Daddy Obama Understands

Lately there’s been a little typical sort of political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true. …

Oh, is that why there’s been a little typical sort of political flare-up? Because Barack Obama said something everybody knows is true? And what was it again that we all know is true? — Oh yes, it was that the reason the majority of working class Americans don’t support Obama’s policies is because “they get bitter; they cling to guns, or religion, or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Now, some people might feel it’s extremely condescending of an Ivy League millionaire to dismiss the legitimate concerns of a large proportion of American citizens about the erosion of their 2nd amendment rights, the rampant problems associated with illegal immigration, or their deep dedication to religious convictions, as just “a way to explain their frustrations.” But what these cynical critics fail to realize is that Obama wasn’t attacking these poor benighted folks, he was making excuses for their ignorance. He’s actually on their side, don’t you see?

… Which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my home town in Illinois, who are bitter. They are angry. They feel like they’ve been left behind. They feel like nobody’s paying attention to what they’re goin’ through. …

And that explains why they hold onto these ridiculous notions about guns and religion and immigration. It isn’t that these issues are actually important. They’re just expressing their frustration at feeling “left behind,” kind of like little kids who get petulant and sulky when they don’t feel anybody’s paying attention to them.

… So I said, well, you know, when you’re bitter, you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns. Or they take comfort from their faith, and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country. Or they get frustrated about how things are changing. That’s a natural response. …

Obama understands. Other, less enlightened, politicians may take these citizens’ concerns at face value and think the problem is that they don’t want to lose their right to own guns, or that they’re concerned about the social and economic impacts of illegal immigration, but Obama knows better. The real problem is that these folks don’t feel like they’re getting enough attention.

Once Obama convinces them he’s paying attention, they’ll realize they don’t really need to own guns (which we all know is not only unnecessary, but dangerous). They’ll no longer need to cling to their archaic religious beliefs (that don’t include racial separatism or anti-American sentiment). They’ll realize that illegal immigration isn’t really a problem because, once we grant them all citizenship, they won’t be illegal anymore. And, not only can the taxpayers absorb the costs of increased immigration, they can no doubt be made to fork over a few entitlements for working class folks, too. (He didn’t actually state this outright, but he did imply that he’d make sure they’re not “left behind” anymore.) As an enlightened Democrat, Obama knows that every problem can be solved by a simple redistribution of wealth. And, once these poor benighted souls understand that there are goodies in the sack for them too, they’ll come around to seeing that daddy Obama really is the candidate for them.

… And, now I didn’t say it as well as I should have, because the truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That’s what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don’t feel like they’re being listened to. …

And here’s where he pulls the switcheroo, and changes the subject from making excuses for the unenlightened masses to pretending he’s the answer they’re looking for. Because, unlike the other candidates (who are actually addressing the issues about which the voters are expressing concern), Obama is listening to them. — Ironically, he isn’t actually hearing them, but that’s because he already knows the answers. He alone understands that it isn’t really about the issues, but about appeasing their feelings of bitterness and resentment.

… And what we need is a government that is actually paying attention. A government that is fighting for workin’ people, day in and day out. Makin’ sure that we are allowing them to live out the American Dream. And that’s what this campaign is about.

And here’s where he ties it all up with a neat little bow. Obama is the candidate who will deliver the American dream. To the workin’ people. Amen.

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Immigration and Natural Selection

This video is 9.5 minutes long, but it’s well worth watching. It provides a graphic demonstration of the impact of current immigration policies on our country’s future, from a perspective of resource utilization.

Being a strong proponent of free market solutions, I used to believe the best approach to immigration was to grant anybody citizenship who could pass the necessary background checks. A number of people I respect challenged the wisdom and practicality of that approach. Initially seeking to justify my position, I set out to research the matter, which led me to reevaluate some long held assumptions. Ultimately, the data convinced me that my solution was not practical and that, in fact, we need tighter immigration controls.

I’m not against immigration. Many of the most compelling scientific, industrial, and technological innovations of the 20th century were discovered or invented by immigrants from other places. A lot of people employed in our scientific and high-tech industries are here on work visas and green cards, working their way through the citizenship process. Research and development companies hire many people from other parts of the world, and relocate them here at signficant expense, because the industries are growing so fast there aren’t enough highly qualified Americans to fill the positions. These people obey our laws, respect the principles that form the foundation of our nation, have a strong work ethic, and contribute not only to our economy, but to our world leadership in numerous scientific and technical fields. They are an asset to our nation. We should welcome them and make it easier for them to become citizens.

On the other hand, we can’t afford to thow open our doors to everybody who would like to live here. The reality is, there are a limited number of immigrants our nation can successfully absorb per year. There are a virtually unlimited number of people, particularly in third world countries, who would like to come here if they could. We have no choice but to be selective in our immigration policies.

The question is what selection criteria do we apply? American citizenship is not an entitlement that’s owed to everybody who demands it. As this video graphically demonstrates, it’s a limited and precious commodity. Therefore, by the law of supply and demand, competition will always be high. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In nature, it’s competition that improves the fitness of a species by selecting the strong over the weak. Allowing the same principle to drive our immigration policies can, likewise, improve the overall “fitness” of our nation’s population.

I do not favor any selection policies based on ethnicity or national origin. Just like applicants for a job or a university, the criteria should be based purely on competitive qualifications. For every applicant to whom we grant citizenship, some other applicant will have to be denied. If we follow the counsel of nature, we will select those who have the highest probability of successful assimilation and contribution to our nation. Some will say that’s elitist and unfair. So is natural selection, but it works.

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Published in: on February 17, 2008 at 7:32 pm  Comments (4)  
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Libertarian at Home, Conservative Abroad

I have always been, and will always be, at core, a libertarian. I used to be an idealistic libertarian. The first time I ever voted was in 1980, for Ed Clarke. (Anybody remember Ed Clarke?) I was a purist then, in favor of non-intervention and no foreign entanglements. But that was before we were attacked on our own soil, killing thousands of civilians, in a clear and compelling act of War. Now I’m a pragmatic libertarian.

I understand the standard Libertarian argument that, if we just leave everybody alone, they’ll leave us alone too. It’s very nice and neat and rational. The problem is, it assumes everybody else in the world is nice and neat and rational, too. It doesn’t account for terrorists who want to destroy us because we’re infidels and our Western culture is an abomination to Allah.

I’m still a libertarian, albeit a conservative one.  But I’m not a pacifist or a non-interventionist. The Monroe Doctrine just won’t work today. Back in the day, there was an entire ocean separating the eastern hemisphere from the western hemisphere, and it took months to cross it, at great peril, and we felt pretty secure from whatever they were doing over there. Today, we have satellites that traverse the globe (Iran just launched one),  and nuclear weapons that can decimate entire cities at one pop. (And Iran may soon have those, too.) Back in the 1800s, everything ran on coal or wood, and we had all the coal and wood we needed right here. We had no dependencies on resources controlled by others on the other side of the globe. Today, our entire economy would grind to a halt and people would starve and freeze to death if our oil supply were cut off.

In a rational world, with a free market ruled only by the laws of supply and demand, that would not present a problem. But, when you have ideological enemies who are determined to see your culture brought to its knees, and they control the supply of your economy’s life blood, you have a very different situation. We need to protect our access to the vital fluid that sustains our economy and culture. I’m not suggesting that we have a right to take it just because we need it. We’re willing to pay – but we can’t afford to be cut off entirely.

That’s the world we live in today. It’s a lot more complicated than it used to be. With satellites and nuclear weapons, and the ease of transcontinental transportation, our neighbors are no longer just the countries in our hemisphere. The whole world is our neighbor. And some of them are nuts.

When it comes to domestic policy, I’m still a libertarian. I’m for minimizing government and maximizing individual freedom and responsibility. But when it comes to foreign policy, I’m a hard line conservative. We can’t change the world. But we can preserve our own sovereignty and, within our own borders, we can maintain a free society. And people who share our values, and revere the principles on which our nation was founded, and have something to contribute to our country and our economy, are welcome to come here and carve out their own niche in the land of liberty. And I believe we should make it easier for those people to become citizens. But open up our borders, grant entitlements to aliens, increase our exposure to terrorism, or compromise our sovereignty by entering into binding agreements that let other nations dictate our policies? No way.

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There are Worse Things than McCain — Really!

OK, McCain it is. I’m not happy. You’re probably not either. I don’t know who all these “Republicans” are who are voting for him in the primaries, because I’m not aware of one person who likes him. But, be that as it may, the RINOs have spoken and McCain is going to be the Republican candidate. What do we do now?

The pragmatists will weigh the pros and cons and decide which candidate will do less harm to the country. The petulants will go home and sulk, and either not vote at all or throw away their vote on a third party candidate. The punitives will actually cross over and give aid and comfort to the enemy in our country’s time of crisis, and cast their vote for the Democrats out of spite.

From a pragmatist perspective, what are the key issues? The economy, the war, immigration, healthcare, and Supreme Court appointments are probably the most important.

The economy is a big one, because there’s a fundamental philosophical difference in the way Republicans and Democrats address the problem. Republicans believe in fixing the economy by cutting taxes to stimulate growth. Democrats believe the way to fix the economy is by raising taxes and redistributing the wealth. Which do you prefer? 

  •  McCain’s plan is to extend the Bush tax cuts, create more tax cuts for middle class families, make the current low capital gains and dividends tax rates permanent, and require a 60% majority in Congress to raise taxes in the future. He’ll also cut government programs that don’t work, earmarks, subsidies, and pork barrel spending.
  • Mrs. Clinton’s plan is to eliminate the Bush tax cuts, raise capital gains and dividends taxes back to their previous levels, spend $10 billion dollars on extending and broadening unemployment entitlements, hand over $25 billion to low/no income families for “emergency energy assistance,” establish a $30 billion emergency housing fund, and put a five-year rate freeze on sub-prime mortgages.

The war is another big one. Would you rather we fight it over there or over here?

  • McCain fully supports doing whatever is necessary to prosecute the war to the finish. He has consistently supported it from the start, and was an early proponent of the increase in troops.
  • Mrs. Clinton and Obama both supported the Iraq spending bill that would have brought most of our troops home by next month. Mrs. Clinton has promised that, if elected, she’ll bring all the troops home within two years. Obama promises to do it in one. Then we can fight the terrorists on our own soil. That ought to be fun.

On immigration, it’s a wash. They all supported the same immigration bill. Yes, McCain was a sponsor of it, but it’s the one thing on which they all agree, so there’s no win here.

On healthcare, we all know what Mrs. Clinton’s plan is.

  • Mrs. Clinton wants to legislate that everybody has to buy health insurance. For those who can’t afford it, she’ll just take the money out the rest of our pockets to make up the difference.
  • McCain opposes mandatory universal healthcare coverage.

There are likely to be three Supreme Court Justice appointments during the next administration.

  • McCain is a strict constructionist.
  • Mrs. Clinton would pack the court with liberal judges who believe we all need to be protected from ourselves more than we do from criminals and, like children, we can’t be trusted with firearms. (It’s kind of hard to defend yourself in an emergency with a trigger lock on your gun, but Mrs. Clinton thinks it’s necessary so we don’t accidentally shoot ourselves.)

There’s another consideration for the pragmatists. The president appoints the heads of a lot of federal agencies. If we have a Republican (or even a RINO) in the White House, these federal agencies are going to be run by Republicans. If we elect the Clintons or Obama, they’ll be run by socialists. Remember, it’s not just the president you’re voting for, it’s the party, too. 

Question of the day: If McCain were to choose Fred Thompson as his running mate, would that change your mind?

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Diversity in America

In my post on Leveraging Diversity the Right Way, I referred to several independent studies* that found groups with diverse members did better at complex problem solving and decision making tasks than homogenous groups. It’s significant to note that all of these studies were focused on groups working toward a common goal, and specifically demonstrate the benefits of diversity where there’s a unifying purpose and shared understanding of the reason the group exists. It’s also worth noting that, though participants in each study were selected for diversity, they all spoke the same language, as it was necessary for members to be able to communicate effectively with one another.

Because of our unique history, America is the most diverse nation in the world. That makes these studies particularly interesting to us. One thing we can learn from them is that, in order to leverage that diversity to work to our advantage, it’s important that we all share a common belief in the principles that define our nation. That’s the bond that serves as our unifying purpose. It’s also important that we speak a common language. It’s wonderful for people to be multilingual. But English is the linqua franca of our nation that allows us all to communicate with one another.

America has always been a nation of immigrants. Traditionally, immigrants have come here because they believed in the principles that make America great, and they appreciated the opportunity to work hard and build a better life for themselves and their posterity. Many of them didn’t speak English, but they learned enough to get by, and made sure their children learned it well. Each subsequent generation managed to work their way a little higher up the economic ladder and sacrificed to make sure their children could get a better education than they had. This has been a pattern throughout our nation’s history, and our economy and culture have benefitted greatly from the contributions of immigrants from all parts of the world.

Today, there’s a concept that immigrants should strive to preserve their cultural traditions rather than assimilate into the “melting pot” of America. Some even think it’s unfair to require people who come to live in our country to learn English. Acceptance of diversity is fundamental to the principles on which this country was founded. But accommodation of diversity is a courtesy, not an obligation.

Acceptance of diversity is the acknowledgement of everybody’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of whatever happiness may mean to them, in whatever manner they choose to pursue it, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. Accommodation is subsidizing elements of a particular culture or lifestyle at somebody else’s expense. If an individual or private enterprise chooses to accommodate another culture’s traditions at their own expense, that’s fine. But the government should not be in that business. One example of unwarranted accommodation is requiring all government printed material and recorded information to be provided in both English and Spanish, at taxpayer expense. Another is installing foot washing basins in restrooms at certain airports and universities, at taxpayer expense, to accommodate a Muslim purification ritual. These expenditures do not serve the majority of the population, and should not be funded through general taxation.

Preserving cultural traditions is good, and I would not suggest that anybody deny their own heritage or the culture in which they grew up. That’s part of their identity. But it’s possible to preserve cultural traditions and still adopt the values and language of the country in which one chooses to become a citizen. If someone adopts a new country, should they not feel a sense of pride in the country they’ve chosen as their home, and to which they’ve sworn allegiance? Should they not show as much respect for its culture as for the culture of the land they left behind? Becoming a citizen of a country means adopting that country’s heritage and culture as your own, in addition to the culture and heritage of your ancestry. Changing one’s country isn’t like changing one’s shoes. One must expect to adapt to the new environment, not the other way around. Most immigrants are more than willing to do so. If some are not, one has to wonder why they chose to come here.

*Sources : Stanford Graduate School of Business, Leiden University, Tufts University, University of Michigan

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Land of Opportunity or Land of Entitlement?

Wouldn’t a true Free Market Approach to Illegal Immigration be to just open up the borders and laissez faire?  In an ideal world, perhaps. But we’re dealing with reality.

This country was founded by immigrants. Part of what makes this country great is the diversity of thought and culture brought here by immigrants from all parts of the world over many generations. People who come to this country seeking freedom, and the opportunity to work hard and educate their children and provide a better life for those who come after them, often have a greater appreciation of this country and what it stands for than many people who were born and raised here.

But there are other people who come here who, like many Americans, would rather get a free ride. They see America, not as the land of opportunity, but as the land of entitlement. This has nothing to do with where they’re from; it has everything to do with individual character. Unfortunately, there are a great many such people in the world. If we were to open up our borders, without first fixing the existing issues with our entitlement programs, it would only serve to further inflate the ever-growing subsidized class that never rises up to become productive members of society but, instead, exacts a constant and perpetual toll on the rest of us.

Anybody who has a child born in this country is automatically eligible to collect welfare, food stamps, and HUD rental housing assistance, whether the parents are here legally or not. If we grant them citizenship, they’re immediately eligible for food stamps and HUD assistance, whether they have children or not.

If people want to come here and work, and there’s work for them to do, we should make it possible to do that legally. But, when people want to come here just to sidle up to the trough, that’s not right. We need to wean our own citizens off the trough, not encourage more people to come an’ get it while the gettin’ is good. We can’t solve all the poverty in the world by opening wide our doors and hollering “Come and get it!” That’s not a free market solution.

Another problem with aliens who don’t come here to work is crime. From 2001-2004 (the latest period for which the GAO has statistics), ~27% of inmates in federal prisons were aliens, the majority of them from Mexico. The number of aliens incarcerated rose 15% over the four year period. The cost to the federal government (i.e., taxpayers) was over $5.8 billion. And this does not include the costs to state and local governments for aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local jails.

My first impulse is always to prefer a free market solution, because that aligns with my fundamental principles. But there are situations in which particular circumstances may make a complete free market solution impractical or impossible. This is one of those situations. I believe the closest we can get today is a guest worker program. That will allow those who want to come here to work to participate in the free market, while keeping out the ones who just want to suck on the system or prey on our citizens.

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Published in: on January 2, 2008 at 11:59 pm  Comments (10)  
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