Paul Krugman, the Anti-Immigrant?

In 2006, Paul Krugman wrote that "immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers" and poses a "political threat" to "the welfare state." Now he supports amnesty. What a difference an election makes.

In 2006, liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that "we have to acknowledge" certain "uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular."

He listed three such "uncomfortable facts." First, "the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration...are small."

Second, "Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans."

Third, "modern America is a welfare state" and "low-skill immigrants threaten to unravel that safety net." Crucially, Krugman stated that "low-skill immigrants don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive." Krugman warned in 2006, "[T]he political threat that low-skill immigration poses to the welfare state is more serious than the fiscal threat" to our economy.

Those uncomfortable facts have become even more uncomfortable, yet Krugman is now supporting amnesty.

During a recent CNN interview, he was reminded of his former position. Krugman retorted, "[A]ll of those negative effects that I talked about, those are happening already, those people are already here, and we're not going to send them back."

Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies tells me that Krugman is "so beholden to political correctness that he can't state the obvious truth."

Krikorian points out that Krugman is avoiding two crucial facts about amnesty and illegal aliens: "First, their fiscal cost will be hugely magnified if they are legalized." If illegal immigrants are legalized, they'll be eligible for a host of welfare programs.

Second, amnesty would "hugely increase future immigration, perhaps by more than 50% each year," Krikorian says. Krikorian believes that the increase would occur via family visas for amnestied illegals, and also through work visas.

Heritage Foundation senior researcher Robert Rector has warned, "Granting amnesty or legal status to illegals will generate costs in Medicare and Social Security alone of $2.5 trillion above any taxes paid in." $2.5 trillion does not even include the host of other social welfare programs in existence, the added costs of Obamacare, or the explosion in disability claims.

Rector responds to a common pro-amnesty talking point, that immigrants will pay into the Social Security Trust Fund, by pointing out, "They will put a little money into the Social Security Trust Fund in the long term, but also in the short term, they're taking $30,000 annually per household in government benefits and services, most which they don't pay for."

Fox News reporter Eric Bolling hinted that an upcoming Heritage Foundation report will show that legalizing illegals will add $4-5 trillion to the national debt.

Amnesty will compound economic pressures, and those pressures will be further compounded by future waves of immigrants drawn by amnesty. Krikorian tells me that "[m]any, perhaps most of those additional new arrivals would be less educated and also end up using welfare."

What a Difference an Election Makes

Krugman seemed to understand all of this in 2006, but his position changed sometime after Obama's reelection. Krugman in 2006 nevertheless had rather hawkish views on a variety of immigration questions.

Krugman rejected the common saying that immigrants will do jobs that Americans won't do:

[I]t's intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants do "jobs that Americans will not do." The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays -- and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants.

Critically, Krugman's solution at that time was "to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants."

He also rejected the guest worker program, saying it was "designed by and for corporate interests, who'd love to have a low-wage work force that couldn't vote." Krugman wrote, "Not only is [the guest worker program] deeply un-American; it does nothing to reduce the adverse effect of immigration on wages."

In addressing "a guest-worker program that includes a clearer route to citizenship," Krugman said he'd "still be careful." The effect of an expanded guest-worker program could be "to create a permanent underclass of disenfranchised workers."

Krugman was so serious about these criticisms that he provided a follow-up piece listing the economic studies he used for sources, stating, "[I]mmigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants." He added, "...we're talking about large increases in the number of low-skill workers relative to other inputs into production, so it's inevitable that this means a fall in wages."

If even Paul Krugman could -at one time- bring himself to recognize these facts, then what excuse do pro-amnesty Republicans have?

John T. Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences '07; J.D., Emory University School of Law '12) is a former Army officer with tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti. His writing has appeared in, World Net Daily, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. 

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