Jeremy Beck's picture

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  by  Jeremy Beck

Oren Cass' is calling out the deniers. His December post for American Compass, "Worker Power, Loose Borders: Pick One," elicited alarm and mockery from open-border enthusiasts Alex Nowrasteh and Noah Smith. Cass responds with "The Immigration Shimmy" - Cass' term for how immigration expansionists dodge inconvenient truths by changing the subject.

Specifically, Cass describes how Nowrasteh and Smith respond "to concerns about the effect of their policy on particular classes of workers by making a general claim about how immigration will eventually affect average wages across the economy as a whole."

You can find variations of the immigration shimmy virtually every week, especially during an expansionist push in D.C.. Here is an editor for The Washington Post's Made by History project responding to Roy's blog about the perils of an immigration system that permits visitors to overstay their visas and work illegally:

One of Cass' main themes throughout these pieces (see his latest response to Nowrasteh here) is the value of observing the real world. For example, he quotes Michael Lind at length:

Notwithstanding economic theory, employer lobbies are convinced that tight labor markets lead to higher wages by increasing the bargaining power of workers, even when workers are not represented by unions. That is why these lobbies spend huge sums on propaganda claiming that the U.S. is afflicted by "labor shortages" in this and that sector, shortages which can only be cured by increasing the labor force—by allowing more immigration, by delaying the retirement age, by encouraging both parents in a household to join the workforce. Conversely, organized private sector unions in the U.S., for generations before American organized labor became an obedient wing of the Democratic party, traditionally favored restrictive immigration, along with breadwinner wages and maternalist and protective laws that limited the participation of mothers in the work force, to make labor markets tighter.

Rational employers want loose labor markets and a buyer's market in labor, to drive down wages. Rational workers want tight labor markets and a seller's market in labor, to drive wages up. This is simple to understand, even if many academic economists and libertarians take pains not to understand it.

Cass himself takes care not to exaggerate immigration's impact on American workers. He never claims reducing immigration would be a silver bullet. He is agnostic about whether total immigration should be reduced. But on the question of immigration's impact on low-wage workers, he comes down exactly where NumbersUSA has been for years:

If the United States has a goal of improving labor-market outcomes for less-skilled American workers, restricting the in-flow of less-skilled immigrants is a potent policy tool that we have at our disposal.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Sustainability Initiative for NumbersUSA

Updated: Wed, Feb 17th 2021 @ 12:40pm EST

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