I'm totally excited that our tax rebate checks are coming! Washington has turned into Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, all rolled into one, now delivering $300 to $600 checks to nearly every one of us.
The idea is that we'll all rush out and buy, buy, buy — thus stimulating the economy, creating jobs and causing bluebirds of happiness to trill with delight. Wal-Mart is ready for you, offering to cash your government checks for free and tempting you with special price promotions. Indeed, every big retailer is running shopper specials in May.
But, wait, most of the stuff sold in those stores isn't made in America. So those sounds of economic stimulation we're hearing — from factory machinery to bluebirds — are coming from China, Singapore and other low-wage nations where U.S. corporations have moved production. Spending at the Wal-Marts won't create new production or new jobs in your town or mine.
That's why I have a different plan for my $600 check. I'm setting $400 of it aside to spend at farmers markets, artisan shops and hometown businesses that sell goods produced locally, or at least produced in America. This way, our tax dollars can circulate here at home, genuinely benefiting our grassroots economy.
Then, I'm going to donate the other $200 to public interest groups or progressive candidates who are pushing for real economic reform, not made-in-China consumerism. In particular, my small donations will support those working for a massive public investment in repairing and extending America's deteriorating infrastructure — including water systems, bridges, schools, parks, public transportation and a state-of-the-art Internet system.
Instead of a shopping stimulus, we should be employing millions of Americans at good wages to do the good grassroots work that needs to be done.
GAPS IN THE FENCE
If good fences make good neighbors, what about bad fences?
You could ask local officials and residents along the U.S.-Mexican border about that. They hate the monstrous wall that Bush and the Congress have decreed be erected to separate our countries. Not only is the wall a repugnant blemish on their landscape, severing the everyday cross-border flow of life, but the darned thing doesn't work. The claim of the fence-builders is that it will keep workers from the south from crossing into the United States illegally. Local folks know, however, that that's a bad joke.
First of all, Washington's wall covers only 700 of our 2,000-mile border, and long experience shows many migrants will simply flow through the gaps. Others are already making gaps of their own. On one completed stretch of the fence near Columbus, N.M., human ingenuity is winning out over bullheaded barricade builders. Border agents report that they started seeing cuts in the towering wall "almost immediately" after it was constructed. From simple hacksaws to plasma torches that can slice quickly through steel, immigrants have found their way through. Others have used ladders, trucks and other devices to scale the wall, while a least one group has bungee jumped into the country!
Also, the fence itself is creating convenient gaps, for the heavy structure is settling into the unstable ground. As it settles, the parts split — so much so that agents say determined migrants can wedge themselves through. Meanwhile, this multibillion-dollar monument to political stupidity does nothing to deter the 40 percent of immigrants who make a legal visit to the United States for business, vacation or other purposes, then don't go home.
Walling off Mexico might make some politicians feel good, but it's not going to stop human ingenuity and determination.
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.