Friday, February 1, 2008

Obama the economist

“Well, let me first of all say that I have worked on the streets of Chicago as an organizer with people who have been laid off from steel plants; black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and, you know, all of them are feeling economically insecure right now, and they have been for many years. Before the latest round of immigrants showed up, you had huge unemployment rates among African-American youth.

“And, so, I think to suggest somehow that the problem that we're seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants, I think, is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to.” ~Barack Obama 1/31/08 Debate

This is an important statement to make, especially if you have minted yourself as the candidate for the union man. Obama must continually send out that message lest union rank-and-file realize that illegal aliens have been stealing work from them. And in the fierce battle for the African-American vote, Barack needs to downplay the impact of third world immigrants.

Obama’s position flies in the face of economists and demographers. For example, Roy Beck says that “a tight labor market is the best friend and American worker ever had,” as he points to the immigration policy from 1925-1965.

University of Chicago Economist Dr. Barry Chiswick said this about the impact of immigration on the workers in the United States: “The evidence is very clear that the large, low skilled immigration that the United States has experienced in the last three decades has had a depressing effect on the wages and employment opportunities of lower skilled workers who are citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States.

“And this has actually been one of the factors that has increased the inequality in earnings in the United States that we’ve seen over the last few decades. And this is one of the consequences of an immigration policy, both the legal immigration stream and the tolerance of large streams of low skilled illegal aliens, has been the increase in the inequality and the slow growth, and in some years even negative growth, in the real earnings of lower skilled workers in the United States.

“I think it’s very clear that low skilled workers, whether African-American or white or Native Americans have been the ones who’ve paid the price of the very large low skilled immigration, both legal and illegal, that we’ve seen in the United States over the last three decades.

“African-Americans are more likely to be low skilled workers than are whites and so African-Americans have in fact paid the higher price. And let me refer to a comment that was made earlier about the illegal aliens doing jobs that native workers will not do, and that is simply not true. Because if the illegal alien workers, low skilled immigrant workers were not there, the wages would be higher and that would make these jobs more attractive for native workers.

“So, you know, in parts of the country where you don’t have very many illegal aliens or low skilled immigrants, lawns do get mowed, restaurant dishes do get washed.” (Chicago Public Radio Forum October 2, 2007, Elgin IL)

One wonders how Chiswick’s Chicago differs from Obama’s Chicago since both live there.

Now, let’s see what Dr. Vernon Briggs of Cornell (another Economist) has to say on the subject: “ The estimated 7.4 million illegal immigrants are concentrated in the low skilled segment of the labor force where they compete with over 42 million legitimate workers (i.e., the native born, naturalized citizens, permanent resident aliens, and temporary visa holders eligible to work) who are also mostly employed in low skilled occupations.

“Because the illegal immigrant workers will do whatever it takes to get a job, they become ‘preferred workers’ for these jobs. The losers are the legal workers whose wages and incomes are depressed or who become unemployed as well as the others who become discouraged from seeking work and withdraw from the labor force. These are the persons who are most adversely affected by the unfair competition with illegal immigrant workers and who are in need of the protection of the law. But their voices continued to be ignored.

“Illegal immigrants inflict harm on the American workers. Getting them out of the labor force is as important as keeping others from illegally entering the country.

“Only then will market forces be free to set the wages and working conditions without being artificially depressed and worsened by the presence of the shadow labor force who are not even supposed to be in the country, to say nothing about not being in the labor force. Given another amnesty – especially on the unprecedented scale of the millions now in the U.S—would free them to move into other occupations and other geographic regions of the country not now infected by the presence of illegal immigrant workers.” (Congressional Testimony, May 3, 2007)

Care to restate that, Mr. Obama? Or do you continue to believe it is all a matter of “scapegoating”?

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