Still Out of Gum

Brian must have really missed me.

See his gammy-handed “smackdown” here.

Lest you think from Brian’s tone that he is consumed by maniacal Smallholderphobia, please see the Concurring Opinions link here about electronic interaction (via Volokh Conspiracy). His (and occasionally my) words may seem to be rabid invective, but it is all in good fun. Besides, if you are a regular reader, you know that your humble Smallholder is a man with thick skin who regularly suffers the slings and arrows of the Maximum Leader’s jealousy (I’m sorry Mike, but those Swedish devices just don’t work, so you’ll just have to resign yourself to your genetic diminuation). So I am ready to stoically accept Brian’s harsh words with aplomb.

On to a thorough fisking of Memento Moron. Sorry, but I’m all out of lubrication.

I’ll confess to one of Mr. Moron??s charges: I did frequently use immigrant as a shorter form of illegal immigrant. I’d like to say it was from some clever debater’s tactic, but it was actually sloppiness. My bad.

Mr. Moron takes a cheap shot at your humble Smallholder: “Will (Smallholder) bother to read my links, let alone respond to them? The blogosphere waits with bated breath.”

You wound me, sir! Of course I’ll read your links.

Heather Mac Donald’s screed against illegal gang members is here.

Now, just because Heather Mac Donald’s career seems to be built around Coulterian shrillness (I just made that up! Pretty cool wordsmithing, huh?) doesn’t mean we should dismiss her arguments out of hand. We will accept her claim that a good proportion of California gang bangers are illegal. This is at odds with my experience in Harrisonburg (where are gangs are mostly made up of the unraised children of illegals - a distinction without a difference many might say). But even if we accept that 12,000 18th street gang members are illegals, that in itself does not prove the violent criminality of illegals as a whole, even when we include grizzly individual crimes. This kind of “illegals are all violent narco-trafficers” fuzzy - even magical - thinking is a common feature of anti-immigration tracts. In any group of 11 million people, you are likely to find some criminals. However, although I never claimed that all immigrants are honest and law abiding, I will say this: ALMOST all illegals are honest and law-abiding (with the exception of the whole illegal immigration thing. Heh), just like almost all people of any group are honest and law abiding.

Any funnily enough, academic researchers, the General Acoounting Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation agree with me. Click through this pdf link and go to page 9. If you read further through on the study, there is a discussion about underreporting of crime when the victims are immigrants, much as I discussed in my earlier post. Brian pooh-poohed this, bur perhaps he will accept it now if it inflates the perceived criminality of all illegal immigrants. Even if we acknowledge illegal on illegal crime, that still means that illegals pose a lesser threat to citizens than native-born Americans. Note that the conclusion that illegals have a lower crime rate than citizens is not a conclusion drawn by some left wing counterpart of Brian’s Miss Mac Donald. This is the conclusion of the law enforcement branch of the U.S. government. The conclusion was drawn while trying to find ways to combat illegal immigrant crime, but folks who fight crime want to think about the actual source of the problems - while realizing that immigrants are (only slightly) less criminal than citizens, the FBI wants to catch the bad guys.

I would imagine that if you could control for poverty, the gap between illegal and citizen criminality would be even more stark since illegals are at the bottom of the pay scale and poverty among citizens is a huge predictor of criminal behavior.

“Smackdown” that. Total national statistics compiled by the FBI versus right wing shill’s anecdotal, local evidence that represents less than a percentage point of the illegal population. That said, I do agree with Mac Donald and Mr. Memnento that sanctuary laws ought to be repealed. Local law enforcement officials OUGHT to report violent illegals to the INS. But removing a the small numbers of violent illegals will have no bearing on the overall picture of illegal immigration by the hard-working folks trying to make better lives for their children.

Another link that Brian wants your humble Smallholder to read is an angry rant appearing in the Idaho Observer. I will give Brian the benefit of the doubt that he came across the article while googling, did a find word for “illegal” and did not himself read the rest of the article. The economic judgments made are just ludicrous. I wouldn’t rely on the author’s understanding of the economy to buy a copy of Maxim Magazine.

Calculating the true cst of illegal aliens is very difficult. Anti-immigration forces frequently focus only on direct costs and benefits, either because they don’t understand the multiplier effect or are purposefully ignoring indirect consequences. They will tag lines like “lost wages for American workers” and “money sent back to Mexico” as if Adam Smith hadn’t explained 230 years ago that economics isn’t a zero-sum game. Immigrant wages are not “lost” to America. Immigrants circulate their wages just like other Americans. So the money still ends up in the economy. Some money is sent back to Mexico, but as any economist will tell you, countrys don’t exist in a vacuum. Some of that money will stimulate Mexican demand for American goods (I’ll do a post on the Mexican government’s hypocrisy about remittances at some point).

School costs go up. That is undeniable. How do we factor in the result of lower cost goods? In the same way that opponents of Walmart claim that Walmart’s non-union wages hurt the poor but ignore the reality that Walmart’s low prices save more in real spending power for the poor than is lost in lower wages, and ignore the fact that leaving Americans with greater disposable income stimulates other businesses (gee, honey, I spent $20 less on groceries at Walmart. Let’s go see a movie!), resulting in a major net increase in American wealth, opponents of illegal aliens ignore the indirect consequence that lower-cost goods have on Americans’ spending power.

Not to beat a dead horse, but there are very few losers when it comes to illegal immigration. Companies get cheaper labor, prices fall, consumers get more goods, more disposable money is spent creating jobs that would not otherwise exist. Only poorly skilled workers are really harmed by illegal immigrants.

And can they really blame the immigrants? After my experience teaching in Baltimore, I have come to realize that the unemployment “problem” isn’t (at most times) the fault of the economy at large. The welfare system has created an underclass who are unemployable due to their lack of discipline. I well remember the student who was loudly complaing that he lost his job at McDonalds because of racism. I asked what had happened. He said that on his first day on the job, his supervisor asked him to mop the bathroom floor and the student replied “Who the fuck do you think you are asking me mop the floor?” Hmmm. Must have been racism. That, and the fact that the manager super-sekritly wanted to hire an illegal alien.

We should all cry for the worker who would be gainfully employed if only the horde of Mexicans hadn’t stolen his job. But how sad is it when a person who has grown up in a country that offers a free public education is outcompeted for a job by someone lacking an education who has to move through a hostile country that outlaws their very presence and has an initially poor grasp of the English language. All thing being equal, one imagines that an employer would choose to employ a native beacuse the native will be easier to direct and because the native does not pose a risk of fines from the INS. But things aren’t equal. Most native-born citizens who are at the bottom level of the economic ladder are there because they have chosen not to take advantage of all the opportunities offered by the educational system. I’ll acknowledge that many poor folks are trapped in a cycle of poverty because their parents haven’t taught them a work ethic, and I’ll say that if government could find an effective way to instill a work ethic in those kids it ought to, but the fact remains: The lowest rung of American workers are less willing to work hard than are immigrants, illegal or otherwise. If you know someone who manages minimum-wage workers, ask them about how hard it is to find low-skilled folks that are dependable and hard-working. Hardworking Americans are not unemployed because there are no jobs. If I lost my teaching job tomorrow, the bank foreclosed on the farm, and I my education and intelligence (such as it is) went “poof,” I would stil be able to get a job almost immediately. It might not pay as well or be as satisfying or carry as much prestige, but I would be hired because I show up every day, work, follow directions, and can be civil to customers and supervisors.

Anti-illegals often like to claim that illegals get welfare and don’t pay taxes. This isn’t simply ignorance of economics. It is simply false. Illegals can’t qualify for welfare and don’t qualify for social security, and they pay more taxes than similarly situated Americans.

First of all, sales tax is unavoidable.

Secondly, wage-based taxation is still withheld from their paychecks, including the roughly 14% for social security, medicaid, and unemployment - all perks that illegals cannot claim. They also pay regular state and federal taxes.

Let me ’splain.

Most employers, in order to “comply” with INS regulations require workers to show IDs and social security numbers in order to be hired. Many employers knowingly turn a blind eye to forged documents. Nonetheless, even though INS rarely truely messes with a company, a company will be in hot water with the much more potent IRS if it does not withold payroll taxes. So state taxes, federal taxes, in some cases locality taxes, social security, medicare, and unemployment insurance are all deducted. This happens to all of us. Check your pay stubs.

The difference between us and illegals? We can file tax returns at the end of the year to get some of that money back. We (if we are old enough right now) might actually see a social security check. Can we please call a moratoriam on the old lie that immigrants don’t pay taxes?

Balancing taxes and social services used, immigrants might be a net loss on the government’s books. Robert J. Samuelson, who is balanced, non-partisan and objective, concludes this is a case. But before Brian and the illegal-bashers crow too loudly, they ought to note that the lower wages and prices create a massive gain INDIRECTLY that more than compensate for the direct ledger.

Brian goes on to take exception to my conclusiuon that:

Costs up = jobs down = sales down = recession.

In his own words he says:

Costs Up, but that’s where the formula falls apart. Jobs will NOT be lost — people who are competing for jobs just out of their league (legal immigrants and unskilled Americans) will be able to settle for jobs now filled by illegals. This will ease competition for jobs at the next level up, increasing those wages and taking pressure off of that tier of society, and the effects spread from there. So I reject the jobs lost. As for sales down, with more Americans and legals making the money, it will stay in the economy instead of being wired to Chiapas. Furthermore, the easing of strain on Emergency rooms and other government services will save a good chunk of that $21 Billion mentioned earlier, helping with taxes and government budgets. So what we have is:

Costs up + Jobs (among potential consumers) up + Sales up == Increased profits.

Bush and the Republican leadership know that a recession and disheartened middle class is a sure recipe for electoral disaster.

The Recession conclusion is iffy at best, and as for a disheartened middle class, well:

Harvard economics Professor George Borjas showed that illegal aliens displace American workers out of $200 billion in lost wages annually.

In conclusion:

Support illegal immigration to avoid a recession.

In conclusion:

Smallholder is wrong.

Um, no.

First of all, there is not a pool of hard-working, dependable, able workers who are currently unemployed. The currently unemployed might temporarily take some of the jobs vacated by the miraculously disappearing illegals, but they will hold them only until the boss asks them to mop the floor of the bathroom.

But let’s assume the poor, oppressed willing unemployed American worker does exist. So he takes the job at a higher wage. So costs are up. Brian agrees to this point at least.

But many of those jobs won’t be transferred from illegals to Americans because they wil be eliminated. Businesses only hire when the expected value of a worker’s contribution exceeds the marginal cost of hiring, training, and paying that worker. If we raise wages, many employers simply won’t hire. This is the argument against the minimum wage.

If jobs start to get eliminated, aggregate purchasing power declines - whether or not the buying power was held by an illegal or an American. Lower purchasing power reduces aggregate demand. So more jobs fall below the marginal utility point. So there are more layoffs. As the King of Siam says, “et cetera, et cetera.” A viscious cycle develops.

The analogy is exaclty apropos to Walmart as discussed earlier. If (uneducated) American workers (who failed to take advantage of the opportunities provided to them) lose $200 billion in wages due to the depressive wage influence of illegals, they gain more back in purchasing power than they have lost, just like the poor who have their wages depressed by Sam Walton’s megacorp actually end up with more purchasing power because of lower prices.

If any of you believe that magically raising the poorest Americans’ wages without a commensurate increase in productivity would lead to more jobs and a better economy, as Brian suggests, I suggest that you try this thought experiment.

Congress votes to raise the minimum wage to $12 hour. Companies, faced with much higher labor costs that outpace productivity gains, calculate marginal utility for their workers and begin laying people off. Those companies that can still profitably employ the unskilled have to raise prices. Everyone pays more for basic goods and foodstuffs, so they have less disposable income. They reduce discrentionary spending. Aggregate demand drops. More layoffs follow.

Those unsklilled laboers who are able to hang on to the $12 jobs now find that higher prices leave them able to buy fewer goods than they previously purchased when they were making $5.15 and hour. So the poor hardworking American (if he exists) doesn’t really benefit.

More importantly, those Americans who are hardworking and disciplined enough to make it into the middle class are screwed. Their wages haven’t be raised by fiat. But the prices affect them too. Inflation reduces the value of their savings. They can buy less and their savings are worth less. So we have now penalized hard working Americans to provide symbolic but realistically counterproductive “help” to their least-deserving countrymen (that is, if you believe that taking advantage of opportunities, getting an education, working hard and saving are traits that render people “deserving”). And those middle class folks, whether they understand that the magic disappearance of illegals is the root of their economic woes (most Americans, after all, are unfamiliar with concepts like inflation, supply and demand), will feel pain and tkae to the polls with righteous vengeance.

Notice that leader of both parties want to take no action that might result in the dangerous economic scenario described above. Leaders of both parties, whether they choose to demagogue to the economically illiterate or not, understand the reality of the economy and know that illegals are essential to the welfare of the country as a whole.

This is why any wishful thinking about getting rid of illegals is “magical.” There is zero chance that we will see a real crackdown on illegals. Bush, Frist, Hastert, Reid, and Pelosi all understand economics better than the “An illegal took muh job” crowd.

Bush is a smart, canny politician (no matter what the Minister of Propaganda says). This is why he has proposed sending 6,000 National Guardsmen to the border. The 6,000 weekend warriors will not slow illegal migration in any real way. But Bush is hoping that it will make him look tough to the anti-immigrant crowd. The folks who understand the basics of economics won’t mind this little fig-lead; Bush has winked at them and said “Hey, I’m not going to derail the economy. You won’t lose your housekeeper.” Since the anti-immigrant crowd is ignorant eough to believe that evicting the backbone of our low-price society would magically make native-born Americans better off, Bush can reasonably expect them to not understand that his guard proposal is full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

This pattern of saying one thing to his base while doing something else has been there all along. Bush claims to be a fiscal conservative and then raises domestic spending faster than LBJ. Bush claims to support responsible reform of entitlement programs and then rolls out a “drugs for old people” program that will cost more than quadruple the pricetag of Iraq. Bush says he will appoint anti-abortion judges, but then selects judges largely based on their attitude about executive privilige (Won’t South Dakota be surprised when Alito and Roberts follow their consistent pattern of respecting stare decisis and uphold Roe). Bush’s poll numbers show that the approach has started to fail with many members of his base, but he’s trying it one more time on the anti-immigrant crowd.

The anti-immigrant forces like to chant about harm to the economy, unpaid taxes, and crime. When analyzed, they are wrong on all counts. It is kind of like opposition to gay marriage. It all boils down to “fags/wetbacks are icky and I don’t like them sorts of people.” Politicians are willing to pander and demagogue on the gay marriage issue even when they know that it is judicially inevitable because there are no real costs to the larger society. What Bush, Frist, Hastert, Reid, Pelosi, et. al. have demonstrated is that while they will still pander and demagogue like there is no tomorrow, they will really go after the illegals. Because that harms us all.

The Foreign Minister said:


Good post. I am rethinking my position, so your post was timely. I don’t like the reason’s that either side is using to justify or deny IIs.

But, as a democratic society, is it right to have 12 million folks living in fear/on the fringe?

And, in the posture of a safe America, is it right to have a huge boarder where millions of people can cross undetected…. What will happen IF Islamic Terroist can exploit this weakness?

My position is that if we legalize them, then we will need to pay them the decent wage that buisness is trying to avoid by using them in the first place… and we will need another 12 million II to replace the now legal ones.

There is a guest worker program in place already, and it requires, on average, businesses/Farmers to pay, about $2 more than what IIs get.

I don’t have the answers either.

Back to the Trenches

Good post. Bush, however, is still an idiot — although the tool, perhaps, of canny politicians.

Polymath said:

Check out this story from the Washington Times (5-19-06): “The Senate voted yesterday to allow illegal aliens to collect Social Security benefits based on past illegal employment — even if the job was obtained through forged or stolen documents.” An amendment to kill these provisions was narrowly defeated.

What about illegal aliens who are paid cash or paid only in part by a payroll check? This happens very frequently in many small businesses.

There are many jobs that will transfer to legal American citizens because the work can’t be shipped to Idonesia or Sri Lanka. “The Country will always need ditch diggers” as my pops likes to say.

Your analysis of the “Living Wage” drivel is spot-on. Who ever heard of mking a living on an entry-level income?

GWB spends like a drunken sailor.

phin said:

Wow, me thinks the world s coming to and end. The ML, the Smallholder and the MOP agree, for the most part.

Great post by the way.

I do, however believe that the MOP is a closet Bushitler fan. Complete with life-sized blow up doll in the closet.

I left the link below in the ML’s post too, but it’s an article with great information and sources:

Jack said:

Its good site, good blog thank!

Jack said:

Its good site, good blog thank!

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