One important thing to keep in mind is that Trickle-Down America is, overall, characterized by more stringent land-use limits than Stagnant America. These limits have raised housing costs in affluent coastal regions, which has redounded to the benefit of incumbent homeowners. Yet high housing costs have deterred inward domestic migration while driving out large numbers of working-and middle-class residents.
At the same time, these regions have been a magnet for international migrants, many of whom find themselves living in dangerously crowded conditions. In effect, one could say that Trickle-Down America has been swapping out one working class, consisting of established Americans with voting rights, who’ve come to expect a rising standard of living, with another, increasingly dominated by newcomers. Openness to immigration is Exhibit A in the case for Trickle-Down America’s moral superiority, so it’s worth a careful examination.
The great appeal of newcomers as workers is that they often have somewhat lower expectations when it comes to their living conditions and terms of employment. This is especially true of low-skill immigrants, who greatly increase their incomes by moving to the U.S., even when they find themselves at the bottom of the U.S. household income distribution. Yet the political influence of the newcomer working class is muted as compared to the established working class, as low-income immigrants tend to naturalize at low levels, in part because many are so poor that the cost of naturalization is daunting, and naturalized citizens vote at lower rates than the native-born. Needless to say, unauthorized immigrants have even less influence. The relative powerlessness of Trickle-Down America’s foreign-born workers is a big part of what’s made its cosmopolitan cities so attractive to high-skill professionals. Because low-skill immigrant workers are willing to work for such low wages, they lower the cost to skilled professionals of outsourcing various household tasks, and so they make it easier for these skilled professionals to work longer hours.
So there’s no small irony in the fact that Clinton campaigned on granting legal status to the unauthorized-immigrant population and raising the minimum wage. Both policies would surely yield benefits. However, under a higher wage floor, many employers will choose to rely on a smaller number of more skilled workers augmented by machines rather than a larger number of low-skill workers, and the disemployment effect of higher minimum wages would be particularly pronounced for low-skill immigrants. In a similar vein, Clinton called for higher taxes on capital income, which would have hit affluent professionals hardest; protectionist measures that might have cut against the interests of U.S. multinationals; and policies that would have had the effect of increasing transfers from Trickle-Down America to Stagnant America. It’s not unreasonable to surmise that her agenda would have undermined the sources of Trickle-Down America’s dynamism. Indeed, it’s easy to imagine that a Clinton presidency would have seen a deepening of Trickle-Down America’s divides as the interests of its high-income and low-income residents diverged.