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What jobs won't Americans do?

By Selwyn Duke
web posted April 3, 2006

One reason we're supposed to rejoice at the pitter-patter of illegal feet is that foreigners are only coming here to "do jobs Americans won't do." It's one of those basic assumptions upon which the argument in favor of forgetting we have borders, a culture and laws rests, and even President Bush mentioned this "truth" while speaking about immigration reform recently. And, undoubtedly, there are certain immutable laws of economics.

Only, this isn't one of them.

The next time someone mindlessly parrots this mantra, just ask, "What jobs would those be?" As you'll soon learn, the answer doesn't really matter, but sometimes we're shamed by didacts who oh-so-sternly say that illegals are the people who "pick our fruit for us." So, fruit picking – something that must be in league with being a rat catcher in Victorian London or Wile E. Coyote's stunt double – is as good an example as any.

One amusing aspect of the fruit picking fiction is that millions of people in our country engage in this activity as a form of recreation. Why, there are folks who embark upon autumn ventures to the hinterlands to pick apples and consider it a fun family outing. But I digress.

I have to ask, if I paid you $800 an hour to pick fruit, would you do it? Except for the silk and satin set, I have a feeling most would beat a path to my orchard. And this brings us to what is a true law of economics.

There are no jobs Americans won't do. There are only wages Americans won't work for.

And this relates to a fact of contemporary American life: immigrants, illegal or otherwise, depress wages. Oh, some would dispute this? Well, they're wrong and I intend to prove it.

There's another universal, unchangeable law of economics called "supply and demand," and most of us understand it. Regardless of what product or service is at issue, if demand increases relative to supply, prices increase; if supply increases relative to demand, prices drop. And this phenomenon is relevant here. Why?

Quite simply because, like it or not, within the context of a free market system, workers are commodities whose value is determined by supply and demand. For example, a skilled neurosurgeon doesn't make a half a million dollars a year because what he does is so important. If that were the case, he'd earn more than people who hit, kick and throw balls around and sign autographs. No, his income is a function of his rarity; create 100 million more just like him and his salary will become relatively paltry.

Thus, increase the supply of workers relative to the jobs available and the value of workers decreases. This is not opinion, my friends, but hard, cold fact. Immigrants swell the worker pool, thereby increasing competition for jobs, allowing employers to pay less for the same employees. We've all heard of a "buyer's market" and a "seller's market"; well, high levels of immigration transform us from a worker's market into an employer's market. Big business loves it.

Of course, the immigration lobby has an answer at the ready when this truth becomes inconvenient. "How much do you want to pay for a head of lettuce?!" they exclaim.

What's so ironic about this argument is that its proponents are generally the very same people who'll zealously campaign for increases in the minimum wage, an action that can also increase the cost of doing business and, therefore, retail prices. But since they say they want to help poor Americans, let's discuss that.

The natural, free market way to help low income Americans is to increase their value by making them rarer commodities. How do you do this? You guessed it, by severely curtailing (a moratorium would be ideal) immigration. Do that and America becomes more of a worker's market, forcing businesses to offer more money to attract applicants.

Would goods become more expensive? Perhaps, but while this isn't the focus of this piece, that may be more than offset by the elimination of the social consequences (e.g., hospital, welfare and education costs) of absorbing millions of often illiterate (some can't even read and write their own languages) Third World immigrants into our nation. Regardless, this is the traditional, healthy, free market way of spreading the wealth around. And I'd rather redistribute wealth through the market than through socialism.

Lastly, there's another irony here. Cesar Chavez, the head of the United Farm Workers Union during its heyday, is a hero of Americans of Mexican descent. So much so, in fact, that his name is often associated with the dual cause of promoting immigration and the re-conquest of California and the American southwest, known as La Reconquista. Conveniently forgotten, though, is a very inconvenient fact: when Chavez enjoyed the peak of his power, he was a fervid – bordering on venomous – opponent of illegal immigration. And he not only railed against it but often actually reported Mexican illegals to the INS so they could be deported. He also protested illegal immigration on the border in 1969 and had civilian border guards who were sufficiently heavy-handed to make today's Minutemen seem milquetoasty.

What motivated him? Quite simply, he was charged with the responsibility of keeping his union members' wages as high as possible. And he understood the law of supply and demand.

We have a union called the United States. I just wonder if membership therein means anything anymore.

Of course, there's always cheap lettuce.

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