The Lame Ducks: Same Old Political Foul

Now that the Lame Ducks are roosting in D.C. for the next few weeks, we’re being treated to the same old political foul. You’d think, with all the quacking coming out of the Capitol, that the mid terms went the way of the 2008 general election. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are still swinging for the left field fences, as if nothing has changed. But, their time is limited. The only question at this point is whether the pair can push through more partisan bills before the New Year rings in.

Harry, at least, has a partisan bill or two in his hopper, most notably the DREAM Act. It’s a bill worth examining because it offers a glimpse of how the next couple of years may play out. The proposed legislation provides a path to amnesty for two million illegals. The latest version offers citizenship to those 30 years of age or younger who began living illegally in this Country before their 16th birthday. These individuals must either complete two years of college or enlist in the military. Taxpayers foot the bill, which is estimated to be $6 billion a year for the next several years. Total cost projections are about $20 billion.

But, the precise number of illegals and the cost to taxpayers are just SWAGs at this point. Reid offers no numbers. Republicans have requested a cost evaluation from the Congressional Budget Office before a vote is taken, but Harry is in steamroller mode. He wants a vote this week without waiting for cost verification. Meanwhile, the Center for Immigration Studies, which came up with the $6 billion a year guesstimate, characterizes it as conservative. The figure is disputed by the Immigration Policy Center; however, the Center offers no cost approximations of its own.

Proponents of the bill do offer supporting arguments. One of the best is the supposed positive effect the Act will have on military readiness, presumably because our armed forces will have more troops. The trouble with this argument is money, of course. The Deficit Commission’s recommendations, published just last week, include Pentagon budget cuts for the next ten years. Granted, it’s just a recommendation now. But, you can bet the Federal debt that the Pentagon won’t end up with more money in its coffers for force increases.

The other major pro Act claim is a two-pronged financial argument. First, the newly educated, and presumably employed, beneficiaries of the Act will increase the amount of tax revenue otherwise received. And, they will have more money to spend, helping to boost the economy.

This argument contains several unwarranted assumptions not the least of which is that enrollees will finish two years of college. Over 50% of first year students are simply unprepared for the rigors of higher learning, causing many to drop out. Another misconception is the monetary advantage of two years of college over a high school diploma. The pay increase, if any, is marginal. To earn more money in a lifetime of employment, a college diploma is required. Which brings up the last problem. The cost of the DREAM Act is now. The monetary benefits, if any, can’t be known for many years. It seems a sucker’s bet.

And then there are the main arguments against the Act. Cost is the first one. That proponents dispute the current estimates merely serves to underscore the need to wait for the CBO evaluation. The only reason to rush ahead is the fear that the CBO’s review will support the estimates, which would certainly kill the bill.

Another main con argument is the need to consider the illegal immigration subject in its entirety rather than in a piecemeal fashion. Neither Reid nor any proponent has offered a real rationale for considering the DREAM legislation separately. If we’re going to get a grip on the Federal debt, we have to consider costs as a whole. Otherwise, we’ll be washed away in a flood of forest-for-the-trees outlays.

What the DREAM Act comes down to is how serious we are about re-establishing our fiscal health. Since the Feds borrowed 37 cents of every dollar spent last year, there’s no money available to finance the Program, except through more borrowing. If this puppy passes in the face of the Deficit Commission’s report, it will be a bellwether of an unstoppable tsunami ahead.

See you on the left-side.