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Editorials 2018-June-15

In a free society

ONE of the proponents of the NMI workforce bill says it will, among other things, “incentivize employers to hire U.S. workers.”

The problem, however, is the supply not the demand. There are simply not enough U.S. workers for the jobs that need to be filled in the NMI private sector.  U.S. workers, moreover, have a lot of career choices here and elsewhere in their vast nation which is the U.S. Nothing wrong with that. But this also means, to quote political writer Kevin Williamson, that “we are not going to have much success developing government programs to help people do things that they do not wish to do and cannot be made to do in a free society.” That is the crux of the “problem.”

The “solution,” according to those who believe in “solutions,” is to raise the wage rate in the private sector. Apparently, not a lot of people remember that in those benighted pre-federalization days, the federalization of local minimum wage, like the federalization of local immigration, was touted as the “cure” for all that “ailed” the NMI.  Fast forward to today. The islands’ minimum wage  will reach the federal level of $7.25 in September, and many private sector employers are already paying more. But now we are told that they should pay even more to “attract” more U.S. qualified workers. How much more? In the states, employers pay much, much more for certain jobs that are hard to fill in a nation with a population of over 300 million. “Paying more,” in other words, doesn’t necessarily work on the mainland U.S. which has the world’s largest economy, but it will “work” in these tiny, remote islands with a small population and a miniscule, one-industry economy?

Recently, the AP reported that landscaping companies in Ohio are complaining about the restrictions on the H2-B visas which, they say, are preventing them from filling jobs “nobody else wants.” According to Sokanu, a career matching website, the average landscaper hourly wage in Ohio is $16.68, and hourly wages typically start from $11.05 and go up to $23.94. The AP reported that “Joe Schill, president of Green Impressions in Sheffield near Cleveland, didn’t get any of the 18 foreign workers he had been counting on this year, forcing him to turn down jobs that cost his business about $300,000 in just April and May. Trying to find replacements has proved futile, he said. Five new hires quit last week, and ‘what’s left out there can’t pass a drug test.’ ” What is the “plan B” for these legitimate U.S. employers burdened by unreasonable federal rules? Amy Novak, a Colorado-based immigration attorney specializing in temporary-worker visas, told AP: “They have no option, really, other than to decrease their business contracts or use undocumented workers, and that is not a good choice.”

As Kevin Williamson would put it: “People are entitled to calculate their own trade-offs. But if people in Ohio and Kentucky don’t want those jobs in California and Texas, somebody does. And those jobs need doing. Which makes the contradictions of our current strange populist moment all the more absurd: On the one hand, we have agrarian traditionalists and Rust Belt sentimentalists insisting that people shouldn’t be forced or pressured to leave behind their communities to go where the jobs are. On the other hand, the same people are demanding that we prevent immigrants from entering the country and ‘taking our jobs.’ We’re going to have to decide whether we want to protect jobs for Americans or protect Americans from jobs.”

Voice of reason

IN his remarks on the U.S. House floor prior to the recent passage of the NMI workforce bill, U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop pointed out that the federal “CW permit program, unfortunately, …doesn’t quite work as we had thought it might.” There is, he added, “not a whole lot of Americans who want to undertake a 15-hour plane ride to get to their work destination.” He said the NMI workforce bill will provide some flexibility on the CW caps, and the program “will be permitted to extend beyond the 2019 date to 2029 so we can see how it does or does not work.”

Like U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Congressman Bishop acknowledges the realities the NMI has to deal with. Instead of imposing a “grand design” on the local economy based on wishful thinking if not delusions, these U.S. lawmakers prefer to try something that may actually work here while ensuring “that no U.S. worker is at a competitive disadvantage.”

“There is agreement,” Congressman Bishop said, “that this [bill] is the proper thing to do so this Commonwealth can actually maintain a steady workforce and maintain an economy that will continue to grow in the future.

Thank you Congressman Bishop.