Shirley (my wife) just got a call from her 99-year-old father in Columbia, Missouri, who wanted to share his analysis of Pres. Obama's inaugural speech (and also to say how much he misses Brit Hume). It is important to know that I assume Doc was conceived as a Republican and has been a rock-ribbed one for all 99 years, with no faltering during the last election.
Doc said, "Be sure to tell Roy to put in his blog that his 99-year-old dad said Obama's speech made me feel hopeful."
Well, I also felt a bit hopeful.
First, I was relieved that the new President didn't say anything that would point to his consistent (although generally quiet) promises to reward illegal immigration (both the illegal aliens and the outlaw corporations) and to dramatically increase overall immigration.
Given the fact that we have not had a President since Eisenhower who had a decent immigration policy, I don't hope for much out of our Chief Executives. So I found hope just in the fact that a number of the visionary statements of Obama's speech could easily be recipes for doing the right thing on immigration.
I'm sure Mr. Obama doesn't see them that way right now. But our job -- NumbersUSA staff and 900,000 registered activists -- is to help the new President and his Administration to see that what we want actually meets the goals he set out in his address.
The NumbersUSA staff reached out immediately to the Bush Administration in 2001 to help it analyze immigration issues. Despite that Administration almost consistently taking immigration positions at odds with ours, we met with White House staff most years of the Bush terms.
We will try to do the same with the Obama Administration. He has promised an incredibly open administration so that the people's voice can be heard. A key early test will be how quickly NumbersUSA, along with some other top experts on immigration, get a hearing.
Following are what I think were the most important parts of the speech in terms of the immigration issue:
OBAMA: STOP LEAVING PROBLEMS TO FESTER
Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed.
This seems to be a major theme of Mr. Obama now -- that allowing problems to fester just ends up creating gigantic problems down the line. Within just a few years after Congress changed the immigration law in 1965, it was apparent that the unintended result was that mass immigration had been renewed. Nobody asked for it. Everybody denied that was the intent. But almost nobody would do anything about it. The problems of this policy have festered for four decades, creating huge weaknesses throughout our society, but every Congress and every President since 1965 has protected the narrow interests who would be harmed in the short-term by dealing with it.
Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.
Greed is almost the only explanation for why our government continues to import 138,000 foreign workers a month while a half-million U.S. jobs a month are eliminated. This policy has led to a population of about 40 million foreign workers and foreign dependents in this country. Meanwhile, 11 million Americans are seeking jobs and can't find one. Yet every month another 138,000 foreign workers (plus dependents) arrive because of the greed of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which insists on an ever-looser labor market to hold down wages for all workers. Because of the greed of national Republican leaders who want the campaign contributions from the Chamber and its corporate allies. Because of the greed of Democratic leaders who know that most foreign workers end up voting Democratic and are willing to push down America's most vulnerable workers in exchange for the increased immigrant vote. Because of the greed of all kinds of ethnic advocacy groups who are willing to see the U.S. citizens of their constituencies held down in exchange for the extra power and money the groups gain from having larger populations of their ethnicity.
Mr. Obama has often described one of his visions for "the new age" in terms of renewable energy and a sustainable society. No change is more needed now than an abandonment of the old way of thinking that America's future and economy lies in encouraging massive population growth. Even though Mr. Obama has spent so much time with the elites that he can't imagine ever advocating less immigration, the fact is that less immigration -- thus, less population growth -- is the only chance he has in leading America to the new age of a sustainable society.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
I want to take this as a promise that when tens of millions of Americans ask for a reconsideration of our unprecedented peak immigration numbers, Mr. Obama and the members of his Administration will NOT call us racists, xenophobes, hard-hearted, bigoted, nativists. The claim that concern about immigration numbers is a non-compassionate concern is a "worn-out dogma" that has strangled rational discussion of a public policy that desperately needs clear-headed thinking.
OBAMA: SET ASIDE OUTDATED VIEWS FROM AN EARLIER NATION
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.
I'll paraphrase Saint Paul a bit more: When our nation was a child, it thought as a child that the frontiers were endless and there would always be land to provide fresh starts to the poor sojourners of other lands; and it acted as a child and promoted every aspect of population growth to tame, claim and retain a supposedly empty continent.
But now that our nation is grown -- with the frontiers gone by 1890, with many of our natural resources (like the Chesapeake Bay) barely surviving, with no more need for masses of unskilled, uneducated immigrants to man our now-retracting industrial workplaces -- we have not put aside our childish ways. We continue to promote massive population growth and massive importation of unskilled workers, no matter how congested the lives of those already here or how few the economic opportunities for the weakest members of our community.
We look forward to helping Mr. Obama set aside the practices of our juvenile nation that are more than embarrassing in adult company -- they are destroying the nation most of us desire.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
In my book published by W.W. Norton in 1996, I called for zero-based immigration policy. That is, we should start with a blank sheet and call for only that immigration which is truly necessary for our national interests. The government mass-immigration program re-established in 1965 (after 40 years of respite) does not "help families find jobs at a decent wage" or a "retirement that is dignified." By Mr. Obama's own definition, immigration as we now know it is a failed government program that should end.
OBAMA: HUMANITARIANISM WHERE PEOPLE LIVE
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
This is the great humanitarian pledge to the world. He does not say there are very clear limits to what the United States can do for other countries when there is so much poverty and need within our own community, but he seems to give a nod to limits in that he talks about working alongside poor nations, rather than bailing them out -- something highly unlikely from a United States in need of a bailout itself.
But thankfully missing from this section of his speech was the empty, pompous rhetoric of so many religious leaders recently in which immigration is held up as some kind of legitimate and effective form of global humanitarianism. My hope is that the new President will apply is obvious high intellectual capacity to thinking looking at immigration logically instead of emotionally. If he does so, he cannot possibly think that suffering in the world can be ended, or even noticeably reduced, by anything we do with immigration policies. If he approaches immigration with the steely-eyed practicality he promises for all problems in his speech, he will conclude that International humanitarian impulses must not be worked out through domestic immigration policies (which always hurt our own disadvantaged) and can only be truly meaningful if they are done in the home country of the people who are suffering (exactly where his speech focused).
HOPE OF THE CUBS OR CARDINALS VARIETY?
On a lighter note back in Missouri: Doc has also been a Cardinal fan for pretty much 99 years, having attended games growing up in St. Louis as a kid and every year since, until infirmities grounded him two years ago.
Generally when he talks about hope, it is not the hope of a Cubs fan for outcomes rarely materialized and barely even imagined. No, his is the hope of very real possibilities -- the hope of somebody who has seen his team regularly prove itself a champion. I suppose it depends on the eye of the beholder whether our hope that Mr. Obama will treat immigration with the principles he stated today is a hope of the Cubs kind or the Cardinals kind. We will soon find out.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, May 31st 2017 @ 2:48pm EDT