Has Rove accidentally ripped the mask off the vicious social inegalitarianism of Bush's immigration plan, as Mark Krikorian argues, or does a more benign interpretation of his comments save him? It's not like he hasn't said this sort of thing before, apparently. Indeed, his June, 2006 version makes the probable context of last week's remark quite clear--and Rove's not simply "saying that every parent wants their child to have a high-skilled, high-wage job," as the White House's damage control suggests. Here's the 2006 pitch:
"Now frankly," Rove said during a riff on the temporary worker part of President Bush's immigration reform plan, "I don't want my kid digging ditches. I don't want my kid slinging tar. But I know somebody's got to do it. And we ought to have a system that allows people who want to come here to work to do jobs for which Americans are not lining up."
OK, let's concede there are some unpleasant, unskilled jobs that need doing. How to get them done? 1) One solution is to raise the pay until enough Americans--including teens and college-age kids--and legal immigrants are willing to take the jobs.If the wage gets so high that machines can do the job more efficiently, then unskilled workers will gradually be replaced by robots. (Maybe Rove could tolerate having his son run a computerized robotic tomato picker.) 2) We could in effect draft Americans to do these lousy jobs. It would be a duty of citizenship, like serving on juries. I have a vague memory of Michael Walzer suggesting something along these lines in Spheres of Justice; 3) A third solution would be to import foreigners to work the lousy jobs, but offer them a deal in which, if they work for x number of years, they could gain equal citizenship. This would be a sort of modern, socialized version of indentured servitude.
The most socially inegalitarian solution, of course, is Bush's Solution #4) Import foreign workers who do these second-class jobs as second-class non-citizens. ...
Ah, but wouldn't Bush be happy to settle for #3--a temporary worker program with a path to citizenship? He might. And that's the proposed solution of many Democrats. If I was sure a McCain-Kennedy-Bush program could actually achieve #3, I might support it too. What I fear, of course--what I expect--is that what seems to be #3 will instead become #5: A huge new wave of illegal immigration, drawn by the reward of Bush's semi-amnesty, that overwhelms the fancy new employer and border enforcement mechanisms and temporary-guest-worker safety valves Bush talks about. Lousy jobs will continue to be done by foreigners who have no "path to citizenship" and no legal authorization--it's just that there will be many, many more of them and they will be more poorly paid.
Would Rove care if a 'guest worker program with a path to citizenship' (#3) breaks down, Iraq-style, into a 'new wave of illegals' (#5)--as the 1986 reform did? We now have a clue! That's the significance of Rove's gaffe, I think: Whether or not Bush's guest worker plan is amended to include eventual citizenship, Rove's already revealed himself as a social inegalitarian at heart who doesn't much care. He's fine with #4. Likewise, Rove's unlikely to object much--at least on egalitarian grounds--if we wind up with 20 or 40 million more illegal immigrants slinging tar and making beds. Hey, at least no American's children will have to do the work.
This is not the man you want comprehensively reforming immigration. Dividing work into skilled jobs fit for Americans and unskilled jobs unfit for Americans is certainly one logical reaction to the increasing returns to smarts and skills in our economy. But, as Krikorian notes, it's a reaction that would alter America's essential self-conception. Democrats complain about the inegalitarian effect of various Republican tax cuts, but that's a minor and superficial inequality compared to formalizing the snobbery of the skilled. ... [via Sullivan and Rising Hegemon] 1:43 A.M. link
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