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A Destitute Mexico: Is That What We Want?

Sure, America could “win” a trade war with Mexico. We could tax the millions of dollars poor Mexicans are sending to their many poor families, as President Trump has suggested. We could kick out millions of immigrants. We could create in Mexico a hatred for ourselves, even a failed state on our border. Is that what Trump’s supporters really want?

We have now spent trillions of dollars in the Middle East, ostensibly to protect our access to its oil, but also to try to maintain secure borders. For a questioned cost of some lost jobs and possibly a few billion in trade concessions, we have a prosperous neighbor. America’s real security is in having friendly, cooperative neighbors. Do we want to become like those Europeans with hundreds of years of mistrust and warring on their borders? America’s security comes from the mixing together of different religions and races, living in safety and with economic opportunity. The easy travel, the tourism, the family connections—they all unite our hemisphere.

Trump’s Trade representative Robert Lighthizer claims that NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association) killed 700,000 American jobs but then makes no mention of new jobs created by NAFTA trade. His claim, based upon adjustment assistance petition accepted by the Labor Department of job displacement from trade agreements from 1994 to 2000, has been debunked by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler [1]. His number also includes other non-NAFTA job losses. For example, workers at a sawmill in Washington State closed because of the prohibition of cutting timber to save the spotted owl, were certified by the Labor Department for assistance as victims of NAFTA.

Kessler also notes that, according to the Commerce Department, every $1 billion in exports in goods supports 5,300 jobs [2] here, “even before calculating the impact from trade in services.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates [3] that six million U.S. jobs depend upon trade with Mexico, while 40 percent of goods imported from Mexico have major U.S.-built contents.

Lighthizer did acknowledge that “many Americans have benefited from NAFTA,” including in the agriculture and service sectors. Actually, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico [4] have increased nearly five-fold since the agreement was signed to $18 billion in 2016. In a similar vein, natural gas exports have quadrupled [5] in recent years and are expected to nearly double again by 2019 to from today’s seven billion cubic feet per day [6] as new pipelines come on stream.

Other studies report that most manufacturing job losses in America come from automation and robots, [7] not from foreign competition. The same trend happened years ago with agriculture, which now represents only a little above one percent of U.S. jobs.

The greatest cost and a major reason for job losses is that of health insurance, which can cost some $15,000 per worker [8] in the U.S. compared to just a couple of thousand in Canada. Reforming our dysfunctional, monopoly-driven health care system would do a lot to make our manufacturing more competitive. If living standards in America are stagnant, it is because salary gains have been devoured by rising health care costs.

Other factors include our bloated military budget, which takes so many talented people out of the economy’s productive sectors. Also our manufacturing exports, i.e,  jet planes, computer software, and even natural gas, reflect the high value of our exports compared to the more simplistic products of decades ago.

Our factories’ main problem today is the lack of available workers [9]. Unemployment in our industrial states is very low. For example [10]: Ohio is 5.2 percent, Indiana 3.1 percent, Michigan 3.7 percent, Pennsylvania 5 percent, Illinois 4.8 percent. Labor shortages and government regulations lead in polls of manufacturers’ problems, not foreign competition.

In another vein, Fox News repeatedly argues that immigrants take jobs away from work from Americans. Prime time host Tucker Carlson even went so far as to say that American workers subscribed to Social Security’s early retirement program and others addicted to drugs would take on the hard work of agricultural and construction jobs filled by many illegal immigrants. In fact, crops are already rotting in the fields in California because of a shortage of labor. In Houston, there are reports [11] of fears that without illegal immigrants they won’t find the construction labor to rebuild.

The real truth is that most illegal immigrants create jobs, they don’t take them away. Most perform jobs most Americans don’t want. In the simplest terms, it is the poorest immigrants who pick crops, do unskilled construction labor, man dairy farms which provide jobs for American truck drivers, Safeway sales clerks, skilled labor, and so on. Add to that probably millions of Americans who get help with with parent or child care from illegal immigrant women.

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Immigration reform is blocked by congressional stalemate. Republicans would allow work permits for long established illegals, but don’t want to grant them citizenship. Democrats want them to have a route to citizenship. It was they who blocked the old bracero program, which for years allowed temporary workers a legal status. Both parties think that, given a vote, most would vote Democratic. Polls show that two-thirds [12] of Americans favor granting them some form of legal status and many states grant them driver’s licenses [13]. Most illegals don’t care about voting; they just want to be legally allowed to work. Also, some half of them are from those who overstayed their visas, not those who crossed our Mexican border. A solution for Congress, now that it must vote on the issue of nearly a million immigrants brought here when they were children, the DACA program, is to allow temporary work permits, subject to renewal, not citizenship for existing illegals, and for future labor needs. Such a program is called the Red Card Solution [14] (see the link describing the program; it includes a short video explaining it by conservative scholars at the Heritage Foundation).

What we should spend money on is Americanization: teaching immigrants our historic values and the reasons why our nation is prosperous, our constitutional system, and so on. In time, they will assimilate as immigrants historically always have. Already some 30 percent of Latinos marry non-Latinos. Ready solutions exist without devastating our economy or creating massive poverty in Mexico.

Jon Basil Utley is publisher of The American Conservative.

59 Comments (Open | Close)

59 Comments To "A Destitute Mexico: Is That What We Want?"

#1 Comment By mrscracker On September 8, 2017 @ 7:13 am

Fall Preview,
The demographic future we face without immigration or a large rise in birthrates will be an unevenly balanced population-many elderly and fewer young people in the workforce to pay into Social Security or be caregivers. Americans 65 and older are our fastest growing population and are expected to double in the next couple decades.
The elderly infirm use up a larger share of healthcare resources. With some form of one payer health insurance likely for the US down the road, you can imagine what sort of scenarios might play out.
The fertility rates in some parts of America already resemble Japan’s. One of my children works as a demographer for the state so I’ve heard quite a bit about future projections .
Demographic projections are just that though -projections. Things can always change.
A stable, smaller population with evenly distributed age groups isn’t a problem, it’s what happens until we get there, assuming we ever do.
And if your family, like mine, has been in America since colonial times it’s much more likely that your DNA is shared by people who don’t “look like us.” Being American isn’t about color.Some Americans descended from Africans have been here from at least the 1600s. And of course the Indians…
I’m actually very conservative but I don’t care about preserving color, I care about conserving culture.

#2 Comment By mrscracker On September 8, 2017 @ 9:21 am

Nelson ,
Thank you for your comments & yes, I should have clarified I was speaking about the kind of jobs typically taken by Hispanics that involve long hours, physical exertion, & low pay.
I have a son in law & daughter in law who are physicians & they certainly work very hard & show up at work sober & on time. But another son in law’s family owns a little restaurant & they’ve yet to find a dishwasher who’s dependable. Each dishwasher only worked long enough to pay for drugs or was busted for the same. So the family members wash dishes themselves. Ditto for kitchen help. If they put a help-wanted sign outside in Spanish they might have better luck.
And I hear the same sort of stories from fencing, construction & landscape company owners.
I will mention that Cajuns do work hard, at least the older generation. The old fashioned work ethic remains there.

#3 Comment By Mace On September 8, 2017 @ 9:28 am

I have been waiting my whole life for America to offer Mexicans a third way. Mexico is a beautiful country with abundant natural resources and hard working people of faith. I would call upon the good Mexicans in this country to train as an army and take back their country. The US would gladly provide training, arms, and support. As this army of displaced people advanced across the border there would be bloodshed as they engaged corrupt police, cartels, and craven federales but in each city, town, and village the people would rise up and join them. The federal government would quickly capitulate as the march continued south. The Mexican people would rejoice and declare a new independence day. Then Mexico would join Canada and the US in prosperity and freedom.
I know it’s a dream but just once I would like to hear someone say it out loud.

#4 Comment By Johann On September 8, 2017 @ 9:39 am

The Dems are traitors to this country. They are the party of the rich and poor. They cannot maintain power with a majority middle class. They need a majority permanent underclass to regain and keep power. So they would rather maintain power by importing third world voters even if it destroys our country.

#5 Comment By EarlyBird On September 8, 2017 @ 1:54 pm

I reject Mr. Utley’s dismissal of the impact of illegal labor flowing into the US. His assertion is that it is overall good for the “Economy” which is measured by GDP, corporate profit margins and prices indices.

It’s in the local “economy” where vulnerable Americans live, that the pain of illegal labor is felt. Illegal workers are concentrated in specific industries and regions, and directly compete with the young, unskilled and low-skilled American for jobs at that level.

Houston’s “need” for illegal labor to rebuild goes directly to this point: 25% of all of Texas’ construction workers are illegal. But nailing together frames for houses is exactly the kind of job that allowed me, as an unskilled but physically able young man right out of high school, to become independent. Future master carpenters, electricians and construction business owners start out in these apprenticeships, but must compete with illegal workers who will accept any pay, and zero protections. No wonder Houston is so dependent upon illegal workers!

We worry about the growing gap between the rich and poor, stagnant wages and the hollowing out of the middle class yet everyone – from the routine “free markets uber alles” conservative like Mr. Utley, Forbes and the WSJ, to the Democrats, to even now the most “woke” progressive wants to pretend that flooding the labor market with illegal workers is not a meaningful part of the problem.

Further, the cost to municipalities of concentrated populations of illegal immigrants is enormous. Where do people like Mr. Utley believe the children of illegal aliens are going to school, Beverly Hills High? No, they are concentrated in America’s already most-strapped school districts. And they are using the emergency rooms of King Drew, not Cedars or UCLA.

#6 Comment By Dino J. DeConcini On September 8, 2017 @ 6:23 pm

Congratulations to Jon Utley for his factual, well reasoned debunking of the fake news put out by Trump, the Alt-right and officers holders in Gerrymandered districts whose re-election depends depends in part on not crossing immigrant hating voters in the next Republican primary election.

#7 Comment By Glaivester On September 9, 2017 @ 1:13 am

We don’t want a destitute Mexico. We just want the country to make the reforms it needs so its citizens can provide for themselves, rather than having a few fatcats impoverish the people and then send them to America as a safety valve.

That’s not to say that we don’t have some ways in which people in America have to give up something so that Mexico can prosper. For example, I do think that any renegotiation of NAFTA is going to have to make concessions to Mexican agriculture so that they can employ more of their own people in the fields, even if it reduces Iowa corn exports.

#8 Comment By Rossbach On September 9, 2017 @ 10:26 pm

More open-bordes drivel. What causes economic misery in Mexico is a government that is 100% corrupt from top to bottom. Importing Mexico’s population will produce a similar result here.

#9 Comment By mrscracker On September 11, 2017 @ 12:23 pm

For what it’s worth, Barron’s Has an article in it’s Economic Beat” claiming the Math doesn’t add up re. immigrants stealing American jobs.
I have no idea how correct the math is in the article but it’s worth a read on page 47 of the current issue.