The Role of Immigrants in Economic Downturns
The version of history and current events that most of us are taught tells us that too many immigrants cause social and economic disruptions—they become a drain on social services, they are scapegoated for “taking jobs away” from native-born citizens, and the social order of countries that were previously homogeneous (in other words, mostly white) are thrown into upheaval.
This version is like coming into a movie in the middle just in time to see the butler standing over a dead body and so, of course, you say, “Aha! The butler did it!” But what you missed was the scene where the wealthy heir shot the victim and the butler simply walked in to find the person already dead.
Here’s what really happens:
Exploitative economic systems like capitalism, mercantilism, feudalism, etc. have many things in common, the most important of which is that they need to exploit other systems, other people, other resources in order to survive. But they also have other economic realities in common, one of which is that they all experience ups and downs in their cycles of business.
In general, the biggest reason for the downturns in their business and profits is because of the way their own system works: They have to exploit and compete with everyone—including other exploiters—in order to keep their profits going (and growing).
Competition is one of the most important elements in exploitative systems. They compete for business and market share; if they can put their competitors out of business, they can have the market all for themselves. One of the most common methods used is to lower prices in order to undersell the competitor. Another way is to expand as quickly as possibly in order to crowd out the competition.
But since they’re all doing the same thing—competing to put their competitors out of business—that makes for an unsustainable business model. Everyone is racing to the bottom. Everyone is potentially cutting into their profits in order to expand, lower prices, etc. But the whole purpose of exploitative systems is to profit, so they all find other ways to keep their profits going even while sales are dropping and expenses are rising.
The most commonly-used method for keeping profits steady or increasing even when sales are dropping and expenses are rising is to exploit workers.
This is the point when exploitative businesses begin cutting workers’ wages and benefits, begin laying off workers, and begin requiring more work out of fewer workers. And this has a major impact on the economy. More and more people out of work means an economic downward spiral as the ripple effects of laid-off workers starts affecting the whole community. Small businesses shut down because fewer people can afford to buy. People out of work can’t afford to go on vacation, buy a new car, fix the roof, send their kids to college, pay the rent, pay the heating bill, pay the medical bills, feed their families.
More people out of work also means a greater strain on social services. At the same time, these businesses are putting pressure on the government to shift money away from social welfare and into corporate welfare. (We might like to think we live in a “free” democracy, but no economic system based on exploitation could exist without a political system that’s structured to support that exploitation. In other words, yes, the corporations do own the government.)
Just as the demand for more social services is rising, the government is shifting money away from people and into propping up corporations.
But corporate profits are still healthy, so Wall Street is booming, Washington is happy, and everyone tells us the economy is “healthy.” In fact, the economy has just been shot dead by the wealthy heir.
At the same time that this is happening domestically, even worse things are happening overseas where these same corporations have their low-wage factories, plantations, sweat shops, mines, etc. Throughout these regions, profits are boosted by even more extreme exploitative practices. Many more workers are being laid off, wages become impossible to live on, environmental and safety protections are eliminated, and the corrupt governments installed by the wealthy exploiters (previously known as colonial powers) begin “cracking down” on “agitators” (unionists, human rights activists, environmentalists, etc.). Entire villages are bulldozed to make way for more plantations or mining operations; entire water supplies are depleted to make sure that factories owned by multinational corporations thrive and profits continue without interruption.
So what happens to these people who are looking for work to support their families, who are being hunted by repressive police states, who’ve lost everything they owned to unfettered exploitation?
They seek economic and political refuge in the nations where the money comes from: the land of the exploiters. In today’s world, of course, the divide is between the Global North and the Global South; between the neocolonial powers and the neocolonialized exploited nations. And just as importantly, the divide is between the people who are white and the people who are everything else.
The combination of race and immigration is perfect for the exploiters and disastrous for society. It is the easiest “divide-and-conquer” tactic: pit the 99% against each other, using race as the goad, to take attention away from the 1% who are bleeding the system and tanking the economy.
In fact, by the time the immigrants begin seeking refuge in that country, unemployment was already rising, social services were already being strained, government was already turning its back on its citizens, and communities everywhere were already in upheaval. The immigrants are simply the butler who walked in to find the victim already dead, and the real killers are the wealthy heirs.
Neocolonialism: Short Explanation, Long History
The Role of Race in Upholding Capitalism