Shifting the Immigration Conversation to Melania

So, the newest controversy involves questions of just what visas Mrs. Trump had in her early days in the U.S. I don’t know whether all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, but really, leave the poor woman alone. I’m sure she did as she was told, and knew very little about the visa regulations. How many of you read every word of the contracts you sign?

For that matter, the press and the Clinton campaign should stop slamming Donald Trump for using the H-1B program. As I’ve said many times, when employers take advantage of visa, it’s no different from their exploiting all possible loopholes in the tax code. I’m sure many, if not most, people reading this blog have taken advantage of tax loopholes that they think probably aren’t that fair.

I’ve never blamed the tech industry for making use of the H-1B and green card loopholes. Instead, my criticism has been based on their lying in connection with the visas, by claiming there is a tech labor shortage and so on. I’ve said many times, for example, if the tech lobby were to go to Congress and publicly say they want young H-1Bs because they don’t want to hire qualified older Americans, I wouldn’t be speaking out.

In other words, I don’t consider Trump a hypocrite on the H-1B issue (though I strongly object to his apparent lack of good information on the issue). By contrast, Hillary has not been open at all about her long history of supporting H-1B and offshoring.

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32 thoughts on “Shifting the Immigration Conversation to Melania

  1. I rarely read your posts these days given your public admission that you’re one of Don the Con’s easy marks.

    The interest in Melania’s lying about working in the USA is two fold: as a kept woman, the tawdry interest in celebrities (that launched Don the Con’s campaign) would make her front page news as she now.

    The second reason is that Trump is a hypocrite on so many fronts, it’s nearly impossible to keep track. You’re wrong about this not being hypocrisy. BTW, where are Donnie’s college transcripts? He demanded them from Obama? And about those tax returns…

    I doubt that this is an #H1B issue, it’s more of the B2 tourist form of breaking the law. It all plays into the theme that Trump & Company can’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag. They knew about this, yet weren’t prepared for it. Nor were they prepared for the (again used illegally, by the campaign) employee who copied… er, wrote Melania’s speech.

    I’m in agreement with you about Clinton. However her pal Donnie is just as bad, and coupled with his mental health issues, even worse.

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  2. Sorry, Norm, I don’t agree with you regarding the recent reporting on Melania Trump and her visa situation.

    Having come to the US myself in 1997 on an H-1B (one year after Melania, and not to have my picture taken without my clothes on, but to work as an analog/mixed signal design engineer), I can attest to the fact that Melania, based on her statements, likely broke the law.

    Melania has stated that as a condition of her immigration status in the late 1990s, she was travelling back and forth between Europe and the US. An H-1B visa does not require you to return to your country of origin to maintain status. As many of the news reports have pointed out, the only visa that does require you to return to your country of origin is a tourist visa. A tourist visa does not give you work authorization. So if Melania was paid for that porn shoot in 1996 in New York, and was not here on an H-1B visa, but a tourist visa, she broke the law.

    And contrary to your statements above, most of the people I know who come here working legitimately under an H-1B visa have access to their company immigration attorney, who explains how to follow the law (and presumably not work without work authorization, which is a violation of US law.)

    So effectively, Melania broke the law by working without work authorization. During her citizenship process, had her under-the-table payment for pornographic work in 1996 been disclosed to immigration authorities, she likely would have been deported.

    it is really not that hard to figure any of this out. Most immigration attorneys will explain this pro-bono to anyone who asks in about an hour.

    So are you suggesting, Norm, that we should just shrug it off and say, poor Melania, you couldn’t have known?

    And surely Donald Trump himself, with his legions of attorneys, also would have fully understood that Melania could not work in the US on a tourist visa.

    So, no, Donald and Melania cannot be said to be blameless or unhypocritical on this important election issue.

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    • No way did I say Melania did everything legally. What I am saying is (a) she likely didn’t know what was going on (as opposed to your claim that I said she COULDN’T have known), and (b) it is not relevant to the election. Concerning the nude modeling, I actually think that THIS is relevant to the election. Doesn’t matter to me, but many, maybe most, Americans want elegance in a First Lady, and Melania’s background is counter to that. As to Trump’s attorneys and their possibly cutting legal corners, nothing would surprise me.

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  3. > Instead, my criticism has been based on their lying in connection with the visas, by claiming there is a tech labor shortage and so on.

    Agreed. As often happens, one lie leads to another. If there is truly a broad tech labor shortage, how does one explain the many older native workers (such as those at Disney and Southern California Edison) who lose their jobs and are unable to find replacement jobs? It must be that they are unqualified. How is it that they graduated with good grades and worked in the industry for twenty-plus years with no problems? It must be that they didn’t upgrade their skills or, as Zuckerberg famously said, “young people are just smarter.”

    What especially bothers me are the statistical lies. A 2011 working paper funded by the Partnership For A New American Economy claimed to find that each additional 100 H-1B workers create an additional 183 native jobs and that each additional 100 foreign-born stem workers with an advanced U.S. degree create an additional 262 native jobs. As explained at http://econdataus.com/amerjobs.htm , these findings depend on the inclusion of the tech crash, a period of steep job LOSS for both foreign and native workers. For the latter case, looking at 2002-2009 instead of 2000-2007 results in a measured job LOSS of 121 native jobs for every 100 foreign jobs. The Partnership For A New American Economy is surely aware of this as it was written about in the book “Sold Out” and several articles. However, they have never responded to this fact. On the contrary, they just posted 51 reports (one for every state plus Washington D.C.) which use the 262 and 183 numbers at http://www.renewoureconomy.org/reports/ . They also use a finding from the same paper that “the award of 100 additional H-2B visas creates 464 additional jobs for natives in the state during that same time period”. I have not checked that claim but it undoubtedly is another example of careful cherry-picking.

    I would have much less of a problem if we older programmers were told that there were not enough jobs and that those of us who were able should take early retirement or switch fields. I would likewise have less of a problem if we were told that we were all pitching in to help workers from the third world. Instead, we are told that we have a tech labor shortage and the fact that we older programmers are unable to find jobs indicates that we are lacking in some way. That’s why we never ever even hear from most employers. Even when our resume matches all of the skills that they require, they are somehow able to divine the fact that we are unqualified without so much as a phone call.

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  4. Totally agree with what you said in the article.
    As to the comments, all I can say is that it is legal to find ways to not pay taxes.

    And the H-1B is a legally obtained Hunting License to hunt jobs in America.

    So Trump has done nothing to violate the law as it is written.

    However, this is wrong for the future of our citizens, so it is up to us to bring pressure on the law writers to change this law so that Trump or anybody else, can no longer legally obtain a hunting license to hunt American Jobs by Displacing Americans in America.

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  5. Melania may or may not have done something dodgy. She will not have the nuclear codes. She will not be in the cabinet meetings to discuss the coming Russian invasion of Latvia. She will not in any official position.

    In fact, she likely did not ask for this load of crap being dumped on her. While her choice of statements in the speech had some problems, I don’t agree that she is a plagarist. Speeches have different rules than do other communication methods.

    We should focus on Dodgy Donald and his notions of the use of nuclear weapons. That’s the key thing, not what Melania did or did not do 20 years ago, before she was married to Donald Trump.

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    • I think it is funny that you guys think that Melania is this hapless, powerless person who would not assume a position of power in the White House.

      By the way, her father was a registered member of the Communist Party in Slovenia:

      http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/30/donald-trumps-father-in-law-is-a-communist-who-looks-exactly-like-him-5470817/

      “it is pretty exceptional, as at that time only around five per cent of Slovenians were Communist party members.”

      “Viktor’s party membership came in handy when it came to securing a job for himself and Amalija, and allowed them access to goods that others couldn’t get hold of.”

      ‘Viktor was in the Party which helped you to get government jobs or higher positions,’ one relative in Sevnica told Mail Online.”

      Melania’s statements on immigration, her immigration process, her statements against Mexican and Muslim immigrants specifically, and her statements about Obama’s birth certificate, indicate that she has a notion of being above the law compared to other people.

      Also, if her husband is elected, she would have the least education of any First Lady in living memory. (She has one year of undergraduate education in Slovenia). Contrary to what has been said above, effective Presidencies usually involve some degree of intellectual, professional and diplomatic competence on the part of the spouse of the President.

      Clinton has said and done things that indicate she thinks she is above the law. Thinking that Trump (and Melania) don’t also have big problems in the honesty, ethics and duplicity department is extremely naïve.

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        • People are deported every day and blocked from returning for minor infractions on their visas like overstaying a tourist visa or work without authorization.

          Heck, there was some guy from France a while back that overstayed a tourist visa and was running a very popular food truck in the Mission District in San Francisco. He had managed to get married and might have gotten a green card through marriage, but he was blocked from doing so, and then was deported. *He* was not allowed to use the “I didn’t know” defense.

          Melania was making far more money than the food truck guy and is now in a position of far greater influence and privilege. She’s made some very uninformed and incorrect statements about immigration that could affect immigration policy if Trump is elected.

          So what gives with you guys shrugging all of this off?

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          • Marnie, the connection you’re making here with the food truck makes no sense at all.

            No one is shrugging anything off here. The real issue is that we have two bad choices this election. For many people, it has come down to a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. For many, there is some hope that Trump will make good on his promises to even the playing field for American workers, while in Hillary’s case there is NO such hope. Me, I’m not voting for either of the two, but for many people the Melania issue is just a distraction.

            I’m currently reading David Axelrod’s book, Believer. He was one of the main campaign officials for Obama in 2008, and the material on the 2008 primary elections against Hillary is fascinating, eerily similar to what is happening this year. Internally, the Obama campaign considered Hillary dishonest and unethical.

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      • You are saying that, 30-40 years ago, her father was a communist. OK, I could believe that. What is the point you are making? If you are in a system, what is wrong with trying to use the system to do well? In this country, we use our system. In Slovenia, the communist system had rules, and he followed them, and probably did well.

        What does that have to do with the load of crap that is being dumped on Melania by idiots? Whatever she did, she did in 1995-1996, and the statute of limitations has run out. It was before she met Donald.

        As a person with a Ph.D., I have a lot of respect for education. I also have respect for the learning you obtain in other spheres. Melania will bring a great knowledge of the Balkans and SE MittelEuropa to the FLOTUS position. She is involved in charity work. In the increasingly unlikely event of a Trump win, she will be an asset.

        Rather than dumping on her, make sure that Donald Trump, who will have the nuclear suitcase at his disposal, will have a good approach to the job. I’m increasingly uncomfortable with him. That’s the issue.

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        • Actually, I was going to make the same point about the communist father last night, but forgot to do so. I know the situation in China quite well, and it is the same. Being a member of the party is considered a way to get ahead, just like, say, being a member of the Lion’s Club here. It doesn’t mean that members support all the things the party has done, just like being a Democrat or Republican, or for that matter being an American, carries no such meaning here.

          Similarly, most of the world is quite different from the U.S. in educational opportunities. Anyone who has the commitment can get a college degree here, but that is absolutely not the case in most other countries.

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          • 2 years ago, we visited Serbia on a family history trip. We went to cemeteries to look for family graves, but due to the ethnic cleansing of Germans following WWII, there are very few left (most German graves were desecrated and the headstones broken up to destroy history of German contributions to the former Yugoslavia). In those graveyards, a minority of graves had the star of Party membership. Yes, the communist system had problems. No, not every communist was a morally corrupt person who had horrible actions and blood on their hands. Many of my Eastern European friends probably did things back then that would not be acceptable today. That was then, this is now. We live today in the shadows of our past actions.

            But it’s also unfair to visit the “sins” of the father onto the daughter.

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  6. While I do agree that there is no STEM shortage in either Canada or the US (or Europe for that matter), that does not take away from the fact that Melania broke the law (knowingly or unknowingly).

    And given the fact that Melania has had twenty years to get her story straight, and still appears “confused” about her visa situation, I doubt that the public are going to swallow it.

    While I wholly support the efforts of the Economic Policy Institute to get the story straight on the fact that there is no STEM shortage, it is highly misguided to think that Donald Trump will do beans to fix the H-1B situation.

    He won’t.

    Anyway, judging from the polls, he won’t be elected, so it’s a moot point.

    What is obvious here is that neither party has fielded a candidate that speaks for STEM professionals (versus the Silicon Valley players who have funded both campaigns).

    A lot of energy has been wasted backing the unelectable, unstable and incompetent Trump.

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    • Marnie, I wish you could put yourself into the shoes of people different from you. I don’t know why you dismiss out of hand the notion that she simply did as she was told, never bothering to look into the details of her immigration status.

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      • >> she simply did as she was told, never bothering to …

        Her case aside, this does bring up what Palmer and others have been referring to in their congressional testimonials – of infosyses and others bringing in hordes of indians on B1/B2 (quota-free, again) and get to them to “work” [again, doing what they are told to] here every 3/6 months and “rotate” them. Most recent one being that of Tesla (or its contractors) bringing in people on B1/B2.

        [My bet is it will die down soon, like others] but let’s see how this “issue” pans out in the coming weeks/months leading to the election and after!

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      • Norm, I don’t deny that Melania could very well still not understand whether her process of coming to, working in and becoming a citizen of the United States, was legal or not.

        However, if Melania is big girl enough to go on network television to question whether Obama had a birth certificate or certificate of live birth, and suggest that a certificate of live birth did not qualify him as a born American citizen, then Melania is big girl enough to explain how she managed to legally work as a model (or porn girl) in the United States.

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      • Marnie,

        Many H-1B workers remain in the US without employment since they are still legally present with a valid I-94.

        Were all of your jobs properly posted before you were hired on H-1B? Were you 100% in compliance with all the regulations? Were you ever “out of status” when you were between jobs on on the job without pay?

        If so, you cannot criticize anyone in a similar position. And we do not know Mrs Trump’s visa status when she first entered the US.

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        • >> Many H-1B workers remain in the US without employment since they are still legally present with a valid I-94

          False – Unless they want to convert into illegals, which I do not think is what they’d want, especially since their ‘dream’ is to get naturalized.

          Having a valid I-94 is not *legal*. Someone on H-1 loses a job, they go ‘out of status’ (and so do their dependants etc who are on H-4]; Same with L-1 and other ‘work’ visas.

          Contrary to what many think, Per INA, overstays are a civil offense – But, if at any point in future, the immigrant is found to go ‘out of status’ ie., without a job, (s)he is subject to penalties (including or upto) revocation of their citizenship. One of the recently ‘proposed’ rules where the admin was accused of ‘going full monty’ was supposed to have extended a grace period from 1 week to 90 days for those H-1’s that lose a job in leaving the country (or) finding a new sponsor to keep their status ‘active’.

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          • @Cathy

            “You were lucky never to have gone through a layoff while on H-1B! I am also very appreciative of the problems involved with the choice to work in a country of which you are not a citizen since my US citizen son has moved for the L1 equivalent to the H-1B equivalent in another country. ”

            For the record, Cathy, I do *not* think they should extend the period where laid off H-1Bs can remain in the country legally.

            What they should do is require *all* companies laying off H-1Bs to keep them on the payroll for six months after they have been notified that they are being laid off. That would be enough time to look for a new job and plan to return to a country of origin. H-1Bs would then keep their legal status during this adjustment period time. It would also disincentivize the use of the H-1B visa to create an easily disposable, malleable, and underpaid workforce.

            I am also not for “stable”. Universities should be disincentivised from accepting so many foreign students, who pay very high tuition fees, while rejecting talented Americans who cannot afford to pay these extraordinarily high fees. For example, Berkeley I believe currently is taking in large numbers of foreign students. (Norm, you would know what percentage this is.) This is in a state with an already highly diverse international population. Many qualified students with immaculate grad point averages are being rejected from the UC system. One of the reasons that UC Berkeley is attracting so many foreign students, especially in CS and engineering, is because of the well known path to citizenship from a CS or EE degree. Some classrooms in EE have perhaps only 20% Americans. So, in fact, I think the H-1B and stable should be entirely cancelled. While either are still on the table, I emphatically warn any young person I meet in Canada and the US to avoid studying CS or EE, or at least, if you have a calling to these subjects, to avoid working in Silicon Valley.

            All of the legislative advantages of hiring foreign talent as H-1B indentured disposable workers, and controlling high skilled salaries through this, has come on the backs of American based high skilled workers (American and foreign). The same is true for laws that allow offshoring of 90+% of their skilled work, as is the case with Apple, who uses China based Foxconn for manufacture and much of the design of their products. Furthermore, laws that allow unfettered mergers and acquisitions also hurt American workers. Invariably, during these events, workers high skilled and otherwise are laid off.

            As Norm points out in his email of today (8/14/2016), Trump and *Hillary* both get F’s on these issues. There are no candidates addressing these issues. It should be pointed out that both candidates are on the “payroll” of Silicon Valley and the investment bankers that back them. Both have benefitted directly by the use of temporary foreign workers who work as indentured workers at compressed rates of pay and benefits.

            We need to face this and make our choices accordingly (regardless of the dog and pony show that is the “election”.)

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          • >> It would also disincentivize the use of the H-1B visa to create an easily disposable, malleable, and underpaid workforce.

            In the absence of anything short of a work/skilled visa ban, a good start point to disincentivize would be to give “mobility” to these foreign workers. Have them move around the market freely and let market decide if they are valuable or not. That would make these folks less attractive to employers. Heck,today, their “immigrant petition” is not their’s, but is owned by the employer – And EOIR agrees that’s the statute.

            Once that is done, next level of making those workers less attractive would be to address the issue of greencard backlogs.

            And, both need to happen at the same time. Just hiking the wage levels alone will not suffice to fight the ‘fraud’

            Lastly, reading few other comments on this post (and some recent posts), would like to point out that H-1/L-1 workers getting laid off (or leaving the country due to long backlogs) is a myth. Or, highly anecdotal at best. If that was happening, we would not see the backlogs we are seeing today, especially for Indians [including in the much coveted EB-1 ‘Einstein’ category] ..

            And among Intels, an H-1 worker, before a lay off (due to mergers etc) will have an option to take up an opportunity at their offshore center.

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        • Cathy, I think you’re heading off into wonderland regarding my background.

          Since you’re and nosy enough to ask, in fact, straight out of graduating from the University of British Columbia, I worked at PMC as an analog mixed signal designer, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Shortly thereafter, PMC was acquired by Silicon Valley based Sierra Semiconductor and became PMC-Sierra. Sequoia Capital (a Silicon Valley based venture capital firm) architected the purchase and merger.

          So effectively, through no intention on my part, I ended up working at an American Company, but was still based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (the city where I was born, and grew up.)

          After a few years working at PMC-Sierra, I was poached to work at a competitor in California. I can honestly say that at the time (run up to the dot com), there were very few Americans that had my education, background and work experience in integrated, high performance analog-mixed signal design.

          And, since you are nosy enough to ask, as a matter of fact, I was, throughout my immigration process,100% in compliance with regulations and was never “out of status”. It certainly wasn’t difficult to understand what was, and wasn’t, legal. On an H-1B, every time you cross the border back into the United States, you are read the riot act regarding your non-permanent status and requirement to be working to maintain status.

          So, Cathy, regarding Melania, I’m having a hard time understanding how she didn’t and doesn’t understand her past immigration status, if in fact, she had come here working on an H-1B.

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          • You were lucky never to have gone through a layoff while on H-1B! I am also very appreciative of the problems involved with the choice to work in a country of which you are not a citizen since my US citizen son has moved for the L1 equivalent to the H-1B equivalent in another country. Between the work visa requirements and the corporate contracts and benefit differences short and long term, it is a major decision. H-1Bs are actually very lucky in comparison with the visa requirements and limitations elsewhere..

            IMO, there is a significant problem for guest workers doing things the “right way” when they have been laid off or are finalizing their lives in the US before a permanent move home. While students have a grace period, guest workers and their dependents do not. I believe some unsuccessful legislation tried to address this at one time. I expect the apparent policy to forgive short out of status time with an unexpired I-94 at the time of a new H-1B filing by issuing a new approval notice with updated I-94 is the work-around for this problem. Otherwise, ICE should just park their vans outside a worksite having layoffs to provide direct transport to the airport for flights to the workers home (which is completely unrealistic). This appears .to be at least part of your complaint. If the US government will forgive 180 days of out of status/illegal presence on any entry for H-1B workers, this would apply uniformly to all guest workers on that status if she happened to be an H-1B worker. No one even has an entry ban due to the overstay alone if they overstay less than that amount of time. If the US government doesn’t care, why should you? (I will admit, I have a problem with the over stay forgiveness criteria and the abuses that occur, but the government doesn’t care about my opinion either.)

            It would not surprise me if the processing time for a timely filed short term continuation of an approved short term assignment did not take longer than the new assignment, and the person for whom the petition was filed had already left the country when a decision was made..

            As for Mrs. Trump, I am troubled by the wife of a candidate being held to a higher standard than a candidate for disclosure of their travel history and also by the assumption she did not avail herself of the special status granted to artists and similarly employed individuals, I would expect that an international model hired by a legitimate employer for a temporary assignment in the US would have all necessary visa requirements taken care of by the employer’s attorney or HR staff. I am sure any irregularities would have been addressed during the green card and naturalization processes.

            Quite frankly, I do not understand why you are so bent out of shape about Melania’s travel history years ago. She is a US citizen; that is more than is required to be the First Lady. If you do not support Mr. Trump, do so for his stands on the issues and not because of his wife. If he were to be elected, I am sure she would represent her adopted country well. I expect she is more American than many others who have come to the US but continue to have mixed loyalties to the country of their birth and the US.

            To change the subject –

            There is one up side/down side for an H-1B worker getting a green card or naturalizing; he/she is no longer as attractive a hire to an employer using the limitations on an H-1B worker as a positive indicator for the visa worker verses a citizen or permanent resident. As a former H-1b worker would you would like to share the experiences you had? People who have been on both sides of the H-1B displacing US workers discussion like your self, have the ability to explain the problem far better than displaced/unhired workers or green card aspirants.

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    • The computer and mathematical portion of the STEM industry accounts for only 2.84% of all jobs in America.

      As a reporter told me a few years ago, America doesn’t give a ???? what happens to us and he is right.

      However, when we wake up and realize this is happening to every occupational group in America and we demonstrate to the remaining 97.16% that their neck is on the line as well, then you will find a president that will put America first.

      It is up to us to educate the public.

      And we have to do it in an arena that they read or watch.

      Nothing against this blog, or my blog, or any other blog, but only about 1% of Americans will even take the time to educate themselves by searching for these sites and they will only do it when something like Disney has happened to them, and by then it is too late.

      I beg everybody to pool our resources and take this educational battle to print and tv media because this is the only way we can turn this tide and nobody even puts up one measly dollar.

      So don’t blame the presidential candidates.

      Look in the mirror if you want to know who to blame.

      Like

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