Now how much would you pay?

Posted: May 28, 2006 5:05 AM
It’s not difficult to spend someone else’s money. Here’s a sample from one of President Bush’s recent speeches: “I’m calling on Congress to provide funding for dramatic improvements in manpower and technology at the border,” he announced on May 15. And, “since I became president, we’ve increased funding for border security by 66 percent.”

There’s a pattern -- Bush’s answer to all problems seems to be more federal spending. Perhaps this explains No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D and the 49 percent increase in discretionary non-defense federal spending since 2001. The fallacy is that increased federal spending brings positive results. Nope. While Bush is free to brag he’s spending two-thirds more on border security, this increased spending hasn’t made the situation better.

And why would spending even more be the solution? The government is already turning away free and effective help from the often-maligned Minutemen, regular Americans donating their time, cash and effort to secure our borders. The Minutemen have been filling holes aliens dig under border fences with concrete, but the border patrol recently asked them to stop.

“Their purported rationale was because they had placed super-secret sensors at some of the holes to monitor the traffic,” one Minuteman e-mailed me. “When we asked them why they hadn’t detected any of the groups of 8 to 20 that we’ve repeatedly caught and apprehended after coming through the supposedly monitored holes, the Border Patrol senior officials got suddenly rather quiet (leading us to conclude that either the sensors are either entirely mythical, totally inoperative or wholly ignored -- take your pick).”

But why bother installing super-secret (and, no doubt, super-expensive) sensors along the border when average Americans are more than willing to foot the bill for enough concrete to simply block the holes?

Still, American ingenuity knows no bounds. The Minutemen now dump white gypsum, the same stuff used to line baseball fields, into the tunnels. Illegal aliens are leaving an easy-to-follow trail of white footprints as they enter our country.

“We’ve prevented almost all crossings (without even being there) across two linear miles of border, at a cost of $40 for 10 bags of powdered gypsum,” my correspondent writes. If only the government could get as much bang for its billions of bucks, we’d have solved the illegal immigration problem years ago.

Still, as long as lawmakers are spending our money, they want to go all the way. Perhaps that explains why a common-sense amendment proposed by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., was shot down. Ensign’s measure would have prohibited formerly illegal aliens who get U.S. Social Security numbers from receiving credit for any taxes they paid while they were here illegally.

Good grief. If there’s one benefit we’re enjoyed from the last 20 years of illegal immigration, it’s that many aliens have paid some portion of Social Security taxes for benefits they’ll never collect. By shooting down Ensign’s amendment, 50 lawmakers showed they want to surrender even that small payoff.

The Senate bill would give almost absolute amnesty to illegal aliens who have been here five years or longer. They’d be on track for citizenship, while those here two to five years could leave the country and apply for green-card status and those here less than two years would be told to leave immediately.

But when an immigrant says he’s been in the country for, say, seven years, how are we to know? Illegal aliens will be on the honor system. The longer they’ve been breaking the law, according to the Senate bill, the better their chances of becoming citizens. Plus, the longer they’ve been here, the more they can claim to have paid in Social Security taxes. The Senate bill would give illegals a double reason to inflate the amount of time they’ve been here.

Compare that to the way our government treats legal citizens.

The IRS knows how much I earn, where I live, how large my mortgage is, how much I donate to church, my children’s names and ages. I have to hand over all this information (and much more) just to be able to request that the government return some of the money it’s withheld from my paycheck.

Maybe Washington should put citizens on the same honor system aliens may soon be on -- allow us to tell it how much we earn each year, without having to prove it. Sort of an amnesty for actual citizens.

As Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia says, “While America is a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws, and rewarding those who break our laws not only dishonors the hard work of those who came here legally but does nothing to fix our current situation.” Before we even consider amnesty, how about enforcing our laws?

The federal government is preparing to pour billions into manpower and high-tech gadgets in an attempt to seal our border. It’d do better to turn things over to the Minutemen, or at least adopt their effective methods. That might well solve the problem without breaking the bank.