Before immigration reform, remove roadblocks to free enterprise

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg claims the single biggest step America can take to promote innovation and economic growth is to fix our broken immigration system.

This is a mayor who bans private donations to food banks and regulates the size of beverage cups, so he’s not always aligned with mainstream thinking.

The thrust of the mayor’s argument, and that of many of those who agree with him, is that immigrants have a proud history of starting new businesses. Why, look at Andrew Carnegie’s career, they say. He started out as a poor Scottish immigrant but he created U.S. Steel.

Sure, look at Andrew Carnegie’s story, but while you’re looking, notice what’s missing: capital gains taxes, the EPA, the Endangered Species Act and a list of other safety and environmental rules and regulations longer than Paul Bunyan’s arm.

America’s changed. We now have far greater barriers to economic growth, and much more of an information economy.

A hundred years ago a high proportion of our workforce was employed in low-skilled manual labor, and a quarter of the adults had attended school for less than five years. An immigrant with scant education was not at a severe disadvantage.

Today, native-born Americans are far more likely to be educated, and workers in our country are far more likely to need that education to get a good job, yet a high percentage of our immigrants are relatively uneducated.

Mayor Bloomberg isn’t wrong about everything – our immigration system is broken. But it should be fixed by starting with genuinely securing our southern border, not because immigration reform is a supposed magic bullet to jumpstart economic growth and innovation.

There are better ways to accomplish that, among them:

Stop crony capitalist practices that steer the greatest financial rewards to companies with the best lobbyists instead of allowing the marketplace to reward those firms providing the most innovative, highest-quality products and services.

Contact Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research, at www.nationalcenter.org.