Squaring the Burkle.

A mostly political Weblog.
April 17 2006 4:54 AM

kf Tries to Square the Burkle!

Why I'm flummoxed by the Page Six scandal.

(Continued from Page 11)

P.P.P.S.: Who's the whiny "Republican member of the Judiciary Committee" who gave Klein an anti-Frist quote ("He forced us to rush a bill. ... Then he didn't like what we produced and so he filed his own bill, which is dead on delivery. He's not even part of the real negotiations at this point. It's pretty sad.") Sounds a lot like Sen. Lindsey Graham to some GOP Hill aides. ... 2:33 P.M. link

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Note to John Dickerson: Why is it a "pander" to oppose legalization of existing illegal immigrants, but "thoughtful, nuanced" statesmanship to embrace the desperate attempt of Republicans to twist policy in order to placate an ethnic interest group because it contains a lot of future swing voters? ...  Dickerson is trying to disguise substantive Respectable Beltway CW--that somehow offering "earned" legalization isn't an "invitation to more lawlessness" **--as a high-minded process objection (to "pandering"). ...  Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were similarly criticized for pandering when they denounced the pre-1996 welfare system--"boob bait for Bubbas," said the thoughtful, nuanced Sen. Moynihan said of Clinton's plan. But Reagan and Clinton were right while Moynihan and the respectable Beltway CW (including George Will) were wrong. ...

**--Of course it's an "invitation to more lawlessness." Those who obey the law and wait in Mexico don't get the chance to "earn" legalization in this fashion. They certainly don't get the chance to wait in line and earn legalization while living and working in the United States. Even making existing illegals go to the end of the current queue (as the Senate Judiciary bill claims to do) doesn't wipe out that advantage--the advantage they've reaped of jumping the queue in the first place. The point may be lost on journalists, but it won't be lost on those considering entering illegally in the future. 6:25 P.M.

Clinton's Achievement vs. DeLong's Pie in the Sky: Mark Kleiman blogs:

Brad DeLong is right: the biggest beneficiaries of immigration are immigrants, and those benefits ought to count. If we want to help low-income Americans, there are better ways to do it than restricting immigration. [Emph. added]

Oh yeah? Name one. ... Actually, DeLong names five:

 ... more progressive tax brackets, more public provision of services, a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit, a higher minimum wage, a greater focus on education.

I would suggest that if DeLong actually thinks changes in these policies will dramatically improve the situation of low-income Americans, especially unskilled African American men--not to mention help reestablish the black family, which is the real goal--he is dreaming. 1) A "focus on education" hasn't helped those hanging out on the streetcorners and selling drugs in the past. They are not big successes at school! 2) Progressive tax brackets only help if you actually earn money, which these people aren't doing. 3) The Earned Income Tax Credit does send cash to low income earners, but again you need to earn at least some money to get it. And it's already pretty big. We probably can't increase it much higher** without running into cost and disincentive problems when the credit is phased out in the mid-income ranges (i.e. workers will end up losing--in phases-out EITC payments--a good chunk of any extra dollars they earn). 4) A higher minimum wage will help, but if you raise it too much it becomes a job-killer. 5) As for "public provision of services," it's not clear what DeLong means. Suppose we had national health care. Would that change the lives of the estimated 72 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's who are "unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated"?   Will they stop being scrubs hanging out on the corner--or will they be scrubs hanging out on the corner who get free medical care?

The one thing that seems to have been a huge boon for unskilled African Americans is the tight low-wage labor market of the Clinton years--especially during Clinton's second term. It's hard to give a high school dropout a college education. But if you give him an unskilled job paying $10 an hour he's got a shot at forming a family (with another worker). And in the process he's integrated into the mainstream, working culture. It's even better than "provision of services"!

A tight labor market is especially important for young black men because they tend to be at the end of the employment queue. You have to let employers run through all the groups they prefer--and illegal immigrants are one of them--before they will reach out to ghetto kids. That's the sociological reality. If we let in lots of unskilled immigrants, however deserving, they will jump ahead in the queue.