With the entire state of California rapidly on its way to join the Titanic at the bottom of a fiscal ocean, the political elite of the state is busily engaged in arguing which party should start rearranging the deck chairs.
The Washington Post this week reports that California is “on the brink of a fiscal disaster,” and as of the time of the story, only “hours remain to solve the $38 billion shortfall.”
Of course it occurs to no one to look for what is without doubt one of the major underlying reasons for the boondoggle: Mass immigration.
The immediate problem in California is indeed political. The Democrats, led by Gov. Gray Davis, want to raise taxes, and the Republicans don’t. Under state law, a compromise had to be reached by midnight last Monday or else the state government would have to start “cutting billions of dollars in payments to its agencies and its contractors in July—and could run out of money by August.”
The first to go would be some 30,000 state employees, and their chief, Perry Kenny of the California State Employees Association, moans, “It looks bleak. This is the biggest hole we’ve ever been in, and no one seems to find a way out. We’re all sweating bullets.”
Among the state employees who may soon be jobless is Governor Davis himself, for whose recall some 400,000 voters have already signed a petition.
The immediate solution to the immediate problem is simple enough—either tax or cut—but that’s not a real solution at all, which is why most politicians of each party would be perfectly satisfied with one or the other.
Ten years ago another governor saw what the problem was.
Back then Gov. Pete Wilson faced a similar budget crisis and a political grave similar to the one Mr. Davis faces. In his budget for 1993-94, Gov. Wilson pointed out that foreign immigration accounted for some 55 percent of the state’s population increase in the 1980s and that “the immigration trends of the 1980s have already had a substantial impact on state and local government finances”—for the worse.
Among the biggest costs to the state due to immigration, the governor cited “K-12 education services provided to undocumented immigrants and especially to the citizen children of undocumented and legalized immigrants” (that is, illegals and illegals who had received amnesty, such as the one the Bush administration is said to be contemplating today).
Other costs deriving from immigration came from the state’s health insurance program (Medi-Cal), “refugee, IRCA and OBRA recipients,” “substantial costs for incarcerating undocumented immigrants in state prisons” (at that time 12 percent of the state prison population), and welfare costs for immigrants of one sort or another (“about 22 percent of statewide AFDC caseload”). The total cost of immigration to the state was about $5 billion.
Partly because of what he had come to grasp about the dangers mass immigration presented to his state (and his own political future), Mr. Wilson endorsed the state referendum measure known as Proposition 187, which would have prohibited most public services for illegal aliens and their children.
Despite massive opposition from the Hispanic Lobby, the Treason Lobby, and the teachers and public employees who are now whining about losing their jobs because of the current budget crisis, Prop 187 passed overwhelmingly—and Gov. Wilson was re-elected by some 55 percent of the vote and carried at least five Republican congressional candidates in 1994, the year the GOP captured Congress.
Much of what Gov. Wilson warned about with respect to the impact of mass immigration on his state was confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences report on immigration four years later. It found that the fiscal impact of immigration on California amounted to an estimated“net fiscal burden of $1,178 per native-headed California household, again measured in 1996 dollars” for the 1994-95 fiscal year.
For the nation as a whole, the NAS study found that the net fiscal drain on American taxpayers from mass immigration was $166 to $226 per household, adding some $15 billion to $20 billion to the national tax burden.
Of course the mild restrictions Gov. Wilson supported in Prop 187 were soon overturned in the courts. The Republican Party, especially in California, abandoned immigration reform completely and boasted of supporting mass immigration.
Meanwhile, California, which in Pete Wilson’s day had only 6 million immigrants, now has 9 million.
And it occurs to no one in the political leadership of either party to point to how mass immigration has helped push the state to the edge of bankruptcy.