THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: TONY BLANKLEY, ELEANOR CLIFT,
FRANK SHARRY AND DAN STEIN
TAPED FRIDAY, JULY 30, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 4-5, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: U.S. labor, the economy and immigration.
One hundred years ago, a flood of immigrants gave the United States the labor force needed to fuel the Industrial Revolution. That resulted in America becoming the world's economic superpower. Now we are on the dawn of a new century, a new millennium and an online economy, e-commerce as it's called.
So on this Labor Day weekend, we ask whether immigrants help or hinder the e-commerce economy? In other words, do we need a new labor force to fuel the Internet revolution?
The answer is apparently yes; case in point, the U.S. government visa program called H1-B. This program permits nonresident aliens with computer skills to work in the U.S. for up to six years. H1-B visas are so popular that Congress last year nearly doubled the annual quota, from 65,000 to 115,000. And the new quota was filled by June of this year, prompting calls for yet another increase. The increase will gradually decline back to 65,000 over the next three years, it is said. But in the interim, it will let in almost half a million new workers.
U.S. business likes H1-B visas. It says that unless America imports high-skilled foreigners, America won't stay competitive in the 21st century Internet-driven global marketplace.
But the H1-B Visa Program has its critics too, who argue, one, U.S. workers are plentiful. The cybereconomy can find plenty of workers right here in the U.S. say the critics. But the new robber barons of the Information Age don't want to pay the salaries and the benefits that skilled Americans command.
Two, the program is rife with fraud. Nearly half of all application for H1-B visas contained phony information; government studies show this. So "nonskilled" aliens get visas intended for high-skilled aliens.
Three, the program is economic warfare against underdeveloped countries. When the U.S. imports workers with high-tech computer skills, those workers are unable to modernize their own countries and to challenge U.S. high-tech companies.
Question: Is the H1-B visa program a cheap labor boondoggle for business, Dan Stein?
MR. STEIN: Absolutely,. John. We're talking about a program that is riven with fraud and abuse. We're talking low wages, flat wages for programmers; American workers, men over the age of 55, being driven out of the industry, age discrimination. These companies don't want to provide long-term career opportunities for folks in these industries. They say, "Give me two years, and you're gone."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think throughout the history of immigration, there's always tension between the capitalist values and what's good for society.
I agree up to a point; I would like to have some American-born workers train for these jobs. But we also traditionally pay immigrants less, whether they're restaurant workers or whether they're computer programmers. And it's a way for people around the world to get a leg up in this society. And I'm for that, too.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A boondoggle for business, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, yes, but a useful one for the country as well. I mean, it's always the case that when you've increased the supply of labor, you reduce the price per unit, as it were.
But overall, the argument that in the past immigrants have been unskilled -- now they've got highly skilled people who can add more than their fair share to the country. And it seems to me that collectively, for the country, it's a good deal. Individually, for workers in that industry, they're not making as much money as they otherwise would.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Frank Sharry?
MR. SHARRY: This is a no-brainer. You have the fastest growing companies in America that are driving the new economy with an insatiable demand for highly skilled workers. They're hiring Americans, they're hiring international personnel, and if you overregulate this program or tie it up in red tape, you're going to force these companies to slow down production and stop the growth. Let's have these workers come in, create jobs for Americans, rather than go back and work in their home countries for our competitors.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't we import high-skill workers in the auto industry? Or highly skilled doctors?
MR. : Well, or what about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or highly skilled media and publisher personnel?
MR. : And lawyers, yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And lawyers. (Laughter.)
MR. STEIN (?): Yeah, right. You never hear the immigration lawyers say, "We need more immigration lawyers."
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can you imagine the outcry if we were to extend this to other sectors of the American work force?
MS. CLIFT: Well, and it's not essential in other sectors.
MR. SHARRY (?): Exactly.
MS. CLIFT: I mean, a Rupert Murdoch comes here on his own, and auto workers -- apparently, we've got plenty of our own.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what's the essentiality here? Why are we not training, particularly, minority kids up to the level of being able to do IT?
MR. STEIN (?): Amen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're talking about information technology.
MR. STEIN (?): They're totally not in the industry --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're not talking about entrepreneurial technology.
MR. STEIN (?): Right.
MR. BLANKLEY: But there are already -- this is in the radio all the time; it's filled with ads for people to come in to be trained. There's room for a lot of training. But right they also happen to need a lot of people due to the Y2K problems, which -- where we're going to India and Ireland to get that work done offshore.
MS. CLIFT: It's also --
MR. BLANKLEY: As far as the lawyers are concerned, of course, we ought to export the lawyers.
MS. CLIFT: It's also a capitalist -- it's a capitalist decision. It's cheaper for a corporation to bring in these laborers, who they pay less than they would pay the native born, than it would be to mount training programs. I think there should be a balance. I'm for some training programs.
MR. STEIN: Look, I care about what's happening to our kids today. In middle school today, they're not getting the math and science. What possible incentive does Bill Gates and those guys have to improve American education if they can just skim off the technical talent from India and China? And India and China are going to say, "Hey, if you take all of our programmers, what about the other billion of us you're going to take too?" You know, you get the best, you're going to wind up with the rest. It's not the right way to go. Americans are good enough to do jobs in our own country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Congress going to extend this H1-B program, do you think, Frank Sharry?
MR. SHARRY: Yeah, they'll have to expand it because the need for labor and the job growth that it creates and the economic growth is going to demand it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with that, Dan?
MR. STEIN: We've got a million-plus immigrants coming in. What's in that flow that there aren't enough? I don't think they're going to increase it this year. And I hope they clean up the program.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: As long as economic times are good, I think they're likely to increase it. If economic times turn harsh, then I think the Congress, responding to the fears of the public, would not increase it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't high-tech critical to our American economy? Dan?
MR. STEIN: High tech's critical, but that doesn't mean you need to be bringing in programmers. These jobs -- we're throwing out American workers, the American men over the age of 55 thrown out of the industry, and wages are going down for American workers.
MS. CLIFT: The point is that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I point out my earlier incisive distinction between information technology and entrepreneurial computer technology. These people coming in are information technology workers.
MR. STEIN: Right.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We ought to be able to find in the United States American workers who can be trained to do what they do.
MS. CLIFT: But John, you're going to have to have the government get involved because these corporations are not going to do it out of the goodness of their hearts. They make decisions based on cost-benefit. It's cheaper for them to import. If you want education improved, you want programs put in place, you're going to have to have the federal government get involved.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the question is, should public policy accommodate the boondoggle of the business community of America?
Question. Exit. Multiple choice. Should the H1-B visa program, A, be scrapped; B, be reformed; or C, kept as it is?
MR. STEIN: Scrap it or clean it up.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: A combination of B and C.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?
MR. BLANKLEY: Eleanor, you got it exactly right. B plus. It's right between B and C. A little reform, but pretty much keep it.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. SHARRY: Increase it, and educate and train our own.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Scrap it, and train up the American work force, particularly minority kids, to assume these information technology jobs.
When we come back, is it time for a moratorium on immigration? Yes or no?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Immigration -- the cost-benefit impact.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) New immigrants are good for America. They are building our new economy. Consider this, on average, immigrants pay $1,800 more in taxes every year than they cost our system in benefits.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The president is quoting the most comprehensive study ever conducted of the economic impact of immigration. The National Academy of Sciences, NAS, released the study in 1997. NAS's broad conclusion: Immigration benefits the U.S. economy overall and has little negative effect on the income and job opportunities of most native-born Americans. Why?
Lifetime contributions. Immigrants and their children pay more in taxes than what they receive in benefits -- $80,000 more.
No effect on jobs or income. Little evidence to show that American jobs and wages are hurt by immigration.
Young offsets old. Immigrants are generally young with large families of support for America's numerous retirees.
But there are, of course, immigration negatives:
Little education. Thirty-five percent of the foreign-born population age 25 and over have not graduated from high school.
Jobless, on welfare. The newest immigrants have a higher unemployment rate than natives; 6 percent on welfare, compared to 3 percent of the native born.
Poor. One-third of the new immigrants live in poverty, earning, on average, $8,000 annually.
Question: Can we trust studies like the NAS report?
MR. SHARRY: This is the study to end all studies. It even had economists that are unsympathetic to immigrants on its panel, and it came to a conclusion that punctures the myth and replaces it with facts. Immigrants contribute to economic growth -- a trillion dollars in net income over the last decade; pay more in taxes than they use in services. It's a net plus for immigrants and for the American economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it not true that the NAS study overgeneralizes and it discusses net, that is country-wide, neglecting those sectors of the economy where immigration specifically renders those communities in a lower status by reason of that immigration?
MR. SHARRY: Well, yeah, I think the study -- really what it shows is that immigration is about redistribution. About 50 percent -- immigrants are 50 percent more likely to be on welfare than natives. And, in effect, when Alan Greenspan and the Wall Street crowd says we need immigration to hold down wages for all Americans, what he's saying is we're redistributing income through employers. And the immigrants themselves take it out of the pockets of middle-class taxpayers to pay for the benefit for the army of marching poor that we are importing into the country through immigration.
MS. CLIFT: When new immigrants come over, granted they may use more services. They have bigger families, and they are unskilled. But over a lifetime, they contribute.
And you know, I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. My parents were immigrants. It was a different mix then; it was Europeans, basically.
I recently visited there, and it's lots of Latin cultures. And that is a thriving community every bit as much as it was in the '40s and the '50s, when there was a different mix. So --
MR. STEIN: Why don't you move there if you like it so much? (Cross talk.)
MR. SHARRY (?): Wait. Wait.
MS. CLIFT: I happen to live in Washington. But I'd be pleased to live in Jackson Heights, Queens.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, let me break in here. By the way, nice threads there. And I like that tufting on the top of your head. (Laughter.) It creates almost a perfect ovoid.
MR. BLANKLEY: Oh, lovely. (Laughs.) Better than a circle, I suppose. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The question is on California, okay?
In the next 20 years, the population is expected to grow by 18 million. And that is exclusively from immigrants because there's practically zero population growth, I believe, almost country-wide, except for the million a year.
Now, that population means it puts pressure on land development and environment, and that's why the Sierra Club has had a membership referendum of their own group, to determine whether immigration should be curbed as a policy position of Sierra next year.
What do you think of that, especially in relation to the NAS study?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look. first of all, I think these economic analyses are basically beside the point. They are ambiguous. You can say that they cost a little bit or they make a little bit. I think these are really covers for the larger question of whether we see a cultural value or a cultural detriment to immigration. And that's what this debate is really about.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. On that very point of cultural value, you know that immigrants, unfortunately, constitute the bulk of the membership of criminal gangs. That's true in California, too. So that is a cost to society.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, wait. I am immigrant. I came from England. I have not been in criminal bands recently.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you are also from Los Angeles, so you know what I am talking about when I am --
MS. CLIFT: Except for this one. (Laughs.) (Laughter.) Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- talking about gangs, do you not?
MR. STEIN: You're not a typical immigrant, either. I mean --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No; look at the way he is dressed. (Laughter.)
MR. STEIN: -- immigration is bringing about the "Brazilianization" of America; Balkanized, haves and have-nots. We are having a two-tier society with wages flat for most Americans who are working for a living.
Why is it inflationary for the guy who pushes a broom 10 cents more an hour but not for Bill Gates --
MR. SHARRY (?): Could you get back to facts.
MR. STEIN: -- who has got billions and billions of dollars?
MR. SHARRY (?): Could you give the facts?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, I haven't heard about assimilation. No one is talking about assimilation.
MR. SHARRY: Well, we were talking about the National Academy of Science's study. After 30 years of relatively generous immigration, the slam-the-borders crowd has consistently said it's going to hurt the economy and drain the budget. And now we have low unemployment, balanced budgets, a roaring economy, unprecedented prosperity and --
MR. STEIN: (Inaudible.)
MR. SHARRY: -- and studies that show that immigrants are a part of our --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Instead of this aging study, 1997, read Lawrence Harrison, the Harvard scholar, who says we are importing an underclass, and the combination of multiculturalism and immigration is such a strong negative factor that it will inhibit assimilation --
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the key to all of this is assimilation.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Have you read the list of valedictorians in a lot of public high schools? Many of them have come over here not speaking English and have achieved enormously.
MR. STEIN: You and I need to visit some federal prisons together.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.
MS. CLIFT: In the District of Columbia, the Bell?? Multicultural high school, four out of five kids are foreign born, and they excel.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, do you remember Barbara Jordan --
MR. STEIN: That's beside the point.
MS. CLIFT: It's not beside the point. They're contributing to society.
MR. STEIN: It is beside the point. You cannot justify building our population to half a billion -- the editor of Hispanic Magazine said the other day, "We shall overwhelm." You call that assimilation? I call that colonization.
MS. CLIFT: I call that a cheekist (?) attempt at power.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it time for a moratorium on immigration? Yes or no?
MR. STEIN: Give us a 50-year breather to absorb and assimilate --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How many years?
MR. STEIN: Fifty years -- to absorb and assimilate the waves that have come.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: There are caps in place. That's enough.
MR. BLANKLEY: If the American leadership is not prepared to be in favor of assimilation -- which it's not -- then I think we have to begin to think about some slowing down of immigration because you have to --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Frank, yes or no?
MR. SHARRY: No. Immigration should be more orderly and more generous.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes; we need time to reassess where we're going with immigration and to provide time for assimilation.
Issue three: Sleeping Giant. The giant here is a political giant, the vast, mostly untapped, but emerging Hispanic vote. A demographic shift in America is under way and Latinos are the fastest-growing group. Politicians and others are taking note of these demographics:
Bombing population. Nearly half of the foreign born in this country, 13 million, are of Hispanic origin. In total, nearly 29 million Hispanics live in the U.S.
Politically critical states. The state of choice to live in for one-fifth of new immigrants is California. New York, Texas, Florida and New Jersey follow.
Voting on the upswing. Latinos accounted for 5 percent of the national vote in 1998, and they provided the margin of victory in key races, such as the New York Senate race, where Democrat Chuck Schumer narrowly ousted incumbent Republican Al D'Amato. And even though Latinos register overwhelmingly as Democrats, they vote independently, as they demonstrated with their strong support at the polls for Texas Governor and now Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): (From videotape.) Bienvenidos at este estado, mis amigos.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The power of Hispanic voters even has Vice President Al Gore speaking a new language.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE (D): (From videotape.) Mis amigos segiremos trabajando juntos mano-a-mano para el futuro de nuestras familias y nuestros ninos.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: So, is the Hispanic vote in fact non-monolithic? I ask you, Frank.
MR. SHARRY: It's up for grabs. They vote their interests. They voted against the Republicans in California, thanks to Pete Wilson, who attacked them. They vote for Judge -- George W. Bush and Jeb Bush in Florida and Texas, for John McCain. This -- these voters are socially conservative, and they want a better America. They just don't want to be picked on. The Republicans (are too tough ?).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Is it fair to say that you cannot really generalize about the Hispanic vote? A Puerto Rican may not vote the way a Mexican votes. A Mexican may not vote the way a Costa Rican votes.
MR. : Look --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, the "Hispanic" designation does injustice to the --
MR. : Right.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to separate cultural and even political idiosyncrasies of these separate peoples, correct?
MR. STEIN (?): Well, third-generation Hispanics vote Republican because they have the income, the message response. Cubans vote Republican because of the, you know -- but it's not monolithic.
MR. BLANKLEY: You were getting to the fact, however, at the end of your comment, which is that they're no more monolithic in their voting than they are in any other aspect. And so if you're a middle-class Mexican living in Monterey Park in Los Angeles, you probably vote more conservatively.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But do you think that the consultants are overestimating the importance of the Hispanic vote in view of the fact that there's a low turnout among Hispanic voters?
MR. STEIN (?): No. I mean --
MS. CLIFT: No. Granted your point that we're overly generalist -- generalizing in labels, the Hispanic vote is going to decide the outcome in Texas, California, Florida, and New York. And that is why you have the candidates talking in Spanish. (Chuckles.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: Who will capture the larger percentage of the Hispanic vote, assuming each win(s) his respective nomination, Republican Bush or Democrat Gore?
MR. SHARRY (?): I think Republican Bush, because, look, I mean, Pete Wilson got more Hispanic votes than Dan Lungren because it's the message immigrants don't vote for more immigration -- (groans from panelists) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did in fact he get more?
MR. : Yeah, absolutely.
MR. : And Dan Lungren --
MS. CLIFT: Bush is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly!
MR. SHARRY (?): And so your theory is a bunch of baloney.
MS. CLIFT: Bush is stylistically simpatico, but when Hispanics understand what Gore stands for --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what's the answer?
MS. CLIFT: It's up for grabs right now.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, of course it's going to be Bush, because Gore can't speak Spanish. He does it phonetically. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?
MR. STEIN (?): Bush is leading in the polls, but Bush is going to have to tell the anti-immigrant crowd in Congress to sit down and shut up.
MR. SHARRY (?): That's baloney.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So where do you go? Bush?
MR. STEIN (?): So Bush is going to win if does that. If he doesn't, Gore will out-policy him.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is Bush.
Issue four: Will you marry me, Dot Com?
The collapse of the Russian economy and the growth of the Internet are giving thrust to a small, but expanding and troubling, immigration problem: mail order brides. As many as 150,000 women from around the world currently advertise themselves as available for marriage to American men. And as many as 6,000 succeed every year. The vast majority of mail order brides come from Southeast Asia and the former Soviet Union, hoping to escape poverty. But far from living the American dream, these women frequently find themselves living a nightmare. According to a federal government report, American men seek mail order brides with little education so that the men can maintain dominance over their future wives. Those who have used the mail order bride route to find a mate have control in mind more than a loving, enduring relationship.
At some point after the alien bride has had time to adjust to the new environment, to make new friends and to become comfortable with the language, her new independence and his domination are bound to conflict. The result: A, quote-unquote "alarming" rate of domestic abuse, according to the INS. And because the women are afraid of deportation, most do not ask for help.
There is some exploitation in this system, but it is not universal. But the exploitation of mail order brides has led some countries, like Taiwan and the Philippines, to take steps to control or outlaw the practice. Should the United States take similar steps, i.e., the Congress? Dan Stein?
MR. STEIN: This is about exploitation, abuse, about getting green cards, about relatives coming. It's a power relationship. It shouldn't be allowed.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?
MS. CLIFT: In the Philippines where they outlawed it, it simply went underground. I think we need more regulation. Women need to be told what their rights are.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. There's no data that proves that white American men are abusive. I think it should be maintained.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What maintained?
MR. BLANKLEY: The importation of brides should be legal.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay.
MR. SHARRY (?): Congress should fix the law so that abused women can get out of the relationship without being deported.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: If Congress is pro-family, it ought to stay out of this one. After all, it is between consenting adults.
We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Dan Stein.
MR. STEIN: Immigrants are going to continue demanding more welfare, so it's going to benefit the Democratic Party.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: The anti-immigration poison practiced by Pat Buchanan will not work this time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: Notwithstanding everyone's calm about Y2K, there will be less flights the first week of the New Year than any time historically.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Less what?
MR. BLANKLEY: Less people will fly the first week of the new year.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Frank.
MR. SHARRY: The strong economy, immigrant political power, bipartisan support, look for an increase in immigration in 2001.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A legal increase?
MR. SHARRY: Yup.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: From a million to what?
MR. SHARRY: Well, it's about 800,000, but you'll see an increase of both, I think, high-skilled and family immigration.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I have news for you, Frank. By November 1st, 2001, 26 months from now, Congress will pass a three-year renewable moratorium on immigration.
Happy Labor Day! Bye-bye.
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