The Real Objection to Arizona’s Residency Law: It Will Work

I’m a rule-of-law kinda guy.  Foundation of a peaceful society, and all that.

To be less flip about it, I believe that generally speaking, laws should be enforced.  If society (or a court) decides that a particular law is inappropriate, the law should be changed (or overturned).  It makes no sense to require law enforcement agencies to wink at crimes or avert their eyes.  Yet that’s how the federal government “enforces” immigration and residency laws.

Many of the people objecting to Arizona’s new law are doing so, consciously or otherwise, based on a belief that laws against entering the country illegally should not be enforced.  That’s the only way to understand the intensity of the objections.

Arizona has done nothing more than assert that it has a right to enforce a law that the federal government has manifestly failed to enforce.  Immigrants in this country have been required for decades to carry proof of legal residency with them at all times.  The Arizona law imposes no additional hardship on anybody who is in this country legally.

There’s an obvious concern that the law could be used inappropriately to harass Hispanic people.  But any law can be enforced inappropriately, and Arizona already has made some changes to the law to deter abuses.  The bottom line is that the only people who will be disadvantaged by the new law in any meaningful way will be people who have taken advantage of the fact that the federales don’t enforce the law.

And that’s why people object to the Arizona law — it will be effective.  Most illegal aliens will leave the state before the law takes effect this summer, and many of those who remain will end up in deportation hearings.  This will result in genuine hardship for many, many people — some of whom will be sympathetic characters with heart-wrenching stories.  But despite the euphemistic efforts to create a protected class of people known as “undocumented workers,” we’re talking about people who are breaking the law by being here.

An intellectually coherent argument can be made that the borders should be open, with no restrictions on immigration.  Anyone who wants to make that argument should have at it — and if you can convince enough people, let that become the law of the land.  In the meantime, we should enforce the law we have.

Why Christie’s on the Right Track, in Three Paragraphs

New Jersey’s new governor is determined to reverse the state’s “failed experiment”, which consists of taxes chasing deficits in an ever-ascending spiral.  A Barron’s article does the most concise job I’ve seen of explaining what he’s up against, and why his efforts should be supported.

Photo: NY Post

Unlike his predecessors, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has recognized that high taxes were a problem, not the solutions to the state’s fiscal woes. The Tax Foundation ranks New Jersey as the highest in the nation in state and local taxes as a percentage of income. It’s especially bad for top earners: 4.4% of individuals account for 55% of personal income-tax revenue.

Even though the state faces a $10.7 billion deficit — equal to more than one-third of the total budget — in fiscal 2011 starting July, Christie has refused to raise taxes and further increase this tax burden. Indeed, he has recommended not renewing a 2% “millionaire tax” enacted by former Gov. Jon Corzine, so that the top state income-tax bracket will revert to 8.97%, still among the highest in the nation.

In addition, New Jersey homeowners pay the highest property taxes in the nation, $7,281 on average annually. That represents a 90% increase from 1999 to 2009 — a trend that is driving wealthy New Jerseyans to other states — mainly Florida, Pennsylvania and even New York, according to Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. As [municipal bond analyst Howard J.] Cure notes, for years the migration went in the other direction across the Hudson as heavily taxed New Yorkers sought relief in New Jersey.

When your budget deficit is more than a third of your total budget, you need more than tweaks and nudges to return to financial stability.  I strongly suspect that some additional taxation will occur, but when your taxes are the highest in the nation, “no tax increases” is the right starting point for debate.  In any discussion of New Jersey’s finances, the burden of proof should be on anyone who opposes spending cuts.  After taking on the powerful teachers unions, I hope Christie continues to play hardball.