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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Solution to Illegal Immigration, But It Will Take Communist Action Over Baby Seal Clubbers 

Remember Adam Smith? George Bush doesn't.

[A] temporary worker program would take pressure off our border. When you match willing worker with willing employer on a job Americans won't do....

So one of the ways to make sure we have a rational border control policy is to make work legal - not amnesty, but work legal - on a temporary basis. People ought to be given a tamper-proof work card, come here and do jobs Americans won't do, and then after a set period of time, go home....

Oh yeah, there's just some jobs out there that Americans just plain will not do. Well, not exactly. Bush's statements ignore what he and his father and his grandfather presumably learned in school - if you cannot get workers at a particular wage, you CAN get workers if you RAISE the wage. Naturally, Bush corporate supporters don't want to do that. They'd prefer the cheap labor.

But why does the cheap labor come here in the first place? One of the recent studies showed that many of the Mexicans who come here already had jobs in Mexico, so why would they come here? Simple - even the illegal jobs here pay more than the jobs in Mexico.

Therein lies the solution to the illegal immigration issue. For years, activists within the United States have campaigned for various municipalities (such as San Francisco) to enact minimum wage laws that are closer to a "living wage," which is why you see proposals for $10/hour and $15/hour minimum wages in various places.

Well, why don't those activists go down to Mexico and agitate for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage in Mexico? If such a wage were enacted, very few Mexicans would illegally immigrate to the U.S. Or are Mexicans not good enough to get the same minimum wage that the fascist American government gives to its own people?

Actually, some activists have been working on changing conditions in Mexico - sort of:

June 28, 2001 -- Workers in foreign-owned export assembly plants in Mexico are not able to meet a family's basic needs on sweatshop wages, according to a comprehensive study conducted in fifteen Mexican cities....

"The wages paid maquiladora workers for a full workweek do not enable them to meet basic human needs of their family for nutrition, housing, clothing and non-consumables," declared Dr. Ruth Rosenbaum, executive director of the Center for Reflection, Education and Action (CREA), who conducted the research. "In the 15 cities surveyed, it would take between four and five minimum wage salaries to meet the basic needs of a family of four. This study documents the huge gap between what maquiladora workers are paid and what they need."...

This is a violation of Mexican workers' human rights and of the Mexican Constitution that guarantees a living wage. The foreign-based corporations that benefit from free trade have a moral obligation to pay their workers a sustainable living wage....

"We found both that workers are paid low wages and the cost of living is high," explained Dr. Rosenbaum. "The study refutes the commonly-stated rationale of officials of U.S.-based companies that workers are paid less in Mexico because the standard of living is lower and products and services are cheaper." In Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, a family of four needs 193.86 pesos a day to reach a sustainable living wage. Based on pay slips collected from a number of maquiladora workers, a majority takes home less than 55.55 pesos a day, which is 28.6% of what a family of four needs. One minimum wage salary in Matamoros provides only 19.6% of what a family of four needs.

"Companies tell us that they are paying above the minimum wage," said Rev. David Schilling, director of ICCR's Global Corporate Accountability Program, "but our data shows they are nowhere near paying a sustainable living wage. We call on all companies to publicly report what they pay their maquiladora workers and to close the gap between what they pay and what workers need." For twelve years, religious institutional investors, members of ICCR, have been pressing corporations to pay their Mexican employees a sustainable living wage.

All right and fine, but this only affects the maquiladora workers - kind of like if the U.S. demanded that Honda factories pay very high wages, but ignored the wages paid at the U.S.-owned firms.

Blue Sheet doesn't target the maquiladoras, but it does target one U.S. company. Guess which one.

The key for Mexico is its domestic consumption. Well-paid Mexicans with good jobs in Mexico , spending their money in Mexico are good for the Mexican economy and the U.S. Border Patrol. Win-win. Heck, they may even start buying some of our goods someday.

So how do we get there? How does the Mexican economy become more like the American one?

Focus on the worst Mexican businesses, the businesses with the worst labor record, the lowest wages and the most employees. It’s businesses like these that which, when bettered by unionization, will have the greatest positive effect on Mexican per capita income.

And—funny story, this—hundreds of thousands of workers in Mexico toil away for one behemoth employer, one that’s trounced upon the right to organize, one that treats its workers like dirt, and one so large that, in Mexico like in the U.S., its sales are taken by government as a leading economic indicator.

¡Bienvenidos, Wal-Mart!

Wal-Mart de Mexico SA, a.k.a. Walmex, is every bit the company the Yankee parent is. And though junior gives Mexican consumers nice cheap things, it pays its Mexican workers, like its American ones, rock-bottom wages. When a company's low-wage profile is accredited by the Mexican government for keeping down inflation, you know it's got economic clout.

But a big, economic-indicator-size company like Wal-Mart, employing millions internationally, should pay better wages. That puts upward pressure on wages across the economy, meaning the then-better-paid employees of businesses all around the economy (blue collar, white collar and professional employees) could afford to buy more Wal-Mart products.

It’s called Fordism, and it's how America became a first world consumer economy in the first place.

Desert Buddhist expresses a similar idea:

I am not opposed to US companies sending work overseas. In some ways it is accomplishing one of the things that we can’t seem to do any other way. The plant in Mexico that my friend referred to is helping to add more people to the middle class of Mexico. Those folks are happy to have the income (tiny as it is by our standards) because it’s more than they would receive from Mexican companies. If the US companies would start paying $20,000 or more, I wonder if the Mexican companies would have to raise their salaries to compete in the labor market. Then the gap between rich and poor in that country just might shrink a bit. The middle class would surely grow, that would have a positive impact on their politics and we might start seeing fewer people trying to slip across the border.
Likewise, if there were fewer opportunities to exploit the people of another country, perhaps those American companies might just keep more of those jobs here at home.

Instead of campaigning for the maquiladoras or Wal Mart or whoever to pay more, why not campaign for the Mexican government to raise the minimum wage for everyone?

Well, Mexico is raising its minimum wage by a whopping four percent:

Mexico's National Minimum Wage Commission said last week that Mexico will raise the minimum wage by 4 percent on Jan. 1 [2006], higher than record-low annual inflation of 2.91 percent in November. The minimum wage in Juárez will increase to 48.67 pesos ($4.56) a day from 46.8 pesos ($4.39) a day....

In Juárez maquilas, the average pay for line workers is already about twice the minimum wage at $1.25 an hour to $10 a day ($20 if you count benefits), Garcia said....

Mexico's miners and steelworkers union said in an e-mailed statement it rejected the 4 percent increase because the union considers it "unworthy for the working class of the country and an embarrassment for the nation's unions." The union was the only organization that refused to sign the commission's minimum-wage document, the statement said.

Let's review. Assuming some type of consistency between 2001 and 2006 figures, maquiladora workers are only paid 25% of a true living wage. So, if maquiladora workers are paid about $10 a day, they should really be paid $40 a day. And, since what's good for the goose is also good for the gander, the Mexican government should impose a $40 per day minimum wage (or, something roughly equivalent to the hourly minimum wage in the U.S.).

It's for the children.

And, as I noted above, it will take the Left to campaign for this change in Mexican law. The Right is not interested in foreigners making more money, because it hurts U.S. corporate ability to get low paid workers.

Needless to say, someone disagrees with me. Emphasis mine.

In December 1941, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises was invited by Luis Montes de Oca, a former director of the Mexican central bank, to deliver a series of lectures in Mexico during January and February 1942.

The Mexico visited by Mises was dominated by a socialist ideology that had resulted in the nationalization of industry and land, with heavy-handed regulation of private enterprise and high protectionist trade barriers. In response, Mises attempted to present an understanding of sound free-market economics in the lectures he gave during his two-month stay in Mexico.

At the request of a Mexican association of market-oriented businessmen, he prepared, in English, a monograph on "Mexico's Economic Problems" in June 1943....

Mises argued that the trading opportunities Mexico was enjoying with the United States due to the Second World War were likely to end with the cessation of the conflict. Mexico, therefore, needed an agenda of postwar market-oriented reforms for further economic improvement. A policy of free trade was essential to the country's future....

Anticipating one of the major schemes proposed by postwar development planners, he strongly criticized what he labeled the "closed door method of industrialization," but which became more widely known and popular in third-world countries after 1945 as the "import-substitution" method for development. Under the import-substitution approach, industrialization was to be forced through trade restrictions and high tariff barriers behind which domestic industries would be stimulated at artificially high prices far above those in the general global market. Mises pointed out that countries implementing such policies inevitably make their own people poorer and less productive....

Equally disastrous for Mexican development was any attempt to raise Mexican wages to comparable U.S. levels through either government legislation or trade union pressure. Mexico was a capital-poor country with a relatively large supply of labor. That necessarily meant that labor productivity was far lower than that of American workers. The only way that Mexican labor could compete on the global market was to take advantage of those opportunities in which it could be a lower-cost producer in labor-intensive lines of production. The standard of living in Mexico could permanently rise only through the normal processes of market-directed capital formation over time and through emigration of a part of the labor force to other countries where wages and the marginal productivity of labor was higher. Since the latter method was generally closed off owing to immigration barriers in the United States and other countries, only the former method was available to Mexico under prevailing international conditions. Raising wages above market-determined levels could only condemn a part of the Mexican labor force to permanent unemployment or more primitive lines of employment.

But I do have the support of the Seoul Times:

A rich country bordering on a poor one will inevitably attract workers. To end illegal immigration, the U.S. might consider massive investments in Mexico. It will raise Mexican wages to the point where Hector Dimas and others like him will not make a journey north. It will also mean that Mexicans could become customers for American products. Everyone would gain under that scenario....

Domenico Maceri, Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara, teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA. His articles have appeared in many newspapers including Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Japan Times, and The Seoul Times. Some of his stories won awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.


From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Republicans have done a great job creating cynicism and apathy. So many people have been turned off to the process by Bush and Co., that its created the perfect minority-rule opportunity. My bet is that people have just about had enough and the sleeping giant will awaken to cast a vote in 2006. Beware the populist backlash. Visit http://mymountain.blogspot.com for a Christian liberal perspective.
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