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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Passing And Failing The Same Test

Robert J. Samuelson both passes, and fails, the immigration test in his Op/Ed piece today, "Build a Fence -- And Amnesty". I wrote about the fence idea in November, in "Good Fences Make Good Neighbors", along with the rest of my ideas on immigration reform.

Samuelson's piece today agrees with me on the fence, but disagrees on the idea of amnesty for illegals already in the country. As he points out, the short (10 mile) fence near San Diego has dropped trafficking of illegals by around 95% in that area, showing a fence can work.

He's also right with me on better documentation and law enforcement against employers using illegal workers in this country. DHS has been lack in the enforcement area, and needs to get better. Sure, we've increased the number of physical agents at the border, but to do law enforcement against employers requires agents elsewhere. Of course that would mean moving resources from some other area to such enforcement, which Congress has been VERY lax in funding and allowing.

Don't expect that to change anytime soon, with the ports fiasco going on, they'll suddenly start shoveling money that way because it's in the news, and the land based borders, and related law enforcement will continue to suffer.

Where we diverge is on two points, economics and amnesty. Economically, he points out that


"A Texas roofing contractor testified to Congress that he couldn't get enough roofers at $9 an hour. Okay, increase it to $10 or $12. Higher wages will bring forth more workers."
Which might be right in an economy with a surplus of workers. However, we don't have one. Read any good economic text book and you find that 5-6% unemployment is considered "full employment". That is the point at which you get to only folks who don't want to work or can't not having jobs. Right now nationwide our unemployment rate is in the 4.7-4.9% range, better than full. Some regions it's higher, others, such as Northern Virginia, it's much lower, 2.7%, meaning we are having to get workers from other places to do jobs here.

(Added at 10pm) According to the Houston Chronicle, 4.9% of current US employees are illegal aliens. If that is true, and we kicked them all out, with a 4.7% unemployment rate we again, come up short of workers to fill the jobs.

He also lumps roofing contractors in with big corporations "These business groups seem unperturbed by extravagant increases in chief executives' pay." I'm guessing he didn't talk to many roofing contractors before he wrote the editorial, or he'd know most aren't huge operations, but smaller family owned businesses.

Yes, each metro area has one or two huge roofers, but by and large the industry is driven by smaller operations with very few employees, enough to work just a few jobs at a time. Those owners aren't fat cat CEO's.

That means that small owner would have to either pass the cost of the wage increase along to customers, or probably take it out of his own pocket, which isn't as deep as Robert seems to think.

The other thing we disagree on is amnesty. I don't believe it should be offered unless there is a hugely compelling reason, on an individual basis. Instead, a regulated guest worker program needs to be in place, and those not part of it need to be show the gate in that fence he'd like.

A lot of my conservative bretheren hate the idea even of a guest worker program. On that line they fail the same economic and employment knowledge test as Mr. Samuelson. All you have to do is some simple math to see that our unemployed workforce of about 8 million isn't big enough to replace the illegal immigrant labor pool of 11-13 million. Even if 25% of illegals aren't working it wouldn't be enough.

Even if it was, the jobs that immigrants are filling aren't generally the type that are going to cause folks to migrate from the rust belt areas of high unemployment like Michigan to Northern Virginia or Florida, where the rates are much lower. Immigrants are much more willing to do such things, because even though by our standards the jobs are bad, and the required standard of living is horrible, they are an improvement over what they have south of the border.

If you don't believe me find a chronically unemployed friend. Ask them if, for $7-$10 per hour they'd be willing to share a house or apartment with two or three families to work as a day laborer. My guess is most are going to say no.

That's my rant for this morning.

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21Comments:

Blogger Lone Pony said...

Bob, what would be one example of a "hugely compelling reason for amnesty?" I'm watching this closely because some of my students and their parents are here illegally.

5:17 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Good post CP. I think that we should crack down on illegals, but actually the fat cat CEO's want the status quo. In Michigan, who else will pick the cherry and bean crops? At 3.50 an hour, they can't legally hire an American. If you want to come to the US, great. Just do it leaglly. Fill out the forms and wait your turn.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

You know LP, I'm not sure what the compelling reason would be. I'm sure those with citizen children would have to be allowed to stay. After that, I'm not positive. Medical issues in the family?

Tim, I don't think you'll actually find a ton of companies with "fat cat CEO's" using a lot of illegal labor. It does happen, but it's more the exception than the rule. Mostly in the corporate farming industry

More likely you'll find independent contractors, and smaller businesses using them.

You're dead on with the cost thing. Everyone wants folks to get a living wage, they just don't want to pay the inflated prices it would bring in many industries.

6:30 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

Would I work for that little and share a place with a couple of families? That is a good question. $7 an hour would be tough but if had to I could survive on $10 an hour, but it wouldn't be pretty. Some jobs are still labor intensive so that good pay is impossible if the item is to sell at a profitable price.

7:28 PM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

Coupla things...

Does anybody posting here work in an industry saturated with illegals? I'm a chef who has seen this problem grow in the industry rendering most jobs unfit for Americans.

Here's the key though, Americans did all these jobs at one point and would again, I guarantee it. Yes, wages would rise, but when these jobs were filled with Americans twenty years ago it didn't cost you $10 for a hamburger or a billion dollars to build a home. In fact Bob back when I liked Wal-mart for emphasizing American products their prices were still reasonable.

So what happened between then and now?

We got addicted to cheap slave labor. Dress it up as you will, that's what happened and that's what the unenforcable guest worker program will provide more of.

If you're okay with that, let's at least be honest about what we want. A permanent underclass to undercut wages and do our scut work. That ain't my vision for America, maybe it's yours though.

8:20 PM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

Oh, one other thought. If a business truly depends on illegals why don't we question the validity of the business plan?

In other words, I'm perfectly okay with any business failing if they must depend on illegals, I don't believe any business truly does, but that is the current argument.

If you can't or won't provide a living wage, maybe you shouldn't be in business in the first place, and I've been a part of starting several and this was always a critical point for me.

8:24 PM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

Sorry man, don't mean to flog a dead horse but there's so much innacuracy here.

Actually when you say the jobs available aren't the sort people would move for, again, they used to be and were then decimated by illegals.

One example, read up on the history of IBP packing. Meatpacking was a solid blue collar job, handed down from generation to generation until IBP and unfortunately Ronald Reagan destroyed the industry.

Meatpackers used to make $18 an hour, again, you didn't pay a million dollars for a steak, the ONLY effect of higher wages is slightly less profit. At least this was true at every business I've run and did the books for, perhaps they were the exception though. Yeah, that's the ticket!

8:29 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Jake, you not only beat the horse, you skinned him, and sent him to IBP for processing.

I'll just say do the math. According to the Houston Chronicle:
Of the total, 7.2 million were employed in March 2005, making up about 4.9 percent of the civilian labor force.

Now, since only 4.7% of the legal US labor force is unemployed, where do we come up with the other .2% of workers to fill the jobs?

Secondly, how does anyone start a new business if there aren't any workers available?

Sure, the utopian 0 immigrant thing might sound appealing, but it's not possible. Well, it is, we could be come socialists and decide who gets to do what job.

9:14 PM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

That's a conflation Bob, but it was an awfully nice try.

I never said 0 immigration, you did, and it's an argument I expect from the pro-illegal assholes not yourself.

The subject, as I recall was illegals. Perhaps we need a lot of immigrants, perhaps we don't. I trust government figures about as far as they'll burn and provide warmth.

Shall I run over to CIS, NumbersUSA or FAIR and trot out numbers saying we don't need single immigrant. I'm not even going to suggest their right, what I am suggesting is that we don't know, and until we do, and until we can get some sort of handle on what is at best an out of control situation. I personally would cease all immigration for five years.

You don't fix a faucet without turning off the main. President Bush wishes to start a guest worker program that has been acknowled there will be zero, let me repeat mysef in case you were snoozing. ZERO controls over.

I think that's an insult to anyone who purports to love this country.

Illegals account for ninety five percent of all murder warrants in LA, Tuberculosis is on the rise, and our educational and health systems are being overwhelmed by this uncontrolled flood and your response is "who will flip the burgers?"

If you want to have this debate may I suggest reading at least one book on the subject?

Just curious, do you know the history of IBP? and do you approve of how they prospered?

If you never have, read Roy Beck's the case against immigration, he has a whole chapter that details their creation. As a blue collar guy who is having a hell of a time finding work due to illegals I would be curious to hear your take.

And I can vouch for Beck's accuracy, I'm just old enough to have met some of the guys displaced from those jobs by your beloved illegals.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Beck is probably a bad example if you are trying to make the point that legal immigration should be allowed, as he seems to be against any immigration.

I believe, Jake, that if we tried the 0 immigration for five years we'd discover in short order how much the US depends on other countries.

It wouldn't be just immigration effected, that's not how the real world works. Issues are interrelated, and by poking at one thing, you end up causing a yelp somewhere else.

For instance, are you willing to pay higher natural gas and oil prices if Mexico decided that was where they wanted to retaliate for such a program?

Or What of the Central and South American countries were to decide to retailate by not exporting produce here during the winter months?

It's called the law of unintended consequences, and unfortunately American's have generally failed the BAR exam on that law. We tend to look at things in a very myopic way, thinking each issue is separte, and being surprised when they aren't.

4:08 AM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

With all due respect CP, I feel your making the nativist argument without employing that word. Have you read Beck's book?

That isn't his point at all, though yes he does favor large reductions, he doesn't advocate no immigration anymmore than I do. He and I merely advocate taking control back, what is your problem with that exactly?

It's funny CP, I keep asking you very specific questions that you don't answer, which I find fairly typical of debate on this emotional issue. So here's another.

Have you ever been in direct competition for a job with an illegal immigrant?

And I reiterate, do you approve of how IBP acheived their dominance in the industry?

I find the argument of retaliation specious. Yes we should be aware of the consequence of our actions, however, let's just postulate that overwhelming immigration is a bad thing, must we continue this trend so we can have cheap gas?

Again, doesn't quite click for me.

2:18 PM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

One other thought I had overnight. When you argue that who would choose to live ten to an apartment, is that your vision for America?

Do you really advocate this pursuit of third worldness for Americans?

I think businesses are addicted to overly cheap labor and like any junkie they will scream and yell and yes, lie to have access to their drug of choice.

Show me how I'm wrong.

And let me reiterate one thing. I'm a blue collar guy, this isn't hypothetical for me, the business I've labored in for almost thirty years has shifted away from hiring Americans to hiring illegals, so are you really advocating tough shit for Jake and any other American who's seeing their business evaporate in favor of illegals?

2:24 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

My disagreement with the guest worker/amnesty program is that the Administration and the Senate want to enact this "guest worker" program without securing the borders. Once the guest worker program is in the works the illegals will flood the borders even more than today. There will be no limits on social entitlements, schools, hospitals. Plus, just who is going to administer this guest worker program. Good grief, currently it takes 5-10 years for DHS to process an alien to legally stay in the U.S. The Fed's can't even administrate Social Security without huge fraud. This would be a new program so we wait another 10 years for the Feds to come up some useless inefficient system and all the while there's no stopping the damn at the border. Just catch and release no matter if they have no right to be driving on the road, DUI's, other crimes. Personally, I'm fed up with both parties on this issue. I resent the implication that I'm anti-immigrant and think anyone throwing around the pejorative terms like racism, or xenophobia is acting like the foolish left.

4:21 PM  
Blogger ablur said...

Since illegals send 60% of their earnings back to their home countries, this loss of spendable income in America further depletes us.
Since we are obligated to teach their children while they are here(at a cost of $10,000 per child and more). We are paying for this
Since accidents and medical needs come up for everyone eventually our hospitals are being over run. These inflate our medical costs and drive up our insurance costs, once again we are paying.

If you were to honestly look at the real cost of Cheap illegal labor you will find it far cheaper to hire legal citizens at greater wages. The end result would not raise the cost of goods sold.

As for the labor question. High Schoolers and college kids used to be able to work. That is rare anymore. Homeless and destitute might actually gain hope. Work crews and laborers from prison would come back and America would flourish.

Let's fix the problem by getting rid of the source. Stop illegals and close the borders.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Jake, No, I haven't read his book. However, because you keep mentioning him, I did read up on him last night. I found a bunch of different places to read his excerpts and writings. And, contrary to your constant asseration, he makes little if any distinction in any of them between legal and illegal immigrants.

On your other questions, no I haven't competed with immigrants for jobs. Why? Because other than dishwasher in high school my jobs have always required security clearances.

Do I wish to see America with 3 families in apartments? No, but you are missing the point. American's aren't willing to live like that and take crappy jobs. They'd rather live in section 8 housing, and collect welfare. To us, it's demeaning and a horrible thought.

To the immigrants (legal and illegal) who do it it's still a vast improvement from where they came from. Visit Ecuador, Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica, you find that our worst housing with 3 families is better than those who migrate can ever hope for in their home countries. Add to that the chance that they can get ahead here, which they can't do at home.

Ablur, read my posts, I don't want illegals here either. Regulated guest workers would be required to pay taxes, and help cover those costs that tax payers incur for illegals.

As for "high schoolers and college kids", I think your theory is bunk. there is plenty of work for them, it's a matter of whether they chose to take it.

Toni- I don't necessarily agree with the legislation being worked on right now either. And watching Dick Durbin try to get the word "illegal" removed from it bugs me to no end.

However, we need to do something. The "Close the doors" theory is nice, until the retaliation from abroad starts. Then suddenly we'll be pissed again.

7:48 AM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

No actually I think you miss the point sir. Those jobs were good jobs until both out of control legal immigration AND out of control illegal immigration was foisted on the American people.

Your observation about Beck is valid, but I find it telling that you dismiss it out of hand without reading the book.

Oh, and I could give a rat's ass about retaliation from abroad. I called this position cowardice on my blog and I'll say it here. That is a ridiculous position at best.

I'll ask you again, are you familiar with how IBP came to dominate the meatpacking industry? Do you approve? And I would remind you that was accomplished with "legal" immigration, at first anyway. Take a minute and read up on that, pal, and if you think what they did was ethical I will forthwith remove you from my blogroll.

I'll say it again, as a blue collar guy I find it astounding how casually you write off these jobs assuming some sort of natural market process is in play when nothing could be further form the truth. It was an all out assault on the American blue collar worker, and as far as I can tell one you approve of.

And as to your assertion that there are plenty of jobs for kids. Do you really believe that's the case in the city? I assure you it isn't. I too have lived all over this country, I don't know what you base that assertion on sir, but it ain't reality.

With all due respect, I'm a little tired of white collar asshats explaining to me that I should be pleased as punch that the last several administrations have been selling out the American worker, of which I'm proudly one, and that I'll "just have to retrain" for the jobs of the future. I'm already highly trained, but illegals have stolen all the jobs in my field, aren't I lucky!

1:20 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Jake, IBP (Which has been Tyson Fresh Meat for years) cut out the middle man, that's how they took over a big share of the industry.
By eliminating meat wholesalers and doing full scale butchering at the plant, instead of cutting quarters and shipping them.

Now, I don't agree with many of their labor practices, but their business model is brilliant. Anytime you can cut your supply chain in half as the end resaler, and your price, you are a moron not to do it.

There are two versions of "how" one is what you are espousing, they imported a bunch of cheap labor.

The other, is from a group called REAP. There take is that the UFCW union & Teamsters, being weak and corruption ridden allowed wages and working conditions to slide by not holding the employers to the fire. Reap is made up of former IBP, and other packers employees, both US and immigrants.

There are a lot of questions on how many of the federal laws passed between 1918 and 1921 to prevent "cattle baroning" were violated in the consolidation of the industry, but that had nothing to do with who's cutting the meat.

As for my assertation that kids can find jobs, I spent 4 years doing volunteer work at a high school, with a group of around 250-300 kids in a town of 20,000. All of the kids that wanted to work had jobs, which was about 70% since many helped support their families.

5:51 AM  
Blogger jakejacobsen said...

Okay, well your half right. IBP did not innovate the delivery methods. In fact that happened about thirty years earlier. Which is why Chicago is no longer the hog butcher to the world. All IBP did was break the union (a corrupt and nasty union to be sure) and send wages rocketing downwards. From a high of $18-20 an hour to somewhere around five dollars an hour currently.

I would agree that unions, though they served a vital function seemed to be particularly susceptible to fraud and malfeasance, I don't think that's exactly what we're talking about here.

And as to the town of twenty thousand, how was the illegal situation there?

3:22 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

CP - I said nothing about closing the borders. I spoke of closing the sieve against illegals. I made no mention of legal immigrants. I have no issue with legal immigrants, well practically no issue. I do have issues with legal immigrants who are allowed to consume government entitlements. I don't see why we would allow legal immigrants who are not capable of supporting themselves.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Toni, I apologize, I misread your comment about the guest worker program.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Toni said...

Okay. Apologized taken. :)

8:31 PM  

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