Obama touts immigration as an economic boost

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The White House is so eager to tout claimed economic benefits from the proposed immigration rewrite that it is boosting a business-minded pitch from President George W. Bush’s Texas-based center.

“Hey @TheBushCenter, liked your video on #ImmigrationReform and the economy… Here’s ours,” said a Thursday tweet from Macon Phillips, the White House’s digital-strategy director.

Philips’ tweet included a link to a short video produced by the Bush Center, which says immigration will spur business and economic growth.

“America is a nation of immigrants, 1 out of every 8 residents is an immigrant… they represent 16% of the labor force… immigrants account for 1/3 of new small business owners… immigrants help America grow,” said the video from the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Philips also touted the White House’s latest video, which makes a similar economy-based pitch for the pending bill.

If passed, the bill would double immigration to roughly 46 million immigrants — most of whom are low-skilled — over the next 20 years, boost the supply of labor and increase the number of consumers. The nation’s population is now 313 million.

“Here’s one of the best things about immigration reform: It’s going to make the economy a lot better,” says the White House site.

“This video breaks down exactly how that works—how fixing our broken system will create jobs, boost wages, cut the deficit, and foster innovation. Not enough people are talking about this fact, so watch it, then share it!”

The virtual alliance of Obama-affiliated progressives and Bush’s business-minded center is a sharp turnaround from previous years, when Obama and his allies sharply condemned Bush and his supporters as reckless creators of the housing bubble and the stalled economy.

Obama and top Democrats have allied with business groups to pressure Republicans in the House to pass the huge immigration bill, which would likely produce a huge influx of Democratic leaning voters after 2025.

The payoff for business is an increase in the labor supply and the number of consumers.

That strategy has created a novel political divide in Washington.

Obama’s progressives and allied business groups are facing a loose array of small-government conservatives, or “reform conservatives.”

The reform conservatives include tea party groups, the Heritage Foundation and various legislators, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, who argues that immigration rules should be designed to help Americans, not to increase tax revenues, businesses’ profits, or foreigners.

In Congress, there’s “always a danger when you’ve got big complicated bills,” Derrick Morgan, Heritage’s vice-president for domestic and economic policy told The Daily Caller. “Who has access to the back rooms when these things are being written?”

Morgan challenged the administration’s economic arguments for the immigration bill, saying “if a bigger economy was the goal, we could annex a poor third-world country and we’d have a bigger economy.”

The White House’s video touted conclusions from the June 16 Congressional Budget Office report.

The bill “would grow the economy, create jobs and cut the deficit. In fact, they estimate that if immigration reform passed this year, it could help boost our nation’s gross domestic product, of GDP, by more than 5 percent, or $1.4 trillion dollars in 2033.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney pushed the same point during the daily press conferences Wednesday and Thursday.

“The economic costs of inaction are simply too high to delay.  Common-sense immigration reform would reduce the deficit, grow the economy, increase wages and increase productivity,” he said Wednesday at the start of the press conference.

“We talked yesterday about the enormous economic benefit that passage of ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ would bring the to the country — increase of gross domestic product, productivity, significant reduction of the deficit,” he said July 11.

But critics say the immigration-stimulus policy has been tried and has failed.

Since 2000, the nation’s working-age immigrant population has grown by 8.8 million, according to a recent analysis by the Center for American Studies . Most of that inflow, or 5.3 million, is employed, but 1.3 million fewer native-born Americans have jobs in 2013  than had jobs in 2000, even though their working-age population grew by 16.4 million, said the analysis.

The White House’s assessment is misleading, said Morgan.

The White House report says “the economy would be better, so we’ll be better off… [but] the proper measure is the post-tax income of those who are here lawfully,” said Morgan.

The White House report also says the number of job will rise, but “you’ve got millions and millions [of Americans] looking for work today, and adding more people to compete for jobs won’t necessarily make [Americans] better off,” he said.

The White House is stating the obvious by claiming the government’s tax revenues will rise as the population grows, said Morgan. “When you legalize 11 million, tax contributions go up… its common sense [but] that’s washed away by the massive increase in spending on benefits and services” required by low-skilled immigrants, he said

The June 16 CBO report cited by the White House predicted the Senate’s immigration bill would spur generate an extra $900 billion in taxes over the next 20 years, mostly via Social Security taxes.

In May, Heritage produced an extensive report predicting the legalization of 11 million low-skilled immigrants would provide a short-term increase in taxes, but would cost taxpaying-Americans $6.3 trillion over the next five decades.

The CBO report said the bill would lower average wages and education for a decade, but allow long-term increases in productivity. The bill would also shift more of nation’s annual income from wage-earners to investors for at least 20 years, according to the CBO report.

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