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No Immigration Amnesty Without a Minimum Wage Hike
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TAC-WhiteAmerica Salon just published my piece pointing out the crucial importance of including a large rise in the federal minimum wage in the current immigration legislation:

No Immigration Amnesty Without a Minimum Wage Hike
Salon, May 18, 2013

Congress is currently considering bipartisan legislation providing an amnesty for America’s 11 million illegal immigrants, probably combined with extra visas for skilled workers and an agricultural guestworker program. But principled liberals and conservatives should both demand that any immigration reform proposal also include a sharp rise in the federal minimum wage.

The reason is simple. Any increase in the supply or job mobility of willing workers will tend to benefit Capital at the expense of Labor, stifling any growth in working-class wages, especially given our high unemployment rates. The last 40 years have seen a huge increase in immigration, and it is hardly coincidental that median American wages have been stagnant or declining throughout most of this same period. A large boost in the minimum wage, perhaps to $12 an hour or more, would be the best means of reversing our current economic race to the bottom. [READ MORE]


Also, I was very pleased to see prominent blogger and NYT economics columnist Tyler Cowen, a very mainstream figure, drawing strong attention to my American Pravda article:

“The Most Provocative, Fascinating, and Bizarre Piece I Read Today”

The Cowen piece produced a large number of comments and tweets, and generated a great deal of additional readership traffic for my original article.

Together with the Forbes column from last week, my provocative and controversial media analysis seems to be gradually gaining attention among individuals writing for the MSM.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Immigration, Minimum Wage 
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  1. Socialism! Communism! Run Mr. Unz out of town on a rail! Such blatant heresy simply cannot be tolerated!


  2. “Any increase in the supply or job mobility of willing workers will tend to benefit Capital at the expense of Labor…”

    Well, yes, and an increase in supply combined with a raised price floor is a sure recipe for a huge surplus, right? 15% unemployment is our goal here?

  3. Absolutely, Ron – along with an even handed enforcement of labor laws that are not disregarded on the basis that the employees have no rights who are undocumented.

    The current immigration amnesty contains provisions that paradoxically allow further exploitation – as well as allowing bogus H1B visas to undercut our ability as workers to make a living wage in this country.

  4. Ray S. says:

    I prefer no minimum wage hike and no amnesty. The AFL-CIo’s support of this disastrous plan is humorous in a way though.

  5. tz says:

    You would destroy most if not every restaurant, as well as insure teenagers and entry level workers will have an 80% unemployment rate?

    Consider someone who is disabled and can only produce $10/hr from their labor. You would rather have them on welfare or whatever you call government non-charity than giving them the dignity of work. Perhaps we need to amend the euthanasia laws as part of this idea?

    Are you going to subsidize the hair stylists or others who are sole proprietors who won’t end up making the minimum wage after all the fees, regulations, and taxes, or should I buy stock in flow-bee?

    If you think it is just, then tip those who make less than what you consider your “living wage” to make up for it and demand AmConMag and everyone you deal with do so and make it up out of your own pocket. Otherwise you are like Gates and Buffet who think the rich should pay more taxes, but won’t fill in the form to send any extra in.

    Other People’s money – but a different form.

    If you are not joking or doing this as a poison pill, you are evil.

  6. Great idea! It increases purchasing power without public expenditures. Win-win.

  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    The current US immigration policy is all part of a larger program of genocide intended on wiping out the White race by forced integration and assimilation. Only Whites are denied the right to their own countries, communities, and institutions. A campaign of white guilt is pushed in the media and educational systems to brainwash Whites into thinking they have no legitimate right to their own countries, communities, and institutions. This program will lead to the end of White folks on earth. This is genocide. Both political parties say and do nothing about it. It’s White genocide. It’s genocide by forced assimilation.

  8. Here’s the way I see it. If we raise the minimum wage at the same time we legitimate the presence and work credentials of 11 million aliens now here and working “under the table”, we will make it even harder for them to hold the jobs they now have, at a cost to employers (with Social Security, Medicare and other taxes which must now be accounted for) that will already be higher than what they cost now. The likely result is that more jobs will be outsourced to cheaper labor abroad, or a new round of “illegals” will be enticed to cross the border for jobs that are going wanting but can’t be justified at the cost of the higher minimum wage. We will then have the worst of both worlds – up to eleven million more people in the U.S. collecting welfare benefits instead of wages, and a new flow of “illegal” immigrants.

    Can you discern a flaw in my analysis?

  9. Remember, those who are here today without legal status are not working for “minimum wage”. Their wages aren’t even reported – no taxes, Social Security, etc. being paid upon them. Making them “legal” means their employers face the choice of paying them those “minimum” wages, with all the added costs, or letting them go. If you increase the minimum wage it will only increase the number of these jobs which employers can no longer justify and will eliminate.

    Or, when border and immigration controls are again relaxed, as they inevitably will, a new round of “illegals” will come in to fill the vacuum of “off the books” jobs. If you want to eliminate illegal workers, eliminate the minimum wage. Employers would much rather hire workers legally than illegally if they can do so near the same cost. But they can’t be induced to pay workers more than their labor returns to them as employers. They’ll simply eliminate the jobs and invest their capital in something else.

    The decline in the earning power of American labor was the inevitable result of the growth of skilled labor and efficiency of production in third world countries – first, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, now China, India and southeast Asia – together with the removal of import controls, a removal which could not be avoided if America was to compete in the similarly growing export market. The unprecedented relatively high standard of living of union labor in the United States from the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War was the result of the American imperium which we acquired from the defeat of Germany and Japan and the transfer to the United States of control of their, as well as the British and French, empires. That cow has been milked and has left the barn. We won’t see those times again. We can compete with the rest of the world, particularly if we lose the high cost of trying to maintain the empire. But our workers will never again enjoy a standard of living appreciably higher than those in other countries who have developed their own pools of skilled and industrious labor.

  10. “If you want to eliminate illegal workers, eliminate the minimum wage. ”

    How, pray tell, can you live in America on thirty cents an hour?

    I realize that CEOs would prefer to have people making them rich, working for nothing at all.

    If you want to eliminate people in jail for robbery, eliminate making robbery a crime.

  11. Clint says:

    Raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses, artificially inflate prices against American consumer interests, raise union wages pegged to the minimum wage, further artificially inflating prices against American consumer interests.

  12. Better wages mean less welfare. But “conservatives” hate welfare AND wages. Only poverty for the working class will do. Productivity is up. Profits are up. The stock market is up. Rent, food, energy, health care, all up.

    Employment and wages are down.

  13. @William Dalton:

    Your last paragraph above is true as far as it goes. The great American “middle class” is (or was) that rarest of things, a prosperous working class. And that prosperity was attributable in large part to the fruits of empire.

    But open borders and “free trade” (neo-liberalism) are policy decisions favoring global monopolists who have captured our political institutions. Likewise labor law is policy formulated by politicians who are owned by “moneyed interests”. It is possible, absent corruption, for some nations to manage their affairs and assets such that they are wealthier and more egalitarian than other nations.

    It is neither necessary nor inevitable that American workers will be as poor as their counterparts in Bangladesh.

  14. DaveO says:

    Keep up the good work Ron. This is the first time I have visited Salon since Sirota’s piece about the Boston bomber. I vowed not to visit that click-baiting site again. Well, vow broken, but for good reason.

  15. ThomasH says:

    I think principled liberals and conservatives should combine immigration reform with a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit, rather than a higher minimum wage. At least I would like to hear Unz’ argument for a minimum wage rather than the EITC. I don’t think that a minimum wage increase will cause a large increase in unemployment of the lowest paid workers, but why take the chance?

  16. Ray S. says:

    Raise the minimum wage and get even fewer entry level workers.
    Give amnesty and you pretty much can say good night.

  17. Desertrat says:

    If well-paid jobs have been and are going overseas because of cheap labor there, how is raising the cost of labor here going to help?

    As it is, employers of illegals aren’t paying their share of FICA, unemployment insurance premiums and other costs of hiring workers. Those costs would increase along with formal wages, and Economics 101 always wins: Fewer people employed here.

    If a workforce is “bottom level” for wages, a rise in the minimum wage means that many others in a given operation would also get a raise of some relatively small amount. But, several small amounts accumulate to one or more worker’s pay. Either the price of the product must (or, maybe, can) be raised, or somebody loses a job.

    Historically, a rise in the minimum wage has always resulted in greater unemployment in the lower stratum of the workforce. Always.

  18. Glaivester says: • Website

    The current immigration amnesty contains provisions that paradoxically allow further exploitation – as well as allowing bogus H1B visas to undercut our ability as workers to make a living wage in this country.

    Paradoxically? Fran, wake up. Undercutting workers’ wages is one of the major goals of this amnesty.

    What, you think because amnesty is “anti-racist,” that makes it good? You thought that a plan to destroy the U.S. (which you in previous comments supported as a goal, (a) to cleanse the U.S. of racism and (b) to get revenge for what was done to the Native Americans) would lead to Utopia?

  19. The whiners evident here are repeating the same nonsense raised when the first minimum wage law was being debated. Minimum wage laws generated the greatest period of prosperity the U.S. has ever known, hand in hand with powerful union.

    I don’t think liberals will like this, liberals worship the free market. But as an unreconstructed proletarian, I believe Unz is on to something here.

    The current US immigration policy is all part of a larger program of genocide intended on wiping out the White race by forced integration and assimilation.

    “The white race” is an artificial figment of the imagination of a handful of melanin-deficient bullies who saw a chance to get rich off the distinction. Nobody in Africa called themselves “black” until some European showed up saying “Me white man, you black.” Ain’t nobody white except lepers and albinos.

    Businesses hire because they are selling enough product or service that they need more employees to generate more product and more service. Minimum wage generates more demand, thus, businesses will hire more people to meet it.

    No business owner says “Oh, labor is cheap. My market is saturated and I can’t sell any more than I’m already producing, but hey, let me hire a few more people since the cost margin is low.”

    When the city of Santa Monica CA considered raising the minimum wage within city boundaries, a restaurant owner complained that the measure would cost him 20 percent of his profits. Cry me a river. Nobody is going to shut down a business because they can only make 80 percent what they used to make.

  20. One problem with both a higher minimum wage and a higher EITC: Neither does jack-squat for the unemployed, of which there still are far too many.

  21. Clint says:

    D.W. MacKenzie,
    “Supporters of minimum wage laws ( 1933 & 1938) do not realize that prior to minimum wage laws the national unemployment rate did fall well below 5%. According to the US Census, national unemployment rates were 3.3% in 1927, 1.8% in 1926, 3.2% in 1925, 2.4% in 1923, 1.4% in 1919 and 1918, 2.8% in 1907, 1.7% in 1906, and 3.7% in 1902.”

  22. Ryan L says:

    If I remember correctly, Santa Monica’s high minimum wage was selective – only covering the areas crawling with vacationers, and did not include very small businesses. Even so, the law was eventually overturned.

    Why would a 20% loss in profits NOT be a source of problems for an employer? How do you know the employer’s profit isn’t low to begin with? It is a mistake to confuse high corporate profits with the profits of very small businesses. Ask the all the really small business owners in your town if they could easily withstand a 20% decrease in profits.

  23. Ken T says:

    Siarlys — great comments. I get so tired of reading that business owners make hiring decisions based on wages. That is a falsehood that is so obvious it should be self-evident. They make hiring decisions based on their business needs. (Or they don’t stay in business for long.) I also get tired of people saying that it is the natural goal of capitalism to push wages as low as possible by any means. Bullhockey. Henry Ford (not exactly a leftist by anyone’s standards) was expressing one of the cornerstones of capitalism when he said “I pay my workers enough that they can afford to buy my cars”. If that restaurant owner actually understood capitalism, he would take the same attitude — “I need to pay my workers enough that they can afford to eat here.”

    In a capitalist economy Labor earns money by trading a specified amount of work for a specified amount of pay. Capital earns money by generating economic activity that produces profits. The profits earned by Capital are greater than the wages earned by Labor, because those profits are at risk (in case of either bad business decisions or general economic downturns), while Labor takes a smaller amount in return for it being guaranteed.

    In the US today, far too many business owners (Capital) have turned that concept on it’s head. They want their profit to be guaranteed, while putting the earnings of their Labor at risk. But the ultimate result of this is to shut down the economic activity that generates the profit in the first place, because Labor can no longer afford to buy their products.

    This is Capitalism 101.

  24. Ryan L says:

    I’m relatively agnostic about the minimum wage rate, mostly because I am just not smart enough to weigh all the variables.

    Knowing this, I find it fascinating that others can prop up one potential upside to increasing the minimum wage, such as “it will increase purchasing power,” but then completely ignore the potential problems for small employers.

    There is no doubt that a hefty wage increase would have little effect on large restaurant chains, or smaller establishments that already have a hefty profit margin. But there are also a great many businesses that are operating a much lower profit.

    I would venture to guess that MOST employers do not reflect the greedy Capitalist mentality that is assumed by the zealots arguing for the obviousness of the wage hike solution.

  25. Siarlys,

    The glory days of corporate profits and increasing minimum wages was a period in which American manufacturers didn’t have to compete with cheap imports, and when they had no competition from foreign producers in the export market for much of the autos, airplanes, electronics and many other high tech goods for which the label “Made in the U.S.A.” was a mark of desired quality at home and abroad. Yes, when you have a product with brand name appeal you can jack up your wages, raise your prices a little, maintain demand and not lose market to competitors.

    In the 1980’s Miller Brewing Company built a new plant in our town when demand for their new product “Lite” beer was high. They paid union wages under a contract with the Teamsters in an area where no other company was paying close to those wages. It became an issue in the community because the presence of Miller workers moving into the area with high spending habits was driving up the prices for housing, groceries and other consumer products. I asked a Miller exec about it, and he confided that Miller could have doubled its wages and still make a profit – labor costs were a relatively small portion of their total costs of production. They restrained themselves from doing so because of the impact higher wages would have had on the area.

    In the 1960’s and 70’s much of the work now being done by undocumented immigrant labor was being done by African Americans who had no more opportunities than illegals do today. Furthermore, minimum wage laws didn’t apply to agricultural labor and domestic service, where most of those jobs were and are concentrated. Now that minimum wage laws apply those jobs, to the extent they still exist – and they are far fewer, are being done by “illegals” who are being paid in cash without records or reporting. Middle class households, who used to hire maids and yardmen to keep their houses and gardens, now do the work themselves or hire a cleaning service which is affordable only because of economies of scale. Far fewer people are employed.

    American job losses can’t be denied. Neither can it be denied that they are been lost to foreign companies whose labor costs are less than those required by our minimum wage laws, or by American companies outsourcing their production to foreign factories. None of them want to do this, but they are in competition with other companies which produce goods of similar quality. When the only basis of competition is price, a few cents added to the price of your product due to higher labor costs can mean the difference between success and bankruptcy. Ask those who ran the now closed stores which couldn’t compete with big box stores like Walmart and internet vendors like Amazon.

    If the United States had the political will it could reconstruct a regime of high tariffs and import controls, together with high minimum wages and tax credits and other government subsidies in to induce employment and the consumer demand that would follow. But we won’t be able to restore the overwhelming demand for American goods abroad, nor the control of cheap raw materials from abroad. We have tried to do that with our “War on Terror” required to maintain our hegemony over Middle East petroleum. But that cost, human and material, now has proven to be greater than the benefit we derive. We can’t continue that any longer. It is “liberals” who typically point out to “conservatives” that the way things were done in the “good old days” are no longer and can’t be returned. On matters such as the minimum wage and pay equity they need to take that lesson to heart themselves. If there is a way to achieve “economic justice” in the United States of the 21st Century it won’t be through government manipulation of wages and markets we no longer control.

  26. Ken T says:

    William: What you completely ignore is that the offshoring of production is not something that “just happened”. It was the deliberate, intentional result of of “free trade” policies that were implemented for the specific purpose of increasing corporate profit margins at the expense of the US working class. Yes, it is true that *once those policies were implemented*, any US company that did not take advantage of them would find it hard to compete. But if those policies were eliminated, then those companies would be back on a level playing field while employing US workers. It all comes back to the fact that the business owner class has come to feel that they are *entitled* to a certain level of profit, even when the market forces within the country do not support that level.

  27. TomB says:

    You can’t have it both ways, Mr. Unz. That is, you can’t on the one hand note the incredible irresponsibility (veering often now into outright criminality) of our elites, and then advocate a minimum wage hike.

    Don’t you see? Those big employers (i.e., elites) of minimum wage people don’t mind a hike in the minimum wage: Sure, they may have to cut down on hiring same a bit, or even cut them back a bit. But when you have 20-30-100-1000 workers doing so just means spreading out their labor over the rest and that’s always doable.

    What more than makes up for it is the incredible benefit they get from seeing their competition from small businesses who employ just a few minimum wage people have yet another—sometimes impossible—hurdle placed in their way of competing.

    You’re a small lumber yard, you can’t afford extra wages so you want to cut back on your yard workers. But you only got three, and cutting back to two may mean you can’t be open on Saturdays at all. Or other hours have to be cut. Or service such as that which makes you more desirable than a Big Box lumber yard.

    And on and on; small hardware stores, small restaurants … you name it.

    And *most* Americans still work for small businesses.

    The elites gave us the last amnesty in the 1980’s that was a sham, and now are trying to give us another one now without *even* first securing the border; elites have shipped every low-skill/high-wage job possible to other countries, and now they want to flood us with more illegals and screw their little competitors with a minimum wage hike.

    Nice way to hollow out the working class here. I.e., what may well have been the glory of this country—its ability to reward simple hard working but low-education/low skill people with a high standard of living.

    Or, to put it another way, say hello to the Mexican/Latin American model of society.


  28. Does anyone else find the “White Race” whiners tiresome? If they’re so worried about being overrun and outbred here, why don’t they go there and beat the terrifying “Other” on their own turf?


    That idiotic, ahistorical, nonsense is getting old. But I suppose it must be tolerated. Just like all the other idiocy running around like a herd of hippos these days.

    So depressing…

  29. M_Young says:

    “Middle class households, who used to hire maids and yardmen to keep their houses and gardens, now do the work themselves…”

    LOL. You obviously don’t live in California –that’s precisely reversed. Middle class families who used to do the work now hire $12.00/wk ‘mow, blow, and go’ guys, and socialize the costs on to the few of us that still mow our own lawns.

  30. Ken T: I don’t disagree with anything you say about the reason for the institution of the faux “free trade” regime passed by Congress which now rules the import of goods into the United States and the export of jobs from the United States. My point is that we could repeal those “Free Trade Agreements” and that wouldn’t put us back where we were before they were ratified. We no longer control the flow of the world’s resources to allow us to manufacture goods from raw materials at low cost and share the profits with labor. We can no longer dictate the price at which foreign customers will buy our goods or even that they buy from us because ours were the only such goods on the market. Whatever trade regime is put in place to remedy the injustices of the present we will have to compete with other countries whose workers make less than ours and whose workforces are being trained to match ours in efficiency and quality. Just as the United States is no longer the only country to play decent basketball, however the rules of the game are written, so we are no longer an economic power which can have its own way all the time, while the ham-handed application of our enduring military superiority has done little to advance our national interests, but has cost us dearly.

  31. Ken T says:

    William: You are certainly correct that we cannot just turn the clock back and have things be the same as they were, the overall reality has changed. Our position within the world is changing and will never be the same. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, because I think the costs of our military adventurism have more than negated the benefits we derive from it.

  32. Yeah, I’m sure the same people who’ve been blowing off immigration work rules for decades now will scrupulously follow the minimum wage regs, especially since they can just draw from the NEXT set of illegal aliens this latest amnesty will pull in.

    Man up, Ron. Oppose the amnesty or support it. Quit effin’ around with fig leaves. They just make you look silly.

  33. Siarlys and Ken T. are spot on here, and I see nothing so far as valid rebuttals, let alone any weakening in their points.

    I would add that the local-global dynamic is the elephant in the room, and while debates centered on minimum wage and immigration are important, they are only one (very important) component of the dynamic.

    Local economies are being devasted by global strategies. The simplest example of that is the elimination of local “mom and pop” businesses soon after the arrival of one or more big-box stores. Corporate profits killed the job-making and -sustaining power of the small business, not the minimum wage nor the “associated costs” of Social Security, etc.

    As for the restaurant industry — I cannot speak to any analogies in agriculture of my own knowledge — I know a large segment of the local employees in it. The only ones who would disagree that it is slave labor are the ones who serve in the high-end “five star” restaurants where even a paltry 15% tip will net them $25 at least for 60-90 minutes of service just at one table. Even after tipping out the bussers and bartenders, they can make a decent living wage. I’ll leave no health insurance and no paid sick leave to another context. For the rest, they live, clothe and feed themselves at the whims of the random generosity of their customers, and even one bad tip out of four can put their next rent payment in jeopardy.

  34. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    No Reconquista without amnesty!

    Since it is not possible to physically remove the native lower class, it is imperative to import a large foreign peasantry with lower expectations, as soon as possible.

  35. NGPM says:

    Throughout the 20th century, workers in the U.S. benefited from (by global standards) high wages because they benefited from their geographical proximity to large amounts of productive capital. Today, the amount of real capital has decreased but the theoretical amount – the GDP – is propped up by the “confidence capital” of the rest of the world in the dollar as the reserve currency. Ironically, it is the U.S.’s exploitation of its reserve currency status to translate its confidence capital into higher GDP that has allowed its real capital to disappear (in the form of deindustrialization) with only the most pathetic of resistance (see FTAA protests, 2003).

    However, for the simple reason that one cannot eat stock or bond certificates or burn them for any more productive energy to manufacture the goods that make our lives more comfortable than can be had from a brief bit of flash paper fun, the lower amount of real productive capital has translated into lower living standards for those who are not in a position to extract paper from the system at will.

    This is why American living standards are being decimated. This is the reason, and it is the only reason that matters. Immigration is another problem entirely, and while America’s immigration nightmare probably exacerbates the problem in several different ways, it needs to be treated as a different issue. Resolving the immigration issue won’t by itself make the economic disaster go away, or vice-versa.

    Raising the American minimum wage will not have the salutary effect that Siarlys Jenkins insinuates for the same reason that a minimum wage in India would not raise the standard of living there. It’s that simple. There isn’t sufficient excess “bulky” capital clustered in other areas to even out and spread around in the U.S.’s present economic situation.

    Everything in its good time. Immigration and our trade deficits need resolution fast. Living standards and unemployment are serious issues, but the perennity of American culture and the American economy do not hinge on their immediate resolution.

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