Afterbirth: Accurate Analysis is an Essential Part of Democratic Self-Government. The Triumph of Racism in the Republican Party is the Root Cause of the Recession

            The birther movement, Barack Obama’s birth certificate controversy, is the issue that just will not disappear.  Why?  There is an adage among practitioners of electoral politics that the candidate who takes the wrong stand on the right issue will defeat the candidate who takes the right stand on the wrong issue.  Ergo, the first task of every successful politician is to identify the issues that matter.

            One reason the birther movement lives is that it is the socially acceptable face of racism.  As the mono-cultural societies of the West diversify, the former privileged classes panic and become xenophobic as they see their incomes and status decline.  Saying Obama was not born in the United States is another way of saying if you’re black, stay back.  It is code.  The same thing is happening in Europe: the Netherlands, Finland, and France, to name three. So, this factor is not unique to the United States.

            Donald Trump rocketed to the lead in the Republican presidential race on his aggressive demands for Obama to release his birth certificate.  Once produced, Trump tanked, but the birthers march on.

            The reason is that the issue of being a “natural born” American happens to be important at this moment in history, and not just in the immigration issue.  One of the major reasons that Obama was able to cruise to victory in the 2008 presidential race (aside from the collapsing economy) is that Arnold Schwartzenegger, the Governornator of Califoornia, was born in Austria and is consequently ineligible to be president.

            In a normal political year, the Republican Governor of California, a moderate to progressive state, would be considered a front runner for the Republican nomination.  After all, California contains about 20% of the electoral votes needed to be elected President.  So, the governorship of Arnold Schwartzenegger created a huge political vacuum in Republican presidential politics.  California was missing.  The Republicans had to settle for John McCain, whose state of Arizona borders on California.  So, the issue of natural born citizenship had a major impact on the 2008 presidential race, but not because of Obama’s birth certificate.  It was Arnold’s ineligibility for the presidency.  This is an important if little mentioned factor in understanding Obama’s victory.  The fact that it is still ignored is the reason for the media frenzy over Arnold’s out of wedlock child.  Arnold is in the news.  Natural born citizenship is in the news.  Obama’s re-election campaign and the search for a Republican opponent is in the news. Can the mainstream media connect the dots so the country can move on?

            Another reason the birther issue refuses to die is related to immigration and the anchor baby controversy.  The racists redux are panicked by the families of Hispanics with their three or four children under the age of five cruising the Targets and Wal-Marts while the white people cohabitate, are childless, are gay, or transgender, or workaholics.  They fear the United States is being overrun.  Like the boy with his finger in the dike, they now want to deny citizenship status to the offspring of illegal immigrants, citing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution as the source of this outrage.

            The 14th amendment, however, was designed to reverse the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision which held that blacks could never be citizens. The source of “natural born” citizenship is the Second Article of the Constitution which defines the qualifications for president as: “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;”

                The Oxford English Dictionary give the etymology of the word natural as coming from the French “naturel meaning produced by nature, without human interference (early 12th cent.), innate.”   

                This makes it pretty clear that there is a natural way to become an American, and because natural means the same for everyone without human interference, it is the qualifications for president and not the 14th amendment that confers citizenship on people naturally born in the United States.  I wonder if citizenship could be denied to people born by caesarean section on the basis that it’s not natural?

            So the birther issue remains active because its effect on the 2008 presidential election and the true source of natural born citizenship.  The issue is real, but the birth certificate vehicle is the wrong one. 

            Also, the issue of who can be president is germane because the most recent president who was ineligible was George W. Bush, who lost the 2000 election.  Not everyone agrees with democracy.  Some people believe in the innate superiority of some people over others.  In fact, this may be a majority opinion. 

            There is a relationship between democratic elections and government policy.  It is important to remember that at the end of Clinton’s presidency, the federal budget was in surplus.  Once Bush, who was rejected by the voters by more than half a million votes, was installed in office by a corrupt Supreme Court, taxes were cut for the rich and the country was plunged into two wars.  The United States had become another Banana Republic, with the current predictable consequences.

            But the Bush supporters who do not believe in democracy but do in a robust offense as a good defense, instead of accepting the blame that Bush stole the election in 2000, they now claim the Obama is ineligible because of his birth.  No wonder the country is going down the drain.  Politico-religious belief is taking priority over fact.  The consequences are serious.  The popularity of racism in the immigration debate is one of the major reasons the economic issues can not be resolved.

            Here is an article from the Monday, May 16, 2011 Financial Times by Clive Crook called: Fixing America’s Immigration Mess.

            “In a speech last week and at a series of other events, President Barack Obama renewed his call for comprehensive reform of a US immigration system that everyone agrees is broken.  He called it an ‘economic imperative’. He is right – more right, perhaps, than he knows.

            “If you sat down to design an immigration policy to erode US prosperity, you would struggle to come up with anything better than the current rules. What impresses is the system’s coherence – the steady direction of so many moving parts to the single goal, so it seems, of reducing US living standards.

            “In effect, the immigration of skilled workers is especially discouraged - perhaps more so than in any other industrialized country.  Critical shortages of labor in engineering, computer science and other technology-related disciplines go unmet.  Firms such as Intel and Microsoft complain about this endlessly.  One way or another, the rationing of essential skills is defeated by moving work abroad.  Then the country wrings its hands about foreign high-tech competition.

            “Unskilled workers, meanwhile, arrive through the country’s permeable borders (which will never be sealed, short of making the US a prison along East German lines). Unlike highly educated workers, who consent to be turned away, many unskilled immigrants take their chances in the illicit economy. Estimates vary, but there might be 11 million in the US today.

            “Like legal immigrants, they create income and employment, but living below the radar imposes costs on them and on the wider economy. Smugglers and other service providers take their cut; enforcement efforts (a losing battle) take another.  Failure to comply with immigration rules leads to failure to comply with other systems – taxes, driving licences, workplace regulation and so on. Illegal immigrants invest less in developing their skills and other kinds of capital accumulation. Not to be discounted, they also live in fear.

            “These deadweight losses, shared by the immigrants and their neighbors, are hard to measure but surely huge. Most could be captured in the form of income and taxes of the illegal immigrants were instead legal guest workers – or, in due course, citizens.

            “Are those losses a price worth paying to preserve jobs for Americans? That is the organizing principle of the entire mess and it is the oldest economic error in the book: the lump of labor fallacy.  There are only so man jobs to go around, according to this view; let in more, or indeed any, immigrants and you are taking jobs away from Americans. The idea is nonsense.  The US refutes it more plainly than any other country in history. The quantity of jobs is not fixed. Immigrants bring their jobs with them. Roughly speaking, each new immigrant creates one new job. Immigration expands the economy.

            “What about wages? This is more complicated. Increased immigration, in the first instance, puts downward pressure on wages in the affected occupations.  But many factors push the other way, raising average real incomes for US workers.

            “Remember that lower wages in the affected occupations equate to lower costs for US consumers. Also, an increase in the supply of legal unskilled immigrants would tilt the occupational mix of US workers toward better paid employment, partly by increasing the overall size of the economy, boosting the demand for higher-skill jobs. Again, this is not idle speculation: the pattern has been clear for much of US history.

            “Increased legal immigration raises the productivity of immigrants; encourages capital accumulation; and broadens the tax base. Research has shown that the additional tax revenue from expanded legal immigration outweighs the additional burden of providing public services to immigrants.  Studies that try to gather all these factors together show a clear net benefit for US citizens in the aggregate. The best policy of all for US citizens, it turns out, would be more liberal immigration rules for guest workers combined with a moderate visa tax.

            “It is true that not all US workers would gain. An increase in legal unskilled immigration might not make US house-cleaners and gardeners better off. But international trade does not make everybody better off, either, nor does labor-saving technological progress.  The current US immigration system is not that different, in its effect on US living standards, from a tax on labor-saving technological change – except that, unlike a tax, the policy raises no revenue to pay for better public services.  Is anybody proposing a tax on innovation, to protect American wages and jobs?

            “The politics of all this is difficult, to put it mildly. Advocates of comprehensive reform – easing the curbs on skilled immigration, an expanded guest-worker program, a path to legal status for illegal immigrants already in the US – have their work cut out. The idea of “amnesty”, seen as condoning law-breaking, is especially resisted. Nobody expects a breakthrough soon. Timid incremental progress might be the best Washington can do.

            “Mr. Obama could achieve more of that than he is willing to admit by executive initiative without new laws. The government has a lot of discretion in how vigorously it enforces its rules. Even if Congress will not act, the administration still has options. As well as calling for the big remedy, as he is right to, the president should also seek ways to liberalize by executive action. It is, as he says, an economic imperative.”

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf