Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Smiling Along With The News and Newport's Protected Views

Well, now, it's been an interesting day here in Cauldronland. The telephone and email have been smokin' with inquiries about the identity of Claudio Gallegos' anonymous Westside Improver - the subject of his post yesterday over at the Orange Juice! blog. If you missed it, you can click here to read it now. I have no clue about the identity of the person - some might say that it's only one of many subjects about which I have no clue. However, I imagine some of us will wait with great anticipation for the next two installments, which Gallegos says will be published the on next two Tuesdays.

As I read today's newspapers a couple articles caught my eye and made me chuckle. One was the report of the difficulty old Jim Gilchrist, Grand Pooba of the Minutemen, is presently having trying to maintain control of that organization. Amid rumors of fiscal improprieties, some members of his board of directors have voted to oust him and take over. My smile just got bigger as I typed those words... sorry, I just can't help it.

The second article was one that reported the most recent of what seems like a jillion reports on the impact of illegal immigrants on our economy. The Associated Press stories, published in both the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register, tell us that "the flow of immigrants into California has helped increase wages and job opportunities for native-born workers." According to the report by the Public Policy Institute of California, "Immigrants don't compete directly with native workers for jobs, but tend to bring different skills to the workplace." The report goes on to say, "This allows native workers with the same education level to take more specialized, better paying jobs." "This symbiotic relationship leads to Americans to be able to take more specialized jobs, and to improved output, translating into a 4% real wage increase for American workers in California between 1990 and 2004.", according to the study. This report, of course, flies in the face of all those folks who use, among their arguments against illegal immigration, their "fact" that those workers take jobs away from "real Americans". That has always been a bogus argument. We're in an economy right now that hovers under 5% unemployment - a level at which most economists acknowledge is basically full employment. At that level, most folks who want jobs have them.

I guess our friends who are intent on deporting every single illegal alien from our country - and knocking the underpinning from our economy in doing so, by the way - will just have to find another arrow for their quiver.

So, as we all wait breathlessly for the next installment of "As The Worm Turns", er, "Confessions of a Westside Improver", I'll look for more snippets in the news to bring smiles to our faces.

Before I forget, our good neighbors over in Newport Beach decided last night to proceed with spending several million dollars to create a passive park on that chunk of land immediately above their Main Library, and coincidentally protect minor incursions in the views of a few well-connected folks on the hill above MacArthur at the same time. That property, of course, would be the perfect location for their much-needed new City Hall and esteemed local architect Bill Ficker had provided them with an outstanding rendition of just such a facility that met both the City Hall and Park needs. Instead, there will now be a passive park that will be used by a handful of people each week, surrounded by three very busy streets. I find myself wondering where those few people will park their cars to access the new park. Certainly, few of them will take their lives in their hands by trying to sprint across MacArthur or Avocado to reach it. It's a classic example of the philosophy of some folks in that town which states that no tree will go unhugged. Any other solution for the City Hall will cost upwards of four times as much as the one Ficker designed and will be unbelievably more complicated to manage from a human resources standpoint. Each of the other plans they are considering will involve demolishing another municipal structure and relocation those functions and staff while a new facility is built. I have no dog in that hunt, but it certainly seems to be a poor decision. And, it's a great reminder that, regardless the socio-economic structure of a community, politicians are still politicians - wetting their finger and holding it in the air to see which way the wind's blowing before making a decision.


Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

I hate to deflate your mood, but the PPIC report skims the surface of the issue and focuses on 1960-2004. Most notably, it documents the fact that recent immigrants (the report conveniently fails to discriminate between legal and illegal immigrants - and its use of the term "undocumented" reveals its bias) have actually caused a whopping 17 to 20 decline in wages for immigrants who entered the US prior to 1990. Hardly a happy statistic. The report also notes that during 1990–2004 alone, new immigrants increased the size of
the foreign-born population in California by over 40 percent. A very large number of those individuals were poorly educated
Mexican laborers (an exact quote from the report).

Contrast that truly astonishing 40 percent increase in foreign-born people with the illusory 4% wage gain, and you can see the truth of the impact of illegal immigration on California. Federal statistics show that only 300,000 people legally immigrated to the US in 2004 from Mexico, Central America and South America, of which 173,000 were from Mexico. That is pretty compelling proof that many of the immigrants in 1990-2004 were illegal, as a 40 percent increase in the foreign born population (who are mostly poorly educated Mexican laborers) doesn't come from 173,000 legal Mexican immigrants a year!

Almost doubling the foreign born population in California in 14 years is a huge resource strain on an already crowded state. A 4% wage increase is a pittance compared to the indisputable strain on housing, traffic, and the healthcare system.

More convincing than my interpretation of the PPIC report and DHS statistics is a study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which examined the costs of education, health care and incarceration of illegal aliens, and concluded that the costs to Californians is $10.5 billion per year. The 4% wage gain hardly stands up against that number!

Among the key findings of the FAIR report are that the state's already struggling K-12 education system spends approximately $7.7 billion a year to school the children of illegal aliens who now constitute 15 percent of the student body. Another $1.4 billion of the taxpayers' money goes toward providing health care to illegal aliens and their families, the same amount that is spent incarcerating illegal aliens criminals.

The average cost to the average California household is $1,183 a year, according to the FAIR report.

So, while native-born high school dropouts may make as little as 0.2% more and high school diploma holders may make up to 3%-7% more (for an average of 4%), those numbers don't take into account the myriad other sky-high costs of illegal immigration.

We may have a problem here in Costa Mesa, but try cheerfully talking up criminal illegal immigration in the border counties that have lost their hospitals and have had to severely cut services for legal residents due to unfunded federal compassion mandates like mandatory education and health care.

I don't advocate massive deportation, denial of education and healthcare, racism, or intolerance. I simply want meaningful immigration reform. For all the hard-working illegal immigrants living in Costa Mesa, I hope that a path to legal citizenship opens up, and they all take advantage of it. If the anti-illegal immigration mood that currently has 70% of the US population behind it continues, it would certainly benefit all illegal immigrants to do everything possible to become legal citizens - just like the millions of people who immigrated legally and followed the rules.

I know that is reasonable, Geoff - as even you have stated that you don't support illegal immigration.

2/28/2007 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous dvs said...

Mr. Dickson’s interpretations are interesting. I agree that there is enough peripheral data that alternate interpretations can be inferred from the study. Any time a study is presented there will always be the counterpoint. Rigorous examination is what makes a study useful in the long term versus short term opinions based on the study. We see this in medical studies all of the time.

Still, I find it encouraging, much like the studies conducted on the economic value of immigration (legal and other). These studies have shifted the discussion on the part of most rational people to one of developing comprehensive solutions, not just a knee jerk “deport them all” attitude.

I would disagree with Mr. Dickson’s assertions that “…its use of the term ‘undocumented’ reveals its bias…”. I consider the terminology used as stylistic and not necessarily an indicator of a prejudicial slant.

I would like to thank Mr. Dickson for sharing his analysis. As I took the initial study with a grain of salt, so do I also take his analysis. Still it is good to get a thoughtful perspective from everyone.

I am afraid I have to agree with a quote attributed to Mark Twain’s Autobiography:
Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

3/01/2007 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...


Thank you for the perspective and the priceless Mark Twain quote.

Studies are fascinating, well researched opinion pieces. Even the best non-partisan shops have an inherent bias - as researchers are human. The global warming debate is a prime example. On the immigration front, there are many very bright researchers busily producing studies to back up their hypotheses - whether pro or anti-immigration. If you look at PPIC's immigration studies, they do display a certain bias, but that doesn't take away from their facts.

What I found fascinating about the news coverage was the open bias of the reporting. While they dutifully mentioned the 17% to 20% decline in wages for well-established and possibly naturalized immigrants who arrived prior to 1990, they trumpeted the far less significant and statistically irrelevant wage "gain" for native born workers. Or - Illegal immigration is GOOD for us!

Interesting how they completely ignored the economic havoc wreaked on the previous immigrants.

You would think that they would be tearing their hair out over a 20% decrease in immigrant wages! After all, the oppressed worker is a media darling. Interesting what happens when the oppressor is another media darling! That scenario apparently wasn't anticipated by the pro-illegal immigration crowd in the media, and they dropped the ball in their rush to find some positive aspect of illegal immigration.

As you noted - the increased level of dialogue and mainstream awareness of the practical aspects of the illegal immigration debate will surely lead to rational people developing comprehensive solutions, as mass deportation just won't work, and would be un-American.

Illegal immigration is a bad deal for everyone, especially the illegal immigrants. That is my opinion, and I would be happy to expand on it, but somehow I don't think that is necessary. If Bush can pull off some sort of reform that doesn't reward lawlessness and provides a realistic path to naturalization, along with a workable guest-worker program, the nation will benefit tremendously.

3/01/2007 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

rob and dvs,

I appreciate you both continuing to kick the can down the street. Each of you make good points, as usual.

A REMINDER: To those of you who insist in submitting comments as "Anonymous", be advised that no Anonymous comments will be posted here, ever. I don't even read them anymore - I just hit the "reject" button and your outta here. Click on the "other" button and pick a name, any name, if you want a chance at getting posted here.

3/01/2007 11:23:00 PM  

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