No, You Can’t Leave Salary Out of “Jobs Gringos Won’t Do”


It’d be edifying for an interviewer to sit down with a columnists like Mark Patinkin and really explore his beliefs about economics.  I get Patinkin’s perspective in his column today about the jobs that illegal immigrants do, but his economic analysis is off:

…  it’s not because of the pay. He does start new laborers at $10 an hour, but those who stick it out can soon build up to $18, plus time-and-a-half for overtime. Many of his Hispanic workers now make $40,000-plus a year.

I asked Dave if he’s ever had U.S.-born laborers work their way to that level.

“No, I have not.” He can barely remember any lasting more than a week. …

“Because they come from dangerous countries where there isn’t much work,” said Dave, “and they can make money here.” And the work they’re used to back home is hard — mostly construction, masonry and agriculture.

Simply put, it is because of the pay.  Compared with other options that American workers have, $10 to $18 per hour is too low for the work that these employers have on offer.  If Americans can make, say, the six-figure incomes of state laundry workers or if they figure out that they have to make $69,000 or more annually for it to be worth making over $29,000, given the “welfare cliff” of government benefits, then tough, monotonous work will have to pay that much.

Sure, Northeastern farms would have a tough time competing if they had to pay $35 per hour to attract workers, but what other laws do we tolerate employees and employers conspiring to break because government has undermined our economy?  How ’bout some sympathetic articles about businesses that pay their employees under the table so as to avoid minimum wages, mandatory tax withholdings, mandatory health benefits, and all the rest?

When prices go up, government steps in to treat it as gouging or to find some other means to force prices down or give consumers subsidies.  When workers feel like they have to work harder than they’d like, politicians discover a constituency to command that businesses artificially raise wages.  When the economy isn’t creating enough jobs, government takes more money out of it to pay for non-work.

This has all gotten to the point that employers declare that they have no other choice but to import labor that gets to live outside of the rules because it serves the progressive identity politics of the day.

Insulting “gringos” as too lazy for this sort of work is far too simple, and frankly, I’m surprised that Patinkin didn’t pause over the repeated use of a disparaging term in his column and rethink his thesis.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Japan has a similar problem. The average farmer is over 60, so they are “robotizing” agriculture. Australia has a machine that builds brick houses. I suspect we will shortly have more factory built houses. What to we do with all of these “workers” then,