Sunday, April 30, 2006

Will May Day be a bust?

I tend to agree with much of what Debra Saunders says in her article The Great American Turnoff however, it ain't that simple:

I am one American who will be moved in the direction not intended by sponsors of the May 1 National Day Without Immigrants Great American Boycott demonstrations.

When supporters of illegal immigration threaten to boycott all stores, it makes me feel like shopping. When I see TV reporters interview demonstrators, who announce that they are undocumented, I can only surmise that illegal immigrants have nothing to fear from immigration authorities.

When demonstrators say that Americans should welcome them because they are willing to work at low wages, I notice that they have depressed wages for other low-skilled workers and made it harder for less-educated Americans to earn a living wage. I salute anyone who wants to work hard, but I cannot feel good about the fact that they do so by dragging down other people's ability to earn a decent living.

When I read Mexican American Political Association flyers for the May 1 event that demand "immediate legalization without conditions," that tells me activists don't want the earned citizenship in the Senate Judiciary Committee immigration bill, because it requires would-be citizens to learn English, attend civics classes, pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a criminal background check.

Well obviously things are not going to go that way. In fact it has been said that the demonstrations will backfire. Will they? I suppose that depends on what their purpose is. If the goal is to seperate the Hispanic from the Republican party base and drive the nativists berzerk then it just might work. Otherwise it will be counterproductive. I also would not be surprised if a great many of the undocumented workers in this country just wish these people would shut up and stop making trouble for them. It has been my observation that often times activists only represent other activists. Most people just want to be left in peace.

But I do not agree that these people just depress wages. There is no way Americans will do migrant labor work in the numbers needed. Paying another couple of bucks an hour won't help. The truth is the only time Americans have been willing to do that work in any numbers in the last century were the years of the Great Depression. My grandparents went to work the fields in California and as soon as they could get out of it they did. My grandfather was not a lazy man but he hated picking fruit and was ashamed of the time he spent in the camps. By the 50's the US was encouraging people to come up from Mexico and work. I suppose that if we did try to unionize the work and offer enough benefits it might help, but that would raise prices to consumers. Considering the reaction to high gas prices I doubt this would be popular or sustainable.

So while it is true that Americans will do some of the jobs these people do, like construction and truck driving, I think the truth is that without Mexican migrant workers we would be looking at some empty produce shelves.

This is why I think the guest worker program is needed. But it seems that any more people think in extremes, everything is all or nothing.


blert said...

I have to disagree: illegal immigrants collapse the wage rate for the trades 50%. Further, they are almost always hired on an underground basis.

Effectively, modern America is addicted to slave/ peonage labor. We either import it from China -- (embedded in imported goods)with their labor camps cum prisons; or we permit de facto second class wage rates throughout the land.

Slave wages is what is permitting America to boom along with both guns and butter -- and no wage pressure.

Pemitting Mexico's best to flee creates blowback down below: no pressure for government reform -- leaving plenty of opportunity for the elites to pimp their citizens.

Mexico is a failed state. It needs to be addressed. Otherwise this dynamic will never end. On the trend, it is running exponentially higher with each generation.

We've already had one war over slaves. Can it be that we fertilize the path to a second?

MeaninglessHotAir said...


I agree with blert.

There's no question but that cheap labor drives down wages. That's why the Wall Street Journal always supports open borders—they couldn't care less about the integrity of the country, only in adding to their readers' millions.

You are implicitly acknowledging this when you say we'll have empty produce shelves—not available is just another way of saying that the price has gone to infinity. But the price wouldn't really go to infinity. It would go high enough to induce people to go do the necessary work themselves, and then it would stop rising.

You state that Americans would not pick fruit but that's just wrong. I'm sure you'd agree that you yourself would do it for a year if you could earn, say, $100m for one season's work. And I'm sure there are people who would do it for $50m or even a measly $1m. I think we can agree that there would be lots and lots of takers even at $500k for one season's work.

On the demand side, the price of lots of fruit would go up above the ability of lots of Americans to pay. That's still better than a price of infinity (empty shelves). The numerous rich people who don't have to work would still be perfectly content to buy grapes at, say, $100 a bunch for the occasional party, for exactly the same reason people buy Mercedes-Benzes: they're status symbols, proof that you've made it. The price might even go lower, maybe $50 a bunch. Who knows?

The point is that given a sufficiently high wage on the one side and a sufficiently high price on the store shelves on the other side, the market would eventually sort things out so that Americans would work and be glad to do the work.

Unions wouldn't have anything to do with it. The existence of unions commanding high wages is always a function of the market's ability to bear those wages. When the Big Three had a hammer lock on the American car market in the '70's, the UAW could screw the average working stiff in this country big time. But now working people have a choice and can buy a Hyundai instead. The UAW has nothing to offer except unemployment to its members.

David Thomson said...

“Slave wages is what is permitting America to boom along with both guns and butter -- and no wage pressure.”

This is utterly false. Our economy is primarily growing because of its well educated work force. The grunt labor is of secondary imporantce. Furthermore, studies show conclusively that people only initially earn a living performing menial work. Eventually they tend to move up the economic ladder. This is also the case regarding countries like China.

Fresh Air said...

DT is right. The growth we're seeing is not a function of low-end workers entering the economy; it's a function of upper-end workers and technical workers expanding their productivity through technology.

One only has to look at growth rate of industries that employ unskilled workers versus their counterparts to see that this is so.

Anonymous said...

David Thompson:

Furthermore, studies show conclusively that people only initially earn a living performing menial work.

Yes, if their cultures value education. Mexican culture values work, which is good in itself, but except at the upper social strata it does not place an especially high value on education.

That would be one of the great benefits of our revitalizing the assimilative culture and traditional educational values that we have lost. And that is an uphill battle. The question also arises of what happens if we do not win it.

Rick Ballard said...

Assuming $10 per hour current pay for an illegal (which would be light in CA), a 2K hour work year, and 7M to 11M illegals, the total direct cost to raise the pay to $16.51 (national average non-supervisory rate) would be from a low end $91B to a high end $143B. So the impact on a $12T GNP would be between .75 and 1% on a direct cost basis.

The actual impact would be somewhat higher because of the upstream ripple. I've never read much about the trigger point for moving jobs overseas (or down to Mexico) so I can't even guess. Considering that there are only 7M individuals looking for work at the moment and that about 5M of those people are looking because of transition (spouse took a job in a different location or something similiar), the disappearance of 7M workers tomorrow morning might not be the best thing that ever happened to the economy.

I don't think I'll chase the Commie organizers into the tall grass on this one. I would only note that they don't give a damn about the illegals and never have.

terrye said...

I have a background in agriculture and people do not want to do that work.

I am not talking about all kinds of jobs... but migrant worker jobs. And most of the people who say other people will do that work have ever done it themselves or know anyone who has. I was just thrilled if the help showed up after they got paid instead of partying for days.

If people are willing to do that work why aren't they? Because of the Mexicans? Please, the Mexicans were encouraged to come here because Americans do not want to do work the fields and unless unemployment is high they won't.

When I had a farm it was like pulling teeth to get decent help and then I had to do half the work for them and pay more than they are worth. Because believe it or not agrculture is a business not a public service.

So yes, produce shelves will be empty. I am not trying to be nasty I am just stating a fact.

We have an unemployment rate of about 4.7% and 5% of the workforce is probably undocmented. Where will you get people to do that work when they obviously do not need or want those jobs?

We could always just import the food along with oil and let the poor in Latin America raise it there and ship it up here. Truth is that is more likely to happen than it is see Americans flocking to the fields to pick lettuce.

David Thomson said...

“I would only note that they don't give a damn about the illegals and never have.”

They are only a means to the end of the radical organizers’ ultimate goal of destroying our capitalist society. The illegals are thankfully far more interested in moving up the economic ladder then challenging the status quo. The Republicans must demand that the borders become at least 80% secure---and that we Americanize these people as quickly as possible.

terrye said...


Yes, secure the border and create a guest worker program.

BTW, in spite of the way that comment of mine sounded, I am not drunk.

chuck said...

...content to buy grapes at, say, $100 a bunch for the occasional party,...

Reminds me of an incident in my grandfather's autobiography. In 1896 he was teaching school in Texas and,

"It was Christmas time, and I sent an invitation to the trustees and the patrons of the school to attend the Christmas exercises. I had bought one hundred pounds of candy with a good supply of oranges, and had them put up in packages, a pound of candy and an orange for each pupil. These packages I placed in a large box under my desk -- candy and oranges in that place were a rare luxury."

So, I suppose we could return to a time when oranges were a rare luxury. I suspect that instead we will find a way to import cheap labor. Looking up that bit of family history I also found this, which is completely off topic, but...

"One night, while the institute was in progress, a raid was made on the village by a set of hoodlums. Swiftly riding their horses through the town, firing their guns and yelling loudly, they terrified the citizens. The young man mentioned above grabbed his revolver, rushed out of the boarding house and began to fire, only to receive a bullet through the calf of his leg. The wound was not serious but the boy was much frightened, and he was very quiet from that time on."

Ah, the good old days when the second amendment was taken for granted. And as for teaching,

"I spent the first four weeks visiting the homes at night (alternating with my regular boarding place), helping the children with their lessons, and becoming acquainted with the parents, as other teachers had done before me.

Don't see that anymore except out in the wilds of Alaska.

Dymphna said...

Thomas Sowell has made the point that our agriculture is so heavily subsidized that we're growing more than we need and hiring people we don't want in the country to harvest it.

Agriculture in this country is like education: a mess.

Atlantin said...

"Skookumchuk said...

David Thompson:

'Furthermore, studies show conclusively that people only initially earn a living performing menial work.'

Yes, if their cultures value education. Mexican culture values work, which is good in itself, but except at the upper social strata it does not place an especially high value on education.

That would be one of the great benefits of our revitalizing the assimilative culture and traditional educational values that we have lost. And that is an uphill battle. "

Both of you and others in this thread are working under a fallacy ( petito principii [look it up] ): you assume that the Mexicans and Central Americans are "just like" the White Americans that they are dispossessing. No, they are not the same. They are retarded as a group with IQs of a mean below 85. They may want to assimilate but the tyranny of the IQ curve makes this impossible. They will only dilute the brains in the USA. God help this country long term.

Check out this url:


chuck said...

They are retarded as a group with IQs of a mean below 85.

Must be contagious.

Rick Ballard said...


I like Sowell but he's wrong on this one unless there are subsidies on produce and fruit of which I am unaware. The big ag subsidies go to cotton, milk, wheat and corn - all heavily mechanized and none of which utilize much in the way of manual labor (milk more than the others but still nothing like grapes).

"Illegal immigrants" (actually seasonal migrant workers) have been coming to California for at least 100 years to prune and pick. The only reason that Terrye's grandparents got to come and 'have fun in that warm California sun' was that FDR closed the border - intentionally and with the aim of providing subsistence for them. When his big jobs program (commonly referred to as WWII) caught hold, the border was reopened and and the bracero program was introduced. It stayed in place until '64 when it was cut off by DC under the brilliant assumption that the blacks would be thrilled to become migrant workers if they were just given a chance.

Nobody in their right mind wants to be a migrant worker, period. The increased cultivation of fruit crops (and Christmas trees) in Oregon and Washington increased the need for migrant farmworker and there really is no viable alternative to guestworkers. The really odd thing about produce and fruit is that hand harvest requires a goodly number of hands all over the area at the same time - and when that time passes there's not a damned thing for those hands to do.

I can see replacing the illegals who have gone into construction with Americans but I'll be damned if I can see where 1M American migrant farmworkers are coming from.

Btw - migrant farmworkers spend Christmas in Mexico and damn few of them have any intention of settling here.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Atlanin. America's IQ already appears to be going down; currently it is estimated at 98, but it previously had been the standard 100. Two points may not seem to be much, but is has occurred at a time in which average IQs for the world are increasing about 4 points per decade and it is theorized that better nutrition and health is behind it.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on IQ studies, but I have read quite a few. There is increasing evidence that a nation's average IQ and its GNP correlate. To put it bluntly, there isn't a nation to our south that has an average IQ that is high enough to lift it out of the third world. If IQ keeps increasing worldwide, then all nations will eventually get a grip on this "self government" trick we seem to have somewhat mastered here in the US. But that's no reason for us to continue to drag our own IQ down via the importation of a decidedly unlearned class.

The other side to better health is longer productive life spans. By importing third world labor that is going to be very expensive to maintain in its old age, having been exhausted by stoop labor, we're going to sell short the next generation of retirement age Americans. The business addiction to low wage labor is driven by the desire for short-term gain with little or no concern for the long-term consequences. If our mindset were focused just a bit farther into the future, we'd not be importing laborers, we'd be investing in labor-saving technologies that require a somewhat smarter, better educated but smaller workforce.

In addition, there is already growing evidence that illegal aliens are not staying in the fields, they're moving up and undercutting American workers in other industries. Construction and meat packing are heavily addicted to keeping wages low at taxpayer expense. Give these people amnesty, thus the freedom to explore the broader low-skilled job markets, and there will almost immediately be a "new need" by business for another "dose" of low-skilled humans to fill the bottom-bottom rung.

The only way to "cure" the addiction is cold turkey. But let's give tax incentives for businesses that invent and implement new technologies replace hard, physical labor with high-tech replacements. My God, we have little robots running around on Mars and we're arguing about what to do about picking crops? Give me a break.

Atlantin said...

Katie's Dad said...
"The only way to "cure" the addiction is cold turkey. But let's give tax incentives for businesses that invent and implement new technologies replace hard, physical labor with high-tech replacements. My God, we have little robots running around on Mars and we're arguing about what to do about picking crops?"

If only the Government ( Hubris Crazed Lawyers, IMHO ) would get out of the way, there might be some hope. Please read the following from 2001.


"Give Us This Day ( )

by Harold Brewer

(Harold Brewer was born in Wichita and raised on a farm in central Kansas. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Berlin Airlift and the Korean War. After leaving military service, he attended the University of California and received degrees in agricultural engineering from Berkeley and Davis. He has done research at the university and federal government levels on advanced agricultural systems. This article is adapted from his recent book Fig Leaves And Masks

My favorite season on the farm during the 1930s was summer, when we harvested wheat, oats, and alfalfa. Harvest started when we rolled out a binder and thresher, stored since last summer. The binder cut stalks, tied them into bundles, and dumped them into rows. The thresher separated grain from straw and chaff. At threshing time, several neighbors and many itinerant workers assembled at our farm. With luck, no rain fell and the grain was safely stored in the granary within a few days.

Now, a combine rolls into a field. In a matter of hours, one or two workers harvest and store the grain. Labor is reduced at least tenfold.

Similarly, for harvesting alfalfa. What took many days and people is now accomplished in a few days with one or two people.

Childhood ended. I left the farm, completed military service, then enrolled at the University of California at Davis in the Agricultural Engineering Department. Its researchers were world-renowned for developing machines for field production. Field production machines are important because each replaces ten or more workers. Nations with the lowest percentage of workers on farms are the wealthiest. For example, the U.S.A. has 2% of its population working on farms, while Ethiopia has 84%. More? Japan 5% and China 68%.

My major at UCD, power and machinery, brought me into contact with people developing harvesters for crops such as grapes, peaches, and tomatoes. The tomato project was particularly interesting. Several people contributed in various ways, such as developing a variety that could withstand mechanical handling. But the key element of the harvester proved elusive. This finally fell into place when Steven Sluka, a refugee from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution - some immigrants can be useful! - conceived the idea of cutting vines loose from the ground, lifting them, then shaking the tomatoes off the vines. His technique was the basis for the first successful mechanical tomato harvesters.

Growers in California were faced with the loss of workers who were hand-harvesting their crops. Politicians and Labor had teamed up to discontinue the bracero program, so that wages paid domestic laborers could be driven up. However, UCD researchers, with grower funding, had just successively tested the mechanical tomato harvester. When braceros walked out of the fields, mechanical harvesters rolled in.

Several years later, the mechanization program at UCD was shut down and dismantled. Politicians did not intend to have their labor-friendly policies thwarted again. Just to make sure, they and their allies reached out to the Agricultural Research Service in the U. S. Department of Agriculture and dismantled all field mechanization programs there, too. Mechanical lettuce harvesters were under development in the 1960s. That work was stopped. Today, lettuce is still harvested by hand in the field.

The dismantling occurred over a period of years starting in the 1960s. Nothing overt, just not renewing any mechanization projects or starting any new ones. The mechanical tomato harvester had rankled a lot of labor-friendly people. When we say "labor," we might as well say Mexican workers, legal or illegal.

But the precipitating event - I am relying on memory - was when a Secretary of Agriculture was due for a photo op in Northern California with UCD researchers, spotlighting a fruit-catching frame used in mechanization. Word got out and the next thing we knew the event was called off. Cesar Chavez, head of the agricultural workers union, pulled the right strings and stopped it cold. He didn't want any more mechanization, which would put his union members out of work. [For Chavez' conflicted attitude to immigration, see]

That big hole in the Mexican border started in earnest when politicians and their labor allies stopped the development of any new agricultural field machines. The stopper on mechanization went all the way through the 1980's and extended into the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA. Finally, around 1990, it was all right to "quietly" do mechanization research again, but it had to be labeled as being for the environment, or for food quality, or whatever. Field mechanization to save labor was still not allowed.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific at an Institute outside Tokyo, the mechanization work continued without interruption.

And rural America fills up with foreigners.

November 1, 2000"

terrye said...

It is just amazing how many people who have never experienced the fun of feeding cattle in subzero weather are suddenly experts on all things agriculture.

Not just cold weather, but try 100 + and working in the sun. You betcha. Have to get a baseball bat to fight off the applicants.

As for subsidies, sure just get rid of them all. I will be interested to see what happens when and if the price of corn goes to $20 a bushel. Fat chance they say, that is what they used to say about oil going over $35 a barrel.

Rick, it was the Republican president Hoover who started the Mexican Reparation Act before FDR ever came to office. Its purpose was to give "real Americans" jobs, of course more than half the one or two million people shipped over the Mexican border were American citizens...but what the hell they all looked alike.

As for the contention that these people are inferior or retarded all I can say is that bigots have been using that excuse to shut down immigration since the Irish came over in droves during the Great Hunger.

NINA...No Irish Need Apply.

terrye said...

BTW, comparing undocumented workers to Africans brought over here centuries ago in slave shapes and then sold like cattle is just ridiculous. It is absurd. It is also insulting to both the people working here today and the human beings who were treated like livestock.

BTW, there were people who said the same thing about the share crop system that sprung up in the South after the Civil War.

terrye said...

shapes=ships. sigh. I am in a hurry. never post when you are in a hurry.

Morgan said...

Granted, I've briefly skimmed the comments, but I don't see that anyone has responded to MHA's point that "won't do the work" really means "won't do the work at the offered wage". Is agriculture really worse than crewing a fishing boat off Alaska - a job for which applicants outstrip demand? Or is it simply that crabbing pays better?

With regard to IQ - immigrants have always had "low IQs"; Chinese, Irish, Jews of various origins, Italians, East Europeans...

There are a number of reasons: relatively poor nutrition in the old country probably truly decreases intelligence, but a bigger factor (I believe) is the simple lack of IQ-test skills. We psychologist-type folks like to talk about "g", the immutable core measure of intelligence, but I'm not sure anyone really believes that scores produced by someone never exposed to IQ test-type questions are comparable to scores produced by those who have been exposed.

Measured IQ is strongly associated with acquired skills. The ability to acquire skills is associated with g, but skill acquisition also relies on having the opportunity (and desire) to acquire those skills.

If the average IQ of Americans is slipping (I've never heard that - can someone provide a reference?), look at the schools or cultural norms, not the gene pool.

Anonymous said...

Well, let's see. My Mom's Hispanic - American side of the family includes a physics prof, a vet, an aerospace industry exec, a young biochemist to be, and a gas station manager.

One guy is a lawyer. So maybe the median IQ does get dragged down just a tad (ducks, narrowly missing brickbat).

Fresh Air said...


There may be a lot of demand for those on-ship seafood processing jobs, but turnover is about 800% a year.


Okay, I'll bite. I'm not offended by your IQ point, I just haven't seen any evidence that Mexican immigrants (not crop-picking aliens) (a) have lower IQs and (b) are coming here in sufficient numbers to lower our overall intelligence level.

I would think our universities are doing an adequate enough job on that score.

If your theory is correct, it's definitely good news for the Democrats, as stupid sells very well to stupido.

terrye said...


I thought I responded to the point. If it as simple as that why are we in this position?

When oil goes up to $75 a barrel people say it is just supply and demand, but when it comes to paying farm labor all of a sudden we have to pay what is called a "living wage" and not what the work is worth.

Why is that?

terrye said...

I have a couple of questions: If we have the choice of allowing immigrants to work in this country or letting the economy go into a stall because of a labor shortage which is best? And should we do what was done in the Depression...send people into areas where there is a need for work and set them up in camps...any takers to that?