If you've read or heard anything about immigration today, it probably had to do with a just-released Heritage Foundation report claiming that immigration reform will cost America eleventy bazillion dollars, or as the enormous headline on their web site screams, "The COST of Amnesty TO YOU." If you're interested in a point-by-point analysis of why the assumptions and omissions in the report skew things so absurdly, you can read Dylan Matthews or Alex Nowrasteh, but you have to hand it to Heritage: despite the questionable quality of the work and its obvious intent to scuttle immigration reform, they've gotten a tremendous amount of attention for it.
That's partly a result of good timing (nobody else had attempted to put a dollar figure on reform, so they were the first), and partly due to what I'm sure is a large and skilled communication staff. The way these things work is that your policy people write the report, then your communication people work the phones and email to get reporters to write stories about it, bloggers to blog about it, and members of Congress who find its conclusions pleasing to talk about it when they give floor speeches or go on TV. Most think-tank reports fall like drops of rain on the ocean, little noticed by all but a small circle of people intensely interested in whatever the topic is; this is one of those rare ones that gets much more attention. The Heritage communication department is no doubt pretty pleased with the job they did.
But the topic—what kinds of financial costs are associated with immigration reform—is something that no one on either side actually cares about, not really. Because money isn't anyone's primary consideration.
There are few things that irritate Republicans more than the fact that Barack Obama went through an entire term with nothing but minor scandals to tie him down. No Watergate, no Iran-Contra, no Lewinsky, not even a little Valerie Plame. It wasn't that the GOP didn't try to create one, though. There was "Fast and Furious," in which the administration supposedly let Mexican drug gangs get all kinds of weapons from the U.S. on purpose, so that when it was revealed it could be used as an excuse to take away everybody's guns. Despite the Republicans' best efforts, the conspiracy theory didn't pan out. There was Solyndra, in which the administration supposedly knowingly squandered taxpayer money on a bunch of their cronies using a technology destined to fail.
There's even more exciting gun news today, coming from a small non-profit organization called Defense Distributed. They announced that they have successfully test-fired a gun made almost entirely in a 3-D printer. The only part that wasn't 3-D printed was the firing pin. And the bullet, of course. Now previously, people had made gun components in 3-D printers, but prior tests of entire weapons had been unsuccessful. This raises some rather troubling questions, which we'll get to in a moment. But first, here's their short video, which shows the firing and construction of the gun, inexplicably interspersed with shots of World War II-era bombers:
I have a piece going up later today over at CNN.com on the NRA convention, but there was something I raised there that I wanted to elaborate on. If you look at the list of Republican politicians who spoke to the assembled firearm enthusiasts, it wasn't exactly the A-team. Last year Mitt Romney showed up, but this year they had failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum, failed presidential candidate Rick Perry, universally disliked freshman senator Ted Cruz, currently unpopular Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and former half-term governor and current punch line Sarah Palin. Every one of them would like to be president one day, but the only one with even the ghost of a chance is Jindal.
And what do they have in common? Some are has-beens, some have reached the pinnacle of their careers even if they don't know it yet, but what distinguishes them isn't just that they're very, very conservative. It's that—like the NRA itself—they're obviously convinced that they actually represent the majority of the American public, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.