by John Hawkins | April 10, 2007 3:20 pm
You know, one of the most bizarre arguments in favor of amnesty is the argument that turning tens of millions of poor, uneducated illegal aliens, many of whom don’t speak English, into citizens is going to be a huge boon for the economy.
Are the poor people who are already citizens of the United States a huge boon to the economy? Since they’re poor, they’re not filling high skill positions, they pay minimal amounts of taxes, and they tend to use large amounts of government services — this is sort of a no brainer, right?
Additionally, when you consider that manual labor is a young man’s game and that a lot of illegal aliens, currently at least, don’t have the skills to do anything else, well, you do the math on what will happen once they get too old to climb up a ladder and pick fruit for 10 hours a day if they’re citizens of the United States — or, if you don’t want to do the math, let Robert Rector do the math for you. It’s not a pretty picture…
“Rector has just published a study, “The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Households to the U.S. Taxpayer,” that is ostensibly not about immigration at all. He takes the most detailed look yet at the economics of the 17.7 million American households made up of people without a high-school degree.
…The reason Rector chose to look at low-skilled workers is that it is estimated that nearly two-thirds of illegal immigrants fall into that category. (By way of comparison, slightly less than ten percent of native-born Americans are in that group.)
…Rector began by calculating the dollar value of the benefits those low-skill workers receive from the government. There are direct benefits, like Medicare and Social Security, and means-tested benefits, like food, housing and medical benefits specifically for low-income people. Then there is public education, along with population-based services like police and fire protection, parks, and roads. (Those services benefit everyone, and their cost usually increases as the population increases.) After that, there is interest on the public debts, a burden spread throughout all income groups, and the cost of what Rector calls “pure public goods” — national defense, scientific research, and a few other areas — which benefit everyone but do not necessarily rise in cost as the population rises.
Rector found that in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available, low-skill households received an average of $32,138 per household — the great majority in the form of means-tested aid and direct benefits. (Rector excluded from that figure the cost of public goods and interest; with those included, he says, each low-skill household receives an average of $43,084.) Against that, Rector found that low-skill households paid an average of $9,689 in taxes. (The biggest chunk of that was the Social Security tax — $2,509 — followed by state and local taxes, consumption taxes, property taxes, and federal income taxes, but Rector counted everything, including highway levies and lottery purchases.) In the final calculation, he found, the average low-skill household received $22,449 more in benefits than it paid in taxes — the $32,138 in benefits, excluding public goods, minus the $9,689 in taxes.
Taking that $22,449, and multiplying it by the 17.7 million low-skill households, Rector found that the total deficit for such households was $397 billion in 2004. “Over the next ten years the total cost of low-skill households to the taxpayer (immediate benefits minus taxes paid) is likely to be at least $3.9 trillion,” Rector writes. “This number would go up significantly if changes in immigration policy lead to substantial increases in the number of low-skill immigrants entering the country and receiving services.”
From a purely money perspective, it’s a powerful argument. At a cost of $22,449 per household per year — well, multiply that by an adult lifespan of 50 years and you have an average lifetime cost to the taxpayer of $1.1 million per unskilled worker. Increase that population with a wave of unskilled immigrants, and you’re talking a lot of money.
As you can see, folks, there is no such thing as a fiscal conservative who supports an amnesty program. Let me repeat that, folks, because there is no such thing as a fiscal conservative who supports an amnesty program.
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