If Liberals Understand Trade Policy, Why Can’t They Understand Immigration Policy?

There is a fundamental contradiction between the Obama administration’s trade policy and its immigration policy, a fact that is too seldom noted. A reader sums up the point well:

Last night Obama was on Hardball and countered the left-Dem attacks on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. This issue has the potential to really drive a huge wedge into the Dem-left coalition.

But what struck me was the perhaps subtle link with, and contradiction of, the Obama position on immigration with the rationale for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

[T]he TPP, [Obama] said, … will allow the United States to do what it does best — which is not compete for low-wage manufacturing jobs of the sort that Warren, Reid, and the president’s critics believe will be outsourced. “That ship has said,” Obama explained. “We can only compete for the high-end, where we’re adding value. It’s IT, it’s talent, it’s innovation — that’s the kind of stuff we can sell around the world.”

This is exactly right as a matter of economic strategy. But the rationale for an immigration policy of more or less unlimited legal immigration contradicts this argument. The immigration rationale is the familiar “jobs Americans won’t do” claim, and the bogus assertion of huge economic benefits, principally just aggregate GDP growth along with actual deterioration of per capita GDP and virtually no benefit to existing Americans on net, along with all the adverse impacts of huge population growth like overcrowding and environmental degradation.

The “jobs Americans won’t do,” though, are in precisely the low value-added sectors of the economy. That’s why Americans don’t want to do them. But rather than have America move up the value chain, the immigration celebrationists want to import not the “cheap foreign” products, but the cheap foreign workers instead!….by the scores of millions…to do the “jobs Americans won’t do” and preserve the low value-added sectors.

Effectively, it’s a form of import substitution that is the objective of protectionism in trade of goods and services because the alternative to domestic low value-added industries in the U.S. is…imports. The special pleaders wanting cheap foreign labor prefer that we import millions of Mexicans to pick their tomatoes and cucumbers rather than import the crops. It is economic insanity when carried out on as a large a scale as they want, quite aside from the grotesque giantism that their immigration plans entail.

We should note this contradiction between trade policy and immigration policy wherever possible. All claims that immigration provides the benefits of economic growth should be met with the simple point that “this isn’t the economic growth we’re looking for.” We want the existing American population to enjoy increasing per capita GDP growth —- from the highest value-added sectors possible. We want to be Switzerland, not India or China.

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