Bush achieves domestic legacy.
Most of the vocal opposition to the immigration bill, so far, has come from the right. What's important, for the coming debate on immigration, will be the strength of opposition on the left. Does anyone on the Left think the Grand Bargain will on average improve the earnings of those Americans now making $6, $7, $8 and $9 an hour? Paul Krugman doesn't seem to. A year ago he wrote [$]:
[W]hile immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration -- especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration.
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.
P.S.: Yglesias suggests it's "baffling" that I oppose "comprehensive" reform on the grounds that it will increase income inequality given that (in his characterization) I'm "the author of a book about why we shouldn't care about income inequality." That's a reasonable challenge to raise--I'll defend my position on inequality later. But I'm not talking about inequality here. I'm talking about wages at the bottom, and whether Democrats are going to endorse something that makes them significantly, measurably worse.
Update: I Rest My Case! Kevin Drum sneers about my "new role as champion of the common man," arguing that if, in fact, chicken pluckers unionized and struck demanding $10 an hour I'd "denounce Democratic support for a strike like this." I might! I think Wagner Act unions bring unnecessary inefficiencies, and wages (above the minimum) are generally best set by the market. If the market sets the wage at $7.50, the better way to boost the incomes of those workers is through the Earned Income Tax Credit, which I've consistently supported. But when the market raises wages above $7.50--due to the sort of tight labor supply we had in the late 90s--I'm all for it. Kennedy isn't. Confronted with the possibility of a natural market increase in wages at the bottom, Kennedy reacts by attempting to prevent it by importing additional "guest workers."
How pathetic is it that, instead of defending the position of low-wage workers when they finally might have the market on their side, earnest leftish bloggers like Drum are suddenly more concerned with snarking at people like me!
(And here I thought it was Kinsleyesque neoliberals who hunted for hypocrisy while Rome burned.)
Of course, Drum has written, we're only talking about "high school dropouts." And
if we're really worried about high school dropouts, everyone agrees they have way bigger problems than competition from illegal immigration anyway.
So pluck 'em!
P.P.S.: Drum notes that the Borjas/Katz study has (since Krugman wrote his 2006 column) cut its estimate of the negative effect of Mexican immigration in half, to 3.6%. a) That's not chopped liver, especially since we are trying to get wages at the bottom to go up; b) Anecdotal evidence suggests worse--talk to dry wall installers in South Central; c) Drum argues the Senate bill would raise low-wage workers' bargaining power by legalizing illegals. But that assumes that there won't be a new wave of legalization-seeking illegals as there was after the 1986 legalization; d) Krugman, for his part, doesn't seem to have shifted position since last year--he still argues (in the more recent column linked above) that earlier waves of immigration "depressed the wages of the less skilled," and that the current bill isn't worth the "price that must be paid." ... 2:42 A.M.
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