Walking In L.A. - Ankle Deep In Red Ink
There are times when the ills of the world hit too close to home. One such hit me in the face today, courtesy of one of the local papers:
Two working adults with two kids need $68,918 a year to get by in a region that includes San Bernardino County, according to a report released today.
The median income for the region is $55,650. A two-parent family with one employed parent would need $49,426 annually. A single parent would need an income of $51,619 and a single adult $25,845.
The California Budget Project, which issued the report [PDF], says that's how much is required to meet basic needs: rent, utilities, child care, food, taxes and other core expenses. Many families double up or live with other family members. No cell phones, no vacations, no luxuries.
The cost-of-living report combines San Bernardino County with Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties because of similar living costs. Not surprisingly, transportation costs in the region for all the family types surpass the state average. The federal poverty standard is a major target, Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, said.
I can attest that expenses are high here, and I make more than 90% of the nation's workers just from my primary employment. I don't however, feel that my tax burden is so onerous that I'm willing to support Der Governator's petty tyranny aimed at destroying democratic governance, so let's not go there.
But for 'just folks', the costs of living are heavy - and their options are diminishing.
Sure, as cited above, apparent costs are much more than people earn. Doing without is becoming a way of life.
One thing they do without anymore is privacy in the home. I have a neighbor living across the street from me who has opened his house to at least 10 other working adults to pay the mortgage on a house that sold earlier this year for $300,000. It's only three bedroom, and they are using the garage as a dorm, but the balance of the house seems to be community property. I can only surmise that they aren't earning very much - are there are children to support living there.
Wages typically are held down by a surplus of labor. We saw the reverse around 1998, when starting wages being offered to attract workers rose above minimum. The reaction from the corporate world was swift, and faster than you can say '[Cheney] Tom DeLay!', all of a sudden we had Alan Greenspan engineering a recession to 'keep inflation (read: real living wages) down' to protect the corporate bottom line.
Ever since, this has been the norm for Americans who work for a living:
The analysis of the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau finds that Hispanics maintained their role as a primary force of change in the labor market in 2004. The demand for immigrant labor remains high and the economy created jobs for nearly one million more foreign-born Latinos.
The fall in wages for Latinos was greatest among immigrants who arrived in the United States in the past five years. Thus, the new immigrants who are enjoying significant growth in employment are doing so at the expense of lower wages. Despite strong demand for immigrant workers, their growing supply and concentration in certain occupations suggests that the newest arrivals are competing with each other in the labor market to their own detriment.
This competition carries over to those of us who are citizens have have to accept lower wages because the employers are actively getting away with flooding the labor market with cheap foreign workers:
Demand for Latino workers, especially recently arrived immigrants, is driving the revitalization of the U.S. labor market, but the hiring surge has not translated into wage growth. A comparison of the first quarter of 2003 to the first quarter of 2004 shows that the economy added a net total of 1.3 million new jobs. Non-citizens captured 378,496 or 28.5 percent of those jobs. The proportion of new jobs captured by non-citizens was also much larger than their share of overall employment (8.6 percent). As a result, median wages for Latinos have not only slipped backwards in recent years on an absolute basis but also in comparison to the national median wage.
One would think that one's government was intended to protect you the citizen, but isn't it clear that the citizen is what the government is protecting FROM? Why else would there be this situation:
Utah seeing boom in illegal immigrants
Numbers are increasing despite increased security
Illegal immigrants to the United States are increasing but are shunning states with large immigrant communities such as New York and California and moving to states like Utah with smaller foreign-born populations, according to a new report.
New growth states — those in the Southeast, Midwest and Mountain West — saw 23 percent of new immigration during the 1999 to 2000 peak, compared with 19 percent in the initial period. By 2004, 25 percent of new immigrants went to new growth states.
Border security gained national attention last month after the governors of Arizona and New Mexico declared states of emergency on their borders with Mexico. The governors cited security shortcomings by the federal government. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at the time that he had already ordered a review of border security strategy.
Chertoff had this to say:
[W]e must gain full control of our borders to prevent illegal immigration and security breaches. Flagrant violation of our borders undercuts respect for the rule of law and undermines our security. It also poses a particular burden to those in our border communities.
We now return to our regularly linked article:
"The Pew report is yet another indicator that the immigration system is broken," said a statement by John Cornyn, chairman of the Senate's Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee. "Immigration reform must be comprehensive and address both enforcement and improved avenues for legal immigration."
Hear the deafening silence for similar measures to help unemployed citizens?
The only people losing out are the American citizens with jobs:
a href="http://pewhispanic.org">The Pew Hispanic Center reported Tuesday that immigration in general has been picking up. Illegal immigrants are increasing despite tighter border security and now outnumber foreigners moving to the United States legally. The report also found that since 2001, the number of legal permanent residents entering the country has declined from 578,000 to 455,000, while the number of illegal immigrants has increased from 549,000 to 562,000.
The report said immigration levels closely mirror economic conditions in the United States -- as the economy improves, immigration increases. The U.S. economy appears to be a stronger factor than economic conditions in the countries sending immigrants here, the report said.
Remember - the immigrants are also the ones whose wages are declining in spite of more available jobs. We know that things aren't good for workers outside the United States, but what is gained by making it that way inside the borders of the nation? Such is the motivation for the Minutemen, whose members 'assist' the Border Patrol in protecting the borders.
Certainly, they need all the help they can get when their top official resigns. But not everyone thinks that the Minutemen are the answer. Vermont and Cameron County, Texas have told the Minutemen to stay home, and even Arnold blandly bounces their assistance offer aside.
This situation is only going to get worse:
Hispanic Trends 2005: A People in Motion
Pew Hispanic Center
The current wave of immigrants has turned Latinos into this nation's largest minority group. At the end of 2004, 40.4 million Hispanics lived in this country, 14 percent of the total U.S. population.
Latinos are now not only the nation's fastest-growing minority group, but also its largest. Latino immigrants have birth rates twice as high as those of the rest of the U.S. population, foretelling a sharp increase ahead in the percentage of Latinos who will be in schools and the work place. Between now and 2020, Latinos are expected to account for about half the growth of the U.S. labor force.
While representing 50% of the labor force, it can be demonstrated that they aren't representing 50% of the earned wages:
Current Hispanic Population (2004) 40,424,528 Hispanics in Labor Force 19,501,923 Hispanics in School (K-12) 8,416,000 Median Net Worth (2002) $7,932 Percent in Poverty (2004) 22.5%
Complete Report [PDF]
We aren't talking about the stereotypical tomato-picking jobs that immigrants are taking - you know, the one's 'no American wants to do'. We're talking about the good-paying jobs Americans are trying to hold on to:
The Sacbee (Michael Doyle) notes that the newer immigrants favor higher-paying construction jobs [subscription]; hence agriculture is demanding more immigration.
They will get their way, as the people who are coming here aren't just Mexicans:
The Border Patrol calls them OTMs -- Other Than Mexicans. Along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, the capture of OTMs went up 175 percent last year. They are Brazilians, Central Americans and migrants from other countries and regions that sneak into the United States, mostly through Mexico.
OTMs in El Paso are mostly Central Americans and Brazilians, but there are a growing number of Burmese, Indonesians and Africans, immigration lawyers reported. [T]here are also migrants from "special-interest" countries, a government classification for countries that have harbored terrorists, such as Eritrea, Turkey, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq. Nationally, Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora said, 644 migrants from "special-interest" countries were apprehended by his agency last year. Border Patrol officials declined to give numbers for El Paso.
Mexican nationals still make up 96 percent of all undocumented immigrants caught in the El Paso sector, but OTM numbers have jumped 225 percent in the past five years, from 1,393 in 2000 to 4,527 in 2005. The total number of apprehensions has decreased by 1.45 percent, from 115,758 in 2000 to 114,076 in 2005.
"The exponential growth in the apprehension of OTM illegal entrant aliens and, in most cases, their subsequent release, is becoming a major source of clogging and friction for the removal process," Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said during testimony before U.S. Senate subcommittees on terrorism and immigration in July.
Unlike the hundreds of Mexican immigrants who are deported every week in El Paso, these migrants can't just be dropped off at the Paso del Norte Bridge and told to walk back into Mexico. Many are simply released into the United States -- a fact that some see as an alarming breach of homeland security. Over the years, some cases have raised alarm.
Algerian Samir Abdoun, for instance, was caught entering California from Mexico with a French passport in 1998, according to federal court records. He was released and failed to show at his 1999 asylum hearing. He wasn't arrested until Sept. 22, 2001, after immigration agents learned he had met for coffee several times with two of the hijackers that took part in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Abdoun was deported last year.
I feel SO safe now!
Some observers see no end in sight:
Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates stricter enforcement of immigration laws, said researchers at Pew 'sliced the data really thin'. He completed a similar study last year but found a different conclusion: that when the economy slowed, the total number of immigrants in the country did not. "The evidence I see using broader measures doesn't show that kind of sensitivity to the economy," he said. "When you try to compare just a few years, you often get a misleading picture."
But there is no way to refute the clear evidence of this:
One has to wonder how well this is going to play in the Red States.
And they wonder why consumer confidence fell so much recently!
That immigrants are flooding into the nation - ven though their wages keep getting cut - certainly has a cachet that appeals to conservative employers, but there is a much more effective - and far less costly - approach that saves employers money while hurting employees worse than low-wages: NO WAGES.
Poverty - that's what all Americans with jobs are facing in light of this employment situation.
Stil glad you voted for George W. Bu$h?
Copyrighted [©] source material contained in this article is presented under the provisions of Fair Use.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.