Why don’t Americans want the jobs?

I’ve avoided commenting on the immigration controversy for the simple, if unbloglike, reason that I don’t know enough about the particulars of the issues presented yet to comment intelligently.  I’m doing my best to get a reasonable comfort level on this complex, and very important, subject and hope to have more to say later.

In the meanwhile, for the most part I’m keeping my mouth shut.

But I’m going to make an exception in order to pose one question: Is there anyone, anywhere in the entire United States, naive enough to miss the disingenuousness of Bush’s justification for creating a new, semi-slave like, class of US-based foreign “temporary workers?”

Bush’s justification for the program, of course, is that these temporary imported workers are needed to “fill the jobs that Americans are unwilling to do.”

Yet, he fails to ask the obvious question of just why it is that Americans don’t want these jobs.  The answer, of course, as Paul Krugman points out today in The New York Times (Times Select wall), is that the jobs in question don’t pay anything close to a living wage:

That’s why it’s intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants do “jobs that Americans will not do.” The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays — and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants.

And to push the point forward: What would be the surest way imaginable to make certain these jobs never will provide a decent wage?  You got it: By creating a large, politically and socially powerless, reservoir of cheap labor.  As Krugman continues:

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush’s plan for a “guest worker” program is clearly designed by and for corporate interests, who’d love to have a low-wage work force that couldn’t vote. Not only is it deeply un-American; it does nothing to reduce the adverse effect of immigration on wages. And because guest workers would face the prospect of deportation after a few years, they would have no incentive to become integrated into our society.

This isn’t about immigration reform.  It’s about Bush finding yet another way to guarantee that his wealthy friends will always be able to find a ready source of cheap labor, while at the same time further weakening trade unions.

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6 Responses to “Why don’t Americans want the jobs?”

  1. Chuck Says:

    There is an interesting article in today’s CounterPunch by Ron Jacobs on this subject.

  2. alwayshope Says:

    Thank you for saying that. I have been very confused on this issue, but the thing I felt consistently was insulted. I can’t understand why the media and the polticians just so casually use the words “cheap labor” and “jobs Americans won’t do”. It’s like, we’re saying we are going to import a new lower-class people to serve us and do our dirty work. We’ll pay them nothing and they’ll be happy with it because it’s way better than what they’ve got now. And…we’re somehow okay with that? It’s just nasty.

    But much of it is dishonest too. There are construction companies that are growing by using immigrant labor and underbidding the other companies. These aren’t jobs Americans won’t do. These are jobs that used to pay well.
    My Dad had an Electrical Cont. Co. for over 50 years, a union shop and it became tough to compete when the unions got so weak. The labor costs were just killers when the nonunion shops grew big enough to bid on the industrial and commercial jobs. Then the factories started hiring electricians away from the IBEW. It’s really tough out there for the little guy, and if the big guys succeed in gobbling up all the little guys, we’ll all be working for food before they’re satisfied.
    I guess my feeling are, welcome to America, please come through the front door.
    And to Big Bisiness, Stop trying to screw everybody out of a fair days pay for a fair days work. It’s one thing to make a profit, it’s quite another to try to keep it all for yourself.

    But this acceptance by Americans, this attitude of “Hey they want to pick our tomatoes and clean our toilets, what’s wrong with that?”, just makes me sick.
    So how can I complain that we are losing construction and mechanical and well-paying jobs? Why shouldn’t immigrants want those jobs? The problem it seems to me is with Bush and those who only want to exploit others for their personal gain. This is a national issue to us, but a portfolio issue for them.
    There is nothing fair or nice or American about that.

    But I have to admit, I, too, need to learn a lot more about this before I can be coherent, so I’ll shut up….I see I’ve been rambling.

  3. Again Says:


    But much of it is dishonest too


    But I have to admit, I, too, need to learn a lot more about this before I can be coherent, so I’ll shut up….I see I’ve been rambling.

    that’s ok - when you hear next time: “where’s the outrage” - you can say: “here, here!”

    But this acceptance by Americans, this attitude of “Hey they want to pick our tomatoes and clean our toilets, what’s wrong with that?”, just makes me sick

    i wonder why nearly no one can see that they kill their own jobs (”and if the big guys succeed in gobbling up all the little guys, we’ll all be working for food before they’re satisfied.”) - i guess, it’s simply the old divide et impera: let the HaveNots hunt each other for some cents or the next step in the career and they will tame themselves - offer one donkey a carrot and beat the other and you can be sure, that they won’t gather their strength against you

  4. dannybill Says:

    Equilibrium is an economic term that would apply here. If illegals were not allowed to keep wages for certain jobs at subhuman levels, the wages would have to rise to attract workers. The price of the related product/service would have to then rise. The customers of the product/service would make value judgement to buy/not buy at the higher price. Cost adjustments would occur over time bringing the products/services to a legal, rational supply and price structure. Equilibrium.

  5. Chuck Says:

    My feeling is that who is legal & who is illegal is arbitrary and specious. If a Cuban has right under “one foot on the ground”, why not all others? What are we going to do, kick out all the Chinese too, like we did after they were used up building railroads? Maybe we should kick out all those whe came from Europe, they were aliens.

  6. FreeDem Says:

    The country was established on cheap labor, even many/most of the English migrants came as Indentured slaves, for a limited time, but still cheap while they lasted, and more where they came from.

    When Unions arose Immigrants were blocked from those areas that were unionized, but the rest just had to fend for themselves. As a result, a Coal Miner is a “job Americans want” but Janitor (arguably an easier, safer, more pleasant, job) is not. A hundred years ago they would have paid about the same, but now Miner is about the best pay available in an otherwise depresed area, and janitor pays less.

    When I was in High School Pres. Johnson ended the Bracero program, and the Farmers howled that their crops would rot in the field. So they organized High School kids to “help the farmers out” and spend the summer picking crops.

    The new rules insisted that Minimum wages were paid and minimum housing provided. Well, when the time came there were several Americans for each melon, and most were turned away. The High School Volanteers, myself among them, who had given up a summer job to help out “the poor farmers” were flat out of luck.

    The Bushistas have a quandry, if the Immigrants have any rights, they can expect to be treated to a minimum consideration, If kept out they can’t be treated at all. Only if they are Illegal can the be bullied and exploited because only then could they not complain.

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