I think the signs are clear that most of big government displays varying degrees of ineptness, from slightly to completely. And over the years, the entire scale of government has moved relentlessly to the “completely” side of things.
Here’s a simple example of why few have any trust in government and even fewer believe what it says anymore. In this case it has to do with security and immigration. It has to do with basic competence. It has to do with following and enforcing the law. And it also has to do with a department of government which has done none of those things:
The Homeland Security Department has lost track of more than 1 million people who it knows arrived in the U.S. but who it cannot prove left the country, according to an audit Tuesday that also found the department probably won’t meet its own goals for deploying an entry-exit system.
The findings were revealed as Congress debates an immigration bill, and the Government Accountability Office’s report could throw up another hurdle because lawmakers in the House and Senate have said that any final deal must include a workable system to track entries and exits and cut down on so-called visa overstays.
The government does track arrivals, but is years overdue in setting up a system to track departures — a goal set in a 1996 immigration law and reaffirmed in 2004, but which has eluded Republican and Democratic administrations.
“DHS has not yet fulfilled the 2004 statutory requirement to implement a biometric exit capability, but has planning efforts under way to report to Congress in time for the fiscal year 2016 budget cycle on the costs and benefits of such a capability at airports and seaports,” GAO investigators wrote.
Why has it eluded both Republic and Democratic administrations? Basic incompetence coupled with bureaucratic resistance. A combination which leads to ossification – something we see more and more of as government grows more vast and inept. Also note that many of the problems we suffer today are of government’s making. Certainly if we have a means of logging arrivals into the country, having a system that tracks their exit just couldn’t be that tough to do. And DHS has had the mandate to do that since … 1996. 17 years. 17 years and nada. Result? We have no idea how many foreigners we have illegally in this country right now. But they can track a Pakistani Taliban for days on end via drones.
Of course none of this should surprise anyone, because the federal government isn’t now nor has it ever really been that interested in enforcing immigration laws. When it does do so it is almost by whim.
Like I said, this is just one example of the legion of examples where big government exacerbates problems by being inept or just intransigent (or both) in the execution and enforcement of laws. Executive departments really don’t pay that much attention to either the law or Congress. And, as usual, there are no consequences for doing so. The department charged with homeland security during a war on terror has lost track of a million foreigners that have traveled to this country.
And no one seems to care.
Niall Ferguson has a piece in the Wall Street Journal which talks about the growth of regulation within the nation. He starts with a quote from de Tocqueville in which de Tocqueville marvels at how Americans manage to self-regulate through associations. He then notes that de Tocqueville wouldn’t recognize the US if he were to suddenly come back. It looks too much like Europe.
Regulation has crept in to help smother us all the while the culture has changed to where Americans seem to no longer look to each other to solve problems, but instead look to government.
Regulations are simply a symptom of this business and autonomy killing movement. And their growth track pretty well with our demise:
As the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Clyde Wayne Crews shows in his invaluable annual survey of the federal regulatory state, we have become the regulation nation almost imperceptibly. Excluding blank pages, the 2012 Federal Register—the official directory of regulation—today runs to 78,961 pages. Back in 1986 it was 44,812 pages. In 1936 it was just 2,620.
True, our economy today is much larger than it was in 1936—around 12 times larger, allowing for inflation. But the Federal Register has grown by a factor of 30 in the same period.
The last time regulation was cut was under Ronald Reagan, when the number of pages in the Federal Register fell by 31%. Surprise: Real GDP grew by 30% in that same period. But Leviathan’s diet lasted just eight years. Since 1993, 81,883 new rules have been issued. In the past 10 years, the “final rules” issued by our 63 federal departments, agencies and commissions have outnumbered laws passed by Congress 223 to 1.
Right now there are 4,062 new regulations at various stages of implementation, of which 224 are deemed “economically significant,” i.e., their economic impact will exceed $100 million.
The cost of all this, Mr. Crews estimates, is $1.8 trillion annually—that’s on top of the federal government’s $3.5 trillion in outlays, so it is equivalent to an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP. Especially invidious is the fact that the costs of regulation for small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) are 36% higher per employee than they are for bigger firms.
Got that? 224 new regulations which will have an economic impact that will “exceed $100 million” dollars. Negatively of course. That was the purpose of having regulations rated like that – to understand the probable negative economic impact. And we have 224 in the hopper, in a very down economy, which will exceed the negative $100 million dollar mark. What are those people thinking? Or are they? Indications are they give it no thought when these new regulations are proffered. They just note the cost and move on. No skin of their rear ends.
And if you think that’s bad, just wait:
Next year’s big treat will be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, something every small business in the country must be looking forward to with eager anticipation. Then, as Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) warned readers on this page 10 months ago, there’s also the Labor Department’s new fiduciary rule, which will increase the cost of retirement planning for middle-class workers; the EPA’s new Ozone Rule, which will impose up to $90 billion in yearly costs on American manufacturers; and the Department of Transportation’s Rear-View Camera Rule. That’s so you never have to turn your head around when backing up.
Yes, that’s right, they’re hardly done. In fact, they’re not even slowing down. The accumulation of power within the central government – the ability to intrude in almost every aspect of your life – is attempting to reach warp speed.
Finally, as if what I’ve noted isn’t enough, we have another costly travesty in the gestation stage, i.e. the “Gang of 8′s” immigration bill. From PowerLine:
The CBO confirms that the bill provides for a vast influx of new, legal immigration. The Senate Budget Committee says:
CBO projects 16 million new immigrants will be added by 2033 on top of the current law projected flow of 22 million and that 8 million illegal immigrants will be granted permanent status – for a total of 46 million legal immigrants, including a doubling of guest workers to 1.6 million in a single year.
Contrary to the claims of the bill’s sponsors, this influx will be overwhelmingly low-skilled. The CBO says:
[T]he new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law.
The result is that unemployment will increase, and wages will be driven down, for America’s existing blue collar work force:
Taking into account all of those flows of new immigrants, CBO and JCT expect that a greater number of immigrants with lower skills than with higher skills would be added to the workforce, slightly pushing down the average wage for the labor force as a whole… However, CBO and JCT expect that currently unauthorized workers who would obtain legal status under S. 744 would see an increase in their average wages.
Terrific: the only ones who would gain would be those who came here illegally, while native born workers would suffer. The CBO report continues:
[T]he average wage would be lower than under current law over the first dozen years. … CBO estimates that S. 744 would cause the unemployment rate to increase slightly between 2014 and 2020.
Ruinous? Along with everything else, pretty much.
To say America has lost it’s way is, well, an understatement. We aren’t close to being what was envisioned at our founding and we’re almost kissing cousins of that which our Founders attempted to keep us from becoming – today’s Europe.
Unfortunately, that ruinous drift and over reliance on government seems to be fine for all too many of those who call themselves Americans today.
I see some on the Left passing around this map showing that female mortality worsened in many counties between the early/mid-’90s and the early/mid-2000s. (Meanwhile, male mortality only worsened in 3.4% of counties.)
They noticed red states doing worse than blue states, and thought that this must, of course, be due to the Republican war on women™.
The mortality rate of females [worsening] in 43 percent of U.S. counties from 2002-2006 is eye-opening. This map from health researcher Bill Gardner helps you see where the worst results are typically coming from — red states and the redder parts of blue states.
It apparently did not occur to these partisans to control for a fairly simple, innocent phenomenon: old people just die more frequently than younger people.
- Rural areas are aging faster as they have fewer kids who stick around – and it’s mostly women left behind, since women have a longer life expectancy than men in the US. So the mortality rate of a county could go up even if people are as healthy for their age as ever.
- On the other hand, when you have an influx of young people (like in high-immigration counties), the mortality rate drops.
As evidence for this, look at the overlaps between the above map and two others:
More old people combined with fewer people in the prime of their health tends to mean a higher death rate, and vice versa. It’s not a perfect correlation, but at very least it’s something that should be taken into account before blaming policy for deaths.
It certainly seems like less of a stretch than trying to blame the trend in female mortality on suicides connected to expanded gun ownership:
[A]nother study suggests that red states’ high levels of gun ownership make them especially dangerous:
With few exceptions, states with the highest rates of gun ownership — for example, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama, and West Virginia — also tended to have the highest suicide rates.
How big of a stretch is this as a contributor to female mortality? Two little hints:
- suicide is not even close to a leading cause of death among women
- men commit suicide almost four times as often as women in the US, and seven times as often with guns, yet male mortality dropped in almost all counties even as gun ownership expanded
And then there’s this bold prediction:
With red states rushing to turn down the Medicaid expansion, these results will likely only get worse.
That’s not outlandish as guesses go, since women consume two thirds of medical care in this country, but there’s not an obvious nationwide relationship between Medicaid dependence and changes in women’s mortality (though controlling for ethnicity might be a start):
Blaming the party elected by older people for higher mortality in the areas they govern is like blaming Democrats for young urbanites being more prone to violent crime than old rural farmers. If you’re not controlling for other causes, you’re just trolling for partisan causes.
One of the most useful things I’ve learned about communication is the importance of stating things plainly and concretely.* But thinking about that lesson frequently makes politics maddening.
Euphemisms are the health of politics. If a government really wants to get away with murder, even secrecy can be less useful than making that particular murder sound unremarkable, justifiable, sensible, or even dutiful.
After the election, Righty circles are naturally engaging in some soul-searching, finger-pointing, and bickering. Some of this is unproductive venting, but it’s also the start of the process of working out how to move on and improve, and there’s no time to waste.
My conversations with fellow Righty operatives and bloggers have spurred me to suggest several ways Republicans could simultaneously make the party more attractive (or less repulsive) to voters and achieve more conservative results. This post is about immigration and reversing the trend of Hispanics rapidly abandoning the GOP; the next is about gay marriage; and the final post is about entitlement reform.
First, let’s dispense with the notion agreed upon by many on the Right: seal the border first, so that whatever follows is more controlled and orderly. This is an expensive fantasy. Conservatives need to apply their skepticism of huge, complex, market-distorting government plans to every issue surrounding immigration, starting with any plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on thousands of miles of fence, surveillance, unionized government employees, and a verification system forced on every employer in the country.
It’s a joke that the Republican Party, which is practically defined by marriage, babies, and mortgages, holds at arm’s length a whole demographic (Hispanics, especially foreign-born) that tends to be more religious, marry younger and longer, and have larger families than the average American voter.
Mass immigration could work for the GOP if the GOP went with the tide instead of trying to stop it.
- If Republicans want school choice, they should have natural allies among those who are religious, have large families, and see their children suffer under the worst public schools. When you hear complaints that Hispanic immigrants don’t speak English, suggest vouchers and education savings accounts for private-school English language instruction.
- If Republicans want to revive farms and stop the population drain from rural areas, make legitimate cheap labor more available: open up a bunch of farm worker visas.
- If Republicans want to cut the cost of new housing so that young people can form households and families, make legitimate cheap labor available for that too. Heck, why not try to break various trade unions by inviting enough skilled immigrants to swamp or bypass their system?
- So the entitlement system is a problem? Yeah, Milton Friedman famously said you can’t simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state. Shouldn’t the Republican response be “Bring on free immigration“? If math dooms Medicaid and the subsidized industrial-age hospital model, why not make the math even harder?
- Conservatives have longed to shift taxes away from production and toward consumption. Nobody wants to remove labor tax wedges (AHEM: the payroll tax) as much as someone in a labor-intensive business, the kind that tends to thrive when there’s a lot of cheap labor available. That goes for both employers and the employees whose compensation is tilted toward wages rather than benefits; we know it suppresses the Hispanic savings rate. And the payroll tax, of course, helps to maintain the accounting fiction that SocSec and Medicare are like savings.
Now, about the security problem: is it easier to pick out a genuine security threat in the crowd if everyone just has to pass a security check, or if hundreds of thousands of people are trying to cross the border undetected because the only legal route is a seven-year byzantine process?
Heather Mac Donald at NRO offers a potential counter-argument: Hispanics are more suspicious of Republicans for supporting class warfare than for opposing immigration according to a poll (from March 2011), and a majority favor gay marriage, so they’re not such a conservative bunch. But:
- Immigration may not be most Hispanics’ top concern, but it isn’t trivial either. And because politics is so tribal, there are many ways to alienate a group without actually disagreeing on policy – many of which Republicans blunder into when discussing immigration.
- Republicans shouldn’t cede the class warfare argument either: it wouldn’t hurt if the party focused more on the poor, as Mac Donald’s colleague Kevin D. Williamson exhorts the GOP to do. If you’re a small-government type who reads the previous sentence as a plea to compromise on principle, that reaction is part of the problem.
- Finally: social issues. Mac Donald points out that a majority of Hispanics favor gay marriage. I’ll argue in my next post that conservatives should proactively embrace gay marriage, which should resolve this issue nicely.
POLITICO has a story out entitled “10 quotes that haunt Obama“. Haunt? I’d say they define him.
The 10 quotes, minus the POLITICO take on each, are:
“Washington is broken. My whole campaign has been premised from the start on the idea that we have to fundamentally change how Washington works.”
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
“If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”
“Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not.”
“Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.”
“I think that health care, over time, is going to become more popular.”
“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
“It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.”
“I fought with you in the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. And I will make it a top priority in my first year as President.”
“What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further. We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else’s.”
What they define is arrogance, cluelessness, flip flopping and failure. The gay marriage quote was one that ran in a gay newspaper in Chicago as Obama was running for the State Senate. When confronted with that later, he denied those were his words. Then, when it was politically important to embrace gay marriage, he “evolved” (what would be described as a ‘flip-flop’ for any other politician).
There are a ton of other quotes that could be on this list (“the private sector is doing fine” – arrogance and cluelessness). But these will do. They indicate a man who, for whatever reason, thinks an awful lot of himself while not demonstrating anything of substance to substantiate that feeling. That is why Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair. He could just as easily had a naked Obama mannequin up there with an emperor’s crown.
Washington is broken worse since he took office, Solyndra represents crony capitalism at its worst, he’s kicked the can around the cul-de-sac while passing an extraordinarily expensive medical insurance law against the wishes of the American people. Gitmo is still open, he’s done nothing on immigration but blatantly ignored the law, his arrogance still knows no bounds, but he’s damn sure no Ronald Reagan. Or Bill Clinton, for that matter.
So I say we hold him to quote 3. He has no interest in the economy, unemployment or jobs. He’s yet to meet with his jobs council, doesn’t attend his daily intel briefs (well he does now, since being called out on it) and would much rather campaign than meet with world leaders at the UN. He’s a guy who loves the perqs of the job, but seemingly isn’t real interested in the job itself.
And somehow we’re supposed to believe giving him 4 more years would improve on this record.
As you might imagine, it has consequences, and, given this situation, it is very hard to pretend the consequences are unintended. Why? Because even a 5th grader could have predicted this outcome:
In a startling allegation, the president of the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers claimed illegal immigrants are "taking advantage" of a new directive allowing some undocumented residents who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country. Union boss Chris Crane said the policy ends up allowing illegal immigrants to avoid detention without any proof — particularly so-called "dreamers," or those illegal immigrants who would benefit under the "DREAM Act" proposal, which Congress has not passed but the administration has partially implemented.
"Prosecutorial discretion for dreamers is solely based on the individual’s claims. Our orders are if an alien says they went to high school, then let them go," he said at a press conference with GOP senators. "Officers have been told that there is no burden for the alien to prove anything. … At this point we don’t even know why DHS has criteria at all, as there is no requirement or burden to prove anything on the part of the alien.
"We believe that significant numbers of people who are not dreamers are taking advantage of this practice to avoid arrest," he said.
Whether or not you agree with the immigration laws of the country, executive fiat is not the method the Constitution outlines as legitimate redress. And, unsurprisingly, those illegals who would benefit, even if not actually eligible, will exploit an opportunity such executive fiat presents.
According to Chris Crane, that’s precisely what is happening.
The allegations from the union were expressed in unusually blunt terms Thursday.
George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council union, said the Department of Homeland Security has made it impossible for agents to do their jobs.
Crane said it’s led to disorganization and "confusion" at ICE.
Not that ICE hasn’t had its share of confusion in the past, but now, it is even more difficult to do their jobs.
Crane cited one case in which, he said, an immigrant facing criminal charges was let go under the policy. Further, he complained that officers are "under threat of losing their jobs" if they defy the policy.
Anyone who thinks this is how our system should work needs to re-examine the Constitution. One branch creates the laws (legislative) and one branch enforces the laws (executive). If you don’t like a law or want it changed or repealed then it’s back to the legislative branch. And no, inaction by the legislative branch doesn’t mean the executive branch can arbitrarily ignore the law or decide it’s not going to enforce it. Not and still be a Constitutional republic.
I’m on record saying our current immigration system sucks. There’s no reason in this day of cyber advances that we couldn’t have the slickest and quickest system on earth. And yes, I hold Congress directly responsible for the inactivity that has led to the mess at the border.
But that doesn’t give the executive license to ignore laws or selectively enforce them. Kings do that, not presidents, and we have no kings. We just have a president who thinks he’s one.
Perhaps I’m missing something here but hasn’t the main argument of this administration about the various immigration laws passed by states been that immigration is the solely the job of the Federal Government?
Isn’t it true that they’ve challenged various state level immigration laws on those very grounds?
Nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants could live and work openly in California with little or no fear of deportation under an initiative unveiled Friday by a state legislator and others. Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, a Democrat, is helping spearhead the measure, called the California Opportunity and Prosperity Act.
The proposal was filed Friday with the state Attorney General’s Office, marking a first step toward a drive to collect the 504,760 voter signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Fuentes called the measure a "moderate, common-sense approach" necessitated by the federal government’s inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"I hope this shows Washington, D.C., that if they fail to act, California will take the lead on this critical issue," Fuentes said in a written statement.
I’m sure Eric Holder’s DoJ will be asking, fairly quickly, by what right California assumes the right to do such a thing. You know, in other states, they were at least trying to enforce existing federal law when they were challenged. Here’s a guy trying to circumvent it. I would assume that would give the chief law enforcement officer, who has been so quick to jump on those states trying to enforce existing federal laws, to be on this guy like white on rice.
Regardless whether Californians would support such a measure, implementation would depend upon the federal government agreeing not to prosecute participants.
Well, lets see … didn’t California legalize medical marijuana and didn’t the feds say it didn’t matter because it was against federal law to engage in such activity? And didn’t they continue to prosecute marijuana cases and raid supposed “legal” providers?
So what about circumventing federal law in this case?
Oh, and of course, nothing could go wrong with this could it? A “million” illegals get amnesty. California becomes a magnet for illegals. Pay taxes? Why? They’re illegal and there’s no penalty for that. Why fess up and pay taxes? California has already said it’s not going to deport them. That doesn’t mean they’re then going to pay taxes for heaven sake.
Another brilliant idea brought to you by a … Democrat.
One of the bits of genius installed by the founders of this country was three co-equal branches of government, each responsible for a different part of the governing turf. And the function of the three is not only to be the primary governmental institution in its explicit area of control, but to serve as a "check” on the others and provide “balance” by not letting one branch get more powerful than another.
In the area of immigration, to this point, the executive branch, under Barack Obama, has mostly done that with notable exceptions. But now, it appears, all appearances of following the law as laid down by Congress seems to have been thrown under the bus. The Obama administration has, for all intents and purposes, decided what how the law will be interpreted whether Congress likes it or not. After all, there’s an election in the offing, activist groups to be satisfied and votes to be bought:
Bowing to pressure from immigrant rights activists, the Obama administration said Thursday that it will halt deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria, such as attending school, having family in the military or having primary responsible for other family members’ care.
The move marks a major step for President Obama, who for months has said he does not have broad categorical authority to halt deportations and said he must follow the laws as Congress has written them.
But in letters to Congress on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she does have discretion to focus on “priorities” and that her department and the Justice Department will review all ongoing cases to see who meets the new criteria.
“This case-by-case approach will enhance public safety,” she said. “Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high-priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons.”
Right … and to totally ignore cases against illegal immigrants who meet the arbitrary standards the administration finds to be “acceptable”.
This, of course, makes it clear to any illegal immigrant what the bare minimum is necessary to avoid deportation. It’s a government sponsored “okay” to stay illegally. Just meet one of the criteria (or appear too) and we’ll ignore the law for you.
However you feel about illegal immigration, we’ve always featured ourselves as a nation of laws, not men. A nation of laws is one which follows laws and, if they don’t like the law, feel it is fair, or whatever, go through the process of changing the law or abolishing it. What a nation of laws doesn’t do is ignore the law or arbitrarily pick and choose the parts it will follow. Imagine, if you will, deciding that you weren’t going to follow certain laws because you felt they were unfair. Say, doing 25 in a school zone. You tell the officer who stops you that doing 25 is not fuel efficient and you’ve chosen to ignore it and do 45. How far do you think that would get you in terms of avoiding a ticket?
In this case we have an administration that has decided to pick and choose what part of laws it will enforce. It isn’t the first. But this sort of blatant disregard for enforcing the law is both dangerous and something which needs to be stopped and stopped now.
If the executive branch finds a law to be something it has concerns or problems with, it’s recourse should be changing it through the legislative body, per the Constitution. Or taking it to the Judicial branch for a Constitutional check, if that’s appropriate. What it must not do is precisely what it is doing – ignoring Congress and literally taking the law into its own hands.
That is the law of men – arbitrary, selective, dangerous and wrong.
In a decision today, the Supreme Court basically upheld the portion of the Arizona state law that sanctions employers who hire illegal immigrants:
The 5-3 decision upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 and its so-called business death penalty for employers who are caught repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants. The state law also requires employers to check the federal E-Verify system before hiring new workers, a provision that was also upheld Thursday.
Thursday’s decision is a defeat for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, several civil-rights groups and the Obama administration, all of whom opposed the Arizona law and its sanctions on employers. They argued that federal law said states may not impose "civil or criminal sanctions" on employers.
This ruling boosts state’s arguments that they have at least some rights in terms of controlling illegal immigration (particularly when the federal government refuses to act). The three dissenters disagreed:
In dissent were Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. They said federal law prohibited states from imposing their own immigration-related rules on employers. Justice Elena Kagan sat out the case.
Of course federal law prohibits, or tries to prohibit such rules by states, but the court just changed that, didn’t they? It gives states back some of their rights and reduces the power of the federal government in an area where I think it’s power needed to be reduced, particularly since it appears the problem is out of control with the fed in charge.
I have mixed feelings about the so-called “death penalty” for businesses. I assume, or at least hope that there are appeals, etc. before it is finally imposed because such a penalty effects more than just the business owners in many cases.
By ruling that the states have the right to impose such a penalty though, illegal immigrants will find gaining employment much harder than it was before as there are few businesses who are going to figure that saving a little money hiring an illegal is worth the “death penalty” if caught.
Oh … and to save the drive by commenters the trouble – being against “illegal immigration”, note the term emphasized, does not mean one is against “immigration”, thankyouverymuch.