Madison County Opinion...

JANUARY 14, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
January 14, 2004

Frankly Speaking

New immigration proposal doesn’t add up
I have been trying to “do the math” on President Bush’s new immigration proposal, and I just can’t make it add up. Now, I admit that I am not always the sharpest blade in the drawer, so if any of you can help me with this, I would appreciate it.
Here is my problem. Pundits and professional economists keep talking about a “jobless recovery.” Politicians talk about the failure of Bush’s economic policy to create jobs. Statistics show millions of Americans who are receiving unemployment insurance. Millions more are on the food stamp rolls because they don’t receive enough pay to feed their children. So, why do we need millions of more workers when we do not have enough jobs to keep our current work force employed?
When your figures won’t add up, the first thing to do is check your figures.
Perhaps the statistics are wrong. Do we really have that many people drawing unemployment and living on food stamps? Clearly, our government welfare people are issuing billions of dollars for some reason. Are they handing out our hard-earned tax money to people who don’t need or deserve it? In some cases I think they are. Are there millions of Americans who find it easier to sit back and draw government welfare checks than to find jobs and take care of themselves? In many cases that is true.
So we have jobs available, but not enough workers willing to do the work. Across the border, the Mexicans have workers who need jobs. It makes sense that available workers are going to immigrate to available jobs.
I have seen a number of Mexican workers on the job, and most of them are good workers. If a manager has a choice of hard-working Mexicans or lazy Americans who are just trying to qualify for their next unemployment checks, he will take the Mexicans every time.
Please understand that I in no way approve of unlawful activity, including illegally entering this nation, or hiring undocumented workers. At the same time, I dislike having my tax money going to people who make no effort to seek out those jobs for themselves.
So what should we do? First, tighten up the welfare and food stamp rules. Make sure only those truly needy receive government aid. Get the welfare bureaucracy busy training and motivating Americans to go develop work skills and fill those available jobs. Make it clear that those who simply do not want to work will not be fed from the government troughs.
Then, if we still need more workers, then a well-controlled guest worker program makes sense. People have been coming here seeking opportunities for the past 400 years. We have imported and absorbed Europeans of all types, Africans, Asians and Latinos. We are a nation of immigrants. Hungry people coming to the United States seeking work are a key part of our greatness.
We should welcome as many immigrants as needed to fill the job rolls. But paying illegal immigrants to work while paying Americans not to work just doesn’t add up. Let’s get Americans off the welfare rolls and into those jobs before we bring in more outsiders.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
January 14, 2004

In the Meantime

An ‘I voted’ sticker for the politically jaded
The sticky paper will be placed over many hearts in November, the “I voted” tag that many put on their clothing after they leave the ballot booth.
But we all know how that sticker should read. Because we’ve seen too many truly long and bitter election years.
That sticker should say, “I survived another year of bumper sticker politics, where candidates abandon common decency and push to destroy each other in the public eye, where the shrillness of back-stabbing, reality TV ‘elimi-date’ contestants can seem quaint in comparison to the victory-at-any-cost, mudslinging campaign teams who plant rumors and watch in joy as falsehoods grow. Too often, misinformation gains validity in an easily manipulated media culture where a news organization can call information ‘credible,’ despite the fact that it borrowed that information from another organization who borrowed it from another organization who quoted from an ‘anonymous source close to the situation.’
Take another breath, because this sticker for the politically frustrated is only getting warmed up....
“I survived another election year where the complexities that actually trouble us are ignored, unless, of course, they can be dumbed down into soundbytes accompanied by pumped fists and vows of courage and high morality....I survived all the television ads that insulted my intelligence with mad dog attacks and distortions of truth. I survived the endless stream of television coverage that despite its never-endingness, seemed to lack sufficient attention to the inner-workings of our economy, our tax system, our health care, our foreign policy, focusing instead on the horse race between two opponents — what one-liner worked, what quip didn’t, what might appeal to the Hispanic vote, the Confederate-flag vote, the black vote, the ‘soccer mom’ vote. Television coverage is focused on hooking viewers, not educating them.
By now, this post-vote sticker has gotten ridiculously long, but it continues....
“Oh my goodness, I survived the polls, the nightly reminders that we are such a fickle bunch. At least the polls show that we are, don’t they? And is this not the most dominant theme of polling, that as a collective we simply sway in the political winds? And are we so blind that we don’t see that polling in itself can be a tool of political manipulation, swaying others to follow the herd? Can we not see that polls essentially serve as a form of entertainment? They are like a horse track, and the news anchor is the track announcer, who calls a phantom race in hopes of keeping us from turning the channel: ‘And as we round the far stretch Bush has edged his way in front by a nose, but Gore is working his way to the inside....’
The sticker switches to true indignation, perhaps too self righteous for some to stomach.
“I survived another year of the ‘I feel your painness’ of modern politics, where anecdotal tidbits about candidates are supposed to endear us to them, show us that they are not so different from us, that they are people, too. All that is fine, but too often the personality contest overshadows the truly important policies that elected officials will determine as our leaders. In essence, elections are the battleground of imagery. We see candidates kissing babies, shaking hands, playing the hero, or we see them in ugly ads as the community doofus or demon, out of touch with all that is good-hearted and effective. We remember Dukakis in a tank, Gore and an awkward kiss, Bush in a flightsuit. The imagery is what turns the tides. Political strategists know this; they know that the issues are secondary, that tackling a difficult topic with poise can’t compare to a genuine ‘feel-your-pain’ tear shed by a candidate for a real person on national TV. Ultimately, pop culture is a matter of imagery over substance, and elections seem more and more a pop culture event — a battle of hype, not ideas. Consider how our country is so obsessed with stars in sports, in movies, on television. We act as if we know those stars, but do we? And can we separate politics from our star craze? Or are we seeing a morphing of the two, such as in the recent California governor’s race? For too many, electing a president is akin to voting on a television star to watch on their set for the next four years. There is an assumed disconnect between the president and any policy that might actually affect them. So, unfortunately, many simply vote for the candidate with the best smile or a certain star quality, even if the candidate’s policies are counter to their interests.”
Thank goodness, the diatribe sticker of the morbid voter is finally nearing an end...
“I survived all this, another tough election year. And in the end, I chose to stomach the nastiness, get in my car and go vote. With all the feelings of futility involved in the process, it’s easy to see why so many stay home on election day. I have that urge, too. But I don’t want everyone to succumb to frustration and apathy, choosing not to vote, not to participate in the process. If this proved true, if we all gave up, then our system would collapse, and as a society we would spit on all the ideals that previous generations have held dear, while opening the door for the potential horrors of some alternative governance, where individuals may lack a choice. So I must do what I can do to prevent this. I know that, ultimately, a healthy political system needs citizens to hold up their end of the bargain, even if the modern political scene too often lets us down. That’s why I voted today.”
That’s a lot of ink for an “I voted” sticker.
But I believe a lot people will have these mixed feelings of disgust and duty when they vote in November.
In 2004, let’s hope for an improved political climate, and let’s hope for the inspiration to educate ourselves about the candidates and the issues, despite all the things that make us want to turn our heads and just say “forget it.”
Our system often makes individuals feel inconsequential. But we must also realize that the system needs individuals who make the trip to the ballot booth and hang on to their hope for progress and change.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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