The Corner

Re: Common Sense from Samuelson

Mark, Robert Samuelson’s argument is so self-evident no politician can ever state it. A couple of weeks back, Statistics Canada reported that, after adjustment for inflation, Canadian wage-earners are earning less than in 1980. For example, in British Columbia the median wage-earner earns 11.3% less than a quarter-century ago. The media flew into a dither about all the usual fixes — increase taxes on the rich, etc — until one lone columnist, Trevor Lautens, pointed out the obvious:

In recent decades immigration, especially in British Columbia, has massively swung away from Europe to the less-developed (awful phrase) world… The plucky (another vanished word) of any nationality can overcome anything, as many praiseworthy immigrants have. But any immigrants to Canada without English, notoriously hard to learn and internationally valued — see the April 28 New Yorker story on Li Yang, who literally shouts what he calls “Crazy English” to his students in China — or French, are likely to settle into ethnic ghettos where they are vulnerable to exploitation, including lousy under-the-table wages…

So it’s not surprising that, as a group, immigrants for decades have dragged down Joe and Jane Median’s income.

When advanced economies admit ever larger numbers of unskilled workers (plus a chain of relatives through “family reunification”), they are importing poverty. The President says this is to do “the jobs Americans won’t do”. For the sake of argument, take him at his word. So why won’t Americans do them? Because they’re a great way to ensure you live in poverty. So we import foreigners to be our poor people. Can we import just the right number to ensure that poverty doesn’t “grow”? Unlikely.

There are arguments to be made both for and against immigration, but you can’t be in favor of mass unskilled immigration and then pledge to fight the “war on poverty”. It’s like spooning out a bathtub with a thimble while leaving the faucets running.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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