President-elect Obama will likely make several tough decisions on immigration policy during his first few months in office, even if he postpones wide-ranging reform until later in his first term.I honestly don't think Obama or any economist in his transition team has thought really deeply about the issue of immigration. It isn't really obvious to me what the Obama administration will do. I hope Joe Guzzardi is right—and there is no major amnesty. However, I would suggest that if there is either an amnesty or an expansion of illegal immigration that will make it much harder for Obama to deliver on his promise to increase jobs and improve economic conditions for Americans.
Obama will be under pressure from interest groups to review or drop several administrative policies aimed at curbing illegal immigration, which President Bush enacted after he failed in 2007 to persuade lawmakers to pass broad legislation that would have put millions of immigrants on a path to citizenship.
"I think immigration is shaping up to be an issue that he is going to face a consensus of pressure," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. "There is no reason a number of administrative actions can't be put into place in the first 100 days."
Immigration was not one of the top policy objectives laid out by Obama during the campaign. But labor, business and immigrant-rights groups sense an opportunity to push their agenda after Hispanic voters broke in large numbers for Obama and helped him win four battleground states: Colorado, New Mexico, Florida and Nevada. Noorani wants to see legislative movement on an overhaul of the country's immigration laws by Thanksgiving of 2009.[ Obama to face critical immigration test early ]
Remember, most of the workers in every job category—even roofers and chicken pluckers—are still Americans. If Obama cannot deliver jobs for Americans-at least in some modest numbers, relative to the natural increase of the US workforce—I doubt Democrats will do well in the 2010 midterm elections.
Obama got a rather narrow victory in 2008. It wasn't so much that people were in love with Obama, but it was clear even to many people with money that what Bush was doing wasn't working—which is part of why Obama could outspend McCain enough to eke out a narrow mandate.
Even a minor mistake by the Obama administrationÂ gives the GOP more time to remake itself into a viable party. That process is starting. An example is W. James Antle III's review of a book titledÂ Grand New Party: :
Douthat and Salam suggest reducing the payroll taxes of low- and middle-income families and making up the lost revenue by means-testing Social Security benefits for the rich. This will turn tax debates about the "richest 1 percent" upside down and expand the constituency for a tax-cutting party. It would also offer tax relief to people even New York Times editorial writers would agree are deserving. The authors describe this idea as "an ideal way for conservatives to once again make tax cuts appealing in Middle America" and also "provide a populist sweetener" to renewed entitlement reform.The idea of the GOP as a "conservative" party is pretty new. Karl Marx actually used to write for a Republican newspaper shortly after the party's founding—and encouraged his followers to join the Republican party. Teddy Roosevelt and Robert LaFollete continued a tradition in the GOP that was hardly conservative on economic issues. As late as the 1930's, Socialist Norman Thomas could have credibly sought the nomination or either the Republican or Democratic party if he had chosen to do so.
If some conservatives might quibble with the above proposals, Grand New Party contains several more that will send them into open revolt. Drawing on the work of Nobel laureate economist Edmund Phelps, Douthat and Salam call for a program of wage subsidies for the working poor that could cost up to $85 billion a year.
As late as Nixon, we had strong advocacy of policies like a guaranteed annual income coming from a Republican administration. That tendency continues with the recent book In Our Hands by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute.
I would suggest that if the GOP had run on Murray's program this year, which is basically $10,000 per year in cash and health benefits to each American citizen-and curtailment of a huge variety of programs that tend to benefit specific groups, the GOP just might have been able to beat Obama. I'd personally, go further than the Murray program-and I would fund it more with taxes on the very rich(i.e. wealth taxes), but Murray is possibly the best prominent republican that has a serious plan to try to contain growing economic inequality that is ripping America apart. The Murray plan isn't quite fully funded with the existing tax system-but then, neither is the current rash of corporate bail outs.
The thing is, that the Murray plan or anything like it is even less compatible with Open Borders than our existing welfare state. The crux of the shared insanity of the the Republican and Democratic parties: that we can have a loose immigration policy and free trade without experiencing within the US the huge gaps between the rich and poor that mark the world economy. Any serious attempt at addressing economic inequality in America will have to be coupled with restriction of immigration to be real and credible.
What has killed the recent incarnation of the GOP is the broadly held notion that GOP policies of the last 28 years have tended to increasingly benefit the rich-not the broad American public. The only way to undo that notion is to propose something real and credible.
It really would be nice if something else were on the table before it becomes obvious to the public the leaders of both major parties have abrogated their public trust in enormous ways.