Trump Deserves a Darwin Award

My inbox is full of emails touting Donald Trump's "Time to Get Tough" book, now with Rush Limbaugh's endorsement. He blames most of America's problems on a "tidal wave" of illegal Hispanic immigrants and unfair Chinese trade practices. He reminds me of H.L. Mencken's classic one-liner: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." One might add, "dangerous," because Trump appeals to our desire to blame someone else for problems we created. If you want something to worry about, have a look at the math questions that Chinese high school students have to answer to qualify for college admission.

Let's review the facts.

Immigration from Mexico actually fell after the 2008 crash, mainly because construction jobs disappeared.

Source: Pew Institute

The best data we have suggest that net immigration from Mexico was negative between 2005 and 2010–that is, more Mexicans left the U.S. than arrived. Hispanics, to be sure, are more visible in the workforce–their share of total employment has risen from about 14% 10 years ago to to 17% today–but that is due to the natural increase in the Hispanic population. In 1990, non-Hispanic whites had a fertility rate of 1.7 children per female, vs. 2.9 children for Hispanics. This bumper crop of Hispanic children has been entering the workforce for the past several years. But that has nothing to do with recent trends in immigration.

As for China: During the early 2000s, U.S. imports from China were growing at 20%-30% a year. Since 2011, imports from China have hardly grown. That's because China's currency has appreciated by one-third since 2005 (from 12 cents to the dollar to 16 cents), making Chinese goods pricier in the American market.

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That's not what we ought to be worrying about.