One of my Bay Area friends was engaged in a typical California activity: talking trash about other states. In particular, he was decrying Kentucky’s attempt to try to get “able-bodied adults without dependents to work at least 20 hours a week to qualify for [Medicaid] coverage.” (The Hill) [Note that producing or getting hold of a baby would continue to guarantee welfare benefits, such as free housing, health care, and food, for 18 years (there may be better ways to cash in a baby, though, albeit not in Kentucky where child support revenue for a parent is capped at about $15,000 per year per child).]
I pointed out that, rather than complain about the unfairness of what Kentucky offers to welfare recipients, why not simply invite these folks to come to California?
friend: if people are fleeing your state, because of your government policies — you suck at governance.
me: Californians are generous and warm-hearted, right? Why is it a problem if people in Kentucky who can’t get welfare there anymore move to California?
friend: Who said it was a problem for us? They come here, and get work, because we have a functioning economy It’s a problem for the people of KY that they’d have to do that.
[California has a higher unemployment rate and a lower labor force participation rate than the U.S. average (stats); adjusted for demographics, California has the worst schools in the U.S. (nytimes); California has one of the highest tax burdens (Tax Foundation).]
me: if they are on welfare in Kentucky and can be enjoying the satisfaction of gainful employment in California, isn’t this a good situation? If California is an awesome place to work AND has the correct/fair level of welfare services, why shouldn’t everyone who is failing to prosper in Kentucky move to California? Donald Trump won both the Republican primary and then the 2016 Presidential election in Kentucky. Do you mean to suggest that people are better off in a Trump-supporting state than in California?
friend: It does NOT fix the problem in KY! How is that NOT a bandaid? If they can make it here, but not in KY, how is that not a problem?
me: If everyone who needs welfare in Kentucky moves to California, the problem of the inadequate (in your view) Kentucky welfare system is fixed, by definition. There will be nobody collecting welfare in Kentucky and therefore it won’t matter what the rules are.
friend: What, it’s not a problem that if you live in KY, and you become disabled, you have to leave? That’s … insane. A special kind of insanity. The kind that says “It can’t happen to me.” It can happen in an instant.
me: A one-way ticket from Louisville to San Francisco is $190. Just tell me how many you need! The ticket can be purchased in about 5 minutes. The disabled person will be at your house in California by the next day. You can then assist them with collecting fair welfare benefits in a state that rejects Donald Trump. How are they not better off?
friend: As long as people in KY fall on hard times, or suffer injuries or health problems that leave them disabled, the supply will be endless.
me: Kentucky has a population of only 4.4 million right now. Even if 100 percent of them need to come to California due to their inability to work, that’s only a 10 percent boost to the California population. You have a functioning economy, right? Surely you can easily expand your housing supply by 10 percent. After all, aren’t your friends there wearing “No Human Being is Illegal” T-shirts? If they support immigration from outside the U.S., why wouldn’t they be happy to have immigrants show up from Kentucky? (and, remember, that Kentucky does not have 100% of its population on welfare!)
The exchange went on until I had to get back to work. Summary: he didn’t want any refugees from Kentucky in his house or neighborhood, but he did want to be on Facebook criticizing the lack of generosity of voters and politicians in Kentucky. So far I have not had to purchase any plane tickets (but my offer remains open!).
I’m wondering if Donald Trump could do the same thing in the context of international migration. People in San Francisco, Santa Monica, Manhattan, Boston, etc. are criticizing Trump for voicing his opinion (wrong, by definition!) regarding living conditions in Haiti. They also criticize him for being unwelcoming toward low-skill immigrants from unsuccessful societies in general. What if Trump were to offer immigration proponents an unlimited supply of people, without any preference for those capable of working, on condition that immigration advocates use state and local tax dollars to pay for their housing, health care, food, and walking-around money? So if people in San Francisco want to build a 1000-unit apartment complex for Haitian immigrants, and folks will be permanently entitled to live there by paying a defined fraction of their income in rent ($0 in rent for those with $0 in income), and San Francisco commits to build additional apartment complexes in which any children or grandchildren of these immigrants can live, why should the Federal government stand in the way of their dreams? (Of course, the city and state would also have to pay 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid, food stamps, Obamaphones, and any other welfare services consumed by these immigrants or their descendants.)
If there were no numerical limits on immigration, but host communities had to pay for the guests whom they were welcoming, Trump wouldn’t have to be the bad guy anymore. If my friend is typical, the overall level of unskilled immigration to the U.S. would fall (maybe to zero!). In any case, whatever the level happened to be it would be one that Americans had agreed on and therefore would be more likely to accept as fair and appropriate.