Part 9: Q&A with economist Stephen Moore : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Part 9: Q&A with economist Stephen Moore Monday, 3 September 2001 14:06 (ET)

Part 9: Q&A with economist Stephen Moore By PETER ROFF, UPI National Political Analyst

(Part 9 of UPI's 14-part series on immigration)

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- Economist Stephen Moore says the United States has a successful immigration policy that in essence is a form of reverse foreign aid, but he suggests improving the system by moving to more of a skill-based selection system. Moore, former head of fiscal policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute and author of "Still an Open Door? -- U.S. Immigration Policy and the American Economy," shared his thoughts on the current state of U.S. immigration in this interview with United Press International's Peter Roff.


Q: Does the United States have a successful immigration policy?

A: Yes. It is successful in the sense that we get brains and talents and workers from the rest of the world that are given to us essentially for free. Immigration is a reverse form of foreign aid. I have calculated that the discounted present value of the education and other rearing costs of immigrants that are borne by the taxpayers of the immigrants' home country is about $2 trillion.


Q: What are the current benefits and liabilities posed by immigration on the U.S. politically, social and economically?

A: There are principally two benefits to immigration for Americans. First, immigrants come when they are young and at the start of their working years. Two, immigrants tend to be self-selected on the basis of motivation, hard work, risk taking and other characteristics that usually correspond with success in the American economy.

The liabilities are that some immigrants are net users of public benefits and thus cost natives rather than benefit them. Also, there is a growing concern that immigrants are adding to a political class of voters that will demand increasing levels of government. Historically, immigrants have voted Democratic in their first generation, but then subsequent generations vote more like mainstream Americans. We don't know yet whether this will be characteristic of the new Latino voters.


Q: What about the issue of benefits and liabilities from the historical perspective?

A: It is quite evident that immigrants have played a mighty role in the social, cultural and economic progress of America over the past century. It is also quite contradictory for Americans to believe that the immigrants in the past have been contributors but that the immigrants now are costly and undesirable. Throughout history, though, Americans have always believed that the new immigrants are worse than the old. This was true of the Germans, Italians, Irish, European Jews, Cubans, etc. But all of these groups have successfully assimilated.


Q: What contributions do immigrants make to the American economy?

A. Legal immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in services. They fill vital niches in the American workforce. They are a lubricant to our free-market, capitalist system. Especially as the American workforce ages, immigrants will take on added economic importance over the next 20 years.


Q: What about the amnesty proposal? Is it a good idea? Are there other things that people should be asking for as part of the amnesty deal that will make things better for the immigrants and for the American people?

A: Legalization makes sense if it is combined with other measures to strengthen the border. Most of these immigrants who would be legalized have been here for 10 years or more. If they have not committed a crime while here and have not gone on welfare, I favor allowing them to become legal residents. The key is to adopt a legalization process that does not encourage further illegal immigration. Perhaps increasing the fines on illegal immigrants would be a wise policy.


Q: How should we address the issue of the bicultural societies that are developing in areas where Spanish-language immigrant groups are concentrating -- like New York, the American southwest, Los Angeles, etc.?

A: We should say yes to immigration, but also yes to assimilation. Assimilation is not a dirty word. We should get rid of institutions that inhibit Americanization, such as racial quotas, bilingual education, multiculturalism, etc.


Q: What changes are necessary for America to have a 21st century immigration policy that makes sense?

A. We should move to a more skill-based immigration system so we can get the first choice on all the most talented and educated workers from around the world. We can be like an NBA team that gets the first draft picks every year. We can import human capital that will make American workers and industry more competitive.

-- Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 08, 2001

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