Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Talk about a free ride.

Our society is full of financial and intellectual free loaders. Libertarians get to visit National Parks and send their kids to public schools. Creationists get to benefit from evolution-based medical advancements. Atheists, apparently, get to live free and happy in a country moderated by Christian values.

But America's biggest free loaders are the hordes who want to kick every undocumented worker out of the states. Can you imagine what Pat Buchanan would have to pay for a pint of strawberries if he got his way? Could Fox News still afford their fleet of custodians if Bill O'Reilly sent all those Mexicans back where they came from? Would a Minute Man be able to pay for a construction crew to pour his foundation if the prevalence of migrant labor didn't pull prices down?

Sometimes I secretly wish that these people did wake up one morning to find all the undocumented workers mysteriously vanished. All those god-fearing, Mexican-hating, Republican-voting poor folk across the country would have a rude awakening when they tried to buy food, find a babysitter, hire a construction worker, get their car repaired, or any number of other necessities.

Tonight on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Robert Rechtor of the Heritage Foundation repeatedly harped on cost illegal immigrants exact on taxpaying Americans. Specifically, he claimed that each undocumented resident takes in $20,000 more in services than she pays. For starters, how comparable is this number for other poor Americans who are also citizens? Don't tell me that someone pulling in $23,000 a year (half the household median income in the U.S.) pays more in taxes than he and his kids receive in public services. Secondly, if that $20,000 figure includes the cost of educating non-citizens' citizen children, this statistic neglects the economic return the country enjoys from investing the cost of that education into a future American worker.

But, more importantly, how much less do American citizens have to pay for their essentials in order to accommodate those undocumented workers?

Immigration, migrant labor, and path-to-citizenship policy are messy and complicated, and oddly enough I don't support unfettered illegal immigration. I can't summarize my thoughts on these issues in a single blog post. But I will posit that our current arrangement only marginally benefits illegal immigrants compared to how much consumers, employers, and the state gain.

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