If you had “Cher discovers the paradox of open borders and the welfare state” on your 2019 bingo card, please collect your earnings.
Cher, welcome to the deplorables. President Trump thanks you.
While Trump and I may sound glib here, it’s honestly worth unpacking this revelation. Cher unwittingly stumbled onto the most existential question the Democratic Party must answer: Do they want open borders or a welfare state? Because you can’t have both.
In theory, I’m about as much as a Rothbardian dove on immigration as you can imagine. I’m every coastal strawman that Ann Coulter has ever fought with, but in earnest. I love cheap labor. I love cheap stuff. I love maximizing the efficiency of the labor market and enabling everyone to take advantage of their comparative advantages. In a theoretical universe, the only immigration restrictions I would want for people seeking work visas would be related to national security concerns and rates of cultural assimilation.
But we have a massive welfare state, and one that’s deeply susceptible to being taken advantage of by people, including legal and illegal immigrants, who do not pay taxes.
In 2015, the Census Bureau found that 51% of legal and illegal immigrant households use Medicaid, cash programs including Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food programs, and housing programs. In 2018, they discovered that figure increased to 58% and actually soars to a whopping 63% if also accounting for earned income tax credits as a welfare source. An astounding 70% of immigrants here for a decade or longer are on at least one form of welfare. All of this ignores the access people who don’t pay taxes have to emergency room services, Title X facilities, and every other public good, from roads to parks, that taxpayers fund unconditionally.
Cher, probably without knowing it, focused on the single group of people hurt the most unfairly by open borders: veterans. In Los Angeles, veterans — the single group of people the nation’s entered a moral and legal contract with to ensure welfare for — comprise nearly 4,000 of the city’s homeless population.
While the city’s resources ought to go to getting those who put their lives on the line for the nation out of the hepatitis-ridden streets of Skid Row, instead Los Angeles shells out over $1 billion annually to illegal immigrants.