Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I can't seem to form any solid opinions these days

posted by The Vidiot @ 2:20 PM Permalink

Take the immigration battle.

(Mr. Vidiot and I had QUITE the discussion about this over dinner.
HIM: Challenge the power! Anything that cracks reality and challenges power structures is GOOD!
ME: But they're not talking about the real issue!
HIM: But these people were invisible! Now they're not!
ME: But that's not all of it and it's a distraction to only discuss that!

The neighbors must think we're nuts to be yelling about this stuff.)

On the one hand, I see that these illegal immigrants are working under the table, nearly invisible, being exploited by employers and working for lower than minimum wage. If they were made legal, they would be able to organize and challenge employers to make them pay livable wages. If they were made citizens, they'd HAVE to be paid minimum wages and employers would have to provide at least some benefits (unless of course they're Wal-mart). On top of that, the wages aren't being taxed and therefore the schools their children attend, the hospitals they visit in an emergency, aren't getting the extra tax dollars for the increased workload. (And yes, Mr. Vidiot, challenging the power IS good.) So amnesty or a worker program would be a good thing.

But on the other hand, I see that the sheer volume of these people, along with their "willingness" to work for these low wages (I thoroughly understand that being "willing" has little to do with it, but you get my point I hope.) is limiting the job options available for American workers. It’s not that Americans aren't willing to do the work the immigrants are willing to do (contrary to the oft-heard talking point) it's just that the employers prefer to hire workers that don't require minimum wage, health care or any other benefits for that matter, and as long as there's a pool of cheap labor to fish in, well, employers will always go to that pool. And what about all of those people who dotted their "i"s and crossed their "t"s to get here? What would amnesty mean to them I wonder. So shipping them all back home would be a good thing.

It's quite a conundrum, but there is some sort of an undercurrent that is brushing my fur in the wrong direction and I can't put my finger on it.

First, this issue certainly seemed to spring out of nowhere. Why now? What are we not talking about instead? Plamegate? Iran? Approval numbers?

Second, the media coverage is bothering me. I watched the news last night and the first 15 minutes of a 30 minute broadcast was about these protests. Now, I remember back on February 15, 2003, similar protests were mounted in protest of the impending Iraq war and yet, nary a word was heard on the news. Certainly not 15 minutes worth of coverage anyway. Overall, I could not figure out what the agenda of the coverage was, though it seemed pro-amnesty. (They certainly waxed poetic about how peaceful the marchers were and how organized the action was.) Seeing as the networks are all owned by highly diversified corporate entities, what do they stand to gain from amnesty? I mean, they'd lose their exploitable worker pool. Near as I can guess, (and it is just a guess) they see the writing on the wall (isolationist tendencies combined with progressive states granting illegal workers rights) and realize that if the workers gained amnesty, though they'd end up paying them more, they still wouldn't cost them as much as an American-born citizen would. In addition, they’d now get to claim those workers as an expense, something they can't do with illegals, I'm sure.

Bottom line though, and as usual, the real issues aren't being discussed. The fact of the matter is, most immigrants come here for one thing: to make money, which, theoretically, will lead to a better life for their families. But why can't they make money in their own country? Well, bad trade and bad development, all at the hands of Western neoliberal policies (See NAFTA and IMF) Lopsided trade agreements, compounded by poor development planning and austerity measures thrust upon developing countries by western business and banking interests, both of which lend themselves to gross economic inequalities, have made existence in those countries untenable.

The answer will have to lie somewhere in the middle of full amnesty and shipping them all back. Probably should be state by state, only because each state as its own issues to deal with. No matter what though, overall, the answer will have to include greater corporate accountability, both here and abroad. Here, corporations must be made to treat immigrant workers like human beings or pay hefty hefty penalties. Abroad, free-trade has to be transformed into fair trade. Workers in other countries must be paid livable wages. In addition, environmental standards have to be raised and maintained throughout. The best way to keep them from coming here is to make staying there more attractive.

Until we as a nation deal with the crux of this issue — the profit motive of big business and the exploitation both here and abroad of the workers — whatever solution is created will more than likely keep the power in the hands of business, further exploit labor and maintain the growing economic inequities.

But that would mean the destruction of the corporate power machine. Which of course is exactly what won't happen.

{sigh}

Just trying to distract myself from my impending zipper-headed fate.

And it's not working.

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