Buying Into the End of the World

People have been preaching the end of the world since there were…well…people.   Over the centuries, you have everything to ruin your sleep from the dire predictions of Nostradamus to the guys with sandwich boards warning in ugly painted lettering of the impending Armageddon.   We have had in the Cold War the ever present fear of nuclear annihilation.  Now we have the fear of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

We also have the Mayan Calendar, which purportedly ends in December 2012.   Many see this as Doomsday, the end of the world, the end date  of a 5 thousand odd year cycle.  A cottage industry has grown around the fact that the Mayan Calendar does not extend beyond December, 2012.   It is the end of the world, see the movie, buy the cookies, wear the tee shirt.

Maybe the end of the Mayan Calendar has nothing to do with the end of the world.  It may mean nothing more than they foresaw the end of political sanity as a bunch of mediocre candidates may be running for office.   On more mundane levels,  it may mean the Mayans were bored with their lives and found that one day ran into another there was no pressing need to chronicle their lives through time and space.   So instead of extending their calender, it was a symbolic rejection of their future as that future only mimicked present and past–same crap on another day.   Perhaps, after a long, spiritual consultation with their gods, where they sacrificed their last remaining virgins, Mayan priests saw in their future a world of  MacDonald’s and Wal-Marts and figured the hell with the chronicles of history, not with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin coming online to get it all wrong.

I don’t know.   I don’t even pretend to think I know.   I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and that was no joke.  The specter of apocalyptic reality did indeed hover  for those 13 days.  Couple that with the insipid high school air raid drills where behind the closed paper window shades we gathered in the hallways, no talking, no chewing gum, to accept our fate of collective incineration.   Easier that way, as for those who survived the nuclear holocaust would only have one hallway from which to sweep up the ashes.    But as the Cuban Missile Crisis was averted, we were left only with the only one residual epiphany, that doomsday renders high school even more irrelevant than we had originally supposed.   At least that was the value I took away, that no funky, out of date textbook could ever hope to refute.

But now here we are.   We have any number of doomsday predictions.  Pick your pet scenario for impending disaster.   There are certainly enough to go around.  Global warning has its virtues, and of course the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.  Those Mayans again.   Nostradamus.  Although you haven’t heard much about him lately, at least not since the movie flopped.     Talk about lack of star power and box office draw.  If you go out on the limb, like Nostradamus, you have to  be at least somewhat on target about doomsday to keep them coming back for more.    A couple of flop predictions and those eponymous tee shirts are remaindered to to the bargain racks at Ross Stores, before you can say “Von Dutch.”

So now you have some entrepreneurial soul who is selling bunk beds in a converted bunker out in the Mojave Desert.     AT&T had a bunch of those bunkers stationed around the country.  They were designed to withstand a nuclear blast and keep the communications open through secure microwave technology.   The bunkers are around 14,000 square feet, which is roughly about the tenth the size of your average Kroger or the size of a modest supermarket.      Not real big.   But then, back when these bunkers were built they were constructed so wires and diodes would remain intact and not people.

But here we are in a frenzied world with frenzied headlines and hysteria about one thing or another at every turn.   It’s an odd world that way.   One minute we are told to relish the Hallmark moment, and the next we are warned about the reality of impending doom.   Yes, odd.   Buy stocks and prepare for retirement in one life’s breath and in the other just kiss your ass goodbye.   No wonder people are confused, frustrated, and not sure which way to turn.   If it’s all over twenty minutes from now, why even bother going to the gym?   It is almost as stupid as going to high school.  Well…maybe not that stupid.

So here they are out in the Mojave Desert, selling sanctuary from the end of the world.   It could be all yours for a mere $50,000 in cash.   Blast proof doors and a bunk in a room with three other people.  Yes, you will have one of the four bunks.   Kind of like a youth hostel with freeze dried food that may be slightly worse than the culinary mystery you buy off a roach coach.   Just you and two hundred other people in your 14,000 square foot collective space.  Cozy.

You get to sleep in the same call as three other people.   This means a cacophony of bad breath, stinky feet, snoring, and the occasional sneaky night fart.  This is what you get for your fifty grand.  Not the Ritz, and not the Four Seasons.  Not even the Holiday Inn.  Naw, not even the Motel Six where at least a wall separates you from the commotion next door.    After awhile, it would stand to reason you would be hoping a hundred megaton bomb would relieve you of your last bad decision.   Just throw back the blast proof doors and release yourself to the refreshing embrace of nuclear radiation.

Okay, so maybe after some deep contemplation the $50,000 investment for a berth in the bunker does not seem like the world’s greatest investment.    Maybe the end result seems more akin to being stuck on a tarmac for several decades while the apocalyptic pilot waits for the nuclear radiation to reach half life.    Maybe, like me, you would rather be swimming with barracuda than cramped in a tight space with vacant humanity for any time longer than it takes to go from here to there.   So it’s possible sitting in a jail cell with a lounge chair is not the best way to slip past the apocalypse.   Maybe you are not that eager to survive, after all.

There is another factor.   Nuclear war happens fast.  Missiles travel at high speeds.   By the time you know the show is in its final run, the missiles are launched and it is a long drive to the bunker that is outside Barstow, California.   Even if you live in Barstow, it’s a tough drive.  And if you live in Los Angeles or any of its suburbs, traffic is at a standstill twenty of its twenty four hours.   So when they announce on talk radio that your life will be over twenty minutes from now, I would venture getting from wherever to some dirt road outside of Barstow ain’t as easy as, say, resolving the national debt.   The little venture gives true meaning to getting there is half the fun.

So there you are, sitting up to here in bumper to bumper traffic, forty three miles from sanctuary, listening to dire warnings from talk radio that the end the world missile is being delivered toasty warm just moments from now, in a big insulated pizza box.  You didn’t make it to your rat hole.      You are dead, thinking to yourself, damn, instead of this bunker, I could have bought a Winnebago.

But for those who are a bit more upscale and choosier about their apocalyptic digs, someone out of Kansas may soon be offering underground survival condos for a mere $1.75 million apiece.   There you may have your much desired exclusivity and languish in the comfort  of your Lazy Boy, oblivious to the pounding of scorched hands from those less fortunate than you.   Never think of them as the unfortunate, but view them  as fertilizer for the future landscaping you plan once the radiation has diminished.  Those fatty food diets they probably ate will play off big time as they replenish the ground.

The condo does have its drawbacks.   Yes, you might survive, but it is a long way to commute to anywhere.  You are in Kansas, after all, and being some wigged out survivalist in Kansas should be punishment all to itself.  In the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust you can be pretty sure you won’t have decent reception on your flat screen TV.

Look, this is a variation on an old theme.   People have tried this before and rather than go the collective or condo route, they dug bomb shelters into their backyards.   The stocked them with weapons, food, clothing, batteries for emergency radios and flashlights.   The shelters maybe weren’t blast proof but what Russian in his right mind was dropping a nuke on Maple Shade Lane in Levittown?    So blast proof wasn’t the issue.  You only had to survive the radiation, Grandpa’s senile reminiscing, and the fact that one nuclear family member may croak, causing you to live with the stench until the radiation outside reaches half life and you can venture out into that brave new world of devastation.

But…many did consider the bomb shelter a worthwhile investment.  There was a technical name to these people, attributable to their ability to see into the future and after careful contemplation realize what action needed to be taken.  A very precise and technical name.  Schmucks.   But then after awhile even the schmucks discovered it might not be the end of the world and started using the bomb shelter for more worthwhile purposes.  Like turning it into a sewing room, or the kiddies recreational room, or since there were beds there for having undisturbed sex with the pool boy or maid.   Practical application.  We are Americans after all.

As for the end of the world being imminent…two very basic and visceral responses pop into mind.   Not likely.  And if that is wrong…then…so what?  Yes, so what?   People are idiots and they ended the world.   They were too dumb to live and something else will come along to take our place.  Maybe enlightened protozoa.  Hard to say.  Such is life.  Such is death.

Besides, have you ever been to Barstow?   Imminent death may be a lot better than sitting it out in Barstow.

Gordon Basichis Interviewed on Today’s Author on The Guys Who Spied for China

Blog Radio talk show host, David Ewen, recently interviewed Gordon Basichis on Today’s Author.    The radio show dealt with Basichis’ recently published novel, The Guys Who Spied for China.

The Guys Who Spied for China is a roman a clef based on the author’s experience helping to uncover Chinese Espionage Networks that were operating in the United States during the eighties and early nineties.   The book takes place mostly in California and has been described by critics as quirky, character driven, and with a dark sense of humor.

To hear the show, log onto this link for Today’s Author, hosted by David Ewen.

Each to Its Own Disease

Everyone tries to declare how special they are.  While various groups debate their differences, define their histories and otherwise demonstrate their significance on what is becoming a very small planet, there is one undeniable fact that lingers in the back of our brain.   We are all going to die from something.   We may die quickly and violently, or we may linger and suffer before we pass on.  But the stark fact is sooner or later we are checking out of here.

It is almost funny that this is perhaps the one remaining single fact where there is little or no debate.  We argue about everything else.   We argue about the big stuff, and we argue about the little stuff.    We argue about global warming.  We debate the merits and deficiencies of race, gender, and sexual preferences.  We argue about gravity and the age of the Earth.   We can spend hours debating the morality of everything from where to buy the best pair of jeans to driving an SUV.   We argue whether we  Darwin evolved or were a product of a divine plan explained to us ever so precisely through umpteen religions and secular theories.    We argue whether cow farts and bottled water will hurtle out planet to its impending doom.

We argue incessantly.  Taking sides and shouting each other down  has become a major industry.  You can’t market complexity and nuance, because thoughts that are complex and nuanced are disturbing and prey on our insecurities.   We are more secure with crackpot theories than we are with uncertainty.    So we argue in absolutes,  and even then we prefer to keep our absolutes simple.   If they are not simple, you can’t buy the books, go to the lectures and otherwise listen to the pundits and politicians who cater to our particular set of beliefs.   Simply put, if you can’t put your thoughts on a tee shirt, they probably ain’t worth remembering.

But then every once in awhile some actual facts escape from spin cycle and we are confronted with their statistical reality. These are not the speculative statistics or manipulated statistics, positioned just  to validate our point of  view.   No.  Instead these are the types of fact that are actually hard to argue with.   The ugly truth as it is sometimes known.    These are the simple numbers that lay reality at your feet like an abandoned child that nobody wants to nurture.    These are facts that remain consistent regardless of the cause , blame or subjectivity.  These are the facts that leave little wiggle room, that are distinctive in their certainty so that debating them appears more like futile  buffoonery than rational argument.

Such facts?   Not only are we going to die, but we are actually killing ourselves.   Maybe it’s the lemming concept or the human version of the long march to the elephant graveyard.   Maybe its gross denial mixed with complex mixtures of stupidity and ignorance.   Maybe deep down we just don’t care.  Maybe our compulsion toward self-indulgence is so great that nothing, especially common sense, will get in the way of our collective suicide.

I am not talking here about the macro levels, the easy stuff, nuclear war,  global warning, and the death of the planet.  I am not even speculating on the probability of the sun eventually burning to the cinder or a meteor clipping us when we least expect it.   Even global starvation and massive pandemics are not on the table here.   Being invaded and eaten, as Stephen Hawking recently predicted, by aliens from another planet; we can forget about that, too. I am talking about how through our lack of responsibility we are in fact taking responsibility for doing ourselves in.

New studies report that nearly half the adult population in America has high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.  One in eight is playing the quinella, where they have at least two out of three of these diseases.   According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, 15% of us are walking around unaware we are afflicted with at least one of the three diseases.   Which means to me,  folks can pontificate authoritatively about everything from the rash on our ass to the Rapture and the End of Days, and yet still walk around having no idea they are seriously ill.    We talk about lofty things like taking care of the planet and taking care of the poor, but yet we can’t seem to take care of ourselves.

What is even more interesting that certain diseases plague certain ethnic groups more than others. In America, African-Americans are prone to high blood pressure.  Those of European descent find high cholesterol gets in their way, while Latinos suffer more from diabetes.   Surely, there is some extension of these disease from one ethnic group to another, hands across the water so to speak.  Also, there are other serious diseases that afflict different groups.  I realize their are environmental concerns and individual or familial congenital defects.    And then, in terms of health and fortune, it sometimes boils down to nothing more than the luck of the draw. But for our purposes we can stick with the article and just these three diseases.

While each ethnic group seems more in peril from a particular affliction, the causes for each of the diseases are pretty much the same.   Mainly the causes revolve around smoking, a junk diet, obesity, and physical inactivity, better known as the sedentary lifestyle that makes the purchase of one of those fat mover electric scooters almost irresistible to some of the late night cable crowd.   I would think no irony should be lost on the fact that our true common ground is our self-indulgence and bad health.

I have often found it just a tad specious that just about every ethnic group likes to brag about its past.   Each ethnic group and nationality can go on for days about its glorious heritage and its contributions to civilization. There is no end to their performances and days of  glory.  Then.    It is not that a disbelieve their claims.  But often find myself searching for their particular relevance in the modern world.  I wonder if all the casting back to the past serves as a distraction from the vagaries of our present times.   I realize others will view a world through a different prism, but I tend toward the pragmatic and prefer to see how those past achievements can best be put to use in the modern day.   How do we put them to use, and where does it leave us now?

From the looks of things, it leaves us obese with hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.   All represented in one form or another in the same collective rut.   So in existential terms, regardless of  specific achievements attributable to one group or another, we are all sitting here, living in denial and dying sooner than we should.   If there is any consolation; it’s all pretty democratic.   No matter what our ancestry, half of us are taking the decided inaction to let the quality of life slip out of our reach.     We talk grandiose about saving the planet, but according to the recent study, we are having a tough time saving ourselves.

We talk about being sensitive to our surrounding, aware of the environment, our fellow creatures, and the challenges we are faced with.  But yet in terms of our own well being, fifty percent of us can’t get out of our own way.  We can’t hurdle our indulgences or come to terms with the realities of our own health concerns.     Yeah, sure, we like to talk about it.    We talk about the junk food, our carnivorous habits, and the polluted air we breathe.  We even see the doctor.  Yet here we are.

So I guess at the end of all this I am forced to wonder how are we doing to do all this planet saving when we can barely hurdle our personal afflictions?   Is there any real logic to fending off hunger, water shortages, and global warming, while we continually ignore the factors causing our own demise?   Here was are, ethnically speaking, all stuck with some kind of health burden and the best we can do is to skew the statistics to our own disadvantage.  Maybe in the face of loftier ideals, the notion of the best example is the way we take care of ourselves.

David Ewen to Interview Gordon Basichis on “Today’s Author” Radio Show

Today’s Author host, David Ewen will be interviewing author Gordon Basichis on Thursday, May 5th, at 8:30 P.M. Eastern Time.   The topic of discussion is Basichis’ new book, “The Guys Who Spied for China.” The novel is a roman a clef and chronicles the author’s real life experiences uncovering Chinese Espionage Networks in the United States during the 1980’s.

The book has been described by critics as quirky, personal, and darkly humorous.   It is not your typical spy tale but tells an intimate story about what it feels like to suddenly be thrust into the world of espionage.

“The Guys Who Spied for China,” was a quarter finalist in the recent Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition.

To hear the interview live you can click on this link for David Ewen’s Today’s Author

The show will later be available for download at this following link.

Getting Real About Immigration Reform

Illegal Immigration is largely like the weather.   To quote Mark Twain, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”    Of course that isn’t entirely true with regard to immigration as different states and even local municipalities have attempted to put into law statues that would in various ways limit the rights if undocumented workers.    Or the more significant attempts,  California some years back tried to enact Proposition 187, as a result of a populist petition attempting to limit or deny the quantity of public services the state could administer to illegal immigrants.    This was knocked down by the courts as unconstitutional.

And then Arizona came up with its new statute, SB 1070.  Among other things, the law makes it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona.  Another section of SB 1070 requires law enforcement authorities  to make a reasonable attempt, when practical, to determine the immigration status of any person with whom they have lawful contact. This leaves open the question of whether it will lead to racial profiling and harassment of Hispanic U.S. citizens but are not carrying acceptable proof, such as a driver’s license.   In response, the state officials in favor of the law deny it will lead to racial profiling.  One legislator said they can determine whether someone is an illegal alien by the type of shoes he or she is wearing.  Or something like that.

Subsequent to the passage of this bill, which was signed into law by Jan Brewer, the Arizona Governor, the immigration  issue came once again to a boil.   Many critics have condemned SB 1070 as draconian, racist, and unwieldy.   Supporters maintain that inaction by the federal government on immigration issues has compelled the state to move forward.    Supporters cite the troubling  cost of illegal immigration to the state, especially in a bad economy.  They claim this new law will be a means of combating the increased gang violence initiated by the Mexican Drug Cartels and associative street thugs.

Whether it is a draconian law filled with racist policy, or whether it was done out of frustration against federal inaction, one thing holds true–passions on both sides of the issue have been ignited.   There have been demonstrations around the country, while the radio waves heat up with opinions from both sides.

Groups in support of the illegal immigrants drag out their facts and statistics, claiming that undocumented workers pump more money into the economy than they deplete.   Those of the opposing view drag out their own set of statistics, citing the serious depletion of resources, how illegal workers are taking jobs away from eligible Americans, etc.  And Congress, meanwhile, listens patiently, as it has done for over a decade, and then does nothing.

Michael Hiltzik, columnist at the Los Angeles Times, recently wrote a column asking both sides to cool it on the rhetoric.   The article was entitled, “Turning Down the Temperature on Illegal Immigration.”  It is a good article and describes how in this discussion most contributors lead with their passions and not with their heads.   Hiltzik notes that–

“The two extremes of the immigration debate line up like this: One side says legalizing the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants will produce an economic boom — $1.5 trillion added to U.S. GDP over 10 years, says UCLA; $16 billion for California from legalizing undocumented adult Latinos alone, according to USC.

The other side maintains that illegal immigrants steal jobs from native-born Americans and contribute mightily to our huge state budget deficit. The cost of taxpayer-funded benefits for “illegals,” says Steve Poizner, who’s running for the GOP nomination for governor, has sent California over a cliff. (His latest TV commercial shows a car plunging into a ravine, which seems like a rather spendthrift way of making the point, for someone who’s all about economic responsibility.)”

Hiltzik then goes on to write that according to the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, that in the short term legalizing most currently  ineligible workers would have little or no effect on the labor market.  He also goes on to write, that the job market open to illegal immigrants has less to do with legal workers and more with the usual circumstances of employment, meaning skill sets, education, etc.   Such limitations being what they are, it is unlikely that the undocumented workers will move up in the labor scale.  The report indicated that tax revenues were unlikely to surge if the ineligible workers were legalized.  Nor would the better skilled labor force be  particularly threatened by immigrants who lack the education and skill sets to threaten those jobs.

So in the essence, and in the short term, the PPIC study projects that legitimizing the presently illegitimate workers would create neither a major tax infusion nor threaten the jobs of eligible workers.   Most illegal workers are already paying taxes and they would merely continue to do so.   What it would do, it is predicted, is decrease exploitation of the illegal workers and encourage them to become more acculturated.   It may stabilize their families and otherwise bring people into the light.     There would be a cost to all this, of course.

Some will argue that the state and the country have already been inundated with illegal immigrants.   Some complain that they should not be referred to as  “illegal,” but the fact remains that as long as the laws are on the books,  that is the term for people who enter the country illegally.    Some claim all our people are immigrants.   Others retort that their relatives came here legally, dutifully filed their papers, etc, and entered in compliance with American law.   True.  Maybe.

But then I have always wondered if it was only a fence or river and not an ocean between them and the American shoreline, how many would have done the same damn thing and come across illegally.   How many of our European ancestors would have been wetbacks and not the bonafide entrants we brag about?    I know also, as there were quotas and various laws on the books, that to bypass these limitations our European ancestors who came here in the late 19th and early 20th century lied on their documents.  I found customs and immigration documents on several relatives.

I  have relatives that to avoid quotas listed themselves as married, when they were in fact a brother and sister.   Another  female relative is listed in the immigration documents as an eight year old boy.   Until the day she died,  she lived in fear that she would be discovered.   Odd.  But true.   I sincerely  doubt that mine was the only family that lied about their status in order to be admitted through customs.

Both sides of the illegal immigration issues love to drag out statistics.   They bandy about numbers and figures and vouch they are accurate.   When it is only estimated that their are 12 million illegals living in the United States then money numbers, like the population count is at best an approximation.   Since the nation is too large a space to consider for the moment, let’s just take California.

California has no shortage of undocumented workers, and certainly the state has pro and con felt the impact of their presence here.  California, historically, has always confronted this issues in one form or another.   The state in its past has utilized everything from the  Bracero program that began in 1917 and was implemented on and off through 1964, to its ignominious Federal Reparation Act where in the 1930’s somewhere around two million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were shipped to Mexico.  This act was first authorized by Herbert Hoover and it didn’t end until Franklin Roosevelt became President.

Mind you, this was in the middle of the Great Depression and for whatever reason the state was in no mood to discriminate between Mexican Nationals and American Citizens.  The roundup was wholesale.    It has been estimated that sixty percent were actually American citizens.  I know of one woman whose mother experienced this very fate.  She has for decades urged her daughter to always carry identification for this very reason.   But talk about drawing the short straw and being forced to start over; this is about it.   Perhaps Arizona should take his piece of history into consideration before moving forward on its SB 1070.

On the other hand, California has benefited at different times from the Federal Bracero Program.   In 1917 through 1921 it was legislated that Mexicans could come work in the farm fields.   Then, after deporting them for a decade or so, the Bracero program was reinstated.   Between 1942 and 1964, again when the U.S. was off fighting wars and short of labor, some four million Mexican laborers were admitted to do farm work.   During those years much of the border was even more porous than it is today with travelers moving from one side to the other with relative impunity.

The reasons for the Bracero program were pretty much what they are today.   There was a shortage of laborers willing to work the fields and commit to menial tasks.   This was especially the case as most farmers were unwilling to pay a a living wage to domestic laborers.   So, like today, they got cheaper labor on a cash and carry system.  And when the harvest season was over, the workers were to return to Mexico.  A win-win situation.  The fields were harvested, and people in need of money made some money, along with what was often considered abusive treatment.   And the farmers were able to expand the agricultural industry in America so that it was foremost in the world.

Thing is, many braceros did not return, but stayed in America instead.    For that period of decades, millions came over to work, and millions were later arrested and sent back.    In 1952, seeing this as an increasingly serious problem, the government enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act.   This made made harboring illegal aliens a felony punishable by a $2,000 fine and a prison term of five years, it also included the so-called Texas proviso.  The Texas Proviso protected the farmers by assuring the employment of illegal aliens is not the same as harboring them.    This way, there were no penalties assessed against US employers who knowingly hired illegal workers. So you can use and maybe abuse them.  And once you were finished they were left to fend for themselves.

Since we are a nation that struggles mightily with both facts and history, suffice it to say that in general the legislation being put forth by Arizona today is rooted in the past.  That is to say that this is not the first time a really bad idea has been cloaked in some weird extension of necessity to hide the general vulgarity of its  true purpose of greed and discrimination.   More than a few times nations have followed leaders that have in the name of national urgency and some other jingoistic refrains come down on one group or another for the financial gain of the few.   While we are not among the worst of these examples, we certainly possess a few we would rather sweep back under the carpet.

While emotions run high on both sides of the issue, the fact remains that to a great extent the immigration question is a numbers game.   Once upon a time it may have actually made fiscal sense to utilize the Bracero Program.You may not like the program for humanitarian reasons.   But in terms of economics, it worked out.   Bring them in, pay them on the cheap, and then send them home.

But anything like the Bracero Program is no longer feasible.  And the current system, as it renders itself today, is little more than a de facto Bracero Program.    Like I said, it is a numbers game.   If an employer looking to pay someone cheap wages, say $10 and hour, and the cost of living in that city or state, including public and social services, and the burden on the infrastructure, is for argument’s sake, say $20 per hour, then clearly it is the public who is picking up the rest.   The taxpayer is supplementing the employer for any overage in social and public services that exceeds the $10 an hour.

That is why the whole notion of cheap labor is delusional.   When you pay people less than what it cost to live, the burden will fall somewhere.   It will fall the taxpayer.   While we subscribe to the illusion that we are obtaining cheap labor, we grouse at the fact that we are picking up the tab for social services.  We don’t mind hiring illegal immigrants; we just don’t demand the employer pay them for their services.   Because, let’s face it, the only reason an employer hires an illegal worker is because they don’t have to pay them what they would have to pay an eligible worker.  Bottom line is that you will have to pay for labor in one form or another.  Either through the wage itself or as a supplement to social services.

The employer pays the illegal worker bupkes and then passes the overage on to the taxpayer.  The taxpayer whines about it, and supports stupid and draconian laws that clamp down on the poor soul who departed thousands of miles from poverty and debilitation in quest of making a living.   This is who we pick on.  This is who we vilify.  It is so much easier than condemn the poor guy trying to make a buck than to go after the employers who are trying to pass their labor costs off to you.   I won’t even go into the nannies and gardeners and the other domestic laborers who the Mommies and Daddies of the world don’t mind buying on the cheap to watch little Junior to to make sure the neighbors don’t leave ugly notes under your door about your lousy looking lawn.

The Federation for Immigration Reform estimates that the annual cost for Illegal Immigrants in the United States has been $36 billion.   By the end of 2010, that figure is expected to increase to more than $60 Billion.  By 2020, the estimate is over $100 Billion.  Mind you, this is from a group whose acronym is FAIR, a group in favor of immigration reform.   These are not estimates from some hate filled bunch of racists looking to make a point.   And FAIR’s estimation considers only three major programs–educating the children in public and primary schools, medical services, and incarceration.   These estimates do not take into account the increased burden on the infrastructure, nor the accelerated cost of both medical and auto insurance born by the legal citizen.

In California, there are an estimated three million immigrants.   They are not all laborers, but spouses and children who are either unemployed or working part-time.   FAIR’S  estimated cost for the three aforementioned programs is something like $8.8 Billion.  There are other estimates that list the cost at $10 Billion and even $14 Billion.  But who is quibbling about a few billion here and there?   No matter how you cut it, this is a lot of money.  When the state shortfall is something like $24 Billion then this is a substantial portion of our debt.   And it is climbing.  Unless you suffer from same delusion of cheap labor, it is apparent the burden of illegal immigration is bankrupting the state.

I know some say that the illegal working community pays taxes and pumps a lot of its money into the economy.   They claim that the money the illegal workers contribute in taxes and spend on goods and services is nearly equivalent to the services they receive.  Oh, really.   So…if you take $8.8 Billion and divide it by 3 million.   The resultant estimated cost is about $3,000.00  for every man, woman, and child. Which means for an average family of five, the taxpayer would have to pay approximately $15, 000.00  just to break even with their share of the state budget supporting the undocumented community.   Families comprised of undocumented workers, depending on the study, pay an average of $4,500 to $7,000 in annual federal taxes.   So there appears to be a shortfall.

Before one starts thinking that this is an argument in support of the anti-immigration movement, it’s not.  It’s just the facts, M’am.  Or like I wrote earlier, a numbers game.   The issue is then how to pick up the shortfall.   The obvious means is three-fold.  On one hand, do a better job of sealing the borders.   It is absurd that a nation considered to be the most powerful in the world can’t keep a watch on its on borders.   While we fight wars thousands of miles away, you would think we would allocate more than a few measly bucks to monitoring our borders.

But, most importantly, it is imperative we develop a pathway to citizenship.  By keeping the illegal workers in the shadows, we will experience the result of a permanent underclass.  All that jargon about starting out poor in American and rising up the ladder of success is negligible if we cannot find a means to acculturate undocumented workers.   We can piss and moan all day about “how dare they enter this country illegally, ” but nevertheless, they are here.   They are here because we wanted them.   We needed them. We needed their cheap labor; we needed them to tend the lawns and watch the kids, do repeated tasks in factories, and build stuff that we self-righteously entitle “cost effective.”  We wanted them, and now we got them.  Apparently, we may have too many, especially in an economic downturn when much of the jobs have dried up.  Some never to return again.

So, yes, do a better job of sealing the border and assure through a pathway to citizenship we do not suffer the embarrassment and cost of a permanent underclass.  Look, some will always be poor, and even more will never have enough money.   But then there are those, who like the immigrants before them, start out from meager circumstances and move forward.  Several generations pass and the farmers, maids, and housekeeper, have kids who are doctors, lawyers, business people, and politicians.   But that will not happen through repression.  It will only happen if we create a plan, a rigorous but sensible plan.   Do what you are supposed to do, and one day you and your children may have a bigger slice of the pie.  Or not.  But at least you have a shot at it.

Thirdly, don’t hold the worker trying to make a buck accountable for being the bad guy.   That is way too easy.  A simple target to vent frustrations.   But the wrong target.   Make the employers accountable.    Best to pay it through wages than through supplemental taxes.   A better wage makes for happier people, but it also triggers increased taxes.   Yes, you may have to pay more for goods and services, but like I wrote earlier, all illusions to the contrary, you are going to pay for the social and public services one way or another.  So stop complaining.

There have been increased crackdowns on employers hiring illegal workers.   Businesses are fined, and in one recent case the employer was accused by the IRS of defrauding the government out of $16 million in back taxes that he didn’t pay for his undocumented workers.   The company was fined and closed, and the head of the company was sentenced to ten years in prison.   The case was recently upheld in the appeals court.

As the Co-Founder of Corra Group, I see a change in attitude among many employers.  Most of the saner ones realize their days are numbered when it comes to hiring illegal workers.   They face stiff fines and closure.  Since we primarily conduct background checks for employment purposes we conduct Social Security Traces that verify that the social security number is real and that it appears to belong to the employment applicant.   We are also designated agents through the Department of Homeland Security for the electronic E-Verify or I-9.   As of the first of the year, any federal contractor or employer doing business with a company that is a federal contractor is by federal law mandated to run the E-Verify on their employees.

Ironically, there was one state that got out in front of this situation.  In 2007 the state’s governor signed into law the first employee sanctions legislation.   Each employer was mandated to conduct the I-9 on any employee in order to verify his eligibility to work in the United States.   It was a tough law.  The first time you were caught hiring undocumented workers, the authorities would close your business down for thirty days, as well as fine you.   The next time they were caught, the employer faced increased fines, possible permanent business closure and loss of license.   A tough law that went right to the heart of the matter.   It was the type of law the President Obama found the most viable in relation to one aspect of immigration reform.  The legislation was House Bill 2779.  The governor who signed it into law was Janet Napolitano.   The state was Arizona.

Go figure.