Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Common Sense on Immigration Reform

Lou Dobbs has weighed in with the obvious on the illegal immigration issue. On, he writes:

This president desperately needs to be reminded that he is the president of all Americans and not just of corporate interests and socio-ethnocentric special interest groups.

In what other country would citizens be treated to the spectacle of the president and the Senate focusing on the desires of 12 million to 20 million people who had crossed the nation's borders illegally, committed document fraud, and in many cases identity theft, overstayed their visas and demanded, not asked, full forgiveness for their trespasses?

Illegal aliens and their advocates, both liberal and conservative, possess such an overwhelming sense of entitlement that they demand not only legal status, but also that the government leave the borders wide open so that other illegals could follow as well, while offering not so much as an "I'm sorry" or a "Thank you."
He then enumerates four steps for solving the problem. I listed the first two in an earlier post, and I included the third one in a broader call for a more generous immigration policy.
First, fully secure our borders and ports. Without that security, there can be no control of immigration and, therefore, no meaningful reform of immigration law.

Second, enforce existing immigration laws, and that includes the prosecution of the employers of illegal aliens. ...

Third, the government should fund, equip and hire the people necessary to man the Citizenship and Immigration Services. To do so will ensure that the agency is capable of fully executing and administering lawful immigration into the United States and eliminating the shameful backlog of millions of people who are seeking legal entry into this country. ...

At the same time, the president and Congress should order exhaustive studies of the economic, social and fiscal effects of the leading proposals to change immigration law, and foremost in their consideration should be the well-being of American workers and their families.
John Mueller of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in his newly published Redeeming Economics, notes a relationship between the legalization of abortion in 1973 and our current labor shortage. He writes, "Most immigrants are in their twenties, and the annual number of legal and illegal immigrants to the United States is now almost exactly equal to the number of abortions 20 to 25 years earlier: about 1.5 million."

In my June 7th post, I hesitated to add a fourth step to the solution simply because of its complexity, but prodded by Mueller's bold and illuminating book, I will re-enumerate my common sense steps to solving the illegal immigration problem, this time adding a critically important domestic policy change.

1. Secure the border

2. Enforce the immigration laws

3. Open the immigration spigot

4. Change the laws to at least discourage abortion (Rudy, can you do that?), and then to encourage families to have children and stay together. David Brooks broached this subject in his May 15th 2007 New York Times column, "A Human Capital Agenda," saying, "It means increasing child tax credits to reduce economic stress on young families. It means encouraging marriage, the best educational institution we have."

Recognizing the need for these measures and rallying the country and our legislators to support them is the work of a statesman and the measure of a successful presidential candidate in 2008.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Prediction for the 2008 race

It is said to be foolish to make predictions regarding party nominations in a presidential race, especially this early. On the contrary, I think there is little to be lost and everything to gain from it. If you are wrong, no one remembers and, of those who do, no one cares. If you are right, however, everyone knows because you remind them at every appropriate opportunity.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto in the early 1980s, the great political scientist Nelson Polsby gave a guest lecture on why the election of Ronald Reagan was a fluke, a largely protest vote against an unpopular president. There was no electoral realignment and he had the figures to prove it. I sat there thinking that this fellow was so lost in his digitized world that he could not see the unquantifiable but decisive consideration. Regardless of why people voted for Reagan, he would charm them not only into loving him, but also into thinking that they had always loved him. I predicted he would be easily re-elected (no one cared, but take my word for it; I did), which he a landslide.

Here we are in 2007. Hillary Clinton is leading the Democrats in money and connections and poll support, and Rudy Giuliani is leading the Republicans. Never mind that. The nominees for the two parties will be Barack Obama and Fred Thompson, and I'll tell you why.

Each of the candidates is competing to convince one party or the other that he or she conforms most convincingly to the party’s ideal of a dream candidate. For the Democrats, that remains John F. Kennedy, and for the Republicans, of course, it is Reagan, and neither will be satisfied with its field of potential nominees until a Kennedy or a Reagan re-emerges. Most often they settle for what they can get (Kerry, Dole). At times, they think they have it, but are later disappointed (Clinton, the boy wonder, who was photographed as a youth with JFK, and George W. Bush who talked tough and moral, and seemed to look past his father to Reagan as a model).

Obama will strike the party as being sprung from the Kennedy mould. He is young, fresh, full of hope and can speak that hope persuasively into the living rooms and iPods of America (perhaps that is what Senator Biden meant to say). Fred Thompson is conservative, hawkish, homespun and media savvy...and he has only one divorce far back in his past.

I will even venture to predict the tickets and the winner in November 08. Obama will pick Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia as his running mate (popular governor of a large, conservative, southern state, but with northeastern connections). They will be a Democratic boys' brigade, reminiscent of the Clinton-Gore ticket, remembered fondly among the party faithful, but with greater geographic breadth.

Fred Thompson will choose Mitt Romney who is still young enough to harbor presidential ambitions after Thompson serves out his two terms (presumably). It is a perfectly balanced ticket: south and north, senator and governor, no religion and weird religion.

Of course, what happens in Iraq is a wild card, but, that aside, Thompson will wipe the floor with the young senator from Illinois. (He is only 45! But Kennedy was 43 when he took office.)

When Americans elect a president in a time of war, they look for the candidate who is most convincing as a commander in chief. Obama has little experience in government beyond the local level and much of his time as Senator will have been spent running for president. Thompson’s Washington experience, while sporadic, goes back to the Watergate hearings and includes two full, undistracted terms in the Senate. The contest will resemble one between teenaged idealism and sober, adult maturity.

Furthermore, while the image he evokes among party rank and file is that of Jack Kennedy, he will strike the broader public as more closely resembling Jimmy Carter who most inconveniently has been keeping himself embarrassingly in the public eye. Obama has high ideals and I have no reason to doubt that they reflect the man's good character and public spiritedness. However, a majority of the voting public will (rightly, I think) see these ideals translating into Carteresque naiveté in foreign policy and equally Carteresque incompetence in domestic policy, particularly in regard to the economy. Not only that, but by 2008 the only thing worse than looking like Jimmy Carter (who, as I said, is educating a whole new generation on why you don't want to grow up to be like your uncle Jimmy) will be looking like George W. Bush. America by that time, if not already, will be sick of any kind of moralistic foreign policy, but that is precisely what Sen. Obama will be offering.

Senator Thompson (are you reading this?): take note.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Immigration Bill Serves Washington, Not America

Reagan AG, Edwin Meese III, gives us the definitive word on the Immigration Bill that is now before Congress ("Invasive and Ineffective," WSJ June7, 2007, p.A21). Essentially, the bill smooths the way for illegals who are now in the country and places onerous administrative burdens on both US citizens and legal immigrants (of which I am one), and without a serious effort to secure the border.

What do I conclude from this? What does anyone conclude who has even the most basic understanding of economics and of human behavior in general? In effect, as soon as the bill is passed, twelve million other people will immediately understand that, when they make it across the border, they themselves can become Z-visa holders just 24 hours after securing a forged bank statement, lease, telephone bill et cetera. If our present situation is overwhelming, the one it will produce will be literally hopeless. No government bureaucracy, not even one dreamed up and funded by the glassy-eyed liberals driving Washington these days, could follow up on the tens of millions of "probationary" Z-visa holders that would need to become permanent after a more thorough investigation. DHS is already considerably backlogged with proper applicants. Translate: home free and legal.

In addition, once these illegals are legalized, half of them will lose their jobs. I have a friend in the construction industry. (No, not a rich construction company owner. He does bathrooms. But he knows lots of guys in the business.) As soon as your illegals become legal, your labor costs go up by 50% because of workman's compensation and other government mandated contributions. Regardless of what one thinks of those, a sudden and sharp increase in labor costs will mean layoffs and higher prices, which in turn will mean lower demand which in turn will mean more layoffs. Millions of unemployed foreign nationals on our soil. Problem.

If the problems with this legislation are so obvious, why are 535 legislators and a President seriously considering it? One reason is that very few people in political office understand anything about economics and human behavior. (If this were not so, we would never have had AFDC.) The Democrats want the law because they expect that most of the legalized illegals will eventually become Democrat voters, locking the Republicans out of power for the foreseeable future. Even if they understand the unemployment that will result, even among citizens, that's good too because unemployed people vote Democrat, even if the Democrats are the ones who caused it. The President wants it because the reason that he was elected in 2004 was the significant increase in Hispanic voting for the Republican ticket. He too imagines that these legalized illegals will eventually vote for his party, though he is less justified in believing that. The Republicans in Congress are dithering between principle and pipe dreams.

So, people who carp and criticize should cough up their own solutions. Again, it is obvious.

Number one: secure the border. We are being invaded -- not by a hostile army -- but nonetheless invaded. Put up a fence and regulate traffic through the open bits. If we can drop Shock and Awe on Iraq, surely we can face down Mexico with a fence. Get it done, and fast.

Second: start identifying who is here illegally and start putting them gently on the other side of the fence. Twelve million people are a lot of people. No problem. Take twenty years to do it, if necessary. In the end you may be repatriating someone who has been here for thirty years. He can thank the Lord that he has had thirty years in America. I hope that he is saving. What if these people have children born here? Those children are American citizens. Fine. They are repatriated with their parents and when they turn 18 they can come back to the land of their birth, America. If you let parents stay because of their American-born babies, guess what? (Follow the logic of predictable human behavior.) People sneaking into the country will secure their permanent residency by having babies here. What if an illegal marries an American? Will we split up families? If you marry someone who is illegally in the country, you have implicitly agreed to follow your beloved to his or her country of origin if need be or live potentially very separate lives. Otherwise, people will sneak into the country and secure their permanent residency by marrying the first gullible Americans they can dupe into wedlock. Can't have that. (Remember AFDC?) It's tough love.

Third: open the immigration spigot much wider than it is and employ enough people at DHS to process them in a timely manner. That's growing the government. That's something we do well. There is surely a majority in Congress for that.

Thank you Mr Meese. You continue to serve your country ably and faithfully.