Illegal Immigration: A Winning Issue for Democrats?

Thursday, April 29, AD 2010

Some Democrats think that the Arizona law cracking down on illegal aliens will save them from electoral disaster in November.  They think this will rile up the Hispanics, and to fan the flames a few Democrats are making free with their favorite epithet against those who oppose them, Nazi.

I think that these Democrats are pursuing a losing hand on this issue.  Illegal immigration is extremely unpopular in this country and overheated epithets will simply further energize the conservative base.  More to the point, this election is going to be fought on the economy and government spending, and the Democrats are in dire shape on both those issues.  In regard to the immigration issue, I think there is evidence that some Democrats understand that rather than a gift this could be an electoral landmine.  This AP story here indicates that Obama concedes that Congress may not have the political appetite for immigration reform anytime soon, and notes the type of legislation that the Democrats propose eventually may ostensibly put enforcement before amnesty:  “An immigration proposal by three Democratic senators calls for more federal enforcement agents and other border security-tightening benchmarks before illegal immigrants could become legal U.S. residents, according to a draft of the legislation obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. The bill is being developed by Reid of Nevada, Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.”

In an earlier post this week I quoted my favorite living historian Victor Davis Hanson on the issue of illegal immigration.  Here are his current thoughts on immigration as a political issue in the Fall:

A Losing Political Issue

The politics of illegal immigration are a losing proposition for liberals (one can see that in the resort to euphemism), even if they don’t quite see it that way. Here are ten considerations why.
Law?—What Law?

First, there is the simplicity of the argument. One either wishes or does not wish existing law to be enforced. If the answer is no, and citizens can pick and chose which laws they would like to obey, in theory why should we have to pay taxes or respect the speed limit? Note that liberal Democrats do not suggest that we overturn immigration law and de jure open the border — only that we continue to do that de facto. Confusion between legal and illegal immigration is essential for the open borders argument, since  a proper distinction between the two makes the present policy  indefensible—especially since it discriminates against those waiting in line to come to America legally (e.g., somehow our attention is turned to the illegal alien’s plight and not the burdensome paperwork and government obstacles that the dutiful legal immigrant must face).

Why Wave the Flag of the Country I Don’t Wish to Return To?

Second, often the protests against enforcement of immigration law are strangely couched within a general climate of anger at the U.S. government (and/or the American people) for some such illiberal transgression (review the placards, flags, etc. at May Day immigration rallies). Fairly or not, the anger at the U.S. and the nostalgia for Mexico distill into the absurd, something like either “I am furious at the country I insist on staying in, and fond of the country I most certainly do not wish to return to” or “I am angry at you so you better let angry me stay with you!” Such mixed messages confuse the electorate. As in the case with the Palestinians, there is an effort to graft a foreign policy issue (protecting an international border) onto domestic identity politics, to inject an inflammatory race/class element into the debate by creating oppressors, victims, and grievances along racial divides.

Big Brother Mexico?

Third, Mexico is no help. Now it weighs in with all sorts of moral censure for Arizonians — this from a corrupt government whose very policies are predicated on exporting a million indigenous people a year, while it seeks to lure wealthy “gringos” to invest in second-homes in Baja. The absence of millions from Oaxaca or Chiapas ensures billions in remittances, less expenditures for social services, and fewer dissident citizens. But the construct of Mexico as the concerned parent of its own lost children is by now so implausible that even its sympathizers do not take it seriously. Mexico has lost all credibility on these issues, expressing concern for its own citizens only when they seem to have crossed the border — and left Mexico.

It’s Not a Race Issue

Fourth, there really is a new popular groundswell to close the borders. Most against illegal immigration, especially in the case of minorities and Mexican-American citizens, keep rather mum about their feelings. But that silence should not be interpreted as antagonism to enforcing the law. Many minorities realize that the greatest hindrance to a natural rise in wages for entry level jobs has been the option for an employer to hire illegal aliens, who, at least in their 20s and 30s, will work harder for less pay with fewer complaints (when sick, or disabled, or elderly, the worker is directed by the employer to the social services agencies and replaced by someone younger as a new cycle of exploitation begins). In this context, the old race card is less effective. The general population is beginning to see not that Americans (of all races who oppose illegal immigration) are racist, but that the open borders movement has itself a racially chauvinistic theme to it, albeit articulated honestly only on university campuses and in Chicano-Latino departments, as a sort of “payback” for the Mexican War, where redress for “lost” land is finally to be had through demography.

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22 Responses to Illegal Immigration: A Winning Issue for Democrats?

  • I’m not aware of anyone who thinks this will erase the Republican advantage in November. But it’s a long-term blow to the GOP. When Tom Tancredo, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush are running from it, it’s safe to say that this isn’t a political winner.

    Gov. Brewer got a boost among whites which widens her lead against Goddard. But Goddard’s lead among Hispanics just jumped 26 points! Rarely in politics do you ever see such a big swing.

    Whites who are leaning Republican because of this issue can be swayed by other issues like abortion or the economy. The Hispanics who are abandoning the GOP because of this issue aren’t coming back. The GOP is losing a generation of Hispanics and Asians.

  • I don’t think that most Hispanics who are legally here restrainedradical are actually much fonder of illegal aliens being allowed to stay in the country than most other Americans. The Democrats will get majority of the Hispanic votes in the Fall, as they usually do outside of Florida with its Cuban-American population. But I predict a fall off from the percentage received by the Democrats in 2008. Hispanics are primarily economic voters like most other Americans, and a lousy economy is always going to be blamed on the party in power.

    As for Marco Rubio, a man who I expect will eventually be the GOP standard bearer for Presidency some day, here is his position on the Arizona law:

    “Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America’s blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.

    “States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona’s policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don’t believe Arizona’s policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

    “I hope Congress and the Obama Administration will use the Arizona legislation not as an excuse to try and jam through amnesty legislation, but to finally act on border states’ requests for help with security and fix the things about our immigration system that can be fixed right now – securing the border, reforming the visa and entry process, and cracking down on employers who exploit illegal immigrants.”

    The Arizona law is not going to spur a movement to support amnesty, but rather the reverse.

  • I wonder how the average Arizona policeman feels about this new law- by that I mean he/she may be hung out to dry if what they consider to be ‘reasonable suspicion’ is put to countless legal challenges- I’m just trying to put myself in their shoes- and it could be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario where they will constantly be asking themselves- “am I racially profiling?” Police are no different from us in that they will have certain stereotypes and even inadvertant prejudices which could lead them into trouble in Federal Courts and so forth- is there something built into the law that would protect the police from lawsuits that will inevitably occur – except in egregious cases of obvious harrassment or abusive treatment?

  • Cops will feel cautious Tim as they do with any law until it has been through the court mill a few times. The first arrests under the law, assuming that enforcement will not be blocked, will probably be cases so obvious that the cops can’t ignore them. Of course a lot of this also depends upon their instructions from their superiors and the attitude of the local district attorney to enforcing the new law.

  • I don’t think that most Hispanics who are legally here restrainedradical are actually much fonder of illegal aliens being allowed to stay in the country than most other Americans.

    Simply not true. Goddard jumped 26 points against Brewer among Arizona’s registered Hispanic voters after this bill was signed. He’s still trailing but has a 46 point advantage among registered Hispanic voters. The Arizona Hispanic Republicans have come out against the law. Arizona had one of the most Republican Hispanic populations before the bill was signed. Overnight Arizona’s Hispanics became as Republican as California’s.

    If I had to guess, less than 20% of Hispanics here legally, are in favor of this law. Probably less than half that among 1st and 2nd generation legal immigrants. There’s an enormous racial divide on this issue.

  • The polls in Arizona are in conflict restrainedradical. Rasmussen is showing Brewer way up after signing the bill with an eight point advantage over Goddard.

  • I would imagine that to the extent this has a long term political effect, it will probably be against the GOP. However, I doubt that (despite the tendency to assume that whatever occupies the news waves at a given moment is the pivotal event in some trend) there will actually be much movement one way or the other in the long term as a result of this particular dust-up.

    However, despite consistent Democratic hopes to the contrary, I can’t see that the Hispanic vote will ever become the uniform and overwhelming Democratic voting bloc that the Black vote has become. Despite the efforts of Latino activists, it’s not an absolutely defining label for most 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics, and many of us simply stop idenfiying as members of the group consistently after a couple generations anyway. The fact that in the coming decades majorities of the Southwestern states will be Hispanic in origin does not mean that they’ll all act like the self-identified Hispanic voters on polls now.

  • I don’t see the conflict Don. Brewer benefited from this but the bump came entirely from whites.

  • Rasmussen doesn’t break it down by ethnicity restrainedradical. The difference in the polls is that PPP shows Goddard plus three while Rasmussen shows Brewer plus eight.

  • I wonder how the average Arizona policeman feels about this new law

    Well, the Sheriff of Pima County had this to say:

    The state’s sweeping immigration law is a “national embarrassment” that Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said he’ll enforce only if he’s forced to.
    “This law is unwise. This law is stupid, and it’s racist,” Dupnik said Wednesday. “It’s a national embarrassment….”

    It’s probably safe to say he’s not a fan of the law.

  • Last year Dubnik wanted to ask school kids about whether they were in the country illegally. Goodness knows why he was willing to do that and finds this law “stupid and racist”.

    Oh, I understand now. As Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican points out, Dubnik is a Democrat. I am shocked, shocked!

  • If Dubnik was willing to have teachers ask students to prove they are here legally, I don’t think you can explain his opposition to the current law just based on his being a Democrat. Maybe the fact that this law has to do with the police (and thus affects him personally while the education thing does not) has something to do with it?

  • Btw, if Joe Arpaio is any indication of how the Arizona law is going to be enforced, then I’d say the criticism is justified.

  • A man who was willing to have students turn informer on their parents could not possibly have an objection to this mild by comparison law except for partisan purposes.

  • I’ll take Joe Arpaio any day BA over a sheriff who apparently believes that his badge gives him a right not to enforce a law of his state.

  • Don, the problem is that Arpaio isn’t enforcing the law either. By focusing on illegal immigration he has neglected traditional law enforcement, with the result that, to quote the East Valley Tribune, “[r]esponse times, arrest rates, investigations and other routine police work throughout Maricopa County have suffered.”

  • The East Valley Tribune ran the series in the summer of 2008 BA when Arpaio was running for his fifth term as sheriff. He won re-election 55-42. Apparently a majority of the voters in his county are satisfied with how he is doing his job.

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  • Personally I think Arizona’s new law is a great law. We all recognize that we need to allow a better path to citizenship, but since the state can’t grant the citizenship the only way we can protect ourselves is to enforce harsher penalties against all illegal immigrants. We can’t sort the good and the bad until the Federal government acts. Instead of protesting our actions people should be petitioning their congressmen to reform immigration laws. We just want to keep the criminals and drug dealers out of our state.

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  • Most people in America aren’t against immigration; they’re just against illegal immigration. For example, like most of our ancestors, my mother’s parents were immigrants. They came through Ellis Island and followed the various legal steps required in order to establish themselves as true citizens of this country. The immigrants crossing the Mexican border, however, have absolutely no interest in following these legal protocols. Once they cross the border, they change their names and/or purchase social security numbers in an effort to conceal their true identities from the law. It is not uncommon for an illegal immigrant to purchase not one, but two or more social security numbers, just in case one is flagged. I have witnessed this crime with my own eyes. (One day, a supposedly legal immigrant was asked to give their social security card to a receptionist for a job application and an interview. When the receptionist happened to ask to see the card a second time, the immigrant mistakenly handed over a different social security card with the same name on it, but with a completely different set of numbers…)

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Hispanics. I have many Hispanic friends, but they either have green cards to work in the United States or have become legal citizens. They decided to follow the rule of law and work within the boundaries of our legal system. Unfortunately, many immigrants do not, and it is those particular individuals that we are most concerned about.

    Now it seems that those who sympathize with illegal immigrants wish to hijack the discussion of reform by attacking the law recently imposed by the State of Arizona through protests and boycotts; a state mind you, that has been besieged with crime, drugs and an ever-increasing population of illegal immigrants. Don’t allow them this option. Speak out and take action. This is your country… fight for it.

    In closing, I consider myself to be a bleeding-heart liberal: a Democrat. My ancestor, Roger Williams – the founder of Rhode Island and founder of the First Baptist Church in America, was one too; regarding the acceptance of different nationalities, cultures and religions as the vitality and lifeblood of any country. Nevertheless, I think that he would agree with me; that immigrants wishing to become legal citizens have not only the obligation, but the civil and legal responsibility to follow the rules of law established by any country in which they wish to become authentic citizens, just as our ancestors – both yours and mine – struggled so arduously and righteously to achieve.

Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

Tuesday, April 27, AD 2010

Immigration seems to be a hot topic these days at American Catholic.  The author who best represents my views is Victor Davis Hanson, one of my favorite living historians,  in his book Mexifornia:  A State of Becoming.  In that book Hanson turned his gaze to a subject he is personally familiar with: the transformation of his native California by massive illegal immigration from Mexico. Hanson is not anti-Mexican. He has several Mexican relatives, his daughters are dating Mexican-Americans and most of the people he grew up with are Mexican-American or Mexican. What Hanson is opposed to is our feckless non-policy on immigration which allows steady waves of illegals to flood our border states and does not give us time to allow us to assimilate the Mexican immigrants here. Hanson believes strongly that the vast majority of immigrants, given time and opportunity, will assimilate and become good citizens.   That is my view also.   However it is impossible for this to be accomplished unless we gain control of our southern border and curb most illegal immigration.   A good book on a major issue that both the Republican and Democrat parties have steadfastly ignored, until the passage of the Arizona law. 

 Mexifornia came out in 2003.  Hanson wrote an article in 2007 for City Journal reviewing what had happened in the intervening years, which may be read here.  I find his class analysis of the immigration question interesting:

Since Mexifornia appeared, the debate also no longer splits along liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat, or even white/brown fault lines. Instead, class considerations more often divide Americans on the issue. The majority of middle-class and poor whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics wish to close the borders. They see few advantages to cheap service labor, since they are not so likely to need it to mow their lawns, watch their kids, or clean their houses. Because the less well-off eat out less often, use hotels infrequently, and don’t periodically remodel their homes, the advantages to the economy of inexpensive, off-the-books illegal-alien labor again are not so apparent.

But the downside surely is apparent. Truck drivers, carpenters, janitors, and gardeners— unlike lawyers, doctors, actors, writers, and professors—correctly feel that their jobs are threatened, or at least their wages lowered, by cheaper rival workers from Oaxaca or Jalisco. And Americans who live in communities where thousands of illegal aliens have arrived en masse more likely lack the money to move when Spanish-speaking students flood the schools and gangs proliferate. Poorer Americans of all ethnic backgrounds take for granted that poverty provides no exemption from mastering English, so they wonder why the same is not true for incoming Mexican nationals. Less than a mile from my home is a former farmhouse whose new owner moved in several stationary Winnebagos, propane tanks, and outdoor cooking facilities—and apparently four or five entire families rent such facilities right outside his back door. Dozens live where a single family used to—a common sight in rural California that reifies illegal immigration in a way that books and essays do not.

The problem with all this is that our now-spurned laws were originally intended to ensure an (admittedly thin) veneer of civilization over innate chaos—roads full of drivers who have passed a minimum test to ensure that they are not a threat to others; single-family residence zoning to ensure that there are adequate sewer, garbage, and water services for all; periodic county inspections to ensure that untethered dogs are licensed and free of disease and that housing is wired and plumbed properly to prevent mayhem; and a consensus on school taxes to ensure that there are enough teachers and classrooms for such sudden spikes in student populations.

All these now-neglected or forgotten rules proved costly to the taxpayer. In my own experience, the slow progress made in rural California since the 1950s of my youth—in which the county inspected our farm’s rural dwellings, eliminated the once-ubiquitous rural outhouse, shut down substandard housing, and fined violators in hopes of providing a uniform humane standard of residence for all rural residents—has been abandoned in just a few years of laissez-faire policy toward illegal aliens. My own neighborhood is reverting to conditions common about 1950, but with the insult of far higher tax rates added to the injury of nonexistent enforcement of once-comprehensive statutes. The government’s attitude at all levels is to punish the dutiful citizen’s misdemeanors while ignoring the alien’s felony, on the logic that the former will at least comply while the latter either cannot or will not.

Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.

These class divisions cut both ways, and they help explain the anomaly of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page mandarins echoing the arguments of the elite Chicano studies professors. Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas. Indeed, every time an alien crosses the border legally, fluent in English and with a high school diploma, the La Raza industry and the corporate farm or construction company alike most likely lose a constituent.

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38 Responses to Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

  • Perhaps some. My parents, whose parents came from Mexico, are native Californians. They have live in the same house for 50 years and added one room and remodeled the kitchen once during those years. My father was always a blue collar worker and my mother a stay-at-home mom. We were poor. They are not pleased by illegal immigration especially their perceived drain on Califoria’s resources by illegals.
    When I was in college, I had first hand experience with La Raza. Most were third generation Mexican Americans like myself. They were very well educated and living the life at an Ivy League school. They were also quite pro-illegal immigration, in favor of large govt. entitlements to illegal immigrants and against any restrictions on immigration.
    I think there is a real divide amongh Hispanics on illegal immigration that is in part influenced by socio-economic status. Don’t know about other groups.

  • One of my roommates in College was the son of Mexicans who initially came into the country illegally. He used to tell me that the biggest problem for upward mobility in his neighborhood were the new illegals who could be hired for a song by employers.

  • This wouldn’t be a problem except that liberal progressive Catholics have encouraged this situation. To them, it is against social justice NOT to welcome the illgeal alien, and many bishops and priests feel the same way. This kind of nonsense liberal thinking has to be purged. BTW, it’s the rich, well-off liberals like liberal Catholic Nancy Pelosi who encourage this sort of thing.

  • Donald- I believe the 800 lb. gorilla in this debate is “it’s the economy, stupid”, more so than “it’s the unsecured borders, stupid”. But it is a both/and deal to a large degree with these two major factors figuring strongly.

    I know Joe H. has agreed with me that NAFTA needs to be immediately rehauled- my own social doctrine-inspired view is that market theory cannot stand alone, there is a need for direction and intervention on the part of the political authorities to ensure the common good. The proof that NAFTA as currently configured is a bust, is found in the pudding of extreme circumstances of so many Mexicans leaving home to find opportunities as illegal entrants into the U.S. As it is said- the Mexican people have voted on NAFTA with their feet.

    This is my beef with the non-racist “conservatives” when discussion of the problem of illegal immigration comes up- they don’t or won’t acknowledge the huge role that economics has played- and the shared responsibility for this that both the Mexican and the American establishment powers has played in creating such terrible conditions of life for average folk south of the border for the most part. NAFTA was sold to the masses as the cure for illegal immigration pressures- facts on the ground suggest that the problems have grown exponentially since NAFTA.

    Now if we effectively seal the borders and do nothing about the economic relationship between us and Mexico, I would predict some dramatic upheaval to take place inside Mexico- violence, destabilization, perhaps revolution- these could be ultimately curative, but I would like to try to ease out of the crisis with substantial reforms along economic development lines as my first-stroke strategy- if there is a sense of hope that the Mexican-U.S. establishments are going to be working for real on a development model akin to post-war building up of physical infrastructure, ready access to affordable education- all the way through college levels, and family subsidies to make up the short-term difference between what the market supplies as wages, and what people actually require to keep their families intact and progressing by the generations- (I will provide some social doctrine backing for this bit in a later post devoted to freeing ourselves from ideologies part 2).

    In conclusion- we could devote several billion dollars to building up an air-tight, Israel-style wall and checkpoint system for border security- and then sit back and watch the Mexicans tear themselves up for awhile and maybe get sorted out in a way that meets the demands of the majority of families within- or we can be proactive now, admit that the economic relationship and trade agreement is flawed and failing- and re-visit all of it- inviting all the major interests- not just the largest corporate ones- to be part of a transparent process of negotiation- plenty of media openness to ensure the general public in all countries affected- of course Canada is to be included in all this as well- everyone who cares to know will know what is going on and could then take on more trust that the system will be looking out for the common good, and not just the interests of the few in the high-end financial sectors- recall that right after NAFTA passed a really huge bail-out took place to cover the losses of those high-ender speculators who first pumped NAFTA up into a bubble investment, and then begged for and got a massive public bail-out when the bubble predictably burst- sound familiar?

  • That is just economic nonsense. The thread of Mexican prosperity does not hang on an 8% excise on imports.

  • Tim:

    Please make your case: What exactly changed in the law as the result of NAFTA, and by what causative mechanism did these changes make the situation in Mexico worse?

    It seems to me that this connection is largely assumed in your previous post: Not to say that you aren’t correct, but only that the case isn’t made and, as the fellow who brought it up, you ought to make it.

  • To Art Deco- if NAFTA has such a small effect on things- why has everyone made such a big fuss about it- those who advocated it and pushed for it made all sorts of broad claims about how much improvement would come to all with the passage of this trade agreement. I’m not saying that Art Deco was making this claim- but I recall the debate prior to the passage of NAFTA, and I have stood in front of a U.S. Senator a couple of years ago and stated that NAFTA was a failure and needed to be re-negotiated and he unleashed a stream of the highest sounding praise for the NAFTA trade pact- giving it all manner of credit for being one of the greatest things out there- so I’m not sure what to believe when the establishment powers have always been making bold claims as to the power for good that NAFTA held out- and now I’m told by Art Deco that it is pretty insignificant- I know that the bail-out of investors after NAFTA was not insignificant- so I tend to believe that NAFTA has been a powerful shaper of economic conditions- but I’m open to further discussion on that- and even if NAFTA is more small potatoes than I imagined it to be- there is a corresponding relationship between the U.S. and Mexico on economic matters whereupon Mexican prosperity and solidity is important for our border security and for economic and moral considerations. Rich countries can never be smug or self-contented especially with a poor country camped out just outside the gate- think of Lazarus the begger and the rich man parable.

  • Hanson is probably right about the class divide on this issue among whites and blacks but he’s wrong in his belief that it applies also to Asians and Hispanics.

    The best way to determine an Asian or Hispanic’s stance on this issue is to ask whether he has friends and relatives in his native country. That’s a greater divide. It’s an empathy divide. It’s easier to be an America Firster if you aren’t supporting your mother back in Mexico.

    Fairness about who is allowed into the United States is another issue that reflects class divides—especially when almost 70 percent of all immigrants, legal and illegal, arrive from Mexico alone. Asians, for example, are puzzled as to why their relatives wait years for official approval to enter the United States, while Mexican nationals come across the border illegally, counting on serial amnesties to obtain citizenship.

    There’s no puzzle. Poor Asians come illegally. Wealthier Asians aren’t willing to wash dishes so they wait to come legally so they can work for Google or open a business. If you hand immigration policy over to any non-political subgroup of Asians, they’ll throw the doors open. Except maybe poor third and fourth generation Asians working in landscaping. All 3 of them.

  • if NAFTA has such a small effect on things- why has everyone made such a big fuss about it

    If Obama was born in the US, why has everyone made such a big fuss about it? The answer to both questions: Willful ignorance.

  • “A good book on a major issue that both the Republican and Democrat parties have steadfastly ignored, until the passage of the Arizona law.”

    I have to say after living through 2006 and especially 2007 the issue was not ignored I will tell you that

  • From Victor’s article

    ““Anti-immigrant” is also a lie peddled in service to open borders — a lie by virtue that it deliberately blends “immigrant” with “illegal immigrant” to suggest opposition to all legal immigration.”

    I think he undercuts his case complaing about the term anti Immigrant when he uses the term “open borders” which is a term that misused way too much

    Furhter some of the LEAFING VOICES in this debate and one we see on the TV and in fact at the National Review itself are very very anti legal immigration. That is in the mix too

  • Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?

  • I think that he is right that there is a class divide on support for more immigration — though I don’t think it’s primarily because of the more well-off having illegal immigrant gardeners and maids.

    It’s easier for those who have “made it” to say, “It’s a land of opportunity, we should let more people in like my ancestors were and give them the chance to make it to.” Those who are much less economically secure are more likely to see any influx of additional labor simply as competition — and people who will make the neighborhood seem messier and more chaotic.

  • “Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?”

    Mark Krikorian is the mnain immigration guy over at the Corner. He belongs and has worked for various John Tanton groups that are all related and basically want to halt legal immigration to a trickle

    For them illegal aliens are a sad issue.

  • Just curious: who at NR is anti-legal immigration?

    Mark Krikorian wrote a book called The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. Does that count?

  • Ramesh Ponnuru has also argued that problems associated with illegal immigration also apply to legal immigration.

  • Tim,

    It’s hard for me to see how NAFTA is the primary villain in this (or to be honest, even much of a peripheral villain) given that it wasn’t even passed until 1994. At least from a Southern California perspective, there was already a massive illegal immigration from Mexico problem in the 80s and early 90s, before NAFTA was even passed. Nor was Mexico previously in good shape which NAFTA somehow destroyed — it’s been gradually improving over the years, but the main problem is that has been economically far behind the US for 150 years or more.

    NAFTA repealed US tariffs which previously applied to about 50% of Mexican exports to the US and Mexican tariffs which previously applied to about 30% of US exports to Mexico. It also made cross-border investment and business ownership easier. (Which is why, for instance, my current employer is in the midst of closing factories in central Texas and opening factories in Juarez.)

    As for why it’s been so controversial… Honestly, I don’t know, other than that it’s a convenient peg on which to hang one’s opinions about free trade and Mexico, whether one is for or against.

  • “I have to say after living through 2006 and especially 2007 the issue was not ignored I will tell you that”

    Ingnored jh in actually attempting to do something effective about the problem. I think one aspect of the hullabaloo that has arisen in regard to the Arizona law is the fear on one side, and the hope on the other, that this law might prove effective in combating illegal immigration. Attempts to block it in court will of course be fierce, and may be successful, but if it is ever allowed to be implemented, and if it does prove effective, watch it being replicated in quite a few states.

  • Krikorian also borders on being an anti-Catholic bigot:

    Whenever someone starts a sentence with “Unlike this guy, I am not a Catholic-basher” after having quoted said “guy” in suppport of his premise, odds are that he is, indeed, a “Catholic basher”.

  • I think one aspect of the hullabaloo that has arisen in regard to the Arizona law is the fear on one side, and the hope on the other, that this law might prove effective in combating illegal immigration.

    That, or we’re just escalating from sticking our metaphorical finger in the hole in the dike to shoving our head in.

  • NAFTA phased out a lot of the ag restrictions. Mexico was flooded with US corn, and Mexico’s farmers couldn’t compete. A lot of the recent illegal immigrants are former corn farmers.

  • Donald I think the proposals given in 2006 and 2007 in fact were a good way of doing something about it.

    However it appears various factions in this debate on the left and right will not move a inch. In fact they raise holy heck if anyone shows moving a inch.

    Doing something about it is the need to address all the issues here. THe problem is just focusing on Enforcement or just focusing on citizenship and a pathway to it causes problems.

    We have millions of children of illegal aliens that are American citizens right now. What happens to them when all these mass deportations occur? Someone has to take care of them. Does the fact that their parents live in the shawdows in fact causing major future problems for us. I suspect it is. Do they fit in the ewquation anywhere? Or are they acceptable collateral damage that perhaps will come back to haunt us big time in the future

    Now that does not give every illegal with a child a free pass. Under proposals those same folks would have to meet certain requirements to stay and no doubt many would mmet the mark. But at least it will make the afteraffects less severe on the whole.

  • It looks like in regards to agriculture, trade in both directions has more than tripled since 1993, and the US has maintained a $1B trade surplus throughout:

    a brief PDF with government data on the topic

    Primary increases in US agricultural exports to Mexico have been in commodities which the US produces very efficiently in very high volumes: beef and corn.

    The big increases in Mexican exports to the US have been products which can’t be grown in the US or have different growing seasons farther south: coffee, cocoa, fresh vegetable, fresh fruit.

  • There is of course a huge divide between how Mexico wants America to treat its immigrants and how they treat their own:

  • But Phillip that’s different! (Unless you are talking to Central Americans of course.)

  • There is of course a huge divide between how Mexico wants America to treat its immigrants and how they treat their own

    I’m not sure we should be using Mexico as a guide for how our laws should be.

  • Tim:

    No argument that the better off Mexico is internally, the better for everyone.

    Perhaps NAFTA is the disaster you may think it is, perhaps not, perhaps it is indifferent. Without accurate information, changes or overhauls could make things unintentionally worse. Of course, accurate info on just about anything of that nature (legislative/governmental impacts on economics) is hard to come by.

  • Not a guide. Just perspective. I suspect immigrants (illegal or otherwise) to this country will find Arizona’s recent law enlightened compared to most other countries laws on immigration.

  • I read an interesting book a couple of years ago- Global Class War by Jeff Faux- it really tore into the backstory of NAFTA and the bailout that followed- anyone here read the same? I would like to think that Catholic commerce networks could be established to develop fair trade avenues for producers and consumers- I’ve had Catholic Relief Service reps out to my classes to present on their Fair Trade programs and promotions- I like the notion of Catholics linking up across borders and being conscious of the morality bound up in our economic relationships between those who are doing ok and those not. This way we don’t have to rely on big Gov or big corporate interests all the time.

  • That is true. I think Benedict XVI says very much the same thing in Caritas in Veritate.

  • We have immingration laws and regardless of where the illegal entry person is from, they need to be enforced. Many current citizens are children of past immingrants from many different countries who came here became citizens and followed the law and many still do. They assimilated into US society and norms while still holding their cultural backgorund which has made the country great. To see the group of protesters and many illegals and their approach to demonizing the USA is sickening. The refrain from politicians who support these illegals and who are only looking for a vote is also sickening as if they are above the law for strictly a political means. To allow an amnesty is wrong as it would only cause another problem in the future if all illegals are allowed now. They should have to register and be sent back to their homeland and even if it takes ten years for legal entry so be it. Enployers and all others who harbour or utilize illegals for any purpose should face a mandatory very high fine. The people in Arizona were forced to act as our government has not due to politics. If the IRS has records of illegals here or SSN or any shelter with employers of any kind , they should be giving the information to Imingration officials and these persons also face a very steep finanical fine til the lure of employment here and the fact enforcement will be swift and sure would do more than building fences or barriers. If they then still try to enter illegaly , they will be denied legal entry in the future for any reason. They now know they once they get in , if they lay low and keep a quiet profile, they will be able to stay, as laws are being enforced.

  • “Both tend to ridicule the far less affluent Minutemen and English-only activists, in part because they do not experience firsthand the problems associated with illegal immigration but instead find millions of aliens grist for their own contrasting agendas.”

    And that’s why both will be ignored and ultimately rendered irrelevant.

  • This is my beef with the non-racist “conservatives” when discussion of the problem of illegal immigration comes up- they don’t or won’t acknowledge the huge role that economics has played- and the shared responsibility for this that both the Mexican and the American establishment powers has played in creating such terrible conditions of life for average folk south of the border for the most part. NAFTA was sold to the masses as the cure for illegal immigration pressures- facts on the ground suggest that the problems have grown exponentially since NAFTA.

    The liberalization of trade induces small improvements in aggregate welfare and appears to have positive effects on economic dynamism as well. The benefits are general but not necessarily equal between the parties. There may be effects on income distribution within particular parties that are disagreeable and of course there are transition costs. IIRC, Mancur Olson floated a thesis many years ago that there are benefits not captured in econometric models and which might derive from the disruption of domestic cartels. I am not sure if anyone else developmed or tested that idea.

    The NAFTA treaty concerns the regime governing cross-border merchandise trade. There is a section which concerns the regulation of financial services. Mexico did experience a currency crisis some months after the NAFTA treaty was ratified. I suppose it could be Jeff Faux’ thesis that the liberalization in cross-border branch banking somehow exacerbated the currency crisis. I couldn’t tell you as I have not read the book. (I do not think that is the usual diagnosis in cases of financial crisis). It seems to me if you are concerned about the effect of hot money you could address that separately from the question of how to govern trade in merchandise or non-factor services.

    Latin America has some signature problems (dysfunctional labor markets and wretchedly skewed income distribution among them). However, Latin American countries are not, when measured on a global scale, peculiarly impoverished; they are about average, and more affluent than they were a generation ago. I do not know why you should regard it as anomalous that Mexico has not had an experience of economic development like that of South Korea – five decades of smokin’ economic growth which largely erases the difference in standards of living between the country in question and Switzerland. There are only about a half-dozen non-European countries who have managed that since the War.

  • The sales pitches of politicians often turn out to be…imprecise. You expected something else?

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Why the Fiscal Lunacy?

Monday, April 19, AD 2010

One of my favorite living historians is Victor Davis Hanson.  I have read every book he has written and most of his articles.  Trained as a classicist and historian of antiquity, he has written on a broad range of topics, from the hoplites of ancient Greece, ancient Greek agriculture, a searching examination of the Peloponnesian War, the farming crisis of the 80’s, the history of warfare and culture, the teaching of the classics and the debacle of our non-policy on immigration, and I have been astonished at how skillfully this man writes and with what intelligence, and very dry humor, he cuts to the essence of whatever subject he addresses.  He moonlights as a pundit on current events and in that capacity I have found a recent column of his intriguing on the question of just why the Obama administration is hellbent on compiling such huge annual deficits.  Here is a portion of the column:

We are going to pile up another $3 trillion in national debt in just the first two years of the Obama administration. If the annual deficit should sink below $1.5 trillion, it will be called fiscal sobriety.

Why, when we owe $12 trillion, would the Obama administration set out budgets that will ensure our collective debt climbs to $20 trillion? Why are we borrowing more money, when Medicare, Social Security, the Postal Service, Amtrak, etc. are all insolvent as it is?

What is the logic behind something so clearly unhinged?

I present seven alternative reasons — some overlapping — why the present government is hell-bent on doubling the national debt in eight years. Either one, or all, or some, or none, of the below explain Obama’s peculiar frenzied spending.

1) Absolutely moral and necessary?

The country is in need of massive more entitlements for our destitute and near to poor. Government is not big, but indeed too small to meet its moral obligations. Deficits are merely record-keeping. Throwing trillions into the economy will also help us all recover, by getting us moving again and inflating the currency. And we can pay the interest easily over the next 50 years. Just think another World War II era — all the time.

So big spending and borrowing are genuine efforts of true believers to make us safe, secure, and happy.

2) “Gorge the beast”

The spending per se is not so important, as the idea of deficits in general will ensure higher taxes. Nationalized health care, cap and trade, new initiatives in education, more stimulus — all that and more is less important than the fact that huge defects will require huge new taxes, primarily from the upper-classes. I see no reason why the total bite from state income, federal income, payroll, and health care taxes cannot soon in theory climb to 70% of some incomes (e.g., 10% state, 15.3% FICA, 40% federal, 3-5% health care). In other words, “redistributive change” is the primary goal. This aim is premised on the notion that income is a construct, if not unfairly calibrated, then at least capriciously determined — requiring the more intelligent in the technocracy to even out things and ensure an equality of result. After all, why should the leisured hedge-funder make all that more after taxes than the more noble waitress?

So big spending and borrowing mean big deficits, and that means taxing the greedy and giving their ill-gotten gains to the needy.

3) Big Brother?

Or does rampant borrowing for government spending reflect our despair over the inability of millions to know what is best for themselves? For democracy to work, all of us must fully participate. But because of endemic racism, sexism, class bias, and historical prejudices, millions of Americans do not have access to adequate education and enlightenment. Therefore, a particular technocratic class, with requisite skill and singular humanity, has taken it upon themselves to ensure everyone gets a fair shake — if only government at last has the adequate resources to fix things. If it proves problematic for one to register and vote, then there will be a program to make 100% participation possible. If some of us are too heavy and too chair-bound, we can be taught what and how to eat. If some of us do not study, we can adjust academic standards accordingly. In one does something unwise, like buying a plasma TV rather than a catastrophic health care plan, then we still can ensure he is covered. In other words, an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-moral guardian class requires resources to finish the promise of participatory America. After all, why would we allow the concrete contractor to “keep” 70% of his income only to blow it on worthless things like jet skis or a Hummer in his garage or a fountain in his yard — when a far wiser, more ethical someone like Van Jones could far more logically put that now wasted capital to use for the betterment of the far more needy?

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11 Responses to Why the Fiscal Lunacy?

  • The rationale for the “stimulus” is rooted in Keynesian economics. The problem with this one as opposed to previous ones is rather than using the stimulus to kick start a stalled economy, combined with Obama’s other policies such as Gov’t takeover of major parts of the economy such as Fannie & Freddie, AIG, GM etc, health care reform, Cap & Trade etc. together they are going to have the opposite effect. The Federal Gov’t now owns 80% of the mortgages in the US. So it is a double whammy. There is, and will be will be no “recovery”.

    The current “recovery” is a dead cat bounce. Bernanke and Geithner’s pronouncements that the “recession” is over is the equivalent of Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace for our time” speech right before Germany invaded Poland. We are in the eye of a hurricane right now and the second half is going to be worse than the first because the Fed is out of bullets. The next shoe will be the collapse of the dollar (brought about on purpose) and the introduction of a regional (Amero) or international currency (SDR’s). Anything denominated in dollars will be bought out out for pennies on the dollar.

    Obama is just a tool of the gang that surrounds him to tank the economy on purpose to bring about the NWO. Obama isn’t smart enough to think this stuff up on his own, but then the same could be said for Bush who lost it with me after telling America to “go shopping” after 9-11. In reality, this has all slowly been taking place since the end of WW 1. We’re just lucky enough to be there for the climax.

  • Given that 53 cents of every dollar of income taxes goes to support current and past military misadventures, I think that VDH needs to reexamine the real cause of America’s fiscal insolvency.

    It’s also worth pointing out that Obama, whatever else he is doing, is set to lower the deficit from Bush’s time in office.

  • “It’s also worth pointing out that Obama, whatever else he is doing, is set to lower the deficit from Bush’s time in office.”


  • Given that 53 cents of every dollar of income taxes goes to support current and past military misadventures

    Why not go one better and use Maryland sales tax revenue as your denominator?

    I was not aware that any portion of my New York State income tax payments were devoted to ‘past and present military adventures’. (Though I rather do like the idea of Gov. Patterson calling out the National Guard to arrest the state legislature and stuff them in the Albany County Jail, now that you mention it).

    About 5% of Gross Domestic Product is devoted to military expenditure. (A decade ago, the proportion was about 3.5%). Prior to the recent federal spending binge, about 14% of all public expenditure was devoted to the military. If you wish to apportion debt service costs among other other sorts of expenditure, perhaps 16% of public expenditure was so devoted. That would be, ahem, the sum of costs for maintaining the military, not the costs attributable to ‘past and present military adventures’. (Unless it be your contention that military expenditure itself is illegitimate).

  • We must live in the United States of Topsy Turvy Land. The projected deficit for 2010 (Obama’s second year in office) which was three times as large as Bush’s last deficit *may* turn out to be only 2.5 times as Bush’s last deficit and somehow we’re to consider Obama to have fixed Bush’s mismanagement? Nevermind that Obama’s own budget initiatives project ever increasing deficits YoY.

  • So wj’s citation was an assertion made by the Obama administration that still leaves the deficit higher than it was when Bush was in office.

    Next time you might want to read the sources before linking to them.

  • As I understand it, Obama inherited the 1.3 trillion dollar deficit from the Bush administration, and so it is misleading to attribute the ballooning deficit to his policies alone, which is all I intended to say. If you look at the CBO forecast (and I acknowledge that many deny the accuracy of the CBO), Obama’s budget *will* lower deficit’s longterm. Of course, I am not a supporter of Obama, and it is not terribly important to me whether is is moderately more or less fiscally insane than Bush; but it is fair to point out that the current deficit problem is not *entirely* due to his own recklessness.

    Art Deco: what about this analysis is wrong:

  • That figure includes the Pentagon budget request of $717 billion, plus an estimated $200 billion in supplemental funding (called “overseas contingency funding” in euphemistic White House-speak), to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some $40 billion or more in “black box” intelligence agency funding, $94 billion in non-DOD military spending (that would include stuff like military activies funded through NASA, military spending by the State Department, etc., miilitary-related activities within the Dept. of Homeland Security, etc.), $123 billion in veterans benefits and health care spending, and $400 billion in interest on debt raised to pay for prior wars and the standing military during peacetime (whatever that is!).

    What is wrong is that this fellow pads the payroll in various ways by adding the budgets of the intelligence services, the space program, veterans hospitals, and the federal police; and pads it further by attributing the entire charge for service on the federal debt to military expenditure, as if there were no domestic expenditure whatsoever. He then further manipulates his figures by expressing these charges as a ratio of federal income tax revenue, even though north of 40% of public expenditure is by state and local governments and most federal expenditure is financed out of Social Security taxes and bond sales. But you knew that.

  • Thank you gentlemen. This thread, thus far, is a classic example of what robust combox debate should be!

  • One thing I like very much about VDH is that he is not only a professor, but a farmer. He and his brother run a California raisin farm that has been in the family for 4 generations. So his great store of academic learning is balanced by the fact that he is familiar with the ordinary, down-to-earth concerns of farming folk.

    The difference between military spending and spending on social programs is that I see defense spending as a legitimate function of the federal government. Obamacare is another matter entirely. I certainly think provision should be made for those unable to obtain healthcare for themselves. I don’t believe the federal government should be in the business of providing it for all of us, whether we want it or not.