Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why Ron Paul can’t win

Ron Paul is a frequent winner of straw polls and has a loyal following among libertarians. In spite of winning these polls, Paul has no chance of winning the Republican nomination. This is not because of a Republican or media (or Bilderberger or Illuminati or any other) conspiracy. The reason lies in Paul’s political beliefs and the nature of the straw polls that he wins.

Paul, a Republican congressman representing a Texas house district, is not a normal Republican. Between terms in Congress as a Republican, he ran for president as a Libertarian Party candidate. Even today, his platform is starkly different than those of other Republicans.

One of the issues where this is most apparent is drug legalization. Ron Paul has supported the decriminalization of narcotics and an end to the drug war. While the American public is almost evenly split on the issue of marijuana legalization according to an October 2011 Gallup poll, only 35 percent of Republicans are in favor. The fact that Paul is out of step with Republican voters hurts him as a candidate in a Republican primary.

While Paul opposes attempts to redefine traditional marriage, he opposes a federal marriage amendment, which is the only way to prevent the courts from imposing same-sex marriage. As with drug legalization, this is an issue on which the American public is divided according to a recent Associated Press poll, but support for traditional marriage is stronger among Republicans and conservatives. When voters have had a chance to vote on definition of marriage laws or amendments, they often pass by a large margin. Georgia voters approved a marriage amendment with 76 percent in favor in 2004.

On other issues Paul is similarly out of step. After U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Paul said in an interview on Iowa’s WHO radio that he would not have ordered the raid. As reported by ABC News, Paul said that the raid was “absolutely not necessary” and did not reflect “respect for the rule of law and world law, international law.” Paul said that he would have favored cooperation with Pakistan to arrest bin Laden.

Paul’s position again conflicted with the beliefs of most Americans. According to a Washington Post/Pew poll, by a margin of 34-8 percent most Americans believed that Pakistan had done more to hurt U.S. efforts to find bin Laden than to help. Seventy-two percent of Americans felt relieved that bin Laden was dead. Bin Laden’s death made 60 percent of Americans feel proud and 58 percent felt happy. These percentages are probably even higher among Republicans.

Even more current and troubling to most Americans is Paul’s position on Iran. CNS News reports that Paul said, “For them [Iran] to be a threat to us or to anybody in the region, I think it’s just blown out of proportion.” Paul opposes sanctions or military action against Iran and says that the U.S. should offer friendship instead, a position closer to that of Barack Obama than his fellow Republicans.

In contrast, a UPI poll released on November 12 shows that 50 percent of Americans support U.S. military action against Iran and 57 percent support an Israeli attack on Iran. According to a CBS/Global Research poll, only 17 percent of Americans do not believe that Iran poses a threat.

As the polls were released, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report that confirms that the Iranian nuclear program is focused on developing weapons rather than nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Coming on the heels of the FBI’s disruption of an Iranian assassination plot in Washington, D.C. in October, it is likely that many more Americans are coming to see Iran as a dangerous threat that will not respond to anything short of military action.

On the other hand, Paul’s long-time advocacy of government spending cuts is now being supported by a majority of Americans according to Gallup and there are signs that his desire to bring back the gold standard is gaining support as well. A Rasmussen poll from October surprisingly showed that 44 percent of Americans favored the gold standard compared to 28 percent opposed. When the question was phrased to say that the gold standard would reduce the powers of “bankers and the political class,” support increased to 57 percent and opposition dropped to 19 percent.

Rep. Paul’s call to “end the Fed” may be gaining support, but is still a minority position. A Bloomberg poll from December 2010 showed that only 16 percent wanted to abolish the Federal Reserve. That number was twice the eight percent who favored abolishing the Fed in October of that year. Even if most Americans don’t favor shutting down the Federal Reserve, 39 percent did want to make it more accountable and only 37 percent favored the current model with an independent Fed.

Ron Paul’s economic policies are finding favor in the current climate of massive government spending and deficits. On domestic issues and foreign policy, however, he is out of step with most Americans and even more out-of-step with Republicans, whom he must win over to reach the general election. Consequently, he stays below ten percent according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, even as he wins unscientific straw polls where his supporters turn out in droves. In Georgia polls, Paul remains similarly in the single digits, near his under-three percent finish in Georgia’s 2008 primary election.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Who will benefit from Cain collapse?

Herman Cain’s presidential campaign will likely collapse soon under the accumulated weight of sexual harassment charges, ill-advised remarks, and a lack of foreign policy experience. As the current favorite of the “anyone-but-Romney” wing of the Republican Party, the Georgia businessman’s decline will leave many voters up for grabs. The question is who is most likely to benefit from Cain’s misfortune.

Cain captured frontrunner status from Rick Perry after Perry’s lackluster performance in several debates. By now, it is becoming more and more apparent that Perry would not be a formidable opponent to President Obama in the general election. This realization is seen in the Real Clear Politics average of polls which showed Perry’s support plunge to ten percent from a high of 31 percent in September. Perry’s introduction of an optional flat tax plan has not stopped his slide in the polls.

Mitt Romney is also unlikely to pick up Cain’s supporters. Romney’s support has remained in the 20-25 percent range for the entire race. A large segment of the Republican electorate seems uncomfortable with Romney’s tendency to change his mind on important issues and his background as the facilitator of healthcare reform in Massachusetts, which became a prototype of Obamacare and has led Massachusetts to become one of the most expensive states for healthcare in the nation.

Likewise, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, and Michelle Bachmann are unlikely to get a bounce from Cain’s fall. Ron Paul, the perennial candidate whose platform is far out of the Republican and American mainstream, has remained stuck in the eight percent range. Similarly, Huntsman would seem to be more at home in the Democratic or Libertarian parties. Bachmann, who had a worse case of foot-in-mouth disease than Cain, rose as high as 14 percent in July before plummeting bottom tier status in the race.

The only remaining options are Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Of the two, Gingrich, another Georgian, has had much more traction than Santorum. He has shown himself to be very articulate and knowledgeable in the debates and is one of the few candidates who targeted President Obama’s policies more than those of his fellow Republicans.

In the most recent Real Clear Politics average of polls, Gingrich has increased from a low of four percent in September. In the weeks since the Cain scandal became news, Gingrich has shown another surge to 12 percent. As the Cain campaign falters, Gingrich’s numbers will likely increase as he becomes the next “not-Romney.”

President Obama would benefit in some ways from Cain’s fall, but would be hurt in others. Obviously, the departure of the only black Republican candidate

would help Obama solidify the Democratic minority vote. A white challenger would be more vulnerable to the charges of racism that seemed transparent and contrived when leveled at Cain.

On the other hand, Cain is a weak candidate in many respects, despite his charm and charisma. His tendency to speak without thinking and his inexperience on foreign policy, as well as the sexual harassment claims, would undoubtedly be ruthlessly exploited by the Obama campaign. Current polls show that Obama fares better in a matchup with Cain than Romney.

The current state of the Republican race shows the application of the “Buckley Rule.” William F. Buckley famously advised voters that they should vote for the most conservative candidate who could win. All of the Republican candidates are more conservative, and therefore more desirable to Republicans, than President Obama. The question is which of them is most likely to be able to win the general election. That several candidates have been considered and then cast aside for someone else as their flaws are found is evidence that Republican voters are looking for a winner.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cain is down and probably out

Two weeks ago it seemed that Herman Cain was poised to become the Mike Huckabee of the 2012 presidential election. In 2008, Huckabee was a political outsider with little money. His homespun humor combined with his sharp wit and conservative message to make him the surprise winner of the Iowa Republican presidential primary. Before last week, Georgia native Herman Cain may have been positioned to make a similar impact in 2012.

That was before accusations were leveled that Cain had sexually harassed female employees fifteen years ago. At this point, a total of four women have accused Cain of harassment, but only two have stepped forward publicly. Karen Kraushaar worked with Cain at the National Restaurant Association and received a $45,000 payout from the group according to Yahoo News. (In contrast, Bill Clinton paid $850,000 to Paula Jones according to according to Although she has not said exactly what Cain allegedly did, she described him as “a monster” to ABC News.

Sharon Bialek, another NRA employee, is the other woman to come forward publicly. Bialek claims that Cain put his hand under her skirt and pushed her hand toward his crotch according to the Washington Post. The incident allegedly occurred at a meeting after Bialek had left the association.

Another woman who worked with USAID in Egypt said that she and colleague had dinner with Herman Cain after he addressed their seminar. In an ABC News video she said that Cain had initially asked to meet a woman that had asked a question during his address. She said that this may have been an innocent request. In the end, Cain had a “nondescript” dinner with the two USAID employees. Her only notable recollection of the event was that Cain allegedly ordered two expensive bottles of wine and stuck the women with the tab.

In a press conference on Tuesday and in a statement on, Cain categorically denied the allegations. Cain denied harassing Krausharr and said that the only incident that he remembers involving her was comparing her height to that of his wife. He said that he does not remember Bialek at all.

On Wednesday, new information was revealed about both accusers. The Associated Press reported that Krausharr filed a complaint three years later against a subsequent employer when she was not allowed to work at home. Bialek apparently has a history of financial trouble including bankruptcy filings, unpaid rent, and a paternity suit. Television personality Bill Kurtis, who worked with Bialek, has alleged on WLS radio, which was then picked up by the Mark Levine Show, that she “has a history” and might have actually been the one to come on to Cain.

Ultimately, it might not matter whether the accusations are true or not. The damage has been done to Cain’s reputation and no one will ever know the truth of what actually happened. Many will assume Cain to be guilty and others will never doubt his innocence. To many others, the whole matter will simply be a joke (for instance, Cain’s “6-9” plan).

It is difficult to imagine how Cain cannot be negatively affected by the scandal in the polls. According to Real Clear Politics, Cain remains neck in neck with Mitt Romney in national polls of Republican candidates. Cain has an edge on Romney in polls from the battleground states of Florida and Ohio, as well as the early primary state of Iowa, where Mike Huckabee won in 2008. Cain’s poll numbers are likely to suffer as he is unable to shake the accusations.

As troubling as the accusations themselves was Cain’s lackluster early response. In spite of being contacted before the accusations went public by Politico, the website that initially broke the story, the Cain campaign seemed unprepared to deal with them. Cain’s initial response was evasive, denying knowledge of the accusations or settlements, which only added fuel to the fire.

The scandal also comes in the wake of other Cain missteps. Over the summer, Cain lost key campaign staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire, two vitally important early primary states. Cain has been criticized for several comments, including a joke that an electric fence should be placed along the border and told the Wall Street Journal that if people were not wealthy, they could blame themselves. He was also forced to backtrack and apologize after saying that he would not hire a Muslim in his administration.

More worrisome to some is Cain’s lack of experience on foreign policy. While he does have experience leading businesses, Cain has even less international experience than President Obama did before taking office. With international crises looming in the form of Iran’s nuclear program, radical Islamists co-opting the Arab Spring, a financial crisis in Europe, a resurgent Russia, and a China that is increasingly threatening both economically and militarily, the paucity of foreign policy experience is an important omission.

In spite of his popularity over the past few weeks, Cain’s campaign was beginning to fizzle. The sexual harassment scandal, whether true or not, has only accelerated that process.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Transgender children

Over the past few weeks and years, “transgendered” people have become a fashionable cause. One of the first well known transgenders was Chaz Bono, the only daughter of Sonny and Cher. Chaz, born Chastity Bono, went through a “gender-change” operation and legally changed his name and gender – in California, of course – in 2010.

Even before Chazz, there was Thomas Beatie who was billed as the world’s first pregnant man. Beatie, who had a sex-change in 2002, still has female reproductive organs. This allowed him to give birth to three children. Beatie was granted male legal status by Hawaii.

It may be surprising for many people to learn that a person can legally have their gender changed, but many states, even Georgia, allow it. According to the Mega Family Project, Georgia law allows “all transpeople” to change their names, but will only reissue birth certificates or change the sex listed on a driver’s license if the person can supply a notarized affidavit from a surgeon that they “are undergoing or have undergone gender-reassignment surgery.” Mega Family would like to eliminate the surgery requirement.

It is damaging enough to society when adults suffer from gender confusion, but it is even worse when the problem spreads to children. In the past month, there have been a number of cases in which transgender children made the news.

In the first story, an eleven-year-old California boy is being allowed by his two lesbian parents to have hormone therapy to block male puberty. In another story, a seven-year-old Denver boy was allowed to join Girl Scouts. also featured a story about a young boy who, from age four, wanted to live as a girl. The boy’s mother is regional director of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

The debate can be framed by comments taken from the Girl Scout story. Fox News reports that the troop leader initially refused the boy’s request to join because “It doesn’t matter how he looks. He has boy parts, and he can’t be in Girl Scouts.” In reversing the troop leader’s decision, a Girl Scout statement said, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

On one side of the issue are people who say that gender is a fact that can’t be changed. If a child is born as a boy or girl, then that child remains a boy or girl because they have the appropriate parts. If their genitals are mutilated by surgery and their body is distorted by hormones, it does not change the fundamental fact that they are the same person that they were when they were born.

On the other side are people who feel that physical characteristics are not as important as how a person feels. If a person identifies with members of the opposite sex more than their own, then it must mean that they really are a member of the opposite sex. Rather than learning to be happy in their own skin, these people believe that gender-confused people should have hormone therapy and surgery to make their body match their feelings.

The adults who encourage these children to live out their transgender fantasies do real damage to the kids. Any parent knows that kids can say and do some outlandish things. It is the responsibility of the parent to guide their children along the right path and get them appropriate help when needed. It is difficult to imagine that it would be appropriate to help a child embark upon a lifelong journey of running from their true identity to pursue a transgender dream. It would probably be more helpful to the child to learn to accept and be happy in their own skin.

Focus on the Family notes that most children who are gender-confused “grow out of it” by their teens or early adulthood. The group recommends that parents lovingly direct their children toward appropriate gender roles: “For boys, the mother should be the one to ‘push’ the child from feminine behavior, and the father should ‘pull’ the boy toward more masculine play and interests.” The group also notes that one of the worst courses of action is to shame boys for “girl-like” behavior.

Some parents probably believe that by indulging their children in their gender disorientation in ways from allowing them to dress and style their hair in the fashion of the opposite sex, to calling themselves by a opposite sex name, to allowing hormone therapy and surgery, they are helping to alleviate their child’s anxiety. In the short term this may be true. In the long term, they are likely causing severe damage to their child, however. Such damage to children may ultimately prove to be one of the strongest arguments against same-sex marriage.

There are numerous studies that indicate transgender people are at a substantially increased risk for other forms of mental illness as well. MSNBC reports that nearly half of transgender people have attempted to commit suicide due to higher rates of depression. They face other health risks as well, including an HIV infection rate of over four times that of the general population.

For the LGBT community, the answer to these problems seems to be to change the rest of the world rather than to cure the illness of Gender Identity Disorder. In effect, this is asking society to honor the fantasy that gender can be changed even though when hormone therapy is stopped the transgendered person’s body starts to revert to its natural state.

Many readers will probably view this as hate or homophobia, but is it really hate to point out the truth that virtually everyone knows and yet is hesitant to say? It is arguably more disrespectful to pretend that a man can change himself into a woman (or vice versa) and more loving to help them become the people that they were born to be.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Bank of America’s retreat show limit of corporate power

When Bank of America retreated from its plan to charge a $5 fee to its account holders who use debit cards, it was a victory for consumers. Bank of America’s announcement of the fee a month ago sparked widespread anger and was a factor in the birth of the Occupier movement.

Many on the left are suspicious and angry at corporations. A common theme among progressives is that the government is more responsive to the people because government officials are elected by and are responsible to the people. On the other hand, this view holds that corporations are responsible only to their officers and shareholders, people whom consumers have no voice in choosing. The Bank of America saga gives lie to this idea.

Even though Bank of America can rightly be considered an international mega-corporation, the prospect of hemorrhaging account holders and deposits brought it to its knees in a matter of weeks. Consumers exercise this same power over almost every corporation in existence. Consumers have the right to fire any company that does not earn their business. If the company is fired by enough customers, it will either change its ways or go bankrupt.  Corporations can only thrive and survive by giving people what they want.

A similar corporate turnaround occurred several decades ago with an Atlanta-based mega-corporation. In 1985, Coca-Cola decided to replace its century-old soft drink recipe with a new one. The introduction of New Coke went down in the annals of business history as “the biggest marketing blunder of all time.” It took Coke about six weeks to bring back the original formula as Coca-Cola Classic. New Coke has not been produced since 2002.

It is only in the rare case of a monopoly that companies have little incentive to try to please customers. There are very few monopolies today, however. Federal antitrust laws allow the government to veto mergers and break up companies that control too large a share of their markets. Standard Oil and “Ma” Bell Telephone are two examples of mega-corporations that were broken up by the federal government. Most monopolies today exist only in cooperation with government. Local cable television and telephone monopolies are examples.

Even where monopolies do exist, technology is making them less of a factor. Cable companies are vulnerable to competition from satellite television providers such as Dish Network and streaming web content on sites like Landline telephones are increasingly an anachronism as they are replaced by wireless telephones and voice-over-internet phone calls.

The only real monopoly that exists in the United States today is government. No American has any choice when it comes to dealing with the government. Taxes must be paid to the IRS. Cars must be registered with the DMV. There is no alternative to participating in Social Security and Medicare.

In 2010, the federal government made a marketing blunder on the level of New Coke. Over the loud objections of a majority of the American people, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. According to Rasmussen, immediately after passage of the law, Americans favored its repeal by a margin of 55-42 percent. In the most recent poll, repeal is still favored by 54-39 percent, yet Congress continues to reject legislation to do just that.

It is true that elected officials can be fired by their constituents, but only at multi-year intervals. Many congressmen were fired in 2010 and, if the current mood persists, many more will be fired in 2012. On the other hand, the nameless bureaucrats that operate the machinery of government on a daily basis are untouchable to normal citizens and are even difficult for their bosses to fire. In contrast, normal citizens can fire any corporation that they do business with at any time.

Consumers should also remember why Bank of America decided to start charging the $5 fee to its customers in the first place. The move came as a result of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which also became law in 2010. The law limited the amount that banks could charge merchants for using debit cards. Since banks couldn’t charge merchants, Bank of America decided to charge its cardholders. Despite the public outcry, Congress shows no signs of repealing this law either.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Israeli attack on Iran may be imminent

As Iran inches toward production of nuclear weapons, speculation is growing that Israel may be preparing to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Middle East observer Joel Rosenberg notes on his Flash Traffic blog that recent comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the Knesset, the Israeli legislature, may hint that Israel’s patience with diplomacy is coming to an end.

As quoted on Flash Traffic, Netanyahu said, ““If I had to summarize what will happen in our region, I would use two terms: instability and uncertainty.” He continued, “The collapse of Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, the bloody incidents in Syria, the American forces leaving Iraq, the new government in Tunisia, the upcoming elections in Egypt and many other events – these are all expressions of the immense changes occurring around us. These changes can increase the instability within these countries, and the instability between countries….A nuclear Iran would pose a terrible threat on the Middle East and on the entire world. And of course, it poses a great, direct threat on us too….A security philosophy cannot rely on defense alone. It must also include offensive capabilities, which is the very foundation of deterrence. We operate and will continue to operate intensely and determinately against those who threaten the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Our policy is guided by two main principles: the first is ‘if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,’ and the second is ‘if anyone harms us, his blood is on his own hands.’”

Rosenberg also cites an October 31 article on the Israeli news site which reports that the Obama Administration is pressuring the U.N. for new sanctions on Iran in order to preclude an Israeli strike. The U.S. diplomatic effort was prompted by an IAEA report that showed significant progress in the Iranian nuclear program.

Israel has ample reason to believe that Iran would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to attack the Jewish state if it is able to produce them. Iran’s rhetoric has long stated its intention to wipe Israel off the map. Iranian surrogates such as Hezbollah and Hamas have been launching rocket attacks on Israeli cities with conventional warheads for years. These attacks led to the recent wars in Lebanon and Gaza as Israel sought to stop these launches.

Israel is widely believed to be responsible for covert attacks against the Iranian nuclear program over the past few years. These attacks include assassinations of leading Iranian nuclear scientists and a cyber attack on Iranian computer systems using the Stuxnet virus.

Israel successfully destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 that was the heart of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. The attack involved an airstrike on the Osirak reactor outside Baghdad using F-16 Falcon fighter-bombers. The attacking Israeli force did not lose a single plane.

A similar attack on Iran would be much more difficult. Where Iraq’s nuclear facilities were concentrated around Baghdad, the Iranian facilities are dispersed around the country in at least nine separate locations according to a Congressional Research Service report. An attack on Iran would also require attacking planes to travel much farther, refueling from tankers in the air, and traversing several hostile countries, which would increase the risk of detection.

Israel reportedly tested a new long-range missile on November 2, 2011 that is capable of striking targets in Iran with a nuclear warhead. Using the new “Jericho” missile would eliminate many of the risks that a strike with manned aircraft would entail. A nuclear strike would be most likely to destroy the Iranian facilities, but would open Israel to world condemnation. A conventional missile strike would be far less certain, but might be coupled with a strike by manned aircraft.

A nuclear-armed Iran could conceivably threaten the southeastern United States as well as Israel. Iran has experimented with launching SCUD missiles from cargo ships. With a range of almost 450 miles according to the Federation of American Scientists, if SCUDs were launched from ships in international waters most of the large cities on the east coast would be within range and warning time would be minimal. A missile launched hundreds of miles off the Georgia coast could target Atlanta.

Iran also has a close relationship with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. In a move reminiscent of the Cuban missile crisis, Iran might base longer range ballistic missiles in Venezuela. Iran’s long range Shahab-5 and -6 ICBMs have a range in excess of 4,000 miles according to the FAS which would put most of the continental U.S, from Boston to Seattle with their range. The Shahab could be used for direct attacks on American cities or an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could destroy much of the electrical grid across the United States, plunging the country into chaos.

Because of the secrecy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, it is impossible to know with any certainty just how long it will be before Iran produces an operational nuclear weapon. The one certainty is that time is running out. If the Iranians are to be prevented from becoming a nuclear power, someone, most likely Israel or the United States, must take action soon. The choice may be between a conventional Middle East war in the short term or a nuclear war in the long term.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Republicans are wrong on immigration

When the discussion about securing the border started five years ago, it was tied to national security concerns. In the midst of a global war against Islamic terrorists, it seemed unwise to many to leave our long borders with Mexico and Canada unmanned and undefended for much of their length.

Some of the concerns were prompted by Ahmed Ressam, the attempted Millennium bomber from 1999, who attempted to enter the U.S. from Canada where he had refugee status. Ressam, an Algerian, was arrested by alert border guards in Washington state.

There have long been similar worries about terrorist groups seeking to enter the U.S. through Mexico. A 2003 report by the Library of Congress Federal Research Division noted that a Mexican national security advisor and U.N. ambassador had stated “Spanish and Islamic terrorist groups are using Mexico as a refuge.” These fears may have come close to realization recently. On October 11, 2011 the U.S. government reported that it had disrupted a plot by the Iranian government to use Mexican narco-terrorists to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C.

While the threat is real, the Republican reaction is misguided. The “secure the borders” movement quickly turned into an anti-immigrant movement in some quarters. Illegal aliens were portrayed as people who snuck across the border to take American jobs and government benefits. Harsh rhetoric allowed the left to paint Republicans as racist and may have helped to tip the scales toward Obama in the 2008 election when Hispanics voted Democratic by more than two-to-one. That image was reinforced when a handful of states, including Georgia, passed state laws to further restrict illegal immigration in response to a perceived failure of the federal government to address the problem.

In reality the federal government began cracking down on the hiring of illegal immigrants under the Bush Administration. Under President Obama, the federal government has deported over one million illegal immigrants, almost as many as during George Bush’s two terms according to Reuters.

Further, as the economy crashed and jobs disappeared, illegal immigration began to disappear as well. CNN reports that arrests of illegal immigrants at the border dropped by 58 percent between 2006 and 2011. This was largely due to fact that the economy and increased numbers of border patrol agents deterred would-be immigrants from attempting to cross the border in the first place.

Now the effects of these policies are becoming evident. Georgia farmers were short by as many as two-thirds of their normal number of hired hands according to the Atlanta Journal. Farmers attempted to replace immigrant labor with unemployed local workers but had little luck because the work was temporary, hot, and physically demanding. Some farmers resorted to paying signing bonuses to pickers. Farmers in California, Idaho, Oklahoma, Washington, Vermont and Alabama have similar problems.

A recent Wall Street Journal article cites a University of Georgia study which found that Georgia lost $391 million and 3,260 full-time jobs that were dependent upon the crops harvested by the illegal immigrant laborers. These jobs were in industries such as food production, packaging and transportation. cites several studies that show that immigrants – legal and illegal – create as many jobs as they occupy and actually have an upward impact on the wages of American citizens.

Nevertheless, in the Republican debates immigration remains a big issue even though illegal immigration is on the decline. The preoccupation with illegal immigrants may cost the Republicans the votes of many conservative Hispanics who would otherwise vote against President Obama and his failed economic initiatives.

Republican candidates should refocus the debate toward national security and away from the otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants. Like the ancestors of most natural-born U.S. citizens, immigrants, legal or otherwise, merely want to come to the United States to make better lives for themselves. Many come from countries where there are even fewer jobs than in the U.S. and where the political climate is one in which policy debates turn violent easily and often.

Waves of anti-immigrant opinion have periodically swept through America. At one time or another, the Irish, the Catholics, the Chinese, Japanese, Eastern Europeans and others have found cold receptions in the U.S. These immigrants gradually gained acceptance by assimilating into the “melting pot” of cultures. A major problem today is that the diversity movement actually discourages assimilation and promotes maintaining separate cultures.

Much of the anti-immigrant fervor will likely fade as the economy recovers and unemployment declines. This will not resolve the national security issue, however. It is this aspect of the border issue that the Republicans should focus on.

The best solution to the border issue seems to be a multi-faceted solution. In some areas, a fence is needed. In others, where terrain makes a fence impractical, remote sensors can monitor and alert Border Patrol agents to human activity.

The farm situation from 2011 shows that just staunching the flow of illegal immigrants is not enough. The economy has grown dependent upon labor from migrant workers, many of whom are in the country illegally. If these jobs cannot be filled by Americans when the unemployment rate is over nine percent, they likely will not be filled by Americans at all. A similar gap exists with high end, skilled labor jobs where immigrants come to the U.S. to study but have difficulty getting a visa to stay and work after they graduate. These American educated, highly skilled workers often end up working in other countries for companies that compete with American business.

A lesson of the Georgia farm labor fiasco is that restrictions on illegal immigration must be accompanied by immigration reforms that make it easier for workers to come into the U.S. legally. In this situation everyone would win: The foreign workers could earn money to support their families, American employers would have workers, and the government would be able to keep track of who was entering the country. Additionally, this would expand the tax base by bringing the black market wages for illegal immigrant labor into the light.

Attacking immigrants is likely to backfire on Republicans. A better alternative is to propose a revamped immigration system that will bring much needed workers into the U.S. economy while at the same time securing our national borders against terrorists.

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