Lee Sherman of Mint cowardly gives in to illegal immigration supporters (Timothy Lee, Megan McArdle, Dave Weigel, Ezra Klein, Max Read)

Over the past couple of days, the illegal immigration-supporting establishment's junior league flexed their muscles, trying to get the site Mint dot com to delete a post giving statistics about the negative impacts of immigration. And, they won, with Mint editor Lee Sherman (also of Intuit) completely caving with what must be one of the most cowardly apologies ever. This is a very minor matter, but it's also an example of how illegal immigration supporters are able to win and of how most of their opposition is not capable or willing of challenging them.

You can read a summary of the issue here. The cowardly apology from Lee Sherman is at [1]. The post that appears to have kicked it all off is from Timothy Lee of the Cato Institute, guest-blogging for Megan McArdle (and, yes, she bears partial responsibility for leaving hacks like that with the keys to her blog) [2]. Max Read of Gawker links to the Lee post at [3]. Ezra Klein has his smears at [4]. His Washington Post colleague Dave Weigel's report (not as bad as the others, for what that's worth) is at [5].

I'd never heard of Mint before a couple days ago when I first saw their graphic (perhaps through Digg). I wasn't impressed for various reasons: it didn't cite who offered which statistic, some of the statistics seemed a bit off, and generally speaking arguing over immigration economics as it's currently done is fruitless. It's a bit surprising that the junior league would mount a smear campaign against a simple graphic rather than picking something a bit more important.

However, once again: this illustrates how things might happen in debates over amnesty: the junior league and the main illegal immigration-supporting establishment will mount campaigns of various kinds, and those on the other side will be mostly powerless to stop them because most of them don't know how or aren't willing to do things that are effective.

UPDATE: In his post, Timothy B. Lee says: "Another dubious claim is that undocumented immigrants cost Arizona taxpayers $2.7 billion, which would be roughly a quarter of Arizona's $10 billion budget." He links to this, which does confirm that figure. However, whether that figure is accurate is unclear. According to the Census Bureau (get the "2007 State & Local Government" Excel sheet here), state spending in 2007 alone was $28.8 billion, and combined state and local government spending in 2007 was $47.2 billion. See also the charts here and here for different figures, but all well above the $10 billion claimed by Lee. Needless to say, a $2.7 billion cost for illegal aliens sounds a lot more sensible when compared with spending of almost $50 billion (and, that spending might be over that amount because the 2.7 billion is spending in 2009; a report on the FAIR study is here). I'll try contacting the state to see if they can explain the discrepancy between Lee's figure and the ones that everyone else uses.

Also, this story, minor though it is, is an example of an immigration story "jumping". Normally stories like this are confined to those who follow politics, but Mint's audience appears to be the less politically-engaged knowledge worker and yuppie types. At the Atlantic link below, I was the first and about only person to point out that Lee works at the Cato Institute, and pointing out how Cato isn't a friend to American workers - including high-tech workers - might have been able to achieve a different outcome. I don't expect everyone to be everywhere at all times, but I was able to leave several comments on the Atlantic link as were some other pro-borders commenters. If more people had done that - and had gone after those like Weigel, Klein, and the rest - this minor issue might have turned out more favorable to American interests.

[1] Since mint.com/blog/updates/from-the-editor probably isn't a permalink, here it is in all its sniveling obsequious glory:

At MintLife, our mission is to give users and visitors the financial information they need to save and do more with their money. Topics range from personal finance advice, to analysis of macroeconomic trends and the fiscal impacts of news of the day. We publish content from a variety of contributors and sources, and the opinions expressed don’t necessarily reflect those of Mint.com or of Intuit.

It’s true that the tone is often provocative, seeking to engage readers in dialogue around important topics, but the recent blog post “The Economic Impact of Immigration” went too far, cited polarized sources and did not receive the editorial judgment and oversight it deserved.

We regret it. It is completely unacceptable and won’t happen again. Our intention was not to further the agenda of any of the sources from which data was pulled, and the post has been removed.

[2] theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/06/mintcom-cites-racist-website-in-anti-immigrant-post/58345/
[3] gawker.com/5566759/why-is-mintcom-citing-a-racist-website-in-an-immigration-blog-post
[4] voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/06/mintcoms_anti-immigrant_agenda.html
[5] voices.washingtonpost.com/right-now/2010/06/an_immigration_restrictionist.html