On Sunday, the Information Center published a 573-word story, accompanied by many graphic and break-out doo-dads, asking: "Will SB 1070 help or hurt the economy." The lede: "Arizona's new immigration law will likely affect a sizable swath of the state's economy, but experts are uncertain whether it will bring overall economic gains or end up scarring the state with losses." I know one thing: These kind of shallow stories are among the many self-inflicted wounds killing journalism. Oh, I forgot, Gannett doesn't do journalism, it is an "information broker."
An old hand once told me, "Immigration isn't the most difficult dilemma facing America. It's worse." It is a result of Americans' insatiable addiction to cheap labor. But it is part of a far more complex set of phenomena involving a Third World nation bordering the First World superpower; globalization's destruction of Mexico's peasant economy; mass migrations on a scale never before seen on an overpopulated planet; corporate greed amid a worldwide glut of labor, and billions of poor living without hope but primed for instability and extremism. The topic deserves at least the kind of sophisticated work done early last decade by The Arizona Republic with the "Dying to Work" series.
The overwhelming evidence is that SB 1070 will be a net economic loser for a state already in a depression. The most comprehensive national work on the public costs of illegals vs. their output for the economy has been done by UCLA's Raul Hinojosa. The verdict: The aliens are a net positive. Nowhere is this more true than Arizona. The anti-immigrant bill is already dearly costing the crucial tourism industry from boycotts. Its explicit political extremism will deter capital formation and investments by quality corporations. To the extent that it causes an exodus of illegal immigrants, it will further erode the tax base, for those aliens pay a disproportionate share of their incomes to Arizona's regressive tax system. Most will stay, even deeper in the shadows and out of the mainstream, adding to the state's lost human capital and talent. Most important is this: No low-wage, easily exploitable migrant labor force, no Growth Machine.
I know this isn't what even some Rogue readers want to hear. The majorities that supposedly support SB 1070 are living through the worst economic conditions of their lives. Many apparently believe that if illegal immigration were stopped, they would find jobs as pharmacists, computer programmers and accountants — and at rising wages. It's unclear if they would be willing to work for $5 an hour framing houses, laboring atop 140-degree rooftops or picking lettuce. In reality, illegal immigration alone plays a small role in the diminishing fortunes of the American middle class. An unemployment crisis where five people are chasing every job. Too much legal immigration — maybe. Corporate greed, offshoring of jobs, the hollowing out of the manufacturing economy — definitely.
How would one seriously address these concerns? 1) Unions, which would bargain for higher wages and most of whom have little incentive to include cheap non-citizens among their ranks; this would require Card Check and the undoing of decades of anti-labor laws and NLRB rulings. 2) Universal health care. 3) A living wage for all citizens (as President Nixon proposed). 4) Higher taxes on the rich and actual taxes on corporations to fund job-creating 21st century infrastructure and the education to ensure economic mobility. 5) Surcharges on offshore labor and an end to any tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas. 6) New policies on trade to stop the death of American manufacturing and other sectors. 7) Serious antitrust enforcement and ending tax breaks for mergers that kill jobs. 8) Shutting down the Wall Street casino and forcing the capital markets to once again focus on creating new productive businesses and jobs. 9) Policies to rebuild the Mexican economy for the poor and lower-middle-class, rather than for the benefit of multinational corporations.
Of course, all of the above would be anathema to the tea-partiers, "conservatives" and white-right kooks. Hell, they're anathema to President Obama, the best Republican chief executive we've had since George H.W. Bush. It is so much easier to blame the brown people who built the tract house that seemed so affordable, the cheap pool, house cleaning and lawn care, the inexpensive meals at restaurants...
SB 1070 was never meant to be about fixing Arizona's economy. Decades of inattention to building a diverse, high-quality, high-wage economy have produced a disaster. Jan Brewer thinks economic development is appointing a committee. Illegal immigration played a role only in so much as it is connected to a Real Estate Industrial Complex run on the backs of cheap, fearful illegal workers.
The real goals of the bill have been political. First, to give "conservatives" an emotional issue that resonates in desperate times (made so in reality by the right's "free market" policies). Second: voter suppression — keep the legal Hispanic working poor in their place. That's why I call it a Jim Crow law. In the Jim Crow South, the last thing the ruling elites wanted was for all the blacks to leave — who would pick the crops and do menial work? If Russell Pearce could have segregated "Mexican" drinking fountains and waiting rooms, I'm sure he would. But sprawl has already accomplished a soft apartheid in Phoenix. In any event, SB 1070 has succeeded brilliantly at these political goals.
The white-right elites don't want the illegals to leave, either. God, for a newspaper that would document how the East Valley businesses, the Real Estate Industrial Complex and other enablers of the kooks use alien labor. They want them in their place, more afraid, even more easy to exploit. Even more of a target for white-right cruelty.
As for those of you waiting for the mass deportations so you can get a framing job paying $50,000 a year with benes, keep dreaming. Keep hating.