How Washington Turns Virtue into Vice


Only in the morally sick society of Washington would the charitable actionsof Linda Chavez, George Bush's nominee for labor secretary, be condemned aspolitical vices rather than celebrated as civic virtues. Her withdrawal ofher candidacy unveils the perverse policies that the new administrationshould target for elimination.

First, some facts. Mrs. Chavez took in Marta Mercado, a Guatemalan immigrantwho had no money, no home, and few prospects for success without someinitial assistance. Chavez could have handed her some money and said, "Goodluck." Instead, she invited Mercado to stay in her home and gave her somespending money. (How many of us would have done that?) Apparently this wasnot the first time Chavez practiced such acts as charity.

Did Mercado offer to do some chores around the house? Of course she did.Even politicos cannot be so corrupt as to expect that someone with no job,no material means, and unable to speak English, who is taken in by astranger, would not show some gratitude. But perhaps the best way thatMercado showed her gratitude was by taking English classes and takingpart-time work in the neighborhood—that is, by trying to better herself andto become self-sufficient so she would not need to rely on the kindness ofstrangers. And all of this was done without taxpayers' dollars. What awonderful story!

So how did Washington turn virtues into vices and prevent Chavez fromserving as Labor secretary? Through really bad laws that need to beabolished.

For instance, some critics said Chavez should have investigated Mercado morecarefully to find out if she were in America illegally. But laws thatdeputize employers to police their workers for illegal immigrants meritrepeal. The employer's job is to hire people to produce goods and services,not act as spies for the federal government. Ironically, diligent employerswho suspect that every job applicant with a Spanish surname is anillegal--racial profiling?--and who shy away from hiring brown-skinnedindividuals whose English is not so good, might not run afoul of labor laws.But they do open themselves to federal charges of discrimination based onethnic origin. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Chavez is accused of harboring an illegal immigrant. You want to end illegalimmigration? Simple: Repeal our immigration laws and open the borders toanyone who wants to come to America to live free and prosper.

America was built by immigrants. Immigrants are people who want the best outof life. They're not satisfied with the poverty, oppression, and lack ofopportunity in their own countries. Immigrants are entrepreneurs. They takethe initiative to move to a strange new land and to use their minds andtheir wits to work their way to prosperity. And immigrants are risk-takerswho know that there are no assurances of success, but that if they do nottry, there is no hope for the future.

So shouldn't Chavez have at least avoided the appearance of inappropriateemployment by paying the Social Security and Medicare taxes on Mercado's"wages?" The answer is that the terms of employment between employer andemployee should be none of the government's business. This tax burdenincreases the cost of employing workers, thereby killing jobs. Further, theSocial Security system is an outrageous rip-off. It is unconscionable toforce workers to turn over wages to a government that gives them a measly1.5 percent annual return on investment. All could do better in a savingsaccount or CD.

It is a sad commentary when those who value government power and controlpillory people like Chavez over private acts of virtue.