Monday, April 10, 2006


i told you so, i told you so

truly long-time readers know that i find politics extremely boring. however, coffee is interesting, and as it's the world's second most-traded commodity, it inevitably has political effects due to its economic footprint.

over the years, i suppose you all have grown accustomed to my quirky brand of reportage, but just because i'm idiosyncratic don't make me wrong. the prime example is today's hot political issue: illegal immigration.

even as i write this a large rally is being organized for nyc's city hall today, not mention the many that have occurred around this nation in the past 2 weeks or so. what's interesting is that the debate seems to focus almost exclusively on mexican and central american border-crossers, border-crossers from coffee-producing countries.

no one seems to be mentioning the illegal chinese, irish and eastern europeans. hmm. . .

(of course as a new yorker, i have to say we welcome all immigrants. as a rule, we just don't care how you got here as long as you start working once you do, which to judge by looking at all the messengers, subway musicians, garment-rack pushers, dishwashers, nannies, and delivery people on the streets, they certainly have.)

i've written about this so many times before it's tragic: for example, here, here and here. the so-called "coffee crisis" has led to the loss of as many as 600,000 coffee-sector jobs in central america, according to world bank estimates in 2002.

not to mention all the job losses since,which surely could be an equal number, altho' hard data on this is tough to find. where did all these people go?

they came north, of course, and crossed the border. those that didn't die in the desert or in boxcars have now been living here with us in the u.s.a. for 3 years at least.

what i'm telling is what the so-called mainstream media ain't. what cnn hasn't taken the time to figure out: why so many mexicans and central americans, many of them indigenous, have been forced north in recent years.

while coffee prices have risen a bit recently, and fallen back a bit too, those coffee jobs aren't coming back. the coffee crisis continues and keeps on continuing.

even if those jobs were re-created somehow, the workers aren't going home; they can't.

so they are here, and they will be here. what to do with this large underclass, that's not a discussion for bccy, but i suggest you look at the famed french riots of last year to where long-term neglect of this group will lead.

the discussion to have on this blog is how to prevent the problem from worsening, how to end rural disruption in mexico and central america, how to allow families there to stay together. if this focus on illegal immigration is actually going to bear any useful fruit and not just a short-term bandage that will eventually unravel, combined with pointless political grandstanding, one topic has to be included:

when is the american hemisphere going to get serious about the coffee situation? when are governments going to tackle the coffee crisis and its real causes head on?

of course, one fairly quick stop-gap solution is fair-trade coffee. this gives participating coffee farmers enough income to keep paying their workers, so more workers can stay home with their families.

and because in a market economy, demand creates supply, we have to enforce the minimum-wage laws. as long as employers of all sizes seek a black market in under-minimum-wage labor, the displaced will smuggle themselves here.

so another fairly quick solution is to move beyond just minimum wage to the so-called living wage. living wages will offer the pay incentive americans require to do these jobs.

and this in turn will end the excuse that americans can't be found to do them. once the demand for underpaid, illegal labor dries up, so will the supply.

but that doesn't mean we can then ignore the coffee sector to the south. it must remain a permanent item on america's foreign-policy agenda.

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posted by fortune | 7:35 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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