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  • Morning Bell: American Families Cannot Afford the Cost of Amnesty

    Our nation is going broke, and now is not the time to increase burdens on American families.

    The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744)—commonly called the “Gang of Eight bill” after the eight Senators who came up with it, Charles Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—includes amnesty for some 11 million unlawful immigrants. That amnesty would further burden taxpayers and weaken our fiscal situation. Congress should not rush to pass the bill without understanding the cost to the American taxpayer, especially when key research identifying and calculating those costs is nearly complete.

    We have more than $12 trillion in public debt and tens of trillions of dollars more in unfunded obligations that we have no way to afford, thanks to promises made by past and present politicians. With this in mind, today’s political leaders must consider the fiscal impact of amnesty and a path to citizenship that would enable millions of unlawful immigrants to qualify for costly welfare and entitlement programs.

    Simply put, what would this cost taxpayers, present and future? Would this make their burdens lighter, or double down on debt and unaffordable promises to be repaid by future generations?

    Leaders from both parties have repeatedly failed to consider properly the long-term effects of their policies. That is why we are in such a predicament. For too many politicians, long-term thinking extends only to the next election, at most six years away. Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the legislative branch’s official scorekeeper, does not help much in this regard, as it often looks at costs for only the next 10 years.

    We’ve seen legislative myopia again and again as politicians put off tough choices for the future or make our fiscal picture worse with new and expanded government programs we cannot afford, like Medicare prescription drug benefits or Obamacare. The biggest losers are future generations.

    Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) once noted that three groups spend other people’s money: thieves, children, and politicians—and all three need supervision. Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation helps provide the information needed for the American people to keep watch over politicians playing with immigration laws and our tax money. Rector is most famous for his work pioneering welfare reform and enjoys a sterling reputation as one of the nation’s leading authorities on government social programs.

    When he last crunched the numbers during the 2007 amnesty debate, Rector calculated that a general amnesty would cost some $2.5 trillion after considering what legalized immigrants would likely pay in taxes and receive in government assistance. With government only getting bigger (again, see Obamacare), it is likely he will calculate an even higher price tag in 2013. His highly anticipated research is nearing completion. His research from five years ago and the anticipated update are a central part of the debate.

    Some amnesty proponents are trying to convince themselves that the immigration bill won’t cost much. On the surface, they have some good talking points, noting that “registered provisional immigrants” (the name given to aliens who entered or stayed in the U.S. unlawfully but would get amnesty under the bill) are not eligible for government benefits. Of course that would last only until, at the very latest, they become citizens. (More likely, there will be pressure in future years to speed up both citizenship and eligibility.)

    In just a short time, they would be entitled to the same massive array of government programs as everyone else, including expensive retirement income and health programs that are already severely underfunded. The average unlawful immigrant has a 10th grade education, and low-skill immigrants on average take more in government benefits than they pay in taxes at every stage of their lives.

    America’s families are already burdened with taxes to support a bloated welfare and overburdened entitlement system that is badly in need of reform. This situation would get far worse under amnesty.

    Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.

    Quick Hits:

    • Two Democrats — Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Max Baucus of Montana — explain what’s bad about the Internet sales tax. Watch our top 10 video.
    • “House Republican leadership abruptly pulled a health care bill from the floor after concerns from conservatives that it extended President Barack Obama’s health care law,” reports Politico.
    • Liberals complain frequently about government furloughs stemming from sequestration. But one area not facing cutbacks is the office implementing Obamacare.
    • Robin Harris’ new biography on Margaret Thatcher will be released today. Harris, a Heritage senior visiting fellow, served as a close adviser to Thatcher for a quarter of a century.
    • The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opens today in Dallas. Fox News’ Dana Perino reflects on her favorite memories of President Bush.
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