When America decided that it hated the economic system that built the greatest civilization in the history of humanity (Keynesian economics), then embraced the voodoo economics promoted by Ronald Reagan (supply-side economics), we were promised great riches and plenty of jobs.
By 2005, twenty-five years into the restructuring of our economic policies, it was crystal-clear that it wasn't working. More jobs were being shipped overseas, and although there was a financial bubble during the 1990s, it burst and things began to look pretty bleak.
By the end of the last decade, the financial situation in America was dire. Unemployment has sky-rocketed, and the numbers don't even reflect the depth of the unemployment problem.
(Think back to 1983 . . . the Reagan Administration changed the way that we counted the unemployed so that out-of-work adults were counted as unemployed only if they were receiving unemployment benefits. So, when an unemployed worker's benefits run out, he is no longer unemployed, even if he doesn't have a job.)
So, by the end of the last decade, it became clear that one of the greatest trends of this new economic policy was the loss of jobs for Americans. It is cheaper to hire workers overseas (especially when you are still getting all the tax breaks you want). So instead of all these jobs the Reaganites promised us, we have fewer jobs than ever.
As the last decade came to a close, those who promoted Reaganomics explained that the reason there were no jobs for Americans is because the god-damned illegals were taking all the jobs. An impressive political and marketing campaign has been waged against migrant workers (legal and illegal alike), and most Americans believe there is a real problem with illegal immigrants. In reality, the problem is no different, no better no worse, than it was in 1980. What is different is that there are fewer jobs for Americans and those in charge have decided to blame people who can least defend themselves.
There is also less education, less health care, and less opportunity for Americans; and somehow we are supposed to believe those problems are also part of the immigrant problem, that our economic policies are of no consequence.
Some tea party supporters (man, I hate calling them that) have built remarkable political careers on the promise to get rid of the illegals who are stealing all our jobs, schools, and health care. Arizona was the first when their governor (the descendant of an illegal immigrant - like so many of us) signed a remarkably punitive law that cannot possibly be enforced in a free society. Sadly, Arizona tea party supporters are of the mind that we can sacrifice our freedoms if it gets rid of the illegals. Well, not all the illegals, just the brown-skinned illegals. The Irish and Eastern European illegals are more than welcome to stay.
But, I digress . . .
Alabama has followed Arizona with it's ground-breaking immigration law that focuses on employment. Alabama farmers will be in big trouble if they hire illegal immigrants. The result is that the migrant farm workers (legal and illegal alike) have fled the state, leaving Alabama farmers to scramble for employees.
The state (now controlled by those who insist supply-side theory is a success) is happy to provide a list of unemployed office clerks, hair dressers, secretaries, factory workers, custodians and school teachers who are desperate for work. Hundreds of these citizens signed-up to apply for the new farm labor jobs.
Most of them lasted a day or two. One actually lasted two weeks!
You see, farm labor is not just hard work, it is really, really hard, back-breaking work that Americans haven't had to do for two generations, or more.
My grandparents were not farmers in America, and yours probably weren't either. If they were farmers, they likely had immigrants or African-Americans who did the really hard, back-breaking work while their children (our parents) got an education (at least through high school) so they could leave the farm.
Our grandparents all worked really hard so that we could work really hard in a sophisticated society that didn't require second-, third-, and fourth-generation Americans to be slave laborers.
Back to Alabama . . .
So, a couple/few hundred unemployed Alabamans jumped at the chance to work. They made their way to the farms and started working. It's an impressive job: you work ten hours and are paid twenty-four dollars a day (on which you will owe taxes). At the peak of the season, however, if you work really hard, you can earn up to $125 a day.
Word among the farmers is that most Americans are in no physical condition to work that hard. So, Americans are only able to earn $24 per day -- and then they quit.
Those of us with a computer and the ability to read are not only unwilling to work ten hours for $24, but we are likely physically incapable of doing it. I am physically incapable of doing it. I can make $24 a day collecting cans or pan-handling.
So, the migrant farm workers (legal and illegal alike) have left Alabama and the harvest is coming in. It appears they have gone to Georgia and Mississippi, where the immigration laws have not yet been changed to destroy what is left of the state's agricultural industry.
Alabama farmers are without farm laborers, because it is a crime to hire illegals. The legal migrant farm workers have fled the state because they are treated as poorly as the illegals. Alabama has established a culture that criminalizes migrant culture, migrant lifestyle, migrant workers. So they don't have any.
The Governor of Alabama has met with the Governor of Georgia, in an effort to establish a similar immigration law in that state.
Georgia will probably do it, not because it will help their citizenry, but because it will allow the governor to say he is tough on immigration and get re-elected (maybe even have a chance at a Senate seat, or even the White House).
If Georgia does this, the state should be prepared (as Alabama wasn't) to be without farm workers to pick their crops.
One of the possible outcomes of these laws - one that may or may not be planned by the supply-siders - is that remaining family-owned farms will go bankrupt. Those farms will then be gobbled-up by corporate farms. Corporate farms are destroying the quality of our food supply, poisoning the environment, and under-employing Americans.
Whatever the upshot of the farm labor situation in the South, we can be certain of two things: those who promote a blanket condemnation of brown-skinned immigrants are hurting America, and it's not illegal aliens that have taken our jobs.
Efforts to replace immigrant workers in Alabama fields coming up short at alabama.com.
Test fails to replace immigrant laborers with U.S. citizens in Alabama from The Boston Herald
Ala. Immigration Law Update: Farm Work Is Hard
Test fails to replace immigrant laborers in Ala from The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Kyle G. Brixton