On February 12th 2008, one of the Phoenix, Arizona local T.V. News broadcasts aired a segment on the push by some Arizona lawmakers to find a way to fast-track Mexican labor into Arizona via temporary permits. The employer interviewed stated that those Americans who want jobs, have jobs, and he can’t hire enough people now that Arizona is exacting a penalty for breaking the law against hiring illegal aliens. The next day, the same message was online under the bylines of several news wires that ran an article bringing up the old, easily debunked, myth that Americans simply won’t do some kinds of work. Of course these myths are always presented without mentioning the fact that the wages these jobs pay are shamefully low and force Americans who take them to also take welfare in order to make ends meet. The hiring of the people is done across the globe for finding the new talent. The canadian immigration lawyer in toronto is simplifying the process of employees screaming in the region.
Mexican President Calderon also had his say in the news, describing how Mexican immigrants complement American workers, but he leaves out the fact that the immigrants in question come across the border at the rate of 500,000 per year illegally. That “illegal” word just doesn’t seem to work for some people! I suspect we are talking calculated stupidity here. For Mexico, it is convenient to ignore the legal issue because immigration, legal or otherwise, helps to relieve the problems of their own dysfunctional economy-just send the hungry mob north and let the Americans worry about them. Who cares about their laws?
We have immigration laws, hard won by American labor movements, for the purpose of maintaining fairness in the labor market for Americans. Immigration itself is not the issue -controlled immigration and control of the unemployment numbers are the issue. Consider what happens when employers put people to work for less than a living wage. In Phoenix for example, a single person living in a one bedroom apartment, who can eat, have personal transportation, have medical insurance, and a modicum of discretionary income for clothes etc, must earn $14.00 per hour. Where do you suppose this leaves the family of four, even those with two bread winners, whose combined income is $16.00 per hour minus child care? It leaves them taking welfare to make ends meet, and possibly collecting on the Earned Income Tax Credit. In other words, the public indirectly subsidizes the low paying employers. Why in the world would we want to do that?
The typical answer to the above question is that the sacred “bottom line” simply won’t sustain paying “unskilled” labor more than they already get. Hmm, so why don’t we make a living wage law, and pay out to the employers to maintain their sacred bottom line? We could call it the “Bottom Line Protection Tax Credit.” At least this approach would recognize where the public money is going with a degree of honesty, and the restaurant, motel, car wash, janitorial service, gardening company, etc. owner can still pay for both his homes and all his toys. And, even better yet, the larger corporations can continue to post profits in the billions and toss hundreds of millions in compensation packages to their CEOs. Sure, either way “Earned Income” or “Bottom Line Protection” the taxpayer still gets screwed, but with the “BLP” our real welfare recipients would be out of the closet and every American who goes to work everyday would have their dignity restored.
Then there’s the value received argument-unskilled workers simply aren’t worth a living wage. Let’s face it, these “unskilled” workers perform duties that we would all be in deep doo-doo without (try living where no one collects the trash and you’ll see what I mean), and the old saw that “this is a job I could train monkeys to do” can be very easily dismantled by going to work and acting like a monkey. Just see how long you last! Personally, I’d rather pay a few extra bucks for a restaurant meal, and know that the people serving it didn’t hate the lives they lead enough to spit in it when no one was looking.
Of course, I’m talking about a modest redistribution of wealth, and maybe Mr. CEO might have to start sharing a jet with another family, but at least the people who make the company work would get to move out of their car (if they have one) and into a room of some kind.