Chamber of Commerce: The American Worker’s Enemy

Published on January 24th, 2012

By Joe Guzzardi
January 18, 2012

Measuring the damage that Washington D.C. lobbyists’ do to American workers is well nigh impossible. Along K Street, there are more than 12,000 registered lobbyists who in 2011 spent more than $2.5 billion. Since Congress has 535 members, the math indicates lobbyists outnumber representatives by a 22:1 ratio and spend an average of $4.6 million on each one.

One of the most formidable D.C. powerhouses is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which spent $46 million last year. One Chamber specialty is legal reform which has a whopping $16 million budget.

The Chamber is keenly interested in reforming immigration policy. Top on its to do list is amnesty for illegal aliens and, under the guise of global competitiveness, more foreign-born workers.

In his annual “State of American Business” address, Chamber Chief Executive Officer Thomas Donohue called for liberalizing visa laws “to allow the world’s best minds and most creative entrepreneurs to stay in our country after we educate them,” because they will “contribute and succeed elsewhere, so let’s keep them here.”

According to Donohue, “America’s prosperity depends on the dreams of immigrants.”

In a narrow sense, Donohue is right. America’s elite, including his target audience, prospers enormously from immigrants especially aliens who provide the cheap labor to which the Chamber is addicted.

But on a broader scale, Donohue is dead wrong. America’s prosperity, to use his phrase, depends on putting its citizens back to work. Not only does the Chamber’s repeated reference to immigrants’ “dreams” offend—since American’s dream, too— it misleads.

In today’s labor market, many immigrants have already realized their “dreams” while unemployed Americans have dejectedly stopped looking for work. Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies’ found that between 2008 and 2010 1.1 million young and unskilled or semi-skilled immigrants, legal and illegal, have taken jobs Americans can do in professions like construction. An overwhelming percentage of the immigrants worked for lower wages. During the three-year period studied, the national unemployment rate averaged 9.4 percent and U.S. household employment declined by 6.3 million.

Andrew Sum, the Center’s director, said: "Employers have chosen to use new immigrants over native-born workers and have continued to displace large numbers of blue-collar workers and young adults without college degrees." Among the reasons illegal immigrants are more sought after, said Sum, “…is the fact that employers do not have to pay health benefits or basic payroll taxes.”

For the financially comfortable like Donohue to pontificate about the perceived value of adding more immigrants while so many Americans suffer is an outrage.

Although the middle class routinely reads about an economy that is supposedly on the rebound, they see little evidence of it in their daily lives.

Americans’ median household income is roughly $50,000. With rising food, healthcare, energy and college costs, many have nothing left each month after paying for essentials. Those who have an income are lucky. For the 13 million unemployed, more than 1 million have given up looking for work. Who can blame them? The only jobs available are in the low paying service sector.

Despite this toxic economic mix, Donohue’s priority is to satisfy “dreaming” immigrants. Only the powerful and the most agenda driven would agree.


Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns, mostly about immigration and related social issues, since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]

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