The WaPo Case for Immigration

Speaking of cost-benefit analysis that ignores the costs, the editors of the Washington Post lay out their case for increasing immigration:

THE 2020 CENSUS offers a powerful argument for immigration. The United States in the past 10 years saw the slowest population growth rate in eight decades, owing both to plummeting fertility and dwindling immigration. Demographic stagnation, and the resulting possibility of anemic economic growth, threaten American vitality.

The census numbers give the lie, again, to the idea that this country is “full,” as President Donald Trump said, by way of justifying his assault on legal and illegal immigration, or that it has somehow reached the limits of its absorptive capacity. In fact, without robust population growth, and a steady supply of working-age strivers, there is no prospect of repairing the fraying social safety net that supports an aging population of retired Americans.

Simply, lagging births and slowing immigration mean fewer workers, less production and the specter of languid economic growth, or none.

and they point to Japan:

Those skeptical at the proposition that immigration is a bulwark against falling birthrates should mull the counterexample of Japan, where a dwindling population has contributed to a listless average annual gross domestic product growth of 1.3 percent in the decade ending in 2019. (The U.S. average over the same period was nearly 2.3 percent.) Faced with a critical labor shortage, Japan, traditionally resistant to immigrants, finally enacted a measure in 2018 to expand the number of semiskilled workers it admits each year.

which conveniently ignores quite a number of things about Japan. For example, even though Japan’s population is declining its per capita GDP is rising:

Japan does not have income inequality anything like we are seeing in the U. S. and the top 1% are not capturing most of the increases in income. Per capita spending on education and health care in Japan are substantially lower than in the U. S. as well.

Rather than being a cautionary tale Japan is the future to which we should aspire.

Additionally, there is scant evidence that the U. S. is suffering from a “critical labor shortage”. If it were real wages for semi-skilled workers would be rising much faster than they are. Indeed, the problem in the U. S. is, as Jared Bernstein pointed out that every time anybody’s wages start to increase the “immigration spigot is turned on”. Keep in mind Joschke Fischer’s observation from Germany: “We wanted workers; we got people.”

In the U. S. it makes some sense to bring in workers with specialized and in-demand skills whose taxes paid will exceed the cost of educating their children and providing them with all of the services we presently do, e.g. safety, sanitation, transportation, etc. We cannot produce economic growth by importing workers on whom we will spend more than they can conceivably add to the bottom line which, sadly, characterizes most of the migrant workers from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador who enter illegally via our southern border.

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