Views on politics and current events

Monday, September 11, 2006

Perception, Meet Reality Part II

Or, Are Immigrants Taking Away Jobs from Americans?

One of the common arguments against illegal immigration is that illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans:

[Mark] Flanagan [Republican candidate for the 13th Congressional District in Florida] said illegal immigration is "taking away jobs from Americans . . . and overburdening our social services and costing taxpayers dearly."

Lets set aside the "overburdening of social services" and "cost to taxpayers" issue. Each of those deserves its own blog entry.

Could it be possible? Maybe, if you realize that things like these are going on in the U.S.:

Alan Beggerow has stopped looking for work. Laid off as a steelworker at 48, he taught math for a while at a community college. But when that ended, he could not find a job that, in his view, was neither demeaning nor underpaid. . . Millions of men like Mr. Beggerow — men in the prime of their lives, between 30 and 55 — have dropped out of regular work. They are turning down jobs they think beneath them or are unable to find work for which they are qualified, even as an expanding economy offers opportunities to work. . . About 13 percent of American men in this age group are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960’s. The difference represents 4 million men who would be working today if the employment rate had remained where it was in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Here's another example:

“To be honest, I’m kind of looking for the home run,” said Christopher Priga, who is 54 and has not had steady work since he lost a job with a six-figure income as an electrical engineer at Xerox in 2002. “There’s no point in hitting for base hits,” he explained. “I've been down the road where I did all the things I was supposed to do, and the end result of that is nil.” Instead, Mr. Priga supports himself by borrowing against the rising value of his Los Angeles home. Other men fall back on wives or family members. . . Despite their great numbers, many of the men not working are missing from the nation’s best-known statistic on unemployment. The jobless rate is now a low 4.6 percent, yet that number excludes most of the missing men, because they have stopped looking for work and are therefore not considered officially unemployed. That makes the unemployment rate a far less useful measure of the country’s well-being than it once was.

So it's OK to kick back and not look for a job because "the job is not worthy of you." I think that's insane. I wouldn't want to risk losing everything before saying "well, I guess it's time to find any job after all." But that's just me. They have the "money" or "equity" or "understanding spouse," so it's their choice.

What would you say about this, though?

The fastest growing source of help is a patchwork system of government support, the main one being federal disability insurance, which is financed by Social Security payroll taxes. The disability stipends range up to $1,000 a month and, after the first two years, Medicare kicks in, giving access to health insurance that for many missing men no longer comes with the low-wage jobs available to them. No federal entitlement program is growing as quickly, with more than 6.5 million men and women now receiving monthly disability payments, up from 3 million in 1990. About 25 percent of the missing men are collecting this insurance. The ailments that qualify them are usually real, like back pain, heart trouble or mental illness. But in some cases, the illnesses are not so serious that they would prevent people from working if a well-paying job with benefits were an option.

And, as the article further explains, a determination of disability makes it more difficult for these people to return to work.

So, the next time someone tells you that immigrants - illegal or otherwise - are taking jobs away from Americans, or the next time someone rails about companies hiring or contracting technical staff from India or other less-developed countries, keep this in mind. They may be taking the jobs some Americans won't take because it's beneath them.

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