Why Paul Krugman Never Talks About Fixing Our High-Skilled Immigration System

Paul Krugman

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At the Dealbook conference, there’s one idea that everyone seems to agree would be good for the economy: More-high skilled immigration.Jamie Dimon favours it. Blankfein favours it. Eric Schmidt favours It. Mike Moritz favours it. Marc Andreesen favours it.

Multiple times today we heard that a good policy move would be to “attach a green card to any high-tech PHD” or something like that.

Nobody can believe that we’re turning away smart tech-oriented people, and making them go home, at a time when tech companies complain about not being able to fill jobs.

What’s interesting about the high-skilled immigration idea (as an economic policy fix) is it’s a rare area where CEOs’ interests align with the preferred policies of liberal policy wonks. On their other proposals (lower taxes, changes to entitlements, and so forth) you don’t get much agreement.

But one prominent liberal policy wonk — Paul Krugman — never talks about high-skilled immigration. And people have been curious why.

We ran into Krugman here at the conference, while he was waiting for his big Q&A and asked him why this is.

His answer — which we’re paraphrasing — is it’s just not that much of a big deal right now.

In the long-term he supposes more would be a good thing, but since unemployment, he says, is not structural (i.e., not related to a skills gap), then high-skilled immigration doesn’t solve anything. And though theoretically he supports it, there’s just too many pressing short-term issues to fight over to get excited about it.

As an aside, in regards to today’s big Fed policy move, he thinks it’s good, but mostly expected, and that that explains the muted market reaction.

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