In border cities from San Diego, the largest on the west, to Nogales, to El Paso and Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico, Mexicans are flooding across the border in record numbers today.
They come not surreptitiously or for illegal work or criminal mischief; they are coming with fistfuls of dollars to sweep our store shelves clean of flat screen televisions, Blue Ray players, digital cameras, computers and Nieman Marcus fashions.
While here, they buy food and drink, visit doctors, stay in hotels, take side trips to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World or up the coast to Disneyland, Lego Land and other tourist attractions.
They spend real money earned from national oil sales to the United States, from cars built by Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen plants. Thousands of flat screen televisions are assembled in Tijuana and Rosarito Beach just minutes south of San Diego. Aerospace subcontractors of the largest U.S. companies hum with activity in massive industrial parks of Tijuana, Mexico. That is, companies that survived the great exodus to China ten, twenty years ago.
For a while, it seemed like “Chia” pets would be the only industry left in Baja California, in Tijuana, which the New York Times once called the “Silicon Valley” of Mexico. SONY used to build thousands of brand name television sets in factories all over Tijuana. Two hundred 18-wheel trucks full of SONY televisions were shipped through the border EVERY DAY of the week, Monday through Saturday. But SONY pulled out; China beckoned.
The Los Angeles Times recently published a lengthy article that American firms are returning to Mexico and creating thousands of new jobs like they used to twenty and thirty years ago.
American companies are opening manufacturing facilities every day in Tijuana. It has a large international airport, good roads and trucking facilities, access to San Diego and Los Angeles/Long Beach harbors, rail service from San Diego/Orange and Los Angeles Counties and a highly skilled work force that earns the highest wages of all working Mexicans.
Tijuana has been a boom town many times in the past. 40 years ago real estate developers would come from Mexico City buy land on the city’s outskirts erect billboards selling two and three bedroom tract houses with tiny yards and sell out the entire project without grading the land or building roads. Then water shortages would slow development down then spike up again when the federal government opened up aqueducts from the Colorado River on the east.
Tarpaper shacks covered every square foot of river bottoms and hillsides. Poverty abounded, no? Actually, people were stunned to see brand new pick-up trucks parked in front of those very same tarpaper shacks. Houses couldn’t be built fast enough to satisfy demand. Tijuana streets were paved in “Gold.”
Meanwhile, Mexico passed laws that conformed to American customs duties that allowed American companies to ship raw materials or semi-finished goods to Tijuana where the final products were assembled then returned to the US with customs duties just on the “added value” which meant the cost of the Mexican labor, not on the value of the finished product.
Then companies left for China for cheaper labor. But now that it costs more to manufacture in China than in Mexico, and costs less to ship the products into the U.S., allowing management to exercise real time management of products and designs and labor forces, Tijuana is back; Mexico is back.
At the same time, drug cartel violence along the border has receded and American tourists are returning to Baja California where 250,000 Americans live in oceanfront luxury for a fourth of what it costs just a few miles north in San Diego/Coronado/La Jolla.
Mexico is our third largest trading partner after Canada and China; there is a huge difference between American trade with China and Mexico. China restricts American imports into China and Mexico doesn’t. Mexico buys more from the US than all of Europe, for example.
Mexicans come to shop, to spend money and to enjoy themselves. It helps that the new left-of-center government of the resurrected Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) has increased the Value Added (sales) Tax (VAT) from which the Republic of Mexico derives most of its revenue. Everyone pays when they buy goods and services.
Shrinking birth rates over the past thirty years have contracted the famous Mexican labor surplus, the national population is stabilizing and it is aberrational today to find mothers with 7 to 10 children.
Shrinking labor pools mean higher wages and fewer young men going north for jobs in America. Mexico is growing again.
Other Latin American countries are mired in perpetual poverty, little or no economic growth, lack of free enterprise and in some cases, are failed states run by communists, criminals and/or drug cartels.
Economists generally agree that Mexico is rising fast; they are right. We in San Diego see it every day in our shopping malls.
Contreras’ books are available at amazon.com.
Do you think the Obamacare rollout raises important questions about government mandates, confusion, penalties and just how well bureaucrats can manage complicated issues? It’s not the only one. There are a number of similarities between Obamacare and an energy mandate known as the “renewable fuel standard.”
Just consider: The federal government mandates consumers use both products (health insurance and renewable fuels), because the vast majority of people otherwise wouldn’t. It sets the guidelines for what must be used, and heavily subsidizes the effort with taxpayer dollars. In both cases, the government imposes penalties for not using the product — even if the products can’t be accessed. The government assured us both would lower costs when they obviously raise consumers’ costs — significantly. It is widely recognized that both products could be very harmful, even though the government continually denies it.
Other than that, both Obamacare and the renewable fuel standard work just fine.
In 2005, Congress passed the first renewable fuel standard (RFS), mandating that by 2006, a minimum of 4 billion gallons of renewable fuels, such as corn-based ethanol, be used in the national transportation-fuel supply.
Then in 2007, Congress expanded the mandate to 9 billion gallons by 2008, and 36 billion gallons by 2022. However, no more than 15 billion gallons could be produced from corn-based ethanol and no less than 16 billion gallons from cellulosic ethanol — a biofuel made from organic material such as switch grass and wood chips.
Like Obamacare, very few people would demand ethanol be mixed in their gasoline, so the government mandates it to try to ensure widespread usage.
The government also promised us that switching to renewable fuels would eventually save money (where else have we heard that claim?) — even as the government was pouring in billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize production.
Anyone following the news lately knows that people are having trouble accessing the Obamacare website, which has an increasing number of politicians wondering how the government could fine someone for not getting something that isn’t available. That’s exactly what the government does with cellulosic ethanol.
Since there is none commercially available, Congress lavished $1.5 billion at companies willing to try to develop it. Several tried; all failed.
Cello Energy Corp. of Alabama, for example, was supposed to produce 70 million gallons, but the company went bankrupt in 2010 without producing a drop. At least Solyndra was actually making solar panels.
In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reduced its cellulosic ethanol target from 250 million gallons to 6.6 million, and later reduced its 2012 goal from 500 million gallons to 8.6 million — a reduction of more than 98 percent.
It didn’t help because there was still no commercial production in 2012.
Nonetheless, just because there was no cellulosic ethanol for oil refiners to mix with gasoline didn’t stop the EPA from fining them $8 million for not doing so.
Aren’t you glad the Obama administration doesn’t use that kind of logic with respect to buying health insurance? Oh, wait …
The refining industry filed suit against the EPA to stop the penalty, and last January a federal judge agreed.
There’s more. The government keeps raising the amount of renewable fuel to be used each year, even though U.S. gasoline consumption has been flat. The only way to achieve that goal is to put more ethanol in each gallon of gas, so the EPA has proposed raising the “blend wall” from 10 percent ethanol in our gasoline to 15 percent.
Car manufacturers, though, are complaining that “E15” is too rich for older car engines and could ruin them, which the government seems to deny.
Last month, the Obama administration relented on both health care and ethanol. On Thursday, the president postponed the insurance mandate for a year. On Friday, the EPA proposed its first-ever cut in the ethanol requirement, from the mandated 18 billion gallons to about 15 billion, and to keep the cellulosic biofuel requirement between 8 million and 30 million gallons. Of course, both are only temporary fixes.
If all of this sounds a lot like the government’s effort to impose Obamacare, that’s because it is. Some politicians and bureaucrats have a vision they want to impose on the rest of us — for our own good. Just because their system is impractical, costly and doesn’t work — or may even cause us harm — is not a sufficient reason from them not to impose that vision, and penalize us if we don’t submit.
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Dallas-based Institute for Policy Innovation.
Saturday, Dec. 7
7:30pm—1970s-themed concert celebrating “Latinos/as in U.S. Popular Music” at Cal State LA State Playhouse. Singer, songwriter & musician Mark Guerrero, son of legendary musician Lalo Guerrero, brings his acoustic & electrical sounds to Cal State L.A. as part of the Smithsonian’s “American Sabor” exhibit on display at the college. He will perform many original songs reflecting Chicano, East LA life & culture, including “The Streets of East L.A.,” “On the Boulevard,” “Zoot Suit,” “Orale,” and “I’m Brown.” For more concert information, call the College of Arts and Letters at (323) 343-4001.
Today, Thur., Dec. 5
4-7pm—City Terrace Library Presents A Mobile Film Classroom for Teens. Learn all the latest tips and techniques for filming and editing your own movies. This is a special 3-hour program lead by knowledgeable and professional instructors. The library is located 4025 E. City Terrace Dr. LA 90063. For more information, call (323) 261-0295.
7:30pm— Independent Shakespeare Co. Presents the holiday Classic “A Christmas Carol With Charles Dickens.” Runs through Dec. 22 in the group’s Studio: 3191 Casitas Ave, #162 LA 90039. Performances Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30 pm & Sundays at 2pm. No shows Dec. 13 & Dec. 15. Tickets: $20 Adults, $15 Students. For more information or to buy tickets, go to www.iscla.org or call (818) 710-6306.
Friday, Dec. 6
7pm—Los Poets del Norte, El Merkado Negro and Espacio 1839 present “Yo Soy Boyle Heights” Volume 2, an inter-generational gathering of art & poetry, music, history, cultura, neighborhood chisme y mucho mas! The event is free & open to the public. Espacio 1839 is located at 1839 E. 1st Dt. LA 90033.
Saturday, Dec. 7
8am-12:30pm—Parent Academy at Cal State L.A. to assist parents of first-time freshmen in understanding, participating in their children’s transition to higher education; transition to college life; financing college and more. Location: CSULA Golden Eagle Ballrooms (at the Eastern Ave exit, San Bernardino (I-10) freeway, at the interchange of the 10 and 710 freeways.
10am-12Noon—Affordable Care Act Information Session at the PUENTE Learning Center hosted by US Rep. Xavier Becerra & LAUSD Board Member Monica Garcia. Session will include a presentation and one-on-one counseling in multiple languages. PUENTE is located at 501 S. Boyle Ave., LA 90033. To ensure that you get to speak to a Covered California Certified Educator, RSVP at (213) 481-1425.
2pm—Floricanto Center for the Performing Arts Free Posada/Fandango. Show unites traditions of a typical Posada-piñata, singing of traditional holiday Mexican songs & foods & drinks of the season with the traditions of La Rama and Fandango from the state of Veracruz, Mexico. Admission is free. Center is located at 4232 Whiteside St. LA 90063. For more information, call Floricanto Center at (323) 261-0385.
7:30pm—Santa and the Snowflake at Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights. Santa’s missing! Come help 9-year-old Rickey Gutierrez rescue Santa from the Crystal Blue Snowflake. Based on the book by Ramon Parra. Shows Fri & Sat at 7:30pm and Sun at 5pm through Dec. 22. Tickets: $15 General; $12 students/seniors; $8 children 12 & under. Location: Little Casa, 2009 E. 1st St., LA 90033. For more information or to RSVP: (323) 263-7684, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.casa0101.org
4-9pm—Heritage Square Museum 19th Annual Holiday Lamplight Celebration Sat & Sun. Amidst historic Victorian homes, guests follow costumed characters from the Jazz Age to the late Victorian period, listen to classic Christmas tales, enjoy warm apple cider with tasty treats at the end of the tour. 1-hour tours run every 20 minutes from 4pm to 8:40pm. Reservations required. Admission: adults $30; children 6 & over $15; museum members 25% discount (special terms apply). Not suitable for children under 6. Heritage Square is located at 3800 Homer St., off the 110 Freeway in Northeast LA. To RSVP or for more information, call the box office at (323) 225-2700 ext. 223, Mon & Wed-Fri 9am-4pm.
Tuesday, Dec. 10
6-7pm—Traditional Las Posadas Celebration at the East LA Library. Explore the wonderful tradition with a Posada walk, traditional singing & a post walk celebration. Evening will also include music, refreshments, Santa, and treats for children. The event is free. Library is located at 4837 E. 3rd St. LA 90022. For more information, call (323) 264-0155.
Wednesday, Dec. 11
5-6pm—Create Marshmallow Snowmen at Chet Holifield Library in Montebello. Make out of edible ingredients, then if you like, devour your delicious work of art! This program is suitable for all ages. Library is located at 1060 S. Greenwood Ave. Montebello, 90640. For more information, call (323) 728-0421.
Virgin de Guadalupe Celebration Dec. 11 & 12th at El Pueblo Historic Monument/Olvera Street. Music, processions, and more take place all day on the 11th and continue overnight and all day on the 12th.
Free Used Motor Oil & Used Filter Recycling Event Dec. 14 at California High School in Whittier sponsored by LA County Dept. of Public Works. Exchange used oil for free oil containers, oil filter containers, shop towels, and funnels while supplies last. School is located at 9800 . Mills Ave. Prepare items for drop-off by placing used oil filters in sealed plastic bags and storing used motor oil in leak-proof containers without mixing the oil with other liquids, including water. For more information, call Edna Gandarilla at (626) 458-6536.
Metro Presents: Dr. Pinch and the Pinchtones Swing Music Show at Union Station Friday, Dec. 13 . Enjoy a night of dancing & listening to WWII-era swing music. The group will appear as part of Metro’s program of arts & entertainment at the iconic station, in the former Fred Harvey Restaurant. Free & open to the public. No reservation required. Two 45-minute sets beginning at 6 and 7pm. Union Station Fred Harvey Room: 800 N. Alameda St. LA 90012.
Las Posadas at El Pueblo/Olvera Street, Nightly Dec. 16 to the 24th. Depicts the nine-day journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem with singing, a candlelight procession, and the breaking of a piñata each night in keeping with Mexican traditions. Admission is free. Program runs from 5:30-8:30pm. El Pueblo Historical Monument is located at 125 Paseo de la Plaza, in downtown L.A., across from Union Station. Enjoy great food & shopping while there. For more information, call (213) 485-8372 or visit www.calleolvera.com.
L.A. County Holiday Celebration Dec. 24 at the Music Center Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Choirs, instrumental groups, and dance companies representing the many cultures of Los Angeles celebrate the season with seasonally-themed music and dance. Around 1,500 performers from 35 groups will participate. Free admission. Doors open at 2:30pm, program runs 3-9pm. Free parking at the Music Center: 135 N. Grand Ave., Downtown LA. For more information, call (213) 972-3099 or visit www.lacountyarts.org .
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A 50 percent drop in death rates for AIDS, and drops in death rates for strokes and heart disease, helped Los Angeles County outpace the rest of country in reducing its mortality rate over the past decade, according to study put out Monday.
The death rate in Los Angeles County declined 19 percent from 2001 to 2010, compared to 13 percent nationwide, according to a new report, “Mortality in Los Angeles County 2010: Leading causes of death and premature death with trends for 2001-2010.”
“We’re making great progress against several leading causes of death in the county,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county’s director of public health. “Notable over this 10-year period were a 37 percent drop in coronary heart disease and a 35 percent decline in the stroke death rate.”
Deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease increased sharply, more than doubling from 905 in 2001 to 2,242 in 2010 and ranking No. 5 in the leading causes of death.
“As the baby boomer generation ages, the burden of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to increase significantly,” Fielding said. “More effective treatments are needed, as are programs that support both patients and caregivers.”
Deaths due to HIV/AIDS declined 50 percent, and deaths due to pneumonia/influenza fell 31 percent, according to the study. Deaths from emphysema and other chronic lung diseases were down 17 percent, and deaths due to diabetes fell 13 percent, the study found.
The overall death rate in 2010 was 615 deaths per every 100,000 residents, was 17.7 percent lower than the national average of 747 deaths per every 100,000 Americans.
Death rates among black males were the highest for most of the leading causes of death.
The leading causes of premature deaths – death before age 75 – were coronary heart disease, homicide, suicide, motor vehicle accidents and liver disease.
From texting and talking on cell phones to eating while driving, researchers say distracted driving is a serious public health threat. Though motor vehicle deaths have been declining nationally, a recent study by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that deaths in pedestrians and cyclists are increasing.
From 2005 to 2010, the national number of pedestrians struck and killed by distracted drivers went up from 344 to 500 – an almost 50 percent increase. For cyclists, the numbers killed went from 56 to 73 — a 30 percent increase.
“We’re constantly exposed to distracted drivers. I don’t think there’s a day that I don’t see someone driving and using their cell phone, a lot of times they’re texting,” said Fernando Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor, UNMC College of Public Health. “It’s something that’s pervasive in society. That’s one of the reasons it’s so difficult to deal with.
“It’s not like seat belt usage and securing your child into a safety seat. If you don’t do these things, which now are the social norm – it’s viewed negatively. The laws are stricter. With cell phones, we don’t have that social stigma. Not to mention that distracted driving is more difficult to enforce than other driving safety laws.”
The report, published in Public Health Reports November-December issue, documents trends and characteristics of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other victim deaths caused by distracted drivers on U.S. public roads. The report does not document injuries.
Dr. Wilson believes statistics related to distracted driving may be underreported due to the difficulty of law enforcement proving distracted driving. That in turn makes it difficult to affect policies to curb distracted driving.
“The evidence on policies curbing distracted driving is very mixed and some research suggests policies are just not working – that we’re not really making a dent on distracted driving,” he said. “If that’s the case, we need to think about marked crosswalks, bike paths – the environment that tries to create a separation between pedestrians and bicyclists with traffic.”
Researchers used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System on crashes on public roads in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identifies distracted driving based on whether police investigators determined that a driver had been using a technological device, onboard navigation system, computer, fax machine, two-way radio, or head-up display, or had been engaged in inattentive or careless activities.
Dr. Wilson said the study also found that 65 percent of pedestrian victims of distracted driving crashes were male between the ages of 25 and 64 years old and Caucasian. The victims also were more likely to be struck outside of a marked crosswalk and be in a city.
Bicycling victims were mostly male — 83 percent, between the ages of 25 to 64 years old and Caucasian.
About half of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities from distracted driving occurred during daytime
“People have to be aware that this problem is not going away anytime soon,” Dr. Wilson said. “So when you’re crossing the street or cycling, you need to be cognizant about this new threat to roadway safety.”
UNMC faculty members, Jim Stimpson, Ph.D., and Robert Muelleman, M.D., also collaborated on the study. The study was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Health Law Research program.
USC’s Kevin Downey Jr. (#84) goes up high to try and stop UCLA Quarterback Brett Hundley (#17) who ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns during the victory Saturday night at the Coliseum. The Bruins beat the Trojans 34-14.
Within days of the loss USC announced former assistant coach Steve Sarkisian as its newest head football coach. UCLA also secured its head coach Jim Mora and athletic director Dan Guerrero in a six-year contract extension following the game Tuesday.
UCLA finished the season with a 6-3 record while USC finished at 6-4 making it possible for both teams to play during one of the Championship bowl games, which will be announced next week.