Economy, Regs, & Taxes

Grinding Down the American Dream

A bigger picture of immigration and globalization.

Arnold Ahlert · Mar. 21, 2016
Photo courtesy of Annin flagmakers

A little updating is needed for a quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin: “The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.” It would seem American elitists are willing to grind the middle class between the millstones of immigration and globalization. Immigration is often promoted as the solution for “jobs Americans won’t do.” Free trade is touted as both a boon for consumers, who will benefit from cheaper goods made possible by offshoring assembly-line factory work to nations with far lower wages, and blue-collar domestic workers, who will find more rewarding and sophisticated occupations once they are freed from such drudgery. Like many things the public is told, there is a certain element of truth involved in these assertions. Yet the whole truth paints a far less rosy picture.

We begin with immigration and jobs Americans refuse to do. The element of truth revolves largely around labor-intensive jobs, especially on fruit, vegetable and dairy farms where there is a genuine shortage of workers. This shortage persists despite efforts by farm owners to offer better working conditions, educational and housing opportunities, and pay in excess of $17 per hour.

Such shortages are nothing new. Beginning in 1942, the nation adopted the Bracero guest worker program to fill worker shortages caused by WWII. An estimated 4.6 million contracts were awarded until the program was ended 1964, when Congress failed to renew it.

Americans might be amenable to a new guest worker program as a tradeoff for keeping food prices down. But they might be even more amenable to such a program if able-bodied welfare recipients were required to fill jobs Americans refuse to do before we brought foreign workers or legalized illegal aliens into the equation. In 2014, the nation spent more than a trillion dollars on means-tested welfare programs, and the number of able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) using food stamps has doubled since 2008. No doubt many of these able-bodied Americans would squawk if there is a work requirement attached to receiving entitlements. Taxpaying Americans who underwrite their indigence should squawk louder.

As for the missing element of truth, there are very few jobs Americans refuse to do. As a 2013 Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report revealed, only six of 472 civilian occupations are majority immigrant, both legal and illegal, comprising only 1% of the workforce. Furthermore, the so-called shortage of STEM workers is another lie. It is perpetrated by the likes of Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Cognizant, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, Google, Oracle and their elitist political abettors, all of whom want to expand the H-1B visa program to import foreign workers willing to work for less money than their American counterparts. Counterparts who are often forced to train their replacements as a condition of their severance packages.

These efforts have hammered American workers. Between 2000 and 2014, either all, or 70% (if you include older workers), of the net gain in the number of working-age people holding a job has gone to immigrants. Black Americans have been hit especially hard, with wages and employment levels disproportionately affected by illegals.

Globalization? For years, the elitists have regaled the nation with tales about the wonders of free trade, replete with promises of better jobs, while they remain utterly dismissive of the anger voiced by Americans living in communities devastated by outsourcing. None were as dismissive as National Review’s Kevin Williams, who declared that the victims of globalization “failed themselves,” and that their “dysfunctional, downscale communities … deserve to die” because the “white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles.”

In individual cases, that’s no doubt true, but it’s too broad a brush. A bombshell study produced by economists David Autor at MIT, David Dorn at the University of Zurich and Gordon Hanson at UC, San Diego, examined the impact on Americans workers following the emergence of China more than two decades ago. They discovered that the assumption American workers would shift to more advanced industries successfully competitive in global markets never happened, with no indication of offsetting job gains in other economic sectors. They also discovered that wages in local domestic labor markets exposed to Chinese competition reduced earnings by $213 per adult per year.

In a separate study with added authors Daron Acemoglu and Brendan Price from MIT, they found that 2.4 million American jobs were lost between 1999 and 2011, courtesy of increasing Chinese imports. “These results should cause us to rethink the short- and medium-run gains from trade,” they maintained. “Having failed to anticipate how significant the dislocations from trade might be, it is incumbent on the literature to more convincingly estimate the gains from trade, such that the case for free trade is not based on the sway of theory alone, but on a foundation of evidence that illuminates who gains, who loses, by how much, and under what conditions.”

In that light, it is worth remembering Americans have been told that any opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal constitutes another case of economic myopia. This despite the reality that the TPP was hammered out in complete secrecy — except for the list of 605 “cleared” insiders representing pharmaceutical companies, Hollywood studios, Wall Street, car and oil companies, and other corporate interests, all of whom were granted access for some period of the nearly 10 years negotiations on this pact were taking place.

Ordinary Americans? Enjoy your cheap consumer goods — and shut up. That many of those goods are unaffordable without a good paying job? Cue the cronyist crickets.

“Rightly or wrongly Americans used to have a sense of place in the world,” writes PJ Media’s Richard Fernandez. “It was once a comforting place where the president — be he from either party — protected them. It was a place where secretaries of state and defense stood guard over the borders and American children could count as their birthright having better lives than their parents. Now that place, that sense is gone, demolished by a confluence of events, diluted by apparent betrayals and conflicts of interest.”

It goes far deeper than that. What has really been lost in the immigration/globalization shuffle is a sense of morality. It is no more moral to legalize illegals or import immigrants who will undercut American wages than it was to import slaves to keep cotton prices down. Or, as California Gov. Jerry Brown recently admitted, to use immigrants as cannon fodder to underwrite our increasingly unaffordable welfare state, and/or the pension and benefit packages of government workers. It is immoral to view the greatest nation in the world and its people as commodities, solely for the purpose of maximizing profit. It is immoral to turn America into a de facto dumping ground for the rest of the world’s problems, by defiling its sovereignty, its immigration laws and its national character.

All of it is leading inexorably toward bifurcation, a nation where the best and the brightest live their lives in self-aggrandizing comfort, untouched by the cultural and economic displacement they have inflicted on millions of less fortunate Americans. Americans for whom the present is tenuous, and the future a complete cipher. Ordinary Americans ground between the millstones of immigration and globalization, sold as the ultimate panacea.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” wrote John Adams in 1798. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The 2016 election is all about the great inadequacy sweeping the nation. Who will put a stop it?

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