Written by Roy Beck
Is the country's unemployment nightmare over?
It sounded like it from all the excitement over the weekend about the Senate Gang of Eight's near agreement on comprehensive immigration reform which is about greatly increasing the number of work permits for foreign workers to compete with Americans from the lowest to the highest education levels.
Yet, other news of the week for all to read told a different story in which a nation awash with too many workers for too few jobs can't possibly need more immigration.
A Forbes article noted that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that one out of every two Americans in the Millennial generation (age 18 to 32) is either unemployed or under-employed.
An article in the Huffington Post was especially concerned about young college graduates. It cited a report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity that nearly half of the 2010 college graduates are in jobs that don't require a college degree and that 38% are in jobs that don't even need a high school diploma. But it isn't just the young among college grads who have problems. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that 284,000 college grads are working minimum wage jobs.
All that bad news for college grads makes for even worse news for less-educated Americans who already had unemployment rates triple that of the college grads. In occupations of service, hospitality, construction and manufacturing, the underemployed college grads now are adding extra competition with the less-educated Americans. But the Gang of Eight is ecstatic that it is almost ready to introduce legislation to give permanent work permits to millions of illegal immigrants so they can compete even more directly for jobs in those same occupations.
The Gang of Eight's insensitivity to the needs of the most vulnerable members of our national community is even more egregious when considering citizens who are the descendants of America's slavery and apartheid systems -- an economic tragedy highlighted at the National Press Club by Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson. Because the worst unemployment in the nation is suffered by African Americans and because putting Americans back to work clearly is not the priority of our politicians, Johnson wondered if there is a racial component to the neglect. “This country would never tolerate white unemployment" at the doubled rates that Black Americans suffer, he said. "No one would ever stay in office" if they allowed white Americans to have such high unemployment, Johnson said.
“Somebody’s going to have to pay" for all the unemployed African Americans because they live here and aren't going anywhere, Johnson said. "Somebody’s going to have to take care of them, and if somebody’s going to have to take care of them, that money’s got to come from somebody. And whoever’s paying for it is going to be upset about it, and they’re going to start looking for somebody to blame.” Johnson said.
Federal data show that 40% of working-age Black Americans don't have a job of any kind.
But there is no Senate Gang of Eight working day and night to put those Black Americans back to work. There is no Gang of Eight grabbing headlines by creating legislation to keep the Millenials from being a lost generation in the labor market. No, the only Gang of Eight working day and night with top priority urgency is the one trying to shove through an immigration bill to further engorge the labor markets with obviously unneeded workers.
Federal data show 54 million working-age Americans who are not working for any number of reasons. About 20 million Americans say they want a full-time job but can't find one. Half of them have no more than a high school education. One would think an immigration reform bill would be reducing the number of work visas for new immigrants -- not increasing them like the Gang of Eight is doing.