NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Last spring, debate about immigration lit up the halls of Congress and spurred massive pro-immigrant rallies in cities around the country. The issue has since receded from the headlines, but looks as if it may heat up again in the context of the mid-term election campaign. Here in Washington, Congress is no closer to reconciling very different bills passed in the House and the Senate, and appeals for a third way appear to be falling on stony ground.
Opinion polls show the public divided on the issues and suggest that there's been an anti-immigrant reaction to last spring's rallies. But immigration rights groups plan to keep the pressure on. Marches are planned in several cities around the country today. In just a moment, we'll talk with an activist in the Chicago area about the goals of his march and with a conservative analyst about the politics of immigration and where the debate is headed.
Later in the program, the TALK OF THE NATION opinion page, this week an argument that we can't begin to address the issues of poverty in America until we measure it properly, plus, the death of Crocodile Hunter Steve irwin.
But first, immigration, where are we now? How has immigration playing out in your area? Is this an issue you plan to vote on come November? Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We begin with the march to Batavia, Illinois, the home of Republican Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House. The pro-immigration march started from Chicago on Friday. Juan Salgado is President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and he joins us now by phone from the march.
And it's nice to have you on the program today.
Mr. JUAN SALGADO (Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights): Thank you so much for having me.
CONAN: And where are you exactly?
Mr. SALGADO: Well, we are, march is heading right into Batavia as we speak right now and with a growing contingent that is just wide spun as we continue to community past community. I have to tell you, it's been a great, great walk because as an American who's been in the United States - family has been in the United States since 1918 - to see all those families come out of their homes and wave and cheer us on has been - and these aren't immigrants families, not immigrant families - wave and cheer us on, that's to me is what America is about.
CONAN: And how many of those people are there with you now?
Mr. SALGADO: Quite a few of them have joined us. Some of the neighbors here, as we walked down Batavia have actually joined us. So, came out and waved and showed a lot of solidarity. Quite frankly, found much more solidarity than we found people against us.
CONAN: I understand you're heading for speaker Hastert's district office there in Batavia. What's the message you want to send him?
Mr. SALGADO: Well, you know, the nation has realized that our immigration laws are broken. The president himself has said people that are here working are contributing greatly and those that fought, helped pay their taxes, you know, stood at the end of the line, should have an opportunity to move forward.
Speaker Hastert has delayed this issue long enough. He's continued to do it time and time again for political gain. And in this country, it's about time we start focusing on solutions to our nation's problems, not just on what may or may not get us a short-term political gain.
CONAN: Well, speaker Hastert wouldn't say he's delayed on these problems. He said the House has passed an immigration bill that focuses on the issue he believes most important, that of controlling the border. And he would say it's the Senate that's been delaying things and that they haven't been able to get the bill through.
Mr. SALGADO: So, the speaker has said repeatedly that he represents the majority of the majority. That means the majority of the Republicans that think and believe like him. He has been unwilling over the years - as immigration legislation that has been pro-immigrant has come to the floor, he's been unwilling to even let it come to the floor. He has been unwilling to let the people vote and the Congress vote as it will on this issue. And that's the reason for the delay.
He doesn't want a bipartisan, bicameral bill like McCain-Kennedy, even like the Senate compromise. And so he said, you know what, I will speak for the majority of the majority. That's not the kind of speaker we need in a democracy like we have in the United States.
CONAN: There was some evidence, as we looked at opinion polls, that the rallies last spring, particularly those first few big ones, triggered a bit of a backlash, people upset at the demonstrations. Is that a concern?
Mr. SALGADO: No. Actually, the American people are going to need to be informed about this issue in a very meaningful way. And so, you know, there maybe some initial reactions to it. But when the dust settles, the American people ought to think about this in a just way, ought to think about it in a sensible way. There's a real economic price to pay for our country if we go in the direction of trying to deport 12 million people, in the process of deporting them, in the employers that will lose their workers and lose productivity.
I work with manufacturers across Illinois and I will tell you that they are scared to death. They're competing with China. They're competing with overseas. And they're afraid to lose their workers and not get their product to market on time. We ought to be scared about that.
CONAN: And finally, where does this go from here? You'll rally in Batavia, Illinois, today. Two months to election day, basically.
Mr. SALGADO: Absolutely. And the chant we have saying is, today we march, tomorrow we vote. The fact of the matter is that our children are walking with their parents. Most of them are citizen children. You better believe when they're 18, they are going to vote. They're going to vote in record numbers because they understand what their parents are doing - working the hardest jobs, contributing to this country. They believe in this country just as the immigrants believe in this country. And so we're going to turn it around. We're going to turn around because it's the right thing for our nation.
CONAN: Juan Salgado, thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us today.
Mr. SALGADO: Okay. Thank you.
Mr. SALGADO: Appreciate it.
Juan Salgado, president of the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights. And he joined us by phone from just outside of the march's destination today in Batavia, Illinois.
Joining us now to bring us up to speed on the immigration debate here in Washington and around the country is Michael Sandler, who covers immigration for Congressional Quarterly. He's been kind enough to come in today and join us here in Studio 3A. Thanks very much.
Mr. MICHAEL SANDLER (Congressional Quarterly): You're welcome.
CONAN: Those two bills that we were talking about in House and Senate passed months ago, still very different bills. Remind us what's in them.
Mr. SANDLER: Well, the House bill focused on border security and worksite enforcement and did not deal with economic issues, like a Guest Worker program or legalization plans for the 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants who are here right now.
The Senate bill is what a lot people are calling a more comprehensive bill. It takes into account border security and worksite enforcement, but it also would put most of the 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship and it would increase immigration levels by creating a couple of guest worker programs - one for agricultural workers, and one for a broader group of workers in a number of fields where there's high numbers of low skilled workers.
CONAN: And, these have been slugged, perhaps unfairly by their opponents, but slugged. The House bill, enforcement only, and the Senate bill, its opponents call it an amnesty bill.
Mr. SANDLER: Yes. And what you're getting at is the key issue where there is a disagreement on is how to handle the 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants. For many rank and file House members, particularly Republicans, they cannot accept any bill that would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. And in the Senate, you've got a number of Republicans and most Democrats who see that as a deal breaker that needs to be in some kind of legislation.
CONAN: And as we look at this, I know there's been an effort of late to find some common ground, the so-called third way. Is that going anywhere?
Mr. SANDLER: Well, a lot of people are talking a little bit about the Pence-Hutchinson plan. Mike Pence and Kay Bailey Hutchinson have come together with an idea that would require all illegal immigrants leave the country before being eligible for a temporary guest worker plan. And then after, I believe it's 17 years, they would be eligible for citizenship.
However, they wouldn't increase the number of green cards available. So there's been some question about whether or not that's a realistic plan in terms of the numbers. But that has gotten a little bit of a buzz. However, a lot of the ideas in the Pence plan were rejected when the Senate met back in May to debate their bill.
CONAN: And how is this playing out politically as you look across the country? I mean, obviously we're talking about individual Congressional and Senate races in terms of federal races coming this fall, but the president is in favor of something - the way he describes it - much closer to the Senate bill. You've got much of the House of Representatives - the Republican leadership there - in favor of a much more enforcement based bill. Republicans are clearly divided here.
Mr. SANDLER: They are, and it definitely has created a little bit of problems for Dennis Hastert and the majority leader because they have rank and file members who have to go back to smaller districts. They're not looking at broader voter base like someone in the Senate would be, or the president.
They're not thinking about the future of the party as much as they're thinking about their immediate future, and a lot of House members feel like they have to address this issue back in their districts, and that's where I think you're seeing the rift in the Republican Party. You see people like Ken Mehlman and George bush, who are thinking the future of the party is going to depend on Hispanic voters.
And there's definitely a rift there. There's a rift with -
CONAN: Some of the House leadership say control of the next Congress depends on how we stand on immigration, too.
Mr. SANDLER: Absolutely. And I think also House members see that they may have a winner in the issue of immigration compared with the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, gas prices. Those are not popular issues with voters right now and they're looking to blame somebody for a lot of those issues right now. I think the House hearings that they had is a way to kind of get out and campaign a little bit for their bill that they feel resonates with members in their district.
CONAN: These House hearings - James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the committee there - organized these, well basically after reconciliation with the Senate failed. He said we're going to hold hearings on our bill in amongst the people of the countryside, in the border areas, and as you say, that's eventually - I know you've been to a few of these. Are they basically campaign stops for the House version of the bill?
Mr. SANDLER: It feels like that a little bit. You go to these hearings - I went to one out in Sierra Vista, Arizona, and I've been to a couple here in the Washington area. It has the feel of a campaign with the tone, and they've been calling the Senate bill the Reed-Kennedy Bill, even though it had the support of 23 republicans and, perhaps - it was sponsored by Arlen Specter and John McCain has been probably one of the biggest advocates for this piece of legislation.
Yet, it's been labeled the Ted Kennedy and Harry Reed Bill or the Reed-Kennedy Bill, and I think the tone of the hearings has reflected much of a campaign like tone that this will be bad for America. And the House members have gone out of their way to highlight provisions that they think will maybe scare voters or get them to the polls and get them to rally a little support for border security and worksite enforcement.
CONAN: So how is this playing out politically where you live? Give us a call. 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is email@example.com. Michael Sandler will stay with us and talk with us more after the break. We'll also find out what conservatives in Washington and around the country hope to gain. Again, if you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. We'll be back after the break. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Congress returns to work here in Washington later this week and the immigration debate is heating up again here and in many other places around the country. Today an update on what's changed and what happened and what hasn't since the House and Senate passed very different versions of an immigration bill earlier this year. And we'll look ahead to how this plays out in November's elections. Our guest is Michael Sandler, who covers immigration for Congressional Quarterly. In a few minutes we'll be speaking with the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, who tells us what conservatives hope to see happen.
And of course you're invited to join us. Our number is 800-989-8255. How are you planning to vote on this issue, if at all, come November? 800-989-TALK. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And let's begin with Christopher. Christopher's calling us from Riverside in California.
CHRISTOPHER (Caller): Hi.
CONAN: Hi, you're on the air. Go ahead.
CHRISTOPHER: Okay. Well, I'm actually calling from Mexicali.
CONAN: On the other side of the border.
CHRISTOPHER: Yeah. Okay, I'm just calling to tell you that I am Mexican, well half anyway. My mom is a Mexican immigrant. I'm planning - and she's planning, too - we're voting for Arnold Schwarzenegger against illegal immigration.
CONAN: A vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger you figure is a vote against illegal immigration?
CONAN: And is it playing out in any other races where you live in California?
CHRISTOPHER: Well, I'm right too close to the border. That's not too much of an issue with a lot of people here, so that's the only way I can vote against it for now.
CONAN: And why do you feel so strongly about it?
CHRISTOPHER: I feel so strongly about it because the people that - I'm sorry for the people that came to the U.S. legally. People are crossing the border and they're doing it illegally. I see it all the time. People - I live right next to the fence. I see people climbing over and it's just unfair. It's not right.
CONAN: Christopher, thanks very much. I appreciate your call.
CHRISTOPHER: Okay, thanks.
CONAN: And Michael Sandler, there are a lot of people like Christopher who are voting on this issue.
Mr. SANDLER: Absolutely. Some polls show that immigration may be the top domestic issue in the U.S. right now after the war in Iraq. It's a popular issue with voters throughout the U.S., particularly though in areas where the caller is from, out in the Southwest.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. And this is Noel. Noel's calling us from San Francisco.
NOEL (Caller): Hey there. It's actually, I'm on a road trip with my family across the United States. We went to the Grand Titans and Wyoming and it's just remarkable. I'm right outside of a popular fast-food restaurant that begins with the letter M and there's huge sign saying starting wages, need employment. Ten dollars an hour plus benefits.
All across the states that we've been to - in Wyoming, Nevada and the eastern part of California - are just filled with immigrants, a huge, vast majority of them from Eastern Europe. And I was really amazed to see in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that they have in that county a two percent unemployment rate with 40 percent of the jobs listed in the unemployment office at over $10 an hour with benefits.
What I'm getting at is that there are huge numbers of jobs that are left unfilled because there's nobody to fill them and immigrants are efficiently filling them. Immigrants not just from Mexico, which I think is just a bunch of hatemongering. But huge, I would say 90 percent of the employees at every facility in Wyoming that I went to were from Eastern Europe.
CONAN: And -
CONAN: And the restaurant that you're in front of, it's part of a big Scottish chain, no?
NOEL: Correct. I'm ashamed to say, as a Bay area person, that we're here but I relented to my children's demands.
CONAN: We all have to give in to terrorism every once in a while.
NOEL: And I just want to say that I think this is just a bunch of hatemongering, and I know that I, you know, I come from a very liberal place, but my observations are that these jobs are being efficiently filled by folks. There are no other people to fill them.
CONAN: Okay, Noel. Thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
NOEL: Take care.
CONAN: Have a safe trip.
CONAN: And Michael, there are a lot of people who feel like her as well.
Mr. SANDLER: Absolutely. One of the things I spent the summer - a fair amount of August - in Arizona near the border for a story I worked on. And what we found were particularly out in the southwest, but in lots of places where there's high numbers of illegal immigrants and immigrants in general, the voices are loud on this issue on both sides of this debate. You have people who feel inundated - particularly in places like Arizona and California and Texas -by illegal immigrants. And then you have people who recognize the economic needs, the demands for a large labor pool. And they're equally as loud on this issue.
CONAN: And it's interesting, those two calls from California, one right at the border and the other one from somebody who lives in Northern California. Is this based on how far away you live from the border, economic conditions, what?
Mr. SANDLER: I don't believe so. I think, though, the voices are louder at the border. But when I was in Arizona, I was down in Jim Colby's district, and you have people down there who are furious about the crossings across their property, leaving garbage, the drug smugglers bringing people in and taking people over. At the same time, you have border towns with high Hispanic populations. The city of Douglas is 85 percent Hispanic. They have family on both sides of the border. There are economic demands in that city. And so you get very strong voices on it. I think that's the difference as you get closer to the border.
CONAN: Let's turn now to Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor at the National Review. He is with us by phone today from Washington. Nice to have you back on the program.
Ms. RAMESH PONNURU (National Review): Thank you.
CONAN: Republicans on the whole are more divided on immigration than the Democrats are. If the country wants something to be done and the Republicans control the Senate, the House and the White House, won't people hold them to blame if nothing gets done?
Ms. PONNURU: Well, I think that is a real danger and I think a lot of Republicans understand that danger. You know, in a way, a lot of pressure is being put on the House Republicans who want to take the enforcement only approach, as a lot of the people who support the so-called comprehensive reform are saying look, you guys are the ones saying that we have an illegal immigration crisis, but you're also preventing us from passing legislation that might do something about it.
And what they say in response is well, we do want to deal with illegal immigration, but the Senate plan won't work. Although we prefer a good bill, we'd rather have no bill at all than a bad bill.
I think what you're going to see happen in the House is after these hearings that the House Republicans are conducting are over, they are going to hobble together and try to come up with some enforcement actions that they can take in the closing days of this Congress. Maybe things that they attach to appropriations bills that require increased, stepped up enforcements.
CONAN: You say the closing days of this Congress. Do you mean before it's out of session or do you mean before election day?
Ms. PONNURU: I mean before the election.
CONAN: Okay. And at the same time, whether the prospects of that passing the Senate are good or not is highly debatable at this point.
Ms. PONNURU: Well, on the other hand you could have - what the House might do is just pass enforcement provisions that have already passed the Senate and say look, we disagree about some of the guest worker provisions. We disagree about the earned citizenship or amnesty or whatever you want to call it, in terms of the treatment of illegal immigrants who are already here. But if we agree, if we both passed these measures to increase enforcement, why don't we do that and then defer action on the issues where we have continuing disagreements?
CONAN: Well as you know, many in the Senate would say one doesn't make sense without the other. That's why they want a comprehensive bill.
Ms. PONNURU: Right. It's a marvelous flying machine and none of it works unless you do all of the rest of (unintelligible). I think it's going to be a hard sale. And if the Senate wants to take that approach, then I think that they're the ones who are going to be blocking comprehensive, you know, who are going to be blocking action. And I think the House Republicans, you know, will be able to successfully make that case.
CONAN: If the Republican Party comes to be seen as the anti-immigration party, is that going to hurt the party down the road with those Latino voters?
Ms. PONNURU: There are serious risks of going too far in either direction for the Republican Party, which is, I think, one of the reasons you have this split. I think there's no question that if it becomes a matter where the Republicans are perceived as being personally hostile to immigrant families, that is going to have repercussions for years and years to come.
On the other hand, if the Republicans ignore the sentiment of conservatives for getting control of the borders, that's also going to be politically disastrous. They have to find a way to square the circle. They haven't done it yet and I think it's unlikely that they're going to.
CONAN: And we just got this piece of wire in earlier today from the Associated Press. We just read it to Michael Sandler a little while ago. I want his comments on it, too, but I was going to read it to you. This from Los Angeles.
Immigration protests that brought hundreds of thousands of marchers into the nation's streets this spring promised a potent political legacy, a surge of new Hispanic voters. Today we march, tomorrow we vote, they vowed. An Associated Press review of voter registration figures from Chicago, Denver, Houston, Atlanta and other major urban areas that saw large rallies shows no sign of an historic new voter boon that could sway elections.
Mr. PONNURU: Yeah. You know that - you want Mark to -
CONAN: Well, why don't you begin, since you're talking already?
Mr. PONNURU: Sure. Sorry. You know I did think it was a little odd that, you know, in the spring when you had some of those rallies you had so much, I think, sort of glib coverage about the political impact when, you know, let's face it, a lot of the people who were marching were legitimately registering their concerns. But a lot of them are not eligible to vote.
Mr. SANDLER: I think that's a good point. I there were a lot of people at these rallies that were illegal immigrants. And I think it's hard for many political groups to get people out to vote. I think that's a challenge in just about any, with any issue and this one in particular because you have a lot of people who don't have the legal right to vote. So it's a challenge. A lot of them are waiting for their children who are citizens to reach the age where they can vote. But even then that's a challenge.
CONAN: Let's get some more listeners on the line. This is Thomas. Thomas is calling us from Austin, Minnesota.
THOMAS (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, Thomas. You're on the air.
THOMAS: Hi. I think that Congress is mixing all this up together, the immigration issue. I think that there's really three separate issues. There's one of border enforcement. There's another issue of how much legal immigration should we have, if any. And the other issue is what to do with the illegal immigrants that are already here.
And we've blended it all together. And the last time we tried addressing this under Regan, what happened was that they promised for border enforcement and then they gave a path to citizenship. But then we got the path to citizenship and no border enforcement. This time around I want to see the border secured first. And then we address those two separate issues.
CONAN: And how does this play out for you politically, Thomas?
THOMAS: Well normally I'd be voting for the Democrats because I don't like what the Republicans have been doing for six years, but this is one issue where I'm on the Republican side.
CONAN: And I guess -
THOMAS: And I'm also tired of getting accused of being a racist by people on the radio that, you know, anybody who opposes illegal immigration are somehow racist. That's not - that doesn't seem reasonable at all.
CONAN: Ramesh Ponnuru, this is, Thomas is also not alone and this it speaks to the political appeal of anti-immigration bills.
Mr. PONNURU: Well, you know I think one of the points that he made is a very good one, which is that this debate takes place with a backdrop of past promises on immigration enforcement that weren't carried through. And that's one of the reasons you have in some quarters so much distrust of the so-called comprehensive approach. People think this is going to be another bait and switch where you have the guest worker program, you have the amnesty, but you don't end up ever having enforcement especially because business groups start complaining as soon as any enforcement actions get taken.
CONAN: Yeah. And Thomas would you also like to see stringent restrictions on employers and penalties for hiring illegal aliens?
THOMAS: Yes, I would like to see that. And I would like the border secured and then that wake of this issue of how much immigration should we have legally. And I'm a little concerned that we're having too much of one type of immigration, Hispanic, and I think that threatens the idea of assimilation.
CONAN: All right, Thomas. Thanks very much for the phone call.
THOMAS: When you look at Quebec and assimilation is an issue.
CONAN: Thanks very much. Appreciate it.
CONAN: We're talking today about immigration and the politics of the same. You're welcome to join us 800-989-8255. E-mail is email@example.com. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.
And this is Don. Don's calling us from Holland, Michigan. Hey, Don.
DON (Caller): Yes.
CONAN: You're on the air. Go ahead please.
DON: I'm very sorry. I thought you were going to commercial.
CONAN: Oh that's okay.
DON: Yeah I'm from Holland, Michigan, and I'd agree with you that I have family members that have personally lost jobs because of illegal immigration. I'm not a racist. I work with blacks and Latinos out of Detroit and I just think it's ridiculous that we should be even talking about this issue of whether or not it's okay to have illegal immigration. Of course it's not.
CONAN: I'm not sure anybody's arguing whether it's all right to have illegal immigration. It's sort of an argument over what do you do with the 10 to 11 to 12 million who are already here?
DON: Well, I have different views on that, too. I would say that, one, plug up the border. Don't let them through. And two is that start a program where you say okay all illegal immigrants have 18 months to sign up. Once you sign up, you go through a process of learning English. You learn the American government style of governing where you can vote. And if they don't sign up within that 18 months, I'm sorry, you don't want to become an American citizen. You're here to reap the benefits of health care and all the other benefits that come along with being an American.
CONAN: Okay, Don. Thanks very much. Appreciate it. Bye-bye.
CONAN: Let's see if we can squeeze in one more caller. Mike. Mike's calling us from Moab in Utah.
MIKE (Caller): Thank you very much, sir. I just wanted to say the primary concern appears to be protecting American jobs and the only way that we're going to be able to protect American jobs is to level the playing field between undocumented workers, that is immigrant workers, and U.S. citizen workers.
When undocumented workers become documented and are guaranteed the same employment rights as U.S. citizens are, then that removes the incentive for employers to hire undocumented aliens instead of United States citizens. Enforcement only has never worked in the past. It won't work this time. You can't build a wall big enough, thick enough, high enough or deep enough to keep people from pursuing their dreams for their children.
CONAN: Mike, thanks very much.
MIKE: Thank you.
CONAN: And we've gotten just a quick variety of opinion there, but Ramesh Ponnuru, you do get people you know criticizing the enforcement side of the bill saying look, we can't stop illegal drugs coming into the country, what makes us think we're going to stop people from coming in to the country?
Mr. PONNURU: Well, I suppose, you know, no enforcement strategy is going to be perfect. But I think the major obstacle to enforcement has been a lack of political will. As I said, you know, when the immigration authorities takes modest steps like informing employers that some of their workers don't have real social security numbers, they're probably illegal, business groups have complained to Washington, gotten that kind of enforcement action to stop. As long as that's the case, sure enforcement's not going to work.
If we could overcome that political problem then we might not have a perfect system, but we should at least try to do enforcement before declaring that it can't possibly work.
CONAN: And let me turn to you for the last word, Michael Sandler. As you look at this point, does anything - we heard Ramesh talk about the possibility of a smaller bill before election day. Do you think that's a workable solution?
Mr. SANDLER: I don't know if it would be a smaller bill. I think what he was saying is that they would squeeze in provisions into appropriations bills. And that happened last year. There was a couple billion dollars that was squeezed into one of the appropriations bills to send more supplies, more equipment, helicopters, vehicles down to the border. I think you will see that. I think that is probably a likely scenario. I think you may not see action on this maybe even until 2007 with a broader comprehensive bill or a border security bill. But the appropriations measures I think are likely.
CONAN: Okay. Michael Sandler writes about immigration for the Congressional Quarterly. He joined us here in studio 3A. Thanks very much for coming in today on your holiday. Appreciate that. Ramesh Pennuru is senior editor at the National Review. He joined us on the phone from his office here in Washington. Thanks again for your time.
Mr. PENNURU: You're welcome.
CONAN: When we come back from a short break, this week's opinion page and an argument that the poverty rate is misleading. So how should we measure poverty these days? Can you be poor with two TVs, a microwave and a dishwasher? 800-989-8255, e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.