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Wage-Leveling Tariffs are Needed for Border Security

by Vince Page


Let us take a look for a moment at the subject of border defense in the United States, and how we might improve the state of affairs from sieve to soundness. As a foundation for this discussion, we should first state that any sovereign nation has an inherent right to defend its borders. It is also axiomatic that those who enter the United States illegally are criminals, and those who enter legally should be welcomed with open arms, as befits a nation of immigrants. The question we wish to ponder, therefore, is whether treating illegal immigrants as criminals would automatically solve the problem at America's borders.

Suppose that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) would begin to treat illegal immigration as a crime after the Service is rolled-into the newly created Office of Homeland Security. I know it's a stretch, albeit a necessary one at this point. Supposing that the INS actually begins to do its job in this regard, would illegal immigration come to a halt? The answer has more to do with economics than with patrolling our borders.

To understand why, we must be aware of pay scales across our borders. Take for example assembly line workers who put together the new VW Beetle. The production line for this automobile is located just outside Mexico City, where auto workers are paid $30 per day - not per hour - per day [1]. Contrast this with the fact that Detroit auto workers make this much per hour, and you have a very powerful reason for illegal immigration if legal immigration is not readily available [2].

This disparity of wages causes an osmotic reaction that is akin to adjacent high and low pressure systems. The wind always flows from the high pressure to the low pressure area, just as dollars tend to flow from an area of high wages to low wages, using our borders as the semi-permeable membrane. The only way to stop this osmosis is to allow the fluid pressure - or the wages in this case - to equalize. But how best to do this?

If you listen to our leerless feeders, they will tell you that they have expended great amounts of political capital to enact NAFTA legislation, which just might - in 100 years or so - do the job by lowering American wages and by raising the wages of those on the other side of our borders. Why Americans should agree to be the sacrificial lamb in this arrangement is not clear. More to the point, however, is the fact that we have an immediate border security problem that is not compatible with a century-long wait for the wage-equalization to occur, and so I pose the question once again: What do we do?

There is a time-tested and proven solution to the problem from our past in America. It was used with enthusiasm in the 19th century, roundly condemned in the 20th century, but nevertheless succeeded every time it was used by those who were brave enough to lead when placed in positions of leadership. I am here talking about the tariff, bane of free-traders the world over.

For those who actually read Adam Smith from cover-to-cover, you will recall that the Wealth of Nations promotes the use of tariffs to ensure that materials needed for defense are manufactured inside one's own borders. In fact, Smith spent the latter part of his life arguing for such tariffs. Our first president made similar arguments in his first State of the Union address. While we are not discussing the defense industry here, we are discussing the defense of our country, and so I posit that the argument holds and that Mr. Smith and General Washington would both agree with me.

How then do we apply Adam Smith's proposal to the situation where disparity of wages threatens our border security? It should be stated beforehand that we cannot phone the president of Mexico and tell him to mandate higher wages at all Mexican factories, nor would we want to. We believe in the soundness of capitalism. What is required is an incentive for Mexican businesses to voluntarily raise the wages of their workers, and that incentive is the tariff.

To make the example as simple as possible, let us suppose that all of the components of the new VW Beetle are made in Germany - which has a comparable wage scale to that of America - and that 100 man-hours are involved in assembling the automobile in Mexico. The assembly line workers in Mexico are paid $3.75 per hour ($30 per day) in wages and benefits whereas the gross wages of their Detroit counterparts are $30 per hour. The difference is $26.25 per hour times 100 man-hours equals a tariff of $2,625 that should be applied to every new VW Beetle entering this country from Mexico.

If the Mexican auto assembly plant wants to get rid of this tariff, they have complete control of the situation and can do so at any time by establishing a parity of wages with their American counterparts. The problem is solved in one year instead of 100 years, and - when applied to all commodities - the incentive for illegal immigration is eliminated. Moreover, American workers do not sacrifice one cent of their much-needed paychecks to establish this parity. In fact, a wage-equalizing tariff is a win-win for workers on both sides of the border. It would, however, keep companies from shopping the world for peasant labor. Gosh, what a shame.

Does this mean that we need to monitor every mile of our border in addition to legislating wage-leveling tariffs? You bet. But it also means that our borders will never truly be secure until the incentive to cross illegally is eliminated. So why don't wage-equalizing tariffs yet exist in the 21st century? The sad fact of the matter is that Republicans want illegal immigrants for cheap labor and Democrats want them for votes. This unholy alliance trades the defense of our country for political expedience. It also leads the poor of the world to conclude that the law is not on their side. The DemoPubs (a term first coined by Linda Bowles in her book entitled The Remnant: A Prophetic Fable) are aided and abetted by unscrupulous bankers who accept Mexican I.D. cards to open bank accounts for illegals and then help them shuttle part of their meager wages back home to family members, just so banks can get a piece of the action. According to The Economist, 80 banks now engage in this practice [3].

This makes me very glad that I am a member of the Constitution Party, which has the strongest platform plank on tariffs and trade of any political party, bar none. It is not a perfect plank, and will undoubtedly be improved upon in the future, but the Constitution Party does not engage in the sophistry of the DemoPubs. And so I invite you to go to the Constitution Party website, either at http://www.cptexas.org/ or at http://www.constitutionparty.com/ and read the section on Tariffs and Trade in the platform. Then ask yourself: Why doesn't the platform of my Party say the same thing? The answer, my friend, is in the preceding paragraph. Are you happy with that? Isn't it time for a change?




[1] See http://www.uaw.org/solidarity/01/1001/front03.html

[2]See http://www.uaw.org/publications/jobs_pay/02/no4/jpe04.html

[3] See http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1547339




Vince Page is the Communications Director for the Texas State Constitution Party and is a District Deputy for the Texas State Knights of Columbus. He can be e-mailed at vincepage@ifriendly.com

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When honest people who hold strong opinions come together, it is natural that they state their opinions, and that those opinions occasionally clash. The articles that you see on this website represent the opinion of the writers, and are not the official opinion of this party. To see the official party position on any question, the reader is referred to the Party Platform.


Permission to reprint/republish granted, as long as you include the name of our site, the author,and our URL. www.cptexas.org. All CP Texas reports, and all editorials are property of The Constitution Party of Texas 2002 (unless otherwise noted).



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