Migrants should be imported to fill millions of empty jobs, even though about seven million working-age American men have dropped out of the workforce, says a right-of-center columnist at the Washington Post.
“We need immigrants to help fill these jobs,” Marc Thiessen wrote on December 4, after dismissing the millions of American men who have been sidelined during the last 20 years.
Thiessen’s discard Americans proposal is “morally abhorrent” but is also commonplace among the GOP establishment, responded Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies:
He is just one among many saying that ‘We need to just give up on a large share of our workforce, give them their welfare checks, give them their Oxycontin, and let’s bring in people who are better.”… It’s a logical consequence of the perspective that we’re just an economy rather than a country.
The establishment’s dismissal of ordinary Americans “is one of the reasons that [establishment advocates] are not running the Republican Party anymore,” Krikorian added.
Many business leaders — both Democrats and Republicans — say the government should prioritize investors and business above employees and citizens:
Another astonishing clip from the Cato Institute event today, this one from the influential Adam Posen, head of the Peterson Institute. He says a focus on domestic manufacturing is simply a “fetish for keeping white males with low education in the powerful positions they are in.” pic.twitter.com/ii4F0ssAjY
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) October 6, 2022
Thiessen is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush who pushed for his open-border “Any Willing Worker” program. He wrote:
… despite the plethora of available jobs, my American Enterprise Institute colleague Nicholas Eberstadt points out more than 1 in 10 prime-age men are “labor-force dropouts — neither working nor looking for work.” While foreign-born workforce participation appears to be back to pre-pandemic levels, Eberstadt says, “Almost all of the residual manpower shortfall appears to be among native-born Americans.”
We need to expand the number of legal immigrants and reform our immigration system to make sure we are bringing the right people into the country with the skills our economy needs.
Thiessen added: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says, ‘The best thing that we can do for our economy is comprehensive immigration reform’ …. Pelosi is right.”
However, Thiessen’s claim of 10 million “unfilled jobs” is questionable. Many companies post job ads with little interest in quick hiring, subcontracting companies post multiple ads for each job, and lawyers post fake job ads while trying to import foreign workers.
Eberstadt, a demographer, has a more nuanced view than Thiessen about the “flight from work” crisis among working-age men.
“The United States has a Depression-scale work problem,” Eberstadt wrote in a September 20 column for the Washington Post.
“Absent a dramatic reversal of the current flight from work, the U.S. labor shortage will probably have to be solved by some combination of immigration, automation, and recession,” he wrote.
Automation is an alternative to migration because it helps Americans do more work each day. For example, robot cow-milking machines allow family farms to operate without a large number of hired hands.
However, business groups prefer migrants to robots because the migrants can be dismissed in any economic downturn whereas the loans to buy robots must be paid regardless of economic conditions. So Trump’s decision to reduce immigration pressured many companies to invest in productivity and automation.
Trump’s cutback on migration also helped to nudge down the “flight from work” problem by pulling sidelined workers back into the labor force.
But that progress was quickly reversed by President Joe Biden’s policy of welcoming roughly four million additional legal and illegal migrants.
That mass inflow of migrants forces down Americans’ wages, raises their housing costs, and pushes many out of decent jobs.
The worst-hit Americans include the old and slow people, middle-aged technology experts, people with criminal records, people who cannot speak Spanish or who are too proud to work alongside illegal migrants, as well as people who are sick, or who have to take care of children or ailing relatives.
Eberstadt’s “flight from work” problem is driven by federal support for policies that help push young men out of the workforce, such as immigration, outsourcing, and the export of factories.
“This [mass dropout] is caused by policies and institutions, not by technology,” admitted Jason Furman, an economist who chaired President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors. “We shouldn’t accept it as inevitable,” he told a Brookings Institute expert, Dave Wessel, shortly before Donald Trump was elected President in 2016:
In the early 1950s, 98 percent of men in that age bracket had a job … [or] were actively looking for one. Today, that fraction has fallen down to 88 percent. … Understand it is quite large. The difference between a recession and a normal economic period is maybe two percentage points on the employment population ratio … so this is something that is more like 10 percent age points [five recessions] stretched over a long period of time.
In some sense [this drop-off] is bigger than the difference between a recession and a boom, and the impact it has, the evidence is very clear that … when you’re talking about someone who is not married, who has less than a high-school degree, there’s a good chance that [unemployment] is not a choice, and it is associated with depression, with drug use, with suicide, with a range of bad outcomes for people.
The non-working men lead miserable lives, Eberstadt told CNN’s Michael Smerconish on September 24:
It’s a terribly dispiriting picture that they themselves paint through self-reported time-use data. Basically, they say that they don’t do civil society, that they don’t do worship much, or volunteering or charity, even though they’ve got a lot of time on their hands. They don’t do an awful lot of help around the house … They report that they watched screens about 2,000 hours a year, almost as if it were a full-time job, and they also report almost half of these men …. are taking pain medication every day.
In many cases, the oxycontin pain medication becomes drug addiction, fentanyl use, and death. That process has created a huge number of “Deaths of Despair” among sidelined men. More than 106,000 Americans died from drugs in 2021, and many others died from alcohol and suicide.
The policies that can pull sidelined Americans back to work “are hard, they’re expensive, they’re not going to be immediately successful,” he said.
But the government’s support for migration policies encourages businesses to stop trying to recruit and train the unwanted and sidelined Americans, Krikorian said:
Easy immigration enables that [replacement migration] perspective … If there weren’t large-scale immigration, it’s not like some of these elite commentators would like [working class] Americans … but they would have no alternative to policies that try to bring these lost young men back into the world of work.
“Government exists to promote the interests of its people,” Krikorian said, adding: “We have a responsibility to our own people that’s different from the responsibility for others.”