Rubin Is Wrong on Wage Suppression

[L]egal immigration does not depress wages and has ample economic benefits. . . . immigration is not a zero-sum [game] but rather [it is] a worldwide competition for the most economically productive people because they help expand the economic pie. . . . [Immigration opponents] use “recycled AFL-CIO talking points” [and raise] “cultural issues”. . . . [Some Republicans] . . . “paint a fearful picture of the United States under siege. . . . They aren’t much for free markers, but they are about harnessing fear and resentment of those who lack the skills to compete in the global economy.” — Jennifer Rubin, Two Views of Immigration, The Washington Post, 4/27/15.

Fact Check: Perhaps the most fundamental principle of economics is the law of supply and demand. It states that when the supply of an item increases—and all other variables are equal—the price for it will decline. This means that increasing the supply of labor tends to drive down wages. Again, other variables can come into play, but this is the general tendency.

So why do Rubin and other immigration enthusiasts claim so dogmatically that immigration (the addition of foreign workers to our labor force) has no effect on wages? Would they have us believe that the law of supply and demand has been repealed?

The enthusiasts try to dodge this issue by focusing on the other variables that mitigate wage suppression, and these indeed exist. But they would have us believe that the huge numbers of immigrants we have received in recent decades have had little if any effect. To shore up this idea, they cite various studies that allegedly prove what they claim.

These studies notwithstanding, U.S. wages have in fact stagnated since mass immigration began in the sixties. Recently the Congressional Research Service issued a report showing the correlation between immigration and the income levels of the bottom 90 percent of U.S. tax filers. Since the year 2000, the level of those wages ceased being flat and actually began to decline. This trend of stagnant and declining wages took place as productivity was increasing. Normally when productivity increases, so do wages—unless something else is holding them down.

Further evidence that immigration is swamping the labor market is that immigrants are taking jobs at a significantly higher rate than natives. Also, convincing studies show that immigration indeed drives down wages, particularly those of Americans on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Contrary to Rubin’s assertion, most legal immigrants are not “the most economically productive people.” They tend to be less skilled and educated than natives on average, which puts them in competition with our poor people.

At one time organized labor tried to protect American workers by supporting restriction of immigration. But now, contrary to what Rubin suggests, restriction is no longer an AFL-CIO “talking point.” Labor bosses today welcome immigration as a means of increasing the dues-paying membership of unions, regardless of what it does to wages.

Rubin seems to dismiss “cultural issues” as a reason for opposing mass immigration, but they are quite crucial. When diversity overcomes assimilation, as is happening now, our country will lack the common values and teamwork to advance economic prosperity or any other national objective.

With respect to national spirit, something most disturbing about Rubin is her flippant indifference and even contempt for many of her fellow countrymen. Perhaps they have good reason to harbor “fear and resentment” when they suffer from elitist policies that sacrifice their wellbeing and their country for the greater good of something called “the global economy.”

Rubin and her ilk appear inclined to justify those sacrifices in the name of the cause of “free enterprise.” To the contrary, mass immigration is a policy of government intervention that distorts the American labor market to the detriment of many citizens. Further, their version of enterprise is scarcely free when the public benefits that immigrants receive amount to a tax-funded subsidy to the businesses that employ immigrants for cheap labor.

Finally, there is the issue of sincerity and honesty. If Rubin and the rest truly care about free enterprise having a future, they would seek to end mass immigration because it is building a powerful left-wing voting bloc, one that will favor Big Government at the expense of free markets. Robert Creamer, a prominent Democratic strategist, openly acknowledges this development and encourages it. One wonders if “free enterprise” is really a cause for the immigration enthusiasts who espouse it—or just a noble phrase to hide selfish and shortsighted greed.



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