Anyone who looks closely at the fiscal implications of the Senate immigration bill owes a debt of thanks to Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Rector is light years ahead of everyone else in carefully examining the assumptions of the bill -- particularly as they apply to millions of low-skilled illegals (50 to 60 percent of whom are high-school dropouts) who would be permitted to remain indefinitely in the United States.
Heritage Foundation research methods are identical to those used by the National Academy of Science a decade ago in a study, "The New Americans," which found that low-skill immigrants receive far more in government-financed benefits than they pay in taxes. Mr. Rector calculates that this is mostly true of the illegals who would get amnesty under the Senate bill, who will cost taxpayers $2.3 to $2.5 trillion over the next few decades.
In an interview and at a press conference Monday with Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, both Republicans, Mr. Rector made a powerful case that the immigration "compromise" now before the Senate lays the groundwork for a vast expansion of the American economic underclass -- particularly among the elderly. With it there will be perhaps the largest expansion of government since the Great Society. The amnesty bill promises an explosion in federal, state and local spending on public education, subsidized housing and entitlement programs, and extraordinary new fiscal pressure on three of the fastest-growing federal entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If immigration "reform" is enacted in anything remotely resembling the bill before the Senate, staggering tax increases are inevitable in the decades just ahead. The senators responsible for the debacle won't be seen responsible because they will be safely dead. The largest spending and tax increases demanded by this "reform" will occur decades from now.
The White House misleads with its claims that the amnesty recipients won't get welfare benefits. For the first decade or so they are in the United States, the adults can't get means-tested welfare benefits but their children could. And after that first decade, the adults get to partake of the welfare state as well. For the next 40 years, notes Mr. Rector, they are eligible "for every single type" of these welfare benefits.
"So the bottom line is that each of these households receives about $30,000 in government benefits, pays about $10,000 in taxes, at a net cost of around $19,000 per year [after rounding]. That's the equivalent of buying each of these households an automobile and every year of their lives as long as they're in the United States." He easily debunks the myth that amnesty will "contribute to solving Social Security's actuarial crisis." Precisely the opposite is true; it is certain to exacerbate that crisis and many of this country's other fiscal problems. "What we found was that this type of household is in net fiscal deficit -- the benefits exceed their taxes -- at every year from the point they enter the United States. There's no year where they pay more in taxes, on average, than they take out in benefits." When these people retire, they pay just $5,000 a year in taxes and get $37,000 a year in benefits. That's some contribution to a solution.