This was supposed to be another of my “weeks off” from heavy column-lifting. But once again stories appearing in the front page of my favorite newspaper seem to me to be of significant importance—or potential importance—to warrant prompt comment.
I was surprised to see in the Sunday World-Herald such a sympathetic view of the problem of what I believe to be generally considered—even by the liberal New York Times—the illegal immigration from Latin America.
Harrowing Journey? They Had A Paid Escort
The story started on the front page and focused on two “unaccompanied children” and their allegedly harrowing journey through Mexico across the American border to escape poverty, rape, prostitution, even murder, in their native El Salvador.
(The story offered no details as to why it was a harrowing journey north to illegally cross the border into the United States. Safe conduct had been provided by—at a cost of $14,000—a so-called coyote, one of those who make a living escorting Latin Americans north to what used to be the boundary between Mexico and the United States.)
The story told—without any suggestion that violation of United States law was involved—the happy reunion of the two youngsters with an uncle living legally in Lexington, Nebraska.
The story raised the question of whether the intent of the writer was to create sympathy for illegal immigrants (there is a great deal of sympathy for them already in this country) but to suggest that perhaps they should not be considered illegals but be welcomed as refugees from intolerable conditions in their native land.
Regular readers of my column will know that I believe the appropriate course for the United States is certainly not to encourage illegal immigration—we have an estimated14 million illegal immigrants already residing in the United States.
Attack The Causes, Not The Symptoms
Instead we should concentrate our efforts on helping government officials and law enforcement officers to attack the root problems in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—perhaps Mexico, too.
Our welcoming even more illegal immigrants, as I see it, does absolutely nothing to help the Central American governments to attack the problems which are cited as reasons for us to open our borders even wider—no matter how sympathetic you may be—to still more illegal immigrants.
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Minimum Wage Issue Involves $9/Hour
But Campaign Involves Very Big Bucks
There won’t be a vote until November on the proposal for an increase of $1.75 to raise to $9 an hour Nebraska’s mandated minimum wage by January 1, 2016. But already some very big bucks have been involved in bringing that issue to a November vote.
The World-Herald reported recently that as of July 27, Nebraskans for Better Wages reported spending nearly $832,000 to organize and collect the signatures necessary to put the issue on the November ballot.
Omaha philanthropist Dick Holland contributed $400,000 to the campaign to bring the issue to a November vote. Other contributors included Dianne Lozier of Omaha, $50,000, the Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, $97,500, and the Nebraska State Education Association, $75,275.
Those, you understand, were contributions primarily to get the necessary signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Selling the issue to the voters is likely to involve raising and spending a good deal more money.
Opponents Will Spend Big Bucks, Too
There will, of course, be a good deal of campaign money spent by opponents of the proposal.
Backers of the increase point out that neighboring Colorado (where, I might point out, legalizing the recreational smoking of marijuana is causing very big law enforcement problems), as a higher state-mandated minimum wage, $8.00 than Nebraska’s current $7.25 an hour (same as the Federally-mandated level).
Not mentioned by the backers of a higher minimum wage for Nebraska starting at $8.00 an hour January 1, 2015 and reaching $9.00 a year later is higher than the state mandated minimum wages in all the other states bordering Nebraska. In four of the other states bordering Nebraska (South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas and Iowa), the state-mandated minimum wage is either lower than Nebraska’s or equal to Nebraska’s $7.25. In the other bordering state—Missouri—the state mandated minimum wage is $7.50.
Looking at the nation as a whole, if the proposed $9.00 level on January 1, 2016, were to take effect in Nebraska, Nebraska could be in a position of having a minimum wage that exceeds current state-mandated minimums in all but nine of the 50 states.
Yes, I agree that the nine states could increase their minimums to $9 or above by 2016. But the realistic prospects are that at $9.00, Nebraska would likely be in the minority of states requiring more than the national average of state-mandated minimums and more than the Federal-mandated level (now $7.25 an hour) for work involved in interstate commerce or Federal contracts.
Employers Expected To Simply Absorb Increases?
Those advocating a state-mandated increase have offered no suggestions as to how employers deal with the increases.
Is there an assumption that operators of fast-food establishments, for example, are so exploiting their employees that they are making such exorbitant profits that they would simply have to settle for a smaller profit margin?
Are the wage-increase advocates aware that the mandated increases might result in layoffs, a reduction in the number of jobs available to, for example, young employees for whom the current wage level helps provide money to help pay family expenses or school expenses?
There are many more questions to be asked and answered as wealthy liberals press for Nebraska to increase its minimum wage level above the federally-mandated $7.25 an hour—a level President Obama has not been able to persuade the Congress to increase.
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Only Sensible Public Policy:
Keep Motorist, Bikers Apart
I weary of watching on television or seeing in The World-Herald pictures of bicyclists pressing their case for greater consideration on the streets of Omaha.
Ironically, consider some of the pictures in what has become a campaign by cyclists not only to dictate who will supervise the supposed cyclist-control program for city government but also to dictate what consideration must be provided for cyclists when there is a potential conflict between automotive traffic and cyclists.
Some of the pictures taken during the intensive campaign, given a boost by the national leader in the cycling movement, quite inadvertently indicated the problem. One picture, for example, showed a passenger car following a platoon (six cyclists) taking up one whole lane on an Omaha street.
If bike cyclists—and motorcyclists—wish to risk life and limb by engaging in their preferred mode of travel, as I see it, the city should accommodate them so long as their chosen mode of travel does not interfere with the automotive traffic for which city streets and highways are primarily intended.
Motor Vehicles Deserve Priority
(Yes, yes, I know. Automotive travel is, in many if not most cases, inefficient in that so many vehicles, designed to carry as many as five or more passengers, wind up carrying only the driver. But drivers are paying for the privilege through gasoline taxes, and license registration fees.)
Ideally, street construction should accommodate both motor vehicles and, in a single lane, bicyclists. But until that reasonable goal is reached, bicyclists don’t help their cause with color pictures showing them riding six abreast with a motor vehicle trailing behind.
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Let’s Talk About Governors We’ve Elected
And Then Re-Elected In The Past 54 Years
Today a different kind of column-ender. Might be considered upbeat for some politicians, but definitely a downbeat for others. Read on:
I thought it worthy of comment that, perhaps somewhat ironically, in 54 years of Nebraska politics, the two most liberal gubernatorial candidates have been a Republican, Norbert Tiemann, who lost his bid for re-election after serving in 1967-71, and the current Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Chuck Hassebrook, who is the most liberal gubernatorial nominee since Republican Tiemann served in 1967-71.
Did Ad Lib Quip Cost Re-Election?
Tiemann lost his re-election bid in the Republican primary after showing guts and foresight in pushing through the Legislature badly needed state tax reform, replacing state government property taxes with sales and income taxes.
Political lore has it that Tiemann would perhaps if not probably have been re-nominated if he had not, in his short-tempered way, reacted to criticism from some farmers at a meeting in Western Nebraska with a hipshot, duly reported in the press, to the effect that he had never met a happy farmer.
It occurs to me that the Tiemann-Hassebrook comparison has some validity. Hassebrook has hot-button challenges, perhaps most important of all, the fact that he is a liberal Democrat—bright, likeable but seeking to become governor in a state which for three-quarters of a century has not elected liberal Democrats to the governor’s mansion.
Hassebrook Served Admirably As Regent
Hassebrook’s liberal inclinations are well-documented, of course, based primarily on the fact that he served as director of the left-leaning Center for Rural Affairs. His record also includes admirable service as member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, where political philosophy probably plays a limited role, if any.
In this year’s gubernatorial election, Hassebrook has predictably started down what might be considered a liberal line. He has endorsed a woman’s legal right to abortion and has hinted at support of the state-mandated minimum wage proposal.
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Still Focused On The Governorship:
Which Party Had Best Win-Loss Record?
In connection with this year’s gubernatorial contest, I found it interesting to look back at the record of gubernatorial elections the past 54 years.
During that time, four Democratic candidates won eight elections and re-elections, serving a total of 26 years. Republican candidates won five elections and re-elections and have served a total of 28 years.
Very interestingly, in a state where the Republican Party has been considered dominant for the past half century or more, that domination certainly did not extend to the governor’s office.
What Has Better Win/Loss Record?
During a 54-year span, Republicans have been elected governor or re-elected five times and Democrats four times (Bob Kerrey did not seek re-election). No Democratic governor has been defeated in his bid for re-election. Three of the five Republicans lost when they tried for a second term: Norbert Tiemann, Charlie Thone and Kay Orr.
(Republican Governor Dave Heineman was re-elected. Governor Mike Johanns resigned to serve as Secretary of Agriculture.)
How do you make an upbeat column-ending out of that? Well, the Democratic Party and Democratic governors Frank Morrison, Jim Exon and Ben Nelson are entitled to find satisfaction in the fact that in what might be called modern times, a Democratic governor has never been defeated for re-election.
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