Mr. Trump, "MANAGEMENT" is NOT an Answer…
...to those wanting a more rational, Constitutional Immigration Policy
I must begin with great delight in wishing the Alabama Gazette a very blessed Sweet Sixteen Anniversary as she remains a courageous “Voice of Reason” in our State. I honored to be a Gazette writer for a third of those years. Again I ask forgiveness from all those who write/tell me they do not agree. I do not write seeking agreement, but to advance thinking as charged by the moniker Loretta assigned my column in 2009. One of many lessons I’ve learned from Jesus’ teachings is those struggling to follow His path to our heavenly Father will oft be reviled by others. Jesus was not looking for agreement from corrupt clergy, moneychangers, Herod, et al. I’ve read nothing to suggest He expected agreement from Pilate, nor forecasted this Roman procurator would ‘do right’ in the end but nonetheless provided the opportunities to change one’s path. An integral part of the process is to first THINK about what one may do which will shepherd us towards the path Jesus Christ shown to the world. May God grant the Gazette many more years applying His word advancing the Holy Spirit to address our problems of today using the Wisdom of many ages past.
I’m not a fan of the current Don hype any more than I was a devotee of our hometown Don… Siegelman. Nonetheless, Trumpmania has the immigration debate heated up once again. In true “Reality Showmanship” DT has made for some great sound bites and TV ratings but little of substance. When asked how he would accomplish his ends of securing the border and getting Mexico to pay for it (and his answer to other issues) Mr. Trump simply asserted “MANAGEMENT.” Well management is NOT an answer, but nonetheless revealing. One who uses eminent domain takings, federal bankruptcy laws, etc. to redistribute wealth in their favor certainly must possess some effective management skills in responding to and using a corrupt system to amass such wealth. Hard not to recognize Mr. Trump’s acumen as one of our most accomplished corporate welfare queens. He is part of the elite establishment who knows how to be well rewarded for being a loser instead of having to compete where market forces may discipline or fire him. This ‘reality TV’ era of our sham (ballot access restricted) duopoly elections plays well in the polls, but doesn’t seem to be adding much of substance to the debate.
We have more Carly Fiorina blips to endure in the coming months. Once the mania fades perhaps a civil discussion may emerge to jettison the extremist policies our nation ‘ratcheted-up’ to even bigger, more intrusive government these past several score culminating into the broken system we observe today. I propose we move forward toward the rational, common sense vision put forth in our Constitution. Immigration and naturalization are included as one of the few things the federal government is authorised to address. Many would be amazed at how much the ‘GENERAL welfare’ would improve if the federal government only did those few things (the seventeen Judge Napolitano so often stresses) enumerated really well. Instead, the federal government is being strangled by all the unauthorized programs and policies we now observe, designed to benefit the SPECIFIC welfare of special interests.
From what I’ve witnessed of most currently elected to Congress, they seem to know very little of the letter much less the Spirit of the logic offered in the Constitution they’ve taken an oath to uphold. If they do know, it matters little since they do not act upon the knowledge and wisdom contained in the document, nor do I think they have the courage to do so when it is so much easier to join the DC extremists. If we didn’t have federal minimum wage laws, social security, mandated insurances, OSHA regulations, non-uniform tariffs, income taxes, etc. the inducement and incentive for illegal immigration would decrease. Many angered by illegal immigration refuse to admit they’re vexed by a symptom because they do not have the courage to stand up to these extremist policies exacerbating the problem.
My definition of an extremist politician is clear and simple. Either bureaucrats, executives, judges, lawmakers, et al adhere to what they’re authorised to address and hold to their oath, OR they exceed their authority and are extremists. To understand the more generic concern/complaint about immigration, one must make the connection to the labour issue… distortions of competitive forces in labour markets are nothing new. Some engaged in the task of writing and adopting the Constitution wanted to immediately abolish the importation of slave labour - but it was clear northern shipping interests would not secede from the Articles of Confederation to join ‘the more perfect union’ with a provision of this sort.
After some debate, 1808 was the agreed upon date (Art. 1, Sect. 9) where such abolition of imported labour would be allowed - i.e., giving shipping interests a couple decades to adjust and respond. For those who may not know, 1808 was in fact the year importation of slaves into the US was abolished… why that bicentennial was NOT recently celebrated speaks for itself to those cognizant of the efforts to advance ignorance of our economic history. The framers understood competition would further address this labour issue - e.g., individuals emancipating themselves, state emancipation laws, individuals emancipating their slaves, etc. would be more effective than force. In Maryland 49% of blacks were free in the 1860 census, even though they’d not yet abolished slavery like Pennsylvania just north of the Mason-Dixon line.
If we DID have/elect Congresspeople wanting to move forward toward a more Constitutional immigration policy - where would be a sound place to start? Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 states, “all imposts, duties and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States,” and it is universally accepted that “imposts, duties and excises” are antiquated words for what are more commonly called tariffs today - i.e., taxes on imports. Remember, before the Republican Party gave us the first income tax to finance a war for centralised government and corporate welfare, there were enough members of Congress who held to their oath of office and refused to allow such a deleterious tax upon their nation. Not only do higher income taxes increase incentives for illegal immigration and ‘underground’ labour markets - the income tax gets imbedded in prices of our exports to other nations. Furthermore, with so many items coming in ‘tariff free’ (remember all imports which come into the nation ABOVE and BELOW the average tariff rate are unconstitutional) the cost of trade is not incorporated into the price of imports, further distorting the balance of trade and labour markets.
This design leads to understanding why there is NOT a two year appropriations limit on the Navy, as is placed upon the Army - also not followed today. Those who wrote and ratified the Constitution wisely feared long standing federal armies, but understood a Navy would be an integral part of defining, defending and enforcing property rights on the high seas to allow trade to remain regular. That is why so much ink is spilled on maritime issues, piracy, etc. in the enumerated powers. Navy and Marines would operate under the same administration (reduce duplication) for immediate deployment requirements and Congress could decide to decrease or increase arsenals, bases, dock yards, forts, equipment, magazines, soldiers, sailors and ships when forecasting how great a force would be required to address those few issues the people of the States ceded to federal authority.
With this logical and reasonable system of uniform tariffs put in place - those who benefit from the exchange are the ones who pay the tax - i.e., those purchasing and selling imports. Most positive economists champion the merit and efficiency of ‘user fees’ collected via voluntary exchange, a.k.a. ‘indirect taxes’ by some nomenclators. Tariff revenue was to be used to finance the Navy to curb piracy, customs officials/forts, improving and maintaining ports, canals, COIN money to have stable currency for international exchange, etc… So the cost of facilitating trade is incorporated in import prices to reduce distortions which arise if the costs of making this trade available to buyers and sellers are not included. I’m one of those annoying economists who often remind folks, “There’s no such thing as a Free Market.” There are many costs associated with making markets work - i.e., keeping them regular.
How does this translate into a more Constitutional immigration policy? Let’s use 10% as the uniform tariff rate regardless of what is being imported - i.e., the tax code will not be used to pick winners and losers with various rates. For a numerical illustration, consider an individual wanting to enter the US on a one year work visa, where US individual median income is $25,000/year. The tariff would be $2,500 paid to customs, subject to a rudimentary physical exam and international criminal check - no INS bureaucrats and immigration attorneys. Of course, this $2,500 could be paid by sponsors, employers, charitable organizations, etc… furthermore, when job markets are tight, fewer immigrants will want to take on the expense of paying the tariff with a decreased likelihood of actually working.
Using the simple immigration policy above, the next step is to address a uniform naturalization policy to define the path to citizenship, given the design and spirit of our Constitution. It is tied to one of those few (and most thought provoking in my opinion) powers enumerated to Congress in determining the limited time which authors and inventors have exclusive rights (monopoly power) to their writings and discoveries/inventions to promote the useful arts and sciences. The obvious dilemma: without property rights of this sort - incentives to create, improve and innovate are decreased; make the time this monopoly power is conferred too long - the transfer to specific individuals/groups (usu. corporate interests) will be deleterious to the general welfare of the economy.
So let’s work through another numerical illustration, this time for an immigrant (again regardless of origin) seeking citizenship. I’ll pick 17 years as the limited time established by Congress for exclusivity. To give domestic labour some semblance of uniformity, the immigrant seeking citizenship would pay a $42,500 (i.e., 17 times $2,500) tariff to customs (which may be paid by anyone - private charitable groups, donors, employers, sponsors) and must pass a rudimentary exam on the US Constitution in a uniform language… how about English for kicks? Of course, the physical exam and criminal check would still apply and any prior year(s) paid in tariffs for work visas could be subtracted from $42,500 total tariff - an amount which would be subject to revision at uniform intervals tied to median income. Anyone who paid 17 years of work visas - regardless of how the rates may change over the years -- would be eligible to take the citizenship exam if they so desire.
To those wanting to dismiss this simple proposal over what the extremists now have in place - please offer another which is more consistent with the design of the Constitution. Sorry Don - “MANAGEMENT” isn’t an answer -- specifics to address the problem within the constraints of the Constitution you’ll be taking an oath to uphold is what the non-reality show voters are looking for from you. Mr. Reagan type amnesties are not the answer. I expect there will be no shortage of complaints on how high these tariffs would be for immigrants yet great silence on how much domestic labour currently pays in direct (payroll) taxes and all the indirect taxes associated with domestic employment. Just because an increasing number of US citizens do not see nor understand how crushing this burden is in fact on our productive workers, doesn’t mean the burden is NOT there and greatly distorts outcomes in our labour markets. If you look at the cost associated with shuttling illegal immigrants back and forth, unpaid medical bills, so-called ‘anchor babies,’ dumping children, etc. an amount determined in this manner starts to quickly add up.
In closing, I find those who complain the loudest about immigration are those most quiet to offer alternatives. Sound proposals must have some understanding of how our federal government was designed to operate (not shown by the Clinton, Fiorina, Trump, Sanders, et al frontrunners) and be advanced by those who have the courage to put forth simple, rational, constitutionally correct policy instead of more politically correct, command and control outcomes designed to further empower the federal government. I’m sure some will be aghast at the notion of letting anyone, from any country of origin be eligible for a work visa and/or citizenship. It is time for biases and discrimination of this sort to end, allowing those with the drive, merit, work ethic and who are truly willing to put the effort toward wanting to be a part of making a place in the world secure for the blessings of liberty possible for themselves and their posterity. Some are championing bringing in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. I have no problem with any private individual or group who wants to pay to have them come for a year or more and see if they may become a productive member our nation of States; it is not something for the federal government to subsidize and indulge their preferences under our currently less representative political result.
Postscript: some have asked for my thoughts on the recent Wall Street Journal report about wrongful involvement of athletics in academic governance at AU. Far too many assert this is yet another example of ‘big money’ college football pressuring a university when it is a far more serious indictment of the lawlessness and unethical culture pervasive at the University. This culture has routinely manifested itself in blatant violations of legitimate established processes, but has also led to frequent selection of administrators on the basis of loyalty and pliability rather than competency and character. Many on campus recall the corrupt process which installed an internal provost who’s incompetence or malfeasance (does it matter which?) has put the integrity of our football and academic programs in question. This is the same deleterious culture and spirit which gave rise to and empowered the Speaker of the House. Those who read Buddy Mitchell’s affidavit on how this politician polluted Auburn athletics are not surprised this pollutant is permeating throughout the University and our State. Regardless of whether one is reading the Speaker's 23-count felony indictment or the recent Wall Street Journal article, intellectually honest folks can’t help but sadly think of the popular new slogan: This is Auburn. Say a prayer for those brave few courageously trying to remove these pollutants.