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I'm a user of, 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 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 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.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 18, 2010; 10:36 AM ET
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Love the chart. "Over 70% of Annual Population Growth Results from Immigration and Immigrant Fertility".

Now, I'm opposed to illegal immigration. I want a big, tall, well-monitored border fence to keep illegal immigrants out on our most vulnerable and porous border. Also, we should do something to protect the southern border, too.

That being said, Immigrant Fertility is what is generally know as "first generation Americans". My family immigrated to America about 7 generations ago (for the ancestors I know about). Technically, my birth was the product of "7th Generation Immigrant Fertility".

That's just a weird frickin' statistic.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 18, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Interesting. I've been toying with the idea of using Mint for a while now but have been hesitating because of privacy concerns. Now that I see this, my decision is made for me. Sometimes, procrastination solves problems.

You're dead to me,

Posted by: slag | June 18, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Ezra - I have a question, or possibly a quibble. You mention that immigrants pay a variety of taxes, and mention sales and payroll taxes. Fair enough, but I notice that no one ever mentions property taxes. Since immigrants have to live somewhere, I'm guessing that most pay rent, and therefore pay part of their landlords' property taxes. Am I missing something? I know it's a small point, but, at least in Texas, we pay pretty whopping property taxes since we don't have a state income tax.

Posted by: geoffcgraham | June 18, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I would like to see some analysis on the burden illegal immigrants present to transporation infrastructure such as roads and how illegal immigrants affect commute times and resulting lost productivity. Road maintenance has to be increased given the burden that millions of people place on that infrastructure.

There are a lot of calculations on education costs and health care costs related to services provided to illegal immigrants but very few numbers on costs related to transportation.

Posted by: lancediverson | June 18, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"They drive down wages for competing workers, which is a cost"

Actually, that's a cost reduction. (good) The real solution is to remove our unbelievably racist immigration laws, let wages adjust to internationally competitive levels, and start winning again. In reality, driving down labor costs allows to prevent jobs leaving the country all together.

Posted by: staticvars | June 18, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

It proves nothing as far as "official corporate policy", but Intuit's excrebele speakers at their small bank seminar this year were Rudy Guilliani, Levitt, and Dubner. So, conservative icon and a U of C economist. I don't think they're leaning lefty.

Posted by: strawman | June 18, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

And then there is this (concerning the drop in violent crime):

"Recently, scholars have added yet another explanation: Immigration. Cities and neighborhoods that have received the largest influx of immigrants (including Mexican immigrants) have had — despite popular stereotypes to the contrary — the largest drops in criminal violence. Thus, increased immigration may explain part of the crime drop since 1990."


Posted by: chrisgaun | June 18, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Original Infographic on "The Economic Impact of Immigration":

Posted by: AnalyzeMe | June 18, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"they purchase things" should be in the first sentence. 'they' buy a lot of stuff: including cars and trucks.

'they' also cut tobacco and bail hay; 'they' volunteer to work double shifts in the chickenhouses.

Posted by: jackjudge4000yahoocom | June 18, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Studies have been done, including the Congressional Budget Office on the net cost of illegal aliens. Guess what? It is a huge net cost to taxpayers.

Economists know that low skilled labor pulls more out of the economy than they put in. That is why all other first world countries take the most skilled potential immigrants. Open borders, allowing uneducated illegal labor to pour in will destroy our economy.

Yes, dishonest business profits, because it is the taxpayer who is subsidizing the cheap illegal labor.

So working class and middle class loss twice.. their wages are depressed and they get to subsidize the dishonest business!

The only people who benefit from illegal labor, and uncontrolled immigration are the monied elite, the 21st century plantation owners.

Posted by: Bettybb | June 18, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Let's begin with the quaint notion that there are two sides to every story. How often do you see that on migration. In fact, Klein urges "massive increase[s]) in migration, presumably from Mexico. Does anyone think he meant, er, Iceland? Why not?

Via increasingly insular media circles, open borders is chic. On the hard left, it's is canon.

Will California's declared water crisis, owing to "rapid increase in population," ever get media play? Probably not. Migration outranks ecosystems -- limited water, lost wildlife habitat -- in hard-left circles. In fact, it trumps everything, and everyone, else. Why? Fill in the blanks.

The open borders clique police any information that gets through -- if an enviro group says population growth will overtax already taxed natural resources, it's called "the greening of hate." Hmmn.

You are next treated to the pc intimidation, to which immediately succumbed, in Klein's article. It is no longer politically correct to mention the drain on public resources, from Medicaid and housing for reunification relatives to completely subsidized schooling courtesy of local property tax payers to health care, especially under the new law. But most of all, don't mention the environment. Naughty, indeed. And not the party line.

Posted by: SueR1 | June 18, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Please do not criticize for racism. Racism is completely acceptable in the United States today. Indeed it is highly approved of. Note that the leading Hispanic organization in the U.S. is the National Council of La Raza. That's "The Race" in Spanish. Of course, the NCLR will tell you the La Raza is short for La Raza Cosmia. That part is true.

However, La Raza Cosmica is a phrase devised by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos. He wrote extensively on the subject. You can view him as the Hispanic Alfred Rosenberg. He wrote extensively on the subject and the Cosmic race was the superior one in his worldview. His views on race were quite consistent. He founded the National University of Mexico (he was Secretary of Education after the revolution). The motto of his school is "Por mi raza hablará el espíritu" or "The spirit shall speak for my race".

Later in life he moved on to being a Nazi agent in Mexico and publishing a pro-Nazi newspaper.

For a long article on this subject see "Yes, La Raza Really Does Mean "The Race"—And The Idea Was Invented By a Nazi Sympathizer" (

Posted by: peter_schaeffer | June 18, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

"They're disproportionately young (one way of lessening our entitlements crisis would be a massive increase in immigration)."
Uh no, it would be increasing our entitlements crisism as they would in turn need entitlements themselves. And since most of them are uneducated, low-skilled Third Worlders, there is no way they can replace the First World tax base provided by native-born, educated, English-speaking Americans.

California thought it could replace the native-born American taxpayer with low-skilled, uneducated Third Worlders.

Guess what? California is now hopelessly bankrupt, has the country's largest percentage of welfare recipients, and also now has the least educated workforce in the nation.

California's Third World workforce is not going to be paying for my retirement any time soon. On the contrary, I'll probably be working into my 70s to support Marisolita's five illegimate future gangbangers.

See Europe for our future, where countries like Holland are raising the retirement age for native-born workers who've paid into the welfare system all their lives, while newly come Third World immigrants and their huge families live high on the public hog.

Posted by: MaryJessel | June 18, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

"as the line goes, California either imports people who pick strawberries or it imports strawberries"

Guess what? Imported strawberries don't destroy public education. Imported strawberries don't cause gridlock. Imported strawberries don't join MS-13. Imported strawberries don't go on welfare. Imported strawberries don't shut down emergency rooms. Imported strawberries don't promote ethnic separatism. Imported strawberries don't consume California's limited air and water. Imported strawberries don't make housing unaffordable...

Max Frisch one wrote "We wanted workers and we got people" and now Europe has banlieues and tournantes. Check the definition of the second word.

Posted by: peter_schaeffer | June 18, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

"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."

Return home before they collect the benefits?

On what planet would that be? What color is the sky? Do you breathe Ammonia or Sulfur Dioxide? Do you have two or three moons?

If they all intend to go home why exactly is Obama begging for Amnesty. Did the last (IRCA 1986) Amnesty trigger a massive return flight? Not exactly. How about a huge new tidal wave of illegals.

There is vast evidence that illegals and their families (ever heard of birthright citizenship?) make massive use of welfare and every other government handout... Along with schools, hospitals, the criminal justice system, etc.

Posted by: peter_schaeffer | June 18, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

What a bunch of B. S. article ---How's about the cost of school for the 5- 10,000,000 "children of illegal aliens", how's about free medical care for all illegal aliens, how about crimes committed and the cost of incarceration for the 100,000's in jail throughout the U.S.

how about most of the money illegally earned here but sent home and not spent in the U.S., and most important-what happened to "We ARE (WERE)a Nation of Laws"??

Heaven forbid we ask someone for their I.D.! Well, Legal Americans want this done!Illegals don't! (Surprise)

Obama protects the rights of Illegal aliens--but not U.S. Citizens.

Crime is running amuck in Arizona and throughout our Southern Border. Meanwhile Secretary of Homeland Security Nap-olitano is arranging Cooking Classes, computer training,dance lessons for illegal aliens at our expense.

+ DHS stopped building the permanent fence and the virtual fence; stopped arresting for the illegal crossing of our border--and recently closed Arizona Parks to Americans, but not to Drug Smugglers; Kidnappings are a daily occurrence to the point Phoenix is #2 in the world. Anyone care--Not Obama! He who has never run so much as a Sno-Ball stand has proven he is not experienced or qualified to run the USA!

Meanwhile the President is talking about Cap and Trade and insists "Amnesty is required before he enforces the laws he swore to uphold. He promised National Guard and Money to Arizona and does nothing(A Lie?)and is instead suing Arizona as announced by of all people Sec. of State Clinton! Huh! Transparency. Huh!

Legal Americans demand ---protect our Damn Borders...Now. Troops in Japan and Germany should/can do the job to stop the invasion of 20,000,000 illegals...And American troops are available but Obama is more concerned with protecting other countries than are own. Afterall votes are at stake...and that is more important than protecting America. Prove otherwise!

Posted by: passonfirstdown | June 19, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Its alright for this author to advocate massive immigration but not for others of the media to advocate otherwise. The hypocrisy of it all is sickening. Most Americans don't want illegal immigration but Klein keeps advocating it. Why? What's his agenda? Its obvious that we have 17% unemployment and those unemployed will have a hard time getting their jobs back. So Klein advocates more immigration. He's not rational or logical. It has to be that he is brain-washed. He doesn't think that all of this immigration is costing the taxpayers. He's in la-la land. He so prejudiced against the middle class that he wants to destroy them. But why does he want to destroy the middle class? That is the question. What's his agenda for his propaganda?

Posted by: TheProfit | June 20, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

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