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Thomas L. Friedman On Unrestricted Immigration—Who Is Really The Idiot?
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December 28, 2008, 11:06 PM
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Thomas L. Friedman writes in the New York Times corporate infomercial:

Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.

The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.

All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us? What has become of our infrastructure, which is so crucial to productivity? Back home, I was greeted by the news that General Motors was being bailed out — that’s the G.M. that Fortune magazine just noted �lost more than $72 billion in the past four years, and yet you can count on one hand the number of executives who have been reassigned or lost their job.�

My fellow Americans, we can’t continue in this mode of �Dumb as we wanna be.� We’ve indulged ourselves for too long with tax cuts that we can’t afford, bailouts of auto companies that have become giant wealth-destruction machines, energy prices that do not encourage investment in 21st-century renewable power systems or efficient cars, public schools with no national standards to prevent illiterates from graduating and immigration policies that have our colleges educating the world’s best scientists and engineers and then, when these foreigners graduate, instead of stapling green cards to their diplomas, we order them to go home and start companies to compete against ours.

This sort of thing isn`t anything new. Friedman is described in Wikipedia by David Sirota as the "high priest of Free Trade".

"It is pure idiocy that Congress will not open our borders — as wide as possible — to attract and keep the world`s first-round intellectual draft choices in an age when everyone increasingly has the same innovation tools and the key differentiator is human talent."

The problem is this: if you open borders without accompanying jobs creation, you will drive US citizens out of whatever occupations are given immigration preference. This is a simple, empirical fact. It is no accident that US enrollment in Computer Science programs peaked just as H-1b expansion started in earnest.

The countries that Friedman is admiring all have restrictive immigration policies compared to the US. Even Singapore—which is a tiny country— selects its immigrants very carefully and has tax incentives to keep Singapore a high wage country. The combination of increased trade and more open immigration policy simply hasn`t worked the way is proponents said it would. The problems of the US have all accompanied a period of greatly increased immigration and much looser trade policies. It is time to try something different.