January 26, 2015
In his recent Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough picked up where President Obama left off after his State of the Union address. Obama’s remaining years, McDonough re-iterated several times, would be dedicated to lifting the middle class out of its morass. As Obama promised in his SOTU speech, he would “put the middle class first.” In light of rising costs but stagnant wages, McDonough insisted that Obama would fight relentlessly to improve the standard of living for middle class Americans.
But in truth, the administration is in the midst of further depressing Americans’ incomes and their job opportunities. Within the next three months, Obama’s executive action announced in November will give work authorization to between four and five million unlawful immigrants who, because of their illegal immigration status, had previously been unemployable.
Obama’s executive action is an extension of his first six years of liberalized immigration actions that have systematically displaced American workers, and decimated the middle class. Through November 2014, all net employment gains went to foreign-born workers, according to an analysis by the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Immigrant employment now exceeds pre-recession levels but native- born employment has not returned to 2007 levels. An immigrant-dominated work force is the logical outcome of granting 75,000 work permits each month to legal immigrants, giving employment-based guest worker visas to 750,000 overseas workers annually, and allowing eight million illegal immigrants to hold jobs in the United States.
Yet despite the lack of tangible evidence that a labor shortage exists, those in Congress and the White House who favor higher immigration levels ignore the reality that more immigration depresses middle class incomes and keeps lower income minorities from reaching the middle class. More than 50 percent of African American adults without a high school diploma are unemployed. Since nearly 80 percent of illegal immigrants are also without a high school education. These two demographic subsections will compete against each other for scarce job openings, assuming Congress allows Obama’s executive action to go forward.
Even without expanded immigration, American workers will face daunting challenges in the years ahead. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most of the jobs created over the next decade will be in the low-paying service sector. About 400,000 food preparation positions will pay an average annual salary of $17,000, a far cry from the 8.75 million lost pre-recession jobs that paid more, provided a high number of weekly hours and offered health care and other benefits.
Lowe’s, the second-largest U.S. home improvement retailer, typifies how the U.S. workforce has been restructured. The chain, based in Mooresville, N.C., recently eliminated 1,700 managers responsible for store operations, sales, and administration to make up ground with the larger, more profitable Home Depot. Meanwhile, Lowe’s said it will add 8,000 to 10,000 weekend sales positions and is creating a new assistant store manager position. The Lowe’s strategy: cut good jobs, add less costly positions.
Congress could put Obama on the spot about his professed determination to save the middle class. Pass mandatory E-Verify legislation that would insure that all U.S. jobs go to citizens or legal immigrants. Both chambers would likely support the bill, a version of which passed the House Judiciary Committee in 2011. That would place the bill on Obama’s desk where his veto would expose his indifference to American workers’ fate.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]