There is an election coming up. I know this because I dive for the mute button that much more quickly whenever television commercials come on. I'm considering going to the polls and voting for whatever names on the ballot I don't recognize, because if they don't have a television commercial about them, there is a small chance that they don't suck. A very small one.
Maybe it's because I'm a little more educated than the general public, but these mud-slinging ads just make me angry. Maybe it's because I took courses in rhetorical strategy, but the rhetoric just seems so transparent to me. It all seems to come down to one thing: "This man is a REPUBLICAN and YOU HATE REPUBLICANS" and/or "This man is a DEMOCRAT and YOU HATE DEMOCRATS". I miss my multi-party home country.
We got a flyer in the mail the other day for a republican candidate. Or rather, against the democratic candidate. (I guess the people who make these anti-campaign ads have forgotten one of the first rules of advertising: brand recognition trumps content. Sure, Puffs could make an ad all about how Kleenex is a terrible product, but when you're in the store, you'll forget the content of the ad and buy the product that is most familiar to you, because you've seen Kleenex on the television.) The flyer was basically about how this guy is EVIL and we shouldn't vote for him because he wants to make illegal aliens rich. And once I finished going on a linguistic rampage about how the flyer's use of the word "illegal" was completely wrong, because it was referring to the money that people would be making after they had obtained legal status, thus making them no longer illegal, I sat down and actually thought about what the flyer was saying.
Basically, it sounds to me like this guy wants to pass a law requiring people who are currently working in this country illegally to obtain legal status in the form of a guest worker permit so that they can work legally. That sounds pretty good to me - a decent compromise between the one side of the argument which says our economy depends on illegal workers, and the other side of the argument that says we shouldn't encourage law-breaking, and that by rewarding illegal immigrants, we are actually punishing legal immigrants. But here is where the rest of the flyer got a but fuzzy. It claimed that illegal construction workers (and here I cringe at the incorrect use of the word "illegal") could make $30 an hour while American construction workers would only make $20 an hour. No explanation of how, other than somehow this EVIL person on the flyer would make it happen if I vote for him.
I suppose I could do a bit of research and figure out what bill this guy has signed or voted for or proposed regarding guest worker permits. But the flyer is in the trash, and I am lazy. So I will make assumptions. I'm going to assume that the guest worker permit also comes with its own minimum wage of some sort, requiring employers to pay guest workers at some rate that is higher than the union-negotiated industry minimum.
Well, of course that seems unfair at face value. Why should people who came to the country illegally make more than people who were born here, and who pay fifty cents out of every paycheck to get a union to fight on their behalf? But then I thought about it a bit more. What is the number one complaint about illegal immigrants? That they work for peanuts, right? And how can we compete with someone who's willing to take next to nothing for the same job, when we have student loans and a mortgage and cell phone bills to pay? Forcing the illegal immigrants to get legal status, pay taxes (I assume), and work for more money? This hurts them more than it hurts us! They were happy working for peanuts, and employers were happy to pay them peanuts. Now, greedy Americans can actually compete with them, because they aren't so cheap anymore!
But sadly, it would never work. The employers who are used to paying illegal aliens $6 an hour will never pay guest workers $30 an hour for the same job. They won't pay an American $20 an hour either. They will pay illegal guest workers $6 an hour. And it will continue to be that way as long as we live in a country that is so entirely built on easy living that we need someone else to do our dirty work for us.