Frum goes against the grain by backing the Heritage study. He reminds its critics on the left and right that the report was not investigating the economic benefits of immigration but the “fiscal cost”:
Fiscal measures, by contrast, look at the effects – not on the economy as a whole – but on the revenues and expenditures of government. And it’s been a notorious fact for years that immigration’s modest economic benefits are offset by very large fiscal costs. … Unless you posit that the newly legalized immigrants will dramatically outperform the existing immigrant population, you will reach a result very like that of the Heritage Foundation: that the taxes paid by the newly legalized will not begin to equal the costs of their Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other benefits. …
Let me put this in boldface: Heritage’s cost estimates are driven not primarily by welfare, but by healthcare.
Every newly legalized immigrant, no matter how ambitious and hard-working, will get old. When he or she gets old, he or she will qualify for Medicare. Medicare is very, very expensive, and getting more expensive all the time. Fewer and fewer Americans – whatever their ethnic origin – pay enough in taxes to cover their predicted future health care costs. Inevitably, Medicare is becoming a more redistributionist program. People on the left get this point when they scoff at the imputed Tea Party slogan, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Why do they forget the point when they speak of immigration?