Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Immigration: A 'Form of Reverse Foreign Aid' for the U.S.


The May Day immigration rights demonstrations inspired two feelings in me: amusement and anger.

Amusement at how the Bush administration has its hands tied on this issue since it takes all of its marching orders directly from the business lobby. The GOP has long been the master of selling policies that benefit only the rich to working-class idiots who vote Republican ("trickle-down" tax cuts, for one thing). But try as they may, the Bush people will never be able to sell immigration rights to their base of angry, frustrated white supporters.

For me, the demonstrations also triggered feelings of anger. Why can't all working Americans take a lesson from this action and organize a nationwide general strike? Average wages in America have been in steady decline now for a quarter of a century---a period that has also seen a gigantic explosion in the pay of CEOs and other ultra-rich people, as well as a relentless crackdown on organized labor.

Leave it to the brilliant investigative reporter Greg Palast to tell the full story of immigration:

Immigration is simply good business. In fact, it's the deal of the millennium, says Dr. Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute, a think tank founded by big name Republicans.

"It's a form of reverse foreign aid. We give less than $20 billion in direct aid to Third World nations and we get back $30 billion a year in capital assets."

By "assets" he means workers raised, fed, inoculated and educated by poorer countries, then shipped at the beginning of their productive lives to the United States (the average age of immigrants is twenty-eight).

The Cato Institute reckons that the United States "imports" about $25 billion a year in "capital goods." "It is the lubricant to our capitalistic economy," said Moore (as I eschewed thoughts of the film Modern Times in which Charlie Chaplin gets squeezed through giant gears), "giving U.S. companies a big edge over European competitors."

American industry saves a bundle due to its access to an army of low-skill, low-wage foreign workers who can be hired, then dumped, in a snap. U.S. industry also siphons off other nations' best and brightest, trained at poor nations' expense.

The habit of brain-napping other countries' high-skilled workers, let me note, permits America's moneyed classes to shirk the costly burden of educating America's own underclass.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of "brain-napping," the U.S. also has a program these days that aims to lure wealthy people from overseas, with tax breaks, etc. I suppose it could be argued that this has benefits to the U.S. economy, if rich people are lured to settle here from Europe. But it's troubling to me in that a country that is supposedly an economic superpower now has to resort to such gimmicks to boost its economy (the same sort of gimmicks that tax havens in Third World nations have long used).

Anonymous said...

20 years ago, the best and brightest students from overseas did indeed come to America to study. Invariably, they'd stay here permanently after they received a degree. But the situation is totally different today. These students, the brightest and best are much more likely to return to their home nations, where opportunities are increasingly better, after they graduate.