You may have noticed that the Republican Party is imploding. Not just because they lost the election based on Tea Party dominance, not just because John Boehner had to withdraw his own Plan B to avoid the Fiscal Cliff when his own caucus would not support him. No, the reason is that the right wing who have taken over his party refuse to compromise, and say exactly what they mean. Thus two of his group helped lose the election by repeatedly trumpeting the existence of legitimate rape, and the firm belief that God wants the victims of rape to bear its children. And now we see these same forthright tall white men willing to raise taxes on 98% of the population, because they won't raise them by 4% on people who earn more than a million dollars a year. We should be grateful that they don't conceal how truly misguided they are to win votes. If they had, we'd probably have lost the election.
Their opinions may be nuts, but their nuttiness is on plain display. We have to hope that the majority of Americans will grasp the full extent of myopia and wrong-headedness among those who now cow a previously grand old party. A real shame for functional democracy, but at least they are helpfully transparent. I for one believe in the two party system. I hope the moderate Republicans actually survive and thrive. With an electorate whose opinions are split and all over the opinion map, we need a legislature that conveys all of their politics to government, but then rules from consensus in the center. That's how grown up democracies do it around the world, and it is how ours once did too, until entertainment 'news' in our media, based on dead end extremism and fear, made compromise into a pejorative instead of the fundamental underpinning of any functional representational government.
Now we have the same right wing on the self-same day suggesting that we put more guns into our kindergartens, elementary schools... and every other kind of school in America, this despite the fact that two armed guards at Columbine engaged with, but could not stop, the two teenage mass murderers.
And we again hear their anti-immigration argument loud and clear in all its strident illogic, from the self-same tall white men who have forgotten they themselves are descended from immigrants. They seriously believe immigrants steal American jobs and leech off of society. They think immigrants don't pay taxes and that if we just rounded them all up and sent them home, or as nearly-President Romney suggested, if we make things so tough and scary that they voluntarily leave, our economy will benefit.
They need to look out of the window.
Immigrants not only made this nation.... But they continue to make it function. Immigrants who are undocumented pay sales tax, property tax, excise tax, and if they work under someone else's Social Security number, as is often the case, they pay into the system without any benefit in return. And more than the taxes they pay, they greatly uplift consumer demand for goods and services: these are people who live here, spending money to do so. For exactly the same reason economists pray for a healthy retail Christmas, we should want as many people as possible to contribute to the economy. These are among them. Furthermore, first generation undocumented aliens often take the millions of menial jobs that Americans reject: ask the farmers how easy it is to get their crops harvested now that recent ICE crackdowns have scared away their traditional workers.
At the peak of the recession, I was invited to a conference at the Breakers Hotel in West Palm Beach. It was a gathering of some of America's wealthiest families, organized by their Family Offices, the folks hired to manage family fortunes of 50 and 100 million dollars and up. Way up. This was a meeting of that top 1% everyone talks about. I had many meetings, and I had great admiration for most of those I met. One striking observation was that most of them were self-made - they or their parents had arrived in America with nothing, but a mere one or two generations later, here they were at the Breakers.
One principal challenge discussed was called The G3 Issue. This was not about how to share use of the family jet. It was precisely what to do about flaky grandchildren. The often shared story I heard was this: Grandpa and Grandma came over from the old country. By working incredibly hard 80 hours a week for decades, they bought and built one hardware store into a chain of stores, and sent their kids to college, where they qualified as lawyers, doctors or MBA-clad businesspeople. And those kids saw first-hand the meaning of hard work, and they used it to build their own lives, often in the family business. And these businesses and the families that owned them acquired enormous wealth.
G3 refers to the third generation: the kids of the kids. Too often, I heard, they had major personality challenges, contributing little to family or society, and often facing lives of substance abuse, failed relationships and sometimes worse. Educated and privileged, they were too often squandering their birthrights, to the dismay of their parents and grandparents. What to do? My own contribution was to suggest that the grandchildren be drawn into community service by taking meaningful roles in managing the family philanthropy, and expanding it. If I was able to benefit my 30 teenage Foster Children by taking them to serve lunch to the homeless on Skid Row, surely these families could expose their grandkids to the realities of life by demonstrating poverty and deprivation, creating a win-win for society and their teenagers? Gratifyingly, I am still working happily with several of these families in exactly that way.
First and second generation immigrants built this country, and they continue to fuel it now. Our world of mega-rewards has not yet swamped their work ethic and productivity. As one eye-opening example of this, look at the Patels. These families of devout vegetarian Gujarati Hindu farmers came to the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. They worked at first in menial jobs, often cleaning rooms in our hotels and motels, but saved up and bought undervalued and dilapidated hotel properties, then turning them into thriving businesses. 60% of mid-sized motels and hotel properties, all over the US, are now owned by the people of Indian origin. Of this nearly one-third have the surname Patel. When we talk about the American Dream, ask the Patels... they have actually dreamed that dream, and built those lives. And yes, they too are now experiencing their share of the G3 problem.
The Census Bureau this week told us that the U.S. population inched higher for the first time in seven years, to 314 million, up 2.3 million in the last 12 months. But this is not because there are more babies born than people dying. No, the natural growth rate had fallen to a level not seen since the 1930's. Our population this year only grew because of immigration. Without immigrants arriving, it actually would have shrunk. And a shrinking work-force and consumer base would have diminished GNP and lead to further economic decline.
So to those 885,800 immigrants who arrived this year (up 110,000 from the year before), I say "Thank you for coming! We welcome and cherish your contributions to our economy. Please ignore the right wing nut jobs who want to send you away. There are really not that many of them, they are just loud. Don't watch Fox News. It will upset you, as it upsets us. Happy Hanukah, Kwanza, Christmas... and Diwali. Come one. Come all. Together we will build a better America."