Today, Time magazine reports that the border is “one of America’s safest places,” pointing out that the Arizona’s overall crime rate dropped 12 percent last year and 23 percent between 2004 and 2008. However, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) seem fixated on the right-wing myth that the bloody Mexican drug war has spilled over the border and that violence is, as McCain puts it, “the worst I have ever seen.”
In that vain, Kyl and McCain proposed legislation last night that would direct $701 million towards 1,200 additional Border Patrol agents, 500 more Customs and Border Protection officers, three new border-enforcement bases, grants to support local law enforcement, two drones, and additional resources for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Kyl and McCain’s proposal is almost identical to the legislation recently pushed and passed by Democrats in the House, however, the troubling difference is that they’re proposing to use unspent stimulus money to pay for it:
The legislation we introduced today will provide additional resources to help gain control of our border, without impacting our nation’s deficit. It is our hope that Democratic majority will swiftly work with us to ensure passage of this bill. We also look forward to working with the Administration toward the adoption of our 10-Point border plan, which will provide the additional resources that are so desperately needed by so many living along the border in Arizona.
Repealing what is left of the stimulus translates into taking away money that’s dedicated to middle class tax cuts. The stimulus cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, and there are still $55 billion in tax benefits that have yet to be expended. Pat Garafolo explains that “repealing the stimulus to pay down the deficit amounts to raising taxes on all of those people.”
It would be one thing if Arizona’s economic woes were over and the stimulus funds dispensable. However, the state is still on the road to economic recovery. Though University of Arizona economist Marshall Vest recently declared the recession officially over in Arizona, he also noted that “it will be months before a recovery is evident and years to repair all the damage that’s been done.” Indeed, Arizona is now $10 billion in debt. The unemployment rate is slightly below the national average, hovering at 9.7 percent. Arizona is one of the four states responsible for the top 20 metro foreclosure rates. Meanwhile, CNN reports that the state’s new immigration law, SB-1070 — which McCain and Kyl support — is furthering economic woes. “[A]necdotal evidence from business owners, real estate agents and community leaders indicates the mere specter of the bill [SB-1070] has created a culture of fear among Hispanics in Arizona that’s slowly paralyzing sectors of the economy,” wrote CNN correspondent Emanuella Grinberg.
McCain initially dubbed the stimulus bill “generational theft” in 2009 and criticized it for being “full of unnecessary spending.” Kyl has been on a crusade since 2009 to scrap unused stimulus money, arguing that it’s not working. He’s also fought tooth and nail against extending unemployment benefits because it would supposedly be a “disincentive” to those who can’t find jobs. Both senators criticized the stimulus for containing too much pork. “It doesn’t stimulate, it just spends,” said McCain.
However, while Kyl and McCain appear to think that the stimulus is a failure and a lost cause, economists Alan Blinder and Marc Zandi believe it “probably avert[ed] what would have been called Great Depression 2.0.” The Congressional Budget Office further estimates that the stimulus’ effects on “output and employment are expected to increase further during calendar year 2010″ and predicts that it’ll start fading away in 2012.