My "big fundamental" is that being _left_ means working for a more egalitarian, democratic society, but also for fairness, not ethnic or other kinds of favoritism. Because the left has turned away from fairness it is lost and unpopular. I'm a small voice hoping to push the left back toward its basics and its natural popularity.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Neoliberalism & Immigration Hurt US Workers

The following, with minor modifications, was a response to an article by Maria Louisa Tucker,"The zero-sum game of immigration economics" which largely consisted of an interview with a mainstream economist saying immigration has little effect on the US economy.

Mainstream economics has long been a profession that requires belief in neoliberal economic theory that just happens only to help the rich get richer in the real world. Be that as it may, the dispassionate real life data from The Center for Immigration Studies shows that immigrants take jobs from millions of Americans who need jobs the most, the working poor and Americans without college education. The Center "reports that immigrants account for almost 26 percent of construction and extraction workers. The unemployment rate for native-born Americans in those industries is 12.6 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively." In addition, "data collected by the Census Bureau show that... there were almost four million unemployed adult natives (age 18 to 64) with just a high school degree or less, and another 19 million not in the labor force. Perhaps most troubling, the share of these less-educated adult natives in the labor force has declined steadily since 2000 [when legal and illegal immigration began a steep trend upward]." Facts like these, and others below, show that massive legal and illegal immigration effects tens of millions of Americans.

And construction and extraction work is not low-skill: the jobs can range from highly skilled to no-skill, and that too is a function of the availability of cheap labor: industry doesn't invest in skilling up its labor force (and making middle-class wages possible) when very cheap labor is widely available. Another scenario we saw in the failed farmworker union struggle: when immigration dropped in the 60s and 70s, introduction of technology made middle-class wages for every farmworker a real possibility. Cesar Chavez's union organizers took advantage of the labor shortage and brought unionization and middle class wages to many US farmworkers. (Chavez was a prominent opponent of illegal immigration when he was alive). Nowadays middle-class wages for farmworkers is a distant dream, with the fields swamped by cheap illegal labor.

Here are some additional facts from the cis.org site:

"• Looking first at all workers shows that between March 2000 and March 2005 only 9 percent of the net increase in jobs for adults (18 to 64) went to natives. This is striking because natives accounted for 61 percent of the net increase in the overall size of the 18 to 64 year old population.

• As for the less-educated, between March of 2000 and 2005 the number of adult immigrants (legal and illegal) with only a high school degree or less in the labor force increased by 1.6 million.

• At the same time, unemployment among less-educated adult natives increased by nearly one million, and the number of natives who left the labor force altogether increased by 1.5 million. Persons not in the labor force are neither working nor looking for work."

The easy, obvious and humane way to restrict immigration is to hammer employers with huge fines, no "ifs, ands, or buts" allowed. (I think the Sensenbrenner bill is a deliberate nonstarter, designed to fail but make know-nothings feel he and the Republicans are on their side.) To be even more humane, the employer sanctions can be delayed a year to give illegals time to make some money before they go home and pressure their own country's leaders to fix (i.e., de-neoliberalize) their home economies. (The remittances of cash back to illegal immigrants' home countries doesn't help those economies, only nurturing and protecting local industries would; see Latin America's Faulty Lifeline, alternet's only 'good' article on immigration).

The big picture humane solution to the problem of neoliberalism's race to the bottom economics is to end its rule here and overseas. Then replace it with enough protectionism to create and nurture industry & technology based societies. We need to get democratic control over cross-border movements of capital and labor, and manage both for the people's overall benefit. I'm sure the mainstream economist will disagree, but the real world tragedy of neoliberal economics speaks louder than he does.


At 11:19 PM, Blogger dumpster_baby said...

we sure are giving the wannabes and meat puppets a whooping over on Alternet, huh?

Check out my blog on the history and development of elite influence in America. I am making a documentary and writing a book on the issue, but I have only 2 preliminary video segments out so far, which are downloadable from my blog

--cry0fan/cryofan/dumpster baby

At 11:20 PM, Blogger dumpster_baby said...

oops--the url is http://www.leftwingmediamachine.blogspot.com


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