Friday, October 20, 2006

When the poor don't see it that way.

Marcela Sanchez, in the Washington Post, has an interesting story on the Latino immigrants to the United States. She admits that by American standards these new immigrants are poor. But new immigrants throughout history have been poor --- something forgotten by the faux libertarians and racist Right who dislike immigration.

Sanchez notes that: “If immigrants, especially Hispanics, are card-carrying members of the U.S. underclass, society at large is having a hard time convincing them of it: Latino immigrants are too busy working, buying cars, purchasing homes, and even investing abroad.”

The popular image of the underclass is people living off welfare for generation after generation. This has not been true for Hispanic immigrants despite the racist stereotypes. Sanchez says these immigrants don’t fit this stereotype for two main reasons: “choices and attitudes”.

This means they make choices on how to cut expenses and they work hard and save. About 90 percent of what they earned is put back directly into the US economy to cover living expenses and: “Most of the rest of their incomes they invest in their homelands as remittances.”

The InterAmerican Development Bank says these hardworking immigrants will send home $45 billion in funds this year alone. They call this “one of the broadest and most effective poverty alleviation programs in the world.” And all of it done privately. Not only done privately but done in the face of active opposition by the US government and various anti-immigrant groups. One third of these immigrants have said they invested in real estate in the US.

And a survey of these “poor” people showed that they don’t see themselves “as greatly disadvantaged or victimized.” Gee, that must upset the Left as much the presences of these people upsets the Right. Not only don’t they feel exploited and victimized the majority, almost 70 percent, said that their economic situation was good or excellent.

Sanchez notes: “Those who use poverty to disparage immigration will continue to argue that immigrants -- particularly those here illegally -- hurt the U.S. economy. The reality is that rather than increasing poverty rates in this country, Hispanic immigrants are helping decrease poverty rates south of the border -- and with that they are doing more than anyone else to stem the future flow of immigration.”

She is absolutely correct but then common sense economics does not play well on the Left or the Right. “And what about that $45 billion,” ask the modern day mercantilists?

Good question. When these immigrants send a US dollar abroad it eventually has to be spent. And what do US dollars buy? US goods. At some point that dollar returns to the US and when it does it does so either by being invested in the US or purchasing goods from the US. America is not hurt by this voluntary exchange. But then voluntary exchanges, by definition, are good for the participants. Something the loony Left and racist Right just don’t comprehend.