A $600-million bill to enhance border enforcement has hit a temporary snag in the Senate, but it is almost inevitable, with an election only a few months away, that Congress and the president will spend yet more money trying to enforce our unworkable immigration laws.
“Getting control of the border” is the buzz phrase of the day for politicians in both parties, from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Never mind that apprehensions are down sharply along our Southwest border with Mexico, mostly I suspect because of the lack of robust job creation in the unstimulated Obama economy.
Meanwhile, since the early 1990s, spending on border enforcement has increased more than 700 percent, and the number of agents along the border has increased five-fold, from 3,500 to more than 17.000. (See pages 3-4 of a January 2010 report from the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center.) Yet the population of illegal immigrants in America tripled during that period. If this were a federal education program, conservatives would rightly accuse the big spenders of merely throwing more money at a problem without result.
To pay for this politically driven expenditure, Congress plans to nearly double fees charged for H1-B and L visas used by foreign high-tech firms to staff their operations in the United States. The increased visa tax will fall especially hard on companies such as the Indian high-tech leaders Wipro, Infosys, and Tata.
This all has the ring of election-year populism. Congress pretends to move us closer to solving the problem of illegal immigrants entering from Latin America by raising barriers to skilled professionals coming to the United States from India and elsewhere to help us maintain our edge in competitive global technology markets.
The drums of a trade war with China are beating more loudly in Congress this week. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is threatening to introduce a bill in the next two weeks that would raise tariffs on imports from China if it does not quickly appreciate the value of its currency, the yuan.
The argument behind the bill is that an artificially cheap yuan makes Chinese goods too attractive for struggling American consumers, to the disadvantage of certain U.S. companies that would prefer to charge us higher prices, while it stifles U.S. exports to China.
The latest monthly trade report, released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Commerce, should give pause to those who want to punish China for its currency policies.
In the first four months of 2010, compared to the same period in 2009, U.S. exports of goods and services to China were up 41 percent. That is twice the rate of growth of our exports to the rest of the world excluding China.
Meanwhile, imports from China were up 14 percent year-to-date, compared to a 25 percent increase in imports from the rest of the world. As a result, while our trade deficit with all other countries grew by 46 percent, from $78 billion to $114 billion, our trade deficit with China grew only 6 percent, from $67 billion to $71 billion.
A more flexible, market-driven yuan would be welcome, for all the reasons we’ve written about at the Center for Trade Policy Studies, but its current rate is not an excuse for raising trade barriers.
A computer glitch in the Federal Aviation Administration’s national air traffic control system caused delays and cancelations last Thursday. A spokesperson for the air traffic control employees union called it a “nightmare.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said the nation’s ATC system is “in shambles” and called for more “resources, manpower, and technology” for the FAA.
The FAA is already trying to implement a $35 billion overhaul of the nation's air traffic control system that would replace old-fashioned radar technology with modern satellite-based GPS navigation. As I blogged last month, the FAA tried to deploy the new computer system at the first of twenty regional facilities, but the system misidentified an airliner and was shut down. This failure wasn’t surprising considering the FAA’s decades of mismanagement.
This week Reason TV released an excellent video on the nation’s air traffic control system, which can be viewed here. The video effectively illustrates broader, more fundamental problems with the way the government operates. For instance, the FAA needs to upgrade is ATC systems, members of Congress spend millions of taxpayer dollars on seldom-used airports in their district.
The video also highlights the fact that our neighbors to the north have already successfully privatized their air traffic control system. As a Cato essay on privatization notes, “The Canadian system has received high marks for sound finances, solid management, and investment in new technologies.”
Faced with rising opposition to a so-called “public option” in health care reform, some Democrats are floating the idea of establishing health insurance “co-operatives” as an alternative. Opponents of a government takeover of the health care system should not be fooled.
A “co-op” can be defined as a business owned and controlled by its workers and the people who use its services, in this case presumably the people whom it insures. In that sense, government provision of some sort of legal framework or seed money to help establish health insurance co-ops seems relatively harmless but also relatively pointless. The U.S. already has some 1,300 insurance companies. Adding a few more would accomplish…what?
It is suggested that the “co-ops” would be nonprofits, and therefore would offer better service and lower costs. But many insurance companies, including “mutual” insurers and many “Blues,” are already nonprofit companies. Furthermore, states already have the power to charter co-ops, including health insurance co-ops. In fact, health care co-ops already exist. Health Partners, Inc. in Minneapolis has 660,000 members and provides health care, health insurance, and HMO coverage. The Group Health Cooperative in Seattle provides health coverage for 10 percent of Washington State residents.
If the new co-ops operate under the same rules as other nonprofit insurers, why bother?
And there’s the rub. Supporters of government-run health care have no intention of letting the co-ops be independent enterprises. In fact, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) makes it clear, for example, that the co-op’s officers and directors would be appointed by the president and Congress. He insists that there be a single national co-op. And Congress would set the rules under which it operates. As Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) says, "It’s got to be written in a way that accomplishes the objectives of a public option."
If a “co-op” is run by the federal government under rules imposed by the federal government with funding provided by the federal government, that is government-run health insurance by another name.