Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Citizenship for sale? Yahoo says yes, and endorses it (without looking closely at the Atlantic Yards deal)

Would you believe that the brief mention in a Wall Street Journal article about Forest City Ratner's plan to raise $249 million via immigrant investors inspired an Oct. 25 analysis (Citizenship For Sale?) by Daniel Gross, economics editor and columnist at Yahoo! Finance, that concluded that not only is the EB-5 program a good idea, but it should be vastly expanded.

In other words, superficial journalism by the Wall Street Journal is compounded by superficial journalism by Yahoo!

Job creation?

The program seems appealing on its face, so Gross can make a plausible case for it:
If it were fully utilized, the EB5 program would bring at least $7 billion annually and create or preserve 100,000 jobs per year. It's not much in the grand scheme of things -- there are currently about 130 million Americans with payroll jobs. But given the trauma inflicted upon American workers in the past three years, every little bit helps. And this is something the U.S. should be doing more of.

One cure for the vast overhang of excess housing would be to offer expedited citizenship to people willing to purchase vacant homes in places in like Las Vegas or Detroit.
The problem is that, with Atlantic Yards, the signal example Gross chooses (and touts on the video accompanying his piece), no new jobs would be created, the Empire State Development Corporation acknowledges, but Forest City Ratner could save perhaps $100 million over five years on $249 million in low- or no-cost financing.

Would they be "created" according to the federal government's loose regulations? That's what proponents say. Still, there are several reasons to be skeptical about the project, as I've written.

Green cards to cheap?

As with critics of the program like David North (of the Center for Immigration Studies), Gross suggests the green card comes cheap:
In fact, the investment-related green card should probably be priced higher. Here's a thought experiment: Ask how much you'd have to be paid to give up American citizenship for you and your family and assume that of a randomly chosen foreign country. Something tells me the bidding would start at a point much higher than $500,000.
It's actually a lot less than $500,000, as North pointed out. First, the sum applies to an entire family. Second, the money is not given up, merely parked in a low-interest or no-interest investment.

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