One thing (though far from the only thing) that makes me look forward to Peter Lawler posts is that they often help crystallize my thoughts. Peter writes about talking to the New Atlantis guys about assimilation, but I’m not so worried about assimilation per se. As a general rule, America is pretty good at assimilating immigrants. I’m not so worried about a real failure-of-assimilation, Stockholm-type situation here (though I reserve the right to change my mind based on future developments). I’m more worried that the assimilation will be into an America with an ever more bifurcated distribution of social capital where those with the least skills continue to see falling wages, declining labor force participation, and the continuation of disrupted family formation. Like Yuval Levin, I think there are limits to what policy can do to fix these problems, but we can at least refrain from making them both larger and worse.
That is why the vast expansion of low-skill labor in the Gang of Eight bill is, as Peter Lawler writes, insane. The lowest-skill segment of the labor force (and their families) are already in trouble. What we are doing to help them is either working ambivalently or failing. The unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma is eleven percent. The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s or higher degree is less than four percent. So what does the Gang of Eight plan do? It expands low-skill immigration much faster than high-skill immigration. Even if you wanted to expand low-skill immigration (and you shouldn’t), aren’t the priorities here obviously backwards? It is almost as if the Gang of Eight and their allies are acting crazy just to see who will notice. On the other hand, we do have one of Marco Rubio’s creatures explaining that the current population of low-skill American citizens and residents “can’t cut it” necessitating a vast expansion of the low-skill labor force. Is it that important to make sure that wages in the construction industry don’t rise? What is this combination of fanaticism and avarice?