So I’ve been away in DC for a few days, mainly on family business. Sorry if I didn’t get to hang out with YOU, but I just didn’t have time.
I did get to speak to Yuval for a while. And he and Pete pretty much agree on this immigration thing. Pete, you’ve been noticing, has developed the rare talent for highlighting the key issues. A policy that takes responsibility for the people who are already here is just common decency. They were often recruited (in my area especially) for manual-labor positions, often for manufacturing jobs that disappeared soon after they got here. There’s no real, American alternative to amnesty of some kind. Guest worker programs are un-American—you Jaffa-ite egalitarians should smite the oligarchs who want to have and expand them. A bill that doubles or triples the number of immigrants coming into our country goes beyond irresponsible in the direction of the insane. We need to have a sensible and very limited immigration program, with a preferential option for those competent to hit the ground producing when they get here. And Pete is also right that any program that’s about “empowering” the working-class immigrants already here has to be complemented by not-big-government reforms attentive to the plight of our working-class citizens these days. For all I know, I may have screwed up some details here. I just don’t have the time or maybe the “skill set” to become an immigration expert. That’s why we pay Pete the big bucks.
I had a couple of discussions—including with THE NEW ATLANTIS guys—about assimilating the immigrants we already have. There are lots of issues, of course. But conversations always return to the huge role public education used to play, but is incompetent most places to play now. I’m all about highlighting the huge cost of abandoning the ideal of civic assimilation, which is, I hasten to say against some conservatives and many liberals, compatible enough with cultural diversity. So to tick off plenty, I’ll even add that the early versions of progressivism were tough love on assimilation, until they got screwed up by vulgar Deweyism and so forth. The old parochial schools also combined civic assimilation with church devotion, of course. But they’re not around in significant numbers any more.
Then I went to an AEI program on how higher education costs way too much for way too little. It was, to my dismay, too much the “efficiency and productivity” line. There’s something to that approach, but a lot against it too. But some telling points were made. Here’s one: One reason so many experts think every American needs a college degree is that our high schools have failed to make ordinary Americans literate. They’re not picking up “the skills and competencies” required to take their places in the workforce. So now we’ve given college “the skills and competencies” job, and on that front, as on others, our colleges are charging way too much while too often providing very little. One reason we’ve been able to handle immigrants and others of humble origins so well is we’ve delivered on the ideal of free public education. Now so many conservatives have given up on that ideal—turning instead to school choice and so forth as the next-best option. And it does seem that borrowing for college is a terrible scam if it’s meant to replace free public education. As usual, I have no solutions here.
When I return to DC as an old guy, I’m filled with nostalgia for various periods in my life. Let me skip over that emo sharing to more manly nostalgia: I was actually strangely affected by the death of that singular actor James Gandolfini. THE SOPRANOS was, after all, the first and probably still the best HBO series, and certainly the one I watched most faithfully. All the experts are saying that Tony Soprano was a psychopath, but we Jaffa-ites know he was a tyrant—a tyrant portrayed perfectly by Gandolfini. I also read that Springsteen and the guys, in honor of that great actor, played the whole BORN TO RUN album. What old nostalgic guy wouldn’t have wanted to have been there for that?
Just like the South is rising to rule America intellectually in some ways, so too is New Jersey. Governor Christie, of course, has been cited as THE authority on the cultural significance of Gandolfini’s death. And in my opinion, at this point, we Republicans should consider him as born to run, if not yet born to win. Most DC experts don’t share my provisional enthusiasm for THAT big (getting less big) man, and there are plenty of good reasons, beginning with his terrible record of judicial appointments. But who else at this point? Some say Ryan, but his screen test didn’t work out that well. Rubio—Pete tells us he’s caved into the oligarchs? Cruz—not making good choices and is clearly far from ready? Just asking.