Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mexico's Immigration Problem

A lot has been written about undocumented immigrants from Mexico entering the United States and putting a strain on our health care and other public services while often failing to pay their full share of taxes. Less common is an expose of Americans crossing the Rio Grande to freeload off the Mexican people.

But, a few weeks ago, the Star Tribune provided just such a story. It was a profile of one of my favorite musicians, Martin Zellar of the Gear Daddies. Zellar had been a staple of the local music scene since the early '90s. I have been to many of his shows over the years have never been disappointed. Like many musicians, he is also a standard issue lefty and even did a stint as Chairman of the Mower County Democratic Party.

A few years ago, Zellar went into semi-retirement and moved his family to Mexico - mostly to escape the harsh American winters, but there were other advantages:

"The way the economy works down there is perfect for me. There's no mortgage. Everyone buys their houses with cash. The property taxes are really low. There's no homeowner's insurance because it's all concrete, so nothing burns. Financially, it makes perfect sense for a musician."

That does sound like a leftist musician's dream (except the low property taxes part). But that's not all - there is also the socialized health care! This came in handy when Zellar's wife became pregnant while in Mexico:

"I am self-employed, so that means we're self-insured," said Zellar, who still pays U.S. and Minnesota taxes on his local earnings, by the way. "We would have been bankrupt 100 times over if we had been doing all this in the U.S."

Under Mexico's socialized health care services, Carolyn was able to get the weekly sonograms and numerous other tests required by her high-risk pregnancy for about $75 per visit, Zellar said. The delivery, a C-section with several doctors involved, cost only about $5,000. And Zellar swears the facilities, in the nearby city of Querétaro, were "nicer than what we had when the boys were born in St. Paul," and the doctors "unbelievably great."

Another good thing about Mexico: if there had been complications, they were only a short plane ride away from the world's best regarded health care system (no, not that third world St. Paul health system, I'm referring to Cuba, of course).

But who is paying for this world class socialized medicine? Sure, Mexico doesn't have to finance Maple Grove mansions for their fat-cat health care executives, but I'm assuming that even Mexican doctors and sonogram technicians need some money to live on. Zellar clearly isn't paying - he notes that his "property taxes are really low" and all of his income is generated in the U.S. and thus he pays primarily U.S. taxes.

So, the Zellar family gets its health care subsidized by poor Mexican agave farmers because he is too cheap to spend some of his "Zamboni" song money on health insurance for his family.

If Mexico is smart, it will act quickly to shut its borders to freeloading American musicians. Maybe build a wall or something.

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