President Joe Biden wants to spend $4 billion to “address factors driving migration from Central America,” as his campaign website put it. Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas thinks that’s a waste of money, and he’s probably right.
His solution isn’t much better, however: Bring jobs the United States lost to China back to … El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
In an appearance on Fox Business’ “Cavuto: Coast to Coast” program last week, Gonzalez shared his sketchy solution to the root causes of the border crisis.
Gonzalez told Cavuto that “I don’t advocate for writing a blank check to any of these countries. I advocate for [going in there] with surgical projects in areas where people migrate from.”
His thinking: “People don’t migrate from the entire country of Guatemala or Honduras or El Salvador. They migrate from certain pockets that have different challenges.”
“And I think we have to have surgical approaches to going in there with American contractors and public-private partnerships and [non-governmental organizations] and have a holistic approach to going in there and making investments that create jobs and security on the ground to incentivize people to not migrate.”
One of the approaches favored by Gonzalez was to talk to American businesses now manufacturing in China now and convince them “to go down to these Northern Triangle countries and have these operations there and incentivize them to create jobs closer to home that have impacts on our southern border.”
One of the reasons he cited was the breakdown in personal protective equipment distribution early in the coronavirus pandemic due to many companies having their manufacturing based in our biggest geopolitical and economic rival.
“I think we learned a lot during COVID,” Gonzalez said. “We saw all these supply chains break down with China.”
So these companies would still be outsourcing jobs, just not outsourcing them to China. That, apparently, would improve our supply-chain safety.
Assuming companies did move those jobs in sensitive supply-chain areas back from China, this still wouldn’t necessarily be helpful.
I’m fully aware of Beijing’s numerous perfidies, but keep in mind we share an uneasy state of detente with the country. Totally cutting off trade ties or denying certain products would be too politically and economically damaging for either superpower.
If you’re in a position where you’re one of the Northern Triangle countries, you don’t have size as a bargaining chip and you’re desperate, that’s not necessarily the case. Asymmetrical tactics like denying American companies access to supply lines could make sense as a last-ditch move. The damage to your country would be great. The trouble it caused in the U.S. would be greater.
I don’t mention this hypothetically, since one of the complicating factors in our negotiations with the Northern Triangle countries is Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who has been named as a co-conspirator in a U.S. narco-trafficking trial. According to ABC News, a now-convicted drug kingpin “has alleged that Hernández accepted millions of dollars in bribes and helped protect a flood of cocaine into the U.S.”
Hernandez was re-elected in 2017, albeit in a race marred with allegations of fraud. He also ran in spite of Honduras’ constitution, which limits presidents to a single term, using a ruling from the country’s highest court to justify it.
This is pretty much the sketch of a nascent autocrat and one who mightn’t leave office easily, say, or leave the safety of his country willingly if the United States calls for his extradition to clear his name in an American court. It’s also the sketch of someone who, if he finds himself in a difficult situation where the U.S. government pressured him to do either one of these things, might easily cut off supply lines in a time of emergency to ensure he doesn’t have to comply.
So that argument has problems. Beyond that, it’s curious to see that Rep. Gonzalez wants the Biden administration to use political capital to put pressure on American companies to get outsourced jobs back from China (a good thing) and put them in Central America (not entirely helpful).
President Joe Biden’s plan, so far, seems to be dropping $4 billion on what his campaign website called a “regional strategy” for the Northern Triangle countries. This nebulous plan is supposed to keep money out of the hands of corrupt politicians by bypassing them entirely and putting more of the money in the hands of “nongovernmental organizations and programs for single mothers, youth training and similar groups,” as the Los Angeles Times reported last month.
Leaving aside for a minute the soundness of that strategy — NGOs aren’t usually equipped to handle massive injections of funds — it’s important to put the Biden investment into perspective. That $4 billion amounts to just one-fifth of what the president’s just-unveiled infrastructure plan would dedicate to destroying highways that cut through historically black neighborhoods (a profound waste of taxpayer dollars, but at least it would be wasted in the United States).
In other words, $4 billion is a drop in the bucket of Biden’s spending plans — an indication he doesn’t take an imminent potential national security threat like the crisis on the southern border with anywhere near the seriousness he turns on allegedly racist decisions made decades ago. It’s more expensive, wasteful window dressing, to be paid for by generations of Americans yet unborn.
Gonzalez’ idea is more of the same, except it would also hurt prospects for American jobs in the much more immediate future. A Democratic winner all around.
No matter what, the Biden plan is probably money ill-spent — but Gonzalez’s plan doesn’t fix that, it simply tries to force American companies that moved jobs from the U.S. to China to move them out again. But instead of returning those jobs to the U.S., the plan would seek to persuade those companies to put economic development in targeted areas of Central America where manufacturing jobs are presumably supposed to solve the social and economic ills that cause illegal immigration. Aside from that benefit, Gonzalez argues this will make our supply lines safer.
Even assuming the first argument might be valid — and that’s a big assumption, considering the region’s history of corrupt governance (there’s a reason Central America is impoverished in the first place) — it’s creating a manufactured “prosperity” abroad at the cost of real development inside the U.S., costing the country even more jobs further into the future. The second argument simply doesn’t hold water.
What it all really adds up to is yet more proof the Democrats are utterly incapable of putting America first when it comes to jobs.
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