mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Immigrants Don’t Drain Welfare; They Fund It”: Immigrants Have Long Given More To The Welfare System Than They Take From It

Republican presidential candidates who want to deport undocumented immigrants en masse, end birthright citizenship, and build a wall along the Mexican border just got some new ammunition. A report released Wednesday by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that advocates for reducing immigration to the United States, has concluded that 51 percent of households headed by immigrants—legal or undocumented—receive some kind of welfare. “They are creating a significant burden on public coffers,” writes Steven Camarota, the study’s author and the director of research for CIS. “By using welfare programs immigrants may strain public resources, harming taxpayers and making it more difficult to assist the low-income population already in the country.”

While that sentiment is likely to resonate with conservatives, the facts prove otherwise: Native-born Americans aren’t footing the bill for immigrants so much as immigrants are contributing to a welfare system that many of them can’t take advantage of.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 cut back on welfare extended to immigrants. It categorized green card holders and refugees granted asylum as “qualified,” and all other immigrants—including undocumented workers and many people lawfully here in the United States—as “not qualified” and therefore ineligible for welfare. But the law stipulated that even qualified immigrants had to spend five years in the United States before they could apply for benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, or cash assistance for families with children. Since that major welfare reform, some states have responded by providing for immigrants with programs that offer health care to the children of immigrants or pregnant mothers, and a few states—like California and New York—offer nutritional or cash assistance. But those efforts are mostly limited to qualified residents, while all other immigrants are still almost universally banned from receiving welfare.

The CIS study exaggerates the number of immigrants on welfare by using households as the unit of analysis; as long as the head of household is an immigrant, they consider it an immigrant household, and Camarota counts a household “as using welfare if any one of its members used welfare during 2012.” This means that a household with an American spouse who therefore qualified for welfare could be counted as “using welfare.” The same would go for a child born in the United States to immigrant parents. If he or she received subsidized lunch at school, the whole household would be categorized as “using welfare.” As the Cato Institute notes in its critique of the study, that measure is “ambiguous, poorly defined, and less used in modern research for those reasons.” Relying on such mutable methodology let Camarota exaggerate the number of immigrants on welfare to back up the claim that Americans are footing the bill for immigrants.

Groups like The American Immigration Council have long argued that, contra conservative depictions of “moocher,” immigrants have long given more to the welfare system than they take from it. “In one estimate, immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes, and use about $5 billion in public benefits,” a 2010 report by the Council found. “In another cut of the data, immigrant tax payments total $20 to $30 billion more than the amount of government services they use.” And a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2013 found that “more than half of undocumented immigrants have federal and state income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks.” Those immigrants are essentially helping to underwrite the welfare system, providing an enormous subsidy to it every year without being able to reap any of the benefits.

Camarota rejects that conclusion.

“We have an immigration system that lets in vast numbers of unskilled laborers. We tolerate illegal immigration,” he said in an interview. “Pretty much everyone concludes that it’s going to be a net drain.” He wants to institute a “selective” immigration system, one that cuts back on the number of immigrants and places an emphasis on allowing only educated, not unskilled, workers into the country.

Many economists would advise against such a plan. From construction sites in Virginia to farms along the California coastline, immigrants provide essential labor in an evolving economy. The Chamber of Commerce report found they are more than twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a new business each month. In fact, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses in the United States in 2011. Immigrants pay billions in taxes to the government every year; in Texas alone, they generate $1.6 billion annually in taxes. To deport millions en masse, sending them back to their home countries—to say nothing of Donald Trump’s proposal to uproot American citizens born here—would be economically disastrous.

 

By: Laura Reston, The New Republic, September 3, 2015

September 4, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Immigrant Laborers, Immigration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Insurgency By Any Other Name”: Republicans Only Believe In Democracy Insofar As It Achieves Their Desired Ends

In my very first post here at Political Animal, I described the possible threat from a Confederate insurgency. In his review of Charles Murray’s latest book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, Ian Millhiser basically describes it as an insurgency by another name.

Before he gets to the book, Millhiser reminds us of a couple of things. First of all, he points to the fact that it was not that long ago that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that democracy wasn’t working.

At the height of 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a candid explanation of why his party was willing to threaten permanent harm to the U.S. economy unless Congress agreed to change our founding document. “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check,” McConnell alleged. “We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried elections. Nothing has worked.”…

Few politicians are willing to admit what McConnell admitted when he confessed that elections have not “worked” to bring about the policy Republicans tried to impose on the nation in 2011. Elected officials, after all, only hold their jobs at the sufferance of the voters, and a politician who openly admits that they only believe in democracy insofar as it achieves their desired ends gives the middle finger to those voters and to the very process that allows those voters to have a say in how they are governed.

Secondly, he reminds us that, even though an entire industry has risen to debunk Murray, he is still revered by powerful Republicans.

Dr. Murray’s pre-Bell Curve work shaped the welfare reforms enacted in the 1990s. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan cited Murray in 2014 to claim that there is a culture of laziness “in our inner cities in particular.” Last April, when Jeb Bush was asked what he liked to read, he replied “I like Charles Murray books to be honest with you, which means I’m a total nerd I guess.”

So when Murray speaks, powerful and influential men (and his acolytes are, almost invariably, men) listen, including men who shape our nation’s fiscal policy and men who could be president someday.

Millhiser then does a thorough job of explaining what Murray proposes in this book. It’s important to note that it’s title “By the People” is the exact opposite of what he recommends. Basically what Murray wants to see is an ultra-rich benefactor who would be willing to pay for a legal defense fund that would subvert the work of the federal government.

To impose these limits on society, Murray claims that his Madison Fund can essentially harass the government into compliance. The federal government, Murray claims, cannot enforce the entirety of federal law “without voluntary public compliance.” Federal resources are limited, and only a small fraction of these limited resources have been directed towards enforcement. Thus, Murray argues, by simply refusing to comply with the law and contesting every enforcement action in court, regulated entities can effectively drain the government’s resources and prevent it from engaging in meaningful enforcement.

These are not merely the ravings of a lunatic right-winger. I was immediately reminded of the fact that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has advised states to disregard the recent EPA rulings on coal plant emissions while various entities challenge them in court.

For a while now I have been suggesting that this form of Republicanism is best described as a beast in it’s final death throes. That beast is now a minority in this country and as it lashes out, one of the only remaining possibilities for survival is to subvert our democratic process.

I hope that by now you know that I am not one given to hyperbole and conspiracy theories. I don’t say all this to ramp up a fevered reaction. But it’s important to see what is happening here with clear eyes and name it for what it is…a call to insurgency.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 27, 2015

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Mitch Mc Connell, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Doesn’t Remotely Comport With The Evidence”: Why The GOP’s War Against Welfare Programs Is Both Cruel And Pointless

Why do people work?

That question is at the center of the conservative case against anti-poverty programs. Republicans like Rand Paul conclude that policies like disability insurance or the Earned Income Tax Credit take away a key motivation — putting food on the table — that propels people to look for work. Thus these policies must be reducing labor supply and economic growth.

Liberals often don’t confront this point head-on, arguing instead that it’s unjust for people to starve because they’re out of work. It’s an inevitability, given that conventional understandings of market capitalism require around one out of 20 people to be unemployed at all times.

This is a good point, but the conservative argument is worth confronting on the merits. While there is an inherent trade-off between work and economic output, the story is not so simple as conservatives make out. Austerity — which often requires cutting anti-poverty programs — also kills labor supply.

For an example of the conservative position, let’s go to Daniel Mitchell, who wrote up some new findings from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

The mid-1990s welfare reform apparently helped labor supply by pushing recipients to get a job. Disability programs, by contrast, strongly discourage productive behavior, while wage subsidies such as the earned-income credit ostensibly encourage work but also can discourage workforce participation for secondary earners in a household. [The Federalist]

There is some surface plausibility to this argument. Social Security reduced poverty among the elderly by 71 percent, but in so doing probably also reduced the number of old people working. On some margin, there is a trade-off between work and poverty reduction, because a lot of jobs suck and people will quit them if they can.

However, it leaves a great deal out. Most critically, it doesn’t consider the business cycle. At the bottom of the Great Recession, for instance, the ratio of job seekers to job openings was nearly seven to one. That means it was mechanically impossible for six out of seven unemployed people to get jobs then. In order for “pro-work” welfare reform to have a prayer of working, the jobs you’re pushing people into actually have to exist.

In other words, when there is a recession, fiscal and monetary stimulus is the way to preserve labor supply, and austerity is the way to destroy it. But if you refuse to accept the logic of aggregate demand, as Mitchell did back in the very pit of the Great Recession, you’re stuck arguing that soup kitchens caused the Great Depression.

The international context presents an even more obvious problem. The conservative account of anti-poverty programs straightforwardly implies that the larger the welfare state, the lower the labor force participation rate (that is, the fraction of people who are working or actively looking for a job). If people don’t have to work due to generous government benefits, then they won’t work.

This doesn’t remotely comport with the evidence. In point of fact, by developed world standards, the U.S. welfare state is extremely stingy and our labor force participation rate is quite low. Take Sweden, for instance. It boasts the welfare benefits of Ayn Rand’s deepest nightmares: universal health and dental insurance, 480 days of paid parental leave per child, a monthly child benefit of about $120 up through age 16, two weeks sick leave, government pension at age 65, and so on.

Overall, if we look just at market incomes, then Sweden has about the same market poverty rate as the U.S. — but its welfare benefits cut the actual poverty rate down to half that of the U.S. That’s the scale of transfers we’re talking about, and other Nordic nations do even better. Yet Sweden’s labor force participation rate was 64.1 percent as of two years ago, more than a percentage point better than the U.S. rate, which has been hovering below 63 percent for the last couple years.

Again, at some point there has to be a trade-off between work and output. In decades previous, the U.S. beat European nations in labor force participation, because those nations chose relatively more free time as they became richer, instead of maniacally ratcheting up GDP for its own sake.

But correct macroeconomic policy also matters a great deal. If there is a catastrophic collapse in aggregate demand that is not fixed for years and years, that’s also going to burn up labor supply — in a way that is both cruel and pointless.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 28, 2015

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, Conservatives, Poverty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Joining The 21st Century”: The GOP Can Learn A Thing Or Two From The Catholic Church

The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church are hardly a liberal lot. They’ve doubled down against abortion and gay marriage (or even acceptance of gays). Church hierarchy has verbally slapped down nuns who have gently challenged the priorities of the church. So it really says something when the GOP last year nominated a white guy named Mitt to run for president, while the cardinals—who could be described as the tea party caucus of the Catholic faith—picked a South American guy named Jorge.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is from Argentina and speaks Spanish. That alone makes him a more 21st century choice for leadership (although he is a staunch social conservative, being vocal in his opposition to gay marriage). And it may well be as much about demographic strategy as it is about merit; the Roman Catholic Church, after all, does a better recruitment job in Latin America than in, say, the U.S. But the very fact that such a conservative group would pick a Latin American to be the public face (not to mention the spiritual leader) of the worldwide faith shows that they are way ahead of the U.S. Republican party.

Bergoglio, notably a Jesuit, took the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his vow of poverty. House Republicans, on the same day Francis became Pope, pushed through a bill to ban the granting of waivers on the work requirement for welfare—in other words, toughening up rules on the poor whom St. Francis wanted to help.

Many Republicans realize they need to do a better job with outreach. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of the young stars of the party, noted humorously in a dinner speech last Saturday night that he was hamstrung by his image. How could a skinny guy with dark skin and a funny name ever dream of becoming president?, Jindal quipped, as President Obama sat nearby. It was meant to be a joke, but the Republican candidate slate last year was, mainly, a slew of white men. The voter outreach and get-out-the-vote strategy was similarly ill-focused. The heavily traditional and old-fashioned church has made a move to join the 21st century. The GOP ought to consider following suit.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2013

March 15, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Making A Commitment To A Lie”: Republicans Are Invested In Undermining Innovation

Remember in “Seinfeld” when George Costanza got a new job and his employer thought he had a physical disability? He loved the benefits and attention, so he fully committed himself to the lie — and intended to keep it up indefinitely.

The episode reminds me a bit of how Republicans treat their 2012 welfare reform lie.

As you’ll recall, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway, so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened. It inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to make up a shameless lie, accusing President Obama of weakening welfare work requirements.

The blatant falsehood didn’t make much of a difference, and I assumed the issue would disappear once the election ended. But like George Costanza, Republicans have become so invested in the lie, they’re afraid to let it go.

Prominent House Republicans are relaunching efforts to stop the Obama administration from giving states waivers under welfare reform.

GOP leaders of several committees reintroduced a bill Thursday that would block the policy, which Republicans say “guts” welfare’s work requirement.

“This legislation makes it clear — the Obama administration cannot undermine the work requirement that has resulted in higher earnings and employment for low-income individuals,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) in a statement.

That the Obama administration never undermined the work requirement — and has no intention of doing so in the future — apparently doesn’t matter. What’s necessary, apparently, is to keep the lie alive, even after it’s been exposed as untrue.

Yesterday, the White House criticized the House GOP bill, which has 23 cosponsors, as standing in the way of “innovative” state-based programs that could help more welfare recipients into new jobs. The administration called the bill “unnecessary.”

Which it is, though that doesn’t seem to matter.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 13, 2013

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: