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Make the Bush Tax Cuts Permanent


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Heritage Foundation

by William W. Beach and Rea S. Hederman, Jr.


January 5, 2006


This Thursday marks the beginning of a renewed effort by the White House economic team to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent. Bush Administration officials will carry this message to key states: their tax policy program has helped the U.S. economy to thrive, with steady job creation and strong economic growth. If the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 are allowed to expire, millions of working families will see their economic prospects dim, their job opportunities diminish, and economic uncertainty rise.


The central provisions of these landmark tax bills are scheduled to expire over the next five years, which means that taxes will rise dramatically for most taxpayers. Between now and January 1, 2011 (five short years away),


* Tax rates will rise substantially in each tax bracket, some by 450 basis points;

* Low-income taxpayers will see the 10-percent tax bracket disappear, and they will have to pay taxes at the 15-percent rate;

* Married taxpayers will see the marriage penalty return;

* Taxpayers with children will lose 50 percent of their child tax credits;

* Taxes on dividends will increase beginning on January 1, 2009;

* Taxes on capital gains will increase, also beginning on January 1, 2009; and

* Federal death taxes will come back to life in 2011, after fading down to nothing in 2010.


What make this tax nightmare scenario particularly scary are the economic benefits that will never be realized if the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts disappear. Businesses are watching now to see if Congress will make permanent the first to expire of the major economic growth components of the 2001 and 2003 tax acts—lower taxes on dividends and capital gains. Failing to make permanent the low tax rates on investment would signal to businesses of all sizes that the other major elements of the Bush tax plan will also be allowed to expire. They would adjust their investment and hiring accordingly.


Economists in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation used a mainstream model of the U.S. economy to project the economic effects of making the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent. Their report estimates significant economic gains throughout the period from 2006 through 2014, particularly after 2008. For example, making certain that taxes on investment remain low will add about 285,000 jobs per year in fiscal years 2008 and 2009. In those two years alone, lower taxes on capital gains and dividends mean an additional $70 billion in economic output and an additional $110 billion in disposable income for households.


If Congress makes the tax cuts permanent, the major economic benefits begin in 2011. For example,


* Total employment will rise by 1,087,000 jobs per year, on average;

* Annual GDP will be over $111 billion higher, after inflation;

* Personal savings will grow by $163 billion per year, on average, after inflation; and

* After-tax household income will grow by an annual average of $274 billion per year, after inflation.


However, these benefits become economic losses if Congress fails to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent. What is the cost of failing to act? Over one million lost jobs each year between 2011 and 2014; over a hundred billion dollars less in economic output per year; slower wage and salary growth; slower savings growth; and so on. The need for Congress to make the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent is clear.


The four attached charts focus on the employment gains from making the tax cuts permanent—or, alternatively, the forgone potential growth should Congress fail to act. Chart 1 presents the average annual growth in employment for each state between 2008 and 2014 if the tax cuts are made permanent. The year 2008 is important from a policy perspective because investors, workers, and business owners will know then whether or not significantly higher taxes are in their future as the low tax rate on capital gains and dividends is now set to expire on December 31, 2008. Chart 2 presents the average annual growth in disposable personal income in every state if the tax cuts are made permanent. Chart 3 focuses on the states that the Bush economic team will visit in the coming days and covers the four-year period, from 2011 through 2014, during which the biggest economic gains from permanency will be realized, while Chart 4 presents income growth over the same period—but only, that is, if Congress makes the tax cuts permanent.










Rea S. Hederman, Jr., is Senior Policy Analyst in, and William W. Beach is Director of, the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

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My investment portfolio increased by almost 38% in 2005 and I look for solid gains again in 2006 and beyond . . . all thanks to the booming economy stimulated by these "smoke and mirror" taxcuts and their net affect on the economy! I am contemplating retiring early and starting a private business in the next two or three years! :w00t:

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Originally posted by Sideliner

Ask the people who make less than 20,000 a year how much their portfolio gained?


People earning under 25000 don't pay income taxes.


It is easy for liberal groups to tout the 'unfairness' of the Bush tax cuts because they don't cut taxes as much for low income workers...the problem is that most 'low' income workers aren't even in a tax bracket at all so no tax cuts are needed.


HOWEVER, because of the growing budget deficits...we HAVE to find a way to create revenue or cut spending. This policy cannot continue if we are to have economic stability in the future. It is all fine and dandy now, but for the future we CANNOT continue these budget and trade deficits.


It is a tough choice, but if the government keeps spending this much money they will have to figure out a way to raise more revenue...which means higher taxes.


Either cut spending, or raise taxes. You can't have it both ways.

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We now have the largest budget deficit in the History of this country. That's not a liberal or conservative statement, just a fact. Aggie2008 is correct, if we keep spending more and bringing in less, we are headed for economic disaster.


We are now in such a big hole that no "boom" alone could come close to correcting it.


My funds have done good the last two years, but just because you personally are doing good does not mean you can't see others needing jobs in this area and not being able to find something that will pay the bills.


Daddy Bush raised taxes and paid for it with his political life, but it helped the country start toward balancing the budget and provided the launching pad for the boom of the 90's. Without it, the deficit would have continued to grow and would have choked the economy. Reagan had spent and cut for eight years , and while wildly popular, had created a budget situation that had to be delt with and Bush never got credit for falling on the axe.

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The economy is MUCH better off now than it has been in the past few years and is GROWING at a phenomonal pace. There was even a budget surplus last month which went unreported by the major media. All can be credited to the Bush tax cuts which SHOULD be made permanent.

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Originally posted by BearBryant

I believe that even Greenspan advocated running a deficit during a recession.


That is normal, because (in theory) increasing government spending increases GDP. Don't ask me how or why this works...I just know that it does.


However, too much government spending leads to deficits which lead to a decrease in dollar value, rising inflation, and instability. Running a deficit is normal in recession, but it should only be temporary.


The fact of the matter is that the United States government is in tremendous debt. The average share of the debt per-person in the United States was over $25,000 in 2004 and that has grown greatly over the past year or so.


The so-called 'Deficit Reduction Act' was the true 'smoke and mirrors' campaign. They did not cut enough pork, but what they DID cut hurts college students like me tremendously. They decreased federal college loans and raised interest rates on those loans. Not cool.

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Originally posted by Camusmind

I would like to quote one of my favorite Supreme Court justices, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a justice appointed by a REPUBLICAN.


"Taxes are the price a man pays for a civilized society."


So the higher we tax people the more civilized we get?


Great! Lets tax everybody at the 100% level and we'll all live in utopia. LOL:whome:

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Originally posted by Colmesneilfan1

Instead of raising taxes, there are a LOT of spending programs that are wasteful of our money that should be cut. I don't think that either party will actually DO that, though. :shrug:

Exactly right Colmes . . . we are already paying too much tax because of the spending glut! Government has expanded into areas of our lives our forefathers never envisioned much less approved of! It's time to actually cut back or altogether eliminate many of the unnecessary spending programs that are unconstitutional in my opinion! :w00t: You are right, neither party has the stomach to do what needs to be done! :w00t:
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You're right, taxes are probably unconstitutional, but so are wire taps. Times change and so to must the constitution. Again, check out what Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., had to say about this.


I'm glad you brought up our forefathers. When you think about, they were just a bunch of rich, white, slave holding men that didn't want to pay their taxes so they came to the "colonies."

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I never said TAXES were unconstitutional . . . although that could be debated. I do believe spending taxpayer money on programs like the NEA is unconstitutional. Here is a great article that's fairly lenthy (liberals may not have the attention span to finish it) but eloquently details such out of control government spending:


Our Unconstitutional Congress


Stephen Moore


Stephen Moore says it is high time for our lawmakers to "turn back the clock" and restore the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution. His remarks remind us that, as one American leader once put it, "the framers 'Of the Constitution were great clock makers in the science of statecraft, and they did, with admirable ingenuity, put together an intricate machine, which promised to run indefinitely, and tell the time of the centuries. His remarks were delivered at the March 1997 seminar "Between Power and Liberty, on the Hillsdale campus.


In 1800, when the nation's capital was moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D:C., all of the paperwork and records of the United States government were packed into twelve boxes and then transported the one hundred and fifty miles to Washington in a horse and buggy. That was truly an era of lean and efficient government.


In the early years of the Republic, government bore no resemblance to the colossal empire ' it has evolved into today. In 1800, the federal government employed three thousand people and had a budget of less than $1 million ($100 million in today's dollars). That's a far cry from today's federal budget of $1.6 trillion and total government workforce of eighteen million.


Since its frugal beginnings, the U. S. federal government has come to subsidize everything from Belgian endive research to maple syrup production to the advertising of commercial brand names in Europe and Japan, In a recent moment of high drama before the Supreme Court, during oral arguments involving the application of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, a bewildered Justice Antonin Scalia pressed the solicitor general to name a single activity or program that our modem-day Congress might undertake that would fall outside the bounds of the Constitution. The stunned Clinton appointee could not think of one.


During the debate in Congress over the controversial 1994 Crime Bill, not a single Republican or Democrat challenged the $10 billion in social spending on the grounds that it was meant to pay for programs that were not the proper responsibility of the federal government. No one asked, for example where is the authority under the Constitution for Congress to spend money on midnight basketball, modern dance classes, self-esteem training, and the construction of swimming pools? Certainly, there was plenty of concern about "wasteful spending," but none about unconstitutional spending.


Most federal spending today falls in this latter category because it lies outside Congress's spending powers under the Constitution and it represents a radical departure from the past. For the first one hundred years of our nation's history, proponents of limited government in Congress and the White House routinely argued-with great success-a philosophical and legal case against the creation and expansion of federal social welfare programs.


A Rulebook for Government


The U. S. Constitution is fundamentally a rule-book for government. Its guiding principle is the idea that the state is a source of corruptive power and ultimate tyranny. Washington's responsibilities were confined to a few enumerated powers, involving mainly national security and public safety. In the realm of domestic affairs, the Founders sought to guarantee that federal interference in the daily lives of citizens would be strictly limited. They also wanted to make sure that the minimal government role in the domestic economy would be financed and delivered at the state and local levels.


The enumerated powers of the federal government to spend money are defined in the Constitution under Article 1, Section 8. These powers include the right to "establish Post Offices and post roads; raise and support Armies; provide and maintain a Navy; declare War... " and to conduct a few other activities related mostly to national defense. No matter how long one searches, it is impossible to find in the Constitution any language that authorizes at least 90 percent of the civilian programs that Congress crams into the federal budget today.


The federal government has no authority to pay money to farmers, run the health care industry, impose wage and price controls, give welfare to the poor and unemployed, provide job training, subsidize electricity and telephone service, lend money to businesses and foreign governments, or build parking garages, tennis courts, and swimming pools. The Founders did not create a Department of Commerce, a Department of Education, or a Department of Housing and Urban Development. This was no oversight: They did not believe that government was authorized to establish such agencies.


Recognizing the propensity of governments to expand, and, as Thomas Jefferson put it, for "liberty to yield," the Founders added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution as an extra layer of protection. The government was never supposed to grow so large that it could trample on the liberties of American citizens. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states clearly and unambiguously: "The powers not delegated to the United states by the Constitution ... are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." in other words, if the Constitution doesn't specifically permit the federal government to do something, then it doesn't have the right to do it.


The original budget of the U. S. government abided by this rule. The very first appropriations bill passed by Congress consisted of one hundred and eleven words-not pages, mind you, words. The main expenditures were for the military, including $137,000 for "defraying the expenses" of the Department of War, $190,000 for retiring the debt from the Revolutionary War, and $95,000 for "paying the pensions to invalids." As for domestic activities, $216,000 was appropriated. This is roughly what federal agencies spend in fifteen seconds today.


As constitutional scholar Roger Pilon has documented, even expenditures for the most charitable of purposes were routinely spurned as illegitimate. In 1794, James Madison wrote disapprovingly of a $15,000 appropriation for French refugees: "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." This view that Congress should follow the original intent of the Constitution was restated even more forcefully on the floor of the House of Representatives two years later by William Giles of Virginia. Giles condemned a relief measure for fire victims and insisted that it was not the purpose nor the right of Congress to "attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require."


In 1827, the famous Davy Crockett was elected to the House of Representatives. During his first term of office, a $10,000 relief bill for the widow of a naval officer was proposed. Colonel Crockett rose in stem opposition and gave the following eloquent and successful rebuttal:


We must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not attempt to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right as individuals to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.


In a famous incident in 1854, President Franklin Pierce courageously vetoed an extremely popular bill intended to help the mentally ill saying: "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity." To approve such spending, he argued, "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." Grover Cleveland, the king of the veto, rejected hundreds of congressional spending bills during his two terms as president in the late 1800s, because, as he often wrote: "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution."


Were Jefferson, Madison, Crockett, Pierce, and Cleveland merely hardhearted and uncaring penny pinchers, as their critics have often charged? Were they unsympathetic toward fire victims, the mentally ill, widows, or impoverished refugees? Of course not. They were honor bound to uphold the Constitution. They perceived - we now know correctly - that once the government genie was out of the bottle, it would be impossible to get it back in.


With a few notable exceptions during the nineteenth century, Congress, the president, and the courts remained faithful to the letter and spirit of the Constitution with regard to government spending. As economic historian Robert Higgs noted in Crisis and Leviathan, until the twentieth century, "government did little of much consequence or expense" other than running the military. The total expenditures for the federal budget confirm this assessment. Even as late as 1925, the federal government was still spending just 4 percent of national output.


Abandoning Constitutional Protections


Several major turning points in American history mark the reversal of this ethic. The first was the passage in 1913 of the Sixteenth Amendment, which permitted a federal income tax. This was the first major tax that was not levied on a proportional or uniform basis. Hence, it allowed Congress a political free ride: It could provide government benefits to many by imposing a disproportionately heavy tax burden on the wealthy. Prior to enactment of the income tax, Congress's power to spend was held in check by its limited power to tax. - Most federal revenues came from tariffs and land sales. Neither source yielded huge sums. The income tax, however, soon became a cash cow for a Congress needing only the feeblest of excuses to spend money.


The second major event that weakened constitutional protections against big government was the ascendancy of Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal agenda to the White House during the Great Depression. One after another, constitutional safe-guards against excessive government were ignored or misinterpreted. Most notable and tragic was the perversion of the "general welfare" clause. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution says: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises to pay the debts, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare of the United States." Since the 1930s, the courts have interpreted this phrase to mean that Congress may spend money for any purpose, whether there is an enumerated power of government or not, as long as legislators deem it to be in the general welfare of certain identifiable groups of citizens like minorities, the needy, or the disabled. This carte blanche is exactly the opposite of what the Founders intended. The general welfare clause was supposed to limit government's taxing and spending powers to purposes that are in the national interest.


Jefferson had every reason to be concerned that the general welfare clause might be perverted. To clarify its meaning, he wrote in 1798: "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare but only those specifically enumerated." In fact, when some early lawmakers suggested that the general welfare clause gave Congress a generalized spending authority, they were always forcefully rebuked. In 1828, for example, South Carolina Senator William Drayton reminded his peers, "If Congress can determine what constitutes the general welfare and can appropriate money for its advancement, where is the limitation to carrying into execution whatever can be effected by money?"




Nonetheless, by the late nineteenth century, Congress had adopted the occasional practice of enacting spending bills for public charity in the name of "promoting the general welfare." These laws often made a mockery of this clause. In 1884, Senator John Morgan of Alabama stormed to the Senate floor to describe the impact of a relief bill approved by Congress to provide $400,000 of funds for victims of a flood on the Tombigbee River. Morgan lamented:


The overflow had passed away before the bill passed Congress, and new crops were already growing upon the land. The funds were distributed in the next October and November elections upon the highest points of the sand mountains throughout a large region where the people wanted what was called "overflow bacon." I cannot get the picture out of my mind. There was the General Welfare of the people invoked and with success, to justify this political fraud; the money was voted and the bacon was bought, and the politicians went around with their greasy hands distributing it to men who cast greasy ballots. And in that way the General Welfare was promoted!


But the real avalanche of such special interest spending did not start until some fifty years later in the midst of the Depression. In their urgency to spend public relief funds to combat hard times, politicians showed their contempt for constitutional restraints designed to prevent raids on the public purse. "I have no patience whatever with any individual who tries to hide behind the Constitution, when it comes to providing food-stuffs for our citizens," argued New York Representative Hamilton Fish in support of a 1931 hunger relief bill. James O'Conner, a congressman from Louisiana, opined, "I am going to give the Constitution the flexibility ... as will enable me to vote for any measure I deem of value to the flesh and blood of my day."


Pork-barrel spending began in earnest. In the same year, for instance, Congress introduced an act to provide flood relief to farmers in six affected states. By the time the bill made its way through Congress, farmers in fifteen states became its beneficiaries. One Oklahoma congressman succinctly summarized the new beggar-thy-neighbor spending ethic that had overtaken Capitol Hill: "I do not believe in this pie business, but 9 we are making a great big pie here ... then I want to cut it into enough pieces so that Oklahoma will have its piece."


In 1932, Charles Warren, a former assistant attorney general, wrote a popular book titled Congress a Santa Claus. "If a law to donate aid to any farmer or cattleman who has had poor crops or lost his cattle comes within the meaning of the phrase 'to provide for the General Welfare of the United States,'" he argued, "why should not similar gifts be made to grocers, shopkeepers, miners, and other businessmen who have made losses through financial depression, or to wage earners out of employment? Why is not their prosperity equally within the purview of the General Welfare?"


Of course, we now know Congress's answer: All of these things are in the "general welfare." This is why we now have unemployment compensation, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce, food stamps, and so on. Of course, all this special interest spending could have been-no, should have been-summarily struck down as unconstitutional. However, the courts have served as a willing co-conspirator in congressional spending schemes.


In a landmark 1936 decision, the Supreme Court inflicted a mortal blow to the Constitution by ruling that the Agricultural Adjustment Act was constitutional. The Court's interpretation of the spending authority of Congress was frightful and fateful. Its ruling read: "The power of Congress to authorize appropriations of public money for public purposes is not limited by the grants of legislative power found in the Constitution."


James M. Beck, a great American legal scholar and former solicitor general, likened this astounding assault on the Constitution to the Titanic's tragic collision with the iceberg. "After the collision," wrote Beck, "which was hardly felt by the steamer at the time, the great liner seemed to be intact and unhurt, and continued to move. But a death wound had been inflicted under the surface of the water, which poured into the hold of the steamer so swiftly that in a few hours the great ship was sunk."


The New Deal Court essentially told Congress: It doesn't matter what the Constitution says or what limits on government it establishes, you are empowered to spend money on whatever you please. And so Congress does, even though its profligacy has placed the nation in great economic peril.


Other than the Great Depression, by far the most important events that have fostered the growth of government in this century have been the two world wars. Periods of national crisis tend to be times in which normal constitutional restraints are suspended and the nation willingly bands together under government for a national purpose of fighting a common enemy. Yet the recurring lesson of history is that once government has seized new powers, it seldom gives them back after the crisis ends. Surely enough, this phenomenon is one of Parkinson's famous laws of the public sector:


Taxes (and spending) become heavier in times of war and should diminish, by rights, when the war is over. This is not, however, what happens. Taxes regain their pre-war level. That is because the level of expenditure rises to meet the wartime level of taxation.


In the five years prior to World War I, total federal outlays averaged 2 percent of GDP In the five years after the war, they averaged 5 percent of GDP in the years prior to that war the top income tax rate was 7 percent. During the war the tax rate shot up to 70 percent, which was reduced afterward, but only to 24 percent-or more than three times higher than it had originally been.


Government regulations of the private economy also proliferate during times of war and often remain in force afterward. Robert Higgs notes that during World War I, the federal government nationalized the railroads and the telephone lines, requisitioned all ships over 2,500 tons, and regulated food and commodity prices. The Lever Act of 1917 gave the government the power to regulate the price and production of food, fuels, beverages and distilled spirits. It is entirely plausible that, without the war, America would never have suffered through the failed experiment of Prohibition. World War II was also the genesis of many modem-day government intrusions-which were and still are of dubious constitutionality. These include wage and price controls, conscription (which lasted until the 1970s), rent control in large cities, and, worst of all, federal income tax withholding. In the post-World War II era, Congress has often relied on a war theme to extend its authority into domestic life. Lyndon Johnson launched the modem welfare state in the 1960s when he declared a "war on poverty." in the early 1970s, Richard Nixon imposed across-the-board wage and price controls-the ultimate in government command and control-as a means of winning the "inflation war." In the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter sought to enact a national energy policy with gas rationing and other draconian measures by pleading that the oil crisis had become the "moral equivalent of war."


While government has been the principal beneficiary of national emergency, the principal casualty has been liberty. As Madison warned, "Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant." This should give us pause as Congress now sets out to solve the health care crisis, the education crisis, and the crime crisis. To Congress, a crisis is an excuse to expand its domain.


Turning Back the Clock


Shortly before his death, Benjamin Franklin was asked how well the Constitution would survive the test of time. He responded optimistically that "everything appears to promise it will last." Then he added his famous warning, "But in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." ironically, the mortal wounds of the Constitution have been inflicted by precisely those who insist that they want to make it "a living document." Yet to argue that we return to the spirit and the true meaning of this living document is to invite scorn, malice, or outright disbelief from modern-day intellectuals.


Those few brave souls (mainly outside the Beltway) who urge that government should be guided by the original intent of the Constitution are always accused of trying to "turn back the clock. " But turning back the clock in order to right a grievous wrong is precisely what we ought to do. There is nothing reactionary or backward looking about dedicating ourselves to the ideas and principles that guided our Founders and formed the bedrock of our free society.


By all means, let's turn back the clock. Who knows? In the process we might even encourage a few Jeffersons and Madisons to run for Congress.


At the time of the original publication, Stephen Moore was the director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute, a free market think tank based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining Cato, he worked as a senior economist at the joint Economic Committee advising Rep. Dick Armey on budget, tax, and competitiveness issues and helping write the famous Armey flat tax proposal. Mr. Moore has also served as the Grover M. Hermann Fellow in budgetary affairs at the Heritage Foundation, as a special consultant to the National Economic Commission, and as research director of President Reagan's Commission on Privatization. Currently he is an editor for National Review and a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Human Events, and Reader's Digest. And he has written three books: Privatization: A Strategy for Taming the Deficit Economy; Still an Open Door? U.S. Immigration Policy and the American Economy; and Government: America's #1 Growth Industry.

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