The Corner

Willing Workers, Willing Employer in Minot, N.D.

The AP reports that the home-improvement store Menards has had so much trouble staffing its store in booming Minot, N.D., that’s it’s going to hire people in its home base in Wisconsin and fly them to North Dakota and back each week. The starting wage will be $13 an hour, as opposed to the $7.25 minimum wage the firm pays elsewhere, and the workers will be put up in hotels and given meal vouchers.

Plenty of Americans apparently want the jobs. The AP mentions a recently laid-off Wisconsin man who was disappointed at not securing one of the Menards positions in Minot.

But immigration expansionists want to make sure no Americans could get such jobs. President Bush, in his January 2004 “willing workers/willing employers” speech, said, “If an American employer is offering a job that American citizens are not willing to take, we ought to welcome into our country a person who will fill that job.” If Bush/Kennedy/McCain/Schumer had been successful in pushing through Congress their scheme to open the U.S. job market to every worker overseas, do you think Menards would be offering people willing to work in Minot 80 percent higher wages and free room and board? You can bet your life that, if given the opportunity, Menards executives or others in their position would be telling us that “American citizens are not willing to take” jobs in Minot and that they need to import foreign workers. A Bangladeshi high-school graduate would be perfectly able to direct customers to plumbing in aisle 4, and would be more than happy to do it for $7.25 an hour, or even less, so long as he could get access to the United States. He might even be a wonderful guy, a hard-working family man who delights his employers by addressing them in an obsequious and submissive tone alien to Americans.

If our bipartisan political elite ever manages to foist on the country a Bush/Obama-style policy of unlimited immigration, all jobs not requiring higher education would rapidly pay the minimum wage, and whole occupations, like nursing, would become foreignized, as in Saudi Arabia, with the handful of remaining Americans working in them seen as freaks.

A tight labor market, especially in less-skilled occupations like working in a home-improvement store, is the best social policy. It serves as a kind of equalizer for those who don’t have much to offer economically other than their two hands. It serves to temper the effects of free trade, which hits hardest those who have less ability to move into the kinds of “symbol manipulation” jobs that our elites are concentrated in (and which elites are thus insulated from immigrant competition). And it is perfectly consistent with free trade. As Henry Simons, one of the founders of the Chicago School of free-market economics, wrote:

To insist that a free trade program is logically or practically incomplete without free migration is either disingenuous or stupid. Free trade may and should raise living standards everywhere. . . . Free immigration would level standards, perhaps without raising them anywhere.

I can see why Democrats would want to level our living standards with those in the rest of the world. But why would Republicans help them do it?


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