Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Welcome the Stranger

by John Zmirak    

One thing we Catholics have known since almost the beginning: Most statements in the Bible can be misread, misapplied, and torn out of context to serve as the pretext for hysterical balderdash. Martin Luther famously used his private reading of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans to invent a whole new theology of salvation, personalized to soothe his aching scruples. Before that, poor Origen, the first great theologian of the Church, applied "If your hand causes you to sin, then cut it off" (Mk 9:43) to his problems with chastity . . . bless his heart! Today some of our bishops are telling us to do the very same thing to our country. 

The subject is mass, unskilled immigration, and the phrase its enablers like to use (they titled one of their interminable, inevitable USCCB documents after it) is "Welcome the stranger" (paraphrasing Matthew 25:31-46). As someone who has actually studied the empirical effects that two million or so mostly uneducated immigrants are having on poor and working-class Americans, I am constantly confronted with this scrap torn from the New Testament, which earnest, otherwise orthodox Catholics wave around like snake-handlers justifying their latest romp in the piney woods with an ice cooler full of copperheads...

Let me huff and puff once more in the hopes of dissolving this smog. A majority of Americans, as every survey taken on the subject indicates, believe that it simply isn't prudent to admit millions more unskilled workers into a country that has outsourced its factories to Asia, mechanized its farms, and otherwise dried up opportunities for unskilled native workers to earn what the Church calls a living wage. The evidence bears this out: Adjusted for inflation, wages for working-class Americans of every race have stayed flat for more than 30 years -- while Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the entertainment industry have multiplied salaries for even their mid-level workers. The law of supply and demand says that when you flood the market with something, the price goes down. We flooded the market, and the price went down -- and American workers are suffering. 

At the same time, our taxes and deficits are rising, as communities struggle to care for uninsured hospital patients, to expand or maintain their infrastructure to accommodate rising populations, and to offer bilingual education in up to 15 languages (as in Los Angeles). As Harvard economist George Borjas documents, the only social class gaining from mass, unskilled immigration is . . . the investor class. That is, the people who make their livings by clipping stock coupons. The upper-middle class is not much affected (they can move to gated communities with private schools), while the middle class and the working poor are suffering. It's that simple. (If you want the long form with all the links to exhaustively support these claims, check out my two previous detailed articles on this topic.)

The case is proved. Nobody argues that a mass influx of cheap labor is helping America's poor, making our society more cohesive, or in any other substantive way benefiting America. Open-borders types are typically reduced at this point in the argument to pointing out how much they enjoy eating out at ethnic restaurants and paying somebody $2 an hour to mow their lawns....

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