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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Undocumented Workers and Low Cost Labor

Undocumented Workers and Low Cost Labor

Monday, 09 August 2010 04:20

Morning Edition had a piece on people who hire undocumented workers to do tasks like landscaping their yards or cleaning their toilets. It quoted one person as saying that they hire immigrants rather than U.S. citizens or green card holders because she "believes American prices are inflated."

The article doesn't tell listeners what any of the employers in the piece do, but it is an absolute certainty that there would be a huge number of qualified people around the world who would be willing to do their jobs at a much lower wage than they receive. However, most people who work in occupations requiring more education enjoy much more protection from immigrant workers than people who landscape yards or clean toilets.

The position of the people interviewed in this piece is that they are entitled to protection from competition to keep their wages high, while they should be able to hire workers from the developing world at low wages to save money. It would have been helpful if the piece had elucidated their view more clearly.

Comments (10)Add Comment
written by foosion, August 09, 2010 5:16
it is an absolute certainty that they would be a huge number of qualified people around the world who would be willing to do their jobs at a much lower wages than they receive.

Are you saying there is no one in the US who earns high wages because they are more talented than others?
Not really...
written by Scott Dunn, August 09, 2010 5:55
He's saying something more along the lines of this: http://www.salon.com/news/us_e...e_obsolete
written by foosion, August 09, 2010 6:12
The Salon article makes a different point than the portion of Dean's article that I quoted.
Pro-Life Protected Jobs, Pro-Choice Competitive Jobs
written by izzatzo, August 09, 2010 8:54
Much of the 94% of the US population below the upper 6% are getting hit hard in the deep recession because they're losing simultaneously from highly competitive supply conditions in the labor market, combined with protectionist monopoly conditions faced in the demand market for overpriced essential services like health care.

Yet in this case, as Baker repeatedly points out, the media consistently paints the villain as an excess supply side problem via a surplus of unskilled labor via immigration, then flatly contradicts itself for skilled professional jobs by ignoring the obvious artifical shortages created via barred market entry designed to increase income and wealth for the upper class via economic rental income immune from competition.

The anti-immigrant movement has two faces, one Arizona type that strives aggressively to achieve the same protectionism from competition granted to others above their pay scale, the other face from the protected class itself. Neither has any interest in solving the problem from Baker's perspective, by introducing competition into the professional labor market equivalent to that faced in other labor markets.

A better distinction for professional jobs protected from competition, not to mention the ultra rich immune from competition altogether, could be "Pro-Life Jobs", to emphasize how they indeed benefit both from "inflated American prices" by receiving them from the supply side, then paying lower "competitive" prices for many goods and services on the demand side like landscaping and cleaning services.

That way, "free markets" would make more sense when not confused with "Pro-Life Jobs", since everyone else would be forced to take "Pro-Choice Jobs", the kind determined by fierce competition in the labor market combined with "free choice" too take them or leave them, or be unemployed instead.
written by tom price, August 09, 2010 1:37
TomThumbsBlues posts:
Morning Edition also had a piece on the high cost of school supplies, and how some people had to cut way back. When the commentators listed the supplies, they failed to mention that the entire list was probably foreign made. Duh.
Most people most of teh time think
written by floccina, August 09, 2010 1:42
Most people most of the time think the prices that they must pay are inflated and the price that they are paid are too low.

People are not that nice. That goes for politicians too.
People's unlimited capacity for self delusion
written by diesel, August 09, 2010 4:00
Still, the piece does make the Marouns look like morons, or rather Maroun's wife Butler, not Maroun's wife's butler, whom we haven't met, and who may or may not be an illegal because after all, who's asking?, because as Butler said, "It would be profiling if I really asked "Hey can I see your papers? Are you undocumented?"

Such sensitive people. At least towards cheap laborers, who presumably don't share the undesirable traits of their Yankee counterparts since, "This isn't about drug smuggling or criminals. This is about everyday people who are trying to better themselves."--criteria that obviously excludes the bulk of the American labor force.
More on delusions (unrelated)
written by diesel, August 09, 2010 6:58
Alright, anyone who seriously believes that the Republicans will do their mightiest to balance the budget and reduce the deficit, (should they by some miracle achieve a majority in both the Senate and House in the mid-term elections), please stand up. Come on, don't be bashful. Alright, there are a few of you.

One of the last remaining joys in following the American political process is watching the crestfallen expressions on the faces of the Republican faithful when, with dismay, they realize that, yet again, they have been betrayed by their party representatives who promised a smaller role for government in the run up to the elections.

It's a pretty safe bet that six months from now, Republican congressmen will have forgotten all about their promises to reduce the deficit. After all, if they did that, half their campaign contributors would go bankrupt. And too, they must keep their eye on the ball of their larger goal which is to so cripple the Federal government with debt that it will be forced to renege on its entitlement promises.

The difference between Republican/"conservatives" and "liberals" is that conservatives have a well-confirmed cynical faith in people's capacity to delude themselves, while liberals stumble over people's seeming inability to act in light of their own self-interest. This statement is at odds with the traditional formulation of their respective views of human nature, but it is true. "Conservatives" pay lip service to the autonomous individual but secretly know that people will fall for the same line of seductive flattery even when they are repeatedly disappointed. And in that, they're correct, though of dubious morality.
learned helplessness
written by frankenduf, August 10, 2010 8:35
yo diesel- u liberal snobs are all alike- u may as well write a book called 'what's the matter with kansas'- well of course kansans are as smart as ur state, which judging by ur moniker is something like texas, which if so is qed (im channelling the old isthatso)
ask if your contractor's workers are documented, or shut up
written by scott, August 12, 2010 7:05
I've written and called all the right wing radio shows in Dallas about this issue. These stations stoke the anti-immigration issue yet never earnestly address it.

I wrote them all imploring them challenge their listeners who care about the issue to simply ask contractors if their workers are documented. In 20 yrs of landscaping I've had one person ask if my workers are documented. (That guy worked for the DOJ and had political aspirations)

As such, I've been forced to conclude that there is no market for documented workers. I wrote these radio hosts, that once a market is demonstrated, we would rush to fill it. This is more efficient than cracking down on employers with police and the like.

None of those I wrote understood my proposal. This leads me to conclude that they are all sophistic whores simply cynically stoking resentment for political gain. Resentments so hypocritically held that even after discussing this at length, none bothered to ask.

They don't want to know, there is no integrity in this country. From Washington to each of us. We are all poor citizens, and we will lose our country as a result. That is the good news. After the US Empire collapses, things will be much better, just as in Rome. Though, official historians will never see it that way, for the rank and file, it will be a blessing of liberty. Sadly, all our social programs will be robbed blind before we get our country back. After all, freedom is the reward of those with nothing left to lose.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.