Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"The amnesty numbers game" published in National Review

In the spring of 2013, the Social Security Administration declared that the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill would have a positive effect on its budget. Supporters of amnesty immediately seized on the report as further evidence that immigration is a win-win-win proposition.

But it was deeply frustrating for immigration skeptics. SSA would not say how it did its calculations. We were simply given a table of projections and asked to accept them. What assumptions did SSA make about the lifetime earnings of immigrants? We don't know. How about immigrant skill levels? We don't know. What would happen beyond the 10-year budget window? We don't know.

The amnesty debate is filled with authoritative-sounding numbers, but just a bit of unpacking often reveals that the emperor has no clothes. That's the point of my new essay for National Review that came out this week. A sample:
[T]rade-offs rarely make for good political messaging. So when the Obama administration began its push for amnesty for illegal immigrants — first through the legislative process and then more recently through “executive action” — it needed a slew of ready-made talking points to counter every objection. The result was a politicization of statistics on a grand scale and, inevitably, a degradation in the quality of debate. Numbers from seemingly authoritative sources have been stripped of context and presented as argument-stoppers, with little attention to the actual data or methodology involved. 
Consider a congressional hearing held March 17 by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee...
Read the whole thing here.

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