On Friday, President Obama shocked most of the country with his latest Executive Order. You know, the one that lit up the blogoshpere – his unilateral decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who are attending school or served in the military. I figured as long as everyone else was chiming in on the topic, I might as well, too.
Let me begin by admitting that my thoughts on the illegal immigration issue run counter to most people on my side of the political fence. I think it is impractical and probably impossible to deport every single person who migrated to the US outside of the approved immigration policy. Did they break a book full of laws by settling here in that fashion? Sure, and for that I cannot see how any form of reward is proper. I certainly think that anyone who emigrated to the US (legally or otherwise) who engages in unlawful activity should be deported. I’m all for strengthening our border security, up to and including deploying the Army and Air Force with orders to shoot first.
What we do with those who are already here, though, is a much trickier proposition. A big part of the problem is that there really isn’t a way of finding them all: they live mostly in the shadows. There isn’t even reliable data on how many immigrants are here illegally; news reports I’ve read over the past few days use numbers anywhere from 600,000 to 4 million. It’s as much a crap shoot as any statistic you will ever come across. I’ve decided that, essentially, the status quo is probably the best that can be done in their case. Unless they run afoul of the law or ask for social services, we can’t find them. Of course, if they do they should simply be sent packing. But otherwise, I’m content to allow them to stay in their shadow communities.
Often, when thinking in terms of immigration policy and standards, I look at things through my mother and grandmother’s eyes. They arrived here in1959, fresh from the Soviet bloc. As immigrants, they fully understood the challenges faced by other immigrants, regardless of origin, native tongues or anything else. They were both adamantly against illegal immigration, and understandably so. Even as political refugees, they had to go through a battery of tests and pre-qualifications before being allowed into the country. They thought it eminently unfair that anyone should just walk across the border and set up camp, without any need to prove they were willing to fully assimilate into American culture – or even demonstrate they had the skills to contribute to society.
What did they think about the children of illegal immigrants? They both felt that the Constitution should be amended or clarified to ensure that the children of illegals, even if born in the US, should not be granted citizenship. They and their parents should be returned to their home nations and sent to the back of the line, so to speak, and await their turn.
So, extrapolating (there’s your big word for the day, folks!) from that premise, I cannot abide allowing those children to stay here on any sort of amnesty program. I realize the people the President’s order targets didn’t arrive here of their own accord. I’m even willing to let them return to their home countries with a preference on the waiting list. But if anyone thinks this is the beginning of meaningful immigration reform, they are seriously deluded. After all, even under the executive order those illegals affected won’t be granted residency status – only an act of Congress can do that.
We need to recognize this for what it is: an act of political pandering from the President Who Perfected Pandering. The EO signed on Friday only remains in effect until rescinded, either by a new President in 2013 or by the current one when he realizes it costs him more votes than it gains. It wasn’t a grand statement on the mess our immigration policy turned into after Ronald Reagan’s own bit of pandering in 1986 (the Immigration Reform and Control Act). Had Obama actually wanted to enact some type of meaningful reform, he would have combined the EO with a legislative proposal – not a Rose Garden speech asking Congress to do something. You’ll also note that in that speech, the President didn’t outline what he wanted as a result of the reform he demanded, a curious lack of leadership that is in keeping with his style.
What should be of greater concern to all, regardless of where you live, is this fits a pattern of flaunting the Constitution in order to score a cheap political point. In addition to this latest EO, we have other extra-constitutional power grabs that seem derived of partisan political maneuvering. Things like indefinite detention, refusing to support DOMA, international assassinations – the list is growing daily. The President, any President, does not have the prerogative of deciding which laws to enforce. His job is to enforce the law of the land and if he finds one unacceptable, he can request Congress rescind it. This latest EO actually requires a variety of law enforcement agencies, from the FBI and INS to Homeland Security, to willfully ignore the law. Such a situation should never be tolerated by the citizens of our republic.
There are many things that puzzle me. For instance, why is the cold water tap always on the right-hand side of the faucet? It’s as if the guy who invented indoor plumbing arbitrarily decided to that cold water should come from the right and everyone since has followed suit. There’s no real reason for it. We could just as easily have cold water coming from the left and nobody would be any wiser for it.
A similar thought process seems to have occurred in regards to including government spending as part of a nation’s economic health, currently expressed as GDP. Once upon a time, we didn’t calculate GDP. We calculated GNP; the gross national product. That figure didn’t include government spending – because economists were interested in determining the productivity of a country’s economy. Governments simply do not produce anything; no goods, no services. In fact, government spending used to be regarded as a negative economic indicator. After all, the more governments spent, the more they had to raise revenue by confiscation (and yes, taxation is still confiscation – just with a prettier name). That pulled capital from the real economy – which lowers a nation’s GNP.
GNP remained the way the government and most economists measured economic output until 1993. The Clinton administration, swept to power on the mantra of “It’s the economy, stupid” was looking for a way to juice up the headlines. By switching from GNP to GDP, they found their way to reinforce the perception that the economy was improving. It didn’t matter that actual economic output barely increased from 1992 to 1993. By including government spending in the measure of the nation’ economic health, it seemed as if the economy had rebounded.
The Obama administration is relying on similar hocus-pocus to fool the American public in 2012. Yes, GDP is growing – but only because government consumes more of the national economy than at any time in history. Yes, more than during the New Deal of the 1930’s, more than the war spending of the 1940’s and more than during the profligate 80’s. In 2011, the US Treasury spent in excess of $6 trillion dollars and accounted for 41% of all economic activity recorded in the US GDP. By comparison, at the peak of World War II spending in 1944, the Treasury only accounted for 28% of GDP. Even at the height of the last major recession in 1983, the Reagan treasury only accounted for 36% of GDP. Yet, during the Obama administration, we’ve jumped from 36% in 2008 to 40% in 2009 – and haven’t fallen below that mark since.
Of course, there’s a flip-side to this coin: if government spending is what is driving perceived economic expansion, the reality must be that the real economy is shrinking. And after adjusting for inflation, that’s exactly the case: in 2008, GNP totaled $9.1 trillion dollars (that represented a $31 billion drop from 2007). But economic activity has continued to decline under the current administration’s tutelage. In 2009, GNP totaled $8.9 trillion and it has continued to drop since, all the way to $8.4 trillion in 2011.
This is the principle reason why job growth remains a real negative. The Obama team loves to pat itself on the back for “creating 4 million jobs over the past 18 months.” The sad truth is that the economy should have produced about 4.3 million jobs over the past 18 months just to keep pace with population growth. But the jobs picture makes sense when you compare it to actual economic growth. As the economy continues to contract, the demand for workers continues to decline. The only difference between 2012 and 2008 is that businesses don’t need to lay off workers to accommodate the reduced demand. They just simply don’t hire new employees.
I can summarize this with a very simple statement: if it seems to you that the recovery we hear so much about hasn’t ended the Great Recession, that’s because it hasn’t. There hasn’t been a recovery, except for those with direct ties to government spending. That’s the one component of GDP that has increased: by over $1 trillion over the past three years.
So, the next time you see a GDP number that trumpets economic growth, remember to dig into the numbers a bit. And remember, this is White House that replaced managing economic growth with managing spin.