The Dirty Dozen: 13 Song Themes that Might Not Be As Popular Today

Unless you are a new band looking for instant publicity or an individual not afraid of public scorn and ridicule, we’d suggest avoiding these themes in your music or belting these tunes out on the subway. Join FTKC as we look at 13 songs that were once popular, though not necessarily chart topping, but might not go over so well with certain segments of the population today. Since music is a representation of the attitudes and emotions of a society, the themes in these songs fit the time that they were released, but, as societies always do, change makes the themes and concepts of the songs on this list the proverbial fish out of water. And for some of these songs we are grateful of that.  For this list, we’ll be looking at songs that had their run in either the social consciousnesses or on the charts.

#13 I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself (1972)–Elton John

Checking in at lucky #13 is a depressing topic. Suicide. But for Americans, this one is a double edged sword. One the one hand, suicide is viewed by nearly three-quarters of American’s as “morally wrong” in a 2010 Gallup poll with only 15% saying it was “morally acceptable.” However, doctor assisted suicide shows a truly divided America with 46% of Americans saying that it was “morally wrong” and an equal 46% of those polled saying hooking oneself to a mercy machine is “morally acceptable.” We suppose the message here is that mopey teenage angst songs about cutting doesn’t… well, cut it, but sing about terminal life choices and you might just set your music career on a terminal destination.

#12 God Bless the USA (1984)–Lee Greenwood

“God Bless the USA” charted at No. 7 in Billboard’s Hot Country Singles in 1984 and for good reason, Americans in the 80s were all agog about America. However, that patriotism has dwindled, despite the song reaching No. 16 on the Pop Chart in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 disasters. For the younger generation, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free” just is not something they would agree with. According to Pew Research, only 32% of Millennials agree with the idea that the U.S. “is the greatest country in the world.” Compare that with the Silent Generation (born between 1925-1945) with 64% of that group saying that America is the best. A Gallup poll found that only 54% are “extremely proud” to be an American with 43% under age 30 agreeing to that.

#11 Johnny 99 (1982)–Bruce Springsteen

Only Bruce Springsteen could take unemployment, poverty, robbery and murder and turn it into a rockabilly song. In “Johnny 99”, a young auto worker gets laid off, gets drunk, and kills a man. When he is sentenced to 99 years in jail, young Johnny asks to be executed instead. When Bruce wrote this song nearly 70% of Americans favored capital punishment, however, that number has declined significantly and again is a divisive subject for Americans. Currently, only 55% of Americans agree with Johnny 99’s death wish (for murderers) with just over a third of Americans opposed to capital punishment. Be careful what you wish for Johnny, you might get your hopes up.

#10 Whistle While You Work

If you’ve been to any number of southern plantations and taken one of their tours, you may have heard your guide tell you the story of the “whistle walk.” Basically, since the kitchen was separate from the main house, the slaves were ordered to whistle while they walked (or in some stories, while they worked in the kitchen) so that they couldn’t sample the food. Historians have found this tale to be somewhat apocryphal so we can discount this aspect.

However, this does not let the famous mouse off the hook! When Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was first released in 1937, society had very distinct attitudes towards the roles of women and men. Namely: Women stayed home and men went to work. Disney’s first princess was more than content to sweep up the messy house; cleaning up after the new men in her life. Thirty years later, almost 50% of mothers with children under 18 were stay at home mothers. That number has decreased to 29% today, and that’s with 55% of women agreeing that it is better for children for a parent to stay at home. And if that wasn’t bad enough, mothers trying to re-enter the work force are often seen as less competent and committed than non-mothers. Worse still, there is a stigma surrounding stay/work-at-home mothers as either lazy welfare queens or Stepford Wives that resemble The Walking Dead zombies rather than engaged spouses. While it might be motivating to whistle a little tune while you work, just don’t suggest that others do so too.

#9 I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (1987)–U2

Unlike a few of U2’s songs like “40” off of War that are clearly religious in nature (the song pulls its lyrics from Psalms 40), “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a subtle overture to religion and faith. For the Joshua Tree, U2 branched into “American” music and gospel specifically and no where is a better example of this found than with “I Still…” For a mega band like U2 to dabble in religious themes is one thing, but America’s attitudes toward faith and religion is on a slow decline and may not resonate with the same audience. According to a Pew Research survey more Americans are identifying themselves as being atheist, agnostic, or no religion; this is especially true among Democrats and Independents (28% in 2007). This is despite the fact that 83% of the respondents agreed with the statement: “I never doubt the existence of God.” U2 may be able to infuse their music with religion, but that theme is slowly fading from both music and society.

#8 Wives and Lovers (1963)–written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David; performed by Julie London, Jack Jones, Wayne Newton, Frank Sinatra, among others

How can you go wrong with a song that opens:

Hey little girl, comb your hair, fix your make up, soon he’ll open the door.

Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger, you needn’t try anymore.

What is the difference between a married wife and “little girl” after all? The song is a tidy list of things that a good wife should do for their husbands in order to maintain a wonderful home. We’re wondering if Mr. Bacharach and Mr. David had a copy of Edward Podolsky’s 1943 book Sex Today in Wedded Life open beside them as they wrote this song. “Don’t bother your husband with petty troubles and complaints when he comes home from work,” Podolsky admonishes. “Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego (which gets bruised plenty in business). Morale is a woman’s business.” Based on the song, we don’t think Bacharach and David would disagree. Though we dare you to try and sing this to your wife today, but if you do, FTKC is not liable for the damages. Better yet, make this your first song at your wedding reception!

#7 America (1984)–Waylon Jennings

The first of two songs titled “America” on this list, it would seem from the music industry that this is a pretty darn good country with a lot to be proud of. When Waylon Jennings sings “Well, I come from down around Tennessee/But the people in California/Are nice to me, America” and “And my brothers are all black and white, and yellow, too” it sounds like one wonderful family that is our great nation. But not so fast. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans feel that America has become more divided over the last decade, and that we are more divided now than any other time in recent history save the Civil Rights era. Sadly, 20% of Americans feel that going forward the U.S. will remain united as one country. While you may want to think that coming from Tennessee to Californee you will find people that are nice to you, you may find just the opposite.

#6 Over There (1917)–George M. Cohen

Propaganda be damned this is still one fun ditty, but it’s message has become outmoded in our recalcitrant almost isolationist society. Written by George Cohen, who would later received a Congressional Gold Medal from FDR for this and other songs, “Over There” had one simple purpose: Foster national pride and unity among men able to serve in WWI and get them to enlist. However, the notion of sending our troops “over there”–nicely vague–has lost favor among Americans today. True, a vast majority of Americans–nearly 80%–believe that the military contributes a lot to society, only a tiny majority of those who could have actually served since 9/11; a paltry 12% of American men in their late 20’s post 9/11 have spent time in our armed services. And sending them “over there” is not something Americans want to see anymore. Even to defend Israel should they be attacked–53% of Americans are opposed to sending troops in that situation. Since the Vietnam War, Americans have become more and more leery about the use of troops abroad. So, unless you are North Korea or Iran (two countries who surveyed Americans really do no like or trust), you probably do not have to worry about American troops coming over there any time soon.

#5 America (1981)–Neil Diamond

The second song on this list called “America”, this song is catchy as hell, and more than a little inspirational. Neil Diamond’s 1981 ballad of immigrants reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and could very well be the new inscription on the Statue of Liberty. With lines like “Got a dream to take them there/They’re coming to America/Got a dream they’ve come to share” you cannot be anything but patriotic and hopeful. However, the immigration issue has become contentious, if you’d believe some Republicans, and “America” might not be seen as such a wonderful song. Post 9/11, Clear Channel listed “America” as one of the songs that couldn’t be aired. According to a Pew Research study, attitudes towards immigrants is split across party lines with 63% of Republicans saying that immigrants are a burden on society while 62% of Democrats feel that immigrants strengthen society. In 2013, Reuters found that 30% of Americans felt that most illegal immigrants should be deported while 23% felt that all illegal immigrants should be deported. So, before you break out your best sparkly, blue glitter suit from the ’70s and bust out singing, know your audience.

#4 Gimme Back My Bullets (1976)–Lynyrd Skynyrd

Before music purists get on us for this song, please allow us this disclaimer:

“Gimme Back My Bullets” is not about guns and ammunition, but rather about the “bullets” that appear before a song on the Billboard list indicating that the song is rising in the charts. Lynyrd Skynyrd is singing about wanting to get back up on the charts.

Now, for the reason this song makes our list. There were any number of songs that we could have chose for this topic and place on our list, and we almost went with “Janie’s Got A Gun” by Aerosmith. However, though the song is not about ammunition, the title gets people talking anyway, especially about gun control. In the wake of the recent school shootings and other violent rampages utilizing guns, gun control is about as radioactive a topic as the trees around Chernobyl. Everyone from the President to Girl Scout leaders are talking gun control, gun safety, and what America should do with guns in general. There are those defending their rights under the 2nd Amendment and those who say, “Fine, you can have your 2nd Amendment rights with 2nd Amendment era guns. Have fun shooting your muzzle loading Long Rifle.” Gun control/Gun Rights is an incredibly divisive topic in America today where 47% of Americans currently support gun rights while 50% of Americans support gun control. And the gun control group’s numbers have sharply increased since December 2014. Broken down by party affiliation, one can see how radically divided Americans are on this topic: 73% of Democrats support gun control vs. 26% of Republicans, while only 25% of Democrats support gun rights vs. 71% of Republicans. Tread carefully about singing (or talking) about having a gun, using a gun, or wanting your bullets back. (percentages accessed on 10/22/2015)

#3 (You’re) Having My Baby (1974)– Paul Anka with Odia Coates

We’re not sure if Paul Anka missed the memo that the Feminist Movement was reborn in the 1960’s and in full bear by the 1970’s or that the Supreme Court had just ruled on abortion in the Roe v. Wade (1973) decision a year prior to his release of a surprising #1 chart topping hit, but, either way, Mr. Anka went out on a limb in writing his love song to his wife and four daughters. Though Rolling Stone magazine trashed the song as overly sappy and sentimental, it really earned its venom from feminists just based on the title alone. Nothing says misogynist better than you’re having my baby. Not our baby. My baby. The National Organization for Women gave Mr. Anka their ignominious “Keep Her In Her Place” award for lyrics like “what a lovely way of saying you love me” by having my baby. Ms. magazine awarded Anka their “Male Chauvinist of the Year” prize.

But that’s not the worst of it. Despite the hot button issue of abortion, Anka went ahead and wrote

Didn’t have to keep it/Wouldn’t put you through it/You could have swept it away from your life/But you wouldn’t do it

In one fell swoop, Anka managed to ruffle the feathers of both the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice camps in 1974. The Pro-Life audience felt that Anka was trivializing abortions, while the Pro-Choice listeners felt that he was demonizing those who chose abortions. With 38% of Americans feeling that abortion is “morally acceptable” and 50% saying it is “morally wrong” only gay and lesbian relations and doctor assisted suicide are more controversial topics. So, if you are going to sing about abortion, try to do it with a little panache and take a cue from Mr. Anka and tick off everyone while you are at it.

#2 I Shot The Sheriff (1973/1974)–written by Bob Marley, charted with Eric Clapton

Saying that tensions between society and law enforcement are high right now is like saying that islands are surrounded by water. Since the Ferguson unrest in 2014, or maybe since Rodney King in 1992, or the riots in NYC over Clifford Glover’s death in 1973, or possibly since the death of Nation of Islam member Ronald Stokes in 1962…. or, well, okay, it’s been going on for a while. And the dynamics of this argument are as simple as black and white. From there, everything turns a murky gray depending on which side of the argument you lie. Debates abound along cultural, societal, politically motivated, and behavioral lines, but what is clear is that the tensions between society and law enforcement are not easing any time soon. For blacks, only 16% felt that relations between police and minorities will improve in 2015. And it does not get any better among whites where only 21% feel that relations will improve. In fact, 52% of blacks and 34% of whites feel that things would get worse in 2015. In an April 2015 Economist/YouGov poll only 11% felt that the police were more honest than most people, 61% about the same, and 24% felt they were less honest. Though relations appear bleak and honesty is teetering, for the majority of Americans their confidence in the institution of law enforcement remains high and people show more faith in our police forces than most other public institutions. So, while fringe groups may be chanting “What do we want? Dead cops!” and “Arms Up, Shoot Back”, society as a whole may not be ready for you to go off and shoot the sheriff lyrically.

#1 N****s Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha! (1916)–Harry C. Browne; AKA “The Ice Cream Truck Song”

Note: This song is ridiculously racist. We know there are sensitive people who may be reading this, but this is a part of our nation’s history so read at your own caution.

The song link below contains no lyrics. In fact, you’ve probably heard this song nearly every day growing up during the summer.

Minstrelsy. If you are not familiar with this style of music, you are not missing much, but as it is a part of our cultural heritage, a brief history: Though minstrelsy shows existed prior to the Civil War–as evidenced by the popular song “Jump Jim Crow” in the early 1830s, they really took root in American society on the eve of the Civil War and during the Antebellum years and served as a humorous and exploitative look at the struggles of blacks during Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the early 20th Century. Often, white performers would dawn black face and adopt pathetic or feeble black characters in order to uphold white superiority in a post-slavery society, and help reinforce negative, often damning, stereotypes of blacks in America. We chose this song to represent the entire genre because of its familiarity. And then it went away, but not after leaving a dark legacy of stereotypes and caricatures of black society. Here’s to hoping it never comes back.

If you can’t see the stereotype in Harry Browne’s lyrics, we are not going to spell it out for you. Warning: The following link is to the song by Harry Browne

But before you start putting nails in the tires of ice cream trucks and hunkering your children in your basement as the catchy tune slowly reaches a crescendo with the languid approach of the neighborhood ice cream truck, we need to clear up a few things.

  1. Yes, Browne’s lyrics are horribly racist and one of many songs that minstrelsy has brought to society through the years. And we are glad the genre died in the early 20th Century.
  2. No, Browne did not write the music. That was around since the early 19th century in the form of the widely popular fiddle tune “Turkey in the Straw” and that may have been based on an old Irish tune called the “Old Rose Tree”. Neither of which are racist, derogatory, or spiteful in anyway.
  3. “Turkey in the Straw” was still a popular fiddle song in the early 20th century when Browne used the music for his song.
  4. You can find the tune “Turkey in the Straw” in cartoons ranging from Disney (Donald Duck loves playing this tune), to Warner Bros. (Foghorn Leghorn or any time animals are key to the plot), to the Animaniacs (those of you who had children in the 90s, or were children in the 90s). Here’s a link to Wakko Warner of the Animaniacs singing all the States in America to the tune

It would be a stretch to say that the ice cream man, or any ice cream company is blatantly racist because they use the tune. So, let your children out of the basement, let them whistle the tune, and be sure in your knowledge of history and where it has taken us.

Do you agree with the list? Do you think that there is a topic or theme that warrants a place here? Let FTKC know. Follow FTKC for more Dirty Dozen lists and other perspectives on society and history.

 

 

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Breaking Down President Obama’s Immigration Speech–20 Nov. 2014, Part II

Obama: Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already had live in our country. I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day….[purposely skipping portion] Now here is the thing. We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Breakdown: This is where the President steps into murky waters. On the one hand, he is appealing to the segment of America that uses the term illegal immigrant while, on the other hand, tries to mollify those that use undocumented immigrant. He says, “Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws.” Then he says, “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children.” According to Title 8 Section 1325, anyone entering the United States without proper inspection has committed a crime. It is a misdemeanor. He is correct in saying that they broke the law. That these immigrants do not have documents matters nothing.

Every person here that has either overstayed their visa or are considered “Entry Without Inspection” (EWI)–the technical term for crossing the border illegally–has a Federal Criminalcriminal misdemeanor on their record. If these people are expected to pass a criminal background check, they will fail. A misdemeanor is a misdemeanor. Adrian Peterson is suspended without pay for a misdemeanor. I do not wish to get into the argument of spanking or not spanking your child (switch or not), but want to point out that he is without pay until at least April 15, 2015 for a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor DUI is enough to cause you to not gain employment when your background is checked; your admission to a university, or scholarship could be withdrawn or not given. Source. According to a Time Magazine article, something as seemingly innocuous as a misdemeanor driving with a suspended license “can trigger the same legal hindrances, known as collateral consequences, as felonies.” Source.

In this light, not a single illegal immigrant would be able to pass a background check. The President acknowledges they committed a crime, but is that crime enough to warrant their denial to access to his plan?

If the answer is no, then is the President attempting to re-write a law that he says these immigrants broke? Is the Federal misdemeanor of EWI to be ignored? If so, what other misdemeanors are to be ignored? Should Adrian Peterson be reinstated immediately and his private life ignored? Should a person with a DUI be allowed to operate a bus for a local municipality?

If the misdemeanor issue was not messy enough, Obama then says, “Felons, not families.” According to U.S. Immigration law, anyone who was deported from the United States and then attempts to enter is guilty of a felony crime. How many of these parents fall into this category? How many fathers tried to come to the U.S., got caught, were deported, came back in and started a family? The question becomes complicated again. Which felonies are okay and not okay? Can we pick and choose which laws we are going to obey and not? President Obama would argue, from this speech, that we cannot just pick and choose. “We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules.” So, in this light, a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor and a felony is a felony. These immigrants cannot pass a simple background check.


Obama: Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying isgetoutofjail we’re not going to deport you. I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it’s the not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today. Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty, leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary it to our character. What I’m describing is accountability. A common sense middle- ground approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

Breakdown: The murk gets thicker here, however, there are some truths that should be acknowledged: Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary it [sic] to our character. Mass amnesty would grant certain rights to people that as a society we would deem unfit for our nation–felons, gang member, etc. Mass deportation would be akin to herding cats and has the danger of also rounding up people who are in the U.S. legally.

Unfortunately, when the President says that it is not amnesty, it is. Amnesty is defined as:

1. a general pardon of offenses, especially political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.

2. Law. an act of forgiveness for past offenses, especially to a class of persons as a whole.

3. a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense.

Obama admits that these immigrants are breaking American law. Then we are giving them a means to “get right with the law.” We are forgiving their past offenses, especially if we are to ignore the misdemeanor EWI in their background check. But, the President is correct when he says that the real amnesty is our current system. Though we are not forgiving past offenses, we definitely are overlooking them. But this applies to both the immigrant and the employers hiring them.

One sentence in Obama’s speech leads to a possible conclusion that the President is not sure that his policy is even legal: Only Congress can do that. In this one statement, the President is admitting that Congress has the legal authority to write immigration law. Though he states that his policy is not intended to grant citizenship or right to stay permanently, there is little in either his speech or Senate Bill 744 that deals with people who opt out of the program.


Obama: The actions I’m taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

Breakdown: If the President is going to use the playground rule, “He did it, so can I” then he better use it correctly. Saying that previous presidents used Executive Orders to get things done is like lighting a short fuse on a bomb glued to your hand. Just because other fdr_signing_9066Presidents used an executive order does not make it a good policy. In 1942, FDR issued Executive Order (EO) 9066 which made it possible for the U.S. to send thousands of American citizens of Japanese decent into internment camps scattered throughout the American west. George W. Bush took the EO powers to frightening level with EO 13233 effectively throwing government transparency out the door, and Bill Clinton’s EO 13107 made it so the Executive branch could enforce UN treaties within America without Congress’ consent. This is what happens when one person rules unchecked.

Another problem with the President’s claim that other’s before him issues EO’s regarding immigrations is fraught with half-truths and distortions. If we go back a half-century there are three examples of a President using EO’s in dealing with immigration. In 1956, President Eisenhower used EOs to expand the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Refugee Relief Act whose quotas prevented adopted children of Americans working internationally to bring their children home with them. In the same year, Ike used a provision within the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act to grant close to 32,000 Hungarian war refugees temporary admittance into the United States. In 1960, he used the same law to aid Cuban refugees. None of these actions used EOs to create new laws, but worked within the bounds of ones already established.

One of the biggest issues with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was that it was intentionally vague on the status of mixed eligibility families. At the urging of Congress, Reagan used his EO powers to fix this problem for some 100,000 families. In 1990, George H.W. Bush used his EO powers to scrap the Reagan EO and created a means for not only the children ignored in the 1986 Act to be secured, but also the spouses of these people. Though somewhat similar, neither Presidential EO acted independently of Congress as President Obama is threatening to do. You can read more on these at FactCheck.org.


You can read Part III here

Breaking Down President Obama’s Immigration Speech–20 Nov. 2014, Part I

I thought I’d step away from focusing on the past to glean lessons for today and spend some time breaking down President Obama’s immigration speech given on 20 Nov. 2014. I am using the transcripts provided by the Washington Post.

color-anchor-babies-webAs a point of full disclosure, I am a child of immigrants. Technically, I am an anchor baby. My parents are here under their resident green cards. They moved to the United States because of an illness that my sister suffers. Doctors advised my parents to move my sister to a dryer, warmer climate in order to help her health. They settled in Los Angeles because my uncle immigrated a number of years earlier and they would have family nearby. Their other option was Australia. There were times I wished I was an Aussie.

My parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1970. They applied for immigration in 1969 and were told it was up to a seven year wait. That is, unless my dad volunteered for Vietnam. My dad was a Lieutenant in the Royal Dutch Air Force and said, maybe naively, “Okay.” They were then “fast-tracked” immigration, but when they arrived in the U.S., the military told my dad that only citizens of the U.S. could be officers and that he’d be a grunt. Before they arrived, my parents had to provide the United States government with a list of family and friends who were interviewed and asked questions regarding my family’s health and political nature. In the height of the Cold War, the U.S. wanted to make sure no one in my family had communist ties. With a family newly arrived and a daughter who was sick he ended up not serving. My family signed all the affidavits that said they’d not be dependent on the government for support, that they had medical insurance, and had a job or a sponsor that could vouch for a job in the near future. The government was even kind enough to give my mother a middle name since she didn’t have one–the letter “X”.

I will be using the term “illegal” to describe immigrants for no other reason than because in the world of black and white, legal and illegal, these immigrants–either the overstayers or the border crossers–are in violation of U.S. Immigration Law and broke the law, something that the President agrees to in this speech.

So, let’s break down the speech.


Obama: But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules.

Breakdown: This line brings up one thing that we hear quite a bit: Immigration Reform. Really, the immigration system is not broken. We have laws on the books. “Immigration 800px-US-border-noticeReform” implies that these laws are broken and need to be fixed, reformed. This isn’t true. The President is bringing up the fallacy of immigration being broken. It is the enforcement of immigration laws that is broken. Whether it be companies hiring workers that do not have permissions/rights to work here, to the perceived blind eye to immigrants here in violation of the laws, or just the nomenclature around the immigration: Illegal vs. Undocumented. The second part is true. There are many, my family included, who abide by the rules. My parents just paid their $450/person to renew their legal residence of the United States. Since I’m an anchor baby, I say that they should ask that this money be reimbursed to them.


Obama: It’s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven’t done much about it. When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders.

Breakdown: In 1986, Congress put the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration Bill on President Reagan’s desk. And, yes, to those who say, “Well, Reagan brought in 2 million illegal immigrants”, he did sign it. However, this was not an Executive Order. This was a C37895-16bipartisan bill sponsored by Romano Mazzoli (D-KY) and Alan Simpson (R-WY) and was worked through by the bipartisan Commission on Immigration (and here’s that scary word again) Reform. The hope behind this bill is best summarized by Sen. Ted Kennedy when he said, “This amnesty will give citizenship to only 1.1 to 1.3 million illegal aliens. We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this.” When the President says, “And for decades we haven’t done much about it” I wonder why. We were supposed to never have an amnesty bill again. It goes back to the notion that the laws are suspect. They aren’t. The enforcement of them is.


Obama: Today we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Breakdown: In this piece, Obama is trying to take credit for something that isn’t really his doing–of course, this also depends on your perspective of how the President has handled the economy. In 2007, the U.S. fell into a deep recession. This recession made the job opportunities that illegal immigrants sought harder, or near impossible, to get. The sluggish economy made for a snail’s pace immigration to the U.S. One thing that it didn’t do, however, was turn the tide of migrants back to places like Mexico. One odd fact was that during the recession, families in Mexico were sending money into the United States. So, when Obama says illegal immigration is at its lowest levels since the 1970s and that those are facts, he’s right. But what he isn’t telling you is that these numbers have nothing to do with his immigration policies, but rather the impact the weakened U.S. economy had as a draw for immigrants to come to America. Source


Obama: Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix. And last year 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Breakdown: Here’s a link to the Washington Post that highlights the “key provisions in the Senate Bill”. The President isn’t far off when he says that it isn’t perfect, but it was a step in the right direction. The fees that immigrants would have to pay are on par with what my parents pay to renew their green card. The idea of “back to the line” (illegal immigrants have to have been here for 10 years and all legal immigrants have to be processed before their application is processed) should appeal to even the strictest immigrant “reformer”. But there are flaws. Generalizations are bad. Generalizations in the hands of politicians are dangerous. The President’s bill stipulated that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for most federal benefits, including health care and welfare. What about aid given to groups like La Raza that would turn around and use their money as a form of welfare? The loopholes need to be closed. The word “most” needs to be erased and a clearly defined list of what can and cannot be received needs to be written. One issue with the bill is that it is still amnesty which we weren’t supposed to have. It flies in the face of law. It is understandable that we are dealing with people, but there is still a black and white line here. According the PEW Research Center 55% of immigrants in this country illegally are considered Entry Without Inspection which is a misdemeanor under Federal law. What the President is having issue here is what is and isn’t a misdemeanor. I will get into this more later. With regard to the President’s last statement here are the CBO’s numbers for Senate Bill 744. Economic Impact. CBO revised score after increased Border Patrol Amendment.


Obama: First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over. Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders proposed.

Breakdown: In this case, we need to look to the past: The Berlin Wall. In 1961, East Germany erected a concrete barrier with a lethal no-man’s land to isolate the small island of freedom buried deep behind the Iron Curtain. In 1961, prior to the Wall’s construction, 8,507 people escaped the GDR into West Berlin. After the Wall’s construction that numberGrenzdurchbruche_en fell to approximately 2,300 per year for the rest of the 1960s. As the NVA and Stasi studied escape attempts, the Wall’s weaknesses were further secured and the number that crossed in the 1970s fell to approximately 830 per year. By the 1980s, that number was reduced to 330 per year. Even something as formidable as the Berlin Wall proved to be porous. No matter the number of men and women patrolling the border, no matter how tall the fence, there will still be people finding a way over, through, or under the U.S. border. And we are talking about a concrete wall, patrolled by vicious dogs, with armed soldiers that had shoot to kill orders, not the fence we are trying to put up, and it was still imperfect. Proponents of increased border patrol presence will tout the numbers of apprehensions and deportations as a sign that additional spending and agents is a good thing. However, a 2010 Congressional Research Service report shows that this trend does not hold. Below is a graph from this report that illustrates that the population of illegal immigrants operates separate of apprehensions. If apprehensions were impacting immigration then apprehensions and the illegal population should decline together.

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As to the President’s second point, the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning, progressive think-tank, has this to say: “Immigration policies that facilitate large flows of guestworkers will supply labor at wages that are too low to induce significant increases in supply from the domestic workforce.” Source. This may not be a positive immigration plan in light of an economy that is still struggling to get college educated workers employment in the fields they studied in.


 

Click here for Part II–Breaking Down President Obama’s Immigration Speech–20 Nov. 2014