Thursday, April 06, 2006

Blame Pedro First...

Time for a dose of reality.

You know all those menial labor jobs we lazy Americans don't want to do?

Guess what! It's not that we don't want to do them, it's that we want paid a fair wage for doing them. We aren't competing for those jobs because we can't compete for those jobs against people who do those jobs for slave-labor wages paid under the table or worse, who aren't holding jobs, but are themselves held in debt bondage (also known as "indentured servitude" or "slavery.")

Available on CafePressIt is estimated, by some sources, that on average, an illegal Latino immigrant (the only group of illegal immigrants anyone seems aware of, but FAR from the only group) who's been in the country less than 10 years, earns an average of just 38% of what an American worker would earn. It's actually even less than that when you factor in the burden rate an employer avoids by illegally paying "undocumented wages."

The fact is, American citizens are better off going on welfare and spending those 40+ hours each week with their families than breaking their backs working for the wages some illegal immigrants are working for. It's not that the manual labor segment of the working (or should-be-working) class doesn't want to work, it's that the incentive to work, which wasn't necessarily all that great to begin with in the manual/menial labor sectors, has been stripped away by employers who, more than a century after the abolition of slavery, are still arguing that the U.S. economy can't survive without slaves. Except for some of the gang at Enron, who had absolutely no problem saying it straight out, these employers have adopted more politically correct language, they call it "cheap labor," but it's the same old argument.

Suddenly, the nation is all abuzz about the problem of illegal immigration and how to solve it. There are several proposed solutions, both from politicians and from regular, everyday citizens. Let's examine a few of these bright ideas, shall we?

1. Eliminate public aid -- The idea, here, is that Americans should be cut loose from the government purse strings by abolishing all public aid programs. The idea is that this would force the welfare class into the workforce and force them to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs in the manual labor sector.

What this plan would accomplish is more than just forcing welfare recipients into an even deeper level of poverty within the workforce -- because everyone working or seeking work in the manual and menial trades, not just those who had previously been on welfare, would be forced into competition for jobs.

If I'm competing with people who can usually expect to be paid two dollars an hour, I have to bid lower to get the job. Let's say I offer to do a 40 hr./wk job for a buck-fifty an hour and I get the job. Score one for the displaced American worker, right? Wrong.

At the rate I bid, I'll be working a full time job to gross just $60/wk. -- based on a 52 week work year, that's just $260/mo. or $3,120 per year. Even before deductions are taken out, my yearly earnings won't cover my mortgage payments for a full quarter... much less cover utilities, property taxes, property insurance, groceries, gasoline, automobile insurance & maintainence and any bare-necessity health care expenses that might spring up in my family of six, during the year.

But, let's say I'm not a homeowner. Let's say I'm a renter who's never more than barely scraped by and I've got my family of six crammed into a low-end two bedroom, 1 bath unit. On my new income, I won't be able to cover the $600 or more per month rent payment any better than I could have on nothing and I won't be the only one in this (sinking) boat.

As a result of the decreased standard of living in this class, those who make their livings renting or selling goods and services to this segment of the workforce would be forced to lower rents/prices. In the case of landlords, few, if any, could lower rents into the necesssary price range and still cover expenses, much less continue to make a living.

Thanks to the ripple (or, if you prefer, "trickle up") effect, this plan would effectively lower the overall standard of living for all but the wealthy in the United States and conditions would worsen until they were similar to those that drove the illegal immigrants from their homes, in search of opportunity, in the first place.

If you're worried about America becoming Mexico -- stop thinking language and start thinking ecomony.

2. Felony Immigration -- The idea, here, is to make illegal immigration a felony and to be very aggressive about rounding up all of the illegal immigrants in this country and enforcing the immigration laws.

I'm the first to point out that we may as well not have laws on the books if we're not going to enforce them. Had we enforced the existing laws, all along, this wouldn't be a hot button issue. But, because we haven't enforced these laws, all along, this plan has some serious flaws.

We didn't have the resources to evacuate thousands of our own poor from New Orleans in advance of Katrina, but suddenly, we have the resources and manpower necessary to find, take into custody and transport millions of illegal immigrants, scattered across our nation and trying not to be found, back to their various home countries? Of course we don't.

So, maybe I'm mistaken. We're talking felonies, here, right? Maybe the plan isn't to deport them after we smoke them out of their hidey holes, but to stuff these millions of people into our already overcrowded prisons, where you and I can foot the bill for their room, board and healthcare for ten to twenty.

This plan has no substance, because it isn't workable in the real world, with our limited resources. The people who have proposed this plan are smart, well informed people -- they knew before they proposed it that it's unworkable. They also know it plays well to the emotions of those intentionally uninformed people who are fired up over this issue, but trust others to do their thinking for them. This is just another empty talking point for politicians to shout from the stumps from now until November. Sadly, the real plan (winning votes) behind their proposal will probably be quite successful.

3. Guest workers -- The idea behind this plan is basically to pander to pro-slavery employers who don't want to share the profits with the people who break their backs creating the profits because it's easier to exploit people who are afraid of being rounded up and deported. This is the unwritten law we've been living by, all along -- if it was working, we wouldn't be discussing this issue. The goal here isn't to fix the problem, it's to block us, through legislation, from solving the problem.

This is just legitimizing the exploitation and enslavement of undocumented workers - or, if you prefer analogies, it's like passing a law to allow "selective population control" in the park, between dusk and dawn, so the town can say it no longer has a "serial killer" murdering blondes in the park, at night.

4. Path to legitimacy. -- The idea, here, is that a percentage of undocumented workers will desire the benefits of legal citizenship and will shift to the legitimate workforce. Once shifted, they're less easily exploited and instead of forcing you and I to compete with them at their slave-wage level, they'll start competing with us at our legitimate-wage level. In theory, that's a really great plan and I'd love to get behind this one.

Unfortunately, the plan, while well intentioned, is short sighted and naive. Those who make the shift won't be duking it out with us for those jobs. They'll be as cut out of competition for those jobs as we are because new, easily exploited undocumented workers will continue to replace them, in the workforce. No "documented" worker, whether natural born citizen or naturalized citizen, will be in the running for those jobs.

Available on CafePressHey, I have a novel idea! Let's try enforcing existing labor, wage and anti-slavory laws so it's NOT so simple for employers to exploit immigrant workers and cut natural born & naturalized citizens out of the workforce!

Slavery is already illegal. We banned it with the 13th ammendment of our constitution. It's not illegal to BE a slave. It's illegal to buy, sell, trade or own them. So, instead of rounding up the slaves and flogging them for being slaves, shouldn't we be going after the employers who hold "undocumented workers" in so-called "debt bondage?"

Paying workers "undocumented wages," paying less than the minimum wage, failure to match social security contributions and failure to pay workman's comp are already illegal. The local grocery store would NEVER get by with paying natural born U.S. citizens less than minimum wage, in cash, under the table. So, why are some employers given a pass when they do the same with undocumented workers? Hmm?

Hiring "undocumented workers" is illegal. Period. It doesn't matter what an employer pays them, how an employer pays them or why an employer hired them or even whether you or I like that this is the law. It does matter whether the law is enforced on more than just the occasional prominent household's hiring of a single undocumented babysitter or handyman. There are MILLIONS of undocumented workers -- and that they're called undocumented workers means each of them works SOMEwhere, which means SOMEone hired them.

Now, about our vanishing manufacturing industry and those overseas sweatshops....


JasonSpalding said...

Did you know that the top 30 nations based on dues paid to the United Nations are in a combined debt external as of June 2005 nearly $34 trillion U.S. dollars? With the population of the world given by U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division the debt of every person on the planet is just over $5,000. Norway is the only country that does not have any debts external. My question is who holds the debt?

Melhi said...

Hi Jason!

Some sobering statistics there!

I do seem to recall that Norway did have a zero external debt until sometime in 2003 or 2004 (?) and I can't speak to 2006, but I thought I remembered seeing a chart for Norway's 2005 budget that included interest on foreign debt, so I looked it up, to be sure. (That I remembered it at all shocks even me.)

What I found is this: Norway had an external debt of $281 Billion as of June 30, 2005 and approximately 2.5% of their 2005 budget went to pay interest on their debts. But, while Norway does have external debt, they're also a net external creditor, meaning that their foreign assets exceed their foreign liabilities. That puts them in a pretty strong position.

Who holds the debts of the worlds' nations? That's an excellent question!! I haven't seen a breakdown of who owes how much to whom over what period of time and at what interest rate -- it would certainly be an interesting document to peruse, though!

I can tell you, just off the top of my head, that China and OPEC are among the handful of foreign creditors from whom the U.S. has borrowed most heavily. So, if it sometimes seems like we bow down to them as if they own us, it's only because they do and we are.

In fiscal 2005, $352 Billion of our tax dollars went to pay just the INTEREST on our foreign debts. I saw a claim, somewhere, that it takes every last tax dollar of each and every taxpayer west of the Mississippi, just to pay those interest payments. If true, considering the rate at which our debt is growing, that's downright scary!

DemDeWitt said...

I got some interesting comments back when I suggested in the weekly email that the gov't round up the illegal employers and toss them onto reservations or into detention camps! Seems it's easier to do with a darker shade of tan than with a lighter shade of white. Anyway, the numbers you two are throwing out are truly amazing. Now you're making me wonder if the reason so many companies are moving overseas isn't just the cheaper labor but to avoid getting sold along with the land underneath them when the debts chits get called in by China and the rest of the countries holding our IOUs!!!

theBhc said...

Excellent piece, Melhi!

The arguments surrounding this immigration issue are simply ridiculous and you nicely rebutted these silly proposals, which always target labour and never propose to do anything about the employers hiring them.