Wednesday Edition



At a time when record-high levels of immigration are a major flashpoint in American politics, the mix of immigrants coming into the U.S. is changing. (Pew Research Center)

Chart: Pew Research Center

A major reason why family border crossings are up has to do with President Biden getting rid of the “Remain in Mexico” program, which sent thousands of asylum seekers back across the border and reduced family crossings under Donald Trump.

At the southwestern border, migrants are increasingly coming from countries other than El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. In December 2023, 54% of the migrants encountered weren’t citizens of those four nations.

Chart: Pew Research Center

So what countries are they coming from? Venezuelan encounters reached almost 47,000 in December, up from just 6,000 a year earlier. Chinese migrant encounters have increased from 900 last December to nearly 6,000 in December 2023.

Why are they coming? China's slowest economic growth in 40 years and high youth unemployment, along with tighter controls on speech and society under Xi Jinping, have led to a sharp rise in Chinese seeking asylum abroad, from 25,000 in 2013 to over 120,000 by mid-2023. A political and economic crisis has led to 7.5 million people leaving Venezuela since 2015.


While there’s growing pessimism about America’s influence on the world stage, U.S. global financial power is on the rise. (Bloomberg)

There are a number of indicators that show how America is only getting more dominant when it comes to international markets and business. The share of U.S. stocks making up the MSCI World Index (generally the largest and most successful international companies) has increased to about 70%. Only seven countries in the world have a GDP higher than what Apple is worth. In 2023, U.S. stock markets accounted for 42.5% of the total value of all markets around the world.

George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen on the impact of America’s financial strength: “The major US tech companies sell to the entire world. Therefore part of the relative rise of US equities is about the liquidity and prestige of US markets, not just US economic success. US listings will dominate, and all the more over time, even when US customers are not the main source of revenue. … the major companies of the world will play by America’s rules, and continue to court its favor.”

On the other hand, more and more people think American power is waning, and the country’s in decline. A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found 60% of Americans think U.S. stature on the world stage will diminish in 30 years. Some say recent conflicts in Ukraine and Israel signal the end of Pax Americana, “the long era in which U.S. economic and military dominance limited the potential for wars of conquest,” as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman put it.

Bloomberg columnist Niall Ferguson: “American power sure ain’t what it used to be. During the two world wars, the Cold War and the so-called War on Terror, the US not only grew rich; it also developed a wide range of levers or tools that transformed its national wealth into power. These were the keys to America’s ascent to superpower status. Some are obvious, a few of them paradoxical. Some endure. Too many have atrophied in recent times.”


GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s campaign is in a massively uphill battle against Donald Trump, but if she does have a path to victory, it seems to be with disaffected Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans. (USA Today)

A new USA Today poll found Haley’s only advantages over Trump are with liberal or moderate voters (59%-38%), first-time GOP voters (51%-49%) and voters who view the end of democracy as the most pressing issue facing the country (63%-37%). Some studies have found liberals worry more than conservatives about democracy’s decline.

Haley’s strength with moderates and Democrats isn’t an accident. Ahead of the New Hampshire GOP primary last month, left-leaning groups launched a campaign to get undeclared Democrats to vote for Haley. Only 27% of Haley voters in New Hampshire were registered Republicans, according to a CNN exit poll. Also, Haley’s positioned herself as a saner, more unifying alternative to Trump.

USA Today reporter Swapna Ramaswamy on Haley’s cross-party appeal: “Haley’s rallies increasingly have grown to encompass a diverse range of political ideologies and affiliations. … The voters she’s courting have included Democratic-leaning independents, traditional Republicans, never-Trumpers, suburban non-MAGA Republican moms, and even some dyed-in-the-wool progressives…”

But the reality may be Trump’s already consolidated too much support within the GOP. A new Morning Consult poll found 80% of Republican primary voters back him for president.

Despite claiming balanced budgets, 53 out of the 75 largest U.S. cities couldn't cover their expenses in 2022, according to a new report from Truth in Accounting, a right-leaning fiscal accountability think tank. (The Center Square)

These cities had $307.4 billion in assets but faced $595.3 billion in total debt. Pension debt amounted to $175.9 billion. Other post-employment benefits, including retiree healthcare, added up to $135.2 billion.

The 10 cities with the biggest burden per taxpayer:

  • New York City: -$61,800

  • Chicago: -$42,900

  • Honolulu: -$24,200

  • Philadelphia: -$20,400

  • Portland: -$20,100

  • New Orleans: -$18,200

  • Miami: -$15,500

  • Milwaukee: -$15,300

  • Baltimore: -$14,100

  • Pittsburgh: -$13,000

All 75 cities have balanced budget requirements in place. According to Truth in Accounting, officials often used "accounting tricks" to claim balanced budgets.

Truth in Accounting researchers: Instead of funding promised benefits now, politicians have charged them to future taxpayers. Shifting these payments to future taxpayers makes the budget appear balanced while increasing city debt.”

Kicking the debt can down the road isn’t just a problem for state governments. Interest costs on the ballooning U.S. national debt, which currently sits at $34.2 trillion, are projected to exceed defense spending in 2024.

Policy experts say a lack of federal regulations around legal marijuana are making it difficult to ensure product safety and quality. (WSJ)

Poison centers received 31,000 marijuana-related calls in 2023, double the amount they got in 2019. 42 marijuana-related deaths were reported to the centers last year. The FDA received more than 1,200 complaints of cannabis causing issues like rapid heartbeats and agitation.

There's no national standard for contaminant testing in marijuana products. Regulation varies widely by state, with some requiring extensive testing and others none. Advocates call for federal oversight and standardized testing to ensure product safety.

Federal regulations for marijuana will be more difficult to come by given the drug’s Schedule I classification that puts it in a class with heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs are defined as having no medical benefit and a higher potential for abuse than Schedule II drugs, such as cocaine. Clinical research that could inform regulations is much more difficult under this classification.

Big picture, there are tradeoffs to implementing federal regulations. Critics say they create needless red tape that leads to inefficiency, lower profits and higher prices. Supporters say a lack of federal regulations can lead to inconsistent adoption of standards that protect citizens.

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