Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 29, 2013

CBO's report misses mark

Two senators opposed to the Gang of Eight immigration bill are telling only half the story with their claims that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warned the bill would be bad for wages and unemployment.

That may be true over the next decade, but the CBO’s conclusion was just the opposite for the long term. Moreover, the CBO said it is not clear whether the bill would negatively impact most current American workers even in the short term.

The Congressional Budget Office released two reports on the so-called Gang of Eight Senate bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act: one, a cost estimate of the bill; the other, an assessment of its economic impact.

With the reports dropping on June 18, both opponents and proponents took to the Sunday political shows citing various aspects of the reports to bolster their cases.

While there is plenty of fodder in the CBO reports for both sides on issues related to the bill’s impact on deficits and reducing illegal immigration, we are taking a closer look at claims by Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Jeff Sessions - both opponents of the Senate bill - regarding the CBO’s findings about the impact on unemployment and wages.

Sessions also claimed that the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, in addition to the CBO, has said that the Senate bill would “impact all Americans that are out there working today adversely.”

But the Atlanta Fed didn’t say that, and it didn’t study the impact of the bill. To the contrary, a 2008 paper by two Atlanta Fed researchers concluded that “changing the legal status of undocumented workers” would “forestall the negative impact” of illegal immigration on the wages of U.S. workers in industries that employ “undocumented workers.”

Wages and unemployment

On “Fox News Sunday” on June 23, Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, said, “We have to remember at the end of the day, that CBO told us early this week that this will be bad for wages. It will be bad for unemployment.”

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