Immigration Bill Fails: Tick Tock, Tick Tock... genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Eleventh Hour

If one sought to characterize the implementation of U.S. policy on immigration, it might be safe to conclude that the old economic adage of laissez-faire is the most appropriate moniker. That is not to say that the law books are void of any legislation...plenty of laws exist. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with only one outstanding question, "Why do we have an immigration problem and what do we want to do about it?"

Finding the answer to that question may be a task we're not prepared to tackle...and if the latest vote in the Senate is any indication, it seems clear that our elected officials have chosen silence over solutions. Recall that the last time our elected officials confronted immigration in a comprehensive manner was in 1986. Twenty plus years and an estimated 12 to 20 million illegal's later, and we haven't yet found the wherewithal to try again.

From The Washington Post:

The most dramatic overhaul of the nation's immigration laws in a generation was trounced this morning by a bipartisan filibuster, with the political right and left overwhelming a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who had been seeking compromise on one of the most difficult social and economic issues facing the country.

Opponents of the bill painted the fight as a battle between the people of the United States against a government that has grown insensitive to an illegal immigrant invasion that threatens the fabric of the nation. Proponents said the Senate had succumbed to the angry voices of hate, venom and racism.

Conservatives saw the measure as amnesty for law breakers who had sneaked into the country. The ACLU objected to provisions that denied immigrants many legal rights. And labor unions saw its guest worker program as a license for big business to import cheap labor and drive down wages.

Even Latino organizations were split, with the League of United Latin American Citizens saying the guest worker program and new green card system were too punitive to support, while the National Council of La Raza pleaded with lawmakers to keep the legislation alive while its lobbyists sought changes.

My fascination with psychology and the human condition...what makes us tick...leads me to the following observations...observations that paint a woeful picture of a nation in turmoil and unable...no, make that unwilling...to find a middle ground.

Disassemble the debate anyway you want but there are only a handful of plausible explanations for what exists...a stalemate of competing goals and outcomes. Allow me to suggest that what we have witnessed is nothing more than a culmination of our self-interest, self-serving, self-centered society...a blatant demonstration of the “me first" obsession coming home to roost.

Let me explain by way of an example that is not associated with immigration...yet one that is fully related in its ability to provide an understanding of the problem. First, let me be clear that I am not offering this example to endorse Michael Bloomberg as a presidential candidate. I simply agree with his observation and I contend it speaks to the immigration issue and many others.

From USA Today:

NEW YORK — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who became an independent last week, showed his non-partisan colors Wednesday by criticizing both political parties.
Bloomberg, who left the GOP and is asked almost daily about running for president, said Wednesday that neither the Republican nor Democratic Party "stands for anything."

"There isn't any philosophy" for either party, he said after a speech on improving public schools.

Bloomberg has repeatedly expressed frustration with Congress, saying lawmakers favor partisanship over progress and have failed to deal with immigration, health care or education.

"Party discipline requires you to make decisions based on what's good for the party rather than what the merits are of the piece of legislation before you," he said.

"I don't think I disagree with what any national party stands for, because I don't think that either national party stands for anything," he said.

Party platforms exist only "to give (the media) something to write about in the middle of a boring convention," he said.

There's an Old Italian saying that posits, "When a fish goes bad, it starts with the head." Let me attempt to draw the connections. What Bloomberg is alluding to is a lack of leadership...the end result of an evolutionary process whereby self-interest makes its way to the highest levels of society such that public service is no longer part of the equation. Every decision and every determination ends up being filtered through the prism of individually driven aspirations and objectives.

History tells us that the essence of government is the social contract...an agreement whereby the individual subrogates self-interest in order to establish cohesion through the establishment of a system of governance...one that can accommodate differing beliefs while still remaining impartial and equitable. Those who agree to the social contract do so knowing full well that decisions won't always serve one's self-interest but they believe that the elected caretakers will act fairly and in the best interest of the state or nation as a whole (the greater good)...avoiding preferential treatment and bias.

Coming back to immigration, I'm simply arguing that our leadership (the two parties) is so entrenched in the politics of self-interest that the welfare of the society (the greater good) is no longer the primary consideration. At the same time, the leadership has simply come to mirror the society...a society that has devolved into the machinations and minutiae of "what's in it for me?"

Politicians want to stay in power and to do so they need to appeal to their constituents as well as raise cash from corporations and interest groups. The problem is there isn't any real voter consensus for politicians to cater to. Some Americans see illegal immigrants taking their jobs...some see them as cheap labor...some see them racially as Mexicans that they don't like...some see them as more votes for the Democrats...some see them as a burden on social programs...some see them as contributors to social programs that they won't be able to benefit from due to their illegal status.

Strange as it may seem the existing immigration problem is the ironic result of all of this focus on self-interest. While everyone is jockeying to have there way, more and more immigrants have and will cross the border. In each group’s intransigent demand that they get what they want, all that is facilitated are more illegal immigrants and a compounding of the problem...making it far more complicated to resolve.

Even more disconcerting is the realization that altering the existing dynamic requires wholesale change...change that once again must originate with the individual being willing to subrogate self-interest for the benefit of the society as a whole...and that then has to percolate upward into individuals who want to lead because they accept and honor the benefits of the social contract and the cohesion it can bring to a society.

That will take time...time we may not have. That may mean we need a sea change event...a group awakening that includes a willingness to step back from self-interest in order to preserve the state...one that accepts less for the individual in order to reaffirm our commitment to preserving the social contract...the mechanism whereby equity and impartiality are given more value than individual interests.

Time moves forward...more immigrants cross the border...tick tock, tick tock...

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2007 | 11:14 AM
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