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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick

Time For Some Beers

Published January 26, 2018

Just when you think the Washington political circus could not get more dysfunctional, we get a weekend government shutdown caused by partisan refusal to approve a four-week continuing resolution (CR), the provisions of which almost no one in either party objects to. If someone can explain to me what possible benefit that brought to the country, I will buy him/her a case of beer!

Managing a budget process by CR – lurching forward in multiple short-term timing increments because it’s easier to kick the can down the road than to do the hard work we “hire” our elected representatives to do – is no way to run any government, much less the wealthiest, most powerful (economically and militarily) country in the world. There have been a total of 14 federal budgetary CRs since 2000 – one every calendar year except 2004-2006 and 2012. What was clearly meant to be an exception has become the rule, and both parties are to blame. Has this become the only truly bipartisan issue in Washington? If so, then “a pox on both their houses.”

I attended a luncheon recently featuring the Congressman representing our district. While we do not share political affiliation, or similar views on policy, he offered a theory to help explain how we got to this intensely partisan (and personal, and nasty) state of political discourse.

Apparently, sometime during Newt Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker of the House, the concept of the “permanent campaign” was born. In essence, the idea was that in order to retain power through reelection, politicians needed to be constantly in campaign mode. That meant that they needed to spend as much time as possible back home with their constituents, remaining as visible as possible. Which in turn meant they were not in Washington, interacting with and getting to know those with which they had to negotiate.

It is my view, simple though it might be, that it is much more difficult to dismiss, demean, demonize and question the motives of someone you’ve come to know well. Someone you’ve “broken bread” with. Someone with whom you’ve shared a few beers after a long day of tough negotiations.

Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were said to have drinks together at the White House on a regular basis. O’Neill’s son once wrote that they were not close friends, but shared a common goal to work for the good of the country:

“What both men deplored more than the other’s political philosophy was stalemate, and a country that was so polarized by ideology and party politics that it could not move forward. There were tough words and important disagreements over everything from taxation to Medicare and military spending. But there was yet a stronger commitment to getting things done.”

I think the country would benefit from having our elected representatives spend more time with each other socially. If they are willing to do that, I will help start a crowdfunding initiative to pay for the beers!

One more word on the recent government shutdown. The stated reason was the absence of a permanent fix to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) issue resolving the residency and citizenship status of the “Dreamers,” the 800,000 or so individuals who came into this country illegally as children. This became the sticking point notwithstanding the fact that the issue did not need to be resolved until March, and no actual bill existed to be voted on.

I am not a politician, just a businessman. So, I will offer what I believe to be a practical approach to resolving this very difficult problem. It may not be politically feasible, as it would require very significant concessions on both sides (what we used to call “compromise”).

First, I would offer permanent residency (“Green Cards”) and a path to citizenship to all certified Dreamers who would not be otherwise ineligible (e.g., committed crimes). I firmly believe that most of the country would support this.

Second, I would offer a path to permanent residency to other undocumented individuals, subject to certain conditions such as payment of taxes and absence of a criminal record. I think this is the only practical way to deal with the millions of people productively living in this country in the shadows. It bothers me greatly that they committed a crime in coming here or staying here illegally, but deporting them en masse is clearly not the solution.

Citizenship, however, is a much, much more difficult issue. In the minds of many, the illegal nature of their presence disqualifies them from becoming citizens, and there are longstanding and serious concerns that some are cynically using the issue of immigration reform to try to create a new class of partisan voters. I believe that this subject is the “third rail” of immigration politics, and thus that it is likely a successful deal would not include a path to citizenship for this group.

Third, I would modify the “chain migration” policy to cover only spouses and children of those here legally. I believe that this approach would be more humane than eliminating the policy entirely, while addressing many of the concerns about past abuse.

Fourth, I would eliminate the “diversity lottery” in favor of immigration guidelines that ensured those admitted to residency in this country wish to be contributing members of our society living in accord with our rule of law and constitutional governmental system.

Fifth, I would adopt a very serious approach to border security. In my mind, “the Wall” has both physical and less tangible aspects, all designed to restrict entry (both of people and of drugs) to a limited number of access points which can be monitored and managed effectively and in accordance with our national security policies. Without a means to manage future immigration effectively, all efforts to make progress on the other items above are doomed to failure.

How do we get this done in a world of name calling, back biting and 24/7 infotainment? I believe the solution lies in a simple, four-letter word: beer. Domestic or imported.

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