Immigration: Good or Bad?

Yesterday’s reckoning drew a fulsome mail…

We suggested the United States economy was not a “real” economy. We suggested that it was, instead, a “fake” economy…

And that government data-manglers sketch false scenes of economic vigor.

Certain readers took… exception.

For example: Reader J.B. believes we trained our cannons — unjustly — upon the Biden administration:

It can’t be true under a democratic administration, right? There must be lies, even though the numbers come from the same sources as under a Republican administration. Sour grapes! The former Republican administration left the economy in shambles and increased the debts by some $7 trillion.

Just so. Yet we never denied the previous administration’s fiscal obscenities. We moaned about them often.

Yet in fairness to Mr. Trump: He bequeathed a shamblized economy because he presided over a locked-in economy.

Much of it — though not all of it — ranged beyond his control.

What Do You Guys Have Against Health Care Workers?

Meantime, reader U.O. sets out to correct us:

You cited a guy who stated, “Of the 353,000 jobs created in January, 136,000 were government, social assistance or health.”

Why do people like you lump government jobs in with health care jobs? I understand the artificiality of the USG bragging about “job creation” when it is the USG who is hiring and paying workers with our taxes. That is a completely fair complaint and a worthy criticism…

I sincerely wish to know: A) why your ilk continues to couple these together and B) why the creation of a health care job is considered part of the artifice of the BLS reports each month.

The author’s central lament was not the jobs themselves but their source — illegal immigration.

Reports indicate illegal migrants cost taxpayers $450 billion per annum. A “healthy” portion of that funding sees to their repair and maintenance.

Thus the “benefit” of this peculiar job creation — if the numbers are to be credited — represents an aggregate cost.

Shall the nation take aboard additional millions of the world’s destitute? And shall the border patrol fracture their femurs upon entry?

Imagine the medical jobs!

One or the Other — Not Both

The late Milton Friedman once argued, “You can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”

We believe there is justice in this argument. Yet the government of the United States appears hot to refute it.

“Sink or swim,” the United States government told the huddled Ellis Island masses. “You will receive no assistance from us.”

“How can we help you?” the United States government asks the Rio Grande caravans.

“Let us start by handing you a debit card, a cellular phone and an air ticket to the destination of your choosing. There we will quarter you and doctor you should you require doctoring. And — and — if you are a man who would prefer to be a woman… or a woman who would prefer to be a man… be assured we will provide you the wherewithal to fulfill your wishes.”

We have no heat against the migrants themselves. Many are simply fleeing outhouse nations in pursuit of superior existences.

Who can blame them?

And we do not doubt that many of them — perhaps a majority of them — are swell.

Don’t Make Me Pay for It

Yet your editor is jealous of the few dollars he maintains in his possession.

What is more, he is an invincibly stingy, crabbed and ungiving fellow. The milk of human kindness has long since drained from his veins — all three drops.

He does not wish to feed, quarter, doctor or maintain others whom he does not volunteer to feed, quarter, doctor or maintain.

Let them go upon their own hook, we say.

Your editor feeds, quarters, doctors and maintains pets. He does not delegate the business to his fellow suffering taxpayers.

“But Maher,” you say, “you’re already supporting your fellow citizens through various welfare programs. Does it really matter if these people are citizens or not?”

To which we respond: “I don’t want to support my fellow citizens either!”

“You’re heartless,” you say.

Clearly. And?

Cost/Benefit Analysis

“Think of how immigration enhances our culture. Look at all the ethnic cuisine we have in this country — Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian, etc.”

I have a bland palate to match my personality. I don’t need any of that.

“OK, but you say illegal immigration is a drain on the nation. But many work hard and are productively employed. A lot of illegals pay taxes. Even more, they don’t qualify for things like Social Security and Medicare, so they pay for them without even receiving any of the benefits. They’re actually supporting American citizens. That sounds like a good deal for us!”

I don’t deny that many work hard and make positive contributions. Yet long before the present wave — in 2010 — the Heritage Foundation examined the ledgers and concluded that illegal households imposed a net burden of $54.5 billion per year. Let me quote them:

In 2010, the average unlawful immigrant household received around $24,721 in government benefits and services while paying some $10,334 in taxes. This generated an average annual fiscal deficit (benefits received minus taxes paid) of around $14,387 per household. This cost had to be borne by U.S. taxpayers.

Let me now cite the Center for Immigration Studies:

The National Research Council estimated a net lifetime fiscal drain of $89,000 (1996 dollars) for an immigrant without a high school diploma, and a net fiscal drain of $31,000 for an immigrant with only a high school education…

If illegal immigrants were legalized and began to pay taxes and use services like households headed by legal immigrants with the same education levels, the annual net fiscal deficit would increase to $29 billion, or $7,700 per household at the federal level.

Even Legal Immigration Is a Drain?

“Yeah, but you’re talking about illegal immigration here. What about legal immigration? That certainly represents a net gain.”

Not so fast. It turns out that even legal immigration is a net drain on the American taxpayer. Remember what old Friedman said — that you can’t have both mass immigration and a welfare state? I once again refer you to the Center for Immigration Studies:

The National Research Council estimated in 1996 that immigrant households (legal and illegal) create a net fiscal burden (taxes paid minus services used) on all levels of government of between $11.4 billion and $20.2 billion annually

Illegal immigrants with little education are a significant fiscal drain, but less-educated immigrants who are legal residents are a much larger fiscal problem because they are eligible for many more programs. 

So where is the net benefit? And doesn’t mass immigration drive down the wages of those often on the lower end of the wage scale — including native Blacks and Hispanics? How does mass migration benefit them?

“Are you against free trade too? Free trade and immigration tend to go together.”

Not at all. I can trade with my neighbor without inviting him to live with me, can’t I? Have you ever heard the one about good fences making for good neighbors? And I’m not opposed to all immigration, let me be clear.

Who We Are

“Look, we’re a nation of immigrants, OK? It’s who we are. It would be un-American to deny these poor, suffering people the opportunities that America offers. They just want a better life. Have you ever heard of the Statue of Liberty?”

We’re more a nation of settlers than immigrants. And it’s the Statue of Liberty, not the Statue of Immigration. It had nothing to do with immigration. That whole bit about giving me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free was written by a socialist and put inside the pedestal in 1903. And by the way, the United States severely restricted immigration in 1924. It didn’t open up again until 1965. Was that un-American? Clearly not because America DID it.

“I’m starting to think that you’re just a hater. What are you, some kind of nativist? You sound like Trump.”

OK, how about a compromise, in the spirit of Milton Friedman. You can have your immigration. BUT you have to end the welfare state. How about that? Deal?


Then who we are is a bunch of damned fools. And before long, a bunch of damned broke fools.

The Daily Reckoning