Since the Recession Ended, U.S. Economy Jobs’ Shortfall: 7.9 Million
Watching the evening news is like taking a trip into the Twilight Zone. Rod Sterling’s classic television program opened with a warning that viewers were about to enter “a land of both shadow and substance.”
That’s what happens when the audience tunes in every night to see a news story which features a prominent congressman pleading to extend unemployment benefits, followed by a second story focused on ending income inequality, but the third story makes an urgent but incongruous plea to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The Senate and House immigration bills would legalize 12-20 million illegal immigrants, authorize them to work and thus would have the inevitable consequence of increasing American unemployment. Newly authorized, formerly unemployable (because of their immigration status) immigrants would enter the labor market to compete with Americans for scarce jobs.
Furthermore, since overall illegal immigrants have less education and more limited skills than American workers, immigration reform would widen the gap between rich and poor. This fundamental equation, that adding millions of poor workers to the economy depresses wages, is basic economics. But, even though most Congress members have advanced degrees from prominent universities, the simple fact seems beyond their ability to comprehend.
Although many legislators on both sides of the aisle fit the description of those who, according to the Book of Matthew, “look but do not see, hear but do not listen or understand,” let’s consider Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior Republican Senator. Paul earned an undergraduate degree from Baylor and an MD from Duke, impressive credentials.
During Paul’s recent ABC interview, he gave glowing examples of the “shadow and substance” Sterling spoke of. The issues Paul addressed are indeed substantive-1.3 million Americans whose unemployment benefits expired last year-but his muddled solutions, are cast in shadows. Paul is both for and against extending benefits. Conceptually, Paul said he’s in favor but since an extension would require incurring more federal debt, Paul’s also opposed. Instead, Paul improbably proposed creating “economic freedom zones” which would lower taxes in areas with persistent long term unemployment.
When ABC changed the subject to immigration, Paul said that for illegal immigrants already in the US or foreign-born workers who want to come to America, he’s “for very expansive work visas.” The visas that Paul supports would add more than 33 million permanent workers during the first decade, a total that approaches California’s population.
America’s unemployment crisis is grossly understated. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s latest research, in November 2013, the labor market had 1.3 million fewer jobs than when the recession began in December 2007. Because the potential labor force grows every month, mainly because an average of 75,000 legal immigrants enter every 30 days, the economy would have to have added 6.6 million jobs just to get the labor market back to where it was six years ago. Counting jobs lost plus jobs that should have been gained to absorb new workers, today the U.S. economy has a 7.9 million jobs shortfall.
Disingenuously, incumbents want to campaign on ending income inequality, a challenge that would take years to dent. Paul touts hocus-pocus freedom zones which, if introduced, would likely have no chance of passing in Congress. The easiest and most effective way to increase American job opportunity is to impose an immigration moratorium that would last until the nation returns to full employment.