Trump touts study that says immigrants could actually save taxpayer dollars
Almost as good as the android phone fake news, but real. Max Ehrenfreund reports in the Washington Post:
President Trump told Congress Tuesday night that too many immigrants fail to make their own living and end up dependent on the government.
His evidence: a detailed immigration report published last year by the National Academy of Sciences, a prestigious, nonpartisan research organization.
“It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon,” Trump said in his address to a joint session of Congress. “According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.”
That statement, however, is at odds with some of the report’s most important findings.
Trump is correct that the report did find that current immigrants receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. In 2013, for example, the authors of the report calculated that the government spent $279 billion more on first-generation immigrants than they paid in taxes. But over time, the report projects, immigrants have the opposite effect on the budget deficit. A recent immigrant and her descendants could be — over a 75-year period — expected to pay an average of as much as $259,000 more in taxes than they receive in government benefits.
That conclusion, that current immigrants and their descendants may end up paying far more to the government than they get out of it, seems to undermine Trump’s claim that the current immigration system would impose billions in costs to “America’s taxpayers.”
The forecast that immigrants could ultimately improve the government’s bottom line undermines Trump’s claim that the current system is hugely costly for taxpayers — many of whom are themselves immigrants.
It is true that immigrants are more likely to receive some forms of direct public benefits — including food stamps and Medicaid — than U.S.-born citizens. But, as immigrants tend to be younger, they are also less likely to draw on Medicare and Social Security, and many of them will pay taxes to support these costly programs for years before receiving benefits from them. The authors of the report found that the children of immigrants are “among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the population.”
The report, which stretches more than 500 pages, did not come to any firm conclusion about immigrants’ net effect on public finances, in part because of the complexity of the calculation.
As they are with everyone else, immigrants’ tax and benefit levels are set both by their own economic success and by the fiscal policies lawmakers set over the course of their lifetimes. When the authors calculated the above $259,000 figure, they assumed policymakers will eventually act to balance the national budget. (When the authors assumed the government would continue to run a deficit, they still found the average recent immigrant and her descendants would pay in more than they receive, though in this scenario the surplus shrinks to an average of $77,000.) . . .