April 15, 2006
Plantation AmericaBy Timothy Birdnow
Is that what it has finally come to? Has America become a continental plantation? Are we really comfortable with a plantation system, a system where one group exploits the labor of a minority for cheap commercial gain? Is Plantation America, a system of cheap illegal labor, a good thing to put in place for ourselves and our national future?
The whole "jobs Americans won't do" argument is, to put it mildly, a crock. Anyone who says Americans won't pick lettuce or sweep floors has never worked in a factory, or a mine, or waited tables. When I was a young man I had a job cleaning the meat—cutting room at a grocery store; when I started it hadn't been done for some time and there was decayed meat piled in tubs and trash cans. The smell almost made me vomit. This was a wet, dirty, disgusting job, but I did it because it had to be done and I needed the money.
The point is that you can find someone to do any job if you are willing to pay them a decent wage. How about a sewer cleaner? Where I currently work we have a man who is willing to climb into spider—infested crawl spaces to open clogged sewer lines and have strangers' raw sewage spray into his face. Some jobs Americans aren`t willing to do? The fact is, you get what you pay for. If your pay is inadequate you either have to put up with irresponsible or temporary labor, or hire illegals. Breaking the law and hiring Mexicans may get you decent cheap help, but you are asking other Americans to subsidize your business.
Noel Sheppard, writing here in the American Thinker, takes on the ``jobs Americans won't do`` mantra, and explains where the missing American workers reside. He points out that a majority of teenagers (those who traditionally filled the positions currently occupied by illegals) are out of the job market; 59 percent are unemployed and not seeking summer work. What are businesses to do? Mr. Sheppard asks the question;
Mr. Sheppard almost seems to suggest here that illegal immigration is a valid option, since the current crop of spoiled—brat kids want dependency over freedom (born Democrats!), and he's correct in a sense. Children have to be taught independence, and if they are not forced to work (I never would have had I been given an allowance) they probably won't.
Of course, it is possible to restructure things to make the jobs more attractive. Nobody wants to wash dishes, but if it paid better, and if the employer wouldn't demand that his employees work every Friday and Saturday night, perhaps more of these kids would be willing to accept those jobs? Here in St. Louis there is a famous frozen custard stand, and the owner has young people lined up to work for him. Why? Because he starts a college fund for them (or at least he used to) and lets them bring home screwed up orders. In other words, he offers an incentive for these kids to work.
Government can encourage this by making college tuition grants contingent upon employment, say, or offering tax credits to the parents of employed minors. It's a difficult issue, but the answer is not to import serf labor.
Here is the crux of the issue: while the labor problems of these small businesses may be lamentable, the 'undocumented worker' solution will ultimately do more harm than good for the nation as a whole. Doing these unpleasant summer jobs is part of the training a youth receives to become a man (or woman), and this is how America has developed a diligent working class. (I learned more about responsibility and dedication on the job from my youthful employment than from any other source.) These jobs are the minor leagues of the job market. It is in low—paying, boring jobs where a teenager develops good work habits and learns skills (not job skills per say, but the more fundamental skills such as teamwork, diligence, obedience to superiors, and punctuality). The inevitable appearance of irresponsibility on the part of the teen worker is a learning experience, and teaches the kid that there are consequences to being irresponsible.
And, yes, we most definitely should penalize businesses for breaking the law by hiring illegals. Businesses face restrictions imposed by law all of the time. To open a business it is necessary to obtain the proper licenses; businesses are regulated for safety by OSHA; businesses must comply with fire codes, environmental codes, must have liability insurance, must take steps to comply with racial and sexual discrimination laws. Businesses must withhold taxes from an employee's check (something often neglected by companies which employ illegal aliens) and must pay into FICA (also often neglected). That these firms want good workers who will work cheap does not absolve them of their legal obligations, any more than it relieves them of the burdens of complying with these other laws. It`s part of the cost of doing business. Should we ignore violations of child labor laws next?
Of course, employers hate all of this because they are not in business to teach responsibility to snotty kids, but to make money for their owners. Still, this is a national investment in the future, and if America wants a solid workforce tomorrow, we have to build for it today. Illegal immigration is a short cut aimed at fixing an immediate problem while allowing a long—term one to fester.
You see, Illegal immigration has a retarding effect on the development of greater efficiency in the industries where illegals dominate. One of the arguments for tolerating illegal immigration is that we will pay more for food.
This may be true in the short term, but I would like to point out that the availability of cheap labor provides a disincentive to mechanization which, ultimately, could drive cost down even further. Would wheat farmers in Kansas, or corn farmers in Iowa have such enormous, highly productive farms if America had always had dirt—cheap labor? There would never have been an incentive to develope modern farm equipment, and the farm production would be a fraction of what it is today. America would not feed the world if the amber waves of grain had to be hand—cultivated. Economic need drove the development of the technology needed to cultivate huge tracts of land. Cheap labor would have kept America's farmers doing things the old fashioned way because it would have been cheaper in the short term.
One need only look at history to see that this is true; the antebellum South had plenty of cheap labor to work plantations (both slave and poor white Southerners), and this plantation economy sapped all of the vitality right out of Old Dixie. The free states were the ones to prosper; it was there that industry developed, farms flourished, businesses thrived. Mines, railroads, shops and stores sprang like weeds from the fertile soil of the American spirit because free men work harder for themselves than for others, and necessity dictated that those men find new, better ways to do things.
We all know how this story ended; the South, after centuries of gorging on slave and sharecropper labor, was no match for the industrious, innovative, self—reliant peoples of the North. The lure of cheap labor eventually destroyed the Southern Way of Life.
Of course, illegal immigrant labor is not quite the moral abomination that was slavery. But the same economic forces that made slavery such a bad system apply. Both develop a two—tiered sytem where some disdain "jobs Americans just won't do" while others form an ethnic underclass that carries the burden of actual work. Both systems build in powerful disincentives to experiment and innovate. Slavery was an easy way to make money; illegal immigrants are a modern way to accomplish the same thing. Nothing worthwhile comes cheaply on this Earth, and doing something on the cheap usually costs you more in the end.
That cost may be more dear than many Americans realize. Increasingly, we hear about the Reconquistas; those groups of illegal aliens who wish to take back the lands they claim were stolen by the United States. Groups like MeCHA and La Raza invoke an irredentist dream of a nation called Aztlan . Are we prepared to partition the United States for cheap maid service and gardening?
In short, we are creating a Plantation America, an America filled with the spoiled brat children of the great planters, an America where those rotten children will start to believe they really are too good to accept "jobs Americans aren't willing to do."
Consider the decadence and sloth in France, where students recently rioted because the government sought to require them to satisfy their employer or be fired (in the first two years of employment). The French have allowed immigrants to enter the country to provide cheap labor for years, and these whiny little bagguette crunchers have become too soft to work. They, like the great plantation owners in the antebellum South, will soon be gone with the wind — a whirlwind reaped from the "guest worker" seeds they have sown (and from their "lazy—fair" socialism, of course!)
As a matter of demographics, it`s apparent that France as we know it will soon be pushing up daisies, and will be repopulated by the children of those who are willing to take "jobs Frenchmen won`t do." A Plantation America will probably follow in the French footsteps.
We need a modern Emancipation Proclamation. It's time to close Plantation America!
Timothy Birdnow is the proprietor of Birdblog.