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viewpoint

Santorum leaves concerns unaddressed

| Thursday, September 18, 2014

Speaking to a packed William J. Carey Auditorium in the Hesburgh Library, Rick Santorum arrived with the intention of exchanging ideas about what challenges the Republican Party will face in the 21st century economy, which he calls in his new book, “Blue Collar Conservatives.” Microphone in hand, Santorum dove right in to his thesis: “typical Americans” are getting squeezed out by different interests, and the GOP needs to focus more on addressing such concerns.

He argued that the two major parties cater either too much to big corporations or to small businesses, which get too much attention considering their small percentage in the labor market. With elegance, Santorum described how a common favorite word among people is their own name; how can the GOP continue to ignore these folks that keeps America running?

After providing a context for the current state of the labor market, Santorum interestingly switched his focus to immigration. Citing trends in legal and undocumented immigration, he argued that because immigrants come to America and work for less, blue-collar workers face more competition for employment. Accordingly, this transition is responsible for the decline of manufacturing in the states, which he argues desperately needs to be revitalized. Additionally (according to Santorum), because immigrants do not quickly assimilate, increasing legal numbers annually could negatively re-shape traditional American values, such as the home and family. Finally, Santorum concludes that President Obama and the Democrats clearly support immigration because these newcomers will generally vote left. While some of these statements may be true to some extent (or maybe not), the former senator barely considered potential flaws in his claims. I’d like to briefly address some issues our speaker left unaddressed.

Santorum’s premise that “too many” immigrants hurt American workers is so ambiguous that he could probably fit another few blanket statements inside that claim. While many immigrants are low-skilled and will be willing to work for less than Americans, he fails to mention that lower costs for companies will allow them to charge lower prices, which help the average consumer live better. He also did not mention that on the whole, studies have shown that increasing immigration will increase gross domestic product, the GDP (i.e., make everyone better off).

Immigrants are generally more willing to accept jobs Americans do not want, such as agriculture and waste removal; immigrants also take less welfare benefits per capita than is generally assumed — between 2002-2009, they contributed a net $115.2 billion surplus to the Medicare trust fund, according to a 2009 Health Journal article. And would it not be the Christian thing to do to also accept people from Haiti, Liberia and Sierra Leone when their wages could literally increase 2000 percent in America?

Assimilation may also be a legitimate concern, but the Pew Research Center has found that more than 90 percent of second-generation Hispanics speak English well. Again, Santorum dismisses the notion that the market will naturally reward immigrants that assimilate. This is discussed in greater detail by GMU economist Bryan Caplan. 

Finally, the former senator described how Obama and the left just want more immigrants to increase their voting base. However, this accusation leaves Santorum open to its contrapositive — it might be implied that he does not want more immigrants simply because they would not vote Republican. However, if Santorum genuinely believes that too many immigrants would actually harm American workers, in spite of all the evidence supporting free trade and the free movement of people, then to borrow Alex Nowrasteh’s words, this should be an argument to build a wall around the welfare state, not the nation. 

Ironically, the movie trailer that segued into Santorum’s speech channeled “American” images included major landmarks in New York City: home to Ellis Island and the stories of millions of immigrants that shaped the development of our nation.

If Rick Santorum honestly wants the lives of blue-collar conservatives, and the rest of Americans, to be better off, he should consider opening his mind to a more open border immigration policy. Instead, our speaker borrowed British Unionists’ words of the week and simply said, “No thanks.”

Connor Roth
senior
Duncan Hall
Sept. 17

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Scruggs

    Excellent article. One of the biggest contradictions in the republican party is their immigration policies. Why not let the free labor market work itself out? Furthermore, most immigrants value traditional family life and conservative, religious values more than your common American.

  • Jim Valley

    This is a solid article, although writing in this depth about a far-out character like Santorum seems like the very definition of a waste of time.