Nothing Like Some Good Pre-COVID Prognostication to Argue for Mass Immigration
There are many lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis. Among them is that economic forecasts that look beyond, say next week, are nothing more than educated guesses. But that has not stopped FWD.us, a Silicon Valley-funded mass immigration advocacy group from citing a 2017 study as the basis for analyzing of what the group claims would be the harmful effects of enacting the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act.
The RAISE Act, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), would transition U.S. immigration policy from one that is largely based on family chain migration, to a system that prioritizes education and job skills. It would also reduce our historically high levels of immigration by about 50 percent. Even without enactment of the RAISE Act, FWD.us bemoans that due to restrictions put in place in response to the COVID crisis, immigration has (at least temporarily) been cut by that amount.
The reductions have “done incredible damage to the economy,” FWD.us asserts. “Experts estimate that the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to current immigration levels would shrink GDP by 2% and cost 4.6 million jobs over 20 years.” Actually, it is COVID that has done the incredible damage to the economy, but FWD.us hopes no one will notice that.
The experts to whom they are referring do indeed have somecredentials. They are researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’sprestigious Wharton School of Business. But what FWD.us also hopes you won’tnotice is that the study was published in 2017. The Wharton researchers, likeeveryone else on the planet, didn’t see COVID coming – a development thatrenders this and other economic forecasts, especially those projecting as farinto the future as 2040, worthless.
Long range economic projections are inherently suspect. Eventhough the Wharton researchers cannot be faulted for not having anticipatedCOVID, we can be 100 percent certain that there will be numerous unforeseendevelopments over a 23 year period that will change the course of events – someslightly, some dramatically.
Another obvious sleight of hand on the part of FWD.us isthat the Wharton model does not actually project that GDP would shrink if theRAISE Act were implemented. Rather, it claims that GDP would be 2 percent less thanit might otherwise be without adopting the RAISE Act – a projection that isbased on the shaky proposition that half of new immigrants admitted under ourcurrent family chain migration system, over that period, would have collegedegrees or better.
And then there’s the very significant distinction betweenGDP and per capita GDP – the latter of which is arguably far more important.Once you get beyond Wharton’s bullet point summary of key findings and into themeat of the report, you find that under the report’s more realistic 10-yearforecast the RAISE would increase percapita GDP. “[W]e project that the RAISE Act will increase per capita GDPby 0.02 percent by 2027,” states the Wharton analysis, (again, based on theirquestionable assumption that continuation of current policies would haveresulted half of all legal immigrants holding post-secondary degrees). Longerterm (by 2040), Wharton does claim that the RAISE Act would result in lower percapita GDP, but the farther out you look the murkier things get.
But, of course, if you are an advocacy group that is funded by business interests with an insatiable appetite for foreign labor, why let a little thing like the economic upheaval of COVID stand in the way of staking your case on already dubious pre-pandemic economic forecasts?