I’m not a stranger, among the people in here

The thing that frustrates me the most about the modern-day Tea Party is their views on immigration. First of all, the fact that a group that has named themselves after an event from a time in our nation’s history when the majority of people who considered themselves “Americans” had immigrated from Europe within their lifetimes, and the ancestors of those who hadn’t had been here for a few generations at most, and who were very much aware of the fact that they had left their home countries for a land whose native citizens had not invited them there would be so universally opposed to the idea of new immigrants coming to that very same land is not just the height of hypocrisy, it’s also fucking retarded.

Even despite the obvious hypocrisy, the anti-immigration sentiments of the average Tea Partier make little sense from a rational standpoint. The average member of the Tea Party is over 35 (if not well older) and middle class or above. The idea that the primarily low-skilled or unskilled workers coming to the United States from Mexico are somehow stealing jobs from these people is ridiculous. Most Hispanic workers are not coming to the United States to become accountants. They’re not coming here to work as office drones, as secretaries, computer programmers, psychiatrists, or teachers, aside from the occasional high school Spanish teacher. Very few of them wind up in management positions, and then only after living here for a number of years and learning at least enough English to get by. The few of middle class Tea Partiers who make their livings as mechanics or repairmen, or from high-end manufacturing jobs may have to compete with a handful of mechanics in a labor market that is predominantly black and white, but the vast majority of Tea Partiers have never had a job stolen from them by a Mexican immigrant. Most have never even had to compete with one for a job.

The average Hispanic immigrant to the United States winds up doing seasonal farm work, janitorial work, cooking, cleaning, or, if they’re lucky, working a low-end manufacturing job, more often in food processing than in any area requiring any particular technical ability. The main groups they wind up competing with for jobs are younger Americans between the ages of 16-25 and lower class, predominantly black workers, both groups which are far more likely to vote for Democratic candidates who favor more open immigration than for Republicans who want to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Even the handful of Tea Partiers who work in manufacturing who are more likely to be competing with Mexican immigrants for work have little to fear from them. Manufacturing jobs have been declining significantly due to cheaper competition from China. Without cheaper Mexican labor in the US, it would be far more difficult for manufacturers to justify keeping jobs in the United States, rather than sending them overseas. Many American-born manufacturing workers owe the fact that their jobs exist at all to the fact that Mexicans are doing a share of the work for lower pay. Combined with the fact that low-cost seasonal farm laborers lower the cost of food for all Americans, Hispanic immigrants are improving the way of life of the average American.

While the language barrier can be a nuisance at times, the same could be said of Italian, German, Chinese, Irish, Korean, and Jewish workers for many decades in certain parts of the country, especially in New England, but the descendants of those same immigrant groups speak fluent English today, and in a generation or two so will the descendants of the current wave of Hispanic immigrants.

The only remaining concern of the average Tea Partier is the idea that Hispanic immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, take advantage of social welfare systems moreso than do naturalized citizens. While this may be true in certain parts of the southwest, overall it is generally not true as the majority of immigrants come here to work, not to live off the system. Even if it were true, and admittedly our social welfare system is just as responsible for our current fiscal and economic crises as our military adventurism and the Federal Reserve, increasing the number of workers admitted into the United States legally each year would increase the number of them who are paying taxes (although, since as many illegal workers use fake, stolen, inactive or borrowed Social Security numbers as who work under the table, many more are paying taxes than most people realize) and, in many states, reduce their ability to abuse the system.

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His Peacemaker will see no crime

So, in regards to all this talk about the TSA molesting people, I’m going to go ahead and take a step back here and say that I object to the current TSA policies on the basis of their practicality and lack of necessity before I even get around to objecting to them on any sort of moral grounds.

First of all, in the last 10 years, a grand total of about 3000 Americans have died as a result of terrorists hijacking airplanes. In that same time period, approximately 7 billion plane tickets have been used just on flights originating from the US.

There were 33,000 deaths from car accidents just in 2009, which is down significantly from the 40,000+ almost every other year for the past decade and more. And yet, there are no metal detectors, no scanners, no pat downs before you get in your car.

Compare that to a total of 49 fatalities from one accidental crash of a domestic flights and one failed terrorist attempt on an airline in the same year.  So, why do we accept so much more invasive security procedures for airlines than the security measures we could even conceive of for cars (or much of anything else)?

The main justifications given are the claim that airplanes have the potential to be far more deadly than cars when used as a weapon, and the assumption that terrorists are primarily intent on using airplanes to kill us.

While it is true that a single airplane has the potential to be more deadly than a single car, the overall risk of automobile accidents still vastly outweighs that of both accidental and intentional deaths from commercial air flight, so that hardly justifies the difference in security. And yes, the deadliest terrorist attack in American history was carried out with four airplanes, but the second deadliest terrorist attack in American history, the Oklahoma City bombing, was carried out with a bomb placed in the back of a truck. Considering that none of the legislation passed in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing did much of anything to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future (the type of fertilizer used to create the bomb can still be bought freely without identification in all but two states), we are no safer from terrorist attacks by any means but by plane than we were 15 years ago.

While it is arguably more feasible to screen all airplane passengers than it would be to attempt to screen all drivers before they get behind the wheel of a car, that’s mainly due to the lower volume of airline traffic. Spending the same amount on random traffic stops to check for intoxicated drivers would likely save far more lives than the TSA is saving, and yet the average American would find them much more invasive.

The only reason that so many Americans are willing to put up with the TSA’s procedures is that Americans are still highly offended by the 9/11 attacks and fearful of continued and future attempts to carry out similar attacks, no matter how irrational it may be to think the TSA’s newest procedures are a cost effective method of preventing such attacks or of saving lives more generally.

Sadly, the most cost effective method of preventing further terrorist attacks won’t even be considered by most Americans, because most simply aren’t willing to look at the factors that contribute to terrorism, much less consider the motivations of the attackers. Many Americans, especially conservatives, are especially unwilling to consider the possibility that America may have made mistakes as a nation that that have contributed to terrorism. It’s considered “un-American” to question our foreign policy (despite how American it is to question everything else our government does). So, unfortunately, the fact that so many of our foreign policy initiatives are significantly more un-American will unfortunately be lost on the average voter.

Our most questionable international actions are always justified by the premise that our government must act to protect our national interests abroad. What these interests are is rarely questioned, but generally accepted to be our business or economic interests. However, America has always attempted to define itself as a nation based on principle, on morals and ideals. That said, shouldn’t our foreign policy reflect those ideals, the ideals of our founders? If so, how well does our foreign policy live up to those ideals? For all our rhetoric about spreading democracy to the Middle East, what kind of track record do we really have of promoting representative government, or supporting individual liberty in the region?

Sadly, not much of one. The obvious examples of our failure to live up to the principles our nation was founded on are almost too numerous to list, but here are some of them: In 1953 we overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran and installed a dictator. We supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s during his war with Iran despite the knowledge that Iraq was engaged in chemical warfare. We supported the Taliban and trained many of the people who went on to hold key positions in Al Qaeda in order to prevent Soviet expansion, despite being fully aware of their fundamentalist, anti-democratic views. The US defended Kuwait during the Gulf War and stationed troops in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia after the war, both dictatorships which showed even less of a semblance of democracy than Hussein’s Iraq.

The fact that these actions were mistakes has been borne out by history. Iran overthrew the government we imposed, only to replace it with an even more repressive government. Encouraging Hussein’s militarism only led him to start another war. Supporting religious extremists to slow Soviet expansion ultimately contributed to the deaths of 3000 Americans, and supporting a repressive dictatorship in Saudi Arabia caused 15 dissidents from that country to be among the 19 people who carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Unfortunately, we have hardly learned from our mistakes. Our recent $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia is proof of that, as is the fact that Egypt continues to be one of the largest recipients of US aid, despite the fact that their government is a republic in name only and has been ruled as a single party dictatorship for the past 50 years. We continue to give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Jordan, a monarchy with extremely limited areas of representative government, and more than a hundred million to Kazakhstan, a country whose leaders routinely defy its constitution to guarantee their continued rule. As the land of the free, the least we should require of any country asking us for aid should be that they be a democratic republic, but we have spent decades refusing to hold even this reasonable standard and we have suffered for it and will continue to suffer for it.

However, adopting a foreign policy of refusing to support dictatorship does not necessarily mean that overthrowing dictators and attempting to install democracies, as we did in Iraq, is necessarily a positive endeavor. In the case of our own history, it’s true that we did receive outside help, primarily from France, during our own war for independence. However, this help came only after we had displayed our own willingness to fight for representative government. Freedom was not imposed on us, and freedom is a difficult thing to impose on others. Much of the corruption we are currently seeing in the new Afghan government is due to the fact that Afghanistan had no tradition of representative government, and no drive on the part of its people to create one. Iraq, at least, had some semblance of representative government under Hussein, but even so, it took the better part of a decade to stabilize the country and government due to the fact that his people were not actively working to create the type of government we wanted to see in Iraq, and it is still considered unlikely that the country will remain stable when American troops finally withdraw.

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Machines can keep you breathing

A stimulus won’t save us. We’re already spending significantly more than is good for our economy.

Whenever the government spends money, whether in an attempt to spur economic growth or not, that money has to come out of the economy somehow. Either the money is raised through taxes and taken directly out of the economy, or the money is borrowed and ties up money that would otherwise be invested in new business growth (and then hits again harder when it has to be paid for with taxes), or the money is printed and causes inflation, driving down the purchasing power of consumers and reducing their economic activity.

That’s not to say that all government spending is bad, but there is an upper limit to how much spending is good for an economy, especially if that money is being spent in an attempt to stimulate further growth. Most government spending is inefficient from the standpoint of creating economic growth. Some government services, such as providing transportation and education, enable more economic activity than they detract, up to a point. When government builds a highway between two cities that were not connected, the new economic activity from goods, services, tourism, etc. moving from place to place is often more than enough to cover the cost of the highway. However, when we start building 400 million dollar bridges to small towns with no major industry, the new economic activity created is significantly less than the amount that goes into creating the bridge. Spending money on education helps train new workers and is beneficial when we spend that money efficiently; when we have the federal government trying to operate on top of state governments, each with their own bureaucracy, where state and local school districts spend as much money trying to meet arbitrary federal standards as they receive from the federal government, we wind up wasting a lot of money and spending far more than it should take to provide a sufficient education.

Nor will quantitative easing save us. We’ve already been following inflationary quick-fix methods for the past decade as interest rates have been repeatedly dropped.

It’s a nice idea that inflation spurs investment and job growth, and in the short term it can do that. However, long term, inflation does far more to destroy job growth than deflation.

Inflation often happens naturally when we have a strong economy. When people have more money, they are willing to spend more, and when people have less, they are willing to spend less, so inflation often appears slightly higher during economic booms while deflation often happens as a result of bubbles bursting and recessions setting in. This does not mean inflation is a cause of strong economies, or that deflation is a cause of weak economies; a strong or weak economy causes a certain level of inflation or deflation, which is then modified by other factors. When inflation happens based on economic growth, inflation is generally negative; it prevents people from buying as much value worth of goods and services for the same amount of money, and serves to dampen economic growth. When deflation happens based on economic decline, it is generally a positive, allowing people to buy more value worth of goods and services for the same amount of money and dampening the negative impact of economic decline.

When inflation is caused by printing money, reducing interest rates, or increasing the percentage/multiplier of funds on hand that banks are allowed to loan out, we see a different effect. The new currency being injected into the economy spurs investment in new industries almost immediately as the currency becomes available. However, as that currency reduces the value of the currency held by consumers, and reduces the purchasing power of people on fixed incomes and salaries with limited growth potential, it reduces economic activity by preventing people from purchasing the same value in goods and services. In addition, because people are able to save less (and have less incentive to do so), there is less currency available to invest, forcing government to create more inflation to keep the investment happening to counteract the decrease in purchasing power and savings available to loan which is being caused by inflation.

When deflation happens based on fluctuations in the money supply, such as would happen if we switched to a gold standard, the opposite happens. We see an immediate drop in investment and even job creation due to a tightening of the money supply. However, the resulting deflation allows people on fixed incomes and salaries with little growth potential to purchase more while still putting more aside for savings, you see an increase in economic activity which helps to counteract the reduction in investment, and over time you see far more money put into savings and made available to be loaned out and invested in new business enterprises. While a high rate of deflation has the potential to cause a severe enough recession to make it difficult for an economy to recover, a slow and steady rate of deflation will cause more than enough long term growth to be worth the negative short term effects.

Considering that we got ourselves into this “great recession” by an entire decade of short term economic practices like defecit spending, cutting interest rates, and encouraging excessive loaning and borrowing, we need a long term solution, not a short term solution. We need the type of government that a Ron Paul or a Gary Johnson would provide, a government where we would cut the 43% of the budget that we’re currently borrowing because our spending has exceeded revenue and where we would move to sound currency, restore both investor AND consumer faith in our economy, and cause long term job growth through sound economic policies rather than jumping from one quick fix to the next until we’re in a hole so deep we can’t dig ourselves out anymore.

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