L.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.