My third open letter to Mr. Mitt Romney on immigration
Dear Mr. Romney,
Now, as it was in 1924, many Americans are against immigration, as they feel that immigrants take away from them jobs that they could have, at better pay than immigrants, if immigrants were stopped at the border. This approach mirrors the anger of workers at the beginning of industrialization, when they used to destroy weaving machines for taking their jobs. One may understand the frustration of people losing their jobs, but it takes a leader to explain that nations build their wealth not by preserving jobs but quite the opposite: by stimulating change. Civilization advances the fastest and the wealth of nations grows the most where entrepreneurs have the most freedom in innovation. Innovation can also mean the ability to find a cheaper worker to do a job. We need a leader who can tell Americans, straight to their face, this basic economic truth. Can you do it, Mr. Romney?
Most immigrants, legal or illegal, do plain minimum-wage labor. By chasing undocumented immigrants away, some of those low-wage jobs are offered back to Americans. Is this the way to rebuild the middle class?
Ironically, for every 100 low pay manufacturing jobs we need at least several well-paid jobs in maintenance and management. With low immigration and the squeezing of illegal immigrants out of the labor market, we had shortages of low paid labor and many of these manufacturing jobs went abroad. As a result, many Americans lost their middle class income. Now they compete for whatever low-paying jobs they can get by kicking out illegal immigrants. Mr. Romney, how far down this spiral do you want to go?
Thanks to our current immigration policy, for too long too many Americans felt secure in their jobs. With the recent turn in the economy, many of them lost their jobs and we have millions of frustrated Americans with obsolete qualifications. They still have middle class aspirations but with practically minimum-wage qualifications. Depending on ideological inclinations, some of these frustrations materialize in the growing ranks of the Tea Party, and some manifest in the Occupy Wall Street movement. They claim that they are the 99%. They are not quite that populous. However, they are many, and they vote. Do you want to get elected by fostering their illusions that we can go back to nativism and that we can go back to splendid isolation? Or, do you have the courage to tell them boldly that there is no return to a middle class living with a minimum-wage skill set? Someone needs to make it official that splendid isolation is over. Someone needs to announce to Americans that they need to compete for jobs on the worldwide labor market. Can it be you?
If the U.S. government really wants to be in the business of protecting American jobs from competition abroad, it should focus on where those jobs are disappearing to: it should prevent job exodus. The simplest way to do this would be by cutting off foreign trade. Banning imports from China would be a good start. All travel abroad should be eliminated, with the government issuing travel permits for special instances. All international phone lines and all international internet connections should be disconnected as well. This is the only effective way to protect Americans from competing with workers worldwide.
Are you a leader who can talk frankly about these issues?
The political system of the United States was built on the philosophical concept that all individuals should have equal freedom to pursue happiness. The government should not implement laws that would infringe on the inalienable liberties of individuals. This is easier said than done. Let us imagine an American citizen with an entrepreneurial spirit who pursues his happiness by having his own business, and hiring other Americans who pursue their happiness by working for their entrepreneurial compatriot. Everybody is happy until a group of foreigners comes into town, ready to work for less than the American workers do. Suddenly, the entrepreneurial American wants to pursue his happiness by hiring these newcomers. Some American citizens lose their jobs, so they petition the government to ban the hiring of foreign workers. Is this constitutional?
Should an American entrepreneur have the right to hire whomever he or she pleases, irrespective of whether that new employee comes from across the street, across the ocean, or the other side of Rio Grande? Or should the government step in and require that foreigners should be hired only if all reasonable attempts to hire Americans are exhausted? This is the idea behind our current immigration policy. Practically, it means that instead of securing equal freedom to pursue happiness for all American citizens, the government goes into the business of guaranteeing happiness for less entrepreneurial citizens at the cost of limiting the freedoms of the most entrepreneurial among us. If elected, how will you fulfill your promise of supporting entrepreneurs in America on this particular issue?
Americans losing their jobs to foreigners have at their disposal all the great opportunities this country offers: they can retrain, move to another area, or open their own business. Instead, they want the government to secure for them the job they feel comfortable with. In my view the Constitution does not give the government the right to do so. What is your take on this issue, Mr. Romney? It would be interesting to get Ron Paul’s answer, as well.
A version of this text was published by Huffington Post