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Jennifer Rubin’s Facile Immigration Reform Boosterism

As someone who is hopelessly noncommittal about comprehensive immigration reform (at bottom, I hate everybody: the cheap labor-hungry business class, La Raza, and the nativist right alike), I was shoved in the direction of the opposition by Jennifer Rubin’s platitudinous putdown [3] of the “zero sum rightwing.”

Rubin begins with a half-cocked theory:

In some sense the argument goes back centuries to Adam Smith and the mercantilists. It is ironic that the voices on the right who claim to be pure conservatives evince views that the father of capitalism denounced.

Mercantilism is what we threw off by the American Revolution and what The Wealth of Nations replaced: Mercantilism is the ideology that nations must protect their wealth from infringement by other countries using techniques such as tariffs.

“Techniques such as tariffs”! “Techniques” that accounted [4] for the vast majority of federal revenue well into the 19th century. “Techniques” that were championed by Abraham Lincoln [5] and—let’s go ahead and call him the “father of American capitalism”—Alexander Hamilton [6].

After this auspicious warmup, Rubin then farms out her blog post to Cato’s Alex Nowrasteh, “who tells me the analogy is correct” (thank God for that!). Later she argues: “anti-immigration voices who decry Big Labor and minimum wage (not to mention ‘living wage’) proposals for setting labor rates too high (and thereby contributing to unemployment) don’t seem to understand that immigration restriction does the same thing.”

This is another illustration of ideological android reasoning [7]: human beings are widgets, and all policy disputes are basically math problems. Reality, as David Frum explains here [8], isn’t so neat and clean:

Whatever else you say about the U.S. economy of the 21st century, it cannot be described as suffering from labor shortages.

Yet however little workers earn, there is always somebody who wishes they earned even less. And for those somebodies, the solution is: Import more cheap labor. But not just any cheap labor—cheap labor that cannot quit, that cannot accept a better offer, that cannot complain.

Dating to the Bush-era attempt at legally integrating the country’s 11 million undocumented workers, I’ve been tepidly in favor of codifying the inevitable: we’re not going to boot them out of here, so we might as well solve the problem. But the facile boosterism of the likes of Jennifer Rubin isn’t helping. At all.

Follow @scottgalupo [9]

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#1 Comment By Labropotes On July 1, 2013 @ 5:50 am

In La Prensa of Honduras today is an article and video on the “Holocaust in the Emigrant Path.” In the video the figure cited is 12,000 Hondurans per month (or 400 per day) leave Honduras for the United States. Annually, that works out to just under 2% of the population of Honduras. They would not set out, and would not spend all their (little) resources, if they didn’t have a good chance of making it. What they are leaving is a complete breakdown in their economy and social order. They will not stop coming until they believe they will be sent back, and so lose their investment. We can stop this by deporting illegal immigrants, or we can kiss our country good bye.

[10]

#2 Comment By Hunsdon On July 1, 2013 @ 9:10 am

What a wonderful surprise to discover this morning! What a pleasure to learn that one is hated (along, to be sure, with others perhaps more deserving) for wanting to keep America more or less the nation one was born into. Doubtless Mr. Gallupo was tepidly in favor of the 1986 it’s-not-amnesty-don’t-call-it-amnesty amnesty, and tepidly in favor of the lack of border enforcement since then. After all, it’s “inevitable!”

And then one is also treated to a morning dose of Jennifer Rubin, who believes that all human beings are merely fungible widgets, of equal worth and interchangeable . . . with the sole, doubtless justified exception of those “child sacrificing savages,” those “unmanned animals” the Palestinians.

Still, despair is a sin, so I shall cleanse my mouth and carry on with the day.

#3 Comment By Chris On July 1, 2013 @ 9:34 am

GaLOLupo. I am glad it took the interminable suckiness of Jennifer Rubin for you to maybe, someday soon, get over your “hatred of the nativist right” to actually see the damning consequences of this POS legislative effort. Glad to have you on board, buddy. Now do something useful, get on the horn with your old boss Boner, and tell him to stick this legislative effort on the shelf where it belongs.

#4 Comment By Johann On July 1, 2013 @ 9:52 am

The illegal immigration issue is not complicated. We have an overabundance of unskilled labor. We do not need anymore unskilled labor. We need skilled labor. The Democrats don’t care that illegal immigration of unskilled labor drives wages further down for the unskilled, or circumvents their phony minimum wage. They will be even more popular with Hispanics and gain future votes. The Republican cheap labor people love that it drives unskilled labor wages down and believe that it outweighs the fact that Democrats gain future votes.

#5 Comment By M_Young On July 1, 2013 @ 10:51 am

I’ve always wondered why ‘nativist’ is such a hated word/sentiment in so much of the American political spectrum. And the very editor of this journal wrote — though long ago, ‘it is not a normal conservative sentiment to want to see your country made over by immigration’. I’d say it isn’t a normal human sentiment — as witnessed by immigration laws just about anywhere outside the West. Even immigrants themselves, when they reach sufficient mass, form communities that resember as much as possible the ones they left behind, from amnities to demographics.

When a place like Monterey Park turns into a Chinatown, the old time natives find themselves in an atmosphere that is foreign to them — why should they like that? Why shouldn’t they want policies that prevents that from happening — it’s not like China or Taiwan or Hong Kong are letting themselves be made over demographically.

BTW, immigration trends (as well as others of course) have led to the erosion of ‘Little Italies’ in San Francisco and New York. They are essentially becoming Sinified.

#6 Comment By Noah172 On July 1, 2013 @ 11:16 am

It is ironic that the voices on the right who claim to be pure conservatives evince views that the father of capitalism denounced

Did Adam Smith favor the importation of tens of millions of mestizos, Africans, Muslims, and East and South Asians into the United Kingdom? Did he even favor the importation of tens of millions of Europeans?

[Crickets….]

Substitute the word “Israel” for “United States” and Rubin’s immigration views become totally and fiercely opposite to what she spews from her column.

She is not a conservative. She is a right-Trotskyite neocon fanatic.

#7 Comment By jacobus On July 1, 2013 @ 11:31 am

“We need skilled labor.”

We’re not really hurting for skilled labor either.

#8 Comment By Justin Payne On July 1, 2013 @ 11:33 am

Astonishingly, despite how frequently TAC writers discuss immigration, the one true thing you’ll never read about here is the fact that it is one of the most enduring empirical results of economic and sociological study that low-skill immigration doesn’t drive down anybody’s wages. Quite the reverse. But everyone here continues to act like it’s just completely, obviously true that Hispanic immigration from Mexico drives down American wages. Just isn’t so, but nobody seems to notice.

#9 Comment By Michael N Moore On July 1, 2013 @ 11:52 am

The US exports $115 billon in agricultural products per year. The fundmental question that cannot be lost sight of is: Who is going to pick the crops?

#10 Comment By TomB On July 1, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

Scott Galupo wrote:

“As someone who is hopelessly noncommittal about comprehensive immigration reform (at bottom, I hate everybody: the cheap labor-hungry business class, La Raza, and the nativist right alike), I was shoved in the direction of the opposition by Jennifer Rubin …”

Well, if you really want to be “shoved” at solid-rocket-propellant speeds you should go read Mickey Kaus’ series of articles about the Bill the Senate has just passed over at The Daily Caller. ( [11])

It’s damn near impossible to imagine the sham quotient of any proposed government action reaching as near 100% as is the case with this Bill. And perhaps together with us going along with Mr. Bush’s invasion of Iraq it’s a measure of how our politicians’ corruption has corrupted our body politic that no matter where one stands on an issue we don’t all rise up just against the shamming itself.

But it’s interesting with this immigration issue with all the different intellectual prisms it’s put through by its supporters—racism, or mercantilism, nativism, supply and demand economics or whatever—that there’s one perspective that never seems to be applied to it and yet seems to most perfectly capture the situation, the absence of which might be the biggest sham of them all.

How come, that is, nobody looks at the situation in terms of these countries who are feeding this problem being “failed states,” which they clearly are?

Similar to what Labropotes notes is the situation with Honduras, Mexico is doing nothing less than relieving the costs of its grotesque corruption by having the victims of same export themselves over the border to us. Any country in the world would die for Mexico’s natural resources and attractions. And yet as an example I’ve read of just unbelievable percentages of the profits made by their national oil company’s money just disappears.

Far from being a matter of mercantilist protectionism, this is a matter of national protectionism. No different than when we sympathize and usually agitate to help those other countries who bear the brunt of their neighbor’s catastrophic failures, which everyone then acknowledges can be terribly destabilizing.

Apparently for the Rubins’ of the world though our destabilization is just hunky-dory. *Good* for us even. (Although one can just imagine the shade of coronary- infarction gray that would come over her face if one were to suggest that Israel stop savagely denying immigration to everyone other than jews or those married to same.)

For everyone else it thus seems having a failed state on or near their borders is a trauma and a very possible catastrophe. For us, to object to it and fight its effects makes us racists or nativists or mercantilists or whatever.

#11 Comment By Ray S. On July 1, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

Democrats like the “cheap labor”too. Many on Wall Street are Democrats. Plus,the pols love the fact that these people will be dependent on government transfer payments.

#12 Comment By Annek On July 1, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

“Yet however little workers earn, there is always somebody who wishes they earned even less. And for those somebodies, the solution is: Import more cheap labor. But not just any cheap labor—cheap labor that cannot quit, that cannot accept a better offer, that cannot complain.”

The irony is that if/once current illegal aliens become legal, they’ll probably be less willing to accept current working conditions. If they so, their employers will go looking for “fresh” undocumented workers. How can anyone support such a system? It’s an endless cycle.

Further, we are a mature country and no longer need an endless flow of immigrants. We don’t have lots of unsettled territory that needs to be settled. We have established communities with established norms and bringing in people from different cultures upsets these. What benefit does it serve? If we want some influence from other cultures, well, we already have it.

Lastly, we have many Americans who are out of work. Let’s focus on finding jobs for them. We don’t need people from other countries to fill them.

#13 Comment By Red Phillips On July 1, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

“the nativist right alike”

Scott, would you kindly explain to me why nativist is supposed to be a slur? If one is not a nativist, then what is he? An otherist? A neutralist? People should be for their fellow natives before a vague other. To me otherist should be the slur. To be an otherist would be a mark of disloyalty and/or a muddle-headed oneworldism. To be a nativist is the intuitive and natural order of things. Please do not adopt the language and the mindset of the PC left.

#14 Comment By AZS On July 1, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

Even though I like Hispanics very much, I would say the immigration problem is an ethnic rather than an economic problem. In a sense, these people are just doing their jobs and their women are doing theirs. Hispanics tend to be a noble and productive people, I just don’t want them to become the majority. As Pat Buchanan’s books show, the modern feminist white woman is far more responsible for this demographic problem than the Latino himself.

#15 Comment By M_Young On July 1, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

@Justin Payne

You are simply wrong. Borjas consistently finds small, but significant, depression of wages of low skilled workers. The models which proport to find no depression of wages are largely theoretical (Peri). The empirical ones (e.g. Card) show other types of costs imposed on American workers — particularly having to move to maintain constant wages.

#16 Comment By M_Young On July 1, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

“The US exports $115 billon in agricultural products per year. The fundmental question that cannot be lost sight of is: Who is going to pick the crops?”

As [12] will show you, the overwhelming $ value in those exports are in commodities such as wheat, oil seed, feed grain, fodder. [13] shows how such crops are harvested.

[14] is the wine grape harvest in Newport, RI (!?!). [15] is a mechanical asparagus harvester — read the top comments, and you’ll get the impression that some political interference is going on hindering the introduction of these (and probably other) machines.

Three percent of illegal immigrants work in agriculture, per Pew Hispanic Trust, 2006.

#17 Comment By Adam On July 1, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

I like Ron Unz’s idea to link a substantial raise in the minimum wage to any immigration reform. Put our money where our mouth is.

#18 Comment By Mike w On July 1, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

Amazingly Justin Payne has rescinded the laws of supply and demand.

#19 Comment By M. Orban On July 1, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

@M_Young
“particularly having to move to maintain constant wages”

You already have to move to get ahead or to keep your professional edge. How do you expect to stay competitive?

#20 Comment By tbraton On July 1, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

” “Techniques such as tariffs”! “Techniques” that accounted for the vast majority of federal revenue well into the 19th century. ”

You stopped way too short. You should have said until the early 20th century when the Federal income tax came into effect, shortly before our entry into World War I. According to Wikipedia:
“Tariffs were the largest (approaching 95% at times) source of federal revenue until the Federal income tax began after 1913.”

#21 Comment By M. Orban On July 1, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

@Red Phillips
“To be a nativist is the intuitive and natural order of things”

Very much true.
Being a nativist is a very old sentiment.
It is older than either of us, it is older than the Grand Old Party. It is older than our country, older than religion, older than speech itself.
When our hominid ancestors in Africa stood guard of the fruit trees of their range and their females, unbeknownst to them they were sowing the seeds of future nativists.

Oh by the way the word “nativist” is not a slur.

#22 Comment By Johnny F. Ive On July 2, 2013 @ 1:09 am

“Mercantilism is the ideology that nations must protect their wealth from infringement by other countries using techniques such as tariffs.”

Isn’t that what intellectual property rights do (prevent competition)? There is going to have to be some form of pressure release. It looks like the ruling class has been preparing for the peasants with pitchforks scenario. Government intervention in the economy isn’t working well and corporations want wage slavery. I think institutions and property law need to be rethought in order to promote community, self government, and stability. I think Walter Russell Mead is right when he says its time to rethink America’s economic machinery:
[16]

#23 Comment By tbraton On July 2, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

With respect to tariffs providing a substantial part of federal revenue until 1913 and the enactment of the federal income tax, Wikipedia has a useful table showing the sources of federal revenue during the history of the U.S.
[17]

One other interesting point is that, after the Civil War, excise taxes on alcohol became another important source of federal revenue. I learned just a few years ago that the prohibition movement which ultimately succeeded in banning alcohol sales (at least legally) played an important role in pushing for the 16th Amendment (the federal income tax amendment) since it was realized that something was needed to replace the loss of federal revenues from the sale of alcohol. One of history’s ironies, since the prohibition of alcohol only lasted about 13 years while the dreaded income tax lives on.

#24 Comment By matt On July 2, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

Is the SEIU among the pro-immigration “everybody” whom you hate?

#25 Comment By Justin St. Giles Payne On July 3, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

Amazingly Justin Payne has rescinded the laws of supply and demand.

And apparently you’ve rescinded the laws of physics, since you don’t seem to believe that immigrant labor has to eat, or be housed, or be clothed, or entertained, or transported, etc. etc.

Immigrants don’t show up and consume jobs; they show up and consume goods and services while providing labor.

Implictly, people understand this. That’s why nobody thinks that building a wall around Chicago would lower unemployment there. Why would building a wall around the country have the same effect?

Again, this is among the most resilient finding of economics. Contrary to M_Young’s misrepresentation of the three or so studies he mentions, immigrant labor improves real wages for everyone in countless areas it has been studied, and in the small number of studies where harm is shown, it’s usually to the immigrants that are already here. But people like to pretend that the opposite is true. It’s perverse.

#26 Comment By M_Young On July 7, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

Justin Payne,

Again, you are simply wrong. Borjas’s national level studies show wage depression among lower skilled/educated workers, caused by immigration.

As for immigrant consumption, unfortunately a lot of what immigrant-headed households consume is taxpayer subsidized — education, ‘free’ breakfasts and lunches — etc. That such services might employ native-born folks is simply a transfer from native-born in the private sector to those in the public sector.

In another big consumption sector, housing, immigrants compete with native-born, bidding up prices.

And Chicago does draw a wall around itself, in a virtual sense. Cops and Firefighters must be city residents. Portland drew a wall around itself via zoning restrictions — it is considered one of the best cities in the country as far as quality of life.