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Joe and Jose

Bill Neinast


This a tale of two men.

Joe is a seventh generation American.  He was a poor student and an athletic klutz, so he dropped out of school in the 8th grade.  He took odd jobs as a source  of the few dollars needed for his desires. 

Between jobs, he fathered two children with different partners.  He has no interest in either child and has left their mothers to fend for themselves.

As soon as he was old enough, he found a woman who was eeking out a living as a waitress.  Foolishly, the waitress married Joe and began supporting him as he stayed home to care for their three children in their government housing apartment.

As soon as SSI became available, Joe gamed the system, claimed he was disabled, and began to draw monthly SSI payments to supplement the family income. 

Both of his sentences to jail for family violence were short and he continued to draw his SSI while incarcerated. 

Mom’s wages were reduced by withheld income taxes.  So every January, the couple filed an income tax return to claim their earned income tax credit and refundable tax credit.

Joe is now 65 and Medicare has replaced Medicaid as his source for medical care.  He goes shopping in the $3,500.00 electric mobility scooter he got under Medicare.

Jose, the other man, was born South of the U.S. border.  He completed school in the small, poor village in which he was born and married the love of his life from an adjoining village.  

Working as hard as he could in the rock bottom economy, he was not able to provide the life he wanted for his wife and newborn daughter.  So one day he fixed his daughter to his shoulder, and he and his wife swam the Rio Grande to the promised land.

Jose and his family landed in California where he and his wife began supporting themselves and their daughter with the stoop labor of harvesting row crops.  Initially they lived in squalid quarters furnished by the farmer and did not pay income tax because their labor was “under the table.”  

Eventually, Jose was able to find better paying jobs with landscapers and home builders.  This allowed the family to rent a small house and to buy, maintain, and insure an old beat up truck.

The rent on their new home was high enough to provide the slum lord a profit after paying the maintenance and taxes.  This is where Jose’s wife delivered their next child, a son.

Both Jose and his wife were too old and too busy earning a living for their family to learn English.  Their children, however, in playing with their neighbors and going to the local school became fluent in both English and Spanish.

The daughter is now in her final year of college to become a registered nurse and the son is on duty in Afghanistan as an Army corporal.  He joined the Army to have G.I. Bill assistance in obtaining an engineering degree after his active duty.

So here’s the perspective.

Joe and Jose are obviously composite caricatures.  They may, however, be accurate pictures of many families.

There seems to be little concern about continuing to support Joe and his family with public funds even though their only contribution is through sales taxes on the items they buy that are subject to the tax.  No property tax is collected from the home they occupy, because it is owned and maintained by the government with other taxpayers money. 

For Jose, however, a completely different and illogical attitude prevails.  He earns his own way, pays sales tax when due, and pays property taxes indirectly through his rent payments.  Both of his children are productive members of society.

Nonetheless, in the opinion of some, Jose, his wife, and their foreign born daughter should be packed up and sent back across the border.  Their acceptance of the open invitation to enter the country by the government’s refusal to close both the border and the labor market by not prosecuting employers of undocumented aliens is immaterial.    

Jose and his wife are considered unfit  for citizenship because they committed the misdemeanor of entering the country without a proper permit and, worst of all, they cannot speak English.

Of all the objections to a path to citizenship for Jose, the most ridiculous is the one about language.

I am a third generation American, the first generation in which English was our first language.  I learned German, the language of my ancestors, in college.  

For all those who believe learning a foreign language is a piece of cake, and who would punish Jose for not learning English,  translate this: Das ist lächerlich weil E pluribus unum.