Monday, June 21, 2010

New Signs on the Street

This is a new one. I've seen it twice now, this yesterday--

Before that, on the 17th of June.

Is it related to the other new sign on this abandoned laundry? An 'open-hand' policy? Or 'a fair shake'? Or are the hands just an art project?

My paternal great grandmother, and both my maternal great-grandparents are immigrants. On my dad's dad's side, I can supposedly join the D.A.R. (provided, of course, that they'd have me, fat chance) which means our immigrant status is oh so very on that side. All of the more recent immigrants needed a boat and a stop at Ellis Island.

If they had been born in Mexico, would they have walked over that bold black line? I know they would have. Two of the three of them were renegades of a sort.

Just now we have drug wars, terrorism, unemployment. The unemployment question is no different--during the 1800's, there were numerous bank failures, losses of work, floods of people looking to better themselves. Neither is the terror altogether different, although it tended to be union battles (both sides) and anarchists. It's the drugs, and that's not different. Old ladies took tincture of opium every day, marijuana and cocaine were legal, and so forth.

To be honest, I don't think it's the immigrants at all. I think it's a crisis in our society, that more people are at loose ends but don't know how to do anything.

I am not for illegal immigration, especially with the drug wars we have going on now, in every city and state in America, much less those in Mexico. I see from studying gangs how all races and all confederations are getting their product from elsewhere and ruining lives, families, cities, tax bases. The immigration/deportation cycle we have is facilitating networking and product dispersal/money laundering for illegal groups. Preventing illegal immigration is a good step--far better than deportation afterward, in terms of tax dollars spent and crime risk.

At the same time, I see entire crews from Mexico working (legally) on my street, re-doing sidewalks with brick patterns, edging strips, concrete smoothers, shovels, sand, sweat on their backs. We have taught ourselves that the professions matter the most, that they are the ones worth emulating. As a society, we specialized in paper-pushing, and that was a mistake. As a result, we have left our poor behind, without training, and had to import the labor that fixes things for us. Our poor don't even look with longing at a bricklaying job. At least that's what I see around here. It just doesn't enter in.

Don't get me wrong: all races are on the job. It's just that the skilled work is coming from elsewhere.

The immigration issue does not break across party lines, it breaks across economic markets. Are you priced too high to hire? Can you afford to hire the American worker? Is your city paying for multiple free rides for cost-cutting employers and migrating employees?

Immigration (legal) and migration (legal or otherwise) is the natural behavior of an international labor  market. As such, it will always happen in response to wage differentials. And benefits differentials. People flock to prosperity, and this is a sign that we still have it, at least in relative terms.

From a city's point of view, it can only afford to offer services to those who pay for them via taxes. Immigrants pay sales tax.  But they send their disposable income elsewhere, which cuts down on buying/saving/investing at home. The Irish did this too. They sent money to Ireland during the Famine. I imagine all races, creeds, and nationalities have done this on their successive waves to America.

For their employers, this international labor market provides the wage differential (that's falling wages, folks) plus a lack of concern for items such as sick leave, harassment suits, expense accounts. First we priced ourselves out of the market, then we benefited ourselves out of the market. Then we gave up on entire markets. That's no way to roll.

1. When unions wake up from their torpid sleep, they'll figure out the only way to fix this is to go international, spend more time thinking in terms of markets instead of lobbying governments with jurisdictions that stop at big black lines on a map..

2. In the meantime, cities are fighting a holding action against international markets in labor--and international markets in drugs. Besides enforcement issues, which are deeply problematic, local jurisdictions are going to have to learn how to get the money and stop the free ride.

3. Workers are going to have to refine their ideas of a suitable wage. Not that this makes me happy.

We are undergoing a massive adjustment, whether we like it or not. No end in sight. But there's opportunity out there for many corrections that will work.


Bob G. said...

Societally, we've become spolied...(and not in a good way).

We went through that whole "me" generation, and it seems everywhere you look today, everything is about "me" (not the ME me, but you get the idea).
Look at the technology...all made for (dare I say it?) hedonistic pursuits.
No one wants to EARN anything...WORK for anything.
And the place this is MOST evident is the "public assistance" programs.
Everyone's got their hand OUT for "something for nothing".

When I was growing up, people were not afraid to take a "demeaning" job (like bricklaying) becasue it kept on bringing in the cash...needed for such things like FOOD...or paying the RENT.

You did whatever it took to get the job "done".
Not today.

I can't say if it's complacency, apathy, or even sloth that runs peoples' lives...
Perhaps a mix of all three.

We need to get back that "pioneer" spirit (unique to Americans)...the sense that we WILL do whatever we NEED to do, utilizing the talents given us by a higher authority...relying on each other and our OWN uniqueness.

But hey, that's just *my* opinion.

I could be wrong.


(just don't think so)

Excellent post.

Momma Fargo said...

Very interesting. Keep up the great posts. Love ya writings and pics! Inspires thinking in my so stagnant brain.

Christopher said...

Such a complex issue. But in the end, as you stated, it's economic laws that govern the movement of people, goods and services, and capital. One irony I find is often times those most opposed to immigration are those most fiscally conservative, and thereby those who should understand the laws of the market.

In my opinion, we should ease restrictions on immigration as well as making it easier to obtain a work visa. At the same time, use NAFTA to make industry and environmental standards uniform, but also to gradually reduce the wage differential.

You don't want to hear my solution for the drug war :)

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
Once I worked in a sewing factory with a woman who said her son had a 'good' job. I asked her what she meant. He delivered Coca-Cola on a route.

It changed my life. I realized that it WAS a good job. Gainful employment, and he could develop his route into something even more profitable, and gain commission.

Bricklaying is a good job. Sewing is a good job. Somewhere down the line though, we lost that attitude. Or maybe it was related to the closing of factories starting in the Sixties.

East Germany fell because the plumbers and bricklayers voted with their feet (another wave of immigration). It paved the way for the fall of the Iron Curtain as much as Reagan and Gorbachev, probably more.

We've got to get this back. I don't know how, but we need to bring it forward.

Thanks as always for writing in.
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Momma Fargo,
I am glad you enjoyed!

I keep thinking that if local officials looked more world-wide, they would separate out the fixable and non-fixable. Then they could frame local solutions instead of feeling slammed all the damn time.

Many hugs to you,
Hang in my lady,

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Christopher,
As for your solution to the drug war, it sounds drastic either legally or in a nuclear way. Actually I would be interested in hearing it . . .

As to NAFTA and labor, I am much of your mind. Making it easier to be legal means we get to exercise some control.

In the meantime, Arizona and other local jurisdictions are just trying to save themselves from the lack of control. We've set ourselves up to not win because we keep looking at bipolar politics and not real markets.

Ann T.

The Observer said...

Ann T:
What a great post! It causes so many things to run around in my brain that I can't get them to settle into a good comment.

Immigration (make it easier and more controlled legally), the demographic change in the US (almost inevitable, unless Western Eros start having lots more kids), the energizing of immigration (happened before in US history), immigration without an open frontier, the entitlement mentality , increased governmental control in the lives of people, etc. etc.

Now is not the time to release the idea of American exceptionalism, which has gotten a lot of bad press lately. I think it's time to embrace our history of solving problems and rising to the occasion, enfold new immigrants into that ideal, and hopefully endure the changes without riots, shortages and excessive pain.

And that doesn't even cover it!

Thanks for being so provocative, you provocateur.

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Wow, one could almost say you are developing a political platform!

It sounds to me like you are on to something. Run with it! I will enjoy reading it for sure.

I love being a provacateur, so thank you!

Ann T.