Friday, May 28, 2010

One More Thing About Immigration. . .

Yes, its another immigration post, but there's something that's been bothering me for awhile.  Immigration reform opponents oppose the law because it will "reward bad behavior."  Its almost as if immigrating to the country is the result of a moral failing, and thus, in the minds of immigration opponents, the crime of undocumented immigration must be punished. I've even heard some say that we shouldn't reward criminals.

Of course, immigrating to a country in violation of the country's laws is not inherently wrong.  There is no 11th Commandment of "Thou shalt not cross into the United States without a proper visa."  Not surprisingly, there's nothing in Leviticus, the Koran, or any other religious document about America's immigration regulations.  Illegal immigration, particularly illegal immigration to provide economic benefit to one's family is not morally wrong, and the people who do it have not offended God.

The best analogy I can think of is speeding.  Environmental concerns aside, driving in excess of the speed limit is not a moral hazard, and its not treated as such.  Should the government go to great lengths to ticket all speeders?  Of course not.  At the same time, speed limits are important for the health and welfare of the country.  But there's nothing morally wrong with speeding.

We have immigration procedures in this country for mostly good reasons as well.  But people who violate those laws are doing aren't morally bankrupt, they're (for the most part) just hungry. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Enforcement Only Immigration Reform is Idiotic

So, Obama is sending 1200 troops to the border in an effort to stem illegal immigration.  Additionally, no one, and I mean no one, has deported more people than the Obama Administration.   Go ahead, look it up on Google, I'll wait.  You done yet?  Okay, good, because the point of this article isn't to praise Obama's immigration enforcement efforts, its to pan them completely (though, the deportation increase is probably the result of the enforcement efforts at the end of the Bush Administration which are now finally being litigated).

So, let's ask the key question - why do people hire illegal/undocumented immigrants?  Simple, they hire undocumented immigrants because the immigrants will be willing to be paid less than other workers and because they won't complain about abuse (out of fear of deportation).  But these factors don't change when you change the supply of illegal immigrants by enforcement - they exacerbate them.  Immigrants become less and less willing to speak up for themselves if deportation becomes a very real threat. For instance, when I worked for the Fair Housing Council, a landlord had two fake immigration officials threaten her tenants, and these tenants almost dropped their complaint (and they would have, but for the fact that the immigration officials were so obviously fake).

Now, if the enforcement was equally applied to both employers and immigrants, this would be different.  The monetary value of hiring an undocumented person would drop, and employers would think that hiring an undocumented person wasn't worth the risk.  But that's never going to happen.  For one, its easier to find undocumented immigrants than employers, and its easier to prosecute them.  Employers have "rights" and "lawyers" which make prosecutions expensive and risky.  So, the Feds go for the easy target.

And that's been the state of immigration in the country for the past twenty years.  Every Administration since Reagan has beefed up immigration enforcement, and the situation has only gotten worse.  So, instead of trying to prevent immigrants from coming, let's reduce the economic benefit of hiring undocumented immigrants - give them documentation, full rights under the law, and let them compete with Americans on an even playing field.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How About Them Padres. . .

In case you haven't heard, my favorite team, Los Padres de San Diego (heh), are in first place by 3 and a half games and owners of the best record in the National League.  Woot!  As a Padres fan and season ticket owner, I feel its necessary to gloat at this moment before the whole thing comes crashing down.

Going into this season, most of us diehards were cautiously optimistic about this season.  Unlike last season, where the Padres were beset with trade rumors and over-the-hill veterans (which lead to total disarray in the infield, outfield and pitching staff), the Padres entered the year with a solid core of young players at all positions.   It was this group that did exceptionally well toward the end of last season, and gave me some hope.

However, this team has exceeded my expectations in surprising ways.  For instance, every year for the past four years, I heard the same story - the Padres are going to steal more bases this year - and every year the Padres were one of the worst baserunning teams in baseball.  Suddenly this year, the team leads the majors in stolen bases.  The pitching is phenomenal - teams that are behind after seven innings have no chance.  Right now, the Padres have kept opposing teams to two runs or less in 17 games out of the 34 games played.  17 games!

Now granted, some of this has to do with playing in Petco Park ("where fly balls go to die"), but here's the thing - for the first time since Petco opened, the Padres are built to play in Petco.  No more station to station players.  No more guys dependent on hitting opposite field home runs.  No more slow pokes.  And the front office has figured out that "hey, pitchers free agents will play at Petco for a discount because they get to pitch at Petco."

So, I'm glad to be able to go to the games, and if you live in San Diego, so should you.  Sure the food continues to suck, but the beer is cold (and at $8 a beer, it better be), and the team is hot.  Woohoo!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Immigration Reform (Part 2)

Let's face it, the current state of affairs when it comes to immigration in the United States sucks.  Undocumented immigrants live in fear of deportation and as such, are willing to take abuse from employers, landlords, etc, just to avoid confrontation.  Low wage workers get the shaft because they're competing for jobs with undocumented immigrants who are afraid to confront their employers.  Worst of all, apparently, my roommate had to learn Spanish in high school. (Actually, it was the efforts of Thomas Jefferson and Carlo Bellini in the late 18th Century that created Modern Languages studies in American schools.)

Anyway, no one is happy except for people who hire undocumented immigrants, and people who've developed a taste for authentic Mexican tacos.  Mmm. . .tacos.  As you can guess, I fall in the latter category.  And as much as I love tacos, surely there has to be a better way to get my taco fix.

I've stated this before in a few other blogs, but it bears repeating - the way to fix the immigration problem is to remove all benefits of hiring illegal immigrants for employers.  The only way to do that is to "legalize" everyone.  If foreign workers want to come work in the U.S., they can so long as they pass a background check.  In so doing, these foreign workers are protected by the same employment laws that protect everyone else, and as a result, they compete directly with American workers on a level playing field.  And if, in the resulting competition, foreign workers can't find work, they're going to go home.

Additionally, we should have a separate path of citizenship for those who want to become American citizens, complete with the full restrictions and requirements as exist today. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

About Those "Illegals" Not Paying for Stuff. . .

On the way to work today, I heard some douchebag (who's probably a San Diego elected official) talk about how the County has to spend all this money to provide services to undocumented immigrants for free because undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes. . .

I call bullshit.

Not on the fact that undocumented immigrants use services (they do), but rather that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes.  That's bullshit, pure and simple.  California gets its tax revenue from three basic sources: sales taxes, property taxes, and income taxes.  Let's go down the list, shall we, and see what taxes undocumented immigrants do and don't pay.

Sales Taxes: California has a mandatory sales taxes - every item purchased in the State of California (save a few necessities) is subject to a sales tax.  While theoretically the tax is levied on businesses, the cost of the tax is passed directly to consumers.  Now since undocumented immigrants buy stuff in California, they are subject to sales taxes, and PAY sales taxes, just like EVERYONE ELSE.  Oh, and counties like San Diego have their own sales taxes, which again, undocumented immigrants pay.

Property Taxes: All real estate is subject to property taxes - every year a percentage of the property's value is paid by the owner of the property to the County governments, and then sent up to Sacramento.  Like any tax, an owner of private property can pass that cost onto his customers - in this case any tenants he/she has - by increasing the rent.  And that's exactly what most property owners do.  Given that there is no barrier to owning or renting property in the United States (save cost, of course), undocumented immigrants either own property, or rent property.  When they do, they pay property taxes.

Income taxes: Of all the taxes that are paid in California, only one - income taxes - can be avoided by undocumented immigrants, in theory.  After all, undocumented immigrants can get paid under the table, and thus the employer can avoid paying taxes.  But given that low income workers don't get paid much (and are thus subjected to lower income tax rates), this isn't such a big deal.  Oh, and counties don't collect income tax.  Additionally, an undocumented immigrant can call the State of California and get a taxpayer ID number so that they can, in fact, pay taxes, which many do because reputable employers require that sort of thing.  In other words, while this is the tax that undocumented immigrants can avoid paying, many don't, but even if they didn't, income taxes on low income workers are negligible. 

To summarize, death and taxes are inevitable, even for undocumented immigrants. So let's drop the whole "they're getting services that they don't pay for" routine.  If undocumented immigrants buy things, or rent property, which they undoubtedly do, they pay taxes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hippie Punching, ctd,

Not too long ago, I wrote that while the Democratic Party establishment has no problem attacking the grassroots, the Republican Party Establishment is beholden to their base.  The recent immigration debate, brought on by the Arizona Legislature, and drafted by a hate group, brings this issue to the fore.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Republican leaders willing to speak out against this law, despite its popularity. 

Of all the slings and arrows I could throw at the Bush Administration, racism is not one of them.  Bush didn't care about the color of your skin, he cared about how much money you had in your bank account.  His immigration bill was less than perfect, but its a lot better than nothing.  Not surprisingly, its the Bushies that are attacking the law.  Oh, and John McCain (who says he never claimed to be a maverick) looks worse and worse by comparison every single day.

But all this leads me to the oddities of the American political system, as noticed by Bush and Rove - African Americans and Latinos tend to vote for candidates who don't share their political views on social issues.  Significant portions of African American voters are anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and as anti-tax as anyone.  Similar portions of Latino voters are equally anti-choice, anti-gay and anti-tax.  And yet, these voters either stay at home or vote Democratic in every election.  I think the reason for this discrepancy is that minority voters view Republicans as racists - a view that is exacerbated by issuing proclamations in support of the Confederacy (without mentioning slavery), opposing civil rights legislation, supporting oppressive anti-immigration legislation, etc.  Until that changes, the GOP will never make significant inroads with these key constituencies.

Other notes: its pretty clear now that the economy of much of the Bush Administration was based upon the housing market, which everyone knew was precarious.  This article makes clear that while the Fed had some reservations, and knew how to slow down the bubble (by rising interest rates), it chose not to. . .I'm not sure I like the Chargers' draft this year. . .I like the Padres' start. . .

And lastly, the Obama Administration, or more specifically, Obama, needs to make clear that he won't allow the U.S. to devolve into cowardice and fear because some loser tried to set off a bomb.  That's what the terrorists want - they want us to strip away the rights of American citizens, they want cower in fear.  We win when we refuse to do so.  With that said, big props to the street vendors who helped the police nail that loser in New York.