Immigration & Inequality: Getting What Rubio Does Not

by Andrew Stuttaford

Writing in the New Republic, T. A. Frank:

If I have a plea to my fellow liberals more broadly, it’s that they focus more of their empathy on fellow Americans being left behind. Because we increasingly live in bubbles, many of us are at best only abstractly aware of how cruelly circumstances of unskilled Americans have deteriorated over the past few decades.  Even as these Americans have lost their well-paid manufacturing jobs, Washington has looked the other way while millions of low-skilled unauthorized immigrants have competed with them for low-skilled service jobs…

Well, not so much “looked away” as hired them to do the sort of jobs that they are not prepared to pay Americans a reasonable wage to do. And they have been able to get away with this in no small part thanks to the way that mass immigration has distorted the market for labor in this country.

Mr. Frank also notes this:

Enforcement of immigration law is not all that hard. Illegal immigration can never be reduced to zero, of course, but it can be brought down to levels that we had in the 1950s and 1960s, and with very little outright force.  There are plenty of means: enhanced fencing and patrolling at the southern border, E-Verify for all hiring, strict penalties for employers who hire illegally, a biometric entry/exit system, and punishment (and deportation) for entering the country illegally. Ron Unz of The American Conservative has proposed that a $12-an-hour minimum wage plus strict sanctions would greatly reduce the magnet of sweatshop employment. None of these methods could work singly, but used in concert they would bring illegal immigration down to negligible levels….

Quite possibly, yes. 

Before going nuts over what Ron Unz has to say about the minimum wage, take a careful look at his argument (unlike Mr. Unz, I would link any hike explicitly to the sort of immigration controls of the type that Mr. Frank is advocating). Inequality is an issue that is muscling its way up the national agenda. Mass immigration of the type favored by Schumer, Rubio and the rest of the gang will only make inequality worse.  Instead put tough limits on immigration, reject the idea of any revived Bracero-style programs, and increase the minimum wage. The problem is not that a few Americans are paid too much, but that too many Americans are paid too little. Imposing an even harsher tax regime on the few is not going to help the many.

Boosting the minimum wage and cutting the number of new immigrants just might.

H/t: Instapundit