Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Immigration debate is a diversion. Raise wages!

Immigration is on everyone's mind this week. The Senate is trying to clean up the mess the House made in December, which passed a bill that would make illegals and those that provide humanitarian aid to them felons. [See my thoughts on this back then] Senators are feeling the pressure, from massive protests around the country over this past weekend, to pass a bill that won't make an already bad situation worse.

Our immigrations laws are a real mess and they should be fixed. But, perhaps, an election years is not the right time to tackle this issue. Although, the bill voted out of the Judiciary committee on Monday is fairly sensible, and crucially omits the onerous language put in by the House, there is still a long way to go. For one thing, only 4 out of the 10 Republicans on the committee voted for it. I see more trouble down the road. The sticking point with the hardcore anti-immigrant types ---the Republicans --- is the idea this would provide an amnesty for illegals already here. Making them learn English, pay fines and wait 11 years before they could apply for citizenship hardly sounds like an amnesty, but for those who see deporting 12 million as the only solution to this very complicated issue, no amount of common sense is going to penetrate their thick skulls.

The bill the Senate is considering has a provision in it that calls for a guest worker program, and even though it's more humane than Bush's idea of just having a permanent underclass that works or gets deported at the whim of the employer, it's still is flawed. I don't like the whole idea of guest workers. My worry is that in practice the Senate version will wind up with the same result as W.'s plan. Corporations will always find ways to exploit the workers. (You just know Wal-Mart is licking their lips over this idea!)

What we really need is a total overhaul of our entire wage system. Anti-immigration advocates like to complain that the American worker is being harmed by low wage immigrants, but they don't have much to say about a decent living wage for all. Whether they're illegal or not, all workers should be paid a decent wage. If Congress could ever get around to passing a living wage law, wages would go up for Americans and immigrants. Let’s level the playing field. This is the real solution to the problem of immigration. Better paid workers would have more to spend and would create more jobs, here and in Mexico.

We've allowed "the market" and the "neoliberals" to run things for too long and they've made a mess out of the economy. For the past 20 years or so, it's just been one bubble after another and every time one burst a whole bunch more workers got a big pay cut. Allen Greenspan is hailed as some kind of genius, but all he did was build bubbles for the ultra rich to get richer from. Everybody else is way worse off than they were 10 years ago. Wait until the housing bubble bursts and see how happy everyone is. Blaming the immigrants isn't going to be an option when middle class Americans are being foreclosed out of their homes and into the street.

The same genius' that brought us the Great Depression in the 1930's are getting ready to give another one. As FDR explained at the 1936 Democratic Convention:

"A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money; other people's labor ---- other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real. Men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness. Against such economic tyranny as this, the American citizen could only appeal to the organized power of the government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it."

What we need is another mandate from the people to end this current economic tyranny before it’s too late.


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