(The report concluded the impact will be $6.3 trillion over 50 years—or, to put it another way, all by itself amnesty will bump up government spending by a percentage point or two of Gross Domestic Product every year).
It’s not the report’s fault. It’s beautifully written, logically compelling and marshals a lot of numbers with great skill. (I speak as a veteran of 40 years in financial journalism.)
And, of course, professional politicians do tend to be innumerate lawyers with ADD personalities, incapable of sitting still, congenitally committed to schmoozing rather than studying.
But the real reason the report isn’t being read: Everyone has already made up their minds.
In the case of the patriot opponents of amnesty, this is actually laudable. They have grasped the great truth enunciated by the late, great free-market economist Milton Friedman: “It’s just obvious that you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”
In a welfare state—more properly a “transfer state,” because taxpayers pay for a lot besides welfare, notably public education (averaging over $12,000 per pupil annually), health care, etc.—it’s inevitable that most people are net fiscal burdens. They are all supported by the relatively small proportion of higher-earning, usually highly educated taxpayers.
An estimated half of the illegal aliens present in the U.S. don’t have high school degrees. Another quarter have only high school degrees. They will always earn, on average, low incomes. They will always be a net fiscal burden (as will many legal immigrants, whose numbers are set to double under the Gang of Eight’s proposal).
Patriot opponents of amnesty realize that legalizing illegal immigrants must be a net fiscal cost. They don’t need to know the details.
But immigration enthusiasts typically have never considered this fiscal dimension. Incredibly, the Gang of Eight have made no attempt to cost the huge influx they propose. There have been essentially no other attempts, apart from Heritage’s report.
No surprise. Immigration enthusiasts have long shown that there are absolutely no considerations of fact or analysis that will sway them from their obsessive drive to increase immigration.
Logically, the Gang of Eight’s bill should not have survived the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing. That dramatically and conclusively demonstrated that the U.S. government has utterly failed at selecting, monitoring and assimilating immigrants (remember Dzokhar Tsarnaev became a U.S. citizen on Sept. 11, 2012), let alone keeping them off welfare. (The Tsarnaevs were on it.) Washington clearly cannot be trusted to run an amnesty program for 11-20 million illegals—much less a projected increased immigration influx estimated at 33-57 million over the next decade.
For that matter, America’s post-1965 immigration disaster should not have survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—but in fact immigration from Islamic countries (including the Tsarnaevs) has increased over the intervening 12 years.
“If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16: 31).
Confronted with something they don’t wish to think about, like the fiscal implications of their amnesty, immigration enthusiasts have made surprisingly little effort to dispute the details. Instead they just try to change the subject.
One diversion: the fact that one of the Heritage report’s authors, Jason Richwine, had written his Ph.D. dissertation on the implications of Hispanic immigrants’ average lower IQ. This had nothing to do with the report—and Richwine’s Ph.D. was from Harvard, supposedly the top university in the world—but Heritage foolishly exacerbated its problem by forcing Richwine out.
The most popular diversion, however: claiming that the Heritage report did not account for the economic growth that will allegedly be spurred by increased immigration—a maneuver sometimes called “dynamic scoring.”
Of course, this growth is hypothetical. It is just an article of faith among immigration enthusiasts. Particularly in the case of the amnestied low-skilled illegals, it can only be minimal. And it makes no difference to Heritage’s focus on the fiscal impact. Regardless of whether the economy grows faster or not, the bills have to be paid.
But here’s the rub:
The settled view among labor economists—its classical statement is in the National Research Council’s 1997 study “The New Americans”—is that essentially all of any increased economic growth from immigration will go to the immigrants themselves, in the form of wages.
Immigration’s aggregate benefit to native-born Americans is vanishingly small, maybe one-tenth of one percent of GDP. And that’s wiped out by the additional taxes Americans pay to subsidize immigrants’ use of schools and other government services.
And here’s the other rub:
Although immigration doesn’t benefit Americans in aggregate, it does benefit some Americans—at the expense of others. It does this by increasing competition for jobs and thereby depressing wages.
The accepted estimate is that immigration redistributes some 2 to 3 percent of GDP from labor to the owners of capital. Currently, that’s about $300 billion-$450 billion, a very large number.
This explains the extraordinary parade of plutocrats—for example, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, the Koch brothers—pushing the Gang of Eight’s bill and the enormous amount of money they are spending on it. ($1.5 billion since late 2007 by one account, and that doesn’t include this year’s splurge.)
Basically, they are asking the U.S. government to divert more of Americans’ income to them.