Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't blame illegal immigrants for unemployment

Richard F. LaMountain’s latest diatribe against illegal immigrants employs impeccable logic---but only if you accept his premises.  He points out that many Oregonians are jobless,  that long-term unemployed have lost extended unemployment benefits,  and that people who can’t drive find it harder to get a job.;  Therefore,  he opines,  we should support the upcoming ballot measure aimed at overturning the legislature’s decision granting driver cards to undocumented residents.  The aliens losing their driver cards will, he argues, lose their jobs and be replaced by real Americans. 

LaMountain assumes that the number of people with jobs is a “zero-sum game.”  That is,  if one person gets a job it means someone else will be unemployed as a result.  This is clearly untrue,  since the total number of people with jobs is constantly changing, sometimes upwards.  

He further assumes that unemployment is inevitable, and that therefore we should strive to make sure that the “right” people—inferior specimens who have “broken into our nation”---are the ones who are jobless.  This assumption is also contradicted by facts.  During World War II,  for example,  there was no unemployment in the United States. Such was the labor shortage that people who were previously excluded from jobs---black people,  women---were eagerly recruited.    

If LaMountain is so concerned about jobless citizens,   he should support measures to eliminate unemployment rather than seeking to redistribute it.  There are various ways we could do this:  CCC-type programs,  government as employer of last resort,  repeal of minimum wage legislation that prices some people at more than they are worth to employers (perhaps coupled with increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers), or some combination of these approaches.  I will be eager to see which of these reforms he will endorse, but will not hold my breath waiting.     

Clearly,  LaMountain doesn’t like illegal aliens.  I still remember his 2009 Oregonian article fulminating about how much it costs to educate alien children in our public schools and advocating throwing them out. Of course expelling these children would violate the Supreme Court decision that this would violate the Constitution.  It should be noted that even the dissenting justices, who disagreed with the majority’s interpretation of the Constitution,   said expulsion would be horrible social policy:

"Were it our business to set the nation's social policy, I would agree without hesitation that it is senseless for an enlightened society to deprive any children -- including illegal aliens -- of an elementary education," wrote the four dissenting justices in the Supreme Court decision, including Chief Justice Warren Burger. "I fully agree that it would be folly -- and wrong -- to tolerate creation of a segment of society made up of illiterate persons."

Of course if their children can’t go to school this might deter some illegal immigrants.  So would denial of driver’s licenses.  Would LaMountain go so far as to make it illegal to sell or provide such aliens with food?  Or water?  (A few years ago a fellow down in Arizona was convicted of “littering” for putting jars of water near the Mexican border so people crossing the border illegally wouldn’t die of thirst,  which many have.) 

Where does this kind of thing stop?  Is this really the kind of country we want to live in?

Oregon voters should remember that the legislature carefully weighed the conflicting considerations, the advantages and disadvantages of issuing driver cards, and concluded that on balance it would be a good idea to issue the cards.  Voters should not support efforts to overturn this decision of the legislature.

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