It’s time for me to tell you what’s good for you, besides the obvious—cod liver oil, plenty of sunshine, and switching to a ‘light’ cigarette.
The greatest thing about the immigration debate today is that everyone involved in debating it in the media is totally full of shit.
You have your Lou Dobbses, crotchety old men whose doctors’ orders are obviously the only thing prohibiting them from taking to the streets armed with shotguns and Civil War-era cavalry sabers, ridding the streets of the zombie menace of illegal immigrants. The host will accuse illegal aliens (I will not call them ‘undocumented workers! We don’t even know what planet they’re from!) of doing something to the country, and then the hapless guests respond:
First the Democrat says, what are you gonna do, round up 20 million people? Yes, that what these people want to do, haven’t you been listening? Lou Dobbs has a reality show in the works where he personally picks a screaming waitress or construction worker up over his head and tosses them into the ocean at the end of every show. Democrats have little to say about the issue generally because illegal immigrants are, by definition breaking the law. And when these foreigners break the law, they ought to be punished—not like when the President or one of his friends do it. This is serious law-breaking.
So the Republican starts scolding us that these so-called people are trying to take over this country from real Americans! What Indian tribe is this asshole from? Your ancestors came off a boat, get real. They usually send someone vaguely ethnic, too, to let Catholic and Jewish Republicans know it’s OK to hate immigrants now because they’re all darker than you, thank goodness!
The real reason illegal immigrants can’t get a break in this country is because they are unwilling to adopt the simple, honest, God-fearing American ways which won us the West and made us a great nation. If illegal immigrants are ever going to get respect from Americans, they need to change up their whole game plan—guns and horses and broken treaties and disease-bearing blankets! That’s how you conquer America!
You think Custer came to Montana armed with a toilet brush so he could sneak into Crazy Horse’s camp as a minimum-wage worker? Hell no! He had the U.S. Cavalry! Not that it did him any good, but you get my point. America has a long and proud history of illegal immigration—ask an Oklahoman why they call it “the Sooner State.”
But we all know you can’t get up in a state or national legislature and say that. Recently, Governor Spitzer and Hilary Clinton were taken to task for supporting and then decrying drivers licenses for undocumented workers. In principle, I agreed with Spitzer’s original argument, which was that without a drivers’ license, you end up with a lot of uninsured drivers on he road, which only ends up costing everybody more money in the end. But immigration is such a hot-button issue that you can’t be soft on it even if you’re a Democrat!
So, my proposal combines the parts nobody likes about the other proposals and mixes them all into one perfect plan. It’s called The S.T.A.R.T.S.N.I.T.C.H.I.N.G. Act of 2008. I don’t know what the acronym stands for, but like any great piece of legislation (U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, I’m looking at you!) I’ll figure out the insignificant details later.
Immigration reform that keeps borders closed doesn’t work until housewives go to jail for hiring illegals as babysitters. So the plan is simple: we should grant amnesty to any illegal immigrant who informs on their employers to the authorities. Special hotlines with Spanish, Chinese and other language-speaking operators should be set up, and the fines paid will go toward agricultural subsidies for labor-intensive farming.
Dam The Atlantic
It’s really wonderful that the majority of Americans are now on the climate change bus, just as it’s becoming too late to reverse it. Yes, we need to get off carboniferous fuels, but we have an equally large problem: preparing for the effects of what one environmentalist called “climate chaos” on Fox News recently.
More freak weather, strange patches of drought, and of course, sea level rise. And honestly, as a native New Yorker, I care about sea levels far more than I care about any of the other adverse effects of climate change.
Our mayor, the newly independent Mike Bloomberg, is at a climate-change conference right now. Bloomberg is the kind of guy who’s not afraid of large projects, so I implore him: Dam the Atlantic! We need to start building a breakwater between Rockaway Beach, Queens and Sandy Hook, New Jersey now, because the construction of such a massive dike will take just long enough to actually start seeing sea levels threaten Manhattan.
We need to construct a six to twelve mile long sea wall to stop the Atlantic from reclaiming New York City and its harbor. And wile we’re at it, why don’t we build five miles of tidal barrage hydroelectric plants and a lock system to accommodate commercial traffic? IT will take years to build, so we’d better start now.
I also have a two-birds-with-one-stone aspect to the project—New York City produces an incredible amount of garbage each year, and we have a real problem figuring out how to stash it. Why don’t we reclaim as much of that garbage as possible and use it as construction material? That way we save money on landfill fees and supplement the materials budget. In fact, we could double-wall parts of the wall and just start a new, narrow landfill for structural support in some sections.
Of all the mayors New York has ever had, I think Bloomberg would have to be the one who has enough wherewithal to make it happen. Look at his bid for the Olympics—a terrible idea, sure—but you couldn’t say it didn’t have vision. Now, imagine that you could extend Flatbush Avenue all the way into Route 36 in New Jersey? We could set up rail links in both directions and a new container port on the inland side of the wall that makes New York a real port city again.
The Fairer Tax
A few years ago on this blog, I endorsed a version of the Fair Tax which is being pushed by libertarians and Mike Gravel (my hero!) alike. The Fair Tax proposes that a standard 23% sales tax be placed on all goods instead of an income tax, and to modify the regressive nature of the tax, a “pre-bate” of around $10000 would be give to each American in monthly installments so as to offset the higher cost of goods and provide what Gravel calls “a national wage.”
I acknowledge that such a tax would be regressive and it would reduce the total amount raised, which is why I would rework the proposal as follows:
Instead of a 23% sales tax, the Fairer Tax would be a 30% VAT on all goods and services. VATs, or value-added taxes are collected on the value added by each stage of production rather than the total sale price of the item to the end consumer. Businesses actually get a rebate on the VAT they pay by reselling their products to another business which adds value. Canada and France reap major revenue from their GST and TVA, respectively.
VAT is a general tax that applies, in principle to all commercial activities involving the production and distribution of goods and the provision of services. VAT is assessed and collected on the value added to goods in each business transaction. Under this concept the government is paid tax on the gross margin of each transaction. VAT proposes to replace sales tax which in most developing countries trying to shift to some variant of VAT, like India, is the ‘only’ major revenue source for the regional governments since low per capita income and unemployment render income tax inadequate as a revenue source.
VATs work better than traditional taxes because they’re easier for consumers to understand (the increase is pre-calculated into the price of goods) and provides an incentive for businesses to collect and properly file (because they get to reclaim taxes already paid). A properly structured VAT might help close some of the notorious loopholes in our tax system. And the national wage ought to be pegged to the Consumer Price Index.
Oh, and there should also be a whopping estate tax with exemptions for actual family farms.
Ring Around Darfur
I just realized—Darfur represents the end of America’s claim to unipolarity in the world political system. I have always seen Darfur as China’s mess—in the same way we subsidized the terror regimes in South America and such during the days of Jeane Kirkpatrick’s “Double Standard,” China is doing to Sudan, which is a key oil supplier and arms purchaser.
If the state-armed militias carrying out the genocide in Darfur didn’t get their weapons from China, they’d get them from some other dealer—a Victor Boot or some such—and it would be its own problem, but the involvement of China in Darfur is hard to ignore. Except we do it all the time.
However, the list of divestment options identified by SaveDarfur.org is a virtual who’s who of campaign donors: JPMorganChase has given politicians $9,436,814 since 2000; Fidelity gave $8,772,000; the Vanguard Group gave $1,390,330 since 2003. Save Darfur also fingers the Women’s Equity Fund and Pax World Funds as culprits).
The bigger problem has always been China, who sit squarely in the way of the UN doing anything about the situation. It’s kind of cute—they’re doing the same thing we used to do when Reagan was president—they’ve got the whole “we’re doing all we can, but intervention at this time is not prudent” stuff big brother Ronnie Reagan used to pull. (A self-proclaimed Stalinist recently divulged to me his secret love for Reagan as a Stalinist icon in his own way.)
So, how can we solve this problem? I have always advocated taking the high road, which is to open-source all renewable energy patents and devote massive government resources toward a moonshot of global oil independence in 10 years. But in realpolitik terms, why don’t we just hang the Sudanese government out to dry by offering an embargo combined with an oil-for-food program for Darfuris backed by UN peacekeepers? China would still recoup its investments in the oilfield while winning a PR victory and a great price for its agricultural exports.