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Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

I'm a Depublican?

Last week we gathered the clan on the shores of Padre Island. We try to do that every other year. It is a gathering of friends and family _ a week of fishing and camping close to nature.

It was the approach of this trip that started me down the road to Depulicanism.

Camping on the beach is a breed apart from any other type of camping _ from equipment to fishing tackle to vehicles _ the beach makes different demands than your average mountain or wooded glen.

The last time we made this trek the family unit measured me, she-who-must-be-obeyed (SWMBO), Ruby, who was almost one year old, and the two dogs.

Well, last year we added Carson Mae to the mix.

The week before D-Day SWMBO started packing the family wagon _ one Chevy Suburban.

At the end of a long day, I was told that our family unit and associated camping gear no longer fit into a single vehicle and that a solution would be found.

That solution turned out to be a small version of your run-of-the-mill flatbed trailer.

It was not an expense we had planned on, but it was a trailer that SWMBO had had her eye on for some time anyway, so…

Tuesday before D-Day we made the trip to the trailer company. Money changed hands. The trailer followed us home.

D-Day arrived. The trailer was packed to the gunwales with water cans, gas cans, fishing poles, crab nets, tents, food, the Coleman stove, and all the sundry items that are required when the family unit treks into the great outdoors on the very edge of the continent.

The truck was cranked. The kids were strapped into the car seats. The dogs were slobbering on the back windows.

And then the mailman came. You can't just leave mail in the mailbox, so I grabbed it and took it into the house. Curiosity demanded a quick shuffle through the bills and credit card offers.

My eyes hung on a letter from the IRS. It was addressed to me.

My gut knotted. Letters from the IRS are never good. I had never gotten one that looked like this.

I started to toss it on the table and then thought better of it. Better to take my medicine now than wonder and worry while on vacation.

I opened the letter.

The letter was from my government. It was informing me that I was going to get money back in the form of a tax refund. I looked at the figure. It was a lot of money for a poor newspaper guy.

It came very close to the price of a little flat bed trailer.

It took me a minute to put two and two together and figure out that this was our "tax refund" that the President Bush had made so much of.

I never paid much attention to the tax refund. When I heard "tax relief" I figured everyone but the middle class would be getting a check. That is the way all the "tax relief" I have ever seen worked.

As I stood there smiling at my middle class check the waves of guilt hit me. I am an opponent of almost every type of government program that puts money in people's hands for anything less than a hard day's work.

As nice as every such program is, the reality is that each one turns into a vote-buying scheme for any politician willing to sacrifice the good of the nation for his own advancement.

Despite my deep-seated opposition to free government money that pretty little check sure felt good in my hand.

I was beginning to feel like I was a closet Democrat.

Then I remembered that every dime in that check was money that I had already sent to the government. It was my money _ or it had been before the IRS got its hands on it.

"President Bush bought us a trailer," SWMBO said looking over my shoulder. Being the brighter of us she took only seconds to comprehend the nature of the check.

"Yeah. I guess he did. And I think this makes me a Depublican."

"A Depublican?" SWMBO asked.

"Yeah. I like getting a check from the government and that makes me feel like a Democrat. But the money was ours to start with and that feels more like being a Republican. I guess that makes me a Depublican."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

Your View

Legal, Illegal, Guest Worker, Amnesty, Don't Matter. They're Coming

Dear Mr. "Smokey":
You're right, the Hispanic Voting Power does make for some  interesting armchair speculation as well as continuing to make politics  an interesting spectator sport.

I agree with you, Bush is making a terrible mistake yielding Vieques to the Puerto Ricans. We need the bombing site if only for national security reasons. Besides, no matter what Bush does in attempt to appease the Puerto Rican community, they have historically sided with the Democratic Party and nothing indicates that they would change their course.

If the Democrats vote in favor of imposing the same truck safety standards upon Mexican truckers and the Republicans join them, it will probably be because maintaining these higher safety standards is the right thing to do. If Dems are in favor of Kyoto then they should be consistent and vote in favor of the higher standards.

However, I don't believe the Mexican trucking issue will cause any significant shift in the Democrat's base Hispanic support for various reasons but the biggest one being that their base support probably won't come from Mexican commercial trucking owners and business entities. It'll come from he thousands of Mexican laborers who will probably end up working in these new NAFTA related businesses as well as our own homegrown U.S. businesses.

Hispanics (Mexicans historically) have always been interested in capitalizing on capitalism.

They're textbook Adam Smith. Sell their labor in exchange for cold hard cash. That's why they've been an integral part of and significant contributor to the United States economy since even before the first "guest worker" program was enacted in 1942. It was called the "Bracero" Program.

In '42 the U.S. was critically strapped for a key resource, Manpower. They found it just south of our border and cut a deal with the Mexican Government to grant work contracts and permits allowing Mexican citizens to work legally in the U.S. a seemingly perfect symbiotic relationship. We knew they needed U.S. money and we needed low-cost labor.

It was supposed to "control" immigration but it failed that task completely. I got to know one

"Bracero" who came over in '52. "Toribio" decided he'd stick around after his contract expired.

Walked over to a Post Office, filled out a form and a few weeks later he's holding a legitimate Social Security Card, later a Texas drivers license. He then stated working and saving, and working, and saving. Married a local girl, bought a plot of land, built a house, and raised kids, paid taxes. He's presently retired and collecting his pension. He found time about five years ago to get himself legal thanks to the U.S. born kids.

The last of the Braceros came into the states in '67. Although the "legal" immigration ceased, the illegal ones continue. Now, in 2001, we have no guest worker program but we do have illegal aliens. Those who managed to wrangle an illegal Social Security Number found work and also found their wages deducted to pay Income Tax and Social Security. So they not only contribute to the U.S. work force, they also chip into our Federal coffers.

That's the reality of undocumented workers today. For the most part, they don't hang around on street corners getting paid cash as day laborers. They have now managed to penetrate all industries. According to some studies possibly half of illegal workers are "on the books" and funneling money to the Feds. We're talking to the tune of literally billions of dollars. In 1990 $1.2 billion dollars in contributions went into the Social Security fund. In 1998, it reaches $4 billion. During that eight-year period a total of $20 billion paid in Social Security taxes. One of Texas' own professors, Dr. Donald Huddle of Rice University established that undocumented immigrants paid $12.6 billion dollars into the tax coffers in 1996 alone. Amazing.

Bush is seeking an Amnesty program. Some say Bush is doing it to count the Hispanic vote. But McCain and others have come out in favor of it, recognizing the reality of the immigration situation.

The likes of Phil Gramm are more in line with the creation of another "Bracero" style, quest worker program. Again, folks say he's worried an Amnesty program will fill Democratic ranks. With a guest worker statute, you just "ship `em back" and don't have to worry about a new voting group.

My hunch is, Bush is wrong if he thinks Hispanics are going to wade over willy-nilly into the Republic Party simply because he's in favor of Amnesty. Maybe the Captains of NAFTA industry will, but I don't think the majority of immigrants will forget the attitude of the likes of Treat Lott or Phil Gramm. Phil Gramm's wrong if he thinks a guest worker system is going to control illegal entry.

Ultimately, it just doesn't matter cause as long as U.S. industry and agriculture needs labor immigration will continue. Employers will continue to turn a blind eye to an immigrant's legal status. And these new immigrants will simply become a defacto part of our nation's makeup.

Dr. Joel D. Vera

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