This is not a blog about domestic agriculture policy, nor is a blog about politics. But mental gymnastics create the necessary link between Stephen Colbert’s address to the House subcommittee on immigration and the main theme of this blog, poverty alleviation in the developing world. I enjoyed this clip, not only because I harbor not a small amount of contempt for politicians in general and, in particular, the U.S. congress, but also because it is a good lesson in the cognitive dissonance of supporting free market principles and toughness on immigration.
In short, migrant workers will work for less at harder jobs than most Americans. That is true in the U.S. and outside the U.S. If migrant workers cannot come to the U.S. to work on U.S. farms, then U.S. farms will move to where labor is cheapest: the home countries of migrant workers. Putting on the blinders and ignoring the fact that migrant workers are currently lowering prices (or at least making farmers richer) by reducing production costs is like anti-free market. Over to Colbert:
“So what’s the answer? Now I’m a free market guy. Normally I would leave this to the invisible hand of the market, but the invisible hand of the market has already moved 84,000 acres of production and 22,000 farm jobs to Mexico and shut down over a million acres of U.S. farmland due to lack of available labor. Because apparently, even the invisible hand doesn’t want to pick beans.”
When this principle is applied to trade, it is called protectionism, a policy diametrically opposed to the concept of free trade and a pro-market approach in general. So even though seasonal migrant farm workers increase revenue to the U.S. government by keeping U.S. farms in the U.S. and theoretically lower costs to the consumer at the grocery store (or raise profits for the increasingly consolidated corporate farms), increasing disposable income and strengthening the economy through consumer spending (the theory behind tax cuts, also supported by those in favor counter-intuitive tough immigration policies) and make our agricultural exports more competitive in global markets, the free-marketeers are opposed to them because they take American jobs.
Jason “What a Chafe” Chaffetz, a first-term Republican member of the House from Utah, had this to say about Colbert’s appearance:
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who has appeared twice on Colbert’s show and lost “leg wrestling” matches to the comedian, also disapproved. “I am on the subcommittee, but this was a joke,” he posted on Twitter. “He is the best fake newscaster, so if Dems want a fake hearing, I guess he is the right guy.”
Yes, a fake hearing. On Chaffetz’s website, he has page devoted to detailing his stance on immigration (my emphasis in bold):
Most illegal aliens are good, hard working, decent people who have made a significant contribution to our country and our economy, but it often comes at an incalculable expense of other resources and jobs. We can accept that people are often simply trying to improve their lives for themselves and their families, but we should reject exploitation and return to the rule of law.
Know who else subscribes to this line of reasoning? Labor unions. One would assume that a congressman who considers himself a Republican’s Republican who supports “fiscal discipline” and “limited government would adopt a traditionally conservative view on labor policy, but this isn’t the case. Why? He is either not smart enough to recognize the fact that the two stances are fundamentally inconsistent, or he is a liar or, as some might call it, a fake. Considering Chaffetz’s biggest donors are labor unions, I am calling bullshit and going with the latter.
I am neither a Democrat nor Republican, but I am anti-bullshit, which is why I like this video. The arguments against immigration are inconsistent with the principles of the free market. Therefore, politicians who favor free market principles and also in favor of tough immigration policies are hypocritical liars. Adopting a sensible immigration policy would provide jobs to seasonal migrant workers (this is how I tie the post into the theme of this blog) and simultaneously benefit the U.S. economy by creating a fundamentally free market labor system in our agriculture industry.
I think all politicians are liars, not because that is their nature (though usually this is the case), but because the system makes them become liars. How else do you hold together Karl Rove’s political alliance of anti-immigration culture-war voters and wealthy free-market champions? You lie and support two counter-intuitive policies that contradict one another, and hope that no one calls bullshit. Stephen Colbert – a “fake newscaster” – just called bullshit.