Also, consider the wage inflation that would ultimately infect the economy if this cheap labor force was expelled from our borders. The scarcity of workers would be immediate and drastic. Many industries would feel the price shock of having to replace them, especially the construction industry, which has been among the hottest sectors of our economy in recent years.
Sure, we could cut off all benefits to aliens and throw their children out of school. But this might chill their passion for staying here and working.
Despite the groan I hear from some conservative readers who are in high dudgeon over this approach, I'm going to insist that the principles I'm applying are bona fide conservative ones. They're not pure conservative ideology, but instead amount to pragmatic conservatism. I'm also going to venture a guess that the "Gipper" would have done something similar.
There's just one big difference between a likely Reagan solution and the one proposed by Bush. The current administration has paid only lip service to truly tightening our borders. Anecdotal and empirical evidence from the past five years proves the point.
I'm guessing Reagan would have offered some sort of program designed to start taxing these workers, but not at such a high and immediate rate that it would touch off a downward spiral in the economy by repelling them from work or forcing businesses to pay higher wages to keep them.
At the same time, Reagan probably would have lined the borders with so much law enforcement that those thinking about future illegal entry would routinely think again.
Simultaneous to this unfolding drama, Congress is now showing signs of what this column suggested they do long ago. Because they sense a near-desperate need to embrace a winning political issue, expect the House of Representatives to dust off Congressman John Linder's so-called "Fair Tax" proposal. It has become a cause celebre among many fiscal conservatives and even some moderates, thanks to the consistent championing of it by radio talk show host Neal Boortz and others.
Now the word is spreading that new and bigger giants in the hugely influential world of talk radio, including Sean Hannity, are preparing to push the Linder-Boortz tax plan. As a result, GOP House members reportedly have persuaded Speaker Dennis Hastert that the Fair Tax issue has legs.
Tackling immigration and a new system of taxation could be the last-minute medicine that a slumping Republican Party needs to save itself in the November elections.
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