[Marxism] Dear Paul Krugman
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 27 10:09:02 MST 2006
Dear Paul Krugman,
I was dumbfounded to read your op-ed piece in the NY Times today echoing
many of the themes of the nativist right.
You refer to a number of "facts" that should strengthen the case for a
"need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants." They include:
1. A questioning of the economic benefits immigrants bring to the economy,
which in your estimation has raised the total income of native-born
Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent since 1980.
2. An assertion that immigrant workers have depressed the wages of
unskilled native-born workers, such as U.S. high school dropouts, who would
earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration.
3. Worries about low-skill immigrants threatening to unravel the safety net
of the U.S. welfare state by taking advantage of our generous medical care
and educational system.
Although I understand that you have earned many awards for your writings
and have been appointed to some of the most prestigious universities in the
U.S., I would have to give you a failing grade for omitting the most
important economic factor in the immigration debate. I speak specifically
of your failure to examine *why* people such as the Mexicans pour into the
United States in search of jobs. By calling for stricter enforcement
(implicit in your demand that the "inflow of low-skill immigrants" be
reduced) without examining the root cause of the flight from Mexico and
other such countries, you are adopting the same kind of stance as
politicians who want to crack down on Islamic terrorism without looking at
the oppressive conditions that breed extremism.
Fundamentally, immigration is a result of too few jobs in Mexico and
elsewhere. People come to the U.S. because it is preferable to starvation.
Free trade agreements of one sort or another have devastated the Latin
American economies. The real solution to reducing immigration is economic
development, not Draconian laws.
And why have jobs disappeared in Mexico? It is because the U.S. has
disappeared them. When NAFTA began, nearly 8 million people were involved
in farming, but that number fell to approximately 6.5 million by 2003,
according to a report on the Public Citizen website
One can surmise that in the succeeding 3 years, things could have only
Turning the clock back 6 years to July 5, 2000, you wrote a column hailing
the election of Vicente Fox which you described as a "cause for rejoicing,
not just for Mexico, but for everyone who hopes that this time around we
may be getting globalization right." You also saw it as a vindication for
Turning the clock back another 3 years to February 13, 1997, we find you
boosting globalization just like your colleague Tom Friedman. In making
your own case for "the world is flat," you scoff at worries about job loss
in the U.S.:
"Of course, international competition plays a role in some downsizings, but
as Newsweek's list makes clear, it is hardly the most important cause of
the phenomenon. To my knowledge there are no Japanese keiretsu competing to
carry my long-distance calls or South Korean conglomerates offering me
local service. Nor have many Americans started buying their home appliances
at Mexican stores or smoking French cigarettes."
However, this is a rather U.S.-centric view of the problem which ignores
the impact of globalization on other countries. By focusing on whether
Americans will buy home appliances at Mexican stores, you seem to miss the
other side of the equation, namely the impact of free trade *inside* Mexico
rather than inside the U.S.
An October 30, 2005 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article filled in the details
that were woefully neglected in your op-ed pieces:
Alonzo Moran earns more money driving a fork-lift in a cotton gin in
Missouri's Bootheel than he could make in almost any job back home in Mexico.
But after 13 months as a migrant farm worker, Moran is eager to return to
the 30 acres he owns in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
There, his land lies fallow, not worth planting because of depressed corn
prices he blames on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"What is my dream for the future? I want corn prices to be high again so I
can go back to Mexico to farm," said Moran, 42. "But I don't know if that
There are many reasons for the recent record migration from Mexico to the
United States. But many Mexicans say a prime motivation is the difficulty
in making a living on small farms in rural Mexico.
A favorite destination is Missouri, where migrants -- legal and illegal --
find farm work in fields and slaughterhouses.
Many stay. From 2000 to 2004 alone, Missouri's Hispanic population --
mainly Mexican -- grew by nearly 25 percent, after a 92 percent increase
from 1990-2000, according to U.S. Census data.
Illinois' Hispanic population grew 16 percent in the first four years of
this decade after a 96 percent increase in the '90s.
And those are just the Hispanics who get counted.
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