May 22, 2007
Immigration, National Security and FederalismBy Clarice Feldman
Although not apparent at first glance, there is a close connection between our inattention to the principles of federalism and the problems with the new immigration bill, as well as our failings in the realm of national security. Let me explain.
I leave for others the careful dissection of the Immigration Bill which may not even be fully written yet, despite varying reports of its length. (I've heard 300 pages in some places, 1000 in another.) Capable readers of legislative text are doing that well enough.
I leave it to them because as far as I can see this will not be passed into law.
Many will offer up reasons why it won't pass. I, however, think it won't be passed because Americans have watched too often as Congress passes elaborate new legislation designed to deal with the problem of the day, but the executive branch is unable or unwilling to carry out the functions assigned it by the new legislation, so the problem remains or worsens despite the expenditure of countless billions of dollars in tax funds.
And there is no faith by anyone paying attention in the Congressional oversight of these programs that they will be improved. Such oversight is sporadic and often no more than the partisan presentation of anecdotal evidence by celebrities or sympathetic seeming "victims" of the bureaucracy. No large scale systematic review designed to fairly judge these programs and their effectiveness is undertaken or achieved. It just doesn't happen.
Thus, when a public, rightfully concerned about the impact of an ever-increasing number of illegals on the social fabric, the economy and the political future of the country, looked to Congress and the President for a solution, they wanted concrete proof of a willingness to address their concerns. They didn't get it.
Instead they see no credible effort to stem the flow across our Southern borders, and a new crushing burden on the INS which for decades has been unable to meet the test of its already existing responsibilities.
I think the major failure of American society today is the unwillingness to acknowledge the difficulty and importance of day-to-day management, and Congress exemplifies and magnifies this shortcoming by continually opting for fancy, elaborate, big ideas, ignoring altogether that big ideas need a lot of hard labor to become reality. Big ideas, in sum, are easier to come by than the quotidian carrying out of elaborate programs.
Much is made of the eroding infrastructure-roads and bridges, for example -- but few have addressed the erosion decade by decade of enforcement and management of government programs. There is simply, for example, no comparison of the Department of Justice today with the Department of four decades ago when supervising attorneys were the cream of the crop that, by dint of limited opportunities in the Depression joined the Department and stayed on after military service. Then, too, starting salaries were fairly comparable to those in the private sector.
Those supervisors of that generation have long since retired. The far higher cost of college and the size of student debt make public service an impractical choice for many of our most talented young attorneys. The wage scale and work product differential between private law firm employment and public service jobs is impossible to ignore. And the result of those decades' long changes is evident.
In the last few years we have seen how far deteriorated our intelligence services were on 9/11. The FBI also seems to be not up to the new demands, having demonstrated an appalling record on counter intelligence. Without acknowledging any of this, Congress has offered up a Z visa program which requires that the government complete its background checks 24 hours after the filing of applications and estimates of the number of those eligible for these visas is in the neighborhood of 12 to 20 million people.
It is no wonder that the more is disclosed of this program, the less credible and palatable it is to voters.
The failings of the executive branch in the past decades to perform its basic tasks under the Constitution stands in stark contrast in the public mind to the increasingly productive and consumer-friendly models in the private sector. Contrast Amazon.com's remarkable ability to track customers' preferences, to take one example, to the inability of the FBI to devise a computer model that met the agency's needs despite the countless millions spent on this necessary upgrade.
Let's put a moratorium on all new federal legislation of sweeping import until Congress does its most important job: a systematic review of all existing programs in all of the federal government, determining which are significant, truly federal functions that should be retained, and which programs should be scrapped as a waste of time and money, or beyond the federal government's responsibilities.
Then let's look at the core mission of each department and use the savings from the dropped programs to make each actually work as intended.
We are now taking taxpayer money to keep in place a doddering, sclerotic federal executive which is focusing too much effort on non-federal matters like education and too little on the core mission of carrying out truly federal functions-national defense and enforcement of federal laws.
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.