Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Conservatives and Republicans who oppose liberalization of immigration laws would be well-advised not to throw overboard one of their greatest allies in another vital policy area, that of climate change and other environmental issues. I am referring to the late Julian Simon. His book ‘The Ultimate Resource 2’ and works based on or inspired by it represent the nuclear warhead arsenal of the conservative and capitalist movements against radical environmentalist fraud. He catalogs and debunks over a hundred cases of environmental scare campaigns in the past 200 years that turned out to be so much global hot air emitted by carbon-spewing political activists out to grab power and earn big bucks (and frequent-flier miles) through notoriety. What’s more, he systematically explained WHY objectively it must be so that all such scares end up as hoaxes (not that that ever deters the activists from inventing new ones with every generation, if not season). Julian Simon is an indispensible ultimate resource all by himself in this regard. Simon’s work has been praised by Milton Friedman, George Gilder, Rush Limbaugh and many writers on the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Having a strong agreement on one or any number of points does not mean that we will always agree on others. We can all easily name people with whom we agree wholeheartedly on some issues while being fiercely at odds on others. But at the very least, the views of someone whom we respect so highly ought to deserve a fair, honest, and open-minded hearing. To do less would be rather shallow and petty.
Simon named his book The Ultimate Resource to make the point that in the final analysis, physical assets like coal, oil, water and food are only as good, useful and available as the PEOPLE who gather, collect, mine, extract, refine, grow and harvest them. It is human beings living under liberty and the rule of law that are the most precious, scarce, productive and needed resource. In the short run, physical resources are of course finite; but in the long term, they are virtually unlimited, only constrained by human imagination, ingenuity, freedom and hard work. In simple arithmetic, since the average human being on earth, when given a chance, is perfectly capable of producing more wealth than he must consume, the more people we have on earth, the more wealth there will be all around. And this principle extends into the realm of all other problem solving as well, not just production of food and wealth but managing pollution, waste, health hazards etc; the more free people available, the cleaner the environment.
In The Economic Consequences of Immigration and Immigration: The Demographic and Economic Facts, Simon focused his pro- (human) life thesis on the specific case of people who decide to move from one place or country on Earth to another in search of opportunity and/or in flight away from persecution and/or poverty. He concludes that the supposed economic arguments against immigrants break down under examination of facts. Consider a sampling of Simon’s findings, which have changed little since he asserted them about 20 years ago:
• The total number of immigrants per year (including illegal immigrants and refugees) nowadays is somewhat less than it was in the peak years at the beginning of the 20th century when U.S. population was less than half as large as it now is.
• Immigration as a proportion of population is about a third of what it was in the peak years.
• The foreign-born population of the United States is 8.5 percent of the total population (as of 1990). It had always been above 13 percent during the period from 1860 to 1930.
• More than half of illegal aliens enter legally and overstay their visas and permits. Less than half cross the nation's borders clandestinely.
• New immigrants are more concentrated than are natives in the youthful labor-force ages when people contribute more to the public coffer than they draw from it;
• The average education of new immigrants has been increasing…[nevertheless] [t]he proportion of adult new immigrants with eight or fewer years of education is much higher than the proportion of adult natives.
• The proportion of immigrants with bachelor's or postgraduate degrees is higher than the proportion of the native labor force.
• Immigrants do not cause native unemployment, even among low-paid or minority groups.
• Immigrants who enter legally through regular quotas are not permitted to receive public assistance for three years, and they may be deported if they obtain such assistance.
• If refugees are excluded from the assessment…the rate of welfare use for new immigrants who entered between 1980 and 1990 is considerably below the rate for natives ages 15 and above.
• Social Security and Medicare are by far the most expensive transfer payments made by the government. These payments go almost completely to natives. This is because immigrants typically arrive when they are young and healthy, and also because older recent immigrants do not qualify for Social Security for many years after their arrival.
• As of the 1970s, immigrants contributed more to the public coffers in taxes than they drew out in welfare services.
The Summary of Important Facts about Immigration may be read here: http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/pr-imsum.html
The complete pamphlet is available here: http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/pr-immig.html
Simon died a premature death at age 65 in 1998, but his influence and rigorous methodology may be readily recognized in the work of his disciples, among them Stephen Moore and Daniel Griswold. The Cato Institute’s August 2009 Handbook for Policy Makers contains a succinct chapter on immigration which is the culmination of this decades’ long research effort. This document deserves to be carefully studied by any serious person interested in how the system should be reformed. Its recommendations in brief are:
• Expand current legal immigration quotas, especially for employment-based visas;
• Repeal the arbitrary and restrictive cap on H1-B visas for highly skilled workers;
• Create a temporary worker program for lower-skilled workers to meet long-term labor demand and reduce incentives for illegal immigration; and
• Refocus border-patrol resources to keep criminals and terrorists out of the country.
He has his own blog where he continues to offer anaylsis and commentary on political economy. Any serious citizen who wants to understand how we got into this mess and how to get out -- permanently -- should take a serious look at his analysis of the current crisis and policy prescription for recovery:
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The Republican share of the hispanic vote has dwindled from a high of 40% in 2004 to 20% in 2008. But it doesn’t have to be this way; it could be 60 or even 80%. Republicans needn’t write off this segment of the population, and we certainly shouldn’t stupidly alienate it if we want to have a say in how our government is run and our country evolves in the next generation.
In general, hispanic citizens are hard-working, self-reliant, pro-family, pro-Judeo-Christian values; pro-Life, pro-school choice. These qualities should endear it to the conservative movement and the Republican party. There are plenty of hispanics in America, even those who participate in the Spanish-language talk radio forums (that I listen to and occasionally participate in), who are appalled at Barack Obama’s economic policies, his brownnosing of foreign leaders and entities, and the reclassification of foreign terrorists as common criminals subject to constitutional protections.
All the conservative movement and the Republican party would need to do to win this segment back to its side is make a sincere outreach appeal and stop appearing to foam at the mouth every time the topic of immigration, legal or illegal, comes up.
Conservative principles of limited government, free markets, free people, duty, honor and country, are not limited by ethnic origin, color or religion, and they do not stop at the border. There is no reason that conservatives can not support liberal (small ‘L’) free-trade policies with other countries and immigration policies that recognize the need for and benefit from immigrants both at the very low and the very high end of the education and skill levels, where they compliment our native-born medium-level average. There is certainly no good capitalist economic argument for undue restriction of trade or immigration.
This doesn’t mean roll over and play dead when Democrats nominate leftist socialist hispanics to high office, as in the case of Sonia Sotomayor. We have to take principled opposing stands and promote our people, of whom we have plenty ‘of color’. But it does mean refraining from painting 12 million people with a broad brush as some kind of criminal underground. To the contrary, reach out, educate this population in American civic values, and win them and their voting citizen cousins to our cause.
To do the right thing by their own principles and to win elections once more, conservatives need to TAKE THE LEAD in liberalizing trade and immigration laws under the rule of law, to make it easier for honest people to come here legally in order all the better to isolate the miscreants who violate our borders for criminal and/or terrorist purposes. By taking the lead in immigration reform, Republicans can take the election issue advantage away from the Democrats and prevent their worst and most irresponsible notions from becoming law over our impotent opposition.
Hispanics for Republicans? ¡Si, se puede!
- American Thinker: Conservative Republican Values and the American Hispanic Mind
- The United States Needs More Conservative Opinion in Spanish
- National Review Online: Bush’s “Real” Hispanic Numbers
- Cato Institute: Will Democrats Err in Immigration Reforms?
- Daniel Griswold: As Immigrants Move In, Americans Move Up
- Wall Street Journal: sunshine for McCain
Friday, December 18, 2009
Should a 60 year-old pay the same income tax rate as a 30 year-old? Even if the 60 year-old earns more, (s)he has a much more limited opportunity to save for retirement; a lower rate for an older taxpayer would be just and fair on that ground. Moreover, a lower rate on mature but productive people would encourage more productivity in the economy from which we could all benefit, as opposed to rushing people out of the workforce, impoverishing us all.
Let me propose a reduction in income taxes, either in absolute terms or in the calculation of taxable income, of 3.33% per year above 35 years of age. Under such a plan, a 50 year-old taxpayer would pay 50% of the taxes (or have taxes based on calculated taxable income reduced by 50%) as a 35 year-old earning the same income; after 30 years of incremental reductions, a 65 year-old would pay zero and could continue working and earning, income tax free if (s)he wanted.
Mature people are more likely than younger ones to be conservative, responsible stewards of their own wealth. I believe such a plan would not only benefit the economy generally by encouraging more productivity where it is at once so ripe and so sorely needed, but it would also alleviate the looming retirement / Social Security crisis.
Your comments please.