Sunday, January 11, 2004

Sometimes We Feel Like Illegal Immigrants Too

Overheard on today's McLaughlin Group ... President Bush, in calling for a massive new temporary program covering illegal aliens working in the U.S. ("undocumented workers"), is pandering more to big business than to the Latino vote ... though he's certainly also pandering to the Latino vote, one of two main groups targeted by Karl Rove for boosting Bush's reelection numbers. (The other big pandered-to group are born-again Christians, who've got to come out in even bigger numbers this fall, Rove has decided. Rove needs a substantial boost in the Latino vote, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona, California and a few other states.)

How is Bush's "compassionate conservative" plan for illegal workers a sop to big business? Because his proposal would allow illegals who have jobs already to continue to work for a three-year period -- with another three-year extension allowed if specific jobs are still available to them. That plan pretty much puts Wal-Mart and other big corporations in charge of immigration policy.

Wal-Mart and other corporations have not been happy recently being outed for using platoons of illegals to do their scut work. Their cleaning crews were in the news recently, busted by the INS.

So Karl Rove, Bush's Brain, gets the best of all worlds ... he gets Bush out front saying how concerned he is about the "plight" of undocumented workers (and he gets his possible boost among Hispanic voters) while pandering to the corporate guys who want and need and will gladly accept a virtually permanent underclass to do their cleaning.

What illegal worker, under Bush's plan, would ever complain about work conditions? Wouldn't happen, since it'll be the employers who hold all the keys to that worker's continued residency in the U.S.

Pat Buchanan in particular was livid about Bush's plans today on the McLaughlin Group (not so much because of the creation of a permanent breed of service workers with second-class status but because ole Pat gets his pulse racing at the thought of a border without walls, with a bunch of brown-skinned people coming freely across it). But Eleanor Clift scoffed at him: "You love Bush, and you'll still vote for him!"

Tied to Bush's initiative on immigration were the devastating figures that came out last Friday on (legal) employment. The administration was so certain those figures were going to be good that they planned for a big unveiling in Washington, with Bush flanked "by a phalanx of women entrepreneurs" and a billboard covered with the word "Jobs!" But he ended up saying little about jobs, because the news was stunningly bad. Job creation in December was virtually nil (about 1,000 new jobs, sum total), and they could show only a modest improvement in the unemployment rate only because the labor force shrank by 309,000 workers last month, many of whom had simply become too discouraged to keep looking for work.

Since Bush took office we've had a net loss of more than two million jobs. But corporate profits have shot up. The Stock Market has come back. Happy Days Here Again? But employment -- except for illegal aliens -- remains flat. In other words, companies are squeezing more output from each worker while keeping their wages stagnant.

Pretty soon we'll all be in that permanent breed of service workers with second-class status. It's the Republican dream-world!

(There's much reading out there on this subject. But you can take a look at the New York Times' article about the dismal jobs report last Friday. And Maria Echaveste's essay on Bush's immigration initiative.)

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