Trump’s new deportation rules could cost the economy trillions

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

President Trump pushed forward on his campaign promise to deport all undocumented immigrants on Tuesday by releasing new guidelines to expand and speed up deportations. The memos from the Department of Homeland Security target all undocumented immigrants for deportation, even those who haven’t committed serious crimes, while necessitating the hiring of thousands of new agents and building new detention facilities.

These policies are going to wreck havoc on the lives, families, and communities of those who end up deported. And they will also come with a steep cost for everyone in this country.

It’s still not clear whether the administration will actually have the resources and ability to deport every undocumented immigrant. But even if it were able to deport just the 7 million undocumented workers in this country, out of the estimated 12 million total, it would reduce GDP by 2.6 percent over a decade, according to research from Ryan Edwards and Francesc Ortega at the Center for American Progress (CAP), taking a $4.7 trillion bite out of the economy. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of CAP.) That’s comparable to the job losses experienced during the recent recession.

That lines up with other recent findings from Edwards and Ortega, which calculated that undocumented workers contribute 3 percent of GDP, or nearly $5 trillion in economic growth over ten years. Those contributions would disappear if all of those workers were deported.

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DC mayor won’t veto DC’s progressive paid family leave

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

In late December, the Washington, DC city council passed what would be the country’s most generous paid family leave program. And on Wednesday, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to veto it, thus allowing it to go into law. The final step lies with Congress, which has 30 days to review it and potentially take action before the law can take effect and benefits can be paid out by 2020.

Bowser had publicly questioned the bill, particularly the cost to implement it. While in her letter sending the bill back to the council without a veto she said that “DC families should have time to care for themselves and their loved ones,” she listed a number of “grave concerns” about the legislation, including the small increase in payroll taxes that will be levied to fund the benefits, the fact that it will cover people who work in DC but live in Maryland and Virginia, and the cost to set it up. She pledged to work with the council to “overcome” these issues.

Businesses will pay a slight 0.62 percent increase in payroll taxes to pay into the fund. Then employees can earn up to 90 percent of their regular salary, capped at $1,000 a week, when they take time off. The length of the leave depends on what a worker needs it for: eight weeks for the arrival of a new child, six weeks to care for a sick family member, and two weeks of leave to tend to a personal illness. It will eventually cover about 530,000 workers.

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New study confirms that voter ID laws are very racist

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Conservative lawmakers routinely tout voter ID laws as a solution to voter fraud, but multiple investigations — including investigations conducted by Republican supporters of voter ID — confirm that those laws are a solution in search of a problem. The kind of fraud prevented by such laws is only slightly more common than elves.

A new study by political scientists Zoltan L. Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, and Lindsay Nielson explains what these laws do accomplish, however. According to Hajnal and his co-authors, turnout among Hispanic voters is “7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries” in states with strict voter ID laws. The laws also reduce turnout among African-American and Asian-American voters.

White turnout, according to their study, is “largely unaffected.”

 

Hajnal and his co-authors also offer a possible explanation for why conservatives favor these laws. “By instituting strict voter ID laws,” they explain, “states can alter the electorate and shift outcomes toward those on the right.” In states with such laws “the influence of Democrats and liberals wanes and the power of Republicans grows.”

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Trump will roll back Obama rule that protected retirees from getting bilked by their advisers

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

On Friday, President Trump plans to sign an executive order rolling back protections put in place by the Obama administration to ensure financial advisers can’t give retirees bad advice to enrich themselves.

Before what became known as the fiduciary duty rule was put in place, advisers who help retirees decide where to invest their money were allowed to steer clients toward products that made the advisers money but weren’t in the clients’ best interest. This practice was costing Americans an estimated $17 billion a year.

One of them was Phil Ashburn. When he was offered a buyout after 30 years at Pacific Bell, he turned to a financial broker for advice on how to invest the money, who told him she would make him rich and he’d be set for life. But after she convinced him to put his money in a variable annuity, which fluctuates based on market performance, his original $355,000 investment went down to just $70,000 by 2015.

The broker had goaded him into that product because it made her money: she worked solely on commission and made $900,000 a year off of selling variable annuities.

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Trump’s federal hiring freeze will make the swamp swampier

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

As one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump on Monday signed a presidential memorandum instituting a hiring freeze across the federal government, except for the military.

The move follows through on a pledge he made on the campaign trail, albeit a couple of days late, to halt federal hiring on his first day of office. This, he said, would “reduce federal workforce through attrition” and tie into his pledge to “drain the swamp” and address corruption. But past experience shows that across-the-board government hiring freezes don’t reduce the workforce or save money. On the contrary, they often increase costs while making the government’s work less accountable to the public.

The non-partisan Government Accountability Office concluded as much in 1982. In a report released at that time that looked back at four previous freezes, it found, “Government-wide hiring freezes have not been an effective means of controlling Federal employment.”

Because freezes were doled out equally, regardless of each agency’s workload, agencies had to find other ways to get their work done — and many turned to contractors, which aren’t subject to the same transparency regulations as the government workforce. That includes disclosure laws like the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Register Act that make information on what employees do available to the public.

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Thousands of women will go on strike to protest Trump’s inauguration

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

The election made Ann want to do something big and bold.

As a working mother who is also a first-generation Muslim immigrant — and who declined to give her full name for fear of President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to create a Muslim registry — she has much to be concerned about. “The recent election and just all the negative commentary and hateful remarks around immigration, immigrants, and Muslims and people of color really has impacted me,” she said. “All the rhetoric around taking away women’s reproductive freedoms, even such basic freedoms as access to contraception, the thought of not having that is frightening.”

“Even the thought of the Muslim registry…the thought of registering my child, it gives me goosebumps even just saying it,” she added.

So on January 20 and 21, inauguration weekend, she will not just be joining a March in Seattle that’s affiliated with the Women’s March on Washington. She is also committed to going on strike.

While she works in health care and says she can’t leave her patients for a day, she’s going to go on strike from all the unpaid labor she does. For those two days, she plans to refuse to do all the housework and will step back from primary parenting for her four-year-old daughter, leaving it to her partner.

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Kentucky Republicans assault unions and wages in first act of the year

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Last year, Republican Matt Bevin won the governorship of Kentucky, taking over from Democrat Steve Beshear. Then, in November, Republicans took full control of the state legislature after they gained their first majority in Kentucky’s state house in almost a century.

And the very first things the Republican majority did with its power this past weekend were to pass a so-called “right-to-work” law, which will likely weaken unions’ finances, and repeal a prevailing wage law that ensures government contractors pay decently.

Kentucky was the last of the Southern states that hadn’t gone right-to-work, but after Bevin signed the bill on Saturday, it now joins the rest — becoming the 27th state in the country to pass such a law.

Right-to-work laws create what critics call a free rider problem. Normally, all workers in a unionized workplace must pay dues to the union given that it’s bargaining on their behalf. But right-to-work laws allow people to opt out of dues, even if they’re still being represented, which means they can benefit from union negotiations over wages and working conditions but don’t have to give any money to support these efforts.

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The economy grew by 2.2 million jobs in 2016

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

The economy grew by 2.2 million jobs in 2016

The economy added 156,000 jobs in the last month of 2016, while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 4.7 percent, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Analysts had expected 175,000 jobs to be added.

Meanwhile, revisions to October and November added another net 19,000 jobs compared to what was previously reported.

Overall, the economy added 2.2 million jobs in 2016.

The bigger news in December was wage growth, however. After falling 2 cents in November, wages climbed up by 10 cents in December, leading to a 2.9 percent year over year rate of growth. That’s the fastest rate of growth paychecks have seen during the recovery.

December’s job growth was driven by health care, which added 43,000 jobs, food service and drinking places with 30,000 jobs, and social assistance with 20,000 jobs. Food service grew by 246,600 jobs over the course of 2016, while health care added 421,700. The retail sector also added large gains, growing by 256,700 jobs over the year, as did professional and business services, which grew by 522,000.

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Scott Walker directly appeals to Trump to let him drug test people who need food stamps

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who campaigned for President-elect Donald Trump during his presidential run, has sent his ally a public letter asking him to pave the way for drug testing food stamps recipients before Trump has even assumed office.

“We want your help as soon as possible,” Walker wrote, before outlining specific demands, the first of which is the ability to screen and test people who need food stamps for drug use.

While states have broad authority to change the requirements for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash welfare program, and thus 10 states have chosen to drug test applicants and recipients and deny those who refuse the tests or fail them, they currently have no such latitude over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.

But that hasn’t stopped Walker from signing a measure into law that would drug test SNAP applicants and recipients and then suing the federal government to allow him to carry it out. He’s also asked Congress to pass legislation that would give him the permission he seeks, but a bill put forward to do so failed.

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Tens of thousands of low-wage workers flood the streets demanding higher pay

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Starting in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, a flood of low-wage workers joined the pouring rain on the streets of New York City, marking four years to the day since fast food employees first went on a day-long strike in the city and launched a movement.

The movement, which now calls itself the Fight for 15, is demanding a minimum wage of at least $15 as well as the right to unionize. And Tuesday’s day of action proved just how massive it has now become. Strikes and protests weren’t limited to New York City — they reached 340 cities. Fast food workers were joined by a variety of low-paid people, including childcare providers, home health aides, airport workers, healthcare employees, adjunct professors, and, for the first time, Uber drivers.

 

Uber drivers went on strike in more than two dozen cities. They were joined by striking hospital workers in Pittsburgh as well as a number of fast food employees across the country.

Many airport workers, including baggage handlers and cabin cleaners, also went on strike for the first time. A group walked off the job at Boston’s Logan International Airport, while more than 500 went on strike at Chicago O’Hare. They were backed up by protests at nearly 20 other major airports.

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