President Trump’s decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program instituted by President Obama, has left nearly 800,000 people who were brought to America as children at risk of deportation. The action was so controversial that Trump delegated the announcement of the decision to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama Senator who is a fervent anti-immigration proponent, to say it in the least offensive way possible.
The ostensible reason for the end of DACA is a constitutional issue. Since the program was initiated through a presidential executive order after Congress failed to pass any immigration reform legislation, opponents have claimed executive branch over-reach and declared the program an example of unconstitutional usurpation of power that rightfully belongs to the legislative branch. It is an argument that one would expect to eventually be settled in federal court.
When Attorney General Sessions announced the end of DACA, however, he also gave another rationale for ending the program, and the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called out the fallacy and political opportunism inherent in Sessions’ reasoning in a powerful op-ed article yesterday in The New York Times.
According to Sessions, DACA, which gave the so-called “Dreamers” work permits as well as the ability to remain in the US for now, “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
As Krugman points out:
“That’s just false, and the decision to lead with such a falsehood tells you a lot, not just about this decision, but about the Trump administration in general.”
Krugman points out that that the Trump administration has lied repeatedly about the economic issues facing our country, most notably with the easily disproven whopper that the US is the most highly taxed nation in the world.
As Krugman reminds us:
“the U.S. collects less in taxes, as a share of national income, than almost any other advanced economy. But Trump just keeps repeating the lie.”
Krugman goes on to label the barely-concealed racism as “junk economics”:
“The idea that there are a fixed number of jobs, so that if a foreign-born worker takes a job he or she takes it away from a native-born worker, is completely at odds with everything we know about how the economy works….The truth is that letting the Dreamers work legally helps the U.S. economy; pushing them out or into the shadows is bad for everyone except racists.”
The basis for Krugman’s assertions are firmly rooted in the demographics of America’s declining fertility and a rapidly aging population, a situation similar to what Japan has experienced in recent decades, resulting in persistent economic stagnation and deflation there.
According to Krugman, ending DACA could lead to a double whammy:
“On one side, an aging population means fewer workers paying taxes to support Social Security and Medicare. Demography is the main reason long-run forecasts suggest problems for Social Security, and an important reason for concerns about Medicare. Driving out young workers who will pay into the system for many decades is a way to make these problems worse.”
“On the other side, declining growth in the working-age population reduces the returns to private investment, increasing the risk of prolonged slumps like the one that followed the 2008 financial crisis.”
The columnist goes on to deflate the claim that these “Dreamers” siphon jobs from poorly-educated American-born citizens, driving pay scales down and leading to increasing income inequality (as if that was an issue that kept Republicans awake at night), by rightly pointing out that these are people who grew up for the majority of their lives here in America and are relatively well-educated, thanks to the US public school systems.
Krugman’s conclusion is one that is difficult to argue with:
“In short, letting Dreamers work is all economic upside for the rest of our nation, with no downside unless you have something against people with brown skin and Hispanic surnames. Which is, of course, what this is all really about.”
With a Trump policy, announced by an Attorney General known for his nativist views, that’s always what it’s all about.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.