Charles Breiterman's picture


  by  Charles Breiterman

NumbersUSA received a number of "outside" comments from people who disagreed with Roy Beck's quote in a front-page New York Times article on April 9. The following was particularly interesting. I verified that the writer owns a small insurance company in Houston, Texas. I am changing his name to Mr. Smith in order to protect his anonymity.

My friend has been in the US for 18 years, having arrived with his mother, two brothers and a sister at the age of 10. He went to school and completed high school and now he does stone work, i.e. he puts flagstone around swimming pools, builds fireplaces, creates stone entryways and wine cellars for very expensive homes. He works for $75 cash a day when there's work. No health insurance, no sick pay, no vacation, no unemployment, no workers comp, just $75 per day.

He is not complaining. He spends all of his earnings buying things to live, therefore paying sales taxes thus supporting the local and Texas state budget. He rents an apartment, therefore paying property taxes, which in Texas helps pay for the schooling he received. He's not complaining. He used to have a landscaping job for many years where they took out ! taxes. He paid federal income taxes and paid into the social security fund and Medicare fund. He did not complain.

So if you need a job or know anybody that does, please come on down to Texas where we have lots of jobs I am sure you would be qualified for. Don't worry about my friend, he can always find a job. Employer's love him since he goes to work, takes the pay he's offered does his job and doesn't complain. I hope you and your friends will enjoy your new job. Just don't complain.

Yes, Mr. Smith, there are countless Americans that need jobs like the one your friend has. The unemployment rate in the Houston area was 6.4 percent as this February. Last February, it was 4.3 percent. There are many thousands of people who need jobs when the unemployment rate is at 6.4 percent.

Mounted police were called out to control the crowd of thousands seeking 65 full-time jobs (Andrea Mohin/The New York Times/Redux)

Mounted police were called out to control the crowd of thousands seeking 65 full-time jobs (Andrea Mohin/The New York Times/Redux)

For example, in New York City, in November, 2006, at the height of the subprime loan/Wall Street boom, the official unemployment rate in the city was 4.5 percent. Early that month, Mars Inc., the candy manufacturer that makes M&Ms, was opening a retail store in Manhattan. The company put out a help-wanted ad offering 65 full-time jobs at $10.75 an hour, and about 135 part-time jobs. The New York Times reported that,“Several thousand people — mostly young, black and Hispanic — had shown up to apply for fewer than 200 positions, only 65 of them full-time jobs.”

Making $10.75 per hour may sound like a lot of money to people in many areas of the United States, but in New York City the cost of living is very high, and that is not sufficient even to live with dignity as a single adult, much less for a family. That wage rate works out to about $21,000 per year, and the poverty line for a family of four is $26,000 per year in New York City. A recent credible study said that it requires an income of $100,000 per year to be middle class in New York City (see page 9 of that link).

This was for jobs to work in a candy store. A candy store! Not jobs at a Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant, or jobs at a military contractor. It was a heartbreaking and soul-crushing view of the desperation that exists just under the surface of the United States economy. If it was that bad when the official unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, imagine how bad it is now that the unemployment rate is 8.2 percent in the New York area. This episode is one major data point towards proving the proposition that the official unemployment rate is inaccurate and deceptively low. So I suspect that a 6.3 percent official unemployment rate in the Houston area indicates a serious situation - something even worse than what existed in New York in 2006 when the official unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

Several thousand people were desperate for those 65 full-time jobs at $10.75 per hour. “Many had arranged for baby sitters, traveled from other boroughs and New Jersey, and lined up as early as 1 a.m., only to be told eventually that there were no more jobs being offered that day. … Jose Muñoz, 19, of Queens, stood in line and lost out on a day’s pay as a driver’s helper for United Parcel Service. A part-time employee, he makes $8 an hour, he said, and hoped for a Mars position because “this was a full-time job.”

Mr. Smith, $10.75 per hour works out to $86 per day, and your friend makes $75 per day. But your friend works “off the books.” So he makes $75 and pays no income, social security, or medicare taxes. So his $75 is actually better than earning $86 before taxes. Additionally, the cost of living in Texas is lower than the cost of living in New York City. The New Yorkers should indeed be interested in an after-tax income of $75 per day in an area with a lower cost of living.

There are no benefits (such as health insurance) to your friend’s job, while I presume there were benefits to the 65 full-time jobs at the candy store. However, the standard reply that we always hear from the amnesty lobby is, “If undocumented workers were made legal, they will have the bargaining power to get those benefits.” So according to the amnesty lobby’s own words, those legal workers in New York and all over the country could get benefits if they had your illegal alien friend’s job.

The M&M Mars incident shows that we do have thousands of legal workers in the New York area, thousands in the Houston area, and probably millions around the United States, who are not even in the official unemployment statistics and need decent jobs. If there are such jobs unfilled in the Houston area, then it is probably because employers are not reaching out sufficiently to the unemployed in their own city, and failing that, they could reach out to unemployed Americans in other cities. There is no need to bring in people from foreign countries to fill these jobs. So thank you, Mr. Smith, for letting us know about the jobs in Texas.

CHARLES BREITERMAN is a Lawyer and Research Analyst for NumbersUSA

American workers

Updated: Mon, Aug 16th 2010 @ 3:22pm EDT

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