George: How do you measure worthlessness?

Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 11:45pm

It costs Tennessee taxpayers more than $24,000 a day to send our legislators to the Capitol to debate and, one imagines, pass laws that benefit the majority of the citizenry.

But other than passing a budget and a tax reprieve for flood victims, the 106th General Assembly, which adjourned last week, just wasted our money.

They burned time on resolutions both commending and challenging existing laws — one that doesn’t apply to Tennesseans in any way and another that would’ve carried exactly zero legal standing, were it to have survived.

And they got across one essential public service announcement: They’ll hold the door for you as you carry your gun into a bar and soundly reaffirm the Second Amendment.

I’d bet the money I just paid for our legislators to prance and pose that, were a poll to be taken of the voting public, more people would agree with me than would support, say, a do-nothing resolution to declare that the mighty Tennessee legislature snubs its nose at health care reform law.

Amid the charade is legislation (both passed and attempted) regarding illegal immigration. Where they actually do something, the bills only hurt the state.

First was the declaration that Arizona’s harsh new law, requiring immigrants to carry papers at all times and giving police officers the authority to choose who looks like an immigrant, is worth the endorsement of an official, representative body other than the intellectually hobbled one that passed it.

For this, Gov. Phil Bredesen ripped legislators last week, saying in essence that if they’re so concerned about the issue, they should do something besides attaboy the southwestern state.

They tried. A law allowing employers to require that English be spoken in the workplace — even during breaks, lunch and so forth — is the only bill to change something practically.

As City Paper contributor Charles Maldonado recently reported, legislators stripped key compromises reached earlier with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition from the English-only workplace bill before passing it, returning the legislation to its most rigid incarnation. As well, the House and Senate each passed, in some form, a bill that would require jailers to check the immigration status of everyone they book, and another that would require local election officials to obtain verification of citizenship before letting you touch a screen. (The bodies never agreed on final versions.)

Along with satisfying the nationalistic pride of some business owners, burdening overworked police officers, and scrambling the order for volunteer poll workers, the measures would do exactly nothing to address the national “problem” of illegal immigration — none calls for amnesty nor any paying of taxes or voting (though I imagine the point here is not to create a voting block out of those you’ve just insulted and marginalized). Each abides the send-’em-back principle, a primitive, redneck response that ignores all realities except the one that says Americans are colloquial nativists who appreciate a good distraction in the face of a challenge.

The bills will only damage the state’s faltering economy, which Tennessee’s 100,000 undocumented workers help buoy.

According to the Tennessee Comptroller, “unauthorized aliens contribute to state and local revenue through sales tax, property tax included in rents and other consumption taxes.” A University of Georgia study released last fall found an 833 percent increase in the buying power of Hispanics in Tennessee over the last two decades.

Undocumented workers disproportionately pay into social services systems of which they cannot partake — like Social Security and Medicare — to the tune of $7 billion a year, according to the Social Security Administration.

And according to the National Academy of Sciences, 75 percent of immigrants speak good English within 10 years of their arrival, while fewer than 3 percent of immigrants who’ve been in this country long-term do not speak English.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land is now publicly advocating, on behalf of his employer, a so-called path to citizenship for immigrants without legal status, joining the Catholic Church, major Jewish and Muslim groups, and God knows how many other, smaller religious sects in calling for a rational response to immigration reform. There are 104 Nashville churches affiliated with the SBC.

The General Assembly’s largely symbolic action has highlighted the increasing distance between common sense and the elected officials who should be practicing it. And, perhaps more importantly, any group that makes the traditionally stiff SBC look progressive in comparison should have its humanity checked.

14 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 6/14/10 at 6:05

While agreeing that this year's legislature has been a 99% waste, it follows many others that were similar. This LTE real intentions are just a
ruse to get to the support of Amensty for "illegal immigrants"! Even with Mr. Lands support and the SBC(if correct) the term "immigrants without legal status" tells us Mr. George needs to be writing to Time Magazine, New York Times, or even Slate online with his Progress thoughts versus NCP!

By: HokeyPokey on 6/14/10 at 6:30

Stephen, your analysis is practically perfect in every way.

And, by gum we'll continue to elect these dunderheads on account of as how they tell us what we want to hear.

Praise Jesus!

By: localboy on 6/14/10 at 9:28

"According to the Tennessee Comptroller, “unauthorized aliens contribute to state and local revenue through sales tax, property tax included in rents and other consumption taxes.”" So, it seems that one of the author's position's is that having a consumption-based tax versus a state income tax ensures that services are funded by all those that utilize them. Interesting.

By: yogiman on 6/14/10 at 11:06

We have too many legislators (in name only) in our legislature who are in that office for that 'only for the money' position. It seems once they get in they want to make it a career.. for the money.

There should be a term limit on all political offices in out nation; local, state and national. Let 'um in and put 'um out. And they should only be able to accept campaign money from citizens of the area (meaning district or state) they are going to represent. That should include the national office also. Only from voting eligible citizens. That would give an opportunity for honest dependable people to run for an office to actually serve their nation.

By: CaddyH on 6/14/10 at 12:42

I agree with the article's take on how our legislature seems to ignore important issues and focus on those that lack substance and significance to most Tennesseans. Too long we have elected people who may not have the depth of intelligence and insight to solve big problems step-by-step. Silly resolutions are easier to write and emotionally support than legislation to tackle serious problems in Tennessee. Many in our state government are dogmatists who won't necessarily accept information/facts unless they totally coincide with their rigid beliefs. Don't know where our brave new candidates will come from in future elections, but I sure hope we eventually have better choices. I for one don't care if they teach Sunday School every Sunday....I am more concerned about what their levels of education/training/experience are and if they can work and play well with others who don't completely share their convictions about life, business, and politics. Key issues/problems will not go away until together we roll up our sleeves and tackle them one-by-one.....prancing and posturing won't get it.

By: AmyLiorate on 6/14/10 at 2:06

Great point Localboy!

Who else thinks it is odd to quote a study from U of Georgia done on Tennessee's economy?

"...University of Georgia study released last fall found an 833 percent increase in the buying power of Hispanics in Tennessee over the last two decades."

Maybe the Democrats should be applauding the time-wasting Republicans for passing this bill? After all it will increase the TN economy if the illegals from AZ leave. At least a few of these big spenders will land in Tennessee. No?

Though we should all like to know if the UG study included the costs of the illegals.

By: frodo on 6/15/10 at 6:42

Okay, call us rednecks. Bash the legislature for not coming up with a softball compromise. Tell us we should want illegal foreigners here because they are good for the economy.

I'm an educated, fairly well informed citizen who lives on the poorer side of town and works day and night on behalf of the poor and oppressed. I like what's good for the economy, but if money is the measure of what is legal or illegal, then there are some neighborhoods here where everyone should be rounded up and deported (no matter how many generations they've been here).

What it comes down to with people like Stephen is they are sick and tired of the rule of law. They'd be happy to hand the Governor and President a blank slate for executive fiat and to hell with the constitution. Or is that only until the next election when someone who feels differently holds those offices.

Wake up, people. It isn't about racial hate or redneckism. It is about people who are despately (and, yes, increasingly angrily) clinging to the foundations that keep our nation from slipping into anarchy on one side or dictatorship on the other side. I've got more to say, but I'm sure I've lost some of you at this point.

By: on 6/15/10 at 9:07

I don't give a damn how much they contribute to the economy, they are in the country illegally. People who want the law changed should vote for politicians that represent their point of view, and work on changing the law. I have traveled extensively most of my life. Any time I was in a foreign country, I had to have my passport and working papers on me, to show a reason for being in the particular country. If I didn't have them on me, I would have gone to jail, then been deported. The first thing needing done is to cut out all the "perks" and fed. subsidies they receive. How much does that contribute to the economy? They would cease coming to the US, if the "goodies" they get from Uncle Sam, that being taxpayers, were stopped. They wouldn't be able to afford to work for the low "cash" wages they work for, under-cutting american workers. I'm tired of hearing this crap about them doing work that Americans won't do. Americans will build houses, clean hotel rooms, pick fruit. This is a lame excuse. Sorry for my rant, but our economy is in shambles.

By: Kosh III on 6/15/10 at 10:01

What perks do you mean? Illegal aliens cannot get food stamps nor Medicaid nor Section 8 housing assistance, just to name a few.

By: frodo on 6/15/10 at 10:12

And I think we need to stop using the word "immigrant" in reference to foreigners who break into our country. That is like calling the stranger who slips in the window and takes up residence in our living room "a settler." They have no status to resettle here, and we should not use language that infers our agreement with resettlement until they leave, come around to the front door and ring the doorbell. Then we decide. That is the way the rule of law works. That is the way national security works. That is the way an orderly society works. It isn't like most of these invaders are running from war or famine. So I prefer to use the terms "foreign invader." Go round to the front door. Ring the bell, and I'll welcome you with open arms as an honored guest and treat you with courtesy while processing your request for residence.

By: frodo on 6/15/10 at 10:25

Not sure what stlgtr55 had in mind on "perks," but access to schools is a biggie. clogging the court system and standing 12-deep in line in front of me trying to renew my driver license. But that isn't the main issue. The main issue is preserving our sovereignty through the basic rule of law.

By: on 6/15/10 at 12:20

HERE, HERE frodo and stlgtr55 your right on! This country is waking up to the evils of uncontrolled invasion by illegals. Try traveling in Mexico or other central American country's without "your papers", why should they be any different here? England, France and other European country's are now reaping the problems both social and economic that these types of "progressive" policies bring about. Schools, emergency rooms, driver licenses and my personal favorite, "press 1 for English" are all just the tip of the iceberg of the costs of these people. The 14th amendment should be changed to require at least one parent of a child born in this country to be a citizen. The invaders should be swept out post hast, returned to their country of origin to do the work of changing it for their and their fellow citizens own good.

By: on 6/15/10 at 12:22

Oh, and one other thing. This summer my family and I will be vacationing in the great state of Arizona so we can support the true oppressed peoples of the southwest.

By: on 6/15/10 at 1:22

Kosh, for one thing, they have to be treated at emergency rooms at hospitals, whether they can or can't pay. Review the HIPPA laws. In some states, they are eligible for food stamps, welfare, etc. I agree on the 14th Amendment, Judy. At the time it was put in the constitution, our country was needing populated. We've got enough people, and don't really need any more increases in population. If anyone wants a crack at the "Great American Dream," let them either come into the country legally, or fight a revolution in their own country, like our founders had to do, and overthrow their oppresive government, and form their own Republic. Notice I said Republic and not Democracy. We do not live in a Democracy. We live in a Republic. A Democracy is nothing more than a glorified Oligarchy. That is a direct path to a dictatorship.