Thursday, November 08, 2012
Election Analysis: Something I Missed
In my haste to let the religious right have it, I missed something important that suggests the GOP problem is deeper than just religious nuttery: the GOP has systematically refused to address immigration issues seriously. Worse, they've adopted nativist hostility to immigrants and treat immigration as purely a law enforcement issue, one in which "suspicious looking people" need to be ready to show their papers at any point.
Hispanics voted almost 3 to 1 for Obama over Romney. Anyone surprised by this wasn't paying attention. In a number of Republican forums this past year Hispanic politicians and party activists -- all GOP members -- voiced frustration that the primary campaigns were making it difficult for them to feel they had a place in the party. Recall that the one and only intelligent thing Rick Perry said in his entire campaign was that children of illegal immigrants ought to be able to attend college at in-state tuition rates, since it was better that they be educated and productive rather than welfare cases. It's also the only thing for which conservatives raked him over the coals.
Hispanics are about one sixth of the U.S. population and account for more than 50% of population growth. Good luck selling them on the idea that Spanish accents and not-quite-white skin are cause for further police inquiries.
In fact, illegal immigration ought to be something conservatives support. The primary reason people enter the country illegally is to work. Serious academic work dating at least to Julian Simon's excellent book (available here for free!) have found that immigration, including illegal immigration, is on net beneficial for an economy. Immigrants work harder and take less in government benefits. Their work raises wages for non-immigrants. They have higher rates of entrepreneurial activity. In the recent financial crisis, illegal immigrants who were subprime borrowers had far lower rates of mortgage default than citizen subprime borrowers. One would suppose that these would be the sort of people one would want to welcome, not drive away. One would think these people would be prime constituents for a free market message.
Certainly there are problems of crime, of crowding of public services, etc. associated with immigration, but many of these are at heart problems of the welfare state, rather than immigration. Fixing these makes sense; fixating on immigration doesn't.
If the nativists got everything they wanted on immigration -- iron control over impervious borders, strict limits on who can enter, and deportation of 100% of all illegals -- no important economic or social problem would be solved and the economic situation would be worse, not better. But this wish list is impossible; economic forces cannot be legislated away, and neither can the human spirit. The current Republican position on this issue is best described as stupidity, and one more reason they drove away potential voters.
The 100% libertarian solution is to abolish the borders and let everyone in or out as they wish. Of course, at the same time we must also abolish all guvamint property; the land, airspace, and waterways must be private or entirely unclaimed. Movement on private property will be by owners' permission only. The state itself will be abolished.
In the meantime, anyone who makes any other suggestion for solving the immigration mess should be roundly condemned for expanding the state.
Any solution suggested by politicians is likely to be unfair to some group relative to another, but it is unlikely to be unjust. Therefore, it is likely to be preferable to nothing.
For example, a solution may involve giving green cards to illiterate Mexicans who crossed the border yesterday but not to Chinese scientists who have been here for ten years. It's unfair and stupid, but screwing only the Chinese scientists is preferable to screwing them and the Mexicans. So, bad as that solution may be, it is preferable to no action at all.
So, I think the moral is this: don't criticize others for criticism they haven't made on a solution you haven't proposed.
The welcome news is that the crushing electoral defeat is leading some prominent Republicans, including Sean Hannity of all people, to rethink their positions on immigration. (A cynical observer might suggest that these conservatives have realized that demonizing immigrants does not win them a sufficiently substantial audience – and they never seriously believed the anti-immigration rhetoric, but rather used it to bait the xenophobic “useful idiots” who form some of the GOP’s constituency. But, naturally, one can only speculate about that, as their true motives are known to them only.) One can hope that this will lead the insanity to be toned down at least. This nativist strain needs to made as unacceptable in public discussion as overt racism has become over the past four decades.
The situations are not the same, although the differences can be subtle. There are both quantitative and qualitative differences.I'll get to it in more detail on my blog, but briefly:
1. The immigrant may use his green card as a weapon and demand more affirmative action, etc., but he may not; he may simply use it to live his life. The marriage certificate (gay or straight) is essentially a weapon against the spouse and the rest of society. I don't give a damn that it is used against the spouse because s/he agreed to it, but I have a problem when it is used against me.
2. The immigration problem can be solved strictly by reducing government control, abuse, and power. The gay marriage issue necessitates more government, even it is for a "good cause".
With respect to immigration, anyone in the United States has a legal claim on hospital ER services.
Also, anyone who works in the U.S., even illegals, is required to pay FICA. If they expect to get any of their money back, they must enroll is Social Security and Medicare, permanent residents included. But then, they aren't really getting "their" money back, but someone else's -- theirs was long since spent. It seems to me that immigration, not expanded marriage -- makes a claim on you.