Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Dey tuk r jobs!"

That's a South Park quote, btw.

So the Economist has an interesting article about whether or not immigrants actually push down wages for low-skilled workers.

Over the past 25 years American incomes have become less equally distributed, typical wages have grown surprisingly slowly for such a healthy economy and the real wages of the least skilled have actually fallen. It is plausible that immigration is at least partly to blame, especially because recent arrivals have disproportionately poor skills.

However, according to the economic theory,
wages depend on the supply of capital as well as labour. Alone, an influx of immigrants raises the supply of workers and hence reduces wages. But cheaper labour increases the potential return to employers of building new factories or opening new valet-parking companies. In so doing, they create extra demand for workers.

According to the Economist's survey of economic studies, immigration from the past 25 years has suppressed wages from 8% to less than 1%, with most estimates falling on the lower end.

However, those models are full of holes and dubious assumptions, as even a cursory glance can see.

But the punchline is probably valid:

None of these studies is decisive, but taken together they suggest that immigration, in the long run, has had only a small negative effect on the pay of America's least skilled and even that is arguable. If Congress wants to reduce wage inequality, building border walls is a bad way of going about it.
Wage inequality is a huge issue, and Mexican day laborers are not the major culprits.


Since I'm writing about this, I might as well link to this WSJ article by Mayim Bialik's little brother that argues that no one has any idea how many illegal immigrants are in the country, so any numbers tossed around are very misleading.

Paul Krugman argued a week or so ago that "a guest worker program is clearly designed by and for corporate interests, who'd love to have a low-wage work force that couldn't vote. Not only is it deeply un-American; it does nothing to reduce the adverse effect of immigration on wages."

Over at Slate, Jacob Weisberg half-assedly argues that "the system works in its way. The most motivated, tenacious, and enterprising immigrants, who are therefore the most economically desirable, find a way around the barriers we erect. Once here, they help our economy sustain a high rate of growth and subsidize our Social Security system. In return, those who choose to stay have a chance to create better lives for their children. Do we really want to put an end to this deal?"

Over at WaPo, Robert Samuelson argues for strengthening border and employer enforcement, granting amnesty to existing illegal immigrants, and scrapping the guest worker idea (as he writes, "businesses' complaints of widespread labor 'shortages' mainly put a respectable face on their thirst for cheap labor"). Sounds like a pretty sensible consensus position.

Tags: news and politics, immigration, illegal immigration, neoliberal, guest worker, justice, amnesty


  • At 3:05 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    One thing that has greatly annoyed me about this immigration discussion is how centrist Democrats like Michael Lind have argued somewhat disingenuously that immigrants are to blame for the shitty condition American workers are in, instead of 25 years of conservative, anti-labor, neoliberal policy. I see you already responded to my comment at Steve Gilliard, but I'll reproduce it here for our reader(s)' benefit.

    We're not going to get rid of millions of people nor stop millions more from arriving. Not going to happen. We should advocate doing away with the illegal status that allows their employers to exploit them more effectively, while at the same time pushing for fair labor practices, higher wages, health care for all, a rebirth of the union movement, an end to neoliberal trade policies, etc., etc. Since those are the desired effects, why can't we talk about them directly instead of looking for a scapegoat for their absence?

  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    The only thing I would add to Samuelson's three-point plan is to expand legal immigration and streamline the path to citizenship. We won't have so many illegal immigrants if we make it easier to come here legally, and people who aren't under the threat of deportation aren't as easy to exploit.

    I take it as a given, by the way, that we are not going to stop immigration from Mexico and Central America. The economic incentive for immigrants is simply too strong.

  • At 3:33 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I'm also arguing with another guy about whether or not immigration is good for the Jews, of all things, over here, though I think I'm about done with that.

  • At 1:00 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Yeah, I spotted those two discussions when I was trolling through LB's site stats. It's so cute that one of your grandparents was an opera singer. We should put those singing genes to work at karaoke.

    Anyhow, politically, it looks like the Dems will benefit from the bipartisan Senate bill self-destructing this afternoon. So instead the cruel and extreme House bill will be the only legislation connected to Republicans. Nothing will probably happen policy-wise, but that evil House bill should make Latinos solidly Democratic for another ten years.

    Or at least that's my take on the CW (from Gwen Ifill).

  • At 1:02 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Also, I haven't gone back to the comments to see if anyone replied to my snippy reply, but I thought that Steve guy's argument about blacks and latinos not wanting low-skilled jobs was just kinda ignorant, just parroting the neoliberal talking points.

  • At 1:02 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Native blacks and latinos, I mean.

  • At 2:29 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    He also sold umbrellas, I think. When I'm inspired (i.e., drunk), I rock out karaoke--you should hear me do "Rock and Roll Suicide."

    Gilliard replied to your comments (and similar ones from others) with a whole new post.

  • At 4:02 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I'm also fairly convinced that no bill at all, in the current political setup, is better than any bill, and not just for political reasons. Frist would have just appointed the worst Republican Senators to the conference committee, like he does to strip out everything good from every compromise bill he doesn't like, and the resultant conference report couldn't have been filibustered.

    I'm fairly pleased that in the latter discussion I linked to, the guy ended up admitting he was racist, even if he tried to make his racism sound like the reasonable thing to believe. I mean, once someone says, yes, ok, I'm racist, what else is there to add?

  • At 8:33 PM, Blogger Phoebe Evergreen said…

    I heard you do "It Was A Very Good Year" once, which I followed up with some fondly remembered inappropriate snuggling. Not with you, though.

  • At 11:36 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    It was with me, and I haven't washed since.

    (though not because of that)

  • At 12:18 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I think this is my favorite response of all time.

    El greengo pussygato Alejandro "Benyameens" Hameelton duss not sabe mucho about LA RECONQUISTA! Those Fie Hunred Tousand people in the calles of Los Angeles were not juss selling tacos my friend! Arriba! Arriba! Arriba!

    I am a greengo pussygato! That's, like, not racist at all!

    One reason it's good the Senate bill died is that this is a rational discussion about policy only in the fantasy lives of journalists. We're dealing with serious nutjobs here.

  • At 1:37 AM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Whoah, who wrote that?? In whose fantasy life is that remotely clever?

    I think the thing that offends me most about jokes like that is that they're so impossibly tedious and devoid of imagination.

  • At 12:07 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    In this case the relevant Seinfeld quote comes from "The Yada Yada":

    [Jerry enters confessional, sits down on kneeler. Father Curtis opens sliding door.]

    Father: That's a kneeler.

    Jerry: Oh. [Adjusts accordingly]

    Father: Tell me your sins, my son.

    Jerry: Well I should tell you that I'm Jewish.

    Father: That's no sin.

    Jerry: Oh good. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he's converted to Judaism just for the jokes.

    Father: And this offends you as a Jewish person.

    Jerry: No, it offends me as a comedian.


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