Free Markets, Free People


Immigration and the welfare state

Immigration seems to be the topic du jour at QandO today, and I take a slightly different tack than Dale and Bruce.

Let’s run through the main problems associated with illegal immigrants: state welfare costs, crime (or is it?), lack of assimilation (particularly if they’re allowed to vote), and suppressing wages for poor natives.

I think we can mitigate a lot of these problems with solutions far more realistic (in the short-to-medium term) than mass deportation, amnesty or ridding ourselves of the welfare state.

First, let’s recognize that the security threat becomes more complicated when you place wishful restrictions on immigration.  When there’s a flood of mostly non-threatening people crossing the border outside of any official process, it’s a lot harder to pick out the few really malicious ones.  And it’s really hard/expensive to stop that flood along such a long border.

We should be striving to funnel as many of them through official processes as possible, so we know who’s here, we know their backgrounds and we can separate the villains from those who just want to observe a basic civic peace and take advantage of opportunities in a freer country.  That means offering carrots and sticks to both prospective immigrants as well as those who are already here, and I’ll get to those incentives below.

Second, minimize how much the welfare state serves and controls non-citizens.

  • Uncompensated care makes up only 2.2% of medical costs in this country, and a good chunk of that doesn’t come from illegals, so the fact that many illegals wait until they need to use the emergency room, while irritating to some, isn’t a political hill to die on.  As long as it’s mostly limited to taking care of communicable diseases and real emergencies, which can be enacted into law, it’s tolerable.
  • Education is a much bigger problem.  I recall reading that there are 1.6 million illegal immigrants under age 18 in the States, and being from Southern California, where the largest budget item by far is education, I know that they (and natural born citizens born to noncitizens) represent a big cost.  Here we can do a bit of political jiu-jitsu: target guest worker families with a school voucher program.
    • They’re already in public schools, so it’s a win if they instead form the basis for a larger private school market.  The larger the market, the more the market can work its magic.
    • It can come with strings attached, like a requirement that any school accepting vouchers be able to show an improvement in English language skills at least as good as nearby public schools.
    • It’s not like Democrats have a good argument against it: it’s nearly the opposite of cream-skimming.  And when guests get this, naturally other groups are going to want it too.
  • Transfer payments (Social Security, unemployment, welfare, etc.), obviously, should be off the table for non-citizens.  I have no problem with people who want to take risks in a freer market; a host country owes them nothing more than securing their rights.

The idea here is to weed out those who aren’t seeking opportunity so much as handouts.  Those seeking opportunity are naturally more eager to assimilate.

Third, take the prospect of adding tons of dependent immigrants to the voter rolls off the table.  Instead, we can get most of what we want by creating a liberal guest worker program that virtually all prospective immigrants and current illegal residents can join simply by identifying themselves to authorities, as long as it’s clear that they’re going to generally be paying their own way, so that people with a dependent mindset are weeded out by attrition.

So what are the carrots and sticks here?  Without doing anything that would turn stomachs (and thus make reform politically impossible), we can get rid of the bad apples while not incurring the large costs associated with trying to throw 12 million people out of the country.

  1. A program allowing people to easily enter the country without being harassed should increase suspicion of anyone who’s still trying to immigrate the hard way — and that would increase public support for border security.
  2. Deport illegals who fail to register under the guest program and then commit serious crimes — violent crimes or big property crimes like auto theft.  Those who commit petty crimes and can’t prove their status can either apply for guest status and take their punishment here or accept deportation.
    • No sweeps or “asking for papers” for those who are just here peacefully.  Only those charged with another crime can be asked to prove their status within a reasonable time frame.
    • Come to an agreement to build cheaper-run prisons in Mexico to hold illegals during their sentences — no sense in keeping them in expensive American prisons if we’re planning on deporting them anyway.
  3. Illegals can’t access the school voucher program, but guest worker families can.
    • Perhaps also allow vouchers for English-language and Civics education for adults.

I’m open to any other ideas, but that seems like a good foundation, accepting (in the neolibertarian fashion) that the welfare state won’t disappear tomorrow, but offering a positive agenda that tends to increase liberty.

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65 Responses to Immigration and the welfare state

  • Here’s a simple idea.  Close the border, have jail time for anybody that hires, verify documents on any police stop (this is common for legal residents, they are required to have the necessary documents at all times), and deport anyone here illegally, end of story.   12 million walked across the border at no cost to the tax payer, they can walk back across with no cost.

    • Yes, it’s simple, and also impossible, and a political non-starter.  Forcibly deporting a population the size of Ohio or Pennsylvania would be monstrously expensive and messy, as would jailing anyone who hires an illegal immigrant (remember: 12 million illegal immigrants in a country of 300 million people — how many people you thinking of locking up, and how many businesses are you prepared to see go belly-up?).  Even the most authoritarian countries in the world aren’t totally effective at closing borders, and we’ve got a huge set of borders and ports to police.

      Not to mention, it would be a blow to global prosperity.  Immigration to countries that aren’t complete dumps is perhaps the most effective anti-poverty program in the world.

      The cure would be far worse than the poison.

      • Who is saying forcefully deport?  If the jobs go away, the illegals will go home.  Think of it like turning out th porch light and the moths fly away, or New Yorker going to Texas.  Remember 12 million people traveled here, they didn’t just “appear”, its ridiculous to argue the yes they traveled, but they couldn’t possibly travel back, thats impossible.  If its impossible, how did they get here in the first place?  As for jailing, a few examples and constant enforcement will do the trick.  Most business don’t depend on illegal labor, they just use it for the peripherals.  So the floors are dirty, and the lawns aren’t mowed.  So what.
        “Immigration to countries that aren’t complete dumps is perhaps the most effective anti-poverty program in the world.”
        Thats great for the people who make it out, but what about the ones who are stuck?  Allowing this overflow has kept political pressure to reform very low in Mexico, and made the government even more unresponsive to the will of the people.  After all, if you don’t like it here, go jump the border to the US.

        • You specifically said to deport anyone here illegally, and check papers at every police stop.  That’s forcibly deporting an awful lot of people.  Sure, some would try to go back over the border voluntarily as the jobs dried up, but plenty would try to eke out a living under the radar.

          Enforcing prison terms on every employer that hires illegals would also require a massive use of force.   Why should I believe the government is better at enforcing against black market labor than the other black markets?  We don’t have anywhere near the resources right now, and even if we did, I don’t think it would be worth it.

          And quickly getting rid of 12 million people who arrived over the course of decades is a lot more of a shock than you’re making it out to be.

          I’m not convinced by the argument that allowing immigration is to blame for Mexico not reforming.  It sounds kinda plausible, but is there any evidence that the people who left would have otherwise reformed Mexico?  I’m highly skeptical.

          So the floors are dirty, and the lawns aren’t mowed.  So what.

          You’re pretty sanguine about eliminating the services other people buy.  I’m not.  I see labor mobility improving business and improving lives.  It makes things more pleasant and less expensive.

          • Well lets answer in reverse order.
            The reason I’m flippant about the services illegals provide is in the paradigm of your initial critique about the end of the world for businesses.  If your going to argue that the job performed is vital to the business, I will counter that at that point, that your displacing a poor america worker, the saved cost for the business is trivial compared to the massive social cost to the government subsidized American family.
            Pressure for political reform will always come from within from the masses.  As long as the productive can come here and send money back to prop up a failed economy, run by a failed government, the system will remain as it is.  Very little sharpens a politicians mind like hordes of angry people, this is the main reason why the Mexican government actively encourages people to cross the border.   As long as Mexico can provide an opportunity for advancement via the US border, nothing is going to change.
            Again, it will not take a massive use of force, simply have it as an arrest-able offence and enforce.  Your comments remind me of the drunk driving debate back in the 70s.  Everybody does it, almost no one ever gets hurt, why change the rules?  With enforcement and social stigma, the problem can be reduced, not eliminated (no need for the silver bullet strawman argument).
            Three weeks ago I was stopped with 2 H-1Bs in the car with me.  They had to provide their papers to the officer, same as I had to provide mine, quit acting like its the end of humanity.
            I guess we have a different view, most of the illegals I deal with go back for about 3-6 months every other year.  The migration is constant.  Some have stayed longer in Mexico when the job market was soft here.  Its not science to see that if there coming here for the jobs, and there are no jobs, then they will leave, (most, not all, again don’t confuse the issue with a silver bullet strawman).
            If you believe that we don’t have the resources right now, well, I can agree, and would whole hearty support shifting from other less pressing government intrusions.  Moving resources away from FDA salt monitoring, or the entire personal compliment of the Dept of Education (they have shotguns, you know), I would welcome.

          • Re: “the silver bullet strawman”: Fair enough.  But I still maintain that enforcement would have to be expensive, and very likely messy.
            Now, it’s just not a fact that an illegal immigrant “displaces” an American native’s job.  For that to be true, you’d have to argue, essentially, that the unemployment rate in the middle of last decade would have been negative.
            There’s not a finite number of jobs to be done.  The presence of all these low-skill people makes many jobs possible that would not otherwise be.  Getting rid of illegal immigrants doesn’t mean that their “job slots” will suddenly be filled by natives.
            Re: “pressure from the masses,” again, it’s a kinda-plausible argument, but is there any evidence?  I can just as easily argue that if these migrants hadn’t jumped ship, they probably would have been chewed up in the problems in their own country.  The desperation that leads a person to leave his home doesn’t have just one other outlet, political reform.  It can also lead a person to become part of the problem.

            If you believe that we don’t have the resources right now, well, I can agree, and would whole hearty support shifting from other less pressing government intrusions.  Moving resources away from FDA salt monitoring, or the entire personal compliment of the Dept of Education (they have shotguns, you know), I would welcome.

            You might have noticed that it’s not easy to cut the FDA or eliminate the DoE.  Do you have a politically realistic policy preference?  Like something that could happen under the best possible electoral circumstances?

          • Sigh. :(
            “For that to be true, you’d have to argue, essentially, that the unemployment rate in the middle of last decade would have been negative… Getting rid of illegal immigrants doesn’t mean that their “job slots” will suddenly be filled by natives.”
            I think your losing track of the argument, this is your contention, that the job is necessary for the base function of the company, my argument is that the job is a periphery and not normally a core company function.  Cheap labor retards the process of automation, i.e. the guy with the riding mower is more productive that the guy with the push mower, etc.  basically, no, unemployment wont go negative,  but the lack of demand for alternatives to cheap labor are driven down by the abundant supply of such labor (another market impact).  If the job is necessary to the core function of the company, then yes, and illegal is displacing an american worker.
            “Do you have a politically realistic policy preference?”
            No, do you?

          • I think your losing track of the argument, this is your contention, that the job is necessary for the base function of the company, my argument is that the job is a periphery and not normally a core company function.

            No, that’s a straw man.  I haven’t argued that at all.  I’ve argued that having cheap labor available is just an extra option that allows businesses to be more efficient at the margins.

            Look: some jobs simply can’t be done by automation, or can’t be done without prohibitively high costs.  If nobody’s willing to mow your lawn or paint your house cheaply, you end up having to do that yourself.  That imposes costs on you, when you could get someone else to do it at a cost that would be worth the time you save.

            And chances are, you’re not as good at a lot of those tasks as a specialized laborer would be; what we observe in countries with large tax wedges, for example, where it’s hard to hire someone to perform a simple task, is that when people have to do these menial jobs themselves, they typically don’t do as good a job at them.

            The fact is, it’s better for businesses to have more options.  Sometimes cheap labor is more efficient, sometimes automation is better.

            If the job is necessary to the core function of the company, then yes, and illegal is displacing an american worker.

            No, he’s not.  If immigrants are willing to work for less than American natives, that may be the only reason that the position turns enough profit to exist.

            “Do you have a politically realistic policy preference?”
            No, do you?

            The point of my post is to propose something that drives wedges between people who are usually opposed to Republican policy proposals and accomplishes some of the Right’s political objectives.   It’s a positive set of proposals that addresses several of the real problems associated with illegal immigration.

            It appears we want different things.  I want the country to be governed in such a way that it becomes more free.  You seem to be content to complain that you won’t get your way.

      • It’s impossible to find all of them, so who is saying deport them all.

  • Don’t agree with you Bryan, John is closer to the solution.  Maybe not so much in the way of deportation, but certainly vigorous enforcement of hiring illegals.  It would not take long for that to have an impact.

    I also think you underestimate the cost of illegal immigration.  All of the southern border states except Texas are swimming in red ink, and even here in Texas, these costs are putting a big drain on our resources.  Now you emphasize school vouchers and say that welfare should be “off the table”.  But that is unicorns and rainbows. Don’t you realize that the presence of the huge number of illegals is precisely what makes these type of reforms impossible?
    They represent a huge block of voters and future voters (yes they do vote), and those who are politically allied with them. They are in some ways changing the politics of some of our states because of their political clout, and not for the better.

    • I should make myself more clear: I’m not looking for a “solution” to the illegal immigrants who are actually here to work and pay their own way.  I don’t think it would be a net benefit to us to spend a bunch of resources going after all the small businesses in America that hire illegals, causing some of them to dump efficient labor and causing some of them to try to skirt the law.
      So I’m looking for a politically realistic way of weeding out the ones who are here more for handouts than opportunity.  And I don’t think we can realistically cut all services to illegal immigrants (I don’t think CA’s Prop 187 would pass again today), but I do think we could cut some of them while actually turning some of them to our advantage.
      Why don’t you think school vouchers for guest workers could pass?  It turns Democrats’ own arguments against school choice against them: that vouchers will just skim the cream from the top, that it will leave public schools with the most difficult and disadvantaged students, etc.  It’s a benefit to those influential people you’re talking about.
      And while I don’t think Prop 187 could pass today, I think we could still drive a wedge between those here to work and those here to collect benefits, particularly with our budget problems.
      In addition, all this, I think, would improve the GOP’s position with Hispanics.  The current position held by most Republicans makes little distinction between those who are basically harmless and those who are not.  And that drives suspicion that their position is based out of fear and hate — whether that’s true or not.

      • well of course you could try to push those kind of programs, and if they have merit they should be pursued regardless of the immigration situation.  But I just do not think they will pass in any place where there is already a large amount of Latinos.
        I think that what ought to be emphasized is that we cannot restructure LEGAL immigration, which needs to be restructured, until we deal with the immigration problem.  Right away that pits illegals and their advocates against recent legal immigrants who feel that they had to wait entirely too long and that the process is unfair to them.

        • if they have merit they should be pursued regardless of the immigration situation.  But I just do not think they will pass in any place where there is already a large amount of Latinos.

          The thing is, it’s hard to pass vouchers specifically for people who you officially say should not be here, and it’s political poison to go after illegal immigrants as a bloc rather than driving a wedge between the people here for opportunity and the people here for handouts.  Again, I think our immigration laws have been wishful thinking, and I don’t want to push out the ones who are here for the right reasons.

          that pits illegals and their advocates against recent legal immigrants who feel that they had to wait entirely too long and that the process is unfair to them.

          The process has been unfair to them.  Our immigration laws have been wishful thinking.  But legal immigrants have benefits that wouldn’t be available under even a liberal guest worker program.

      • “…and causing some of them to try to skirt the law”

        lIs this a joke? They are already BREAKING, not skirting, the law by hiring illegals.

        “causing some of them to dump efficient labor”

        Oh, the horror!
        They might have to hire those lazy, inefficient  Americans!

        “In addition, all this, I think, would improve the GOP’s position with Hispanics.”

        You know, some of us don’t really give a rat’s hindquarters about the GOP’s position. I, for one, would also like to think I don’t alter my principles for the convenience of any party, even the GOP.

        • Is this a joke? They are already BREAKING, not skirting, the law by hiring illegals.

          My point, clearly, is that enforcement isn’t going to stop all of them.

          “causing some of them to dump efficient labor”

          Oh, the horror!  They might have to hire those lazy, inefficient  Americans!

          Please.  If you think small businesses, through conspiracy or invincible ignorance, are hiring employees who will provide less value for the buck, just say so.  The fact is, those businesses are benefiting from that cheap labor, and you know it.  Cutting the options available to businesses is not going to help them or their customers.

          You know, some of us don’t really give a rat’s hindquarters about the GOP’s position. I, for one, would also like to think I don’t alter my principles for the convenience of any party, even the GOP.

          Who said anything about altering your principles?  This is about strategy — accepting that you can’t always get your way, picking your battles, and accomplishing what you can.  It’s quixotic to attack me for that.

          After all, what have you accomplished lately in service of your principles?  Anything I can take to the bank?

          • “My point, clearly,”

            No, not clearly. Hence my comment.

            “After all, what have you accomplished lately in service of your principles?  Anything I can take to the bank?”

            “I didn’t know the point of having principles was to make money. Interesting theory.

            “Please.  If you think small businesses….”

            I would comment on this paragraph, too, but it makes no sense.

              

          • “After all, what have you accomplished lately in service of your principles?  Anything I can take to the bank?”

            I didn’t know the point of having principles was to make money. Interesting theory.

            It’s a figure of speech.  Something you “can take to the bank” is something you can rely on, like a good check.  So I ask again: what have you accomplished lately in the service of your principles?  Or even, what do you expect to accomplish?  It’s “lead, follow or get out of the way” time.

            “Please.  If you think small businesses….”

            I would comment on this paragraph, too, but it makes no sense.

            By your sarcasm, you implied that Americans are not so lazy or inefficient that businesses would be harmed if they had only those Americans to hire.  I suggested that businesses (small biz especially in this case) hire based on efficiency — the most value for the buck.  If you eliminate the apparently most efficient option they have, you hurt them.  Clear?

             

          • “you implied that Americans are not so lazy or inefficient that businesses would be harmed if they had only those Americans to hire.”

            Absolutely. Apparently you have a somewhat lower opinion of Americans. Or at least those that don’t wear a tie to work or have a college education.

  • An unspoken element to all of this, and I confess that it has taken years for me to get it through my thick head, is how, beyond migrant agricultural workers, much of the illegal problem is caused by the minimum wage.

    The minimum wage has priced the unskilled or low-skilled American worker (especially teens) out of the marketplace and in many cases pushed him into welfare. I’ve always stupidly believed that the minimum wage laws were of no great import, but that’s wrong. They completely redefine work and employment for people with no skills. Businesses can’t afford to hire that many people without skills, when in fact they might otherwise hire bunches of them, and in fact do hire bunches of them: illegals who are largely off the books and work for a negotiated rate.

    And it’s not necessarily something that affects only the minimum wage and below. It affects the structure of wages at all of the levels that apply to unskilled and some skilled workers.

    So minimum wages encourage illegal immigration and at the same time do far more to prevent employment of low-skilled Americans than to support wage levels. Just look at the unemployment levels for teenagers, who are expected to get all tangled up in “official employment.”

    The government has priced Americans out of the market for low-skilled jobs and illegals fill in that vacuum.

    • not sure if I agree, until the most recent minimum wage hike the actual wage rate in most areas for unskilled labor was higher than the minimum wage, and even now it is about the same.  I am not defending minimum wages but they are quickly absorbed into a rising inflation rate.

      In fact many illegals are employed in construction industries and are paid more than minimum wage.

      What it does do is put downward pressure on wages for low and medium skill workers so that they do not rise at the same rate as inflation.

      • There’s a separate (but inseparable) issue of the non-wage cost of having employees.

        I don’t think that there’s any certainty about what illegals are being paid. I don’t see how you can have reliable reporting on a phenomenon like that.

        And the high-unemployment rate for teens verifies my point, I think. Workers, even teenagers, are very valuable, if you can pay them what they are worth to your enterprise, as opposed to paying them a minimum wage.

      • Its a two way street.  The minimum wage is perceived as necessary because cheap illegal labor is relatively plentiful and the going wage for low & medium skilled workers have been dragged down.

    • It’s true, the minimum wage is a significant part of the problem for American natives.
      IIRC, you can trace the rise in black teenage unemployment pretty directly back to the minimum wage; rises in the minimum wage prohibit low-skilled and perceived-risky employees from getting hired, so they can’t build job skills or signal their value as employees, which has a lasting effect on their professional development — not to mention denying them a way to make a little money in the legitimate marketplace.
      But kyle8 is right that many illegal immigrants are employed above the minimum wage and have developed skills.  Having come from SoCal, I have a lot of anecdotal evidence for that.

      • …you can trace the rise in black teenage unemployment pretty directly back to the minimum wage;


        Yeah, I read that ridiculous WSJ article, too.  Correlation does NOT prove causation.
        For that matter, I could easily write an equally scholarly article showing an increase in teen unemployment with an increase in teen mobile phone sexting.

        Teen unemployment went up as the economy tanked.  And it didn’t go up much higher than the general unemployment numbers… and even that can be reasonably explained away – after all, why would a business hire a teenager when there are plenty of now-unemployed adults willing to do the same job?

        The WSJ article wouldn’t even pass Econ 101 standards.  Who would write such crap?  Better yet, who would believe it?

        • Don’t know what WSJ article you’re talking about.  This is something I read in a book, years ago.  And it makes sense that if you prohibit labor below a certain wage, that hurts the people who are considered the lowest-skilled and most risky.

  • I disagree with your solution.  No matter how you try and dress it up with a little bit of “stick” you are rewarding those people who knowingly broke our laws to get here.  They continue to knowingly break our laws by staying here.  They bleed us dry with the use of our schools and welfare system.
    I think Arizona is right.  Now if all 50 states did the same thing you would see massive self-deportation.
    I am all for a rigid, tightly monitored guest worker program, but the ones here illegally should be tossed out.  And yes, I mean men, women and children.  And get rid of the anchor baby loophole.
    Legal immigrants benefit this nation greatly.  Illegal aliens do not.

    • No matter how you try and dress it up with a little bit of “stick” you are rewarding those people who knowingly broke our laws to get here.  They continue to knowingly break our laws by staying here.

      While there’s certainly something to be said against people who broke our laws to get here, our immigration laws have long been wishful thinking.  When the laws punish people who observe a basic civic peace and pay their own way, it’s the laws that should be re-thought, not the level of enforcement.
      And I hardly think it’s “rewarding” them to deny them a number of welfare state benefits.  If they’re here to pay their own way, I say let them; if they’re here to collect rents, I say let’s dry up that well so that they have to move on.

      Legal immigrants benefit this nation greatly.  Illegal aliens do not.

      Please describe the real differences between the two groups, and why my solution doesn’t address those differences.

      • Bryan, Thank you for taking the time to reply.  After I sent in my comment I had to leave for a loooong day of showing houses and writing an offer.  (I’m a Realtor – pray for me.)  Now I am simply too tired to think straight.  Just didn’t want you to think I ignored you.

      • “And I hardly think it’s “rewarding” them to deny them a number of welfare state benefits.  If they’re here to pay their own way, I say let them;”

        I am a little confused, here. How are they paying their own way if they are receiving benefits? Per pupil expenditure for elementary and secondary education in the US, for example, is over $9,000. I don’t think most illegals pay that much state and local tax.

        • Most people in general don’t pay that much state and local tax.  The question is, how do we improve on the status quo, which is illegal immigrants getting those benefits and more?

          We can’t get rid of the welfare state tomorrow; alternately, we’d have to incur large costs to try and kick millions of people out of the country, assuming that it was politically possible.  So what options are left to us?  I think a voucher program could reduce per-pupil state costs dramatically, as we’ve already seen in voucher experiments.  I think the Democrats are poorly positioned to oppose that proposal, and it would help broader school choice efforts.

          • “Most people in general don’t pay that much state and local tax.”

            Gee, really? So the obvious solution is to add more people who need to be subsidized. 

            ” I think a voucher program could reduce per-pupil state costs dramatically,”

            I guess you also believe the Democrats when they say that slowing spending increases is cutting spending.

          • Gee, really? So the obvious solution is to add more people who need to be subsidized.

            Millions of them are already here.  You don’t have an actionable plan for getting rid of them.  I’ve offered a way to cut costs among a population that already is (a.) ineligible for many benefits and (b.) uses the benefits for which they are eligible at a rate far below that of citizens. (Yes, that includes hospital ERs. The ERs with the highest traffic tend to be in communities with relatively small immigrant populations.)

            “I think a voucher program could reduce per-pupil state costs dramatically, as we’ve already seen in voucher experiments.”

            I guess you also believe the Democrats when they say that slowing spending increases is cutting spending.

            Again, your sarcasm is way off target. Try again?

          • “You don’t have an actionable plan for getting rid of them.”

            You mean that enforcing the law is not an actionalble plan?

          • It’s not politically actionable, correct.  And where it is actionable, I don’t think it can be both effective and sustainable.

  • Uncompensated care makes up only 2.2% of medical costs in this country, and a good chunk of that doesn’t come from illegals, so the fact that many illegals wait until they need to use the emergency room, while irritating to some, isn’t a political hill to die on.  As long as it’s mostly limited to taking care of communicable diseases and real emergencies, which can be enacted into law, it’s tolerable.

    That’s deceptive.  I don’t know what industry you’re a part of, but when price pressures are so tightly controlled, with prices set by governments and insurance companies, 2.2% is likely in the ballpark of medical facilities profit margin.  If you go long enough without a profit you go out of business.

    And then consider that 2.2% is mostly born by 5-10 states that 2.2% cost goes to 11 to 22% of medical costs.

    • I’m part of an industry that isn’t nearly so beaten to death by government: consulting.  There are much easier, cheaper, more palatable fixes to the medical industry’s problems than trying to deport all the illegals.
      And again, not all of that 2.2% is illegals.  A good chunk of that comes from legal residents and citizens who don’t have sufficient insurance+savings to cover their costs.

      And then consider that 2.2% is mostly born by 5-10 states that 2.2% cost goes to 11 to 22% of medical costs.

      That doesn’t make sense.  You don’t think those 5-10 states are all average-size states, do you?  California, Texas, Florida, New York?  That’s almost a third of the population of the country.

  • And in general making what is happening legal does not fix anything.  Guest worker program just calls what is happening legal.

    And it won’t be long before Guest Worker because a fast track to citizenship because of cries of an institutionalized underclass.  Which I’m not so sure it isn’t.  Which leads me to the ‘other’ dark motive in politics for looking the other way.  The first is Democrats looking for new voters.  The other is the cheap labor and the producers and consumers who perceive it as a benefit which it is in the short term or you are the only one taking that advantage.

    • It depends on what you’re trying to “fix.”  If you’re trying to kick 12 million people out of the country, no, my proposals don’t accomplish that.  If you’re trying to address the actual problems caused by some illegal immigrants, then I think I have a good start.
      The program doesn’t have to be a fast track to citizenship, but naturally, if they’re willing and able to stay here once the welfare state benefits have dried up, they’re the kind of people who’d do pretty well in the citizenship application process.

  • I disagree that most illegals work “off the books”.  I worked for the Oregon DMV for ten years and illegals constantly tried to use paystubs for ID.  We have the ability to screen people for good social security numbers. Use that ability to disallow any and all deductions of expense for an employee that does not show a valid number and most if not all employers would not hire. Without jobs most would self deport.

    • Yes, many of them do work “on the books” using false identification, but in many cases employers are aware of this.  Getting rid of expense deductions — is that a large cost consideration for most illegal immigrant employees?

      • “is that a large cost consideration for most illegal immigrant employees?”

        Uh, assuming you mean employERS the answer is yes. In your own previous comments you say that businesses that employ illegal immigrants are labor intensive, not capital intensive. Disallowing those labor costs will significantly increase taxes on the business.

  • Transfer payments (Social Security, unemployment, welfare, etc.), obviously, should be off the table for non-citizens.  I have no problem with people who want to take risks in a freer market; a host country owes them nothing more than securing their rights.
    So, how does this really work? If you have a green card, you get these. If you don’t, you don’t?
    Also, legal immigrants have to show they can support themselves and sign papers saying they won’t take welfare. I had to do this for my wife and stepson. So how do illegals get this welfare in the first place? Does anyone actually check up on this stuff? I see tons of immigrants using food stamps – including Asian immigrants who probably did not jump a fence to come in. How is it that they can get welfare? I bet no one checks. Seriously, how do we get to millions on food stamps, and you can buy restaurant meals with them.
    Have state run stores with sacks of rice and bags of beans. Food stamps only work there. You won’t die, but you will have stigma, and you will eat staples only.

    • The food stamp program has been riddled with corruption and fraud for years. Now immigrants, being just as subject to the frailties of human nature as citizens, are taking part in this portion of American culture.
      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,72137,00.html

      Some years ago, if I recall correctly, William F. Buckley suggested that we eliminate food stamps and simply provide free food to whoever wants it. Of course he limited the available foodstuffs to bulk quantities of Bulgur wheat, rice, dried beans, and cheese. Nobody would starve but it might be a bit boring.

    • So, how does this really work? If you have a green card, you get these. If you don’t, you don’t?

      Basically, yes.  It wouldn’t take a great expense to get welfare agencies to verify these things.

      • As I mentioned, immigrants with green cards supposedly have proven that they have income to support themselves and that they will not go on welfare – a sponsor is on the hook for that costs.
        why have laws and rules if they are not enforced?

  • Oh, and I know libertarians will note I say state run stores…that’s a feature not a bug if it encourages people to get off food stamps to buy better food.

  • “Health care costs have been rising for several years. Expenditures in the United States on health care surpassed $2.3 trillion in 2008, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990, and over eight times the $253 billion spent in 1980.”
    http://www.kaiseredu.org/topics_im.asp?imID=1&parentID=61&id=358

    Speaking of sanguine, some might think that 2.2% of that is a lot of money. Maybe that is why those emergency rooms in the southwest have been closing.

    For quite a number of years I have been hearing that an educated and skilled work force is necessary for our modern highly tecnological economy to grow. Now I hear that large numbers of uneducated, illiterate workers are necessary for our economic well being. I guess we might as well cut back on all that education spending. 

    • 2.2% of $2.3 trillion is $50.6 billion.  Yes, that’s a lot of money, in absolute terms, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.  And once again, it’s not all the fault of illegals.

      For quite a number of years I have been hearing that an educated and skilled work force is necessary for our modern highly tecnological economy to grow. Now I hear that large numbers of uneducated, illiterate workers are necessary for our economic well being. I guess we might as well cut back on all that education spending.

      Ever hear of specialization?

      • What does specialization have to do with anything?

        • It means that people focus on their comparative advantage, and allow other people to focus on their comparative advantage.  I don’t pick my own strawberries, though I’m certainly capable of picking strawberries and might even do an excellent job at it.  But that isn’t how I want to spend my time, and it would be inefficient for me to do so when I have more valuable skills that I’ve spent time honing.

          Some other guy (or group of guys), who have the skill to grow and market strawberries, hire less-skilled workers to pick the things, because it can’t be done by machine, and nobody who has significantly more valuable skills is going to sign up for the job; it would be wasteful if they did.

          The availability of cheap labor makes it more profitable to run a strawberry farm, which means I (and thousands of other people) can get slightly cheaper, fresher strawberries.  Everybody does the job they’re qualified to do, everybody voluntarily trades, everybody wins.

  • I am also amused by the suggestion by some on this Libertarian blog that market forces in this country are unable to cope with the simultaneous demand for labor and a 9%+ unemployment rate and that we need to import millions of off-the-books workers to let the economy function. 

    • not sure the point you are making. We have a problem with unemployment and that is only exacerbated by illegal influx. We never “needed” their labor, what would have happened without them is the following : higher wages, more Americans willing to work for those higher wages, more demand for legal immigration, more automation and efficiency.

      • No, that’s wrong.  Having cheap, low-skilled labor available instead of having to do things through automation allows us to produce more at lower costs, making us more competitive.  That, in turn, allows others (like those who manage lower-skilled workers, and those who produce the capital that those lower-skilled workers use) to make higher wages.

        And let’s not discount the fact that illegal immigrants are consumers as well as producers.

        • Modern economic theory would not support your argument.  Nations who rely on cheap labor instead of increases in productivity fall behind.

          • What modern economic theory do you mean?  The availability of cheap labor doesn’t preclude increases in productivity.  The United States has imported tons of cheap labor for its entire history, whether slaves or indentured servants or Irish or Chinese or Hispanics.  Yet the people who are here continue to become more productive.  They take these cheap inputs and put them to work in more efficient ways.

            Look at McDonalds — it’s all about taking fairly unskilled people, and setting up a system around them so that they can make a consistent product.

        • LOL.
          So there is no native cheap, unskilled labor in this country? All us natives have PhD.s and stuff? Maybe where you live.

          • Going through this thread, not once has your sarcasm been on target.

            Here you’re talking like businesses hire illegal immigrants because it didn’t occur to them that available natives could provide equal value for the buck.  That’s absurd.  You think they choose to break the law just for the fun of it?

  • Al Sharpton represents exactly whom ? …

    For the record Illegal immigrant families in the United States make more than black families. African Americans were paid a median household income of $32,000 in 2007. In the same year, the median household income for illegal immigrants was $37,000. With national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it’s not true that undocumented workers are doing the jobs that Americans won’t do. But, Al Sharpton doesn’t care about black people.

    • I’d issue a caveat about that household income statistic: I’d bet that the median illegal immigrant household has more earners than the median black household.’

      And while some people use the “they do jobs that Americans won’t do” line, there’s more to it: will Americans be equally good employees for the same wages?  There’s the rub.  It’s all about value for the buck.

      • “there’s more to it: will Americans be equally good employees for the same wages?”
        “  It’s all about value for the buck.”

        Stop being coy. You have been hinting at it all through this post. Come out of the closet and say it-
        “Foreigners are better workers than Americans”.

        • For a variety of reasons, some foreigners can be more valuable than some Americans in some positions.  If those foreigners are not available, then those businesses will have to choose a less profitable option.  This is self-evident.  It must be a disappointment that I’m not made of straw.