The proposed Trump Administration rule to deny entry into the United States to immigrants who would likely need public assistance—the so-called means test—is an incredibly dunce-headed policy change for the simple reason that it will not accomplish its objective.
The objective—unstated, but understood by everyone—is to keep non-Europeans AKA non-whites out of the United States. But this mean-spirited attempt to make America white(r) again will never work. Why would anyone from Europe want to come to the United States? Sure, taxes are a little lower in the United States, but most “white” countries offer cradle-to-grave healthcare; inexpensive and sometimes free college and vocational training schools; great unemployment and employee benefits; and decent pensions. In the 21st century, there is more socio-economic mobility in virtually all other “white countries,” meaning someone from the middle class has a better chance of getting rich in Europe than in the United States. Only the very rich in European countries could possible find the United States an attractive place to live. For everyone else already in the middle class, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Odds are that the effect of the new rule may thus be to increase the number of middle class coming from autocratic countries in Africa and the Middle East, plus the overspill of educated workers in India and the Far East. In other words, more non-whites, albeit with more financial means than refugees from Central America and Syria.
The meanness and small-mindedness of the new policy are closely intertwined with the racism of Trump, Steven Miller and others supporting it. Racism creates a lesser class of humans. Because they are “lesser,” we don’t have to apply the same rules of jurisprudence or civility to them. We can treat them with cruelty, because they are no longer “poor people,” whom the Jewish and Hebrew bibles tell us to cherish and protect. No, they aren’t poor people, because they aren’t people at all, but something other and inferior. The difference between the goodness of a “poor person” and the badness of a “poor other” was underscored when Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, made the contrast between the poor Italians—his ancestors—who once came to the United States with nothing and our current stock of immigrants.
Like establishing the tariffs against China, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Accord and publicly hammering the Federal Reserve Board, adding a means test to the requirements for immigration to the United States strikes a heavy blow to the American economy. The economy depends on a supply of workers at every level, and for a long time—certainly since the end of slavery—immigrants have supplied large numbers of our lowest paid employees. Many farmers are already complaining about not having enough workers to pick crops. Recent reports also highlight a growing shortage of home health workers in many metropolitan areas. Impoverished immigrants are a major part of the workforce serving the construction, home care, home cleaning, agricultural and hospitality industries. That’s a pretty large chunk of the economy that will suffer from worker shortages and increased labor costs. Note that many of these jobs consist of doing things that most people don’t want to do—hauling debris away from construction sites; changing great grandma’s catheter; picking grapes and lettuce in hot fields; cleaning the vomit off the walls and floors of hotel rooms left by binge-drinking guests.
As usual for the Trump Administration, this new policy not only is not based on facts, it goes against what we know to be true. Studies show that immigrants end up contributing more to the American economy than the cost to process and care for them. What they pay in taxes far outweighs what the country spends on social welfare spending for immigrants. To be sure, every year, a group of recently arrived immigrants cost their local and the federal government money. And there must be some number of immigrants who never successfully integrate into our economy and remain a burden on American society all their lives. But overall, immigrants—rich ones and poor, both legal and undocumented—are essential to the American economy.
One common theme underlies many Trump economic actions such as trade policies, support of dying industries like coal instead growth industries like solar and wind power, cutting the flow of immigrants, and giving the wealthy a tax break paid for by cutting programs and deficits. That theme is shrinkage. All will tend to shrink the base of the economy. Our current economic leadership is the most ill-informed since at least the Hoover Administration. Their headlong rush to lead us into a severe recession is mind-bogglingly dim-witted.
They are, in short, stupid people blinded by their prejudices.
That is, unless Trump, Mnuchin, Ross, Kushner, et. al. are secretly buying up puts, selling stocks short and loading up on cash to take advantage of a crash of financial markets.
Idiots or traitors? Doesn’t that always seem to be the final two choices when considering what Trump and his entourage do?
One thing that we can be sure of though: whatever the goal, the motive and driving principle behind Trump is usually racism.