Wage Gap a GOP Issue
“Use your tools to fix their car,” a key tenet of the idea of triangulation, should be the lynchpin of the Republican midterm campaign of 2014. The president has found a compelling issue in income inequality. Now it is up to the Republicans — not to challenge the issue’s legitimacy as a national concern, but to show how their policies, rather than those of the Democrats, are best equipped to solve it.
The central issue for Republicans to use in fashioning a GOP solution to income inequality is immigration. Nothing strikes more fundamentally at the pain of the working class, toiling long hours for no increase in real wages, than the competition of millions who come over the border, willing to work for next to nothing.
Former President Clinton used this strategy to convince votes that the Democratic approach to crime — long a Republican issue — of handgun controls and 100,000 more police was the best solution. Former President George W. Bush sought to take the education issue away from the Democrats by focusing on standards and testing in his No Child Left Behind program. In each case, voters became convinced that the tools of one party were the best suited to fix the problem long identified with the other one.
Data from the Center for Immigration Studies reveal that in the 13 years since the turn of the century, the number of employed native-born Americans has stagnated at 114.7 million in the first quarter of 2014, having been recorded at 114.8 million in 2000. Over the same period, the number of employed non-native-born Americans (whether citizens or not, legal or not) has grown by 5.7 million.
The authors of the CIS study, Karen Zeigler and Steven A. Camarota, note that “all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). This is remarkable given that native-born Americans accounted for two-thirds of the growth in the total working-age population.”
The working people of America intuit that their lack of wage growth and employment opportunity is directly linked to the flood of people coming in across the border. And nothing could be clearer in our current politics than the fact that the Democratic Party of Barack Obama wants the inundation to continue, whereas Republicans want it to stop.
It was not always so. In first half of the 20th century, it was the GOP that wanted open borders, the more easily to recruit a low-wage work force and hold down the wages of American workers. Still dimly aware that they represent workers, not the Democratic Party, some labor unions persist in calling for immigration restrictions.
But the lure of ethnic voting has made open borders enticing to the leadership of the Democratic Party, as well as the rapid ascension to voting citizenship of those who arrive.
Yet Republicans are not betraying their heritage in opposing open borders. Rather, they are tapping into the intellectual legacy of Abraham Lincoln, who opposed the Jeffersonian vision of a nation of yeomen farmers, aristocrats and slaves. The wage system, Lincoln argued, was the only way for the working class to advance above subsistence farming. How were workers to secure decent wages, he would ask, when slaves could be coerced to work for free?
So again we have the phenomenon of elitist “limousine liberals” arguing for open borders while workers absorb the brunt of the impact.
These liberals argue that immigrants take jobs the rest of us don’t want. The reason jobs like landscaping, restaurant work and construction are unattractive is that they don’t pay well. And the reason is the influx of immigrants who will accept these low wages.
Curbing illegal immigration is the jobs and the income inequality issue of our time. Seize it.