Sunday, November 21, 2010

Immigration Reform -- commentary

With mid-term elections over maybe we can now have an honest and open discussion on comprehensive immigration reform.

People in both political parties want it but the extremists keep it from happening. Some Republicans want it because their business constituents need the cheap labor that comes from south of the border and some Democrats want it because they anticipate a new flock of voters.

The left is so eager for that new block of voters that they want immediate amnesty for all illegals now living here. The right objects to handing the Democrats a new block of voters, especially by rewarding people who are breaking the law by coming here illegally, plus they claim the illegals are taking jobs away from Americans.

To be sure, constructive reform will create new voters, they can be wooed by both parties. Yes, immigrants come here to work, but they are not predominantly taking jobs that Americans are willing to do and do well. This will only be true when Americans can no longer live better off government programs than off the jobs being done by immigrant labor.

The key to this discussion lies in the word “comprehensive,” which does not mean another 2,000 page bill with the rejoinder that it has to be passed so we will know what is in it, as we saw in the health and financial reform bills recently passed by congress.

Central to comprehensive reform is to untangle the bureaucratic red tape necessary so that immigrants from south of our border can get legal status in weeks rather than years. This is key and without it reform is not comprehensive and not much will change. A Sun column by Gary Latanich on Oct. 1, explains how the system now works and how unreasonable and unfair it is. I knew it was a bureaucratic mountain, but I had no idea it was a Mount McKinley rather than a Mount Magazine. His column is worth the read. Suffice it to say it is no wonder so many come here illegally.

The fact is, we need the immigrants from south of the border and they need us. The real producers in our society have been shrinking and we now have more than half of our people receiving benefits from the public treasury through one program or entitlement or another. As long as the benefits are there, our people are not going to do what the illegals will do. It reminds me of Kuwait after President George H. Bush ran Saddam Hussein’s army out. The locals were so use to living off the oil riches that they couldn’t soil their own hands to rebuild their country. They had to bring in foreigner labor to do it.

We also need more new blood than we are producing to support our Ponzi scheme called Social Security. With the Baby Boomers retiring, we are not going to have enough people paying into this scheme to make it work and politicians are cowards when it comes to significantly reforming it. We need working immigrants to support this program. We also need to capture any taxes lost by forcing them to operate clandestinely in a cash economy.

In spite of what the right wing nuts say, we need immigrant labor. I talk to farmers and contractors occasionally who hire Mexican labor and they say there is no comparison to the responsible, hard work they get from them than from resident citizens when they can find any who will work.

We also benefit from what our neighbors to the south add culturally in terms of music, art, literature, religion and celebration.

Just as importantly, they need us. The Bible counsels us not to withhold good when it is in our power to do good. People south of our border come here because they have families to feed and they can’t support them on their local economies.

Most of us would not move to a foreign country where we would be criminals just for being there, with no guarantees, unless we had to. Neither would those who immigrate here from Mexico and South America. Many of our own people are frustrated with our current difficult times, but we know things will get better. Imagine what it would be like if there were no hope of things ever getting better.

Amnesty, of course, is a big part of this discussion. Let me offer a compromise: Since the Democrats want more voters and the Republicans always fear voter fraud, Republicans could agree to quit blocking amnesty and the Democrats could agree to quit blocking a requirement for photo ID at polling places.

Whatever the various issues involved, my Libertarian instincts tell me people should be able to cross borders with as little restriction as possible and to make that happen requires comprehensive reform.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Williams Firing -- commentary

I can’t let the firing of Juan Williams, by Vivian Schiller, CEO of National Public Radio, pass without comment. First because I am a fan of Williams, and secondly because it affirms an opinion I have held since my college days in the sixties. Juan Williams and Leonard Pitts are two black journalists I have listened to and read over the years as they have both broadened my understanding of black issues. These two men bring rational arguments to bear on current issues and are more likely to change my opinions than most.

So, when someone I admire is publically treated unfairly, I feel compelled to comment, and it would appear Williams was treated unfairly. The first unfairness was for Schiller to fire him with a phone call without giving him opportunity to discuss the matter face to face. The second unfairness was to dismiss him for doing what other NPR journalists do regularly, apparently with impunity. The third unfairness was to base the dismissal on a statement that was truly taken out of context. I know public figures often declare their statements were taken out of context, whether the context matters or not. There are times, though, when a statement is taken out of context to create a pretext for some nefarious agenda, and this was one of them.

In her first statement about the issue, Schiller said the action was taken because Williams was hired as a news analyst, not an opinion columnist, and he was not supposed to express opinions whether on NPR or Fox News where he also provided commentary. I wonder how one does news analysis without expressing opinions since analysis is interpretation and interpretation is usually opinion based. I often read news analysis by the Associated Press in The Sun that is loaded with opinion. It is the nature of analysis.

News analysts from across the political spectrum immediately began to opine about this story, concluding that people with an axe to grind against Fox News or maybe the Council on American Islamic Relations were behind it. Few seemed to buy Schiller’s reason and she had to come out and deny all the other speculations, but her spin was not near as convincing as Williams who called it “evidence of one party rule and one sided thinking at NPR.”

My second reason for not letting this incident pass unnoticed is that it confirms an observation I made as a college student in the 60’s that there is nothing narrower than a broad minded liberal. At the time I came to this awareness I was a student at Alaska Methodist University, a liberal, non-sectarian school. I was probably the only vocal conservative student on the small campus. This awareness began when the dean of students banned Campus Crusade for Christ from the campus after some students complained about being proselytized, and it has often been reaffirmed since.

It seemed to me a liberal school should welcome opposing points of view and that college students need to learn to deal with propagandist on their own. Being editor of the school paper and a student councilman, I took the issue up with the college president and got the order reversed.

I was not surprised 45 years later to read Williams comment, “I’ve always thought the right wing was the ones who were inflexible and intolerant. Now I’m coming to realize that orthodoxy at NPR, if it’s representing the left, is just unbelievable.” Well, Juan, it is believable.

I know I am painting with too broad a brush as liberalism constitutes a spectrum. Honest liberals, please forgive me. The far left of that spectrum prefers the label progressive and their movement has been around long enough to have produced its own fundamentalist and its own orthodoxy.

I grew up in Christian fundamentalist churches and we were often accused of being narrow minded as opposed to the more virtuous broad minded liberal. That was fine with us and almost a badge of honor. We were doctrinaire absolutists, and I heard many sermons on the New Testament metaphor about the broad road that leads to destruction and the narrow road that leads to life everlasting. This could be applied to either doctrinal or moral issues. Listening to other viewpoints would only lead to heresy.

The liberals, however, pretended to be different. They claimed they were open to giving all points of view a hearing and encouraged people to make up their own minds. But, the doctrinaire liberal pretends to be broadminded while being just as narrow as any other doctrinaire group whether Christian, Muslim, or Marxist. What sets a liberal like Williams or Pitts apart is that you get the feeling they are rational, they listen, and if it makes sense, they will actually change their position.