Ep. 32: American Division, Tariffs, Immigration, and Guns with Michael Johns

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Episode Description

Americans are divided as ever. We are unwilling to listen to those with whom we disagree, even if they are in our same “party.” In Episode 32, Michael Johns (Co-Founder of the Tea Party Movement and Former Presidential Speechwriter) and I break down the causes. Michael explains how Congressional leadership has demonized dissent and why we should have listened to George Washington and stayed away from the two-party system. We also consider a few solutions: term limits, transparency, and more.

In addition, we cover controversial policy topics such as immigration, trade, and gun control. Michael describes how he thinks a trade war might pan out for Americans, how DACA has been used as a political tool, and why the law is not a sufficient deterrent to criminals.

Be sure to tune in for a thought-provoking episode.

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Show Notes (abridged script)

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Policy Talk

Trump on Trade

“You’ve got people paying attention to the fact that we do not have a fair trading relationship with these monstrous markets of the world. They acknowledge it, why’s it unreasonable for us to as well?” ~ Michael Johns 

One of the policies that has lost Trump support, but also garnered loyalty from his supporters, is on trade. President Trump has consistently advocated for raising tariffs on other countries. While Michael agrees that this may have an adverse effect on the American consumer, he says that the current system is absolutely killing American manufacturing jobs.

A Trade War?

“Yes, we have a short-term war, but ultimately, the war ends. And from the emergence of the war develops a legitimate, fairly balanced trade relationship.” ~ Michael Johns

Michael believes that a trade war will ultimately lead us to the same benefits traditional conservatives hope to gain from a free market. He argues that there has been a tremendous impact from turning our back on the “forgotten men and women” that trade relationships most impact.

“I believe that this remains the biggest slice of the pie: Nobody wants to close out the wealth of the United States. China’s wealth has been built on exports to the United States.” ~ Michael Johns

These other countries are not regulated in the same way the United States is. They can offer their products for cheaper prices, thus undercutting American products. Other countries practice child-labor, have no minimum wage laws, and no limit on work days.

A Foreseeable End

If all goes according to plan, then Michael predicts that the world’s major powers will start sending trade representatives to work out the trade problems.

“If that happens, is it not true that Donald Trump ends up being the biggest proponent and success story of American free trade in modern times?” ~ Michael Johns

Michael believes that China’s future depends on the United States, and that they will not be able to sustain a long-term war with the US. With Trump’s trade policy, Michael predicts that American exports will “blossom.”

Impact on American Consumers

“And I say this as someone who championed NAFTA in the early parts of the Clinton Administration.” ~ Michael Johns

If the US were to get in a war and lacked an indigenous way to produce steel or aluminum for our military, we would be entirely dependent on these other countries for our supplies.

“We can’t put ourselves in a position where we are that dependent upon foreign countries, particularly who certainly haven’t proven allies.” ~Michael Johns

This will, according to Michael, focus the attention of other countries on the United States’ willingness to stand up for its manufacturing. Trump was given a mandate in 2016 to act on trade, and he’s finally getting around to it.

“There are too many…within the Republican Party Establishment today that simply won’t say, ‘You know what, we got this wrong.’ Because honestly, I think the American people would appreciate that.” ~ Michael Johns

“The Word Tariff”

“A tariff is a tax, and a tax is a tariff.” ~ Michael Johns

One of the most deceptive ways in which politicians have manipulated the trade debate is through the word “tariff.” It’s a confusing word, says Michael, but American people know what a tax is. A tariff is a tax.

 “He’s not starting the trade war. He could be ending the trade war. The trade war has been perpetuated for three or four decades against this country, we just haven’t fought back.” ~ Michael Johns

Immigration Policy

The Democrats on Immigration

Michael explains how the Democratic Party has flip-flopped on a lot of these issues, discussing how they were once the party of unions, leading them to oppose immigration.

“You go back and look at what they were saying 15 years ago about these issues. They supported securing the border…They were proponents of logic, of a country without borders was not a country.” ~ Michael Johns

The US has had a de facto immigration policy of allowing people who come here, even if only on visas, to gain partial or full citizenship.

“Nancy Pelosi said the other day when she was in Arizona that her plan would be to mow the grass on the border because people were sneaking in through the thick brush. These are like laughable concepts.” ~ Michael Johns

Michael proposes asking Democrats, “What’s the limit? How many people should be coming into the country?” However, he knows that they will not have a solid answer.

Has Trump Reversed His Stance on Immigration?

“Weren’t we told over and over again that these Dreamers were the best people in the world and we had to do something urgently for them?” ~ Michael Johns

In response to the calls to help the DACA recipients, Trump proposed a generous plan. He wanted to give citizenship to over 1.8 million illegal immigrants and process the chain-migration backlog, but the Democrats were unwilling to compromise.

“They don’t care about the Dreamers, or they would have taken the deal.” ~Michael Johns

The Democrats want to go into the 2018 midterms without giving the Republicans a win on DACA, according to Michael. It’s not even that the Republicans would have pleased Trump’s base, but at least they would be able to go into the midterms having solved immigration.

“In essence, they said, ‘We’re going to let this DACA problem persist.'” ~ Michael Johns

Can We Listen to Each Other?

Resist! Dialogue?

“It’s a problem that’s pervading our politics at the moment. People just don’t want to listen to anything they don’t agree with.” ~ Luke Scorziell

Last year Michael gave a speech at Cornell University defending Trumpism. He was vehemently protested, yet he says they don’t even know what they were protesting.

Michael sees the Democratic slogan of “Resist!” as representative of their unwillingness to engage in thoughtful political dialogue. This group is not willing to engage or listen to people with opposing viewpoints.

“It’s manifested in the most extreme cases on these campuses.” ~ Michael Johns

The goal, Michael says, is not to advance good policy and ideas, but to create a high-profile case against the president for political gain.

“There’s never a counter-punch that’s based on fact…It’s a whole school of thought on how to shut down, isolate their opponents.” ~ Michael Johns

A diagnosis

Orwellian Tactics

Ultimately, he believes that the Democrats are turning to this totalitarian style of dialogue because they know their policies are not strong. Michael discusses how his own views have changed based on the facts, and how this willingness to admit your wrongs is important in our political conversation.

“The entire structure is not conducive to what I think is the importance of deliberative evaluation of real facts…we have this system that is set up on the perpetuation of powerful interests.” ~ Michael Johns

George Washington’s Warning: The Two-Party System

“We have people who are going to war to protect the party just because they’re part of it.” ~ Michael Johns

This two-party political system has ultimately led to a collapse of consistent ideology, Michael argues. He uses the example we covered earlier of the Democrats making a 180 on immigration. The parties are just fighting for political victory, the people are an afterthought.

Congressional Leadership: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

“Everything that you learned about how you think the congress operates, is wrong in 2018.” ~ Michael Johns

Michael dives into what exactly is wrong within Congress itself. Often, even individual members of congress are unable to propose their legislation. He tells how voting against one’s political party leads to ostracization by the party leadership.

“Those who run thinking they’re going to change the direction of things pretty quickly realize how rigged this system is against participatory democracy.” ~ Michael Johns

Congressional Punishments

Michael observes how each party will often vote unanimously for or against a bill. The reason? The leadership will call and tell congressmen and congresswoman to vote for an issue. If a member deviates from this, they will pay a price: they’ll be on the worst committees, they’ll have primary opposition, and the place will become miserable to work in.

“They’ll walk by you in the halls and not say hello…when you see all these guys who are resigning recently…their leaving is a recognition of the fact that this job hasn’t lived up to what they thought it would be.” ~ Michael Johns 

One example Michael brings up is Trey Gowdy, who sat on the oversight committee for years. The job is quite disheartening when people are ignoring subpoenas, lying under oath, and more, with no ramifications for it.

Politics as Entertainment?

“Sports viewership in the United States was declining, and I think part of that is due to the fact that our politics have almost become our entertainment.” ~ Luke Scorziell

Michael and I discuss the phenomenon of politics as our modern entertainment. People are no longer looking to Hollywood or sports for their nightly relaxation. They’re looking to Fox, NBC, CNN, and the political cycle.

“People don’t want to hear individuals wrestling to find the truth. They want to hear individuals adamantly telling them beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is how the world works.” ~ Michael Johns

The problem is, and both of us agree on it, that politics is too important to be for entertainment. At the end of the day, we’re talking about people’s lives here.

“In every policy you’ve got to take partisan consideration out of it and do the right thing.” ~ Michael Johns

Michael brings it back to the Constitution. Our dialogue ought to come back to what that founding document tells us, not what our personal interests are.

A Cure

For Congress

Michael offers a few solutions for our Congress. Not only do we need to rid ourselves of the influence of special interests, but we also need a basic, realistic understanding of how Washington works. The government must be more transparent and get rid of all the closed doors within it.

“We have to ask ourselves: What are the upsides of the two-party system?” ~ Michael Johns

Luke’s Insight

“I really do believe that my generation is moving away from the two-party system.” ~ Luke Scorziell

Bernie Sanders’ rise demonstrates that younger voters are interested in specific policies, not broad ideologies. On the other side, Trump’s election and the growing popularity of the Libertarian Party signal a move away from the established parties.

Voters are beginning to analyze policy on a piece-by-piece basis, rather than relying on a party for their policy.

Practical Realism

“It always has to be about an intellectual undertaking of getting to facts and truth. Not being bashful about changing course if a change of course is recognized.” ~ Michael Johns

Michael believes the American people strongly believe in a pursuit of the facts. They have an expectation of truth.

Term Limits

“Our founders envisioned a citizen legislature, not a professional legislature.” ~ Michael Johns

While Michael supports term limits, he believes there must also be some kind of limit on the bureaucracy itself. Part of his reasoning is the fact that they are unaccountable to the people. The elected legislators at least have to go back to the people every few years. However, the bureaucrats are not accountable to anyone, yet they spend careers doing these things.

Empowering the People

“If you want to be effective, you can’t do it alone.” ~ Michael Johns

Michael discusses how although our country was built on individual freedoms, political engagement is a communal undertaking. Part of it is the need for a multitude of grassroots support.

The Gun-Control Debate

A Constitutional Amendment

After the tragic Parkland shooting there came cries for further gun control regulations. Michael classifies this movement into a decades long fight against the Second Amendment. However, he takes a unique stance on the debate.

“If that second amendment, which I defend, is not serving, in the viewpoint of the American people, our interest in the 21st Century, then our founders were so wise they put in place a political methodology to amend it.” ~ Michael Johns

Michael describes how the opposers of the second amendment ought to propose an amendment to repeal it. He believes that this is a battle that needs to be fought at the Constitutional level. It is not, however, a battle to be fought with statutes.


Both Michael and I discuss what went wrong in Florida from both a gun regulation perspective and a law-enforcement failure perspective. Michael specifically describes how the rule of law is not a sufficient deterrent to these killers.

“Why do we protect airports, banks, and government buildings, but not schools? Why is that not equally important?” ~ Michael Johns 

Bills with Luke Scorziell does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice or recommendations. This material is solely intended for educational purposes based on publicly available information and may change at any time. Additionally, this article’s content is a summary of the Interviewee’s comments and, while rephrased by the Author, are not from the Author himself.

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Previous Episodes

Ep. 31: A World-Wide Tea Party with Co-Founder Michael Johns

Ep. 30: Criminal Justice Reform with Stephen Lusk

Ep. 29: The College Echo Chamber with Michael J. Hout

Ep. 28: Trump on DACA, Chain Migration, Catch and Release, and more

Ep. 27: Austin Petersen, Republican Candidate for Missouri’s Senate Seat

Ep. 25: The Rise of Bitcoin with Daniel LaCalle

Ep. 24: How to Make a Tax Bill with Arpit Chaturvedi

Ep. 23: New Laws in California and Britain’s Holiday Health Crisis

Ep. 22: An In-Depth History of Net Neutrality

Ep. 21: How the New Tax Bill Will Change Business Taxes

Ep. 20: How the New Tax Bill Will Affect You

Ep. 19: Timothy Keller, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice’s Arizona Office

Ep. 17 & 18: Ep. 17: Daniel LaCalle, Author of Escape from the Central Bank Trap

Ep. 16: Countable CEO and Founder, Bart Myers

Ep. 15: The RAISE Act Part 1

Bills Ep. 14: Arpit Chaturvedi (Pt. 2)

Bills Ep. 13: Arpit Chaturvedi, Editor-in-Chief of the Cornell Policy Review (Pt. 1)

Bills Ep. 12: Timothy Buck, Co-Founder of Read A Bill

Bills Ep. 11: Privacy and Police Body Cameras Part Two

Bills Ep. 10: Privacy and Police Body Cameras Part One

Bill Ep 9: The Campus Free Speech Act Part 2

Bills Ep. 8: A doctor’s perspective on school start times

Bills Ep. 7: Giving Kids the Chance to Dream with Irena Keller

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