The White House’s Amnesty Opposite Day

The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector debunks the White House’s attempt to sell amnesty with dubious Keynesian economics.  The White House last week released a report claiming that granting amnesty to immigrants here illegally would increase the income of Americans by $791 billion over the next decade.  They also claim that amnesty would add roughly 2 million new jobs over the same period.

If all that sounds good, think twice.  Rector explains:

The White House document is based on a report from the Center for American Progress (CAP). The CAP study assumed that if illegal immigrants were granted amnesty and citizenship, their wages would increase by a full 25 percent. This is an extreme assumption. Data from the federal government’s last amnesty for illegal immigrants, in 1986, indicate a wage increase of roughly 5–10 percent.

The White House report asserts that granting citizenship to illegal immigrants would create nearly 2 million new jobs for current citizens over the next decade and boost their income by roughly $130 billion over the same period. These figures are generated by the CAP authors’ Keynesian economic assumptions: The hypothetical increase in the wages of amnesty recipients generates greater consumer demand; this, in turn, “ripples through the economy,” creating new jobs and higher income.

Such simplistic assumptions, in which boosting consumer demand or government deficit spending is the pathway to national prosperity, have been discredited for decades. Nonetheless, the left habitually uses Keynesian economics to argue that spending on welfare programs such as food stamps boosts jobs and gross domestic product.

The truth is that amnesty will cost Americans – both citizens and naturalized citizens – tremendously:

Under the Senate-passed amnesty bill (S. 744), each current illegal immigrant would receive more than $900,000 in government benefits over his lifetime while paying around $300,000 in taxes—a net cost of more than $600,000 to taxpayers. Even if the wages of amnesty recipients were to soar by 25 percent, the long-term costs per recipient would be more than $500,000. The overall cost to taxpayers after amnesty, as Heritage has calculated, is likely to exceed $6 trillion.

It’s simply untrue that welfare programs like food stamps boost the economy, and it is just as untrue that amnesty will be good for the economy.

Moreover, we have noted (here, here, and here) that until the threat of amnesty is removed, the House should not go to conference on the Senate bill.

The White House is living in some kind of alternate reality; amnesty would not benefit America.  The Heritage Foundation has outlined a positive path to immigration reform that does not include amnesty for illegal immigrants.  But an amnesty-first approach would undermine the rule of law, be unfair to those trying to come here legally, and come at a tremendous $6 trillion economic cost.

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