Deporting the Poor

Deporting the Poor May 17, 2008

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
-Emma Lazarus

On Wednesday, the Washington Post had a column by Robert Samuelson in which he speculated on what a politician might say on the stump if subjected to truth serum. There was a lot of good stuff in the column, but I found the following bit a bit curious:

Finally, let’s discuss poverty. Everyone’s against it, but hardly anyone admits that most of the increase in the past 15 years reflects immigration — new immigrants or children of recent immigrants. Unless we stop poor people from coming across our Southern border, legally and illegally, we won’t reduce poverty. Period.

As Samuelson elaborates in a previous column:

From 1990 to 2006, the number of poor Hispanics increased 3.2 million, from 6 million to 9.2 million. Meanwhile, the number of non-Hispanic whites in poverty fell from 16.6 million (poverty rate: 8.8 percent) in 1990 to 16 million (8.2 percent) in 2006. Among blacks, there was a decline from 9.8 million in 1990 (poverty rate: 31.9 percent) to 9 million (24.3 percent) in 2006.

The curious thing is that Samuelson seems to treat this as an argument against immigration (and he’s not the only one). Rather that seeing the above numbers as a cause for reassurance (as they suggest that the long term prospects of poor people in the U.S. are better than the numbers might seem to indicate), he sees it as a cause for concern.

This is quite odd. After all, it’s not as if poor immigrants to the U.S. were better off materially back in their home countries. The main economic beneficiaries of immigration are immigrants themselves, and the fact that so many people prefer poverty in a foreign land to life at home indicates just how bad the conditions in immigrants home countries often is. Samuelson’s problem is that he seems more concerned with a certain number (the poverty rate) than he is with flesh and blood human beings. The statistic is made for man, not man for the statistic. The choice between having the poverty rate go up while everyone’s material condition is improving and having the poverty rate go down at the expense of the poor should not, in my view, be a hard one to make.

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  • T. Shaw

    DEPORTING POVERTY????

    We have been importing poverty for at least 50 years!

    Here are facts (reality) from an economic survey in British Columbia. In the 20 years from 1986 to 2006, the median income, adjusted for inflation, dropped 11%. The cause was, relatively not as massive as in the US, immigration from lesser developed countries with failures to learn English or assimilate.

    I realize I just wasted my click-clacking because you people are “innumerate “(see John Allen Paulos’ books), and dismiss any fact that disproves your oh-so-pure prejudices.

    PS: Emma Lazarus could not know the unintended consequences of her edenic poem. I wouldn’t vote for Emma Lazarus or Blessed (Barack in English) Hussein Obama.

    I will not waste my time trying to explain median, income, adjusted for inflation.

    Invincible ignorance (Father Linane, Loyola College MD)

  • T. Shaw

    DEPORTING POVERTY????

    We have been importing poverty for at least 50 years!

    Here are facts (reality) from an economic survey in British Columbia. In the 20 years from 1986 to 2006, the median income, adjusted for inflation, dropped 11%. The cause was, relatively not as massive as in the US, immigration from lesser developed countries with failures to learn English or assimilate.

    I realize I just wasted my click-clacking because you people are “innumerate “(see John Allen Paulos’ books), and dismiss any fact that disproves your oh-so-pure prejudices.

    PS: Emma Lazarus could not know the unintended consequences of her edenic poem. I wouldn’t vote for Emma Lazarus or Blessed (Barack in English) Hussein Obama.

    I will not waste my time trying to explain median, income, adjusted for inflation.

    Invincible ignorance (Father Linane, Loyola College MD)

  • Blackadder

    T. Shaw,

    I didn’t realize you were Canadian.

    If you look at Samuelson’s number, any increase in the American poverty rate is due not to the fact that native born Americans are getting poorer, but that new immigrants are disproportionately poor. It’s like if new immigrants tended to be shorter than native born Americans. Such immigration would tend to drive down America’s average height, but it wouldn’t be because anyone in the U.S. was actually getting shorter.

  • Blackadder

    T. Shaw,

    I didn’t realize you were Canadian.

    If you look at Samuelson’s number, any increase in the American poverty rate is due not to the fact that native born Americans are getting poorer, but that new immigrants are disproportionately poor. It’s like if new immigrants tended to be shorter than native born Americans. Such immigration would tend to drive down America’s average height, but it wouldn’t be because anyone in the U.S. was actually getting shorter.

  • TLB

    Since there are five billion people worse off than Mexicans, obviously the plan to invite them all here isn’t going to work. So, whoever wrote this might want to put on their thinking cap and do their absolute best to come up with a better plan. They also might want to consider that there are many sides to this issues that aren’t often discussed, such as the cost to the rest of us of giving PoliticalPower inside the U.S. to foreign governments; by sending us people the MexicanGovernment has been able to gain a great degree of power inside the U.S.

  • TLB

    Since there are five billion people worse off than Mexicans, obviously the plan to invite them all here isn’t going to work. So, whoever wrote this might want to put on their thinking cap and do their absolute best to come up with a better plan. They also might want to consider that there are many sides to this issues that aren’t often discussed, such as the cost to the rest of us of giving PoliticalPower inside the U.S. to foreign governments; by sending us people the MexicanGovernment has been able to gain a great degree of power inside the U.S.

  • T. Shaw

    BA:

    I guess I am having a senior momment. The US poor are doing much better under Bush than LBJ’s great society. LBJ spent $1 trillion in 1964 dollars and the poverty rate remained the same. Bush and the monstrous Repubs hate poor people and there are fewer native poor. Was it genocide?

    You are correct about poverty rates. However, IF immigrants were more than 51% of the population of BC your point would apply to what I cited. The median income is the C$ income at the 50th percentile. That imaginary BC person’s income is down 11% in real terms. It is not the mean income which could be affected similarly to your statement.

    I am not a Canadian. I fish for Canadian bass one week each August. And, BC is probably not indicative of provinces with resource-based economies like Alberta or Saskatchewan.

    But, I’ll speculate that if 12 million immigrant, non-union workers weren’t here illegally competing with native poor and minority people – lowering wages – the poverty rates would have improved further.

    Old adages: figures don’t lie but liars can figure; and there are liars, damned liars, and statisticians.

  • T. Shaw

    BA:

    I guess I am having a senior momment. The US poor are doing much better under Bush than LBJ’s great society. LBJ spent $1 trillion in 1964 dollars and the poverty rate remained the same. Bush and the monstrous Repubs hate poor people and there are fewer native poor. Was it genocide?

    You are correct about poverty rates. However, IF immigrants were more than 51% of the population of BC your point would apply to what I cited. The median income is the C$ income at the 50th percentile. That imaginary BC person’s income is down 11% in real terms. It is not the mean income which could be affected similarly to your statement.

    I am not a Canadian. I fish for Canadian bass one week each August. And, BC is probably not indicative of provinces with resource-based economies like Alberta or Saskatchewan.

    But, I’ll speculate that if 12 million immigrant, non-union workers weren’t here illegally competing with native poor and minority people – lowering wages – the poverty rates would have improved further.

    Old adages: figures don’t lie but liars can figure; and there are liars, damned liars, and statisticians.

  • jh

    “They also might want to consider that there are many sides to this issues that aren’t often discussed, such as the cost to the rest of us of giving PoliticalPower inside the U.S. to foreign governments; by sending us people the MexicanGovernment has been able to gain a great degree of power inside the U.S.”

    What? Is this really a huge issue

  • jh

    “They also might want to consider that there are many sides to this issues that aren’t often discussed, such as the cost to the rest of us of giving PoliticalPower inside the U.S. to foreign governments; by sending us people the MexicanGovernment has been able to gain a great degree of power inside the U.S.”

    What? Is this really a huge issue

  • Blackadder

    T. Shaw,

    I think you have me confused with someone else. I am a Republican and I’ve voted for Bush three times (once as governor and twice as President). I don’t think Republicans hate the poor and in fact think that Republican policies are, on the whole, better for the poor than are Democratic ones (though this is a subject for another day).

    I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the situation in British Columbia to comment. It may be that the lot of native born workers in BC has deteriorated, or it may be that the statistic you cite is an example of Twain’s “lies, damn lies, and statistics” quip. If workers there are worse off now than they were in 1980, there are plenty of possible causes for this that have nothing to do with immigration. In terms of the United States, what economic research I’ve seen indicates that the overall economic effect on natives from immigration is modestly positive, though to be sure not everyone is affected equally and there no doubt are people who are made worse off by of immigration, just as there are people who are made worse off by trade or technology or just about any other sort of change.

  • Blackadder

    T. Shaw,

    I think you have me confused with someone else. I am a Republican and I’ve voted for Bush three times (once as governor and twice as President). I don’t think Republicans hate the poor and in fact think that Republican policies are, on the whole, better for the poor than are Democratic ones (though this is a subject for another day).

    I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the situation in British Columbia to comment. It may be that the lot of native born workers in BC has deteriorated, or it may be that the statistic you cite is an example of Twain’s “lies, damn lies, and statistics” quip. If workers there are worse off now than they were in 1980, there are plenty of possible causes for this that have nothing to do with immigration. In terms of the United States, what economic research I’ve seen indicates that the overall economic effect on natives from immigration is modestly positive, though to be sure not everyone is affected equally and there no doubt are people who are made worse off by of immigration, just as there are people who are made worse off by trade or technology or just about any other sort of change.

  • TLB

    jh: yes, of course it’s a “really a huge issue”. I’m going to assume that no one disagrees that we shouldn’t allow other countries to have some degree of control over our internal affairs, and the question is to what extent there’s such control. So, for examples scan my archives, or see this:

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_4_mexico.html

  • TLB

    jh: yes, of course it’s a “really a huge issue”. I’m going to assume that no one disagrees that we shouldn’t allow other countries to have some degree of control over our internal affairs, and the question is to what extent there’s such control. So, for examples scan my archives, or see this:

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_4_mexico.html

  • We will never reduce poverty, because as our standard of living rises, we will redefine “poor” to encompass more people. Until every one of us has exactly the same posessions as every other one of us we will always have people who are “poor”.

  • We will never reduce poverty, because as our standard of living rises, we will redefine “poor” to encompass more people. Until every one of us has exactly the same posessions as every other one of us we will always have people who are “poor”.

  • Phillip

    A problem of definition in part. What exactly is poverty. Certainly the homeless on the streets are. But does the person with a car (albeit an old one) enough food to become obese, and their rent money constitute a poor person?

  • Phillip

    A problem of definition in part. What exactly is poverty. Certainly the homeless on the streets are. But does the person with a car (albeit an old one) enough food to become obese, and their rent money constitute a poor person?

  • jimklasz

    all depends ion whether your’re the laid off worker or the immigrant”s bleeding heart.

  • jimklasz

    all depends ion whether your’re the laid off worker or the immigrant”s bleeding heart.