May 7, 2018 · OPINION
Jobs and the great debate about immigration
By Tina Nagy
It used to be that people looked for the “Made in America with Pride” tag. An advertising campaign for the idea was plastered all over TV for several years. Now that campaign has been replaced with: “Love has no labels/diversity and inclusion.”
Only a few years ago, environmentalists urged people to buy local whenever possible. Now we are told to buy “global.” U.S. companies are constantly being persuaded to hire veterans, but are sued by the American Civil Liberties Union if they only hire U.S. citizens. What has changed so dramatically in the past 10 years that my desire to speak with an American who speaks my language is now met with derision and accusations of “racism” by a Filipino speaking in broken English?
In high society, it used to be spoken in whispered tones if you dared to hire a maid who was an illegal alien. Now it’s become fashionable for progressive politicians with big companies and even bigger donors to boast about how many “undocumented immigrants” have been in their employ.
Immigrants on welfare have tripled since 2011, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, and yet Congress continues to maintain that we need foreign labor to fill jobs. Let’s be honest: The problem is that companies are not willing to pay American wages; they’d rather exploit cheap foreign labor.
I am saying this as someone born to an immigrant father and whose husband is also an immigrant. So, you can drop the suspicions that I am “anti-immigrant.” My father waited seven years in a displaced person camp for the opportunity to immigrate and learned English in summer school. He didn’t get bilingual education; he didn’t get free school lunches, and he didn’t collect benefits. My husband immigrated in 2001 on the visa lottery and even he is livid when he thinks how he needed to wait for years and provide extensive documentation while hundreds of thousands of pregnant illegal aliens simply walk across our border.
It’s high time to drop the innuendos and outright accusations about racism already and start caring about American families and a living American wage. There are millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans in this country — many with master’s degrees — who are working at gas stations and as temporaries without benefits because the U.S. government and every other company in this nation is refusing to hire Americans in favor of cheap labor from Mexico, India, Pakistan and Malaysia.
What happened to our collective consciousness as a society that employers are now proudly hanging out signs and posting on their websites that they do not check IDs? We are worried about the families of Mexicans being sent back to Mexico, but we won't shed a single tear for American dads with engineering degrees and MBAs who are forced to take jobs in Hong Kong to feed their families.
Liberals wonder with incredulity at why and how Trump could have ever been elected president, but they have become tone deaf to the suffering of the middle class families they pretend to champion. To anyone with eyes and ears, it’s plain to see how many people had been laid off by companies who have moved overseas, and how many Americans — of every color — were angered at being treated like second-class citizens in their own country.
The hard truth that many don’t seem to understand is that even while we were flooding the country with immigrants, we’ve been shipping off tens of thousands of jobs and company headquarters oversees. Even while we’ve been taking in millions of illegal aliens engineers are working furiously to replace as many jobs as possible with automation and robots. The simple fact is this isn’t about “diversity and inclusion,” rather, it’s about numbers. The simple fact is that this isn’t about racism. Immigration is and has always been about jobs.
nonewtaxes · May 17, 2018 at 8:42 pm
I was right in definition but wrong in application. Full Employment means that everybody who wants a ob has a job but not every job has an employee. Because of this we get wage inflation - the supply/demand curve favors the worker.
If we allow immigration when the economy is running at full speed and there are excess jobs it seems like a required action to keep the economy moving forward. However, the additional workforce supplied by immigration shifts the supply/demand curve reducing or eliminating wage inflation. More people will be working but for last year's wages.
This might seem like a reasonable trade off to you but if you are one of those people who do not get a pay raise it really sucks. More so, because the economy is running at full speed and corporate earnings are high, people invested in the stock market are making a ton of money while people working for wages are not making a penny more than last year which leads to increasing disparity in wealth. Some people think that might be a problem.
So how do you keep or increase immigration without hurting the current workforce?
Demosthenes · May 13, 2018 at 10:17 pm
nonewtaxes...no, "full employment" in economic terms simply means that there is no CYCLICAL unemployment. This means that the people who are unemployed right now are unemployed for reasons other than a recession.
Despite what you state, that does not mean that every job is currently taken. The Bureau of Labor Statistics this week announced that unfilled jobs are on the rise right now even though the unemployment rate is also falling. They actually state the while the unemployment rate is at its lowest level in years the number of unfilled jobs is also at its highest since 2010 at 6.6 million as of the end of March! This is from the BLS jobs report that was released on May 8th. That is "acceptable economic literature" right?
nonewtaxes · May 12, 2018 at 2:07 pm
No, there are no jobs to be filled now at least from an economic point of view. Full employment means full employment. You can choose to have an alternative definition but it would not be credible. I challenge you to show me in accepted economic literature where a 4% unemployment rate means jobs are still available.
You are speculating that there will be new jobs available in the future. What if the economy tanks? The yield curve has gone from slightly up to flat. That might be indicating a future economic slow down and a loss of jobs - not a gain.
But even if there is a better chance of more jobs in the future than less jobs, should the taxpayers support those immigrants via welfare until those jobs become available?
Would you gladly pay your gardener wages all winter long for sitting on his butt because you expect him to cut the grass in May?
Demosthenes · May 12, 2018 at 9:36 am
nonewtaxes - no, immigration should not be stopped immediately. There are jobs that are currently unfilled in the US right now. Even if there weren't, some businesses would expand to take advantage of new workers if they became available. One more time - there is not a finite number of jobs in a modern economy.
nonewtaxes · May 11, 2018 at 2:57 pm
At current unemployment rate of about 4% the US has full employment and no more jobs are available. Should all immigration be stopped immediately?
sshrader · May 11, 2018 at 12:40 pm
People concerned about immigration must look at why immigration, especially from Mexico, has increased. The creation of NAFTA drastically affected the smaller corn farmers in Mexico. The larger scale farmers in Mexico received enough government subsidies to continue to operate even with the US flooding the Mexican corn market, but the smaller farmers were run out of business and immigration to the US increased. Unfortunately, Trump's "America First" approach to everything means that his ideas for changing NAFTA will not help the economy of Mexico and therefore the immigration out will likely continue.
Demosthenes · May 11, 2018 at 11:51 am
nonewtaxes - your math looks great, but you are missing the important part of job creation. There is not a finite number of jobs in a modern economy. That invalidates what you are trying to show with those numbers.
nonewtaxes · May 11, 2018 at 9:35 am
Suppose a high income economy pays workers $10/year and has 10 workers. Its national income is $10 x 10 = $100.
Suppose an immigrant from a low income economy ($5/yr)comes to the high income country and takes a job. The immigrant take works for $7/yr.
Now the national income drops from $10 x 10 = $100 to ($10 x 9) + ($7 x 1) = $97 Additonally, those people who are working now need to support the displaced worker by transfer of wealth. Suppose each worker transfers $.75/yr to that displaced worker. Now each worker earns only $9.25/yr rather than $10/yr. The value of their work has been reduced.
Only the immigant and the company who hires the immigrant wins. Everybody else pays a price.
Demosthenes · May 11, 2018 at 5:15 am
On the whole immigrants aren't "taking jobs" but are instead adding jobs. Like in my original analysis below about the importance of international trade, when people can produce things for a lower price (whether physically in their nation or in ours) then we are going to benefit. If an immigrant will work here for a lower wage then as a society we are better off economically. Some individual Americans are certainly harmed by immigrant labor, as they lose their jobs or have lower wages due to competition with immigrant workers. But when goods or services are produced for a lower price then Americans still use their saved money on other goods and services, which creates jobs in other parts of our economy. This is true for all immigrant workers - legally or illegally the results are the same for the economy other than the benefits they may qualify for.
It is really easy, by the way, to see the individuals who are harmed by immigration. They can end up on the news and say an immigrant took their job. The news tends not to find ways to show that at the same time three other people might have a job because of the economic growth that took place thanks to people's increased savings from those low prices.
One mistake we make politically, though, is that we haven't done enough to help the individuals who are harmed through increased job competition. Low-skilled American workers are especially vulnerable. We should have better schools to ensure that they aren't competing for a low-skill job. We should have adult work-training programs for American citizens whose jobs are lost through immigration (or globalization). We haven't helped those people, and they are rightfully angry. So they chose a president who promised to limit immigration. It would have been better to choose a president who was open to immigrant but who had real ideas to help the individuals who are harmed by policies that are on the whole very beneficial to the rest of us.
nonewtaxes · May 10, 2018 at 9:53 pm
Sure you can cherry pick through the news again but what's your point? On the whole, do or do not immigrants take jobs from 'mericans?
Jim Griffin · May 10, 2018 at 7:11 am
Not economists talking, real people in Maryland asking for a visa allotment for crabbing help to save their own American jobs.
Direct evidence, not theory. Maryland Republican congressman pleading their case. All very real for crab eaters and employees. High-tech employees, too, to cite just two examples.
No, using the phrase "immigrant" makes no assumption about illegality.
nonewtaxes · May 10, 2018 at 1:42 am
Ain't all of economics just theory? Will not 12 economists give you 14 different answers to the same question? Still, John has no job or is underemployed.
Does not the concern with immigration revolve around illegal immigration. I think most people are ok with legal immigration. After all, legal immigration is how most of us got here.
Jim Griffin · May 9, 2018 at 6:47 am
Almost purely theoretical, NNT, as few Americans (if any) have any interest picking cabbage as a job.
Neither did you suggest Juan is illegal, so why the issue?
Finally, in many cases John and Juan need one another, John working at a job that is only possible if Juan is doing his part, often essential to John's employment. Which is why we allot legal slots to workers like Juan:
-- and, PS, the MD congressman pleading for the visas is a Republican.
Similar examples abound: Intel says it needs certain foreign workers in the US that create demand for more US workers around them.
BJ · May 9, 2018 at 6:44 am
@nonewtaxes - the problem is that John thinks he is too good to pick cabbage, and would rather go on welfare, while Juan will do any job to make money and take care of his family without taking welfare. If Juan is here legally what is the problem? Now illegally is another issue....
nonewtaxes · May 9, 2018 at 6:22 am
There is a job picking cabbage on the farm down the road. Both Juan and John need the job. John is a natural citizen born in Virginia. Juan immigrated to the US.
If John gets the job then Juan will go on welfare. If Juan gets the job then John will go on welfare. If Juan can't come to the US John will get the job and no welfare will be paid. Sounds best for the US. Sounds best for the US - John gets a job, unemployment goes down and no money needs to be paid out for welfare leaving more money for schools and roads and the like.
Except, under the theory of Competitive Advantage, if Juan can do the same job as John but cheaper then Juan should be hired. John either has to compete at the lower wage or go on welfare. Not rocket science.
Suppose however that both Juan and John are competing for a top job at a tech company. For John to earn the opportunity to compete for that job he has amassed $120,000 in college debt finance by the US. This is an investment by the US in human capital. However, since Juan will undercut John in wages John will not get the job and be underemployed reducing his ability to pay back the debt and reducing the US's investment in him.
Should Competitive Advantage be unrestricted?
Jim Griffin · May 8, 2018 at 1:59 pm
I did not advance the idea that the current system is "right" (it rarely is) and I suspect I was once (about an hour ago) more sympathetic to your POV than most here.
Nonetheless, I have no idea what you advocate and will leave it to you to do so, and without any suggestion that I am offended (I am not) or that I speak for anyone other than myself (I do not, never said I did, wrote only that I'd not met anyone who favors breaking immigration law).
sshrader · May 8, 2018 at 1:41 pm
Ahhh, and now we enter into the offended and defensive approach. Why are you personally offended by my POV? I did address it to you directly, but that was because you chose to speak for us all. Shouldn't I have a greater right to be offended by this discussion? First, you speak on my behalf, then, after I shared a personal experience, you chose to manipulate it in to your political stance. I do not have all of the answers to the many issues that we currently have in our society. But I refuse to buy into the idea that what we currently have is right.
Jim Griffin · May 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm
It is as wrong to suggest I am missing the point as it is to suggest Demosthenes uneducated. Again, at most we disagree on POV. This does not make incapable of understanding the point or uneducated.
I am not dismissive of anyone's death, especially one that can be traced to a lack of documentation, which is a status I favor extending for the right reasons.
You can defend open borders and illegal immigration. I cannot. Bare minimum I want reciprocity for my own travels, few of which find purely open borders, even from the friendliest nations on earth.
So I ask you, sshrader: What is the answer? Ignore our laws? Change our laws? Open our borders completely? Make documentation irrelevant? Do we rid ourselves of asking for passports? Shall we continue to carry them ourselves?
Do you favor any immigration laws at all? Tell us how you would make it work.
Advocate the world you want. Apparently, you know what you want to be free from -- any distinction between legal and illegal immigration -- but I'm not sure how you want to implement it. Let us know. I'm all ears.
sshrader · May 8, 2018 at 1:15 pm
You are missing the point. Continuing to place importance on legal vs. illegal devalues people. There will always be "illegal" immigrants under our current system, therefore, there will always be people in a "status that works to (their) determent." What a dismissive approach to a persons death. This kind of response is exactly what I meant by "shut out reality and to cut off reasoning and compassion within ourselves."
Jim Griffin · May 8, 2018 at 1:07 pm
SShrader: Not dismissing undocumented immigrants. As you point out, his undocumented status worked to his detriment. We'd all prefer to have made him legal, as I'm sure he would've agreed, and we all acknowledge so-called "illegal" immigrants have a place here under the right circumstances, which include fleeing communism and oppressive regimes.
My main point: At most we disagree on who should be legal. None of us prefers the result your grandfather suffered.
Take for example DACA immigrants, who are legal and have paperwork. There are those who wish they were not legal, but they are legal with good reason. Another controversial group: So-called "illegal" immigrants who joined our Armed Forces as a path to citizenship -- certainly fine from my perspective given that they are willing to give their life for our country.
sshrader · May 8, 2018 at 12:56 pm
Jim, my grandfather was an undocumented immigrant. He worked and died in the coal mines. His undocumented "status" encouraged his boss to stick him in the most dangerous area of the mine, as he was surely expendable. Please do not dismiss the many undocumented immigrants who have died here due to their "inferiority". The many undocumented immigrants that made, and continue to make, this country. Documented or undocumented, ever being should be valued equally. Democracy- the practice of social equality. To think that all immigration will ever be "legal", to dismiss the people who are here "illegally" is to shut out reality and to cut off reasoning and compassion within ourselves. Fiscal arguments must go way beyond the supposed burden that immigrants put on health care, aid, etc. Government spending is a mess, waste upon waste for destruction, greed. Get that shit tightened up and focus on helping our poor, helping immigrants, creating a healthy society that values relationships and people over greed and domination.
Jim Griffin · May 8, 2018 at 12:33 pm
Facebook commenter John Schalestock, who works at U.S. Merchant Marine as an Audio Electronics Officer:
Disagree with Demosthenes? Fine. Calling him uneducated simply because you disagree with his POV is out of line.
Let's add this: None of us -- at least I've met none and know none -- supports "illegal" immigration, nor does any one of us oppose democracy.
Pretending otherwise is offensive. At most we differ on what the law should allow, an example being this year's crab harvest that is costing Americans jobs because they lack their customary visa allotment. Yes, visa allotment. They follow the law but need the legal workers.
I highly doubt the argument over American jobs concerns crab picking or other seasonal farm labor. If so, lots of jobs available this year, but the lack of seasonal labor will ironically cost Americans work. According to those American workers, not me.
sshrader · May 8, 2018 at 9:41 am
"we’ve been taking in millions of illegal aliens engineers"??? Where did you get this idea?
I will not use innuendo- your comments are based on racism. You infer that European immigrants are more deserving to be here than Latino, Hispanic, and Asian immigrants. You say that well educated Americans cannot find jobs and that the hiring of undocumented immigrants is to blame, this does not make sense. You do realize that the immigrants that hold higher ed. jobs are here legally (your father and husband?).
Open your eyes- Trump has used (and abused) undocumented workers and uses visas to employ immigrants. How is he "fixing" the issues that you believe are causing the "suffering of the middle class"?
How about we look at a pressing issue that will have a trickle-down effect on all Americans job opportunities- underfunding of education. One of our largest and most important job sectors. How many teachers are not even considered middle class due to low pay? How does underfunding affect the education system, students learning potential, and their ability to gain employable knowledge and skills? Will the underfunding of education in the US lead to the need to hire better qualified people from other countries?
Do you realize that there is a push in Virginia for K-12 to adjust education to help increase job awareness and readiness? Can you imagine the time and work that will need to go in to changing a system that has been the same for so long? Wouldn't budget dollars be better spent to help update and fund our education system to increase the potential job readiness of students rather than to build border walls?
Jim Griffin · May 8, 2018 at 7:17 am
Agreed with Demosthenes and a compliment for the clear, calm advocacy for open markets.
A reminder for Tina that immigration has not been and is not always about jobs, as those seeking the new world did so to escape religious intolerance in preference for freedom. This continues and our Statute of Liberty continues to extend an invitation to the world.
Demosthenes · May 7, 2018 at 8:08 pm
The global economy is definitely a complicated critter to understand.
As for the idea above that things were great when we bought "American" goods and things are bad now because the world is more globalized, I understand that kind of thinking is why Trump got elected, but it is also a huge oversimplification.
Consider the computer that you are reading this on. As a country we could try to move all production of your computer to firms and factories in our borders. We'd still have to import a lot of raw materials, for example rare earth minerals that are mostly mined in China, and copper probably from somewhere in Latin America, and maybe some specialized pieces like the screen might still be better made in Germany or Japan, but in the end we could mostly assemble the thing here and put on a made in America label. But would that make us better off?
Some American jobs in computer production would be created, sure. On the other hand, the cost of the computer would surely go up, perhaps by hundreds of dollars. For some Americans who struggle to buy a computer today at the amazingly low rate of a couple hundred bucks, they might find themselves with no computer at all, which makes them worse off. For others who could still afford the computer they would have to spend more for it. This means that they have less money then to spend on other things, for example a meal out, or a trip to the beach, or new windows for their home. In short, when buying the more expensive American-made computer some jobs are created in the computer business, but other American jobs are lost at the same time as people only have a finite amount of wealth to spend.
Be certain of this - every time an American buys a cheap good from abroad, they aren't lighting their saved money on fire. They spend that money somewhere else, and American jobs are created.
Also, understand that a no-import economy is also a no-export economy. When we buy goods from abroad, American dollars end up in the hands of foreigners, and they use those dollars to buy our exports. If we don't import things then our export industries will die. That is a fact based on things as simple as the foreign (currency) exchange market.
In short, if you want to create American jobs, buy the best products at the cheapest prices, wherever they are produced. Our complicated globalized economy will still create American jobs when you do that.
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