Prioritizing Immigration Reform

Last year I lived in Arizona for the polarizing discussion around SB1070, a law that requires immigrants to carry proper documentation at all times.  The reaction from across the nation was mixed; the anti-illegal immigration crowd championed the legislation as a win for citizens, and the civil rights movement charged Arizona with racism.  Although the true motivation for the law was purely political (Governor Jan Brewer used the legislation to win support from her base), it drove substantial misinformation around immigration.  Diving into the data reveals some very interesting statistics.  Not only is the cost to taxpayers negligible but undocumented workers drive down wages for employers, makes goods cheaper for consumers, and is one of the main sources of unskilled labor in the US.

Money drives decisions in Washington.  Any legislation that has a positive dollar payout is bumped to the front of the congressional docket.  This is precisely the reason why wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage are leveraged in the campaign season, but never legislated once government is in session.  Regulating undocumented workers is bad for business, the economy, and price chasing consumers.  Politicians understand immigration emotion with voters and leverage talking points as ammunition.  Once elected, immigration is tossed to the back of the bus with all other wedge issues, ready to resurrect once election season returns.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, America's employs around eight million undocumented workers, roughly 5.3% of the total workforce. Undocumented Workers only make up 3.7% of the nation’s population, and that number has been declining with the economic stresses facing the US.  In Arizona, there were 150,000 less undocumented workers in 2010 than 2007, and Florida's population also decreased by 230,000 in the same time period.  Across the US there has been a decline of one million undocumented workers from 2007 to 2010.  Of the total number of undocumented immigrants in the US, only 58% originate from Mexico. Undocumented immigrants make up a small part of the population, disproportionate percentage of the workforce, and shrinks as national unemployment rises.

The two biggest issues cited when discussing immigration is cost to taxpayers and crime.  Cost to taxpayers comes in the form of healthcare resources stemmed from emergency room visits.  Recent studies place the liability of medical care around $5 billion annually, much less than the $50 billion incurred annually by uninsured Americans. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for welfare, food stamps, social security, Medicare, or Medicaid.  About five million undocumented workers are employed by taxpaying companies, who in turn provide payroll and income taxes on behalf of these individuals.  These unclaimed tax payments to the government create a windfall of $8-$10 billion annually which more than covers the emergency room costs.  Undocumented immigrants also pay sales tax, and as renters indirectly pay property tax.  Crime rates are disproportionately lower for undocumented immigrants.  The vast majority of incarcerations are violations of immigration laws, not violent crime.   California is the largest undocumented immigrant state comprising approximately 35% of the state's population.  Immigrants, however, represent 17% of the prison population.

Now, to be clear, I am not advocating undocumented immigrants be given the same workers rights as US citizens, or for wide open borders.  This would disrupt the value equation provided by cheap labor and immigrants capacity to flow to the work. Undocumented workers should come and go as the market dictates.  When jobs are not available the immigrant population shrinks, and the opposite as more companies expand.  50% of all produce workers are undocumented workers, as well as vast amounts of service workers in hotels, kitchens, and landscaping companies.  Immigrants have a substantial impact on keeping cost cheap, which is then passed to the consumer.  Wal-Mart is the retail king through low pricing.  Many of these low price products are created by the hands of undocumented workers. Tougher immigration laws are bad for labor markets and business and will dry up campaign donations faster than Tim Pawlenty's run for president.

Also might want to read "Imagine a Day Without a Mexican"


For Republicans, Self-Reflection as “Weakness”

Post by Eric R.  -


You have probably heard quite a bit by now about a recent incident in Afghanastan in which several Qurans were burnt by US military personnel at Bagram air base. Apparently the Qurans had notes written in them by prisoners, and upon discovery were confiscated, mistakenly added to other garbage at the base and at least partially incinerated before being noticed by Afghani staff.


 In the wake of the incident radical elements of Islamic extremists used the situation to foment anti-American sentiment, which ultimately culminated in riots that killed more than 30 people, several of them American service members.

As the controversy began to heat up President Obama wrote a letter of apology to Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Secretary of State Clinton and the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, also issued apologies for the incident.

It was these apologies, and particularly the President’s, that set off its own controversy generated by the Right-wing media machine here in the U.S. Media Matters recently compiled an astounding set of clips from FoxNews on this story. (http://mediamatters.org/research/201202280001).

A few highlights:

  • Liz Cheney (daughter of the Dark Lord, and qualified political commentator?) calling Obama “The Apologist”, and stating that his “default position” is to “apologize for America”

  • FoxNews contributor Mike Gallagher saying that it was “outrageous” for President Obama “to go crawling to Karzai”

  • And of course Carl “ham” Rove (Colbert reference), stating that rather then do any good, President Obama’s apology actually “made [the situation] worse by showing weakness”


[caption id="attachment_618" align="alignright" width="300"] A political cartoon by Gary Varvel criticizing Obama's apology[/caption]

Why should we apologize to terrorists who blow up civilians, throw acid in the face of schoolgirls and kill people over a burned book when they don’t apologize to us? As another Fox contributor, Charles Krauthamer, put it, “when I hear that [apology from their side] I'll expect my president to start issuing an apology.”

So, from what I have gathered, a good portion of the Republican electorate thinks that President Obama’s apology was insulting to America and its troops, pathetic, weak and harmful. Leaving the efficacy of the apology aside for the moment, I’d like to reflect on the substance of the Right’s inane reactions.

The reality is that the war that the United States is fighting in Afghanistan is not a ‘traditional war’, but rather a culture war. There are fundamentally differing views about the world on the two sides, views that cannot be softened with the help of shared history, customs, language or faith. A more amicable America is not Al Qaeda’s goal any more than a more democratic Afghan terror cell network is the goal of the U.S. We will never ‘agree to disagree.'

Because we are engaged in a culture war, the opinion of the vast majority of Muslims across the world whose minds and support are being fought over are very important to our goals. We will never win those minds and support if Muslims believe we don’t respect their beliefs. To ignore public opinion of Afghanis and other Muslims is not only idiotic, but also deadly. It should be noted that there actually are some conservative political minds that understand this, and so support Obama’s decision to apologize, in addition to a number of military minds as well. (See the Media Matters link).

As one observer pointed out, Hamid Karzai is a weak president struggling to maintain his tenuous grip on power. Whether we like him or not, he is our guy right now, and we need him to succeed for stability in Afghanistan to even be a possibility. What Obama did with his written apology was to give Karzai a tool to use as he worked to confront this mini-crisis at home. Karzai actually read the letter to the Afghani Parliament in the aftermath, using what he had to get what he could.

These common sense reasons to apologize were even obvious to George W. Bush, who apologized not once, but twice, to foreign nations for desecration that occurred to the Quran on his watch.

But beyond the common sense reasons to be culturally sensitive to the Muslim faith that is followed by millions across the globe, there is another reason, an even better reason, for being thoughtful. That reason, of course, is because it is the right thing to do. Rather than subscribing to Krauthamer’s ‘only do good unto others when they have done good unto you’ worldview, I am more inclined to go with another philosophy, something more like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Now who was it that said that? Maybe the Right believes that this only applies when it’s easy.

Because I am a Mormon, I am sensitive to how the outside world treats my faith. Beyond the history of forced dislocation, assassinations and open hostility that the early Mormons endured, I have personally had to defend my faith in public arenas, classrooms and in conversation. I know this is not unique to me, but is a common experience for many members of our church. As Mormons, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” [*] Of course this does not mean we sit idly by while minority fanatics attack us in the name of their God, but it does mean that we should show Muslims the same degree of respect that we believe our faith deserves.

Leave it to the Right-wing to call Obama’s common sense response to the situation “irresponsible and unnecessary”, an olive branch as “outrageous”, likening it to groveling before a foreign power. And who would you expect but Rove and his ilk to see what others might recognize as self-reflection and honesty as “weakness”. Is theirs a world you want to live in? Me neither.







[*] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ 11th Article of Faith.



Offended Might Be Too Strong of a Word

Post by Joseph M -

Romney won Michigan and Arizona, and Washington's Republican caucuses liked him too; now he has to make it through Super Tuesday - the real test of sorts.

And seriously, I'd be somewhat offended if Mitt Romney lost the Republican Presidential nomination to the likes of Rick Santorum.  I realize this is a strange thing to voice on a website entitled "Mormons for Obama," or when I have no plans to vote for Romney, or when I really don't even like that Romney is in the presidential contest altogether.  However, as a Latter-day Saint, I can't help but wonder if much of the dislike of Romney can be attributed to his Mormonism more than to his flip-flopping.  Clearly all the fervor in the news media over Mormonism this past week (the baptism for the dead letter read in church, racist remarks by my former mission president, Randy Bott,) would be much quieted or even nonexistent if Romney wasn't in the race.

And according to polls, many potential voters reported an unwillingness to vote for a Mormon for president (and this was before all the recent media scrutiny).  Admittedly, many of these are liberals, but a large number of these folks are also from the far right.  See one poll here.  And a more recent article reported much of the same thing:

http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/02/pollster_says_mitt_romneys_mor.html

This is when I get offended, although that might be too strong of a word.  As a Mormon Democrat, I consider Rick Santorum to be pretty "out there."  His comments on everything from contraceptives  to African-Americans does not move us forward, and I am half a key stroke away from calling him crazy, (but that is against our own submission rules for this website.) I am frustrated with "the us vs. them" mentality that exists in Congress currently, and I feel inclined to put a larger portion of the blame on the far right of the Republican Party.  So when someone like Santorum starts getting votes, and he appears to be extremely partisan and divisive, I have to sit back and wonder: why isn't Romney good enough for the Republicans?  Is he really so bad that they want a Santorum to represent them in the 2012 election?

Republicans have demanded an "anybody-but-Mitt" alternative since the beginning - before the creation of the world.  They flirted with everyone from Herman Cain (!?!) to Rick Perry (!?!) to Michelle Bachman (!?!)  The list is reminiscent of a casting call for a Christopher Guest film.  (Imagine Rick Santorum holding a Shih Tzu, and you'll get the idea.)  And so Santorum gets their votes because he is the last man standing, and a Mormon in the White House is not an acceptable proposition. (Click on the picture to the right to purchase Hugh Hewitt's book.)

I guess I'm revealing my victim-mentality here.  These potentially imagined slights and the real historical persecutions such as Carthage, Haun's Mill, and the forced exodus west, are indeed "stamped into the Latter-day Saints' collective memory," as Jon Krakauer pointed out in his not-so-unbiased account of Mormonism, Under the Banner of Heaven, A Story of Violent Faith.  But for me personally, after living in the South during my formative years, I experienced a certain amount of discrimination from other Christians.  (Additionally, a Big Gulp flying at me from a car window while pedaling a missionary bicycle down the streets of Modesto CA also comes to mind.)

Unfortunately, discrimination based on religious affiliation is one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice.  I've seen it from both sides in regard to Mormonism, (meaning that conservatives and liberals discriminate against Mormons for very different reasons.) In the end, I am more comfortable with the dislike of my faith that I feel from the Christian Right than what I experience from the Progressive Left.

Let me explain: In the Southern Bible belt, Mormons are perceived as weird, cultish and believing in "another Jesus."  While I was in Sunday School learning about the Army of Helaman or watching LDS films like "I'll Build You a Rainbow," the Baptists and Methodists were showing their children "The God Makers," a film that informs young minds that Mormons believe in a very badly animated Jesus.  And the following Monday, these same little children would go to school and inform me that I was brainwashed and that I worship Joseph Smith. However, the accusation that Mormons aren't Christian is easy for me to deal with. ("Blessed are they which are persecuted for my righteousness' sake...")  In fact, this is what Mormons have experienced all along.  But now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I find opposition to my faith based on completely different reasons: the dislike of Mormons is due to the perceived intolerance of blacks, women, and sexual minorities.   Ultimately, I find it easier to be portrayed as a religion that believes in another Jesus than a religion that oppresses others.

But back to my point, (because I'm not planning on moving back home just so I can be discriminated against differently): I don't believe that the far right of the Republican party should cast too many stones at us Mormons or our faith; one or two small pebbles might suffice. For indeed, we do proselytize to other Christian denominations, and we do believe that God has a body.  But in the end, we are believers.  And for every God Makers movie about us, there is a Jesus Camp about you.  So give us Romney this time, and maybe next time you can have your Michelle Bachman.

But just so I'm perfectly clear: in the end it really doesn't matter.  I am voting for Obama, and you might consider doing the same.

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Status of Delegate Count?

Looking for an update on the status of the GOP delegate count?  Try checking out the Wall Street Journal's page!

Common Sense Gun Laws

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

There is probably no other section of our Constitution that is currently more controversial than this one. In my own opinion, the amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms only in the context of a well-regulated militia. I invite any old English grammar experts to render an honest opinion on the literal meaning of that sentence. I am not one, but I cannot interpret it in any way that does not link the right of the people to "keep and bear Arms" to a "well regulated Militia." Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Number 29, "If a well regulated militia be the most natural defence of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security." Of course, the body he was referring to was the Executive Branch.

Read more

The "Official" Mormons for Obama Bumper Sticker

Check out the bumper stickers we have made to show our support for Obama.  Please display a sticker to let everyone know that we are voting for Obama, and that we are Mormons!  Place it on your car, your kitchen window, or your Trapper Keeper.  Some of you already have one - but if you haven’t gotten yours yet, then click here on the sidebar (that hopefully works).  We are not making money on this – so the prices reflect the actual cost of the sticker, the shipping, and the PayPal fees.    I’ve noticed some other stickers on café press – but those cost quite a bit more, so we wanted to offer one here.

And spread the word – share this with your friends on Facebook.  We have a limited number of them, and we’ll only do this one printing.  (Now I'm supposed to say: so act fast!)

Why is a fundamental women's right a fight?

Post by Doctor Lauraclubfancy, your health care correspondent -

The purpose of this post is to get our readers updated on birth control – what Obama has done and what his opponents are saying.  Clashes about birth control coverage for women seem to have everyone talking, including Foster Friess, a primary contributor to Santorum’s Super PAC. He said, "Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly." [i]

Per the Affordable Care Act, starting July 2012 most new health care policies, and eventually all insurance policies, will offer a list of preventive services for women WITHOUT COPAY OR DEDUCTIBLE [ii]. This includes all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives. (Bayer Aspirin is not on that list, Friess, you disgusting man.) This list of women’s services is based on recommendations from a July 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine, “Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps," which identified key components of women’s health services that have been shown to “improve well-being." [iii]

Yet some religious institutions, who offer insurance plans as employers, are upset that this interferes with their beliefs.  It should be noted, that many of the insurance plans that do not cover contraceptives do cover medications like Viagra. [iv]

So in response, Obama put a caveat in the policy that would allow institutions to opt out, but women will be guaranteed no-cost access to contraception by a requirement that the insurance company offer the coverage instead.

"The result will be that religious organizations won't have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they'll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries," says President Obama. [v]

In Wednesday’s Arizona Republican debate during discussions on this issue, Romney dogged (ahem) Obama and said, "I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama." [vi]

In this same debate, Santorum lamented about the birth control issue, stating that 40% of children are born outside of wedlock and that birth control is bad for women and society.  Wait.  Doesn’t birth control reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies?

Really, I could go on and on, but I think it is worth just taking a step back:  Why are we fighting about this?

Several months ago, I had a group lunch with a prominent physician from the World Health Organization who oversaw research studies in Cuba. I was very impressed with his descriptions of the quality health care and research in Cuba. He said, “Well, the Cuban government prioritizes two things: education and health. So that is where they most of their money goes, and it shows. The United States prioritizes (pause) other things.”

I support President Barack Obama because he is prioritizing women’s health, particularly preventive services that save lives. Birth control is a beautiful thing.

 

Holy War

Post by Joseph M -

And so it continues...

As if it wasn't bad enough that Rick Santorum decided to criticize Obama's faith, Mitt Romney decided he needed to do the same thing yesterday.  My guess is that Romney saw Santorum's tactics as the straight and narrow path toward better poll numbers, and he demonstrated this today when he parroted Santorum at a campaign rally, claiming that Obama has "fought against religion" and has a "secular" agenda.  See the article here:

 http://news.yahoo.com/romney-says-obama-fought-against-religion-222645762.html

The Christian Right is at the heart of Romney's free-fall in the polls.  They don't like him because he's a flip-flopper; they don't like him because he's Mormon.  And Santorum seems at least smart enough to capitalize on this weakness.  He is the last standing alternative to Mitt Romney, and so he says what the Evangelicals want to hear; his comments about Obama's "phony theology" and his stand against prenatal screenings are just empty rhetoric meant to woo the Christian Right of the Republican party.  He knows that Arizona and Michigan are week away, next is Washington, and Super Tuesday is afterwards, (we so excited) and he has a chance to win big.

I thought Romney wouldn't go this route considering that Mormons are told that they aren't Christian all the time.  But this isn't the first time Santorum has done this.   He claims that if you are a liberal, you can't be 'religious' and you certainly aren't Christian.  (See link below where in 2008 Santorum claimed that there is no such thing as a liberal Christian).  So Sorry Eric, you do not exist.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/21/rick-santorum-obama-christianity_n_1291645.html

Both Romney and Santorum are on a roll (holy rollers).  They've found a cadence for the religious campaign stumping, and they can only go down from here.  The Crusades 2.0 are just beginning.

Here are Santorum's latest comments on Monday as reported on MSNBC's The Last Word:

"I don't know if you've been listening to the president, the secretary of state, and other members of the cabinet, when they talk about freedom of religion... They don't say that anymore.  They talk about freedom of worship; well, you folks all know there's a big difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion.  Think about what I just said.  We have leaders of this country who are now narrowing the view of what religious liberty is in the first amendment."

What does this even mean?  Never mind that President Obama just talked about the importance of protecting "religious liberty" on February 10th at a news conference.  Regardless, it seems that using the term "freedom of worship" broadens the view of religious liberty.  Many people lead spiritual lives but are not connected to a specific religious institution.  Many people follow a moral or value-system but are not believers in a God.  So what of them?  Shouldn't their right to worship be valued, protected, and recognized?

I think Joseph Smith said it best, and Romney and Santorum might learn something here:

Articles of Faith 1:11 - We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Amen to that.

Republicans are Closet Socialists

Over the last several debates, GOP contenders use the word socialist to describe their warped view of what the Democratic Party stands for.  They have leveled such attacks on "socialist" president Barack Obama, and have regularly used "socialist" in a derogatory tone against anything Democratic.  Redistribution of wealth is also married to the socialist label, as with any governmental benefit.  Not only do these candidates (and pundits) have little regard for the meaning of the word, they often demonstrate their ignorance in twisting its usage.

Socialistic theory encompasses government's choice to control capital.  The extremist form of socialism, communism, argues for complete control of capital, eliminating all private property.  Republicans follow and support many socialist platforms as a collective group and demonstrate socialistic behavior as government continued to grow at levels disproportionate to the economy.  Growth of government = increased control of capital = socialism.

Let me cite some specific examples of socialist support among Republicans:

The military is the largest socialist organization in our nation.  The military is not a privately run organization, nor does private capital control any equipment, technology, or weapons.  The government own all military capital, and provides all services.  It's quite interesting to watch Republicans discuss healthcare in the military with utmost respect, and then lash out at government controlled civilian healthcare.  Veteran benefits are socialistic programs, as is all wartime activity.  Think we can privatize the military?  Get ready to fork out serious payments if you want protection.

Unless you are coughing up the $20k a year for private tutoring, education is a socialist program.  Education is run and supported by the state and federal government, which spends roughly $7,000 a year on each enrolled student.  Even if you believe private industry can operate the same program at 30% efficiency, it will still cost a family with two kids roughly $10k a year to pay for private education.  In a purely capitalistic market you would pay according to the quality of the education, meaning the superior schools will cost substantially higher than average.

Medicare is another program that is entirely socialistic.  With 90% of healthcare costs coming the final ten years of an individual's life, our seniors will be left out in the cold, as the payments will be unreasonable to assume.  Now to be fair, the Medicare program could be privatized, which would require the 5.8% payroll tax to be saved by the individual year on year.  Given the current state of our economy and the choices made by consumers, this will be a difficult challenge for the vast majority of citizens.  Hospitals also are funded through governmental spending to drive consistency in quality.

I have often listened to my Republican friends complain about toll roads when traveling out east.  I always found this interesting given that private controlled roads would charge per use, mimicking toll roads today.  Private roads would follow market demand.  If any road had continual traffic jams, the owner of the road would assume they are not charging enough, as the demand outweighs the supply.  Public transportation would also be private in a purely capitalistic market, so pricing would also be owned directly by the users and not the government.

Just imagine if our society was purely capitalistic.  If your house was burning down, or if someone had broken into your home, better hope you have a credit card on file with the right emergency department or no help will be coming.  If your child falls off a ladder, and you have no insurance because you are one of the millions of individuals who lack coverage from your employer, there will be no emergency room visit.  If you are convicted of a crime, don't look for the government to appoint a socialist lawyer if you can't afford one.  If your district needs help with a specific project, don't ask the government for earmarks.  If you have an innovative idea, the government will not protect you through patents.

Republicans like to look at selective measures to demonstrate Democrats are socialists.  Here are a couple of facts that demonstrate socialism is not a partisan issue:

-  The most money ever paid in earmarks was $56.2 billion in 2004 when Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency.

-  The largest governmental subsidy is spent on fossil fuel (oil) with $72.5 billion (2002-2008) allocated through legislation signed by Republican presidents.  The 2002 Farm Bill also provided expansive governmental subsidies to farmers across the US.

-  In 2003 Republicans passed a $1 trillion dollar government entitlement prescription drug program to support Medicare.   Part of the legislation shifted drug price negotiating power from the federal government (largest buyer of drugs) to the insurance companies (who then billed the federal government), creating a fixed pricing windfall for the Pharma industry.

-   President Bush was the first president to see the annual budget cross the $2, $3, and $3.5 trillion dollar spending levels.

-   Homeland Security was the largest expansion of government since the Department of Defense.

-   The EPA was proposed and signed into legislation by Republican President Richard Nixon.

-   Defense spending is the largest bill our government pays today, driven by Republican legislation.

-  President Bush signed TARP and the first round of auto-bailouts, effectively creating social programs for the wealthy.

The most telling reason Republicans are closet socialists, is the way they vote.  The only candidate campaigning on an anti-socialist platform is Ron Paul, and it is no secret how the Republican base feels about him.  The other Republican candidates follow the same line of thinking as previous generations before -- lots of tax cut rhetoric, and no discussion of trimming today's socialist programs.



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