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Thinking with Your Heart vs. Your Pocketbook

This week has seen a number policies debated, three of which represent extremely important issues affecting Californians and, in some cases the whole nation. First there is President Trump’s proposal to end family and diversity based immigration in favor of employment based, with green cards awarded on the basis of a point system based on work skills, education, a job offer, English proficiency and the ability to pass a U.S. civics exam. The idea is that our country should be allowing in immigrants who will help our economy by being employed at substantial wages, paying taxes and filling vacant slots in our tech industries. Approximately four million people who are currently on waiting lists for green cards because of family ties would lose their places and have to reapply based on their requisite job skills and other proficiencies.

The second policy issue is one that has arisen in California and involves eligibility for MediCal (California’s version of Medicaid) for undocumented immigrants. In 2016, undocumented children in low-income families in California became eligible for MediCal until they turned 18 (five other states have similar policies). Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed expanding that age to 26. Other proposals have suggested adding elderly undocumented adults and even gradually raising the age for poor undocumented children so that eventually all undocumented immigrants below a certain level of income were covered. Newsom claims the California budget has enough surplus to fund his proposal, but probably not the others.

The third policy issue, again a California one, involves a proposed state law overriding local zoning restrictions so that high rise apartments and condominiums could be built in areas zoned for lower storied buildings or expanding the number of single family homes allowed on a plot of land are near transit routes. The aim of the bill was to increase housing in order to bring escalating housing costs in the state, particularly in cities and their suburbs, down. The bill failed for a second straight year.

What all three of these policy proposals have in common is that they seem to pit those who want to take care of the least well off of our citizen and non-citizen residents against those who are concerned about their tax burdens or their middle to upper class quality of life. 

The facts are that, in California, millions of undocumented immigrants go without health insurance. A large proportion of our legal immigrants are family members of U.S. citizens and entered into this country, legally, on the basis of that family relationship, and many California families are anxiously awaiting for a brother or sister, a parent, or an adult child to make it through the long and involved wait to gain entry to the U.S. California’s housing costs are among the highest in the nation, with a median home price two and a half times the national average and over half of renters paying more than a third of their monthly income to cover rent.

Those who suffer from the current situation are those with low incomes—the poor and the lower half of the middle class. The plain truth is that if these people are going to have their burden eased, it will be by those more fortunate giving something up: taxes to pay for public health insurance for those who don’t have it, or their pristine neighborhood of well-spaced single family houses devoid of apartment buildings or high rises. 

Soft-hearted people tend to favor such programs while those who believe that they've earned everything they have and they should not have to give part of it up for those who haven’t done the same, oppose the programs.

There are of course limits on what a country or state or city can do in terms of how far its means will stretch. But those means are dependent upon income derived through taxes and if people paid more taxes, then the government would have greater means. Since taxing the lower middle class or the poor would defeat the idea of helping them, that means taxing the well-to-do and rich at higher rates. In terms of immigration, we have to decide whether immigration is a tool for growing our national prosperity or a means of providing haven for the poor and allowing families to be reunited. Those who provide services in our restaurants, hotels, our homes and our commercial buildings or make low wages at McDonalds, Walmart, doing landscaping, or working in virtually any restaurant you can think of, need to have a place to live, and, if their families and their children are to move up the socioeconomic ladder, the more often they live in an adequate, safe residence, the more likely they are to move up.

Illegal immigration needs to be controlled, but those illegal immigrants who are residing in our country, working in our yards, sending their kids to our kids schools, and getting sick and injured along with rest of us, need to enjoy enough public benefits to insure the safety and health of their lives. It’s fine to have some aims for our immigration system beyond uniting families and taking in refugees. But completely abandoning those goals in favor of ones that are aimed solely at improving the economic outlook of the country, ignores the human purpose of immigration inscribed on the statue of liberty: “give me your tired, your poor…” I don’t want America to become so stratified in terms of wealth that it resembles a feudal nation where the rich live opulent lives of extravagance and ease in beautiful green and spacious neighborhoods while the majority lives in crowded, unhealthy, unsafe garages and deteriorating apartments.

I favor more thinking with our hearts than our pocketbooks and that means me and most of those reading this giving up some of what we have so that others, less fortunate, can have more.

Reader Comments (2)

"I don’t want America to become so stratified in terms of wealth that it resembles a feudal nation..."
Unfortunatrey we are too late for that. Current estimates are that USA wealth (and income) inequality exceed both the feudal era and even the Roman Empire which was a state built on slavery. Technically we are the most unequal nation in recorded history..

Immigration policy -- is a tremendous opportunity to see hipocrisy at play. Those that rail against illegal immigration would never dream of actually stopping it. The systems to stop it cold, have been operationally, widely tested and they work. Simply require social security card electronic validatiuon and make it criminally illegal to hire illegals.

The simple truth is that the elite wants to keep a large number of illegal immigrants employed at starvation wages to suppress all workers** I have seen construction companies in California employing hundreds of skilled masons, carpenters etc, probably, virtually all illegal at $10 per hour versus the $25-40 per hour rate previously paid. Of course it is not just the true elite but the 1% and even the top 10% that will shout the loudest if they need to pay a little more for their vegetables or gardener or maid. The inequality is so severe that even the upper 10% are rendered relatively of modest means.

Sadly,iInequality kills. Left out of our main-styream media is that mid-range estimates are that one American dies every 36 seconds of poverty related factors (Columbia) or that the death of one in three can be traced strictly to the excess rates of inequality we have visavis the Nordic states (Harvard).
I think the fear/prejudice/hatred so many feel towards poor and minorities is related to the fear people feel generated by their own insecurity in a dog-eat-dog culture.

Very sad to reflect that people can truly care for each other but that we don't
Some years ago I and my (ex-)wife were illegal immigrants in Mexico. For years later she always recalled that the best care she had ever received was from the Mexican Social Security hospitals and clinics. Although we were illegal and did not pay into their social security system the services were all free, completely free. They cared.

**(from above) The worst hipocrisy I have seen are the plans to take limits off guest agricultural workers visas and allow them into all parts of the food chain (ie picking, packing, warehousing, trucking, restaurants, food processin, etc.) where their employment would be literally at the whim of the employer for as many years as the employer wanted them and siubject to immediate deportation again at the whim of the employer.

May 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDariel Garner

First off, no one thinks with their heart. The heart, in the sense you’re using it, is a feeling organ. We all think with our brain. Perhaps this irony was intentional, but it rings hollow nonetheless.

Immigration into the US is a privilege. We, as citizens, have the absolute right to admit or reject whoever we want based on whatever criteria we decide. A merit based system appeals to a large percentage of citizens and will help minimize the number of welfare recipients already overloading the entitlement system and also prevent further displacment of low-skilled citizen workers. Immigration is about letting in the people who can best help our country economically by provide knowledge and labor that is most needed. The US isn’t a haven for many of our own citizens. It certainly can’t be a haven for a significant portion of the people in the world.

The “soft-hearted people...” paragraph is a very wild opinion ungrounded in any fact that I’ve seen. What makes you think that people haven’t earned all that they possess? And if they had inherited wealth, why wouldn’t they be reluctant to give their money to less fortunate illega aliens? I would prefer to focus on the problems facing my fellow citizens before diverting scarce resources to people in the country illegally. I think that makes me soft-hearted for citizens who are bereft.

I find it strange that anyone opposes localism in government and thinks federalism will somehow solve problems. Look at what LBJ’s well-intended but disastrous Great Society did to the black community in particular. Single motherhood doubled in the first few years of the welfare program because it gave a basic income to single mothers. Men and women were financially better off having kids out of wedlock. But the children have and will continue to suffer in all communities where no father is present in the home.

If mediocre poetry is meant to drive immigration policy, I’d be the head of ICE at this point. The Statue of Liberty is meant to be inspirational, not a legislative guideline. And if you really care about people doing well or rising up through the system, then please stop promoting whatever form of socialism for which your advocating. Rich people in capitalism pay far more into the system than rich people in socialism. Oligarchs quickly become a law unto themselves.

May 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheller

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