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July 12, 2013 5:45 AM
Debunking David Brooks on amnesty
Posted by Laura
Today David Brooks is out with a column trying to persuade conservatives to support the Gang of Eight bill.

His column is sort of a greatest-hits version of the many bad arguments put forward by the Schumer/McCain/Graham crowd. I don't think anyone will find them persuasive. Let's take his main points one by one.

Brooks: "Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would increase the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent by 2023 and by 5.4 percent by 2033. A separate study by the American Action Forum found that it would increase per capita income by $1,700 after 10 years."

In the first place, the American Action Forum is a collection of Open Borders types like Jeb Bush, so they're not exactly unbiased witnesses on this issue.

On the other hand, the same CBO report cited by Brooks found that over the next few years, passing the Gang-of-8 bill would cause per capita GNP and average wages to fall.

Brooks relies on CBO's finding that total U.S. GDP would grow if more people entered the country. Of course you can always increase your total GDP by adding more workers – but the real issue here is whether doing so would benefit the average American. The CBO's study shows that it will not.

Brooks: "According to government estimates, the Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by up to $850 billion over the next 20 years."

It's not clear what Brooks means by "government estimates." The CBO found that net savings would amount to only $135 billion from 2014 to 2023. However, it also found that "the net impact of the legislation on federal deficits would depend on future actions by lawmakers, who could choose to appropriate more or less than the amounts estimated by CBO."

Personally, given how Washington works, I'm guessing that lawmakers will choose to appropriate "more" than the amounts estimated by CBO. Furthermore, CBO made no findings about the effect of a new surge of immigrants on state and local budgets – such as their effects on welfare programs and school spending.

Oh, and Heritage found that the former unlawful immigrants would generate a lifetime fiscal deficit (total benefits received minus total taxes paid) of $6.3 trillion. My guess is that most conservatives will find this total to be more accurate than the hopeful estimates relied upon by the open-borders crowd.

Brooks: "According to the CBO, the bill would reduce illegal immigration by somewhere between 33 percent to 50 percent." He claims this is better than "current law, which reduces illegal immigration by 0 percent."

In the first place, current law would reduce illegal immigration by 100 percent if it were actually being enforced. In the second place, the CBO's estimate is meaningless, because it's based on the notion that the Senate bill would be enforced. In fact, there is no reason to believe that President Obama will ever enforce any of the border requirements in the Senate bill. In the third place, Brooks's statement ignores the many ways by which the bill would increase legal immigration. In fact, CBO estimated that "by 2023, enacting S. 744 (the Senate bill) would lead to a net increase of 9.6 million in the total number of people residing in the United States, compared with the number of people projected under current law." So CBO agrees with the bill's opponents that passing the bill would bring in millions of more people to compete with Americans for jobs and wages.

Brooks: "{W}ithout more immigrants, and the higher fertility rates they bring," the United States faces a European-style demographic collapse.

It would be foolish to pass a massive immigration bill just to head off a problem that may never happen. Certainly there is no reason to believe the United States currently suffers from a lack of workers.

Brooks: "All legislation allows the executive branch to have some discretion. It's always possible imagine ways in which a law may be distorted in violation of its intent. But if you are going to use that logic to oppose something, you are going to end up opposing tax reform, welfare reform, the Civil Rights Act and everything else."

Well, actually, I don't think anyone has ever doubted that the Federal Government would – as it should – aggressively enforce the Civil Rights Act. Conservatives aren't saying that the Obama/Bush crowd won't enforce anylaws. We are simply pointing out that given their history on the immigration issue, it is absurd to pretend that the border measures in this bill would ever be enforced.

Brooks: "{R}ecent research suggests that increased immigration drives down wages far less than expected."

"Far less than expected?" What does that even mean? Here's an idea: Congress shouldn't pass any bill that will drive down average wages at all.

Brooks: "Conservatives are supposed to believe in the logic of capitalism; that if you encourage the movement of goods, ideas, and people, then you increase dynamism, you increase creative destruction and you end up creating more wealth that improves lives over all."

But conservatives aren't supposed to bury their heads in the sand and ignore both logic and reality in pursuit of dreams about "creative destruction." In this case, it seems logical that if Big Business can draw upon a global labor supply that is virtually unlimited, wages for the typical American living here today will fall. That, in fact, is what the CBO finds as well – a fact that Brooks never shares with his readers.

Brooks: "Before Asians, Hispanics, and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the GOP."

The best way to show voters that you understand them is to support programs that will improve their standard of living. If the GOP supports liberal legislation – such as the Senate bill – that will lower wages and increase unemployment, then voters of all backgrounds will treat them with the contempt they will deserve.
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