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Work: An Immigrant Story

In his column today, David Brooks writes about immigrants: [1]

Get in your car. If you start in rural New England and drive down into Appalachia or across into the Upper Midwest you will be driving through county after county with few immigrants. These rural places are often 95 percent white. These places lack the diversity restrictionists say is straining the social fabric.

Are these counties marked by high social cohesion, economic dynamism, surging wages and healthy family values? No. Quite the opposite. They are often marked by economic stagnation, social isolation, family breakdown and high opioid addiction. Charles Murray wrote a whole book, “Coming Apart,” on the social breakdown among working-class whites, many of whom live in these low immigrant areas.

One of Murray’s points is that “the feasibility of the American project has historically been based on industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity.” It is a blunt fact of life that, these days, immigrants show more of these virtues than the native-born. It’s not genetic. The process of immigration demands and nurtures these virtues.

Over all, America is suffering from a loss of dynamism. New business formation is down. Interstate mobility is down. Americans switch jobs less frequently and more Americans go through the day without ever leaving the house.

But these trends are largely within the native population. Immigrants provide the antidote.

One of his points is that immigrants are willing to work harder than native-born Americans. He might have a point. It’s easy for a Times columnist to say this after stating that he’s talking about places that are 95 percent white.

What about places that are heavily black? Here’s an anecdote — that’s all it is — but I add it to the discussion.

Around 2007, I think it was, my late father, who lived in rural Louisiana, had some brush he needed clearing in a field he owned. He usually did this himself — or, when I was a kid, with me — but by then he was long retired, and was physically unable to do it. I was living far away.

When I was a teenager, back in the 1980s, it wasn’t hard to find high school kids to do this kind of work. Our parish was 50 percent black, and 50 percent white. We had almost no Asians or Latinos. White kids, black kids, you could hire kids to do this work. As I said, I did this kind of work for my dad. I hated it. It was hot, and it was demanding. But this is what you did.

Not by 2007. No white teenage boys wanted to do that kind of hard physical labor. My father drove into a black neighborhood and found groups of young men — men in their 20s — sitting around with nothing to do. He offered them several times the minimum wage to come clear brush for him for a day. They all declined. They were all out of work and doing nothing that day, but it wasn’t worth it to them. He was a retiree on a fixed income, and couldn’t pay anything more than that. But when I was a teenager, any number of young men would have jumped at the opportunity. Not anymore. Neither whites nor blacks would do physical labor.

(That’s not strictly true — I know a handful of both white men and black men there today who do exactly this kind of work, but at the time my dad needed it, they either weren’t in business, or were too booked up.)

Anyway, my dad didn’t know what to do. One of his friends said that a few Guatemalans had moved into the parish recently. If I recall correctly, they had come with a large contingent of Central Americans who had moved to New Orleans to work on post-Katrina reconstruction. My dad’s friend put him in touch with one of them. They were eager to work. My dad hired the three Guatemalan men who were in town. They cleared the brush in a day, and did a great job of it.

My father was grateful, and he ended up hiring them on more occasions when he needed that kind of work done. My dad was an old white Southern man, and though we never talked about immigration, I imagine he held the usual prejudices about outsiders from Latin America. But I know for a fact he was impressed by those Guatemalan men, and came away with a very positive impression of them. As I’ve mentioned here on other posts, my dad grew up poor, and had a very, very strong work ethic. He judged men based on their willingness to work. As far as he was concerned, those Guatemalan men proved to him their worth that day.

Here’s the thing. In that time, and in that place, there was physical labor to be done. My father, who was very conservative, tried to hire native-born Americans, both black and white, to do the work. He struck out. Over the past 40 years, the cultural attitude towards hard physical labor has changed, for both blacks and whites in our parish. The only men he could find who were willing to do the work were Latino immigrants. Ours is a relatively poor part of America, so the wages he offered them for a day’s labor were standard.

Now, you could say that the immigrants were undercutting the locals by being willing to work for less. You might be right about that. But in my recollection, the locally born young men, white or black, would not even name a price. They simply didn’t want to do the work, even though they had no work otherwise. My pensioner father, being a rural man of the Depression generation, read that as moral decline.

Six years ago, when I returned to this parish, I found myself in conversation with a local businessman who had a need for unskilled labor. He said the most difficult part of his business was keeping the menial but necessary jobs filled. You could not find reliable workers, he said. You’d hire people, and they’d show up for a while, but some days they just wouldn’t, and they wouldn’t let you know in advance, leaving the rest of the crew to scramble. The problem was a crappy work ethic. He said that his workers had no sense that they had a responsibility to show up for work faithfully. There was a lot of turnover. (J.D. Vance wrote about seeing a similar thing in a warehouse where he worked as a younger man.)

I remember thinking: this wouldn’t be happening if you had a Latino immigrant crew. I heard the same thing from a small restaurant owner I knew when I lived in Dallas. He told me that the Latino immigrant workers were by far and away more reliable than the native-born Americans. They hustled. They didn’t complain constantly. This owner was himself a (non-Latino) immigrant who arrived in America with nothing, overcame astonishing odds, and who worked very hard to better himself. He reminded me of my own father: he was a hard, hard worker who had no respect for people who wouldn’t work, for people who were lazy, and complained all the time. Unfortunately, this was his experience of native-born Americans. It was not his experience of Latino immigrants.

Brooks’s column made me think this morning about my restaurant owner friend. He was from a country most of us would consider to be a shithole. His family was terribly persecuted, and were lucky to escape with their lives. That young man was a poster child for the American dream. He was immensely grateful for everything he had here, most of all the opportunity to better himself without having to deal with the kind of prejudices and persecution his family endured in the old country. This immigrant was in every way a benefit to America. If all he had done was run a good small business, that would have been enough. But he also gave back to the community in real ways, supporting charitable efforts and the like. This guy — I’ve long lost touch with him — was everything we Americans like to think of ourself as.

And, assuming he was telling me the truth about his work force, so was his Latino immigrant crew.

My only personal experience with immigrant labor came a decade or so ago, when we were living in an old house in Dallas, and had to tear down and rebuild our collapsing chimney. We hired a native-born Latino mason who lived on our street. He was local, he was licensed, and we figured he was reliable. He wasn’t cheap, but then again, we didn’t expect him to be. The man came in with his crew, all immigrants, and they worked their butts off. They got the chimney torn down, the bricks cleaned, and rebuilt — adding a big hearth — in three days. We were home for most of the labor, and I tell you, those men did not mess around. The work was stellar, and the crew could not have been more polite.

To be fair, we lived in a gentrifying neighborhood, one not too far from what was at that time a Latino ghetto with a lot of crime. As I’ve written here, on some nights, we could hear gunshots in the distance. Still, ours was a safe neighborhood. I was one of those middle-class Dallas people whose only interaction with immigrant culture was through hiring workmen or in restaurants. It was easy for me to ignore the cost on native-born people from the immigration wave. My kids’ schools weren’t being overrun by children who spoke no English. We didn’t use the public hospital, which could scarcely handle the influx of illegal immigrants with health problems. My neighborhood wasn’t turning into a ghetto. Point is, I was the sort of middle-class Dallas resident for whom immigration was only positive.

I get this. As I’ve said here many times, a lot of us middle class professionals refuse to see the burden that immigration puts on native-born Americans who least have the skills to cope with it.

Nevertheless, this cannot be denied: Latino immigrants worked their butts off. You saw it every single day in Texas. If my dad were alive today, it would be interesting to know what he made of the immigration argument. He was so devoted to Fox News that we bought him a small TV for the end of his home hospice hospital bed, so he could spend his last week on earth in the company of Bill O’Reilly, as he preferred. Nevertheless, my father saw something in the Guatemalans who came to work for him when no white or black people would. He saw in them an America that we used to have, but have lost.

I know this is not the whole story. But it’s what’s on my mind this morning, and I wanted to put it out there. I believe that we have a duty of solidarity with the people who are already here, before we import more. I don’t believe America is a business, but rather a nation. That said, what do you do when the local economic problem is not one of wages (i.e., not being willing to pay native-born Americans a sufficient wage) , but of the inability to find native-born Americans to do hard physical labor, and to do it reliably, because the culture has changed such that they don’t want to do it? This is not a problem confected by publicists at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and George Soros’s think tanks. This is a problem that people I know, including my own late father, have had to deal with.

(Warning to readers: immigration is an issue that people feel very strongly about. I am happy to take comments from readers on all sides, but I exhort you to write civilly and respectfully of those with whom you disagree. I’m not going to publish rants and name-calling. I’m going to cull these comments even more closely than I usually do.)

UPDATE: I don’t want to start a new and different thread on immigration this morning, so let me put Damon Linker’s column here. In it, Linker, who is on the center-left, says liberals have lost their minds over immigration. [2] Excerpt:

As a series of useful historical maps [3], also from the Pew Research Center, make clear, immigration from Mexico began to dominate the Western states around 1980, when the total Mexican-born population was 2.2 million. By 1990, the number had nearly doubled (to 4.3 million), with Mexican immigrants becoming the leading immigrant group in 18 states. Ten years later, the Mexican-born population had more than doubled again, to 9.2 million; now Mexican immigrants were the leading immigrant group in more than half the states. Today the total number of immigrants born in Mexico stands somewhere between 11 and 12 million, with the Mexican-born population leading all other immigrant groups in most of the country outside of the Northeast.

The liberal position appears to be that, even though these trends came about as a result of deliberate changes in immigration policy since 1965 [4], American citizens cannot dislike or wish to alter them in any significant way because that would be racist. Americans may therefore either affirm the status quo or passively accept it, and perhaps be permitted to favor slight adjustments to the mix of considerations that go into the decision regarding who gets approved for work visas and green cards. But actually cutting the number immigrants admitted annually or making changes that could result in a drop in the number of Mexicans relative to those from other countries of origin? That is unacceptable — because, apparently, morality requires that immigration levels remain frozen at their current levels, even if it means that the cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and racial character of the country changes significantly as a result. About such issues, morally acceptable citizens can have no negative opinion.

But of course many millions of Americans do have negative opinions about such trends — and all the finger-wagging and name-calling in the world isn’t going to change that. Those millions of Americans are our fellow citizens. They will continue to vote and therefore exercise political power. Can anyone seriously believe that attempting to declare their views beyond the political pale and denying them a seat at the policymaking table [5] will accomplish anything beyond radicalizing them further, potentially sending them outside of the existing party system to do battle with it from an even more extreme position?

Read the whole thing.   [2] He’s 100 percent correct.

UPDATE.2: Reader March Hare writes:

Rod, I can move that story 1500 miles to the northeast, to my rural county in upstate NY with virtually no African Americans, and repeat it almost verbatim. And I’m embarrassed to do so, because I’ve spent the last few decades screaming at the TV every time this issue came up: screaming that the problem was that native born Americans wouldn’t do this work at the crappy wages being offered.

Raise the wages, and the problem would disappear! Except that this is total crap. There has absolutely been a sea change in the culture on this issue and it has taken me two decades of fatherhood to recognize it.

My case in point is a dairy farm, on the road between my house and the nearest market town. My school bus route went past this farm twice a day, and I rode that bus with the kids raised on that farm. (I also grew up raising sheep myself, so I’m quite familiar with the physical labor involved in agriculture.)

The farmer retired some time ago, and the farm has expanded and mechanized substantially. Cows are no longer led around by humans, feed is no longer distributed by hand. The barn is at least somewhat heated. Hay is cut, dried, baled, and delivered to the barn without ever being handled by humans. Manure is no longer moved by hand; there’s a liquid handling system that delivers it to a tank.

(You’d have to have had the experience of cleaning barns, or walking along and throwing 60 lb bales onto a hay wagon every summer to appreciate what those last two sentences really mean.)

The current work force?

100% Peruvian. All of them legal immigrants. Paid well above minimum wage, and at least some of them get free on site housing.

My county is one of the poorest in upstate NY. Nothing to compare with rural Dixie, but considerably poorer than the rest of the state. The small industry economy has nearly disappeared. We don’t have a huge opioid problem yet, but you can see it’s coming.

And your chance of recruiting people to work around smelly dairy barns (in the heated or air conditioned cab of modern 4 wheel drive tractors, complete with the music of your choice on the stereo? You guessed it. Zero.

The culture now actively ridicules physical labor. I’ve done my best to inoculate my sons against this, and I’ve lost. One of my most rewarding activities is gardening in the summer, and I can’t get either of them to join in any of the necessary components of vegetable gardening (much less livestock work) without outright coercion. If I weren’t paying their Verizon bill, I would have no persuasive power at all.

It is NOT racist or classist to point out that this is a sea change in American culture, and that it really sucks.

UPDATE.3: Reader Pete from Baltimore comments:

I’ve worked alongside immigrants from dozens of nations.And I greatly respect the work ethic that most had

But I have to say this. Im a white 48 year old guy.and I just spent my day loading up heavy , old and wet lumber,in a dumpster, in cold, windy weather . My employees and co-workers were all American born. The oldest was 40.Another guy was 32.And I have two brothers that are 20 and 21 years old working for me.

I usualy have 5-10 employees[a lot are out this week due to serious illnesses].Some are white.Some are black.And while I could tell you stories about he lazy American kids that ive had to fire over the years, I could also tell you about the dozens of hard working ones that are willing to take buses and even walk for an hour, to get to jobs where they have to do brutally hard labor all day

Me and my guys often carry up to two hundred 80lb bags of concrete a day .And we dig out basements by hand[no machinery] a lotof the year

How do you think its makes us feel, coming home after a hard days work, to hear or read guys like David Brooks, describe people like myself as lazy?

I don’t begrudge LEGAL immigrants for coming to America LEGALLY . I just don’t want any coming to America ILLEGALLY .Why is that such a hard concept for Brooks to grasp?

Before they came to work with me, many of my guys literaly could not get a job in construction in our neighborhood.Because the crews and crew leaders are almost all immigrants who hire other immigrants.

Me and my guys don’t have anything against immigrants.We just don’t want to compete against ILLEGAL immigrants.And we don’t like being demonized as lazy bigots

David Brooks is clever and funny when writing books about “Bobos”[yuppies].But he is out of his depth when talking about any kind of working class American. One has to wonder if he even socializes with any ?

Pete has a few other good comments after this one, below. Check them out.

UPDATE.4: Reader Optatus Cleary comments:

For those wondering whether the native-born children and grandchildren of these immigrants will disdain physical labor, I can tell you without a doubt that they will. That is the very purpose of the immigration. Our administrators and teachers routinely point out to the students that their parents “want more for you than physical labor,” “want you to work in an air conditioned office,” “want you to go to college so you don’t have to work like they did,” etc. The children of these immigrants are almost all hoping for white-collar jobs. The idea that Mexican immigrants will remain a permanent farm-labor caste is absurd. Their children follow the exact pattern that any other American does, which will require further immigration to supply labor for the farm jobs.

I strongly believe that Mexican immigrants are the future of America. I support almost no limits on immigration, and believe that most anti-Immigrant sentiment is motivated by anti-Catholicism and racism. I believe that one should be deported. However, this doesn’t mean that these immigrant families are a panacea. They assimilate very quickly to American norms, and if cheap labor is needed it will not come from the children of these immigrants.

181 Comments (Open | Close)

181 Comments To "Work: An Immigrant Story"

#1 Comment By Tim F. On January 31, 2018 @ 2:36 am

America has one of the lowest number of doctor’s per capita in the Western world and they are able to command the highest salaries. Try looking it up. Now try to find articles discussing the problem (if you look really hard you will find them). Despite medical specialists earning incredible salaries(try getting to see one for more than a couple of minutes), whenever there is a hint of downward pressure on salaries, one will find articles popping up expressing concern about over supply.

Many of these arguments are pure entitlement, basically people are arguing that they are entitled to have a supply of high functioning people to do difficult work at low pay. One of the successes of our society is that there are not a lot of high functioning people available to do difficult, low skilled, poorly paid work. For some, this seems to be sufficient reason to tear our society apart.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 31, 2018 @ 5:19 am

I wish people would see that there is a huge difference between immigrants who abide by the law, including following the laws in coming to this country as well as after they arrive.

Those who leapfrog over those following the law, breaking American law by sneaking in, then who must routinely commit identity fraud by using other peoples’ stolen documents in order to work, or don’t abide by any of the requirements for legally required workers, are not law abiding individuals. Of course this makes them exploitable and thus they cost much less than legal immigrants or citizens to the greedy scoffers of the law among us.

It’s not simply a debate about immigrants, but one about unvetted, uncontrolled lawbreaking, which has resulted in anywhere from 12 to 17 million who didn’t think they should have to follow laws or wait in line like others, but could simply break in.

Legal immigration can become too high or too low, depending on conditions including sustainability of environment and economic conditions, but illegal immigration is something that shouldn’t be allowed to exist at all. It makes a mockery of any hope for intelligent or compassionate policies by a general lawlessness that recognizes no limits at all.

#3 Comment By Kessler On January 31, 2018 @ 5:26 am

I think the problem with immigration is not about immigrants. It’s ultimately about our own society’s ability assimilate people and make them into productive and responsible members of society. The strong reaction to immigration is because there is a strong perception, reinforced by our media and politicians, that the mechanisms of assimilation are broken. And they may very well be broken.

#4 Comment By midtown On January 31, 2018 @ 7:05 am

The work ethic of actual immigrants is one thing, but as their children have children, they are no longer immigrants. Instead, in this atmosphere of racial identity politics, immigration curdles into blocs of antagonistic voters (or worse). Multi-ethnic societies in which there is no one dominant, 70%+, group will usually descend into a balkanized state. It is one of the prime risk factors for the unlikely event of a civil war. If we are to have multi-ethnic immigration, everyone must be willing to overlook race. Otherwise, it is madness. Yes, the Irish and the Italians assimilated — after a very long moratorium on immigration — but neither is strongly ethnically separatist other than a few parades and restaurants. The current atmosphere is entirely different.

#5 Comment By JonF On January 31, 2018 @ 7:37 am

Re: If a farmer needs his crops picked, have the police go round up some unemployed able bodied adults and force them to do the job.

Perhaps you’ve heard or the Constitution? The 13th Amendment? The Civil War? There’s a reason we could (and should) never do something like you suggest.

#6 Comment By TR On January 31, 2018 @ 8:08 am

Frankly, given Larrison’s alarming columns on foreign policy, I’ve come to regard RD’s blogs as a guilty pleasures. There are more important things to worry about, at least for now.

But if Mrs. Cracker is still around, I would second her about horses being a major industry, and point out that I personally know one illegal immigrant who is making out quite well as a groom. And by “quite well” I mean he is getting at least twice the state minimum wage ($8.05 per hour) and lavish tips at horse shows. He damn sure isn’t a drain on the economy.

#7 Comment By Fred Schumacher On January 31, 2018 @ 9:42 am

I’m with my in a small regional hospital in Rust Belt Pennsylvania. Most of the doctors I’m seeing are immigrants, mostly India and Middle East. What would happen if these doctors would not be allowed to come here? This hospital would have to shut down, because native born Americans don’t want to work in a place like this. Immigrants are go-getters, risk-takers, hard workers. Block immigration, and America becomes a much poorer nation. The legal nicety of legal or illegal doesn’t really matter. In fact, illegals have more drive and guts than legals.

#8 Comment By mrscracker On January 31, 2018 @ 10:11 am

JonF says:

Re: “If a farmer needs his crops picked, have the police go round up some unemployed able bodied adults and force them to do the job.”

Perhaps you’ve heard or the Constitution? The 13th Amendment? The Civil War? There’s a reason we could (and should) never do something like you suggest.”
Somewhere way back here I think I made a comment about convicts being used to make up for a shortage of workers needed to harvest the onion crop. The Hispanics way out performed them in the fields.
There’s certainly more financial incentive for the Hispanics to work harder & faster than the convicts. Another commenter pointed out that convicts aren’t compensated much for their labors, which is true.
But from I recall hearing from family & friends who’d worked in the prison system, just getting outside the prison walls was a privilege in itself. Convicts had to be on very good behavior to get on one of the road work crews.
I see the inmates from our local jail helping out around the parish from time to time. They filled my sandbags the last time we had a storm come through-which I really appreciated. And they help keep the roads more or less free of trash & brush.

#9 Comment By mrscracker On January 31, 2018 @ 10:26 am

March Hare ,
I have good friends who run a dairy farm in South GA. They’re Mennonites & have a large family to help them. They do employ one Hispanic couple full time but everyone else is family.
Dairy farmers are some of the hardest working folk on the planet. I don’t mind the dairy barn smell, actually I think cows smell pretty good, but the day after day milking routine is a hard sell anymore for most people.

#10 Comment By JonF On January 31, 2018 @ 10:48 am

Hi Mrscracker,

The 13th Amendment includes an exception to the ban on involuntary labor for people who have been convicted and sentenced in a court of law. And the courts have read one into it for the military draft. But no, we cannot just dragoon people off the street and put them to labor.

#11 Comment By JonF On January 31, 2018 @ 10:52 am

Re: illegal immigration is something that shouldn’t be allowed to exist at all.

Fran, as a practical matter there is only so much we can do to stop even the most horrific of crimes. Murder, rape and child abuse are all things we would dearly love to see zero of, but we all know that there will be some murders, some rapes and some abused children. A government so powerful it could prevent such things absolutely would be a government so totalitarian no one in his right mind would wish to live under it.

#12 Comment By Polichinello On January 31, 2018 @ 11:00 am

I realize there are a number of folk who oppose horse racing, but that’s a large business connected to a good part of the horse farms/ranches in our area & others.

I don’t have a problem with horse racing or horses in general.

What I do have a problem with is that this industry, and others like it, feel entitled to a steady supply of foreign labor, that often uses more in government services than it provides in taxes. So they benefit from lowered wages, while the rest of get get stuck with the bill. It’s privatizing the benefits while socializing the costs.

Complaints that these businesses could go under ring hollow. How many manufacturing and textile workers have been told to suck it up for the sake of globalization? Your horsey farms can do likewise. If you can’t make it with native labor, you can’t make it, and that should not be a problem for the rest of us.

#13 Comment By Polichinello On January 31, 2018 @ 11:04 am

I’m with my in a small regional hospital in Rust Belt Pennsylvania. Most of the doctors I’m seeing are immigrants, mostly India and Middle East. What would happen if these doctors would not be allowed to come here?

Wages would go up, enticing more Americans in the city to come out. We could also look at training more doctors here, something that suppressing wages and salaries through immigration discourages.

Also, a lot of Jellyby’s who take off to Africa for a couple of weeks of Missionary Tourism, could spend a bit more time helping fellow Americans.

Also, how moral is it to rob poor countries like India and the Middle East of their professional classes?

#14 Comment By Polichinello On January 31, 2018 @ 11:14 am

But if Mrs. Cracker is still around, I would second her about horses being a major industry, and point out that I personally know one illegal immigrant who is making out quite well as a groom. And by “quite well” I mean he is getting at least twice the state minimum wage ($8.05 per hour) and lavish tips at horse shows. He damn sure isn’t a drain on the economy..

Do the math. At ~$8.00/hr he’s paying nothing in federal income taxes, unless he’s making way, way more in tips–and reporting those tips honestly, a very big if.

Meanwhile we the taxpayers will pick up the bill if he gets hurt. If he indulges in the Mexican pastime of drinking driving, we’ll have to pick up the legal bill and whatever harm he inflicts on others. If he has a kid, we’ll have to educate it, probably in another language given trends. That’s not cheap.

All this, we the taxpayers have to pay for, so you can have your pretty, pretty horsey. But feel free to sneer along with Brooks at the people who had their jobs outsourced to China, and pat yourself on the back with smug, smug self-satisfaction.

#15 Comment By MKW On January 31, 2018 @ 12:21 pm

Something interesting occurred to me looking at the map of immigration linked to from Damon Linker’s article. The number one source of immigrants from 1920 to 1970 was Italy. Now, I know that earlier in the 20th century, Italians, Spaniards, and other southern Europeans weren’t considered truly “white”. Much of this was undoubtedly anti-Catholic bigotry, especially since the Irish were treated similarly despite there being little genetic daylight between them and the English, Scottish, Welsh, Scandinavians, etc.

Anyway, the map shows Mexican immigrants taking over the number one spot from Italians in 1980, and an old disused neuron fired in my brain: I’m certain I haven’t heard the racial epithet “Wop” used in the wild since probably about 1980. I find that rather interesting. For those unfamiliar, “Wop” was, once upon a time, a common epithet for Italians.

#16 Comment By Mike Alexander On January 31, 2018 @ 12:45 pm

In 1945 unskilled workers earned about 41 cents and hour. This is the equivalent of $3.16 in 1980 and $14.50 today.

Unskilled wage rates in 1980 were about $3.33 and minimum wage was $3.10, while unskilled wages today are $9.52 and the minimum wage is $7.50.

So back in 1945 or a 1980 those kids would be offered the modern equivalent of $14 an hour to do that work. Today they at being offered half as much.

Food for thought.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 31, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

Polichinello… I think you are reading the amount of the minimum wage, for the amount the groom is actually making (more like $16 an hour). I can confirm from personal experience that even working part time at that hourly rate, an individual does pay some taxes.

#18 Comment By PeterK On January 31, 2018 @ 1:32 pm

polichinello wrote what would happen if Indian and Arab doctors weren’t allowed to immigrate to the US
“We could also look at training more doctors here, something that suppressing wages and salaries through immigration discourages.”

we already train quite a number of doctors. the ones we train go into the higher valued specialities and sub-specialities that pay them a high salary. Most of these individuals don’t really start their practice until they are in their mid to late 30s some in their early 40s. They are burdened with lots of debt. the vast majority of American medical students do not go into primary care. also you see more female doctors going into pediatrics and OB/GYN specialities that used to be male dominated.

#19 Comment By david On January 31, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

Others have made this point but people who are here legally are generally not prepared to work for wages that get paid to those who are here illegally. Broadly, exceptions not withstanding, pay Americans and legal permanent residents a “reasonable” wage and they will do the work. And we forget that in any given field of endeavor people legally here constitute 50 percent or more of the workforce anyway be it construction, agriculture, you name it. THEY are doing the work.

But we forget another downside that depressed wages have on agriculture, construction and other areas. With the availability of cheap “illegal” labor, companies/employers have no incentive to automate their processes. Yes many things in agriculture can be automated such as picking fruit from trees. But farmers have no incentive to make the capital investment. Look at countries like New Zealand. Deprived of cheap foreign labor they did automate a lot of things to make up for the lack of workers. Others have done the same.

Finally Americans do not have a “right” to “cheap” produce if “cheap” means the farmers use illegal employees to make it cheap. The same with hotel/motel rooms. But again deny employers access to the illegal labor and employers will change how they do things to make up for the loss.

#20 Comment By mrscracker On January 31, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

Thank you for the clarification re. the 13th Amendment! I appreciate it.

#21 Comment By Phillip Woeckener On January 31, 2018 @ 3:32 pm

I’m sorry; I’m too busy working to read half of what you wrote above.

#22 Comment By La Lubu On January 31, 2018 @ 3:35 pm

Funny, I’ve been a union electrician for almost three decades, in one of the most heavily unionized states in the nation (Illinois), and I can guarantee you there is NO shortage of applicants for union apprenticeship programs (and not just for my trade). The skilled trades involve heavy physical labor, in all kinds of less-than-optimal conditions, and sometimes for breathtakingly long hours of overtime. Yet—we turn away hundreds of applicants each year, because there are only so many positions that open (fun fact: de-industrialization means fewer work opportunities for the skilled trades. We have to be judicious in how many apprentices we take each year, to insure that we can actually provide them with the 40-hour-a-week work part of their apprenticeship.)

Of course, we earn really good wages, have decent health insurance (not as decent as it used to be—we suffer from the kind of high deductibles that cause most of us to avoid seeking treatment, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation), and an *excellent* pension. But not just that! We get treated like human beings on the job. We have the protection of a union contract and due process if there are any issues that need resolving.

Further—and I don’t believe anyone else has mentioned this—our jobsites are safety-oriented. What we do has a certain amount of inherent risk that is unavoidable. But union jobsites tend to be safety-conscious. We wear PPE (personal protective equipment), plan out the work ahead of time, and practice an intricate coordination of procedures to insure everyone gets to go home in one piece.

How many of the people wanting to pay ten to fifteen bucks an hour are licensed and bonded as employers? How many pay workmens comp insurance for their employees? (BTW: in red states, workmens comp is seriously dicey. Not many of us who have the choice to do otherwise want to risk a serious or even possible career-ending injury in a red state, where the attitude is basically just to scrape the injured worker off the ground before tossing him or her in the Dumpster). And…you know wage theft is a thing, right? Without a written contract, you’re operating on faith, trust and fairy dust that the crusty old guy who *said* he’d pay you fifteen bucks an hour is actually going to do it.

Just about everyone who is working class knows or is related to someone who suffered a serious injury and/or was stolen from by their employer on one of these “crusty old guy that can’t understand where the Work Ethic has gone” jobs.

#23 Comment By mrscracker On January 31, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

MKW says:

” I’m certain I haven’t heard the racial epithet “Wop” used in the wild since probably about 1980. I find that rather interesting. For those unfamiliar, “Wop” was, once upon a time, a common epithet for Italians.”
I remember my mother telling me that as a child in the Depression she was told that WPA stood for “Wops, Pollacks, & Africans”
And that’s probably the only time I’d heard the term used. Except maybe in an old movie.
I read the book “Unbroken” about Louis Zamperini who was of Italian descent. He feared being rounded up for eugenic sterilization because he was Italian & constantly in minor troubles in his CA community. California performed over 20,000 eugenic sterilizations, more than any other state. The criteria for sterilization: mental defectiveness, feeble mindedness, etc. was pretty loosely applied & being a minority or Italian-which wasn’t viewed as being completely “white” back then-could make you more of a target.

#24 Comment By John Gruskos On January 31, 2018 @ 4:04 pm

Navy Jack has the best comment on this thread. I saw a similar pattern when I worked in construction and landscaping in NJ. The top 50% of the White working class is very hardworking and skilled, but they expect respect and are always looking for higher paying work. Many employers resent their lack of obsequious mannerisms and the readiness with which they bargain for higher pay – which is why those employers enthusiastically support mass immigration.

As for the alleged decline of work ethic among Americans in some regions of the United States, I think this is the *result* of mass immigration and globalism closing opportunities for advancement that existed back in the 1940s-1950s during the time of immigration restriction and balanced trade. Back then, people could leave economically backward parts of the United States with dignity, because jobs at a living wage were awaiting them in the more economically advanced regions. Also contributing to demoralization are welfare, the deliberately created opioid epidemic, and the cultural Marxist propaganda from Hollywood, academia and the media constantly telling White Christian men that they are the scum of the earth. Is it any surprise that people robbed of a positive identity, traditional morality and the economic opportunities enjoyed by their grandparents, and instead given welfare and opioids, become demoralized? Put the blame where it belongs – liberal policy makers, the cultural elite, and big pharmaceutical/pill-mill doctors/organized crime.

But really, David Brooks is asking the wrong question.

Americans aren’t the *employees* of the United States, to be replaced if they don’t perform up to a certain standard.

Americans are the *owners* of the United States, whom David Brooks and others of his ilk are trying to rob of their inheritance.

#25 Comment By Acilius On January 31, 2018 @ 4:22 pm

If native-born youth are coming to regard physical labor with disdain, delegating physical labor to a foreign-born underclass will surely do nothing but accelerate that process.

#26 Comment By JonF On January 31, 2018 @ 4:29 pm

Somehow I missed Pete’s comments earlier. I may not agree with him on everything, but he can be a real breath of fresh air in discussions on working class matters. I’ve never met him for all that we live in the same city (we even know approximately where each other lives) but I’ve known him online since the heyday of Ta Nehisi Coates’ blog, back before the Great Troll Invasion.

#27 Comment By KD On January 31, 2018 @ 5:11 pm

Its all great, I would be first to admit that Hispanic immigrant workers in agricultural contexts bust their rears for little pay in the hot sun.

But in terms of the politics, a majority of Americans support large reductions to immigration, and restrictionist sentiment polls highest in Blacks:


The Harvard/Harris Poll numbers:


The political point is that if the GOP can use immigration restrictionism as a wedge issue to pick up Black and Hispanic voters concerned about wages and opportunities, that could break the Democratic Party.

I am not sure that if the GOP can even turn out 15% of the Black vote, that the Democrats can even win a national election.

I see a huge political risk for the Democrats, and I don’t think Blacks and Hispanics are going to be persuaded into voting against their interests by threats of being called racists.

#28 Comment By Gentillylace On February 1, 2018 @ 12:04 am

Fran Macadam,

It is extremely difficult for people without college degrees and who are not related to US citizens to legally migrate to the US. I want to end illegal immigration, but the way to do it perhaps should involve more people without college degrees and who are not related to US citizens being allowed to legally migrate to the US.

#29 Comment By BillWAF On February 1, 2018 @ 2:43 am

Damon Linker writes: “The liberal position appears to be that, even though these trends came about as a result of deliberate changes in immigration policy since 1965, American citizens cannot dislike or wish to alter them in any significant way because that would be racist.”

Of course, here is the problem. The 1965 law undid the Immigration Action of 1924, which imposed racist quotas upon immigration into the US. The second Ku Klux Klan was a major force in pushing for the law.

In fact a recent study suggests that the passage of the 1924 law is an overlooked factor (but not the only factor) in the ultimate decline of the second Klan. Basically, with the act passing, the Klan had accomplished one of its major goals, so that there was not a lot to keep it together (when seen with some other Klan policy successes). In essence, the Klan’s success led to its demise.

To be fair, the latter claim, that success killed or helped to kill the Klan is new. Others usually cite the backlash against some scandals and awful crimes committed by either the Klan or prominent klansmen.

#30 Comment By msnthrop On February 1, 2018 @ 4:59 am

Damon Linker says – The liberal position appears to be – but there are no links to any prominent liberals saying what they think immigration policy should look like. Shouldn’t he, and you, actually engage with what a liberal actually says or writes…how about analyzing the immigration plank of the Democratic party platform. Remember that Jordan Peterson interview, where the interviewer is constantly misstating Petersons views, and he has to patiently correct her over and over again. You, and Linker are the interviewer…please find an actual, prominent, liberal, who represents what you claim liberals believe, and specifically engage with them instead of this “The liberal position appears to be” nonsense.

#31 Comment By KD On February 1, 2018 @ 5:51 pm

If you introduce foreign anti-bodies into the body, you will get an immune reaction.

If you introduce foreigners with foreign customs into the body politic, you will get a surge of nativism, which will grow bigger the more people you import.

If you want more nativism, and more extreme nativism, push for more immigration. If you want less nativism, reduce immigration.