Sunday, June 03, 2007

WSJ's Strassel interviews President Bush

A hagiographic piece concerning immigration and based upon an interview with President Bush by the WSJ's Kim Strassel is worth a look, as it provides a good illustration of the latest polemical track being put forth by the Administration and its supporters.

The first few paragraphs are conciliatory in tone, a trend that has cropped over the last few days due to the establishment's inability to attenuate the public's overwhelming opposition to S1348 through secrecy and then condescension. But after acknowledging "that some of the signals that people have seen are very disturbing to very patriotic Americans, such as people flying Mexican flags during immigration rallies," the false sentiments disappear. That's as close as the 2,000 word article gets to responding to, or even acknowledging, the thoughtful, factually-based viewpoints of the opposition.

The misleading economic argument is there:
Studies have shown that immigrants add some $10 billion annually in net economic output. ... we created an estimated 130,000 new jobs in May.
Yes, more warm bodies are going to do that. Annexing Bangladesh tomorrow will add more than $70 billion to the US in economic activity. And suddenly the number of total American jobs will skyrocket. But, as former Bangladeshis suddenly became US citizens, they will become eligible recipients of major wealth transfers and entitlements from their fellow citizens from the Western Hemisphere. Importing the world's prison population would have a similar effect. Who wants to do either of these things?

The analogies are silly, but they illustrate a fundamental point: Per capita wealth, not total wealth, is what matters. More warm bodies do not a better country make. The low-skilled, Hispanic waves are not improving the average American's standard-of-living. They're pushing up housing prices, increasing the poverty rate, increasing the use of government entitlements, lowering the performance of schools, depressing wages while adding only marginally to the strength of the total economy, inhibiting innovation, decreasing the level of mutual trust between people in the communities where they are most heavily concentrated, and probably even making driving more irksome.

The proof is in the pudding--natives are fleeing the areas that immigrants are pouring into. Overwhelmingly, they want less total immigration and better enforcement in insuring that it is done legally.

The haughtiness quickly resurfaces. Writes Strassel:
Mr. Bush even has a few words for cultural conservatives, who have perhaps been most resistant to, and most emotional over, immigration reform.
That he would even address the concerns of his base! They, so irrational and emotionally unstable, spending countless hours constructing reports, marshalling evidence, and creating thought experiments to validate their conclusions, they who are actually following what's going on (both the minority of economists and majority of the citizenry who are in favor of sovereignty). If only they were as sober and methodical as Geraldo Rivera or the hundred of thousands who've taken to the streets to make their voices heard!

Notice, of course, Strassel does not quote Bush as putting forward a single fact, other than that he couldn't muster a Hispanic majority. Strassel herself alludes to "some studies" (mentioned above) and states incorrectly that 44% of Hispanics voted for Bush in 2004. The other 95% of the piece is devoted to asserting the alleged opportunism of the restrictionists (Opportunistic politicians? In a democracy? Surely not!), the inevitable need to politically pander to an ever-growing number of Hispanics (It's not inevitable--that's precisely what all the fuss is about), and reverence for the immigration of the past (which is unrelated to the present immigration wave in virtually every way other than the migrants being born outside of the US).

The last part of the triumvirate requires a few more words. The previous three waves of immigrants, each of which is dwarfed in comparison with the prodigious magnitude of this fourth wave, came from Europe. With the possible exception of Ireland, they were as developed or more so than the US. They came from countries characterized by average IQ scores similar to those of the US. There was a booming need for manual labor that is continually disappearing from a contemporary economy built increasingly on technical skill and professional education.

And of course, there was not a huge safety net or welfare system that provided free health care, medical services, infrastructure, and so on to whoever could skirt by the border patrol undetected. German families abruptly picked up English with the onset of World War II--today, some 11 million people residing in the US are deemed 'nonliterate', meaning they cannot partake in even the most basic forms of English communication. Training and paying translators are yet another hidden economic cost of rampant underclass immigration.

On the legal front, Bush says:
"We are a country of law, and we ought to uphold the law. But the system in place now has created a whole group of people who are evasive of the law and, therefore, people suffer..."

Created? The 1986 amnesty "created" people? Didn't the people 'evade' the law by coming illegally to the US? If they weren't here, they wouldn't be "suffering". Of course, if coming here is such a sufferance, millions of people wouldn't be voluntarily breaking the law to do so, with several thousand more attempting to do the same every single day. Then again, if the President just removed the "but" from the excerpt above, lots of people would agree with him!

Stassel jumps in:
Even assuming a fence does its job, what to do with those present? It's impossible to send them home.
What in the heck does the alleged impossibility of sending home those already here have to do with stemming the tide of those wanting to cross in the future?

In any case, that's a crock. A few high-profile raids have reduced the flow of illegals into the country by a full 30 percent. History suggests that for every one forcibly removed, another seven or eight will leave voluntarily. In 2006, ICE deported 221,664 illegal immigrants. Stop the inflow, and we're looking at most of the 12 million or so removed in less than a decade without any uptick in the rate of deportation whatsoever! Currently, we're spending roughly twenty times as much each year in Iraq as we are on Immigration and Customs enforcement--pull a little from the former and spend it on the latter, and we'd be illegal-free even sooner, if we wanted to be.

The President goes on, dropping a pragmatic truism he picked up somewhere along the way:
"If you're viewed as anti--in other words, if people think that a party is against somebody or some group of people, you'll pay a political price for it," the president says.
Uh, like if whites--who made up 77% of the electorate in 2004--think the GOP is becoming increasingly hostile to their concerns? Although I thought being against "liberals" and "special interest groups" had served the Republican Party quite well over the last several years. The donation solicitations I've received certainly suggest as much.

Further, Hispanics are divided over their support for reducing immigration levels, with 45% believing current levels to be too high and only 36% believing current levels to be acceptable. Hispanics, too, are fleeing American immigration destinations in search of greater opportunity elsewhere.

Revealing herself to be insouciant, Strassel perpetuates the myth that Bush received 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004, or a 9% increase from 2000. I'm honored to have John S. Bolton as a frequent commenter on this site. He pointed out the fishiness of the anomalously high number (relative to Bush's gains among other demographic groups), and Steve Sailer honed in (click here if you want the full story). In short, not a single exit poll at the state level showed Bush reaching 44% of the Hispanic vote.

In the same paragraph, Strassel also reveals herself to be tendentious. While she cites the 2004 results from the National Election Pool poll, most favorable to Bush in terms of garnering the Hispanic votes, she apparently uses a less favorable number from 2000. She claims Bush received only 31% in that election--the same body she uses for 2004 says he snatched up 35% in 2000.

Strassel commits a major sin of omission:
Many anti-immigration GOP candidates were defeated.
Many, many more anti-"anti-immigration" candidates were defeated still (6 to 22, precisely). While 5.9% of Republicans in Tom Tancredo's Immigration Reform Caucus lost their seats in the 2006 mid-term elections, 16.7% of non-IRC members did.

Bush, responding to her question as to whether or not the GOP can survive politically without Hispanic support:
"Look, I won without 50% of the Hispanic vote, but I got a significant Hispanic vote."
So, if the total number of Hispanics rises, so will the number of Hispanic votes the Republican Party receives. We lose money on each unit we sell, but if we sell enough, we can make up the difference! Impeccable logic. It's about as sound as the logic used in the total GDP vs GDP per capita thing.

Which Presidential candidate does Bush feel is best on the immigration question? John McCain, of course, his friend from the 2000 Presidential campaign!

The erudite Bush offers a definition of "amnesty":
The definition of amnesty ought to be that you are allowed to become a citizen without paying any price, whatsoever.
So by this line of reasoning, if a serial rapist who's been sentenced to life is let out on the condition that he make a $50 restitution payment to each of his victims, this would be considered something other than amnesty?

Strassel closes with what is, I gather, supposed to be an admirable Bush trait:
I ask Mr. Bush what he really thinks the chances are of this controversial bill becoming law, given all those who would like to unwind it. "I'm optimistic," he says, with a smile. That's another thing--like him or not--you could never accuse this president of failing to be.
Like he was optimistic that we'd turned the corner in Iraq (a gazillion different times). Like he was optimistic that the Republican Party would retain control of the 110th Congress. Like he was optimistic that Putin would lead Russia down the path of liberalism and transparent democracy. At least we might take heart in the track record of his optimism--this bill is probably going to die.

But maybe I'm being overly optimistic.


JSBolton said...

I saw this coming; that those incorrect poll numbers would be used to push amnesty as supposedly being not a total disaster for the right.
They may have overestimated the drop in Hispanic republican percentage by a factor of five.
I feel vindicated in putting some priority on that particular poll number back then, as it now appears to be momentous relative to what threatens to be a watershed debacle, the possible passage of S.1348.
Notice also that what Bush and the WSJ are promoting here, is outside of both reason and moral concerns.
They're implicitly saying shut up and don't offend the Mexicans, as if the minority vote was just a bunch of stupid, touchy, ethnocentric gullibles, concerned only with group image.
They expect people not to notice that the ethnic lobbies get something from amnesty, while the majority gets only to avoid being called racist and xenophobic for as long as it takes to vote on the bill.
How's that for give and take?
I'd call it take and take.

JSBolton said...

And you're right to parse the fine print here, whenever you get a statement by some presumably well-informed person on how illegals or immigrants raise the economic level, do check what they have actually said.
What is commonly attempted to be gotten away with in such a circumstance, is equivocation.
Quite often they will be hoping that the readers will substitute in their minds per capita income for gross national income.
Has anyone ever tried to show that mass immigration in the welfare era, might even sometimes raise per capita income?
Yet we get these authoritative-sounding pronouncements to the effect that we have assurance of economic increase from any sort of immigration; a deceptive proceeding since the more knowledgeable of those who make these statements are careful not to specify a per capita improvement overall.

savage said...

As soon as an inch is given, they come with a new angle, or refurbish and old and sell it as new.

"We'll have a touchback provision, it's not amnesty."

Then "Forcing the touchback is impossible for ----ez's family, poor as they are. It is compassionate to reduce it."

Then "Due to the necessity of staying in the US these migrants can not go home to see the families they left behind, so family reunification should be expanded as it was in a more humane time." etc etc

Give an inch and they'll ask for a mile.

dave in boca said...

I find GWB as insufferably foolish and incoherent on immigration. He simply cannot fashion workable foreign policies nor put together a sensible Immigration Bill that first funds and erects a solid barrier, then deals with the 11-12 million illegals afterward.

He and his Poppy have always been second-raters living off the Reagan legacy---though not even RR did well with the '86 Bill, nor did Fat Teddy with the '65 abortion the swimmer swore wouldn't affect US demographics. I remember Jim Tanner of the WSJ telling me about Zapata Petroleum and his travels with GHWB hisself forty years ago---his Mexican partner ended up as Pemex Chief, then went to the slammer in Mexico City. GWB was even less competent in Harken---so Mike Ameen, one of the founders told me.

Hillary might be better than GWB's second term!

Audacious Epigone said...


Have you posted more extensively on the GHWB/Mexico petrol connection elsewhere?