Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: A Model of Forgiveness

Let’s be honest.  Everyone knows that comprehensive immigration reform entails amnesty, and ultimately citizenship, for more than 10 million Latino/a illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.  Amnesty means that these individuals would be pardoned of the crime of entering the U.S. illegally.

In the holiday spirit, amnesty (temporary or complete forgiveness of a lawful obligation) could usefully be applied in some or all of the following ways:

Forgiveness of sufficient principal on outstanding home mortgages to lift all homeowners above water, i.e., their homes would be worth at least as much or slightly more than their mortgages.

One year moratorium (or forgiveness), renewable if poor economic conditions persist, on payments of principal and interest on student loan debt.

Ditto on credit card debt.

Ditto on back federal taxes.

[Fill in other debts.]

Why single out only one group of people for amnesty?  Fair is fair.  Let’s give others the same break.  Reducing debt obligations on millions of Americans would put more money in the pockets of individuals and households with which to buy goods and services.  The increase in aggregate demand would boost the economy.  Why force foreclosures and debt collectors on debt-lade  households when moratoria and debt forgiveness are both more humane and economically beneficial?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Who Should Pay To Maintain The Flow Of Oil Through The Strait Of Hormuz?

For all intents and purposes, U.S. military forces provide the security that insures the uninterrupted flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

An important new development in oil and gas production, hydraulic fracking, will soon put the U.S. on the cusp of energy independence.

Near-term U.S. energy independence makes this the perfect time to transfer the burden of keeping the Strait of Hormuz open.  Let that fall upon the chief consumers of Middle East oil.

Japan imports about 4.4 million barrels of oil a day (mb/d), 89% from the Middle East
China 5.3 mb/day, 40% ME
India 3.1 mb/day, 63% ME
South Korea 2.5 mb/d, largely from the ME.

The U.S. should transfer the protection of the Strait of Hormuz to these countries.  Let them assemble a joint naval force and pay for it themselves.

The benefits are numerous.  The U.S. Navy will have more resources to facilitate President Obama’s pivot to Asia, especially if Congress reduces overall defense spending.  U.S. taxpayers will stop subsidizing a portion of the total cost of oil consumption by Asian countries.  The U.S. will not be caught between rival Arab factions and countries.  In the absence of large forces stationed in the region, the U.S. is less likely to be drawn into another Middle East conflict.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Modified Mission For Conservative Think Tanks

Demography!  Demography!  Demography!  The 2012 presidential election revealed the following electoral landscape.
Based on exit polls, President Obama’s share of voters in the different ethnic, religious, and gender groups was as follows:

93% African American
85% Muslim American (CAIR survey)
73% Asian American
71% Latino American (most rapidly growing segment of U.S. population)
69% Jewish American
91% Gay American (overlaps with above categories)
55% Women (68% single women)
60% Young (18-29)
60% American Born Cubans in Florida

Governor Romney’s share:

62% White men (gradually declining share of the electorate)
56% White women (majority married, but married women are a declining share of all women)
55% Cuban Born Americans in Florida

E pluribus unum (from many one) is a phrase on the Seal of the United States.  That phrase is steadily giving way to E pluribus pluribus (multi-culturalism), or what I prefer to call a “plural society.”

The growing Hispanic bloc has thrown in its lot with the Democrat Party to gain influence over policy, secure posts in high office, and obtain more public sector rewards.  Astute Hispanic leaders will use identity to mobilize co-ethnics to achieve power, a strategy that will succeed if Hispanics feel unwelcome in the world of conservatives.

In 1972 I published with Kenneth A. Shepsle, Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of Democratic Instability.  We updated the book 2009, chronicling the events that took place in the 18 ethnically-divided countries analyzed in the 1972 edition.  We also considered trends that were taking place in the United States that were likely to change the character of American elections.

On pages 221-22, we wrote:

    “...a potentially new transformation is gradually taking place in the United States.  It has been revealed in the debate over extremely contentious immigration bills to deal with millions of undocumented immigrants, largely Spanish-speaking from Mexico and Latin America, and millions more who seek legal entry into the United States every year, largely for economic opportunity.  Some analysts are concerned that this large number of Spanish-speaking immigrants may not assimilate into the dominant culture as readily as did previous generations from Europe.  As Spanish-speakers grow in number and are perceived in unified group terms, the quest for the “ethnic” vote could play a larger role in American national politics.  This would generate a greater degree of nationwide ethnicization of American politics than in previous generations, when ethnic differences tended to be localized to individual regions, states, or towns.”

Plural societies, in which ethnic divisions dominate politics, generally fail to sustain high growth.  The U.S. now risks lingering slow growth, unless a way can be found to persuade Hispanics that high growth, not redistributive politics, better serves their long-run interests.

Conservative think tanks have been a key source of ideas for the conservative movement.  They produce, in my opinion, better economic policy proposals than their liberal think tank counterparts.  Good conservative ideas may be a necessary condition for good policy, but they are not sufficient.  Conservative ideas won’t be implemented unless conservative politicians occupy the White House and Congress.

Reestablishing the Reagan-era success of conservative think tanks does not entail the continued (re)production of books, papers, and editorials pushing for smaller government, low taxes, free trade, entitlement reform, school choice, health savings accounts, deregulation, domestic energy expansion, conservative values, property rights, and strong defense–the mainstays of conservative think tanks for decades.  Rather, what is needed is the spread and acceptance of these ideas among the new demographic electorate.  This goal requires repackaging, creative marketing, and perhaps some fresh faces.

Buena suerte!