Sunday, July 7, 2013

Immigrant Song

 UPDATED: July 8, evening

Valhalla, I am coming!

THC can understand why the Immigration bill currently in Congress is supported by Silicon Valley, Wall Street and big business.  After all, it's a two-fer for them.  At the high-end they get more visas to bring in folks to work for their companies.  At the low-end it guarantees them an endless supply of low-cost housekeepers and gardeners for their homes.

The question THC has is why would anyone else support it?

The most significant issue raised by the proposal(1) is not border security or the status of the illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. (and no, we are not going to (nor should we attempt to) forcibly deport the 10+ illegals in the U.S. today), which get most of the news coverage; it's the additional 30-50 million immigrants (depending on who is doing the estimating) who will enter the country legally over the next couple of decades under this proposal. Most of these folks will be poorly educated and relatively unskilled.  In the 19th and early 20th century we could absorb these immigrants in a growing economy heavily based on agriculture and unskilled industrial labor and THC is certainly happy about that as it's how his grandparents got here. But today, in a time when many are concerned about stagnant wages for lower-wage Americans is bringing in more competition the right policy?  Our economy faces two challenges.  The first is (hopefully) short-term; recovering from the deep recession of 2008-9 (though this seems to be taking much longer than it should), while the second is longer-term; the transition to a different economy with fewer lower-skilled jobs, a trend seen across the industrial world and similar to that of the first half of the 20th century when our workplace in 1900 was more than 50% agricultural and then went through the growth of an industrial manufacturing economy.  Both challenges pose problems for those less well-off in our society.

THC would like to see the number of legal immigrants increased but this proposal is a misguided way to go about it.

After posting this THC ran across a talk by Mickey Kaus, making the same argument in a more eloquent way and from a different perspective. Kaus is an unconventional Democrat who ran a quixotic campaign against Barbara Boxer for the party's Senate nomination in 2010.  He's been covering the immigration proposal on his blog Kausfiles.  An excerpt from a recent speech by Mickey is below but it is really worth reading the whole thing linked here - you'll need to scroll down a bit to get to his speech.

"So the dream of the unending flow is still alive. Why should anyone give it up? This current amnesty will be followed by demands for a succeeding amnesty and a succeeding amnesty, each of them attracting another wave of illegal immigration. By this bill we’re locking ourselves into a cycle of amnesty after amnesty. It was one thing to do it once. It’s another thing to do it twice. 

So that’s why I get so excited. Schumer-Rubio is not like a tax law or even a welfare reform law that can be repealed or, in Obama’s case, waived. It promises to change America irrevocably and for the worse. It promises to make America an uglier place. We stand to lose what has made us Americans; namely our sense of social equality. In exchange we get a higher gross national product, more servants for the affluent, more transfer payments, and more Democrats. That’s not a good bargain and I hope it goes the way of the guaranteed annual income."

(1) My comments are based on what THC can figure out about the proposal.  Unfortunately, the bill is yet another example of runaway "comprehensive" legislation of behemoth length which is virtually impossible for anyone to understand "comprehensively", even those who must vote on it.  The accounts of what is in, or not in, the proposal are often contradictory because in a 1,000+ page bill the cross-referencing and cryptic legislative language are designed to obscure easy understanding (by the way, the original Social Security legislation of the 1930s was only 12 pages) and many of the key decisions are delegated to the executive branch agencies so it is impossible to predict what will actually happen.

Let's look at the last two "comprehensive" pieces of legislation.  With Dodd-Frank (see Surely, You Must Be Joking) we had a bill that states it is intended to end "too big to fail" but actually ensures it will continue and gives the biggest banks a competitive edge.  Plus, it created another huge bureaucracy, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), to address a fabricated need that had nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis.  On the other hand, the good news is that the CFPB is building a huge database containing personal information on mortgage applications, credit cards and bank accounts, sort of like a domestic version of the NSA!

And then we have the Affordable Care Act. It turns out Speaker Pelosi was absolutely correct when she said we needed to pass it to find out what was in it (although after telling her constituents that if they wanted to pursue careers as artists and writers that they would now have coverage she managed to ensure that 20% of the first round of waivers from the law's requirements went to high-end restaurants and entertainment venues in her own district!).  The Administration just postponed the employer mandate, one of the cornerstones of the legislation, and HHS officials have announced that their goal for the new individual exchanges scheduled to open later this year has been modified from being a "world class experience" to "avoiding a third-world experience" (the good news, for some, is that on July 3 the Administration also announced they will not verify eligibility for the individual exchanges and subsidies so it's now taxpayer beware). Senator Baucus, one of the main authors of the bill, admitted in 2010 that he never read it, now calls its implementation a "train wreck" and is retiring so he doesn't have to face the consequences and it also turns out that despite the President's assurances we will not see our premiums go down by $2500 and not everyone will be able to keep their current coverage "if they like it".

Today's version of policymaking is something the ancient Greeks had a better word for: hubris


  1. Idea: to help stem the tide of immigrants, reduce or eliminate U.S. corn subsidies. Without unnaturally cheap U.S. corn flattening the price in Mexico, more Mexican farmers stay in business and in Mexico.
    Free trade is great, but it seems if you send a wave of cheap products south you have to accommodate a wave of people coming north.

  2. I'm with you on your idea. THC