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Jon Coupal- Columnist

Jon Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go to Coupal index]

American Taxpayers Are Willing to Work Hard
Overwhelmed by illegal immigrants?...
[Jon Coupal] 9/10/04

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles recently announced that they would hire 3,000 new dockworkers for temporary jobs. Despite the common knowledge that the work is hard, there are more than a quarter million applicants. Indeed, so many people have applied that those being hired are being selected by a lottery system.

So what is the attraction? Simple -- the pay and benefits. Initially, these jobs pay from $20.66 to $28 per hour and, better yet, those who are employed will have the opportunity to move on to permanent work and a possible six-figure income.

Suppose for a moment that these jobs didn't lead to annual pay of over a hundred thousand dollars but instead only $60,000. It is still a good bet that people would be lining up around the block to apply. Even at $40,000 or less, there are many who would gladly take this work, considering that the average entry-level wage in Los Angeles County is $8.38.

There are many hard jobs we are told that Americans will not accept. This is raised as a justification for the hiring of illegal immigrants or in support of a "guest worker" program. For jobs washing dishes, or cars, or gardening or picking produce, often the pay is minimum wage or less. It is hard to determine what the typical pay is for some jobs because they are part of the underground economy where workers are paid in cash.

We are told by the same apologists for a system that encourages the employment of undocumented workers that the low wages help to keep prices down for consumers. But there is a hidden cost to taxpayers that they are hesitant to discuss.

No matter how one feels about minimum wage laws or the underground economy, there is little disagreement that illegal immigrants, who make much less than Wal-Mart employees, are overwhelming public services in places like Los Angeles County. Property owners in the county are now paying an additional tax specifically to prop up the trauma care system, nearly half of whose clients are undocumented aliens.

Public services throughout the state are under pressure because low-paid illegal immigrants rely on these services -- including education -- in numbers proportionally greater than the general population. In short, it is the taxpayers who end up paying to subsidize the low wage jobs of the undocumented.

A recent television show suggested that without illegal immigrants, the nation would face a recession. But would we?

No one is suggesting that government mandate a six figure income for dishwashers. But if we stopped importing an underclass willing to take starvation wages for hard or unpleasant work, market forces would force the pay rate up to a level American workers would accept. These wages would be declared for tax purposes and these wages would be spent here in the U.S. instead of being sent home, as is often the case with undocumented workers. The result would be more jobs and income for Americans while this "above the table" economic activity would produce additional revenue for government. Pressure on social services would decline.

Yes, without an illegal immigrant labor force the price of a hamburger might go up a dime, but it is just as likely that the reduction in the tax burden would more than compensate for any increase in consumer prices. CRO

copyright 2004 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association


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