Two Mitt Romney Ideas

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Whatever else is true of Mitt Romney, I don't think anyone can complain that he's a status quo politician of no creativity. Not everyone is going to agree with everything he comes up with, and one important thing to remember is that you're hardly ever going to hear a perfected, complete idea from a politician running for office that wouldn't undergo serious revisions before it could become an actual policy. But both of the following ideas that Mitt Romney is promoting are at least intriguing and worth exploring.

First, he's interested in a key Republican theme of late, enforcing U.S. borders more fully. But one aspect of immigration law that troubles him is why we're so hard on non-citizens who come to the U.S. to study. Shouldn't we want to retain good students who learn at our universities? So he suggests allowing foreign students to remain in the U.S. upon graduation. I've known several people that this could have helped, and I'm certainly willing to consider what he might come up with on this.

Second, he wants to prevent labor unions from forcing someone to join them merely because they work for a certain employer. I have mixed feelings about labor unions. I don't want to deny the good that's come from labor unions, and I have to admit my current line of work as an adjunct faculty member in higher education is as clear a case of exploitation as can be. Anyone who knows anything about it generally admits that pretty readily. But I very much don't like the idea of forcing people to be members of unions as a condition of maintaining a job. In New York the unions don't have to do this. I can be part of the beneficiary group of a labor union among adjuncts at Syracuse University without having to pay union fees. But I know teachers in public school who are required to pay union fees as a condition of holding their job. That strikes me as immoral, particularly since some people are opposed to labor unions in principle. I don't know a lot about the laws on this issue, but given what I know about unions and what I'd like them to be like, I have to be attracted to this idea.


Yay. Finally some serious talk about Mitt's ideas instead of coverage of inane topics that serve to trivialize him, such as his hair, or his name.

Jeremy, while in general I would not want to take a hard line on immigration, I have a concern which you might not have thought about concerning allowing foreign students to remain after graduation. Often these foreign students, especially those from third world countries who are the ones most likely to take advantage of such an offer, are the cream of their country's young people who have been sponsored to study abroad at great expense by their government or by NGOs, on the understanding that they will return to use their education for the benefit of their own countries. Of course quite a lot of them already find ways to stay. But if they are actively encouraged to stay as Romney seems to suggest, that is to rob their poor home countries of something precious to it in order to gain something which is not much valued in the rich country. It reminds me of 2 Samuel 12:1-6.

I hadn't thought of that. I do agree that that's an important concern, but this isn't taking property from people the way the parable in II Samuel 12 has it, and the subject of the parable is the adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, which involved a marriage vow that David was severing. Is there something like that in these cases?

I think there clearly is when a government pays for the education. Singapore regularly does this, and then the beneficiaries are obligated to work for Singapore's government for a certain period of time. It would be immoral to try to go against that. It's less clear when the government doesn't pay for it but when there's an obligation to serve in the military upon return just because every male citizen does, as is the case with many students who are citizens of South Korea (even ones who grew up in the U.S., as is the case with a friend of mine who spent his entire high school in California, college in NY, and has to keep staying in grad school to stay in the U.S.). Then there are the cases where there's no specific obligation on the student's part toward their home country.

I suppose an argument could be made that students in these cases (or at least some of them) have an obligation to their home country. I guess what you're worried about is that the country they want to stay in might be aiding them in not holding to their obligations. I don't know if that amounts to the kind of stealing in the parable, and I'm not sure it counts as aiding them in doing this in a bad way unless it's also true that we have an obligation to make it hard for people to do that. Do we? That would be like saying David should have made it as hard as possible for anyone to have adulterous relations with Bathsheba rather than just saying he shouldn't do it himself.

So I do think this is an important consideration, and I think it might affect which cases should be allowed more easily and which ones not, but I'm not sure it's a 100% effective argument against what Romney is saying

One interesting thing that seems to be going on here is that we have a conflict between two very different ways to think about ethics. Your point involves a communal model, thinking about the U.S. as a country (in Romney's case) and each other country as a whole. It's about one country's obligations to another. Meanwhile, if you think on an individual basis then you might think it's more about each person's freedom and what a country can do for a person to get out of a situation they don't want to be in. Both are important considerations. The question is which is more important in this case and even which is more the kind of thing a country's immigration laws should be based in. I can see people disagreeing about this while affirming both principles fully.

I just wanted to echo Lizzie's comment.

Jeremy, I agree that this is a case where individual and communal morality may conflict. But let's put the matter into starker perspective with another example of the same kind. The USA probably has about the highest proportion of medical doctors per capita in the world. Some countries have a serious shortage of doctors, contributing to serious problems in their health service and for their national wellbeing. Suppose that hospitals in the USA deliberately recruited doctors from those countries with a severe shortage (and that immigration policy allowed it), not because there was a shortage in the USA but simply because this saves money. Now it might be immoral to bar each individual doctor from accepting such a job offer in the USA. But in my opinion this kind of recruitment would be immoral, on a more communal level. Do you accept that argument? Now Romney's proposal is not quite the same as that, but it does go in the same direction.

I suspect a more practical objection to Romney's proposal is that it would inevitably lead to a huge rise in applications from foreign students, and a rapid proliferation of dubious educational institutions ostensibly offering just enough education to allow their graduates to remain in the country. It would then be necessary to validate such establishments, which would inevitably lead to increased state control of the higher education sector. Now I don't know enough about what controls are already in place. But I know that US "universities" regularly offer me degrees for cash with no study required, and of course it would be necessary to stop their graduates from remaining in the country.

I'm not sure those cases are relevantly similar. One is deliberately courting doctors from doctor-deprived regions. Maybe it depends on what countries he's talking about, but the first places I thought of were not developing countries but countries like Japan and South Korea. Your argument doesn't seem to apply to those countries. It might apply to India and several Middle Eastern countries, where a lot of college students in the U.S. do come from. It certainly applies to many countries in Africa.

I think you've definitely raised issues that would require restricting this, and I'm not sure how best that could be done, but I don't see an in-principle argument against ever doing this kind of thing in a more limited way.

No, I am not claiming an in-principle argument against allowing foreign students to stay. But, looking as I can to some extent from the perspective of those wanting to send foreign students (and who are unhappy when some of them find ways to stay), I am suggesting some cautions about this policy.

The question really is, whether the Department of Labor has the right number on what jobs are in need and what jobs are not, since that basically determines who gets to immigrate on employment based visas.

As for labor unions, the NLRA has been interpreted to make membership in a union a matter of choice but those who opt not to join may still have to pay an agency fee to a different non-profit organization. This right not to join is supposed to be provided up front and is usually done on the form you sign to join the union, in fine print, somewhere on the back side. In states that are not "right to work" though, employers and union thugs regularly misrepresent to employees that their employment is contingent upon their joining the union.

The only thing that determines who gets in is what jobs are available? That's pretty strange. If that's right, then it seems to me that Peter's objection applies to current policy as much as it does to Romney's proposal.

New York is right to work, right? A union guy in New York told me that in some states (he named Virginia) you really do have to join the union to benefit from it. I know that's not true in NY. What I remember being true in RI is that teachers couldn't work in the public schools without being part of the union. Maybe that's changed, though. The union guy I was talking to recently told me that the Bush Administration has different regulations from what was true before.

My wages, benifits for my family & retirement were NEGOTIATED by my UNION.

MITT ROMNEY is Republican this translates into

I am LDS (MORMON), but for me to vote for Mitt Romney would be like a CHICKEN VOTING FOR COLONEL SANDERS.

As I said, I have very mixed feelings about unions. In the spheres where there is severe exploitation, unions can accomplish good things. In other places, they achieve less and at some cost. My real worry, though, is that they seem to conflict with the teachings of Jesus in a way that I as a Christian have an extremely hard time supporting.

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