I think ^(link) therefore I err

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Protests in the Air

Tim Blair takes a look at the rebellion of French youths. Favorite headline of the year so far was from Drudge.
French anarchists riot for job security. LOL

In the meantime, here in the US of A people were out en mass protesting a bill that would make illegal immigration a felony. 500,000 in LA the land of prop 187. The California Conservative has a nice rundown of many of the issues. Including a link that notes
Furthermore, a 2005 Pew Hispanic Center report says most immigrants from Mexico had jobs at home, but came to the United States for higher-paid work. Mas dinero is the name of the game.

These people coming to the United States each have their own story and reasons. However, the excuse that we need their labor in the great magnitude of illegal immigration is simply not true. This nation's grocery stores sell "pre-cut" potatoes and "pre-bagged/pre-washed" lettuce because distributors are finding that food is so cheap people will pay the extra for these value added services.

Instead of doing that, perhaps we should be paying American wages or even union type wages to farm workers. The law of supply and demand, demands it. With the guest worker program of Bush's, essentially if an employer can't find a worker here, then he/she gets to import one. How about if an employer can't find a worker here at 10% above his/her original asking price, then you get to import one. This would work, en mass. However, it would create a problem for that one emplyer if the borders are still open. Other employers, their neighbors, will potentially continue to hire illegally. It's a crap shoot. Until those borders closed to illegals nothing is going to work.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is the inherent racism in all of these arguments. What the heck is so wrong with Mexico that they can't fix their own economy and get their average wages up to $9/hr? They've had years and years to work on this and I don't believe I've seen any "try" out of the government there. Just outrage anytime border issues come up.
Robert Samualson in the Washington Post says basically all of this. I like it when people agree with me.

It's a myth that the U.S. economy "needs" more poor immigrants. The illegal immigrants already here represent only about 4.9 percent of the labor force, the Pew Hispanic Center reports. In no major occupation are they a majority. They're 36 percent of insulation workers, 28 percent of drywall installers and 20 percent of cooks. They're drawn here by wage differences, not labor "shortages." In 2004, the median hourly wage in Mexico was $1.86, compared with $9 for Mexicans working in the United States, said Rakesh Kochhar of Pew. With high labor turnover in the jobs they take, most new illegal immigrants can get work by accepting wages slightly below prevailing levels.

Hardly anyone thinks that most illegal immigrants will leave. But what would happen if new illegal immigration stopped and wasn't replaced by guest workers? Well, some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers. Facing greater labor costs, some industries would -- like the tomato growers in the 1960s -- find ways to minimize those costs. As to the rest, what's wrong with higher wages for the poorest workers? From 1994 to 2004, the wages of high school dropouts rose only 2.3 percent (after inflation) compared with 11.9 percent for college graduates.

President Bush says his guest worker program would "match willing foreign workers with willing American employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs." But at some higher wage, there would be willing Americans. The number of native high school dropouts with jobs declined by 1.3 million from 2000 to 2005, estimates Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors less immigration. Some lost jobs to immigrants. Unemployment remains high for some groups (9.3 percent for African Americans, 12.7 percent for white teenagers).

Business organizations understandably support guest worker programs. They like cheap labor and ignore the social consequences. What's more perplexing is why liberals, staunch opponents of poverty and inequality, support a program that worsens poverty and inequality. Poor immigrant workers hurt the wages of unskilled Americans. The only question is how much. Studies suggest a range "from negligible to an earnings reduction of almost 10 percent," according to the CBO.

PS: On a more personal note. I am not a bigot. (though I don't have a card or certification or anything that says so!) I am a middle aged, middle income, middle America, white, protestant woman. 6 years ago I was head over heels for an illegal immigrant. While we disgreed on his status - he was here just looking for better wages and I thought he should have crossed legally, he was great fun to be around. It was never going to last but it definitely ended on 911. He always thought that Americans were dupes and his callousness on that day turned my stomach. His friends did not all agree and were very sympathetic. I haven't seen/heard from him since. So - while "none of my best friends are hispanic" - it's only because of who I've met over the last years and not because I don't like them.