Monday, March 29, 2010

Birthright Citizenship

Those who are opposed to illegal immigration are often rebuked with what some apparently fancy to be a cogent argument. It goes something like this:

This nation was founded by immigrants. We're all descended from immigrants. Why should we deny others the opportunities that our ancestors had?

There are a number of difficulties with this line of reasoning, but to take just one, when our ancestors arrived the people already here were under no financial obligation to provide them with food, housing, education, and medical care. There was no welfare state. Our ancestors had to make their way by dint of their own industry.

In 1868 Congress ratified the 14th amendment which has since been interpreted to mandate that anyone born in the U.S. is ipso facto an American citizen. Given that Americans have obligated themselves to pay for many of their citizens' needs from cradle to grave, this "birthright citizenship" is an enormous incentive for people to emigrate here illegally, just so their children can enjoy the benefits provided by the beleaguered American taxpayer.

George Will, a Washington Post syndicated columnist, believes that we can no longer afford such magnanimity. He notes that:

[M]ore than two-thirds of all births in Los Angeles public hospitals, and more than half of all births in that city, and nearly 10 percent of all births in the nation in recent years, have been to mothers who are here illegally.

All of these children are now citizens entitled to their fair share of "Obama's stash" i.e. our tax dollars. They and their parents are placing an enormous strain on California's fiscal health. Indeed, the costs of illegal immigration are a major reason California teeters on the precipice of bankruptcy.

Will says it's time to end birthright citizenship to people who are here illegally, and that doing so would cool much of the antipathy toward immigration reform. I think he's right. Read his argument at the link. Meanwhile, those who are interested might want to check out our own proposal for immigration reform. If so, go here and scroll down to Addressing Illegal Immigration.


Intellectual Malpractice at the NYT

A reader named Brian passes along a link to a column at the New York Times by Charles Blow which illustrates one of the more troublesome aspects of our contemporary political discourse. Blow writes:

The far-right extremists have gone into conniptions. The bullying, threats, and acts of violence following the passage of health care reform have been shocking, but they're only the most recent manifestations of an increasing sense of desperation.

I say this is troubling because Blow, like others, just throws out the charge that the "far-right extremists" have been issuing threats and engaging in acts of violence, but he nowhere documents any of the alleged misconduct. He just expects us to accept his word that it's happening. The charge is made, the media report it, and it becomes common knowledge without anyone ever verifying that it actually happened.

Like those who've accused the right of fomenting hate and of telling lies about health care, I'd like to know what form, exactly do these lies and this hate take, and who, exactly, is doing it? Paul Ryan? Tom Coburn? Facts would be nice, but Blow's not interested in facts. The "narrative" of conservative hate has purchase with his readers, I suppose, so it becomes their truth regardless of the objective facts of the matter.

Meanwhile, the police have indeed arrested a Philadelphia man for threatening to kill a Congressman and his family, but unfortunately for Blow's narrative the threat was directed at an opponent of Obama's health care reform, Republican Eric Cantor, by an apparent Obama supporter.

It's as easy as it is irresponsible to simply assert that there's hatred, violence, and mendacity among the tea-partiers and other conservatives, but unless the charge is backed up by evidence it's little more than a slanderous cheap shot.

Blow goes on in his column to display an alarming lack of political perspicacity as he sheds crocodile tears for the tea-party folks:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill's most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It's enough to make a good old boy go crazy. Hence their anger and frustration, which is playing out in ways large and small.

This borders on being simple-minded. Conservatives are not frustrated because the perpetrators of incipient socialism are female, Jewish and black. Is Blow completely daft? Who, if they had their way, would the tea-party folk have selected for their president among the four candidates on the major party tickets in 2008? Sarah Palin. Who is one of the tea-party heroes among the GOP caucus? Eric Cantor, a Jew. Who is one of the most admired men in America among conservatives? Clarence Thomas, a black Supreme Court Justice.

Though people like Blow, who see everything through the lens of race, gender, and ethnicity, may find this hard to believe, these superficialities are not what stoke conservative anger. What pushes their buttons is ideology. Conservatives oppose Obama not because he's black but because his progressive ideology has brought nothing but economic malaise everywhere it's been implemented. Blow, however, can't seem to get his mind around that simple fact, choosing instead to live by a syllogism that goes like this:

Obama is black. Conservatives oppose Obama. Therefore, conservatives oppose Obama because he's black.

This is a pretty pathetic credo, of course, but the Charles Blows of the world evidently consider it irrefutable.

Brian sums up the piece this way:

Mr. Blow's article appears to be a taunting of those who care for the future with the facts of the past - though worthless in terms of insight it does serve as a boldfaced statement of what the Left thinks the Right stands for.

The fact is that conservatives long ago got past race and gender. It's time that the progressives caught up.