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Ezra Klein”The truth is, the most important piece of economic policy we pass — or don’t pass — in 2013 may be something we don’t think of as economic policy at all: immigration reform.

Congress certainly doesn’t consider it economic policy, at least not officially. Immigration laws go through the House and Senate judiciary committees. But consider a few facts about immigrants in the American economy: About a 10th of the U.S. population is foreign-born. More than a quarter of U.S. technology and engineering businesses started from 1995 to 2005 had a foreign-born owner. In Silicon Valley, half of all tech startups had a foreign-born founder. One-quarter of all U.S.-based Nobel laureates of the past 50 years were foreign born. Right now, about half of the PhDs working in science and technology are foreign born.

Immigrants begin businesses and file patents at a much higher rate than their native-born counterparts, and while there are disputes about the effect immigrants have on the wages of low-income Americans, there’s little dispute about their effect on wages overall: They lift them.

The economic case for immigration is best made by way of analogy. Everyone agrees that aging economies with low birth rates are in trouble; this, for example, is a thoroughly conventional view of Japan. It’s even conventional wisdom about the U.S. The retirement of the baby boomers is correctly understood as an economic challenge. The ratio of working Americans to retirees will fall from 5 to 1 today to  3 to 1 in 2050. Fewer workers and more retirees is tough on any economy.

There’s nothing controversial about that analysis. But if that’s not controversial, then immigration shouldn’t be, either. Immigration is essentially the importation of new workers. It’s akin to raising the birth rate, only easier, because most of the newcomers are old enough to work. And because living in the U.S. is considered such a blessing that even very skilled, very industrious workers are willing to leave their home countries and come to ours, the U.S. has an unusual amount to gain from immigration. When it comes to the global draft for talent, we almost always get the first-round picks — at least, if we want them, and if we make it relatively easy for them to come here.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/worried-about-the-economy-then-pass-immigration-reform/

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Posted February 1, 2013 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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