Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bush blathers on border

I want to support President Bush. I really do. I'm nationalistic, capitalistic, and a self-described member of the empirical right. I want to believe that he is serious about stopping illegal immigration. Last Tuesday, Bush gave a speech in Arizona at least paying lip service to stricter border enforcement. It was a mixture of empty platitudes, immigration-is-self-evidently good chatter, and a bit of gold:

"This practice of catch and release has been the government's policy for decades. It is an unwise policy and we're going to end it...

Under current law, the federal government is required to release people caught crossing our border illegally if their home countries do not take them back in a set period of time. That law doesn't work when it comes time to enforcing the border and it needs to be changed.

Those we we're forced to release have included murderers, rapists, child molesters, and other violent criminals. This undermines our border security. It undermines the work these good folks are doing. And the United States Congress needs to pass legislation to end these senseless rules. [No kidding!]

In some places, the most effective way to secure the border is to construct
physical barriers to entry. [Some sharp PR calculation]"

But it's words like these that deflate what hope I may have had:

"As we enforce our immigration laws, comprehensive immigration reform also requires us to improve those laws by creating a new temporary worker program [read amnesty]. This program would create a legal way to match willing foreign workers with willing American employers to fill jobs that Americans will not do. Workers would be able to register for legal status for a fixed period of time, and then be required to go home. This program would help meet the demands of a growing economy, and it would allow honest workers to provide for their families while respecting the law."

This makes me think this abrupt 'push' to secure the borders a full five years into office is little more than an attempt to shore up dwindling support by jumping on a popular issue that most of the political establishment won't touch.

A temporary worker program is essentially amnesty. If a worker stays for six years--more than enough time to plant roots in the US--why would he possibly choose to leave when the time is up? Enforcement would be a nightmare--imagine the US government trying to deport 12 million people. These 'temporary' workers will get married to gain citizenship, find ways to avoid detection after some time (ie, fake social security numbers). Currently, the government does not know who or exactly how many illegals are here now. That is not going to change by calling them 'temporary workers' instead of 'illegal immigrants'. However, it would make them eligible for more social services granted to US residents on the taxpayer's dole.

The US is increasingly a knowledge-based society where technical skill, IQ, and educational attainment are key determinants of success. Increasing the size of our underclass to assist big business in its short-sighted search for lower costs is setting us up for a catastrophic downfall when robotization in nations like Japan become not only more cost-effective than unskilled human labor, but also more reliable, efficient, and with drastically lower negative side effects.

And if I hear "jobs Americans won't do" one more time, I'm going to puke. Apparently the Presdient needs a quick lesson in basic economics: For any desirable good (in this case money) as supply increases, price falls. As supply decreases, price rises. The labor market is no different. If there are ten million tomato-picking jobs, and twenty million potential workers, the ten million willing to work for the least (that would be those coming from corrupt Latin American countries where they made a small fraction of the US minimum wage) are going to get the jobs. Now, boot those ten million out, since they are being subsidized heavily and decreasing the standard of living, and now the businesses have less wage discretion. They can either hire the remaining ten million (lower class natives) or innovate away the need for these menial farm tasks.

A baby step in the right direction, but stultifyingly frustrating nonetheless.


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