NYT Admits Fewer Immigrants Means Higher Wages, More Labor-Saving Machines

FLORIDA CITY, FL - FEBRUARY 06: Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms on February 6, 2013 in Florida City, Florida. The United States government and Mexico reached a tentative agreement that would go into effect around March 4th, on cross-border …
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Americans are getting higher wages and more labor-saving machines because companies cannot get enough immigrants, laments a pro-migration business reporter at the New York Times.

Under the pro-migration headline, “Economic Antidote for a Shrinking America: Immigrants,” the New York Times (NYT) reporter tries to portray rising wages as a tragic hardship for business in a “Shrinking America”: 

MIAMI — After finishing a particularly satisfying dinner at a Coral Gables restaurant with his wife, Pedro Martinez quietly slipped around to the back alley where the kitchen is.

“Whatever you’re making, I’ll give you a raise,” Mr. Martinez whispered when the back door swung open. An executive at 50 Eggs, a restaurant group based in Miami, he is always ready with a stack of business cards for occasions like this.

As unemployment rates nationwide have sunk to record lows, filching workers — from kitchens and construction sites, warehouses and Walmarts, truck cabs and nursing homes — has become routine.

The front-page August 22 article also sympathized with a tomato grower in Florida who is being forced to buy tomato-sorting technology because many employees quit for better opportunities in President Donald Trump’s go-go economy:

This past tomato season, DiMare Fresh, a family-owned distributor with farms in Florida and California, had scores of unfilled jobs.

At its main packing house in Homestead, about an hour south of Miami, the company was able to fill only 165 of the 280 open jobs. Another center in Ruskin, near Tampa, lost many of its workers when Amazon opened a fulfillment center a few minutes away.

[So] The company is experimenting with new technology — a machine to automatically stack 25-pound boxes of tomatoes on pallets, and sensors to sort tomatoes by size and color when there aren’t enough graders, usually older Haitian women at this site, to eyeball the produce as it loops along conveyor belts.

The article repeatedly touts the financial interests of employers but not employees, said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “That business guy going in the back door and handing out his card? That’s the kind of thing we want to see more of. We want employers to have to hustle to find workers, rather than see workers have to hustle to find a job,” he said.

And the tomato grower who has to buy robots so that his remaining workers can do more and earn more? “Again, that is what we want to see, that is the whole point” of shrinking the artificial inflow of foreign labor, Krikorian said. 

“The piece does not mention per-capita income which is supposed to be the whole point” of good economic policy, said Krikorian. “The basic issue is not whether our economy can get bigger – it is whether Americans [individually] are better off, and the reporter seems to internalize the perspective of the business owners: ‘It is the government’s job to make sure we get labor as cheaply as possible.’”

“It sure seems she doesn’t know that much about the subject … You get the sense this is like a business reporter of a small-town paper who just transcribes press releases from local companies,” he said. 

The article was posted two days after Breitbart News spotlighted the New York Times‘ failure to grapple with the huge economic impact of immigration, which includes the “immigration tax” transfer of wages from employees to investors, the reduced incentive for employers to invest in labor-saving machinery, the shift of investment, jobs and wealth from the heartland to the coasts, and the rising rents that Americans must pay after seeing their wages reduced by the immigration tax. 

These broader issues were either ignored or misunderstood by the New York Times‘ August 22 article because immigration is the top priority for progressives and their allies in business, said Krikorian:

I don’t think it is conscious [favoritism towards business]— I don’t think the reporters and editors are saying, “We want to make life easy for the oligarchy,” but [the article] is about immigration, and anything which expands immigration … must be by definition good even if the Times is serving as a lickspittle for capital.

The New York Times reporter spotlights the “Nation of Immigrants” political issue, saying that “the economic impact [of immigration] is just one facet of an immigration debate that vibrates with political and moral import, challenging ideas about America’s identity and culture.”

The reporter also ends her article by quoting a lament from Tony DiMare, head of the DiMare Fresh tomato business: “Mr. DiMare shakes his head when asked about detentions at the border and deportation raids. ‘They want to send all these people back,’ he said. ‘Who the hell is going to do all this work?'”

A 2017 video shows how DiMare has already reduced his workforce by prior substantial investment in mechanized processing and packaging yet still relies on cheap labor for picking and sorting tomatoes and for stacking boxes.

The Florida tomato industry has repeatedly touted its reliance on cheap labor when it asks Congress for easier immigration rules and more imported H-2A summer workers. For example, a 2015 video by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services showcased Florida farmers’ reliance on reliable and hardworking Hispanics:

The contrast is shown by labor-short Australia where farmers have built large machines to help the workers become more productive by picking more tomatoes at a faster pace for less cost. The machine is also being displayed to help recruit Asian pickers.

Florida’s reliance on cheap migrant labor also leaves them exposed to innovative high-tech farming technologies:

Mexican farms, for example, have grabbed much of the market share from Florida growers by raising more of their tomato crops in greenhouses or under plastic tunnels. In 2012, John VanSickle, an agricultural economist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, urged Florida growers to upgrade their techniques:

VanSickle acknowledged a transition would come with big up-front costs, but he maintained growers, particularly tomato growers, could recover by supplying a better product that would fetch a higher market price.

“In this era, consumers are willing to pay more for a better-tasting tomato,” VanSickle said. “If they want to compete, they’ve got to change the way they’re doing business.”

Upgrading the tomato business is indeed increasingly challenging because the companies’ prices and profits are forced down by growing foreign competitors and price-conscious consumers and groceries.

But that real-world dilemma is hidden under the New York Times‘ sympathy for the business owners. “This is the kind of thing you see among diplomats when they go native and parrot the line of the country they are based in,” said Krikorian. “It is an example of ‘regulatory capture’ where a business reporter who is supposed to be shining a light in dark corners has internalized the world view of the people she is covering.”

Instead of grappling with immigration’s impact on wages and productivity, the New York Times cites a pro-GOP, pro-business group to argue that immigration fattens the overall economy: 

The economic impact is just one facet of an immigration debate that vibrates with political and moral import, challenging ideas about America’s identity and culture. But it is also one that can be examined more dispassionately by looking at the numbers.

And the numbers, most economists say, indicate that there is plenty of room. Immigrants make the country richer, they argue.

“Without immigration, we shrink as a nation,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who has advised Republican presidential candidates and now leads the conservative American Action Forum.

Importing more people does grow the economy — almost by definition — which does provide more growth opportunities for capital, investors, and Wall Street in New York.

But the government’s policy of spiking economic growth via mass immigration has many other impacts. They include flat per-capita wages, the subsequent 2016 election of Donald Trump, and a growing challenge to the establishment’s post-1965 political demand that America’s cultural identity must be changed to a “Nation of Immigrants.” 

“Cluelessness is the problem here,” Krikorian said about the New York Times reporter. 

She does not even seem to ever refer to that fact that we have a near-record percentage of non-workers, people who have dropped out of the labor market. It seems like that would be relevant when she is talking about job openings and the unemployed. Does the writer in the New York Times know that unemployed means someone who has not looked for a job in the last in the four weeks?

The reporter also ignores the reality that Donald Trump has frequently said he supports continued immigration to help business, Krikorian added. “Presumably, she did not put it in because she did not know it.”

The New York Times‘ unhappy admission that restaurant executives now must plead with restaurant workers stands in contrast to the Los Angeles Times, which recently showed how mass immigration allows restaurant owners to overwork, underpay, and even injure their kitchen staff:

Also, the New York Times reporter does not recognize the impact of white-collar immigration and guest workers on U.S. college graduates — even though their salaries are growing slower than blue-collar graduates.

The overwhelming majority of comments from New York Times readers were sharply critical of the article. For example, “WJ” from Charlottesville got 48 upvotes for noting:

It’s not the size of the economy that counts, it’s income per person. We can grow the economy with more people but that isn’t the same thing as income per person. If it were, the people in China and India would be richer than the people in Switzerland and Singapore. This article is a modern version of the “servant problem” — how can we find enough low wage workers to mow our lawns, prepare our food and take care of our children. Believe it or not, we once did those things ourselves.

Editors at the New York Times changed the headline. The first declaratory headline — “Economic Antidote for a Shrinking America: Immigrants” — was dropped and was quietly replaced with an ambivalent headline, “Immigration at Its Limit? Not for Employers.”

Immigration Numbers:

Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or university. This total includes about 800,000 Americans who graduate with skilled degrees in business or health care, engineering or science, software, or statistics.

But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants and refreshes a resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including approximately 1 million H-1B workers and spouses — and about 500,000 blue-collar visa workers.

The government also prints out more than one million work permits for foreigners, tolerates about eight million illegal workers, and does not punish companies for employing the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants who sneak across the border or overstay their legal visas each year.

This policy of inflating the labor supply boosts economic growth for investors because it transfers wages to investors and ensures that employers do not have to compete for American workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.

This policy of flooding the market with cheap, foreign, white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor also shifts enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors, even as it also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, and hurts children’s schools and college educations.

The cheap-labor economic strategy also pushes Americans away from high-tech careers and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions.

The labor policy also moves business investment and wealth from the Heartland to the coastal citiesexplodes rents and housing costs, undermines suburbiashrivels real estate values in the Midwest, and rewards investors for creating low-tech, labor-intensive workplaces.

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