Journalists and editors spend a lot of time worrying about the "lead"—the opening lines of a story. How about this:
"With two teenage daughters at home and triplets still in diapers, Angela Magdaleno's family overflowed from a one-bedroom apartment in South Los Angeles that they strained to afford… Diapers had to be changed 15 times a day, feedings held every three hours. One triplet, 3-year-old Alfredo Jr., needed special attention because he was born with liquid on his brain and partially paralyzed.
"And that was before the quadruplets arrived."
Sam Quinones' July 28 article—6 + 4 = 1 Tenuous Existence: An illegal immigrant couple with six children were already living in poverty. Then the quadruplets arrived. They're still in a daze—just might be the best in the rather dull history of the Los Angeles Times. It combines the two things traditionally lacking in that notoriously stuffy liberal newspaper.
"On July 6, Magdaleno gave birth to two boys and two girls, drawing national media attention as a bewildered mother of 10 (with nine living at home). Now, she and her husband, Alfredo Anzaldo, 44, must figure out how to provide for everyone on Anzaldo's maximum pay of $400 a week as a carpet installer…"
"But that is not Magdaleno's story.
"Both Magdaleno and Anzaldo are illegal immigrants, settled for years in an immigrant enclave. Magdaleno has the same number of children as her parents, who were peasant farmers in Mexico. Like her parents, she is living in poverty and struggling to provide for her family…
"Yet all of Magdaleno's 10 children are U.S. citizens. The triplets receive subsidized school lunches. All the youngsters have had their healthcare bills covered by Medi-Cal, the state and federal healthcare program for the poor."
I must confess that I sometimes admire the stiff-necked elitism of the LA Times—its devotion to esoteric foreign coverage of the "Whither Kyrgyzstan?" ilk, its enthusiasm for thumbsucking wonkery about the future of the Social Security trust fund, its lofty disdain for chronicling the tabloid-worthy events actually taking place on the streets of America's most tabloid-worthy city.
Unfortunately, as much as I respect its attempt to be the New York Times West, it's simply not as good as the NYT. So it winds up being a second-rate national newspaper and a third-rate local newspaper.
For years, though, the LA Times' tediousness didn't matter. It held the monopoly on classified advertising in the vast Southern California market.
But now all that advertising is going to the Internet. Further, massive immigration, obsessively defended by the LAT, is helping drive the newspaper's natural audience, English-literate Americans, out of the city. Even though the population of the newspaper's five county circulation area grew during 2000 to 2004 by more than 1.5 million to 18 million, readership has been plummeting.
Wikipedia reports: "The Los Angeles Times paid circulation figures have decreased since the mid-1990s. It has recently been unable to pass the 1 million mark that was easily achieved in earlier decades." Circulation is now down to 851,000.
This is not surprising since, as Edwin S. Rubenstein has reported in VDARE.com: "A new study by the United Way of Los Angeles finds that 53 percent of the city's adult population—3.8 million people—are functionally illiterate."
In a few years, the LA Times might as well rename itself the Hollywood Hills Times. Most of its remaining readers will live in the posh strip within a few miles of Mulholland Drive.
This is not to say that the LA Times shows much actual interest in the millions of illegal immigrants within its circulation zone.
Like many politically correct institutions, the newspaper seems to find illegals dull and depressing. But the LAT is loathe to admit in print that the lumpenproletariat barrios of Southern California are anything other than "vibrant."
Reporter Quinones, however, can't keep himself from piling on the facts. For example:
"Alfredo Jr. had been hospitalized all his life until recently. He's had three state-funded brain operations and will require several more, the family said. The couple receive $700 in monthly Social Security payments to help with his medical needs.
"'I thank this country that they gave me Medi-Cal,' Magdaleno said.'There's nothing like that in Mexico.'"
It's not widely understood in America, but for many Mexicans, a big family becomes more affordable if they sneak into the United States. As Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies pointed out in his October 2005 report Birth Rates Among Immigrants in America,
"Among Mexican immigrants in the United States … fertility averages 3.5 children per woman compared to 2.4 children per women in Mexico."
In Mexico, women of the limited education characteristic of immigrants to America average only 2.3 babies apiece. So immigrating, typically illegally, appears to allow them to have an extra 1.2 babies.
Conversely, alas, the rapid growth in the Mexican population in California discourages native-born Americans from having children by making family formation less affordable. The cost of living in California is 40 percent above the national average. Wages are mediocre. Not surprisingly, the expected number of babies per non-Hispanic white woman in California dropped from 1.93 to 1.65 during the ten years from 1990 to 2000. I suspect the huge run-up in California home prices during this decade will drive native fertility down even farther.
In contrast to the Los Angeles Times' routinely genteel approach (Mickey Kaus in Slate has noted dozens of exciting local stories the newspaper has buried), Quinones provides lots of juicy details about Mrs. Magdaleno having her tubal ligation reversed and then dosing herself with bootleg Mexican fertility pills to give Mr. Magdaleno, who had previously sired four daughters by three different women, the son he'd always wanted.
The reporter also brings up the kind of facts usually glossed over in the LAT—such as how uneducated illegal immigrants tend to be.
"She grew up in Los Positos, in the central Mexican state of Jalisco, the eldest of 10… Angela and [her sister] Justina left school at fifth grade to work in fields and tortilla shops to help support their family."
This lack of schooling is not at all unusual. According to Camarota's July 2005 CIS report Births to Immigrants in America: 1970 to 2002, 59 percent of all Hispanic immigrant mothers don't have high school degrees. Nor do 32 percent of American-born Hispanic mothers. In contrast, just 12 percent of non-Hispanic white mothers lack a diploma.
Quinones also sketches the more successful story of Mrs. Magdaleno's nine (!) immigrant siblings:
"Magdaleno's existence contrasts sharply with that of her younger siblings, who followed her to Los Angeles but then left. They have settled in Lexington, Ky., had no more than two children each and built better lives than they had known before. Four bought houses. Their children speak English fluently…"
Of course, the ten children of the least assimilated sibling will make up a sizable fraction of the clan's next generation. The Magdalenos display an exaggerated version of a widely seen pattern—the more likely someone is to give their children a poor start in life, the more kids they are likely to have.
"Her sister Alejandra was the first to leave. In Los Angeles, she and her husband were barely able to make ends meet. As in Mexico, 'there was little work and it's poorly paid,' she said.
"Eight years ago, she and her family moved to Kentucky, where a friend said there was more work and were fewer Mexican immigrants bidding down the wages for unskilled jobs.'
Funny, isn't it, how uneducated illegal immigrants have a more acute understanding of how the Law of Supply and Demand affects wages than do many academic economists? Quinones' story goes on:
"They went to night school to learn English because few people in Lexington speak Spanish.
"Today, the Magdalenos in Lexington earn more than they did in Los Angeles, in a city where the cost of living is lower [only 65% of LA]. Kentucky is now their promised land, and they talk about California the way they used to talk about Mexico…
"'What we weren't able to do in many years in California,' Alejandra said, 'we've done quickly here. We're in a state where there's nothing but Americans. The police control the streets. It's clean, no gangs. California now resembles Mexico—everyone thinks like in Mexico. California's broken.'"
It's The Beverly Hillbillies in reverse. Now people are moving from California to Kentucky to be part of a more advanced civilization. More details from Quinones:
"Justina was the last to leave Los Angeles, about the time Angela was pregnant with the triplets.
"She and her husband wanted better schools for their sons, 15 and 9.
"In Lexington, she said, 'at the school there are just people who speak English. It's helped my children a lot.'"
Neocons like Tamar Jacoby are always claiming that mass immigration will turn out just fine so long as we "assimilate" the newcomers. But this example shows that, when it comes to assimilation, numbers count. For their kids to start acting like Americans, these Mexicans had to get away from the twelve million Mexicans in California.
But how can many ever succeed in assimilating if the borders remain porous? The story continues:
"Last year, however, [the mother of ten] sent her daughter, Kelly, 17, to Kentucky for several months. Though American born and raised, Kelly hadn't been outside South Los Angeles.
"In Lexington, school was hard because few people spoke Spanish, and the city 'barely had one Spanish radio station,' Kelly said.
"Her cousins, she said in English, 'use more educational words than here. My cousin is 7 years old, and he has a better reading level than me. He don't see picture books or drawings or anything like that. He just likes books with pure letters.'
"Girls from Mexican-immigrant families in Kentucky, she saw, were in their mid-20s and still didn't have children."
The Hispanic teen birthrate is now 27 percent higher than the African-American teen birthrate and 136 percent higher than the white rate. The illegitimacy rate for Mexican immigrant mothers is 41 percent, but it goes up to 48 percent among American-born Mexican women, twice the white figure.
"'I said, 'Damn, that's weird,' Kelly said. 'The girls right here in Los Angeles are like in Mexico. There are girls that are 14, they got kids.'"
Congratulations to Sam Quinones [email him] for slipping a bit of Los Angeles reality into the Los Angeles Times.
When he makes himself too unpopular there, maybe he could have a career at VDARE.com!