We Delude, You Decide
Do pols actually believe the press clips on immigration?
Samuelson Caves? On March 8, Robert Samuelson wrote a highly-effective immigration column concluding
If we control new inflows, we should legalize the illegal immigrants already here.
The paradox this sentence hides, of course, is the near-certainty that if we "legalize the illegal immigrants already here" it will make it much harder to "control new inflows," because it will send a message to potential future illegals that if they sneak into the country they, too, are likely to be legalized in some future amnesty--and they certainly aren't likely to be kicked out. (That's the signal many current illegals got from the 1986 amnesty, and it's looking like they interpreted it correctly.) We'd have a lot more people trying to get in that we'd have to try to stop than if there were no legalization. ... Similar paradoxes abound in, yes, welfare reform. For example, if you offer every current welfare recipient elaborate job training that qualifies them for high-paying work, they might get off welfare. That sounds good! But it also creates an incentive for people not yet on welfare to go on welfare and get the elaborate job training. ...
Samuelson initiailly papered over this "incentive paradox" by suggesting--with the word "if"--that the borders would be controlled before the perverse amnesty incentive was put in place. That's why it's distressing to see him abandon this condition in his most recent column, which seems to advocate granting amnesty before we know whether we can control inflows or not. ... 3:09 A.M. link
The Full Kabuki: On immigration, the stage is set for a classic Washington stalemate in which all the actors--at least the Republican actors--get to position themselves as advocating their desired brand of bold action, and nothing gets done. In this scenario, 1) the Senate passes a relatively liberal compromise offering full "earned" amnesty/citizenship for 7 million illegals, legalized status for another 3 million and continued illegality for the 1 million most recent arrivals. That lets national Republicans argue that they haven't been anti-Latino, or at least muddle the issue. Frist gets Strange New Respect. ... Meanwhile, 2) the House has already passed its seemingly extra-tough enforcement-only measure, allowing House Republicans to mobilize a still-angry conservative base in their races and maybe retain control of that chamber. ... Finally, 3) the House and Senate fail to agree on a compromise bill, allowing the status quo to remain for another year, which doesn't displease American businesses addicted to cheap illegal immigrant labor, who continue to write checks to fund GOP campaigns. ... As Charles Peters has written, in Washington, "Make Believe = Survival." ... P.S: Then, if it looks as if voters are going to punish Republicans for not actually passing anything, House members can panic and implore their Senate colleagues to pass a milder common-denominator enforcement-only bill later in the year. ... P.P.S.: Note that even Jacob Weisberg, arguing for keeping the sloppy status quo, nevertheless favors at least some tougher enforcement actions against employers. Why not add the House bill's new "electronic verification" requirement and increased employer fines, etc. if this is "the one step that would surely make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to find work here and thereby address the unfairness issue much more efficiently than tighter border security would"? ... 2:26 A.M. link
Frist Thought, Best Thought: The communication stream of obvious cheap punning headlines has now come into sharp focus:
Frist, Do No Harm--Richard Schwartz, editorial, New York Daily News, Sept. 13, 2004
Frist, Do No Harm!--kausfiles, May 24, 2005
Frist, Do No Harm--editorial, Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss), May 31, 2005
Frist, Do No Harm--editorial, Investor's Business Daily, August 2, 2005
Frist, Do No Harm, Part XVIII--kausfiles, March 23, 2006
Frist, do no harm--editorial, L.A. Times, March 30, 2006
Frist, Do No Harm--Jacob Weisberg, Slate, April 5, 2006
With deep regret I note that this was all predicted in a William Safire "On Language" column published in January, 2003, shortly after Sen. Frist became Majority Leader. ... [You're still paying for NEXIS?-ed. Through the nose.] ... 2:22 A.M.
Photograph of Judith Miller on the Slate home page by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.