REASON magazine has become my lifeline. I've been subscribing for almost two years now and extend my subscription further at every chance you give me. I've discovered a new "REASON" to live. Originally, there was only sex, drugs, & rock 'n roll. I'll pass on the drugs, by choice, but I'll gladly take a double dose of REASON! Your summer double issue is a mouthful (brainful?).
Roberto M. Sanabria
Peter Samuel writes about the Grace Report's potential for reduction in the cost of government ("Battling the Bulge—Gracefully," May 1984) and notes the generosity of the Foreign Service retirement system. While I agree that the system is generous, Mr. Samuel's parenthetical statement "no doubt to compensate for the wear and tear of the international cocktail circuit" was uncalled for.
I do not deny that some of the Foreign Service's work is accomplished through social intercourse. However, life in the Foreign Service is not all fun and games. I am confident that Mr. Samuel goes to work in the morning and returns home in the evening by essentially the same route, day in and day out. Foreign Service personnel frequently travel by different routes every day in an attempt to foil any terrorist attacks. I have a friend who suffers from a disease contracted in West Africa. He will, given the present state of the medical arts, have it for the remainder of his life. I had a friend who was killed in the bomb attack on the embassy in Beirut.
No one is forced to join the Foreign Service. Those who do recognize the risk but are, generally, pleased to serve. It is grossly unfair and inaccurate for anyone to intimate that life in the Foreign Service is nothing more than going from one cocktail party to another.
Stanley R. Nevin
US Agency for International Development
Masters of Exploitation
That was a terrific article by Jack Wheeler on the Contras ("Fighting the Soviet Imperialists: The Contras in Nicaragua," June-July). Especially interesting was his description of how the Sandinistas forced the peasant farmers to sell their crops to the state at low prices and buy needed goods from the state at high prices. Next to outright slavery, nothing exploits workers as much as does the monopolization of markets. And from a Marxist government, tsk, tsk!
Richard D. Fuerle
I wish to commend REASON on the new department Life & Liberty (June-July). In particular, I appreciated the opening essay, "Beyond the Political," by Marty Zupan.
As a subscriber since 1971, I have watched REASON gradually change in content from mostly philosophy and commentary to mostly politics, current events, and economics. In style, REASON has moved from impassioned editorializing to often dry reporting. While these changes have moved the magazine forward in acceptance and audience size, I have vaguely felt that REASON forgot why its mission is so important.
So, thanks again for the essay by Ms. Zupan. It appears that my fear was unfounded. I hope Life & Liberty continues to be developed into the conscience of REASON.
It was dismaying indeed to pick up your April issue ("Does Doom Loom?) and read again the same misleading statistics Julian Simon has been using for years to justify his assertion that illegal immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in welfare benefits. I refer to the usage-of-government-services statistics of "free medical [care], 5 percent; unemployment insurance, 4; food stamps, 1; welfare payments, 1; child schooling, 4."
Those statistics were taken from a Department of Labor survey of apprehended illegal immigrants in California done in 1975. Not only is there good reason to think that the data are now out of date, but in view of the fact that the Supreme Court decided in 1982 to compel the states to provide free public education to the children of illegal immigrants, it's likely the use of this costly government service has escalated dramatically in recent years.
Beyond that, David North, one of the two authors of the 1975 study, has written on a number of occasions that the use of the study's data as being representative of the illegal immigrant population as a whole is very misleading. The reason is that the subjects interviewed were disproportionately young single males—not families with dependent children or elderly family members. In many cases, it's probable the detainees had not even been in the country long enough to meet minimum California residency requirements for welfare.
And, in a follow-up survey of the same population, North found that fully 77 percent of those originally surveyed eventually returned to work and held jobs in California. Of those, 49 percent eventually applied for and 35 percent received unemployment compensation—statistics conveniently overlooked by apologists for illegal immigration like Julian Simon.
If REASON wishes to join the side of those advocating unlimited immigration, it is free to do so. However, you should not delude yourselves or your readers with misleading statistics regarding the consequences of that policy prescription.
Patrick C. Burns
Federation for American Immigration Reform
Mr. Simon replies: The study by North and Houston is representative of a large number of studies of the use of government services done prior to 1980; this may be seen in a comprehensive review by the staff of the Select Committee on Refugee and Immigrant Policy (summarized in Staff Report, pp. 549-51). I singled out the North and Houston data because they cover all the categories and because the Select Committee itself relied heavily upon that study.
FAIR has tried to negate that evidence, which it correctly appraises as quite damaging to its position, by asserting that the situation has changed since the previous studies were done. And it supports this claim by pointing to the later study by North that Burns refers to. There are two strong reasons why this assertion is unfounded. First, North's study does not at all prove what FAIR says it proves; to the extent that its sample is relevant, the study agrees with my basic proposition. And second, two excellent new studies go even further than the old studies in supporting the proposition.
Burns is demonstrably wrong about North's work. He says that North did a follow-up survey of the same population." That is incorrect; his later study covered a sample drawn from Social Security records and included only those illegals who gave Social Security numbers at the time of apprehension; there was no connection with the persons in his original study. And the study itself was certainly less representative than any other study of the topic because of that sampling method. As North notes, another sample of forms filed at apprehension by more than 500 apprehendees showed that only two indicated Social Security numbers. And certainly those reporting SS numbers are more likely to have been in the country a long time and therefore to be more integrated into the community and hence use more services than the average of illegals, which other of North's data corroborate.
And just to make the cheese more binding, let us note that even for this sample of North's, the data indicate that the illegals contribute far more to the public coffers than they take out in benefits. The main welfare cost that North finds with this group is unemployment compensation. And he estimates that illegals' contributions for unemployment insurance alone more than counterbalance their receipts from it. And the payments by the illegals for income tax and Social Security were 12 times the payments for unemployment insurance, while, as North notes, this group "drew no benefits" from Social Security. This is the study that FAIR relies upon to show that immigrants are net takers from the public coffers?
Furthermore, within the last year two excellent new studies have appeared, one of Mexicans in Texas, by Weintraub and Cardenas, and one of illegals in California, by Muller. Computations from the data in both show massive net contributions to the public coffers by the illegals. Space is lacking here to document this; details may be found in the printed version of a debate between Roger Conner, executive director of FAIR, and this writer on May 30, 1984, to be issued by the Heritage Foundation.
Put the Bald Truth Boldly
Thanks for the Trends item "Voodoo Vindicated" (June-July). But I wish you would put it in big, bold, black letters that the Reagan tax cut did not favor the rich. The June 29 issue of National Review carried an article by George Gilder, "What Ronald Reagan Doesn't Know about His Own Achievements." He tells it all—what's been spent on welfare and how the rich paid their part and more. It's a very informative piece.
Helen R. Cox
Mt. Airy, NC
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".