Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona Insanity

The most recent actions of the desert state, Arizona has already caused some bloggers to ask "Has Arizona become the new hate capital of the United States of America?" and while I find that a little inflammatory and a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, we have to look at two separate situations that have occurred in the past few weeks there; the signing of the nation's toughest immigration policy and the signing of a bill that cuts benefits for same-sex partners of state workers.

The Immigration bill, SB1070, named the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" has all the elements of a flawed policy; misunderstood by the public, misleading name that has little to do with the actual bill, pushed through with little public vetting, little to no statistical or factual evidence to back up it's justification, and granting far too much power within its language. In a basic, preliminary analysis, this bill is an attempt to address the immigration and, through the effects of those efforts, address the budgetary issues facing Arizona. The logic is that by curbing the illegal alien population it will lower the drain on public fund for the benefits they hypothetically receiving. There are a couple of false assumptions that are placed here. One major one is that this will have a positive effect on the economy. According to many sources throughout the news and internet mediums, there is a major monetary concern with this bill including lost spending, production, boycott ramifications and legal fees.

The bad press and negative public image seem to have business leaders in Arizona worried to the point of voicing serious concern about the bill, and with good reason.
But tourism will not be the worst of this negative economic impacts facing Arizona as a result of this action. According to a DC-based think-tank, when Arizona’s new immigration law goes into effect in three months, residents of a state still struggling with a three-billion dollar deficit will discover that SB1070 comes with an unexpected consequence: a price tag that could run into the tens of billions. Many sources site the example of Riverside, New Jersey, a township which, in 2006, passed a law imposing a fine for employing or housing illegal immigrants. Riverside eventually rescinded the law — after racking up $82,000 solely from legal fees. Keep in mind that was a small township and this is a law affecting an entire State.

Perhaps the more divisive factor to pay attention to with this bill is in regards to the treatment of Latinos and a "Minority group" within the community. The thought is that this bill will turn any Latino in Arizona a "suspected illegal." The vilification of "illegals" that are already in the community will cause a schism that can destroy the community's cohesion. As Thomas A. Saenz states through CNN, SB 1070 (the Immigration Bill) would dramatically change every Arizonan's daily experience, especially anyone whose appearance, name, language or accent fits the stereotype of the undocumented.

In taking a look at the state, we realize that Arizona has had one of the largest population growths in the country, almost 40% in 2000 and has increased 26.7% in population growth rate since 2005. When we look at the actual population demographics, about 25% of the population is Hispanic. This is a huge population; the largest "minority" in the State. This bill, by many accounts, turns this entire population into a target. These individuals, for their own safety and welfare, according to critics, must carry proof of residency and citizenship at all times when traveling in Arizona or face heavy penalties. The bill itself states that a police officer needs a "Reasonable suspicion" that one is an illegal alien to approach and harass an individual, as John Lott of FoxNews.com writes;

What Fox News fails to mention is two fold. One, that "reasonable suspicion" has a very loose definition that does not require a warrant and that the impetus is the real issue here. The initial suspicion is all that it really takes now for the Arizona police to stop an individual to question the legality of his or her status. The fact remains that this initial suspicion will be directly related to ethnic background and ethnicity.

To really understand it though, we must look at the actual language of the bill select areas listed below;

Sec. 2. Title 11, chapter 7, Arizona Revised Statutes,



This is such a loosely worded bill that I cannot believe that it will get by a Judicial Review. Terms like "Reasonable Suspicion" and "Reasonable Attempt" are so open and undefined that it can be read to give law enforcement officers carte blanche in harassing innocent Latino Arizonians. It has so many people worried and worked up that the President of the United States is fighting it as well as the President of Mexico, who recently gave a travel alert to Mexicans traveling in Arizona. Keep in mind these are usually reserved for trouble spots and hot-spots where theft, harassment, kidnapping and terrorism is suspected.

The alert recommends Mexicans travelling to Arizona to ensure they "act with prudence and respect local laws".

"As long as no clear criteria are defined for when, where and who the authorities will inspect, it must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time," it reads.

It also reminds citizens that they are protected by international human rights laws.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has warned that relations with Arizona would suffer and that his country would use all means at its disposal to defend its people.

Under the new rules, those unable to show that they are legally allowed in the US could be given six-month jail sentences and fined $2,500 (about £1,600).

Of course, I am also going to include a clip from Steven Colbert's analysis of the situation and while I want to know where he got his economic numbers from, I still say it is spot on.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - No Problemo
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

For more information regarding the legislation and immigrant issues in Arizona visit "Alto Arizona".

As if the Illegal Immigrant issue was not enough for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, to "save money" she recently revoked domestic partner insurance benefits for State Employees.
In a supposed effort to save the state money, now Governor Jan Brewer quietly signed a law this week redefining what a “dependent” is when it comes to the state’s responsibility for health benefit coverage. Her new “definition” does not include Domestic Partners of the same sex, Domestic Partners of opposite sex nor any of the above’s children aged 23-24 who are full time students or disabled adult dependents of state employees.
A bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer redefined a 'dependent,' canceling the rule change made by Gov. Janet Napolitano that allowed domestic partners to receive benefits. Also eliminated are children of domestic partners, full-time students ages 23-24 and disabled adult dependents. The legislation is in legal review. About 800 state employees are affected, according to the state's administration department...Liz Sawyer....
Both of these article show the insanity that seems prevalent in Arizona, one alleges that Brewer stated "God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona's governor" to help the state with its issues, rhetoric more reminiscent of a theocracy than a democracy. This is frightening but will not last. Hopefully Governor Brewer will realize, eventually, that the more that dumb moves like these happen that paint Arizona as out of touch and ignorant, the more backlash they will receive.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A response to a comment.

So, I was responding to a comment sent to me from a friend of another friend regarding the political system and I am a little proud of how this came out so here you go.

From "BRET"

-Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them...
Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?
Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes? You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.
You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.
You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.
You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.
You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.
I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.
I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority.
They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.
Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party..

My Response -

Deficits exist when the amount of money coming into the municipality, state or federal system is smaller than the money going out of the system to programs and contracts. Most of the time this translates into debt but, if you look at most country wide city and counties there exist state laws that say that they cannot legally have a deficit. The main reason the state itself is operating at a deficit currently is because the housing market crashed and the majority of state money was coming in from housing sales and taxes. Federally there is constantly a deficit and national debt because the federal system gives huge funds to the states who, in turn, fund municipal programs. No one really wants deficit, but that is how the system has perpetuated. If you have a suggestion of how to operate a government without a deficit ever occurring, I would love to hear it.

Inflation itself is a naturally occurring market force that occurs when the general level of prices of goods and services increases compared to the currency. In other words, your money has less buying power. Now, while the FEC and the Federal government can sometimes directly affect the level of inflation, as a keynesian economist I believe that inflation is the result of pressures in the economy expressing themselves in prices. Like demand-pull, cost-push and built-in inflation. Most of these actually are the result of consumer spending, level of supply of products and the rise of labor costs. Most directly unrelated to the actual elected officials.

To be completely honest with you, I HAVE written some california tax code so I kinda have to take myself out of that aspect of the conversation.

When it comes to special interest groups I believe you are forgetting the fact that, as a result of term limits we have instituted a system of campaigners, not legislators. What I mean by this is that while elected officials SHOULD be worried about trying to fix the problems of their domain they end up more concerned with having to win their job again and where they will head after their second or fourth term is up. This is REALLY where lobbyists come in. The donations do help with electeds' campaigns but the flipside is that if you go against a powerful lobby or lobby group without an equivalent backer with equivalent funds then that group can create what is known as an independent expenditure - a political group that has little to no spending limits, to destroy you politically. This was one of the concerns that is alluded to in Federalist Paper No. 10 when Madison talked about how there is a need to guard against "factions." It is a systemic problem that has existed pretty much since the inception of the country.

And as for "politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them..." I point you to OPEC's practice in the 1970's regarding the oil supply or, more recently, Blackwater - whose job it is to try and provide security in Iraq funding various terrorist groups to bump up the violence and, therefore, their funding.