Made in the USA – By Mexicans

mexican concrete crewMy wife and I are building a new home.  We are doing some of the work ourselves but the majority of the work is done by subcontractors, mostly hired through our general contractor.  Working on a major project like this brings many current political and economic issues from the big-picture level down to the up-close and personal level.

Today, as our driveway was being installed, I had quite a discussion with the owner/operator of our concrete finishing company.  Alex (not actual name) is a legal Mexican immigrant and has been doing business in the US for almost twenty years.  He went through channels, got a green card, and studied English for two years.  Alex pursued the American dream, and got it.  He has handled several segments of our construction project, and does top quality work at a fair price.  Working in the same space every day we got to know each other and today we spent some time discussing business and politics.

Alex’s business is doing well.  In fact, there is much more demand for his work than he can fulfill.  He would like to hire more employees and expand his business, but he can’t see a way to do it and still maintain quality.  As a retired corporate manager and business owner, I offered some growth strategies and personnel practices that have worked for me.  But his circumstances are quite different than mine were.  You see, all of his employees are (probably) illegal Mexican immigrants.

In fact, almost all of the residential construction work in the Carolinas is being performed by illegal Mexican immigrants.

Why?  Have Mexican immigrants taken all of the construction jobs because they will work for lower wages than American tradesmen?  Are American men now too lazy or pampered to take on the difficult, physical work required in the construction trades?  Have our schools convinced every American student that anyone who doesn’t pursue a college degree and a desk job is a failure?  Did our government over-regulate our traditional construction businesses into extinction, so that only “under-the-radar” groups of illegal immigrants can function at a feasible cost?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

But there’s more to it than that.  I talked with another general contractor today who was interested in hiring Alex and his crew for some of his projects, only to learn they are over-booked.  “It’s a shame,” he said.  “Most of the (American) subcontractors went broke during the housing bust five years ago, and they aren’t coming back.”

Alex and many entrepreneurial Mexicans like him are able to seize the market opportunities because they are connected to the available army of illegal Mexican immigrant workers.  Alex can find them, hire them, manage them, communicate with them, and help them with the considerable personal challenges they face working in the shadows of American life.   Still, his business growth is limited because he employs these men.  “My business can’t grow,” he said.  “None of my workers can advance to be managers because they don’t even try to learn to speak English.”  He would employ English-speaking American construction workers, but there just aren’t any.  It’s a very complex business model.

I had heard that Latinos are being barraged with liberal propaganda, painting conservatives, Republicans and especially Tea Party guys as hateful monsters to be avoided and feared.  So I made it a point to tell my new Mexican friend Alex that I am a conservative.  Tea Party, even.

Alex winced.  “I’m not a monster,” I said.  “I’m not a racist and a hater.  You know me.  You can’t believe the stuff you hear in the media.”

“Well, the conservatives don’t want to allow any immigration,” he said.

“Not true,” I countered.  “We want LEGAL immigration for people who can bring value to our country.  What we don’t want is  dangerous, uncontrolled borders, or slackers coming here to take advantage of taxpayer-funded benefits.   And we DO want our legal immigrants to assimilate – to become patriotic, law-abiding, productive Americans, not Mexicans who just happen to live in the US.”

Like you, Alex.  Without you, and men like you, there would be no new homes under construction in my neighborhood right now.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Save me from this prison, Lord, help me get away
‘Cause only You can save me now from this misery
‘Cause I’ve been lost in my own place
And I’m getting’ weary, how far is Heaven?
And I know I need to change my ways of livin’
How far is Heaven?
My favorite Mexican band – Los Lonely Boys! (this song is also on my set list)

Workin’ in the USA – the ‘Saudi Way’

The United States is looking more like Saudi Arabia every day.  Check out this week’s headlines:

Labor Participation Rate Drops To Lowest Since 1978

 

Natives accounted for most of the growth in population,
but all employment growth went to immigrants

So what, you say, does this have to do with Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia was a poor country until the 1930s when the world developed a thirst for oil and discovered that this desolate desert nation, barely more than a collection of loosely-related tribes, had a lot of it.  In the years since, the demand for oil increased exponentially, and so did the wealth of the ruling families who controlled the land from which it is extracted.

It wasn’t long before these wealthy Saudis no longer needed to perform any physical work.  There was so much money flowing into the country that the ruling families shared it liberally – first with anyone who could claim to be a blood relative, no matter how distant, and later (in smaller increments) to anyone who had family roots there.  Eventually most native Saudis could choose whether or not they wished to work.  Many didn’t, and those who did were far removed from anything that resembled physical labor.

photo by Vocativ.comThere is, of course, physical labor to be done.  For that the Saudis have imported legions of hungry, foreign workers from Africa and East Asia.  An estimated 6.5 million foreign laborers toiled in Saudi Arabia a year ago, before rioting against inhumane treatment brought a government crackdown on illegal immigration and a slight reduction in their numbers.  The few and vague immigration laws, however, are still not well-enforced.

In Saudi Arabia, the second-class immigrants do the work, enduring slave-wages, appalling conditions and all forms of abuse, while the native-born and well-connected enjoy a leisurely lifestyle.  Children and women get the worst of it.  But Saudi Arabia’s gravy-train won’t last forever.  Their oil reserves are depleting, and other nations are learning to develop their own energy sources.  Saudi Arabia will soon face some major challenges and changes – the current path is not tenable.

Does this sound familiar?

Go to any residential construction site in the United States.  You will see few, if any, native-born Americans in the craft or labor jobs.  Here In the Carolinas, most are illegal immigrants from Mexico.  They are working hard, and some do high quality work (many don’t).  They earn substantially less than American-born construction workers did ten years ago.  Twenty years ago.  Thirty years ago.

You see, native-born Americans, like the Saudis, can now choose whether or not they wish to work.  Many don’t, and those that do are usually far removed from anything that resembles physical labor.  Where the Saudis’ wealth comes exclusively from oil, our American wealth was built up by the sweat and skill of our parents and grandparents, and is further being borrowed from our children.  We are racking up debt and printing fiat currency so that right now half of us no longer have to work.  Like the Saudis, we are bringing in legions of hungry, foreign workers to do our labor.

At some point they, too, will tire of slave-wages and bad treatment, and will rebel.  The United States, like the Saudis, will soon face major challenges and changes – the current path is not tenable.  But fortunately, we have options the Saudis do not.  We still have rich, untapped energy resources.  And we have many other opportunities to create wealth, if our liberal government will allow it.

Our liberal friends, including our president, would love to erase the borders and bring in hordes of cheap immigrant laborers (and, they hope, future government-dependent Democrat voters).  I hope they will look at Saudi Arabia’s predicament and get a grip on the immigrant labor situation before we completely forget how to work.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

 

Some days won’t ever end,
And some days pass on by
All be workin’ here forever
At least until I die

Workin’ For A Livin’ – Huey Lewis

 

A favorite from my very own set list – rockin’ live version by my man Huey!

They’re Coming to America

photo courtesy 21stCenturySchools.com

photo courtesy 21stCenturySchools.com

Standing in the checkout line at Costco, I watched and listened to the family in front of me chattering in a language that I couldn’t identify.  Was it Flemish?  Behind me a mother and her daughter spoke what I think was Hindi.  Another group of Indians near us was speaking English in their distinctive clipped dialect, and then a passel of giggling little Chinese kids ran by, with Mom and Dad sternly attempting discipline in their home language.  Then the pretty young Caribbean woman began checking out our groceries as two young Hispanic men worked the merchandise and carts and shared a joke in Spanish.

And it hit me like a brick.  The United States I had known all my life is no more.

I know, it sounds cliched, but I (conservative, Tea Party, mature white male) am not a racist.  I have no ill will or condescension toward any kind of people.  I have said I am an “economic bigot” – I expect capable people to work, and don’t particularly care for those who won’t, regardless of ethnicity.  But I enjoy the uniqueness of people from different places and cultures, especially the flavors of family interactions that are so universal – devoted parents raising their fun-loving kids.

No, I’m not a racist, but I couldn’t help but notice that American-born, English-speaking whites and blacks were outnumbered on that Saturday afternoon in that Costco store in a relatively affluent Charlotte neighborhood.

I was flooded with questions and emotions.  Do these foreigners also speak English?  Where do they work?  They seem to have plenty of money – were they wealthy in their native countries?  Are there here legally?  How did they get drivers licenses?  Do they vote?  Are their kids in the neighborhood schools, and how the heck do the schools deal with so many languages and customs?

Of course, no broad-brush answers apply.  Some speak English, some don’t.  Some have jobs, others are on government benefits.  Some are legal.  Some have drivers licenses.  Some vote.  One thing is for sure, suddenly there are a lot of them, as both legal and illegal immigration rates are exploding, compared to our earlier history.  Many states are importing more people than are being born to natives.

The United States will never again look and sound like it did during our lifetimes.  It is a done deal.

But we, as a nation, are still at a tipping point:  Will the values, social structure, and laws that made this country the most prosperous and powerful in the world survive?  Will our new immigrants become Americans who share the love of Mom, baseball, apple pie and Chevrolets, like earlier generations of immigrants?  Or will our great nation be split into hundreds of tribes, each clinging to their native habits, and suspicious of all the others?

It is a time in our history when leadership is critical.   Now, more than ever, we need leaders who care about the well-being of the nation, not just their own or their party’s political success.  We need honest men and women with an understanding of the importance of time-tested rules and practices.  America was built on laws that we could all agree upon, and that were proven to work.  And America was once a “melting pot”, where newcomers assimilated into our culture while preserving their own heritages.  Now is not the time to get fuzzy about our American laws, Constitution, or values.  Our immigrants need order and stability, too – in fact that’s what many seek by moving here.

My wife often complained that our home state of Montana changed radically as more and more people moved there from the west coast.  “They move to Montana because it’s better than California, and then they try to change it into California!”

In addition to accelerating legal immigration rates, our government has decided to erase our southern border and pretty much accept all comers.  They claim their motivations are humanitarian; some of us believe they are political.  But even if the border could be sealed like a Tupperware bowl tomorrow, the United States will never be the same as it was.  So now what?

Many of the newcomers don’t really know what made America great.  They and their families weren’t here.  It’s up to us remaining native Americans (by that I mean those of us born here) to stand up for American traditions. values, and laws.  We must make sure that our history is accurately and broadly taught, and expect our leaders to proudly defend our national identity and solidarity.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

On the boats and on the planes
They’re coming to America
Never looking back again
They’re coming to America

Neil Diamond – Coming to America

 

 

 

We Care So Much About You, We’ll Spend All Your Money To Prove It!

Winter PrepIt snowed in Charlotte last week.  What a perfect opportunity for local officials to demonstrate what’s wrong with government.

It seems that nothing is more important to public officials than public relations.  They are compelled to show that they really, really “care” about us and our safety.  After all, their mission is to protect us from anything evil that could possibly harm us, right?

This need to be seen as our faithful guardians often transcends common sense, and economic sense.

On Saturday the meaty urologists (weathermen) predicted rain and snow to arrive by the middle of the next week.  So on Sunday, three days before the expected weather event, the DOT sent out an army of trucks, each manned by a driver and a second guy riding shotgun (maybe to balance the truck so it would not have uneven weight distribution causing premature tire wear?) to spray little white lines of brine on the streets.  Surely seeing these little white squiggles made Charlotte drivers feel warm and fuzzy inside, knowing that their government officials really care about them and their safety.

But wait a minute . . . the snow is not coming for three days, right?  And this is the South where it ALWAYS rains before it snows, so the rain will wash all the brine off the roads and into the sewers before it snows, right?

The forecast was accurate – it rained heavily on Tuesday, and then snowed big time on Wednesday.  The Charlotte streets were a real circus, complete with clowns and daredevil acts.  It didn’t appear to me that the huge expense for trucks and gas and drivers and weight-distribution passengers on overtime and the brine was a very good investment of taxpayers hard-earned money.

But that’s government work.  All that really matters is our government CARES.   Gotta love that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideWhen I’m tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
She slipped away

More Than A Feeling – Boston

Here’s a heapin’ helpin’ of guitar tone to warm up your day – Boston live, 2008

The Political Winds Are Changing

newspaperCONSERVATIVE GOOD NEWS HEADLINES TODAY

“SENATORS CHALLENGE KERRY’S SYRIA CLAIMS – (McClatchy Washington Bureau) – Senators from both parties pressed President Barack Obama’s top Cabinet offices Tuesday to provide guarantees that no U.S. troops would be sent to Syria . . . ”   We can’t afford any more lame attempts at nation-building or world-policing.  Let’s build some infrastructure here instead of in the Middle East for a change.

“NC HOUSE VOTES TO OVERRIDE 2 VETOES BY MCCRORY – Charlotte Observer – The (NC) state House on Tuesday took little more than half an hour to override the governor’s vetoes of two bills, on immigration and drug-testing welfare recipients . . . The votes marked the first split between Republican lawmakers, who control the General Assembly with a veto-proof majority, and the new governor of the same party.”  Isn’t it refreshing that Republicans are beginning to self-police?  Those whose main interest is re-election must be replaced or overruled by elected officials who stand on conservative principles.

“CITY’S STREETCAR MISSES GRANT, SUFFERS SETBACK – Charlotte Observer – “. . . the city would use $63 million in reserve funds and also apply for a $63 million federal TIGER grant.”  These federal grants are so out of control – why should taxpayers in Billings pay for a boondoggle streetcar project in Charlotte?  Or vice-versa?  Grant money does not grow on trees – it comes out of family budgets.

Last weekend I attended the “Saving the American Dream Summit” in Orlando, where two potential Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential race learned that the Republican “base” has turned resolutely to the right.  Sen. Marco Rubio was met with a strident chorus of “No Amnesty!” calls throughout his speech, and the large crowd erupted into applause when Gov. Rick Scott was admonished to “Stop Common Core”.

I sense a definite turn in the political winds, as lately we see incumbent liberals deflecting scandals and questions about their motives, and squishy Republicans facing a recharged constituency that demands adherence to true conservative principles.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side The wind of change
Blows straight into the face of time
Like a storm wind that will ring
The freedom bell for peace of mind

The Wind of Change – the Scorpions