Matt Wilson has a new post on ideas to reform the welfare state when taking into consideration immigration, which under the current model encourages poor immigrants to come and remain poor.
While providing some background, he did a commendable job explaining the difference between immigration in 1900 and immigration today (emphasis added).
The problem, as many point out, is that while we welcome poor people in, our government does their best to keep them poor by incentivizing them not to work. Let me be a little more generous and say our government incentivizes them not to strive to get out of poverty. The fact is that being poor in America is exponentially better than being poor in a 3rd world country. They do this through entitlement programs, otherwise known as welfare programs. The problem with immigration isn’t immigrants, it’s the ever-growing burden of welfare programs that now takes up about 85% of our federal budget each year.
This wasn’t a problem in the early 1900’s when millions of people were coming to Ellis Island in search of a better life. There was basically no safety net for those people, they lived or died by their own effort. The vast majority of them survived, mainly because they had to. Of course there was poverty, how could there not be, but they worked hard and within a generation or two became the middle and upper class.
I would also speculate that this lack of welfare also encouraged cultural assimilation, because they found that assimilation opened up economic opportunities. Accusations of racism aside, I think a large section of nativists and anti-illegal immigration crowd would be more than happy to help someone trying to learn English or become “American,” but now they are tacitly encouraged by the government not to do so.
I’m planning on stepping away from the Net for a few days to enjoy some time off, but I wanted to just quickly elaborate on what Wilson pointed out: Immigration today and immigration a century ago are not equivalents, and the reason for this is not the immigration themselves per se but the federal government.
When people say “we are a nation of immigrants” they’re missing the crux of the issue.The immigrants of 1900 who came often penniless arrived to take advantage of economic freedoms that enabled them to create their own wealth, not wealth provided by the state stolen from others. They were responding to positive incentives, not perverse ones. This is what needs to change.