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Could the CBO be wrong on immigration?


In a new report on the state of the economy, the Congressional Budget Office has revised some of its initial projections for Pres. Obama's health care law. The CBO now says that the number of work hours lost due to the law is three times more than their initial estimate. So, if the CBO got Obamacare wrong, it begs the question: could they be wrong on immigration too?

Last June, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) raced to the nearest microphone after the CBO released its analysis for S.744, the Schumer-Rubio-Obama amnesty bill. The report had determined that the legislation would grow GDP by 3.3% in 2023 and reduce the federal deficit by $197 billion over the first 10 years. Schumer was so confident that the report's findings were correct, he negotiated a massive amendment with squishy Republicans throwing $40 billion of the projected savings at the border to help get the bill across the finish line.

But, as yesterday's news proved, the CBO isn't always right.

It's not like there weren't doubters when the report was released. The Heritage Foundation quickly reminded the public of Robert Rector's May study that came to a different conclusion. Rector went beyond the 10-year projections from the CBO projections and determined that an amnesty for 11 million illegal aliens would eventually cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion. An April study by Harvard Economics Prof. George Borjas found that amnesty would grow the economy, but most of the growth would only impact the immigrants and the business owners who profit from their work, having no positive impact on America's middle class.

But former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin along with the Cato Institute and the Center for American Progress insisted that the CBO was right.

GOP House Leadership has made it clear that the Schumer-Rubio-Obama bill won't see the light of day in their chamber, but the framework of the legislation is strikingly similar to the immigration standards they presented during last week's GOP retreat. And Leadership is using the CBO's findings as their talking points.

"It's important to act on immigration reform because we're focused on jobs and economic growth, and this is about jobs and growth," House Speaker John Boehner reportedly told Republicans at their retreat last week.

Rep. Paul Ryan also discussed the need for immigration reform using arguments similar to the CBO's initial findings.

"Successful countries and economies have immigration systems wired to give their economy the labor they need, and we need labor in all sorts of industries ... It is an economic growth issue," Ryan told a group of Texas business leaders.

He added that we need to "rework our legal immigration system so that it works for America's economy."

What's ironic is Bohener's reaction to yesterday's CBO findings. He reminded the American people that Republicans have challenged the initial CBO report all along, demonstrating a lack of trust in the office's findings.

"For years, Republicans have said that the president's health care law creates uncertainty for small businesses, hurts take-home pay, and makes it harder to invest in new workers. The middle class is getting squeezed in this economy, and this CBO report confirms that Obamacare is making it worse."

Yet, he embraces the CBO's conclusion that an amnesty and massive increases in legal immigration would grow the economy. I wonder what his response would be should the CBO revise its findings on immigration reform.

CHRIS CHMIELENSKI is the Director of Content & Activism for NumbersUSA

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