Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Si, Se Puede?

Guess whose got a new subscription to The Atlantic?

Also from this month's issue, Clive Crook proposes a first step in immigration reform that seems first rate to me:
Congress and the administration should heed the demands of many American businesses and lift restrictions on the immigration of highly skilled workers. For the country at large, this would yield nothing but benefits.

America is short of many kinds of skilled workers, which is why wages for such people are rising faster than average wages. Increasing the supply from abroad would slow, and conceivably even reverse, the trend of worsening inequality. Highly skilled workers, of course, pay more in taxes than they consume in public services: far from adding to the fiscal burden, they ease it, and everybody else benefits. And since they are well educated and most likely fluent in English, they assimilate readily. ***

It is the American way — so what is the problem? The only drawback to this kind of liberalization, from a global point of view, is that it seems perverse to draw skilled workers from backward countries *** where they are so badly needed, and bring them to the United States, which already has so many. And that argument probably applies with even greater force to educated immigrants from, say, Mexico or Nigeria.

One answer to this concern is that immigrants send money back home. *** According to most studies, countries such as Mexico and India, which receive huge flows of remittances, are probably net fiscal beneficiaries from outward migration. That is fine, but there is a much better answer: namely, that no country has the right to keep its citizens locked in, or should expect America’s help in doing that — not even if it would add to the gross domestic product.

If America’s interests are served by letting many more highly skilled immigrants come to this country, and if those immigrants calculate that migrating is in their interests as well, that is all you need to know.
I am probably one of the highly skilled workers whose wages are rising faster than average wages. And, therefore, my wage increases would likely be slowed by an influx of skilled immigrants. But personally, it would be worthwhile to accept a lower wage increase rate in order to have enough skilled workers to keep the the United States' economy vital and growing.

Only the hyper-rich can divorce their personal well being from the economic well-being of the nation as a whole. If the U.S. economy -- the growth of which has been driven by entrepeneurship and highly skilled labor for the last 20 years -- goes in the tank it will take even us "highly skilled workers" down with it. So it seems to me that a policy permitting additional highly skilled immigrants into the U.S. would be in my long term interests, even if it does put some downward pressure on my future wage growth. And from a social-justice point of view, it is more appealing for the nation's highly skilled workers whose wages have been increasing faster than average to bear more of the burden of strengthening our economy.

Naturally, I would rather have the hyper-rich carry more of the load. But, as noted above, the hyper-rich have to a great degree extricated themselves from our national economy. So that just leaves the members of the working class to keep this nation's economy growing -- and those in the lower-middle class and below simply are not in a postition where they can make many more economic sacrifices. They have taken a beating from every recession, but economic recoveries don't seem to trickle down any more.

Of course, if so many highly skilled immigrants are brought in that it drives down the wages of highly skilled workers rather than just slowing their rate of wage increase -- well, then I'll probably be out in the streets buring tires in protest.

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