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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Running the Numbers

Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes. They use up an enormous amount of government-subsidized unemployment and medical coverage. They are lawbreakers. They take our jobs. That’s the image. Is it true? Well, let’s run the numbers.

As Tony Snow recently pointed out, over 60% of illegal immigrants pay social security and income taxes. How do they do it? They use false social security numbers. That means that the majority of illegal aliens are contributing to a system that will never give them back a dime of the money they put in.

Most illegal immigrants are men who have left their families behind in order to build up money here and send it back to their wives and children. As a result, less than 10% of illegals have children in the public school system, while only 5% receive unemployment or food stamps.

Illegals Don’t Pay Taxes
But, as none of the conservative commentators have pointed out, while nearly 40% of illegals don’t pay any taxes, that really doesn’t make them much different from most Americans. Let’s connect a few unconnected dots.

Bruce Bartlett and Thomas Sowell frequently point out that the tax bite on Americans is disproportionate. In 2003, for instance, the top 1 percent of taxpayers, ranked by adjusted gross income, paid 34.3 percent of all federal income taxes that year. The top 5 percent paid 54.4 percent, the top 10 percent paid 65.8 percent, and the top quarter of taxpayers paid 83.9 percent. And this despite the fact that the top 10 percent only earn 43 percent of the money.

Seventy-five percent of Americans paid less than seventeen percent of all taxes. The bottom fifty percent of Americans paid just four percent of income taxes, although they make 14 percent of the money. Indeed, the Earned Income Tax Credit gives many low-income workers a negative tax rate -- that is, they pay no income taxes but get a "refund" from the government anyway. Fully 30 percent of Americans fall into this category. When these facts are recalled, illegals begin to look like a cross-section of America.

And they aren’t the only ones. Walmart manages to keep prices low by effectively getting a subsidy from the government for their workers. A disproportionate number of Walmart workers are on food stamps, medicare and medicaid.

Illegals Are, By Definition, Criminals
Crime rates along the border are lower than in comparably sized non-border cities. Indeed, as Snow points out, California saw its crime rate halve while its Hispanic population more than doubled.

But they are breaking the law simply by entering the country, aren’t they? That makes them criminals, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes, they are breaking the law, but no, it doesn’t rise to the level of criminal court. As Linda Chavez points out, entering the country without proper papers is a misdemeanor civil offense. Similar civil violations are committed by people who don’t put the lids on their trash cans tightly enough or don’t keep the weeds in their yards properly cut. If we wish to reign in this level of lawbreaker, then let’s do it up right.

In Tucson, it is illegal for women to wear pants. In Alabama, you may not play Dominos on Sunday. In Pueblo, Colorado, it is illegal to let a dandelion grow within city limits. In Connecticut, it is illegal to dispose of used razor blades. In Hawaii, it is illegal to appear in public wearing only swimming trunks. (queue Frank Sinatra singing “I Did It My Way”) This rampant lawlessness obviously undermines America’s world-renowned reputation for refusing to break the rules in order to live as we please: we should not and cannot tolerate it!

Illegals Take Our Jobs
Well, what of the Hispanics flooding into New Orleans? Illegals are rebuilding the city!

They are! And do you know why? Because no one wants to do the job they are doing or live in the conditions they have to live in to earn that money. Illegals are living a half dozen and a dozen to a room, working 12 hour days, seven days a week for $8 an hour. That’s assuming the contractor doesn’t refuse to pay, that’s before they pay out the income tax and social security that is docked from the majority of their paychecks.

Everyone is crying that non-Hispanic minorities are being cut out of jobs. Local residents should be doing this work!

Well, perhaps they should, but they refuse to come back and do it. Some complain they can’t find living quarters in the city. Really? How is it that people who walked those streets their whole lives, many of whom were given thousands of dollars of government aid, don’t have the means to travel home? How is it that such fine, upstanding citizens fail to find rooms once they get there? The illegals can barely find the state on a map, much less the city, and they certainly aren’t getting government relocation subsidies for travel expenses, yet they manage not only to get there but they seem to be glad to work.

So, yes, illegal immigrants are displacing Americans born and bred here. But that’s to be expected. We embraced contraception and abortion – they didn’t. We don’t have the people we need to do the jobs we want done. Even if we had the people, we don’t have the stomach.

The Great Wall of Texas

The Great Wall of China was a monumental undertaking, so enormous it can be seen from space. It was never taken by military force. It didn’t have to be. The Mongol invaders simply bribed the gatekeepers. Walls don’t work.

The Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe was likewise a testimony to the desire to keep populations apart. Ultimately, those walls were crushed as people mined below them, climbed over them, wriggled through them, and vaulted above them in every conceivable way. Barbed wire and machine guns don’t work.

Well, what about a moat?

The enormous moat which is the oceanic strait between Florida and Cuba has been equally successful in keeping immigrants out. Ninety miles of shark-infested water hasn’t stopped men, women, children, even infants, from seeking out a better life. Moats don’t work.

Now, Congress is considering the construction of the Great Wall of Texas. Apart from its utility as a make-work project for government-funded contractors, what, exactly is the point?


Patrick said...

Running a stop light just gets you a ticket as well - so let's all do it and see how well it works? Small crimes are crimes nontheless. So, if I am a rich guy and my poor neighbor has a push, non-motored lawnmower and wants to cut his neighbors yard for pay. He decides that my powered mower would do it better. He steals my mower, cuts his yard and the neighbors and gives me a portion of the money that he made to re-imburse me. I still don't have a mower and I only have what HE thinks it may be worth. Is this stealing? Yes. Taken without permission and I still do not have access to a resource that is undisputably mine. Is this moral? "Give to Caesar..." "Do not steal." "Do not covet..." Where do I begin? There are moral reasons for immigration - does Mexico have a civil war? Government persecution? Genocide? No, they just fall into the same place as 85% of the rest of the world and have 3rd world poverty plus they have the bonus of a rich neighbor. There are at least a single digit % of the US population at the same level of poverty - which neighbor is it legal/moral for them to steal from?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Theft is criminal. Illegal immigration is not.

Illegals aren't stealing anymore than Americans are stealing. They pay government taxes and use government resources in nearly exactly the same proportion as naturalized Americans.

We should look on them as the children we never had.

The more research I do on this subject, the more convinced I become that illegal immigration is like the bird flu scare - complete nonsense that sells a lot of newspapers and keeps politicians busy.

Tracy Fennell said...

Thanks for this post. If I have your permission, I'd like to repost it on my blog.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Please do.

Patrick said...

OK - so what do we agree on? Illegal immigration has that name because it is illegal. We just disagree that it is criminal - um, OK. We also agree that this type of immigration does not have grounds for morally licit immigration. So, paying human smugglers to bring them during the dark of night, lying to US feds and breaking laws by using illegal federal ID information, constantly being in fear of being found out by INS/police, to get to a resource that is not theirs, not to mention causing scandal by now leading many to question their motives and the motives of others by such acts. Why would anyone thinks such acts were immoral or criminal? No, I think they are going to blend in quite well with American Protestantism. Just by clsoing your eyes doesn't mean the darkness isn't there.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Illegal immigration is a civil offense, not a criminal offense. If you don't agree with that, then you don't understand the law.

I don't see anything particularly immoral about illegal immigration. Yes, it violates a civil law, but speaking as a former rescuer at abortion clinics, the civil law is not my standard of morality.

I see no reason to call a job a "resource that is not theirs." If they can get hired and do it, it is their job. I also see no reason to call their motives into question.

They want a better life for their families. They come to America and earn money in much the same way earlier European settlers did - the men come first, earn money, send it back to the families, and then bring the families if they are interested and able to. Why this is immoral is beyond me.

The whole ruckus over illegal immigration is driven by fear-mongering nativism. It has no place in a Catholic world-view.

becky dobbs said...

Legality and morality are not synonyms. Abortion is legal, that doesn't make it moral. Slavery used to be legal in the U.S. (it still is in some countries) that didn't (and doesn't) make it moral.

And being Jewish in Natzi Germany was illegal, that didn't make it immoral (they were just uninformed of the TRUTH of Catholicism.)

Patrick said...

I think you have missed the bigger picture that I was pointing out. As you stated, most of the illegals do not have children, so the family finance is out of the issue. It is not just the jobs, it is the lying and obfuscation (yes, I do understand the law and using illegally forged ID documents for purposes of federal ID is criminal). This is more than civil disobedience. The vast number of immigrants in the past did come in via a legal means. The modern methods are not legal and the way it is being done IS immoral because it brings into question of scandal for anyone who cannot speak English fluently. As we have shown, this has no roots for morally licit immigration. If you want to sponser an immigrant - no problem. But lying, cheating and stealing (why else use smugglers and illegal IDs)is not part of any christian, much less Catholic, ethos.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

"Family finance is out of the picture"??!?!?

Dude, what are you talking about? These men send back nearly every dollar they make. The big complaint in New Orleans right now is there aren't enough places to wire money home to Mexico.

I don't see how this is anything more than civil disobedience. For heaven's sake, over 60% of them pay taxes! Sure, they use a false social security number, but they pay the government it's pound of flesh just like any other American!

The government wants them to have IDs, they get IDs. The government wants them to have SSNs, they use SSNs. The government wants them to pay income tax and social security, they do it.

Americans aren't missing any dollars from these people, and we are getting lots of work done that wouldn't otherwise get done. If Hispanics weren't rebuilding New Orleans right now, nobody would. We know this because nobody else IS.

It's not like there's a lack of opportunity. Anybody who wants to go has a wide open field. But the only people going there are Hispanics.