Yesterday's Huntsville Times editorial celebrated the “Immigration Myths & Facts” (PDF) report produced by the US Chamber of Commerce. Now, the editorial acknowledges the Chamber's bias towards employers, but asserts this: “that doesn't make some of the chamber's points any less valid.” Unfortunately, the Times editorial board forgot the first rule of reporting: check your facts.
The Chamber’s Labor, Immigration & Employee Benefits Division has prepared this pamphlet to refute seven of the most common myths about immigrants coming to our country. We summarize the facts on the relationship of immigrants to Jobs, Wages, Taxes, Population, Crime, Integration, and Welfare.
Our compilation shows that immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy by creating new jobs, and complementing the skills of the U.S. native workforce, with a net positive impact on wage rates overall.
Sounds great. Except that some of the backup data included to refute the second “myth” appears to be cherry-picked.
Myth: Immigrants drive down the wages of American workers.
The second paragraph contains this howler:
“The native-born population includes relative few adults who have not earned at least a high-school diploma, and at the same time demand remains relative high for less-skilled workers. As a recent report from the Federal Reserve bank of Dallas points out, 64 percent of native-born American workers did not have a high-school diploma in 1950, while fewer than 10% lacked a diploma as of 2009. Yet BLS projects that 38 percent of all job openings between 2008 and 2018 will require only short on-the-job training. There are too few less-educated native-born workers willing and able to fill all of the less-skilled jobs which the US economy creates. Less-skilled immigrant workers fill this gap.”
Translation: 38% of the jobs businesses expect to create in the next 7 years are low-paying, no-benefit service jobs because they can get all the higher-skilled stuff done offshore for pennies (and get a tax benefit for moving those jobs!). But we need immigrants because American workers are too highly-educated to want those service jobs.
The Times editorial alludes to this paragraph without checking it for accuracy – or questioning the basic assumption that 40% of new jobs will be scut work:
The report goes on to say that (a) nine out of 10 Americans graduate from high school, and (b) the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly four in 10 job openings between 2008 and 2018 will require only short on-the-job training.
90% of Americans have high school diplomas? Now, I hate to take issue with such an authoritative source on education as the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (report pdf), but the statistics on high school graduation that I've seen don't begin to support that number.
Dig into the Dallas report and you find that they got their statistics from the US Census Annual Population Survey's Educational Attainment report. According to the Census:
- 18-24 age group with less than HS diploma: 16.8%
- Over 25 age group with less than HS diploma: 14.4%
The Dallas Fed numbers appear to be a labor force (not a general population) survey, so perhaps they're correct that 90% of Americans in the labor force have a HS diploma. But there are a LOT of labor force dropouts – discouraged workers who have given up looking for work.
However, that 90% number is being spun by the Chamber – and by newspaper editorial writers – as a fact for all Americans. Hot dog! 90% of the entire country has a high school diploma! Unfortunately, other high school graduation rate studies don't even come close to that number:
2010 National Center for Education Statistics (primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing education data for the US government) report (pdf) shows a national graduation rate of just 74.9%. The New York Times has an interactive map that makes it easy to look up graduation percentages by state:
- Alabama: 69%
- Mississippi: 63.9%
- Georgia: 69.4%
- Wisconsin: 89.6%
Only Wisconsin – which has the highest graduation rates in the country approaches 90%.
A Jobs for the Future report highlighted 17 states that account for 70% of high school dropout numbers. Yes. Alabama is one of them with a graduation rate of less than 70%..
In fact, every report & statistic I could find for the past 10 years shows national graduation rates between 70 & 75%. The 90% number that the Chamber is touting in their brochure seems to be a high-end, best-case, “take the study you like and toss the others” number.
Remember Mark Twain (or maybe Benjamin Disraeli)? “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Unfortunately, the Chamber seems to be using statistics to lie about the state of American education and the readiness of our work force to handle jobs requiring advanced education. And many news outlets are taking their spin and reporting it as fact.
Now, if they've spun the numbers this much right out of the gate in their report, it makes all their data suspect. Fortunately, some of their “Facts” are indeed factually correct and need no spin:
- Undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes and receive no benefits. Every time they spend money, they're paying sales taxes, renters help pay property taxes, workers with forged documents pay social security & Medicare taxes AND have federal & state income taxe withheld.
Talk about taxation without representation!
- Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, etc. Even though they pay taxes to help support those programs.
There's a huge amount of factually correct data about immigration that can easily be used to refute the craziness that Beason & company spew as a matter of course.
But the Chamber just couldn't resist cherry picking some tidbits and twisting the facts a bit. This highlights their real goal in the immigration debate.
The Chamber of Commerce is involved in the immigration debate because its members want to keep taking advantage of an under-paid, docile workforce that gratefully accepts whatever crumbs fall from the table.
The Chamber of Commerce is no friend to either immigrants or American-born workers, no matter how many glossy pamphlets they produce to try and convince us otherwise. It would be nice to see our state media highlighting that fact instead instead of acting as the Chamber's lead cheerleader.