4/05/2006

the work we won't do

The argument, oft-repeated by Bush and his drones, that illegal workers must be "granted amnesty" because they "do the jobs Americans won't" is despicable. This is, again, not about workers, or their humane treatment. It's about a class of people in America who don't want to pay living wages for labor.

Even conservatives see through the ruse. Mark Krikorian, at the National Review writes:


If the supply of foreign workers were to dry up (say, through actually enforcing the immigration law, for starters), employers would respond to this new, tighter, labor market in two ways. One, they would offer higher wages, increased benefits, and improved working conditions, so as to recruit and retain people from the remaining pool of workers. At the same time, the same employers would look for ways to eliminate some of the jobs they now are having trouble filling. The result would be a new equilibrium, with blue-collar workers making somewhat better money, but each one of those workers being more productive.
I don't think rounding up the millions of illegals everywhere in the nation is the answer. It would be hugely expensive, first of all. And with the government's demonstrated incompetence in these types of operations, totally unfeasible. But I don’t think they did themselves any favors in the PR department with their demonstrations. They looked more like revelers at Mardi Gras. And especially here in New England, that doesn't go over. If you are protesting bad policy you should go about it gravely, not treat it like a drag festival. I don't think it's a stretch to say that it seems to most legal citizens of the Commonwealth that illegals should behave meekly, particularly when they are petitioning the government of a state in which they illegally reside.

When one of the local television news programs covered a demonstration that took place at the State House on Tuesday, they highlighted a big, busty young chica shaking her junk for the camera. She was in a puffy pink coat, with a tight, tight t-shirt with the words "Social Director" emblazoned on it working the risers like a lap dancer on crystal in the cheap seats at a Sox game. It was enough to make any true Yankee's blood go even colder than it already is naturally.

When one "immigrant activist" was asked if she had a message for true Yankee and (I think) all-around nice guy Tom Reilly, candidate for governor, who didn't show up (the only gubernatorial candidate who did was his rival for the Democratic nomination Deval Patrick), she said: "The people do not know. When they don't see him here, they do not read the paper and monitor what his actions are."

They don't read the papers. Another good advertisement for immigrants, isn't it? And did I miss something here? Don't you have to be a citizen of the United States to vote in the Commonwealth's elections? Presumably legal immigrants who belong to communities with lots of illegal immigrants will only vote for candidates who acknowledge them, or something.

Whatever you think of immigrants individually or as a group, I think the assumptions upon which this administration's immigration policy is based are disgusting. Their mantra "the jobs Americans won't do" demonstrates an attitude antithetical to real American values, and shows, once again, what phonies and usurpers these GOP slobs are.

As for higher consumer costs, it's a tricky issue, I don't deny it. I'm not an economist. Higher wages for menial work are apparently invariably passed on to the customer. This could result, as I understand it, in consumers buying fewer of the goods or services proffered, resulting in loss of menial jobs in the sectors in question.

Taxpayers are already bearing the health costs of illegals, essentially subsidizing many companies' operating costs. Still, anyone who tells you that undocumented workers without language skills aren't ultimately costing companies money is a fool. They may be saving in wages and benefits, but quality of service, accuracy, and ultimately productivity all suffer. Which is to say nothing of how corrosive our current attitudes towards work and workers is on our vaunted moral values. I mean, just how low are we willing to go for low, low prices?

You don't have to be an economist to see that companies who hire illegals do so to avoid paying even the paltry minimum wage. Consumers feel squeezed, being constantly told that a living wage means higher prices on goods and services (many of which are already grossly inflated), and the circular argument becomes something like: if we pay the poor sods a living wage, the prices of everything will go up, and minimum-wage workers will just be back where they started, unable to make a living off a living wage. And this justifies the patently immoral choice to do nothing at all.

We make choices as a society. We seem to have chosen a society in which a certain caste of people do the jobs another caste of people consider beneath them. Rather than strive to provide a measure of dignity to work and to honor the dignity of workers with a living wage, we advocate the importation of laborers to do the dirty work we won't do for cheap. We openly acknowledge that our "lifestyle" is dependent on laborers who we knowingly pay wages far below a minimum wage that is already nowhere in the neighborhood of a living wage. The situation is shameful. The assumptions upon which the solution is based are shameful, but have become so commonplace that the President can not only speak as he has about the issue openly, but he can use as a slogan for a policy he views as compassionate this shameful mantra "the jobs Americans won't do".

The work Americans don't want to do is on their morals. And that's where work is most desperately needed.

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