PRESIDENTS Benigno S. Aquino and Barack Obama walk with a limp – literally and figuratively.
Both are considered lame ducks. Both presidents have another issue hounding them in common: migration.
Wait, there’s more.
The US and the Philippine economies are performing well. But will the statistics keep the last two years smelling like roses?
Growth of the US economy was fueled by “improvement across all sectors including consumer spending, residential and non-residential fixed investment, net exports and government spending,” the Economist reported early last month. “The economy powered ahead in the second quarter by 4.6% at an annual rate, matching the fastest quarterly growth rate since 2006.”
Despite the growth, a US think tank reported that in a recent poll “more than 70% of the population thinks the economy is still in a recession.” Political cartoons towards the yearend illustrate the middle class as being left behind as the gap between the poor and the elite widens. The Public Religion Institute reported that “the unemployment rate is still elevated, millions of Americans are out of work, and the recovery still has some distance left to run.”
In short, the economic tide did not lift all boats in the US or the Philippines. Only yachts and schooners did — rising further to the top. The average motor boats did not sink, but the Juan and Juana de la Cruzes were soaked. And, if the pattern continues, they will be hung to dry.
Across the Pacific, President B. S. Aquino 3rd crowed about the 7.2 percent growth of the Philippine economy in the second quarter of 2014, claiming the achievement as “one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies in Asia” after a meeting with President François Hollande of France at the Élysée Palace, Paris, on September 17, 2014.
Aquino further claimed that the Philippine economy will grow by 7 to 8 percent in 2015 since the country’s 10-million population show a median age of between 23 to 24 years old.
Further, the country has “a world-class workforce – young, educated, skilled, innovative, and dynamic in addition to the nearly 10 million overseas workers who send money home, kept local demand strong, the mall builders happy and showing profit in billions.”
Meanwhile, ordinary workers labor at less than P400 a day, according to the DOLE’s Bureau of Labor and Employment Services as reported by the National Statistics Authority.
Then in a third quarter 2014 survey pollster Social Weather Stations found that “around 12.1 million families considered themselves poor; that 55 percent of respondents considered themselves poor—three points higher than the 52 percent average in the four quarters of 2013.”
While migration is a common concern of both heads of state, Americans – in particular the middle and lower income groups – believe that immigrants contribute to a stagnating employment rate, depress wages and at worse, steal jobs from US Citizens.
Increase in immigrants, decline in US jobs
Last week the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative group favoring sharp reductions in immigration, released a report “purporting to show that all net jobs created in the United States over the past 14 years have gone to immigrants, both legal and illegal. “
Using data collected by the Census Bureau, the report “note that between 2000 and 2014, the number of working-age native-born Americans with jobs declined by 127,000, while the number of immigrants with jobs climbed by 5.7 million.”
“Far more native-born Americans would be working if immigrants hadn’t soaked up all the job growth since the turn of the 21st century.”
10,000 miles across the Pacific, President B. S. Aquino confirms the Philippine government commitment to send as many millions of Filipinos abroad since remittances keep the country’s economy alive and the peso strong.
Incidentally, remittances of Filipinos from the United States outpace those coming from other countries; even if there are more Filipinos in the Middle East than there are in the 50 states.
Of the close to $23 billion remitted by Overseas Filipinos in 2013, almost $10 billion came from the United States. However, there are only 3,306 OFWs in the US compared to 863,152 in the Middle East who remitted $4.3 billion in the same year.
Last two minutes
Both presidents face a future as an ordinary citizen in two years’ time. BO faces a disappointing retirement after being the first Black in the White House. BS, on the other hand, faces the possibility of prosecution for crimes committed while in office. The GMA-chicken coming home to roost.
The Democrats found themselves virtually voted out of Congress. The Liberal party has no viable presidential candidate and is suspected of unleashing the demolition dogs against Vice President Jojo Binay.
The Republicans routed the Democrats in the recent midterm elections that were dominated by criticism of the presidency. Obama is likely to hobble in his last two years in Washington as Republicans take full control of the US Congress.
And what is the Republican’s mantra on immigration?
Republican leader, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio clearly stated the “long-awaited immigration overhaul principles,” as follows:
There will be no comprehensive approach to immigration reform. America’s problems in the immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step common sense approach that starts with securing US borders, enforcing laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures.
Zero tolerance for illegal immigration including those who overstay their visas.
Implement a fully functioning Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System, from admission, during stay until final departure enforced or otherwise.
Workable Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement using technology instead of a paper-based system susceptible to fraud.
Reforms in the Legal Immigration System. Visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow our economy. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.
No special path to citizenship for individuals who break US immigration laws. Permanent residency would be an option but only if they admit violating America’s immigration laws, pass rigorous security and background checks and pay significant fines and back taxes.
Tourist and student visa applicants will continue to be welcome. Those intending to work, however – temporary or otherwise – face an uphill climb.
And a hobbling head of state would not be of much help either.