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NY Mayor Bloomberg: Fix immigration to boost economy

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg right former White House Chief Staff William Daley take part discussieconomics politics immigratiduring meeting

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, and former White House Chief of Staff William Daley take part in a discussion of economics and the politics of immigration during a meeting of The Chicago Economic Club Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

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Updated: May 3, 2013 12:15PM



‘America is committing economic suicide by failing to confront the issue of immigration reform,” says New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And he’s on a nationwide mission to force both presidential candidates to give specifics of how they will deal with the issue.

Bloomberg says that “opening the doors to all who want to come here and work” is a cost-free way to help the economy quickly, noting that immigration is “what built this country.”

Mayor Bloomberg and Bill Daley, former White House chief of staff, were interviewed by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell for an audience of Economic Club of Chicago members. The immigration reform topic was spurred by a new study from Partnership for a New American Economy (renewoureconomy.org), a bipartisan group of mayors and business leaders.

The study, “Open for Business,” notes that “from local neighborhood shops to America’s largest companies, immigrant business owners contribute more than $775 billion dollars in revenue to our annual Gross Domestic Product and employ one out of every 10 American workers at privately owned companies across the country.”

Immigration reform has become a hotbed political issue, pitting conservatives who want to defend our borders against liberals who want a clear path to citizenship for those who have come illegally, but worked and contributed to our economy.

Caught in the middle of the stalemate are the 11 million illegal immigrants already here — and the many who want to come to America legally to make their fortune.

Both Bloomberg and Bill Daley are in agreement that immigrants bring energy and spirit to America’s economy. “Every other growing country is encouraging immigration, paying people to come and open businesses,” said Bloomberg, referring to the legal immigration policies of Canada. “Those immigrants don’t come to go on welfare. They take risks and they work hard to make a better life for their children. . . . We can’t keep [our prosperity] by keeping others from getting it.”

Bloomberg is working hard to get both candidates to address the issue now — before the election — noting that both parties have a stake in resolving the issue. Business wants immigration reform because it needs to keep highly skilled workers. But Bloomberg also noted that crops are rotting in the ground for lack of a sensible migrant worker program. And universities are losing their best talent when immigrants get degrees but cannot get green cards to teach and do research here.

Resolving the issue of the current illegal immigrants will become even more of a political issue as large states, including Texas and Florida, are becoming minority majority states.

But Bloomberg says the media and the business community will have to push the issue to get politicians to address immigration, along with specifics on other important issues such as gun control, and education policy — along with specific plans for dealing with taxes and spending.

“We need one guy to break out and take the risk, and the others will follow,” he said.

One bold Bloomberg idea: The three-term independent mayor of New York advised President Barack Obama to show some leadership by letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for everyone, thus raising billions in new tax revenues. The president could then challenge the Republicans to do their part in coming to agreement on spending cuts.

Bloomberg noted that America’s personal income tax rates are not so high, and that the reason business is stalled is the uncertainty over future tax-and-spend policies. Resolving that uncertainty would drive economic growth.

Though both Bloomberg and Daley represent different political constituencies, both are statesmen. And there was one area of seemingly complete agreement: America must end this political stalemate and come up with creative solutions to deal with its problems. That will take pressure from the media and the voters — and it will take a demonstration of leadership from the presidential candidates.

Terry Savage is the Chicago Sun-Times’ nationally syndicated financial columnist, and a registered investment adviser. Post personal finance questions on her blog at TerrySavage.com and blogs.suntimes.com/savage.



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