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“Allowing Ideology To Overcome Common Sense”: Conservative Policies Just Don’t Work: Immigration Edition

I’ve frequently used the devastating failure of Sam Brownback’s conservative economic experiment in Kansas to show that conservative policies aren’t just morally and ethically wrong, but also simply dysfunctional and counterproductive at a basic utilitarian level. Most educated people understand this about supply-side economic policy by now.

It’s also, of course, true of social policy. We know that sexual repression, abstinence education and social stigma is the surest way to increase unintended pregnancy, STD transmission and infidelity. We know that you can’t actually “pray the gay away” even if you wanted to.

And it’s true of immigration policy, that very hot topic at present. Dave Weigel at the Washington Post reminds us of the utter failure of Trump-style immigration policy, in the very state where Trump decided to host his stadium rally:

Alabama, which hosted the largest rally of Trump’s presidential campaign Friday night, had been a test kitchen for Trump-style crackdowns on undocumented workers — and it had not gone well.

In 2011, a new Republican legislature and governor enacted HB 56, the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. Chief sponsor Micky Hammon warned the undocumented population that he would “make it difficult for them to live here, so they will deport themselves.” Renting a house or giving a job to an “illegal” became a crime. Police were empowered to demand proof of citizenship from anyone who looked as if he or she might lack it. School administrators were instructed to do the same to children.

The backlash was massive — a legal assault that chipped away at the law, and a political campaign that made Republicans own its consequences. Business groups blamed the tough measures for scaring away capital and for an exodus of workers that hurt the state’s agriculture industry. After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, strategists in his own party blamed his support for the Alabama attrition policy. Those critics included Donald Trump.

It wasn’t just a political failure and black eye for the state. It was also a direct policy failure. As in other states that tried similar experiments, the agriculture sector suffered greatly as workers driven away by hostile policies were not easily replaced.

Asked about the law, Alabama voters rarely say that it worked. Large farms spent millions training new workers. The Byrds conceded that the agriculture sector suffered after some immigrants fled the state. “Most of them left and didn’t come back,” said Terry Darring-Rogers, who works at a Mobile law firm specializing in immigration.

But many Republicans have already forgotten that lesson, allowing their ideology to overwhelm their common sense in the belief that it wasn’t state conservative policy that failed, but the federal government’s interference that stymied it:

To Republicans, the lesson of HB 56 was no longer that it failed. The lesson was that it had not been permitted to work, stymied by the Obama administration. That theory took shape in the displays in some Robertsdale stores, where a sign declaring compliance with E-Verify was posted above an even larger ad from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Some people will never learn, no matter how much self-inflicted failure they endure. When Josh Duggar and countless similar self-righteous conservatives are exposed as cheating molesters, it doesn’t cause conservatives to question whether their belief system might be causing those problems. They just double down. When abstinence education causes more teen pregnancy than responsible sex education, conservatives double down on the slut shaming. When tax cuts on the rich and wage cuts to government workers lead to economic recession, Republicans don’t question their core economic beliefs; they just claim they weren’t allowed to go far enough.

In a way, modern conservatives are similar to the Communists of old. No matter how obvious the ideology’s failure, the response is always that the policies were not enacted in a strong and pure enough manner.

That inability to come to grips with failure and adjust course, and that insistence on doubling down in the face of adverse results, is part of why many consider modern conservatism to be an almost cultic movement. Its adherents long since stopped caring about the evidence or empirical results. It’s all about who can prove truest to the faith, and maximally annoy and rebel against the evil liberal heathens. Policies and results are really beside the point.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 23, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Ideology, Immigration | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Great Wall Of China On The Rio Grande”: The Real Costs Of Foolish Plans To ‘Secure’ The Border

Sen. Ted Cruz launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination this week by promising to “finally, finally, finally secure the borders” and put an end to unauthorized immigration. This will warm the hearts of restrictionists, no doubt. But it should scare Americans who love their pocketbooks and liberties more than they hate undocumented Latino immigrants.

Restrictionists accuse many of these immigrants of being welfare queens who come to America illegally and live off taxpayers. Cruz has contributed to the hysteria by proposing bills barring undocumented workers from ever receiving any means-tested benefits, presumably even after they become legal.

Accusations that undocumented Latinos strain the welfare system are a red herring. If anything, immigrants, legal and illegal, constitute something of a welfare windfall. How? By coming to this country during their peak working years, after another society has borne the cost of raising and educating them, they save our system a ton of money. Studies generally don’t take this windfall effect into account, and still find that the economic contributions of low-skilled Latinos far outpace their welfare use. For example, a Texas comptroller study found that although unauthorized workers consumed about $504 million more in public services than they paid in taxes, without them, the Texas economy would shrink by 2.1 percent, or $17.7 billion. A full accounting of these folks would likely show them to be an even bigger economic boon (especially since the employment participation rate of Latino men is higher than the native born, and their overall welfare use is lower).

Meanwhile, as Cruz and his ilk whine about the (exaggerated) welfare costs of immigrants, they act as if their own plans to erect the Great Wall of China on the Rio Grande would be costless. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cruz wants to establish “100 percent operational control” of America’s southern border by completing a double-layer fence on the entire 2,000 miles, tripling the size of the border patrol, and quadrupling the number of helicopters and cameras.

This is beyond ill conceived. First of all, 45 percent of all illegal immigrants are visa over-stayers. So Cruz’s efforts are totally irrelevant for nearly half of America’s illegal immigrants. What’s more, even the Berlin Wall, the most fortified border in modern history, was successfully breached 1,000 times every year. That rate will be a gazillion times greater on America’s southern border, which is not a barren, open expanse of land. In fact, it has a varied and rugged terrain with mountains and valleys and national parks (one the size of Rhode Island) and rivers that the wall will have to hop, skip, and jump around.

The Rio Grande has myriad tributaries that feed millions of people on both sides of the border. If Cruz’s wall is anything like the current 18-foot-high structure with rust-red hollow posts sunk six inches apart in a concrete base, it will have to stop several miles short on each side to avoid damming the watershed, leaving major openings for people to walk through.

And what would a double-wall cost taxpayers?

It is very difficult to get a full grip, but the construction cost alone of a single-layer fence on the 1,300 or so unfenced miles would likely be upwards of $6 billion (assuming, as per a CBO study, pedestrian fencing costs of $6.5 million per mile and vehicle fencing costs of $1.7 million per mile). Annual maintenance costs would be hundreds of millions more.

Tripling the number of boots on the ground wouldn’t be cheap either. President Obama has already deployed 20,000 border patrol agents, over twice more than he inherited. Tripling this number would cost a whopping $7 billion or so more a year since, according to the CBO, the annual cost of an agent is about $171,400.

And the bill in dollars pales in comparison to the price Americans will have to pay in lost liberties.

Conservatives are outraged when the government confiscates private property for environmental or other ends. Indeed, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a vile man with retrograde views on race, became an instant conservative hero when he stood up to Uncle Sam and let his cattle graze on land that the federal government had, in his view, illicitly obtained. Yet Cruz and his ilk have no qualms about authorizing Uncle Sam to perpetrate an even bigger property grab in the name of their Swiss-cheese wall.

Over half of the recently constructed 700 miles of fence was on private property that Uncle Sam deployed blatant strong-arm tactics to obtain. It confiscated ancestral land that had been in families for over 200 years and offered virtually peanuts to Texas landowners who couldn’t afford to hire expensive lawyers to duke it out with Uncle Sam in court. Oscar Ceballos, a part-owner of a small trucking business, recounts how a government lawyer went so far as to figure out how much his assets were worth to dissuade a free legal clinic from representing him in his fight against the government’s ridiculously low-ball initial offer. Cruz’s even grander wall ambitions will only compound such abuse.

Nor would Americans on the border be the only ones affected. The vast majority of undocumented workers are here because there are Americans, especially employers, who benefit from their presence. Hence, Cruz and his fellow anti-immigration fighters want to force all American employers to verify the work eligibility of potential hires — American or foreign, legal or illegal — against a federal database through E-verify. Should this program become mandatory, all Americans will be effectively required to obtain a government permission slip to work.

What’s ironic about Cruz’s crusade to build a wall between two free — and friendly — people, divert billions of taxpayer dollars to militarize the border, and abrogate the civil rights of Americans is that he is doing so while vowing to “stand for liberty.”

If this is his idea of liberty, what would tyranny look like under President Cruz? (Don’t answer that — I hope to never find out!)

 

By: Shikha Dalmia, The Week, March 27, 2015

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Border Security, Immigrants, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poor Timing On Mitt Romney’s “Frugal” Habits

The New York Times has a feature piece today on Mitt Romney’s “thrifty habits.” Apparently, the guy considers himself pretty cheap.

It was a stark sign of the tug of war, still evident in Mr. Romney’s life, between an instinctive, at times comical frugality, and an embrace of the lavish lifestyle that accompanied his swelling Wall Street fortune.

Mr. Romney, 64, has poured $52 million of his own money into campaigns for the Senate and the White House, but is obsessed with scoring cheap flights on the discount airline JetBlue.

He has acquired six-figure thoroughbred horses for his wife, Ann, yet plays golf with clubs from Kmart. And he has owned a series of multimillion-dollar homes, from a lakefront compound in New Hampshire to a beach house in California, but once rented a U-Haul to move his family’s belongings himself between two of the vacation retreats.

For the record, if a guy spends $12 million on one of several luxurious mansions, and then rents a U-Haul to move belongings himself, I’m not sure “frugal” is the right adjective.

In any case, the timing of the piece is unfortunate. The article invests 2,000 words in making the case that Romney “has never become entirely comfortable with his own wealth,” and is one of those guys who just doesn’t like to open his wallet, but the article went to print just as Romney was willing to drop $10,000 on a bet over a fairly obscure point during a nationally-televised debate.

As a rule, thrifty individuals don’t throw around five-figure wagers on a whim.

There was also this tidbit:

The Romneys lived in an affluent suburb, Bloomfield Hills, with a housekeeper and two refrigerators in the kitchen. But George Romney still required his children to mow the lawn, shovel snow, rake leaves, weed the garden. “I know he worried that because my brother, sisters and I had grown up in a prosperous family, we wouldn’t understand the lessons of hard work,” Mitt Romney wrote.

I’m pretty sure this is the same guy who later hired a landscaper that relied on undocumented workers and told the company, “Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 11, 2011

 

December 12, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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