December 31, 2003

From Spill Over to Tidal Wave

By Andrés Lozano

Rewording Neil Diamond’s hit song America lyrics: “Every time they make mistakes, we’re coming to America.” Hardly anything more heart wrenching than reconciling the northward thrust of incoming Mexican nationals and the causes behind such an effect. After all, acquaintances, relatives, even us made it here for the same motives. Nothing taxes more than holding two contradictory ideas in mind simultaneously, yet this is what I attempt to do now and shed some light into the riddle: Immigration of itself is a good outcome, the rationale behind it wrong policies undertaken by governments in our countries of origin! You name them: religious or racial intolerance, mayhem, wars, unsound economics, and so forth, foster our pilgrimage since the Mayflower. Thus, America’s gain is Mexico’s loss unstoppably drained from its strongest of limb and quickest of wit, annoyed with misgovernment, unwilling to live any longer in want.

A few days ago, in its shortsighted wickedness a majority at the Mexican Congress managed to derail, one more time, urgently needed tax, labor and property legislation. Cynically, this majority not even attempted to vote down the proposals on real or apparent weaknesses. Without qualms, their leadership recognized as sole motive disrupting an elected government from the opposition. The wrecking majority offered no working choice. Simply put, and openly recognized by their leadership, it was a ruse to upset reforms for the sake of it, attrition at its worst. The drive behind their strategy being, to raze prosperity creating measures advocated by the winning opposition back in 2000 and thus, in their irrationality, “pave their way back to power in 2006” and resume their seventy plus years of emigrant making and backwardness causing institutionalized plunder.

There has always been Mexican emigration to America, before 1970 a constant trickle due to a job creation rate incapable of keeping apace with staggering birthrates. Starting in the ‘70’s, due to rampant misgovernment coupled with corruption and its dire consequences: inflation and widespread unemployment. At least twelve million Mexican emigrants have made the journey in the last thirty plus years for these bad reasons.

Largely, previous blunders were the result of an almighty executive branch neither checked nor balanced by a rubberstamp congress. The 2000 election brought dramatic changes. For the first time ever an opposition candidate won the presidency, yet failed to achieve a working majority in congress. The ensuing opposition legislative majority made no secret of its aims: scuttle urgently needed legal reforms, the role of loyal opposition alien among them. Thus, stalemate has followed. This is largely due to an undemocratic legislative structure. For starters, members of congress cannot be reelected to a successive term in Mexico. This is a legacy from a repressive recent past where the presidency curbed any form of divergence. As a result, members of congress are permanently junior with all its failings. Worst, without the incentive of reelection, these party cronies are only interested in being in good terms with their political machineries and legislate accordingly in exchange of ransom-like salaries plus benefits that would make their US counterparts blush. These privileged among the privileged only represent themselves and their bosses.

The common citizen has no representation at all! Yet, it gets nastier: only 300 hundred out of the 500 members of the House of Representatives are directly elected, the 200 seats balance allotted by their parties’ leadership to faceless ringmasters. Only half of the 128 senators undergo elections, the other 64 apportioned. Who wields power in the congress, the elected or the apportioned members? Handpicked apportioned members of congress are seniors with undeniable links to pull peddlers such as union bosses, ever growing and creeping bureaucracies and monopolies both public and private. Thus, insisting that present day Mexican politics answers only to special interest groups is no mere figure of speech. Unknown puppeteers are in charge not of the show, but of the ploy. As a result, the congress is rotten and the fallout predictable: economic downturn, unemployment and an-increasingly-present tidal wave emigration threat. Barren a miracle, Mexico faces the prospect of a political induced stagnation until 2007.

If history serves us right, behind every rotten congress linger self-proclaimed ‘saviors’. Venezuela is an excellent and updated case in point. As things evolve, a frustrated and inexperienced Mexican electorate might veer course in the recently attempted democratic development process and elect ‘a person of the hour’, always an undemocratic and demagogic strongperson. Notorious tyrants in recent history were elected. Therefore, in addition to all the wrong causes why we Mexicans emigrate, worrying new ones may be shaping up in the very near future. As a primer, failure to enact new tax laws implies unavailable funds for basic education for this generation, or increasing numbers of unskilled labor starting now. Lack of means will hamper drug interdiction, a certainty in turn of increased drugs’ supply and its crime-allied sequel North and South of the border. The failure to enact energy related laws imply generalized power shortages and outages, becoming commonplace as soon as 2005, an investment deterrent if there is any. Coupled with inferior education, muzzled labor laws reforms implies decreasing productivity and very likely the complete loss of assembly plants jobs and growth, fast moving to China, an additional source of unemployment and a dearth of investment both domestic and foreign. These are to say the poisoned gifts of a beggar-thy-neighbor congress with likely tsunami effects in both sides of the border starting now. Quite a holiday present to begin 2004 with!

Andrés Lozano can be emailed at:

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