Tuesday, November 29, 2005
What Eight Billion Means to Me
Terry currently works as "Vice President for Animal Welfare" or something for Heifer. You probably already know Heifer as the charity in the business of aiding families in developing countries through grants of livestock. Terry and Judy related wonderful stories from their time in Guatemala. I'd rather heard about their time in Nepal with the "mice-eaters" or those other exotic places they've been. One inch deep, that's me.
Judy told how so many people she met lost mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters in the war sponsored by the CIA. (I never did understand how killing peasants in Central America supported vital US interests.) Now that peace has returned to the land, people came down out of their mountain hiding places to try to make lives for themselves. A diet of berries and roots must lose its attraction after a while. Life in a country where vast numbers don't own the resources to buy a chicken bears little resemblance to a life of poverty in the U.S. Here we have food stamps; there they have - well, they don't have anything.
In order to send their children to school, family men often leave home and hearth to seek work in the U.S. This affects perhaps half the poor villagers in the areas where Judy worked. These men face a long, expensive and dangerous journey. They risk arrests, becoming crime victims, hunger, cold and many physical hardships. Just imagine walking frGuatamala to California with only the clothes on your back and less than $100.00. The hardest thing to give up is the home and family; these men miss their wives and children, their brothers and sisters. But they know that real power resides in the ability to read and to compute. They usually cannot read or figure for themselves, but they hope to give their children opportunity to learn.
I hope you're wondering about those eight billion dollars. The president wants to spend eight billion dollars on security for our border with Mexico. In fact, he's spreading that gospel even today as I write this. My thought - good news indeed, if you happen to be in the fence business.
Bob asked how many undocumented workers are in the U.S. Terry said between eight and twelve million. Bob, always quick with math, pointed out those eight billion dollars breaks down to one thousand dollars per worker.
Some discussion ensued. Judy said a little over three hundred dollars of investment keeps the men at home. So, for eight billion dollars of investment in Central America, we could keep around twenty-four million undocumented workers out of the U.S. Wow!
"What you people don't see," I thought to myself, "is that eight billion dollars spent in Central America is eight billion dollars not spent in California, Arizona or Texas." We were having such a good time though, I didn't want to depress anyone by speaking my ugly little thoughts out loud.
I hate to go all Milton Friedman on you, but I must point out that eight to twelve million undocumented workers have a huge impact on the labor force. These workers drive the price of labor down. For my very slow Republican reader (you know who you are) "the price of labor" is "wages." Your wages. (I've already preached way too much on this here.) When the supply of something increases, the price falls (other things being equal.) Political rhetoric (like that offered by our potential candidate for governor ) does not affect the economic laws involved; they continue to operate no matter how we feel about them.
One question to ask yourself: who profits the most from depressed wages? Is it the person selling his labor, or the one buying it?
Anyhow, I digress. (Oh boy! I used "affect" and "effect" correctly in the same essay!)
One very nice lady asked if those people didn't really want to all live here? Don't they want to bring their families here?
Judy just said "No." She went on to say, in her personal experience, undocumented workers from Central America do not like life in the U.S.
Now I found this part hard to swallow, but out of respect for Judy, said nothing. But how could foreigners living in the greatest country on earth, among the greatest people on earth, not want to stay here? Did I mention that, not only are we the richest nation on earth, and the most powerful, we are also the most generous nation, and the smartest; we have the best entertainment and medical care in the universe; and finally, we are the best looking. Just tune into Fox news if you doubt it. Why, it's no wonder people risk life and limb to get here!
Judy said they don't like the weather, they're always cold, and they miss their homeland and their extended families and stuff. Like they don't want to be rich like real Americans.
If I can digress again, I read a great quote in this month's Scientific American (print edition.) A Chinese representative of one of their green NGOs said, "If we wanted to live like Americans, it would take the resources of four worlds to do so." I guess I can digress after all; so much the worse for you.
Well, now you know what eight billion means to me. I wonder if I can get some stock in a fence company?
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Anyway, neat story, and missioning to the poorest is the Lord's work.
I believe that people who have very little and still give do far more good than the rich who can afford it.
I was fortunate enough to know some families from El Salvador when they lived here in my small town. One friend of mine earned minimum wage and was still able to send enough money to his mother (in El Salvador), that she was able to buy a home!
I don't know how I feel about immigration problems, except even dogs get crumbs from the master's table.
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