John Culleton: Problems require timely solutions

We face multiple problems requiring timely solutions. Lets start this week with immigration.

Both political parties agree that there must be some sort of path to citizenship for those already here illegally. Both parties agree that this path must include payment of back taxes. This is a wildly improbable expectation.

First, no records likely exist of the under-the-table income that these individuals have received over the years. Estimating these back taxes would be an administrative nightmare. We had a similar but much smaller problem circa 1960 when farmers and the self-employed were first covered under Social Security, with thousands seeking to amend their tax returns.

Second, those who have been here the longest will owe the most taxes. They will have no ability to pay 10 or 20 years of back taxes. Only recent arrivals may possibly be able to pay their back taxes.

Third, in most case the taxes to be collected will be mostly or completely FICA taxes. Half of those taxes are levied against the employers. Will Farmer Jones admit to having hired all those illegals for decades and then pay the back FICA taxes? The question answers itself.

Three strikes and you're out, in any league.

Amnesty has become a dirty word because in the Reagan administration amnesty was not accompanied with concomitant increase of border security. Today, the situation is quite different. The Obama administration has done a better job of border security than any previous administration. The current rate of deportations, combined with self-deportation, has resulted in a net loss of immigrants to and from from Mexico in recent months. The Democrats sneered at candidate Mitt Romney when he predicted self-deportation, but they laughed too soon. For the moment, at least, it is happening.

Amnesty for those who can prove U.S. residency (through rent receipts, for example) as of some recent date is the only feasible solution. Nothing else will work. Any more punitive approach will result in our current illegal population remaining in the shadows. A permanent visa would be a good compromise, and would relieve the immediate fear of the Republicans of being buried by new Hispanic voters in the next election. That will happen eventually anyhow, despite vigorous attempts at gerrymandering and other voter suppression efforts by Republican legislatures in the 30 states where they hold sway.

We can have a non-solution that fails completely, or we can have amnesty coupled with continued heavy border enforcement. Take your pick.

Another problem we must face is our bloated defense budget.

The sequestration folly has applause from the extreme left and extreme right, the left because they see no feasible way to cut the defense budget otherwise, and the right which wants to cut government expenditure no matter what the cost to the national economy.

Sequestration is a very bad idea. It cuts the defense budget too soon and in the wrong places. It will hurt our career personnel, both military and civilian. A better plan is a freeze on recruitment and hiring, coupled with the elimination of the more obvious boondoggles, such as the overpriced and still unproven F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Bringing our forces home from Afghanistan and other deployments will give us significant savings. Each soldier in Afghanistan costs us a million a year; do the math.

If we stimulate the growth of our economy, short and long range, the increase in overall government revenues will solve the deficit problem and ultimately the debt problem. The Republican plan of cutting government wherever possible will put us in a double dip recession with no end in sight.

With 6.8 percent unemployment, Germany is the leading producer of wind turbines and solar power technology in the world. Their investments in research and development and cooperation between academia and industry have paid off handsomely. We need to find out what Germany is doing right, and copy it.

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