An Immigration Platform

I’ve begun to pay a  bit more attention to what the different presidential candidates have been saying about immigration. And my research led to this section of a political platform that I found quite interesting:

Immigration has been a major topic in the Republican Presidential debates. But the discussion has been remarkably disconnected from the facts…The real issue with immigration is legal immigration. We are adding 1 million legal immigrants to the population each year. The great majority are unskilled. This isn’t hurting investment bankers or the software engineers at Google. This is hurting low-skilled U.S. workers. It’s the last thing we need if we are trying to restore our middle class…

Legal immigration is also fueling a veritable population explosion. Unless we reduce legal immigration, our population will rise by one-third – over 100 million people – in just 45 years. That’s the current population of the Philippines. Most of these additional people will locate in the nation’s major cities. Driving in our major cities at peak hours is already a major challenge. With one-third more people, driving in our major cities may be like driving in Manila – an experience I don’t recommend…

If there were always enough young people coming along and if they were always earning enough to fully pay off the contemporaneous old people, there’d be no impact on the fiscal gap. But our postwar intergenerational chain letter is failing like all chain letters do, eventually. Ours is running into the baby boomers’ baby bust, which refers to the fact that the massive baby boom generation chose to have fewer children per person than its parents did…Yes, the 1 million or so in annual immigration is bolstering the work force. But it’s not helping us with our chain letter. Immigrants, given their skill composition, cost our country roughly as much in benefits as they contribute in taxes.

These few sentences on immigration totally contradict the narrative that the mainstream media has been peddling for years. To rephrase: 1. There is a problem, and the problem is the very large flow of legal immigrants; 2. immigrants are disproportionately low-skill, “hurting low-skilled U.S. workers”; 3. immigrants are not going to solve the fiscal problem created by an aging native population–they cost us “as much in benefits as they contribute in taxes.”

So guess which candidate put up this immigration platform? Not Trump, and not Clinton. The honor belongs to the Kotlikoff-Leamer campaign.

Larry Kotlikoff, a professor at BU, and Ed Leamer, a professor at UCLA, are two renowned economists who are running in the 2016 presidential election as write-in candidates. Larry is a world-class expert in public finance, and Ed is a world-class trade economist and econometrician.

The Kotlikoff-Leamer immigration platform demolishes another one of the establishment’s cherished lies: All economists believe that immigration is so beneficial that only xenophobes and racists would disagree with the settled science. It seems that the elite has it wrong yet again.

Author: George Borjas

I am a Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.