There are many casual sophistries that percolate unexamined in public discourse. One of those I find even relatively intelligent people tacitly accepting is the concept of Economic Contributions. This is, naturally, the clay pigeon fired over every criticism of migrant tsunamis. And it should be shot down far more frequently.
Obviously voluntary dispossession based on economic appeals finds arid soil at this website. Though even the rain men who see merit in the concept don’t adequately scrutinize the premise. Migrants contribute to The Economy! Maybe if they’re picking 70 tons of coffee beans each week like Juan Valdez they are. But they’re not.
The fallacy is beyond no one’s grasp, but seemingly everyone’s notice. If you and three friends order 2 XL pizzas for $40, each kicks in $10 and off your cholesterol goes. If a fifth person arrives at the table and primly spots a nickel for another share, he has also contributed. But are you original four better or worse for the contribution?
That’s an obviously simplistic example, but Tyler Cowen is an obviously simplistic man.
And so to put prospective economic contributions in more granular context I culled a few figures from the tireless Debt Clock. There are many statistical angles by which a judicious bullshitster can carve the statistics. Since Krugman’s Times column still seems secure, I will only attempt to simplify rather than obfuscate the numbers. So consider these numbers:
The combined American federal, state, and local tax/fees bill comes to $20,490 per citizen. That is what every individual owes this year in order to keep bombs falling on Iraq, HUD moving blacks into your neighborhood, and the South Korean border secure from encroachment. Note, that’s per citizen not per taxpayer, which are two figures separated by a remarkably wide gulf.
Also note that is merely taxes and not actual spending, which is a materially higher number. But neither taxes nor spending in one year even begin to cover a migrant’s fiscal responsibility. He is also obliged to service a rather impressive federal debt edifice, which totals out to $59,888, again per citizen–not including state and municipal. So Julio and Ahmed’s families of twelve are drifting into deep obligations quickly upon entry.
Yet that’s not close to the bottom line. Like most humans, migrants grow old and go to hospitals. And white taxpayers don’t grow on the baobab tree. So the truly imposing migrant fiscal duty involves teeing-up to cover America’s unfunded entitlement liabilities. A figure The Clock only breaks down on a per taxpayer basis of $860,353. So consider that the beginning tab for each immigrant pod.
Thus if our analysis remains reasonable, and we consider only a New American family of four, that comes to approximately $1.1 million up front to amortize the debt and fund their entitlements responsibility. Then subsequently about 82 grand a year in fees and taxes to the government, plus any additional spending over revenues. By the way, Julio is an inebriated landscaper.
And an economic contributor!
Some of you may be gulping in contemplation of your own capacity to manage such a mammoth burden. And most won’t have to as a result of our highly progressive tax structure and bites hidden throughout the plumbing of commerce. Consider it a gift from the rich delivered by an illiterate Honduran who’s moving in next door.
Though the primary point is that maintaining first world societies and their enviable bouquet of amenities is an almost inconceivably expensive endeavor. To do so requires an extraordinarily low viscosity, high productivity society. It’s amazing how often those tend to be homogenous.
Importing people who have the capacity to sustain a third-world lifestyle, yet who demand a first-world standard of living is not contributions to the host society, but consumption of it. It’s eating a fifth of the pizza for a nickel. Now how much is left when 10 more arrive bearing fifty cents?
I do earnestly hope more people grow to understand the scope of this issue. Even Economy fetishists must concede that whether one talks about costs on average or those on the margin, a society must ultimately be able to pay for what it consumes. And deltas are accommodated by either the pleasure of magic border alchemy, or the pain of debased living standards.
Whether one considers our roads, schools, sanitation, medicine, retail, entertainment, or institutions, the bill for living in a modern western society is enormous. And an African cab-driver can’t even cover the paper to print his invoice.
As it stands, and as our accumulating debt sibilantly whispers, we can hardly afford our chosen national lifestyle ourselves. It is a certainty of math that we can not afford it for millions of others in addition. The state can patrol the oceans, put the world’s flotsam in our public schools, or pay for the pensions and healthcare of legacy Americans. But it will definitively cease doing all three.
Those of you watching the Democratic convention may have an idea of which is most likely to be jettisoned first. Whichever that is, The Economy will ultimately prove as unimpressed with our fervent naivety as the Easter Island Statues. Time and talent are relentless levelers. Eventually “Americans” will enjoy precisely the standard of living their sum native capacities can produce. And nothing more whatsoever.
So stroll the streets of Guatemala City. And tell every bandit you meet that America is looking for seven-figure contributors today!