It Ain't Easy Finding Truth

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By Maria Fotopoulos

Maria is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow who focuses on the impacts of growth on biodiversity. Find her on Twitter | in | FB.

The writer’s views are her own.


 

September 12, 2012

Prior to Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) running for a U.S. Senate seat, and during the initial TARP period when she was getting much attention for speaking directly about what brought about the financial meltdown and what needed to be addressed in terms of accountability and transparency, I became a fan.

But Warren’s speech at the Democratic National Convention last week furthered my belief that once folks become politicians, they stop telling the truth. The Christian Science Monitor took issue with some parts of her speech. I particularly take issue with her incomplete picture on the workforce.

Warren said, “For many years, our middle-class has been chipped, squeezed and hammered.” Yes, this is absolutely true. She then said, “Talk to the construction worker I met from Malden, Massachusetts, who went nine months without finding work.”

What the Senate hopeful did not mention was that there are an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants in the workforce across the country. And in Warren’s Massachusetts, FAIR (the Federation for American Immigration Reform), estimates that nearly 136,000 jobs are held by illegal workers. According to some estimates, 15 percent of construction workers are illegal immigrants. Put another way, that’s about 1 of 7 construction workers.

It’s popular for defenders of illegal immigration to trot out the tired line, “Immigrants are doing the jobs Americans don’t want to do.” But I have no doubt any interested reporter could crisscross the country and talk with hundreds – thousands – of U.S. citizens who work construction, or have worked construction, and talk about how illegal workers have taken jobs and undercut U.S. wages in this industry.

Documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch of “They Come to America” fame in fact was inspired to do his film by one such construction worker. Lynch routinely traveled a New York road on which Tom Wedell, an unemployed roofer, had been protesting illegal immigration for years because of its impact on jobs.

Another reference to construction workers without work was made by President Obama last week in his DNC acceptance speech. He said he didn’t believe that “rolling back regulations on Wall Street … would help the laid-off construction worker keep his home.” Again, we certainly didn’t hear anything about how 20 years of mass illegal immigration have killed jobs for American construction workers. Of course, we wouldn’t expect to hear this from a President who through an executive order has deferred deportation of millions in the country illegally, given them the opportunity to work legally and basically paves the path to citizenship for them.

We also didn’t hear from the President that government policies – put forth by both Democrats and Republicans through several administrations – helped drive the building boom and housing bubble – further luring illegal workers to construction.

But, back to Warren. She went on to say in her DNC speech, “People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down the billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries …”

Well, she’s right about the system rigging. But she neglected to point her fingers at government which has played a major role in creating a business environment conducive to outsourcing jobs, allowing millions of people to come into the country illegally, stay and work, and maintaining a legal immigration policy that doesn’t match the reality of the current American workforce – unemployed to the tune of 23 million people.

Obama also said to the DNC that that government isn’t the source of all our problems. But with U.S. debt at $16 trillion (or maybe as much as $200 trillion) and somewhere between $121 and $200 trillion in unfunded obligations (does not include unfunded liabilities of states) – against total national assets of perhaps $50 trillion – I’d say the government is a pretty major source of our problems.

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