Braley Sits For Interview — Makes Outlandish Claim

Deeth and Braley  2 crop


Last week liberal blogger John Deeth scored an interview with Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley as he embarks on a bid for the U.S. Senate.  Though you may not agree with Deeth often on policy (or ever)—he is an excellent writer out of Iowa City and he knows his stuff.

Most of the interview was standard liberal fare (read here), but on the topic of immigration reform Braley made a pair of false claims, the second of which was a real whopper that could haunt him later in this campaign.

Why No Reform?

When asked generally what’s happening with immigration reform and how it will be resolved Braley said this:

“One word has kept us from having meaningful immigration reform, and that word is amnesty. That is always thrown out as an excuse for not moving forward. Where I grew up “amnesty” was where you broke the law and there were no consequences. The reform that I have supported and that many others in both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats support, is something where there is accountability. If you break the law you are required to pay a fine, accept the consequences, be placed on probation, and if you satisfy the terms of your probation you get an opportunity for a pathway to citizenship.”


So according to him the one word preventing legislation from passing is “amnesty”, and moreover Republican confusion on the word’s true definition.  Point of correction here—there are two words that explain why no bill has passed and they are “government incompetence”.  More specifically the public’s utter lack of faith Washington will deliver on border-security promises has been this efforts downfall, not mere Republican opposition on the merits—allow me to prove the point.

• Though 51% of Republicans oppose a “path to citizenship” in theory and without conditions, when asked about eventual citizenship with the conditions of passing a background and paying back taxes (which are in the bill) a whopping 73% of Republicans said they would support this. (NBC/WSJ 4/5-8/2013) (ABC News here)

• (USA Today poll 4/18-21/2013)—“Which problem concerns you the most: the problem of preventing illegal immigration in the future or the problem of how to deal with illegal immigrants already in the U.S.?”  – 55% responded “prevent in future” to 33% “ones already here.”

• (ABC News/Wash.Post poll 3/27-30/2013)—80% support “stricter border control to reduce illegal immigration in the future”, only 17% opposed.  This reflects the findings of several other polls asking the same general question.

• And here is the cementing detail—in most polls a whopping 80% of Americans say they don’t believe the federal government will fully secure the border even if reform is passed that promises it.  Only 27% say our borders are more secure than 5 years ago, and pollster Scott Rasmussen conducted a poll in April in which only 9% said our government would succeed in sealing the border.

The Real Problem with Reform

This proves the hurdle facing pro-immigration reform efforts is a glaring lack of credibility by those offering it—Washington politicians.  This skepticism is both a hopeful sign and completely logical.  It appears Americans are not dense enough to forget the reason we are having this debate now is because true amnesty was delivered in the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill along with promises of border security—and of course since then at least 11 million more individuals have over-stayed visas or snuck into the country.  If Bruce Braley really wants to advocate for this bill he better start selling Americans on the specific security measures it contains, and more importantly, admit the ’86 effort was a failure and explain why this time will be different.

While it is true that a decent segment of Republicans will never support a bill that leads to citizenship (about 20-25% in most polls), the real news is that if the feds delivered a secure border going forward over 70% of Republicans would swallow hard and sign on.  What Republicans are certain on is that they want the border sealed (supporting this 93% in some polls), and they rightfully don’t envision it happening.

It’s good to know that Mr. Braley has great faith in the federal government—and with its stellar track record who wouldn’t right?—but the fact of the matter is he is way out of touch with the vast majority of Americans who have a microscopic level of faith in the federal enterprise.  When you look at the situation it’s hard not to notice the delicious bit of irony that liberal Democrats would be able to accomplish a major political goal of theirs relatively easily—if only the behemoth institution they built and believe in was a capable and trusted one.

He Said What?

Now on to the real stunner offered by Braley in the interview.  Extolling the virtues of passing a bill he said the following:

“So that says to me that reasonable people should be able to get their handle on how we bring people out of the shadows, get them paying taxes at the state and federal level, paying into Medicare and Social Security, to stabilize those programs. To me there’s a lot of huge upside benefits.”

Yes you read that correctly and yes this is fully in context.  We’ve heard some real beauties from Liberal Democrats recently—“we don’t have a spending problem”, unemployment checks “create jobs faster than any other initiative you can name” etc.—and this one ranks right up there.

You see the solvency problems we have with Social Security and Medicare can be addressed by legalizing 11-15 million illegal aliens, the vast majority of which are low-income earners.  I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this.  Let’s start with some statistics on the population we are talking about that even the most partisan wouldn’t dispute, after all illegal immigrants aren’t “doing the jobs Americans won’t” because they pay too well:

• Average median family income for non-citizen in 2010= $36,401 compared to $50,288 for native born Americans (2010 US Census)

• Per person median household income for non-citizen=$12,991 compared to $28,185 for American citizens (though this is a CIS study, an anti-amnesty group, the numbers are similar to less partisan studies)

• 24.8% of Hispanics (citizens and non-citizens) are living at the poverty level (2010 Census via government office of OMH)

• Hispanics in the U.S. are the single biggest group currently without health insurance with 30.7% uninsured (Office of OMH)

Look, there are several legitimate positive arguments for granting citizenship to this group—some cultural and some economic—but implying that 11-15 million low-income workers being legalized will help any entitlement program is absurd.  And to be clear this has nothing to do with ethnicity, it would apply to any group with similar income traits if they hailed from Canada, Australia, or Europe instead of Mexico.

The only conceivable way Braley’s statement could be parsed to have a shred of truth is if he was referring only to the small number of years after legalization was granted and before benefits were claimed.  I know politicians are accustomed to thinking one election cycle at a time, but even still this level of short-sighted deception would be off the charts.  There is no question whatsoever that the net impact of legalizing up to 15 million low-skilled, low-wage earners would be a mid and long-term disaster to the existing entitlement system.  Period.  You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure this out—especially considering that not one of these programs is even currently solvent.

Ironically, after citizenship is granted Social Security and Medicare would lose the only current benefit these two programs are receiving from illegal immigration—the taxes that go to these programs via fraudulent Social Security numbers that go unclaimed by the illegal immigrant and instead get paid out to American citizens.  Democrats are right in making the case this specific reality is unfair to the immigrant, but in a perverse way it does mathematically help the system.

Furthermore, entitlements already pay out more to citizens on average than each citizen pays in.  As it stands now a typical retired couple pays in $122,000 to Medicare and on average can expect $387, 000 in benefits, for Social Security it’s $600,000 in and $579,000 out (Ezra Klein site here).  Obviously these discrepancies would be multiplied for this illegal population for two reasons.  First the median family income for illegals is between $15-20,000 less than the median American citizen family income, and second, obviously, this population would not have been paying in their entire lives yet would receive benefits until their deaths (Politifact deals with a similar scenario here).

Final Word & A Challenge to Democrats

Braley’s claim here is totally ludicrous and false—and if he’s seriously only referring to the period before we pay any benefits out and is ignoring the eventual consequences, it is even more ridiculous and disingenuous.  I challenge any Liberal/Democrat writer or policy wonk in the state of Iowa to explain how amnesty for illegal immigrants would be a “huge upside benefit” that will “stabilize” any one of our entitlement programs, and I will even grant you the waiver that you don’t have to deal with the disaster that will become of Medicaid.  This is an open and standing challenge.  Write it, send it to the contact info on this site, and I will print it in full.

I know Bruce Braley is desperate to sell this immigration reform bill, but claiming this federal bill will “stabilize” other insolvent federal train wrecks from the past was a bridge way too far.  He will have to explain this on the campaign trail, it will come up in debates and TV spots, and it will not help his chances.  It’s a long time till November 2014 and if he continues making undisciplined remarks he can’t back up—and wouldn’t want to try even if he thought he could—then he is more vulnerable than I ever thought.



About the Author

Mr. Arnold is a long time constitutional conservative. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature from the University of Iowa. Over the last few years he has been involved in numerous political campaigns, most recently serving as campaign manager for an Iowa House candidate and serving as a city chair for Tom Latham. He is self-employed, running a small business in Ankeny, Iowa where he resides with his wife.


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