Paul Krugman Punts on the I-Word again:
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Many despise the famous economist-turned-NYT-op-edster for his fanatical hatred of George W. Bush, but I feel that it's generally useful for America if the President, with all his powers to mold opinion, is relentlessly confronted by an individual as smart and hostile as Krugman. I certainly wouldn't want every pundit to imitate Krugman, but his intense specialization in figuring out ever possible way Bush has blundered plays a valuable role in the media food chain.

Yet, there's one set of people that Krugman hates even more than Bush, and that's us immigration realists. So, we've recently been treated to the bizarre sight of Krugman intentionally pulling his punches against Bush on Krugman's own topic of expertise, the economy, because Krugman refuses to mention the I Word. In "Summer of Our Discontent," Krugman writes:

For the last few months there has been a running debate about the U.S. economy, more or less like this:

American families: "We're not doing very well."

Washington officials: "You're wrong - you're doing great. Here, look at these statistics!"

The administration and some political commentators seem genuinely puzzled by polls showing that Americans are unhappy about the economy. After all, they point out, numbers like the growth rate of G.D.P. look pretty good. So why aren't people cheering?

Some blame the negative halo effect of the Iraq debacle. Others complain that the news media aren't properly reporting good economic news. But when your numbers tell you that people should be feeling good, but they aren't, that means you're looking at the wrong numbers.

So far, so good. Now, you'd think that at this point Krugman would bring out the Big Gun in punching a hole in Bush spin about economic growth: the fact that, as Edward S. Rubenstein has relentlessly documented for years at jobs, indeed, are not going to American families. Instead, they are going to immigrants, especially illegal immigrants. Rubenstein wrote:

As usual, the government makes no serious effort to measure immigration’s impact. Hispanic employment is the best proxy we have for the month to month increases in the immigrant workforce, since about 40 percent of all Hispanic workers—and an even larger share of new Hispanic workers—are immigrants...

Since the start of the Bush Administration (January 2001), Hispanic employment has risen by 2.585 million, or 16.0 percent. Non-Hispanic employment is up by 1.720 million, or 1.41 percent.

But, for anybody familiar with Krugman's prejudices against immigration skeptics, it's no surprise that he instead lets his latest column dribble off into anti-climax. He'd rather let the Bush Administration off the hook than admit that immigration realists have a point.

For an example of Krugman's smug anti-rationality on immigration, here's one of his columns "My Beautiful Mansionette" from 2001. It's a follow-up to an earlier column complaining about suburban sprawl:

You see, a few columns back I wrote a piece about urban sprawl and its attendant traffic congestion, which is becoming a very serious issue — a lot more important to the lives of most people than the dollar or two per day they might eventually get from George W. Bush's tax cut. And a surprising number of the letters I received in response insisted, vehemently, that the real culprit behind urban sprawl was population growth, and that therefore it was all because of immigration.

A quick search of the Internet reveals that my correspondents are not isolated individuals; they are part of a still small but growing movement. On casual observation I would say that the anti-immigration movement today is where the anti-globalization movement was a couple of years before Seattle: not yet large enough to be a political force to be reckoned with, but quite possibly on its way to achieving critical mass. And complaints about the alleged linkage between immigration and urban sprawl is a popular theme.

Like so much of what the anti- globalization activists say, these complaints are mostly but not entirely off base. The grain of truth in the argument is that other things being the same, a growing population means more houses, more cars and hence more sprawl. But population growth is only a secondary contributing factor to a disastrous pattern of land use driven by skewed incentives that encourage people to spread out in a low-density sprawl that in turn forces them to spend more and more of their time in cars. What's really impressive to me is the way that medium-size metropolitan areas, like Atlanta or Houston, have managed to mismanage their development so completely that they have worse traffic congestion than metropolitan New York, which has five times their population. (I know, I know, I sound like the kind of person Dick Cheney loves to hate. But as it happens I do own an S.U.V.)

In reality, the best study of sprawl found that:

Our calculations show that about half the loss of rural land in recent decades is attributable to increases in the U.S. population, while changes in land use account for the other half. New immigration and births to immigrants now account for more than three-fourths of U.S. population growth. Therefore, population growth and the immigration policies that drive it must be an integral focus of efforts to preserve rural land. [Roy Beck, Leon Kolankiewicz, and Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies, 2003]

But that actually underestimates the impact of immigration, since immigration-driven white flight is often the impetus for people trading up from an 1800 square foot house on a fifth of an acre in an inner suburb whose public schools are becoming overwhelmed by Hispanic immigrants to a 3600 square foot house on half an acre in a distant, mostly white exurb with "good" public schools [i.e., schools full of good students]. Without immigration-driven demographic change in their old neighborhoods, lots of people wouldn't have gone through the stress of moving to the exurbs. But, once they do decide to move, then they feel they might as well go for the contemporary style of a huge house. (Big houses on big lots in new exurban offer a secondary, more subtle economic benefit in that they are so expensive that they make it unlikely that poor people will ever take over the neighborhood and drive down home prices.]

Krugman rolled on:

So why the vehemence? Psychoanalyzing a political movement guarantees a fresh wave of hate mail, but my best guess is that the passion of my correspondents is ultimately fueled by cultural unease. The changes one sees in central New Jersey are the same as what one sees everywhere in this country: farms and traditional towns submerged by a rising tide of malls, highways and McMansions. And since some of the faces behind the wheel or the fake Palladian window are brown, it's all too natural to blame them for the trend.

Obviously I don't feel the same way; I am one of those people who feel that immigration is a good thing — most of all for the immigrants, but good for America too. To some extent this position rests on mundane economic arguments. Foreign-born talent has been crucial in this country's technology boom, and plays a large role in many less glamorous industries too. (For some reason all the gas stations around here seem to be run by Sikhs.) And one can make a good case that demography — the perils of a low birth rate — is a key factor in the economic malaise of Japan and some European countries; America's openness to immigration is one of the things protecting us from that fate.

The total fertility per native-born American women is up around 1.9 babies, and without the stresses on Affordable Family Formation exacerbated by immigration, such as high housing prices and the need for expensive private schooling, might well be over the 2.1 replacement level. So, native-born Americans are hardly facing a fertility crisis that requires mass replacement of the current population with an imported one.

And I have my own cultural prejudices. Isn't the immigrant experience part of what this country is all about? Without immigrant families climbing the social ladder, what would become of the American dream?

Sentimental cant.

But never mind the rational arguments.

Huh? What rational arguments?

Over the horizon new and possibly quite nasty political storms are brewing. If you think people get angry and irrational when arguing about taxes, wait till you see them argue about immigration.

Oh, see, according to Krugman, anything he says about immigration is, by definition, rational, while anything the immigration realists says is, a priori, irrational.

Since 2001, Krugman has barely mentioned immigration at all, despite writing 100 columns per year for the New York Times. The problem he faces is that he and his bete noire George W. Bush hold almost identical, visceral, non-rational views on the goodness of immigration, so Krugman is just not going to mention the entire subject.

You might think this merely reflects Krugman's personal idiosyncrasies, yet it's also representative of how almost the entire economics profession in the U.S. has been AWOL on this enormous issue, one with obvious and profound economic implications. Economists have largely ignored immigration in recent years, and when they do discuss it, often spew self-evident nonsense that they would flunk an Econ 101 student for writing on a test on any other subject. In his recent column "Immigration Taboos," Thomas Sowell had to remind his fellow economists that the Law of Supply and Demand applies to the effect of immigrants on wages, just as it applies to everything else in economics.


mmigration has joined the long list of subjects on which it is taboo to talk sense in plain English. At the heart of much confusion about immigration is the notion that we "need" immigrants — legal or illegal — to do work that Americans won't do.

What we "need" depends on what it costs and what we are willing to pay...

Leaving prices out of the picture is probably the source of more fallacies in economics than any other single misconception. At current wages for low-level jobs and current levels of welfare, there are indeed many jobs that Americans will not take.

The fact that immigrants — and especially illegal immigrants — will take those jobs is the very reason the wage levels will not rise enough to attract Americans.

This is not rocket science. It is elementary supply and demand. Yet we continue to hear about the "need" for immigrants to do jobs that Americans will not do — even though these are all jobs that Americans have done for generations before mass illegal immigration became a way of life.

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