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Common Dreams on Progressives and Immigration
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May 22, 2006, 04:01 AM
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Common Ground recently published an article from the Rockridge Institute that openly acknowledged the split among progressives on the immigration issue.
Most of the framing initiative has been taken by conservatives. Progressives have so far abstained. Progressives could well frame the situation as the Cheap Labor Issue or the Cheap Lifestyle Issue. Most corporations use the common economic metaphor of labor as a resource. There are two kinds of employees — the Assets (creative people and managers) and Resources (who are relatively unskilled, fungible, interchangeable). The American economy is structured to drive down the cost of resources - that is, the wages of low-skilled, replaceable workers.

Immigration increases the supply of such workers and helps to drive down wages. Cheap labor increases “productivity” and profits for employers, and it permits a cheap lifestyle for consumers who get low prices because of cheap labor. But these are not seen as “problems.” They are benefits. And people take these benefits for granted. They are not grateful to the immigrants who make them possible. Gratitude. The word is hardly ever spoken in the discourse over immigration.

My comment to the above: most folks claiming immigration increases productivity, don`t understand the meaning of productivity. Productivity is related to output per unit-not costs or profits. In fact, nations with low immigration like Japan are having the highest rates of recent productivity increases in terms of output per worker.

What these folks were also missing: there has been real decline in disposable income among American workers since immigration policy has loosened in America. The article also failed to show the connection between concentration of wealth and loose immigration.

The Rockridge Institute characterizes the policies of Progressives on immigration as:

Progressives

Progressivism Begins at Home: The immigrants are taking the jobs of American works and we have to protect our workers.

African-American Protectionists: Hispanic immigrants are threatening African-American jobs.

Provide a path to citizenship: The immigrants have earned citizenship with their hard work, their devotion to American values, and their contribution to our society.

Foreign Policy Reformers: We need to pay attention to the causes that drive others from their homelands.

Wage supports: Institute a serious earned income tax credit for Americans doing otherwise low-paying jobs, so that more Americans will want to do them and fewer immigrants will be drawn here.

Illegal Employers: The way to protect American workers and slow immigration of unskilled workers is to prosecute employers of unskilled workers.

We can see why this is such a complex problem and why there are so splits within both the conservative and progressive ranks.

Again, what these folks are missing is the possibility for the US to return to a high wage, high productivity economy with greatly expanded social services. Unfortunately, it seems like these progressives are failing to even set their sights high-and to acknowledge that by really standing apart from global norms of oppression of workers, the US will have to have strong border protection.