One of the big conservative talking points, especially since Donald Trump launched his campaign by insulting our neighbors to the south, has been immigration.
There is a prevailing myth that these ne’er do wells move into our borders in order to steal the wonderful and free public services the U.S. offers, as well as to compete with native citizens for jobs. The argument has expanded beyond those who have moved here illegally, but to those who have moved here following all the rules.
This prevailing myth is just that — a myth.
The Great Recession saw the loss of nearly 9 million jobs, with a crippling unemployment rate of over 10 percent and an underemployment rate reaching close to 12 percent.
It seems counterintuitive to many to welcome new workers into the United States under those circumstances, and the most financially vulnerable Americans could only resent the competition, particularly those who are willing to work for a lower wage, when it seems to many that we are still recovering.
However, the facts bear out that immigration doesn’t hurt the economy. Billionaires do.
According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicines, immigration actually helps the economy. A task force was curated by the organization to look into the actual effects of immigration on the American economy, and the results are astonishing.
A full report was released last Thursday that addressed the myths of immigration’s effect on working-class Americans.
According to the report, immigration has a positive impact on the long-term economic growth in the U.S. and there are “little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term.”
In fact, should Donald Trump win the presidency and get his way by deporting over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., it could handily destroy the equilibrium of the labor market. According to the report by the Academies:
‘Growth in the size of the civilian labor force has slowed form around 1.2 percent annually in the 1990s to 0.7 percent in the 2000s and to a projected 0.5 percent annual growth for this decade.’
The labor force has becomes smaller and smaller, according to the report, mainly due to the number of retiring Baby Boomers and extended length of time young people are spending in college. It also cautions that:
‘Workforce size and participation carries implications for fiscal balances and sustainability of government retirement and health care programs, because benefits are largely funded by taxes paid by current workers.’
Aside from ensuring that the labor force keeps pace with production, it’s also shown that immigrant labor doesn’t affect native labor to any significant degree. In a 2015 article from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, two studies performed in 2009 discovered that:
‘Total immigration into the US from 1990 to 2007 was associated with a 6.6 to 9.9 percent increase in real income per worker.’
In a 2014 presentation by the Economic Policy Institution, it was shown that the immigrant population of approximately 13 percent of the population had an economic output of 14.7 of the nation’s production between 2009 and 2011. It goes on to state:
‘In particular, when the economy is growing and the labor market is adding jobs, new immigration creates enough jobs even in the short run (and even for the less-educated) to cause no harm to the net employment of native-born workers.’
In an economy that does not have enough growth in the workforce to match production, immigrants can fill those niches, contributing to the nation’s coffers for social security, national security, and medical care.
The same article showed the insignificant effects on wages for native-born workers and stated:
‘The salient point here is that earlier immigrants are the group that is most adversely affected by new immigration. This is because they are often the most substitutable for new immigrants, often living in the same places and possessing similar skills. But for native-born workers, the effects tend to be very small, and on average, modestly positive. This is useful for reminding policymakers that native-born workers have little to fear as far as immigration’s labor market impact is concerned.’
So, without a doubt, immigration has little effect on the native-born workforce.
So, why does our recovery from the Great Recession seem so slow, and why is it that our current unemployment rate of 4.9 percent seems like it’s not quite “back to normal?”
According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:
‘Our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth.’
In a New York Times op-ed, Stiglitz says:
‘While the top 1 percent of income earners took home 93 percent of the growth in incomes in 2010, the households in the middle — who are most likely to spend their incomes rather than save them and who are, in a sense, the true job creators — have lower household incomes, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1996.’
It seems nearly un-American to assume that income inequality is the natural result of some working harder than others, but in fact, that isn’t what’s causing the top one percent to earn (and keep) more of their wealth than those in what is left of the middle class.
A Washington Post article from May details the ways that large corporations and business interests use their excessive profits to tilt the system in their favor. They discovered that when policy changes (such as reductions to taxes, increases in minimum wage, and stricter regulations for manufacturers) are opposed by the wealthy, they are perceived by elected officials as weighing higher in importance than those issues opposed by the middle class.
Immigrants are not stealing our jobs or lowering our wages. In fact, the opposite is true: immigrants create demand for products and services, open businesses that employ workers, and contribute to the national coffers, securing a dignified retirement for all Americans.
Large business interests that levy their influence to bust unions, keep minimum wages stifled, and employee benefit packages scanty do far more damage to American workers’ salaries and economic stability than immigrants do.
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