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Hey, kids, have we got a job for you

How about this modest proposal to end the immigration crisis.

May 21, 2006|Chris Harris | CHRIS HARRIS is a writer and producer of the CBS television show "How I Met Your Mother."

BECAUSE SO MUCH of our economy seems to rely on undocumented workers, Washington's recent calls for cracking down on illegal immigration have many worried about how the resulting hole in the workforce would be filled.

Meanwhile, some 65 million healthy individuals live among us, never once having been required to earn a wage. If our economy is to remain strong, we must demand that they finally do their share in replacing our illegal workers. I am speaking, of course, about children.

For too long, children have gotten a free ride in this country. We clothe them; we feed them; we mostly keep calm when they get chocolate on the drapes. Consider this:

* What we spend raising a child through college: $300,000.

* What they spend on us: $12,000 for a funeral.

* Account deficit: $288,000 per child! Isn't it time that that child "gave something back?"

I believe children will prove remarkably well adapted to their new positions. Kids are far more energetic than adults, making them perfect for scurrying around collecting things like dirty plates. Children also are more flexible, thus better suited to squeezing through tight spaces to install fiberglass or to vacuum behind a bureau.

And imagine the look of sheer joy on a child's face when, in response to his or her plea of "Can we go to McDonald's, pleeeease?" you can finally reply, "Yes -- for an eight-hour shift!"

But don't they need to attend school? Not necessarily. Our kids consistently lag behind the rest of the world's children in every school subject, even American history. Since they're not learning anyway, why not put them to better use?

More important, consider the benefits to the children. What is the No. 1 health problem for youth today? Child obesity. What is the best way to combat obesity? Exercise. What is a great form of exercise? Lifting and sorting heavy items, such as crates full of berries in the hot sun.

The savings would be immense. I estimate that, rounding up to the nearest trillion, this move will amount to a net annual gain in the gross domestic product of $1 trillion -- and that's before one counts the savings in baby-sitting fees.

I know, I know: "Wow."

With this simple, logical step, we would generate enough revenue not only to eradicate our dependence on illegal immigrants but to eliminate our national debt, win the war on terrorism/drugs/poverty/whatever, re-reinvent Medicare and enable all of us adults to afford a new set of golf clubs.

Any cost of transition will be low. Assembly lines and chop shops could easily be retrofitted to accommodate a younger workforce, often for little more than the cost of a stepstool so that the littler ones could reach the highest levers.

Rest assured, I will expect my own daughter to work as well. In fact, I was inspired to take this position after getting frustrated at watching her do nothing but lie around, eating and sleeping all day, every day. She has been like this since the day she was born, March 19.

How can we as a nation allow children the right to vote but not the right to make an honest living for themselves? And if children don't have the right to vote (really, I'm much too busy to do all the research), then wouldn't the opportunity to earn some cash make up for it?

To be sure, some unfortunate excesses of the 19th century gave "child labor" a bad name. But why throw out the baby -- or, in this case, anyone under 16 -- with the bath water?

As you read this, millions of children across our country are sitting around playing "Grand Theft Auto," rummaging through the fridge for onion dip or wasting countless hours reading so-called classic literature that has no bearing on their lives. Instead, why not allow them to help us end the immigration crisis and close our borders once and for all?

One of our nation's greatest and most rehabbed female vocalists once sang, "The children are our future." With a modest change in our laws, they can be our present as well.

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