The New York Times concluded its "The Great Divide" series on inequality last Friday with a column by Joseph E. Stiglitz, who moderated the series. In "Inequality is Not Inevitable," Stiglitz pointed to countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway to suggest that "our policies and our politics" -- not "the inexorable laws of economics" -- are responsible for economic inequality in the United States.
The Times posted over 600 comments on the article. Many people weighed in on how our policies (and politics) should change. Some readers zeroed in on immigration policy. Here are a few of those comments:
Jeff (of Ohio) wrote:
Great article! I agree with all of it, except omission of any discussion about our labor market. We have systematically pursued policies that have decreased the leverage of labor in the marketplace i.e. the over supple of labor by way of trade and immigration.
The natural push back to over-sized portion of wealth flowing to capital is higher wages. If we manage the marketplace to restore the balance between labor and capital the need for transfer payments would be greatly reduced.
All the things that Mr. Stiglitz writes about are important. But it will be all for not if we do not address the fundamental labor market issues.
I just do not understand why Stiglitz and Krugman refuse to address this issue.
D Flinchum (of Virginia) wrote:
'So corporate welfare increases as we curtail welfare for the poor. '
And our immigration system is primarily corporate welfare. Government data shows that 'since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal)...there were still fewer working-age natives holding a job in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000.' Link below.
Meanwhile we all hear about is labor shortages, and SB 744 proposes to double legal immigration and guest workers while legalizing an unknowable number of illegal aliens. Who profits?
Mass immigration in a loose labor market depresses wages, increases un/under employment, hollows out the middle class, and benefits only the immigrants themselves and the biz interests. Yet we wonder why something like 95% of income gains went to the top 1% in 2009-2012 (Matthew Yglesias in Slate). Are we really that dumb?
Unless and until we get control of our borders, institute E-verify, punish employers who hire illegal workers, and cut legal immigration and guest worker visas dramatically, we will see more of the same - lots more.
It would also help if any attempt to limit immigration was looked upon as an economic issue - supply and demand - instead of some form of xenophobia. Excess workers = lower wages and unemployment. As long as the system favors the biz interests' corporate welfare nothing will change.
Juanita (of New York) wrote:
One major cause of inequality is the huge numbers of immigrants. Wages are depresses [sic] with new entrants into the labor market, all so the one percent can get cheaper nannies and gardeners. No enforcement of laws, either by the IRS or ICE.
Outlaw Star (of Michigan) wrote:
Inequality is inevitable when your population is only increasing because of immigration. People coming to this country is a good thing, but how many of them come here already rich? Almost none (and it was that way in the 1920s too). When the only residents you add are poor ones, what do you think is going to happen to your poverty rates? It's a simple fact that you can't have a egalitarian welfare state with open immigration. It just doesn't work.
In 2013, 31,940 people moved to Finland. 13,890 people left the nation. About as many people come to the USA in a week as in a whole year to Finland. The average has been over 1M for the past few years. How many of those people do you think well off? If they were well-off, they probably would never have left home.
Of course, not all our poverty issues can be blamed on immigration numbers, but the inevitable comparison to Scandinavian countries just fails. They are closed societies with little going in or out. What do you expect to happen there?
Winthrop Staples (of California) wrote:
Stiglitz has done great work (I have a few of his books), but he has missed a major weapon used by the "few percent" against the rest of us - the contemporary equivalent of slaves, the 'forced' labor afforded elites by recent decades of mass immigration, and outsourcing to no human and labor rights authoritarian states. And the real coup of our elites has been to somehow brain wash most Americans into thinking that they have some moral obligation to "compete" with these exploited workers by either allowing the unrestrained slave trade importation of foreign workers via sabotage of our immigration law enforcement, and the ending of tariffs on overseas slave made goods . However, no historical precedent or theory of moral philosophy in fact dictates that we compete with slaves in fact acting like a slave is the classic justification for treating others like slaves who allow them selves to be defeated or abused. We need to deny the "few percent" access to immigrant pawns and mercenaries by cutting immigration quotas to 200,000 per year, enforcing our immigration laws and putting up massive barriers to foreign made goods. We simply have to stop "competing" with other authoritarian corrupt states that treat their citizens like slaves. If we don't we will become an oligarchy a 90% underclass failed society like Mexico.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Jul 15th 2014 @ 9:35am EDT