As for jobless Americans, I suppose the answer is: Let them eat pie, or let them eat when there is a bigger pie.
Despite saying some pretty sensible things about immigration at the big CPAC conservative activists conference last Friday, presidential hopeful Jeb Bush displayed zero awareness that immigration issues affect working-class Americans.
FOX host Sean Hannity did his best to give Bush a chance to show concern for Americans who can't find jobs or whose wages are depressed by the country's giant surplus of workers. Perhaps Americans should have first crack at U.S. jobs, Hannity suggested.
(HANNITY) Right now at this point, the country at this moment in history, we have 50 million Americans nearly in poverty--nearly 50 million Americans on food stamps, the lowest labor participation rate since the 1970s. I want you to connect it to immigration. Shouldn't Americans have the opportunity for those jobs first? You say, go to the back of the line, but if they go to the back of the line, they still get to stay here and compete for those jobs?
Hannity was stating the gist of NumbersUSA's national ad campaign last fall in which we asked, "Who should get the next jobs?"
Nearly all supporters of "comprehensive immigration reform" or any other form of amnesty say that their plan would require illegal aliens to "go to the back of the line." But what does that mean? Since millions of Americas are in line looking for a job, then "back of the line" ought to mean that illegal aliens don't get a crack at a job until the jobless line of Americans is exhausted. Whether or not one agrees that illegal aliens should ever be allowed to have a U.S. job, surely they should not be put at the front of the jobs line, right?
I'm not aware of any supporter of "legalization" who thinks illegal aliens should go to the back of the jobs line, and Jeb Bush added himself to that list on Friday.
Bush refused to state that Americans have any priority over illegal aliens when it comes to jobs.
(BUSH) You either believe that the pie is static, that's the Left's point of view. Many on the Right don't agree with that, but with their policies, they imply it. Therefore, we're splitting up...someone's benefit is someone's else's detriment. I believe we ought to be focused on growing the economic pie, and growing it at a rate that looks more like the '80s in America. Growing it closer to four percent, not two percent. If we stay in this anemic economic rate, then your argument becomes valid, but if we grow at four percent, there's going to be opportunities for all. It's not a zero-sum game. That's not how Republicans and conservatives think. We don't think it's just all about the government divvying it up for us to get our crumbs. We believe we should pursue our dreams as we see fit, and the more people doing it with the capacity to achieve our success, the more economic growth will take place."
The way I read that answer to -- or failure to answer -- Hannity's very clear, specific question is that Bush believes the millions of illegal aliens who now have jobs should keep them and that unemployed Americans should wait until Bush's version of government is able to create enough new jobs that the Americans can then have employment, too.
Until the total economic pie gets a lot bigger, unemployed Americans stay unemployed while illegal aliens keep their jobs. That's the Jeb Bush version of who goes to the back of the line.
In fact, Bush seemed to suggest to the CPAC audience here in Washington that making illegal aliens take jobs is a part of their punishment for breaking immigration laws.
(BUSH) The simple fact is we are not going to deport 11 million people, We should give them a path to legal status, where they work, they don't receive government benefits, where they don't break the law, where they learn English, and where they make a contribution to our society. That's what we need to be focused on.
Essentially, Bush was answering Hannity in the same way that Pres. Obama's nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch, answered Sen. Jeff Sessions when he asked who should have priority for U.S. jobs -- illegal immigrants or U.S. citizens and legal immigrants already here. Lynch refused to say Americans have first right to the jobs and went on to indicate that if somebody is in this country illegally she wants them to be holding a job and working.
Lynch and Bush showed no sensitivity for what it is like for tens of millions of working-age Americans who do not have a job, or what that level of UNproductivity might be doing to the nation as a whole.
And it gets worse.
Both Lynch and Bush are in favor of giving work permits to millions of illegal aliens which means they not only get to keep the jobs they have but they get to compete for every new U.S. job that opens up at every level.
At least under the status quo, illegal foreign workers are unable to access the majority of jobs in America. Under the Lynch and Bush vision for America, every American would have to compete with illegal aliens for any job that becomes available.
In Bush's answers to Hannity, he indicated some respect for the essential requirement of securing U.S. borders:
(BUSH) A great country needs to enforce borders for national security purposes, public health purposes, and the rule of law. First and foremost we have to do that.
But note that he didn't say the borders need to be secure to protect the interests of economically vulnerable Americans, something that a number of Supreme Court rulings have stated is the primary reason for immigration laws.
Bush did speak against Chain Migration but then undercut the value of reducing all that unnecessary and harmful foreign labor by suggesting that the country has some kind of labor shortage..
(BUSH) . . . we need a narrow family petitioning so that it's the same as every other country, spouses and minor children, not this broad definition of spouse, minor children, adult siblings and adult parents, that crowds out what we need, which are economic driven immigrants. Those who come here to work, to invest in their dreams in this country, to create opportunities for all of us, and that's what we need to get to.
Bush had a strong answer to the border surge last year of Central Americans, saying "they should have been sent home at the border" to send a message to stop the dangerous journeys.
In the end, though, Bush showed the cluelessness of much of the national Republican establishment that when the Republican Party appeals to the needs of working-class voters -- as in 2010 and 2014 -- it wins, and when it appears to be primarily the party of the privileged it loses. Telling the unemployed of America to be patient and wait for him to enlarge the pie while he confers improved job status on millions of illegal aliens does not sound like a 2010 or 2014 message.
ROY BECK is President & Founder of NumbersUSA
Updated: Sun, Mar 15th 2015 @ 6:50pm EDT