A Refresher On California`s Illegal-Alien Tab


In his May 28, 2009 Washington Post op-ed, How the Golden State Got Tarnished, the lovable and appealing (see his mugshot at the linked article) Harold Meyerson explains to the world California`s 30-year march to budget ruin: It`s all due to those troglodyte Republicans — “abetted by little local Limbaughs who inflame Republican brains” –- and their vendetta against the poor, starting with 1978`s Proposition 13 that instantly slashed property taxes and, equally significantly, slowed their galloping increase.

Meyerson used to be executive editor of the L. A. Weekly and thus should be at least dimly aware of how mass illegal immigration has pummeled California, budget-wise. But there`s no hint of that in his op-ed.

Of course Meyerson`s reticence on the subject really isn`t surprising. His Wikipedia entry makes it clear that he was the West Coast equivalent of a red diaper baby and it focuses attention on some election commentary by Meyerson last September:

[T]he GOP`s last best hope remains identity politics. In a year when the Democrats have an African American presidential nominee, the Republicans now more than ever are the white folks` party, the party that delays the advent of our multicultural future, the party of the American past. Republican conventions have long been bastions of de facto Caucasian exclusivity, but coming right after the diversity of Denver, this year`s GOP convention is almost shockingly — un-Americanly — white. [See Peter Brimelow`s comments at the end of this article. -– PN] Long term, this whiteness is a huge problem. This year, however, whiteness is the only way Republicans cling to power.

So problems with immigration wouldn`t find much purchase in Meyerson`s thinking process, such as it is.

But starting with summary data from the official website for the governor`s office, we can come up with the single biggest cost of illegal immigration to California, its burden on K-12 public education. According to that web page, total per-pupil expenditures are about $11,600 for the current school year. (That comes from California`s total K-12 budget for 2008 – 2009 of about $68 billion being divided among about 5.9 million students.)

And according to Table 23 of the Center for Immigration Studies backgrounder Immigrants in the United States, 2007: A profile of America`s Foreign-Born Population, California endures about 900,000 school age illegal aliens and anchor children (i.e. U.S.-born children of illegal aliens). Demographer Steve Camarota of the Center told me that these Census Bureau-based numbers are undoubtedly an undercount, so it`s reasonable to use a rounded one million as the California school-age population that wouldn`t burden the state if their illegal-alien parents didn`t reside there.

So counting only K-12 education, illegal immigration costs California $11.5 billion/year, a significant fraction of the budget deficit.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR] did a study in 2004 that identified health care and incarceration as other billion-dollar-sized direct hits to the California budget due to its illegal alien population. (Some familiar items used by illegal-alien-headed families, such as food stamps, WIC payments, and Section 8 rental subsidies, come out of the federal budget, which doesn`t cost Californians anything since, as many citizens know, the federal government has its own money – see here and here [scroll down to Question 12].)

Of course, illegal aliens do pay taxes. Even if they work for undocumented cash, they`ll still bear some burden from sales taxes (though not on groceries in California) and real estate taxes incorporated in their rents. And those who work on the books certainly pay some state income tax and disability-insurance tax. But that same 2004 FAIR study came up with only $1.7 billion/year for the aggregate taxes paid by illegal aliens.

So the direct out-of-pocket tax burdens on Californians due to their illegal-alien guests are certainly upwards of $10 billion/year. And who would be surprised if they`re actually $15 billion/year? (A FAIR press release from February 2009 puts the current tab at $13.1 billion/year.)

So that`s a huge and needless net burden. But there`s another effect of illegal immigration on California`s finances: Productive, taxpaying citizens are fleeing the state in droves, disgusted by uncontested illegal immigration. Not for them is the role of songbirds in relation to cuckoos or cowbirds.

And many who don`t have the option of escaping are resistant to taxing themselves on behalf of children whose parents have crashed the borders, expecting public services. Perhaps their resistance is a spine-stiffener for Republican state legislators who are holding out against tax increases. Certainly their resistance is abundantly displayed wherever readers` comments can be added to online articles about the state`s contretemps.

Surely columnist Meyerson could have found a blank back of an envelope on which to do some of these coarse-yet-revealing calculations, the most important and most accessible being the K-12 cost burden from illegal immigration. But perhaps he`s like so many journalists for whom keeping millions and billions straight is a bridge too far, and he`s limited to calculations that can be accomplished using just his fingers and toes.

Regarding public sentiment, as mentioned just above, a Los Angeles-based commenter named “rsvideo” got off some zingers in the comments section following Meyerson`s column, in response to a prior commenter who evidently bought Meyerson`s brand of tunnel-visioned malarkey:

You are correct, I`m a slacker who sits at home in my 1.2 million dollar home in the Hollywood Hills lamenting that I`m only going to work on two movies this year, so my income will be in the very low six figures. I wonder how many of your illegal-alien friends pay the amount of property tax and income taxes that I do. I subsidize many of your illegal-alien friends and your inefficient union buddies. By the way, unlike my neighbors, I cut my own grass.

Your post, to quote a favorite movie of mine, is not just moronic it`s sub-moronic.

I don`t have time to rebut your foolish remarks, so I just ask you a few questions. I`m going to make a huge leap here and assume … you realize the following conditions are a net financial loss to society.

Can you give me the name of a public hospital in L.A. — one that has not closed yet — where I won`t find the ER and maternity ward filled with Spanish-speaking patients receiving care and not paying their bill?

Can you tell me of a cop who works in L.A. that says he rarely hears about illegal alien gang bangers?

Can you show me black teenagers in L.A. who say they don`t know anyone who has been denied a job because they don`t speak Spanish?

Can you name any area of L.A. where the data ( tax receipts, census, school enrollment.. ) show a majority Spanish-speaking population and that area`s finances are in the black? In other words, do the people who live there pay enough taxes to cover the services they use. My area pays well in excess of what we use. How about you?

Come to think of it, I`m wasting my time. I doubt if I could convince a Nazi that the Jews in Berlin were not parasites, or a klansman that blacks are not inferior. So why waste my time trying to convince you that “illegal-alien” isn`t another way to say “budget deficit”? After all, you`ve got Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver and Baltimore among others to prove there is no correlation between illegal-aliens and red ink.

[snip]

I have to go. Be sure to call me an idiot, racist, xenophobe, enemy of the working man and whatever else makes you feel good. This is L.A., so if you want to get under my skin, you gotta up your game.

I have an eleven o`clock (PST) meeting at Sony Studios in Culver City. I`ll stop at Canter`s Deli on Fairfax, so if you`re in L.A. stop in. I`ll look for someone with a Union First tee-shirt and a sombrero.

5/28/2009 12:20:27 PM