2007 reminded us that our easy way of life comes at a price, and that there are consequences and tradeoffs in almost everything we do. Let’s go down the list.
President Bush’s comprehensive immigration bill collapsed this summer, following public outrage from the middle and poorer classes of both parties. These Americans reminded their politicians that first they want their southern border closed to illegal immigration -- and discussion of anything else second.
They are not racists, nativists or protectionists -- much less “anti-immigrant.” Instead, a substantial number of Americans -- from all backgrounds -- simply believe that once illegal immigration ceases, the problem becomes manageable.
Employers will have to hire our own poor and unemployed, and thus raise wages. Mexico will have to deal with its own problems rather than blaming the United States. Tribalists and ethnic provocateurs will have to relearn that integration and the melting pot are not going away. And immigrants crossing the southern border will have to wait in line like everyone else and come here legally.
The Housing Crisis
Housing prices tanked in 2007. Millions of home mortgages by this past spring were behind or in default. The media rushed to blame government and lenders -- as if poor buyers had a gun to their heads when they bet that housing would continually appreciate.
Yet most Americans who buy homes judiciously, and pay their mortgages promptly, were probably more philosophical than outraged. Homes had become way overpriced. Anyone who rushed out to borrow heavily to buy in such an overheated market was intent on recklessly profiting by quick resale -- or hopelessly naive.
Food Is Not Cheap
Farm prices soared. For 40 years, Americans had become used to the idea that their food would stay cheap, and that farmers were invisible or irrelevant. Now we are learning that farmland and irrigation water are finite resources, while world population continues to rise. Before we can solve global warming, convert to ethanol fuels or restore ancestral rivers, we first have to eat -- and thus make sure there is enough land and water to produce food.
Oil reached $98 a barrel by November. Conservatives thought that the market alone might easily correct the problem. Yet they are starting to see in the meantime that petrol-rich, anti-American dictatorships, flush with American cash, won’t be so patient with us.