Today I spent the day…

painting a school for migrant workers in Imokalee, a town about fifty miles east of Naples in the heart of the agricultural district in S. Florida. It’s the area that grows many of the vegetables you eat in winter.

What I learned about the migrant worker situation was that many migrant workers are in the US not because their poverty at home (Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, etc.) is so desperate that stoop labor in US fields is the only way they can live. Rather, the pay they receive is so high compared to their native countries that working for four or five years alllows them to return home and set up businesses. They manage to send home about $250/week to countries where the average yearly wage is $800. After their work in America ends, they take the money to move from poverty into the middle class.

I asked the man in charge of the school and housing for migrant workers if that meant the population changes every four years. He said yes. I was always under the impression that hopelessness and despair drove them northward and they never returned. The poverty does drive them, but they return relatively wealthy. After four or five years of work they go back and don’t return.

The migrants have no insurance (they are counted in the uninsured census we hear about all of the time), but they have access to free medical care in a clinic (a small hospital actually) they can use any time. They stay in homes (some appallingly run down but others adequate for a family) that costs about $250/month. (The organization running this school and housing association has the food growers comprising over 50% of their board of directors. Clearly many of the growers are not the hard-hearted and greedy charlatans they often are portrayed to be.)

Migrant children are allowed free education in US schools, but because the migrant population is so transitory (they move to wherever the work is because they want to earn as much as they can as quickly as possible), their children don’t learn as well as they would if they remained in one place. In recent years, more families stay home while the husband comes up alone to work. (His rent averages $120/month.)

What I learned is that the migrant situation replicates the experience of almost every other immigrant group in America. They come to America because of the opportunity this nation provides for a better life.

There are others points worth pondering as well. For example, despite the tremendous physical hardship the migrant workers endure, many migrant families manage to stay intact. There is usually a Catholic church near the migrant camps that serves the families. It’s a stark contrast to American poverty which is more a function of family breakdown rather than a scarcity of goods and services.

Also, there is something honorable in their work that we can admire.

Anyway, we got the school all painted.


47 thoughts on “Today I spent the day…

  1. Fr. Hans:

    That must have been a great experience. So many in the anti-immigration crowd needed to come along with you. You saw first hand what economists (of which I am one) have long pointed out. Immigrants — legal and illegal — come to this nation overwhelmingly for the economic opportunity, usually doing the work that natives have little or no interest in doing. Our growing economy needs these workers, and they obviously benefit as well. Funny how that works when people are free to move and trade their goods and services.

  2. It really depends on what part of Mexico or Central America the worker is from. Some come from areas that are economically devastated; others are better off. But the bottom line is that the American economy depends on these people. You simply are not going to get sufficient numbers of Americans to harvest many crops or do many other jobs. While it is true that migrants or illegal aliens add other costs that must be publicly paid for, that is also true of many businesses that employ Americans. Any time you have people working for businesses that pay low wages and offer few benefits, the public is going to pick up the tab; Walmart is one of the prime examples, but surely not the only example. Many businesses are happy to privatize the profits while socializing the costs.

    For anyone who doesn’t want migrant workers here, all I can say is that I hope some day they get their wish, and THEY can break their backs while working out in the dirt and rain.

  3. Both political parties fall woefully short of what the late Cardinal Bernadin called “a consistent ethic of life”. That is what politicians who want to connect with religious voters ought to be educating themselves about, not learning which slick, focus group-tested slogans to use in stump speeches.

    “Another issue that required careful navigation of the middle ground was Cardinal Bernardin’s championing of what is known as ”a consistent ethic of life.” In the early to mid-1980s, conservatives argued that abortion and euthanasia were the primary issues requiring action, while liberals emphasized poverty and the Cold War.

    In a series of speeches, the cardinal argued that the issues were linked – that poverty and abortion were equally important and both required forceful responses.

    ”His commitment to a consistent ethic of life showed the bishops cared not only about children in the womb, but also children in the street, children in poverty, children in war,” Father Reese said. ”It said that all life is precious.”

    Pope John Paul II later explicitly endorsed the consistent ethic of life in papal teachings, said Dennis M. Doyle, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton. In picking up a thread from both the right and the left, Cardinal Bernardin forced both sides to re-examine their positions.

    ”Bernardin’s role was to point out how concern about all those issues are related. There’s tremendous harmony found in why anyone would oppose abortion and euthanasia on one hand, and on the other hand the gap between the rich and the poor, capital punishment, and at the time, the Cold War,” Professor Doyle said.

    ”There are all kinds of groups nationally, grass-roots, social-justice groups throughout the U.S. that have found their main inspiration in the consistent life ethic.”

  4. A “consistent ethic of life” in politics is certainly desirable, but there is something repugnant about the Democratic embrace of even the most visibly heinous forms of abortion and the refusal to consider even modest restraints like parental notification that tip the moral scales against them. This is one reason why fewer and fewer people believe them. (Another reason may be that the Democrats have aborted their own constituency. See The Roe Effect: The right to abortion has diminished the number of Democratic voters.)

    Like Glen, I don’t understand why the Democrats continue on this road of self-destruction. Add to this the looney fringe issues like gay marriage which even blue state voters overwhelmingly rejected, so that the party increasing champions a moral libertinism rejected even by its own base. These “social issues” plays well with the MTV-Mick Jagger I don’t want to grow up-Jane Fonda let’s relive the sixties-crowd, but not middle America.

    The party needs to purge the cultural hard left from its leadership, but it seems unlikely to do so. (Hillary Clinton gets this, but whether she can convincly make the transtion from hard to left center remains to be seen. There is a lot of baggage.) In decades past the party really stood for something and got a lot of things right. Today they act determined to remain a minority party for years to come.

  5. Regarding a consistent ethic of life, I often wonder what’s at work with such a declaration. Obviously, we all want to fight poverty, but there is much disagreement as to the best way to do that.

    Does it necessarily mean supporting the big government programs endorsed by the Left? Does it mean buying into the bankrupt economic rhetoric about the gap between rich and poor, as if the economic pie were only so big and has to be split up in a certain way? Does it mean letting down our guard when confronted by evil in the world? And are we really supposed to give the latest government anti-poverty program the same moral weight as the fight against abortion?

    I think a clear ethic of life would answer no to these questions.

  6. Dear Fr. Johannes,

    Your comments above grossly misrepresent the situation of migrant workers in this country.

    The average annual salary for a migrant farmworker in the US is about $7,500. They are frequently paid only $3-4 per hour based on a “per-piece” rate, and the work is not steady, only about five months of peak season out of the year. Do the math; the vast majority of these workers are not sending back anywhere close to $250 a week, no matter what anyone tells you. The physical labor is brutally hard, and invariably involves exposure to pesticides and other health risks. The average age of death is 49. The housing (when there is housing-some workers camp in the fields) is generally squalid, and the clinics that service migrant communities are usually understaffed, underfunded, and undersupplied. Your comment that migrant workers move from place to place “to make as much money as they can as quickly as possible” would be funny, if it weren’t so sad. They are trying to feed their families, to stay alive.

    You are correct that most migrant communities have Catholic priests that minister to them; this is part of the legacy of Dorothy Day and others who have struggled to uphold Catholic social teaching. These priests are among the only voices that speak out on behalf of the farmworkers. If you talked to them, I think you would rapidly get another picture of the situation of these workers.

    People who live and work in the United States deserve to be paid a fair and living wage vis-a-vis our standard of living, not that of their country of origin.


  7. Well, what you wrote is what I held as generally true. However, my trip to the center of Florida’s winter agricultural district showed me something else. I’m sure there are abuses, but it’s clear that there is a lot more at work than the picture you portray.

    The clinic in Immokalee rivals that of any small town. Some of the housing is lower middle class, not bad for $250/month. That the populations change constantly with four of five years the length of the average stay tells me that my belief that migrant workers are a permanent population was wrong.

    Further, I’d like to see some independent statistics. When you say, for example, that the average age of death is 49, that could mean many things. Most of the migrants are younger workers so younger deaths (through accident, disease, whatever) ought to be the norm. Older workers may be a statistically insignificant percentage of the population.

    Also, the assumption that migrants move here permanently has to be examined. It is not what the director of the center told me. They are here to better themselves by raising the capital to establish businesses at home. I was so surprised to hear this (I held to your argument at the time), that I asked him to clarify it twice.

    For the record, the director is no conservative. He got involved in migrant issues in the seventies and was an idealistic liberal for many years. He told me though that that he learned he could help the migrants a lot more when he works with growers rather than fight them. Not all growers are the “greedy capitalists” some advocates make them out to be.

    The organization just hired a development director. I’m going to see if I can establish some contacts in Naples for her to raise funds for the organization. They have a very compelling story, although I don’t think they realize yet how powerful it is. I believe more companies would channel some of their charitable giving to organizations like hers because 1) their aid will help the migrant better himself and family; 3) the organization is essentially depoliticized, that is, it cares more about the migrant worker than ideology.

    I’m sure that for many migrant workers the situation is desperate, although probably not as desperate as the circumstances that drove them here. Again, we need data. If they are sending money home, moving back and setting up businesses, etc., then that influx of capital may be the beginnings of a market economy that in the long term will raise the standard of living for everybody. $5 an hour is nothing to an American, but when you live on $5 a week in your home country, it’s a lot of money. Remember that wealth is relative.

    One point I only touched on in the previous post was the strength of the migrant families, something I notice here in Bonita Springs where I live. I see the families at Publix (grocery store) all the time. I have to attribute some of this stability to their faith. That they hold their families together under this hardship speaks well of their character. I see it as another indicator that they might well be successful when they return home.

    If the data shows the director is correct (and I believe he is), then why not craft policy to help the migrants in their goal of raising themselves out of poverty? Their success will contribute to the stability in the societies where they come from. Others will benefit from their success. And where abuses exist, correct them.

    This entire area of imported labor needs some very serious study. One thing we should not do however, is let pity guide policy. I don’t believe the workers want our pity. I believe they want opportunity. We don’t want to make the same mistakes we made with the Great Society programs, where misguided pity crafted programs that resulted in the decimation of the Black family, for example.

  8. Dear Fr. Johannes,

    If the care at the clinic is as good as you say, will you send your wife there to deliver your next child? Will you send your children there if they have a life-threatening emergency?

    When people say that these clinics offer “good” care, what they invariably mean is “good enough for Mexicans.” They almost never mean “good enough for me or my family.”


  9. If I found myself stranded in Immokalee, yes, I would go there.

    Why is it that the efforts of people helping the migrant workers are so reflexively disparaged?

  10. Fr. Hans writes: “Well, what you wrote is what I held as generally true. However, my trip to the center of Florida’s winter agricultural district showed me something else. I’m sure there are abuses, but it’s clear that there is a lot more at work than the picture you portray.”

    Well, it’s a big country, and there are all sorts of different conditions in different parts of the country. In fact, you could probably drive a few miles elsewhere and find a situation that was very different.

    For example, within a few miles of where I live (Oregon) one farmer had migrant workers living in derelect busses. I visited another migrant camp around 10 years ago; shortly after I was there the camp was cited for dangerous electrical problems, outhouses and toilets with no toilet paper, and a hot water “system” in which the hot water was gone after a couple of people took showers (over 100 people lived in that camp). Another local camp that I did not visit was called “the house of Dracula” by migrants; I don’t know the details, but the house of Dracula didn’t sound like a very nice place.

    I don’t know about migrants sending home $250 per week. That sounds like an awful lot. But then again, it might be possible, if you don’t mind living with maybe 8 other people in an apartment made for 2. It might be possible if you work seven days a week, pick strawberries during the day, and work swing shift at the local cannery. (There are people who actually do this.) So yes, a migrant could conceivably generate a lot of extra cash if he doesn’t mind the living conditions and doesn’t mind working extraordinary hours.

    Unfortunately, migrant workers are often exploited by both farmers and labor bosses. In many cases migrants don’t just come to the U.S. on their own; they are brought here by labor contractors who work with the farmers. The migrants don’t know the law, they speak little or no English, and have no idea what their rights might be. In addition, some migrants from southern Mexico or Central America don’t even speak Spanish very well – they speak Mixteco or Cakchiquel or some other indigenous language. It is a situation that leaves these people very open to abuse.

    Migrants have all sorts of other problems. Where I live it is not uncommon to see migrant families actually living in their cars, either broke or half-broke. Since it’s not clear when the crop will be ripe, it’s a benefit to the farmers to encourage workers to come up early. So you end up with all these migrant workers showing up, and nowhere to work for a week or two. That can be devastating for a family.

    Fr. Hans: “I’m sure that for many migrant workers the situation is desperate, although probably not as desperate as the circumstances that drove them here.”

    Right. Imagine what it would take for you to leave your family, travel to another country where you don’t speak the language, frequently live in miserable conditions, and do the work that no one else wants to do, and often be despised by the people in that country. Imagine what your life here would be like in order to make the above option attractive.

    Fr. Hans: “One thing we should not do however, is let pity guide policy. I don’t believe the workers want our pity.”

    They don’t want pity, but they often do need help. Many migrant workers are indeed “the least of these,” and we know what the gospel says about that. In past years I’ve volunteered on a number of mobile health clinics at migrant camps. You see people with various untreated medical problems, particularly skin diseases and infections. You see people with dental problems. You see pregnant women without prenatal care. I still remember seeing one fellow who I thought had a strange smile on his face. When I saw him up close I saw that the strange smile was actually an uncorrected cleft palate. You see migrants who are crippled in various ways, sometimes missing fingers. You see migrants who are retarded. When you get to know these people as people and not just as “issues,” it’s not hard to experience the “bowels of compassion” spoken of in the New Testament.

    Anyway, may blessings be upon you for your work with the migrant community, and may that not be your only experience with them.

  11. Father Hans, bless you for doing this. It is exactly what Christians should be doing. Given my wife’s nationality, I end up helping Polish illegals on a regular basis. There are not nearly as many Eastern Europeans here illegally as Mexicans and Latin Americans, but the community is sizable.

    In any case, all of this brings up multiple distressing points of policy.

    First of all, the illegals that are here are subject to abuse due to their status. The fact that many live in near slavery conditions is horrible.

    Second, many employers of illegals are actually massive corporations such as Tison chicken, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland. Illegal immigrants have huge social costs associated with them. Father Hans touched on them himself. They need medical care, school for their children, and much besides. Since they pay no taxes, the American tax payer is forced to foot this bill, in order to provide cheap labor for some of America’s biggest corporations. This is reverse Robin Hood. The exploitation of some of the world’s poorest people is subsidized and made possible by taxes on the Middle Class, all for the benefit of Corporate America’s bottom-line.

    Third, as a follow-on to point two, the services for these illegals is literally breaking the bank in many areas of the country. Emergency rooms are closing all across the South and West as a result of too little tax money, too many uninsured illegals.

    Fourth, as Father Hans alluded, these immigrants aren’t motivated by abstract notions of ‘living free,’ ‘freedom of religion,’ or any other ‘noble goals.’ They’re here to make money. Most of them don’t care for our culture, nor do they care to assimilate into it. Many go home. Many don’t. We are now seeing second and third generation Americans who have no cultural or linguistic ties to this nation. We are, in effect, breeding our own internal Fifth Column of anti-Americans with citizenship.

    Fifth, this condition will persist as long as migrant workers are illegal. Under a work visa program, employers would be required to pay for medical care, etc. We have to do something and do it quick.

    Now – I have spoken at great length against President Bush’s amnesty plan. I oppose it because it is not about agricultural jobs only. President Bush is interested in bringing in more of just about every profession, even ones such as computer programming, in which native-born job seekers are having trouble getting work already. Also, President Bush’s plan would not do anything to vette those already here who may be criminals, nor would it staunch the flow of illegals. Those not selected for a work visa will come across anyway, knowing that another amnesty can’t be far behind.

    I abhor the current situation with farm labor. To correct it, we must make sure that those who are admitted for work in the United States are not criminals, are not planning to stay on forever, and are treated with dignity and respect – and not a drain on taxpayors. At the same time, we need to decouple any farm-related jobs program from other professions who DO NOT NEED any more imported competition.

  12. I have no substantial disagreement here at all. Your last paragraph is where, I think, some lasting good can be accomplished. Since the migrants are here for economic self-improvement, craft social policy in ways that both support this goal and protect the migrants from abuse. It is clear that the social infrastructure can’t support the huge influx of illegals we have today. It is also true that the cheap labor is being subsidized by the American taxpayer. Much of the good I saw was paid for by you and me. I don’t have any objection to this. I’d rather see my taxes build a clinic in Immokalee than pay for, say, the shameful retirement program of our elected representatives (although of course I pay for both).

  13. Dear Glen,

    “Since they pay no taxes, the American tax payer is forced to foot this bill, in order to provide cheap labor for some of America?s biggest corporations.”

    This is simply untrue. The reality is that most illegal immigrants do pay taxes, and may pay more taxes than other low-income workers with legal status. Federal and state taxes are withheld from their paychecks, usually under bogus Social Security numbers; they also pay sales tax and other fees. Like most poor workers, their paychecks are usually overwithheld, but unlike other workers, they cannot collect their refund at the end of the year, nor are they able to collect Social Security benefits when they retire, which means an additional 15.3% of their paycheck over and above federal and state taxes is being deducted that they will never get back. They are also ineligible for assistance through tax relief programs such as the Earned Income Credit.

    There is a major tax issue related to illegal immigration, but it is not what you think. The problem is that federal taxes filed under bogus Social Security numbers are diverted by the federal government, and are not refunded to the local state governments in the form of grants for education, health care, transportation, etc. The result is that taxes paid by illegal immigrants disproportionately benefit the federal government; this may explain why there is generally less political will at the level of the federal government (which has exclusive domain over border enforcement) to address the issue of illegal immigration than there is at the state level.

    So it’s true that schools and hospitals aren’t getting the tax money they deserve, but the problem is with greedy federal government policies, not illegal immigrants who don’t pay taxes. It’s a states’ rights issue; I’m surprised all you good Republicans aren’t all over it.


  14. Note 16 Under the table cash payments

    Many illegal receive “under the table” cash payments that don’t leave a paper trail and are NOT TAXED. This is common in construction, agriculture (smaller farms) and landscaping.

  15. Dear Missourian,

    Two points: first, the majority of illegal immigrants are not paid under the table, but using falsified SSN’s. The reason for this is that it is very dangerous for a company to be caught paying illegal immigrants under the table; its a federal crime. Most employers, therefore, accept falsified information, even when the documentation is clearly fake, because this creates “plausible deniability” if they are ever raided.

    Second: illegal immigrants are by no means the only ones who are paid under the table. Small contractors, landscapers, and other small businesses are famous for paying their employees under the table, whether they are citizens, legal residents, or illegal aliens. I worked a short stint as a painter for a small contractor who paid all his employees, legal and illegal, under the table. This problem has more to do with the dynamics of small business and the difficulty of competing against mega-corporations than it does with illegal immigration.

    The bottom line is that most of the problems that are attached to the problem of illegal immigration are actually problems of poverty that will not be solved by limiting illegal immigration. If we got rid of all illegal immigrants tomorrow, most of these problems would persist, and could even be aggravated. The root cause of the issues we are discussing is not illegal immigration: the root causes are endemic poverty, soaring health care costs, and the ability of big corporations and farms to squeeze out competitors. A more effective method of dealing with these issues in the long term would be to implement single-payer health care and living-wage reform, and also to enact anti-trust legislation to limit the ability of big corporations and farms to squeeze out competition.


  16. Sampson: Cavalier Attitude Towards the Rule of Law

    Sampson: Your policy preferences, if enforced outside of the rule of law, as just as despotic as any dictators.

    I am appalled at the casual disregard for the rule of law which is displayed whenever illegal immigration is discussed. While I concede that a Christian MAY in some circumstances be compelled by conscience to violate a secular law in order to remain true to Christian teaching, such a decision should not be taken lightly.

    FIRST, the nature of the secular law must be considered. Our American republic is not perfect by any means but our laws do reflect the opinions of our elected representatives, we do have a independent judiciary and means exist for changing bad laws to better laws. Given that a Christian should, in my opinoin, have tremendously persuasive reasons to disobey a secular law. For instance, although I oppose abortion, I do not support the use of violence against abortion clinics or abortions providers.

    SECOND the person proposing to break secular law must be able to articulate a sound reason or sound principle to support that violation of law. What is the principle? Do you oppose the existence of the nation-state? If so, state that. Do you oppopse the existence of borders between nations? If so, clearly come out and state that.

    The rule of law is the most precious fruit of civilization. We strive to live in a society of law, not whim. Your ideas, unrestrained by law, are just as despotic as anyone else’s.

    For a paragraph by paragraph response see next note.

  17. Missourian replies to Sampson

    Sampson writes FIRST PARAGRAPH
    Two points: first, the majority of illegal immigrants are not paid under the table, but using falsified SSN?s. The reason for this is that it is very dangerous for a company to be caught paying illegal immigrants under the table; its a federal crime. Most employers, therefore, accept falsified information, even when the documentation is clearly fake, because this creates ?plausible deniability? if they are ever raided.

    Missourian replies: FIRST PARAGRAPH. Given that paying an illegal alien “under the table” does not leave a paper trail how do you compare the number of illegals “paid under the table” to those who are paid through knowing acceptance of falsified SSN’s. By definition, no such data exists.

    I agree that some employers will agree to “play dumb” and accept false SNN’s knowingly, however, it is a joke to think that anyone is deterred by the threat of a raid. First, as a factual matter, the United States has less than 2000 agents dedicated to INTERIOR ENFORCEMENT. The odds of getting raided are very slim. Maybe a few of the big meat packers might be in danger, but, the vast majority of employers have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO FEAR.

    Lastly, I find it laughable that anyone is afraid of committing a federal crime in the field of immigration. The entire system is a joke, everything is designed to facilitate the influx of cheap labor, including the court system.

    Second: illegal immigrants are by no means the only ones who are paid under the table. Small contractors, landscapers, and other small businesses are famous for paying their employees under the table, whether they are citizens, legal residents, or illegal aliens. I worked a short stint as a painter for a small contractor who paid all his employees, legal and illegal, under the table. This problem has more to do with the dynamics of small business and the difficulty of competing against mega-corporations than it does with illegal immigration.

    I agree that persons other than illegals are paid “under the table.” However
    the presence of nearly 20 million low skill workers in the United States is a massive problem that has an impact on a wide variety American institutions.
    Illegal immigration COMPOUNDS and COMPLICATES tax collection.

    When the majority of people believe that it is foolish to pay taxes, our voluntary tax compliance system will be crushed. As more and more people learn that MASSIVE NUMBERS OF WORKERS are EVADING TAXES, the ordinary person will be more willing to cheat and evade. American tax compliance is currently far highter than that in Europe. In Europe tax collection is a game and people think it’s smart or clever to evade taxes as much as possible, we are not yet at that point in America. You are, inadvertently pointing out one of the SERIOUS TYPES OF DAMAGE TO AMERICAN CULTURE which results from illegal immigration. It’s called RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW.

    SAMPSON: Third Paragraph
    The bottom line is that most of the problems that are attached to the problem of illegal immigration are actually problems of poverty that will not be solved by limiting illegal immigration. If we got rid of all illegal immigrants tomorrow, most of these problems would persist, and could even be aggravated. The root cause of the issues we are discussing is not illegal immigration: the root causes are endemic poverty, soaring health care costs, and the ability of big corporations and farms to squeeze out competitors. A more effective method of dealing with these issues in the long term would be to implement single-payer health care and living-wage reform, and also to enact anti-trust legislation to limit the ability of big corporations and farms to squeeze out competition.


    Again, your readers are entitled to have you state your basic assumptions or policy preferences. This paragraph shows that you put no value on the idea of national sovreignty.

    The ROOT CAUSE of MEXICAN POVERTY IS 1) MEXICAN GOVERNMENTAL CORRUPTION 2) ENDEMIC MOB CRIME AND MOB VIOLENCE and 3) an economy crippled BOTH by oligarchic monopolies and remnants of Mexican socialism.

    I reject vigorously that America is responsible for caring for Mexico’s neglected millions.

    As a technical matter, if American employers were denied the dirt-cheap labor of Mexicans they would raise wages or use technology. For instance, Walmart now uses automated check out machines to replace low-skilled labor. There exists technology to harvest fruit and vegetable crops mechanically, something which could put an end to having human beings doing back breaking work in the fields. You will note that the mining industry has improved safety records by sending machines in where people formerly risked their lives under ground. This is called PROGRESS.

  18. Sampson: The very “solutions” you proposed have already failed

    Sampson writes:
    A more effective method of dealing with these issues in the long term would be to implement single-payer health care and living-wage reform……

    Missourian writes:
    SINGLE PAYER HEALTH SYSTEM? You have to be kidding!!!
    The single-payer health system in Canada is in a state of collapse. Why is it that socialists never get the message that their ideas ALWAYS FAIL.

    LIVING WAGE REFORM? Sure just ask Stalin and Chirac how well that works.
    “Living wage reform” is nonsense. Have you taken a look at Europe lately? France and Germany BOTH mandate very high wages and generous benefits. They have more than 10% unemployment and their economies are stagnant. Although I agree with a very basic minimum wage, so called “living wages” never work. Outside of a very low minimum wage, “living wage reforms” merely drive capital out of the market in which they are enforced. If you want to drive business and hence jobs from your community enact “living wage.”

    In truth, “living wage” is nothing more than forcing a private employer to act as a social welfare agent and to pay certain people more than they are worth in the labor market. This tax on employers makes the business less competitive, less competitives busineses disappear in a relatively short time. Capital will move elsewhere Sampson, there is no way to keep it in a community that forces businesses to pay people more than what is justified by their economic productivity. Michigan has the highest tax rate of any state and the highest unemployment rate. If you want to really accelerate outsources keep up the living wage nonsense.

    If you want to stop oursourcing, ask your friend in the NEA to try really teaching science and math so that American employers can find Americans who are numeric (the analog to literate) Fact is most of the teachers in the NEA are ignorant of both science and math.

    Socialism by any other name is socialism. Socialism FAILED, Communism FAILED, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

  19. Note 13: Glen, my question is this: what is the net effect of cheap labor on agricultural industries as well as its impact (positive or negative) on US farm subsidies (estimated at $180 billion between 2002-2012)?

    In your estimation, would successfully eradicating the usage of illegal aliens either cause a drastic increase in the price of commodities or an increase in taxpayer-funded subsidies? Or both? My point is that a cost-based argument against the use of illegal aliens seems fruitless. We’re going to pay one way or another. If we’re no longer paying for the aliens’ health coverage (and how many of them use an ER on a regular basis?), Congress will be hit with demands for greater farm subsidies (higher taxes) or we’ll be doubling our grocery bills. Leave the argument as a moral one.

    (Note:“There is no doubt, by the way, that farm subsidies are corporate welfare par excellence. Although the program began as a way to aid poor family farmers in the 1930s, by last year nearly three-quarters of the money went to the richest 10 percent of American farmers.”)

  20. Dear Missourian,

    Wow, all that space to refute three little paragraphs?

    Re. single payer health care, Dean Scourtes has said it better than I could. I suggest you read his comments here.


  21. Oh, and a final thought from St. Basil on capitalism and “unlimited wealth” and infinitely large pies and all that crap:

    “It is thus evident that you are far from fulfilling the commandment, and that you bear false witness within your own soul that you have loved your neighbor as yourself. For if what you say is true, that you have kept from your youth the commandment of love and have given to everyone the same as to yourself, then how did you come by this abundance of wealth? Care for the needy requires the expenditure of wealth: when all share alike, disbursing their possessions among themselves, they each receive a small portion for their individual needs. Thus, those who love their neighbor as themselves possess nothing more than their neighbor; yet surely, you seem to have great possessions! How else can this be, but that you have preferred your own enjoyment to the consolation of the many? For the more you abound in wealth, the more you lack in love.” (St. Basil the Great – To the Rich)

    This is Basil’s vision of an ideal society: a community in which “all share alike.”


  22. Let’s move away from the moral posturing and look at some facts.

    When Jimmy Carter handed over the presidency, he also handed over a prime interest rate at 19 percent, inflation of nearly 14 percent, and an unemployment rate of seven percent for a “misery index” of 40 percent. Reaganomics soon reduced this misery index to 17 percent. At the end of 1988, Reaganomics left the prime rate at 8, inflation less than four percent, and unemployment barely above 5 percent. A higher proportion of adults were employed than at any previous time in U.S. history.

    Jobs, jobs, jobs: Altogether, Reaganomics created some 19 million new jobs. Between the end of 1980 and the end of 1988, black Americans alone got 2.4 million of these new jobs. The numbers of the black employed jumped from 9 million to 11.4 million in that short period � a jump of more than 25 percent.

    Black income jumped, too. In constant 1988 dollars, the total annual income earned by all 30 million U.S. blacks together rose from $191 billion at the end of 1980, to $259 billion by the end of 1988. That sum was larger than the GDP of all but ten nations in the world.

    The number of black families earning more than $50,000 per year much more than doubled, from 392,000 in 1982 to 936,000 in 1988. The median salary/wage of black males increased from $9,678 in 1980 to $14,537 in 1988 (in current dollars). Median means half earned more than that, half less, so more than half of all black males improved their income by more than 50 percent.

    The bad news during the Reagan years was that the number of single-parent black families continued rising, as it had since 1960, this time from 1.9 million to 2.2 million families. Government, of course, does not mandate this most personal of choices, and except indirectly can do little to affect it. Nonetheless, single female-headed households have long been the fastest growing cause of poverty. In these years, they caused the measure of income inequality (the gini coefficient) to soar far higher (.450) among blacks than among whites (.382).

    Source: Reagan & the Poor: Praying for the liberal punditocracy.

    If we did it your way, the Blacks would have less than they do today. You can understand why some are reluctant to apply your model to the migrant problem. Moral outrage does not lead to sound policy.

    St. Basil, as you might know, built the hospitals and orphanages. Like everything else built to endure, his work took planning and the responsible use of resources.

  23. Dear Fr. Johannes,

    Let’s reread the Reagan years through St. Basil’s lens as referenced above, shall we? Basil says that the ideal society is one in which the vast disparity between rich and poor is remedied, a process that he refers to as (“restoring the balance”), restorative justice. During Ronald Reagan’s eight years in office, the income of the richest one percent of Americans grew eighty-seven percent, while that of the poorest Americans diminished. Minority unemployment increased throughout the eighties (African American unemployment stood at a record 21% in 1983, almost 25% by 1990). And the overall poverty rate for African-Americans rose, so that nearly one-third were below the poverty level by 1988. It is true that some African-Americans did prosper during the Reagan years–indeed, what happened to the black community during the eighties mirrored what happened all across America: those who were already well-off got richer, and those who were already insecure got poorer.

    (statistics from MSN Encarta:

    “Trickle down economics” led to a widening gap between rich and poor because very little trickling actually occured, because those who were the primary beneficiaries of this system found endless ways of catching the trickle. Basil foresaw this when he wrote “(The rich man) does not rejoice at all the good things he has in store, but is rather pricked to the heart by the wealth that slips through his fingers, lest perhaps, as it overflows the storehouses, some of it should trickle down to those outside his walls, so as to become a source of aid for those in need.” (I Will Tear Down my Barns)

    Personally, I prefer a moral posture to an immoral one. And I’ll take St. Basil over St. Reagan any day.


  24. The implicit statism you champion has been the cause of a lot of suffering and breakdown. Almost 75% of Black families were two parent in the late fifties and trending up. Today, the Black family in the inner-city is decimated. What happened? The Great Society.

    The most reliable indicator for chronic poverty in America today is single motherhood. The poverty you cite among Blacks is due to the breakdown of the family more than any other factor.* (Heard Bill Cosby lately?) The Black middle class is experiencing just the opposite because mom and dad were fortunate enough to escape the social ravages of this misguided liberalism. The Great Society programs that were designed to eliminate poverty actually increased it.

    *The Koreans and Vietnamese started in the same neighborhoods as poor blacks but are managing to work their way out of poverty. The next generation will be prosperous middle class and higher. Why the success? One important reason is that strong family structure enabled them to take advantage of economic opportunity.

    Remember too, that wealth is relative. If a poorer person has income growth at a lower rate than the top earner in a society, it does not mean that he is poorer. In real terms he is better off. This disparity is not even inherently unfair. It’s simply what happens in an economy that is expanding. Given him time and he will improve his economic situation even more. (Better to look from where you have come than what the other guy has got — the same message Bill Cosby gives, BTW.)

    The reasons for Black poverty is certainly different than migrant poverty. In fact, the most consistent idea between them is your idea that the eradication of poverty occurs by increasing the social reach of the state. If you want to eliminate migrant poverty by bringing all health care to the same agencies responsible for poverty eradication, you might want to think again. You will end up with no reduction in poverty and worse health care.

    Social policy has to be crafted by more than feelings of moral outrage. Government has a role in this of course (prosecuting corporate law breakers, reducing predatory crime in poor neighborhoods, funding some programs, etc.), but don’t assume the Great Society might work this time around. Matthew 25 mandates that we must help the poor, but make sure the help that is offered really helps them.

  25. Dear Fr. Johannes,

    What I find fascinating about this discussion and others I have had with economic “conservatives” is their absolute unwillingness to engage the patristic tradition on this subject, and their eagerness to create an alternative mythology of the origins of wealth and poverty.

    St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, and the other great Fathers teach that the gap between rich and poor is an immoral gap, and grows more immoral the wider it gets. They teach that greed is a corruptive societal influence. They teach that wealth and natural resources are limited, and thus must be shared out equally by reducing consumption and living a life of simplicity. They teach that the origin of poverty is the avarice and overconsumption of a few at the expense of the many. They teach that the rich are at best stewards of wealth that belongs to others, at worst thieves who have stolen what rightfully belongs to the poor. Basil goes so far as to call them murderers, architects of a death-dealing system that puts money before human life.

    The proponents of Reaganomics, on the other hand, say that the gap between rich and poor is a good thing because it creates what they blithely call “incentive” (read “desperation”), that greed is a positive societal force, that wealth and natural resources are unlimited and that unbridled consumption is therefore desirable, that poverty is the fault of the poor, and that the rich are the saints and heroes of the economic pantheon.

    If you are willing to jettison the entire patristic teaching on wealth and poverty in order to justify another teaching, that is your choice, but we had probably better end this discussion now, as we will have very little to say to one another.

    This is Basil’s vision of an ideal society: “If we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich and no one would be poor” (“I Will Tear Down my Barns”). A society of equality based upon an ethic of simplicity and sharing.

    What is your vision, Father?


  26. A characteristic of the conflation of the Christian obligation to the poor with statist redistribution, is that the poverty is generates is never confronted. Instead, motives are attacked, the assumptions become less flexible, the posturing more rigid.

    You read the Fathers as if they were were redistributionist socialists. I do not believe that care for the poor ultimately should undermine character, family, and the other great needs of a stable society. It is not in any way moral, and certainly not in keeping with the Fathers who stressed character, fidelty, and other great virtues alongside care for the poor.

    I want to teach a man how to fish. First, though, he must know learn to be a man. Unfortunately, the redistributionist model you champion has taken this knowledge away from Black men by eroding the moral communities through which this knowledge is taught from one generation to the next. Now they are worse off than when the great experiment began.

    The Great Society has failed. Statist policies always do. Look at Europe. Maybe it’s time to interpret the Fathers outside of hard left economic categories.

  27. St. Basil’s vision presupposes a Christian ascetic world view, a willing personal submission to volutary poverty, a homogeneous culture, and monarchy as a form of government. We have none of that. To assume that we can do as St Basil instructs on any mass scale with out any of the pre-conditions is silly at best.

    If you really want that kind of world, do it, share it, replicate it, i.e., evangelize. To just sit back and ask big brother to do it is not Christian.

  28. Note 30 An Economic Policy either Works or it Doesn’t Work

    It is interesting that when Sampson is challenged on the issue of whether the policy that he promoted actually works, he abandons his argument and asserts a new one. His new argument is nothing more than “moral shaming.”

    Let us remember that Mr. Sampson advocated a specific policy which would have had to be enacted by a legislature, either state or federal. I responded that “living wage” legislation will NOT ACHIEVE THE DESIRED EFFECT in the world in which we live today. In today’s economy a “living wage” policy will result in the elimination of jobs and/or the replacement of human workers with technology (not always a bad thing, example: mining industry) or the flight of capital. Sampson is unable to refute this.

    Note there is a distinction between a “living wage” and a minimum wage. I would agree to a modest, very low level minimum wage. “Living wage” advocates generally assert that every worker who works full time should earn enough to support a family of four in comfort. This is a form of income distribution. The proponents hope to shift income from employers to employees, however, they ignore the capacity of employers to adjust to the higher labor costs in ways that protect the return on capital. See Germany and France for woefully high levels of unemployment and stagnant economies, both countries have provided very high minimum income for workers by fiat.

    In order to avoid this predictable effect the government would have to exert so much control over every economic transaction and every person that the society would be……. communist. Remember how Communism worked out?

    Let us also remember that Mr. Sampson advocated single payer health insurance. I merely pointed out that the Canadian system has been shown to be sham, it has been rejected as an unworkable failure by the highest Canadian court.

    Problem with socialists is that they can never admit that the consequences of their policies is greater poverty for all.

    Christianity existed for 19 centuries before the onset of the kind of powerful government that Sampson endorses by implication. Christians built schools, hospitals, orphanages and other worthy projects without the control of a massive central government. We still can.

  29. Here is a link to fairly new studies from Dumbarton Oaks on the the economic conditions in Byzantium. The Fathers, and the later Byzantines, cannot be dragged out to condemn “Reaganomics” or the market economy so easily. Like all societies, they were trading societies. That’s what built their cities, and provided the means to build churches and cathedrals. Self reliance was a clear moral good upheld widely.

    The Economic History of Byzantium

    (excerpt, p. 10-11)
    Economic Thought and Ideology


    The pursuit of profit, in the thinking of the Byzantines, is a characteristic of the merchant. An old topos, which goes back at least to patristic times and even to antiquity, links the pursuit of profit with the risks involved in mercantile activity: the merchant is the man who is willing to run all kinds of risks in search of profit.28 It is well known, and in no need of elaboration here, that the fourth-century church fathers considered the risks to be moral as well as physical, and took a dim view of the merchant’s profit. This, however, was not the case in Byzantium, at least of the middle and late period, except when rigorist authors made deliberate ideological statements. A first approximation of what the Byzantines thought about profit may be gained by two texts, dating to the second half of the tenth century and the beginning of the eleventh.

    The later text is a treatise by Symeon the New Theologian on Eph. 5:16, “redeeming the time because the days are evil,” dated by the editor to sometime between the years 1000 and 1009.29 In it, the author speaks of the great damage one will suffer if one neglects spiritual matters, and illustrates this by referring to the economic damages a slothful merchant will incur by neglecting the good conduct of his trade. The good merchant, motivated by the hope of profit (th’ prosdoki´a tou’ ke´rdou”), undertakes long journeys disregarding the dangers, the fatigue of the journey, the fear of robbers; he brings money with him to the fair and immediately begins to trade, without wasting his time and money in unprofitable pursuits. His reward is that he returns home with great profits (ejmporeusa´menoi kai` meta` ke´rdou” mega´lou uJpostre´yante”). While Symeon’s parable is in many ways indebted to patristic writings and imagery, one fact stands out that is relevant to our topic: the pursuit of profit is a positive rather than a negative activity. Not one word is breathed regarding the dangers to the immortal soul of maximizing profits; on the contrary, the slothful merchant, the one whose example should not be followed, is he who, through his laziness, does not manage to turn a profit.

    A few decades earlier, Symeon Metaphrastes (d. ca. 1000), a high imperial official and the well-known compiler and purifier of saints’ lives, voiced a similar view in his version of the vita of St. Spyridon of Trimithous. The original vita, written in the second half of the seventh century, features a sea captain (who also engaged in trade) who had borrowed some money from the saint (either in a sea-loan or in an early form of the commenda contract). That version of the vita had focused on the sea captain’s efforts to cheat the saint by pretending to return the money, the saint’s discovery of the ruse, and the man’s repentance.31 The Metaphrastic version projects a similar moral message: do not be greedy, and do not cheat. However, Symeon Metaphrastes also engages in a good deal of editorializing. The sea captain is here specifically called a merchant; trade seems to be his primary activity. The cause of his economic downfall, and the proximate cause of the discovery of his dishonesty, was that “he had spent the money in expenses that were not geared toward making a profit; hence he became indigent (dapa´ nai” ga` r, wJ” e”oiken, ouj pro`” ke´rdo” oJrw´ sai” to` crusi´on ajnhlwkw` “, e”peita pro`” ajpori´an ejla´sa”)” and went back to the saint to borrow more money. The story then unfolds of the discovery of his ruse and the saint’s forgiveness and parting words: “that he should not covet the goods of others, nor should he pollute his conscience with ruses and lies. For the gain acquired from such actions, he said, is not profit, but manifest damage (mh` ou”tw tw’n ajllotri´wn ejpiqumei’n, mhde` do´loi” kai` yeu´desi katamiai´nein to` suneido´”. To` ga`r ejk toiou´twn, fhsi`, peripoiou´menon ouj ke´rdo” o”lw”, ajlla` zhmi´a safh´”).”32

    The meaning is equally manifest. Money borrowed for trade should be used for profitable investment; if it is used for consumption instead, one gets into trouble. What is condemned here is not at all the merchant’s profit, which is conceived as a legitimate part of his trade; rather, it is philargyria that caused the merchant in question to misbehave;
    that, and his unproductive use of money.

    These examples are meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive. What they illustrate is the fact that the merchant’s profit was perfectly acceptable in the economic thinking of the Byzantines, with all that such a position implies. Nowhere, for instance, do we find the condemnation of profits deriving from mercantile enterprise as unclean money, as sometimes was the case among theologians in western Europe. If saints’ lives of the middle period are a good guide in this respect, we can say that they do, sometimes, refer to dirty money, that the pious may not touch, but it is not the merchant’s profit that is at issue. Rather, what is unclean is the money made from exactions and from the unjust treatment of the poor; the people who are guilty of such practices are functionaries or the powerful or, in one case, Emperor Theophilos, who was said to have left money to the poor and the monks upon his deathbed conversion to the orthodox position on the veneration of icons.33

    In fact, the Byzantines believed that the merchant’s profit was justified and legitimate. However, the Byzantines, like the ancient philosophers, were uneasy about “the art of making money,” Aristotle’s chrematistike. In Byzantine thought and practice, as in that of all societies that were the cultural heirs of ancient philosophy and Christianity, there was a constant balancing act between the notion of the freedom of exchange and the conflicting notion of social and economic justice.

  30. Sampson,

    And verily Christ said to them, “It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. So, relieve the rich of their wealth through forced redistribution. Take what is theirs by force, and give it to the poor. That way, the rich can achieve salvation easier and the poor will have bread.”

    Only, Christ didn’t say that, did he? Of course economic explotation is wrong. The whole Chinese experiment in ‘capitalism’ using slave labor is the worst case, but there are others, even right here at home. The rich have their reward in this life, but this is the one that passes away, remember? Some of them have done beneficial things. Many of them have done nothing particularly worthwhile. Either way, if you erect a state that can take their money from them, then it can just as easily take what you have.

    Remember the poor folks whose homes are getting condemned to make way for an office park in the Kelo Supreme Court decision? They aren’t rich, but they are learning that what the government wants, the government gets. Private business, left to its own devices, is not particularly dangerous to liberty. Yes, private businesses can pollute the environment, and can exploit poor and uneducated workers. Such things can and should be corrected by the community. However, to be really dangerous, private interests have to collude with the State. This always happens in modern societies in which politicians require the support of entrenched business interests to win election.

    It is perfectly right to criticize the pursuit of wealth that comes at the price of one’s soul. It is another, however, to advocate the construction of a State whose power is sufficient to tear down the rich to our level. Such a State is unchecked in power, and will, almost undoubtedly, end up under the control of the very people you set out to discipline with it. The wealthy oligarchs run China, just as they do the former Soviet Union. Truth be told, the wealthy oligarchs run the United States – power having become so centralized that the average citizen has almost no chance to influence the political process in Washington. (That centralization was supposed to help the common man, remember?)

    I know that the Protestant fundamentalists have elevated the Multinational corporation to a divine status and that the wealthy are practically worshipped among he ‘prosperity Gospel’ crowd. You are entirely right to condemn that. It is heresy. But the antidote is the kind of balancing act Father Hans wrote about in Byzantium, not the use of raw power to take from Peter to give to Paul.

  31. JamesK,

    If you have a migrant farm labor temporary visa program, with significant restrictions, then the costs to agricultural producers will go up. That is a given. If farm subsidies are not scaled back, then we are likely to see Congress hit up for more subsidies to maintain an artificially high profit margin. The government of the United States will then find itself in possession of even more surplus agricultural goods that it can not sell. So what will it do? It will give the food away overseas. Thereby helping to destroy family farming operations in the Third World by driving down commodity prices.

    The farm laborers then will make their way to the United States in order to make more money than they can back home, and the cycle continues.

    Yes, subsidies are evil and primarily benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor. They need to be ended. All of them, including the indirect subsidies that allow wealthy agribusiness to exploit illegal immigrants. If we don’t have the political will to attack this problem directly, then I suggest we refocus our efforts on forcing the government to live within a Constitutional framework – one that would prevent abuses of power such as agricultural subsidies.

  32. Dear Fr. Johannes,

    So I’m tired of this conversation, and I know just as soon as I stop writing everybody can declare victory and move on, but before I do that, I have just one last question, bringing us back full circle to how this conversation began:

    When you went to paint the school, did you talk to any of the migrant workers? Did you take the time to listen to their stories? Did you ask them why they came to America, and what their experience has been like since they came here?

    If you didn’t, I hope you will.

    So long.


  33. Note 34: What policy do YOU propose?

    What specific policies do you propose Mr. Sampson? Please articulate a specific policy that we can propose in the public forum and ask our fellow American citizens to support through legislation. Remember that not all Americans are practicing Christians. Remember that we don’t live in a theocracy.
    Remember that you must be able to make a cogent argument that the policies you propose WILL ACHIEVE THE EFFECT YOU DESIRE.

    Here are some options for your consideration.
    Should we allow the continued degradation of the rule of law by slyly allowing millions of illegals to break our laws with impunity? After the force of law has been degraded, after the respect for law has been trivialized, who will come to your aid if you are victimized by a criminal? After all, we just snicker at the law, don’t we.

    Should we drop the border with Mexico? There are 123 million people recognized by Mexico as citizens. How would you manage the overwhelming influx of people who don’t speak English and who have low skills or no skills? Where would they live? Where would we find the schools to educate their children? Where would we find health care for them? How will we respond to the influx of communicable diseases.
    How will we deal with the influx of criminal drug gangs. If we fail to take care of all these people, how will be cope with their ghettoization and alienation?

    If we open the border with Mexico, how will be stop the spread of penicillan resistant tuberculosis?

    If we open the border with Mexico, how will we screen those who would harm our country?

    If we drop the border with Mexico, what about the poor people of Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil. How can we admit Mexicans and deny access to those people.

    It has been written that Jimmah Carter once had a conversation with Chou En Lai. Carter took his usual insufferable morally condescending posture and asked Chou En Lai why he didn’t let Chinese people emigrate freely. Chou En Lai was reported to have asked Carter “How many do you want? 20 million? 40 milion? 60 million?”

    The solution to Third World poverty is NOT the wholesale transfer of populations to the United States, it is the adoption of rational policies to encourage economic growth in the Third World. We have limits to what we can achieve because we cannot depose all of the corrupt cleptocrats that have a strangle hold on the Third World, such as Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

  34. Dear Fr. Johannes,

    So what did they say? What did they tell you about why they came here, how much money they make, how much they send back, and whether or not they plan to return?


  35. Mostly they were grateful we were helping them out.

    The economic data came from the director of the organizaton running the school, day care, etc. The clinic and housing I saw on a tour. They just built a new complex for single workers, completely hurricane safe, BTW. From the outside it looks like a college dorm.

  36. Father: Thank you for your work assisting the migrant laborers and their families. One of my own ancestors who emigrated from Greece, learned English from the famous Chicago social worker, Jane Adams, through at her well-known immigrants settlement organization called Hull House.

    While I probably favor more aggressive government efforts to alleviate poverty then my conservative friends on the blog, I agree with them wholeheartedly that government intervention alone is no substitute for personal efforts to help our struggling or suffering neighbors. God is love and by assisting others, as you assisted the migrants, we help make sure God’s will ” be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

  37. Logic and Intellectual Rigor are not unChristian: Policies have consequences

    No on has suggested that illegal aliens should be treated in an inhumane way, yet those posters on the board who want the government to protect the American people by enforcing our national borders are, by implication, smeared with the label of being uncaring individuals.

    No poster on this board has even begun to respond to my challenges:

    What specific set of immigration policies should be followed by the government of the United States?

    Do you support the current sleazy policy of intentionally allowing millions of illegals to come across our borders? If not, what do you support?

    How do you respond to the valid charge that allowing massive illegal immigration PROPS UP A CORRUPT MEXICAN GOVERNMENT and allows it to continue as cleptocracy mining the wealth of its own citizens.

    Do you endorse the damage being done to the rule of law?

    The “rule of law” is the social consensus that must exist in a country, that following the law is good and right and ignoring or breaking the law is bad and wrong. The alternatives to the rule of law is a rigid police state where all citizens are treated as suspected criminals by the state or sheer anarchic barbarism. The United States succeeded in building a society in which the rule of law was, and is, still respected by the majority of its citizens. Woe to them to destroy this incalculably precious cultural asset.

    Policies have consequences. The failure to act in the face of a problem has consequences. As sinful a human being that I am, I will not condone smothering the voice of reason, logic in a policy debate.

  38. Missourian: You express some valid and legitimate concerns regarding illegal immigration. However, I think it is wrong to place the blame solely on the immigrants themselves and not address the economic conditions and environment that attract them.

    The construction sites, commercial farms and meat-packing plants of this nation are filled with illegal laborers hired by companies that are almost dependent on them for their profitability. Silicon Valley companies that have been moving high-tech jobs out of the United States, because they have been trouble bringing foreign programmers into the US to staff them.

    The Sacramento ABC affilate had a TV news piece last night on the the rising number of illegal aliens qualifying for mortgages and buying homes in our area. A mortgage banker and representative of the local Mortgage Bankers Association was unapolegetic and she said that as long as a mortgage applicant could meet the financial requirements for the loan, thats all that mattered, and it would be a disservice to company shareholders to turn away business.

    We should consider that there is a clear economic need for more workers in certain sectors of the economy, and a clear benefit these workers provide in terms of the additional tax and social security revenue and additional consumer demand they generate that boost local economies. One cannot focus on exclusively on the cost of public services they consume, but must compare it to the amount of additional economic growth and activity they generate.

    This tells us we need to do one of two things. We must either make a much stronger, concerterd effort to provide unemployed people who are already US citizens with the education, vocational training, and other assistance they need to fill these jobs which are apparently go begging, or sharply increase our limits on legal immigration so that foreign nationals can become legal citizens and fill them.

  39. Note 41 Not opposed to rational, planned increase in legal immigration

    Firstly, I am not opposed to increased legal immigration. However, I would like to see a well administered program that properly protects the interests of the United States, much in the same manner that virtually every country in the world protects its interests in matters of immigration. A properly administered program could be crafted which would be fair and prompt. We are not doing anything like that today. The United States government is responding to the desires of large employers for cheap labor by intentionally allowing massive illegal immigration. It is a scandal of huge proportions. Equally as important is a rejection of multi-culturalism and bi-lingualism. Immigrants must understand that there is a basic degree of assimilation which they must accept. We should continue as a single language country, for example. The melting pot approach has worked well in America. Hundreds of various ethnic groups have had no difficulty preserving their heritage while, AT THE SAME TIME, becoming fully American citizens.

    Second, I place the primary blame for the immigration mess on the public officials of the United States of America. If the U.S. made even a token effort to enforce immigration law by shutting off the supply of jobs available to illegals,illegal immigration would cease. Illegals are attracted by jobs, those jobs would dry up if the law was enforced against EMPLOYERS. We have fewer than 2000 agents who are assigned to interior enforcement. This is the clearest proof that the U.S. governmetn has little or no desire to stop illegal immigration.

    While I put the primary blame on United States officials for the influx of illegals, I do not absolve illegals from knowingly violating American law. Entering the country illegally is a crime, as is working in the United States without permission. I do not, however, advocate inhumane treatment of illegals, just as I don’t advocate inhumane treatment of any other person who violates the law.

    In your last paragraph you write:
    This tells us we need to do one of two things. We must either make a much stronger, concerterd effort to provide unemployed people who are already US citizens with the education, vocational training, and other assistance they need to fill these jobs which are apparently go begging, or sharply increase our limits on legal immigration so that foreign nationals can become legal citizens and fill them.

    Respectfully this doesn’t make sense. Illegal Mexicans are not outcompeting American workers by bringing a higher skill set to the job markets. They are outbidding native American in wages and working conditions.Illegals are willing to work for cash alone under the table, they are willing to work in less safe conditions. Health and safety conditions in the Mexican workplace are much, much worse than they are here in the United States. American workers have been UNDERBID not outdone by better credentials. If you are concerned about the quality of the American workplace; if you would like to preserve good wages and good working conditions, you must oppose ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

    Thank you for at least addressing bona fide policy considerations in this discussion rather than simply emoting over the problem.

  40. Cannot support current illegal immigration AND good working conditions

    Probably the largest logical contradiction that I run into whenever immigraiton is discussed is that those people who oppose enforcement of immigration law usually appeal to some concept of humanitarianism or compassion. This is fine, of course, but if you care about the quality of the working conditions of Americans, you cannot advocate the influx of literally 10’s of millions of illegals who drive down wages for unskilled workers. Illegals will frequently accept lower levels of workplace safety because even shoddy American factories are head and shoulders above the typical Mexican factory.

    You cannot support American labor and oppose illegal immigration. Ceasar Chavez, someone generally thought to be a hero on the Left, opposed high levels of immigration and opposed all forms of illegal immigration. Can’t organize agricultural labor unions when the fields are full of illegals.

  41. Not a total orge

    I do support rational, well administered legal immigration.

    I do support a modest minimum wage, I oppose the so-called “living wage” as a job killing redistribution scheme.

    I don’t support pure laissez-faire economic policies. We need effective regulatory agencies to protect consumers, investors, bank depositors, people who purchase prescription medications and many other segments of society.

    I do oppose the demonization of employers and corporations. (Full disclosure I am both an employer and a corporation) We DO need to remember that there is no wealth to redistribute unless investors can start businesses that create jobs and create material prosperity that feeds, clothes and houses people.

    I do support a basic social safety net including unemployment insurance and a vastly reformed social security plan. I don’t support cradle to grave welfare policies, the results can be plainly seen in Germany and France.

  42. What exactly are you shocked and dismayed about Olympiada?

    Unfortunately, there is a great deal of poverty in the Third World. There are many reasons and causes for this poverty, it varies from country to country. Approximately 96% of the world’s population has a lower standard of living than the average American. This is a very long standing fact of life. There is some hope on the horizon, India is lifting itself from poverty, which is a good thing.

    People from poverty stricken countries are drawn to the United States. We have employers who are willing to hire illegals because illegals will accept payment in cash and accept what area substandard working conditions in the United States. We have to realize that an illegal Mexican working for $2.00/hour in cash is making about 10 times an hour that he could make at home, IF he could find a job. Therefore, he sneaks into the United States. If we cut off the attractant, the under the table jobs, we would eliminate the flow of “under the table” labor to the United States.

    Is it bad to give a job to illegal aliens? Yes, if you support a) the rule of law and B) good working conditions for labor in the United States. Wages for construction, landscape and service industry workers have been pushed down due to the influx of illegals. This wage depression hurts the LEAST SKILLED AMERICAN WORKERS. You can’t organize unskilled labor with 10 to 20 million illegals taking cash under the table.

    The root causes of migration to the United States is poverty elsewhere. Again, we could debate for weeks about what is the best CURE for Third World poverty. There have been many proposals advance to help the Third World economies, most have been advanced in good faith. Many policies have been tried, it is a complex issue.

    Normally I would recommend that you report an employer who hires illegal aliens to the ICE but the ICE has made clear that it will enforce the existing law.

    We have had several amnesties in the last twenty years. They solved nothing. If an illegal becomes legal through amnesty, the unscrupulous employer is STILL looking for workers who take cash under the table, there will be another illegal coming in a few minutes, that illegal will get hired. The American government knows exactly what needs to be done to control illegal immigration, cut off the attractant, enforce immigration laws against employers. This will serve to boost wages and improve working conditions for everybody.

  43. Why is the United States More Prosperous the the Third World

    A few reasons, not all.

    A) Liberal patent laws: The United States has one of the broadest patent laws in the world. We are willig to given patents for more different types of inventions than any other country. We have patented biological entities for instance. Ergo, owners of scientific discoveries patent their ideas in the United States to obtain protection for their inventions. This is one way we draw good ideas here. The ideas are developed where they are protected, here in the United States.

    B) We support small businesses. Nearly anyone can start a small business any time they want. We do not impose heavy regulatory burdens on the very act of starting a business. In Missouri you can get a business license for $10.00 and incorporate for $250.00. It takes approximately 10 days to accomplish this. You are then in business. In a very large majority of the Third World the government imposes heavy regulatory burdens on new businesses. It may take up to 6 months in many African countries to incorporate.

    C)Our government is for the most part, honest. While corruption certainly does exist in the United States it is not as pandemic as it is in the Third World. Classic example, if an Iraqi businessman were able to build a properous business, Hussein’s government would soon find out about it. The businessman would be visited by a Hussein crony who would tell him that he had to give Hussein a 40% ownership share of the business for nothing, or face horrible consequences.

    D)Our government is for the most, stable. No recent revolutions or civil wars. No recent nationalizations of industries owned by foreigners.

    E)Our legal system is for the most part stable. People have a court system that is, for the most part, honest and impartial. Despite some recent Supreme Court opinions, you cannot be deprived of your property arbitrarily, say, as in Zimbabwe under Mugabe.

    F)We reward able workers and inventive business people. Although out country has not vanquished all vestiges of discrimination based on ethnicity, able people have the freedom to advance based on their skills and effort. In India, the caste system still suppresses the ability of certain members of society to advance. In Uganda and Rwanda, ethnic and tribal animosities are lethal on a large scale.

    G) We educate women. There is a high correlation between widespread public education for women and economic prosperity. There is substantial resistance in the Islamic world and sub-Saharan Africa to equal educational opportunities for women.

    H)The majority of the economy is still privately held. Although the share of the economy represented by government is quite substantial, it is still less than tghe 50% or better than obtains elsewhere. High levels of government domination of an economy is correlated with high unemployment and low workplace participation. The vast majority of all ALL technological, economic, and commercial innovation comes from the private sector. The personal computer was developed by a small group of individual scientists. It started a technological revolution comparable to the Industrial Revolution and the printing press.

    I)We have a stable currency, cheap credit and good banking system. We have a system in place that makes it relatively easy for a person with a good idea to raise money to start a business. Credit is widely available and fairly cheap by world and historical standards.

    Very few Third World countries have the features I have outlined above, they need them. Pumping money into their economies will not produce prosperity, just as giving an unemployed person money every month will not make them productive.

  44. Shock and Dismay is just a Start

    A nurse may enter an emergency room and be “shocked and dismayed” that she encounters numerous people who are desperately sick. This is normal. We wouldn’t want nurses to reach a point of such insensitivity that they felt nothing upon encountering suffering. However, IF THE GOAL IS TO ASSIST THE SUFFERING the emergency room nurse will have to THINK AND ACT, NOT EMOTE. She will need to act promptly and, yes, efficiently so that she can help as many people as possible, and save as many people as possible.

    For those of us lucky enough to be born in America to reasonably comfortable homes with caring parents, the day will come when we encounter real suffering, or long-term poverty, or real evil. I have practiced law for twenty years and I won’t forget the time I stepped into a maximum security state prison. It was an overwhelming experience unlike anything I had experienced before. That first encounter with suffering or evil is a shock. We don’t want to lose our emotional sensitivity and spiritual sensitivity to the suffering of other’s or to evil BUT after the shock we need to THINK about how we can best help.

    Moving from emotional responses to thoughtful responses that consider both long and short term consequences and the benefits and costs of various policies, is a process of moving from a childhood to adulthood. Welcome to adulthood in an imperfect world in which we do our best to help as many people as we can.

    We also need to distinguish policies which may be proper for a)individuals b) private charitable organizations and c) governments. The function and nature of each of these entities is different and their proper roles are different.

    There has been a long standing problem of the overspill of poverty from Mexico for decades and many people of good faith have tried to find solutions. You aren’t the first to discover Third World poverty. You aren’t the only one with the spiritual sensitivity to care about the plight of the Third World poor. The difficulty is finding workable and lasting solutions.

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