Jeremy Beck's picture

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  by  Jeremy Beck

Oren Cass, in what might be the perfect six-word challenge for policy makers heading into 2021 writes "Worker Power, Loose Borders: Pick One." For all of us who have been frustrated for years by the media's insistence that immigration policy stands outside the law of supply and demand, it is more than a little cathartic to watch Cass take the expansionist utopians to the mat.

This school of thought fascinates me, in the same way an old-timey 'cabinet of curiosities' might capture the attention. 'And in this corner, the man who believes policymakers should strive to tighten labor markets, insists on the imperative of worker power, and also sees unconstrained immigration into the labor market's weakest segments as unconcerning if not downright desirable.' Is it impolite to stare?

This form of mockery (as opposed to ad hominem attack) is richly deserved, but credit Cass for acknowledging the nuances of the issue before throwing down the gauntlet:

Of course, one can endorse loose immigration policy on non-economic grounds; the issue implicates all manner of moral questions and demands difficult tradeoffs among competing values. That appears to be where the Democratic Party is headed. But as a policy agenda for worker-led growth comes further into focus, and finds champions on the right-of-center, the tradeoff between liberal immigration policies and tight labor markets will only become more obvious, and the choice a litmus test for commitment to American workers and their families.

David Leonhardt, meanwhile, sees immigration policy as part of a Democratic message that "is failing to resonate with many working-class Americans":

How can Democrats do better with the working-class? It's not an easy question. (Left-leaning parties in Europe are having similar struggles.)

But there are some hints. Many working-class voters, across racial groups, are moderate to conservative on social issues: They are religious, favor well-funded police departments and support some restrictions on both abortion and immigration. On economic issues, by contrast, they tend to back Democratic positions, like a higher minimum wage and expanded government health care.

Whether or not Democrats can improve their standing with the working-class "may be the biggest looming question about American politics," Leonhardt writes, and he sees immigration policy as weighing heavily on the answer.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Sustainability Initiative for NumbersUSA

Updated: Thu, Jan 7th 2021 @ 4:14pm EST

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