OUR VIEW: Greatness, one immigration deal away

ed Updated: December 28, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: December 28, 2012

If a business has a ridiculously high debt-to-income ratio, it eventually will: A. Default and go bankrupt; B. Cut expenses enough to survive; or C. Grow and prosper enough that income rises enough to pay debts.

Few would desire option “A” for obvious reasons. Option “B” assumes the company hasn’t already cut expenses to the bone. To achieve “C” — the desirable outcome for owners, investors, employees and creditors — the business must produce more of what customers want. It must innovate, hire and produce.

The United States government must pursue option “C”. We don’t want to fail, which eliminates “A”. Americans are none to fond of austerity, which eliminates “B” from serious consideration. Few of us want grandmas subsisting on cat food or a government that reneges on promises to veterans.

We’ve all heard the delicious, wise-sounding cliché the says a solution to our debt crisis rests with one good budget deal. As this column has explained, it ain’t so. We’re in too deep to simply adjust the spreadsheet.

But this may be true: The U.S. is one immigration bill from restoring its global pre-eminence.

Yes, we need to secure the borders. Without border control, other immigration reform means nothing. We must keep out ne’er-do-wells, bratty freeloaders, criminals and terrorists. They comprise a tiny fraction of the world’s population, but we must screen them.

Then we must find a way to not only allow more immigration, but to encourage the right kind.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...” It’s a sweet poem, and we should be a refuge for oppressed people who seek freedom.

But let’s rethink “The New Colossus” and write “The New New Colossus.” Something more like this: “Give me your aspiring, your gifted, your huddled masses yearning to succeed.”

Our country is laden with dependents, light on producers. To produce more than we consume, and pay bills, we need physicists, engineers, artists, doctors, programmers and inventors of all variety. We need people who know they must succeed — people here without the option of abusing our luxurious, out-of-control welfare and entitlement system.

We need not care if they’re brown, white or green. We should become an irresistible destination for individuals of the world with the highest character, creativity and intelligence.

Stop fretting so much about the budget, which can neither make nor break us at this point. Start putting at least as much energy into reforms that will ensure the right kind of immigration and prevent increasing dependence.

Cities are figuring out the value of immigrants and fighting to attract them. A study of the country’s 25 largest metropolitan areas, by the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute, found a direct correlation between immigration and economic growth. Cities with the most immigration have had the most economic growth for the past two decades.

“No one strategy will, by itself, revitalize the Detroit regional economy,” said Steve Tobocman, who heads a drive to attract immigrants to his city, as quoted in an article by Shikha Dalmia for Bloomberg.com. “However, nothing is more powerful to remaking Detroit as a center of innovation, entrepreneurship and population growth, than embracing and increasing immigrant populations.”

We don’t know much about Detroit, but we’re confident that Republicans and Democrats could work together to achieve bold, innovative federal  immigration reforms that would quickly attract more people like Sergey Brin (immigrant founder of Google), Levi Strauss, and Rupert Murdoch to the United States. Brin’s company alone generated $80 billion in economic activity in 2011.

For every Strauss, Murdoch and Brinn, our country hosts millions of less-prominent immigrants who produce and pay taxes with nothing more than a promise of fair and reasonable wages in return. Push us off the cliff if you must, Washington. Then find a way to create wealth. If you search the world over, you’ll find immigration is our hope.

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