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It’s a long road to publication

22 Aug

Turns out that one of my letters to the editor was published a little while ago in the Commercial Appeal (last one on the page). Add one more to the list, Isaac.

Ther Tekin’ Er Punisherment!

30 Jul

Here’s a letter I sent to the Commercial Appeal,

On July 26, you described the plight of students who are illegal immigrants and will not be able to find work once they graduate. You quote Tom Clifton, a member of the Mid South Tea Party Steering Committee, as saying “I believe these people should come legally. … I’m not for a short cut.” Does he know how long the current immigration process takes?

Some of my peers at Rhodes College are international students and want to be in the United States legally but the process of gaining citizenship for them is discouraging and arduous. If they didn’t want to be here legally and respect the laws, they wouldn’t try to jump through all of the hoops we force them through to be citizens. The lengthy immigration legislation ends up hurting those that we want most.

To gain citizenship, they must have a green card for five years. Before they can get their green cards, they must have an up-to-date visa. They can renew their student visas by going to graduate school, but eventually they will need to get either a temporary employment visa, a marriage visa, an investment visa (they must invest $1 million in the country – or $500,000 if it’s in an economically depressed area – and create 10 jobs) or they would need to prove to INS that they are exceptionally talented (e.g., a world renowned artist, performer, athlete, or scholar). Without the green card, my friends are subject to numerous restrictions (depending on which visa they have). Their visas will all expire, and some visas have a limit on the number of times they can be renewed. All-in-all, to gain citizenship under the best case scenario, it will take them at least six or seven years.

These are people who are trying to work hard and earn a decent living. They don’t want any government handouts. They just want to be treated like adults and human beings. I agree with Mr. Clifton that rule of law matters and that there are benefits to screening entrants, but these onerous restrictions are only hurting the productive people who want to enter the country legally – those who do want to enter illegally aren’t going to be stopped by these restrictions.

Brent Butgereit

Seen Criticism

30 Jul

Here is a letter I sent to the Wall Street Journal,

On July 29, you reported on White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’ criticism of conservatives regarding  the auto bailout, “‘Rush Limbaugh and others saw a million people that worked at these factories… and thought we should all just walk away. The president didn’t think that walking away from a million jobs in these communities made a lot of economic sense’” (“Gibbs takes on Rush Limbaugh,” articles). Mr. Gibbs, while articulating a genuine concern for the impact on the labor market, fails to fully consider the consequences for these actions.

In 1848, Frederic Bastiat explained that every policy will have two effects, “the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

The seen effect of the bailout is that workers get to keep their jobs. We don’t see the more productive jobs that would have been created if the taxpayers had spent their money elsewhere. We also don’t see what these talented factory workers and engineers would have made or done with their time if they weren’t stuck at an auto plant whose outputs are less valuable than their inputs. The government didn’t “save” any jobs – it only hindered more productive ones from appearing elsewhere.

Brent Butgereit

Education Reform, Not Rhetoric

28 Jul

Here’s a letter I sent to the NY Times,

David Leonhardt calls for school administrators to focus on paying good teachers more and firing bad ones. (“The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers,” July 27). I’m curious: Why doesn’t he directly promote a school voucher program?

Under a voucher system, parents decide where they want their children to go to school; they have obvious motives to find the best education for their children. Educators will want to provide a better education so that students don’t leave. Without actual pressure to perform better, demanding that school administrators be more watchful will do nothing. If parents are able to vote for teachers with their dollars, the task of sorting out the bad teachers from the good becomes much easier.

If we really want to give students a chance, we need to get over the rhetoric of finding “the right people for the job” and start changing the incentives that discourage people from doing a poor job in the first place.

Brent Butgereit

Profits and people

19 Jul

Here is a letter I sent to the NY Times (and here is the article I’m referencing):

You reported on the remarkable apparel factory (Knights Apparel) in the Dominican Republic that is paying its workers three times the average wage of the rest of the country’s apparel workers (“Factory Defies Sweatshop Label” July 16). It is truly wonderful that people can realize gains from trade and make one another better off, but the article’s insistence that this is new for developing countries is way off the mark.

In a 2006 study in the Journal of Labor Research, David Skarbek and Benjamin Powell surveyed 11 developing countries and the labor conditions of sweatshops there. For 9 of the 11 countries examined, the average reported sweatshop wage equaled or surpassed average wages (in Cambodia, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras, these wages were more than double the national average). In Honduras, where almost half the working population lives on $2 a day, “sweatshops” paid $13.10/day.

We shouldn’t ignore the benefits Knights Apparel is providing to some of the poorest in the world. We also shouldn’t ignore the fact that the typically demonized sweatshops provide the very same benefits.

Brent Butgereit