(Note: This is the second segment in a two part series. The first segment noted how sometimes our best intentions merely produce unintended consequences. A national law in the 1850s regarding slavery and another in the 1960s concerning immigration did not play out as their proponents had wished. Do current events contain the seeds of future unintended consequences?...)
While ending the immigration-limiting European (i.e. - white) quota system, the Immigration Act of 1965, in reality, had the opposite, unintended effect, opening the floodgates of immigration to other countries, many from the so called “third world” arena which embodied people of color. Today, 1 in 5 immigrants is Mexican, fulfilling a critical need to perform a whole host of new occupations in the proliferating service industries, while 1 in 4 immigrants is Asian. This places today’s era at the apex in terms of immigrants as a percentage of the total US population. The law is consequently understood to be one of the high water marks of late 20th-century American liberalism, although perhaps not what the Great Society liberals had quite intended.
Latin Americans, or Latinos as they are sometimes called, are the fastest growing ethnic group in the US today. Some look to be white, others black. And they are also all shades of color in between. Defying simple generalization, they are mainly identified as, first, Spanish-speaking and, second, Roman Catholic. Today, Latinos make up about 13% of the US population. It is estimated to be fully 50% by the year 2050. Would Congress still have passed the law had it been aware of the consequences?
In the second decade of the 21st century, it is apparent that the intent of the governing class may be far removed from the reality on the ground in at least a couple of instances.
In 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited. The Court reasoned that to limit that spending would violate the 1st amendment of corporations, which it viewed the same way as people under the law. The ruling was a jolt to those who have been battling to curtail the corrupting influence of money in the political system.
Some say the high court’s decision has created an unwelcome new path for wealthy interests to exert corruptive influence on the democratic election process. But as the 2012 presidential election cycle unfolds, the grassroots political small dollar contributions to the candidacy of the populist President Barack Obama continue to pour in. The Obama re-election campaign seems to be having little difficulty in keeping up with the one percenters who would bankroll its defeat. Is this a case of unintended consequences, for reasons which are not yet altogether clear?
Finally, the US Supreme Court will soon decide on the legality of the new 2010 national health care law (more commonly known as Obamacare), whose passage had escaped every American leader tackling the issue dating back more than 100 years. The plain fact is that a significant number of what estimates project to be the 30 million Americans who will be able to obtain health insurance coverage for the first time under the new law are ordinary citizens of color.
Already, seismic tremors can be felt from a potentially adverse ruling from the conservative US Supreme Court, which some say is itching for an excuse to strike down the new healthcare law. An actual adverse decision, however, has the potential to expand the tremors to the magnitude of a political earthquake. Would it be one with unintended consequences?