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Middle class revolt

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted July 9, 2007

Watching the Senate's Amnesty bill go down in flames was a remarkable political phenomenon. Determination to "kill the bill" certainly started with the conservatives, but before all was said and done, fierce opposition to the ill-conceived legislation ignited a middle class revolt that the elites could not buck. In the final analysis, public support for the bill was dismal, with only 22 percent of Americans favoring its passage. What's most intriguing is that the middle class (of all political stripes) quickly mobilized, joined in with the conservatives, and fought back against the political establishment. Through thousands of communications (emails, phone calls, faxes, etc.) sent to the Senate and White House, the American people made a strong and principled stand against the bill.   

And now for some background: The issues of immigration reform and illegal aliens obviously hit a raw nerve for the middle class. Despite the fact that the economy has been doing well, many Americans have a shared sense of ill-boding and unease about the economy that's been showing up in right track, wrong track opinion polling for years, and which now has crystallized in the belief that there's a growing disparity between the wealthy and the middle class. Certainly, Big Business and the wealthy appear to be benefiting disproportionately from the economy. The common folk feel they're being squeezed and morphed into "the new working class", which is losing good paying jobs to cheap labor both at home and abroad in this process of globalization, and they can't quite make ends meet despite overtime hours and second jobs.

Not surprisingly, many Americans are fans of CNN's Lou Dobbs, author of War on the Middle Class: How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back. Dobbs is a firm believer that cheap labor (by illegal aliens) is driving down middle class wages:

"Real wages in the overall construction sector have fallen nearly 2 percent since the start of the decade and nearly 4 percent since the recent wage peak in 2003. Construction workers in 2006 were making the same per-hour salary as they did in 1965 (measured in 1982 dollars). Landscaping workers have also seen real wages fall by nearly 4 percent since 2001. For the leisure and hospitality sector, workers are making the same per-hour salary as they did in 1972.   I've said for years that we cannot reform immigration if we cannot control it, and we cannot control it unless we secure our borders and ports. Once again it is clear that corporate America, special interests and the out-of-touch elites of the Senate have little regard for truth, working Americans, the common good and the national interest."

The middle class feels it's being hit with a double whammy in this precarious economic atmosphere: Illegal aliens are seen as depressing the wages of the middle class. Then, to add insult to injury, the middle class is required to pay billions of dollars in extra taxes to subsidize the costs incurred by these same illegal aliens that are utilizing a host of services, most notably: the criminal justice system (prisons are expensive), social services (mothers with anchor babies), health care (that's causing hospitals to experience fiscal emergencies and closures), and the education system (for the children of illegal aliens). In other words, Big Business is permitted to maintain cheap labor on the backs of the American taxpayer. Now add into the mix that some illegal aliens are bringing in drug crime, gang violence and diseases. No wonder the citizenry is up in arms! The middle class has had ample experience with subsidizing the 12-20 million illegal aliens that are already here, and the thought of 66 million more low-skill impoverished immigrants coming to the US, via chain migration, over the next twenty years was just too mind-boggling. Moreover, it was obvious that America had to curtail its slipping and sliding toward Third Worldism. All that being said, middle class America was compelled to get involved in the routing of the abominable immigration bill.

When considering the immigration legislation, were the politicians concerned that Americans would have to be taxed eventually at exorbitant rates to provide government programs for the newcomers? Or that Social Security, Medicare and the numerous means tested welfare programs would probably collapse under the formidable burden?  The politicos weren't even equipped with a proper cost analysis of the bill. In contrast, the preeminent conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, provided myriad information on immigration reform and cost impact of the Senate proposal. Importantly, Heritage has a series of videos that concisely frame issues and offer up problem solving strategies on said issues. The citizenry must continue to be informed and vigilant, given the untrustworthy nature of our political class.
On a slightly different note, Americans were led to believe that globalization – the free flow of goods, service and capital across borders – would bring prosperity to all nations. Sure, there was to be a transition period with some jobs falling by the wayside and new ones created, but certainly there was nothing said about the destruction of the American middle class via high taxation and redistribution of wealth to help support impoverished low-skill labor imported from other nations. That I would have remembered. If the immigration bill had been passed, the Nanny-state would have reigned supreme to the detriment of capitalism, freedom and opportunity.

And we were also advised that globalization and free market forces would catalyze structural change in economies. That being said, NAFTA was supposed to ameliorate the economic imbalance between Mexico and its North American neighbors. Is it happening? Not really. Most Mexicans are still dirt poor with no job prospects, which compel them to cross our border in droves to escape economic oppression. Although Mexico has made some economic strides, it still needs to step up growth and tackle its fiscal difficulties through a number of reforms.
As to the four pronged strategy to improve Mexico's economy that's currently being pursued by the Calderon administration, the June 5, 2007 edition of The Economist states:  "Details of the fiscal plan have not yet been released, but it will be based on four key pillars: (1) to increase the transparency and efficiency of public spending; (2) to increase income by diversifying income sources; (3) [to implement] a new "fiscal federalism" that would revise the relationship between the states and the federal government; (4) to improve the administration of the tax system to make it more fair and to tackle evasion."  

That's all fine and good, but Mexico is still a narco- state where the drug cartels hold considerable sway through political payoffs, the use of intimidation, and increasing violence at the borders. Clearly, these powerful drug lords must be neutralized as part and parcel of securing the border. As noted by Lou Dobbs:

"Increased drug trafficking constitutes another reason we must control our borders immediately. No matter how the government of Mexico resists, the Drug Enforcement Agency says as much as $25 billion in drug money crosses the U.S.-Mexico border each year. And that doesn't even count the money made from middleman and end-user transactions in the drug trade. In fact, more cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana enter the United States from Mexico than from any other point."

This past month of political tumult has led to an epiphany for many Americans: The Immigration bill that was successfully routed shed light on a very disconcerting truth: President Bush, acting in concert with mostly Democrat Senators, is more than willing to sacrifice middle class America - the heart and soul of America - on the altar of globalization. This revelation has been downright upsetting to the American people. Standing off to the sidelines, Big Business and the elites of Mexico are the other culprits that will use and abuse America to advance their own agenda. As to the Mexican ruling class, they depend upon America to take in many of their impoverished citizens in order to avoid an insurrection. Frankly, we can't be enablers any longer. Perhaps if America sealed the border, the Mexican bigwigs would be more prone to enact the necessary reforms that will help create jobs for their people. ESR

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

 

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