The Hill (Op-ed)
By Ambassador Francis Rooney
May 2, 2016
If we as Republicans are unable to offer positive, clearly expressed solutions to the pressing challenges Americans face today, the same Democrats which gave us Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and other detrimental legislation and regulations are more than ready and willing to do so.
It is time to respond to the needs of the disadvantaged, poor and marginalized with policies and solutions which are rooted in individual initiative, unified families, and the private sector. -Growing economic inequality in the United States has undermined many people’s belief that equal opportunity for all actually exists in our nation. We believe it does, but must make the case in a positive and inclusive manner.
We can begin by recognizing that globalization and technological change have had profound and disruptive impacts on our economy, on the types of jobs available and on opportunities for real wage growth. A growing segment of both parties is questioning the merits of “free trade” for the United States. Our economic duress has been exacerbated by an asymmetrical recovery from the 2009 recession. To be successful we need to propose solutions to achieve our nation’s desire for shared opportunity and abundance without having to resort to the failed policies of redistribution that only make our people less wealthy and our nation less free.
First, we must let the states and municipalities take care of as much governing as possible and reverse encroachments by our federal system. The closer the people are to their elected officials, the more accountable and effective their government will be. The federal government’s large size does not make it a better force for good governance. We must allow federalism—and its laboratories of democracy—to work.
Second, we should modify funding for welfare programs like SNAP, TANF and temporary housing support to nurture, rather than disincentivize, work and to include the job training necessary to create useful and employable skills. Different jobs need different skills and right now many jobs are going unfilled for lack of skilled craftsmen. On the other hand, what good does it do someone to struggle through many years of college-level education only to be unable to find valuable employment (all the while saddled with debt)? Promoting alternatives to college will match more peoples’ skills to many of the jobs of tomorrow.
Aside from the strictly financial rewards of a good job, we should be positive in promoting meaningful work across the board in the Unites States as the preferred option to dependency. The old way hasn’t worked. As American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks points out in The Conservative Heart, “earned success” correlates with much more than financial security, it creates a platform for the self-esteem and human dignity which are critical to a fulfilled life and strong family. This is the same at all socio-economic strata; it is a human condition. He also notes that despite the billions of dollars thrown at it, the poverty rate in the United States has remained stuck at 14.5% since 1966. Clearly dependency reinforced and replicated over generations has not solved the problem of poverty.
Furthermore, if we really believe that the family is a core support and source of “community” for vulnerable people, then we should also create incentives for families to stay together rather than split to maximize government benefits. Right now, government incentives are perverse regarding families.
Third, we can act decisively to support local efforts to increase competition and accountability in primary and secondary education. The recent defunding of the highly successful “Opportunity Scholarship” program in Washington, DC, is an unfortunate example of another retreat from these goals. Fortunately Speaker Ryan succeeded in restoring it. Scholarships like this program, voucher programs and charter schools offer proactive means of showing all Americans, especially the disadvantaged, that we are committed to affording all of our citizens an opportunity to better themselves and their families. However, we must also demand results from all students, including the disadvantaged, and not allow poverty to be used as an excuse for academic failure. These excuses rob the future from our most vulnerable Americans.
Finally, we can join in the debates surrounding immigration from a realistic and proactive position. What began as a large Hispanic migration that raised issues of wages, jobs and exploitation of immigrants has mutated into a major security issue. While net migration with Mexico has been negative the last two years, overall Hispanic migration is positive because of the failed states in Central America. These states are replete with violence, drug lords and gangs. We can help deal with this and relieve immigration pressure from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador with something similar to Plan Colombia, where significant resources and a strong partnership between the United States and Colombia worked to restore stability and debilitate the FARC.
Rather than limit the discussion to “secure the border,” which is a sacred responsibility of government and a given, non-negotiable requirement of any meaningful reform, we must also consider and debate a range of options to deal responsibly with the people living illegally in the Unites States right now.
No one is or should propose amnesty of any sort—certainly not extending citizenship, government benefits nor a “jump the line” opportunity to these people—but we can discuss options for regularizing the status of these immigrants which will bring them into the mainstream. There are precedents for this with the Bracero program. At least in this way we will know who and where they are and what they are doing in the United States.
In this age of terrorism, whether an immigrant comes from Latin America, the Middle East or Africa, it is critically important for us to know who they are and what they may do here. We must know exactly who is entering and residing as a non-citizen in our country. We need to make sure that they are employable and not subject to radicalization. Our visa programs need a major overhaul; approximately one-third of all individuals here illegally have entered on a legitimate visa and overstayed it.
If we, as Republicans, accept the realities of our country today, and the devastation of the 2009 recession—and work to advance positive and aspirational policies designed to help all Americans, then we have a chance to repair the damage of the last several years. I believe that our way is better, and that we can re-establish a platform for solid economic growth and ample opportunities for good jobs for all of our citizens. But to do so, and to convince a majority of Americans to support us, we must have a realistic plan, not just empty promises and expressions of frustration.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com