A presentation by an agent from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of US Homeland Security, at Monday’s Marion County Commission meeting resulted in the agent being mocked, berated, and dismissed by Commissioner Stan McClain. But did McClain have any idea what the agent was talking about?
Frankly, McClain was playing to the narrow-minded, asshat Tea Party handful, and judging from his biting and clueless remarks, apparently failed to grasp any of what the agent was saying. In fact, most of the commissioners looked like deer in the headlights, totally dumb about what to do, as if they needed someone to take them by the hand. The awkward silence was embarrassing.
This bonus offering of Commission crazy on Monday began when David Younanof, ICE Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations, made a compressed but clear presentation on the agency’s IMAGE program. IMAGE stands for “ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers.” It is a program to assist employers with navigating the complex and difficult processes for compliance, ensuring that workers and new hires are in fact legal workers in the USA.
Younanof noted that ICE had been very successful in cracking down on employers who failed to be complaint, subjecting their employees to seizure and deportation, and exposing their organizations to federal fines and even arrests. The special agent claimed that over $80 million in fines had been assessed against employing organizations since President Obama took office.
Partner organizations enrolling in the free IMAGE program were also covered on any possible instances of non-compliance. Younanof stated that partner employing organizations had saved $11 million in possible fines for non-compliance, fines never assessed because of their enrollment in the free program.
Then commissioners start looking at one another for direction. They don’t understand immigration issues, fear the federal government, and recoil at the notion of partnering with the feds on immigration enforcement. They fear because they’re cowed and clueless.
Commissioner Carl Zalak asks in roundabout, ham-fisted fashion whether county contractors would be subject to compliance. Hey, Commissioner: it’s federal law – of course, they’re subject to compliance … regardless of what you might do!
With a little interpretive help from Commission Chair Kathy Bryant in translating Zalak’s verbal contortions, a further question is produced. Would the County Commission have to report on contractors if they were non-compliant? No, ditzo – don’t you get it?
Zalak seems indifferent to actual enforcement of immigration law, doesn’t want county contractor violators to face the music for hiring undocumented workers, and still doesn’t understand that IMAGE protects partnering employers. Good grief, Carl! Listen!
Then Commissioner Stan McClain senses that he knows what’s really going on, perhaps taking non-verbal cues from the perennially misinformed, arrogantly ignorant, and proudly xenophobic Butch Verrando of the Tea Party. McClain begins berating ICE Special Agent David Younanof, telling him, “It’s your job! You go find them! Why don’t you do your job? Go do your job before you come around here.”
Younanof tries to explain it again, but truly there is no arguing with stupid.
Verrando and his handful of paranoids burst into raucous applause. Why? They don’t really know, except McClain just chewed out a federal agent. Um, awesome.
Of course, the only problem was that Younanof was doing his job and McClain sadly once again was not doing his job. McClain is so challenged, God bless him.
Younanof was offering the county free assistance with a difficult area for employers, with partnering organizations protected from getting fined or being subjected to arrest for a lack of compliance, and ensuring that only legal workers get the jobs.
For this, McClain berates the special agent, makes the Commission look like a bunch of jerks (okay, deserved and difficult to avoid) while his county leadership colleagues stare blankly or smirk stupidly. And the Tea dummies cheer, always a sign that someone has firmly stepped in a big, steaming pile of jackass.
Don’t you want worker verification laws enforced? Don’t you think partnering with ICE through the free IMAGE program would be of benefit not only to the county as an employer but also to other employers in Marion County? Don’t you think major employers in the county already partner with ICE through IMAGE? Think national hotel and restaurant chains? Wouldn’t you, as county leaders, want to see county employers in compliance with Federal worker and immigration law, not getting fined, not getting arrested, and addressing a national problem? Or do you think you have compensated for inadequacies, projecting “macho” manhood behind a loud mouth chewing out a federal agent? Damn poor form.
And Tea Party dolts: if you want to see immigration law enforced, how about encouraging the twits on the commission to partner with ICE instead of fight with them? That really doesn’t seem like a demanding “ask” from you, even though it requires a teeny bit of thought. Too much of a heavy lift for you? Sorry.
McClain needs to apologize to Special Agent Younanof, whether he ever comes back to Marion County or not. If he never returned, no one could blame him. Further, if ICE formed a special investigative task force dedicated to finding non-compliance in Marion County and county employers, using fines and arrests as a “teaching tool,” you can thank Commissioner McClain, his useless colleagues and administrators, and the Tea butts. For sure, they’re now talking about the Jerks of Marion County at Homeland Security, and for a perfectly valid reason.
The decision by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to refuse Medicaid expansion following the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act was predictable and swift. Yet there is good reason to believe that the struggle behind the scenes has just begun, and that there are compelling reasons to think Scott may, at some point, do an Olympic level gymnast flip.
Let’s be clear that any rationale that would compel normal, thoughtful, and compassionate people has no bearing with the governor, or for that matter with the GOP majority in Tallahassee. There continues to be complete indifference to the suffering of citizens, the fatal consequences of denied access to health care, the gross injustices generated by inaction, the exorbitant costs of inevitably treating basic health care as an emergency, and any other ethical, commercial, or common sense measure. It’s despicable and nuts.
Rather than rage at the wrongheadedness, consider that there are powerful forces that can turn the Governor’s mind, including those GOP Neanderthals in the legislature. For this focus, one must watch the money – it’s always money, and its sister, power – plus one must regard a powerful recent precedent.
First, the precedent. Think back to 2010 when the deep pocketed, creepy crook Rick Scott was the unwanted outsider upsetting Bill McCollum’s anointing as the GOP gubernatorial candidate in the primary. Scott relentlessly bashed McCollum for his “soft” stance on immigration, principally for failing to pursue Arizona-style toughness and to challenge the feds on undocumented workers.
Fast forward two years later on Scott’s key campaign issue:
“It would be foolish to put Florida companies at a disadvantage,” Scott told those at the Citrus Mutual meeting in Bonita Springs on Wednesday, according to a story in The Ledger of Lakeland.
Scott also told the growers group that he knows of no serious effort to revive legislation containing an E-Verify requirement, and wouldn’t support it, reiterating that it is the federal government’s responsibility to do something about the immigration problem.
Hey, what was that? A flapjack or a pancake? Either way, it’s totally flipped to the other side. E-Verify advocate, former FL Senate President Mike Haridopoulos will say, “Amen!” to that, given his inability to get endorsement of his plan from his GOP colleagues.
What happened? The reality of m-m-money. Scott’s observation was made at a gathering of Citrus Mutual, the citrus industry’s muscle group. Like most agricultural pursuits in Florida, it is labor intensive and dependent on immigrant labor to make its money. In Marion County, for example, a survey of horse farm managers will find few interested in knowing the exact immigration status of their labor force.
Besides agriculture, the same could be said for construction, landscaping, restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, and other enterprises where there are “back room” areas of low skill jobs dependent on immigrant labor. Add it all up and you have a powerful political force, sufficient to make our “principled” governor roll over for the high and mighty like a dog begging a belly rub.
How does this pan out in the health care debate? Who are the big players that could roll Scott like bathroom tissue?
Health insurers, for starters. These guys have been in bed with Rick Scott since his attack ads with Conservatives for Patient’s Rights became familiar during the health reform backlash.
However, Scott’s “principled” stance currently puts him in a bit of a bind with his insurance pals. With the ACA upheld, insurers remain on the hook for the costly people with pre-existing conditions. The promise of an offset by getting lots of healthy people signing up has been sorely shaken, if not broken. The feds will set up the exchange for Floridians despite Scott’s refusal, but that isn’t the real stickler.
Medicaid privatization is. It has been a dicey deal for health insurers who really can’t manage the existing pool of Medicaid recipients better or cheaper than the state, and realize any profit unless they become even scummier scumbags than they already are. However, if you added a slew of mixed age, non-elderly people up to 133% of federal poverty, Medicaid privatization makes insurers drool. (That demographic factor is why the costs for the proposed expansion are not comparable to current expenditures; they’re far less.)
Medicaid costs are overwhelmingly for the elderly, with Kaiser putting the figure at 70%. Nursing home care is astronomically expensive and invariably Medicaid picks up the tab for long term maintenance care (not rehab, that’s Medicare (see “dual eligibles”)) unless you have Rick Scott-type wealth. Diluting those staggering numbers with a varied group of non-elderly folks is a big winner for insurers.
Hospitals, including the for-profits, would enjoy the added business from the billions that would be spent by the feds. Even doctors and the Florida Medical Association may get unglued from their whiny nit picking and ideological ambiguity, and realize that where there is money, there is money to be made. Less backward states expanding Medicaid will stoke the pressure to adapt and change in Florida.
Finally, it will become clear that the billions spent on health care in ACA Medicaid expansion states are creating jobs and boosting economies with relatively small net impacts on state revenues. Even NFIB, Associated Industries, and the Chamber may get an earful when their members see what they’re missing in Florida.
So, wait for it. The likelihood of an ultimate Scott/GOP somersault should not be discounted. Sadly, it may take a year or two.
Thursday night’s Republican Presidential Candidate’s Debate on Fox provided little insight as to who would be able to carry a worthy fight to Barack Obama. To their credit, Fox News moderators pushed pointed questions at each candidate, making Newt Gingrich squeal like a stuck pig (twice!) that the candidates were getting “gotcha” questions, not the ‘right kind’ of questions. His complaints were to no avail as the night continued to contrast discomfiting each candidate’s past statements and actions with their current declarations and stances. There were no softballs lobbed at the candidates on this night. Kudos to Chris Wallace and company.
Mitt Romney seemed to remain the most presidential in demeanor while Tim Pawlenty incessantly reminds this viewer of Gomer Pyle (he just needs a twang so he can say, “Gah-AHL-lyyy”). Heads above the rest, Romney remained poised, positive and presented convincing answers to most of the tough questions thrown his way. He hiccupped a bit when Fox’s Chris Wallace pushed him back on health care. Romney also ended up benefiting from the lightweight contributions of those sharing the stage.
Pawlenty faced off against fellow Minnesotan Michelle Bachmann as both seemed to think they were the big show, unable to resist verbally lashing each other repeatedly and digging deep for blood. Their utterly childish tit-for-tat confrontation was even regarded as embarrassing by several off-site commentators at Foxnews.com. Did they prepare in advance to attack each other? It seemed like they did. Yikes!
Bachmann generously took a moment to pat herself on the back for proposing the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act,” a key piece of legislation benefiting late night comedians worldwide. Oh Lord. You can’t make this up.
With the nation fresh off the wildest days on Wall Street in decades, and with “political intransigence” the most often repeated phrase following the S&P downgrade of US debt, the whole tribe of candidates refused to yield a stinking nanometer on raising taxes. When exasperated Fox’s moderators challenged them with a hypothetical deal that provided a 10 to 1 ratio of cuts to revenue, every single one raised their hand to say they would reject the offer simply because it raised taxes.
The candidates served up red meat for the primary activist crowd, but such responses likely made Wall Street donors reach for their checkbook; ‘Payable to Barack Obama Campaign.’ Herman Cain and Rick Santorum raced to see who could grant more tax giveaways for businesses, like more of those are what’s really needed to address the grave problems we’ve been witnessing. And more checks for Obama.
Being opposed to the health care reform legislation, insisting on sealed borders, and criticizing the administration’s foreign policy no matter how conflicted or incoherent between aggressiveness and isolationist didn’t show viewers anything new or unexpected. Gingrich’s innate pomposity, Paul’s wild iconoclasm, Cain’s plain speaking banter, Santorum’s pleading desperation, Huntsman’s abject failure to fit in, and the intramural combat between Pawlenty and Bachmann left Romney as the only one worthy of further consideration. Well … in my mind. I’m a Democrat. My opinion means bupkus.
This is about Iowa. This is about Republicans. This is about Republican activists in Iowa. Oh God, this is a fire-breathing scary conservative apocalypse! This is why some Republican candidates are blowing off the Ames Straw Poll and maybe the Iowa Caucuses, too.
The winning candidate here in Iowa is most likely the stone-cold craziest loon in the lot which is why Bachman garners so much attention, and why saner candidates (a loose term in this field, I know) are looking at more mainstream early primary states to make their case, like New Hampshire and Florida. The extremists may get validated in Iowa and South Carolina, however the candidate who wins in these places is not a likely winner in a national general election, i.e. a candidate who can appeal to less-/non- ideological independent voters in key swing states, again Florida as well as Ohio and Virginia, for example.
The only remaining question after this debate is whether or not Texas Governor Rick Perry can make a difference when the field is so weak. The eagerness surrounding Perry’s candidacy reminds me of Fred Thompson in 2008. Remember Fred Thompson, actor/US Senator? C’mon, you remember … the drawling Manhattan District Attorney Law and Order guy. Yeah, him! – pictured left with his wife – yeah, wife!
The Republican field was really weak in 2008, too, so weak that Fred Thompson seemed like the guy who could bring on Reaganesque plain-speak and turn around the party’s fortunes. And was there ever a bigger dud? He dropped out and was pretty much forgotten … wasn’t he?
Rick Perry is most likely going to cause folks to remember George W. Bush, whose brother Jeb is the only one more likely to conjure W’s specter. In short, it shouldn’t take long before Perry gets diminished, too, and then we’re back to square one among Republicans.
In 2008, grumpy Republicans reluctantly chose John McCain. He was so desperate for campaign pizzazz that he recruited the pretty, charming and utterly dense governor of Alaska to be his running mate, leaving the nearby shores of Russia to stalk the citizens of the Lower 48 like we were wounded moose.
She made the 2008 election closer anyway, but the nation still elected a black man with a really foreign name, okay? Right now, as bad as things are in the nation, it doesn’t seem like it will be so close. Barack Husein Obama simply needs to show up once more.
You may have heard of the recently announced 2011 Turkey Watch List provided by big business front group, Florida Tax Watch. It gets lots of media attention, most of it unquestioning … nay, fawning. The media’s slavish genuflections brought the following to mind: “Holy crap, they’re all clueless.”
To remedy the gobble-ty gook (awful pun intended), let me introduce a terse list of Turducken Awards for 2011.
What’s a “turducken,” you ask? A gourmet concoction described thusly by Wikipedia:
A turducken is a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey. The word turducken is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken or hen.
(Look up portmanteau yourself, pal.)
The result is something your doctor will characterize as capable of inducing cardiac arrest, and frankly the same outcome can occur for budget turduckens. Combining a number of elements to create a seductive, yet damaging outcome is a mark of evil wizardry, a true budgetary turducken.
The stunning display of this talent from the 2011 Florida Legislature revealed our elected representatives as the minions of Voldemort, the Dark Lord himself. Their passion for the delectable budgetary turduckens could generate an expansive list, so I’m sadly forced to cherry-pick only a few. Here’s the first nominee.
Prison Privatization: Speaking of cherry-picking, that’s what OPPAGA (the now-neutered legislative oversight organization) suggested in its 2008 report on prison privatization; that privately-run prisons cherry pick their inmates, leaving the most difficult, challenging and costly ones for the state-run prisons. Claiming huge cost savings, the Dementors in Tallahassee decided to privatize the prisons in the southern third of Florida, handing a mammoth opportunity to big Republican contributor GEO Group (with the implicit promise of more to come) as well as major donor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), also privatizing prison health services and even probationary supervision at the same time.
As the turducken was stuffed, hardly any notice was given to the need to reform ridiculous and dysfunctional sentencing laws that caused the prison population to burgeon in the first place. Then again, if you reform the sentencing laws, then the prison population would decrease and there wouldn’t be any “customers” for GEO Group or CCA. Can’t have that, can we?
This move will hand hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to private for-profit entities in a largesse of corporate welfare, pink-slipping thousands of state corrections officers so that they can apply for lower wage, less benefit jobs on their way out of the middle class. The hardest cases in Corrections will likely remain in state-run facilities, even if newly built prisons, like the one in Santa Rosa County that was handed to GEO Group, are designed for tough cases but contain hardly any such inmates.
By the way, GEO Group has other irons in the fire, like a prison for illegals. It’s part of a national strategy by the private prison operators. Gee, I can’t wait for a new Florida law to help GEO profit on that one, can you?
Next post will consider another powerful nominee for the 2011 Turducken Award.
Are you watching Florida Tax Watch? This one turducken beats all your turkeys by hundreds of millions. Hello. Hello?
State Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart) is the chief proponent of a copycat version of Arizona’s racial profiling bill for Florida. We shouldn’t be surprised, but Snyder is “participating” in a group that supports repealing part of the 14th Amendment, per the Florida Independent:
The State Legislators website lists Snyder as someone “participating” in the group, which describes itself as a “nation-wide coalition” whose intent is “to provide a network of state legislators who are committed to working together in demanding full cooperation among our federal, state and local governments in eliminating all economic attractions and incentives (including, but not limited to: public benefits, welfare, education and employment opportunities) for illegal aliens, as well as securing our borders against unlawful invasion.”
Here’s the first section of the 14th amendment, and maybe it’s just me, but it’s text which I find both powerful and inspiring:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
It’s a profound statement on the openness and support for liberty that is ingrained in our country. If you’re born here, you’re one of us. As one of us, we will protect you: your life, liberty, property, and we will ensure justice. No state can violate this sacred covenant we make with you. The amendment is even more powerful when you consider it was written, passed, and ratified in the aftermath of the Civil War, and the terror of slavery and oppression.
But conservatives like Snyder have a problem with at least the first section on citizenship. And what exactly is the problem with removing or amending this language?
Michelle Waslin, an Immigration Policy Center senior policy analyst, tells the Independent that “[State Legislators for Legal Immigration] SLLI wants to spark a legal challenge that goes all the way to the Supreme Court. They want to set up a system for citizens and another for people who can be discriminated.”
Waslin also says that amending the 14th Amendment is not a solution for illegal immigration. “Under the current system, you’re born here, you get a birth certificate,” she says. “If we didn’t have that system we would need a bureaucracy to determine citizenship.”
She points out that if automatic citizenship is eliminated, all U.S. citizens would be affected. She compares the outcome to the current situation of a U.S. serviceman in Germany, married to a German woman, who together have a baby. That couple has to hire an immigration lawyer have to clarify if the baby if a U.S. citizen.
Where are all the constitution-loving, small government conservatives when you need them?
Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-Ocala) demonstrates he really doesn’t know what the term “amnesty” means:
In fact, it was the main point Stearns made in his lone response to Mena’s group — the Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice — during the 20-month period it sought to meet with him. In a one-page letter issued last September, Stearns wrote that he was “extremely concerned” about illegal immigration and would “remain committed to opposing all forms of amnesty for those who have broken our laws and entered our country illegally.”
Mena counters that the Dream Act is not amnesty because those who would benefit are not being pardoned for a wrong they committed. They had no choice in coming to the U.S. and are now seeking to earn their way — through advanced studies or military service — to citizenship.
Mena noted that last month the city of Gainesville passed a resolution supporting the Dream Act and its backers had included some Marion County horse farmers.
Back in April, University of Florida President Bernie Machen had written Stearns and other Florida lawmakers expressing the school’s support for the Dream Act.
“Education is a human right, and students, regardless of citizenship status, should have the ability to better themselves and pursue their dreams in the country they take great pride in calling home,” Machen wrote, noting that 5,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from Florida high schools annually.
“They deserve equal rights to accessing institutions of high education and becoming productive and engaged members of society.”
The people the DREAM Act is trying to help are young people who want to live, work, and be a part of this great country. Like the Know Nothings of old, Stearns conveniently uses immigrants as a political punching bag to preserve his own political power. He claims that DREAM would cause some kind of “chain reaction” of mass citizenship for undocumented immigrants. However, this seems like bunk to me. The DREAM act makes this process tougher than you think, and doesn’t reward complete citizenship. Per The Progress Report:
DREAM Act applicants must go through a rigorous process of background checks, in addition to paying taxes, learning English, and either serving in the military or attending college. The new version does not confer permanent immigrant status to anyone for at least ten years. Instead, it grants “conditional nonimmigrant status” and specifically excludes nonimmigrants from the health insurance exchanges, Medicaid, food stamps, in-state tuition or Pell and other federal grants. DREAM Act individuals would have very limited ability to sponsor family members for a U.S. visa and would have to wait at least a decade before they would even be able to do so. The new bill also lowers the age cap for eligibility from 35 to 29 on the date of enactment.
DREAM would also be great for the national economy as well:
The CBO found that putting thousands of young, undocumented immigrants on a path to legalization would increase revenues by $2.3 billion over ten years and reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the same time period. The CBO score didn’t come as a surprise to those who had already studied the issue. Rather than working in the underground economy, DREAM Act students who receive a bachelor’s degree would have the opportunity to actually use their college education to boost their income which results in increased tax revenue.
Stearns spews a lot of right wing talking points, most of it not based in fact. Here’s a good rundown of DREAM Act myths put together by the Center For American Progress. There was really no excuse at all for Stearns to vote against the DREAM Act.