Thursday, August 23, 2007

illegal immigration.

you know what i can't stand about the articles about illegal immigration floating around? they seem to focus more on xenophobia rather than the obvious economic implications. you know what? i don't care about the racial or cultural makeup of the united states. i don't care about this mythical "american culture" everyone seems to be prattling about. american culture is not static, it has never been static, and it will never be static. i don't care if the united states is 1% white or 99% white. i don't care if the majority of the people in this country speak spanish or chinese or afrikaans or a patois of all of the above.

however, i do care if american jobs will be protected. that's it. nothing more.

let's focus on the real issue, okay?


upyernoz said...

the "real issue" is hard to focus on because the data is so confusing and complicated. when critics of immigration talk about economic impact it's always a simplistic "they're taking american jobs!" type of deal.

but more people in the u.s. means more people spending money: buying food, buying crap they don't need, paying rent, etc. more money spent usually leads to job growth. so does that counteract the "job loss" caused by immigrants taking "american jobs"? people argue it both ways, which means that no one really knows.

some people argue that immigrant's money is "less efficient" (at least in terms of helping the u.s. economy) because a percentage of their earnings gets pulled out of the economy when it's sent to relatives abroad. but again, the real economic impact of this gets murky--some argue that it ultimately helps the u.s. economy because the u.s. is so heavily invested in the very same countries where the immigrants come from.

then there's the brain drain argument. which essentially says that the u.s. as an immigration draw drains the brainiest people around the world by attracting them here. u.s. universities are a major draw for foreigners, and they tend to be the intellectual elites. quite a lot of immigrants are people who came over on student visas and then changed their status when they got a job, significant other, a life in the u.s. by graduation. the draw of talent probably also helps the u.s. economy (and hurts the economy of the drained countries) but the economic impact is hard to measure.

in short, there are a cloud of arguments, but no one has a fucking clue whether immigration is a net gain or loss for the american economy. there's just a cloud of data that points in both directions. it's easier to concentrate on the xenophobia aspect. that's what drives a lot of the outspoken people anyway.

The Pedant said...

I don't know about "taking American jobs," but there's no question that allowing more people into the workforce depresses the wages for certain unskilled types of labor. For example, working in an abbatoir used to be almost as well-paying as being an auto worker.

emily2 said...

there's no question that allowing more people into the workforce depresses the wages for certain unskilled types of labor.

that was exactly what i was getting at.

the same argument can be made regarding the offshoring of skilled labor.

whether we're talking about white or blue collar labor, labor is labor, and it's becoming increasingly devalued.

upyernoz said...

the same argument can be made regarding the offshoring of skilled labor

actually, i wonder if this won't turn out to be a good thing (and i say that as a skilled laborer). unlike unskilled laborers, skilled laborers vote. so long as poor people were being fucked over when their jobs went overseas, no one gave a shit. once doctors, lawyers and management people start feeling some of the same uncertainty that has plagued much of our society for the past decade, maybe we'll finally try to work on a solution

as for immigrants depressing wages in low-income jobs, i think that's definitely true. i think illegal immigrants have a greater effect on that because their employers often violate wage-hour laws knowing that the employees won't file a complaint because they fear deportation.

it's not clear that legal immigrants have the same depressing effect on wages. they still live in the same society as us, with the same living costs, plus they're often socially obligated to send a portion of their wages back to family members at home.

emily2 said...

sort of segueing into a similar topic... yes, white collar wage earners vote. but it seems like candidates such as john edwards are concentrating more on issues like helping the poor (although they don't vote). the middle class is largely ignored. and it might seem silly or even selfish for us to be demanding attention. there is this prevailing idea that the middle class can take care of itself, and among members of the middle class, many of us feel too ashamed to admit that yes, we might be struggling and we don't want to say anything because we may be deemed "lazy", probably as a result of drinking the kool-aid drummed into our brains by people like the fortune columnist emily1 blogged about above.

of course, i think the pandering to the poor is a front. we all know that $$$$$ lobbying groups pretty much own congress.

there are a few columnists such as lou dobbs who seem to be shouting quite loudly about middle class squeeze, but they also seem to be yammering about the so-called "brown menace" as well, which just turns me off...

well, generation x and y, there might be hope for us yet. baby boomers seem to hold quite a bit of wealth. they are our parents. maybe if we hold out until we're old, there will still be an inheritance lying around. (sad huh?)

7a said...

Remind me again why it is better for an American to have a job than someone from another country?

emily2 said...

because if american laborers, both blue collar and white collar, and who comprise the vast majority of the american population, are no longer employable or are underemployed, this group, which - stick with me here and it bears repeating - comprises the vast majority of the american population, will curtail their spending. corporate profits will fall. stocks will plummet.

if labor is devalued, spending is curtailed. when no one spends, corporate profits decrease. if profits decrease all around, the economy goes SPLAT!

the economy is dependent upon people continuously injecting money into it, i.e. spending or investing. no spending or investing? no economy.

upyernoz said...

the middle class is largely ignored

that's where we basically disagreed. the middle class is by far the most pandered to demographic in the country. the rich get more government favors than anyone else, but even then it's always dressed up in the rhetoric of "helping the middle class" (remember bush's "middle class tax cut" when the cut mostly helped people in the top 2%?)

you mentioned john edward's anti-poverty rhetoric, but that's what makes his campaign so unusual. he's consciously departing from the usual promise-lots-of-goodies-to-the-middle-class strategy. his campaign is not an example of middle class neglect, the fact that what he says is even remarkable is a symptom of how much the middle class gets pandered to.

i also disagree with you in your answer to 7a's question (about why we should care more about american workers than any other flavor). if we're talking about immigrants (i.e. foreigners who are in the u.s.) their money contributes the the u.s. economy just as much as a citizens. iof we're worried about consumer spending keeping the u.s. economy afloat, it makes no sense at all to favor citizens over immigrants, or to even make that distinction at all. both are consumers, both spend money and contribute to the u.s. economy. indeed, if we suddenly found a way to deport all the illegals, the u.s. economy would probably take a pretty serious economic hit as millions of people would simply stop spending.

emily2 said...

well even if there is lip service given to the middle class, the rich are ultimately given a break. this type of cynicism, usually espoused by the poor, is creeping into the psyches of the middle class.

okay, let me narrow the "american workers" response. i had in mind the offshoring of manufacturing jobs and now white collar work. middle class people can spend. middle class people like to spend. the american middle class still has some pretty decent spending power. if their spending power is taken away by the devaluing of labor by offshoring, there's gonna be a problem.

and a selfish answer is "i live here dammit!" :)

emily2 said...


i forgot an obvious reason. people get old. they retire. they die. someone needs to replace them to keep things running.

let's get back to the "outsourcing legal work" issue.

if junior positions get outsourced, who is going to replace the senior people? at a law firm, people start with the drudge work and, little by little, work themselves up. the drudge work is necessary to train junior associates before they can advance to the next level. if the work that is supposed to train associates is outsourced, not only will law school graduates be less employable, no one with any training will be around to replace the oldies.