Stephen Moore has an op-ed out today tracing Milton Friedman’s sometimes contradictory thoughts on immigration. Here is his kicker:
“Look, for example, to the obvious, immediate and practical example of illegal Mexican immigration,” [Friedman] said in “What is America?” a 1978 lecture available on YouTube. “Now that Mexican immigration over the border is a good thing. It is a good thing for the illegal immigrants. It is a good thing for the United States, and it is a good thing for the citizens of the country.”
Then came this zinger: “But it is only a good thing if it is illegal.” Why? Because the illegals “don’t qualify for welfare and social security” and other government benefits.
His point was that as long as immigrants are attracted to the U.S. for jobs and economic opportunity, they are contributors—but not necessarily so if the welcome mat comes with government benefits that are paid for by taxpayers. If they cannot gain access to the entitlement state, Friedman said, the country benefits.
The 1996 welfare reform, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, imposed tight restrictions on welfare benefits for new immigrants. Welfare caseloads among the foreign born fell by half, although some of those rules have been eroded—for instance, by ending some of the work requirements—under President Barack Obama, whose economists believe that welfare is a fiscal stimulus.
Republicans and conservatives might want to coalesce around a position of tight welfare and generous immigration rules. That is something Milton Friedman would no doubt regard as the ideal outcome.
But this is not what the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill does. Currently-illegal immigrants who obtain citizenship through Schumer-Rubio will not only be eligible for Social Security and Medicare, they will also get credit towards their Social Security benefits for all of the time they were working in the country illegally. And any honest look at amnesty and our entitlement programs shows that amnesty will be a huge net drain on the system.
Just look at this Washington Post headline, “Immigrants put billions more into Medicare than they use.” Sounds great for pro-amnesty Republicans right up until you read the fine print. “This paper does not explore what happens as demographic trends shift, as immigrant workers get older—and many would age onto the Medicare program,” The Post’s Sarah Kliff writes of the study.
“Providing a path to citizenship for currently undocumented immigrants would affect Medicare’s finances in multiple ways,” study author Leah Zellman tells Kilff. While it would increase payroll taxes in the short-run “in the long term, it would probably increase the number of immigrants eligible for Medicare and hence expenditures on their behalf.”
The response from pro-amnesty Republicans has so far amounted to, “Don’t worry about the cost of amnesty to American taxpayers. We’ll reform all those big government entitlement programs later.”
But when exactly do pro-amnesty Republicans think is a good time to reform Social Security and Medicare? Do they think it will be easier to do after millions of new voters predisposed to the Democratic Party and big government have been added to the voter rolls? Their argument basically boils down to this:
3. Reform the welfare state
Excuse me for wanting to know a little bit more about step two before I sign on to step one.