Washington

Last night was an emotional evening for all of us bearing witness to the disaster that is America’s national immigration policy (see blog below on the raid at Postville), I will admit I am not a big fan of states’ attempts to control immigration on their own. The laws passed by such states as Arizona, Georgia and Alabama reek of anger and desperation. I mostly understand those emotions although it appears that economic development in these states suffer as they chase out the people doing the most menial of jobs that the rest of us depend on every day. Georgia is now considering using prison labor to avoid having millions of dollars of crops rot on the vine. But it’s the failure of our national government to develop a coherent policy in these regards on which I’d like to focus. And the resulting effect on the lives of American citizens and citizens of our neighboring countries about which I am ashamed.

Washington is broken. Big secret, yes? I am not one to place blame on one party to the exclusion of any other for the gridlock that has overtaken us. Nor do I believe that the fact that Washington is not working right now means that there is no longer a role of the federal government to play in the lives of Americans. Watching Abused last night, it was sure hard not to come away thinking that the five million dollars we spent planning, organizing and executing the raid were not well spent, and that number does not even account for the millions of dollars it cost us to in jail hundreds of people for months or the legal fees expended defending the raid. By the way, the not-very-liberal Supreme Court pretty much ruled after-the-fact that everything about the raid was improper. Close to 100 of the deported men, women and children have now been granted legal status in the United States and returned.

What’s the immigration answer? I am not sure, but what I am certain of is that the status quo is a disaster. We need to find some legal way to allow workers to come to the states, including people who work at the bottom of the wage scale. Legal or not, they will come anyway. It sort of reminds me about the war on drugs. How many billions of tax dollars have we spent fighting this war only to lose it? Again, I don’t claim to have the answer to America’s drug problems but I sure know what we are doing isn’t working.

The stock answers from the left or the right are not the solution. When I wrote before about not having the stomach to watch the political circus happening right now on TV, this is what I meant. I am no Mitt Romney fan, but is the fact he might have had an undocumented worker cut his lawn years ago really the issue? Of course he did. All of us who buy such services in the marketplace are certainly guilty of that crime or one just like it. The real issue can’t be that.

We have got to move beyond insisting on an ideologically pure solutions to all the intractable issues our country faces. I attended a panel discussion the other day on the economy. The issue of tax policy came up (actually, I brought it up). Does the solution to our country’s economic decline lie at the feet of our tax policy, one way or the other? The answer from the panelists I would categorize as fiscal conservatives surprised me. The most important thing we need to do, they believe, is to set a policy and end the uncertainty. I am sure they didn’t mean to suggest any tax policy was as good as any other (see 9,9,9), but what they did mean was that any balanced policy was better than the uncertainty we have now. And I would suggest that this same approach applies to our current immigration debacle. We know we can’t deport the 13 million undocumented workers now in the states nor can we really close our borders. And even if we could actually do both those things, our country and our economy would suffer.

I am not one for simple solutions, but try this one on. No elected congressman or women could serve more than a single term. Come to Washington. Do your best and go home.

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