Wednesday, May 17, 2006

103 Million New Immigrants Not So Bad Says WH Aide

The Heritage Foundation’s analysis of the Hagel-Martinez immigration bill – which predicted it could admit up to 103 million immigrants over the next twenty years – apparently caught the White House unprepared (as so much else has). Vice President Cheney, sounding distinctly distracted, hastily dodged questions about it on yesterday’s Rush Limbaugh radio show. But the most telling response apparently came from a White House aide, quoted in the Denver Post.

And White House aide Joel Kaplan noted that, even if Rector's analysis is accurate, there would be an upside to such a wave of immigration.

"These are people who will be paying taxes and contributing as workers in our society, and we'll also be mitigating some of the drains on Social Security and Medicare because they will be paying in as workers," Kaplan said.

Savor that for a moment. When confronted with the possibility that the bill the administration is backing would admit 103 million immigrants over the next 20 years, a White House official basically says, "so what?"

Mr. Kaplan seems to have drunk from the same pitcher of stupid as the president. Does he really think that all 103 million new immigrants would be contributing to Social Security and Medicare? According to the Heritage analysis, a hefty portion of those 103 million new immigrants will be the elderly relations brought into the US by younger immigrants. Presumably, they will not be contributing to Social Security and Medicare, but rather drawing from them. Moreover, as economist Robert Samuelson has argued (see post below), most of the immigrants likely to enter the US will be uneducated and unskilled, capable of taking mostly low wage jobs. Such workers will not contribute significantly to Social Security, Medicare or the federal treasury, especially when the social programs for which they and their families will qualify will almost certain cost more than the taxes they do pay.

Besides the economic disaster wrought by a combination of social welfare and high immigration, does Kaplan not consider that 103 million new immigrants in just 20 years might be somewhat beyond the ability of the country to assimilate? Does he care? Apparently, not. If we can’t get 10-15 million Latino immigrants to learn Spanish, how are we going to persuade 103 million of the need to do so? The Hagel-Martinez bill spells death to the melting pot idea (which hasn’t worked in at least a quarter century) and dooms the US to a future that looks less like former waves of immigration to the US than to the fate of Yugoslavia after the communists died on stage.

Unfortunately, Kaplan’s remark reveals the stunning disinterest in reality that envelopes the thinking of the Bush administration. They just don’t care about the consequences. Congressional conservatives – however many remain – need to kill the Hagel-Martinez bill fast. While there are still enough of them to do so. Conservative voters, on the other hand, might want to take notice of what sort of thinking is going on in this allegedly-conservative White House, and act appropriately in November.

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