Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Comment on a Ponnuru Column in Regard to Republicans and Immigration

Over at BloombergView Ramesh Ponnuru had a smart piece on why immigration has become a much bigger issue for Republicans this cycle.

 I would like to address his second point because I think it’s the most important. Ponnuru writes:

Demographic changes among Republicans. If Republicans are more concerned than they used to be about the wage pressure that immigration puts on the low end of the labor market, it’s partly because more Republicans work there than in the past. The party has become more dependent over time on white voters without college degrees. These Americans, who are more exposed to competition from immigrants than white voters with more schooling, have seen their economic prospects stagnate or decline.

I have no reason to doubt that it is in fact demographic change that is driving this, but it shouldn’t be. Ultimately, a national political party and philosophy needs to be national and complete in its outlook. It is shortsighted to allow the current makeup of the party to determine its outlook.

It seems clear that the American economy is moving in the direction of requiring ever greater skill to be successful. The big challenge is how to find a place for those who inevitably will be on the lower end of the curve. This has to be a concern and a focus for conservatives beyond the immediate demographic.

One way or other the problem is going to have to be addressed. To argue that the economy overall benefits from immigration is to miss the point. It seems to me that to significantly reduce immigration—I am emphatically NOT talking about deporting the illegal immigrants already here-- is the least intrusive, least disruptive way to help the employment prospects of the less skilled. If conservatives do nothing on this front under the banner of maximizing GNP or we’ve always been a nation of immigrants they’ll have to deal with far less attractive approaches to the problem.

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