Bloody immigrants

The debate among Americans about illegal immigration is itself a discussion about prices. Critics charge that illegal immigrants lower the prices of natives’ labor by offering to do the job for less. They argue that immigrants impose a burden on natives when they consume public services, like education for their children and emergency medical care.

These arguments are weaker than they seem. Most illegal immigrants work on the book using false IDs, and have taxes withheld from their paychecks like any other worker. They can’t draw benefits from most government programs. And there is scant evidence that immigrants lower the wages of American workers. Some industries only exist because of cheap immigrant labor- California’s agricultural industry comes to mind. Absent immigrants, the farm jobs would disappear too, along with an array of jobs from the fields to the packing plant. We would import the asparagus and the strawberries instead.

Illegal immigrants do affect prices in the United States. One study calculated that the surge in immigration experienced between 1980 and 2000 reduced the average price of services such as housekeeping or gardening by more than 9 percent, mainly by undercutting wages. Still, it had a negligible impact on natives’ wages because poor illegal immigrants compete in the job market with other poor illegal immigrants.

Immigration policy has always been determined by who bears its costs and who draws its benefits. Illegal immigrants are tolerated by the political system because their cheap labor is useful for agribusiness and other industries. It provides affordable nannies to middleclass Americans. This suggests that despite presidential lip service to the need to reform immigration law, nothing much is likely to be done. Creating a legal path for illegal immigrants to work in the United States would be politically risky and could provide a big incentive for more illegal flows. By contrast, cutting illegal immigration enterely would be prohibitively costly. The status quo is too comfortable to bear tinkering like that.

The Price of Everything, Eduardo Porter.


Waste, in fact, confronts us with the same value propositions as anything else. The price we put on it-what we will trade to have it, or have it go away-is a function of its attendant benefits or costs. A bagful of two-rupee plastic bottles is more valuable to an Indian child who hasn´t eaten today than to me, a well-fed journalist in New York. What she must do to get it-spend a day scavenging among the detritus of India’s capital, putting her life and health at risk- is, to her, not too high a price to pay because life is pretty much the only thing she has. She has little choice but to risk it for food, clothing, shelter, and whatever else she needs. I, by contrast, have many things. I have reasonable income. If there’s one thing I have too little of, it is free time. The five cents I could get for an empty plastic bottle at the supermarket’s recycling kiosk are not worth the trouble of redeeming it.

The purpose of this comparison is not to underscore that the rich have more opportunities than the poor. It is that the poor choose among their options the same way the rich do, assesing the prices of their alternatives. The relative costs and benefits of the paths open to them determine the behavior of the poorest Indian girl and the richest American man. These values are shaped by the opportunities they have and the constrains they face. The price we put on things-what we will trade for our lives or our refuse- says a lot about who we are.

The Price of Everything, Eduardo Porter.

In my secret life

I saw you this morning.
You were moving so fast.
Can’t seem to loosen my grip
On the past.
And I miss you so much.
There’s no one in sight.
And we’re still making love
In My Secret Life.

I smile when I’m angry.
I cheat and I lie.
I do what I have to do
To get by.
But I know what is wrong.
And I know what is right.
And I’d die for the truth
In My Secret Life.

Hold on, hold on, my brother.
My sister, hold on tight.
I finally got my orders.
I’ll be marching through the morning,
Marching through the night,
Moving cross the borders
Of My Secret Life.

Looked through the paper.
Makes you want to cry.
Nobody cares if the people Live or die.
And the dealer wants you thinking
That it’s either black or white.
Thank G-d it’s not that simple
In My Secret Life.

I bite my lip.
I buy what I’m told:
From the latest hit,
To the wisdom of old.
But I’m always alone.
And my heart is like ice.
And it’s crowded and cold
In My Secret Life.

The Sin

Francis Xavier Skinner committed a sin.

It was a big sin, he thought,
A whopper,
An Everest of error,
A mortaller, as the man said,
Thinking of the price he’d have to pay when dead.

Skinner said to himself,
By this sin
I have wounded an innocent God.
I, Francis Xavier Skinner, have offended
The God of love.
That same God
Made everything that has been made.
But I have wounded him.

Skinner, a philosophical chap,
Considered it fit
To congratulate himself
On this extraordinary feat.
I cannot impress my friends, he thought,
But I can wound the God of love.
There’s power for you!

And then he wondered,
What has happened to my sin?
Where has my big sin vanished?
Where have all the sins of the world vanished?
Is there a place where they go to hide?
Where does a fugitive sin reside?
Somewhere in hell perhaps
There’s a sin-hospital
Where all the sins go to recover
From their conflict with God.
Do sins get bored and tired?
Do they play scrabble, ludo, draughts or dominoes?
Do they like to lie on the ground like winos
Outside a church on a Sunday morning
Begging pennies from respectable ladies
Whose souls are wrapped in their coats
Like mackerel in newspaper, their dead eyes
Old coins in the light, yesterday’s news
Garbled in their skin,
Earthquakes shuddering in dandruff?
And then, having rested, do the sins get to their feet,
Amble off into the heart of some poor human
Who’ll commit them all over again, as though for the first time,

Adam how-are-you?
And if one sin hurts God
What does he feel like after a million?
In a pretty bad way, I’d imagine,
Licking his wounds
Stretched on the floor of heaven,
Is there any end to this dammed repetition?
My divine arse is bored
By men who have murdered and lied
And thieves and deceived and whores
Ad nauseam.
I am bored. Therefore, I am.
O for a sin
A sin
That will make my heart leap up to itself
My head spin
Down to You
Until I stand in the morning
Of my first creative excitement
On this dear dung-heap of the world

Thoughtful soul that he wad, Skinner wondered
What did that old excited God
Feel like
After my sin.
That shook him, I bet.
That gave him something to think about.

Did it really,
Did my sin hurt
The maker of the grass and the sea
The giver of my every heartbeat
The sweet creator of light
The image-maker in the dark
The fountain of grace and of truth
The first call of the cock in the morning
The last cry of my frightened mind?
Did my sin really hurt

Now that I think of it
I suspect my creator
May well be amused
By my sin.
Skinner, old son, you’re a laughing-stock,
God smiles on the pleasant morning
Frowns in the storm
And if he ever noticed my sin
He was probably touched by its
Smallness, like a little bitchy insult
In a lost conversation.

I wonder, mused Skinner, is it possible
To be anything other than trivial?
Did I create Hell
To flatter my vanity?
How could any sin of mine
Be worthy of that Hell?
Hell is viciously divine!
Hell has such high standards
Thought it is a low dive
Where all the unsaveable baddies
Get roasted alive.
Is all
My sinning
My own refusal to know
I am small?
Is there a sin
That God respects?
He must have respected Adam,
He threw him out of the garden,
But I won’t imitate Adam.
When a sin is original
Imitation is fatal.
Mortal man is a spit in the wind.
Who cares how mortally he has sinned?

My trouble, said Skinner, is
I’m quite incapable of sin
On a honestly damnable scale.
I’m just another dwarfish vain male,
A puny son-of-a-bitch,
A spiritually juvenile offender.
I’ll pray to my maker
To give me the vision
To commit a significant sin.

Dear God,
Give me the grace
To be a true sinner.

I’ll be grateful forever.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Francis Xavier Skinner

Guff and muscle, Brendan Kennelly.

The future

The Future.

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every other living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that’s an order!

Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won’t be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant.

You don’t know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I was the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I’ve seen the nations rise and fall
I’ve heard their stories, heard them all
but love’s the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It’s over, it ain’t going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil’s RIDING crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide …

There’ll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There’ll be phantoms
There’ll be fires on the road
and a white man dancing
You’ll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
coming round
tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin’.

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don’t like children anyhow
I’ve seen the future, baby:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide …

When they said REPENT REPENT …


Bryan: I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

Marko: [after a long pause] Good luck.