The new study on immigration from the Heritage Foundation, which claims that a bill being debated in Congress to give those here illegally a path to citizenship (one that takes 14 years) will cost over $6 trillion, is being absolutely hammered by left, right and center. Matthew Yglesias explains some of the problems with the study:
The study starts by simply ignoring large swathes of the bill. There’s no W Visa program here. No replacement of the Diversity Visa Lottery with a new points-based program. No expansion of H1-B, no reform of the treatment of spouses of skilled green card holders. There’s nothing but amnesty for undocumented workers presently residing here. They tally up the taxes likely to be paid by the typical undocumented worker (low because he’s poor) and compare them to the cost of public services associated with each person. This latter is high because Heritage mixes and matches its methodology. When it comes to means-tested benefits, they do an individualized analysis at the margin so one extra low-income person costs however much it would cost to sign up an extra person for SNAP. But when it comes to general public services, they do a population average method. So if per person policing costs are $X, the marginal immigrant is associated with an extra $X in spending. But even though they refer to “police, fire, highways, parks, and similar services” as “population based services,” this is clearly not how things work. Running a full bus is not twice as expensive as running a half-empty bus. A city that loses 5 percent of its population cannot lay off 5 percent of its cops and leave the remainder of the population equally well-protected. Most of these services have fixed costs alongside marginal ones, experience some economies of scale, and are often more efficient to provide in denser areas.
One big flaw that Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute points to is that in this study Heritage abandons its usual methodology of dynamic scoring. Heritage criticizes CBO and other government agencies for applying a static methodology when it comes to examining the fiscal effects of tax cuts. This approach counts the revenues the government looses from tax cuts, but does not factor in the revenues the government gains from the economic growth and productivity gains that these cuts engender, thereby greatly exaggerating the impact of tax cuts on government coffers.
But Rector does the exact same thing in his study. He counts the costs that welfare for low-skilled immigrants would impose on government coffers, but neglects the fiscal impact of the economic growth that these immigrants would spur. Studies that have done a fuller accounting suggest that the GDP-growth spurred is greater than the fiscal costs of low-skilled immigrants.
I think it’s clear now that this study was designed to support a predetermined conclusion, the facts be damned.