Monday, June 19, 2006

Frustrated with AZ Republican Party

Just so you know, I'm an Arizona Republican so this is a rant against my own party.

Recently the legislature passed a "comprehensive immigration reform" bill (HB2577). Governor Napolitano vetoed it. Of course the party faithful lined up to say how horrible and evil the governor is because she vetoed such a wonderful cure-all bill. Well, I got a little curious and actually went and read the governor's letter explaining why she vetoed the bill. While I disagreed with most of the reasons she gave, one of the reasons surprised me and actually got me to read the bill itself. What I found disturbed me.

As I've previously mentioned in my blogs about immigration, we are in a supply and demand cycle of illegal immigration. That is, as long as there is a demand for illegal workers, the supply will come. That's how capitalism works. Well, while HB2577 had a lot of good provisions for combating the supply of illegal immigrants, it actually seemed to protect the demand. In my opinion, this is counter productive.

This provision for employers went a little like this:

1) The employer KNOWINGLY hires an illegal immigrant and then gets caught (knowingly seems to be defined as paying less than minimum wage and/or accepting a foriegn consulate card as ID).
2) The employer has 10 days to fire the illegal immigrant and notify immigration
3) If the employer decides to appeal or contest the order, it is suspended until the appeal is heard in court.
4) Upon losing the appeal, the employer has another 10 days to comply with the order.
5) If the employer still doesn't comply, the court may levy a fine of up to $5,000 and/or revoke the employer's business license for 2 years.

Is it just me or is this telling businesses that it's OK to hire illegal immigrants as long as you fire them if you get caught? What if you unknowingly hire an illegal immigrant? Are there any penalties or requirements? Are there any punishments for repeat offenders? Well the answer to that is no. No matter how many times you're caught, you still have 10 days to fire the illegal.

It's possible that I misunderstood the law but, barring that, if I were governor, I'd veto it as well. If a business KNOWINGLY hires an illegal, they should be immediately fined and possibly have their business license revoked. The illegal immigrant should be immediately turned over to immigration. This is common sense. If businesses are afraid to hire illegals, they won't. If they don't, illegals won't be able to find work. If they can't find work, they won't come over the border. It's pretty simple logic. Why is it that the Arizona Republican Congress doesn't get it? It's frustrating.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Microsoft and nonprofits

I've always had a dim view of Microsoft. While I think their software is pretty good (for desktops not servers), I don't like their politics. They have a long history of "ethically challenged" business decisions. They seem to have far more aptitude for dealing with competition by leveraging their monopoly on the PC or suing or buying out their competitors than by actually creating better products. This kind of business leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

They finally, with Windows XP SP 2, created an operating system that's stable and reasonably secure (if you take a lot of precautions) but it's taken a lot of pressure from Linux and Mac OS to get them to do anything. They are finally taking the web seriously but that's only because Firefox is eating their lunch. Even with all that, they are slow to respond, slow to innovate, and they seem more interested in locking in their customers than actually meeting their needs. On top of that, their software is expensive!

Well, my wife is starting up a nonprofit company. She and her partners (which includes me since I do the technical stuff) have been going around giving presentations to raise interest and money. My wife and I have been using Openoffice.org for our word processing and presentations but one of our partners is using MS Office and has been lamenting that PowerPoint has more/better features than Openoffice Impress. OK, I try to keep an open mind and I do feel that one should use the best tool for the job. MS products have been easy to ignore because they're expensive and bloated (meaning they have more features that anybody could ever use, they take up huge amounts of space on your computer, and they run significantly slower than they could). Openoffice.org has always been plenty for me but now I'm hearing that it's not up to the task for what our business needs. Then I find out that MS only charges nonprofits $20 for MS Office Pro. That's right, $20 instead of the $499 they charge businesses. Um, that's almost free. Turns out, if you're a nonprofit, MS will practically give their software to you (Windows XP Pro is $8 by the way).

So now I'm kind of in a quandry. On the one hand, I want to stay away from MS products. I don't want to be locked in to using only MS Office for documents and only Windows for an OS. I personally prefer Linux and Mac OS due to their increased security and reliability. However, for $20 to get my wife the tools she needs; how do I say no to that?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Immigration Issue: part 2

So how do we solve these problems? Well there are two schools of thought: Get all of the illegals out or make them legal. Most solutions boil down to one or the other or both. So which one is correct? Here are my thoughts on getting all of the illegals out:

Deport All Illegal Immigrants

This is the idea that the US House of Representatives seems to be favoring. The simplest plan is to build a wall at the border, get more border patrol agents, and pretty much seal off the border. Then, as a complimentary tactic, strictly enforce current laws about employing non-citizens.

Having a larger presence at the border and building a wall will slow down much of the border crossing but, by itself, it can't stop it. It's almost like sticking a band-aid on a corpse. People will find a way. The Berlin Wall had guards with machine guns, razor wire, and land mines but people still got over (granted not very many). This is why the real problem would need to be dealt with: demand.

In my previous post, I stated that it's all about supply and demand. No matter how high you build a wall, if there is demand, supply will come. Conversely though, even with no wall at all, if there's no demand, supply will dry up. If illegals couldn't find jobs here (no demand), they wouldn't come (no supply). That's why the second tactic of enforcing the laws against hiring non-citizens is crucial.

If the US were to increase funding and personnel to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and task them with busting every business that hires illegals, things would start changing in a hurry. As companies are increasingly fined and/or shut down for illegal hiring practices, the amount of work for illegals would drop dramatically and, as word got out that there are not jobs, the amount of illegal immigration would drop dramatically as well.

This would have the happy effect of allowing our border patrol to focus on drug smugglers and terrorists at the border instead of migrants. It would basically get our border back under control.

So is there a downside? Well, maybe. Illegals tend to work at lower wages. This makes services that they support cheaper. If there were no more illegals, there's a good chance that wages would go up. That's good. But this also means that prices will go up as well. That's bad. Services like restaurants, hotels, construction, landscaping, etc. would probably have to raise there rates. Some would probably have to scale back or go out of business altogether. The real question is would it just be a little bump in the economy or could it cause a full blown recession? Nobody seems to know. However, raising wages high enough so that it is possible to survive working in these low-wage jobs could eliminate a lot of welfare and unemployment issues and raise the standard of living for the working poor.

So, is this a good solution, a bad solution, or no solution at all? I don't know. There is a lot of good that could come of it but there is also a lot of bad. Someone smarter than me will have to figure out if the benefits outweigh the risks.