Writings and observations

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

The debate over immigration reform in the House and the Senate is an interesting lens to examine the future of austerity.

How so? Immigration is about immigration; secure borders, global migration pattens, and a path to citizenship for more than 11 million people living in the United States without a legal status. The Senate bill is a compromise that calls for an unprecedented buildup of border security, some 20,000 new agents, in exchange for that citizenship route. (Borrowing language from the Iraq war buildup, Senators are calling it a “surge.”)

Think about what that means: The United States can’t afford to invest in education, health, or infrastructure, but it can spend big bucks on border security. The Congressional Budget Office scores the cost side of the ledger in the Senate bill this way: “Appropriate $46.3 billion for expenses related to the security of the southern U.S. border and initial administrative costs.”

The Senate compromise also limits eleven million people’s right to participate in the health care system, while, at the same time, taxing them for services not rendered. This part of the bill is just mean. The CBO says “the net budgetary effect of decreasing the number of unauthorized residents would be relatively small—the small savings for Medicaid, child nutrition, and refundable tax credits would be more than offset by a slightly larger reduction in revenues paid by, or on behalf of, unauthorized residents.”

But at least the Senate bill is not all about costs. Despite what immigration critics say, historically immigration has always boosted the U.S. economy. (It’s not even a close call.) The CBO says the Senate bill would decrease the deficit by $158 billion in the next decade. That’s probably understating the economic benefit of moving undocumented workers from off-the-book jobs into the mainstream economy.

The House approach to immigration reform is to break apart the coalition of security in exchange for citizenship. Louisiana’s Rep. John Fleming said in The Hill newspaper that one reason Republicans oppose the Senate’s immigration bill is because they don’t trust President Obama to enforce the border enforcement provisions in that bill. (Even though Obama won’t be president when most of the law kicks in.)

So the alternative is a push for legislation that “secures” the border and puts off the citizenship question for another day. In a hat tip to the budget, the House dismisses the surge and says the U.S. should develop a “strategy” to close the border, not spend more money. Right. In the end the House plan will be a net cost to the Treasury and add to the deficit because it will never get around to adding the benefits of immigration, the bonus that will come from new citizens working, spending money and paying taxes.

But the real link between austerity and immigration involves the national psyche because when the economy is strong, immigration is not an issue. But when money and jobs are tight, well, it’s easy to blame immigrants.

There’s a fascinating book, “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth,” by Benjamin Friedman, that chronicles how Americans are generous during times of plenty and at-best cranky when the economy is slow. This is a pattern this country repeats over and over. Friedman writes: “Resistance to immigration in America had traditionally combined economic motivations with racial and religious prejudice.”

Today the immigration debate focuses on people migrating from Latin America, but that’s only the latest chapter. The same forces were at work for Germans, Asians, Catholics, Jews and other identifiable ethnic groups. Friedman says that in the1920s that debate “explicitly turned to arguments that non-Nordic whites were racially inferior to Nordics, so that continued large-scale immigration from areas other than northern and western Europe would weaken the genetic makeup of the population.”

The generosity of spirit — or the contrary wave — impacts Indian Country, too. It’s no accident that the termination era came out of a poor economy. Or that members of Congress can find money to build walls, but come up short on other basic questions of infrastructure.

A super secure border is one more way to shrink an economy. What’s more, the very nature of the debate shows that austerity isn’t ready to fade from public policy. Even though it’s another example of why austerity fails.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He lives in Fort Hall, Idaho, and is a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Join the discussion about austerity. Comment on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/IndianCountryAusterity

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Without question the most powerful and influential native Idahoan on the national political scene today is Bruce Reed. He currently is Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, was once the executive director of the Simpson/Bowles Commission charged with addressing America’s fiscal challenges, and headed up the Democratic Leadership Council which is where he first met President Bill Clinton.

President Clinton made him director of domestic policy and Reed became one of the President’s must trusted advisors. He also is facing what psychologists like to call a classic “approach/approach conflict.” More on that in a moment.

Besides being exceptionally bright, Reed is also a gifted writer and superb maker of memorable phrases. No doubt this is partly a function of his obtaining an M.A. in English Literature while attending Oxford on a prestigious Rhodes scholarship.

Reed literally cut his teeth in politics on his mother’s knees as Mary Lou Reed served as a State Senator from Kootenai County for ten years. She is also a founding member of the Idaho Conservation League, which turns 40 this year. His father, Scott, is a distinguished lawyer who specializes in, among other subjects, water law. Scott’s only Idaho peer on this subject may be Twin Falls attorney John Rosholt.

Reed was born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, graduating from Coeur d’Alene High School in 1978, and from there went to Princeton, where he graduated in 1982. Following the completion of his M.A. at Oxford he landed a job in 1985 as a speechwriter for future Vice President Al Gore, for whom he worked for four years.

He then took on the task of editing the magazine, The New Democrat, for the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization comprised primarily of centrists Democrats who quietly worked to reclaim their party from the more liberal elements that predominated in the 70’s and early 80’s. He became policy director of the DLC in 1990 and 1991 during Clinton’s chairmanship, then became the deputy campaign manager for the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992.

During his tenure as director of the Domestic Policy Council he helped write the 1996 Welfare Reform bill which he called “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.” He is the author of such memorable phrases as “end welfare as we know it” and “change you can, Xerox.”

In 2010 he took on the task of ramrodding the Simpson/Bowles Fiscal Reform Commission which many believe laid out the best path forward to ultimately balance the budget, reform entitlements and return the United States to fiscal sanity.

In January, 2011, he became the Vice President’s chief of staff, a post from which he wields enormous behind-the-scenes influence. In some respects Reed fits the mold of the classic “Shadow Shogun,” the power behind the throne in Japanese history. This is not a perfect parallel because no one would characterize Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, or Joe Biden as figureheads.

Reed’s skill in fashioning speeches and authoring memorable phrases though gives the wordsmith unrivaled influence. His most recent buffo performance was the speech he wrote for President Clinton to deliver at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Universally acclaimed, many pundits felt it clinched President Barack Obama’s re-election.

So what’s the approach/approach conflict looming for the most influential Idahoan on the national scene? Reed has deep and abiding loyalty to the Clintons. His looming dilemma is he also admires and respects his current boss who has always wanted to be president. If, as many expect, Hillary runs for the presidency in 2016, most inside speculation is Biden will not give way.

Both will want the talented 53-year old Reed. Who does he choose? Undoubtedly, he and wife Bonnie (also from Coeur d’Alene) will cross that bridge when and if they come to it. Only they know.

Regardless, later this week Reed is speaking to the annual meeting of the Idaho Bar Association meeting in Coeur d’Alene. He may even be asked the question, but he learned long ago not to answer speculative questions. No doubt though he will provide insightful remarks and the Idaho Bar should be honored to have one of the most politically influential Idahoans ever addressing them.

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ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

Here’s a map to ponder over a while: Showing the age of buildings in Portland. There’s actually some correspondence to politics (not all of Portland is equally Democratic).

The map, developed by Justin Palmer, can be found here. As on most political maps, the deeper blue is Democratic, and that seems generally reflective here.

A short article in the Atlantic’s web site also notes, “When making the map, Palmer was pleasantly surprised by a few patterns, such as the way older and more developed neighborhoods tended to follow historical streetcar lines. Then there’s Interstate 205 acting like a wall separating two oceans of different-era structures, which the map’s creator is still scratching his head about.”

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