PostHeaderIcon Immigration Impact on Infrastructure

Perhaps I just answered my own question in the last post. I stumbled across a mind blowing report in The Social Contract extensively documenting the cost of the unprecedented growth we are experiencing because of illegal immigration. Entitled, “The Twin Crises: Immigration and Infrastructure,” by Edwin S. Rubenstein, it is a beautifully formatted, fact and reference filled, 87 page PDF file that deserves to be widely read. To encourage you to do so, here is the introduction:

This article highlights the role of immi­gration in depreciating and driving up the cost of maintaining, improving, and expanding infrastructure in the U.S. Fifteen different categories of public infrastructure are covered:

  • airports
  • bridges
  • dams
  • drinking water
  • energy (national power grid)
  • hazardous waste
  • hospitals
  • navigable waterways
  • public parks and recreation
  • public schools
  • railroads
  • border security
  • solid waste
  • mass transit
  • water and sewer systems.

Infrastructure and immigration? That’s an odd couple. Immigration policy has been de­bated for years, but the debate usually focuses on border security, amnesty, and whether il­legal alien workers are really needed to do the jobs that Americans “won’t do.”

Immigration’s impact on public infra­structure is rarely discussed.

Until the past few months, infrastructure policy was itself on the back burner, surfac­ing only when a bridge or levee collapsed, but generally of interest only to civil engineers and policy wonks.

How things change! Today, infrastructure spending is widely seen as a key lifeline for a sinking economy. The lion’s share of Pres­ident-elect Obama’s stimulus package will fund road and mass transit projects, school construction, port expansions, and alternative energy projects.

Yes, our infrastructure is in trouble. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2005 Report Card assigned an overall grade of D to the 15 infrastructure categories. Grades were selected on the basis of physical condition and capacity following a traditional grading scale (for example, if 77 percent of our roads are in good condition or better, the roads would be given a grade of C).

But if money were the problem, there would be no problem. Since 1982, capital spending on public infrastructure has in­creased by 2.1 percent per year above the inflation rate. Over this period, governments have spent $3.1 trillion (in today’s dollars) to build transportation infrastructure, and an­other $3.8 trillion to maintain and operate it. Last year, we spent 50 percent more, after ad­justing for inflation, on highway construction than we did a quarter of a century ago. Yet over this period, highway miles increased by only 6 percent, while U.S. population grew by 31 percent—half of it due to immigration.

The “demand” for highway infrastruc­ture, as measured by population growth, grew six times faster than the “supply” of highway infrastructure.

Bottom line: Our infrastructure is “crum­bling” because population growth has over­whelmed the ability of government to produc­tively spend the vast sums it already devotes to infrastructure.

All types of infrastructure are under stress because of immigration.

Public schools are a prime example. Although immigrants account for about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they are 21 percent of the school-age population. In California, a whopping 47 percent of the school-age population consists of immigrants or the children of immigrants. Some Los Angeles schools are so crowded that they have lengthened the time between classes to give students time to make their way through crowded halls. Los Angeles’ school construc­tion program is so massive that the Army Corps of Engineers was called in to manage it.

This is a boom time for hospital construc­tion. Sixty percent of hospitals are either building new facilities or planning to do so. But we have a two-tier hospital system in the U.S. Hospitals in poor areas—that serve primarily uninsured immigrants and Medicaid patients—cannot afford to upgrade their facilities. The uncompensated costs are killing them. In California, 60 emergency departments (EDs) have closed to avoid the uncompensated costs of their largely illegal alien caseloads.

Immigrants may not use any more water than other people. But they dispro­portionately settle in parts of the country where water is in short supply—and their sheer numbers have overwhelmed conserva­tion efforts. Cities like San Antonio, El Paso, and Phoenix could run out of water in 10 to 20 years. San Diego’s water company has resorted to a once-unthinkable option: recy­cling toilet water for drinking.

National parks along the southern border are scarred by thousands of unauthor­ized roads and paths used by illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. Their fires, trash, and vandalism have despoiled thousands of acres of pristine parkland.

The traditional response to these prob­lems was to throw more federal, state, and local tax money into infrastructure. When public support falters, infrastructure users are usually hit with higher tolls, higher transit fares, higher water bills, and other usage-re­lated fees. As a last resort, many governments sell or lease entire highways, water systems, parks, and other infrastructure systems to private companies.

There is no end to the financial chicanery that infrastructure junkies will employ to support their habit. Wall Street veteran Felix Rohatyn recently proposed this “novel solu­tion” to the problem:

Although private investors have successfully built new roads in places such as Poland and Spain, they have not done so exten­sively in the U.S. But a National Infrastructure Bank could redi­rect private efforts away from refinancing old facilities—as in the case of Chicago’s Skyway—to building new ones.

According to our plan, most of the funds the federal government now spends on existing pro­grams (along with many of those program’s experts and facilities) would be transferred to the bank, which could not only finance the projects but also resell the loans it makes to investors in capital markets, much as other assets are rebundled for investors. The receipts from these sales would allow a new round of lending, giving the bank an impact far in excess of its initial capitalization.

That is no solution; it is a recipe for an­other debacle a la sub-prime mortgages.

The prognosis is not good. In August 2008 the Census Bureau projected that U.S. population will be 433 million in 2050—an increase of 135 million, or 44 percent, from current levels. Eighty-two percent of the in­crease will be from new immigrants and their U.S.-born children.

The brutal reality is that no conceivable infrastructure program can keep pace with that kind of population growth. The tradi­tional “supply-side” response to America’s infrastructure shortage—build, build, build—is dead, dead, dead. Demand reduction is the only viable way to close the gap between the supply and demand of public infrastructure.

Immigration reduction must play a role.

Each of the subject areas are then covered in frightening detail. When one adds this infrastructure dimension to the malaise our economy is in, and realizes that the politicians in DC have no intention of tackling the illegal immigration debacle, for the same political reason they can’t address the coming SSI/Medicare entitlement disaster, there really is little hope for our future as a prosperous nation.

We lived in the best of times, folks. It is all downhill from here. Sorry, kids, our generation blew your future already by continuing to elect Progressive politicians who pandered to our foolish need to feel good and compassionate. ◄Dave►

2 Responses to “Immigration Impact on Infrastructure”

  • Most of the impact illegal immigration has is on the more socialist elements of our society. It isn’t just about us in the younger generation. Once this hyperinflation kicks in you old fogeys can eat Top Ramen with the rest of us. Just remember that Social Security is pretty much just welfare for old people, and will fall with the rest of the social programs if it comes to that. We are in a race to see if the politicians can hit the brakes fast enough to slow us back into our inexorable decline and prevent us from addressing the problems.

  • ◄Dave► says:

    Most of the impact illegal immigration has is on the more socialist elements of our society.

    I thought so too, until I read that report. The impact on schools, roads, water, energy, sewage etc. is remarkable. They say our population will be up to 433 million by 2050, and there is simply no way to keep ahead of the unprecedented growth.

    If I had to rely on SSI, I would consider myself a failure. All my unemployed assets are in paperweights, not paper. When hyperinflation manifests itself, I will die a wealthy man. 🙂

    The politicians won’t do what needs to be done, because they are only thinking of the next election, not the extended future. One no longer needs to be a citizen to vote. I personally know several legal immigrants who were registered to vote through no intentional act of their own when they applied for their driver’s license. They didn’t even know it until they received their sample ballot and polling place data in the mail. Politicians know this, because they set it up. It was one of the keys to Obama’s election. ◄Dave►

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