In 2010, Tom Price, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, made this criticism against Nancy Pelosi because of her use of a private jet to fly to DC from her state of California. Yet, last week, Price was forced to resign for doing the same thing, except with taxpayer dollars. Politco was the first to report on Price’s unjustified conduct by finding internal Health and Human Services documents revealing at least 24 separate flights that Price has taken to conduct HHS business in the past four months. Tom Price’s behavior called into question the privileges that the American government gives to its officials and the Trump administration itself.
Price’s reckless use of taxpayer money led to frustrations across the aisle. The cost of his 24 flights exceeded $1 million, but in order to make amends Price offered up just $50,000 to reimburse his seats on the charter and military planes. President Trump expressed a somewhat blasé view by claiming, “I'm not happy, I can tell you that. I'm not happy,” right before he took off for a weekend of golfing in Bedminster. Among the few sad to see Price go, Paul Ryan comended that “He was a leader in the House and a superb health secretary.” Most recently, Ryan asked the White House to reconsider Price’s removal. In addition, Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who attempted to dissolve the Affordable Care Act alongside Price, commented, “Secretary Price’s loss will be felt.” Despite these three takes on Price’s actions, the vast majority of America was happy to see Price out of office because of the plane scandal and other baggage he lugged around Washington D. C.
While Democrats are angry, even moreso Trump supporters saw his flights as a betrayal of Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp”, a euphemism for removing corrupt career politicians from Washington and replacing them with outsiders free from lobbying and self interests. Due to Price’s scandal, a plethora of investigations have launched against White House officials believed to be guilty for the same crime as Price-- racking up the government’s budget with exorbitant trips. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin used a government plane in August to fly to Kentucky with his wife for an optimal view of the total solar eclipse. When questioned about this violation, Mnuchin told NBC that, “It was approved by the White House and there were reasons why we needed to use that plane that are completely justifiable.” His Kentucky adventure does not stand alone as a sign of his corrupt usage of government property because Treasury investigators are also looking into his request to use a $25,000-per-hour military plane during his European honeymoon. In addition, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke used a charter airplane for multiple flights including a trip to give a speech in Las Vegas celebrating their new hockey team which racked up to $12,000. Finally, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA, joined the list by spending more than $58,000 on chartered and military flights. Right now, it is unclear whether these members of Trump’s cabinet will face consequences for their excursions or even if Trump will condemn them given his relative silence on Price’s misuse of government property. But, it can be certain that the American public’s anger will weave through these corrupt officials who essentially epitomize the “swamp”, and perhaps even Trump’s constant vacations to Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago will catch up to him.
Aside from the airplane trip scandal, through his years as a senator and the Secretary, Price was involved in numerous cases of corruption that predominantly surrounded the pharmaceutical industry. Accordingly, his absence in the Health and Human Services Department was celebrated by many advocates for medical reform. For instance, prior to taking office, Australian biotech firm Innate Immuno sold nearly $1 million in discounted shares to him and Representative Chris Collins. Price said he would sell the stock within 60 days of becoming a part of Trump’s cabinet, but already saw a 400% paper gain even before he took the position. Price had a history of being prone to medical and pharmaceutical corruption as a Representative in congress. Look no further than May of 2016, when Price purchased between $1,000 and $15,000 in stock in medical-device company Zimmer Biomet only 2 weeks before he introduced a bill to delay Medicare value-based purchasing rules that decreased payments to Zimmer Biomet. Then, later in 2016, that very same corporation’s political action branch donated $1,000 to Price. In a nation where Epipens cost upwards of $600 and an opioid epidemic kills thousands of citizens annually, seeing a man who pulled strings for corporations at the expense of American health leave office was relieving if not uplifting.
With an empty seat for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the next question is: who will be Price’s replacement and what will that mean for America? One possibility is that Tom Price’s successor will be Tom Price, because as aforementioned, Paul Ryan is pushing the White House to rehire Price to his position. However, given the Senate Democrat’s views of Price such as Chuck Schumer’s statement claiming, “The next HHS secretary must follow the law when it comes to the Affordable Care Act instead of trying to sabotage it,” Price’s confirmation would be unlikely. With Price out of the equation, the leading candidate for his position is Seema Verma, a former healthcare consultant who currently heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and at one point worked under Mike Pence in Indiana. Verma sees the Affordable Care Act as flawed, but despite her conservative opinions, she has worked to expand Medicaid in Indiana and crafted the Healthy Indiana Plan, which expanded health coverage in the state by about 40,000 people. Yet, Verma is willing to take out Obamacare policies and slash funding for Medicare and Medicaid, as evidenced by her work with Pence to lobby legislators towards passing the Graham-Cassidy bill. While Verma still opposes the ACA, she will swing the Department of Health and Human Services to a more centrist approach rather than the obstinate and antagonistic ideology that Price held.
While news of Price’s corrupt excursions outraged the American public, his hypocrisy may actually result in better leadership. The reveal of Price’s taxpayer-funded private jets launched a multitude of investigations of Trump’s cabinet that will not only increase government transparency, but set an example that deters future officials from abusing their power like Price did and Zinke and Mnuchin might have. Furthermore, Price’s exit provides for Seema Verma’s entrance which will harbor greater compromise on health care debates that have been unsuccessful because of partisanship. In the end, Price’s resignation was a win for Americans because he was right-- people who fly over our country in luxury jets (that American taxpayers have to pay for) cannot lecture us on what it means to be American, or dictate our health policy.
By: Mason Krohn
On December 9, 2015, French students celebrated a holiday unknown not only to the country's citizens but also to everyone in the world. France’s former president, François Hollande, announced it as the Day of Laïcité, or the National Day of Secularism. Hollande marked the 110th anniversary of the 1905 law that strictly established the separation of church and state. The unexpected celebration of the century-old decree came in the wake of the terror attacks that killed 17 Parisians at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper that poorly portrayed Islam, and Hyper Cacher, a kosher deli. Hollande’s improvised holiday was part of his ten-point plan to combat radicalization of youth by educating students about the importance of secularism.
In many ways, the roots of secularism in Europe are being misused to persecute the growing presence of Muslims in the continent. For instance, Marine Le Pen, the runner-up in France’s 2017 presidential election, campaigned on the idea that she was a defender of secularism and used laïcité to justify her proposed policy of banning headscarves and turbans in an effort to gain support from alt-right voters. Besides the misconstrual of church and state separation to propagate a form of discrimination, others argue that a rise in secularism has also benefitted Europe by removing corruption and bias from its government. Yet, while politicians raged on with debates on the meaning of secularism and its related policies, many students admitted that their schools took no part in the celebration as some teachers either refused to spend time on teaching laïcité or they simply had no idea that the holiday was happening. France’s lackluster holiday and politically extreme uses of secularism are a microcosm of religious battles across Europe.
One of the most noticeable European surges in secularism took place in Norway on New Year’s Day this year. After 500 years, the government split off from the Church of Norway, removing 1,250 priests and bishops from their government titles and salaries while converting the religious institution into an independent business. The separation signifies a step in the right direction as freedom of all religions are preserved and no single faith is given financial or legal priority. However, this constructive example of secularism is contrasted with Norwegian politicians who misrepresent its meaning. Take, for example, Norway’s minister of migration and integration, Sylvi Listhaug, who caused an uproar in the Syrian refugee crisis. In April of 2016, Listhaug decided to float in the Mediterranean Sea to simulate the experiences of refugees, except she decided to equip herself with a bright orange and inflatable “survival suit” and only stayed in the sea for a few minutes until a boat “rescued” her. Her stunt received comments like, “[she should] sit on a chair for five minutes to feel what it's like to be paralysed.” Listhaug followed her April extravaganza by telling Norway’s Muslims in October, “Here we eat pork, drink alcohol and show our face. You must abide by the values, laws and regulations that are in Norway when you come here.” Here is where Listhaug fails to follow through with Norway’s true secular commitments. Rather than embracing the division of government and religion, she goes after the personal rights of Muslim citizens. Secularism does not call for the removal of religion in society, but instead the isolation of religion from the government.
In addition to Norway’s Listhaug, the legal systems of Europe perpetuate the use of aggressive secularism to deny Muslims religious freedom. In January, a claim made by a Muslim couple living in Basel, Switzerland was brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The couple fought against the Swiss school that denied their daughters the ability to opt out of compulsory mixed swimming lessons. Nevertheless, the ECHR rejected their claim in support of the government’s control. The ECHR added, “The Court observed that school played a special role in the process of social integration, and one that was all the more decisive where pupils of foreign origin were concerned.” While this case may seem small, it has far-reaching consequences. If the Court considers co-ed swimming lessons a prerequisite to becoming European, it calls into question what else Muslims must abandon to be a part of European society. Given the results of a plethora of similar cases from Belgium to Turkey regarding bans on burqas and headscarves, the ECHR has proven repeatedly that, according to the court, state rights trump the religious beliefs of Muslims no matter how sacred the tradition is. This continued misapplication of secular values has even driven some former members of the ECHR to speak out such as Roberta Medda-Windischer who stated, “the Court has more frequently sustained a form of strict secularism, or even a sort of intolerant secularism or enlightenment fundamentalism. This is especially so in cases when individual religious manifestations do not display any signs of political intentions … making these prohibitions difficult to reconcile with the necessity to protect a democratic society.” While Syrian refugees flood in through Europe’s southern borders, an increasing amount of European nations will be faced with religious disputes over nationality, freedom, and secularism. Sylvi Listhaug’s belief that it takes pork and alcohol to become European may seem outrageous, but in reality, it’s no worse than declaring mixed swimming lessons necessary for integration, which the ECHR has now ingrained into European law.
While the subject of separation of church and state may be uninteresting to French teachers and students, laïcité has been an integral part of France and almost every European nation as they transition into secular societies. Norway is joining a number of countries who freed their governments from church influence through inclusive secularism. On the flip side, no matter the claims of far-right leaders like Le Pen and Listhaug, secularism does not mean intolerance, and the furtherment of this misconstrual hurts religious minorities like Muslims who are being stripped from their traditions. While the 2015 Day of Laïcité may have been a letdown, hopefully France can revitalize its holiday, so that students and adults alike can celebrate the true form of secularism and understand its proper usage before the healthy separation between church and state falls apart.
By: Mason Krohn
On October 27, 1987, Donald J. Trump paid a lofty $94,801 to display an ad in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe. While this price was just a drop in the bucket of Trump’s wealth, it portrayed a clear indication of his stance on Saudi Arabia. Within the newspapers, Trump described the Persian Gulf as, “an area of only marginal significance to the United States”. Furthermore, he claimed, “the world is laughing at America's politicians as we protect ships we don't own, carrying oil we don't need, destined for allies who won't help”. A lot has changed since 1987, because a month ago, Trump made his first trip out of the United States when Air Force One landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, otherwise known as “an area of only marginal significance”. Ironically, when asked if his 1987 full-page advertisement pointed towards political aspirations, Trump’s spokesman stated, “Right now Donald Trump has no ambition to seek political office of any kind.” However, in 2017, Donald Trump holds the future of Saudi-American relations in his hands through his presidential actions and it appears that the kingdom is more significant to Mr. Trump than ever before.
One of the most paramount outcomes of Trump’s visit to the Middle Eastern nation was the creation of a massive arms deal pledging $110 billion in weapons to the kingdom. Prior to Trump taking office, President Obama sold $112 billion in weapons over eight years to Saudi Arabia. The majority of these arms were sold in 2012 in a deal negotiated by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Saudi Arabia signs away these agreements because they are in need of advanced weaponry that the kingdom cannot manufacture. The arms not only uplift their hegemony, but assist Saudi Arabia in their campaign against the Houthi rebel group in Yemen whom the Saudi Arabian government believes gains support from Iran. However, despite their historical purchases, according to the Brookings Institution, there is no deal. In actuality, there are a group of letters of intent in the place of contracts. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon’s arms sales wing, refers to these unofficial agreements as “intended sales” because nothing has been notified to the Senate for review. Moreover, the kingdom is unlikely to have the capability to follow through with the intended sales due to the heavy drop in oil prices which remains the most significant source of capital for Saudi Arabia.
Whether the deal holds true or not, Trump’s sudden willingness to hand American weapons to a nation like Saudi Arabia reveals a few of his motives and priorities in the Middle East. First off, Trump’s stated purpose for creating the arms deal was to boost economic growth for the United States. During his trip he stated, “We made and saved billions of dollars and millions of jobs.” Yet, an analysis by the New York Times found that his figures were quite overexaggerated. Assuming the arms deals were to go through, by the time they become formal agreements, the values are destined to drop. While Obama was in office, offers standing at $115 billion to the Saudis were knocked down to $57 billion after contracts were written out. On top of that, Saudi Arabia maintains a policy that half of its military purchases will be local which means defense contractors are incentivized to relocate jobs inside of the kingdom. In support of this policy, Raytheon has not promised the creation of any domestic employment, but instead announced the formation of a unit named Raytheon Arabia which would aid the Saudi economy. Therefore, the arms deal is stirring growth for Saudi Arabians more than anything else rather than providing Americans with opportunities.
Notably, this deal was signed amidst uproar from human rights advocates against previous weapon usage by the kingdom. The Saudi Arabian military has a bad track record of protecting civilians given that they have used American drones to take out groups of innocent Yemeni people who are unaffiliated with the Houthi movement. In 2016, more than 140 Yemeni citizens lost their lives when airstrikes targeted a funeral. What was a ceremony for the death of one man quickly turned into a national tragedy. Nonetheless, the Saudi-led coalition has continued to relentlessly bomb hospitals, markets, schools, and homes contributing to a death toll of 10,000 while infrastructure is demolished into rubble. Trump has committed himself into a value system for Middle Eastern policy that places human rights on the backburner. Beyond opening relations with a country notorious for its mistreatment of women, Trump is handing over the tools Saudi Arabia needs to bring countless atrocities into fruition.
Even more worrisome for Americans is the impacts of dropping American-labeled bombs on the starving and angered Yemeni populace. Anti-American sentiment has swept through the region due to our past arms deals. For instance, in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, a billboard reads, “America is killing the Yemeni people. They are feeding on our blood.” Keep on driving, and another sign displays, “The American companies enter a country to steal its wealth and humiliate its people.” All the violence within Yemen that America condones is only further radicalizing its citizens. The hatred of the Yemeni people falls back on the United States because we supply the weapons used for killing. But with Trump increasing our distribution of bombs, drones, and military aircraft to the Saudi kingdom, we give the people of Yemen even more reason to band together in their animosity against Americans.
The “$110 billion arms deal” may be merely symbolic and ineffective, but for the people of Yemen and even America, such a proposal can be frightening. Nevertheless, the whole world watched as Trump planted his foot on the side of Middle Eastern politics he wishes to align with: a side of apathy for human rights in favor of the falsehood of economic opportunity. For the sake of Yemeni civilians and even the American people, one can only hope for the return of 1987, non-interventionist Trump.
By Mason Krohn
Of the many groups president Donald Trump has targeted in this past election cycle, one was America’s favorite snack: the Oreo. After finding out that Mondelez, the company that produces Oreos, invested $130 million in an existing plant south of the border instead of pursuing production in Chicago as an alternative, he launched his own form of a boycott through Twitter claiming, “I’ll never eat them again” . In a similar criticism, Trump called out Ford Motor Co. for its plans to expand factories throughout Mexico. When the corporation pulled out of the proposal following Trumps demands and cancelled the $1.6 billion Mexican investment, Ford’s stock rose close to 4% . Given the complete sway that Trump’s social media presence has over a company’s value, there have even been speculations of companies reaching out to insurance companies in order to cover the risk of a Trump supported boycott or tweet . Preceding his presidency, Trump’s heaviest weapon against outsourcing to Mexico was Twitter. However going into the future of our economic and sociopolitical relations with the Mexican people, Trump’s vision and the trend of inter-governmental distrust toward the country can only translate to a decline in our partnership.
Beyond threatening tweets, under the current American presidency, America’s strong economic ties with Mexico will come under fire due to opposition towards the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). First, Trump has thrown several tariff plans up in the air regarding Mexico as a tool to pay for his border wall plan. In January, Trump suggested laying out a 20% tariff plan to gather funding for his wall and divert imports from Mexico who he has deemed as an industrial enemy to the United States. This will no doubt prove to be problematic for both nations if Trump follows through given that the US’s trading with Mexico is incredibly intertwined. The trading connection is so vital that Mexican exports to the United States contain about 40% US content . If the tariff is ever put in place, it is sure to backfire, but nonetheless it will leave our relationship with Mexico tarnished. Trump’s disdain for NAFTA has echoed throughout Congress, and bipartisan opposition to NAFTA has taken hold. On May 11, 37 Democrats and 45 Republicans confirmed Robert E. Lighthizer acs the United States’s new trade representative. Despite all the clashing and gridlock in today’s Congress, on both side of the aisle, there was support for a man who wishes to renegotiate and hamper NAFTA. Isolation against our southern neighbor has become the new norm no matter party affiliation.
While economic stances are deteriorating Mexican American relations, America’s cultural change against Mexicans is causing even deeper cuts. Election rhetoric included calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists which was followed by Trump accusing a Mexican judge for being bias because of his heritage. By claiming that this judge was biased because of his descent, Trump has essentially confirmed that his statements were racist. Nonetheless, even before Trump was thinking about taking office, prejudice against Mexicans has been on the rise. In 2012, according to the National Hispanic Media Coalition, more than one third of non-Hispanic Americans believe that half or more of the American people with Hispanic heritage are illegal immigrants with a lack of education . On the other hand, these racial issues will be brought even further into the limelight with America’s rapidly expanding Mexican population. By 2050, only 47 percent of Americans will identify as white, while Hispanics, the majority of which are Mexican, will surge to 28 percent of all of the United States’s population, up from 19 percent in 2010 . Either white Americans will push against this ever growing minority, expanding already existing prejudice, or the integration of Mexican-Americans throughout American culture will nullify racism because of increased exposure. Hopefully we will see the latter, but only time will tell.
While these economic and social issues continue to swirl, they are worsened by the dropping of communications between the American president and Enrique Peña Nieto. In January, Peña Nieto cancelled a planned visit to initiate conversations with the White House. Ironically, Peña Nieto announced the cancellation on Twitter because of Trump’s intentions to bring up the wall at the meeting. Directly afterward, Peña Nieto tweeted a video of him reaffirming his commitment to uphold the interests of the Mexican people demonstrating that a meeting with Trump would be a contradiction to what the Mexican people want. The toxic relationship between the two presidents only serves to raise antagonism between the two nations, meaning a more hostile connection between the US and Mexico going into the future.
Despite these conflicts, it is important to remember that a president does not entirely represent his or her nation. America is not Donald Trump and Mexico is not Enrique Peña Nieto. While the American Mexican political relation may be in turmoil, the American people have protested against Trump’s racist rhetoric. The deep rooted history between Mexico and America does not end here or tomorrow or frankly ever. The border between these two nations is slowly becoming a chasm and few politicians are willing to reach across.