Monday, October 24, 2005

Bush's Failed Border Policy Screws Taxpayers


By signing the new Homeland Security bill last week, George W. Bush ensures that the United States will keep throwing billions of dollars of taxpayers' money at an illegal immigration problem that's as intractable as that other perennial money pit, the war on drugs.

It won't matter in the long run how much money goes to the border patrol, or to any other "enforcement" campaign. There are two root causes of illegal border-crossing that neither the U.S. nor Mexican power elites are willing to address.

The first cause should be obvious. About half of Mexicans live in hopeless, abject poverty. Robbed and exploited by corrupt officials and a rich ruling class that is almost feudal in arrogance, the Mexican worker has no incentive to stay home, however dearly he or she loves his or her homeland. Desperation has driven millions north to a strange land filled with unsympathetic English-speakers. And unless there is ever real socio-economic reform south of our border, we will see millions more of them.

The second cause is that many thousands of U.S. employers are most happy to hire illegal aliens, especially Mexicans. They work cheap. They don't usually make waves because they don't want to draw attention to themselves. They can't demand paid vacations. And -- here's the real payoff for scofflaw employers -- they aren't necessarily covered by any kind of health insurance or workers comp, nor can they generally demand it.

Unofficially, there's a cozy arrangement between the rich and powerful of both countries.

In Mexico, there's a distant memory of what can happen when millions of angry peasants unite. Ninety years ago, the country was in the middle of a bloody 10-year revolution. I suspect that at some point it occurred to Mexico's elite that every time a poor worker heads north, that means one less potential troublemaker. It's a way to get rid of their surplus of low-wage laborers and subsistence farmers.

Here, for scofflaw employers, every undocumented worker is a living subsidy. He or she is corporate welfare with arms and legs. If the worker is unfortunate enough to get hurt or sick, that generally means a trip to the nearest charity hospital -- courtesy, for the most part, of U.S. citizen taxpayers. You, Mr. and Ms. U.S. taxpayer, are paying for all these trips to the ER.

Low wages, no health care costs, obedient and quiet workers, no possibility of unionization, undercutting the wages of American workers both union and "non" -- Dude! Business has never been better!

And if the immigrants don't like the deal, maybe they can go back to their side of the border and work at a maquiladora, where pay and safety standards are even worse.

What is even more enraging about this is that, instead of Mexico becoming more like America, America is slowly becoming more like Mexico. Wal-Mart, for example, has a business plan that gets 'em coming and going.

First, they hire desperate workers at wages so low, they often qualify for food stamps. This is a public subsidy that we, the taxpayers, are paying indirectly to the company. Then, because their payroll is low, they sell cheap, undercutting competitors dumb enough to pay better wages. They don't offer some of their workers health insurance, so the public charity hospital gets even more business. And since their "associates" are so poor, where do they shop? (Duh!)

Wal-Mart, the corporation, is like a big, private-sector Mexico. It has adopted poverty as its corporate culture. No wonder their international division, Wal-Mart de Mexico, is doing a booming business.

True, we've got a long way to go to get in a hole as deep as Mexico's. But believe this: Our corporate rulers, with the Bush administration's help, are steadily digging. It means richer rich people, while the ranks of the poor grow. "Tinkle-down" economics is the all-too-familiar formula. And as long as you're among those doing the "tinkling," hey, it works.

Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers are screwed yet again, with our government hurling money quite futilely at the immigration problem. It's like heroin or cocaine -- but in this case, it is greedy, venal employers who are hooked. They are addicted to cheap, docile labor -- and you, Mr. and Ms. "Murkan" Taxpayer, are subsidizing their habit. The "enforcement" is just a ludicrous show.



Anonymous said...

WalMart has fallen flat on its face in its European operations. It's stores in Germany are losing money. I can't help but think that the reason for this is that, in Europe, WalMart doesn't get the cozy corporate welfare that it receives in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

If any company could take on Wal Mart and win, it would be Germany's Aldi retail chain. "Business Week" magazine had an article that talked about how Aldi is a more efficient company than Wal-Mart. On another note, I do not believe that Wal-Mart really has the cheapest prices, despite their claims.

Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting, but what does it have to do with the orginal article? The writer was talking about Pres. Bush's Mexico policies, not about Germany.

Anonymous said...

I think Nafta is a good chunk of the problem. however, neither the Democrats or the GOP is willing to address the problems of unbridled "free" trade. It will take a Ross Perot to ever get action done to curb Nafta's excesses. Both the major parties have been bought and paid for by Corporate America.

Anonymous said...

Pat Buchanan also raised the issue of how "free" trade and NAFTA are hurting the American worker. But his hard-line views on other issues, such as gay rights, hurt his election prospects. However, although Buchanan is considered hard-right on social conservative issues, he is no more extreme than President Bush is.

Anonymous said...

The problem of poor Mexicans crossing our border to find work in the U.S. will never be solved as long as U.S. corporations continue to knowingly hire such workers. It's the corporations that I blame for this problem

Anonymous said...

The writer says these Mexican illegals have "no chance at unionization." Actually, that really applies to the vast majority of U.S. workers these days. Polls consistently show that two thirds of nonunion workers would organize if they were able to (and, of course, fear of being fired is why U.S. workers don't organize). Ah, fear...there's nothing like it to keep the masses in check.

Anonymous said...

Why do Tax payers have to pay for food stamps for WalMart workers? This is not a problem that you can blame on President Bush or the Republicans. Conservative oppose thse welfare programs. LIberals complain but have no solutions to the problems that our nation facing today.