Leftist “Useful Idiots” Continue Their War on Wages via Mass Immigration (Australia)

Lambert here: Angela Nagle’s article has gotten traction in unexpected places.

By Houses and Holes, who edits MacroBusiness. Originally published in Macrobusiness.

Here is what Crikey’s Bernard Keane wrote last week on immigration:

The same policy breakdown that has occurred in other areas of neoliberal policymaking is now occurring on immigration. It’s generating the same response as in other areas. And it has the same causes. Rinse, repeat.

Scott Morrison, who only a matter of months ago was an ardent defender of high immigration, now wants to cut it. The PM says he has heard the complaints of residents of Sydney and Melbourne about congestion and access to services and housing.

Ironically, 38% of people in Sydney and 35% of people in Melbourne were born overseas, so more than a third of this alleged problem are drawbridge migrants whingeing about people who arrived after them.

As people with expertise in immigration, like former senior public servant Abul Rizvi point out, cutting permanent migration by 30,000, as Morrison proposes, isn’t going to do jack when every year we have hundreds of thousands of foreign students crowding into our cities, pushing up demand for housing and using infrastructure and services.

Not that the government would touch the sacred cow of education exports. We’ve traded away a major chunk of the academic quality and intellectual rigour of our higher education system because we prefer to dumb it down to attract foreign students rather than adequately fund it from taxpayer resources (foreign students also make a great resource for exploitation by unscrupulous employers, as we’ve seen time and again).

Business is appalled at the government’s turn against immigration too. After all, immigration increases demand and the supply of labour, enabling business to maintain wage stagnation and undermine unions. But it was appalled about the royal commission, and the bank tax, and the government’s gas policy, and its energy regulation, and every other shift by the government to acknowledge the deep electoral discontent about an economic system that works great for corporations, but poorly for workers. For once, however, the blame rests only partly with business itself. It was business that created the backlash against banks and power companies with its own behaviour — but most of the fault lies with governments, and well beyond decisions made in the immigration and education portfolios.

It was state and local governments that for so long stymied property development in Sydney and Melbourne, preferring to give in to NIMBYism than to display some foresight in permitting higher density housing around established infrastructure and economic opportunities.

It is the Commonwealth which fuels property investment and speculation with the taxpayer-funded “excesses” — Scott Morrison’s own word — of negative gearing, something Joe Hockey urged Parliament to fix when he left it. It is state governments that have failed to properly manage transport infrastructure until recently, but they still refuse to countenance congestion pricing. It was this government that promised a serious study of congestion pricing before abandoning it in fear of what voters might think. It is state governments and territory governments (apart from the ACT) that have resisted a shift from stamp duty to land taxes. It is the Commonwealth that dumped Joe Hockey’s successful asset recycling program that encouraged infrastructure investment by states.

Business, too, is complicit — the community will inevitably find more congestion, higher housing prices and poorer access to services more difficult to stomach if they are receiving none of the benefits of the economic growth that immigration is supposed to provide — like higher real wages. But government is the main culprit.

None of these issues are easy. Immigration isn’t merely about turning a tap of people on and off — it’s an intersection of infrastructure, taxation, development, education, health and public spending policies across all three levels of government, and all three levels have failed in Sydney and Melbourne, to varying degrees, over the last decade.

Instead of trying to fix the failures, and encourage what has worked, Scott Morrison has taken the easy option. Like Commonwealth, state and local politicians of all stripes have taken the easy option before him. We’ve been governed by people who have failed at the challenge of solving difficult but manageable problems, and we still are.

And here’s what he wrote on wages:

In contrast to its constant railing against unions and the CFMMEU, the government is almost completely silent on the issue of wage theft. A union official only has to jaywalk for a minister to condemn their lawbreaking and link Bill Shorten to it. But literally industrial-scale wage theft by business gets nary a mention from the government. Last year, government senators dissented from a Senate committee report examining wage theft and superannuation non-payment and failed to mention the issue at all, instead attacking — you guessed it — the CFMMEU and accusing Labor of allowing unions to abuse Senate committee processes.

In 2018 alone, the Fair Work Ombudsman has issued 76 media releases about separate cases of underpayment by employers, including repeated mass audits that have found massive levels of underpayment. Right now, the FWO is conducting a mass audit of 600 businesses in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.

This week the FWO also revealed the result of another mass audit of 638 businesses in the farming sector along the Harvest Trail, uncovering widespread underpayment of workers and over half of businesses breaching workplace laws. As so often happens with underpayment, the victims were often migrants, people of non-English speaking background, or students, who are more isolated, struggle to communicate and can be threatened with deportation if they complain. “The inquiry found that almost 70 per cent of harvest trail businesses employed visa holders. Working holiday subclass 417 visa holders (aged 18-31 years old) were the most common migrant workers on the trail,” the FWO said.

Perhaps that’s also why the Coalition doesn’t care that much about wages theft, as well?

This is Coalition heartland — the agricultural sector that so often has its hand out for government assistance when times get tough — even while exploiting previous schemes designed to help them when times get tough. Perhaps the government could make it a condition of drought relief that anyone found to have underpaid workers is automatically disqualified from receiving it? Or, given the massive scale of wage theft, would that knock off too many recipients?

Wage theft doesn’t directly affect wage growth indices like the Wage Price Index, which is compiled by surveying employers, not employees. But it affects wages more generally: if employers can get away with underpaying workers — foreign or not — then it puts additional downward pressure on wages elsewhere in the sector and, indirectly, across the broader economy. And the tens of millions — perhaps more — that employers underpay each year usually comes from the pay packets of the lowest-income workers, who spend a far higher proportion of their income than the rest of us. Wage theft undercuts demand as well as wage levels.

This is a classic case of Australia’s Fake Left media attitude to the mass immigration growth model. Mass immigration is directly responsible for the plague of wage theft:

  • For years we have seen Dominos, Caltex, 7-Eleven, Woolworths and many other fast food franchises busted for rorting migrant labour.
  • The issue culminated in 2016 when the Senate Education and Employment References Committee released a scathing report entitled A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders, which documented systemic abuses of Australia’s temporary visa system for foreign workers.
  • Mid last year, ABC’s 7.30 Report ran a disturbing expose on the modern day slavery occurring across Australia.
  • Meanwhile, Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), Natalie James, told Fairfax in August last year that people on visas continue to be exploited at an alarming rate, particularly those with limited English-language skills. It was also revealed that foreign workers are involved in more than three-quarters of legal cases initiated by the FWO against unscrupulous employers.
  • Then The ABC reported that Australia’s horticulture industry is at the centre of yet another migrant slave scandal, according to an Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into the issue.
  • The same Parliamentary Inquiry was told by an undercover Malaysian journalist that foreign workers in Victoria were “brainwashed” and trapped in debt to keep them on farms.
  • A recent UNSW Sydney and UTS survey painted the most damning picture of all, reporting that wages theft is endemic among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants.
  • A few months ago, Fair Work warned that most of Western Sydney had become a virtual special economic zone in which two-thirds of businesses were underpaying workers, with the worst offenders being high-migrant areas.
  • Dr Bob Birrell from the Australian Population Research Institute latest report, based on 2016 Census data, revealed that most recently arrived skilled migrants (i.e. arrived between 2011 and 2016) cannot find professional jobs, with only 24% of skilled migrants from Non-English-Speaking-Countries (who comprise 84% of the total skilled migrant intake) employed as professionals as of 2016, compared with 50% of skilled migrants from Main English-Speaking-Countries and 58% of the same aged Australian-born graduates. These results accord with a recent survey from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, which found that 53% of skilled migrants in Western Australia said they are working in lower skilled jobs than before they arrived, with underemployment also rife.
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) latest Characteristics of Recent Migrants report, revealed that migrants have generally worse labour market outcomes than the Australian born population, with recent migrants and temporary residents having an unemployment rate of 7.4% versus 5.4% for the Australian born population, and lower labour force participation (69.8%) than the Australian born population (70.2%).
  • ABC Radio recently highlighted the absurdity of Australia’s ‘skilled’ migration program in which skilled migrants have grown increasingly frustrated at not being able to gain work in Australia despite leaving their homelands to fill so-called ‘skills shortages’. As a result, they are now demanding that taxpayers provide government-sponsored internships to help skilled migrants gain local experience, and a chance to work in their chosen field.
  • In early 2018 the senate launched the”The operation and effectiveness of the Franchising Code of Conduct” owing in part to systematic abuse of migrant labour.
  • Then there is new research from the University of Sydney documenting the complete corruption of the temporary visas system, and arguing that Australia running a “de-facto low-skilled immigration policy” (also discussed here at the ABC).
  • In late June the government released new laws to combat modern slavery which, bizarrely, imposed zero punishment for enslaving coolies.
  • Over the past few months we’ve witnessed widespread visa rorting across cafes and restaurants, including among high end establishments like the Rockpool Group.
  • Alan Fels, head of the Migrant Workers Taskforce, revealed that international students are systematically exploited particularly by bosses of the same ethnicity.

Yet, ‘useful idiots’ across the leftist media constantly argue contradictory positions in defense of both wages and immigration without blinking an eye. Low wages are not a bug in this system, they are feature of it. The immigration-led growth model guarantees wage theft by relying implicitly upon a permanent supply shock that guarantees labour oversupply and by importing more exploitative attitudes to class within ethnic groups.

Angela Nagle has published a superb analysis of why the globalist (‘Fake’) Left supports extreme immigration in spite of the problems it causes the poor. From the American Affairs Journal:

The transformation of open borders into a “Left” position is a very new phenomenon and runs counter to the history of the organized Left in fundamental ways. Open borders has long been a rallying cry of the business and free market Right…

There is no getting around the fact that the power of unions relies by definition on their ability to restrict and withdraw the supply of labor, which becomes impossible if an entire workforce can be easily and cheaply replaced. Open borders and mass immigration are a victory for the bosses. And the bosses almost universally support it…

Today’s well-intentioned activists have become the useful idiots of big business. With their adoption of “open borders” advocacy—and a fierce moral absolutism that regards any limit to migration as an unspeakable evil—any criticism of the exploitative system of mass migration is effectively dismissed as blasphemy.

Even solidly leftist politicians, like Bernie Sanders in the United States and Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, are accused of “nativism” by critics if they recognize the legitimacy of borders or migration restriction at any point. This open borders radicalism ultimately benefits the elites within the most powerful countries in the world, further disempowers organized labor, robs the developing world of desperately needed professionals, and turns workers against workers… The importation of low-paid labor is a tool of oppression that divides workers and benefits those in power…

It has now become a common slogan among advocates of open borders—and many mainstream commentators—that“there is no migrant crisis.” But whether they like it or not, radically transformative levels of mass migration are unpopular across every section of society and throughout the world. And the people among whom it is unpopular, the citizenry, have the right to vote. Thus migration increasingly presents a crisis that is fundamental to democracy. Any political party wishing to govern will either have to accept the will of the people, or it will have to repress dissent in order to impose the open borders agenda. Many on the libertarian Left are among the most aggressive advocates of the latter. And for what? To provide moral cover for exploitation? To ensure that left-wing parties that could actually address any of these issues at a deeper international level remain out of power?..

There are many economic pros and cons to high immigration, but it is more likely to negatively impact low-skilled and low-paid native workers while benefiting wealthier native workers and the corporate sector… Mass migration… creates a race to the bottom for workers in wealthy countries and a brain drain in poor ones…

Immigration policies should be designed to ensure that the bargaining power of workers is not significantly imperiled. This is especially true in times of wage stagnation, weak unions, and massive inequality…

By providing inadvertent cover for the ruling elite’s business interests, the Left risks a significant existential crisis, as more and more ordinary people defect to far-right parties. At this moment of crisis, the stakes are too high to keep getting it wrong.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Australia has run a fifteen year experiment in mass immigration and labour markets – across multiple business cycles, Labor and Liberal regimes – and the empirical results are in. You can run mass immigration during a boom from an exogenous source to contain wage growth but if mass immigration is itself the primary growth driver then it crushes output per share:

And makes it impossible for wages growth without taking profit share from capital which is self-defeating:

Furthermore, by abandoning the working classes, youth and environment for open borders the Fake Left risks breeding hatred and contempt from the working classes, pushing them toward right-wing parties, and placing at risk the multicultural consensus.

The Fake Left would do well to take a leaf out of Bernie Sanders playbook and rethink their advocacy of ‘open borders’, which is playing directly into the hands of the capitalist elites that they supposedly oppose.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Arizona Slim

      I seem to recall reading that Cesar Chavez was opposed to illegal immigration. Reason: It undercut the wages of his UFW members.

  1. Summer

    Yes, anyone with a brain is going to try to leave a country that is being bombed or unstable due constant foreign support of a merry-go-round of coups.
    It’s called feeling “safer in the belly of the beast” – although reframed so you can all sleep at night as “seeking freedom.”

  2. Arizona Slim

    Quoting from the article:

    “Today’s well-intentioned activists have become the useful idiots of big business. With their adoption of “open borders” advocacy — and a fierce moral absolutism that regards any limit to migration as an unspeakable evil — any criticism of the exploitative system of mass migration is effectively dismissed as blasphemy.”

    To which I say:

    That sounds like a good description of activists in the United States.

    1. Roger Smith

      fierce moral absolutism

      That is the crux of all psy-op, cult ideologies like Identity Politics. Everything is a black-white, ‘good vs. evil’ struggle where the ‘sides are clear’ and the right stance is ‘obvious’. Once the mantra is adopted you can’t get anything through. As Lambert says above, this is only pushing more people to the only other place with power, right wing groups (also aided by factors like how corrupt and co-opted our system of government is). Have you watched any of these Portland protestors? It is like those religious videos where people are shaking and flailing around. They aren’t thinking clearly and don’t really understand why they are there.

  3. Nick

    “Fake Left” is pretty ugly, but at least it lets us know the kind of person we’re dealing with.

    The arguments presented here assume the OB-left to have real power to instantly change immigration policy but no power to change any of the other dynamics of power and redistribution. This doesn’t make sense to me. If this force on the left actually has power to effect OB or something similar, I assume they also have power to prohibit exploitative wage labor and conditions of work (e.g. wage theft).

      1. Nick

        The kind of person who isn’t interested in a good faith conversation. I originally had drafted “Fake Left is pretty ugly, akin to calling those who argue against open borders ‘Nazis’ because their arguments have racist undertones” but deemed that too active-aggresive, lol

        1. jsn

          Fake left strikes me as an apt, fair and good faith descriptor for “leftists” who are pushing the neoliberal open borders agenda.

          I don’t doubt there are many well intentioned people who have been drawn into this, but that makes it even more pressing to draw the clear distinction between the left, that supports solid wages for working people, and the neoliberal open borders position.

          The equivalence between “fake left” and Nazis escapes me: the fake left has been running the Democratic Party since Tip O’Neil retired, or maybe before and while they’ve been pretty awful, thus far it’s a different order of magnitude from the Nazis.

          1. Nick

            Yeah I’ve only come across the Nazi label for anti-immigrant people on the left once on the internet, and even that was in the form of “Strasserite” so didn’t deny them their support for (some) workers. I wouldn’t argue that myself.

            But I also wouldn’t argue that some thin, weak association between some on the left (and btw I’m talking socialists not Dems) with the goals of neoliberals makes them fake. Nor do I think calling anti-immigrant lefties “fake” because they agree with Trump is valid or helpful. They’re just wrong on this.

            1. jsn

              As LIW argues below, many of these leftists who are simply wrong are being effectively supported and having their views amplified by any number of neoliberal institutions.

              They are useful to neoliberals both for splitting the left and keeping economic rights and civil rights confused: neoliberals want to turn all rights into civil rights so that proportional representation within the elite becomes a “left” position and absolves institutions of obligations beyond the elite.

              1. jrs

                The money trail is an interesting question, a lot of times we don’t know all the funding links, but then the question is who is ever pure enough? Because if the anarchists (ok with them open borders is natural), the socialists, the DSA, other assorted leftists are all corrupted, who is even left on the left? Will the last real leftist turn the lights out and close the door?

                Unions? Well not many of them remain, but the thing is they have never exactly been left. Unions supported the Vietnam war etc. that’s why I said calling unions (other than radical unions like the IWW) left is questionable, even though they are unequivocally a positive force for anyone who works for a living.

                1. jsn

                  Purity to my mind is a right wing concept and the left ties it’s own shoelaces together whenever it raises that issue.

                  “The Iron Law of Institutions” ultimately turns all our organizing efforts to self conservation, that is, tries to make them conservative.

                  Temperamentally I’m an anarchist, but having come to terms with the reality that half or more the calories necessary to feed the world can only be supported through vast industrial supply chains in our current economic configuration, the humanist in me overcame the anarchist and set me looking for institutional arrangements that don’t imply mass die offs of our fellows. This search led me to look increasingly to the integrated productive structures of the world as it is for ways to address the largest problems of over population and climate change.

                  While I agree with Summer above, many of todays migrants are in fact refugees, it is the interventionist policies we need to change to repair that. Those populations were supporting themselves until we disrupted them, we should be restoring their ability to sustain themselves in place and helping them to improve their culture, their society and their environments.

                  Here, we need to focus on equitable distribution of the wealth our system makes. To the extent we succeed in that we are in the position to help more outside our borders (other than changing our interventionist policies which could be done now, freeing up massive resources and curing a lot of the current immigration issue, if all our politicians weren’t afraid of lead injections if they raise the possibility), like they tell you on the airplane, put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help your neighbor, your more likely to both die if you don’t look after what you can control first.

          2. jrs

            I don’t think it’s accurate, I think it IS the left period. There is very little of the present left that doesn’t argue for more open immigration and I don’t mean liberals although they may *also* favor that, I do mean the left. It’s really a no true scotsman argument going on here.

            Because if you are talking of actual advocates, yea, what actually exists of a left in this country (not much) argues for easing of immigration restrictions overwhelmingly (and you can argue that they are all on the payroll but then you descend into the paranoia, which of course did have a real basis, that has gripped the left forever). Maybe historically it was different and leftists took different positions in the past, but if one is talking about the present.

            Accurate if you wanted to argue against open borders would be something like “the left is confused in it’s advocacy of open borders”.

          3. drumlin woodchuckles

            The problem is that they are not a “fake” left. They are the Real Left today.
            The Real Left is a Left of massive woke-ness hustling, racist classist hatred for “deplorables” and a desire to make the deplorables pay for their racist sins by bringing in tens of millions of illegal immigrants to take over what jobs deplorables are still able to do.

            If pro-Working Class people want to bring back an older Left of pre-Sixties provenance, they will have to adopt an attitude of Poor America First. That will mean zero Illegal Immigrations and possibly zero immigrationism of any kind for several decades, as well as zero Special Scab Visas.

            Perhaps such a Poor America First retro-Left could even show genuine concern for Black people by creating the excruciating labor-shortage conditions needed as part of the pressure to finally recruit Black people all the way into the American economic survival system . . . if such a system is created.

            Black Jobs Matter? Well then, Zero Immigration.

          4. SOMK

            As stated by others open borders is in effect the anarchist position, the ones I know, the serious ones are extremely dedicated and capable people, nothing “fake” about them and far less “fake” than most of their equivalents in party politics. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of political history will find ample evidence of rightists expressing leftist ideals and visa versa (eg. Steve Bannon talking immigration and banks). Left and right as a polarity of purity is a nonsense, but there’s a reason it’s called ‘The Internationale’, it’s “workers of the world unite” not “workers of your particular country and set of economic interests collaborate in whatever ways necessary to keep your income level optimum”. The left if it is to be a project at all, it must inevitably be a global one.

            I get the editorial tone of this site and am mostly sympathetic to it, but agree with Nick it is disingenuous to call those on the left who favour open borders “fake leftists” or “useful idiots” channeling neoliberal orthodoxy as it would be to call those on the left who call for managed immigration Strasserite/national socialists/Bannonite. Never mind the fact it is our wars and our exploitation that has systemically kept the non-western world poor (by accident or design take your pick), or the looming environmental catastrophe.

            We are ultimately all immigrants and whatever we own is for the relatively short duration of our lives and no longer.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              I also disagree with the phrase “fake left”. It might be better to call it the New Left ( carried forward from the Sixties) or maybe the Wokeness Identy Left. And if anyone wants a retro Political Economy Left, they ( we?) will have to re-created it from the few scattered SanderSocial living-fossils still living among us, and bring them back from the brink of the dead the way the Trumpeter Swan was brought back from the brink of extinction and now numbers in the many thousands.

              However, about ” Never mind the fact it is our wars and our exploitation that has systemically kept the non-western world poor (by accident or design take your pick), or the looming environmental catastrophe.” . . . really? Really?

              So we are all sinners and descended from sinners and therefor we deserve to be punished for our sins.

              To paraphrase George Wallace:

              Mass Immigration Now!
              Mass Immigration Tomorrow!
              Mass Immigration Forever!

              That’s the Wokeness Identy Left today.

        2. JerryDenim

          If you think “fake” isn’t accurate or in good faith then you don’t know history or understand politics. Historically, the term “left” in modern times has been associated with class politics and those who speak for the proletariat or the working class. Trade unionists and socialists, which I doubt you will argue don’t represent the historical Left, have always been among the most ardent critics of mass immigration because they understood mass immigration benefitted the capitalist class by providing Marx’s “pool of excess labor”. Open borders equals no sovereignty, no sovereignty equals no power and a powerless government can’t protect it’s citizens and workers from the depredations of the rich and powerful. A powerless government cannot provide any of the things that progressive left is supposed to stand for- education, a living wage, 40hr work week, sound regulations, a safe workplace, so on, and so forth. Anyone that would champion an agenda that mirrors the Neo-liberal and libertarian agenda of the Koch Brothers and Grover Norquist, those who seek to drive down wages and weaken the powers of the nation state is quite accurately a “fake” leftist. It doesn’t get any more fake really. You can call these people bourgeois liberals perhaps, but not “left”.

          1. Benjamin Wolf

            Those who call for border controls are traditionally right-socialist, aka state-authoritarian socialists or communists. Left socialists are anti-state and a border is an exercise of state power.

            1. JerryDenim

              “a border is an exercise of state power”

              Absolutely. So is redistributing wealth through taxes, and punishing bad employers. One of my points I was attempting to make. Power being a requisite for a government capable of delivering anything.

              Anarchists and the Kochs actually have a lot in common. But I believe different people fantasize about weak governments for entirely different reasons.

              If you move far enough out on the political poles, terms like “left” and “right” tend to get a bit squishy as those very far from the center frequently have ideas that overlap. Politics is more of a circle than a straight line it seems. That said I stand by my original characterization of the historic “left”.

              1. Joey

                Centralist vs anti-authoritarian is skew to left vs right. Dogmatic vs practical is non- correlative to both.

              2. Benjamin Wolf

                “So is redistributing wealth through taxes, and punishing bad employers. One of my points I was attempting to make. ”

                This is exactly why you’re wrong. Redistribution through the state is not a goal, nor should it be for anyone who values liberty and democracy. Relying on authoritarian institutions to achieve social goals is exactly what the Koch brothers want to do. They just want the tyranny in private hands while you want it in hands you mistakenly think of as public.

                1. JerryDenim

                  Wrong? Ok, now I see who I’m dealing with. If I’m wrong could you point out an example of a state where the government is either non existent or weak to the point its institutions are unable to collect taxes and enforce laws- but- “liberty and democracy” as you put it still prevail? What you’re describing is Libya. No thanks.

                  If government is shrunk down to a size it can be drowned in a shallow bath as the billionaire libertarians desire, then billionaire libertarians get to rule the world because there is no longer a check on their power. Democracy cannot exist without state power. Do you think elections just happen spontaneously? People run for offices in a nonexistent, powerless government? Non-tyranny is not an option. You can be ruled by an elected government where you get a vote, you can be ruled by an autocrat, a religious theocracy or you can be terrorized by rapacious warlords in some dystopian failed state, but a greater power will always prevail over unorganized autonomous men. The only way to escape this fate is run off to the deep woods and attempt to live alone and isolated.

                  A society with no state power is a frontier, and on the frontier might equals right. Unless you are the billionaire or the reigning warlord, you are not the mightiest, so you will never have the liberty you dream of.

                  1. todde

                    the problem with anarchism is that it isn’t capable of being implemented.

                    Someone with centralized and organized power will always come and take what you have.

              1. todde

                the theory is no one will own property so squatters rights rule.

                Until someone with a baseball bat/knife or gun comes and murders you

                1. jrs

                  though this was how humanity lived for most of it’s existence when it actually wasn’t nearing self-caused extinction.

                  Ok I don’t think it can be implemented at this point either. Only way to accomplish anything at this point may be closer to global governance or global cooperation at least.

          2. Scylla

            All great points. I think it is difficult for many people to think this issue through all the way, especially given that they are so heavily bombarded with propaganda. The big problem, to my mind, is that many liberals see movement across borders as a privilege. The go on vacations, or move abroad for high paying jobs, or they rub elbows with people who have had this experience. Again- they see cross border movement as a privilege. In reality, for most immigrants, cross border movement is an act of desperation. People leave behind everything they know- friends, family, support structures, because their situation has become completely untenable in most cases.
            So here is the rub- as someone who identifies as an anarchist, I see open borders as something to aspire to, but two very large (and linked) preconditions need to be met before this could possibly occur. One is an end to imperialism. Imperialism as we all know, is the primary cause for almost all immigration. The other precondition is an end to environmental and labor arbitrage. We see these issues discussed constantly here on NC. Until imperialists stop destroying nations, and until nations that share borders are playing by the exact same set of (labor/environmental) rules*, open borders are counter-productive. Remove these two issues from the equation, and immigration will drop to a trickle, and cross border movement will not be a concern. We have to crawl and walk, before we can run. Too many on on the left (namely young anarchists) fail to see the necessity of attacking problems in a strategic sequence.

            *And of course this is also what neoliberals want as well, except they want us all to race to the bottom to “compete”. I am certain that readers know that this is opposite of what I am implying here.

            1. integer

              Too many on on the left… fail to see the necessity of attacking problems in a strategic sequence.


          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Open borders equals no sovereignty, no sovereignty equals no power and a powerless government can’t protect it’s citizens and workers from the depredations of the rich and powerful.

            +100. I know that the NHS provided free care to everyone, not just UK citizens. That’s admirable. The UK is also a small island. One could argue, I suppose, that #MedicareForAll for a percentage of the Southern Hemisphere would be a good thing, and I suppose it would be, in the abstract. OTOH, if acing out the left entirely, whether electorally or otherwise, makes “#MedicareForAll in one country” impossible, then the strength of open borders idealism will have been destructive.

            I suppose, as a backup, we could urge that the Canadians open their border so we could get health care up there, using the same arguments. I doubt that will get far.

      1. hemeantwell

        If you stretch historical memory some the term “fake left” draws on Trot polemics against union bureaucracy, where the term often made sense. Nowadays it resonates too much with fake news angst. It acquires a bandwagon tone, part of a righteous crusade.

        How about some riff on the notion of the “beautiful soul?” Not always on the left, but guided by a pure humanity that is unsullied by material considerations and savors the immediacy of loving acceptance of the downtrodden. Generosity. Sharing. Safe harbor.

        One unfortunate corollary is that even a half-serious class or anti-imperialist analysis goes out the window because they get in the way of Immediate Relief. It’s routinely bemusing to see how little attention is paid to, say, the role of the US in the Honduran coup that brought down a government even tepidly interested in land reform and brought in a crowd of landowning killers.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > How about some riff on the notion of the “beautiful soul?”

          Perhaps “Romantic Left”? (Mentally riffing on titles with “Romance” in them, like “Romancing the Border.”

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      What doesn’t make sense? With OB, the fake left is in alliance with big business (hence fake) so the policy has a high chance of success. With wage theft and exploitive wage and working conditions, the non-fake left is in direct opposition to big business, dramatically lowering any chances of success.

      Additionally, a fake left in support of OB can be well funded by “liberal” foundations, drowning out the voice of a real left poorly funded by member dues.

      1. Nick

        There’s no alliance at all. Not even any real agreement past the issue of how porous the border should be. For example real leftists in favor of open borders are also against persecution of the undocumented in any form, whereas big business takes advantage of that category and how it makes abused workers reluctant to report and less able to leave.

        1. jsn

          For the OB position to be a viable leftist position, their would first have to be a global set of leftist governing institutions: no nation can on its own resources solve all the worlds poverty.

          The neoliberals know and understand this. But rather than trying to build up the locus of leftist residual strength, the residual New Deal era institutions of Western Europe and the Anglophone world where labor and environmental protections are collapsing but still marginally extant, they are corrupting all these institutions with graft to encourage a labor and environmental race to the bottom.

          In the neoliberal vision, everyone who deserves a clean environment will be able to afford one and everyone else can work to pay for theirs should they be lucky enough to be among the winners.

          A leftist position is that everyone deserves respect, a clean environment and the ability to survive with dignity wherever they are but recognizes that no nations institutions can support the worlds problems.

        2. Left in Wisconsin

          If you are saying that there is an open borders real left, I won’t argue – but I think it is tiny and irrelevant to any actually occurring policy debates. The fake left that I refer to are the virtue signalers who don’t know and don’t care how the business world works because it works well enough for them (including providing them with low-cost “help”), and so presumably does for everyone. And, yes, many of their kids are DSA members that we would like to convert to real socialism.

          1. hemeantwell

            Searching “open borders” at DSA’s site brings up a recent short piece by the immigrants’ rights working group. http://bit.ly/2DLtXPZ

            Militarized borders, xenophobic/racist immigration laws, and an abusive prison-industrial complex aim to dehumanize and marginalize immigrants, functioning to both suppress wages and divide the working class. We seek to abolish these and any barrier imposed on the social, labor, and political power of migrants through a revolutionary decolonial movement.

            Painfully, they leave out any reference to the line of argument I’ve most recently seen used in discussing Nagle. http://bit.ly/2DMQMCD . In brief:

            So unfettered immigration can be bad for workers–but only in a particular context, one which the rich countries have deliberately created. So if we roll over and say immigration is bad for workers, what we are saying is that we don’t think we can change this context. We don’t think we can implement pro-labor policy, so we–like the workers themselves–are opposing immigration because it’s the only move we perceive to be available.

            The least DSA can do is set out a comprehensive analysis that fills in the huge blanks opened up by affirmative slogans. If you advocate something that can bring about hardship in the short and medium term for some of those you want to ally with, acknowledge it.

            1. jsn

              Good comment!

              “So if we roll over and say immigration is bad for workers, what we are saying is that we don’t think we can change this context. We don’t think we can implement pro-labor policy, so we–like the workers themselves–are opposing immigration because it’s the only move we perceive to be available” in the current conditions.

              Should we succeed in overturning these conditions, other better things become possible.

              At present, however, pursuit of a good immigration policy has to be subordinated to the need to get rid of the existing exploitation of immigration by TPTB to keep workers weak and desperate.

            2. Darthbobber

              Bit of slippage from opposing “unfettered immigration”, which a literal open borders policy would be, and opposing immigration generally, where he’s rhetorically moved the posts to before the end of the paragraph. Also-situation created by “rich countries” or by certain groups within said countries?

              And “we” have no reason at all to think we could change the context any time soon to make literally unlimited immigration a non-problem.

              I suspect even full control of the American state apparatus would not achieve that. Because it’s pretty much the world that would have to be different.

              1. Joey

                This happens with every issue when it becomes disjointed from the motivation of the ruling class. I grew up wondering why liberals supported Exxon and bp over mom and pop over ‘environmental’ regs that you needed the expensive new fuel tanks (goodbye independent garages). Or supported new energy regs where by energy star ratings outdate well built machines ( hello programmed obsolescence!)

            3. Lambert Strether Post author

              > If you advocate something that can bring about hardship in the short and medium term for some of those you want to ally with, acknowledge it.

              As I say below, but in a much less elegant and more long-winded way, that’s a tough sell for a class that was told exactly the same thing by the neo-liberals when the neo-liberals destroyed many of their their communities through deindustrialization.

    2. Benjamin Wolf

      Trotsky was accused by the Stalinist faction of stating things identical to statements of the fascists. Trotsky’s response, correctly, was that he didn’t care the enemy was saying the right thing for the wrong reasons and it was ridiculous to think such accusations would shut him up.

      The attempt to label Leftists who refuse to fall in line with nativists as tools of the neoliberals is transparent bullying and I applaud your calling it out.

  4. Michael Fiorillo

    As a footnote to the claim that the open borders ideology is useful idiocy and a political loser, based on my work experience, I’d add that, while most immigrants certainly don’t want goons from ICE abducting people and separating families, they also don’t believe in open borders.

    I taught ESL in Queens, NY, often referred to as the the most ethnically diverse area on earth, for over twenty years. I taught in a high school that was 100% recent immigrants, and in which somewhere between 20 and 30 languages were spoken in the building at any given time, with Spanish, Mandarin and Bangla being the largest linguistic groups.

    I was an English teacher, but used history, geography, science and current events as vehicles to teach the language, and immigration was a frequent topic. For whatever it’s worth, the majority of my students were opposed to open borders, yet I also know that the push-button Lefties in the union opposition caucus I was involved with would go stark, raving mad if I was indiscreet enough to point that out, or any similar data from the post. These people absolutely refuse to think about economics and political economy, and their contempt for teachers who were white, working class native New Yorkers was palpable. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them were upper middle class (many from Ivy League backgrounds), living in neighborhoods that they were helping to rapidly gentrify, and had no intwntion of staying in the classroom. Yet these were the people who jnsisted on defining what social justice was, which never quite included teachers’ working conditions or defense of public education, but lots of identity-parsing and evaluation…

    The McResistance and Fake Left seem determined to keep their teeth locked on issues – Russiagate/Mueller, immigration, etc. – that are political losers and certain to strengthen Trump and those who will follow him, all so that they can maintin their politics of privileged virtue-signalling, shaming and magical thinking.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      If The Orange Man is for it, the thinking goes, well then we need to be against it. No need to engage brain at any stage, to ponder whether focusing on the frat boy follies 35 years ago by a SC nominee or China tariff wars or questioning Russia and Korea peace initiatives or expanding the labor pool are good or bad ideas. It’s gotten so awful that they rehabilitate the likes of Geo Bush (who is badly in need of his day at The Hague), lionize the snarling reactionary warlover John McCain (“bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran”), and Bill Cristol (whose serial utter and complete strategic wrongness has resulted in the slaughter of millions) gets invited to yuk it up with Jon Stewart.
      Here, I’ll make it simple for you. There’s Capital, and then there’s Labor. Those two forces are in opposition, in every country, down through the ages. If making a living for you means checking your Fidelity statement to see whether that stock dividend arrived yet, you’re Capital. Everybody else? You’re Labor. And yes, lining up and doing what the other team wants is bad for you and your family.

      1. marym

        The alignment of Open/Closed borders and Capital/Labor doesn’t seem that clear-cut.

        Trump’s version of “Fake Populism” frames closing the borders not as a way to better jobs and wages, but as repelling a largely imaginary invasion of violent criminals, rapists, smugglers, ISIS, and MS-13.

        If the gleeful celebrations on twitter are any indication, followers of “Fake Populist” politicians are fine with state violence protecting them from imaginary dangers, while these same politicians offer no policies favorable to Labor in any other respect, and many which are harmful to workers generally, or specifically to most of the demographic groups which comprise the US working class.

  5. Sutter Cane

    It isn’t just the “fake left” but most real leftists I know vocally support open borders. It is currently very much in fashion and any questioning of the idea is met with harsh denunciation.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I don’t think so. A “left” movement that’s using one half the working class to screw the other is problematic, so say the least. That’s a structural issue.

        1. Comradefrana

          I find it problematic that “real” left seems to be more concerned about the (globally) wealthy working class than the poor (would-be immigrant) one.

          Not that I don’t understand it, I just don’t get how it got elevated to a matter of principle.

    1. kj1313

      Most leftists I know support open borders because they realize some of the migrants are a direct result of US/Western foreign and economic policy. The current left who I follow (which is mainly socialists, communists) the US should take in as many migrants as they create.

      1. jrs

        the problem is the people who create the problems and set u.s. foreign and economic policy (the ruling class) are not the people who worry about losing their jobs to immigration (a way overstated concern I think but not entirely invalid) or the consequent increase in population driving up demand for housing, schools, roads etc. (a very real concern).

        Some I think is just a kind of bitterness in a country with almost no safety net. An impression that this country doesn’t even care about it’s own citizens.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > An impression that this country doesn’t even care about its own citizens.

          Or is actively seeking to decrease their life expectancy, at least for the 90%.

          Exactly as the neo-liberals asked the working class in particular regions to bear the burden of de-industrialization for the sake of averages like (a) profits to capital (b) better lives for the global poor, and (c) cheaper consumer goods, without compensation — though economists, 40 years later, are coming round to the idea that redistribution, to salve the deep wounds hidden by the averages, might have been a good idea — so the “fake”?, SJW?* left wants the working class in particular regions to bear the burden of labor arbitrage now for imagined benefits later, like a borderless world with no State.

          “Jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today,” as the White Queen (!!) says in Alice in Wonderland.

          NOTE * Don’t actually want to use this, as it’s a gamer-driven right wing trope. Still, the abstract “J”, without asking “Justice for whom?” is telling in my mind.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Its escaped from the hothouse-hatchery of its gamergator origins and is now reproducing in the wild. People who have never heard of gamergate or 4chan are running into the kind of people called Social Justice Warriors and are accepting that name for them because it is the first name they hear.

            Perhaps if we can invent other good-enough words and phrases, the “SJW” phrase might get retired. Perhaps one could speak of Social Justice Creeps ( the way I used to speak of Trade Creeps). Social Justice Creeps are to social justice as Peace Creeps were to peace. ( Trade Creeps are to trade as Peace Creeps were to peace.)

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the US should take in as many migrants as they create

        That’s a fair point. Except that’s simply a more elastic eligibility criterion than we have now. A more open border is not the same as “open borders.”

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Leftists of Privilege. Time for someone to unpack the knapsack of Left Privilege. There is nothing “fake” about the Open Borders SJW Left. It is the Real Deal. And that’s a problem.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > nothing “fake” about the Open Borders SJW Left. It is the Real Deal. And that’s a problem.

        It’s also infested the DSA. I’m having a hard time distinguishing it from bog standard identity politics liberalism. The aspirational element seems to be different, or changed, but perhaps that is generational window dressing.

  6. Amfortas the hippie

    way back when nafta was being yammered about…long before i knew what neoliberalism was…one of the selling points was “freedom”.
    free movement of capital and goods and people.
    I remember thinking…ok…maybe not so bad…but they left off the people part, instead turning people into political weapons.
    I know a lot of immigrants…almost every one from Mexico…and most of them are at least partially “legal”(it’s hard as hell, and very expensive)
    all of them came here for work…because we destroyed their local economies…and our tacit support of the cartels has just made it worse.(friend of mine went home to find a niece alone in a house full of dismembered corpses)
    I wouldn’t have an issue with “open borders” if: 1. the big boys played by the rules…as in no export of all that subsidised corn(corporate welfare maize glut is hardly a feature of a “free market”). and 2. we could somehow counter the supranationalism of the egregore corps with supranational Unions with big, sharp teeth.(I’m a Wobbly, dammit!)
    2 is hardly ever talked about…and it gets more and more unlikely that it will be talked about the further down the “union thug”/”bad immigrant” rhetorical road we go.
    Barring those 2 things…as well as digging up Teddy Roosevelt and reanimating him, somehow…I say close the damned border, but not before legalising every single soul who is now here.

  7. JerryDenim

    Great post Lambert! I loved the video. Do you know when it was filmed? As someone who has watched Sander’s responses to questions involving immigration evolve (devolve perhaps?) over time I was under the impression that Sanders had decided to hold his views concerning mass immigration a little closer to his chest while riding the rising tide of young “leftists” who seem to overwhelmingly view open-ended, mass-immigration as a universal good.

    The video with Klein was immensley illustrative and educational. Klein in my mind epitomizes the typical open borders bourgeoisie liberal. Multicultural, Californian, upper-middle-class, millennial, Washington insider, wildly successful journalist and I would guess well-compensated. I found it doubtful that Klein has ever put in a hard days work landscaping, or on a construction site or in a restaurant kitchen or any other place where low-wage native-born Americans work shoulder to shoulder, and in direct competition with foreign born workers who are frequently undocumented or the less polite term, ‘illegal’. For Klein and his ilk success has been easy and the thought of material deprivation or financial struggle is so distant and alien their charitable thoughts focus immediately on the underclass abroad. The start of the exchange was incredible. Klein seemed to think he was going to have an easy time leading Sanders into stumping for his pet cause of open borders immigration policy, but Sanders flipped the script and took Klein to school. After Sanders interrupts Klein and rejects his basic premise as a Koch brothers ploy, an agitated, excited Klein stammers back “….but, but it (open borders immigration) would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn’t it?” – ‘Yes, but at the expense of the American poor’ Sanders answers. (Paraphrasing)

    Despite Sanders excellent points and sound logic I doubt he did much to change Ezra Klein’s opinions on immigration. People like Klein feel more compassion for poor citizens from other countries than they do for poor citizens from their own country. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I have some theories. While unsure about my theories I am certain there are lots of reasons why just as there are lots of people that feel the same as Klein. Inequality, geography, and the red-blue demonization of the “other side” by US news media are just a few possible causes that spring to mind. Imagine for a moment a very successful, highly educated, high-earning recent immigrant family in the US that has never ventured outside the corridors of “the ascendant”; Elite universities and the coastal metropolitan enclaves where they live and work afterwards. Why would a family like that identity with an out-of-work, white, Trump voter in Ohio? MSNBC routinely describes them as racist, gun-loving, opioid-addicted, haters of humanity so why care about what happens to them? The same for African-Americans stuck drinking tainted water in Flint or dodging bullets and predatory cops in other failing, de-industrilaized communities. These people aren’t on campus at Stanford and you won’t find them in your neighborhood in Georgetown. These are the people you pay lots of money to stay far away from in your private schools and gated neighborhoods. Klein will not be competing for work with the people who attempted to gang-rush the border crossing at San Ysidro yesterday nor will his children be attending the same schools. Quite the opposite actually, the people flowing north across our southern border are exactly the type of docile, low-expectation, laborer Klein might like to hire as a bargain priced gardener or nanny. Those attempting to hop the border actually stand to benefit those in Klein’s class while disadvantaging those in lower classes who are expected to compete with them for jobs and resources.

    More immigration at a time of low-wages (for the bottom 90%), high-rents, low regulation, and declining government services is a recipe for social disaster. The migrant caravan story is pure rocket fuel for Trump and his supporters, and in my opinion it has the potential to broaden Trump’s base. I firmly believe the vast majority of Americans are opposed to “sanctuary” cities and states as well as giant assemblies of professionally organized migrants looking to illegally cross borders in search of higher wages. The optics are horrible, except to the most die-hard open-borders supporter. I hate to quote David Frum, but I believe he was exactly right when he said, “When liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t do.” People like Klein and young, educated DSA members that promote neoliberal open borders policy ignore this salient point at their own peril. You can’t just keep shitting on the same class of people for decade after decade without provoking a backlash. No borders equals no sovereignty, no sovereignty equals no power. No power equals a government that is too weak and ineffective to guarantee it’s citizens all the things leftists are supposed to stand for- a living wage, education, healthcare, security in old age, etc. and at that point two things have happened; 1.) You’ve achieved the Grover Norquist libertarian fantasy of a government weak enough to drown in a shallow bath, there’s no longer a referee on the field and the powerful run roughshod over the weak, and (2.) The United States isn’t the United States anymore, it’s a third-world banana republic indistinguishable from the original Central American banana republics people are attempting to escape through immigration. Open borders like every other neoliberal policy is a race to the bottom, but for the entire country.

    1. Nick Stokes

      Your post represents failing to understand, that jobs created by capital flows by those upper middle class California people are irrelevant to wages and people in general. They are “capital flow” jobs that only exist to serve the wealthy. Nobody wants them and you should know why. They are always jobs that existed before, but due to capital market liberalization that started in the 70’s, have increased at a high rate.

      The “caravan” is a big nothing and hardly “rocket fuel”. Why Ashkenazi Trump bloats up that caravan, traffickers are pumping bodies over the border at a alarmingly high rate. Supported by the Republican party. Either get it or move on.

      1. JerryDenim

        They are “capital flow” jobs that only exist to serve the wealthy. Nobody wants them and you should know why.

        If sounds like you are dismissing any and all low skill labor as a “capital flow” job without any further supporting information as to how that label is accurate or germane to the open borders debate. You then go on to say “nobody wants” these jobs which according to you I am dumb for not understanding why. I couple of years ago when I was in New Zealand on the South Island my wife and I were a bit surprised to find the hotel cleaning staff primarily consisted of native-born Anglo whites, when we later found out the going rate for hotel cleaning staff was roughly $25 dollars an hour it all made a bit more sense. New Zealand doesn’t have a porous border connected to Central America. What they do have is a very strict points based immigration system to make sure any one sector of the economy doesn’t get swamped with excess labor. I’m sure there’s plenty of left-leaning government critics in New Zealand that think the government could do things better or do more to help native workers, but I’m pretty sure you can recognize the difference between the labor market there vs the United States. Immigration policy is a big part of the picture.

        Your post, couched in condescending econospeak, represents a failing to understand or a dishonest smear. Your insistence that the migrant caravan is a big nothing, is 100% opinion. ‘Get that or move on’ as you like to say.

      2. jrs

        there might be a point buried somewhere in it, but I’m not sure what it is. Traffickers are pumping bodies over the border at an alarming rate? Link? Supported by the Republican party? Link? I mean sure immigration is supported by anyone not supporting enforcing it in hiring but that’s not just Republicans. I don’t think immigration is increasing at all, but sure people get in and not just in caravans.

    2. Sparkling

      That was an excellent interview! I still remember Klein saying “Well obviously, you won’t be able to have open borders while the political reality on the ground won’t allow them…” implying that in another generation his ilk would have managed consent long enough to make it happen. Smug and eager to profit off the suffering of the lower classes.

      Open borders doesn’t stop at one country or even a dozen countries. You open one, you’re opening all of them. It’s a race to the bottom for the entire world.

    3. Swamp Yankee

      If memory serves, Klein is the son a major California developer/real estate player, and so the silver spoon planted so firmly up his [redacted] relies quite literally on labor arbitrage across borders.

      The lad isn’t even bright like a proper faux-meritocrat rich kid; just rich.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I firmly believe the vast majority of Americans are opposed to “sanctuary” cities and states

      A form of nullification, IMNSHO, first advocated by John C. Calhoun in the 1830s.

    5. Comradefrana

      “People like Klein feel more compassion for poor citizens from other countries than they do for poor citizens from their own country. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I have some theories.”

      For one, poor people from other countries are usually much poorer than poor people in the US.

      1. JerryDenim

        Nice attempt at snark, but there’s other ways to count wealth besides dollars. Your contention is very debatable. I’ve visited places where cash is almost nonexistent and nothing happens digitally, so the economy is impossible to quantify in western economic terms. Imagine if you will a Vietnamese, or an African or a South American that lives on their own land, chickens running around, tropical fruit growing in trees, and plenty of fish in the sea or the river beside their property, but this person lives in a barter economy and only has the equivalent of $2 in a coffee can. Now imagine a poor American, working perhaps, living on SSI and paying high rent to live in in some expensive inner city shit shack and struggling to meet all of life’s necessities. Is the American poor person more wealthy because he or she has $37 on a prepaid debit card? Wealth is subjective and in many places in the developing world, the dollar is poor yardstick.

        Poor is poor wherever you go and the negative psychological and physiological effects of feeling poor are amplified for those living in more developed and unequal societies, like the United States. Even if you you find the “Global Poor” more worthy of your sympathy than your fellow countrymen you should still worry about the corrosive effect mass immigration has on social cohesion and democracy. You can laugh or poke fun, but it’s still real.

        1. Comradefrana

          “Imagine if you will …”

          I can imagine a lot of things. But in poor countries people are massively moving away from the land into cities and abroad. So I really don’t think their living situation is as good as you think it is.

          “Poor is poor wherever you go”

          And yet there are, say, more Mexicans choosing to be American-poor than Americans choosing to be Mexican-poor. Absolute living standards matter and the world is massively unequal in that regard, more than US itself.

        2. Comradefrana

          That said, the current immigration model is clearly awful. The effects on the receiving country are highly regressive and I certainly don’t blame anyone who’s angry. Why shouldn’t they be, when that they’re having to race to the bottom while the ultra-rich get to buy another yacht. It needs to change. I just wish that there was a way other than for the rich countries to pull up the drawbridges and go: “Screw you, got ours.”

      2. jrs

        I have my doubts about this from a sociological perspective. As far as raw physical misery it is worse to be starving to death than homeless or unemployed? Well YES it is. In terms of raw physical misery it probably is.

        But the suffering of poverty has an emotional dimension as well, the anomie, the not being part (Durkheim yea), even the being shunned (as the homeless surely are). Deaths from despair aren’t caused by starving to death in the U.S. (although hunger does exist here) but people lose the will to live nonetheless. So I don’t think the suffering of poverty can be reduced all that easily to a number.

  8. David in Santa Cruz

    I agree strongly with the point made in the post above: Government policy in Australia, exactly like government policy in America, ignores the pervasive wage theft that has become the defining feature of “open borders” policies.

    Our governments simultaneously criminalize the un- and under-employed while demonizing the under-paid immigrants to whom their jobs were given-away. An aptly-named “fake-Left” response that is defined by anti-racism and identity-pouting is just as guilty of ignoring the exploitation of workers as is the government’s hands-off attitude toward wage theft and the displacement and economic marginalization of workers.

    Any “Left” that ignores the exploitation of workers by capitalists is not a Left at all.

  9. Tom

    One can only despair when looking at the “open border” left. Here in Germany they are splitting the left and denounce anybody who is against “open borders” as racist. The logical consequence is that even union members are rather voting for the far right AFD than any other party.
    There is still a hard left Marxist, realist hard boiled left. It´s figurehead is Sarah Wagenknecht and she is the closest to your Sanders. She´s half Iranian but that doesn´t stop her critics in the left party from calling her a “racist” because she opposes the abolishment of borders. One can really despair at these useful idiots,

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > One can only despair when looking at the “open border” left.

      The left puts the working class first. Neither the fake left nor liberals doesn’t sort on class. They sort on race.* Hence, “fake.”

      NOTE * Yes, yes, the migrants at the border are working class (to pit against the working class on the other side of the border). The tell, as others on this thread have noticed, is silence on H1B visas and professional and occupational licensing.

    2. Olivier

      Sarah Wagenknecht is a shining beacon but as long as she insists on working within the confines of Die Linke she is dooming herself to impotence. She needs to split off, which she won’t do because she is married to the very man who founded Die Linke! A minor tragedy.

  10. skippy

    Bit of a quandary this one….

    Epochs of Conservatives pushing ethnic and racial memes about genetic superiority in pushing regional, national, and international agendas, as master administrators and managers has framed the dialectal in debate about their self awarded superiority.

    The so called fake left seems to be more aptly described here in Oz as altruistic Liberals and Labour which take umbrage at this uncouth meritocracy with Pavlovian like zeal. Not unlike our whole “Boat People” episode played out for political theater with both sides rigidly opposed, whilst the vast mass of influx illegal and legal immigration came in through airports.

    Yet the day that the neoliberal FIRE sector template was instituted with Keating, doing a Bill Clinton, the economic outcome was baked in e.g. the divergence of wages and productivity and all the rents attendant to that paradigm i.e. seemingly the only way profits can be maintained is influx of immigrants which keep key econometric velocity from hitting stall speed.

    With the only bright bit being Kelton doing the rounds down under and acknowledged by ABC, much to the cringe of the aforementioned, even to the level of gender being uttered by men with some economic grounding.

    Wellie off to another day in the life of a Queenslander reno…..

  11. Sparkling

    “America is a nation of immigrants!” always seemed… off, as a statement. I believed it whole-heartedly when I was a devout neoliberal and it’s indisputable that most of us are not of English descent, but this idea that the US has welcomed immigrants throughout its history is false. Now that I’ve moved to the left and some of my Rust Belt family members have revealed they were protectionists all along (the Sunbelt side of the family is into diehard free trade Reagan worship) it’s clear to me that was a slogan designed by people who made their living through cheap labor for people who make their living through cheap labor. Employees and employers alike.

    Look at how many Trump supporters (aforementioned Rust Belt relatives among them) are third or fourth or fifth generation Americans who want stricter immigration policies. “Well, our family wasn’t like that,” they all tell me when I bring up that their ancestors without exception faced similar discrimination/racism and were similarly lower-class when they arrived. “They worked hard and earned all their money through their own hard work! They didn’t need to leech off of the government and h!”

    1. Nick Stokes

      They don’t want stricter immigration though. There jobs would be in trouble if it were. They just don’t respect the capitalist system and what it means. They want rents from it. If they did respect it, they would call for its abolishment.

      Stricter immigration controls=more illegal immigrants, which is the problem.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Stricter immigration controls does not have to equal more illegal immigrants.

        There are two ways to break that “equals” sign.

        One way is to seal all physically passable parts of the border so tightly that passage is physically prevented. The other way is total and complete enforcement of laws against hiring illegal aliens. The mass incarceration for many years of hundreds of thousands of illegal employERS, inCLUding homeowners who hire the illegal yard-worker or nanny, might be enough to scare the other millions of illegal employER wannabes into not hiring illegal aliens.

  12. Nick Stokes

    Sorry, but capital markets decide immigration patterns. Most “illegal immigration” is driven by high capital inflows. Simply stop capital and watch immigration crash via “job loss”.

    Countries don’t have open borders, but that doesn’t matter how well they are defended. They will use the high capital inflows to push bodies across the economic border via trafficking. This is what Donald Trump wants, so hie Mar Lago can get a bunch of cheap labor, not tracked. Trumpco’s ties to global trafficking is never talked about, but the crux of his “problems” that will take his family down.

    Simply as this, 34% GDP contraction and immigration will crash and outflows will surge. We all ready saw it once. We can do that by exporting capital in exchange for central planning. It would also put what you call “fake left” out of business. Dialectically, maybe it is time to move on from the dialectics.

  13. Big Tap

    In many large American cities they have Democratic mayors that support a ‘Sanctuary City’ policy. This is probably an example of unintentional racial discrimination. Where do the illegal people move to but the poorest neighborhoods and tamp down wage rates of the native primarily non-white population. The politicians that support this policy don’t interact with the immigrants and the value of their homes and labor is not reduced. I have sympathy for these unfortunate people but charity should begin at home. The U.S. should end ‘regime changes’ in Central America supporting right wing dictators for a start. Some on the Left have little idea how economically distressed most Americans feel and ‘open borders’ is to them a threat.

  14. Sparkling

    Phone ate my last post so I’m going to make this quick: “drawbridge migrants” is an absolutely brilliant term and applies to every former settler colony that people have tried to turn into a “nation of immigrants.”

    America is a nation of drawbridge migrants. Sums up Trump’s fanbase in a single sentence.

    Of course, if the disaster capitalists were honest about their desire to eliminate all borders and any sort of meaningful minimum wage along with them humanity wouldn’t have spent decades mired in pointless fights of all shapes and sizes. But they wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near real power if they did that.

    1. Nick Stokes

      They don’t want to do away with borders per say, but recreate national borders via market forces. The national state becomes the market state. It is only natural however. It has been building since 1352.

      1. Sparkling

        A global market would mean a global state in that case.

        Trump supporters, like Reagan supporters before them, believe that a few big fixes are all that’s needed to solve a problem. Build a wall and end chain migration. Problem solved! Unlike Reagan supporters, more of them would indeed be left-wing if they saw capitalism for what it is. But their economic self-interest calculations are not as complex as you believe they are.

        Did you mean 1452? I apologize if I’m being too paranoid.

        1. todde

          A global market would mean a global state in that case.

          or trade treaties where foreign investors can sue.

          1. Sparkling

            I have no idea how that would replace a government or even work on a practical level long-term. If this is the ultimate goal of open borders supporters then they’re dumber than I thought.

            1. Todde

              You don’t have to replace a government, just overrule it in a court of international law.

              The reason why these immigrants can apply for asylum is because of a treaty.

              1. Sparkling

                International law requires some sort of international government to enforce. Whether that government is a skeleton or not doesn’t matter.

                1. todde

                  NATO enforces law all the time.

                  Is NATO a government? Possibly. if it is, it is a government created by Treaty.

                  But what NATO didn’t do is replace any existing government.

                  Interpol tells a government to arrest a person, and they do and extradite them to another country.

                  Did they break any host government laws? No, but yet they are arrested.

                  Did Interpol replace the police forces of the host nation? No, but yet they are arrested.

                  All set up by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

                  As you can see, no governments have been replaced, and yet things are happening based on international treaties, without any governments being replaced.

                  1. Sparkling

                    Let’s be honest, the United States enforces the law–agreed on by multiple countries to be fair– in its sphere of influence. Can you imagine NATO without it? In that sense, the EU was a logical decision. Band together to create an entity powerful enough to push back on the United States if need be (and it has).

                    I think I may be on a different page than you are. So let me ask you this: who would have sovereignity in an open borders utopia?

                    1. todde

                      who would have sovereignity in an open borders utopia?

                      That would be the person crossing the border, no?

                      Sovereignty is determined by whose decision is final. If the immigrant determines were he can live, and that decision can’t be refuted, then he is Sovereign.

                      Granted by an international treaty.

                      If Canadian investors sue America for Trump softwood tariffs it will go to an international court based in London.

                      Which is a pretty odd place to settle American domestic law.

                      All treaties need sunset provisions for this reason.

                    2. todde

                      but I do see your point.

                      If we have an international court system, then we have your skeletal international government.

                      However, I was responding to your original “I have no idea how that would replace a government or even work on a practical level long-term. “ comment.

                      Not replace, just add another thin layer of international government that is now ‘sovereign’.

                      The Court in London that handles some of these disputes has been doing this since 1883. That’s getting close to 150 years.

  15. King

    Studebaker’s related blog puts this problem into the perspective that we’ve seen before; the attempt to separate political and economic spheres.

    We have borders because we don’t care enough about the people on the other side of them to make political decisions with them. We’re willing to trade with them, and we might even be willing to let some of them move to our countries, but we aren’t willing to federate. When we make free trade and free movement deals with poorer countries, we make them on our terms for our benefit. They come to us as supplicants, like the Greeks do the Germans.

    When folks call for open borders and the abolishment of ICE, they aren’t calling for federation with Mexico. They aren’t calling for Mexican representation. Implicitly, they want us to do with Mexico what the Europeans have done with the East. Integrate them economically, but deny them political standing.


  16. marym

    Is open borders the only issue which separates “real” and “fake” left?

    Is this because it’s seen as such a foundational issue that it negates the leftness of support for a job guarantee, living wage, workers rights, ownership, distribution of wealth, democratic participation, equal justice, etc. or makes those positions unworkable? Does it make those positions unworkable? Is it sufficiently widespread or absolute on the actual left to justify a separate classification?

    Or is “fake left” in this context of the border issue just what, until I think yesterday, we used to call neoliberal with virtue signaling?

    1. Charlie

      Those who push the pro-open borders issue temd to be against all the other issues you mentioned. Notice how they are generally “never, ever”, like Hillary, when it comes to single payer.

      All pro corporate positions they are for, all ordinary people they are against.

  17. Joe Well (JW)

    Why is there so little mention of the invisible border of professional and occupational licenses and the jobs for which citizenship or permanent residence are explicit requirements? Why can’t we open those borders and get a lot more doctors, for example?

    The open border advocates only favor open borders for “them” not for “us” (doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, accountants, government employees and most of the rest of the middle class).

    1. jrs

      “The rest of the middle class,” really, you think this is accurate? Already immigrants have been imported for teaching, H1Bs are used for accounting etc.. A few professions may be exempt but not nearly as broad as “the rest of the middle class”. Legal work hmm well some of it is outsourced but that’s not immigration, it’s outsourcing, it might be mostly at the level of document review, that’s all outsourced. I don’t dispute there are some protected professions.

    2. KLG

      Dean Baker makes this argument, and perhaps he has a point about physicians and lawyers (the latter sometimes work hard to keep attorneys from other states out–Florida and California come to mind as having particularly onerous bar admissions requirements). But the others listed? Not hardly, as they say in these parts. jrs below is right, especially in science and technology. Big Data and Big Tech constantly whinge about the lowly American work force, both in numbers and in quality. They need H1Bs to get their work done! No. They lie. Period. As for the fundamental sciences in biology, broadly considered, both commercial/industrial and academic, the outlook is hopeless for Americans. Alas.

    3. tegnost

      Dean Baker claims it’s licensing requirements, and those are what dampen the competition that might lead to the price reductions that have happened in other less glamorous professions.

      1. Joe Well

        Because that’s the Democrat Party base. See Thomas Frank.

        I meant why do the DSA types and other hardcore self-identified socialist mention it?

        Or even on the basis of identity politics, the idea that Latin Americans can wash our floors but not argue in our courts is revolting.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      Nurses and teachers are much further down the social class money and power pyramid than doctors and lawyers are.

    1. marym


      The daylong series of events on May Day was part of a Bay Area-wide – and worldwide – recognition of International Workers Day, and involved groups that included Occupy demonstrators, immigrant rights supporters and unions.


      The protest was the culmination of a six-week bus tour that started in Phoenix, Ariz., and ended at the doorstep of the biggest event of the year for the Democratic Party. In Charlotte, where President Barack Obama is attempting to court and turn out the Hispanic vote, the group was focused on his little-discussed (and politically unappealing) deportation record.


      However, in an June 2012 interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Trump said he didn’t believe in deporting undocumented immigrants who, he said, “had done a great job.”

      Asked about his views on immigrant labor, Trump said, “You know my views on it and I’m not necessarily, I think I’m probably down the middle on that also. Because I also understand how, as an example, you have people in this country for 20 years, they’ve done a great job, they’ve done wonderfully, they’ve gone to school, they’ve gotten good marks, they’re productive — now we’re supposed to send them out of the country, I don’t believe in that, Michelle, and you understand that. I don’t believe in a lot things that are being said.”

        1. marym

          I’ve lost track of the nomenclature here. Open borders for cheap labor and closed borders based on xenophobia don’t serve the working class. However, an immigration policy with some accommodation for the underdog like asylum seekers and refugees and Dreamers, and even a bit of gratuitous welcoming of the enthusiastic stranger ought to be up for discussion as possibly having something positive to contribute within a working class economic and political platform.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          They are not for “the” underdog. They are for the illegal alien underdog to use as a club to beat the American underdog with.

  18. Altandmain

    I think that Lambert raises a very important point that the (both the real and faux) left struggles with.

    Increasing immigration without a proportionate increase in aggregate demand is a recipe for disaster. It is a transfer of bargaining power from the working class worker to the employers and capitalist class. Jobs are created not by tax cuts to the rich (contrary to conservatives) nor by immigration itself (contrary to the left), but rather by aggregate demand. Immigrants, especially high skilled ones, can create jobs, but it needs to more than offset the increased competition for jobs they bring.

    Secretly, I wonder if many of the upper middle class just want a higher return on their stocks and that is the real driving force. They certainly don’t care about minorities, who they are happy to gentrify.

    The only way to make this work is a fairly restrictive system like what Canada has in place. Barring that, the faux left has effectively advocated for open borders and a transfer of power from labor to capital. The term useful idiots is fair, although in the case of the upper middle class, they own stock, so maybe that is the real motive.


    I think that there is another consideration. The argument of “we’re a nation of immigrants”. The problem is that land is in limited supply. Perhaps in the 18th to early 20th century, there was a lot of land, but now it is competitive. In fact that rising costs of housing are a very sign that there are limits to the amounts of arable land available.

    Australia (and Canada) are nations with large land masses, but much of that is hostile to high density human life. Much of the American West is as well.

    That brings another big problem. Affordable housing vs immigration. Immigration worsens the availability of affordable housing, raising rents, and worsening traffic problems. This is something that the faux left has little solution for.

  19. The Rev Kev

    I suspect that there are business interests that want to drive down wages in Australia because we compete with low age countries. I would go along with that – so long as our cost of living and our bills were also reduced to the same that those people are paying in low wage countries. Both main political parties seem to be onboard with this idea of pushing wages down due to the influence of big donors but the cost of living is going up which makes it hard to justify reducing wages.
    The hard truth is that the Australian economy has been going strong for decades but now things are slowing down. When times are good you could have a drover’s dog in charge and things will still humm along but when times go sour, you had better have someone competent in charge or else things will really go south on you. Just ask the people in Brexit UK about that one. That Scott Morrison is a political hack and the government has reverted to governing by what the latest polls show is popular.
    Not good when you are talking about long term planning such as immigration and wage levels and I have seen how this plays out in elections. Usually severe defeats and in fact the government’s party just copped a hiding in one of the main State’s elections this weekend gone by. In a few months the Government has to go to the polls and it is looking bleak for them.
    The immigration policy is not the same that we had after WW2 either which looked to the long term but is now driven by what businesses want to shore up their bottom line, even if it is to the detriment to the long-term prospects of the country. We have plenty of laws prohibiting most of the abuses listed in that article but it seems that they are not being enforced. If emigrants to Australia want to pull up the drawbridge behind them it may be that they tend to live in areas most impacted by more recent immigration. So instead of called these people “drawbridge migrants” they should have wondered why their attitudes.
    The trouble is that the media in Australia has their own axes to grind and I have seen examples of outright propaganda on their part instead of reporting the news. It is for this reason that conservatives here have mistrust in the Government ABC radio and TV network stations which they call a bunch of “leftie”. Like in the US, you start to get a divergence in what is reported as news and what people experience in their own lives. Rough times ahead I predict.

    1. Tony Wright

      Not least because Citizen Murdochs publications have propagandised the ABC as leftie intheir own opinionated and biased utterances.
      As for Morrison – reminds me of Yes Minister when Jim Hacker became PM.
      As you said, rough times ahead with the everything bubble on borrowed time; China (our biggest export market for overseas readers) increasingly mired in debt and fighting a trade war with Trump, and our domestic economy heavily reliant on four financially malfeasant banks which make most of their money lending to our ridiculously overpriced bubble of a housing market. Then there are various, well known potential and ripe sources of international financial contagion.
      It looks like Morrisons rabble government are going to get a hiding, but the replacement will probably inherit a poisoned chalice, either fairly soon or very soon.

  20. skippy

    After a wonderful day of queenslander reno I just wanted to say whats with all the supply and demand stuff with immigration e.g. does anyone really think after decades of wage suppression, in the guise of fighting inflation, that capital is going to magically do a 180 about azimuth when investors have been conditioned to prefer the above as a buy signal.

    I thought we at NC all ready did the whole S&D question wrt labour, not to mention you would need a labour market to begin with…. can anyone show me 24Q of a labour market – ????

  21. Aumua

    I haven’t been able to solidify my personal stance about borders and immigration just yet, but here are some of the ideas brewing in my mind. On one hand the article says the truth: that immigration is being used as tool by the ruling class to further their agendas of keeping themselves on top and everyone else down. And the so-called left, a term I’ve used for some time now, is staunchly refusing to acknowledge or take into account this basic fact and a lot of their position boils down to being anti-Trump, at any cost. Not very wise, that’s for sure. So everyone is being exploited here, immigrants homeland workers alike.

    But if that is the case, then is the real issue the immigration, or is it the exploitation? And if it is exploitation, then will stopping the immigration cause wages to go up? It might, marginally. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t currently know what the right move might be. I tend to look at the bigger picture, and the more long term movements however, and I also tend to see myself as an Earthling and to see all of us as Earthlings here on Earth. It seems obvious to me that Humanity needs to work together to solve its collective problems, or else perish as a species. So this angle may be a bit too wide to be useful at the moment, but as long as we remain divided against our self then we’re living on borrowed time. I also think that we can only cast off the oppression that is on us all if we do it together, globally. And here’s what’s kind of the elephant in the room: We’re all being exploited and things are getting worse for most Earthlings, and the collapse is ongoing and accelerating, but some of us Earthlings still have it better than others and we don’t really want to give up that privilege we have long held. Sooner or later, that’s exactly what has to happen though. We’re going to have to give it up. I mean wall off the keep or not, you’re not going to stop the tide.

    So at some point in the future, could be a while or not, I believe there will be very open borders and that nations will not matter so much. Whether its because we have finally pulled our collective heads out of our behinds and worked together to solve our problems, or because some dystopian complete collapse has happened and it’s all over.

    1. tegnost

      But if that is the case, then is the real issue the immigration, or is it the exploitation? And if it is exploitation, then will stopping the immigration cause wages to go up?
      When was the last time you saw an employer prosecuted? Mostly it’s deportation of the “offender”, but the business’ hiring them are well aware of their status and get off scot free, so your calculation fails. The exploitation and the immigration are beneficial to the top 10% (all of the 10% californians I know take advantage of this non enforcement) No punishment means no crime. Path to citizenship for those here, punish the employers, as they so richly deserve to be punished…but I won’t hold my breath on that one

      1. tegnost

        I’ll add that the tide you mention is a natural process and immigration because of some screwed up trade deal is not. If the nation state is done away with, it will be done away with by ISDS or some other trade deal meant to supercede the nation states, and you damn near got that with hillary. Open borders are the natural evolution of the screwed up current state where patents (bet they aren’t going away with open borders) are the only thing enforced.

      2. John Wright

        I remember looking for the amount of the employer fines in the USA a few years ago.

        As I remember, it was in total about $11million across the USA for one year.

        This is about $1.00/year per estimated “undocumented” worker.

        Enforcing employer fines and having sting operations to find upper middle class professionals who hire illegal workers would really quash the demand for illegal labor.

        Essentially, this would unite American workers in a type of national labor union, a labor union that one could not join by illegally immigrating.

        I suspect employer enforcement would be quite a revenue generator for the government, at least initially .

        But do not expect the left, right, media, businessmen or political elite to push for strict employer enforcement.

        In my simple view, I view world wide labor as a pool of water that would simply seek its own level if borders and labor restrictions were removed.

        Also, I would expect labor rates in currently developed countries that advocated for open borders would find their non-protected wage class workers’ wages tend toward a much lower world wide wage.

        Poverty scales very well, a high consumption developed world lifestyle does not.

        1. todde

          As I remember, it was in total about $11million across the USA for one year.

          You’re going to have to provide a link. I know of ONE company that was fined almost $100 mil for hiring illegals.

          1. John Wright

            Here is one I quickly found


            “As the number of illegal workers taken into custody declined, the level of administrative fines began a steady rise. After having dropped to zero in fiscal 2006, it climbed to just over $1 million in fiscal 2009 and reached $16.3 million in fiscal 2014.”

            Were these headline fines actually collected?

            Can you verify they were?

            1. Todde

              Thank you for the link.

              I will see what i can find on the link i provided.

              I dont know how to reconile rhe article with what i saw with my own eyes.

              The article mentions administrative fines i wonder if their are other federal fines.

              Or perhaps the number i saw had state fines or maybe the payroll taxes in it also.

              I dont know. I will certainly shut up until i do.

          1. John Wright

            I believe my normalizing of fines by estimated size of the illegal workforce is reasonable,

            if only $100 million was collected in a given year, this is still only $10 fine per person per year with about 10 million illegal workers.

            A large fine that can be discharged by bankruptcy may cause employers to create shell corporations with few assets and go bankrupt when a large fine is levied.

            Per https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/penalties-for-employers-hiring-illegal-immigrants.html

            First offenders can be fined 250 to $2000 per illegal employee.

            If $2000 were collected in each year for each estimated illegal employee in the USA, this would result in a cumulative $22 billion in collected fines every year.

            $100million is a small fraction of this, and can one say if the $100 million was actually collected?

            1. Todde

              So the tree company is private so no cash fliq statement to look at.

              However it does have 4 billion in sales so it is roughly 2 to 3% of sales.

              Probably saved money in the end.

              96 million is a lot of money but to multi billionaires who round to the million it is just 96.

              And the financials we were auditing was multi billions also.

              1. Todde

                I can say for certain the other company paid thier fines and every executive was fired.

                I can also saythat same company paid a handful of people more than that in dividends every single year.

                96 mil just aint that big of a number.

                Which is why i hesitate to accept the number from the article.

                I certainly dont want expect any one else to take my word for it tho.

            2. Todde


              The link here sayes that you can be subject to criminal and civil fines and sued under RICO.


              A link to a landscaper who was subject to 24k personally in fines, 48k in fines for business and had an additional $143k seized from his accounts in 2007.

              I dont think administrative fines covers all the money being collected by the feds.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          And if fines and stings wouldn’t do it, mass incarceration of several hundred thousand illegal employERS would do it.

          We could create the space to put all the illegal employERS who deserve to live out their lives in prison . . . by mass-amnestying all the non-violent drug “offenders” currently in prison.

  22. Steven Greenberg

    If we could limit the predatory behavior of empire builders that endanger people’s lives in their native settings, then the immigration problem along with wage exploitation would go away without having to put limitations on immigration.

  23. TG

    Triple kudos for stating the obvious so clearly.

    A comment: governments will NOT address this issue. Dissent WILL be suppressed – or perhaps, deflected. The profits of cheap labor are just too important for the rich as a class for any sort of populist party to get any traction. Likely we will have the usual revolving door: the current party is ousted in favor of one favoring immigration restrictions, once it takes power it breaks all of its promises, then it is thrown out at the next election by another party, which also breaks all of its promises… and meanwhile the cheap labor continues to flow.

    Suggestion: the only thing that will reign in the rich is fear. It was fear of communist uprising that led the American elites to put up with a pro-labor immigration policy in the 1940’s – 1960’s. It is lack of fear that has led to the opposite. Somehow the elites have to be made to believe that mass cheap-labor immigration will lead to their own downfall. If that can’t be managed, then the West is doomed.

  24. Newton Finn

    A large part of the problem is that Marx anticipated and called for an international movement. He did not believe that communism was viable in one or a few nations swimming upstream against a global capitalist tidal wave. Thus there has been an inherent antipathy to nationalism and patriotism on the left since its inception, an antipathy which has continued to diminish its appeal to and popularity with the masses, while simultaneously conceding this vital political territory to the right. Mitchell and Fazi’s “Reclaiming the State” (Pluto Press, 2017) is essential reading if one is to fully understand this crucial issue and the challenge faced by today’s left to put forward a new, protective, inclusive, and nurturing vision of the nation-state, which Mitchell and Fazi believe to be the only force capable of opposing and defeating global neoliberalism. And although dystopia invades and rules our capitalist-conditioned minds, it is also useful and liberating, at least for me, to inhabit in one’s imagination a stunningly beautiful post-capitalist utopia which presciently anticipates this new nationalist and patriotic ideal.


  25. DolleyMadison

    A self proclaimed liberal friend, who lives in the most expensive neighborhood in town and drives a 75,000 car, was complaining bitterly that her housekeeper quit and the cheapest she could find was a team of two Mexican women for 45 bucks an hour. She was enraged that they :had the nerve” to charge that. When I quietly asked how much her attorney husband makes and hour (350.00) it totally went over her head as she listed all of his Ivy league degrees that made him “worth” that. I pointed out he has his skills and they have theirs. “Not the same thing at all” she said. Yet she posts daily about the plight of the poor women and children at the border.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      How will she react if you tell her that it looks like she will just have to housekeep her own house then, all by herself.

    2. Altandmain

      This sort of double standard is why I think that upper middle class liberals are in some ways worse than the conservatives.

      They are quite happy to screw over the working class for their own gains.

  26. Daniel A Lynch

    Thanks for posting this and I’ll add the 105th comment which no one will ever read:
    — yes Virginia, there is such a thing as an illegal human. If a human breaks into my home, he’s illegal and will face harsh consequences. If a human breaks into my country, he’s illegal and should face harsh consequences.

    — while the economic effects of immigration are highly debated, the bottom line is that immigration does not help the working class, so why should the working class support it?

    — resources are finite. We don’t benefit from more people competing for scarce resources whether those people are immigrants or native born. With a mass extinction going on and climate change going on, we need a population policy.

  27. Brian

    So lets go back to 1960s closed off nation state because we on the left cant be bothered to think a bit more than 5 minutes. Instead of making capital work on the global scale for everyone lets become into selfish conclaves of the nation state whose labour class is ok with exploiting the global south as long as THEY are doing well.
    NO! Adam tooze had a long ass argument with wolfgang streeck precisely because of the stupid left’s nostalgia for post ww2. – https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n01/adam-tooze/a-general-logic-of-crisis Neoliberals thought on a global scale with local implementation, its high time the left learnt something from them!

  28. Sound of the Suburbs

    Economists use the laws of supply and demand to say that when the labour market gets tight, wages will rise.

    Liberals ignore the laws of supply and demand to say mass immigration won’t affect wages.

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