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Our national emergency 

OK, it’s predictable for a liberal columnist to say it, but it’s simply a fact: It’s a national emergency that the country is run by a president as unstable as the one we have. And it’s a national emergency that Republicans in Congress, who surely must be as worried about the president’s ability as the rest of us are, won’t stand up to him.

Nobody’s shocked that President Trump declared that immigration at our southern border is a national emergency. But it certainly is stunning that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposed the emergency declaration, was so afraid that Trump would shut down the government again that he fell in line.

So Trump will apparently build a wall to keep his base happy and get a few Fox commentators off his back. And the next time he wants to do something Congress doesn’t want him to do, he’ll declare another national emergency.

And every president who follows in his footsteps will be tempted to do the same.

No, Trump isn’t the first president to declare a national emergency to do something Congress didn’t like. And yes, Barack Obama did it. So did Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and both Bushes. Each president presumably had what he thought was a justifiable reason for going around Congress. And as Congress and the rest of us have let that happen, we have chipped away at the separation of powers.

Now we have a president who has gone one step further: declaring a national emergency to get money for something that Congress had specifically voted not to give him.

It’s satisfying, for a minute or two, to imagine the next Democratic president national-emergencying us into gun control and climate protection.

Somebody ought to be thinking about protecting the Constitution, though.

New York’s Amazon loss

Maybe the governor and the corporate leaders are right, and the Amazon protesters just didn’t understand what was good for them. Still, for those of us who believe in citizen participation, corporate responsibility, affordable housing, and that kind of thing, it wasn’t a huge disappointment that Amazon was taking its logo and walking away from New York City.
I wasn’t completely opposed to New York getting HQ2. Everybody in New York State would have benefitted from the state taxes that Amazon and its workers would have paid. And the fact is, New York State is in competition with other states for businesses like Amazon, so no, it’s not good to be known as an anti-business state.

But there are plenty of indications that New York could have gotten Amazon without the big taxpayer give-away. The company wanted New York’s tech workers. That’s why it picked New York. Virginia and Nashville – didn’t promise Amazon nearly as much as New York did.

Big corporations can create problems as they create jobs. Critics aren’t exaggerating when they say tech giants have driven up housing prices, led to traffic congestion, and have caused other problems that cities have to deal with. Corporations can work with residents to address those problems. But when Seattle tried to raise taxes to deal with its growing homelessness problem, Amazon bullied the city into submission.

Governments across the country are complicit in this bidding-for-business scam, from our local industrial development agencies right on up. It’s way past time to stop it, of course. But that would take a national effort. And that would require far more courage, bipartisanship, and civic commitment than exists in this country right now.

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