5 Dark Moments In History Are Now Shockingly Possible Again
I know, I know ... all this talk about Donald Trump is pointless. He'll never get elected, and even if he does, all of the crazy things he's suggesting could never actually happen in the United States. We were supposed to talk about that one this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Josh Denny and Laura Crawford and Cracked editor Josh Sargent, but we got a bit off track. So allow me to explain it in this column here today instead. Here are five insane things Donald Trump wants to do that the United States has already tried.
Mass Deportation Of Mexican Immigrants = Operation Wetback
One of the key aspects of Trump's plans to ruin this country involves the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants back to Mexico. A lot of people are taking comfort in the idea that, even if a plan like that reached the point where we actually tried to implement it, finding that many people and coordinating the effort to get them back to the country from which they came is a logistical impossibility. It sure would be nice if that was true, but it's not.
See, despite all the hate and harsh words that get thrown around in relation to the subject of immigration from Mexico, there was a time when we, as a country, wanted as much of that as we could get. In the years between the Great Depression and the start of World War II, the rapidly expanding agriculture industry in the United States depended almost entirely on Mexican immigrants for cheap labor. So much so that at some point, it became a real problem for Mexico, seeing as how they had a thriving agriculture industry of their own and sort of needed all those workers we were siphoning away.
So with that in mind ... it's a good thing World War II eventually happened?
Well that's certainly a bold stance to take.
Of course it wasn't, but the thing about a massive war is that it creates a lot of needs back home, and for the United States, one of those needs was a lot of workers to replace the ones we sent off to fight Hitler. So in exchange for not having to be an active participant in the war, Mexico agreed to send us workers on a short-term basis. It was called the Bracero Program. We also promised to shore up border security and put tighter restrictions on hiring workers who were in the country illegally, the thinking being that between sending back undocumented immigrants and workers here legally under the Bracero Program returning after two years, Mexico would eventually solve the massive labor shortage that was hindering efforts to industrialize their country.
Wait, that doesn't sound so bad, right? Illegal immigration was hurting Mexico, and we were just sending people back to help fix that problem. The only hitch is that it didn't really work. Workers crossing the border to seek higher wages and better opportunities in America never stopped happening. We didn't really want for it to stop happening, but for diplomatic reasons, we had to do something. That something ended up being the unfortunately-named Operation Wetback.
What was that? Oh, just a plan to deport undocumented immigrants on a massive scale. How massive? Well, more than one million immigrants were apprehended in the first year alone. Keep in mind that this was the 1950s. We didn't have a fraction of the resources available to us now back in those days, especially in terms of technology that allows us to track people more effectively.
"In my day, hating Mexicans was all done on pen and paper."
If you can track people, you can find people. If you can find people, you can arrest them and send them somewhere else. It really isn't rocket science. Your grandparents figured it out, and they can't even operate a smartphone without government intervention. It's foolish to think that the nightmarish logistics of rounding up a lot of people will keep mass deportations from happening.
Did Operation Wetback work, at least? Nope. Illegal immigration never stopped being a problem, and even worse, the program was rife with abuse and mistreatment. At one point, 88 Mexican immigrants died after we just dropped them in the middle of the desert in July, when temperatures were in the 112-degree range. In all, there were 11,000 documented cases of abuse, with who knows how many additional instances that went unreported.
In other words, it was a disaster. Even worse, it's a disaster that's mostly been forgotten in this country, which is all the more reason to trust that it can happen again.
Targeting US Citizens = Japanese Internment Camps
One of the more troubling aspects of Trump's immigration plan is that he not only makes it clear that he wants to deport people here illegally, but also vows that doing so won't break up families. The problem with that is that in a lot of cases, the children involved were actually born here, meaning they're citizens of this country, according to the Constitution. It's called birthright citizenship, and it's a thing Trump wants to do away with, as clearly stated in his own words right there on his official website.
Yes, I've been assured by people who know way more about these things than I do that an act of that nature would require years of maneuvering through Congress and such to make it a reality, and that's certainly comforting to some degree. It's one thing to target undocumented immigrants. Going after actual citizens of the United States is an entirely different thing, and really drastic and unsavory measures would be required for it to happen. That's especially true if you're hoping to do it without the public thinking you're an out-of-control tyrant.
The problem is that sometimes drastic things happen, and in those cases, the people and the government alike have proven time and time again that all bets are off when they do. Take what happened to Japanese people in this country after the United States finally entered World War II, for example. Do you remember that? It was the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was carried out by Japan, that prompted us to finally get involved.
All it took was this!
That, in turn, prompted us to round up anyone of Japanese descent who lived on the West Coast, United States citizens included, and force them to relocate to internment camps. It wasn't just a few, either. More than 60 percent of the people we detained were full-fledged citizens of this country. Unsurprisingly, history has since noted that the main driving force behind this extreme act of aggression by the government toward its own people was fueled in large part by unfounded fear and good old-fashioned racism.
So what am I saying? That Trump is going to orchestrate an attack on this country to force our hands? No, of course not. What I'm saying is that extreme things happen, and having a president who's comfortable with taking things to the extreme in office at that time can lead to really terrible things. After all, Japanese internment camps were the product of the FDR administration. He certainly didn't run for office on a platform built of hate and racism. He's regularly credited as one of the architects of modern liberalism in this country, in fact. But when shit got crazy, he threw all of that out the window in favor of indiscriminately rounding up one group of people and forcing them to live in camps where we could keep an eye on them.
Again, I'm not saying that a massive tragedy will befall this country if Trump gets elected. I'm just saying that, given his current stance on immigrants living in this country, he's the worst possible option to have in place if something does happen.
If you see something, say something, right? I'm just doing my job.
Law Enforcement That Disproportionately Affects Minorities = Anti-Drug Abuse Act Of 1986
Trump's policies aren't just focused on wacky illegal immigration ideas. His gun control plans are pretty damn insane, as well. For starters, a lot of it involves making guns easier to buy and even easier to carry around in public, which you'll note flies directly in the face of the wishes of every gun control advocate on the planet. But there's a hitch in that his plan to keep firearms in the hands of "lawful" gun owners is only outpaced in aggressiveness by his plan to take them from "criminals" in poor neighborhoods. I put those words in quotes because they are his words, and the "criminals" in question live specifically in Chicago and Baltimore.
But why those cities???
So what's his plan to fix that situation? As I mentioned in my first article about this monster, his plan is pretty simple. He's wants to impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years for any crime involving a gun. So if you get caught selling weed while carrying an unregistered gun, you go to prison for five years. Get a DUI while you happen to have an unregistered gun in your glove compartment, and you go to prison for 5 years. It's harsh, to say the least, especially when you take into account that his own words make it clear that when he says "criminals," he's talking specifically about people using guns in inner-city areas. The problem there is that if you live in an area that's overrun with gun violence, carrying a gun for your own protection kind of makes sense. More sense than carrying one so you can shoot at fleeing shoplifters in a Home Depot parking lot, anyway.
It's not like black people are the only ones committing crimes with guns. In fact, most of the gun crimes people get up in arms about these days, like school shootings or rampage killings, are carried out by white people. The problem is that this law will have absolutely zero impact on that. Those people are going to prison anyway, and for way longer than five years, and most of those crimes are committed with guns that were purchased legally. Remember, his plan specifically mentions places like Chicago. The irony there is that Chicago actually has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. The illegal guns arrive by way of the interstate trafficking of guns purchased legally in places with fewer restrictions, which are then resold on the black market.
Meh, it's probably fine.
In other words, people who live in areas where carrying a gun might make some sense will be going to prison in droves just for carrying a gun, while the people who just want them because fawning over the Second Amendment is the redneck thing to do will continue to enjoy their freedom. It's a huge double standard that will almost certainly end badly. And we should all know that, because we did the exact same thing with cocaine in the '80s.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was a horrifically lopsided law which made getting caught with just five grams of crack cocaine punishable by a mandatory five-year prison sentence. Meanwhile, the threshold for powder cocaine was 500 grams. That's a lot. More than the average Hollywood coke dealer servicing the needs of celebrities would likely have on them at one time. It was a brutally unjust double standard that only happened when the crack epidemic started to affect white people, and by that I mean "the owners of the Boston Celtics."
The laws that made getting caught with a small amount of crack a huge crime were pushed through mostly in response to the untimely passing of Maryland Terrapins basketball star Len Bias. He was the number-one pick in the 1986 NBA draft, and tragically died of a drug overdose that same night.
No jokes here.
The laws this country enacted in response to that tragedy led to 20 solid years of minorities getting incarcerated at an astonishingly higher rate than white people who committed similar crimes. We finally came to our senses and changed the law in 2010.
Now here we are, just five years removed from righting that wrong, with a Republican frontrunner who wants to bring all of that disparity and inequality roaring back to life.
Americans Voting For A Blatantly Destructive Tax Plan = Sam Brownback's Kansas
Most of my time spent talking Trump has been focused on immigration and guns, but his equally radical tax reform plan deserves some attention as well. Now, I'll be the first to admit that tax law isn't among my strong suits. Those would be conspiracy theories, assuming everything is racist until proven otherwise, and vehemently defending Kim Kardashian.
With that in mind, I'll have to let someone else do the heavy lifting of crunching all the numbers and such. Fortunately, those people exist and have already done that. And surprisingly enough, they kind of confirm that Trump's tax plan will do all of the things it promises. Unfortunately, it will also do something the plan doesn't mention at all, which is increase the federal deficit by ten goddamn trillion dollars.
So this much money times whatever it would take make that math work out to ten trillion.
So that's good news, right? The information is out! The people have the necessary details and will vote accordingly! Except you goddamn know that isn't true, especially as it relates to something like a tax plan. Trump's involves tax cuts across the board for damn near everyone, and that will indeed put more money in the pockets of voters. Even if the fact that his plan will send the federal deficit skyrocketing, that's an abstract kind of thing that will mean a lot less to people than the prospect of a few extra dollars in their paycheck each month.
If you think that's not true, I'd encourage you to look into the disastrous results of Governor Sam Brownback's "experimental" tax plan, which for all intents and purposes drove the economy of the state of Kansas directly into the ground. Just like the Trump plan, it mostly involved unprecedented tax cuts followed by blind hope that it somehow wouldn't cause the financial disaster every expert on the planet promised it would. Well, it did. It was a total disaster, and the effects are still being felt in that state today. In June of this year, Brownback's awful ideas had spun so terribly out of control he had to sign an equally historic sales tax hike to combat the problem, a decision most likely inspired by the 3,800 jobs the state lost the previous month.
"I thought Tea Party just referred to what we're doing right now."
If you think Americans are too tax savvy to let that happen again, keep in mind that this all happened in the span of the last five years, and it's not like Brownback made his radical tax strategies some sort of secret when he was campaigning for Governor in 2010. It's the exact opposite. He ran on that shit. It was his campaign. "Taxes are bad, Obama is bad ... vote for Brownback." That's the gist of what his entire platform was built on, and the people of Kansas ignored any and all warnings about the ramifications of his plan in large enough numbers that it propelled him to victory.
Oh, and he was reelected in 2014. What's that do for your confidence that voters are too smart to fall for this kind of plan again?
Mass Seizure Of Assets = The International Emergency Economic Powers Act
Since we're on the subject of money, let's tie it all together and talk that infamous wall Trump wants to build along the Mexican border -- specifically, how he plans to pay for it. He doesn't make a secret of that at all. As I mentioned before, one of his ideas involves intercepting remittance payments, which is a fancy way of describing the money that undocumented immigrants earn and subsequently send back to family in their home country. By his accounting, this amounts to billions of dollars every year. That's shitty, but also completely impossible, right?
Nah, sorry, it definitely is not. For one thing, if analysts are coming up with an annual figure, we have at least some idea of how to find that money. It's not like people are taping the shit to the back of a donkey and pushing it in a southward direction. There are only so many ways to get money from one place to another. You can mail it or you can wire it electronically. The means to intercept things sent in either of those ways definitely exist, and unlike the rest of the things on this list, the United States government seizing the money and assets of groups they feel pose a threat to this nation isn't something we just did once. We've been doing damn near every year since the late '70s.
Back in 1977, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act was passed. It grants the President the authority to declare an emergency, provided it's one that originates mostly from outside the country, and regulate commerce accordingly in response to that emergency. The powers are limited to blocking or intercepting financial transactions tied to the threat, but expand to confiscating property in the event of some kind of attack on the country. The only real requirement, at least initially, is that Congress must be notified when the emergency is declared. From there, the President has to renew the emergency declaration annually, but Congress can stop it at any time ... provided they draft a joint resolution calling for the state of emergency to be rescinded.
With that, we've come to the catch, right? If Trump tried something so crazy as to imply that Mexican immigrants are hurting the economy and deserve to have their money taken, Congress would stop it immediately. Sounds nice, but the problem is that none of this is at all radical or outside the norm. Since it was enacted, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act has been used dozens of times, and 30 of those declared emergencies, some dating as far back as the late '70s, are still in effect.
We've never stopped watching you, Iran!
So while you're brimming with confidence that we'd never find a way to take all that money, the reality is that doing so would be as simple as adding another emergency to that list and taking the steps we always take to make it work from there. Please note that this is a thing we use against terrorist groups all the time. They don't exactly advertise their specific location within the country once they're here, but somehow, we find the money anyway. We always find the money.
As always, I'm not saying any of the things on this list are definitely going to happen. I'm just saying they already did once.
Adam is on Twitter. Follow him there @adamtodbrown.
Deporting illegal immigrants is a tall task, but becoming a legal immigrant might be an even taller one. See why you're better off just coming over illegally in So You Want To Be An American: 5 Circles Of Immigration Hell. And check out some awful moments in history that you didn't even know about in 5 Major Attacks On America Your History Books Left Out.
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