How To Fund Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Using Immigration
Recently, President Biden unveiled a $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan to fix roads and bridges, while boosting research and tackling climate change. Calling it a “once-in-a-generation investment in America,” he introduced the plan to address the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and to heal America’s economy from the bottom up. More recently, Biden specified how he would raise the money through higher corporate taxation. But could there be a better more creative way?
How Much Is That?
If you are anything like me, you’re not entirely sure just how many zeros there are in a trillion. I had to look it up, and it’s 12 zeros. In other words, President Biden’s infrastructure proposal would cost exactly $ 2,300,000,000,000. It has been estimated that $1 trillion worth of one dollar bills stacked one on top of the other would measure 109,220 kilometres. Put another way, if you stacked up all the dollars in President Biden’s plan one on top of another, they would reach half way to the moon. That’s a lot of money. While Biden has set out his corporate tax proposal as a way to fund it, he has indicated he is open to suggestions on this theme.
Raising Taxes Has Been Proposed
It seems to me there are basically three ways America could pay for President Biden’s plan. The first way is to raise taxes. Biden argues that for those taxpayers making less than $ 400,000 per year there would be no tax increase. Instead he has proposed to raise taxes on large corporations and high net worth individuals. It is clear that Republicans want none of that and will fight tooth and nail to oppose the plan. Let’s face it, rich people and big corporations just don’t want to pay for this proposed program. With the Democratic majority in both Houses, Biden may be able to shove the plan down their throats. Or he may not. That drama will play out in the weeks ahead. But let’s keep an open mind about this.
A Second Alternative
A second alternative would be to go further in debt, increasing the federal debt from its current $ 21 trillion to $ 23 trillion. This would be like drawing down even more debt on a federal credit card that has long ago already exceeded its limit. So far, with interest rates at record lows, going into debt has been workable. The challenge there is the day when holders of American dollars lose confidence in them. That’s when interest rates will start rising and the federal debt will become unmanageable. Until then though, just printing more money could work. This would be the lazy way out of the challenge, seemingly the least painful way immediately, but likely to cause a terrible hangover down the road.
But there is a third way. And this fits with the already mentioned Biden’s willingness to consider alternatives.
Paying For Infrastructure Repairs Using Immigration
The third way would be to adapt an investor immigration program to pay for at least some of the infrastructure plan. The current U.S. EB-5 investor immigration regional center program includes a component in which foreign investors invest $ 900,000 for a period of five years on a project approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Each application must create at least 10 new jobs and enables such an investor and his or her family to immigrate to the United States permanently. Out of about one million applicants who immigrate to the United States each year, current allowances allocate only 10,000 slots to such foreign investors and their family members. However, it would not be hard to imagine how this program could be altered to help pay for Biden’s plan over a period of time. That would mean we would get the same result Biden proposes, without it costing Americans as much since the cost would be paid by new foreign investment brought into the country.
Suppose, for example, we agreed to increase the number of investor-related visas coming into the United States per year from the current 10,000, to say 100,000. Assuming each family on average has four persons, that would mean there would be 25,000 investors coming into the country under such a scenario. If each investor invested $ 900,000 and created 10 new jobs as required under the EB-5 program, that would mean the EB-5 program could generate $ 22.5 billion in revenues and 250,000 new jobs per year.
To be more exact, Biden’s plan calls for over $ 2 trillion in investment to be spent and paid for over 15 years. Using that as a measuring stick and assuming the $ 900,000 per investor would remain the same under the USCIS program, it would mean we would aim to attract some 375,000 investors to the United States over 15 years and earn just under $ 340 billion. However, if you spread this effort out over say a 40-year time frame, such an effort would exceed $ 1 trillion in investments.
Long Term Thinking
There are about 15 million millionaires in the world today outside of North America. This plan would call on attracting less than 10% of them to America over the next 40 years. That may not be easy, but maybe it could be done. The key thing is that such a program would generate 10 million new jobs for Americans. Assuming such a program was ongoing, the amounts invested would be repaid with ongoing investment over time. Further, this doesn’t even consider what other investments each such family would make in America as they buy houses, send kids to schools and spend money on consumer goods.
Maybe these assumptions about the EB-5 program are too unrealistic or miss the mark in some way. Even so, they do illustrate how the EB-5 program could help defray at least some of the costs of Biden’s proposal if used in combination with other ways of funding it. By tinkering with the various options available, a package may be created that will impose less of a burden on U.S. taxpayers and spur the economic recovery at the same time. It is worthwhile to consider these alternatives in this context.
Published: 8 April 2021