2007 reminded us that our easy way of life comes at a price, and that there are consequences and trade-offs in almost everything we do. Let’s go down the list.
President Bush’s comprehensive immigration bill collapsed this summer, following public outrage from the middle and poorer classes of both parties. These Americans reminded their politicians that first they want their southern border closed to illegal immigration â€” and discussion of anything else second.
They are not racists, nativists or protectionists â€” much less “anti-immigrant.” Instead, a substantial number of Americans â€” from all backgrounds â€” simply believe that once illegal immigration ceases, the problem becomes manageable.
Employers will have to hire our own poor and unemployed, and thus raise wages. Mexico will have to deal with its own problems rather than blaming the U.S. Tribalists and ethnic provocateurs will have to relearn that integration and the melting pot aren’t going away. Immigrants crossing from the south will have to wait in line like everyone else and arrive legally.
The Housing Crisis
Housing prices tanked in 2007. Millions of home mortgages by this past spring were behind or in default. The media rushed to blame government and lenders â€” as if poor buyers had a gun to their heads when they bet that housing would continually appreciate.
Yet most Americans who buy homes judiciously, and pay their mortgages promptly, were probably more philosophical than outraged. Homes had become way overpriced. Anyone who rushed out to borrow heavily to buy in such an overheated market was intent on recklessly profiting by quick resale â€” or hopelessly naive.
Food Is Not Cheap
Farm prices soared. For 40 years, Americans had become used to the idea that their food would stay cheap, and farmers were invisible or irrelevant. Now we are learning that farmland and irrigation water are finite resources, while the world population continues to rise. Before we can solve global warming, convert to ethanol or restore ancestral rivers, we first have to eat â€” and thus make sure there is enough land and water to produce food.
Oil reached $98 a barrel by November. Conservatives thought that the market alone might easily correct the problem. Yet they are starting to see in the meantime that petrol-rich, anti-American dictatorships, flush with American cash, won’t be so patient with us.
Liberals tend to claim we won’t have to find and burn far more of our own oil and coal, or build nuclear plants. But they are learning that for now that would only make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin and the House of Saud even happier.
The recent National Intelligence Estimate told us that Iran ceased efforts to acquire nuclear weapons in 2003. The news was as unexpected as it was widely distrusted. What’s clear, at least for now, are the effects of the report: Hawks’ ideas of pre-emptively bombing Iran are fortunately off the table. But, unfortunately, so are serious economic and diplomatic efforts to persuade the Iranians to stop. This flawed report will come back to haunt us.
In recent months, we’ve seen a reduction of violence in Iraq as Sunni tribal insurgents joined U.S. troops in hunting down al-Qaida terrorists. These insurgents’ turnabout may have been influenced by the U.S. troop surge, a change in the American military’s tactics, worry over the Shiite-dominated government, confidence in an oil-fed prosperity or a growing awareness of the savage nihilism of al-Qaida.
The fact that insurgents approached us for help after being defeated or demoralized suggests the present truce could evolve into a peace in ways no one had foreseen.
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