The Spectacle Blog

Krikorian on Immigrants and Welfare

By on 7.28.08 | 4:01PM

Reading the most recent National Review, I note a weird statement from Mark Krikorian that's striking me as a little (or maybe very) wrongheaded:

"... Immigrants -- legal or illegal -- don't come here just to get welfare. The high rate of welfare use by immigrants (half of all families headed by a Mexican immigrant use at least one major welfare program) is inevitable because, no matter how hard they work, people with very little education or few skills simply cannot earn enough to support their families in the way that our society expects without subsidies from the taxpayer."

Well, I guess it depends on what the expectations are of our society. I'd argue that the subsidies from the taxpayer hardly scratches at the kind of support necessary to raise the families, and if nothing else, they likely make it more difficult for immigrants because of higher taxes/lower job growth. What we've learned from the free market is that frequently government subsidies undermine the individual's ability to support a family. This is a step further from "Government Is Inefficient," and closer toward "Government Does Harm."

In arguing this way, Krikorian gives far too much ground away to "compassionate conservatives" and welfare-loving liberals who point out that the state really does help the poor. People with very little education or few skills can earn enough to support their families, and treating immigrants' desire for social services as inevitable doesn't address the point that part of why they might be so dependent on these services is that they're in this country illegally (and finding work is difficult) or they're priced out of the market by the minimum wage.

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