Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lying liars

Remember California State Sen. Tom McClintock, leader of the conservative vanguard in the state's recent gubernatorial recall campaign?

That's right, the fellow who scrolled the words "honesty and integrity" across the screen in one of his ads. The one whose senior advisor is a Christian Reconstructionist.

Turns out this moral paragon also likes to just make shit up.
A few weeks ago Sen. McClintock wrote an editorial column built around the following irony:

"This year, nearly 7,500 qualified California residents -- who would otherwise be entering California state universities as incoming freshmen -- are likely to be turned away for lack of funds. Meanwhile, approximately 7,500 illegal immigrants will receive heavily subsidized university educations at a cost of between $45 million and $65 million annually at those same universities."

The reality, it turns out, is that no one actually keeps track of how many people "might be turned away" from the state's colleges, and no one knows how many receive the so-called "subsidies."
University and college administrators could not provide more than rough conjecture about the number of students who would receive the exemption when AB 540 was making its way through the Legislature. In part this was because no one knew whether the law would bring out of the woodwork candidates who wouldn't even apply to the UC or Cal State systems if they had to pay the full nonresident freight.

In any event, the numbers floating around were in the hundreds, not thousands.

McClintock couldn't even explain where he concocted these numbers:
So where did Sen. McClintock's statistics come from?

Last week he told me that he thought they came from the Office of the Legislative Analyst, Sacramento's nonpartisan analytical body. But that office says it has never produced any such numbers. McClintock also says he's unsure whether his figure of 7,500 illegal immigrant students includes those at the community colleges; given that there are more than 1 million community college students, that's a lot of wiggle room.

This leaves the possibility that Sen. McClintock seized on the figure of 7,500 because it so handily matches the number of qualified UC applicants denied admission this year because of enrollment cutbacks. The implication, plainly, is that illegal immigrants have stolen opportunities that should go to citizens and law-abiding newcomers.

That's certainly the narrative line that grabs people's attention. "I find it appalling that the illegal immigrant population can get into our university system easier than can the children of people whether legal immigrants or born and bred in the United States," one exercised reader wrote the Daily News.

The trouble is that it's a fabrication.

To begin with, AB 540 doesn't give anyone, illegal immigrant or otherwise, preferential admission to a state university or college. Each has to qualify academically like anyone else. Moreover, McClintock's tally of 7,500 prospective university freshmen "turned away for lack of funds" doesn't cover both UC and Cal State — it refers to an option UC alone has given those students to spend two years at a community college in return for guaranteed enrollment as juniors. Suggesting they were turned away because their slots were taken by "7,500 illegal immigrants," especially when UC has reported granting waivers to no more than 93 "potentially undocumented" students, is slicing the baloney pretty thick.

The fundamental untruth in McClintock's column is the intimation that a subsidy to illegal immigrants helped cause the financial crunch in California higher education. In fact, there is a reason for the fiscal crisis at UC, Cal State and the community colleges, and Sen. McClintock is partially responsible: It's the refusal by the Legislature and governor to close the state's budget gap by levying enough taxes to pay for all the programs they like.

Especially noteworthy is the way McClintock's propaganda panders to an increasingly thick atmosphere of anti-Hispanic bashing on the part of conservative whites in California. For the kinds of results this rhetoric can be expected to produce, see the story above.

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