Assessing Immigration to America

The economic and social consequences of America’s immigration policies – both deliberate and by default – are among the most hotly debated issues of our time. According to CarryingCapacity.org, the United States “now accepts over one million legal immigrants each year, which is more than all of the other industrialized nations in the world, combined.” Additionally, according to ImmigrationCounters.com, there are nearly 23 million illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S.

Attempting to quantify and project the costs and benefits of immigration into the U.S. is not easy. According to About.com, quoting the Federation for American Immigration Reform, “the costs of education, health care and incarceration of illegal aliens to Californians is $10.5 billion per year.” According to the Center for Immigration Studies, “households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion.”

Statistics abound – and for every study suggesting that America’s immigration is creating a burden on the economy, there is another that concludes the opposite, that immigrants continue to provide a net economic benefit to the economy. So rather than provide yet another regurgitation of battling statistics, it is important to note some crucial qualitative differences between immigration trends in America today, compared with past centuries in America.

WHY IMMIGRATION TO AMERICA IS DIFFERENT TODAY THAN IT WAS [...] Read More

California’s Personnel Costs

Over the past twenty years, as wages in the private sector have remained pretty much flat – not even keeping up with inflation – wages in the public sector have risen relentlessly. A generation ago, a public sector worker would sacrifice current pay for job security and a pension that was somewhat better than social security, but today, not only are public employee pension benefits far more generous than they used to be, but public employees generally make more in current pay than their private sector counterparts. While this assertion remains hotly debated, one seeking the truth might consider this comment – made in a guest column in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month – by former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown:

“The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life,” Brown asserted. “But we politicians — pushed by our friends in labor — gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . This is politically unpopular and potentially even career suicide . . . but at some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact.”

If Willie Brown, a friend of big government and big labor if there ever was one, is on record with a comment like this, it’s time to move on. Personnel costs for government employees have grown out [...] Read More

Entrepreneurs or Predators?

About five years ago the New Yorker magazine abandoned its official nonpartisanship and, for the first time in eighty years, endorsed a Presidential candidate. Their preferred candidate, John Kerry, didn’t win, but the partisanship continued. If you want to read about art, culture, literature, music, personalities, trends, and pretty much anything that isn’t political in nature, the New Yorker remains probably the best general interest magazine in the English language. But when it comes to politics, the New Yorker has become a high-brow version of your average left-wing alternative weekly free newspaper.

Now one of the New Yorker’s regular writers, Malcolm Gladwell, has issued a muddled dissertation on entrepreneurs (The Sure Thing, January 18th, 2010) that reads, if you skim the piece, as a blatant attack on entrepreneurship, and under closer scrutiny, comes across as simply muddled thinking. The premise of the article is that entrepreneurs are not risk takers, but in fact are risk averse. Quoting other authors, Gladwell then describes entrepreneurs as predators.

Gladwell’s primary example of an entrepreneur is Ted Turner, a spectacularly successful entrepreneur. Gladwell argues that Turner took far fewer risks than one might think. His first example is Turner’s purchase of a UHF television station in Atlanta. Gladwell points out how Turner bought the station in a stock swap, meaning “he didn’t have to put a penny down.” He explains how Turner was able to market the station by using unsold billboard space owned by his [...] Read More

Stopping Taxpayer Funded Unions

When fiscal conservatives run for office, or fiscally conservative initiatives are put onto the ballot, the candidates and proponents have to go out and ask for money to finance their campaigns. But in the case of public sector unions, who overwhelmingly support fiscally liberal, big government programs, and consistently oppose attempts to shrink the size of government, this is not the case. In California, for example, every year these unions automatically collect literally hundreds of millions in dues from unionized state and city workers, which they can use to engage in partisan political activity. In California, ever since 1977, when legislation was enacted to permit collective bargaining by public sector employees, unions have become increasingly involved in influencing public issues and policy. It has now reached the point where public sector unions exercise nearly absolute control over California’s state government, and most of California’s local government entities.

One would think workers in the public sector would object to unions who purport to represent them using their money to pursue a big government agenda that has now put public entities into such a financial crisis that they face furloughs and layoffs. One would think government workers would question why their taxes and fees are automatically and involuntarily siphoned into the coffers of union leaders who use the money to control elections and set the agenda for government. And this is particularly true when these unions financially support – using their money – a liberal agenda that not all public employees necessarily [...] Read More

Maintaining Pension Solvency

One of the biggest challenges facing governments is determining how to adequately fund present and future pension benefits for their employees. While public employees are working, if a sufficient amount of money is set aside for them each year and invested competently, then by the time the employee retires, their fund balance should be adequate to draw down each month to pay their pension, yet not be fully depleted until after they’ve died. As will be seen, however, unless some very optimistic scenarios are used as the basis for projecting future pension solvency, the amounts that are currently being contributed to public employee pension funds are grossly inadequate.

While the calculation of how much money needs to be set aside each month to build up an adequate pension fund is not simple, it is not so complex or arcane as to defy analysis by policymakers, journalists and commentators, voters, employee advocates, or anyone else concerned with this issue.

In the analysis to follow, four cases are presented, each one calculating what percentage of payroll must be allocated to annual pension funding under various assumptions. These cases concern the pension of a single individual, but when assessing the sustainability of public employee pension benefits, these calculations apply in aggregate as well.

In the four examples below, the same assumptions are made for each individual pension fund chronology – the individual enters public employment at age 25, works until they are 55, and dies at age 85. All calculations and assumptions deal [...] Read More