What’s A Government For?

Posted: Feb 05, 2020 9:37 AM
What’s A Government For?

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There is a growing realization that the reason for the vitriolic tone in America’s political debates is not the usual party or even ideological rivalry. Increasingly, it is a gap between views of what a government is for, what it can realistically achieve, and to whom it owes responsibility. 

This can be seen in issues from the national to the local level.

Proponents, for example, of open borders conflict with those that stress a nation already $23 trillion in debt shouldn’t take in vast numbers of people who lack the means to fend for themselves.

A 2017 report from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIRUS) outlines the extraordinary fiscal burden imposed on U.S. taxpayers by illegal immigrants.

“At the federal, state, and local levels, taxpayers shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the costs incurred by the presence of more than 12.5 million illegal aliens, and about 4.2 million citizen children of illegal aliens. That amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member and a total of $115,894,597,664. The total cost of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers is both staggering and crippling. In 2013, FAIR estimated the total cost to be approximately $113 billion. So, in under four years, the cost has risen nearly $3 billion. This is a disturbing and unsustainable trend.”

Comparing the open southern border with prior periods of mass immigration ignores the reality that the mandate to being able to be self-supporting has a long history. Today’s illegal immigrants enter with the expectation of government assistance. Dan Stein, writing in The Hill explains:

“The very first comprehensive federal immigration law — enacted in 1882 — included a bar against the admission of “any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.” In fact, for well over a century, admissibility determinations were primarily based on an alien’s prospective ability to earn a living in the United StatesIn 1952, the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs all matters pertaining to legal immigration, reinforced this concept. In 1996, during sweeping reforms to both welfare and immigration, Congress restated the expectation that immigrants arrive in the United States financially self-sufficient.”

In their concern for illegal immigrants despite the costs and risks of increased crime and communicable disease, politicians raise a key question. As officials elected to represent the needs of their constituents, do they have the right to encumber taxpayers for purposes other than the general needs of the citizenry?

Michael Lind, writes in Politico:

“For multicultural globalists, national boundaries are increasingly obsolete and perhaps even immoral. According to the emerging progressive orthodoxy, the identities that count are subnational (race, gender, orientation) and supranational (citizenship of the world). While not necessarily representative of Democratic voters, progressive pundits and journalists increasingly speak a dialect of ethical cosmopolitanism or globalism — the idea that it is unjust to discriminate in favor of one’s fellow nationals against citizens of foreign countries.”

Some of the candidates currently seeking their party’s nomination for the presidency have odd ideas about what a government is for. Michael Bloomberg, for example, believes that government should make dietary choices for the people. He would be hard-pressed to find any justification for that role in the nation’s foundational documents.

The clash appears on a local level as well. Kalman Yeger, a New York City Councilman, recently noted:

Between June and December last year, the New York City Council held six hearings and votes to pass three new laws about birds. Yes, that’s not a typo. Birds. During the same time, the number of City Council hearings devoted to skyrocketing taxes? Zero. Rising antisemitism and hate crimes? Zero. Failing public schools? Zero. The homeless crisis, spiking crime, crumbling public housing, the state of public transportation? The Council’s priorities are completely out of whack.”

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government