TheScreamOnline Editorial - April 2007

Stuart Vail, Editor-in-Chief

There has been quite a lot of discussion on TheScreamBlog about immigration to the U.S. and how it affects the economy and our lives. (I will delve into all sorts of related and tangential topics, so please bear with me.) One can see in the news that the issue has become quite charged with emotions on both sides. Some want to open our doors to the world, some want to send the "dirty immigrants" back to where they came from. A few years ago Chronicles Magazine published "Boys Will Be Boys," an article about schoolboy fighting, by Dr. Roger McGrath. In his response to a reader's letter taking issue with the article, McGrath stated: “If we were allowed to do what comes naturally, European peoples would not now be in the process of being displaced in France or Germany or England by Arabs or Indians or Nigerians or some such folks, nor would Californians be fleeing to Idaho in the face of an invasion from south of the border.”

Any student of history will remember that Britain invaded India, Iraq (before it was Iraq), Africa, the New World, the South Pacific, China.... And McGrath’s Europeans — people from many countries, now called Americans — invaded Mexican territories (now California, for example) after cleansing the rest of the prime real estate of the inconvenient "Indians."

The issue of who was here first, and who are the true aliens, is as old as Time itself. In the Great Diaspora many Jews were dispersed to all parts of the globe. Some finally returned to Palestine and bought desert land from the Arabs that no one else wanted. The Jews irrigated, farmed, and created towns and cities, and then the Palestinians wanted the land back. This is not to support one side or the other; I'm simply stating fact. Whose land is it, really?

Across the ocean, Whites pushed the Indians from one plot of dirt to the next, until they discovered the oil and gold beneath. The native peoples of what is now Mexico (now there's a complicated history) were conquered by Europeans (Spaniards, now called Mexicans) who then inhabited large parts of the southern United States in their quest for gold — that is, until the new kids on the block showed up. Currently, the new invaders demand that the original invaders (the new "Mexicans") have a green card to work in "America" (actually, Mexico is part of one of the Americas, but that's another matter). It's not a matter of who was here first. If that were the case, then the original land owners crossed the Bering Straits a few thousand years before Columbus planted the Queen's flag. No, I'm afraid it's a matter of who is the bigger bully. The "natives" never had a chance against the musket, the Colt 45, or the Remington rifle.

I live in a city and state (Los Angeles, California) that are at the forefront of many movements — ecology, to name one. And although I am White, I'm a minority in this city, believe it or not. I don't think I have ever seen a White mow his own lawn, and it's rare that I see one wash his own car. The latter I have done occasionally, but the former, not since high school. It's more of a matter of time. There was a time when yardwork was the home owner's weekend activity/job/duty. After five days at the "office," the weekend was usually reserved for domestic activities. For most people I know, there is no semblance of a work week anymore. The term "24/7" really applies to one's availability to one's career, that siren for which there is no longer an off-switch.

There was also a time when many gardeners were Japanese. On the whole, they were meticulous in their attention to detail, and I remember knowing of a few whose own gardens were works of art. Now, all I see are Hispanics, and I'm not sure which are legal. I'll bet that a great number are not. I have a gardener (legal) from Mexico who shows up once a week to mow and blow, producing lots of noise and pollution. So, for what really isn't a heck of a lot of effort on his part, and money on mine, my yard looks civilized and I don't have to think about it, leaving me free to attend to my 24/7.

I grew up using a push mower and a rake, but now it's a matter of economics. The Blow-and-Goers can zip through a neighborhood a lot faster than those who rely on muscle power. And they charge less. I wrote an entire essay devoted to this (see link below). Even though California is at the head of the green movement, we cannot pass a no-gas-powered-lawnmower ordinance. The leaf blower lobby and the gardeners squelched that. The leaf blower industry doesn't want to lose business (who would?) and the gardeners know they would have to raise their rates (so by proxy, it's the so-called "limousine liberals" who are really against it).

Let's look at why the U.S. is so attractive to immigrants. Imagine a large basin of water with a drain at one end. Pull the plug and every drop in that basin will migrate toward that drain. That's a generalized view of immigration, with the U.S. being the target, and perhaps New York and Los Angeles the targets within the target. Thirty years ago statistics showed that over 1000 people per day moved to California. Imagine the numbers now. Like water, Mexicans, Cambodians, Armenians, Iranians, Indians, and many other ethnicities are flowing into Los Angeles for... the almighty dollar. That's the thing — there is no economy in Mexico and Guatemala, or anywhere else, to compete with the end-of-the-rainbow that is the United States. If there were, there would be a plug in that drain.

I'm the type who gladly pays a few more cents at a local market to support local farmers, and I wouldn't mind an increase in my gardener's fee if he were to use hand-powered tools (ah... imagine the sound of neighborhoods then!). But it all comes down to money power. And it's a true paradox. The "limousine liberals" deeply believe in humanitarian efforts and workers rights, but they also want cheap goods and services (don't we all?), and to get it on the cheap one must support open borders, sweat shops, and outsourcing. Those who buy at the Walmarts and Costcos and hire illegal-alien nannies, babysitters, and gardeners are saving a buck today at the expense what lies ahead tomorrow. Our schools, hospitals, clinics, courts, and highways are already choked-to-overflowing with undocumented workers and their families. And all of that takes tax dollars to finance. We just need to decide how badly we want that cheap lawn, fully understanding how expensive it really is.

And as overcrowded as our schools and hospitals have become, the opposite is true with our businesses. Layoffs affecting thousands are common news. Jobs are going to non-union, right-to-work states and overseas. TV networks are trimming costs and maximizing profits by producing unscripted "reality" shows, and we gobble them up much as did the Romans at the Coliseum watching gladiators (foreign talent) do battle with lions and themselves. So, we feast our eyes on the antics of unpaid talent and we stuff our guts with the products of underpaid (and usually foreign) workers. With the union-busting mentality of today's market place, where will this all lead? There was a time when "Made in the U.S.A." was a proud label for this country. There will probably come a time when an object sporting that label will be collectible, for most of what I find on store shelves is hecho in China.

There is another side to this. There was a time when many Americans had savings accounts, and somewhat regularly contributed to them. We saved for what we bought. Remember "cash and carry"? The term has its roots in the Neutrality Act of 1939 which lifted the arms embargo, permitting the U.S. to assist England and France in their fight against Germany. The "cash and carry" provision stated that the two countries had to pay cash for the arms and carry them in their own vessels. Can you imagine if that were the policy of today's marketplace?

We no longer have that extra cash to carry our armloads of goods home — maybe because so many of the jobs have been outsourced overseas to make those goods cheaper, and because this country tacitly supports illegal aliens to fill a large part of the low-end job sector. So we still carry all that "cheap" bounty home, but we pull a "Wimpy" by saying, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." And those become very expensive hamburgers, as we realize by a simple perusal of our credit card statements which, for most of America, usually reflect finance charges larger than our minimum-payment contributions. The Reagan Years for many represent the heyday of economic development. There was a lot of spending in those days, but most of it was on credit. Americans "bought" like never before, charging everything from boats and cars to TV sets, family vacations, and even nights on the town. Merchants were happy. Advertizers were happy. So were the banks. But what about the spenders, those with the material addiction? Like junkies, when we run out of money we "steal" to score a fix. Let me explain: the pushers are the banks who blanket this country with pre-approved credit card applications, hoping to snare some Wimpy into opening an account. It matters not that their nets will snag a few who will default after accumulating too much debt: the gains for the banks far outweigh and absorb those costs. But not entirely. Eventually, those costs are passed-on to the consumer in the form of higher prices and bank fees.

We are headed for economic disaster. The United States went from a budget surplus less than a decade ago to a multi-trillion-dollar deficit, which reflects on a grand scale the economic state of the American family. U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, who runs the Government Accountability Office, says, "I would argue that the most serious threat to the United States is not someone hiding in a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but our own fiscal irresponsibility." On a recent 60 Minutes program he went on to focus on the "nightmare" ahead of us with 78 million Americans who will become pensioners and medical dependents of the U.S. taxpayer. What he did not address is the unchecked military spending, the cost of two wars, tax cuts for the weathy, and job outsourcing which is responsible for our diminishing work force.

So, it seems that now, more than ever, the average American really needs that cheap lawn upkeep, because he can't afford

On May 19, 2007, President Bush announced an agreement with the Senate on immigration reform. One paragraph stands out: "Those who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. If they pass a strict background check, pay a fine, hold a job, maintain a clean criminal record, and eventually learn English, they will qualify for and maintain a Z visa. If they want to become citizens, they have to do all these things, plus pay an additional fine, go to the back of the line, pass a citizenship test, and return to their country to apply for their green card."


Related reading:
"Railroad Barons Are Back" commentary by Thom Hartmann
"Blow and Go" commentary by Stuart Vail
"Dare to be Accountable" June 2001 editorial
"Instant Gratification" October 2002 editorial
"Financing the Future" January 2004 editorial

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