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“The Great Wall Of China On The Rio Grande”: The Real Costs Of Foolish Plans To ‘Secure’ The Border

Sen. Ted Cruz launched his bid for the Republican presidential nomination this week by promising to “finally, finally, finally secure the borders” and put an end to unauthorized immigration. This will warm the hearts of restrictionists, no doubt. But it should scare Americans who love their pocketbooks and liberties more than they hate undocumented Latino immigrants.

Restrictionists accuse many of these immigrants of being welfare queens who come to America illegally and live off taxpayers. Cruz has contributed to the hysteria by proposing bills barring undocumented workers from ever receiving any means-tested benefits, presumably even after they become legal.

Accusations that undocumented Latinos strain the welfare system are a red herring. If anything, immigrants, legal and illegal, constitute something of a welfare windfall. How? By coming to this country during their peak working years, after another society has borne the cost of raising and educating them, they save our system a ton of money. Studies generally don’t take this windfall effect into account, and still find that the economic contributions of low-skilled Latinos far outpace their welfare use. For example, a Texas comptroller study found that although unauthorized workers consumed about $504 million more in public services than they paid in taxes, without them, the Texas economy would shrink by 2.1 percent, or $17.7 billion. A full accounting of these folks would likely show them to be an even bigger economic boon (especially since the employment participation rate of Latino men is higher than the native born, and their overall welfare use is lower).

Meanwhile, as Cruz and his ilk whine about the (exaggerated) welfare costs of immigrants, they act as if their own plans to erect the Great Wall of China on the Rio Grande would be costless. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cruz wants to establish “100 percent operational control” of America’s southern border by completing a double-layer fence on the entire 2,000 miles, tripling the size of the border patrol, and quadrupling the number of helicopters and cameras.

This is beyond ill conceived. First of all, 45 percent of all illegal immigrants are visa over-stayers. So Cruz’s efforts are totally irrelevant for nearly half of America’s illegal immigrants. What’s more, even the Berlin Wall, the most fortified border in modern history, was successfully breached 1,000 times every year. That rate will be a gazillion times greater on America’s southern border, which is not a barren, open expanse of land. In fact, it has a varied and rugged terrain with mountains and valleys and national parks (one the size of Rhode Island) and rivers that the wall will have to hop, skip, and jump around.

The Rio Grande has myriad tributaries that feed millions of people on both sides of the border. If Cruz’s wall is anything like the current 18-foot-high structure with rust-red hollow posts sunk six inches apart in a concrete base, it will have to stop several miles short on each side to avoid damming the watershed, leaving major openings for people to walk through.

And what would a double-wall cost taxpayers?

It is very difficult to get a full grip, but the construction cost alone of a single-layer fence on the 1,300 or so unfenced miles would likely be upwards of $6 billion (assuming, as per a CBO study, pedestrian fencing costs of $6.5 million per mile and vehicle fencing costs of $1.7 million per mile). Annual maintenance costs would be hundreds of millions more.

Tripling the number of boots on the ground wouldn’t be cheap either. President Obama has already deployed 20,000 border patrol agents, over twice more than he inherited. Tripling this number would cost a whopping $7 billion or so more a year since, according to the CBO, the annual cost of an agent is about $171,400.

And the bill in dollars pales in comparison to the price Americans will have to pay in lost liberties.

Conservatives are outraged when the government confiscates private property for environmental or other ends. Indeed, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, a vile man with retrograde views on race, became an instant conservative hero when he stood up to Uncle Sam and let his cattle graze on land that the federal government had, in his view, illicitly obtained. Yet Cruz and his ilk have no qualms about authorizing Uncle Sam to perpetrate an even bigger property grab in the name of their Swiss-cheese wall.

Over half of the recently constructed 700 miles of fence was on private property that Uncle Sam deployed blatant strong-arm tactics to obtain. It confiscated ancestral land that had been in families for over 200 years and offered virtually peanuts to Texas landowners who couldn’t afford to hire expensive lawyers to duke it out with Uncle Sam in court. Oscar Ceballos, a part-owner of a small trucking business, recounts how a government lawyer went so far as to figure out how much his assets were worth to dissuade a free legal clinic from representing him in his fight against the government’s ridiculously low-ball initial offer. Cruz’s even grander wall ambitions will only compound such abuse.

Nor would Americans on the border be the only ones affected. The vast majority of undocumented workers are here because there are Americans, especially employers, who benefit from their presence. Hence, Cruz and his fellow anti-immigration fighters want to force all American employers to verify the work eligibility of potential hires — American or foreign, legal or illegal — against a federal database through E-verify. Should this program become mandatory, all Americans will be effectively required to obtain a government permission slip to work.

What’s ironic about Cruz’s crusade to build a wall between two free — and friendly — people, divert billions of taxpayer dollars to militarize the border, and abrogate the civil rights of Americans is that he is doing so while vowing to “stand for liberty.”

If this is his idea of liberty, what would tyranny look like under President Cruz? (Don’t answer that — I hope to never find out!)

 

By: Shikha Dalmia, The Week, March 27, 2015

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Border Security, Immigrants, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The ‘Texas Miracle’ Fraud”: Turns Out It Involves Taxing The Poor To Help The Rich Get Richer

Remember “The Texas Miracle”? It was the story of how Rick Perry was going to be president because his state, Texas, was doing so much better than all the other states. Texas was doing so well, we were told, because it was very conservative: Low taxes, light regulation, and few pesky unions. We were supposed to compare Texas to California, which, we were told, was an apocalyptic mess because it was run by liberals.

Then we sort of stopped hearing about The Texas Miracle for a while, because Rick Perry forgot how to count and it no longer seemed like he was personally responsible for managing the economy of his vast state, but conservatives still enjoy telling themselves that Texas proves that their economic policy preferences are objectively superior to those of liberals. Except, well, maybe Texas isn’t that miraculous.

At Washington Monthly, Phillip Longman argues that Texas’ growth is fueled primarily by the energy boom and by population growth. And that population growth is not happening because people from other states are fleeing to Texas to avoid high taxes and onerous regulations, but because of immigration from Mexico and a high birthrate. More importantly (and probably obviously, to people who care about such things), the spoils of the Texas miracle have not been shared equally: Economic mobility is higher in California’s major urban areas than in those of Texas. Plus: “Texas has more minimum-wage jobs than any other state, and only Mississippi exceeds it with the most minimum-wage workers per capita.” Texas is falling behind various states in terms of per capita income.

As Longman concludes:

But regardless of its sources, population growth fuels economic growth. It swells the supply and lowers the cost of labor, while at the same time adding to the demand for new products and services. As the population of Texas swelled by more than 24 percent from 2000 to 2013, so did the demand for just about everything, from houses to highways to strip malls. And this, combined with huge new flows of oil and gas dollars, plus increased trade with Mexico, favored Texas with strong job creation numbers.

But for some, the good news on Texas continues apace. J.D. Tuccille, at the libertarian magazine Reason’s Hit & Run blog, points to a paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas showing that Texas created more high-wage jobs than low-wage ones between 2000 and 2013. Tuccille also points out that “in 2012, ’63,000 people moved from California to Texas, while 43,000 in Texas moved to California.’” (That… actually seems pretty statistically insignificant when we’re talking about the two most populous states in the union, each with more than 25 million residents, but ok, sure.)

Even if it is the case that the Texas miracle is driven primarily by a resource boom and population growth, conservatives and libertarians could still argue that Texas is booming because of their preferred policies. They support exploiting natural resources, and libertarians, at least, support open borders. To use another example, while it’s a fact that North Dakota’s economic boom is happening almost solely because North Dakota happens to be on top of tremendous amounts of very valuable natural resources that recently became easier to extract, conservatives would argue that they are the ones who support drilling that oil, damn the environmental consequences.

But here’s one important fact that Texas’ conservative and libertarian boosters reliably fail to mention (perhaps because they don’t know it): If you’re not rich, Texas is not actually a low-tax state. In fact, most Texans pay more taxes than most Californians. That seems strange and incorrect at first — Texas doesn’t even have an income tax! — but it’s true. Thanks to sales and property taxes, Texas is among the states with the ten most regressive tax systems. Texans in the bottom 60 percent of income distribution all pay higher effective tax rates than their Californian counterparts. Texas’ top one-percent are the ones enjoying the supposed low-tax utopia, paying an effective rate of 3.2 percent. The rate for the lowest 20 percent is 12.6 percent. Kevin Drum has a helpful chart.

This is not unusual for a conservative state. As the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says: “States praised as ‘low tax’ are often high tax states for low and middle income families.” So… is this part of the conservative policy package that we are supposed to introduce everywhere to spur growth? Slash taxes for the rich and raise taxes on… the poor and middle class? It seems like it might be difficult to campaign on that.

When “growth” is its own self-justifying goal, creating an economy that only delivers for a privileged few doesn’t really seem like a problem. Still, don’t move to Texas expecting a better life, unless you own a petrochemical refinery.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 7, 2014

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Rick Perry, Texas | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Moment Of Conception For Texas”: Rick Perry Announces He Will Not Seek A Fourth Term As Governor

In a campaign-like event, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) has announced that he will not seek another term as governor of Texas.

“The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership,” he said, speaking at San Antonio’s Holt Cat Caterpillar dealership.

The governor was introduced by his wife Anita, who reminisced about how the native son of Paint Creek, Texas “wore her down” into marriage.

Perry’s speech focused on summarizing the success of Texas’ economy — which he said leads the nation in job creation, even though it technically doesn’t — and congratulating himself for defending the “freedom” from the federal government that he insists made it possible. He took office in 2001 after George W. Bush was elected president, and then won his own terms in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

The governor also nodded several times to the ongoing crisis surrounding Republican efforts to impose more abortion restrictions in the state. He vowed that he would call for another special session if the current one designed to enact a 20-week ban on abortions and new restrictions on clinics that offer abortions does not succeed.

Perry has waged a war on family planning and Planned Parenthood in Texas, which has created a dire situation for poor women seeking basic health care.

State senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), the woman whose filibuster led to the special session, has expressed an interest in seeking statewide office. A recent poll showed Perry leading her by double digits.

The Texas Tribune reports that Attorney General Greg Abbott is the “instant favorite” to replace Perry.

The governor made no announcements about what he would do after his term ends, but he did leave the door open to another presidential run, saying his decision on that would come in “due time.”

Perry’s “oops” moment in a 2011 debate, when for nearly a minute he couldn’t name the third cabinet-level department he would eliminate, will go down in history as one of the greatest flubs by a major-party candidate ever.

Perry said he was leaving his office with a “deep sense of humility and appreciation.”

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Review, July 8, 2013

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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