Over-Immigration and the Death of the Middle Class

Modern mass immigration harms all Americans.

As the "Gang of Eight" immigration reform wends its tortuous way through Congress, we're getting a distinct feeling of deja vu.  Wasn't it just a few years ago that the massed forces of the elites on both sides of the aisle tried to ram an amnesty bill down America's throat, only to be defeated under an avalanche of furious voters?  And the economy was immeasurably better in 2007 than it's been at any time under Mr. Obama.

Just like then, anyone who doesn't want full open borders is being pilloried as a racist, nativist, sexist, homophobic Neanderthal.  Just like then, the usual suspects are promenading with scholarly studies showing that being awash in penniless illiterates will somehow make the rest of us as rich as Croesus.  Just like then, the few voices arguing otherwise are being shouted down by pro-immigration advocates both Republican and Democrat.

But much more than in 2007, it is patently obvious to any observer that, overall, immigration is bad for America.  Indeed, it cannot be otherwise, and for very good historical reasons.

Supply, Demand, and Labor Shortages

But... America was built on immigration!  Without immigrants, there wouldn't even be an America!

True.  However, has anything changed since the days of successful mass immigration, as opposed to our modern era of unassimilated division and destructive diversity?  Indeed it has: there is no frontier, and thus we have no use for tired, poor, huddles masses as we did then.

Consider the America of the 1800s through World War 1.  Our nation was growing, and most importantly, there were jobs and land for all.

Half the continent was basically empty.  Our government offered a free homestead to anyone willing to settle way out West.  What's more, it was perfectly practical for one man and his family to move onto an empty plot on Kansas or Dakota, and by dint of hard work, scratch out a living.

This is not to say that the early settlers had it easy; they didn't.  Lots of them died; many failed and moved home.  The saying was, "the cowards never started and the weak died along the way," but history records that there were hundreds of thousands of people who, while they never got rich, at least created a reasonably decent farming life out of nothing more than their bare hands and a few simple tools.

Do you need to know English in order to run a 19th century farm?  No, you don't; plants and animals don't care.  You don't even really need to know how to read in any language, as long as there's some sort of community you can communicate with and who will advise you as to what sort of seeds to plant and when.

To be blunt: historically, America offered a way for totally uneducated, untrained, unsophisticated people to make an independent life if they were willing to work very very hard.

That's why they came here from Europe:  Europe was crowded.  If you had no education or connections, there was no chance of finding anything better than the barest minimum of a life, if even that.

What could an uneducated person with no money do in Europe?  They couldn't farm - all the farmland was long since owned by somebody else already.  Maybe they could work 12 hour days 7 days a week in a factory for starvation wages, but at the slightest peep of protest they'd be out the door and replaced by someone starving on even less.  Europe had more people than it could put to good use, so the value of each individual person was very small.

Compare this to America.  There were factories and sweatshops in the United States, but there was a limit to how stingy and oppressive the owners could be.  If the workers got too ticked off, they could always walk out the door and off to some other employer who'd value them more, or off to the wild frontier to start over.

Of course life was hard in early America, but it truly was a land of opportunity - for all, not just the educated and rich.  The early unions were able to gain a foothold precisely because America didn't have starving masses that could easily take the place of angry workers.  The voting franchise was extended over time to people that owned no property, to blacks, and even to women, precisely because in a giant, mostly empty continent, every person really did matter.

In short: demand for labor in America far outstripped supply.  This led to higher wages and other rewards for workers, thus the famous American Dream.

Going the Wrong Way

For some while now, left-leaning writers have bemoaned the fact that the average American wage today is the same as in the 1980s.  Usually, this is blamed on weak labor unions and not enough taxes on the top 1%.  But that can't be the cause: the top 1% already pay around a third of all Federal tax collections while the bottom half pays nothing on net.

As far as labor unions, yes, some once-unionized manufacturing has moved to states in the South which don't allow union closed-shops.  A whole lot more of it has moved out of the country entirely.  How would stronger unions help?  They'd just drive jobs to China even faster than they are moving now.

No, there's a far more fundamentally obvious and deeply politically-incorrect explanation for American wage stagnation: We have vastly increased the supply of labor without increasing the demand for it, so of course the price of labor has plummeted.

First, starting in the 1970s, women entered into the workforce in droves.  Whether or not this was a good idea is a separate issue; the simple fact is that suddenly there were twice as many willing workers but the same number of people spending money.  Supply increased, demand stayed the same, wages dropped.  The modern American middle class family needs two incomes to provide what one worker was able to do in their grandparents' generation simply because there's more labor available.

Second, and more fixably, we made a policy decision to allow millions of uneducated immigrants.  From the point of view of labor supply, it doesn't matter whether these immigrants are legal or illegal.  All that matters is that they need to eat and want to work.

If there are millions of penniless Mexican peasants willing to work for next to nothing, of course every employer is going to pay them exactly that.  This can't help but drag down wages for the next level up of semi-skilled workers because there's always the threat of giving just a wee bit of training to the unskilled illegal that lets him take his boss' job.

Same for the relationship between the next two levels, and the next, and the next... all the way up until you reach people with unique and difficult-to-duplicate skills, who are much harder to replace and who've not been nearly so harmed by the modern economy.

For any ordinary person in an ordinary job, though, tolerance of mass immigration has turned modern American into something like the Europe our forefathers sought to escape.  For every job there are ten hungry workers willing to do it for less.

There is no frontier where anyone can go to make a life for themselves; from sea to shining sea, our businesses are trapped in a tight web of overregulation and overtaxation making it almost impossible for anyone not well-heeled to make a go.

Right Where They Want Us

So we see that four decades of generally liberal governance, and four+ years of extreme far-leftist governance, have put Americans right where our rulers want us: mired in desperation and insecurity.  Very few people can be assured of having a job tomorrow or of finding a new one, because unlike throughout most of American history, there are many people just as qualified and far more desperate who want your job.  And the foundation of this high demand for jobs is the vast over-immigration - not just illegal immigration, but mass immigration at all when we no longer have a frontier to absorb them.

Now, this isn't to say that all immigration is bad.  We can use all the millionaires and foreign entrepreneurs we can get, and many other countries wiser than us are offering incentives to the well-heeled to come start a business.

But we absolutely do not need any more illiterate peasants; we have plenty of unemployed illiterate peasants of our own, thank you very much, and the only way to let them earn enough money to become more than illiterate peasants is to reduce the supply.  Until we take this simple first step, neither our economy, nor inequality, nor America's unemployment problem are going to get any better.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Immigration.
Reader Comments

I think you've absolutely missed the mark on this one. The reason there is an over supply of labor is because unending government regulation prevents all but the very bravest of entrepreneurs from attempting to create new demand for labor. Who but the most talented would even dare to try creating jobs for these huddled masses? Don't blame the immigrant "oversupply", blame the increasing lack of opportunity for the marginal entrepreneur.

May 23, 2013 9:52 AM

There are various forces at work that pummel us from all sides. First, there is the lie that we are overcrowded. Rhode Island is our most densely populated State, yet about 2/3 of the State is wilderness or farm land.
Travel across this country and see the miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles. I have done it recently, and am amazed that anyone would believe that we are overcrowded.
The various governments have confiscated the land for its own use. We are prevented from visiting the wild lands that the governments of our nation has set aside by implementing the tenets of Agenda 21. That is the agenda of the United Nations, and the New World Order of which Hitler and George H. W. Bush spoke.
If it is illegal, it is illegal and those who commit illegal acts are called criminals. A government that refuses to prosecute criminals is a rogue government, and is promoting anarchy, the precursor to tyranny. Don't confuse the government with the sewer main media of the television and Hollywood with the people in the land.
The original, organic Constitution FOR the United States of America empowered a limited government to exist. It was limited even to the geographical area, and was to be situated outside the United States of America, and it was properly placed in a swamp.
The first 10 amendments called The Bill of Rights, and should probably have been named "A Bill of Further Limitations" put more limits on the government. Try this link for further information: ournaturalrights/the originalthirteenthamendment Peace, Robert Walker

May 23, 2013 10:35 AM


You are absolutely right, the job market continues to shrink relative to the population and demand largely because of over-regulation and government impositions that create paralysis and stagnation.

But discounting the effect that essentially unrestricted immigration has had is to ignore the other half of the supply/demand equation. Just as jobs are not created because of government-sponsored paralysis, the increase in the demand for jobs drives down wages as competition for those jobs becomes tougher and tougher.

Simply put, the political left has decided long ago that Americans as they existed a hundred years ago were arrogant, racist, and far too self-sufficient to bend to the will of their moral superiors, and so they have chosen to dissolve the people and elect another.

By diluting the supply of Americans who might feel responsible for transmitting their birthright onto their own descendants, we are taking on untold millions of those who come here for work, yes, but without bringing any worthwhile tradition or skill with them. Essentially, they are here steal our prosperity while having no understanding where it came from.

If you wish to help these people, then export the traditions and principles that led to our prosperity. Teach them that bribery is not a method by which one conveys one's seriousness, for example. They should learn that equal treatment before the law and respect for the property of others is absolutely essential. These are qualities that are disappearing from our own character. There is no particular reason to bring immigrants of any kind from any place - decades of unchecked swarms besieging the U.S. has done enough damage and we need to achieve equilibrium - and besides that, when the real unemployment is north of 15% and the underemployment rate is even worse, why further depress the job market?

May 23, 2013 11:07 AM

Where to start? We have a dilemma, overcrowded immigrants and no way to get rid of them. That is the hard truth and how to deal with it is the real problem. Yes, we should lock the barn door in order to keep out any more uneducated immigrants and that should be priority one. The ones that are here need a path to citizenship. Many things can be done and most all are against what our rulers won't allow. Step one: only English is taught in the schools. No more press 2 for Spanish. A history lesson on American history on what made us great, freedom and the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. This history lesson needs to be written by Hillsdale College and be a 4 year course that the student pays for out of his pocket in order to become a citizen. They must pass the course or no citizenship. We must have people who understand our culture or we will become another Europe. Will this happen? No, but we should try.

May 23, 2013 12:48 PM


I must confess, I am totally and completely mystified by those who say that those people already here need a 'path to citizenship.'

Why would we want to reward people whose first act in this country was illegal? Why would we reward such people even after the economic chaos they've caused? Why would we put them on a pathway to becoming even greater sponges than they already are? Why would we create an even more powerful magnet for the next wave, just as the '86 Amnesty surely did - despite protestations that it would not? Why would we invite greater economic disruption, drunken driving deaths, demographic destruction, and temptation to /reconquistas/? Why would you cheapen your own (and my!) citizenship in this way?

This truly makes no sense based on the content of the rest of your post. I, too, am infuriated by "para Espanol, marque el dos" but allowing those here who do not belong to stay is amnesty without the name and will only create more of the same. We're dealing with a people a third of which are here to claim goodies, a third of which are here to 'reclaim' ancestral lands, and a third of which are here to work and send money back home.

Most tellingly, I find it interesting that when we reply to cries for amnesty or citizenship by saying Fine, OK, but only if none of those here now are ever permitted to vote, they don't like that very much.

To modify your own analogy, it does little good to lock the chicken coop door when the weasel is already inside.

May 23, 2013 10:25 PM

You shouldn't be mystified, Brother John. Those who say they need a path to citizenship want them to be able to vote. The Democrats have nothing constructive to offer. All they can do is rob working people and pay leeches to vote for them. The real term is, "undocumented Democrats."

This is deliberate. Ted Kennedy was the main sponsor for the original legislation that let them in.

They're deporting themselves as the economy went bad so it can be done. Sherri f Joe is right - make it unpleasant enough, they will go.

Democrats can't stand that - they need the votes.

May 23, 2013 11:15 PM

For some reason the left wingers want to welcome criminals into our country by the millions.
They are criminals. If someone broke into your home and damaged your personal property, I would not be upset, and would forgive them that trespass, but if they broke into my home, I would do my best to kill them before they done any damage. Whether the left wing idiots liked or not.
Peace, Robert Walkere

May 23, 2013 11:15 PM

Brother John,
If I had my way this situation would have never occurred. We can thank the Republicans for allowing this to happen for the most part and Teedy for his role. I am trying to take a pragmatic approach to the disaster that we have on our hands. You will note in my offer of a solution that the illegals have to take a citizenship course created by Hillsdale College and pay for it. This alone would run most of them back to whereever they came from leaving the US the best of the illegals. Yes I know they broke the law but do you really think that we can export 20,000,000 illegals right now with our political climate?

As for the chicken coop analogy don't you want a secure border so this won't happen again? Of course you do. It won't undo what has been done but it will prevent it from happening in the future.

Really Brother, how you think that I would want this situation?

May 24, 2013 1:40 AM

@Jamie -
You are quite right, the amnesty movement is nothing more than a democrat voter registration drive, and it never was; this is why they stick their fingers in their ears when someone compromises with the idea that those granted amnesty may never vote.

@Bassboat -
We are of one mind - this need never have happened. This is a mixture of traitorous behaviour on the part of Democrats and Ted Kennedy in particular, and Republican cowardice on the other. Do I think we can deport x-million illegals in the current climate? No, my friend, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Anything short of that invites a greater invasion.

California used to be a Republican outpost; since the 1986 amnesty, it went Democrat and never looked back. Texas is the next objective. While I of course care little for party politics, the need for an opposition party of some sort is desperate, and allowing that many welfare recipients and non-English speakers to stick around and vote is party suicide first, and national suicide second.

I'm not sure where people got the idea that persons outside our borders have any right to come here, but if we are to survive, that has to stop yesterday. Citizens should expect that their rights and property are jealously guarded by their government and that their nation is feared by the rest of the world; unfortunately, the opposite is true. Foreigners understand that the more hostile and belligerent they are, the friendlier the American government will be to them, and citizens now fear for their rights and property.

Never mind polls that say that 60-something percent would like to see this 'path to citizenship' -- I'm convinced that this is as high as it is because people fear the 'racist' label, and for that, I'm equally as sure that most illegals care about citizenship only inasmuch as it earns them more free stuff.

May 24, 2013 7:28 AM

Petrarch, you nailed it.

May 24, 2013 1:08 PM

@John - it's all about free stuff. That is why the PR's favor statehood - they'd get more and more free stuff at our expense.

May 24, 2013 3:30 PM

We are far from overcrowded. Rhode Island is the most densely populated State in the Union, and it is 2/3 either wildlands or farms. Do the math on this before denying it. If every human being on the planet were to be placed in Texas, you're nearest neighbor would be 20 feet away in any direction. The rest of the planet would be void of human beings. That is far from overcrowded. It is an illusion brought to you by the New World Order crowd. Crowded cities are shown on television and in the movies, and then news reports of overcrowding are made.
The people from other countries who come here today, create the ghettos they left. It is not an improvement on their lives, nor on ours. It is estaimated that 30% of the Federal prison population are illegals. At a cost of $63.00 per day, they are an expensive lot.
Secure the borders and every time an illegal alien is caught, deport him or her immediately with confiscation of their property and money. They will quit coming here, or trying to come here. Peace, Robert Walker

May 24, 2013 7:10 PM

Excellent remarks from Robert Walker.

May 24, 2013 7:40 PM

Thanks Ifon. Its good to get some agreement. Either we're both crazy or both sane. And please don't clarify that. Peace, Robert Walker21,904

May 24, 2013 7:49 PM

A few years ago when I read some what I considered a stupid report about the world getting overpopulated I started doing a little study of my own. RW's comment is spot on. If you accept the premise that on average a 4 foot square piece of land could allow a person to stand on it without infringing on another person's 4 foot square then I think the figures are correct. You could take the entire world's population and put them in Rhode Island. That kinds puts the overpopulation blather to bed. For those of you scratching your head 1 acre = 43,560 square feet or 10,890 people. 1 Square mile = 640 acres or 6,696,600 people. Number of square miles in Rhode Island = 1,214 square miles x 6,696,600 people = 8,461,094,400 people. Another example of someone doing a study without a lick of common sense.

May 25, 2013 2:14 AM

It isn't the immigration that is so upsetting, it is the illegal that is so upsetting. Suddenly, criminal activity is not considered criminal.
Eating in a restaurant is something I don't do much any more, because I want to know that the cook and the server passed the health test honestly.
About 15 years ago at a Casino restaurant in Las Vegas, a server came to our table wearing the traditional dress of her native country, the only one not in uniform. She couldn't speak English well - in fact, hardly at all. Another employee had to help get the questions answered. I refused to eat there. My lady was very upset with me.
At the time, many non English speaking people were given verbal tests by someone who spoke their Native tongue. The answers were frequently given by the examiner, because the subterfuge couldn't be discovered. This happened in every area where passing a test is required. I want to know that the cook understands cleanliness. Peace, Robert Walker

May 25, 2013 8:01 AM


Of course the planet isn't physically overcrowded - but an already weakened job market still is, and will continue to be.

I would feel as you did - it isn't immigration that's upsetting, it's the illegal part - had it not been for nearly 50 years of essentially unrestricted immigration, legal and illegal alike. I realize that whole 'melting pot' thing seems like a nice idea, but as people wiser than I have said, socialist poetry on the bottom of a French statue does not make good policy, and diversity is not a strength, it is an obstacle to overcome. This melting pot will boil over and we need a generation or two to come to terms with it.

May 26, 2013 7:45 AM

This is a difficult issue personally since I am an immigrant, although I came to the US legally. I also went through the citizenship process which believe it or not does exist and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. All those who clamor for a path to citizenship are misguided or dishonest since the current process provides to all the same opportunity, but I suppose that's not what this issue is really all about. We are the typical American success story, and I can guarantee that my family appreciates and loves this country more than a lot of native US citizens. The real question for me is how do we ensure that immigrants are allowed in a orderly and controlled fashion? And how do we make sure they come here for the right reasons? We know they come to California and get on SNAP or WIC, and having babies in CA hospitals is paid for by taxpayers. Do they have any allegiance to this country, or do they keep waving their flags? I hate the idea of shutting the door on others who have aspirational dreams of coming to the US and living in this great country, and escaping whatever hellish nightmare they currently experience. But we cannot simply have an open border policy and allow criminals and the sick and the lazy, that would be completely insane. And immigrants cannot all be from Mexico, that would be unfair to all those who cannot simply run over the border.

May 28, 2013 2:28 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...