First NAFTA, now amnesty; the American worker is being traded away

Part of the narrative the White House is trying to establish around the president’s executive amnesty is that it will ultimately help the American worker.

“One way that the president can generate results for the American people is to take this kind of common sense substantive action that would be good for the economy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. Reports have also cited estimates by Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, that the amnesty will generate 160,000 new jobs and add $2.5 billion in tax revenue. Others claim even greater numbers.

So, in an era of high unemployment, growing welfare rolls and a ballooning federal deficit we’re supposed to believe that adding millions of low skilled workers will help the economy? Sorry, but folks in Alabama have heard something like this before, and we have the shuttered textile mills and their forgotten workers to remind us that it isn’t true.

“In 1994…President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which promised to be a boon to an already struggling American working class by, somehow, creating a greater demand for American goods,” wrote Alabama author Rick Bragg in his book, “The Most They Ever Had.”

The book tells the story of a once thriving textile mill in Calhoun County, Alabama, through the eyes of the community that watched it die a slow, sputtering death partly due to the trade agreement. Then, as now, our leaders promised that our workers would thrive after the deal.

“Instead, American jobs poured south to third-world plants where workers drew drinking water from ditches and lived in squatter communities beside hastily constructed industrial parks that stank of open sewers and human suffering,” Bragg wrote. “It had seemed, to even the most unlettered working man, such a fool’s bargain, a governmental gutting of the industry in a time when it was already dying.”

The central planners got it wrong, as they often do, and someone else paid the price.

Bragg wrote that economists “with straight faces” then told the blue collar mill workers to “retrain for jobs in computer programming, radiology, or hotel management.”

Bragg’s book isn’t about amnesty or economic theory, but it does a remarkable job of showing how working families are impacted — for good and bad — by sweeping government decisions. It should be recommended reading for every politician and political aide, liberal or conservative, so they’ll remember the people who they’re working for.

Amnesty may be good for illegal aliens, but it’s a raw deal for the American worker.

“There are many out-of-work Americans who want and need the jobs now being held by illegal aliens,” reads a report titled “Amnesty and the American Worker” from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The report confronts a common misconception; that Americans aren’t willing to accept certain jobs.

“From housekeeping to meatpacking, food service to construction work, the native-born make up the majority of workers in these occupations. However, as the share of illegal aliens rises, jobs available to native workers become scarce, and their wages and work conditions diminish.”

In fact, the federal government inadvertently gives employers an incentive to hire those under the White House’s amnesty plan rather than American workers.

“President Obama’s temporary amnesty … declares up to 5 million illegal immigrants to be lawfully in the country and eligible for work permits, but it still deems them ineligible for public benefits such as buying insurance on Obamacare’s health exchanges,” wrote Stephen Dinan in the Washington Times. “That means businesses who hire them won’t have to pay a penalty for not providing them health coverage — making them $3,000 more attractive than a similar native-born worker, whom the business by law would have to cover.”

I understand it’s now a global economy, and that we must also be compassionate to the less fortunate. But twenty years ago we sent our jobs down there, and now they’re sending their workers up here.

Meanwhile, against all evidence and common sense we’re supposed to believe these trades are good for our economy, our families and our communities. I’m not buying it. It wasn’t good for our economy then, and it isn’t good for our economy now.

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