(Page 7 of 7)
Every economist who looks at this—including George Borjas, a Harvard economist who thinks our immigration policy is wrong—has to concede that on balance, illegal immigrants add much more to the economy than they take out. They don’t take welfare. Immigrants, legal or illegal, are not a drain on the economy.
Immigration is not a problem. Immigration is a problem when it stops happening. I live part of my time in southwestern Ohio, the Cincinnati/Dayton area. And it is a dead area. It is so dead that even immigrants won’t be caught there. America has long been a destination point for immigrants, for people who will work hard, and if they don’t have the education and the skills, they make damn sure that their kids do. And when we stop being a magnet for immigrants, that’s when we have become a Third World country.
Caldara: Is the fiscal issue the overriding concern in America, or should it be? And how do we fix it?
Gillespie: Since 1950 government revenues as a percentage of GDP have averaged just below 18 percent of GDP. Spending has averaged around 20 percent of GDP, and that gap has gotten worse over the past couple of years. We’re spending a lot more of GDP, and we’re taking in less. And it wasn’t always the case; through a good chunk of the ’60s, they were roughly in parallel with or equal with each other. We absolutely need politicians [to address this], and it’s not going to be the president.
Here’s one other thing that I’ll say as a libertarian pitch: Don’t fixate so much on the president. Obama is in many ways an empty vessel, and he was a tool who has been used by longstanding and long-serving Democrats in the House and in the Senate. George Bush was not fully the master of government either; he was being used. We need to fill the Senate and the House with people who understand that government which governs least governs best, and we can add to that now that government which spends less spends more wisely. We are screwed right now, and the bad parts haven’t even come in.
All of us need to take stock of the fact that in 1970, 20 percent of federal spending went to old people, transfers to retirees and the elderly. In about 2020, that’s going to be about 50 percent of federal spending. It is insupportable on a basic fiscal but also on a moral level. We are robbing younger people in this country of any possible future because we’re bleeding them dry now before they can even make any money or save any money or build assets that they can retire on. And those politicians who can say something along those lines and do something about it are the ones we should be packing into Congress, and that will change things much more than Romney or Obama or any of the rest of the presidential candidates.
Caldara: Ann Coulter, is it possible to get some agreement here?
Coulter: Not really. I agree with the basic claim, but it’s talking about the symptoms rather than the cause. It’s like going to a doctor. I have a cough. What should I do? Stop coughing. No, we need to get to why is this happening, and the reason it’s happening is the number of moochers off the productive is growing larger and faster than the productive, and as long as that happens, you really are getting to a point when Atlas is going to shrug, which is why I am Miss Pollyanna Pessimistic for the future of my country. And that’s why you have to look at things like illegal immigration, single motherhood, the growth of white trash, the pothead from your medical dispensaries who want to sit home and collect welfare and smoke pot and shoot up.
Caldara: Nick, any last words?
Gillespie: This happens every couple of years: Conservative Republicans realize they don’t have the votes, and they go through the Rolodex and say, “God damn it, I knew some libertarians who would be willing to vote Republican!”
It’s really easy to get libertarians to vote Republican, and Democrats could do it too if they wanted to. All you have to do is say we’re not going to spend more than we take in, we’re not going to try and take in every dollar out of your pocket, and we’re going to leave you alone in the boardroom and the bedroom. And I think most conservative Republicans can go along with that, because if you’re worried about moral issues, it is always better to lead by example rather than through mandate. Sixty percent-plus of Americans say they want a government that does less and spends less. That’s the winning issue, and we need to believe in that program and say it can be done, or else we really need to start checking out the Rosetta Stone [language instruction] CDs in Greek from our local library.
Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie are co-authors of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America (Public Affairs).