David Frum

05.07.13

The Heritage Immigration Study, Ctd.

I'm going to run a useful critique of David's examination of the Heritage Immigration study, and offer a few thoughts of my own along the way.

Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images ()

The comment comes from "PackerLovingGrrl":

David, I think you are cherry-picking the years of comparison. PRIOR to 1930, you cannot seriously argue that the immigrants coming here were better-educated than the native-born. Just go check out the archives at Ellis Island. Also, too: social benefits basically DIDN'T EXIST before FDR decided that letting 2/3 of the citizenry starve in the streets was a really bad idea, and came up with the NEW DEAL. Oh, and there was this big, honking WAR in there, where we picked up all those refugees from Europe. Medicare didn't exist prior to 1965. And so on and so forth.

Well, yes, which I believe is a core part of David's point. The previous waves of mass migration were of poorly educated people coming to an essentially safety-net-less country. For them, it was assimilate or starve, with the constant reality of low-wage labor being undercut by new arrivals. But unlike today, there was a very real opportunity for a poorly educated laborer to make considerable economic advancement through hard work and thrift.

Unlike immigrants at the start of the 20th century, those arriving in the early 21st century impose a significant and long-term public cost on taxpayers, precisely because of the social welfare programs listed above. 

Part of the reasoning offered by advocates of dramatically increased immigration is that subsequent economic growth will pay for the increased cost that poor, less educated arrivals impose on the welfare state. Wealthier citizens get cheaper products, and if you're well educated, things will be fine, but the native born poor and the public treasury will take a hit.

That's a trade-off elite politicians are more than happy to make, but where is the concern for the native born working class?