Saturday, May 13, 2006

One nation, under Lock and Key

One Nation, under Lock and Key, Indevisible with chain-links and barriers to protect us all.

Read the Rahhhsian soliloquoy first, because this is follow-up to that.

President Bush will be addressing the country on Monday to lay out his plan to stem the tide of illegal immigration. And it looks as though he will be taking a page out of Nikita Kruschev's playbook, and inverting the great rhetoric (and reality) of his political forebearer, Ronald Reagan, "Mr. Gorbechav, tear down this wall," and his actual forebearer, George H. W. Bush, who was president when the wall actually came down.

Instead of "tearing down this wall," President Bush, it is expected, will use a prime-time statement on Monday to help establish a human wall comprised of the National Guard on the Southern border in order to help keep out all the illegals.

I've written about this topic before, and I'm not a big fan of illegal immigration. But there are economic realities at play here that creating a wall (human, corrugated metal, or simply recreateting the Berlin Wall) will not alleviate. If a 12 foot tall concrete wall with barbed wire and gun-toting guard yelling scary things in German at those getting too close to the Berlin wall didn't stop 5,000 East Germans from fleeing into West Germany (also illegal immigration), is it really concievable that simply having a lot of American patrol the border is going to stop illegals from entering this country? (Remember, unlike Berlin, we have a coastline too...and how likely is it that the California and Texas beach-communities will welcome National Guard sitting in the middle of their volleyball court?)

Immigration to this country from many parts South is that there are greater economic opportunities here than there are at home. If the U.S. isn't doing anything to address those, we're going to be faced with continued immigration regardless of how high of a wall we build.

There is another significant component to the immigration debate, and it is just as significant to the Republican hopes of holding the House/Senate this fall, and the Presidency in 2008: small business owners. One of the great benefits of tons of illegal immigration into this country is that it helps keep wages down--especially for low-skilled jobs. We have cleaning crews, painting crews, window washers, car mechanics, and lawn mowers who are working under the table. And if you can get away with paying someone $5-6 bucks an hour without benefits and without paying taxes, or you have to pay someone $12-15 an hour, plus you have to pay social security and other taxes on top of that, which do you think helps you bottom line more?

Even though aggregate economic numbers are still growing very well, much of it is being driven by higher productivity and longer hours from the people already in the system. Interest rates are creeping up (in my opinion, teetering on the edge of going up at a faster pace), most individuals in this country have debt-levels that preclude them from taking on more debt (to, say, start a business) and are at the mercy of rising interest rates. If, all of the sudden, the supply of cheap labor is cut off to this country, small businesses will be faced with declining profits and the spectre of bankruptcy. Just what any incumbant wants when running head-long into a major election: an economy that is in the tubes, a foreign policy that has left us without allies or victory, and action on issues that lead to more problems than solutions.

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