Saturday, September 20, 2014

Border Problems

On a daily basis it seems all news media decry the alleged crisis on the United States’ southern border.  Efforts to reform our immigration system languish unaddressed in the Congress.  It frankly appears neither party has a clear solution acceptable to a majority of the American people for dealing with immigration. And it is costly.

We hear repeated calls from members of both parties boldly announcing that immigration reform should be addressed only after we secure our borders.  Unfortunately, to date no one has clearly defined what is meant by securing our border.  It seems to me the only way to absolutely seal off the border between the United States and Mexico is to have enough personnel within sight of each other to span over 1,000 miles of border.  Obviously, this is not a practical solution.  Uninvited guests into the United States from foreign countries have proven time and time again that they can find a chink in any supposed effort to seal our borders.  Constructing a fence along portions ofthe Mexico border has proven to be only a joke and waste of money.

It also appears Americans, particularly Texans and other citizens of border states, have  split personalities when it comes to the subject of preventing uninvited immigrants into our country.  This was reflected only recently in a session of the Texas Legislature when two Republican House members proposed we could tolerate illegal aliens so long as they were here to be housemaids or yard men.  Obviously many Texans are conflicted about the option of sealing our border or continuing to have an adequate supply of ultra-cheap labor.

All of this said, it appears the real solution to securing our border could be relatively simple.  Simply pass a federal law creating a mandatory sentence for any person found to have knowingly employed a person who is in the United States illegally.  It appears no Legislature nor Congress has had the will to pass such a law.  The reason this simple solution would probably work is the fact that what attracts people from South of the border more than anything else is the hope of having a good job.  'Stop the jobs, you stop the temptation.

A liberal guest-worker program--whereby those desiring to cross the border in order to be employed will submit to a background check, register and be issued a special work permit--would provide a record made of their presence in the United States and allow for them to pay taxes.  Currently, even receiving a lower than average wage, undocumented aliens in America generally do better than American citizens working for minimum wage.  The reason is, there is absolutely no obligation on them to pay income tax or social security.  Many work for years in the United States on a cash basis and many have managed to accumulate pots of ready cash and property.  

Unfortunately, this type of system does not benefit the United States’ productivity.

Economists have estimated that having a workable system of immigration, including guest-worker programs, could add several billion dollars to our nation’s economy.  It could relieve the shortage of workers.  It could invite and retain highly skilled scientists and entrepreneurs who would love to stay in the United States and create new businesses.  Our current system invites young, bright people from other nations to come to America, get a college education, acquire skills and then requires them to get out.  It is a clear waste of talent and entrepreneurial skills.

Clearly, outlawing the employment of those here without authorization would be a far better and extremely more beneficial solution than spending $18 million a month marching national guard troops to the border to do nothing more than get in the way of trained border patrols.  It is time politicians like Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and others stop playing politics and start applying real, beneficial solutions to our border problems.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Vision in Education for Texas

Do you want your children and grandchildren to flip burgers at McDonalds or have a well-paying, hi-tech related job?  This decision possibly is being made while we speak.  Unfortunately, it seems too many of our state’s current leaders lack the vision necessary to assure a prosperous future for coming generations.

Too many of our leaders continue to rely on the strategy of low skills and low wages, little or no regulation and a miserly effort at supporting research and development among our higher education institutions. 

Currently our governor and many of his political allies would have us turn our great universities--A&M and the University of Texas--into diploma mills or trade schools.  Of late there has been a constant drumbeat that college teachers and professors should get paid based on how many students they teach in class and that research should be de-emphasized.  This attitude along with the phenomenon of devaluing grades presents a threat to the future of not only our institutions of higher learning, but to our state’s future. 

Currently, Texas ranks dead last among developed states in state contribution for research and development.  It ranks third among all states in private research and development.  Although few, if any, of our state’s politicians would adopt as a motto at election time, “Let’s all work together to make Texas runner-up,” none appears to be overly concerned with our current status concerning research.

California and Massachusetts receive the lion’s share of government funding for upper-echelon scientific projects.  The primary cause for this is the fact California outspends Texas almost 2:1 developing new and innovative goods and products which eventually go into the economy as manufacturing.

Good evidence of the return on expenditures in research and development is the fact California, the leading contributor to higher education R&D, registered the most patents in the United States with 32,107 patents while at the same time Texas registered about 1/4th that number.  Patents for new products and procedures are the life blood of new economic ventures and venture capital infusion.  This in turn is the engine which generates high-paying jobs and a thriving economy.

When given the opportunity to speak with your lawmakers, if you care about the future of your children and grandchildren, urge them to have greater vision, particularly when it comes to encouraging and funding research and development at our state’s universities and colleges.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

In the 19th Century the world was emerging from something much like the Dark Ages, and laboring people were only beginning to emerge from an awful period in history.  Child labor, unsafe working conditions and persecution of working folks who dared to unite to try to improve their lot still existed.  In the late 1800's organized labor was only beginning to bring about better working conditions for people who earned a living by the sweat of their brow.

The first Labor Day Parade and celebration recorded in history took place in New York City on September 5,1882.  It was led by a hard-nosed, Irish labor leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, Peter J. McGuire.  Celebration was held honoring the creation of the labor movement in New York and dedicated to the socioeconomic achievements of American workers.  Although the holders of the early and great fortunes of the United States contributed to the booming prosperity of America, the real backbone which gave strength to America’s well being was the American worker. 

Labor pioneers such as EugeneDebs--a leader once jailed for his labor activities, Samuel Gompers, John L.Lewis, Cesar Chavez and Philip Randolph led the fight to bring justice and respect for American labor.  They fought against sweat shops, unsafe and filthy working conditions, and for living wages. 

As we honor people who contribute to our nation’s welfare through their labor and toil, we should guard against erosion of the respect for labor.  We should not celebrate the decline of labor unions, which appears to coincide with the serious erosion of a middle class in America.

Politically, in America, the respect for hard work and labor does not appear to match the rhetoric of many politicians today.  Congress refuses to act on a minimum wage bill while our Supreme Court unleashes unlimited moves in our electoral process.  Our state Legislature ignores the fact that Texas leads the nation in worker deaths, while our governor boasts of little or no safety regulations in industry.  Texas continues to refuse to require that employers provide workers’ compensation for those injured on the job. 

While admittedly the middle class is drastically shrinking in our nation, we seem to ignore the fact that America is the most unequal of all advanced nations as to wealth.  As reported in the Huffington Post,December 2013, 75% or 3/4ths of all of the wealth in America is owned by 10% of our population.  The greatest amount of accumulated wealth is not the result of hard work.  The amount of earnings in America is down 7% since 1989 as a percentage of earned wealth in America.  

Our state of Texas ranks among the worst states in the Union in income inequality according to an NBC study.  Tax on wages earned through labor are higher than the tax earned on income from stocks, bonds, or the sale of property.  We continue to grant generous deductions for using up oil and gas wells through a depletion allowance, but pay little attention to workers whose bodies are used up producing goods and services for the American economy.

The truest and best way to honor laboring America today is to demand from our politicians that attention be paid to the growing disparity of wealth in our country.  We should support those who favor living wages, support laws demanding safety at the workplace, and support those who share the belief that a strong working middle class holds the best hope for a strong and prosperous America.