Immigrants are Great, Foreigners (apparently) Suck

I had an interesting encounter over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I met a man who worked for a non-profit organization dedicated to the advocacy of equal rights for immigrants.  He was also an enthusastic supporter of Barack Obama.  I found the combination strange, so I asked him whether he felt Obama’s suggestions that NAFTA be renogitiated to conform to “fair trade” as opposed to “free trade” were inconsistent with his view that immigrants should receive better treatment.  We didn’t get to carry the conversation very far forward before we were dragged away to the food which is probably just as well, because he didn’t seem to respond to my question very well.  At first he seemed puzzled that anyone could see any relation between the two, and then began to argue that the two positions were entirely consistent since demanding that other countries match the United States’ labor and environmental standards would only improve the lot of everyone invovled. I did not expect to encounter such startling ignorance of economics in a Yale law grad, but there it was.

I don’t know why he worked to promote immigrants’ rights, but I assummed it was because he wished to ensure that everyone, and particularly the least-privileged among us, have the same opportunity to pursue happiness free from unwarranted obstructions.  Immigrants are often at a tremendous disadvantage relative to their native-born peers, so it seems reasonable that someone interested in equality before the law would see a chance to make a meaningful difference by focusing their attention on that group.  However, a genuine sense of compassion should extend equally to all men, both those resident in one’s home country and those residing elsewhere perhaps trying to join your community.  Artificially raising the costs associated with employing workers leads to higher unemployment relative to the status quo ante.  “Fair trade” is protectionism by any other name and ought to be roundly condemned by anyone seeking to improve the conditions of people living in regions without the wealth and resources to be able to afford to meet U.S. government standards (even if they happen to be living in the U.S.).

My encounter reminded me of what a truly incoherent political viewpoint American liberalism has become.



John McCain’s doublespeak

I used to think that John McCain was just an anomaly on the political radar, and that no one really took him too seriously (even on the Hill he has a reputation of being a bit of a hot-head)…that is, until he took first in the New Hampshire Republican primary, and is now polling first in South Carolina.

Who is this guy? Or better yet, who the heck are the people that like him so much that they would willingly spend a portion of their day waiting in line to cast a vote for him? I held this attitude before the Fox News debate last night, and expected some sort of revelation during the debate – an “aha” moment – that would explain his appeal. It never happened. I’m continuously amazed at the jumble of statements that falls out of his mouth, and how anyone can make sense of them.

I thought for sure his race would be finished with the infamous “100 years in Iraq” statement made last week – you know, the one where he said he’d be ok with us staying in Iraq for 100 years or more (which in reality is more like saying he plans on staying in Iraq forever). Ron Paul called McCain out on his eager willingness to commit 5 more generations of American youth to the conflict in Iraq, to which McCain had a bit of a Freudian slip, saying “I guess, very briefly, it’s not American casualties. It’s American presence — I mean, not American presence. It’s American casualties.” Hmm…a case of doublethink on the part of the Arizona senator?

Then last night at the debate he discussed Iraq and said the decision to bring troops home should be made by General Petraeus – perhaps McCain forgot that the President is supposed to be the Commander in Chief. Or maybe such titles only apply to a legal war – that is, one that has been declared by Congress rather than simply funded by it.

Last night McCain, when asked about our economy, said “I don’t believe we’re headed into a recession. I believe the fundamentals of this economy are strong, and I believe they will remain strong.” He referred to the current woes as merely a “rough patch” – apparently the rise in unemployment, bursting housing bubble, and rapidly inflating dollar (to name a few) are only minor setbacks. Many economists are predicting a recession this year, and it baffles me that someone can be considered a major contender for leader of this nation who doesn’t understand basic economic principles. You simply can’t expect a man like John McCain to pull this nation through a recession – since in his mind doesn’t even exist.

The highlight of last night’s debate, at least as far as Senator McCain is concerned, came when discussing immigration. First, he blamed Bush’s failed immigration reform on the American people, saying we “had no trust or confidence in the federal government to do its job” and that we “need to restore [our] trust and confidence.” I’m sure he actually meant to say that the government needs to do its job so that our confidence can be restored, but that’s not how the words spewed from his mouth. He then went on to discuss how his home state, Arizona, has done a terrible job securing their borders…and that this qualifies him for tackling the issue of securing the borders of the entire nation. Yeah…explain how that works again? Says McCain:

“I know how to secure the borders. I come from a border state where our borders are broken. More people come across our border illegally every year than most any other state. And I will secure the borders first. And I will have the border states’ governors certify that those borders are secured. And we can do it with UAVs, with vehicle barriers, with walls, and with high-tech cameras.”

He (along with many other candidates last night) have tried to steal Obama’s message of “change”, but I strongly believe (my husband is an actuary after all) that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If John McCain is unable to secure the borders in Arizona, how can a Republican voter believe him when he says he “knows how to secure the borders.” If he is a candidate of “change”, then one should be able to look back at his record and see him voting for the side that takes us away from the status quo – but you will not be able to find that in his record.

John McCain seems only to believe in imperialism. When Ron Paul began discussing how the US gives money and weapons to Arab nations and merely funds all of these middle eastern conflicts rather than establishing a policy of peaceful trade, McCain responds ” I’m not interested in trading with Al Qaida. All they want to trade is burkas. I don’t want to travel with them. They like one-way tickets.” It got a laugh, which is unfortunate, because McCain just stereotyped every Arab nation and citizen as a group of terrorists. Nevermind that Al Qaida’s numbers have grown as we send more of our military over to the Middle East.

To summarize what I’ve learned about John McCain’s views in the past week:

  • we need to stay in Iraq for ever, regardless of how many US soldiers or Iraqi innocents are slaughtered in the process
  • General Petraeus, rather than the Commander in Chief, should be in charge of making military decisions
  • the impending recession is merely a figment of our imagination (job loss? housing bubble? inflation? ‘Tis but a flesh wound)
  • Americans have no trust in our government, which is our problem, not the government’s
  • A failed record of securing borders against illegal immigrants qualifies you for securing borders against illegal immigrants
  • All brown people are burqa-wearing, Al Qaida-card-carrying terrorists

Remind me again why he’s so popular? The scariest thing about John McCain just might be that he believes every word that comes out of his mouth.



The American Chronicle (1/11/08) – “John McCain’s Newspeak Express

Transworld News – “John McCain leads South Carolina Poll Released by Rasmussen Reports

Transcript of the Fox News South Carolina Republican debate via “The State

NJ town underestimates impact of illegal immigrant ban

I file this one under “well…duh” because, quite simply, I find it incredibly ridiculous that the officials of Riverside, NJ didn’t realize that cracking down on illegal immigrants would have any sort of economic or social impact. First, the ban:

A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

The effects?

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

And the Mayor’s response, which sums up how clueless people can be:

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden…A lot of people did not look three years out.”

It’s as if they thought of illegal immigrants as some sort of mythical creature that terrorizes the townfolk after nightfall and that could be chased out with torch in one hand, pitchfork in the other. It’s not like these are individuals and families who work local jobs and consume goods – oh wait – they are! That is, they are a (significant) contributor to local economies. Now, a town may decide that they’re willing to take a hit to their economy for the sake of the law, but my guess is that most won’t, which is why we’ll probably see more towns reversing their illegal immigrant laws. There has to be better ways of tackling the immigration issue than this.

Source – NY Times “Towns Rethink Laws Against Illegal Immigrants