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June 17, 2013
Rubio Aide: "There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can't cut it."
“‘There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,’ a Rubio aide told me. ‘There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly.’”
We should discuss this publicly, as this is one of the most important issues in play in the immigration argument.
Restricting the right to work in America to Americans is a form of protectionism towards American workers. Of course it is. It creates, of course, a legal barrier to entry against foreign workers.
Of course. That's the point of it.
Now, the effect of this is the same as any other form of protectionism: The favored class, the American workers, can demand higher wages, and in fact work less hard than they otherwise would, because they know they have some level of protectionism favoring their work. Their work doesn't have to be quite as good as the Very Best in the World, because Very Best in the World aren't all competing for American jobs.
Any form of protectionism creates the ability of the protected to ask for higher prices and/or produce lower quality. That doesn't mean all workers will take advantage of this ability, but surely some will, and the net aggregate cost of production will rise, and/or the net aggregate quality of production will probably fall.
There are some who see this as a bad thing-- that protectionism like this is always bad.
I don't see this as a bad thing. First of all, Americans have got to work, right? Either they are going to get money from wages from a job or -- and this is important -- they are going to get money from the government for not working at a job, and we should not be indifferent between these two options.
For the sake of a hypothetical, let's blow this situation up and talk about if we followed the Amnestias' logic to its natural end-point. We could just go bananas with "Let's just import all-new workers from Third World countries where people are so hungry and desperate that they'll gladly undercut the prevailing American wage and work harder, too" plan and invite, say, 200 million new workers to make their abode in America, thereby displacing virtually all American workers.
At least those workers who aren't willing to work for truly low wages, and those workers who are effectively competition-proof either due to having some difficult-to-replace skill, etc. A certain class of worker will tend to be protected due to having an attribute foreigners don't usually have -- native fluency in English, for example. I don't mean this as a shot against the media, but the media would be naturally protected, at least for a while, under this Go Crazy With It scheme, simply because their own Native English skill is not easily acquired by a non-Native-English-speaking foreign competitor, no matter how hungry he is.
Okay, Big Business sort of might like this idea, because now, of course, they're making their product for less money and are more competitive.
So long as you're looking at just that one side of the ledger -- lowest costs for your products. But there are other parts of the ledger one should look at, too.
For example: In America, Americans are used to some sort of social safety net, and furthermore, can vote themselves a more generous social safety net if they like. If 200 million foreign workers displace 200 million American workers, it's not quite true that our products are now cheaper and more "competitive" in the market, because the money to pay for all these now-permanently-unemployed Americans has to come from somewhere.
Might as well tax Big Business, then. So the actual cost of labor is not just the wages you pay to your actual employees -- the cost of labor is really:
The cost of wages you pay to your employees
The costs imposed by government in taxes, especially those required (in this scenario) to now put 200 million formerly-working Americans on the dole
So when we think about American labor costs, we always have to keep this second factor in mind.
Now some will object, "But that's silly, we're not talking about displacing 200 million American workers."
No, you're only talking about displacing 20 million. So yes, that would be only 10% as bad.
But I'm afraid "only 10% as bad as a catastrophe" still isn't good. I blew the scale of this up to demonstrate that if you'd object to such a plan in Super Size Form, you should also probably object to it in the Value Size. Ten grams of poison is fatal. One gram, while perhaps survivable, is still poison.
Another thing to consider is that as a moral, political, and psychological matter, it is far better to have a country in which most of its voting citizens have the self-worth and natural connection to the economy that a job provides, as opposed to having more and more citizens taking the government dole, knowing they are essentially worthless to the nation, so many useless mouths to feed.
That breeds cynicism, lack of responsibility, and lawlessness, and we see it in every community in which taking the dole because almost as common as (or actually more common than) working for wages.
Finally, I'm afraid I don't get the basic idea of this "We're all the same and should all compete equally" notion. We're not all the same. We're Americans. And yes, we do favor Americans over foreigners. That doesn't mean that foreigners are less human than Americans. But it does mean that people naturally favor their family first, then their community, then their state, then their nation, and only after that very-extended-family do people begin to think about those in foreign nations.
It is simply not the case that we should be just as hopeful for a Dominican's economic well-being as an American's. We should look out for the American first. That is the whole point of country -- we treat those within the country as countrymen, and we look out for them.
We do not treat an American as if he is a perfect stranger no different than a foreign citizen. The foreign citizen should be treated well, of course, or at least as well as circumstances (and budgets) allow. But it's only to the American that we really owe any sort of allegiance or favor.
What sticks in the craw of most Americans about this Amnesty deal is this idea underlying the whole project that Americans should be perfectly indifferent as to whether it's Mexicans working good-paying construction jobs or Americans. That we shouldn't be so gauche or so jingoistic to wish to favor Americans holding those jobs.
Outsourcing permits companies to ship most factories overseas so that they can produce products using cheap foreign labor and then import the finished products back to America.
There are a tiny few jobs left for blue-collar workers that cannot be so exported to other countries -- jobs in which the work must be done in America, due to circumstances. Construction is the paradigmatic type of this sort of work -- you can't build a bridge intended for Vermont in China. You have to build it here.
So, there are very few manufacturing-type jobs left -- doing jobs, making jobs -- where the natural advantage of the American worker has not been undermined by outsourcing to other countries.
This whole Amnesty bid is an attempt to do an end-run around that. We can't export these jobs to other countries? Fine, then: We'll import the workers to this one.
All I can do is ask again: When the Citizens-of-the-World type well-heeled Republican donor class, the businessmen and so forth, succeed in reducing even more millions of Americans to permanent unemployment, do they not understand that they will pay those unemployed Americans far, far more on the back end than they could ever possibly save by utilizing foreign workers?
Work is not just an economic boon; it is a moral boon. It connects, in a man's mind, a virtue (industriousness) directly to a reward (a paycheck). It creates a connection between past (the work and training you did) to future (the paycheck you will receive), and thus promotes delayed gratification, planning for the future, and a whole host of socially-important virtues.
Worklessness does the exact opposite. It teaches that there is no connection between virtue and reward, and thus encourages a pirate or brigand mentality. Worklessness severs the connection between past effort and future reward because there is none. A magic government check just arrives twice a month -- you did nothing to earn it, except to exist.
A nation can survive a limited number of citizens who have been deprived of the moral instruction of useful work, but not many of them, and certainly not a majority of them.
Make no mistake: Depriving millions of Americans of gainful employment does have a cost, and a large one, and that cost will be reflected in our economy -- as well as in our morality, politics, and general level of social wellness.
One last question: American workers are a bit less hungry than foreign workers because, well, they're a bit less hungry. A desperate, hungry man will work plenty hard. A man who expects a certain level of compensation, and who knows he can vote for politicians who will help him get that, will work a bit less hard.
Point is, it's not that these workers are culturally American that makes them a bit less hard-working than the competition. Americans aren't naturally lazy. (Quite the opposite, although government choices are making us lazier by the day.)
What makes them work a bit less hard is knowing that they're citizens, and citizens can vote themselves some protection, so they can take it a little easier.
So, the point: Yes all these new foreign workers may be harder working now. But they won't be harder working once they, too, are American citizens, and they too are entitled to the full suffocating generosity of the American dole.
So, having now displaced millions more Americans in favor of foreigners, who are now to be made citizens: What happens when the former-foreigners-now-citizens start taking it easy, too? Do we just find the next country full of desperate and hungry workers, and put the new Amnesty class of citizens on the dole, too?
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