Thursday, May 18, 2006

When Good Economists Go Bad 

We've got to come up with a simple term describing an economist whose brain shuts down when he thinks about immigration. Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution is currently the leading example. He's very smart about a lot of stuff but he when he starts trying to think about immigration, he seems to get stuck in some sort of ideological rut. Every data point that seems to support massively increasing immigration strikes him as very important and every contra-indicator, well, I'm not sure he's able to see them at all.

Steve Sailer has done a good job at pointing out how Cowen's getting whacked by readers in the comments to his own blog, so I'll won't into the details here. Instead, let me point out that Cowen's most recent post points to Bryan Kaplan's EconLog post arguing that being around a lot of immigrants makes people less worried about immigration. Or as he puts it: "Direct observation of immigrants leads to more reasonable beliefs about the effects of immigration."

More reasonable, huh? Well, that's a question begging restatement of the issue if I ever heard one. But that's not my point.

Kaplan's also getting whacked by readers. A poster called "Teller" has pointed out that if you control for income, the significance of immigration vanishes all together. "The average state income is however significantly correlated people with being positive towards immigration," Teller writes. This is exactly what you would suspect since the poor feel the costs of immigration much more the those on the upper end of the income scale.

Another problem with Kaplan's contention is that it fails to take into account the fact that people move, and (not insignificantly) people move out of areas experiencing large influxes of immigration. Economics call this the "immigration push" effect. A lot of people who live in areas with few immigrants live there because they've moved away from areas with lots of immigrants. So it's not as simple as where people live determining their opinions about immigration; people's opinions about immigration also determine where they live.

Here's more on the immigration push effect.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

MT Gets Results 

Last night, before the president's speech, I printed an email from a reader outraged at the dishonesty of calling the folks Bush so badly wants to let into America "temporary guest workers" when they are nothing of the sort. It concluded "Calling these folks 'guests' is perhaps the most insulting part of this mess."

A few hours later, Bush gave his speech with nary a mention of "guests." Maybe someone in the Bush speech writing team is reading MT.

I'll have more on the substance of the speech later. For now check out Steve Sailer's round-up of reactions from around the blogosphere.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Reader Calls Bullshit on 'Temporary Guest Workers' 

I'm getting a lot of email today from folks upset about what Bush might say tonight. Here's one:

How can you tell if a politician is lying? If he uses the phrase "temporary guest worker" to describe the people who will be let in my the Senate immigration bill. No matter how many times the phrase "temporary guest-worker" is repeated, the truth is that most of the workers will be neither temporary nor guests. And they don't have to be workers either.

As this Heritage Foundation reports makes clear, most workers classified as "temporary" would be given convertible status allowing them to become legal permanent residents. Here's how it works. A worker gets recruited to come to the US and is initially given a six-year stint here. In his fourth year, however, he is eligible to become a permanent resident if he can show that he has learned English or is enrolled in an English class. That's right, he gets permanent status just for being enrolled in the class. So scratch out any notion that these are "temporary" workers.

It gets worse. The spouses and children of a "guest worker" are also permitted to enter the US, and are eligible to become permanent residents when the "guest worker" does. There's no work requirement for the spouses or children, of course, so you can scratch "worker" off too.

And while you are at it, scratch out any notion that we are going to be able to somehow control the number of people coming in under this program. Heritage estimates that at least 100 million legal immigrants will enter the US under this program. That's 84 million than would be permitted under the current laws. But Heritage admits the number might be twice as much.

Guess what? They're low-balling it. The number may be even greater. For all practical purposes, there is an unlimited number of people in the world willing to come to the US in search of a better job. A recent Pew survey found 40% of Mexico want to come here, and Mexico is far from being the poorest country in the world. As the immigrant population grows, so will the pressure on politicians to give in to their demands. As we saw two weeks ago, one of the primary political demands of our immigrant population seems to be amnesty for those here illegally and allowing even more immigrants.

But let's say that this provision gets revised to eliminate the ability of the Temps to convert to Perms. What then? Everyone admits that we aren't going to deport the millions of illegals already in place under current laws. If the Temps decide to overstay their welcome, does anyone seriously expect that we will suddenly find the political will and the practical means of deporting the millions we would have let in under the new immigration regime? Won't we be faced with mass street demonstrations? Won't our economy be even more dependent upon cheap foreign labor? Are we suddenly going to lose our compassion for the people who are 'doing jobs Americans won't do?'

There's also the problem of so-called 'anchor babies.' Almost uniquely among western nations, the US grants citizenship to all children born here regardless of whether their parents are citizens, temporary workers or illegal aliens. As the example of Europe shows, we don't have to do this. But under a recent Supreme Court decision, this is the law of the land. As hard as it is to send childless illegals back home, it is nearly impossible to deport illegals who are raising their American citizen babies.

How many times can we scratch our "temporary"?

Calling these folks "guests" is perhaps the most insulting part of this mess. Guests are invited by hosts, and hosts are responsible for the actions of their guests. So will the companies that invite foreigners to work in the US be responsible for their guests who turn to welfare or crime? Of course not. These are a very odd kind of guests, the kind invited to stay here by someone else at our expense. So, yeah, scratch guests off next.

American Carpenter Objects to Amnesty 

Watch the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Teeter Sperber 

Teeter SperberThis is a picture of my friend Teeter Sperber. She used to run Williamsburg but now she lives out on the Oregon coast. In April, Teeter came into town for a few weeks. Everyone got together at Black & White to welcome her to town. I met her two rad sisters who do things like make handbags and play in rock bands. It was fun. That is all.

Oh. Wait. No it's not. In March, Teeter decamped Oregon for Florida, where she produced the Spring Break Hellscape blog. If you want to follow along with the story, though, you have to read it from the start.