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Zuckerman's immigration editorial, a critique

By Scott Tyner  Posted by Scott Tyner (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   2 comments
Message Scott Tyner

Zuckerman, you're talking apples and oranges.

Mortimer Zuckerman's recent editorial, "A Good Immigration Bill," in the U.S. News & World Report where he compares the current immigration situation to previous immigration situations couldn't be a worse simile.  He begins with the worn-out adage that America is a nation of immigrants which has become an inappropriate comparison since the New Deal.

"...the most recent surge of immigrants is made up of people who are young and mobile and who work in the least desired sectors of the U.S. economy . . . for relatively low pay. If these immigrants weren't here, this kind of work would have to be done by more skilled Americans, and they would only do it for much more money -- which could be seen as a cause of inflation and a misuse of skills." They may be young, but they will get old. If they're made citizens, could they contribute enough to Social Security to justify inclusion in it?

This is like the "too many doctors" myth. On the one hand, we supposedly have too many doctors and so we have to keep the standards extremely high for medical school, which is supposedly necessary to keep doctors' insurance rates down, but likewise keeps out a disproportionate share of minorities. But on the other hand, if we have too many doctors, why do we have so many foreign doctors? Why are we sharing a sizable part of our nation's income with foreign doctors? Shouldn't we just train more doctors here and more stringently?

I doubt that foreign doctors are making less than the doctors born here. But with immigrant labor, the opposite is true and immigrants offer a lower wage than competing citizens. I've worked with carpenters who had twenty years experience working for $8 and $9 an hour because that was the only job they could find. If you take that away from them, where do they go next, typing school?

The "misuse of skills" is inevitable in a society such as ours where people are too often overskilled for the job they have while hoping an opportunity will open for the job they're appropriately skilled for. In general, we consider that a better deal than having underskilled people working jobs they're not qualified for.

Ultimately the "liberal concern" that politicians won't address is that cheap labor provides a better bottom line for businesses in the way of lower wages, less insurance and less overtime than they get away with with citizens looking for the same work.

Ruben Naverrette, the perennial pro-immigration pundit, "reports" that there is a restaurant in California that pays illegal workers $15 an hour to wash dishes because they cannot find citizens to do so. Talk about migration, if that were true, plenty of Mississippian dishwashers at $7 to $8 an hour would be pulling up stakes and heading out west.

"Yet, we continue to lock out of the U.S. economy some of the world's best and brightest in such fields as medicine, computer technology, and engineering, forcing them to work abroad (like in their home country? Horrors!) where they can develop businesses . . . that compete with us. It doesn't make sense." Conservatives who would prefer a U.S. monopoly on all sectors of the economy rather than encouraging and being open-minded to competition, even in foreign countries, are closer to neo-conservatives than true conservatives.

Zuckerman raises some statistics about the lower number of working citizens to retirees and wonders how the baby-boomers retirement will be paid. Overpopulation is one of the largest problems the world faces and yet it's rarely discussed. In a world with decreasing resources, what's wrong with fewer people? Why is it that conservatives are opposed to free health care for poor American women and increased social services that might encourage more pregnancies, but have no problem importing immigrants?

Zuckerman says that the immigration plan would "align American policy more closely with an American ideal -- meritocracy." Being from Mississippi, employment appears to be more often based on connections, political affiliations and religion than anything else. If America truly is a meritocracy, then maybe Zuckerman could explain why women make 16% less at the same jobs as men.

"Many of them have been here for years, if not decades; they own businesses and homes and have given birth to children who are automatically citizens." I could be wrong, but I thought that more illegals had come into the country since Bush has been in office than were here before. If they own they're own businesses, then these aren't the low wage workers Zuckerman referred to earlier.

I don't think I'm alone in believing that the law should be changed as it relates to immigrants born in the country. I feel positively that if you were on vacation in Kuwait and your wife went into labor and gave birth there, it would not turn your infant into a $30,000 a year welfare winner at the expense of of Kuwait's generous, oil-based social services program. Just as the Military Commissions Act extended retroactively to 1996, a law repealing the "born in the country" law could extend retroactively 10 years.

Finally, he starts to get to the problem that Bush and his theory of small government has evaded. "A drive to deport them would cost billions and require police to raid the barrios of our cities. It would strike much of the public as draconian." It didn't strike much of the country as draconian when we invaded Iraq and set that country of 30 million into civil war. And it's cost billions. Why is an illegal invasion honky-dorey but executing the law of United States verboten?

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Scott Tyner is from Hattiesburg, MS.
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