Friday, March 11, 2016

TIRED OF THE MAINSTREAM COVERAGE OF THE PRIMARY CAMPAIGN?  TRY THESE LINKS:  (The Wall St. Journal and NY Times are of course main street, but the content is not)

Understanding the Immigration Debate:

Immigration policy in the past 30 years has tended to be debated within the larger framework of globalization.  A "neoliberal" consensus (now contested in the U.S. political arena for the first time by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) developed in Washington, adopted wholeheartedly by Bill Clinton, the two Bush presidencies, Mitt Romney, Obama, and, now, Hillary Clinton, that globalization is inevitable and should not be resisted.  Businesses should be able freely to move around the world with no interference from governments, taking advantage of cheap labor markets so consumers might benefit from lower costs of production.  Free trade should be encouraged everywhere.  Workers in the U.S. hurt by free trade (high-wage manufacturing jobs going overseas) should get over it and go back to college to train themselves for the "new economy" jobs in high tech industries, or settle for a job flipping hamburgers.  Immigration policy, following along these lines, should look the other way at illegal immigration, which simply represents a kind of outsourcing of cheap jobs to foreign countries, part of the brave new world of globalizing processes.  We can debate whether illegal workers should become citizens or not, and whether we should increase barriers to illegal entry (Trump's Great Wall), but only after conceding that immigration is good, overall, for the nation.

This conventional wisdom about immigration has been challenged for about a quarter century now, but contained, until Trump and Sanders, largely within an obscure academic debate between two mainstream economists on opposite coasts:  David Card at Berkeley, and George Borjas of Harvard.  Card's research indicates that immigrant labor, legal or illegal, has little negative impact on wages within a given labor market, and that increases in the minimum wage in local markets does not result in job reduction.  Borjas' work shows the opposite, indicating that, indeed, immigrant labor tends to depress wages in local job markets.  Card's work has been used by liberals who argue for higher minimum wages and for greater tolerance of illegal immigrant populations:  the lower classes should not worry about the economic effects of illegal workers.  Borjas' work tends to be cited by labor unions and by anti-immigrant groups:  illegal migration hurts the lower classes while increasing profits for employers; this analysis has tended to open the door to non-economic, that is to say, cultural, arguments against immigration.  As the neoliberal consensus appears to be breaking down, at least in the political discourse of non-establishment candidates (Sanders and Trump) in the primary election season, the immigration debate is getting more attention, as evidenced by these articles.  The Frum article is a reminder to us that academic debates are sometimes politicized to the point of manipulation of data--on both sides.

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