Monday, April 09, 2007

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

This old straw man is being trotted out now. You might think a complex issue being tackled by a bi-partisan government a year and a half ahead of the next national election would be a good way to gauge the next months' administration of the country, but it's not:
CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush returns to work Monday on the volatile issue of immigration, where his hope for a legislative breakthrough is complicated by cold relations with Congress.

Bush will be back in Yuma, Ariz., to inspect the construction of border fencing and to push for the creation of a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The trip serves as a bookend to the visit Bush made to the same southwest desert city last May.

It also comes as tension rises over a new immigration proposal tied to the White House.

Bush's team is privately working hard to rally votes for what Bush calls comprehensive reform -- a mix of get-tough security with promises of fair treatment for undocumented residents.[...]

The plan would grant work visas to undocumented immigrants but require them to return home and pay hefty fines to become legal U.S. residents. They could apply for three-year work visas, dubbed "Z" visas, which would be renewable indefinitely but cost $3,500 each time.

The undocumented workers would have legal status with the visas, but to become legal permanent residents with a green card, they'd have to return to their home country, apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate to re-enter legally and pay a $10,000 fine.
Needless to say, as this is somewhat tougher than the bill passed last year, there's been a little opposition to it. Too, for me, it raises the issue of "buying your way" into America. If you take a look how how many Chinese undocumented immigrants make their way here (paying upwards of $40,000 or $50,000 just to be stuffed in a cargo hold, working off their debt at below-minimum wage unterarbeit), you can see that this proposal is fraught with unintended consequences.

We won't be getting the hard working immigrants anymore. We will be getting people who will feel they are owed something for the money they paid, and not just a certificate.

Oh, and that fence? It merely marks the Republican "solution" to a problem: pray it goes away. By putting up a fence, you aren't going to keep people out, only make them work harder to get in, and once in, make it more valuable that they earn a "living". If you're worried about cross-border criminals, well, when you make it so that only criminals would have the mind-set to cross the border...

The Democrats are obviously anxious to put a signature on this session of Congress as a shield in 2008 against the charge that they were only interested in hanging Bush and Karl Rove than in getting things done (even ONE bill of import would make them one up on the last two Congressheep). And naturally, Bush would like to take the focus off his miserable failure in prosecuting the "global war on terror". There's much at stake here, but unfortunately for Bush, there's more at stake for him. His days as an effective voice (such as he is) are dwindling, as he will get less and less air time as the 2008 campaign heats up. Given the way the primary season is being front-loaded, he has even less time than Clinton or any other President had before him.

My guess is that Congress will give him until the summer recess to come up with substantive proposalss for legislation and if he fails to do so, will come back after Labor Day with a full slate of quick-to-pass bills (possibly including the vaunted timetable for withdrawal). By this fall, the GOP Congressheep will have realized their backs are to the wall, and if no progress has been made in Iraq, the issue will fester in their home districts.

We already see this in the positions that moderate Republican senators who are up for re-election in 2008, like Olympia Snowe, are taking: while remaining cautiously behind Bush, you hear a subtext of "move it or lose it, pal".
“I opposed this particular measure because it sets an arbitrary “date certain” for withdrawal of our troops, which presents the terrorists and the insurgents the opportunity to target and jeopardize the security of those troops that remain. If the 120 days referred to a time period that the Iraqi government would have to complete significant work on national reconciliation benchmarks, that is a different matter. In that instance, I would have been more inclined to support this resolution as it would have actually required the Iraqi government to produce measurable results on such key political issues as oil revenue sharing, the fair consideration of constitutional amendments, and the de-Baathification process – all of which go to the root cause of violence in Iraq,” said Senator.
That's from Snowe's Senate website (interesting they don't attribute it to her in that quote...sounds almost like boilerplate). Nothing there that overtly undermines Bush's position, but you'll also notice she makes no mention of "stated American policy", the usual signal phraseology for full-throated support for the administration. Particularly in obvious boilerplate statements.

So for Bush, this really is more of a final exam than a midterm to determine if he can work with Congress. Already, hard feelings on both sides have been uncovered, and if the Democrats cannot override his veto on the Iraq timetable (not impossible, just bloody unlikely), they may be forced to submit a funding bill on his terms (mostly) or be accused of palying chicken with the lives of soldiers.

You might remember the last time a Congress palyed chicken with a president. Newt Gingrich shut down the government for nearly a week, and ended up with egg on his face as Clinton grabbed the bully pulpit and laid the blame squarely on Gingrich's shoulders.

For my part, I would accept Bush's veto and "play chicken," but I'd have already laid the groundwork of placing blame with him for any vetoes.

But that's just me, and I'm only running for (not)President