Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Destroying American jobs in order to deport Mexicans.

The perpetual whine of the xenophobic nativist is that immigrants are “stealing our jobs.” The idea is absurd on the face of it -- jobs are not the private property of one individual. They are a contract between a willing buyer of labor and a willing seller of labor. No one owns a job. No one has a right to a job. But even if we grant the unspoken premise of this whine it still doesn’t pan out.

Pretty much once a day I stop into a local food establishment for lunch. Actually I have around half a dozen such outlets that I frequent with varying regularity. Ours is a relatively small town with only around 26,000 people. Of these around 10% are Hispanic.

The restaurants have signs posted in their windows that they are seeking employees. So who works there? for the most part it is Hispanic young people in their teens and twenties.

Several of the restaurants seem to have almost completely Hispanic staff. The rest seem to have one or two white kids working there but are predominantly Hispanic. Do these major chain restaurants actively discriminate against white kids? There is no indication that they do.

Certainly it’s possible but highly unlikely that six different restaurants are actively working to discriminate against whites. And if they were doing this where are the whites with their complaints?

Let’s talk reality and not Right-wing fantasy. The staff of these restaurants are mainly Hispanic, not because they are “stealing” jobs from whites but because whites have thrown those jobs away.

Kerry Howley, over at Reason, wrote an article on employer sanctions in Arizona that forced companies to fire “illegals” from their jobs. And the net result isn’t white Arizonians flocking in to take those jobs -- the result is empty jobs. She quotes Sheridan Bailey, the president of Ironco Enterprises which was forced to let go of about one third of their workers. Wagers were forced up in the hope of attracting workers. Training programs were created and still the company can’t grow because it can’t find employees.

The owner of a masonry business says he goes to job fairs and is offering a starting salary of $13 an hour without any experience. He’s having trouble finding workers.

These companies are losing revenue because they can’t find staff willing to work. Yet the workers who are willing to take the jobs are forbidden from doing so. It sure sounds like a government program to me.

In Texas, J. Allen Carnes grows onions on 500 acres of land. Come harvest time he could only find half the field workers he needed. MSNBC reports that he fell two weeks behind schedule, ended up leaving unpicked food to rot in the fields and saw his farm income drop by $150,000. The U.S. Department of Labor, just a few years ago, estimated that just over half of all farm laborers were illegal immigrants.

According to NPR farmers in Arizona have been dropping certain crops such as lettuce, strawberries and broccoli because the have to picked by hand --- they can’t find enough pickers. And in New Jersey tomato growers are reducing the size of their crops because they can’t find field workers.

Keith Eckel grows tomatoes in Pennsylvania, lots of them. “We normally harvest 200,000 25-pound cartons of tomatoes.” But he can’t find workers. He used to have them: “Many of them have come to our same farm for 25 years. These people do extremely hard work and are doing jobs that our local people will not or care not to do, and that would include myself... They are critical to our process. Without those harvesters, we’re out of business.” Of course those workers were Mexican migrant workers. They averaged a pay in excess of $16 per hour but Americans don’t want the work so Eckel is closing down.

Eckel planted around 2.2 million tomato plants last year. Now he will plant none. He says that the cost to plant and harvest his crops was between $1.5 and $2 million. He can't afford to make that sort of investment if he faces the risk of not having workers to harvest the crop. He estimates that the number of jobs directly lost by his having to cut production is 175. That doesn't count jobs created by these jobs. The president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Carl Shaffer, told a press conference that other farmers will be following Eckel's example. "The American consumer really needs to wake up to this issue. It's not just an immigration issue, it's an issue that's going to affect everyone's food supply." True, but the bigots don't care.

In 2005 the US had 131,800 acres dedicated to field grown tomatoes. In 2006 it dropped to 127,900 acres. In 2007 it dropped again to 124,400 acres. Perhaps Americans no long want tomatoes? Apparently not, imports of tomatoes have increased every year. In 2005 we imported 2.098 billion pounds of tomatoes, in 2006 it was 2.188 billion and in 2007 it was 2.361 billion.

Less and less of the food we eat comes from American farmers. In 2005 35% of the tomatoes we consumed came from outside the country. By 2006 it had risen to 36.7% and by last year it was 38.5%. American producers of tomatoes are closing down and they are saying it’s because they can’t find workers.

Do you know the number one foreign source for tomatoes consumed in the United States? It’s Mexico, from whom we import 2,093.3 million pound. In second place is Canada, with a fraction of that amount. This seems to indicate that what American immigration restrictions have done is not to protect American jobs at all -- instead, it exported them to Mexico.

There are jobs that need filling. There are people that need, and want, those jobs. The moronic nativists have pushed an authoritarian-inclined administration to stop the people who want the jobs from coming here to get them. But when jobs and workers need to come together moving people to the jobs is just one alternative. The other is moving the jobs to the people. And America is now exporting those jobs thanks to petty bigotry.

The short-sighted nativists don’t care. They imagine that their policies prevent those “damn Mexicans” from “taking our jobs”. Wrong. The jobs are being taken and being taken outside the country.

Some may say that if U.S. workers don’t want the job no harm is being done. Mexicans who would have come here to work now stay in Mexico for the work. They think that means there is no reduction in work for Americans and they succeeded in keeping “those people” out of the country. That typically looks at only one aspect of the production process. Yes, work that Mexicans would have done in the U.S. is now being done in Mexico. But more than the just field workers were involved.

American farmers, who used to grow those tomatoes, are now not growing them. Mexican farmers who didn’t used to grow them are doing so. When the anti-immigration bigots transferred the field work outside the United States they also transferred the profits outside the United States.

Go back and consider Mr. Eckel and his farm. No doubt his work force included far more than field workers. He spoke about having his accounts audited to see how much he was paying his field workers. And with the amount of tomatoes he was growing that would be a lot of records. No doubt he hired accountants. And I suggest they were not illegal aliens but Americans. They lost the work they were doing when he shut down his farm. He had truckers who delivered his produce to market, they are no longer moving his tomatoes.

Mr. Eckel bought farm equipment from local companies and sales agents. He bought fertilizer, irrigation equipment and mcuh more It’s unlikely he drove to Mexico to pick up any of the hundreds of other things he needed to successfully grow tomatoes on a massive farm. He’s no longer buying any of that.

And his profits are gone. What did he do with his profits? He may have fixed up his home, or bought entertainment, or new furniture. Whatever he would have spent those profits on is no longer being purchased. The stores where he spent profits don’t get his income any longer. So the loss of his profits translates into the loss of jobs for Americans.

His field workers were only a small part of the entire labor force needed to produce tomatoes. But while they were just a part of the labor needed they were a necessary part. Without them the entire process shuts down and lots of non-immigrant workers lose their jobs as well. The anti-immigration crowd nevers talks about that.

When the nativists stopped Mexicans from coming to America to pick local crops they inadvertently sent the crops to Mexico instead. The farming left the country with the workers. Along with those field workers we exported the profits from those farms. The nativists did deport the Mexicans--and don’t they feel proud?. But they also deported other jobs in the process. They put Americans out of work in order to indulge their prejudices. They made America less prosperous, they hurt the farmers who produced these goods and they hurt all the local workers and industries who relied on them.

As they are busily deporting jobs and capital from the United States to other nations these nativists have the audacity to call themselves “patriots”. Patriots? They are damaging the economy, destroying American jobs (not protecting them), and exporting capital to other nations. I argue that their actions are destructive and dangerous. They are hurting America and in return all they get is the satisfaction that they chased some hardworking people out of the country.

The idea that that they protecting American jobs is ludicrous and it is a smokescreen. They are not saving jobs for Americans but destroying them. But it was never really about the jobs, it was always about the Mexicans. The nativists are merely couching their racism in economic terminology. Unfortunately it is ill-informed economics based on fallacies and absuridites. These bigots aren’t just hurting Mexicans. They are hurting the entire country. And when a group works to harm a country they really ought not be called “patriots” at all. There are words to describe people who work insidiously to harm their own country. I don't think "patriot" is one of them. What could they be?

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