I don't always agree with David Frum, but this time he knocks it out of the park:
For most Americans, the dominant economic fact of the past 15 years has been the deteriorating market for their labor. They must work longer and harder for less pay and fewer benefits. And since the financial crisis of 2008, many have found it difficult to get work at all. Unemployment still exceeds 7 percent even as we approach the fifth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy; nearly half of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed.
Yet from the point of view of some Americans, labor remains too costly. American wages—although no longer anything like the highest in the world—remain considerably higher than elsewhere on the planet, even after adjusting for productivity differentials. People earn more than they otherwise might, just by the accident of being American.
The great unspoken question in the immigration debate is whether this “living in America” wage premium is a benefit to be cherished or a problem to be overcome. To a startling extent, political leaders agree: the wage premium is a problem—and immigration is the answer.
That point of view is seldom phrased quite so bluntly. Instead we hear concern about “labor shortages,” “skills mismatches,” and “jobs Americans won’t do.” In a market economy, however, there are no shortages. There is always a price at which supply will rise to meet demand. Sometimes that price takes the form of higher pay. Sometimes it takes the form of capital investments to reduce a job’s difficulty or danger.
What employers mean when they refer to labor shortages is “shortage at the wage we prefer to pay.” Here’s how this preference operates in the labor market. Back in the mid-1970s, meatpacking was an industry overwhelmingly characterized by native-born labor. Meatpackers earned an average of $17.41 an hour, only slightly less than the average wage in all manufacturing. (All the dollar figures I’m about to use are inflation-adjusted to 2006 purchasing power.) Over the next three decades, native-born labor in the meatpacking industry was displaced by immigrant labor, much of it illegal. Wages correspondingly collapsed. By 2006, meatpackers averaged $11.47 an hour, more than $5 less than the average manufacturing wage—which had itself declined nearly $1.25 over the same period.
What’s happened to meatpacking has happened to other occupations, both unskilled (notably janitorial) and highly skilled (software engineering).
I have been watching with dismay and disgust as both political parties insist on attacking American employment by either legalizing illegal labor or pumping out more and more H1B visas. Whether you are highly-skilled or unskilled labor, you're being shafted by a political structure that caters only to the oligarchy.
It's refreshing to hear someone with a megaphone start saying what I've been thinking for years now. It's also depressing- because it's so true, and because everyone either denies it or doesn't give a damn.