Trump’s Pick to Run Labor Dept. Tweets Thanks to Jeb Bush, Eric Cantor


Donald Trump’s new pick to run the Department of Labor is being congratulated by defeated GOP establishment leaders Jeb Bush and Eric Cantor, both of whom get booted out of politics for their efforts to increase cheap-labor immigration. 

Andy Puzder, Trump’s immigration-boosting nominee to become the Secretary of Labor, promptly sent his very public thanks to the two defeated leaders for their support.

Puzder is currently the CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., whose revenue comes from franchise fees paid by low-wage Hardee’s and Carls Jr. restaurants. The franchised restaurants pay 4 percent of their total revenue to CKE.

On Thursday night, Puzder tweeted his 2017 priorities for the Department of Labor —to grow businesses and create jobs — but did not mention Americans’ wages or working conditions, or if those jobs would go to Americans or to immigrant workers.

Puzder’s failure to say he was thinking about jobs for Americans earned a jibe from Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which argues that reduced immigration will raise wages and lower taxpayers’ welfare bills.

Puzder’s public alignment with Bush and Cantor, and his focus on growing businesses and job totals instead of wages, is a long distance from Trump’s message on the campaign, where he slammed the GOP establishment, and repeatedly insisted that his priorities are higher wages amid lower immigration.

In March 2016, Donald Trump promised that “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” he said “No exceptions.”

In August 2016, Trump laid out his pro-American immigration policy in an Arizona speech:

The fundamental problem with the immigration system in our country is that it serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists and powerful politicians. Let me tell you who it doesn’t serve: it doesn’t serve you, the American people. When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, and lower wages. Immigration reform should mean something else entirely: it should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.

“The American worker built this country and now it’s time for American workers to have a government for the first time in decades answers to them,” Trump said Dec. 9 at an Iowa rally. “Buy American, hire American,” he declared

Puzder’s alternative focus on business and jobs, regardless of wages, however, matches the goals of U.S. business groups and investors, which seek to maximize their share of the economy, often at the cost of wages, salaries and benefit earned by ordinary Americans.

In recent years, business groups and investors — backed by many progressives — have boosted revenues and stock-market values by annually adding at least 2 million foreigners into the United States. The new arrivals serve as lower-wage immigrant workers or as temporary guest-workers, but their pay packets are usually so small that they’re subsidized by various forms of welfare payments from taxpayers. Those taxpayer subsidies to employees are transferred back into businesses when the migrants buy food, lodging, transport and other products and services.  

The migrants also prevent an economy-wide shortage of labor, dubbed a “tight labor market,” which generally forces up the wages paid to workers. The last time U.S. workers gained wage increases from a tight labor market was in the late 1990s when the Internet grew the economy faster than the supply of young Americans, plus legal and illegal immigrants. 

The public’s opposition to cheap labor immigration is usually ignored or dismissed by GOP politicians, including Bush and Cantor. That’s largely why Bush and Cantor lost their political jobs.

In 2016, for example, Jeb Bush’s economic policy was based on his promise to increase economic growth by importing more foreign white-collar graduates to compete against American graduates. Trump pushed him out of the race with promises to reduce immigration and raise wages. 

Bush was supported in the 2016 campaign by Cantor, who lost his GOP seat and his job as Majority Leader of the House in June 2014. Cantor was defeated in his primary when his constituents voted for Dave Brat, a local university professor who advocated for a policy of reduced immigration. Before the primary defeat, Cantor had lobbied his GOP peers to sharply increase immigration, which provides business with both new new workers and new customers. 

Puzder’s attitudes towards immigration as similar to those of Cantor and Bush. For example, in June 2015, Puzder argued in the Wall Street Journal that a pro-immigration policy would win the 2016 election;

It would be unacceptable for Republicans to lose a critical election over immigration … Every Republican who aspires to the presidency should acknowledge that immigrants of all skill sets can benefit the economy … with some 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, every candidate should support a path to legal status—short of citizenship—for illegal immigrants willing to accept responsibility for their actions and take the consequences … This is simply an attempt to set forth unifying principles that are easily articulated and essential if Republicans have a chance at winning the next presidential election. Absent rational immigration principles, the odds of winning aren’t very good.

The large inflow of immigrants in a slow-growth economy pushes down Americans’ salaries, and shifts roughly $500 billion per year from wages and salaries into company profits. The boosts investors and Wall Street, but reduces productivity growth and helps to creates a huge population of unemployed men and of government-dependent poor people in the United States.

In 2013, at an American Enterprise Institute conference, Puzder suggested that he favors immigrants over Americans.

Our Hardee’s restaurant operators in the Midwest and the Southeast often use the labor force in California as an example of what they would like their labor force to be … They’re very hardworking, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact they have a job. Whereas in other parts of the country you often get people that are saying, “I can’t believe I have to work this job,” with the immigration population you always have the, “Thank God I have this job” kind of attitude. So you end up with a real different feeling.

That conflict between investors and workers indirectly fueled much of the 2016 election, which Trump won with the support of former Democratic voters in economically drained states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those states were the most opposed to the continued inflow of foreign workers and customers urged by Puzder, Bush and Cantor.

In 2013, the public’s opposition killed a bipartisan effort by Bush, Cantor, Puzder, most Democrats, most Republicans, most business groups and the establishment media, to enact a so-called “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” That law would have imported at least 33 million foreign people by 2013, plus an unlimited number of refugees and an unlimited number of foreign white-collar college graduates. It also would have increased investors’ share of the economy for at least 10 years at the expense of workers, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill was shelved once GOP leaders saw Cantor lose his June 2014 primary.

The growing public pressure for a lower inflow of foreign workers helps explain why House Speaker Paul Ryan this week dropped a plan to expand the H-2B blue-collar guest-worker program from 66,000 visas per year up to 264,000 visas per year. The H-2B program is used by many companies that operates restaurants.

Under President Barack Obama, the federal government annually imports at least one million legal immigrants, plus almost one million temporary white-collar guest workers and blue-collar guest workers for jobs sought by Americans. Those two million new foreign workers — plus the roughly eight million illegal immigrants in jobs — compete against the four million young Americans who begin looking for jobs each year.

Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc., which runs Hardee’s and Carls Jr. chain  of owned and franchised restaurants. The owners of the franchised restaurants pay 4 percent of their revenue to CKE, ensuring that CKE gains from any increased population. In an October 2016 Wall Street Journal article, for example, he argued that Obamacare costs should be reduced so more people can afford to visit restaurants:

In the past 10 months, eight major restaurant companies, representing at least 12 chains, including Cosi, Logan’s Roadhouse, Old Country Buffet and Zio’s Italian Kitchen, have filed for bankruptcy. What’s causing this drop in restaurant traffic?

 In many respects the decline is counterintuitive. Gas prices are down, which normally increases discretionary spending and boosts restaurant visits. Food costs are down at grocery stores, which gives them a competitive advantage over restaurants but should also mean consumers have more money to dine out. That hasn’t happened…

According to the survey of regular quick-service diners who had increased health-insurance costs over the past year, 47% cut back on restaurant spending. That’s very close to the 45% of consumers who are eating at restaurants less than they would prefer, according to an April survey by the National Restaurant Association.

Puzder also argued that greater immigration would help boost revenue for his business.

If we had immigration reform and were able to hire these people who want to work … We’d have access to not only low-skilled workers in our business but the high skilled workers that everybody talks about. You’d have consumption from these individuals, because obviously if they’re working and they’re making money and supporting their families they’d be out there buying things.

That demand for more imported customers is common among business leaders. In March 2015, for example, Eric Schmidt, the head of the company that owns Google, talked to a D.C. audience about the impact on companies of slower population growth. “How are you over a couple of decades to deal with the fact that one third of your customers are going to go away? … Well, one [way] is produce more customers through immigration,” he told his D.C. audience at the American Enterprise Institute. 

CKE was bought in 2010 by an affiliate of Apollo Global Management, an investment firm. Apollo also has bought many other companies, including Rexnord Corp., an Indiana-based manufacturer that is now moving several hundred jobs to Mexico.  Apollo sold its last ownership slice of Rexnord in 2015.

 Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC or email the author at


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