By Dr. Harold A. Black
I am disappointed in the generations that have come after mine. When I was teaching, I would tell my students that the world was made up of three types of people: the one percent that make things happen, the five percent who know what’s happening and the 94 percent that haven’t a clue what’s happening. I said that my mission was to lower the 94 percent. I failed miserably. I would constantly berate my students for being intellectually lazy. The only way to lower the 94 percent was to ask “why” and to become a skeptic seeking answers. Today information search is ridiculously easy. When I was in school, information was costly. I had a carel in the library stacked high with books. I spent hours looking at microfiche files. If had needed to do empirical work, it called for punching countless IBM cards, hours spent programming and more hours at the computer lab. Today all you have to do is ask Siri or Google it. Simple, yet people remain blissfully ignorant because they are intellectually lazy, too lazy to ask Siri or to Google it.
This ignorance is not the sole province of students. It permeates all cohorts. Consider an article that a friend of mine sent me whose headline reads “Democrats: Let’s curb inflation by using migrants to cut American wages.” I thought that surely this must be a misprint. However, Sen Durbin (D-IL) is quoted as saying “Not enough people are seeking jobs. … As a consequence, that drives up the cost of doing business and the cost to the consumers. If there are more workers doing their jobs, it’s deflationary.” Of course, this throws the democrats’ low wage constituents under the bus. However, it is obvious that Durbin and those like him – as well as the media – are intellectually lazy and have not asked the question “does immigration of low skilled workers lower inflation?”
The answer provided by economic research both in the United States and elsewhere is “no.” First, persistent labor shortages result in businesses substituting capital for labor. Currently there is a persistent labor shortage, created in part by the overly generous handouts of this administration. Although we see now hiring signs in many business windows, we also see kiosks at fast food restaurants and self-checkouts at retail stores. History tells us that such substitutions are permanent. Second, academic research shows that the immigration of higher skilled workers actually raises the wages of citizens with the same skill set. The key is the effect on productivity. If the immigrants lead to an increase in productivity, then the wages of similarly skilled citizens also increase. Third, absent increases in productivity, most economic research shows that immigration has little effect on wages. Fourth, immigration is a net negative in areas with a large population of lower skilled, less educated, non-English speaking immigrants due to the high cost of public services. Even legal immigrants have a higher use of welfare programs than do citizens. Forty-nine percent of legal immigrant households use cash programs, food programs, housing and Medicare compared to 30 percent of citizens’ households. What about illegals? Those numbers are even higher. Sixty-three percent of households without a green card are on some form of assistance.
Therefore, if those advocating for an increase in illegal immigration to lower wages in order to lower inflation would take the time to fact check, they would find out that there is virtually no evidence to support that claim. Moreover, while immigration of skilled workers leads to an increase in productivity with the overall positive impact on the economy, immigration of lower skilled workers is a net cost to the economy resulting in higher inflation due to increased outlays for welfare. But our “leaders” are too intellectually lazy to find the truth.
I am reminded of what my father once told me. “That sounds good – if you are interested in sounds.”