This question is fairly representative of reader comments over the last few weeks:
Justin, please answer the one question that all the commenters here have been asking for weeks now. What is your plan to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants who are already here? Deportation? Self-deportation? Status quo?
I favor what is roughly the middle-ground approach for House Republicans: unauthorized immigrants must come forward, plead guilty to any immigration crimes they have committed, pay back taxes (although as most are low-skilled, this will be relatively negligible) and fines, and wait a decade before getting a green card.
This immigration bill will pass the Senate. I'm quite confident a similar one will pass the House. I will be surprised if President Obama hasn't signed immigration reform into law before the first of the year. This is happening whether I like it or not, so the most important concerns are to limit the negative effects on the native born working class, do our best to tighten up the enforcement provisions, and push back against a bipartisan effort to treat America's borders like an inconvenience rather than an important part of being a nation-state.
Great news, reports the New York Times! Immigrants are a net surplus for Medicare:
The study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, measured immigrants’ contributions to the part of Medicare that pays for hospital care, a trust fund that accounts for nearly half of the federal program’s revenue. It found that immigrants generated surpluses totaling $115 billion from 2002 to 2009. In comparison, the American-born population incurred a deficit of $28 billion over the same period. ...
Individual immigrant contributions were roughly the same as those of American citizens, the study found, but immigrants as a group received less than they paid in, largely because they were younger on average than the American-born population and fewer of them were old enough to be eligible for benefits. The median age of Hispanics, whose foreign-born contingent is by far the largest immigrant group, is 27, according to the Brookings Institution. The median age of whites in the United States is 42.
Except for a teensy little caveat:
I'm a big fan of Edmund Burke, but this wishful thinking is about as useful as my crusade to swap a payroll tax in favor of a VAT:
His suspicion of absolute power gives modern readers no pause: That value is embedded in Western political thinking, even if different systems have different ways of expressing it. But Burke’s suspicion of abstract principles is more troublesome today. In contemporary politics, above all in the U.S., people of every ideological stripe claim constantly to be upholding abstract principles -- the principle of individual liberty, of the sanctity of life, of fairness in distribution, of property rights, of equality before the law, of free speech, of national security. Each of these principles, according to circumstances, is elevated to precedence over all the rest, and failure to acknowledge its pre-eminence puts dissenters beyond the pale.
Burke was the prototypical political moderate -- and his moderation followed from his view that these and other abstract principles are inevitably in tension. That this insight should be controversial seems odd, yet it was and still is. Politics, in Burke’s view, ought not to be about one principle simply prevailing over others, even if it commands majority support. It should be about balancing countervailing principles. No abstract rule can determine how this balance should be struck.
POLITICO's David Nather reports that Republicans on the House Gang of Eight are pushing for a rule forcing provisional immigrants to purchase healthcare - while remaining ineligible for the subsidized exchanges offered by the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans in the group want these immigrants to pay for their own medical bills — and they also want to make sure Obamacare doesn’t expand as part of immigration reform. Under the health care law, illegal immigrants are not entitled to purchase plans in the exchanges and they aren’t eligible for subsidies.
“We want them to have health care, not Obamacare,” Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), another member of the group, said in a brief interview on his way in to the group’s negotiating session last week.
Jed Graham of Investor's Business Daily, who first reported on the problems caused by the Affordable Care Act meeting the immigration reform, explains it in clear English:
Harry Reid is awfully confident the Senate immigration bill can clear the 60 vote threshold to defeat a potential filibuster, and I'm inclined to think he's correct:
“I talked about this to a number of my senators today, and what he wanted to say is they haven’t done a whip count on this yet,” Reid said. “I think we have 60 votes. Remember, we start out at 55 Democrats. I think the most I’ll lose is two or three. Let’s say I wind up with 52 Democrats. I only need eight Republicans, and I already have four, so that should be pretty easy.”
I'll reluctantly support a Cadillac tax, if only as a precursor to one day removing the tax exemption for employer health insurance spending. Quoth Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic:
The story is about Obamacare's "Cadillac Tax," which isn't really a tax so much as a convoluted attempt to undo an existing tax break. To simplify things a bit, the government today doesn't treat employer health insurance as taxable income. That makes a dollar of insurance worth more than a dollar of wages, giving both employers and employees incentive to load up on insurance.
Most economists think that contributes to rising health care costs, since people with more insurance tend to spend more on medical care. The Cadillac tax would limit the value of the tax break, effectively reducing that incentive and, in theory, reducing health care costs for everybody over the long run.
Alyssa Rosenberg is put off by the trailer for the new Ron Maxwell film, Copperheads:
The trailer for the upcoming Civil War drama Copperhead conveniently doesn’t mention that the movement its titular characters were affiliated with wanted the Union to make a peace with the Confederacy that would allow for the preservation of slavery, and that it was naive enough to believe the Confederacy would come back to the Union on its own terms. But given the pop culture trope of the sympathetic or victimize Confederate, I’m not actually surprised that a Civil War setting is one of the few ways we could get a movie about people who have been dramatically marginalized in our political conversations and even in civil society: war resisters.
Jordan Bloom responds:
It's astounding that Jennifer Rubin can write an article attacking the lack of "coherent arguments" from immigration skeptics without once mentioning those skeptics' primary argument, but she pulled off just that in a blog post this morning at the Washington Post.
What Rubin misses is that what unites liberals like Mickey Kaus with conservatives like my boss David Frum on this issue is a skepticism that dramatically increased low-skilled immigration will be a net positive for American society, particularly for Americans with the least political influence.
JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images
Spin it as you will, but what this reform will do is legalize millions of unskilled laborers and condemn the native born working class to dimished career prospects at the same time fiscal realities necessitate a drawback of the American welfare state.
Fred Bauer notes what may be the single biggest difference between 2007 and today when it comes to immigration reform: Democrats have come around to guest worker programs. That comes at a cost:
The 2007 bill’s guest-worker program differs in a variety of ways from the Gang of Eight’s program. But some of the major concerns remain constant. The current guest-worker program could further drive down wages in both high- and low-skill sectors. It could empower the politically connected at the expense of the average worker. It could create a vast new, economy-distorting bureaucracy. It could harm an already-depressed employment picture (changes made to the immigration bill in markup may actually make it even easier for guest workers to displace American workers). It could undermine the ability of workers to bargain effectively for their labor. It could place more individuals in a status of legal ambiguity.
As much as it may pain some Republicans to admit, perhaps Senators Boxer, Durbin, and Sanders have a point. And as much as it may pain allies of the Gang of Eight, perhaps the criticisms of the guest-worker program raised by Senator Sessions and other conservatives are not the rantings of outmoded reactionaries but the reasoned arguments of Americans drawing from a bipartisan tradition of concern on behalf of workers’ rights, the free market, and economic opportunity.
Please forgive my brief pivot from politics to a similarly dysfunctional passion project: Arrested Development.
Here’s the problem with the entire season: since many of the cast members are now considerably more famous, getting them all on set at the same time was really hard. As a result, the entire season is piecemeal, with episodes devoted to each character.
(For the record, the best three episodes deal with Gob, Tobias, and Buster, and it's not even close.)
Molly Ball's latest for the Atlantic offers an idea for how the GOP can emulate the Democrats of the late 1980s:
So how did the DLC do it?
The group’s first order of business was to force the party to face facts. Of all the Democrats’ many problems in the late 1980s, the biggest was denial. Party activists professed that their nominees were losing not because they were too liberal but because they weren’t liberal enough. Or they said that the party simply had to do a better job of turning out its base of low-income and minority voters. Or that Democrats’ majorities in Congress and governors’ mansions proved the party was still doing fine. Some insisted that voters were being hoodwinked by the charismatic Ronald Reagan, or were just too racist and backward to embrace the righteousness of Democratic positions.
The bottom line of such defenses—that the party did not need fundamental change—echoes today’s future-of-the-GOP argument.