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Grumpy old man

Once you reach what is inelegantly called "the Medicare birthday," you get to avail yourself of the pleasures of geezerdom.

No more worrying about your career -- you have no career. No more worrying about that trace of gray in your hair -- you're just glad to have hair. And no more sucking up to anyone -- you can actually tell people exactly what you think. In short, you get to be a truth-telling curmudgeon, reluctant to suffer fools and ready to tell 'em to shut up.

Let's start with all the anti-immigration loonies, from former Gov. Dick Lamm to former state Sen. (and present talk-show loudmouth) John Andrews to our own border-patrollin' state Rep. Dave Schultheis.

I know, I know. Those illegals are breakin' the law, they're overrunning the country, they're flooding the schools, they're killing cops, they're breeding like rabbits, they're taking our jobs, they're getting social services for free that we hardworking folks pay for. We need to boot 'em all out and build a giant wall along the Mexican border! Yup, and while we're at it, let's elect Tom Tancrazy (oops, I meant Tancredo) president!

Sure. That's just fine. Let's round up 11 million people, most of whom are quiet, law-abiding folks doing undesirable jobs for lousy pay, and send 'em all south. Who's gonna do the rounding up? The Army? They're busy. The cops? They have criminals to catch. And guess what? Illegal immigrants pay taxes just the way we do. And, most studies have shown, they use fewer social services than their native-born counterparts.

So, we're gonna build a wall? Why don't we wall off Canada while we're at it? Won't work. Unfortunately for those of us who would like to return to an imaginary, immigrant-free past, the prosperity of this nation depends, and always has depended, upon the free flow of capital, goods and labor to and from our shores.

I agree we need a reasonable, enforceable and realistic national policy to deal with immigration, legal and illegal. Mr. Schultheis, Mr. Andrews, Mr. Tancredo: Did you notice who proposed just such a policy? Your own Republican president! So shut up!

Moving on, let's talk about Wal-Mart. Don't you just hate 'em? Those big, ugly stores, paying starvation wages, offering few, if any, benefits, nastily exploiting sweatshop labor in Third World countries, forcing old-style downtown merchants out of business, raping the environment, etc., etc.!

No doubt, it's easy to dislike the Wal-Marties. The company itself is both arrogant and overwhelmingly powerful. It gets its way; if Wal-Mart thought it was a good idea, it'd build a superstore at the site of Ground Zero.

But let's look at Wal-Mart as it is, not as we think it is. We're a capitalist country, and Wal-Mart wins the capitalist prize, simply by offering its goods at lower prices. Not just a few pennies lower -- significantly lower. And not just shabby generics, but everything you want. I go there to buy things ranging from stainless steel stock pots for the kitchen to the obscure brand of toothpaste that every other store in town discontinued long ago.

There are lots of folks who, like me, appreciate the savings Wal-Mart offers. And for all you well-intentioned lefties who think you're protecting the working class from ruthless exploitation, go check out who's shopping some Saturday afternoon.

The working class is there, all right. If being exploited means paying less, they seem to be OK with it. And if Wal-Mart is a less-than-ideal corporate citizen, chalk that up to lax regulation. It's the government's job to create a level playing field, and to prosecute those who violate the law -- and it's doing a reasonable job. To name a few prominent Colorado companies, who would you rather have worked for or owned stock in over the last decade: Qwest, United Airlines, WorldCom or Wal-Mart?

Unless you were a grossly overpaid, book-cookin' CEO, you would have been better off with Wal-Mart. It's just a corporation, striving, like every other, to buy low, sell a little higher and reduce costs. It just does it better than anyone else -- so shut up!

And finally, if you think I particularly like Wal-Mart, or uncontrolled immigration, you're wrong. Things were better 50 years ago, as any boring geezer'll tell you. And if you don't want to listen, just tell us to shut up!

-- johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net

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