ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION….Mickey Kaus, trying on his new role as champion of the common man, is appalled that Ted Kennedy is giving in to the chicken plucking industry’s refusal to pay its chicken pluckers “$10 or $15 an hour.” In a remarkable and unprecedented surge of apparent sympathy for organized labor, he suggests caustically that Ted wouldn’t give in so fast if the chicken pluckers organized and then went on strike demanding $10 an hour. Boo yah! In real life, of course, Mickey would denounce Democratic support for a strike like this with acid disdain (“the last feeble gasp of Kennedyesque paleoliberalism,” perhaps), but as long as it’s just a hypothetical example it’s all good.
So why the sudden concern for the working poor? Illegal immigration, of course, and a desperate desire to somehow get the left to oppose sensible immigration reform as stridently and absurdly as the wingnut right. But how? Answer: flail around and try to convince gullible liberals that the plight of the working poor (i.e., chicken pluckers) is due to immigration from Mexico, not conservative public policies of the past 30 years. And how desperate is Mickey to make this point? So desperate he’s willing to cite the hated Paul Krugman as a source that illegal immigration has depressed the wages of high school dropouts 8.2%. That’s desperate.
Of course, pay no mind to the fact that the column he cites is a year old, and it turns out the study Krugman wrote about has since been updated. Illegal immigration hasn’t reduced the wages of high school dropouts by 8.2%. It’s reduced wages by 3.6% at most, and probably not even that much, according to the authors.
And pay no mind to the fact that even that tiny drop is probably due mostly to the fact that illegal immigrants are illegal, which reduces their bargaining power considerably. Make ’em legal and their wages would certainly rise by at least a couple of percentage points, no? But that’s “amnesty,” and our affection for the common man can go only just so far. Comprehensive immigration reform, by increasing the bargaining power of non-natives, would almost certainly help native workers too, but that’s a very inconvenient fact. Best to pretend otherwise and hope that a few gullible liberals will buy it.