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Immigration: "Loving Justice"

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/11/10/immigration-loving-justice

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When I was an active lifeguard I used to say that no one dies in my pool no matter who I have to kill to make that so. I wish there were more of that amongst our BP and ICE types, but alas, no such luck. “Just following orders…”

The logistics are capable of accommodating newcomers if the political will exists.

When Algeria achieved its independence a million Pied Noirs arrived in France. It coped.

When Germany was unified there were many Ossies who moved to the West. The former GDR lost almost two million inhabitants – or 13.5 per cent of the population - who moved West. (a conservative estimate)

The USA has had its own great migrations, the Dustbowl years recalled in the Grapes of Wrath but less mentioned is the Black exodus from the Southern states to the Northern states.

An example of a generous refugee policy is one by a developing nation that does not have the benefits of American or European prosperity. Uganda hosts well over a million refugees yet they have not closed their border and instead offer land to settle and give them the right to work.

All demographic projections say that there will be a great need for far more immigration, not less, as populations in the developed West drop and the elderly require support by younger generation of newcomers.

We shouldn’t succumb to fear-mongering.

“It is not fear mongering to consider the tens to hundreds of millions who will be on the move in less than a lifetime.”

Sorry if I was unclear but I agree with you about the prospect of climate refugees and the present unpreparedness for them. But sadly that reflects the lack of planning in a great number of consequences of climate change.

As for the need for newcomers to maintain the developed world’s prosperity, I refer you to Herbert Brücker, who has been the head of the Migration and International Labor Studies research department at the Federal Institute for Employment Research (IAB) since 2005, and has been an economics professor at Bamberg University since 2008. According to his estimates, the German economy will need 400,000 immigrants each year to remain competitive. Since the 1970s, Germany’s birth rate has declined quite dramatically. At the same time, average life expectancy has been going up. Without immigration, the potential number of workers in Germany would decline by 40% by 2060.

This situation to greater and lesser degrees applies to many other countries, including the US.

In reference to AI, i’m of the age where I saw the wide introduction of automatic car-washing machines at gas-stations. I then saw them all but disappear because due to the fall in the labor costs of a couple of people with soap and water proved more profitable. I dare say it was the same where you live.

Robotics and automation can be liberatory but under capitalism, there purpose is to make profit and if it doesn’t, the new technology is not introduced.

Attitudes do change. Do you recall the Vietnamese Boat People? Australia generously offered a safe haven to them all. But look at their policy now. Very much different and no reason other than politicians determined budgetary policies.

I think much of this is due to populist leaders using fear as a vote catcher and purposefully inflating problems. How easy it is to disguise austerity cuts by blaming migrants for the housing crisis, poor education, and bad healthcare when staff cuts mean closures in hospital wards and school classes, and no houses being built.

Those countries with few migrants are often the same areas that have the greatest suspicions of newcomers eg Hungary.

Moving on from our differences on immigration to further our dialogue, (one where our civility is a rare example on the internet when there is disagreement) there are serious concerns from Marxists about UBI who hold to the Labor Theory of Value that denies the practicality of the application of UBI and who point out how it is also in effect a double edged sword, that can serve the interests of the ruling class and no doubt will be if implemented. When both left and right agree on an economic policy, workers should begin to really worry and wonder why their exists such a consensus. There are as many types of universal income as there are people promoting them. They differ mainly by their degree of unconditionality, their amounts, their degree of substitution for social security and their method of financing.

Tom Kibasi, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), insisted the scheme was to the UK’s economic problems “what snake oil is to medicine”. He argued it would mean “getting into bed with the billionaires” by letting capitalism off the hook and entrenching power inequalities.
Kibasi said a basic income was seductive “precisely because it’s a big idea, but the problem is that big ideas aren’t necessarily good ideas”. He added: “My real objection to UBI is that it lets capitalism off the hook. It is giving in, it is embracing defeat.”
He said the policy was widely supported by Silicon Valley tycoons such as Elon Musk, former Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – as well as Richard Branson. He continued: "In politics, you always get strange bedfellows – that’s absolutely the case. But if you’re going to get into bed with the billionaires, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Why are they in favour of it?’
He said introducing a basic income risked leaving 20 or 30 per cent of the population as a “dependent class”, and insisted it was “trying to attempt a form of kind of euthanasia for the working class as a political category and a political concept”. He also insisted UBI would “solidify and reinforce” gender inequality, because women would come under pressure to stay at home and look after their children.

Those who advocate the UBI make the assumption that if the government gives everybody, working or not, a regular income this is not going to have an effect on wage levels? They seem to be assuming that this would be in addition to income from work whereas what is likely to happen is that it would exert a huge downward pressure on wages and that over time real wages would on average fall by the amount of the “basic” income.

The very idea of a basic level of income is about establishing a floor and many right-wing proponents are determined to locate that floor in the basement. A basic income scheme will be used to undermine social and public services, and to provide a subsidy to employers that will drive down wages and workers bargaining power.

C. M. A. Clark, who wrote *The Basic Income Guarantee: Ensuring Progress and Prosperity in the 21st Century and fellow author Catherine Kavanagh admitted "the incentive of workers to fight against wage reductions is considerably reduced, thus making labour markets more flexible…it is a major step backward and would harm all workers. UBI would, in effect, subsidize employers, allowing them to lower wages…”

In pay negotiations employers would point to the state payment as evidence that they did not need to pay so much in wages or salaries to maintain their employees’ accustomed standard of living. The workers and their unions would realise this and the negotiations would be about what the reduction in wages and salaries should be. If the reduction was less than the UBI then the unions would be able to cry victory, but a reduction there would be. It is just inconceivable that a state payment to everybody in work would not adversely affect wages and salaries.

It is actually a cheap reform, because for those who are employed it is nothing but a tax rebate up to the value of basic income. Anyone who has paid enough to pay more taxes than the basic income will then subsidize the unemployed. The state then obtains the opportunity to abolish all other welfare benefits since the “basic income” gets declared as enough to live on.

It then becomes the interest of the ruling class to hold the basic income at or just below the level of subsistence so people are forced to accept low wage work, another bounty for the employers. The employing owning class need us working people to remain impoverished and perpetually indebted.

The first Muslim Caliph, Abu Bakr (573-634 CE) introduced a guaranteed minimum income granting every man, woman and child ten Dirhams which later increased to twenty. It was later again implemented in England under the Speenhamland system where farm labourers on poverty wages had their income supplemented from the poor-rates. The result was predictable. Farmers were encouraged to keep, and even to extend, paying low wages. Marx pointed this out in Capital:
‘At the end of the eighteenth and during the first years of the nineteenth century, the English farmers and landlords enforced the absolute minimum of wages by paying the agricultural labourers less than the minimum in the actual form of wages, and the remainder in the form of parochial relief.’

E.P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class explained that the Speenhamland system had “a single tendency: to destroy the last vestige of control by the labourer over his own wage or working life.”

So what i’m saying is be very wary of what you wish for. There are very many unintended consequences for what on the surface looks like a very attractive and appealing proposal especially when we do face extreme hardships from automation and AI. Is it no wonder Silicon Valley like Andrew Wang want the burden of robots to be ultimately paid by the workers themselves and not the likes of him and his cronies.

UBI is a distraction from seeking fundamental solutions to the failure of our economic system and political systems to provide adequate reward and meaningful employment opportunities for all. There will be no reform road to socialism. There is only, as ever, the strength and determination of the organised workers movement.

Once more apologies for a long answer.