MR. PRESIDENT, you have a unique opportunity. You can end poverty in America and do so in a fashion that accords with conservative principles. It will also accord with the most glaring hole in your administration's record: its utter failure to do anything at all about America's ongoing immigration disaster. Simply put: the way to end poverty is to close the borders.
There are even today millions of "conservatives" who still deny the glaringly obvious truism that you cannot import half-a-million poor people into a nation every year and not expect an increase in poverty. Some are too cowed by the PC police to even talk about the problem. Others would just like to ignore it. Others spout half-digested economic theories. Others like having cheap servants. The most contemptible are the last.
But the fact remains: if we ended mass immigration to this country, it would radically constrict the supply of labor, particularly among the poor. The law of supply and demand would force up the price of that labor, lifting wages at the bottom of the social scale. If this would not happen, the whole of free-market economics is a myth.
This way of ending, or at the very least radically reducing, poverty, would do so without a corrupting welfare handout, without undermining the work ethic, and without a drain on the public purse. It would do so without violating free-market principles. It is eminently practical and could be implemented virtually overnight. Even if you don't care about people, surely you care about the billions in social services we would save by having fewer poor people?
Some will ask: who will mow our lawns or pick our fruit if there are no cheap immigrants to do so? The answer is very simple: once wages go up in these jobs, there will be people willing to do them. This is Economics 101. It is simply a myth that Americans "won't do" certain jobs; they just won't do them at the artificially-low wages that mass immigration has made seem normal. But since we end up paying social benefits to these underpaid people anyway, these people are not a bargain, even if one ignores all the other problems immigration causes.
There is also something morally unworthy about expecting someone else to accept a wage we would not consider under the same circumstances. When I was growing up in suburban Connecticut, I mowed the lawns of my neighbors for pocket money. I was stunned to learn many years later that in Southern California this is almost unheard of. Illegal aliens have taken most of this business. This is a decadent, Old World, un-American model of society we are (not so) gradually buying into. Anyone who thinks it will not have profound consequences is naive.
There is an historical precedent for what we should do: the great pause in immigration between the years of 1924 and 1965. These were the years in which America became a fundamentally middle-class society. We need to renew our commitment to being that kind of society.
If conservatives put this plan into effect, and it works as one may expect, we will be able to say to the nation forever: the liberals had a war on poverty and they lost. We fought poverty and won. We are the party of compassion and they aren't. We delivered; they didn't. This would permanently take away from them the moral high ground on social policy. This is the real test of whether "compassionate conservatism" really means anything. Every day that goes by without Mr. Bush taking on this plan, he gradually forfeits the right to this title.
It is no secret who in his administration opposes him: the Cheap Labor Lobby. All sorts of people in this country want cheap labor, and they don't care if tens of millions of people have to spend their lives in poverty for them to get it. This means big business, but it also means every decadent household in West LA with a gardener and a maid. If this means you, then sorry, but no apology.
The other economic constituency for mass immigration is the outright globalists, who in the final analysis do not believe in the nation state and therefore don't care whether more Americans or fewer live in poverty. They may have a theory about how global economic growth reduces global poverty, but when it comes to America specifically, forget it. They get away with these ideas because people don't believe they really mean it.
Immigration is thus the key policy issue that divides real conservatives from mere capitalists. It is also the key to redefining the Republican Party as the party that really cares about the whole of society. Given the enormous popularity of immigration reduction in every single poll, this proposal would be an enormous and immediate political winner. Given its huge social consequences, it could be the thing that makes this administration.