Issue of the Century

David Brooks Demands New, Improved Americans 2.0

January 31, 2018

Multiple Pages
David Brooks Demands New, Improved Americans 2.0

As I predicted in my two previous Taki’s columns, the Trump administration offered to Democrats an extremely moderate and generous compromise immigration package. Trump proposed a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal aliens in return for three sensible reforms of the immigration system: a wall, an end to chain migration (or, as it should more accurately be called, clan migration), and the elimination of Teddy Kennedy’s nitwit diversity lottery.

In response, the respectable have, predictably, gone nuts spewing racist hate. For instance, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi asserted that Trump’s compromise framework was part of his sinister plan to “make America white again.” Likewise, Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post explained “How to fight Trump’s plan to whiten our immigration system.” The new conventional wisdom is that it would be racist for the American people to have any say in how much immigration they must endure.

David Brooks of The New York Times at least offers an argument for why he supports ethnic swamping besides just the usual “White Americans, I hate you”:

Every few years I try to write a column staking out a reasonable middle ground on immigration…. The case for restricting immigration seems superficially plausible.

For example, there are 7 billion non-Americans in the world. So if America didn’t restrict immigration, over one hundred million immigrants would quickly pour into our country. They’d keep coming until life in America became about as cruddy as in their home countries.

But that doesn’t occur to Brooks. Much as he tries, David just can’t find any good reason to restrict immigration:

And every few years I fail. That’s because when you wade into the evidence you find that the case for restricting immigration is pathetically weak.

As proof, David recommends you drive through economically depressed parts of America:

If you start in rural New England and drive down into Appalachia or across into the Upper Midwest you will be driving through county after county with few immigrants. These rural places are often 95 percent white…. They are often marked by economic stagnation, social isolation, family breakdown and high opioid addiction.

First of all, is it even true that immigration correlates with prosperity? After all, when adjusted for cost of living, California has both the most foreign-born residents and the most impoverished people in the country. The state with the second-highest percentage of poor people is Florida, which has the second-highest percentage of immigrants.

Now, you might think that the reason there aren’t many immigrants in white parts of the country that have been hard hit by globalization and other economic changes is because immigrants head for places where Americans are creating a lot of wealth at present, like Silicon Valley, and avoid places that are yesterday’s news, like the coal-mining regions of West Virginia.

“David is tired of being stuck with you Americans as his fellow citizens.”

But Brooks thinks he knows better. Instead, regional inequality is because the prosperous parts of the United States “have embraced diversity” and thus attract the immigrants who are the secret sauce of economic prosperity. In contrast, the poorer parts of America “react with defensive animosity to the immigrants who out-hustle and out-build them.”

(Of course, many non-hustling poor parts of the country are heavily nonwhite, such as the lower Rio Grande Valley. But David is not going to drive there: Mexican regions of the U.S. are boring and depressing. And nonwhite parts of the United States don’t attract many immigrants because nonwhites don’t create many jobs.)

After all, David explains, immigrants are “better versions” of Americans than you Americans who are skeptical of mass immigration:

You’d react negatively, too, if confronted with people who are better versions of what you wish you were yourself.

David is tired of being stuck with you Americans as his fellow citizens. He would like to upgrade from you outmoded Americans 1.0 to his new, improved Americans 2.0 now.

For example, several weeks ago my wife, attempting to drive cross-country in late December relying solely upon the wisdom and prudence of Google Maps, found herself in the middle of a zero-degree night on an icy dirt road in a steep holler in West Virginia. Moments later she was in a ditch.

A few hundred yards away was the one habitation on the mountainside, a double-wide trailer. She banged on their door and roused the hillbillies. The lady of the trailer set to work making them coffee from bottled water (their pipes had frozen) while her husband tried to drag my wife’s car from the ditch. After an hour, he returned to announce his truck wasn’t powerful enough. So they called some kinfolk who owned a really big truck. They showed up quickly and hauled the car back onto the road.

According to Brooks, the reason these West Virginians who rescued my wife are living in trailers is because “they tend to elect candidates who oppose immigration and diversity.”

(Poor Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, responded to Pelosi’s hate speech by demurring like a statesman: “We don’t need that type of rhetoric on either side, from Nancy, Paul Ryan or anybody else.”)

In contrast, richer places are rich because they are “attracting immigrants and supporting candidates who favor immigration.” And immigrants are more virtuous than you Americans:

It is a blunt fact of life that, these days, immigrants show more of these virtues than the native-born.

So, of course immigrants bring prosperity to wherever admits them, unlike those ignorant rednecks in West Virginia.

For example, The Colony on the beach in Malibu, Calif., which is home to outspoken Democrats like Barbra Streisand and Rob Reiner, is very pro-immigration, having voted 67–26 for Hillary over Trump in 2016. Malibu recently declared itself a “sanctuary city.” During the Democrats’ failed government shutdown, Reiner thundered:

Make no mistake, this shutdown boils down to one thing: RACISM. GOP frightened to death of the browning of America. They will lose this last big battle of the Civil War. Diversity is our strength.

As Brooks’ theory would predict, the residents of The Colony reap their rightful rewards for their tolerance, virtue, and opposition to borders, living in homes with an average price of $13 million, the highest in Los Angeles County.

On the other hand, as Brooks’ hypothesis would not predict, Malibu is also the whitest municipality in the huge county. And Reiner’s walled-in gated celebrity community of The Colony is even whiter.

Plus, Democratic activists like Reiner are adamant about using environmental restrictions to keep more people from moving to Malibu. Malibu’s population remains under 13,000 despite having a large fraction of the beachfront of a county of 10 million people. (Don’t let me give the impression, however, that Malibuites are totally xenophobic. Reiner, for example, sometimes offers to lease his weekend home in Malibu for six figures per month. Outsiders are welcome in Malibu as long as they are the right sort of outsiders.)

This is not to say that residents of The Colony don’t have any diversity around making them sandwiches. It just means that at the end of their shifts, most of their illegal-alien servants get on the bus and go back to where they live (in Compton, forty miles away).

In contrast to the Brooks Theory that West Virginians deserve their hard times for their sin of not having lots of immigrants, the Sailer Theory is that there isn’t much money to be made these days living on a dirt road in West Virginia, so immigrants stay away.

My rationale also explains, while Brooks’ doesn’t, why the leading economic engine of Southern California, the entertainment industry, is so much whiter than the overall population. Sure, Hollywood lets in a few talented Mexican-born elites, such as Oscar front-runner Guillermo del Toro, a Person of Pallor whose father was an industrialist.

Yet, even though Los Angeles County is home to 4.9 million Hispanics, remarkably few work in entertainment, whether in creative or even in craft jobs. When The New York Times recently ran an article calling attention to how few Latino movie stars win Oscars, it could find only three from this century, two of whom (Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem) are married Spaniards.

Similarly, Silicon Valley in Northern California has remarkably few Hispanics in important roles. For example, here is a list of the twenty most important Hispanics in the technology business, none of whom I have ever heard of. I was initially impressed to find out that the president of MIT was born in Venezuela, but then it turns out that at home in Maracaibo his parents spoke Yiddish.

The only important Mexican-American in Silicon Valley history whom I can recall was Hector Ruiz, the CEO of chipmaker AMD, which usually played the Washington Generals to Intel’s Harlem Globetrotters. He had the misfortune of having his mistress sell his pillow-talk secrets for insider trading purposes.

Similarly, Brooks argues that places without enough immigrants, such as Ohio and Kentucky, are full of heroin addicts. But according to reporter Sam Quinones’ award-winning book on the opioid epidemic in that region, Dreamland, Mexican immigrants are their prime heroin pushers.

If you’ve actually studied recent economic trends, you’ll note that many of the depressed areas of the country are among the most diverse. For example, in California, the housing crash of a decade ago barely stressed white Malibu, while it hit hard the much more less white High Desert and the Inland Empire. Indeed, the housing bubble that wiped out the economy in 2008 was focused upon the immigrant-attractive Sand States of California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida.

A recent academic study, “Immigrants and Mortgage Delinquency” by Zhenguo Lin, Yingchun Liu, and Jia Xie, found that in the crucial year 2009 Brooks’ dynamic, morally superior immigrants defaulted 3.6 times as often on their mortgages as us deplorable natives. American elites, such as George W. Bush and financier Angelo Mozilo, simply trusted immigrants too much. And judging by the effusions over the past week about how immigrants deserve this country more than Americans do, they almost certainly still do.

Yet Brooks’ assumptions about which parts of the country have been prospering aren’t even prima facie true. In this century, for instance, North Carolina, home to a huge influx of Latinos and blacks, has been economically depressed, while North Dakota has prospered.

This is a general pattern inadvertently found by Stanford economist Raj Chetty’s 2015 study of which have been the economically best and worst counties in the country for working-class people in which to raise their children.

The heroin belt is centered on the more industrial eastern half of the country that was hollowed out by outsourcing factories to China. For example, Charlotte, N.C., was Chetty’s worst big metro area in which to raise kids in part because North Carolina’s furniture industry was crushed by China.

In contrast, the underpopulated northern Great Plains, home to few immigrants due to their remote locations and bitter winters, prospered extravagantly in Chetty’s research, largely because the long China boom drove up the value of food and energy. These states have few people per acre, so they have more resources per person.

Brooks’ idea that the reason Hollywood and Silicon Valley are so rich is because they have embraced the Latino immigrants who empty their wastebaskets is reminiscent of Richard Florida’s once-popular theory that Palo Alto’s Sand Hill Road was prospering because there were a lot of gays on San Francisco’s Castro Street only 33 miles away.

Florida got hired by the city fathers of many third-tier burghs such as Spokane to lecture them at up to $35,000 per speech on how they could become the new Silicon Valley by luring more gays to town with gay pride parades and the like.

In contrast, my 2002 explanation of why rich places tended to have a lot of gay men around was much less popular than Florida’s: I argued that rather than wealth being attracted to gays, gays were attracted to wealth.

For example, when I arrived at Rice U. in Houston in 1976, I was informed that Houston now had the fourth-biggest gay population in the country. Was it because Houston had very recently become much more gay-friendly? Not really. The more direct cause was that OPEC raised the price of oil in 1973, vastly boosting the profits of Houston’s energy companies. The new spending power of oilmen’s wives brought many gay men to Houston to sell these ladies fancier products and services than they could previously afford.

So if the Spokane chamber of commerce wanted to prosper like Houston did in the 1970s, all they’d have to do is benefit from a world-historical international conspiracy to drive up the price of whatever it is they do in Spokane. (Grow potatoes? Apples?)

Interestingly, Dr. Florida recently recanted his famous theory, although I haven’t heard that he’s turning his old speaking fees over to the guy who got it right. But at least some people learn from their mistakes, unlike David Brooks.

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