Immigration and the post-policy Republican party

It’s been a while, but David Brooks again shows why he’s every liberals favorite conservative with a must-read column on immigration reform.  He throws a couple gratuitous potshots at the left just to assure everyone he’s still conservative, but this column could easily have been written by a liberal.  That’s because, sadly, there are distressingly few conservatives who actually care about good policy, and Brooks is one of them:

After all, the Senate bill fulfills the four biggest conservative objectives. Conservatives say they want economic growth. The Senate immigration bill is the biggest pro-growth item on the agenda today. Based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would increase the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent by 2023 and by 5.4 percent by 2033. A separate study by the American Action Forum found that it would increase per capita income by $1,700 after 10 years.

Conservatives say they want to bring down debt. According to government estimates, the Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by up to $850 billion over the next 20 years. The Senate bill reduces the 75-year Social Security fund shortfall by half-a-trillion dollars.

Conservatives say they want to reduce illegal immigration. The Senate bill spends huge amounts of money to secure the border. According to the C.B.O., the bill would reduce illegal immigration by somewhere between 33 percent to 50 percent. True, it would not totally eliminate illegal immigration, but it would do a lot better than current law, which reduces illegal immigration by 0 percent.

These are all gigantic benefits. They are like Himalayan peaks compared with the foothill-size complaints conservatives are lodging.

You catch that, a nice succinct summary, on multiple grounds, on multiple grounds, but oh-so-sadly, the modern Republican party keeps proving time and time again that they just don’t care about good policy.

I also enjoyed Yglesias‘ riff on this column:

Like Paul Ryan, Brooks sees that when you take the ethnic and political elements out [emphasis mine], this is pretty standard conservative public policy. It increases the marginal product of capital, encouraging private investment and higher productivity. It’s particularly odd, it seems to me, that so many of the members of congress who are hostile to this bill are generally proponents of low tariffs and free trade agreements. The arguments aren’t exactly parallel, but I would say that all the considerations in favor of free trade are also in favor of freer immigration—while immigration carries additional benefits.

Well, there you go.  That “when” is a pretty big conditional statement when we’re talking about the contemporary Republican party.

Also liked this take on Republican complaints from Ed Kilgore:

Anyone following the immigration reform debate closely is aware that opponents of the Senate-passed bill (including Senators like Rand Paul) have increasingly focused on the argument that “hard triggers” for achieving enforcement benchmarks prior to legalization, or congressionally defined and enforced “soft triggers,” are necessary because the Obama administration can’t be trusted to enforce the law.

What hasn’t much been discussed is the fact that when it comes to border enforcement, the Obama administration has actually been very, very hawkish, precisely because it was considered necessary to make it possible for Republicans to support comprehensive reform.  [emphasis in original] …

But there’s a very different lesson for the White House in this story: taking actions thought to be popular with conservatives in order to create good will among congressional Republicans is rarely a good idea. They’ll either ignore the evidence or come up with some other reason to oppose the hated Obama.

And, of course, Republicans are basically insisting on 100% border security.  That’s about as realistic as insisting that we have 100% pollution control before we allow any manufacturing.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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