Mint.com's anti-immigrant agenda?
I'm a user of Mint.com, the sleek personal finance site that was recently purchased by Intuit, but I'm not happy to see it using its credibility as a finance site to promote absurd fear-mongering and dubious statistics from anti-immigration outlets. And even putting aside its reliance on racist and/or non-credible sources, the chart manages to toss up a bunch of statistics about illegal immigration's economic cost without saying a word about its economic benefits.
This is a tricky place in the immigration conversation, but if you're talking economics rather than legality, it can't be avoided. Illegal immigrants pay a variety of taxes, including payroll and sales taxes, but return to their home countries before they collect the benefits. They drive down wages for competing workers, which is a cost, but also drive down prices of the goods they produce, which is a benefit. They help some industries which would leave the country remain within American borders (as the line goes, California either imports people who pick strawberries or it imports strawberries). They purchase things. They're disproportionately young (one way of lessening our entitlements crisis would be a massive increase in immigration). And of course, there are enormous economic benefits to the immigrants themselves, and to the countries that receive the money they send home. For an introduction to some of these issues, see this paper (pdf) by economist Gordon Hanson.
Illegal immigration, of course, isn't just an economic issue. It's also an issue of fairness, and law, and distribution. But insofar as Mint's chart was about the economics of the issue, it managed to both mislead in what it said, and in what it didn't say. Even worse, it managed to mislead in only one direction. As Tim Lee writes, I hope this is just some kid at the company freelancing a charticle and not an official ideological policy of a site that supposedly tracks ATM withdrawals. But I guess we'll know soon enough when Mint.com responds to the hubbub.
Update: Dave Weigel gets a statement from lee Sherman, the site's editor:
At MintLife, our mission is to give users and visitors the financial information they need to save and do more with their money. Topics range from personal finance advice, to analysis of macroeconomic trends and the fiscal impacts of news of the day. We publish content from a variety of contributors and sources, and the opinions expressed don’t necessarily reflect those of Mint.com or of Intuit. It’s true that the tone is often provocative, seeking to engage readers in dialogue around important topics, but the recent blog post “The Economic Impact of Immigration” went too far, cited polarized sources and did not receive the editorial judgment and oversight it deserved. We regret it. It is completely unacceptable and won’t happen again. Our intention was not to further the agenda of any of the sources from which data was pulled, and the post has been removed.
June 18, 2010; 10:36 AM ET
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