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The Dishonest Attacks on the Heritage “Cost of Amnesty” Report

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On May 7, 2013 @ 10:35 am In The Point | 7 Comments

The dreaded Heritage report came out warning that amnesty will cost taxpayers 6.3 trillion dollars. Against this, critics are stuck with the same old ObamaCare argument that a hideously expensive and disastrous policy will somehow stimulate economic growth.

The Washington Post struck back with an attack so clumsy that you would expect it to have come from a Salon blogger.

The Heritage paper, chock-full of assumptions that most economists dispute, is a blatant attempt to twist the immigration debate. It concludes that newly legalized immigrants would cost $6.3 trillion more in benefits over their lifetime than they would pay in taxes. (That’s $5.3 trillion more than they would cost without legalization, the think tank said.) The study updates a similar one by Heritage in 2007, which pegged the fiscal cost of amnesty at that time at a mere $2.6 trillion.

The Post neglects to mention that since 2007, ObamaCare was enacted, food stamp use went off the charts and disability became a monster. The Heritage report made its calculations based on the average benefits use. The Washington Post could try and challenge those numbers, but it chooses to imply that the Heritage report inflated the numbers instead.

That’s not journalism. It’s cheap snark of the kind you can get from Media Matters or Think Progress.

There’s no question that granting the full range of government benefits to illegal immigrants — even if they become eligible for citizenship 13 or 15 years from now — will impose long-range fiscal costs. However, most economists say the costs of illegal immigration would be far outweighed by the benefits of legalization for overall economic activity,growth,business start-ups and labor market efficiency.

The Washington Post essentially concedes the Heritage claim while sneering at it. It doesn’t challenge the math, instead it takes refuge in a vague claim of an economic stimulus worth 6.3 trillion dollars to be created by legalizing 12 million illegals.

These are the Heritage numbers…

Average benefits would rise to $43,900 per household; tax payments would remain around $16,000; the average fiscal deficit (benefits minus taxes) would be about $28,000 per household.

To beat those numbers, the illegal household would somehow have to provide an extra $28,000 in economic benefits. The Post doesn’t even bother trying to find that 28 grand. Instead its argument is that in a time of high unemployment, businesses will suddenly benefit from a surplus of newly legalized workers who will have to be paid at least minimum wage plus benefits. And to prove its case, it uses the example of illegal workers.

That’s not news for the construction industry in Arizona, where hostile state laws have driven away thousands of illegal immigrants and builders have scrambled to find scarce workers. It’s not news on farms from coast to coast, where more than half the labor force lacks documents and growers worry that their crops will go unpicked without a system to legalize unauthorized migrant workers.

Much of this is deceptive, but let’s skip to the baseline. Illegal aliens are valued because they don’t have to be paid full wages or benefits. Legalize those illegal aliens and businesses will be scrambling to find more illegal aliens.

The same tired talking points echo from every corner. The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a statement saying…

When public discourse focuses solely on potential costs of reform, we lose sight of key economic benefits of a smarter immigration policy. These newest members of our communities are future consumers, home-buyers, doctors and teachers. They start a disproportionate number of new businesses, employing hundreds of thousands of workers and contributing billions to the economy. Newly legalized immigrants would further expand the economy and our tax base, particularly after earning full access to the institutions that helped make America the world’s greatest mobilizer of human potential.

That’s a fancy way of saying, “Don’t dwell on the numbers. Think about all the future doctors and business tycoons who will be legalized.”

Even Paul Ryan jumped into the dynamic pond, saying, “The Congressional Budget Office has found that fixing our broken immigration system could help our economy grow. A proper accounting of immigration reform should take into account these dynamic effects.”

The curious question is how exactly will dumping a whole bunch of unskilled workers into an economy full of unemployed unskilled workers lead to growth?

If low skill workers are the key to prosperity, why do we spend hundreds of billions dollars a year on educations and training programs? Shouldn’t we just let people make their way with crappy public education and let the good times roll?

The Washington Post has one more ace up their sleeve in attacking Heritage’s “political document”…”the CBO is likely to make clear when it publishes what is certain to be its more dispassionate, and less political, assessment of the proposed legislation.”

The CBO? The same organization that swore up and down that ObamaCare was going to cut the deficit? Yeah, let’s trust them on the cost and benefits of amnesty. What could go wrong?

The CBO report has already been conveniently tailored to exclude the entire subject under debate. Entitlements.

The CBO, too, will not produce a complete assessment. It will look at a ten-year budget window: Conveniently, the Gang of Eight’s bill bars amnestied immigrants from receiving most federal benefits for ten years; after that, the costs will stack up. In addition, the CBO does not take into account the Medicare and Social Security liabilities that amnestied illegal aliens will begin accruing immediately.

That makes the CBO report worthless in the big picture. Which is why it will be touted by all the “conservative” politicians who will pretend not to notice this minor problem with it.


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