The pro-more-immigration crowd argues that today's immigrants are just like immigrants of a century ago: poor people looking for a better life who are expected to advance in our land of opportunity. Krikorian's new argument is that while today's immigrants may be like earlier ones, the America they come to is so very different that our previous experience with immigrants is practically irrelevant.The essential difference between the two waves of immigrants was best summed up by the Nobel Prize-winning advocate of a free market, Milton Friedman. He said, "It's just obvious that you can't have free immigration and a welfare state."
The term "welfare state" does not just mean handouts to the nonworking. Our welfare state encompasses dozens of social programs that provide benefits to the "working poor," i.e., people working for wages low enough that they pay little or no income taxes.
Immigrants of the previous generation were expected to earn their own living, pay taxes like everybody else, learn our language, love America and assimilate into our culture. Today's immigrants likewise come here for jobs not welfare.
During those prior major waves of immigration, the United States didn't have a welfare state. Native-born Americans survived the Great Depression of the 1930s without a welfare state.
The Social Security retirement system was established only in 1935. Most other agencies that redistribute cash and costly benefits from taxpayers to non-taxpayers started with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in the late 1960s.
Today's low-wage immigrants and lower-wage illegals can't earn what it costs to live in modern America, so they supplement with means-tested taxpayer benefits. And many immigrants don't learn our language or assimilate into American culture because of the multicultural diversity taught in our schools and encouraged in our society.
Today's immigrants fit the profile of the people who benefit from our welfare state: the working poor with large families. Krikorian sets forth some dismal figures.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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