David Brooks makes standard business-elite arguments for immigration
I think that David Brooks is wrong about everything he says, but this stuff is probably what most rich donors to the Republican Party actually believe.
[Immigrants] are more likely to earn patents.
Only engineers earn patents, and immigrants are disproportionately represented in our corporate engineering departments and at STEM degree programs. Could native born Americans do these jobs? Of course they could, but the flood of immigrants depresses wages and the prestige of STEM. Americans are smart to avoid STEM in which they have no comparative advantage over the mass of immigrants and where they may be permanently fired after fifteen years because their skills are considered too old.
A quarter of new high-tech companies with more than $1 million in sales were also founded by the foreign-born.
Brooks is a journalist and has never had a real job in corporate America. I’ve dealt with immigrant-owned businesses, and they are all involved in outsourcing programming jobs to India, or they are body shops providing temporary IT employees who are mostly from their home countries, many of them on H-1B visas. These businesses don’t create jobs for Americans, they take jobs away from Americans. But they are good for people who have ownership interests in corporations, the top-level executives and investors.
Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down, living standards rise and more women can afford to work outside the home.
Brooks expresses bobo values here. Notice how he says that women can now “afford” to work. As I keep pointing out, the new paradigm of labor is that only the rich can afford to work, and work is considered something desirable and self-actualizing. Maybe Brooks has been reading my blog, but doesn’t realize I was being ironic? Brooks doesn’t say much about how the foreign-born nanny feels about all this. Who is taking care of her children while she’s taking care of some rich woman’s children? How does she “afford” to work?
One group, using one methodology, found immigration had a negligible effect on low-skill wages.
The floor price for low-skill wages is the mandated minimum wage, and wages are known to be sticky at all levels of the labor force which explains why wages didn’t plummet with the bad economy. So the short-run result of immigration tends to be unemployed Americans rather than Americans working for lower wages. In the long run, wages in industries dominated by immigrants stagnate and don’t increase. Workers in IT might be making twice as much money as they do today if we hadn’t allowed massive immigration to do IT jobs.
Because immigration is so attractive, most nations are competing to win the global talent race. Over the past 10 years, 60 percent of nations have moved to increase or maintain their immigrant intakes, especially for high-skilled immigrants.
The United States is losing this competition. … [I]f we can’t pass a law this year, given the overwhelming strength of the evidence, then we really are a pathetic basket case of a nation.
All these pro-immigration editorials always end with a paragraph designed to scare and shame readers into supporting immigration. I’m surprised Brooks didn’t mention the other common scare argument, that Social Security is doomed without a constant source of younger workers from foreign countries.
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Here’s a Wikipedia explanation of stickiness
Many firms, during recessions, lay off workers. Yet many of these same firms are reluctant to begin hiring, even as the economic situation improves. This can result in slow job growth during a recovery. Wages, prices, and employment levels can all be sticky. Normally, a variable oscillates according to changing market conditions, but when stickiness enters the system, oscillations in one direction are favored over the other, and the variable exhibits “creep”—it gradually moves in one direction or another. This is also called the “ratchet effect”. Over time a variable will have ratcheted in one direction.
For example, in the absence of competition, firms rarely lower prices, even when production costs decrease (i.e. supply increases) or demand drops. Instead, when production becomes cheaper, firms take the difference as profit, and when demand decreases they are more likely to hold prices constant, while cutting production, than to lower them. Therefore, prices are sometimes observed to be sticky downward, and the net result is one kind of inflation.
Because everything about employment tends to be sticky, you seldom see any significant short-run effects from changes in stimuli, which is why I don’t believe any studies purporting to show that immigration has no bad effect on the job market, in contradiction to the normal rules of supply and demand which tell us that when you increase the supply of something (such as labor), then the result is lower prices.
But probably, we are right now seeing the effects of a decade of loose immigration in that the job market refuses to recover from the recession.