13 June 2007

Immigration bill autopsy

At least according to John Derbyshire over on NRO. I don't think anyone at 'National Review' was happy with the immigration bill. Feel free to read it and give me your comments.

The Derby is most interesting as fights his way through the pro-immigrant argument that Bush makes that there are some jobs that Americans won't do. He is skeptical but finally admits that there are, indeed, some jobs that could not be filled at the going hourly wage. His response is bracing:

I would still say: Well, then, let those jobs go hang. If you can’t, for love or money, find any citizens or legal residents to pick your apples, at wage levels not so high that consumers refuse to buy the apples, well, let the apples rot. That’s hard on you, I understand. You’ll have to find some other way to make a living. That happens to people, though — it’s happened to me a couple of times. And the U.S.A. won’t fold for want of apples.

As for me, I am not sure it is a question of Americans being willing to do the jobs, but whether or not there are enough Americans to fill all the jobs. Historically we are at relatively low levels of unemployment, so where do we find the workers?

Teenagers? Well, if you are willing to work with an entire crew of teenagers, get to it. Just be sure you adjust your hours so that they can still make it to school - which, if it is doing its job is busy ensuring that they will not have to do such work as adults. When you think about it, that is in fact the purpose of our education system.

Of course there are always retirees who can at least work part time. Somehow, though, I can't quite see too many of them being capable of putting in even 20 hrs a week at, say, the local chicken factory here in beautiful (and aromatic) downtown Wilkesboro. I am also not sure that most employers want to deal exclusively with part timers, although there are some advantages to that (fewer benefits to pay for, for one).

Anyway, there is always the Derbyshire solution: find another line of work. As he says, the USA won't fold if you drop dead, as it were.

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At 13 June, 2007 18:52, Blogger jack perry said...

The McDonald's restaurants in my neck of the woods recently whined to the papers that they couldn't find enough workers at $6 an hour (or so). It doesn't seem to occur to them that if they offered $10 an hour (or so) they might attract a few people who were tired of all the $7 and $8 an hour jobs. I strongly suspect that such applicants would be less surly and customer-unfriendly than the ones who work at $6 an hour (or so). I say that as someone who worked at Hardee's and Wendy's back when I was a teenager, when the minimum wage was less than $5 an hour, and who did so cheerily. The only way I'd work at $20 an hour now, let alone $10 or even $6, is if I were in danger of becoming a pauper.

Sure, the local McDonald's might have to raise the price of each hamburger by a few cents, or (God forbid) forgo some of their profits. So what? It wouldn't hurt the nation to frequent the fast food restaurants a little less often. They certainly had no qualms about paying unheard-of wages (for fast food) along the Mississippi coast for a while after Hurricane Katrina, back when they were desperate to hire any breathing breathing body at all.

If these jobs paid a reasonable wage, we woulnd't necessarily want our kids to avoid them. Factory jobs were once the way to go, and one didn't even need a high school education for that. All my experience with education suggests that there are some people who have no business staying in school; they make life worse for everyone else. They certainly have no business taking federal aid to attend universities while repeatedly failing remedial courses.

Having written this much, I'm sure to regret some of it, so take it with a grain of salt. Or, better yet, a shaker of Morton's Iodized. :-)

At 13 June, 2007 18:59, Blogger jack perry said...

I guess I should also note (as you probably know, but don't note) that Derbyshire is himself an immigrant, and manifests many of the same anti-illegal bile that all legal immigrants I know personally manifest. That counts a significant portion of my family, and a few of my friends, so this is not a trivial observation.

At 14 June, 2007 00:37, Blogger Clemens said...

Yes, I know Derby is an immigrant. So are a lot of the other commentators over at National Review and elsewhere. The immigration debate can get very interesting with Cubans - they occupy a magic space.

I heard on the radio today that the best way now to get out of Cuba is to pay someone to smuggle you out in a plane to Mexico, and then to simply walk across the border. Prove you are Cuban, and you get in. Speak with a Mexican accent and you get sent back.

(btw, Mexican Spanish and Cuban Spanish are distinct - it drives Cubans batty to hear Mexican actors in American movies playing Cubans - with Mexican accents).

But there is a lot more that could be said about wages, teenagers and workers. It seems to be a lot more complicated than simply hourly wages. I'll think about it some more.

At 14 June, 2007 11:45, Anonymous Maire said...

Well, if you're musing consider this... the "minimum wage" ceased to be a minimum living wage a LONG time ago. Why? As near as I can tell, we can blame a lot on the stock market. The perception is that as long as the market is healthy, so too must the economy be. But that's nonsense -- as long as companies are more interested in pleasing their shareholders than in doing good business, there's no way to escape this cycle. It impacts minimum wage, immigrant labor, even insurance rates (after all, insurance companies are publicly traded as well! How is THAT not a conflict of interest?).

So now even white collar workers find themselves forced to work 60-70 hours work weeks so that their company can point to their marvelous "productivity" to their shareholders, which really means every person is doing 1.5-2 full-time jobs.

I wonder if all our HS educated student have realized what they're really getting a degree for? If they did, a few more might find living poor on apple-picking a more relaxing career choice.


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