A New Far-Right Theory: Liberal Immigration Policies Have Been the Primary Cause of Falling Incomes for Most Americans

This is an excerpt from an article distributed by the Far-Right news service Newsmax:

“Wages for the overwhelming majority of Americans have fallen below 1970s levels as the percentage of the population that is foreign-born has surged.

“A memo from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), released in response to a request for data from the Senate Judiciary Committee, shows on the other hand that in the decades prior to 1970, when the percentage of foreign-born Americans dropped, wages for most Americans rose.

“From 1945 to 1970, the foreign-born population in the United States decreased from 10.97 million to 9.74 million, a decline of 11.2 percent.

“During that 25-year period, the reported income of the bottom 90 percent of tax filers rose from an average of $18,418, in 2013 dollars, to $33,621 in 1970, an increase of 82.5 percent.

“The share of total income held by the bottom 90 percent also rose during this period, from 67.4 percent to 68.5 percent.

“The CRS also disclosed that from 1970 through 2013, the foreign-born population in the U.S. increased from 9.74 million to 41.34 million, a rise of an astounding 324.5 percent.

“During that period, the income of the bottom 90 percent of tax filers fell from an average of $33,621 in 1970 to $30,980 in 2013, and the share of income they held sank from 68.5 percent to 53 percent, a decline of 15.5 percentage points over this 43-year period.

“The CRS report “questions claims that native Americans are economically helped by greater immigration,” The Washington Examiner observed in an article about the report.”

The entire article is available at: http://news.newsmax.com/?Z64RasSaYfAEh1WL2bztmEgSRXlzNfUZZ

Beyond the obvious logical fallacies involved in asserting a cause-effect relationship between two phenomena simply because they are contemporaneous, this argument ignores the fact that most immigrants are employed in jobs that would be low-wage regardless of who was doing them.

Moreover, this argument all too conveniently ignores several very basic and very obvious alternative explanations for the decline in the incomes of most Americans over the last 35 to 40 years. At the top of any list of these alternatives would be, of course, the following causes: the decline in union membership, especially in the private sector, and the increase in anti-labor legislation, especially at the state level; the automation of heavy industries and the dramatic reduction of high-paying employment in that sector; and the replacement of less skilled manufacturing employment, for which wages were buttressed by the more fully unionized heavy industries, with low-end service jobs and “temp” employment in such new “industries” as warehousing.

The corporate wing of the Far Right is, indeed, in favor of more liberal immigration policies because such policies will insure a continuing pool of low-wage, exploitable labor. But that is not quite the same as asserting that immigrant labor is responsible for driving down most incomes.

Moreover, the Tea Party wing of the Far Right is being very disingenuous when it opposes more liberal immigration policies ostensibly because of the downward pressure on working-class and middle-class incomes. At its crux, the opposition to immigration is based on deeply entrenched xenophobia and, more specifically, the political apprehension that most new immigrants will not vote for Far Right candidates. Indeed, this apprehension is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as the Far Right becomes increasingly virulent in its demonization of immigrants as an invasive force that cannot be assimilated. This demonization is framed as a defense of what is most fundamental to being American–even though American history is, in its essence, largely a chronicle of such assimilation.

 

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