By Joe Guzzardi
September 9, 2011
Last night in his disappointing jobs speech, President Obama proved again that he either doesn’t comprehend or won’t acknowledge the relationship between immigration and American joblessness. In more than 4,000 words, Obama never mentioned immigration.
For a smart fellow like Obama with his Columbia and Harvard University degrees it can’t be that he doesn’t grasp that every legal immigrant who arrives in the United States (about one million annually) and gets a work permit could take a job away from an American. The math is pretty simple. And although illegal immigration has slowed, it hasn’t stopped. Illegal immigrants, willing to work for lower wages, also exacerbate the relentless U.S. unemployment problem.
To grasp immigration’s impact on the economy consider the January Reuters’ story titled “Over a Million Immigrants Land Jobs; 2008-2010” which reported that during the last two years while unemployment remained near double digit levels and hundreds of thousands of American jobs were shed, more than a million legal and illegal immigrants found work. Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data and coauthored by Northeast University’s director of the Center for Labor Market Studies Arthur Sum, the story included Sum’s analysis: "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."
Given the evidence, Obama’s refusal to admit that more immigration means fewer jobs for Americans is political tunnel vision. The most effective job creation policy would be an immigration moratorium. While this might be considered extremist by some, especially the White House and the mainstream media, economic conditions indicate that a moratorium, which has historic precedent, is exactly the right policy.
From the nation’s founding through the 1920s, there were no immigration limits. Between 1890 and 1920, however, immigrants displaced native born workers, including minorities, at such a pace that Americans suffered. Finally in 1921 Congress limited immigration to 3 percent of the total foreign-born population. As a result of that formula, by the end of the 1920s, immigration was down to 50,000 a year.
But today existing immigration is so high that even if the U.S. were to apply the 3 percent formula, based on the current foreign born population of nearly 40 million, the U.S. would still take in more than a million new immigrants every year—way too many.
Even the most optimistic Obama supporters are skeptical about his new plan. Instead of the tangible benefits that would immediately accrue from an immigration moratorium, Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act is full of vague assurances and platitudes. Obama promised jobs for construction workers (a trade dominated in some areas by illegal immigrants), “young people,” (DREAM Act beneficiaries?) and teachers (many educating illegal aliens in overcrowded classrooms).
Obama, indirectly comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, pledged that “everything” in his bill would be “paid for.” No veteran political observer can take that seriously. Before Obama addressed Congress, the White House projected that the bill would cost $300 billion. At the last minute, it tacked on an additional $147 billion. What the final expense might be is anyone’s guess. But given the magnitude of Obama’s first failed stimulus—$787 billion—it’s hard to imagine Congress jumping on board.
Obama is on the ropes; his reelection in serious jeopardy. Any Republican cooperation might help Obama. Since the GOP has no interest in helping Obama win a second term, the American Jobs Act is probably dead on arrival.
Joe Guzzardi, a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow, has written syndicated editorials about immigration and related social issues since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]