The U.S. is experiencing the longest period of high unemployment since the Great Depression. The recession which began in 2008 has been declared by mainstream economists to be officially over, and yet the unemployment rate is at 9.7%. For perspective, recall that when President Obama assumed office, his team of economic advisers predicted the unemployment rate would top out at 8% and then fall throughout 2010. Instead an additional 4 million jobs have been lost in the last 18 months. It is likely that the economy is now growing as measured by traditional economic indicators, but jobs are simply not being created at a high enough pace to lower the unemployment rate much, or at all. The President’s response is two-fold: to declare himself devoted to “job creation” through certain limited tax credits on employers and at the same time surreptitiously pushing for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Granting amnesty to 10-15 million more job seekers makes no economic sense. This would increase competition for low-end jobs, enable employers to lower wages, and make it more difficult for American citizens with limited educations to find employment. Yet, few commentators are pointing this out. And the President, who promised to restore “science” to its rightful place at the center of policy-making, has never acknowledged (as far as I know) how to reconcile the dramatic expansion in the supply of workers with his desire to lower the unemployment rate. He can’t. The two goals are irreconcilable.
An urgent national policy of job creation would take the opposite approach: curtailing immigration. The U.S. admits a million legal immigrants per year (and hundreds of thousands of illegals). This goes on year after year, regardless of the economic state of the country and the demand of employers for new workers. When demand is low, as it has been for the last three years, the admission of a million new job seekers to the economy guarantees, as I’ve stated, tougher competition for jobs, essentially higher unemployment for Americans. The obvious response is that immigration should track the economy. When the economy is contracting, immigration should be curtailed, or even stopped completely. New employment-based visas should not be issued at all unless there is some acute need for a particular type of worker which the U.S. economy simply cannot fill (no example comes to mind).
No member of Congress is advocating this (and if I’m wrong, I’d like someone to point it out to me). This means our elected officials are so wedded to the concept of legal immigration that it has become sacrosanct, like social security. Or, perhaps they don’t understand the basic economics of supply and demand. But that can’t be so, because the forces of supply and demand are at the heart of the discussion we have just heard about expanding offshore oil drilling. This being a congressional election year, one would expect there to be a robust debate about the persistently high unemployment rate, and its causes. Not so. We hear occasional complaints about “foreign competition” to American industry, mostly from protectionists and labor unions. But those people are referring to foreign industries not foreign workers. Even organized labor is part of the national immigration consensus despite the harm it inflicts on American workers.
In future posts I’ll discuss how this consensus developed, who benefits from it, and why it continues despite the very high unemployment rate. 192.168.01 .