Top Republicans and Democrats are suddenly united in declaring that Americans’ wages have been stalled for too long, and need to be raised.
But top Republicans and Democrats are also united in declaring that the country needs more low-wage immigrants to compete against Americans for jobs.
The hand-wringing about wages emerged clearly after the release of another mixed jobs report for December 2014 — jobs grew by 252,000 but average hourly wages dropped by 0.2 percent to $24.57, and 450,000 people left the workforce. Wages have risen by less than one percent since February 2010.
“Job gains are welcome news, but we must do more to help improve the lives of middle-class families,” said a tweeted statement from House Speaker John Boehner.
“Most people didn’t lose a job in recession, but have had stagnant wages,” Neera Tanden, president of the left-wing Center for American Progress.
The White House felt the pressure and tried to spin the wage numbers in the second sentence of its self-congratulatory statement on the December report.
“Nominal wages fell in December [but] inflation-adjusted wages have generally been rising, and job growth has picked up in sectors that traditionally provide good, middle-class jobs,” said a statement from the White House.
Since before 2000, median wages have stalled because many low-skilled workers have seen their wages declined, while fewer skilled professionals have risen slowly. The slowdown in wages has sharply boosted stock prices, generating a windfall for the wealthiest investors.
Despite the hand-wringing about wages, both parties are pushing to increase the supply of low-wage workers, which is expected to further depress wages.
In November, Obama announced he would offer work permits to five million illegal immigrants, and increase the flow of temporary guest workers. Prior, he announced plans to increase the inflow of guest workers by at least 100,000.
Annually, the United States accepts one million immigrants and roughly 650,000 guest workers to compete for jobs against the roughly four million young Americans who enter the workforce each year.
In 2013 and 2014, Obama pushed Republicans to accept a grand bargain on immigration, dubbed comprehensive immigration reform. Under the deal, business leaders and GOP donors would get a doubled inflow of more low-cost immigrant workers and customers, while Democrats would eventually gain votes once the immigrants were naturalized.
The push for more immigrant workers is unpopular among voters. For example, a September poll by Paragon Insights showed that large slices of the Democratic coalition would be “much more likely” to vote for a GOP candidate who says that “the first goal of immigration policy needs to be getting unemployed Americans back to work — not importing more low-wage workers to replace them.”
Thirty-eight percent of African-Americans, 39 percent of Democratic women, 36 percent of Latinos and roughly 47 percent of Midwesterners said they would be much more likely to support a GOP candidate who favors the employment of Americans.
In December, a third of the GOP caucus voted against the 2015 bill, hoping to block Obama’s amnesty.