Immigration Problem? Card It!

passport.

Image by kappuru via Flickr

The lead editorial in this weekend’s USA Today newspaper comments on a tacit admission of failure by the federal government.  After some 4 years of effort the Department of Homeland Security has quietly cancelled the SBInet, a $1 Billion project that it had contracted to the Boeing Company to build a high-tech network of fences and electronic surveillance mechanisms across 57 miles of Arizona’s porous border with Mexico.  (That’s less than 3% of the 2,000 miles that make up the whole border.) The problems cited include bureaucracy, environmental reviews, construction delays, cost overruns, technology glitches and political wrangling.  Even with the Great Recession and growing political resentment as deterrents to illegals seeking work, SBI net still wasn’t working.

This started me thinking about alternatives.  What is the main reason most Latin American illegal immigrants want to come here, despite all the hazards and costs of the journey?  In a word, it is jobs.  It is these people, by the way, who are willing to take work at the lowest levels of the food chain such as picking produce, being maids, plucking

chickens, and hauling bricks.  Most Americans seem to have made up their minds, however, that we don’t want them here and were willing to spend billions of dollars to keep them out.  Billions, plural? Yes, the SBInet was only a small part of the efforts over the last decade, efforts that even included the National Guard.  Many Billions have been spent and the bill is only starting to come in.

I think it’s a big mistake not to provide a path to citizenship for well-qualified would-be immigrants, but that is a different debate.  What can we do for what everyone seems to agree is a necessary first step, i.e., sealing the border?  Well, try this idea on for size:  Issue every citizen in the United States who does not already have one a passport card at government expense.  If you think that sounds too expensive, I am here to tell you that it’s less expensive than what we have already spent on the problem with virtually no success.

Specimen of the U.S. passport card, issued by ...

Passport Card, via Wikipedia

There are 330 million people in the US and, by one estimate 10 million of those already have passports.  It costs $55 plus two 2 x 2 photos, call it $60, to get a “passport card”, good for entry from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.  (A full “book” passport goes for $135, plus photos.)   So, if we multiply 320 million by $60, we get $19.2 Billion.  This is a worst-case number.  Probably 20% or more of the 320 million are children, and the State Department says that part of the cost of passport documentation is to support foreign embassy-type help to travelers, but surely there are considerable savings to be had there.  And surely the issuance process could benefit from economies of scale if the effort were contracted out properly.  Would there be problems with that?  Sure, some.  But checking birth certificates and issuing cards isn’t rocket science, whereas border technology comes close to it.

With all legal citizens properly identified it should be a simple matter to hold all employers accountable for hiring anyone without a legal document. The arrest and conviction of only two or three employers would send a powerful message, and the cards would make a case a slam-dunk.

Seal of the United States Department of State....

Image via Wikipedia

Would a passport card be reliable?  The State Department is proud of it.  They say it is “state of the art” and contains RFID chip technology that enables access to secure government databases.  Having passport cards in place would eliminate the main motivation for illegal immigrants to come here and the National Guard can go back to Afghanistan, or whatever other nation currently needs re-building at American expense, and the Arizona police can go back to looking for real criminals instead of rounding up poor peons looking for work.  QED.

But, as they say in the infomercials, Wait, There’s More!  How about greatly-improved data bases for criminals and sex offenders, identity theft, or voter fraud, or any of a legion of other problems now hampered by identity problems?  How about the improvement of national security against terrorism? That IMO, would be very significant.

Big Brother 2000 (UK)

Image via Wikipedia

Worried about “Big Brother” knowing too much about you because of this?  I can tell you I’m not.  As a retired member of the U.S. Navy the government knows all about me and it hasn’t troubled me one iota.  They’ve got my fingerprints, my picture, my service record, they know where I live and every place I’ve been.  I’ve had a complete security background check that was periodically updated while I was in the service.  Zero problems.

Now, who wants to challenge my latest Occam’s Razor solution?

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About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Independent, tending progressive as the GOP recedes from its Eisenhower roots.
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26 Responses to Immigration Problem? Card It!

  1. Duane Graham says:

    Jim,

    Your idea is essentially a national ID card, right? And although at first glance it does not seem to violate parsimony, it does violate the Bible. At least if you know evangelicals and fundamentalists like I do. And they would control the Republican Party on this issue. You know, the Mark of the Beast and all that stuff. Wouldn’t see the light of day these days.

    And then there’s the 10th Amendment argument. States rights, you know.

    But beyond that fundamentalist nonsense (both biblical and judicial), I do think you might be underestimating the privacy issue. Such an idea could turn us into a constant, card-checking society. No buying or selling without the passport and so on. Sure, it might start out as just hiring safeguards or at airports and related matters. But before long, who knows? I realize that slippery-slope argument is logically invalid, but I’m only saying you may be underestimating the possible consequences, not offering a complete rebuttal to your suggestion.

    Related to that, the amount of information accessible through the card might be problematic . That is a massive amount of data on a large number of people, presumably in one place or at least accessible through one portal. I say, it might be problematic. I don’t like credit reporting companies and the reports they generate. It is difficult to get mistaken information off your record and your suggestion that we attach criminal databases and such to the card is really troubling to me. I’d have to hear more about how it all would work, of course. And how would we ensure the system never fails? (Viruses, etc.) Any failure would surely have a number of consequences, beyond mere inconvenience, wouldn’t it?

    And I think your argument also underestimates the same problem that plagues fence-building for thousands and thousands of miles: people will figure out how to get around it. Most law-abiding folks will do just fine, but if the passport idea became law, then surely the cleverest criminals among us would figure out how to subvert the system, don’t you think? The card would be incredibly valuable and thus a great temptation for unscrupulous characters.

    Other objections:
    If you lost your card, or if it were stolen, it would take quite a while to replace it, since it is a secure card. What would one do in the meantime? How does one “prove” citizenship, if citizenship is established by the card?

    It might give us the “feeling” of security without the real benefits? Would-be terrorists would surely adapt to the system and figure out how to get a card, even if legitimately, no?

    Having said all that, I’m not predisposed to be against your idea. I wish someone would propose something like it in Congress so we could start the debate about it, and what to do to help with the problem you describe.

    I don’t have a solution but I know building a fence around America is not the answer. Perhaps it is some combination of a lot of measures.

    Duane

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Duane,

      One reason I enjoy trading ideas with you is that you invariably give mine thoughtful consideration rather than a knee-jerk reaction, as some might.

      Yes, it would be in effect a national ID card, and I fully realize that it would be a tough sell, particularly in a time when fear and suspicion of government “power” has transformed the House of Representatives into a reactionary body that appears ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But, since violence and xenophobia surround the immigration issue and since the SBInet idea is a failure, and since I haven’t heard any other decent ideas, let’s examine your comments.

      No buying/selling without without the passport card (PPC)? I would argue that the credit/debit card-issuing companies already have plenty of information on us to validate such transactions.

      Hiring and firing? I understand that false information on resume’s are common these days. Might not the PPC facilitate checking those?

      Too much data in one place? A valid concern for sure, here in the era of WikiLeaks, but unless we want to go back to bartering in lieu of money we are already committed to large data bases. I have all my savings and investments with one huge mutual fund company. All of the armed forces, active and retired, maintain one huge data base for financial management of pay, allowances and benefits. How about MC and Visa? Insurance companies? The IRS? The MO Department of Revenue? The Social Security system? And, as you mentioned, the credit-reporting companies. In other words, the data bases are huge already. Cyber security is going to be a continuing thing all right, but I would suggest that we think of the benefits as well as the risks, such as getting fair return from, for example, the TWENTY PERCENT OF GDP that is in the unreported economy. Not to mention the other ideas in the original post such as deterring identity theft by having a single point of contact that could sort through multiple events to track down the thief.

      Problems with incorrect information in the data base? Same answer as above. We already have the problem and I don’t see how chopping it up helps much.

      Computer viruses? Yes, a problem, but it’s a problem we should be able to handle, and are handling. (I would suggest the government get iMac’s, but then the hackers would start attacking those too.) Maybe having the FBI after the bad guys would be a deterrent.

      As for the card being valuable to criminals, it would also be very expensive to counterfeit, especially with the RFID technology. We deal with it in currency, why not ID’s? As far as replacing a lost one, having a central reporting system instead of 50 just might simplify the process. A person would still have their original documents on which the PPC was based, principally the birth certificate.

      Thanks Duane for your thoughtful comments. I still like my idea and I still realize that it has about as much chance of happening as a Rush Limbaugh apology. I hope others will comment also and perhaps even suggest better ideas. Because the problem is 2,000 miles long.

      Jim W.

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  2. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    As the resident “Nazi” (or refered to by some as such) I will sit back and wait to hear the challenges to your “Papers Please” solution. After all the dust is settled I may weigh in later one.

    AB

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  3. catkeeper says:

    Jim,

    Immigration reform, once a seriously debated topic, has devolved in recent years into talking point agitprop; as you might say: one tribe refusing to acknowledge that another tribe can ever have any good ideas.

    I’m uncomfortable with a national ID card. You make a thoughtful case, but the idea makes the civil libertarian in me uneasy. In regards to employment, the Social Security card is already a national ID card. True, the type of high-tech card you envision would be harder to reproduce, but professional criminals are known for finding ways to subvert and then profit from stolen personal information. I think it is fair to say that with today’s technological capabilities, we labor under the illusion of personal privacy. Perhaps my reticence concerning exclusive information being stored in what could become a necessity for validating one’s identity is misplaced. But I can’t help but think of totalitarian states where failing to have your “papers in order” is cause for immediate arrest. We’ve already witnessed too many Americans willing to surrender rights to privacy for the perceived promise of security.

    I would rather see immigration debate return to the “fast track” idea that once drew bi-partisan support. Instead of using draconian measures, such as forced deportation, why not absorb illegal workers into the system by offering a relatively quick avenue to citizenship. Not only would this create disincentives for employers to hire cheap, untaxed labor, but the responsibilities of citizenship (paying taxes into the community for essential public services) would contribute much needed revenue into struggling state and local budgets.

    Maybe one day the superheated partisan environment will cool down enough for our national leaders to decide that fixing problems is more important than pushing an ideological agenda for purely personal political ambitions.

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Catkeeper,

      I agree with you that having a sensible legal immigration policy would take some pressure off the whole problem, particularly for temporary permits for the likes of migrant farm workers. But, as you allude, the GOP has taken a firm NO stance on the issue, even though their previous presidential candidate used to think it was a good idea! With the current partisan divide I think we can abandon that hope for now.

      As for your apprehensions relative to civil liberties, I understand that. We as a people don’t like being told what to do. Please see my reply to Anson Burlingame in this same thread.

      Thanks, catkeeper, for your thoughtful comment.

      Jim W.

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  4. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim and Duane,

    This is not a new issue and I have heard debate on it before. Basically it was a left, right clash as I saw it with privacy and security being the driving points. Duane raised the issue of privacy and “doability” of any card system that could as well adequately (completely?) protect reasonable privacy. Note I said reasonable which is hard to define for sure.

    I have had a military ID card all my life. I need it for many reasons to obtain among other things entitlements as a result of my service. No ID card, no entitlements and I choose to have the entitlements available to me. But no law says I MUST have a military ID card. I just need it if I want to go on a base, go the the exchange, get medical care at government expense, etc.

    I am also not at all worried about my privacy in having a military ID card. The only real privacy issue is that my SSN in on the card. I’ll take that risk and exercise due dilligence in protecting my card.

    Could such a concept be expanded beyond obtaining military benefits to any government benefits? Having a card would remain a choice of individuals but chose not to have one (with very limited information on it) and you receive no government benefits.

    Duane MAY argue that such a system would be unfair for the poor that must have those benefits to survive. The counter is of course what is the priority in creating such a card, security or privacy. It is hard to have both particularly if 100% is demanded in both cases.

    I also come down on Duane’s side in expressing concerns about eventual government misuse of such cards. I have seen far to many movies of “papers please” in totalitarian regimes to be comfortable with how far it could go.

    On the other hand, my life at least while working (both in the navy and as a civilian) required high level security clearances thus my life during those years at least was an “open book” for those with legitimate “need to know”. I never felt that my privacy was unnecessarily “invaded” as a result of misuse of my security files, voluminous files indeed. And I chose to allow the investigations to proceed and files maintained. I could have opted out at any point and found a less intrusive professional life. But it was ulitmately my choice not the government’s.

    Anson

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Anson,

      I will try to paraphrase your objections, and answer same, to this admittedly controversial solution to sealing our borders:

      1. You see this as a “left, right clash”. Why should this be partisan? If it is the same issue as too much government involvement in our lives, which sounds Libertarian, then why don’t we resent having to have a valid driver’s license all the time?
      2. Do-ability? We are already issuing the cards, as well as military ID’s and driver’s licenses. It’s just a matter of scale.
      3. Unfair to the poor? How can it be unfair when the card is issued at government expense? I can see it reducing welfare fraud, which is rife.
      4. Privacy? In a world of credit agencies, sex-offender lists, IRS records, military service records and background checks, open court records, and all the rest, just what privacy is at issue? What kind of privacy are you concerned about protecting? If the public library, for example, wanted to keep a record of the kind of stuff you read, they can do it with only your library card. (Actually, that is a feature of the new system going in this week. I understand you can opt out if you want. But, how do you know they won’t secretly keep it anyway? Heh, heh, heh. Achtung! Papers please!)
      5. Speaking of “papers, please” in movies, I believe that is a very dated societal meme. In the old West, when men were men and women were women and we lynched horse thieves without a trial, things were different. But this is the Brave New World and there is no going back to times when there were only hand-written records and no computers. I say that you can’t have it both ways. You either control illegal activity or you ignore it and then shoot it out. Take the issue of illegal gun sales for example. That problem, where Mexican drug cartels employ amoral US citizens to purchase guns for them, is out of control and the cartels are often better armed than the Mexican cops. And that violence is starting to spill across our border. If any cop wants to see MY papers, I will be more than happy to show them. That doesn’t make the cop a Nazi, no matter how many WWII movies you’ve seen.

      Bottom line here, as I see it, is that people hate change and they hate to be told what to do, especially by government, and that’s the main reason I detect in your opposition, Anson. But, we have a huge 2,000 mile problem on our southern border and our first attempt at solving it was a dismal failure. So, if not the PPC card, then what is your solution?

      Jim

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  5. Jim Wheeler says:

    PS,

    Just one more suggestion on the PPC matter, please:

    How about starting such a program by limiting the requirement for a government-furnished PPC to any US citizen who does not already have a valid driver’s license and also excepting those in elementary school and those who have been admitted through due process to live in nursing and group homes? The full requirement for the RFID PPC could then be phased in over a long period of time.

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  6. Duane Graham says:

    Jim,

    I’ve sort of become fascinated by the idea you proposed, partly because a centrist like yourself proposed it. I like your argument that we are living in a different kind of world from the one through which we received many of the images associated with the “paper’s please” fear-meme. But having said that, I do have some concerns, in order, regarding your reply:

    While we are fast becoming a cashless society, there is still a lot of real money in circulation and the option is always there, even though the cashier sometimes looks at you funny if you had him or her a hundred dollar bill. And while the credit card companies possess and distribute a lot of information on us, a national I.D. card or PPC would multiply that side-effect of our credit-hungry world.

    The PPC might facilitate checking false information, but I can only imagine the hoops one would have to jump through to get false information removed from the database.

    Yes, there are a lot of databases and the fear of putting them in one place or getting access to them through one place may be misplaced, but until I have an understanding of how the system would work, I’m not ready yet to yield on this point. I will grant you, though, that any such system you envision would obviously be accompanied by safeguards to mitigate privacy concerns. That’s the point. I would want to see the safeguards and who was responsible for maintaining access to the system. I wouldn’t want a $20,000-a-year federal employee having access to the database, simply because the temptation would be overwhelming to misuse the system.

    And here I will remark on your objection regarding the utility of “chopping” up information. While I tend to agree with you that it may not help that much, surely we can agree that having the information in once place makes it easier for criminals to get what they need? I mean, if all the family jewels are kept in a box on a dresser, a thief wouldn’t have to spend much time or effort going through drawers of skivvies and panties to get the booty.

    I agree with you about the benefits and one can easily nix an idea with overblown fears of the risk. That’s why I want more debate and more ideas. And if we want to capture taxes on the unreported economy, a VAT would help a lot.

    I will agree with your objection to the replacement concern. You reminded me that Social Security cards are fairly easy to replace and other than the need to produce a much more secure I.D. card, that might not be as much of a problem as I first thought.

    In any case, thanks for the interesting idea, which I am sure is a long way off.

    Duane

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Duane,

      Your comments are surely valid concerns. I completely agree that security concerns would have to be addressed in a public forum over time. There may be a valid comparison there with the security of classified information where compartmentalization is also used. And one would hope and expect that there will be new and effective ideas in the wake of the WikiLeaks scandal. And, speaking of the latter, while that was a massive leak, the method used is a very simple one to fix. Everyone who has access to any part of the data base gets scanned for flash drives as though they were a terrorist, a.k.a., an airline passenger.

      As for adoption being a long way off, I actually considered it impossible as a practical matter because of public knee-jerk fears borne of Nazi movies and just pure change, but the more I mull over the idea of starting with those not already licensed to drive, as mentioned in my previous comment, the more I think it just might be viable. Heck, seems to me that doing it only for those who don’t already have a DL would be a big step. The below link claims that some 196 million of us now have DL’s. Subtracting the young, the elderly and the incarcerated surely can’t leave all that many more.

      http://answers.bloglines.com/Finance/how_many_people_in_the_us_have_a_drivers_license

      Jim W.

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  7. ansonburlingame says:

    To all,

    First while Duane did not raise or even acknowledge how the poor might be more affected by requirements for any universal ID , I think it remains a potential concern at least from the left. The poor need more from government. A rich man has little need, on a personal level, for anything from government. If a card becomes a prerequisite of any government “permission” (crossing the border) or services, the poor will need such ID more than the rich.

    There is no doubt that with computers the availability of people to information about other people has greatly expanded. Whether legally or illegally obtained the information is “out there” at least to a much greater degree than ever before.

    Now a lot of people, me not being one at least to a degree, are very concerned about the information even being “out there”. They demand privacy in all matters. Many, many people would refuse to ever work with classified material simply because of the intrusive investigations into their affairs or even their thoughts. Some would absolutely refuse to undergo a polygraph exam every year to “check their inner thoughts”. That of course is an extreme example, but still valid, for anyone that is concerned about their privacy in general.

    I do not share that concern. If anyone has lead a “good” life having the FBI talk to your neighbors is not a problem. If someone has spent their money wisely and paid their legitimate debts throughout their life, they probably are not concerned about reports by credit agencies. They see such reports as a benefit simply because they become qualified for better terms in loans, obtaining credit or debit cards, etc.

    On a practical level those with poor credit histories do not like having such histories readily available. Someone residing illegally certainly does not want to have a national ID system in place. Some people will object on simple constitutional grounds as well. And for darn sure if Duane had illegal access to my security or financial information, I would not want that to happen So “doability” is of concern even to me.

    Finally, Duane spoke of a “$20,000 federal employee” having access. No such “animal” exists today in my view. ANY federal employee makes much more that than that amount I suspect. Which brings up the question of the cost of ANY federal system along the lines proposed. IF everyone agreed to such a system, HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST should be a valid question. And where will the money come from to implement and run such a system must be addressed as well.

    Said another way, what will the federal government cut before adding on another layer of bureaucracy to monitor and (to a degree) control the lives of individual citizens or residents (legal or illegal) in this country.

    I agree as well with Duane, that while the discussion is interesting, I suspect it is not going to happen anytime soon.

    Now back to debt and deficit concerns and how to address (or ignore) them as seen and heard last night (Tuesday).

    Anson

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Some thoughts, inspired by Anson’s comments:

      A rich man has little need, on a personal level, for anything from government.

      While the poor do indeed depend on government more than the rich on government services, e.g., Joplin’s bus shuttle, I would disagree with “little need” for the “rich”. It seems to me that the entire structure of society depends on a smooth-running economy, and that in turn depends on good government. Examples would include police, firemen, roads, infrastructure (highly-regulated and dependable utilities), national defense, the FAA, border security (such as it is), FDA functions, care for the mentally-handicapped (a messy and troublesome landscape, otherwise), nursing-home regulation, etc. In other words, a great many of the things that make this nation a different place for the rich to live than, say, Bangladesh.

      On a practical level those with poor credit histories do not like having such histories readily available.

      It seems to me that a PPC would not change the effect of having poor credit histories. Anyone applying for credit is required to surrender their privacy in that regard as a condition of their application.

      HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST should be a valid question. And where will the money come from to implement and run such a system must be addressed as well.

      Cost is surely a valid concern. I would say, how concerning is it that we just spent $1 Billion for a complete failure of an attempt to fix 57 m./2,000 m. = 2.7% of a big problem that’s not going away. I would say that the PPC expense should come out of the budget of Homeland Security, replacing whatever Berlin-wall scheme is next in line after SBInet.

      Illegal access to data bases, I submit, is going to be a problem forever, but nobody is going to return to pre-computer days. At least not voluntarily. So, we must deal with it.

      Finally, I agree that the PPC scheme has little chance, but I don’t agree that it’s impossible. If we can’t think outside the box on big problems, things would be pretty dull.

      Jim W.

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    • Duane Graham says:

      Anson,

      Last word: You wrote,

      If anyone has lead a “good” life having the FBI talk to your neighbors is not a problem. If someone has spent their money wisely and paid their legitimate debts throughout their life, they probably are not concerned about reports by credit agencies.

      I hear this reasoning a lot. And it’s bogus. It’s not an excuse to tolerate encroachments on our privacy on the basis of “if you have nothing to hide, don’t worry about it.” There is a lot of misleading or false information in any database, especially credit reports. And it’s damn hard to get it changed once it’s in there. And further, the burden is on you to get it changed. The presumption is in favor of the person who entered the data in the system or who caused it to be so entered.

      And that’s part of what makes a national I.D. card scary.

      And by the way, the TSA’s transportation security officers—screeners—start at about $25,000 per year.

      Duane

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  8. ansonburlingame says:

    Duane,

    Now I disagree, politly, with your on the point of incorrect information in security or credit files. I am sure that over the years the FBI MUST have found someone that said “Anson is a …..” (the …. being derogatory). I am also sure that such comments were included in a file somewhere that still exists today, but I don’t know of them.

    But the bottom line is that such comments did NOT affect my security clearance.

    Now for credit histories. I am currently embroiled in such a case of what I consider incorrect information in my “file”. Bottom line a lender has made a statement with negative impact and I am trying to get it corrected. It is a pain for sure with the lender claiming the information is correct and me and my lawyer saying it is not. The credit reporting agency is going with the lender for now as they usually do.

    In this particular case I paid my debt on time and in full to the lender and was never delinquent or even close to such a circumstance. The lender does not dispute that fact but….. (the rest is private information).

    BUT the bottom line is that what the lender has reported (incorrect in my view) has not had any affect that I know of on my ability to get credit cards or a recent auto loan. My life, financially, is business as usual even though it “pisses me off” that a slight negative remark is available to anyone with access to my credit history which of course is a lot of folks with my permission of course.

    My guess is the really wrong information that has a bad affect on your life is not all that much as a percentage of people with credit histories and that such incorrect information, even though “we” don’t like it has a really bad affect on one’s life.

    So for me I put it in the “not really a big deal” category. But if it was then I would spend money and take the “fill your hands” approach with the lender, with whom I have done good business for 45 years. It is really a bureaucratic problem, certainly not a moral one.

    Anson

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  9. billy396 says:

    Well, Jim, you might not have a problem with being forced to submit to yet another example of a federal government run amok, but I’m not ready to surrender my Constitutional rights just yet. How far are you willing to take it? Would you be willing to surrender your Second Amendment rights? Would you be willing to be forced to have a bar code tatooed on your body in order to prove your identity? Would you be willing to give up every dollar that you ever earn and allow the government to decide what is the best way to spend your money? When you work and earn money, does that money belong to you or does it belong to the government first, to decide later what part of your earnings that you’re allowed to keep for yourself? Are you willing to do away with legal tender, in order to enable the federal government to be able to track your every move and your every expenditure? It won’t be very long before some politician decides that the American “citizens” can’t be trusted to have cash money, because they might be able to spend that money in such a way as to evade the government’s control, i.e. stop the government from getting its’ cut. You seem on the surface like a patriotic kind of guy. Does that mean that you support the present administration to the exclusion of all else, or does that mean that you believe that we are a nation of laws, not of men, and that being a part of a free Constitutional Republic requires a responsibility from each and every one of us true “citizens” to ride herd and keep an eye on these politicians who would and do ride rough shod over every Constitutional amendment that gets in the way of their power? Nancy Pelosi stated that she would “go through” or “go around” any politician or lawmaker that got in HER way. Barack Obama stated that he would (and I’m admittedly paraphrasing here) run over or through anyone who would stand in the way of his ideas for a better America. An important question looms above all of us: Are you $4 Trillion dolars better off than you were 2 years ago? In 2 (two) years, this administration has run up the federal deficit and the federal debt more than all previous administrations combined. The numbers don’t lie. Very soon, the interest alone on the federal debt will exceed the GNP of the United States. It’s inevitable. There’s absolutely NO WAY to stop that fact. When that happens, what do you think will be the effects? Do you think that all of our debtor nations will continue to buy our bonds when they see that we can’t even pay the interest alone on our present debts, let alone go deeper into debt? If the citizens of this country don’t wake up, and right quick, we will find ourselves in a condition of servitude to an aggregation of organized and selfish interest. A part of that last line was paraphrased from Calvin Coolidge, but that simply means that this has been coming for a long, long time. Obama amounts to nothing more than an empty suit, with his own ideas of what is needed for this country, and NONE of those ideas are Constitutional, or even fair. “Spreading the wealth” is the antithesis of the American Way. This country grew to be the greatest by allowing people to succeed or fail based on their actions. It should remain so.

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    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Well, Billy, I am pleased at your interest and that you ask my opinion on the issues here. I will try to respond as constructively as possible.

      Am I ready to surrender my Constitutional rights, including my Second Amendment rights, and also have a bar code tattooed on my body? No. So far as I know, nobody has suggested that I do so. Nor would I be willing to give the government the right to tell me how to spend every dollar that I ever earn. Frankly, your questions seem rather, shall we say, extreme? But, I assume you simply mean to paint a worst-case scenario for what some changes such as the expansion of the PPC might lead to.

      Allow me if you will to ask whether you believe that most parts of government are needed? I think they are, and I believe that transparency or openness is the key to making it work for all Americans, and that a strong, free press is essential to that process. It really seems to me that most parts of our government and institutions are what sets us apart from other countries, say like Bangladesh or Mexico.

      To start, let’s take the Second Amendment issue. I like the right to own guns but I also believe in reasonable control and regulation of gun ownership. I approve of hunting and shooting sports – they are part of our cultural heritage. I also want potential criminals to be aware that inside every American home there is a potentially-armed homeowner that, should he want to burglarize or invade it, just might blow his ass to kingdom-come. However, the truth of the matter goes further than that. If a criminal is sly and determined enough he will always have the advantage of surprise and unless you roam about constantly packing heat on your hip and are a helluva fast draw, he’s going to get you and have his way with you and with what’s yours. So, who’re you gonna call, or depend on to get justice after the fact? The government. Sheriff or cops.

      As to limits on armament, I do not want my neighbor to have an RPG, hand grenades or a 50 caliber rifle that could, accidentally or not, put a bullet right through my house and everything in it, including the car in the garage. Sorry, but we are pretty-much stuck with government and the justice system to defend us from criminals, and unless we add some reasonable controls to armament control, the Mexican drug cartels and the like may soon be doing to us what they are now doing to the Mexican police and civilians.

      Do away with legal tender? I wonder where you got that idea? Certainly most financial transactions are going electronic and I agree that it is a concern, but I don’t see any practical way to prevent that. It needs regulation for sure and I might point out that new controls were passed to that end by last year’s Democratic Congress and President. One positive aspect is that there is less cash in one place to tempt bank robbers, I suppose, but again, I think that transparency of the processes is the answer.

      Patriotic? Sure. I served honorably in the United States Navy for 26 years, 22 as a commissioned officer. And, I might add, in the process I gave up some civil rights, such as being subject to the orders of my superiors and to the strictures of the UCMJ. I was glad to do it and it didn’t hurt me. But that leads me to respond to your apparent distrust of certain politicians. I would point out that those you name were all duly elected by their constituencies according the the US Constitution. Their statements you cite or paraphrase which so alarm you appear to me to be the usual political rhetoric which is easily taken out of context. That’s why the things you cite don’t worry me – open political discourse, IMO, is healthy, so long as it is civil. What really worries me is secrecy. While some secrecy is necessary, any time public officials, including the military, can hide operations and budgets, it is a cause for concern.

      You seem particularly concerned that President Obama might have some sinister motives to control America according to some hidden agenda. I will tell you honestly that I have seen no evidence of that. What I have seen in him is a former professor who taught Constitutional law at the U. of Chicago and who has scrupulously adhered to all the requirements of that document. He is also the most articulate president I have heard in my 74 years of life and, as far as his personal life goes, is the kind of fine model of a responsible, black family man the black community has always needed. I can think of other presidents who have been less admirable in their personal lives and they aren’t all Democrats either. (And, as it says on my web site, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but an Independent. I do try to see both sides of issues.) I do think that Obama got carried away with promoting his agenda in his first two years without giving enough priority to our ability to pay for all of it. But, Bush did too – the debt soared during his administration and included the addition of two enormous and IMO completely unnecessary layers of government bureaucracy, the Dept. of Homeland Security and the Directorate of Intelligence.

      I share your concern, Billy, with the state of the country’s indebtedness. The Democratic majority was not only remiss but cowardly, IMO, by not even passing a budget last year. But this problem has deep roots and numerous past administrations, George W. Bush’s not being the least, bear much responsibility for the Great Recession. The GR was initiated by the collapse of the housing market and that in turn was enabled by lax regulation from many administrations, but mostly from Bush’s. So before you blame Obama for that one and for all of the current debt, be aware that massive stimulus spending was started under Bush. Be aware too that most of the recovery, some resulting from Bush’s stimulus, has occurred under Obama. So while it is tempting to be partisan in placing blame,it’s really not all that simple.

      Unless you want to put out your own fires, catch your own criminals, do without Social Security, take your chances with no safety regulations on airlines, defend your own borders, well, you get the idea – Government is necessary. Really, Billy, the only thing we should be arguing about is HOW MUCH government is reasonable, and most of that arguing process is called politics and elections. Messy as it is, it has made American the greatest and freest nation in the world. What we do not need, IMHO, is an excess of emotion and demagoguery. When you argue politically about important issues I urge you to strive for civility, to try to see both sides of every argument, and to try to cite specifics when making your arguments. Slinging phrases like “Spreading the wealth” is, well, to use a word being bandied about in my blogging lately, facile.

      I wish you well, Billy, in succeeding on your own, but I predict that your are going to need some government help along the way.

      Moderately yours,

      Jim W.

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  10. ansonburlingame says:

    Jim,

    Not a bad reply to Billy for sure. Moderation in all things is a good idea (that I sometimes forget in political arguments as do others). But one point in your reply that I disagree with rather strongly is your comment (related to President Obama) in writing “He is also the most articulate president I have heard in my 74 years of life…”

    At face value I disagree and point out Reagan (The Great Communicator) and Clinton. Reagan (or his speech writers) nailed the American psychic with simple (NOT facile) statements. Clinton is probably the most intelligent President we have had or at least anyone in my lifetime. And he was very articulate and could bring a lot of folks “to their feet” in cheers (as a lot of Presidents can do at least for those that support their policies).

    Look at the recent SOTU address. Do you really thing the President was “articulate” in that speech? Actually I thought Ryan in 10 minutes was far more articulate than the President (speaking for over an hour) happened to be. The President “bobbed and weaved” all around debt and deficit issues for example. Ryan did not.

    America today is “strong”. America today is “at a tipping point”. Which is a more articulate phrase? Of course that is a matter of opinion I suppose and for sure strong is a relative phrase. Strong as compared to what? Militarily strong with 270 ships as opposed to 600 in years past? Economically strong with 9.4% unemployment as compared to …. a few years ago? Economically strong today with debt vs GDP percentages skyrocketing? How about the strength of the credit ratings of US Treasury bonds? I could go on for sure but then again it is a matter of perspective.

    But of course I am wandering far afield from the intention of your blog. So I’ll stop that kind of stuff for now.

    Anson

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Anson,

      Regarding the articulate issue, you have excellent points about the Gipper and the, er, (insert appropriate word here).

      I gotta ‘fess up, I did not adequately compare those two to Obama in my mind as I wrote the post. Mulling it over now, I agree that Clinton was his equal in articulation, both in formal speeches and informal commentary, or at least close enough for coffee-table talk. Now, both presidents were confident enough to respond to questions extemporaneously and I think it will be some time, and perhaps never, when historians can reasonably judge the quality of such spoken thoughts. However, I surely admire their ability to do so, especially in comparison to me sitting here at the computer with time to compose, edit, and still mess up on political issues.

      As for the Gipper, I agree that he was the Great Communicator and that there was an excellent mind behind his affable nature. I recall a transcript that I have posted on before in which he was interviewed at length about comparisons between conservatism and libertarianism. I don’t doubt that the transcript had some editing, but it was clearly conversational in nature. Reagan came across as highly organized and thoughtful. I did sense a mental decline in him during his second term and I recall his aides being protective of him during that final year or two, but that genial good nature was still there.

      As for your criticism of Obama in his SOTU speech, I believe you are blaming lack of articulation skills for what may be the fault of economic complexity. Just look at the situation Obama inherited, an economy in shambles with bailouts and massive stimulus plans already started by his predecessor, and yet, despite an economy showing signs of life after two difficult years the unemployment rate is still above 9%. Now his job in the SOTU is to go out there on the podium and put a positive spin on the whole situation. I believe the Anson Burlingame description for that situation is “leadership”. Well, I think he did that very well. As for Ryan, I can only say that it’s a whole lot easier to criticize a highly complex problem than it is to defend negotiated and compromised solutions to it.

      Thanks for correcting my two oversights on the subject.

      Now, having agreed that Reagan and Clinton belong near the top of the articulation ladder with Obama, I must say this: isn’t it nice to have a president who isn’t low on that ladder? (We did recently, BTW.)

      Jim

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  11. billy396 says:

    Jim,

    I’m pleased that you saw fit to respond to some of my points. In response to one of your questions, I absolutely do NOT believe that ‘most’ parts of the federal government are needed. Neither did the founders. Examples would be the Dept. of Education, the Dept, of the Interior (mostly), the Dept. of Energy, the FCC, and many more. None of these agencies have accomplished much of anything for our country except for employing more federal union members. Does no one even bother to remember or care one bit regarding the enumerated powers that were delegated to the federal government under our Constitution? I’ve seen no evidence in the last 2 years, in particular, that any member of the executive branch even concerns itself with the Constitution or states rights. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I believe in the Constitution. There is NO reason to scuttle that great founding document just because the American people have become fat and lazy in their defense of the Constitution and in their limits on what they will allow the federal government to ignore as far as what they are allowed to do under the Constitution.
    You stated “What really worries me is secrecy”. I agree 100%. This current administration has done everything that they’ve accomplished behind closed doors, making an open lie of Obama’s oft-repeated promise of providing the American people with “the most transparent, bi-partisan administration that this country has ever known”. Many things bother me greatly concerning the current administration, not the least of which is Obama’s famous “crotch salute”. It may not mean anything to you or many people, but when I see the President of the United States as the ONLY person in a huge crowd that refuses to simply put his hand over his heart during the national anthem, that makes me distrust him even more.
    I urge you to read Barack Obama’s book “Dreams From My Father”. I would also urge you to take the time to read “Rules For Radicals”, by Saul Alinsky. Compare the ideas expressed in “Rules For Radicals” with the actions taken by the Obama administration so far. You refer to Obama as a Constitutional Scholar. Technically, he may in fact fit that description, but he hasn’t shown any evidence of that in his actions as our Commander-In-Chief.
    Must we all forget that no less than six times, Obama vowed that he would have every bill posted for 48 hours on the internet and that he would have all of the discussions “streaming live on C-SPAN so that the American people can see who is fighting for their rights and who is backing the drug companies?”
    Obama has brought Chicago-style politics to Washington, along with most of the actual personalities that were a major part of the openly and legendarily corrupt Chicago political machine. Do you have no problem with the so-called attempts at the “new Louisiana Purchase”, or the “Cornhusker Kickback”? These things are second nature to an agitator such as Obama. I fully realize that Obama was elected in large part due to some of the actions of George Bush, but when you have the nerve to say that he sounds like the “most intelligent President that you’ve seen”, I find that hard to believe. Barack Obama can read a teleprompter very well. Put him in front of some intelligent people with intelligent questions, and he’s lost. He has no answers, as opposed to Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan, both of whom could think on their feet, and both of whom thought highly of the United States. I’m out of time, but let me finish with this thought: I don’t trust ANY President who spends a large part of his time criticizing our country. And I certainly don’t trust a President that needs a TPT to speak to a class of seventh-graders, or one who makes it the mission of NASA to thank Islam for all of their “accomplishments in space travel”.

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Billy,

      1. I have no problem with placing any of the agencies you mention on the public table for discussion of their relevance and for justifying parts or all that they do. IMO, that is one way to reduce a bureaucracy that has gotten ponderously more inefficient over the years. But here’s a pragmatic question about what is obviously a long, contentious process. Who is going to do it amidst the bitter partisanship now present in DC and would this be the best use of time for, say, the president when other problems such as two wars and high unemployment need a lot of attention? And would the shutdown process reduce or accentuate the political divisiveness? I think you know the answers as well as I do.
      2. People have disagreed about how to interpret the Constitution since the document was first written, and even come to blows over it in Congress. I see nothing positive in claiming that one party or another cares nothing about it or wants to scuttle it. That is pure demagoguery, IMO.
      3. Debating politics can be You cite numerous visual and verbal snippets as reasons to despise Obama as president. I do not find these persuasive. In fact, I would label them as demagoguery. I think you are being swayed here by what is called “confirmation bias”. Here is a Wikipedia link for that, if you’re not familiar with it, and please note that I do not suggest this in any insulting way. I fully admit that I too have been a victim of it and try hard not to be.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

      4. I don’t see anything wrong with posting bills on the internet or showing discussions of bills on C-Span.

      5. I am aware that Obama has several times displayed a conciliatory mien in foreign speeches, and that such an attitude has angered many in this country, particularly the more militant among us. But, I do not think this has hurt our country. To the contrary, I do believe that many people in other countries view us as haughty and arrogant and that such impressions serve the purposes of terrorists very well in their recruitments. The current uprisings in Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world might, and I emphasize might just indicate that the populations thirst for some of the freedoms that we enjoy. I only mention this a possibility, since it is still developing.

      6. As for tele-prompters and articulation, please see the discussion that Anson and I had in this same string.

      Jim W.

      Like

  12. ansonburlingame says:

    Well Jim,

    Only a short disagreement with your view of “ladders” in recent president’s skills to articulate. If you like a Texas accent AND “Texas reasoning” Bush II came across as very articulate in a Texas sort of way.

    For example he said “This war (the war on terror) will be fought for at least a generation”. Now that is short, sweet and extraordinarly accurate considering today’s events. I call that being articulate as well

    You may not have liked what he said but you sure as heck could have understood it, right? And again, like it or not, those words are certainly true ten years after he said them.

    Anson

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Anson,

      Stating the obvious may be your idea of being articulate, but mine would include the ability to clearly outline a national challenge, including both positives and negatives, and leave the public with a good idea of one’s position, all the while not pissing off a majority of the people.

      Now, I realize I am being presumptuous here, but this is the blogosphere after all, so I will speculate that Billy 396 would heartily agree with your example of “good articulation”.

      Jim

      Like

  13. catkeeper says:

    Jim,

    I respect your demeanor and honesty. You call it as you see it, and don’t pretend to have all the answers. Who does? All we can do is put our thoughts out there and hope reasonable people will respond in kind.

    Keep up the good work.

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Catkeeper,

      I also take heart from those who disagree with me, providing that their comment shows that they have actually considered my ideas and are reasoned and civil in their responses. That at least is discourse, whereas demagoguery, currently rampant, is redolent of the national mood 150 years ago on the precipice of the Civil War. But, even demagogic comments occasionally offer a satisfying opportunity to try to expose some rhetoric as such.

      I like blogging and I like knowing that thoughtful people like yourself are still out there. Thanks for your kind note.

      Like

  14. Pingback: Shooting For The Moon | Still Skeptical After All These Years

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