For three decades there have been two issues that politicians regarded as so thorny they were best left alone: health care and immigration. The moving parts in each subject are complicated, and feelings run so strong that Presidents and Congresses long decided to speak only in general terms on the topics and otherwise leave them alone. Now we have seen what happens when one party (call it the President Obama party) decides to impose a health care solution. The clean up is still going on five years after passage of the misnamed Affordable Care Act and it will continue long into the future.
Even more so, sadly, immigration. Fortunately, some critics are bringing up one of the veiled aspects of this issue that have received too little attention: the adverse impact of immigration on already stagnant low-wage jobs. Senator-elect Tom Cotton, a scholar and war veteran from Arkansas, has the standing to do so and attempted to do so in his appearance this weekend on Meet the Press. It’s too bad that the mainstream media mostly ignored his point. But he made it and others should pay attention. There are millions of under-employed Americans who have lived here all their lives, paid taxes and obeyed the law; and wide-spread new immigration threatens their livelihoods and prospects. (There also are jobs “Americans won’t do,” but there can be workers’ visas for those.) Yes, many of the disaffected are white, but probably an even higher proportion are black, and many are of hispanic background. Better positioned Americans (better connected, better educated and better trained) find it hard to identify with this constituency. The media that reflect the elites’ viewpoint may even be inclined to scorn them as boobs, maybe racists. It’s unfair.
Resentment from this group of increasingly estranged workers helped fuel the Republican revival this fall. How else do you explain the over-whelming victories in places like West Virginia and Georgia?
President Obama’s executive action, as many have commented, was not so bad in its particulars as it was bad in its arrogance and incompleteness. The country does need “immigration reform”, but we don’t have it. We have a kind of unilateral action that abuses the Constitution and the public trust. It could have been part of an over-all negotiated law that does most of what the Obama action covered, but also provided more citizenship opportunities for highly skilled foreigners–what the tech sector has sought, doesn’t have and still doesn’t get from Obama. It could have addressed valid concerns about continuing illegal immigration at the border and by people who over-stay their visas. These lawbreakers effectively insult not only the taxpayers, but also other and legal immigrants who are put through a long, drawn-out process to get a Green Card.
Most of all, it could have addressed the righteous concern of under-employed and legal Americans who are suffering from an economy that doesn’t seem to have room for them. The rest of us also should be interested in their quiet plight because otherwise we will soon have a society of black market, undercover workers paid very little, and, at the other end, high priced technical talent.
We need pro-growth policies. It is up to the new Congress to show how these aims and programs can work in tandem for the benefit of all.