Saturday, March 06, 2010

The 60% Solution

During the Haitian earthquake, we happened to be reading, for professional reasons, Gary Willis's Negro President: Thomas Jefferson and the Slave Power, which contains a long section about the Haitian slave revolt. Let's just say that Mr. "All Men Are Created Equal" wasn't a huge fan of the visiting team. "Never was so deep a tragedy presented to the feelings of man," he wrote - referring not to the plight of the slaves but of the unfortunate slaveowners who were dispossessed of them. It's like saying the worst thing about the Holocaust was all the prison guards who lost their jobs when the war was over.

Anyway, the book wasn't about Haiti, but about the US constitutional provision requiring that each slave be counted as three-fifths of a person. Being Northern liberals, we'd always misunderstood this, and found it an outrage: black slaves are only 60% human? But the real purpose for this was to determine congressional representation. Every five slaves, who of course could not vote, counted as three people, and the more people a state had, the more congressional representatives it got. Eventually, there were something like 12 Southern congressmen who existed solely because there were so many non-voting slaves in the South. The outrages wasn't that they were only counted as 60% human - the outrage was that they counted at all.

(Hang, on, we're going somewhere with this.)

We thought of this when we saw that immigration reform is moving back on the agenda, while at the same time the 2010 Census is moving into gear. Since undocumented Mexicans generally work (and often live) like slaves in the first place, why not give them the same deal the slaves had? What if, for the purposes of congressional representation, undocumented Mexicans were to count as 60% of a person? With an estimated 12 million living in the US, that would be worth [12,000,000 x .60 ÷ 647,000] more than 11 whole Congressmen.

Overnight, you'd see their plight improve. Rather than trying to drive the illegals away, states would have an incentive to welcome them - even compete for them. States that complain that immigrants are draining away their resources could wind up with a "Mexican" Congressman sitting on the Appropriations Committee funneling earmarks back home. The immigrants already count as 0% anyway, so they'd gain clout and, unlike slaves who were brought there in chains, they actually want to be in the US. It's kind of win-win.

Now, who do we get to sponsor this bill?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well maybe you could get Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield to sponsor it. He may even be for adding that gay and lesbians should only be counted as 60% of a person as well since they don’t have all the rights as other citizens. Can’t join the armed forces, donate blood or qualify for any of the 1049 federal benefits associated with marriage…. That way he could get the backing of the noisy Catholic Church in both the US and Mexico!
I know PAN Jalisco Governor Emilio González Márquez would jump on board if el arzobispo de Guadalajara, Juan Sandoval Íñiguez says its ok.