Friday, January 23, 2015

Guest-Worker Tensions

Reports that Marco Rubio is potentially mobilizing to get into the GOP presidential race have provoked much speculation from pundits.  James Pethokoukis makes a very interesting case for Senator Rubio as "the Man With the (21st century, middle-class, conservative) Plan."  Pethokoukis finds much to celebrate in Rubio's latest book:
In his new book, American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone, Rubio outlines an economic plan that takes timeless conservative principles — faith, family, free enterprise – but adapts their policy manifestations to the current challenges confronting middle- and working-class America. For instance: As part of broader tax reform that would reduce anti-investment business taxes, Rubio would also provide immediate tax relief to families by expanding the federal Child Tax Credit. This reflects the economic reality that cranking up GDP growth, while a necessity, may no longer be sufficient to lift all boats — at least not right away. Macroeconomic trends such as globalization and automation are restructuring the American economy so that income gains are flowing heavily to those at the top. The Rubio plan, jointly developed with Sen. Mike Lee, also addresses the fundamental financial unfairness that parents — unlike childless adults – pay the taxes that support Medicare and Social Security while also investing in future taxpayers, their kids. There’s a lot more in the book, everything from innovative higher education reform to pro-work support for low-income families to anti-cronyist deregulation.
Many of Senator Rubio's ideas have merit, and it is worthwhile indeed to find modern solutions to contemporary problems while still keeping true to enduring principles.

However, there seems to be some tension between a pro-market, pro-middle-class approach to conservatism and a support for swelling the number of guest workers admitted to the country annually.  Senator Rubio was a major defender of the Gang of Eight immigration bill, which would have increased guest-worker numbers.  And he is a co-sponsor of the Immigration Innovation bill, which would cause a massive increase in the number of guest workers.  Guest-worker policies are usually not pro-market and are hardly pro-worker.

Republicans of all stripes would be wise to listen to Pethokoukis's call for a solutions-oriented conservatism.  And hopefully Senator Rubio, along with other possible Republican candidates for president, will be able to advance such a vision.  But it is unclear how advocating for more guest workers fits into an opportunity-oriented, middle-class conservative plan.

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