Arithmetic, as former President Bill Clinton would dub it, gave a promising boost last week to Senate immigration reform efforts, moving a bipartisan deal closer to reality.
The math came in the form of a Congressional Budget Office report released on Tuesday. The report debunked stalwart opponents claims that creating a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants would be a wasteful boondoggle and add to the countrys deficit.
To the contrary, the CBO estimated that the proposed immigration overhaul would reduce federal deficits by about $197 billion over the next 10 years, and about $700 billion in the following decade. The report said the additional taxes being paid by the immigrants would not only offset new taxpayer-funded costs increases in direct federal spending by $262 billion from 2014-2023 for Medicare and other services it would increase revenues by $459 billion and help reduce the deficit substantially.
The CBO also found that this reform plan, which also increases the number of allowable temporary workers, workers that include the highly skilled as well as unskilled and agricultural, would boost the gross domestic product by 3.3 percent in 2023 and 5.4 percent in 2033. Thats a real increase of roughly $700 billion in 2023 and $1.4 trillion in 2033 due to higher labor force participation, increased capital investment and increased productivity.
This is good news not just for immigration reform advocates but for the countrys long-term prosperity.
Critics of the Senate immigration plan, though, point to this CBO finding that average wages are estimated to fall by 0.1 percent in the first decade of the overhaul. Opponents say that wage decrease would hurt poor and working-class Americans. But the CBO actually finds that slight wage fall would be among new immigrants who would be making less than the average wage wages that would still be more than they made before immigrating. And average wages would rise by 0.5 percent in the second decade.
Armed with the CBOs figures, immigration reform leaders chief among them Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. met with leery Republicans who were pushing for more border security. They suggested devoting some of the anticipated revenues to broader security.
By weeks end, a deal was brokered that appealed to both the left and right, and appears to have more than enough votes to pass the Senate. In fact, with a border surge that nearly doubles the current border patrol force to 40,000 agents from 21,000 and completes 700 miles of fence on the nations southern border, the plan could pass with enough votes to provide momentum for success in the more recalcitrant House.
It is hugely ironic that this much-needed reform might have a real chance now that fiscally conservative lawmakers have tacked on a $25 billion cost for more border security. But politics is the art of compromise. This could be the compromise that gets the job done.
We hope so. Immigration reforms are badly needed. This overhaul offers a sensible path forward and as the CBO math underscores, that path is financially beneficial to all of us.
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