Life and Census in Banana Republics is Bananas
Saturday at 2:56 pm
In the 1960s I was taught that the US Constitution dictates the Federal Government count every person living within the USA every 10 years. It’s on the Trump Administration’s website: “The Founders of our fledgling nation had a bold and ambitious plan to empower the people over their new government. The plan was to count every person living in the newly created United States of America, and to use that count to determine representation in the Congress.”
Count every person living in the USA. Not just the blue-eyed, or the Trumpers, not just the citizens, but every human being. Foreigners are human beings too.
Mexico counted foreigners like my husband and I and our live-in maid in their 2000 census, given we lived there. I would have thought the Trump Administration could do the job at least as well as Mexico. I would be wrong.
After five years living in Mexico, in the run up to the 2000 census a credentialed census official rang our street bell. My wonderful helper and maid, Maria, answered to identify who was there, and after vetting that he was who he said he was called me. “Señor, there’s a man from the census to see you.”
It was a lovely interaction as I answered the questions. He even graciously complimented me on my Spanish.
In 1950s Puebla, Mexico, the Mexican children attending the American School had to Pledge Allegiance to the American flag every day. No one questioned it at the time. By the time our son was at the American School in Mexico City in the 1990s, the Pledge of Allegiance was a thing of the past, possibly because of the international mixture of students.
When we lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, we were told we could vote at St. Mary’s Catholic Church down the block. Only the local elections as I remember and I suspect because of being property taxpayers, but vote we did. It gives people skin in the game of living in an economy to vote.
Life in Ecuador during the late 1980s had many oddities, including the requirement of foreign men to pay an annual fine because they had not served in the Ecuadorian military.
Each and every time these men left Ecuador, they had to show the proof of payment of the annual fine. Employed foreigners also had to show proof that their tax payments were up to date, after all, you might skip the country without paying. This always was entertaining to the military officials at the airport who couldn’t believe how much tax foreigners paid.
One time when my husband and his Puerto Rican comptroller had to fly to NYC for annual budget meetings, the comptroller was stopped at security by one of the four uniformed military officers lined up in a row. Where was the comptroller’s proof of payment of his military fine? He’d forgotten it. As the military officer interrogated the comptroller, my husband watched him remove a single American twenty dollar bill from his pocket and carefully roll it into a tight roll.
I did say this was Ecuador.
Diplomatically the comptroller passed the bill to the military official, asking if this might settle the missing proof of payment?
With a flourish the military official unrolled the bill, held it up to the light for all to see with his two meaty hands and said, no. Not enough. One hundred American dollars would settle the issue.
After all, there were four military officials on duty.
When I argue that the United States of America is a Banana Republic, I point to the crumbling infrastructure, inequality in sharing the economic riches, healthcare for all which would stop our declining life expectancy and educational morass. Now you can add that this country cannot even keep enough coins in circulation, due to some incompetence by the Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin.
America is just like Mexico. When we landed there in 1995 the ubiquitous, but not always functioning, bank ATMs spat out 200 pesos bills, the equivalent of about US $20. The only problem was that on the street and in the stores, no one had smaller bills or coins to give you in change back from your purchase. “No hay cambio.”
Banks, to paraphrase Willie Sutton, being where the money is, I went inside to get change for the 200 peso bill. Sometimes they would, more times they wouldn’t (or couldn’t). Now who does that remind me of?
The Banana USA Republic since Trump and Covid-19.