Friday, August 18, 2006

Nebraska Democratic Party's 2006 Convention Convenes in Grand Island

by Kyle Michaelis
No updates this weekend, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise since I've already been pretty lax in posting the last several weeks. At least, I have a pretty good excuse for the next few days, as I'll be attending the NDPs 2006 Convention and won't have access to the Internet (oh, heavenly release!).

I have been tinkering with the NDPs platform hoping to make additions and amendments touching on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research (for), elimination of the Estate Tax (against, at both state and federal level), establishment of statewide broadband Internet (for), along with the immigration and abortion changes already discussed.

Of course, many of my proposals will be rejected, but that's as it should be if they do not reflect the will of the voting delegates. And, there will be concerns raised about how far out-of-line with Sen. Ben Nelson the party should dare to step on stem cells, estate taxes, and immigration reform, but I generally think there's little for Nelson to worry about each time we give him an opportunity to prove his "independence."

Of more legitimate concern is whether or not the positions we take put us further outside the mainstream and further handicap our down ballot candidates with Nebraska voters. Although it is short-sighted in the extreme, I will not be surprised if we fail to adopt a comprehensive position on immigration reform for this very reason. And, the question will no doubt be raised on many other issues as well.

Other than that, I expect the Convention will adopt resolutions opposing the spending lid and humane care amendments on the November ballot. Talk of Iraq will certainly arise in some form or another, and I regret that a call for President Bush's impeachment will probably take up time as well...though that truly would undermine the efforts of our Congressional candidates and play into the hands of their opponents.

Personally, I would like to see a resolution calling for benchmarks, goals, and greater Congressional scrutiny in the conducting of the Iraq War, with another resolution denouncing President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and the whole of the Republican Party for their continued politicization of the War on Terror, using fear for partisan advantage in total dereliction of their duties to the American public. A perfect example of these tactics is Cheney's assertion last week that Ned Lamont's victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary would encourage "Al Qaeda types." That is a ludicrous and insulting suggestion - one that even former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge outright rejected in the most recent issue of Newsweek.

Elsewhere on the agenda will be the election of state officers. Most notable is NDP chair Steve Achelpohl's bid for reelection. Over the summer, there was much talk of a challenge to Achelpohl being arranged by an assorted cast of Democratic Party players with a wide-range of concerns, grievances, and motivations. Some of these were legitimate - particularly questions about Nebraska Democrats' worsening disadvantage in terms of voter registration and our very much related failure to recruit candidates for three of five statewide constitutional offices. But, there were also several parties involved in the effort to challenge Achelpohl with rather suspect and blatantly self-interested purposes.

The word is that certain powers-that-be decided a contested race for Chair of the NDP would be too contentious and distracting from the party's campaign efforts, resulting in pressures that have supposedly defused the challenge to Achelpohl's leadership. I believe this unfortunate because it is so likely to only contribute to the resentments and back-biting of those already so inclined.

Ultimately, elections are healthy. They have their short-term costs, but they encourage accountability and provide the victor an undeniable air of legitimacy that may otherwise be lacking. With the record Achelpohl has established, the early support he earned from DNC Chair Howard Dean, and the fact that the NDP today stands better positioned for immediate and future success than at any other point this decade (a point well-established by the NDPs 2006 Report), I believe Achelpohl would have coasted to victory....to his benefit and that of the entire party.

Assuming that the challenge to Achelpohl is no longer forthcoming, there is substantial risk, however, that those who backed-down will simply adopt one more complaint with which to undermine the NDPs leadership without the obligation that would have otherwise manifest to respect the will of the Convention. But, that's just my opinion. Who knows - maybe we've averted certain catastrophe.

I'm not entirely sure if it will come up or not, but there's also been talk that the Convention will consider the idea of holding statewide caucuses months before our traditional May primary in 2008 so Nebraska Democrats are more likely to have at least some say in who their Presidential nominee will be.

Whereas Nebraska once had a position of some preeminence when it was one of the few states that held an actual party primary to decide its apportionment of delegates to the national convention (30+ years ago), the expansion of such systems and their increasing front-loading earlier and earlier in the year have left Nebraska's current influence negligible, if not non-existent. Transitioning to a caucus system, to be held earlier in the election cycle (supposedly with the blessing of the DNC), would be an attempt to change that.

The chief downside of such a transition is the expense involved, which would be substantial and which would need to be picked-up by the state party. The other downside is the fact that caucuses are generally considered less democratic, putting more power in the hands of activists and special interest groups at expense to regular voters who tend to be underrepresented. The upside of a caucus is that it might actually provide voters a reason to give a damn. Caucuses would also have side benefits in terms of getting people involved in their local Democratic Party and reinvigorating their activities - though, as it stands now, it seems questionable whether the infrastructure is currently in place or could even be developed in time to pull off such a mammoth undertaking.

It should be an interesting weekend, to say the least. I'll try to report back on what actually unfolds regarding the above topics (and so much more) as soon as all is said and done.

Until then, see you on the flip-side.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I do NOT agree should be on the Democratic platform is a guest worker program. Everyone I talk to, Dem and Repub alike, are against allowing illegals to live and work here and use up valuable economic and environmental resources while doing it.

Take away all the benefits they receive and they will leave on their own accord.

What don't politicians understand about ILLEGAL? The real crux of the matter is Americans can't break our laws and get away with it.

The pols want to hand out a paltry little fine and then let the lawbreakers stay while we pay for their existence directly and indirectly.

Who was doing those jobs before they invaded? Americans, that's who.

A recent report says that 30% of high school students aren't graduating. I think they would welcome those jobs that illegals are taking. Some of these jobs could be done by college students working their way through school.

Go ahead. Put a guest worker program on the platform and I bet many will leave the Democratic party. If I didn't hate the current Republican Congress & Administration's economic and foreign policies so much this guest worker idea would send me, a lifelong Dem over to the Repub party. That's how much I hate our government even considering allowing illegals to stay here.

8/20/2006  
Anonymous Grendel said...

Anonymous:

The issue of a guest worker program is related to, but separate from, what to do with illegal immigrants. Such a program is designed to provide US businesses with access to cheap labor through a mechanism of legal, temporary residence for foreign nationals. It could allow current illegal immigrants to apply, or could prohibit them from applying.

I have no problem with cracking down on illegal immigrants. But we should all be clear about the consequences of doing so without an accompanying guest worker program. The costs of everything from food to construction to services WILL rise. The economy WILL take a hit as consumers respond to rising costs by cutting back on their purchases.

The idea that US citizens will pick up the slack by taking the low paying jobs currently filled by illegal immigrants is a dangerous canard. It just won't happen without substantially higher wages than those paid to illegals.

This, as with all issues in life, is about tradeoffs. What is the best compromise between lawfulness, economic growth, and employment opportunities for Americans that want to work?

8/20/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You won't think a guest worker program is so grand once wages are driven down even further.

When there is an over supply of labor the only direction wages are going are down, down.

It seems to me that all your worried about is yourself paying a higher price for goods and services. You may find yourself paying higher wages with or without a guest worker program.

If you could see what is happening in construction and other areas besides farm workers you might think differently. Illegals are already stealing jobs away from U.S. workers because they will work for low wages and no benefits.

It may take a while for it to trickle up to you, but you will eventually find yourself affected when you suddenly don't receive proper raises, lose all your benefits, or lose your job entirely so that you can be replaced by a guest worker.

People in high tech are already being replaced through the guest worker program we do have.

You are not immune.

8/20/2006  
Blogger HumeanBeing said...

What a load of BS Grendel (but nice name).
Great reply "anonymous".

The costs of things would rise only marginally IF many of those millions of illegal workers were deported. But no one has any plan to perform a mass deportation nor could we without some humongous mobilization which won't occur. Anything done would be GRADUAL.

The entire concept of a guest worker is one creating a higher class slave or zero class citizen, both without the freedoms and protections of Americans. "Guest" meaning here with our permission and urging, and able to be booted out of the country/workforce without notice. Straddling life and family in two countries with no protections is hardly a pleasant life. How very convenient for big business during volatile business cycles!

The Guest Workers concept is NOT similar to the far more just indentured servitude of the 18th century where poor people paid off an extremely costly boat ride with a few years apprenticeship/labor and in return received guaranteed room/board, protection from exploitation as new colonists/Americans, and 100% employment freedom at completion of contract.

We can always proclaim the "Guest Worker" scheme as mutually beneficial because they get higher wages and "we" (meaning only SHAREHOLDERS) get cheap workers, but it creates a class of people within our nation tied to a SINGLE job without any mobility or method of recourse against exploitation. America has had guest workers for over 50 years. Guest workers are used on federal land in Montana to seed burnt/logged forests every summer. They pay dearly to get on the Mexican contractor's list for employment and once in USA they are abused, not given proper breaks, work in conditions not allowed by OSHA, isolated from American communities, and they don't dare speak up or they will lose their livelihood because they can't seek out other work or utilize grievance systems reserved for US Citizens...

We also need to consider the NATURE of the labor done by our large illegal population. This is all work that CANNOT be outsourced. How are you gonna ship janitorial, food service, or agricultural labor to another country? YOU CAN'T! Artificially lowering these wages through illegal or second class labor is a 100% BOON TO THE OWNERS, not to the consumers or communities. Corporations have obligations to shareholders, not to customers. They will break laws and buy off politicians when they think it will improve their bottom line or competition; it's not something they benevolently do to lower your prices. This creates a rush to the bottom as businesses with INTEGRITY either fail or go against their morals and hire illegal labor.

Because of the non-oursourcability of most illegal alien labor, any price increases brought about by paying higher wages for labor (by legalizing current-illegals or using citizens) will CIRCULATE LOCALLY IN THE COMMUNITY. This money will not all be sent back to a foreign country, it won't be paid off as dividends to some trust fund kiddies, it won't be used to thank a CEO for having the courage to enact that last round of layoffs...

Now, contrast those potential price changes with the rising oil/gas prices we've faced as we approach Peak Oil the last few years. The economy has held up astonishingly well considering personal mobility is a necessity. Unfortuantely, the working poor, many of them unable to demand higher wages because they are illegal, feel the brunt of the gas price pain. Anyone making a fairly modest $60,000 can whine about gas prices for their Hummer, but they can always liquidate some of their needless assets or curb their lifestyle; the working poor have no options as they don't sit on any excess money and assets and illegal aliens are even more hamstrung.

I know you Nebraskans are all delusional and content with cheap housing prices and what seems like comfortable standard of living, but had you paid attention you'd realize Americans are working more, in more personal debt than before, and our real minimum wage of 1967 would be equivalent to nearly $9 today!!! No worker legal or illegal should toil fulltime and be at the poverty level, yet that's what our current minimum wage does. Having "Guest Workers" sure won't raise wages or contribute to the survival of the working poor.

FINALLY, as a point of opinion, I think no one should be rewarded for breaking the law. Young American citizens are often punished for using fake ID's for fairly harmless purposes, yet EVERY SINGLE illegal worker has probably broken this law and countless others in the course of their illegal stay/employment.

Living and working here illegally for 5 years should NOT qualify anyone for citizenship path. Those 5 years in itself were a BENEFIT or else they would not have come; citizenship on top of that is a joke (and those measly $500 fines are a joke; I personally spent over $500 on immigration paperwork fees for my wife to become a LEGAL resident).

Obviously our nation CAN and HAS handled/absorbed the 13 (?) million illegals currently here. There is no reason to be anti-immigrant as immigrants have refreshed and benefited our nation from the start. Because the current illegals did not apply or earn the right to be here, I say let them all sign up on an ordered list for citizenship on a first-come-first-served basis. Their ordering on the list will ultimately be determined primarily by how quickly they sign up (REWARD truthfulness) as well as proof of duration in the states (REWARD time/acclimatization to America), and criminal record (PENALIZE unwanted elements). This list may take a year or longer to be reasonably complete, but if illegals know they can lawfully stay temporarily NOW and will be guaranteed deportation if not on the list, they will rush to sign up. IT'S CALLED INCENTIVES!!! Any who do not sign up after a reasonable time limit, can be assumed to be VERY RECENT arrivals, or those with something serious to hide... and will be promptly deported according to properly enforced US law.

Now we would know WHO is here, just like we do with EVERY ONE OF THE 285+ MILLION OTHER LEGAL AMERICANS WHO PROVIDED THEIR INFORMATION AT BIRTH/LEGAL ENTRY!

Next, allow the ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD to sign up orderly for THEIR UP TO 13 million legal spots in the USA. It would take a long time to process all of these applications and determine who could survive here, who had connections here, who could benefit most from assistance here (sponsorship), and who could contribute to our society (economically, linguistically, artistically etc). Since our population grows by only about 1% or 3 million a year, we would allow maybe 1-1.5 million of these LEGAL applicants into the USA each year and they would DIRECTLY DISPLACE (deport) those at the back of the current ILLEGALS LIST.

As the new LEGALLY admitted 13 million SLOWLY trickles in from wherever (INCLUDING Mexico),
they will displace the current illegals near the back of that list.

This general plan would be FAIR TO THE WORLD because why should Mexico etc get preferential treatment over the MUCH POORER and more distant Bolivia, Ecuador, all of Africa, most of Asia, as well as long-waiting Europeans ??? By Latin American standards Mexico is quite wealthy with Bolivia and Ecuador having ONE THIRD of its per capita GDP!!! Mexico rigorously protects its own TINY southern border, so it is hypocrisy for us to give preferential treatment to the majority of illegals just because they come from Mexico near our border!

Under the above plan, the CURRENT ILLEGALS would essentially become numbers 13 million through 26 million on a list of legal immigrants. The END RESULT of this process would be something akin to this: ANYONE NEAR THE FRONT OF THE ILLEGALS LIST, WOULD NEVER LEAVE USA (those who lived here longest and voluntarily signed up the soonest). And anyone in the middle of the list would at most leave the country for a few years, but not until they had a years to prepare to leave and await PERMISSION to immigrate. Finally, anyone near the end of the list, the recent arrivals and those who did not sign up, WOULD BE DEPORTED IMMEDIATELY, though they would possibly be allowed back in the states legally after a MANY YEAR WAIT, as is the case with MOST OF THE WORLD TODAY!!!!

On top of this, those 13 million or so illegals would have some kind of monetary fine which would be made less onerous by the fact that they are allowed to stay and work here for a few years until they are either legal or deported. Those who don't like waiting for future deportation, can legally leave (but not re-enter) anytime they like and still keep their position on the list while waiting/working in their home country.

The above idea is certainly full of flaws and inconsistencies and would require MASSIVE EFFORTS to enact, but I think it's far less tumultuous or hypocritical or weak than those currently bandied about in congress.

Any nation that can amass the greatest military in a year during WW2 or ship millions of tons of military crap to the middle east in 2003 can certainly handle a new immigration project. And this immigration project itself would create jobs for a many years to handle the flood of investigations, deporations, arrivals, and interviews to finally END OUR NATION'S IMMIGRATION & LABOR HYPOCRISY!

8/20/2006  
Anonymous Grendel said...

My response was to the suggestion of anononymous that we should deport illegals and prohibit a legal mechanism (such as a guest worker program) for foreign nationals to work here. It's just not practical. As long as there are economic opportunities, people will come, illegally if need be. And there will always be people who will employ them. That's reality, like it or not.

The real question is not whether we integrate economic immigrants, but how we do so. And I think, humeanbeing, we're more in agreement than disagreement. A guest worker program would be one, not particularly humane, mechanism. Another mechanism would be to increase the number of legal immigrants we allow. Of the two, I prefer the latter. But it seems unlikely to me that the xenophobic American public will accept expanded immigration. Hell, it's hard enough to get increases in quota numbers for highly skilled immigrants; it seems almost an impossible task to get increases for less skilled immigrants. Buy maybe I'm wrong.

I don't actually care if my costs go up, and I do believe we should pay fair costs for labor. But without unskilled immigrants, some labor costs will simply be too high to be economically feasible. Agriculture is a case in point. Many row crops, such as strawberries, and many fuits, such as citrus and avacados, are incredibly labor intensive to harvest. There are not enough Americans willing to do the work at an economically feasible wage. And given that Americans will buy cheaper imports over more expensive domestics, the choice is either to allow the entry of unskilled immigrants or to stop growing these crops. Maybe we shouldn't worry about agricultural and industrial production being exported to other countries, or maybe we should increase tariffs to make home-grown products more competitive, but neither of these seem like a good solution to me.

8/21/2006  

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