Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blue sky thoughts

It's late, so I may not be thinking too clearly, but I've been kicking around a couple of admittedly radical ideas over the last few weeks, and this seems like a good time to throw them out there and see what people think.

They're half-formed, at best. So be gentle.

Minimum wage: Most discussions of minimum wage divide over the economic effects (more money to the poor vs. fewer jobs) or portray it as a social justice issue. But what about the minimum wage's effect on illegal immigration? Wouldn't raising the minimum wage help in that regard?

This idea is based on the assumption that while a lot of employers might be willing to overlook spotty documentation, far fewer are willing to actually violate wage laws. So if they have to pay more, the incentive to hire illegals go down -- since lower wages is one of the primary incentives for doing so.

Given a choice between paying illegal aliens $7 an hour and paying Americans $7 an hour, most employers will choose the latter.

This wouldn't affect employers who are already breaking wage laws by paying illegal immigrants under the table, but it might have an effect on employers who knowingly hire aliens with forged documentation.

Campaign contributions: What if you allowed donations, but they had to be anonymous? Say, earmarked for particular candidates but sent to a central clearinghouse that made monthly or quarterly payments to candidates?

That way politicians wouldn't know who was donating to them, or how much. Sure, contributors could say "I gave this much", but there'd be no way to prove it because the clearinghouse would send an aggregate check, not break it down by donation.

On the downside, the rest of us wouldn't know who was contributing, like we do now, and the Center for Responsive Politics would go out of business. But if nobody knows, I'm fine with that. And it might reduce the overall amount of such donations, thus reducing the influence of money on elections and policy.

Fire away!

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Blogger Paul Silver said...

With 25 years experience in the service industry my opinion is that in many cases, for the same rate of pay the illegal may be a more attractive hire. They often work harder, are more reliable and easier to manage. Most professional kitchens are staffed with latins.

Most major donations are justified because they buy influence. Anonymous contributions would largely dry up the flow AND the influence would find another route, a la Abramoff, donors give to a favorite charity of the legislator... I am curious what other folks think about this.

Paul at Austin Centrist

11/10/2006 12:57 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Thanks for the comments, Paul. I'll bow to your far broader knowledge of working in an alien-heavy environment, though I'm somewhat amazed that the qualities you mention are enough to prompt employers to break the law.

As for anonymous donations: yes, you're right, the influence would probably just find another outlet. But even if they donate to a favorite charity, that money isn't going directly to the candidate, and it's not being used to fund campaigns. Both of those strike me as improvements over the current situation.

11/10/2006 11:03 AM  
Anonymous DougL said...

It's always been my understanding that a major attraction for hiring illegal immigrants was that an employer could get away with paying subminimum wages. Illegal immigrants often work in abusive or otherwise substandard work environments for the same reason. Workers here illegally are much less likely to complain about subminimum wages or substandard conditions. Also, in a lot of cases, even the subminimum wages illegals are paid are higher than what they would likely be paid in their home countries.

Raising the minimum wouldn't have much of a decreasing effect on the number of illegal immigrants. One might even make the argument that raising the minimum wage increases the incentive for employers to hire illegals. If we were really were serious about the illegal immigrant problem, we'd increase enforcement and penalties against employers found employing illegals and actually make hiring illegals a bit less attractive from the employer's point of view rather than hunting down and transporting *millions* after they're already here.

11/11/2006 8:46 AM  

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