Monday, October 15, 2007

Elgin forum autopsy - report #5

The economist
Maybe I was a little terse with Dr. Barry Chiswick, the economics expert on the NPR forum in Elgin, when I talked about him in the introductory post.

He did say this: “I know there’s talk about the new wave of immigrants not being able to adjust. And the interesting thing about that is; every new wave of immigration to the United States over the last 300 years, that very same thing has been said, and yet they all adjust.

“And even if the immigrants are not proficient in English, their children are proficient in English. So the patterns that we’re seeing now are the same patterns that we saw a hundred years ago, two hundred years ago. And I would expect that the rapid economic improvement that we have historically seen among immigrants will be seen for the new immigrant groups, and for the next group, and the group after that.”

So I was disappointed with his attitude that we have a resilient economy and can adjust to this influx.

But he also made good sense at other times during the show:
“Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have very successful skill-based immigration policies where the primary question for applicants is, What are your skill levels? How well will you integrate into the economy?

“Our immigration policy is based on the question, To whom are you related? And can you successfully enter the country illegally?” (Touché)

And he said: “Hispanic immigrants have a particular problem in that it is much easier to avoid using English if you live in a large Spanish enclave where you can work using Spanish and where you can shop using Spanish and where the media and the newspapers and the magazines and radio and television are in Spanish compared to an immigrant from Uzbekistan who might have three other people who speak Uzbek. And so that person has to really learn English very, very quickly.

“And the problem of the comfort of the linguistic enclave is that it retards, it slows down acquiring English language skills and that slows down economic mobility. It slows down moving upward in the occupational ladder. It slows down moving to communities where you may get higher earnings but you don’t have a lot of others who speak your origin language.”

He also went a couple of rounds with Mayor Schock about jobs Americans won’t do. It went like this: “You know, when I hire a lawn care service I would rather pay a lower price than a higher price. When I go to a restaurant, I would rather pay a lower price than a higher price. But in fact, native workers would otherwise do those jobs. They’re paying the price and actually the rest of us are also paying the price through higher taxes because of the income transfers that go to low skilled immigrant workers and native workers whose earnings and incomes are lower because of the competition.”

And here’s what Chiswick told the group about labor riots in France (something we have to look forward to when we can no longer afford to give the store away): “Modern day Europe is experiencing a large increase in inequality. They’re finding that their generous welfare programs, their generous social welfare programs are being bankrupt by the large increase in low skilled workers. The riots in the French immigrant enclaves that we saw a couple of years ago were a consequence of large inflows of low skilled workers from North Africa and the youth in these enclaves finding that they didn’t have jobs. They couldn’t get jobs because of French labor policy.”

So, I’m convinced that Chiswick knows all too well the impact of illegal aliens (and low-skilled legal ones) in terms of depressed wages, entry-level workers without jobs, and the higher taxation (“income transfers” he calls them) of citizens.

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