"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Biggest Economic Problem We Face

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

President Obama has had his hands full as he works to shore up a failing economy. The Stock Market continues to drop even as the new stimulus package is signed and ready to go. Depending on what economist you hear, the billion dollar stimulus and spending bill may or may not make difference.

In a time when even the President used words like "catastrophic" if the billion dollar stimulus bill did not pass, American’s faith in their government grew weaker. In fact, in order to sell the deal to the Congress, the President went about it all wrong. He claimed the sky was falling…and for all of us ‘chicken littles,’ that sounded pretty alarming.

Now that the stimulus bill has been signed and the money is ready to be spread around the country to charge up local economies beset by the downturn in the economy, we are to believe all is well. After hearing bad news about how damaged our economy is, we are now expected to open our wallets and spend again.

Well, the truth is, this billion dollar stimulus bill is not the complete answer to a world-wide recession. For years we heard the benefits of the ‘global economy’ and how it would create a market for our exports. Now we know that being intertwined with the global economy means when one country’s economy slows down, it has world wide implications.

Japan, the second largest economy is suffering a major downturn in their economy. Goods and services are piling up in the warehouses as consumers refuse to spend what little money they have.

The seaports which receive the ship loads of containers full of exported goods are empty. Longshoremen are losing their jobs simply because the trade traffic has reached a low point. No one is buying and that is not good. The stimulus package signed by the President in Denver is supposed to jump start the economy.

What is confusing is the fact that no one can actually quantify the number of jobs that the bill is going to create. Everytime a spokesperson with the White House uses a number, it gets larger and larger. Yet when pressed to show how the bill will actually create jobs, no one can say for sure.

We now have a billion dollar stimulus bill that when compared to the world economy is a drop in the bucket. We are talking about trillion dollar loses and a world wide economy that is reluctant to respond to any positive moves.

In fact, polls indicate that Americans are becoming much more worried and stressed out about the economy. There is a national fear of losing one’s job and facing the consequences that may follow. Already, major corporations are shedding jobs without any prospect of hiring new employees.

We are looking at the highest unemployment numbers in years. Yet everyday we hear more people losing their jobs, and consequently, their homes, their cars, and in some cases their families.

America is facing a crisis that it has never faced in terms of the impact the economy is having here at home and around the world. As we read and hear about other world economies, we know we are in for some tough times.

I can think of no one other than the Republicans in Congress that want our President to fail. I am at a loss for words to describe the attitude displayed by the Republican leadership in the House and in the Senate. I can not imagine why they are not supporting efforts to get our economy moving again.

For the past eight years, the Republicans spent money like it was water, in turn creating a deficit unheard of. When you go back to when President Bush took office eight years ago, there was a surplus in the Federal Budget. Now eight years later, the Republicans have seemed to have forgotten their wild and spending ways.

Our economy is in trouble….BIG TROUBLE, but we are not united in our efforts to solve the problem.

As more and more Americans lose their jobs, we will see a first class nation began to understand that our standard of living is falling. We are losing major corporations like the automotive industry – which if they do fail, thousands of workers will lose their jobs. In addition, the domino effect will be catastrophic as the waves of workers who supply parts, sell cars, and directly or indirectly tied to the car industry lose their livelihoods.

It is time we unite and whether we voted for President Obama or not, support the best efforts of this Administration to deal with the problems we are facing. President Obama is facing issues ‘experienced politicians’ cannot handle, yet we have placed our hope and futures in the hands of a 47 year old man.

Is the end near? Are we doomed to a world wide depression? Will we survive the economic devastation? I do not know of anyone who can answer those questions, and that is the biggest problem we face.

Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries – Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Poll Results - What Poll Results?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

President Obama has been in office for about a month now and already the poll numbers are showing some interesting results. USA Today/Gallup conducted a poll January 30 – February 1 asking Americans of what they thought of seven specific orders the President has taken.

Interestingly enough, in just three weeks President Obama’s overall job performance ratings have not faired very well. As President-elect, Obama’s overall job expectations were very high. 83 percent of Americans were optimist of the new President.

And yet in those three weeks, President Obama’s overall job rating dropped 19 percent. Still his overall job performance rating today is 66 percent. A favorable position no doubt, but troubling none the less as Americans realize their new President is not the Messiah after all.

The poll highlighted some interesting results showing that Americans support many of the President’s decision. 76 percent of Americans polled agree that naming special envoys to troubled areas of the world are a good idea. President Obama plans to have special envoys to the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Obama Administration is facing a difficult task in defining its new policies in these diplomat hot spots. There is no question we could face serious consequences if singular attention is not given to these problems.

Americans also supported the President’s decision to tighten the rules about people working as lobbyists before they came to work for his administration or after they leave. 76 percent of those polled felt this was a good decision.

While some of the positives of the USA TODAY/Gallup polling were discussed in the news media, some poll results simply did not make the cut. The President’s decision to shut down Guantanamo Bay’s terrorist jail was not universally accepted. In fact 50 percent disagreed with that decision.

Part of the concern about shutting the terrorist jail in Cuba was the question as to what was going to happen to those detained there for terrorism concerns. There was a loud out cry about bringing them to homeland prisons where the thought of having terrorists in the neighborhood.

The other decision that has caused many evangelical leaders to pause in their support of the new President was his decision to reverse the Bush’s Administration prohibition on funding for overseas family planning organizations that provide abortions. This executive order was only supported by 35 percent. 58 percent of those polled disapproved.

Those poll results were not reported as widely as one would have expected. In fact the impression by some of the news reports that mentioned the abortion executive order was that it was a favorable decision that Americans were waiting for the President to make.

For the President to make this executive order on allowing abortion one of his first decisions is troubling. Obama is already being called by some pundits as “the most extreme pro-abortion president in history.” The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which would provide unlimited, unrestricted taxpayer funding of abortion is one of the strongest polices supported by President.

The news media has been accused of favoring the President and overall the impression is that they have not been as tough on his new policy orders as one would expect. 38percent feel the news media has not been tough enough.

I have to agree with that assessment of the news media. Watching the news media throughout the presidential election, and especially during the coverage of the inauguration, I cringed at times as reporters gushed over the new president. It was as if to mention any negative reference to the special events of the day was a no no.

As a broadcast journalist of over 24 years experience, I can tell you the news media is missing the boat. While we all want our president to succeed, the news media needs to get a reality check and start reporting the real news.

Hearing or reading fairy tale news that does not mention the challenges we face, is part of the problem we face today. For too long we have allowed the news media to create their own version of reality….and as we are learning today, that reality is far from the truth.

Happy days are here again…or world wide depression?

Fidel “Butch” Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries  – Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Open Letter to President Obama - Hispanic Evangelicals

By Dr. Jesse Miranda
Dr. Gilbert Velez
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

Dear President Barack Obama,

On behalf of the 16 million strong Hispanic American Evangelical community and 19,734churches throughout the 50 states and Puerto Rico, America’s largest Hispanic Christian Leadership Organization, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, wishes to extend our sincerest congratulatory sentiment in your election as our Nation’s 44th President.

Our prayer is that the Spirit of Reconciliation will inundate our national family as you lead us in these difficult times. Mr. President, we join millions of Americans of faith in prayer asking God for your protection, guidance and to equip you with the necessary wisdom for viable and sustainable leadership that will incorporate your idea of a Nation that repudiates the notion of partisanship and labels that keep us apart but rather embraces the one descriptor that serves as a canopy for a transformational agenda, “One Nation under God”.

Accordingly, we humbly submit our services in partnering with you in order to address critical issues impacting the Hispanic American and other communities. From abortion reduction and protecting life, the strengthening of the family, healthcare reform, teenage pregnancy, the educational pandemic via the high school dropout rate, comprehensive immigration reform, climate change, home foreclosures and other critical issues, we stand committed in providing all our collaborative resources for the sake of our children and the future of our country.

Finally, President Obama, as Christians, we ask you to continue to include the Faith thread within the corporate narrative of the American body politic. All Public Policy initiatives should weigh the moral and spiritual/faith component as we forge a better tomorrow that reconciles both the vertical and horizontal elements of the Cross. Without hesitation, be assured we stand with you, next to you and behind you.

We stand proud of this historic moment and pray that the Good Lord will accompany you as you seek righteousness and justice in all your deliberations and our Nation shines upon the “Hill” once again. For at the end of the day, the Kingdom of God is not red state or blue state, Republican or Democrat, White, Black or Brown, Jew or Gentile, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Dr. Jesse Miranda, Chief Executive, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Jesse Miranda
Dr. Gilbert Velez, National Chairman
Gilberto Velez
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President
Samuel Rodriguez

At What Cost?

February 10, 2009

Conservatives should rethink their opposition to ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform

Conservatives should stop trying to remove 12 million illegal aliens from American soil, either by rounding them up or by inducing them to “self-deport.” In the Southwest, the West, the Northeast, and Florida, attempts to remove illegals have diminished the conservative movement, transforming a governing majority into a structural minority. To continue the effort will damage the conservative cause even more among Hispanics and entrepreneurs.

To understand why, consider the three permanent interests involved in immigration.

The first interest is border security. Today, a border jumper entering the U.S. from Mexico has a two-in-three chance of remaining here. An uncontrolled border is a potential target for terrorists, and a sure target for criminals. Many interpret our porous border as a degradation of national sovereignty. Others regard a free market in cross-border labor as an economic liability, driving down American wages.

The second interest centers on employment demands. Business groups representing seasonal and low-cost labor regard access to foreign workers as an economic necessity and an overall economic boon. Today, roughly 5 percent of American employees — 7 million — are “undocumented.” In particular sectors, notably agriculture, construction, cleaning, and food services, the undocumented share of the labor force exceeds 10 percent.

Finally, a variety of groups lobby for immigrant rights. They demand legal status for most of America’s 12 million illegal residents. The public faces of this interest are the left-leaning Hispanic and civil-rights organizations. But advocates for illegals include millions more: their friends, families, co-workers, and clergy, plus a substantial majority of legal Hispanic residents. Roughly 80 percent of the undocumented are Hispanic.

These interests are permanent, and formidable. “Comprehensive” immigration reform was premised on the assumption that any major legislative attempt to satisfy one of these interests must address all three. In 2006, and again in 2007, the Bush administration championed a version of comprehensive reform; Senate Republicans blocked it. Opponents, primarily conservatives, insisted that immigration reform address border security first or exclusively.

Partisans of cross-border labor and immigrant rights reciprocated in kind, rejecting full-spectrum conservative candidates who opposed comprehensive immigration reform in favor of full-spectrum liberals who supported it. In 2008, advocates of comprehensive immigration reform gained, on net, at least 14 partisans in the House and four in the Senate. All are Democrats.

It wasn’t always this way. In 2004, roughly 40 percent of Hispanic voters cast their ballots for George W. Bush. Hispanic opinion patterns mirrored those of low-income working-class voters nationwide: liberal on economics, but with powerful conservative cross-trends on social issues and entrepreneurship.

For instance, the CNN exit poll concerning Proposition 8 — the California Marriage Protection Act — found that Hispanics (along with blacks) provided the slender majority by which the measure passed. A Pew Hispanic Center poll of over 4,000 Hispanics reported that 57 percent “say abortion should be illegal,” compared with 42percent of non-Hispanic whites. An Americas Majority poll found 81 percent of Hispanics supportive of school choice.

With or without comprehensive immigration reform, Hispanics are the fastest-growing component of the evangelical movement, due to both immigration and higher-than-average fertility. Hispanics will, within a single generation, compose a majority of American Catholics.

According to the massive 2004 and 2008 Edison-Mitofsky exit polls, between the two elections, Republicans lost and Democrats gained 13 percent of the Hispanic vote in the presidential race and 15 percent in House races. Some analysts contend that immigration cannot explain this radical shift in the GOP’s Hispanic vote share. Others maintain that no radical shift has occurred. And some, like Prof. James Gimpel of the Center for Immigration Studies, claim both. In his paper “Latino Voting in the 2008 Election,” he says that “Latino voters just aren’t that different from other voters in the national electorate” and that “no evidence . . . indicts immigration policy as the reason for Republicans’ poor showing.”

The evidence Professor Gimpel presents contradicts his conclusion. The Edison-Mitofsky national House polls show Hispanic support for GOP congressional candidates declining at triple the rate of the GOP’s general decline (5 percent). Regarding immigration policy: In Border Wars: The Impact of Immigration on the Latino Vote, I measured precinct-level variations in the Hispanic vote when a Republican who favored comprehensive immigration reform in one cycle was succeeded by an “enforcement only” candidate in the next. I cannot claim that immigration policy alone caused the steep attrition of GOP vote share recorded in that study. But I can state that the votes trended steeply away from restrictionists in hundreds of heavily Hispanic precincts.

The disconnect between religious faith and partisan loyalty that exists among blacks is well documented. In California, the same black electorate that voted for the Marriage Protection Amendment by better than two-thirds supported the candidacies of amendment opponents by better than nine-tenths. If Hispanics stop voting as other working-class Americans do and think of themselves instead as a persecuted, government-dependent minority, the social influence of the Right will wither on the vine.

Conservatives have been obtuse to the depth of Hispanic resistance to the removal of illegals. Roughly 30 million resident Hispanics are American citizens — triple the number of Hispanic illegals. Eleven million Hispanics voted in 2008, a 38 percent increase from 2004. Among adult Hispanic citizens, the Pew Hispanic Center records that 41 percent fear a deportation action against a friend or family member. Roughly one Hispanic in four participated in a demonstration or rally in behalf of immigrants over the past year.

In America today, 6.6 million households contain at least one illegal immigrant. Residing within those households are 4.9 million children and 3.5 million U.S. citizens. Conservatives who present themselves to Hispanics as pro-family had better reflect on this. Two centuries of unguarded borders will not be resolved by instituting “real ID” as a basis for mass removals.

The fear and the fury engendered in the broader Hispanic community by conservative efforts to remove illegals has destroyed conservative prospects in the Southwest, weakened them in the West, and wiped them out in New England.

The dimensions of the disaster in the Southwest are easy to outline. Arizona is 30 percent Hispanic; California, 36 percent; Texas, 36 percent; New Mexico, 44 percent. In 2004, Republicans controlled four of the nine House districts on the U.S.–Mexican border, and George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in five of them. That year, all four Republican incumbents supported comprehensive immigration reform. In 2006, two Republicans ran on “enforcement only,” and both lost. In 2008, two veteran border Republicans vacated their seats. The GOP ran two “enforcement” candidates. Pro-reform Democrats defeated them both.

In one sense, nothing changed. In both 2004 and 2008, all nine congressmen on the border supported comprehensive immigration reform. What has changed is that all nine now are liberal Democrats.

Since 2004, Republicans lost two Senate seats and two House districts in Colorado (20 percent Hispanic), and a single House seat each in Idaho and Nevada (10 percent and 25 percent Hispanic respectively).

In the New England, Democrats not only maintained their 2006 gains in Connecticut and New Hampshire, they unseated the one GOP congressman left standing, immigration hardliner Chris Shays. Jim Himes, a Peruvian-born banker and an open advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, won the seat. The district is 12.3 percent Hispanic.

Larry Sabato, who heads the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, flagged 90 House districts as competitive in 2008. A post-election demographic analysis of those races reveals a stark pattern as to who won where. The median Hispanic population of districts in which “enforcement only” advocates won was 2.3 percent. The median Hispanic population of districts in which immigration-reform advocates won was 12.1 percent.

The implications are clear. Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform are sitting on a demographic time bomb — or rather, on a series of explosions, triggered by the ordinary migrations of Hispanic citizens, who already are 15.1 percent of the population. If immigration reform is the evil that “enforcement only” partisans claim it to be, they will need not one fence bordering Mexico, but multiple barriers to partition California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New York, and New Jersey from the rest of the nation.

The ballyhooed success of conservatives in blocking comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 was in fact a holding action. With superhuman effort, conservatives stopped the bill. But they lacked the votes to pass robust enforcement-only legislation, such as Heath Shuler’s “SAVE” Act or Jim Sensenbrenner’s Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act.

Conservative focus shifted gradually to the states, where enforcement advocates could, at some times and in some places, enact legislation requiring stringent employee verification and harsh sanctions against non-compliant employers. Conservatives assumed the law would compel illegals’ bosses to become deportation cops. This proved false.

Underlying business outrage at conservative immigration policy was a simple fact: The overwhelming majority of illegal hires had been, procedurally speaking, legally hired. Employers resisted mandates to revisit the immigration status of employees in whom they had invested time and training.

The I-9 system, operative for the past generation, requires an employer to accept certain combinations of several dozen forms of identification. The list includes foreign passports, school report cards, student ID cards, and hospital records. Employers who refuse to accept such shabby documentation as evidence of employment eligibility are warned, on the form itself, “It is illegal to discriminate against work eligible individuals. Employers CANNOT specify which document(s) they will accept from an employee. The refusal to hire an individual because the documents presented have a future expiration date may also constitute illegal discrimination.”

Few conservatives foresaw how employers would react to the replacement of this weak federal standard with a patchwork regime of conflicting state and local immigration-enforcement statutes. The new enforcement laws in Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arizona, and elsewhere presented employers — particularly those based in multiple states — with a whole new set of headaches. Compliance with the rickety I-9 system had provided employers a “safe harbor”; so long as they followed procedure, they were immune to legal action when hires turned out to be unlawful. But now, business owners faced conflicting lists of acceptable ID documents, electronic-verification mandates, appeals procedures, penalties, and causes of action. The safety of the I-9 had disappeared, not into a new harbor, but into a whirlpool of liability.

Business rebelled. All across the nation, associations of restaurateurs, landscapers, farmers, ranchers, heavy constructors, hoteliers, food-service operators, home builders, and high-tech entrepreneurs locked horns in lawsuits against employer-sanction laws and their conservative sponsors. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens of state chambers joined the litigation, asserting that employer-sanction laws violated the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.

The face-off between conservatives and business did not end at the courthouse steps. In 2008, the average Democratic candidate burnished his business credentials by supporting guest-worker programs, the average GOP candidate ran on “enforcement only,” and business contributions shifted away from conservatives and Republicans. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the GOP share of political contributions from each of the following declined by 5 to 14 percent between 2006 and 2008: tourism groups, farm groups, poultry producers, food-and-beverage associations, general contractors, home builders, and computer and Internet companies. A comparable increase in contributions to Democrats matched each of these sector declines.

Conservatives traditionally self-identify as guarantors of free enterprise. We hardly noticed that entrepreneurs believed us less, or not at all. But if we weren’t willing to listen to them, we might at least have listened to ourselves. The theory that low-wage work is a net drain on social well-being originated with Marxists, not conservatives. Market economists taught that the freer the market for labor, the more efficient its use. Farmers realized that their export markets abroad required seasonal workers at home. Municipal leaders understood that contemporary urban renewal was built on immigrant hospitality services and entrepreneurship. Practical men of business knew that the availability of low-wage labor in the United States prevented the export of higher value-added tasks in an international workplace.

The notion of judging a sector of labor, native or immigrant, primarily on its net generation of taxes — rather than on its contributions to the economy more broadly — would never have entered a free marketer’s mind.

But by the middle of 2007, such thinking had infested the mainstream of the conservative discourse. Talk radio, conservative bloggers, and even hoary think tanks Rushed (so to speak) to unearth crises associated with low-wage labor in general and illegal-immigrant labor in particular. Illegals were responsible for lowering median income and for raising unemployment among the poor. Illegals were responsible for a crime wave, a health-care crisis, and an education-funding deficit. Immigrants were swelling poverty rates and welfare rolls.

These accusations are inconsistent with much of the evidence. In my paper “Immigration and the Wealth of States,” I compared high- and low-immigration states in terms of income growth, unemployment rates, welfare eligibility, and crime during the great immigration rush of the Bush years. Trends in all these categories were better in high-immigration states — but they were best where immigration growth had been most rapid. This does not mean that an immigrant influx caused prosperity in and of itself. But the data from high-immigration states reinforces the contention of laissez-faire advocates that a free market in labor increases both the range and the availability of goods and services.

In the last several cycles, Republican enemies of immigration reform took a shellacking. The defeated champions of the restrictionist cause in 2008 included incumbents Virgil Goode, Thelma Drake, Steve Chabot, Bill Sali, Ric Keller, Tom Feeney, Marilyn Musgrave, and Jeb Bradley, attempted successor to a Republican Jim Oberweis, and challenger Lou Barletta. Save for Barletta’s, all of these defeats occurred in historically Republican districts. Lost are their votes not just on immigration, but on right-to-life, school reform, tax cuts, budget restraint, military readiness, and, yes, border security.

Considered as conservative policy, any immigration reform that would effect the removal of 12 million illegals is incongruous. How does it improve national security to hold up legislation that includes needed border reforms, in the hopes that an “enforcement only” package may one day come around? How does it help the economy to break 7 million labor agreements, depriving businesses of seasonal and low-wage workers? How does it advance a right-to-life agenda to antagonize the nation’s foremost pro-life ethnicity (Hispanics) and largest pro-life institution (the Catholic church)?

At some point, conservatives must reflect on how many allies, and how many issues, we are willing to sacrifice in a fey and futile attempt to get field workers, busboys, and nannies out of the country. The steady drumbeat of restrictionist defeat invites — no, requires — conservatives to revisit a concept we have glibly reviled: comprehensive immigration reform. The relevant question is no longer whether we want it, but what we want from it: what forms of border security, crime control, and employment verification. Every hour we postpone a border reform that respects the interests of employers and Hispanics, our entire agenda suffers.

Mr. Nadler is president of the Americas Majority Foundation, a public-policy think tank in Overland Park, Kan.