My Response to a former Berniebot

libertyL.M. has informed our local Bernie for President! group that she will no longer support Bernie Sanders because of his humane vision for the foreign victims of globalization, imperialism, and anthropogenic global warming who are trying to flee to our shores. Her point is that an increased labor supply means a decrease in salaries. While there is truth to this supposition there is also much that is false or misleading about it.

In the America of “free trade”, courtesy of the Clintons and Barack Obama as much as Republicans, American workers are already competing directly with Asian and Latin American laborers. This is the case whether the latter are in their home countries or the United States. If Asian and Latino immigrants are getting paid in the United States, then they will be spending the bulk of their wages – from Apple, GM, or Walmart – here, and our economy will benefit. If they are spending the bulk of their wages – from Apple, GM, or Walmart – in China or Mexico, then the Chinese or Mexican economy will reap the biggest benefit.

The historical record speaks loudly that America as a whole benefits when we embrace refugees from other countries. They are often in the vanguard of emerging industries – think Hollywood at the beginning of the last century and tech at the end of it and the beginning of this one – and the micro-economies that spring up in immigrant communities tend to lead to a higher standard of living for all.

Last but not least, there is a much psychic value living in a land that truly welcomes the parents and grandparents of the next generation of Americans just as it welcomed many of our parents and grandparents.

Bernie Sanders supports a $15 living wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and increased protection for labor unions. He rejects job-destroying multi-national trade agreements. He favors free public higher-education, medicare for all, and a much tighter safety net. The benefits of these policies to poor, working, and middle-income Americans would far outweigh the real harm to some Americans caused by increased competition from foreign-born workers.

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2 Responses to My Response to a former Berniebot

  1. Shade says:

    Who the heck is L.M.? And from the way you phrase it, what was she ever doing in the local “Bernie for President!” group anyway? L.M. sounds more like she’d be a better fit in the reactionary Trump camp.

    That said, if Bernie does get the Democratic nomination, he is going to need to appeal those in the Trump camp that are politically disaffected. It is therefore critically important that Bernie (and we as his supporters) phrase his political rationales clearly in ways that are easy for simple minds to understand (not that I would phrase it to them this way).

    In addition to your excellent point about Americans already being in competition with foreign workers, one should consider that accepting 60,000 from Syria is perhaps in the range of increasing existing immigration by 10%. Assuming all would get jobs within the first year, this would consume less than 5% of our current annual job growth. Then if we consider the language barrier & the fact that in most cases were are talking about families, the hit to the job market and any effect on wages would be negligible.

    The bigger impact to our economy would be the time-limited (7-year) Supplementary Security Income (SSI) that many would initially qualify for (a Federal benefit of up to $733/mo, paid for from general tax revenues & not the SS Trust Funds). There would also be the cost of food stamps and medical coverage. However, if we factor into the equation that it was George Bush’s enforced regime change in Iraq followed by Obama’s initial hands-off approach against both ISIL and Assad’s barrel bombing that resulted in this humanitarian catastrophe, and I think it is hard to argue (from an economic standpoint) against the immigration of some Syrians.

    The harder case to argue is that we might let in a terrorist or two. While this could conceivably happen, I would argue that it is much easier to enter this country as a visitor than as a refugee. Unlike refugees that must go through an extended vetting process, it is relatively easy to get a visitor’s visa. Once in the U.S., many overstay and cannot be found. The 911 terrorists all entered the U.S. as visitors or students, and most of these terrorists were legally present at the time of the attacks. In addition it should be considered that ISIL relies heavily on the recruitment of foreign fighters and on the financial support it derives from the internet. We are in bigger danger of a terrorist attack from those already present and disaffected being exposed to such propaganda than we are from vetted immigrants entering with preconceived terrorist ideas. There is comparatively little checking on the movement of U.S. citizens, and unfortunately, it is incredibly easy for most to get assault type weapons and ammunition.

    Bernie also needs to make his case to Trump supporters that he is a Democratic Socialist, not a Socialist. As Bernie says, “I don’t believe government should own the means of production or take over the grocery store down the street, but I do believe that the middle class & the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal”. A true socialist believes that the government or workers should own virtually all the means of production, so Bernie Bernie should disclaim being a true Socialist.

    What Bernie has done by defining himself as a Democratic Socialist is to co-opt the “S” word that throughout U.S. history has often been (incorrectly) applied by detractors to those with Progressive political ideas. Bernie then combines the “S” word with a derivative of the word democracy. What Bernie means by the term Democratic Socialist is that it is citizens that should hold the reins of power in the U.S., not the international corporations that currently hold inordinate power, and that the people deserve a fair share of the nation’s wealth. Bernie’s actual leanings toward true Socialism are rather meager, such as his belief that we should allow the U.S. Post Office to enter into banking (primarily for those that are currently unbanked, that cannot get loans at reasonable rates, or that cannot even cash their payroll check without incurring an unconscionable fee). In addition, Bernie is in favor of Medicare for all, but again his is a rather moderate approach compared to most developed countries – the Medicare system is in reality far from a single payer system. (If anybody is interested I can expound on that topic – or you can also see my take on this in a relatively recent (11/19/15) TalkBack post.)

    Bernie also needs to avoid being sloppy in stating his position on anthropogenic climate change and why he feels this needs to be a primary political/economic consideration. Bernie needs to avoid making simplistic statements (as he just did) such “to hell with the fossil fuel industry”. What people care most about is jobs & their family’s economic well-being. If Bernie argues that increased use of renewable energy makes for more and better jobs and an improved economy it is one thing. If he instead seemingly tells people they can’t use the energy they need to get to their jobs or to heat & run their homes, he is asking for instant political fallout.

    Bernie also needs to be careful that he puts the blame for the current situation in the Mid-East squarely on George W Bush’s shoulders where it belongs. If it can be inferred that Bernie is blaming every world problem on anthropogenic climate change (which to date has been only a minor factor in the Mid-East), he is going to become a laughing stock. It may already be too late, as the political satirists are about to go to town and Bernie will now be hard-pressed to get his actual message out over the din. This is the very same problem I’ve continually complained about when Hal spent the majority of his air-time harping about his belief that we should place a $10/gallon tax on gasoline. Ideas like these – even if valid – are so off-putting to the general public that nothing you say past that point gets heard.

  2. halginsberg says:

    L.M. is or was a member of a Maryland group of Bernie supporters. She emailed to the group that she could no longer support Bernie because he supported rights for immigrants. I posted my response to her and the group.

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