FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Krugman and Clinton: Shut the Door

by SHARON SMITH

Economist Paul Krugman is “proud of America’s immigrant history, and grateful that the door was open when my grandparents fled Russia.”

Now, however, he argues that the U.S. should close its door on the poor huddled masses, warning, “We need to do something about immigration, and soon,” in a New York Times op-ed on March 27-the same day the Senate opened debate on immigration reform.

Krugman cites “serious, nonpartisan research” revealing “some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular.”

In reality, the foreign-born population today remains under its historic high point of 15 percent a century ago, when Krugman’s grandparents presumably emigrated to the U.S.

But Krugman claims that the current pool of Mexican migrants reduces wages for unskilled native-born workers, citing a recent Harvard study estimating that “high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren’t for Mexican immigration.”

Krugman neatly sidesteps another “uncomfortable fact”: the federal minimum wage, unchanged by Congress for eight years, fell to its lowest level in 56 years in 2005-to just 32 percent of the average wage for private sector workers-surely exercising a greater downward pressure on wages than that of Mexican workers.

In addition, he claims, “low-skill immigrants don’t pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive,” threatening to “unravel” America’s (suddenly generous) welfare state.

Yet, according to the National Conference of State Legislators in 2005, immigrants pay on average $1,800 in taxes in excess of their “cost” in government services.

Krugman’s argument, furthermore, fails to account for the millions in unpaid taxes, thanks to Bush’s tax cuts, from extremely wealthy, native-born Americans.

His anti-immigrant stance showcases the bankruptcy of the “liberal” flank in the current immigration debate now supposedly “raging” on Capitol Hill.

Senator Hillary Clinton helped raise the level of melodrama last week, accusing Republicans of promoting legislation that would criminalize “even Jesus himself,” while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid threatened to filibuster Republican legislation raising the crime level of undocumented immigration to felony status.

Yet back in 2003, Clinton told WABC, “People have to stop employing illegal immigrants.” She also went on record supporting “at least a visa ID, some kind of entry-and-exit ID. And … we might have to move towards an ID system even for citizens.”

Politicians of both parties face a similar dilemma: balancing their search for votes among Red State conservatives with the growing Latino vote, 40 percent of which went to Bush in 2004.

Both Democrats and Republicans have already opportunistically agreed to limit the parameters of debate to varying degrees of “enhancing border security” and the desirability of guest worker programs-both assuring certain deportation for Mexican workers.

Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President, recently argued that “all” bills in Congress “fail to protect even the most basic rights of immigrant workers and their families.”

Wholesale amnesty is not in the cards on either side. Also missing is the notion that foreign-born workers hold the potential to raise working-class wages through their own struggles for union organization.

Immigrant workers have played a key role in advancing the labor movement historically, from the battle for the eight-hour day that led to the 1886 Haymarket Square massacre to the United Farm Workers, a self-organized movement that finally unionized California’s migrant farm workers in the 1960s.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented immigrants make up 24 percent of all workers currently employed in farming occupations, 17 percent in cleaning, 14 percent in construction and 12 percent in food preparation.

Their potential for organizing is far greater today than 100 years ago, when the American Federation of Labor’s president Samuel Gompers routinely described immigrant labor as “garbage”.

In 2000, the AFL-CIO finally reversed its long-standing opposition to undocumented immigrants, supporting amnesty and the right to organize into unions.

Now it is time for the labor movement to make good on this promise to the hundreds of thousands of Mexican-American workers who have been demonstrating across the country, demanding legalization, in recent weeks.

SHARON SMITH is the author of Women and Socialism and Subterranean Fire: a History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States. She can be reached at: sharon@internationalsocialist.org

 

 

 

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail