Arnold Kling  

Greg Mankiw Steps in it Again

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The Washington Post reports,

Highlighting the challenge a far-flung campaign faces when it comes to message discipline, Romney has had to distance himself from his top economics adviser after Mankiw -- a Princeton-trained economist now teaching at Harvard -- voiced his support for an immigration bill Romney strongly opposes.

Mankiw just doesn't seem to get it when it comes to anti-foreign bias. This is reminiscent of the trouble he got into over outsourcing.

The last paragraph of the Post story amused me.

Madden, the Romney spokesman, said: "I've never met a voter who walked into a voting booth and pulled a lever for a candidate because they have a certain adviser as part of their campaign team. I believe voters vote for a president based on that person's ideas and their vision for the future."

I've never met Mr. Madden, but I would tell him that in 1992 I voted for Bill Clinton against George Bush the elder precisely because Alan Blinder was one of Clinton's economic advisers.

And I'll say this for my decision to vote "Blinderly." All things considered, the economic advice Clinton got--and, more importantly, took--was pretty good.

From what I understand, Mrs. Clinton was not as cozy with the economists.

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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Mr. Econotarian writes:

Telling the truth is tough.

David Thomson writes:

I am perhaps for 90% of the Immigration Bill. Unfortunately, I remain adamantly opposed because I am sure the Democrats and their country club Republican allies are going to sabotage it. They will slip in some weasel worded sentence or two that will make it impossible to stop more illegal immigrants from entering the country. One should not trust these people. They stabbed us in the back twenty years ago---and they plan on doing it again.

There is only one real way to enforce our immigration laws: we must make it easy for employers to verify the legal status of their prospective employees. Nothing short of this will be successful.

M.D. Fatwa writes:

David, I think you're missing the issue here. Employers don't hire illegals because they have a hard time verifying their legal status. They hire them because they are cheap, and they are cheap because they are illegal. Making it easier to verify status won't change the economic equation. If you want to end illegal immigration, you are going to have to come down extremely hard on employers who employ them. That, of course, will result in either an increase in the cost of goods now produced by illegals (i.e., jacking up the price of meat and produce at the grocery store, and the cost of a new roof on your house), or the relocation abroad of those industries that can relocate.

And that, essentially, is why the politicians "stabbed us in the back" 20 years ago. Everybody says they are opposed to illegal immigration, but the reality is that they are also strongly in favor of cheap goods and services. You are essentially insisting that voters make a choice. Good luck running on that platform.

David Thomson writes:

"Employers don't hire illegals because they have a hard time verifying their legal status."

An employer presently has an enormously difficult task in verifying the immigration status of their employees. If nothing else, many illegal workers possess forged documents of a high quality. Also, left-wing lawyers will sue them for discrimination if they dare to double-check only the status of suspicious applicants. This forces the employers to spend an enormous amount of money if they wish to comply with law. I am all for throwing the book at offending employers---but only if they are treated fairly.

ryan writes:

David, I think you're misunderstanding M.D. He's not saying verification is either easy or difficult -- he's saying ease of verification is entirely irrelevant because neither consumers nor employers have any desire to verify.

On the other hand, M.D. has clearly not yet read Myth of the Rational Voter. There's no contradiction between benefiting from illegal immigration (and illegal immigration in particular) and voting against it, or even voting against it when you think it's good for the country as a whole. You're not going to influence the election anyway, so why not vote against it? And politicians might enforce such a law (even if they thought it not in the country's best interests) because it's popular.

David Thomson writes:

"...he's saying ease of verification is entirely irrelevant because neither consumers nor employers have any desire to verify."

How do you know this to be true? Also, how can one even prove it one way or another---when it remains difficult to verify the immigration status of a prospective employee? No, the law can only be fairly enforced when the employer is able to check the documents without spending a small fortune. The current immigration bill is useless until this matter is resolved. I have no problem assimilating the illegals already in the country. We must, however, stop more from coming in.

Brad Hutchings writes:

I just love the reporter's implied premise that Mankiw is off the reservation. I'm sure if the same reporter were tasked with writing about Iraq, he would wonder where the debate and voices of dissent are.

Scott Adams (Dilbert cartoonist) has a post today about how Nurse Bloomberg would revolutionize campaigning by putting both sides of every issue on his web site. While I don't like the flavor of random indecisiveness espoused by Mr. Adams, it sure would be nice if a campaign spokeshole would recognize diversity of opinion among the candidate's lackeys advisors as a good thing.

ryan writes:

David, I was just trying to make what was being argued clear (i.e., that's it's no good insisting that verification is expensive when no one was making the opposite claim), not to argue the position.

That said, I think the logic here is pretty clear. It's probably difficult for me to actually get some arsenic toothpaste, but I'm sure you wouldn't suppose that making it easier would make me more likely to use it. How can you be sure? Well, since you know that brushing my teeth with arsenic isn't in my interest, it's reasonable to assume that the monetary cost of arsenic has nothing to do with my failure to use it in toothpaste. I assume the same about employers. Knowing for certain that an employee is illegal means you've lost a worker you've already hired, and who is working for cheaper than native workers. At a price of $1000 or $0, who would want to know that? What you're totally ignoring is the fact that it's in the interest of employers to hire illegal workers. 1992 I voted for Bill Clinton against George Bush the elder precisely because Alan Blinder was one of Clinton's economic advisers.

It didn't give you pause that Clinton moved quickly to associate himself with Lester Thurow immediately after he'd been profiled on 60 Minutes in '92?

dWj writes:

I expect Romney's immigration position is not primarily driven by economic considerations. Perhaps the journalist failed to grasp that. Or perhaps the journalist would be just as excited about a difference between Romney's and Mankiw's opinions on abortion.

Matt Zeitlin writes:

Mr. Kling, something tells me that only economists vote this way.

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