How About a Bill for Comprehensive Migration Reform

While the GOP decides whether to curtail legal immigration, how to handle tax reform, and generally struggles with existential doubts, they should instead be focusing on ways to make it easier for folks to move around (something Trump agrees with me on: The Washington Post: 3 August 2017: “Trump is right about this: Americans need to move where the jobs are”; too bad he’s not pushing for legislation to make it easier). They should work on things like making state taxes easier when you have moved across state lines so that you don’t have to struggle through three income tax codes in a year.

The modern economy concentrates too many workers in places like San Francisco, California. That’s driven housing prices too high, not to mention other woes. And part of the reason for that concentration is the concentration itself, like a gravity well, sucking talent in so that it cannot escape.

But spreading some of that talent outward would enhance the regional and national economy in the same way that immigration does: by adding more basic spending rather than marginal spending. The cost of moving is too high, though, especially for businesses that would have to pay for relocation costs for employees plus all of the red tape involved in setting up new offices.

One of the big ones for a business that might want to cross state lines is health insurance, of course. They have to deal with a whole different network and insurer. Making the system into a nationwide system, like most modern countries have, would go a long way to easing that burden.

Transportation is another big piece of the migration puzzle. With modern connectivity, train travel should be able to make a comeback, as a five hour train isn’t as bad compared to a much shorter plane if you’re connected the whole way. If people must work in the biggest cities, but housing is expensive, they could at least have better commutes where they aren’t staring at traffic.

The RAISE Act is undoubtedly a bad deal, which will cause economic drag, but that drag is only added to the existing drag that isn’t even acknowledged. We need to improve on the story of how Americans can move about this country while being productive and comfortable in the knowledge that they aren’t going to uproot only to find nothing when they arrive.

But another factor in all of this is that as workers move, it will cross-pollinate cultures, ideas, politics, which leads to new businesses and creations, not to mention shifts in who votes where. At least one of the factors in post WWII prosperity was the interactions of millions of young folks with peers from all over the country (nevermind that they took place in Europe amid horrific violence).