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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We've got to do better than this

Just some food for thought before Obama's SOTU, and hopefully a renewed push for CIR starting in the Senate by Shummer and Graham

While it's a good sign to see Progressives, Labor, Faith-based organizations and so many more signing on to CIR. There's seems to be a disconnect between the current messaging and framing and what I think might be needed to finally gain the kind of support CIR will really need to get through the legislative process in one piece (as opposed to what's happened w/ health care)..and more importantly, accepted by the vast majority of Americans.

In order to enact really meaningful and practical reform, it is not the far-right, teabaggers, or groups like FAIR or Allipac that will determine the fate of reform this time around ...but rather "the middle."

And while it's great that polling claims there is pretty strong support for some kind of reform, I think all must admit that both the framing of the poll questions and specifics of what exactly that reform will look like are presently the only determining factors that set apart the polling numbers presented by pro-reform orgs, from those of the anti-immigration advocates.

The Immigration Policy Center posted a very good diary up at Daily Kos today....But if you read through the comments you'll notice that there is a lot of sentiment opposed to reform.

And it's not the usual "what part of illegal, don't you understand" bullshit we've become accustomed to, but rather some serious questioning of the economic issues around CIR.

And while many of the comments are based on misconceptions or anecdotal evidence, they go to show just how much work there remains in framing this issue out for the middle.

While it's all well and good to talk about the concepts of Peri's "complementary workers' and "imperfect substitutes" in the workforce to explain why foreign workers don't really take US jobs during times of high unemployment, ... or how the tax benefits of normalizing the status of undocumented workers far outweighs the liabilities....or how bringing the undocumented into the legitimate workforce raises the standards of all workers......These are all concepts based in academia, the theoretical, or conceptual. They are not visceral. ...some in fact are counter intuitive. And to simply restate them and repeat them does not seem to be a strategy that will have long term benefit.

To tell those commentors that they simply don't grasp labor-economic, or their views are simplistic, is not the way the middle is going to be won. You can't talk down to them. To quote polls that claim people support reform or studies that prove that their economic ideas (or preconceptions) are wrong only further alienates them and makes them dig in.

To win the middle the framing needs to become more clear.

We must be able to counter arguments like these (from the IPC diary at DKos) with more than just statistics and alternative studies. We must have a better narrative. Not only for why reform is the morally right thing to do...but why it's in the best interests of all those living in this country.

If they are legalized most will be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits which will count against any taxes they do pay



(as to)your point about "interchangeability."

But that's no longer true.

People with multiple college degrees are willing to take jobs cleaning houses and picking produce because that's all they can find. They will take jobs for which they are overqualified because otherwise they would continue to be unemployed.

It might be "unrealistic," but it's happening.

Your point might hold up in normal times, or what was considered normal in the past, but there are too many people casting about for ANY job for it to be valid now.


People in lower paying jobs qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit which can reduce your income tax liability to zero and on top of that give you up to around 4000 in free money (if you have children). The EITC free money counts against SS tax paid in my book. If we legalize illegal immigrants they will be eligible for the EITC.

People on the left argue for a social welfare state in part because poor people need services, right? That basically means that the poorest among us are going to be given more in services (health care, school funds, rent supplements) then they pay in taxes, right? I think we would all agree that most people that come here from Mexico are low income and unskilled (lots don't even have a high school education), right? Put all of this together and basically it means that once they are naturalized as citizens the vast majority will become net beneficiaries of funds from the treasury. So basically on average any taxes paid will be less then funds provided to them in government services. Mass immigration of unskilled people and a modern social welfare state are simply not compatible; it will make us poorer per capita not richer.


These are the kind of sentiments that kill will CIR, not the racist rants the far-right, or the idiocy of the tea baggers. It will be the economic angst of the middle that puts the nail in the coffin this time.

Unless those in the pro-reform movement start to read the writing on the wall more clearly, and start to figure out how to frame this issue out beyond spouting public opinion polls, demographic and voting statistics or economic studies, it will be a long uphill battle to win reform. And I fear that the compromises necessary to win that reform may make the victory a sour pill to swallow at the end of the day.

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