Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

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Political Monday – Guns, Driving and Our Rights

January 28, 2013

freecopyofusconstitutionI posted a couple of years ago something regarding gun ownership and the Second Amendment(click here to read). Here are some follow on thoughts:

OK, I admit it, the NRA is right, guns do not kill people, people kill people. Of course, you might at well say cars do not cause road fatalities, people cause road fatalities and accept that as true too. Let’s do that, let’s accept they are equally true and treat them as equals. Here are some of the points being considered recently on just how we make them equal:

You want to drive a car, you have to pass a written test. 
    How about passing a written test to own a gun? 
You want to drive a car, you have to pass a driving proficiency 
road test. 
    How about passing a shooting proficiency shooting range test?
You want to drive a car, you have to carry liability insurance.
    How about carrying liability insurance to use a gun?
You want to drive a car, you follow the rules of the road.
    How about setting the same sort of rule structure for responsible 
    gun ownership?
You want to drive anything other than a basic car, you must have 
a special license, CDL & motorcycle, for example.
    How about having special licenses for specialized weapons 
    like assault rifles?

We all know driving and gun ownership are not the same thing. Cars and guns serve very different purposes in our lives, but both carry risks and both enjoy some level of legal protection. Wile the right to drive is one of our unenumerated rights, gun ownership is written directly into our Constitution.

In fact, the Supreme Court decided gun ownership is a fundamental right, but that does not mean there are no rules regarding guns. After all, we do not treat

1920s Machinegun Ad

1920s machine-gun Ad

owning a Thomson sub-machine gun the same as owning a Remington Model 870 Wingmaster. There was a time when they were treated the same. Hell, back then you could buy the Thompson as easy as you could a BB-gun. It was decided that allowing automatic weapons in the general population was simply too dangerous, so we modified our fundamental right to own a gun with some rules.

That is not to say you cannot own machine gun now, you can. All you have to do is obtain the pertinent federal license and follow the special rules that come with owning a weapon like a machine gun. In other words, to exorcise the fundamental right to own a machine gun, you must exorcise the fundamental responsibilities that come with it.

Regulating driving a car aids in safe driving and promotes another fundamental right – to live. Regulating gun ownership is no different on that point. We recognize the differences between driving an 18-wheel semi tractor-trailer and a Toyota Prius by having regulations for each. All I ask is for gun ownership to be treated the same way. Does anyone really think owning weapons capable of killing dozens of fellow citizens in a minute is any less dangerous than a Tommy-gun?

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Political Monday: Dealing with Cuts in Defense

May 28, 2012

As the United States looks to reduce its overall budget deficit, it is natural for conservatives and liberals to push for cuts in areas outside their own interests. Generally speaking, for conservatives, it’s social programs.  For liberals, it’s defense spending.  Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about various areas of cuts and try to step beyond the “politics as usual” and look for what is really going on.  To that end, a look at a small sliver of proposed defense spending cuts sheds some light on the subject.

Andrea Shalal-Esa of Reuters reported on the effects of proposed cuts at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Tank Plant, in Lima Ohio[i], on the local Lima economy.  It is well worth your time to read her article as it takes spending cuts down to a personal level.  While Andrea’s article is politically neutral, I think stories like this will be the fodder for the current political season.  Unfortunately, both political camps will miss the point of her story; budget cuts have real impact on individuals.

Upon reflection though, I think the real culprit in this situation is the company running the Lima facility – General Dynamics.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am very fond of General Dynamics.  I served in the US Navy’s Submarine Service and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division plays a large role in construction of safe and capable submarines.  That is not to blame them for budget cuts but more in how they react to budget cuts.  We must remember, our military is their customer.  By extension, that makes our government and ultimately, “We The People” their customers.

In business, management has the responsibility to return to investors the maximum amount of profit.  In the Lima case, they entered into a contract to run the facility for the government and produce tanks.  With the winding down of two wars, we have a surplus of tanks.  It is silly to spend over $6 million per tank on new ones, regardless of its impact on the Lima community.  In business, you must make the products the customer needs, not the product you want them to buy.  The question is not what can we do to keep the military buying unneeded tanks but what can we do to manufacture equipment at the facility until the military needs more tanks.  Companies supplying our military have for far too long depended on increased sales to maintain their profitability.  It is time that changes.

General Dynamics knows this.  Their latest acquisition of IPWireless Inc. shows they understand the need to diversify.  So how do we help them keep the Lima plant operational in the near-term?  This is the question our politicians need to answer; this is where their rhetoric fails.  The plant needs to remain operational in regards to manufacturing but idol in regards to building tanks.

The point is, it is not a political question as much as it is a one of practicality.  We need the ability to manufacture tanks but we cannot afford to pay for tanks just to keep the plant working.  Just off the top of my head, one obvious task the plant can take on is refitting and refurbishing tanks for overhaul.  As the number return from our combat zones, they will overwhelm the depot-level repair facilities.  Another task might be the recycling of tanks that reach the end of their planned life cycle.  It is up to General Dynamics to find useful work to keep their employees working, not the federal government.  Of course, it is in the government’s best interest to assist them in finding such tasking.

Another point to keep in mind when you hear a politician blast the opposing party for their lack of leadership on this particular issue, neither party shows any leadership.  The conservatives simply want to keep buying new weapons, the budget be damned, and the liberals want to slash production without thinking about the long-term effect on our national security.  Of course, I generalize but you get the point.

Today is Memorial Day.  Perhaps it is fitting to take on this subject on a day we honor the brave men and women that have kept our nation safe since before we were even an independent country.  We owe it to them, and the current men and women keeping us safe to spend each penny wisely.  We must give them the equipment they need.  We need to be frugal so we can afford to do just that.  Wasteful spending is just as unpatriotic as not spending at all.  We need companies like General Dynamics to do their part and keep the Lima plant open and working so, they can respond quickly when the demand for tanks returns.  We need their creativity to find ways to keep it operational.  This will make General Dynamics a true partner to our freedom and not just the beneficiary of unbridled defense spending.

 

 


[i] Shalal-Esa, Andrea. “U.S. Defense Cuts Hit Home at Ohio Tank Plant.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 24 May 2012. Web. 28 May 2012.
<http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/24/us-usa-defense-ohio-idUSBRE84N1DW20120524>.

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Pilitical Monday: The Poetry of How Things Got This Far

May 7, 2012

My last Political Monday post (click here to read) dealt with the two-party system in place in the United States.  While the political positions of the two parties have changed over time, the names remain the same: Democratic and Republican Parties.  Their transformation is nothing short of amazing.  Still, even with their opposing politics, there is the specter of special interests, with all their money, that truly have a stranglehold on both parties.

You may be thinking “stranglehold” is too strong a word, here is why I think it fits:  According to the non-partisan website, OpenSecrets.org, here are the top donor industries for the 2011-2012 political giving year[i]:

OpenSecrets.org data on Top Political Donations by Industry

A quick look at the total amount given shows the extent of the problem, there is too much money given to political candidates and it creates a sense of obligation to the ones giving.  Look at it like this, a Senator is more likely to take a meeting with a company that gave him/her a pile of money rather than taking a meeting from either you or me.  That is not a typo either, the top 13 gave over a billion dollars almost equally split between the two political parties.

Note:  You may notice the percentages do not add up to 100%.  That is due to excluding data that is not directly attributable to either part but reported as given.  I also simply divided the amounts given by the percentage to allocate the dollars to each party. 

Remember, this is just the top 13 industries.  OpenSecrets.org reports $4.16 billion given overall for the 2011-2012 years[ii], and the data is current to April 30.  That averages out to $ 7,761,194 per elected federal official in just over a one-year period.

As long as such lobbying efforts distribute such huge amounts of money into our political system, they will maintain control over it.  The fact that giving is about equal between the parties just illustrates the desire to maintain access, and thus control, over our elected officials.  Such huge amounts of money require any politician that wishes to continue to serve to pander to these groups to be competitive.  The very size of the money involved creates an atmosphere of entitlement for the donors and an atmosphere of obligation to the receivers.  It corrupts politics in America.

From time to time, my blog posting cross topic lines, this is one such topic, as I have several poems of a political nature, this one is pretty much on topic:

Details, Details, Details

The devil is in the details
at least that’s what they say
For in the details live the snares
that catch us on our way

With surgeon skill they craft the tone
within the plan they seek
but shades of gray is what they weave
and havoc they will wreak

In fog-veiled words and turn of phrase
pirates steal this land
proclaiming all gave approval
using their sleight of hand

Slick deception is the standard
that got us to this place
Be it party over nation
or simply lack of grace

No, we cannot trust to others
to do what things are best
so we need to keep our guard up
and put them to the test

When intent lacks understanding
before the task is done
the result will cause true damage
to freedoms we have won

Influence is bought and traded
like some stock on the floor
but congress owes us better –
let’s kick them out the door!

Then open up the processes
on all they say and do
and force them to leave the lobby
that hides and turns their screw

To hell with will all the details!
let’s simplify the day
And to hell with both the parties
they stand in freedom’s way!


[i] “Interest Groups.” OpenSecrets.org: Money in Politics. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php>.

[ii] “Interest Groups.” OpenSecrets.org: Money in Politics. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php>.

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Political Monday: The Two Party System

April 30, 2012

In the United States, we have two major political factions, the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party.  Today, control of our national political debate is firmly dominated by these two parties.  This system results in the endless bickering and inability to govern we see today.  It is the single greatest danger to the long-term survival of the United States.

Before the two major parties of today, various ones have led the national debate going back to our Founding Fathers with the Federalist Party (John Adams) and the Democratic-Republican Party (Thomas Jefferson).  Even then, the Founders understood just how disastrous a two-party system could be.  As President Adams put it in a letter to Jonathan Jackson in 1780:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.  This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.[i]

Think about that for a minute.  Before he served as President, before the ratification of the US Constitution, John Adams, as well as other Founders, understood the danger of developing powerful political parties.  He understood that political power vested to parties is political power taken away from citizens.  Look at just how right he turned out to be.

Today, virtually anyone seeking a federal or state elected office needs the backing of one of the political parties.  That is where the money lives; it is where the political power lives.  Our constitution separates power into three branches of government[ii].  Unfortunately, it does nothing to control the political power of our two most influential special interest groups, the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Both are mammoth organizations whose original intentions have metamorphosed to a single purpose of retaining power and not conducting the business of the people of the United States.  Both parties lack the will to govern by debating ideas on their merits and resort to lowbrow rhetoric and political brinksmanship to maintain the status quo.  Moreover, the two parties work in collusion to maintain their grip on power with the rules the parties use in the various houses of government.  For instance, the Senate and House of Representative make internal rules of operation that grants virtually all leadership roles to members of the two parties.

In fact, they have institutionalized the process.  Just think about how leadership roles are addressed.  The Democrats and Republicans have mirror positions in just about every aspect, The Majority Leader and The Minority Leader, The Majority Whip and The Minority Whip and so on.  This is very different from the Speaker of the House.  The Speaker’s role is constitutionally defined; the other roles are defined by politics.

In election years, the scheming of these two parties does not even attempt to remain undercover.  Political television shows are full of guests from both parties speaking on “gaining control” of one house or the other, splitting citizens into two distinct groups, just as President Adams warned over two-hundred years ago.  In the end, some sort of party system is required to get anything accomplished in government.  Unfortunately, the two dominate parties today put party over nation and press their views upon us rather than reflect the views we, the people, hold true.

The Democratic Party has been around since 1828 and the Republican Party since 1854.  Through longevity, they have insured the true political power remains in their hands alone.  It is as if they realize they need the other party to balance things and allow both parties to survive.  In other words, they are in collusion with each other and prevent new political allegiances forming.  Look at the Tea Party.  Only three years ago, it seemed they would change the political landscape in the United States.  Now, it looks more likely they will be nothing more than a footnote, as the Republican Party throttled support for the upstart.

Need more proof as to their unfettered power, just look at voting.  We can walk into a voting booth and vote a party ticket with the push of one button.  No longer do we even worry with individual candidates, they want you to vote a straight party line.  It is better for the party but is it really better for the nation?  Only a moron would think so.  I guess that is really the opinion of party leaders, we are nothing more than a bunch of morons to be led around like cattle.

It is time we, the people, cut these two monolithic and self-serving parties down to size.  Neither has a right to govern, we elect people, not parties.  It is time we demand our elected officials represent us and not a national political party.  It will be messy but the result will be the sort of governance our Founding Father envisioned for us.  I, for one, trust their thinking more than any political minion spouting rhetoric today.


[i] Adams, Charles F. The Works of John Adams. By John Adams. Vol. 9. Boston: Little, Brown &, 1854. 511. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?id=j9NKAAAAYAAJ&dq=John%20Adams%20works&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false>.

[ii] U. S. Constitution, US Const., art.  1 -3 <http://constitutionus.com/>

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Political Monday: Do We Need A National Language?

April 23, 2012

Depending on the source you use, the number of countries with an official language varies.  The number is high and sits around 146 out of 196 countries[i].  That works out to about 74% of all countries in the world claiming at least one official language.  The United States is not one of them.

While many arguments are made regarding an official language, both for and against the idea, most end up being political and leave the legitimate arguments behind.  Regardless of your position, by understanding the issues surrounding an official language, you will be better prepared to make up your own mind without the stupid political rhetoric bogging you down.

First, we must accept there is a de facto official language in use – Americanized English.  While many other languages exist in our daily lives, Americanized English (English) is overwhelmingly our primary language.  About 1.5% of people in the United States speak no English at all[ii] and almost all are first-generation immigrants.  Virtually all second-generation immigrants have, at least, a working knowledge of English.  Given its dominance, English is, in effect, our un-official national language.

So, why not just make English our official language?  As with most issues surrounding a group of 300 million-plus people, answers are not as straightforward as the question implies.  While it is easy to stamp a language as “official,” doing so may have unintended consequences.  For instance, what about our indigenous people, how do we consider their native languages in this debate?  For those of us that only speak English, we may not see the cultural significance of such a matter, and it does matter.  Recently, a young member of the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin was benched from the school basketball team for speaking her native language earlier in the day to a classmate[iii].  It is hard enough today for Native-American Tribes to hold on to their cultural heritage, if we put an official language in place, we must ensure we do not further trample Native-Americans in the process.

Had we, as a nation, been successful in our attempt to suppress Native-American language[iv], it would have negatively affected our war efforts in World War II.  We would not have had

Codetalker in WWII
(click on image to visit site)

the famous Navaho Codetalkers[v] .  Accepting, for the sake of argument, the suppression had the best of intentions, it remains a blatant example of how we are diminished if we do not honor the cultural differences within our boarders.  All citizens can take pride by having four-hundred bilingual Navaho-Americans in World War II.  Those same four-hundred Navaho-Americans have pride is providing their nations (the Navaho Nations and the United States) with service that saved thousands of lives.

About one-hundred years has passed since we attempted to educate away Native-American language and it seems today some of our educators are hell-bent on continuing the practice.  We cannot forget they are part of us.  It is not any “us against them” situation.  We need to honor their choice to preserve their cultural language.  Doing so enriches us, as a whole, along

Carlisle School Pupils (c 1900)

with our Native-American siblings.

Not having an official language has its downside too.  Part of being a nation is having a sense of oneness.  A common language is a primary means to reach that oneness.  Moreover, it simplifies communication and understanding.  It is all too easy to classify anyone promoting an official language for the United States as being racist.  Surely, there are those out there that see it with bigotry, but it is wrong to lump everyone in that category.  Even without English being our official language, knowing it provides benefits, including employment opportunities, education, and social connectivity, to name a few.  Without a basic knowledge of English, immigrants are limited to menial labor and advancement is severely impacted in a negative way.

Several years ago, I worked in an industry that had a high percentage of non-English speaking employees.  It presented management with a real problem in terms of quality, productivity, and worker-safety.  In a meeting to find a solution, it was proposed we train our managers to speak Spanish, as most of the workers in question did.  It seemed like a good solution until one of our senior managers, who just happened to be Hispanic, pointed out our flaw in thinking that way.  As he put it, “if you have a manager that has fifty Hispanic employees working for him and he leaves, you now cannot communicate with fifty employees until you find another Spanish-speaking manager.  It is better to train the fifty employees to speak English, if one leaves it does not have near the same impact.”  He further went on to explain it helps the immigrant employee feel connected to their new home.  It helps them become part of our national identity, and not just a visitor.

As a company, we found we could use it as a benefit to our employees.  Something we ultimately did.  It decreased employee turnover, increased productivity and reduced OSHA related injuries.  The cost of educating employees was more than offset in the savings and increased profits the company enjoyed.  In the end, it was a true win-win situation.

The point is, there are benefits for immigrants learning to speak the language of the country they live in.  It does not have to be draconian in nature or repressive of culture.  In fact, as the Codetalker incident illustrates, we benefit from bilingual citizens and our citizens benefit from having a national identity.

The trick is how to establish a national language and honor cultural differences.  This is where the debate should be.  Let’s forget all the rhetoric and do something useful for the United States.  We must remember, no one of us is as smart as all of us.  Therefore, we must engage opinions that differ from our own to find the best solution to a problem.  We have a tendency to take ownership of ideas and this means we get defensive when we see them being attacked.  A better way to think about it is to take partnership in the solution.  Then the best points from all ideas can form the best solution possible.

The idea of an official language for the United States is not an earth-shattering topic.  If we do or do not pick one the fabric of our daily lives will not change.  This makes it a perfect topic to engage others of differing views and set our petty political personas aside.  Perhaps by taking a small step with a subject like this, we can learn to do the same on issues that really will shake the world.


[i] Wolframalpha. Wolframalpha LLC. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=number+of+countries+with+an+official+language>.

[ii] Shin, Hyon B. and Robert A. Kominski. 2010. Language Use in the United States: 2007, American Community Survey Reports, ACS-12. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. Web,  23 Apr 2012.
<http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/acs-12.pdf>

[iii] ICTMN Staff.  “Student Suspended for Speaking Native American Language.”  Indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com. Indian Country Today Media Network, LLC, 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.  <http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/02/07/student-suspended-for-speaking-native-american-language-96340>.

[iv] “Native American Boarding Schools.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_boarding_schools>.

[v] “The Code Talker Story.” Official Site of the Navajo Code Talkers. Navajo Code Talkers Foundation. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.navajocodetalkers.org/code_talker_story/>.

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Political Monday – Rep. West: McCarthy 2.0

April 16, 2012

Rep. Allan West

Last week, Florida Representative Allen West, a Republican, stated the Democratic Party has as many as 81 card-carrying communists among its ranks.  It is not hard to believe Joseph McCarthy must be his personal idol and hero.  Rather than simply berate the good Representative for such an ignorant remark, it better serves us to look into his statement and its underlying attempt to instill hysteria in the Florida electorate.  Then, we can berate him.

Normally, I do not give a damn about politics in Florida.  I mean, after all, no one from Florida represents me in government.  In this case, an exception is made as the repugnant message Rep. West puts forward is toxic and proves him to be one of the bad apples threatening the whole bunch.

First, for the particulars of the comment, Rep. West attended a “Town Hall” meeting in Palm City, Florida on April 10, 2012.[i] Rep. West was asked this direct question:

Moderator: “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialist?”

Rep. West:    “It’s a good question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “

Let that sink in a minute.  A member of the House of Representative called a good number of his colleagues communists.  Specifically, his statement implies that any member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is a communist.  While we may be able to overlook the incorrect subject-verb selection and miss-naming the Democratic Party within his reply, we cannot overlook his declaration that any member of the CPC is a communist.  It smacks of McCarthyism.  In other words, the good Representative is all too willing to make stupid remarks and prove himself to be little more than a dotter-headed jackass.

OK, it was one remark made off the cuff; all that needs to be done is to clarify it someway, then move on.  That seems straight-forward enough, but Rep. West is incapable of admitting a mistake so his spokeswoman, Angela Melvin, followed with this nice little jewel:

“The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies. The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom[ii].”

Using the same logic, everyone must accept Rep. West (who happens to be African-American) is a white-supremacist.  I mean, he supports the Tea Party while Stormfront.org, a white-supremacist group, claims the Tea Party is their ally[iii].  The same logic Rep. West applies to the CPC means he, as well as every other Tea Party supporter, are white-supremacists.

That sort of corrupt logic is why I think Representative Allen West of Florida is a jackass of the first order.  For instance, one day he calls Democrats fascists[iv], a few days later he calls Democratic caucus members communists[v].  He should at least make up his mind on which way he wants to go as the two ideologies are far from the same thing. It is just another example of Rep. West making inflammatory remarks he must know are not true.  It illustrates that Rep. West is what is worst in politics.

It is all political theater designed to inflame the passions of his constituents.  That is the very action he attributes to Democrats. This is ironic as it shows his tactics are akin to the Big Lie theory he wrongly attributes to Democrats[vi].  It shows Rep. West, just like Senator McCarthy in the 1950s, will go to any length to get his way.  He will lie, distort, and mislead.  It seems in his mind, the end does justify the means.  Sadly, both his conclusions, as well as the tactics he employs, do not hold with the ideals of liberty and justice the United States of America was founded upon.  In his mind, it is “better think like me, lock-step, or pay the price.”

Then there is the issue with him equating progressivism with communism.  I guess it is the social conscience and desire for change that is the basis for doing that.  Of course, it ignores the history and positive changes members of the Progressive Movement have achieved.  Some of their more noteworthy supporters include Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, Howard Taft, Thomas Edison, the Mayo Brothers (of Mayo Clinic fame), John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, Louis Brandies and many more.  Not bad company to say the least.  If you start a caucus, you could do a lot worse than modeling it after the thoughts of such great thinkers.

I guess the best thing to remember is politicians talk about and name-call their opponents when they lack ideas of their own to put forward.  They (Rep. West in this case) hope the public will not notice their lack of ideas by creating a dust storm to surround others in the race.  It is like they want you to vote against their challenger rather than for them.  The question becomes just how much longer the good people of Florida’s 22nd District are willing to put up with this buffoon.


[i] Doherty, Daniel. “Allen West: 78-81 Democrats in Congress Are Communists.” Townhall.com. 11 Apr. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2012.  <http://townhall.com/tipsheet/danieldoherty/2012/04/11/allen_west_7881_democrats_in_the_american_legislature_are_secret_communists>.

[ii] Bendery, Jennifer. “Allen West: I’ve ‘Heard’ 80 House Democrats Are Communist Party Members.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 04 Nov. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/allen-west-democrats-communist-party_n_1417279.html>.

[iii] Burghart, Devin, and Leonard Zeskind. “Tea Parties – Racism, Anti-Semitism and the Militia Impulse.” Irehr.org. The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 19 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <http://www.irehr.org/issue-areas/tea-party-nationalism/the-report/tea-parties-racism-anti-semitism-and-the-militia-impulse>.

[iv] Sohn, Darren S. “Allen West: Goebbels Would Be Proud of Democrats Read More: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1211/70521.html#ixzz1s7AvDL37.&#8221; politio.com. POLITICO, LLC, 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1211/70521.html>.

[v] Ibid. i.

[vi] Ibid. iii.

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Illegal immigration – It is a Question of Why

April 9, 2012

Steel barrier wall near Mariposa by Mtamez

Nationally, we (the citizens of the United States) have a short attention span.  We get worked up over an issue, pick the side, beat the drum for a while, only to have our attention switch to a new subject and start all over again.  Such is the case with illegal immigration.

Every few years, the issue of what to do about unauthorized people being in the United States becomes a hot-button issue that generates all sorts of activity, on both sides.  The problem is nothing is ever resolved.  It is as if both side (for and against) set up their armor, charge each other like the devil was on them, take their best shot, then retreat until the dust settles.  It is as if they are two knights staged for a joust.  They make their run, absorb the blow, then re-stage and wait for another lance.  They fell like something has been done but rarely do they unseat the opponent, leaving it for the audience to decide who won in subtle shades of grey.

While the issue is waning, it is a good time to look at the particular issues that make up the topic and see if we can work on a solution rather than shout rhetoric.  A logical place to start is what to call it.  Do we define people is the United States without permission as illegal immigrants, illegal aliens, people here illegally, undocumented workers, or any other of the terms used.  It makes a difference, as each side of the argument wants to use terms that promote their particular view.  Basically, they are people who are here and should not be.  If you want to define it with greater precision, you have to answer the question of why they are here in the first place.

We, the citizens of the United States, tend to lump all people this topic covers in one group, having one mindset.  This is a mistake.  We need to get to the root of why people choose to come here and not follow the rules of how to come here legally.  To that end, we need to ask people not following the rules, why they are here.   Even without a formal study, the more obvious reasons are pretty well understood:

  • To earn money for their family, then return home.
  • To move to the United States permanently.
  • To escape persecution of some sort.
  • To have children is the United States, making the children citizens.

While the list is not definitive or based on a study, it covers the basic reasons we hear as the jousting opponents bandy back and forth.  In the end, it really just shows that people have many reasons for coming here.  If we wish to end the problems, of both sides of the argument, we need to understand the motivations of people coming here without following the rules and address each one.

Take for instance, the issue of coming here to send money home.   This is sort of the classic model of the “illegal immigrant.”  I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it is an issue so let’s deal with it.  What are the issues regarding this sort of person.  On the “it’s OK for them to do this” side” it is said:

  • They do work no one else will do, unskilled labor and such.
  • They add to the local economy through paying sales tax.
  • It is the humane thing to do.
  • They are not hurting anyone.

Like with any subject, there is the other side, in this case the “it’s not OK for them to do this” side.  Their points include:

  • They take jobs away from citizens.
  • They are a drain on local and federal economies but using services without paying for them.
  • It is inhumane to allow them to be abused and underpaid.
  • They bring crime with them.

Rather than add to the endless debate on each point on both sides, it better serves us to analyze solutions that solve the issues.  Of course, each side wishes to reduce the issue to its simplest terms but that tends to place people in extreme camps that have no common ground.  The truth is there is much ground that is common. For instance:

  • Neither side wants crime.
  • Neither side wants to he inhumane.
  • Neither side wants to hurt the economy.
  • Both sides want jobs to be filled.

Ok, so if there is so much both sides can agree on, why is this so hard to fix?  The answer is special interest groups.  Special interest groups have a narrow field of view so their solution to problems is all or nothing, leaving no room for compromise.   We hare statements like “We do not need new laws, we need to enforce the laws we have,” or “We need to protect the border and keep them out,” or even, “it is a human right to live and work where you want to.”   While these saying get the attention of the media, they do nothing to address the issues at hand.  More puzzling is why special interest groups seem to be trying to hold things at the status quo.

That answer depends on the special interest group; one group that wants to keep things as they are is the companies purposely hiring people not legally entitled to work in the United States.   By hiring such people, these companies increase their profits by breaking minimum wage and tax withholding laws.  Not to mention the conditions these workers endure, such as extremely long hours without overtime pay and inhumane working conditions.

What we need to solve the problem of people coming here to work and send money home is a guest worker program.  Everyone knows it but it is the last thing the companies that hire illegally want.  Such a program can easily address every point of the argument, both for and against.  For instance:

  • It will limit jobs to ones not filled by citizens and registered residents.
  • It will force employers to be fair and follow the law.
  • It will enhance the local and federal economies.
  • It will allow for screening of people entering the country.

The big surprise is such a program exists in the United States.   It just needs to be modified to address the issue of migratory workers.   In the end, such a program provides a ready workforce to fill unskilled labor jobs employers have a hard time filling.  It protects the unskilled workforce from abuse.  It allows us to protect our borders.  It takes away a primary reason people are in the country illegally.

In the interest of fairness, I am sure some people out there do not agree with this approach.  Rather than argue with me, why not gather your thoughts and present a counter proposal for consideration.  Even if you feel I am absolutely wrong, I am still betting we can find point is common and begin to address and fix some of the problems we face.   This has become an elephant of an issue, much too large to eat in one bite.  Let’s begin to nibble away at it and make some progress.  If we wait until we find the perfect solution, we will never make any progress at all.

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