Most folks and your faithful servant, had the utmost confidence in Mr. Bush and Mr. Vicente Fox’s commitment to improve relations between our two countries. Mr. Bush, sensitive to the growing voter population of Hispanics and a Mexican daughter in law in the family, seemed very willing to improve conditions in the U.S. for Mexican immigrants.
Vicente Fox, former Coca Cola executive, aggressive free marketer and fluent in English, captivated Washington. Being tall and Anglo in appearance did not hurt. He looked like a Hollywood casting choice to play the President.
These newly elected Presidents, basking in the glow of their respective political honeymoons, had an unprecedented opportunity to chart a new course for U.S. Mexico relations. Unfortunately both leaders got sidetracked. Mr. Bush with September 11 and Vicente with a fiscal “reform”: Huge tax increases and oppressive collection enforcement that has the whole nation genuinely pissed.
The World Trade Center attack, left little doubt that America was unlikely to make entering the country easier. Border crossing for both documented and undocumented folks has become less friendly.
Mexico is a country of “Haves” and “Have nots” and the hope is that greater democracy will provide more opportunity for all its citizens. The U.S. is looked upon as the “land of opportunity” , thus the flood of Mexicanos and Central Americanos across her Southern border.
For poor Americans the future does not bode well either. The poor are getting poorer in America while the rich are getting richer. Forty million Americans are without health care while the number of billionaires increases annually. It is clear to many political observers that the two major parties are effectively serving only the wealthy. The Republican party and “trickle down” economic thinking has a tradition of serving the interests of big corporations. Democrats, on the other hand, have a tradition of representing the little guy; the working man and the underprivileged classes.
In his book, Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips states, “Today, democrats are so busy hustling money they can’t see their souls”. The two parties have become one and the same in their avarice and preoccupation with donor capital. The only difference is that Republicans, especially Bush, favor smokestack industries and energy sectors for mo ney grubbing. The Democrats have become popular with high tech and maintain strong ties to the traditional Hollywood contributors.
The proof that Democrats don’t give a damn about their traditional constituents is exemplified in the lame response to Bush’s energy policy. The shameful control that Enron had in shaping this administration’s energy agenda is a case in point. The Democrats should have blasted the rigging of policy to serve the interests of energy brokers at the expense of consumers and the environment.
If the trend towards disparity of wealth in America continues, it will not help U.S. Mexico relations. Working class Americans will become even more paranoid about immigrants taking their jobs. In Mexico, U.S. and other foreign manufacturers are not impressed with Fox’s new taxes on goods shipped to the United States. The “sucking sound of manufacturers moving South of the border”, that Ross Perrot talked about in his campaign for the presidency, is no longer a viable threat.
The future for Foreign manufacturing (maquiladoras) in Mexico is bleak. Tijuana, home to one half of the nation’s foreign owned plants, has enjoyed zero unemployment for the last five years. That trend has reversed. This month 17 Japanese manufacturers in TJ announced they are moving their operations to Asia. There is now growing unemployment in every sector of Tijuana’s economy..
Vicente Fox deserves much of the responsibility for making Mexico less investor friendly by not advancing two of his campaign pledges: To overhaul a socialistic and antiquated set of labor laws and reducing bureaucratic red tape. His policies, in fact, have created more red tape and increased the costs of doing business in this country.
Fox’s heavy handed new “fiscal reform” places a heavier burden on employers: increased payroll taxes, taxes on exported goods and higher sales taxes. The outrageous gasoline and energy prices, from the state owned petroleum and electric companies, are not helping matters either.
I fear for the millions of young Mexicanos who will be graduating from schools so crowded they operate three shifts a day. They are entering a work world where jobs are getting more scarce. I’m also concerned about working class Americanos who no longer seem to have a political voice in the White House or Congress.
NAFTA has created a milieu in which the economic policies of one partner directly affects the other two. The cynicism that exists in the U.S. and Mexico has brought both countries to the lowest levels of voter participation in history. More Mexicanos voted when they knew elections were rigged to maintain the PRI party’s seventy year autocracy. It is time for new leadership in North America. Leaders that will serve the needs of all Americans in the Americas and not just the rich.