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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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May 6, 2010
Smart aleck liberal talk show host David Letterman is opposed to the new Arizona law designed to curb illegal immigration.
Letterman’s opposition alone is almost enough to make me favor the law. But there are other good reasons for supporting it.
It has already served—and will continue to serve—as a wake-up call for so-called political leaders in Washington who have been sleeping on the issue of illegal immigration for too many years.
The issue is, of course, complex, not easy to resolve. The estimated more than 11 million illegal Hispanic immigrants living in this country will not, of course, be sent back to Mexico and Central America, never to return. A very large majority will be given a relatively easy pass to citizenship.
An appropriate reward for their illegal behavior? Of course not. But it is the practical reality, recognizing that you can hardly round up several million people and send them back to Mexico or Guatemala or wherever.
In the short term—this month, not after long Congressional debate over how we get to the inevitable conclusion which I have indicated above. President Obama should start doing the obvious: New, more effective, steps to plug the holes in the leaky border between Mexico and the United States.
If this requires appropriation of more funds to hire more border security officers or build more fences, ask Congress to appropriate the money and get on with this, now.
Don’t be lulled into continued years of inaction by statistics like those cited in a front page story earlier this week. The headline read: “Recession has reduced inflow of immigrants.”
Accompanying the story was a graph reflecting the downturn—a very minor downturn—in the “unauthorized immigrant population” (notice the careful avoidance of the word “illegal”) population. Estimates reflected in the graph indicated a total “unauthorized immigrant population” of 11.9 million people by the end of 2008. The graph didn’t make clear the size of the decline in 2009, but it was minor. And the increase from the 2003 estimate was anything but minor—2.4 million more “unauthorized” immigrants, an increase of 25% in five years.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the estimates are off and “only” about 10 million illegal immigrants reside in this country. Obviously, still an enormous problem, one that won’t be solved by President Obama’s indignation over the new Arizona law aimed at illegal immigrants or by rallies and street marches by immigrants and their supporters in cities scattered across the country.
* * *
You could write a complete column—or two or three—in response to some of the comments which Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger made to thousands of adoring shareholders during the annual Berkshire stockholders meeting last weekend in Omaha.
Warren’s unusual departure from what one would expect from a chairman at a shareholders meeting—a 30-minute defense of Wall Street investment banker Goldman Sachs with which he has had a long association—was followed two days later by some additional pro-Goldman comments at the end of the Berkshire shareholders’ weekend.
Both Buffett and Munger continued their defense of Goldman Sachs, which they said is the best investment banking firm in the country and the one least involved in casino-like dealings.
Such praise seemed to me to suggest a relative appraisal of Goldman. For a good many people, being the best investment banking firm in the country is not necessarily good enough, nor is being the least involved in casino-like dealings. How about no casino-like dealings?
For a good many Americans, I would think, Goldman’s putting together a deal designed to make some investors a big profit as a result of entirely predictable mortgage defaults—defaults which cost thousands of Americans their homes—is one casino-like deal too many.
It seems to me that Warren and Charlie were on sounder ground when they endorsed federal regulation to control what they described as human tendencies of greed and envy.
Warren and Charlie are native Omahans whom I admire and who deserve the favorable attention they draw. They could certainly not be accused of suffering from any innate human tendency towards greed and envy.
I applaud their support of some new federal regulations to control unprincipled investment bankers. But I fail to see why Goldman Sachs—clearly involved in creating a package of sure mortgage losers so investors could profit from the losses—merits endorsement of any kind.
* * *
I hope that Omaha’s political and civic leadership—and the news media—will not miss any opportunity to make clear that Omaha voters next Tuesday have a chance to take advantage of a real bargain:
A deal too good to be passed up, a chance to meet public needs—from significant street improvements to a new aquatic center to replacing old fire trucks—without any increase in the city’s tax levy.
How can this be? It’s simply the result of a city policy that has worked very well over a good many years: As one set of public improvement bonds are retired, they are replaced with a new set of public improvement bonds (which requires voter approval) without any increase in the bond retirement tax levy.
In these uncertain economic times, when there is an often unreasonable sensitivity to anything that looks at all like a tax increase, I believe it is especially important to stress the fact that next Tuesday’s vote will not involve any increase in the city tax levy, yet it will clear the way for financing some very important civic improvements.
There will, in my opinion, be a need to increase the city tax levy for other purposes in the not too distant future, but let that future prospect take care of itself. It is not an issue on the city ballot next Tuesday.
* * *
Turning to a statewide issue on next Tuesday’s ballot:
The Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment, submitted to the voters next Tuesday, that would allow non-profit charitable organizations to issue bonds to raise money for projects which can be paid off as the bonds are retired over time, this at a considerably lower interest rate than would be required for a bank loan.
I know of no organized opposition, and I hope Nebraska voters will approve Amendment 1 next Tuesday. However, I thought a Sunday “Midlands Voices” column in The World-Herald included some questionable language offered by two supporters of the amendment. The article started:
“In these economic times, with more and more Nebraskans being underpaid or, worse, unemployed, and the government making cuts to the budget, today’s nonprofit charitable organizations have taken on an enormous amount of work in the effort to pick up the slack in communities throughout the state.”
In the first place, Nebraska has been remarkably fortunate in escaping the worst effects of “these economic times.” I question whether the Amendment 1 promoters can point to “more and more Nebraskans being underpaid or laid off.” And nonprofit charitable organizations may be required to work harder, but “an enormous amount of work”? I doubt it.
Then the article took a crack at unspecified “national talking heads” described as critical of Washington leadership and tax increases. “National talking heads” sounds like a cheap shot at unspecified conservative targets.
Continuing the extreme case for Amendment 1, the article said that nonprofit philanthropic organizations have been required to “raise all funds necessary to finance a project or take out a bank loan and begin slowly paying off the project over many years with interest.”
I’ve been involved in a number of campaigns to provide funds to worthy non-profit philanthropic organizations, and I can’t think of a single proposed project that was abandoned because of lack of availability of low-interest bond financing. The funding was customarily provided by generous individuals, corporations and/or foundations.
Yet the Midlands Voices article said flatly: “One can imagine the number of projects that fail to get off the drawing board due to lack of funding.”
No, I can’t imagine any number of such projects—not even one of which I am aware.
The suggestion that many worthy projects have not been launched because of lack of low-interest financing could, to me, be interpreted as giving no credit to the private philanthropic interests which have funded so many worthy projects in a way that allowed the sponsors to borrow no money at all.
Again, Amendment 1 is certainly worthy of voter support next Tuesday. The cause itself is certainly more credible than the language used in that Midlands Voices article by two of its proponents.
* * *
Now as to the name of the AAA Pacific Coast League baseball franchise which is finding a new home in a new ballpark in Sarpy County:
(Yes, I said Pacific Coast League, and I have no idea why such a name would be retained by to a league which has expanded to include franchises as far east as Omaha and Des Moines.)
Sarpy County interests and the Omaha Royals management have made a very sound decision, it seems to me, that the name of the relocated franchise will continue to include “Omaha.” The team will continue to have a fan base consisting of residents in the Omaha metropolitan area. But a word of friendly caution to the franchise owners and their associates in Sarpy County:
Before you go too far down the road toward a fan-naming contest which will determine the new nickname to go with “Omaha,” consult with the management and ownership of the Kansas City Royals. If they would like to have “Royals” continue to be a part of the team’s name, I would say their vote would be more important than any vote or any total of votes cast by fans.
The ongoing viability of the franchise depends on a continuation of the player development contract between the Kansas City Royals and the Omaha franchise owners. Kansas City sends its top minor league players to Omaha.
Keep in mind that the “Royals” name has been a valued part of the team’s identity since 1969, with the exception of its three years from 1999 through 2001. During that three years, the team was known as the Omaha Golden Spikes.
(My best recollection is that the nickname of the team was changed to “Golden Spikes” for three years because during that period the Union Pacific Railroad owned 50% of the franchise, and the historic “golden spike” ceremony celebrating the completion of a transcontinental railroad system was an important part of the Union Pacific’s history.)
My bottom line: If the Kansas City Royals agree to a change in the nickname, be very careful of the nickname you come up with. Some of the nicknames chosen for professional sports teams are simply puzzling and/or downright unattractive, in this fan’s opinion.
* * *
One wonders if deep within the bowels of the White House there isn’t a staff member who, sub rosa is in charge of finding issues for President Obama to be indignant about.
One can envision Obama arising each morning, ringing up his staffer in charge of indignation recommendations, and asking: “What do you recommend I become indignant about today?”
More seriously, the president does have a low indignation level, it seems to me.
For example, the effort of the Arizona’s governor and legislature to deal with the state’s worst-in-the-nation problems with illegal immigrants prompted an immediate indignant reaction from Obama, who—unlike Arizonans—has about as much close-up personal contact and experience with immigration problems as, say, Queen Elizabeth II.
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