A Labor Day Lament

by Patrick J. Buchanan – September 4, 1998

Since the Great Depression destroyed the Republican coalition forged by the Harding-Coolidge tax cuts and immigration reforms, only twice has the GOP put together a great governing majority — Richard Nixon’s 49-state sweep in 1972 and Ronald Reagan’s 49-state sweep in 1984.

In the last two presidential elections, the GOP share of the vote was the smallest sliver since Alf Landon’s heyday in 1936 — 37 percent and 41 percent. Who left the GOP? Reagan Democrats — in the millions.

Oddly, it is the economic issue where Reagan was so strong that caused Middle America to defect to Ross Perot and Bill Clinton. Reagan Democrats still like the GOP on tax cuts. What they abhor are sweat-shop Republicans who haul water for transnational companies whose profits depend on moving U.S. jobs overseas and keeping wages down here with record levels of immigration.

The GOP is frozen in the ice of its free-trade, open-borders ideology. When this writer opposed doubling the annual quota of high-tech immigrants (H1-Bs) to 115,000 a year, Sen. Spencer Abraham and Jack Kemp hit the Washington Times with letters charging me with everything but mopery, not excluding “paranoia.”

Now, one ought not be churlish and suggest a linkage between Spence’s enthusiasm for computer braceros and the upsurge in Silicon Valley soft money sluicing into the GOP. But it is worth noting that where high-tech companies gave $551,000 to the party in 1996, in this election cycle, that has shot up to $823,000.

Years back, there was a scandal called ABSCAM, in which FBI agents in wingtips posed as Arab sheiks and handed members of Congress thousands of dollars for pledges to support special bills that would put the faux-Arabs on a fast track to citizenship.

What is the difference between that and raking in $823,000 to bring in foreign workers to displace native-born Americans?

Brother Kemp says there are “350,000 vacant jobs” in high-tech industries and America needs those foreign workers pronto. Now, perhaps Jack heard that at a board meeting of the Oracle computer company. But Norm Matloff, a University of California at Davis professor of computer science, contends that U.S. computer companies turn away 25 to 50 applicants for every one they hire.

The Internet is ablaze with the enraged comments of laid-off American workers who, on applying for new jobs with computer companies, are asked if they “would feel comfortable working in an Asian environment.” If there are 350,000 vacancies, why did Applied Materials just cut its work force by 2,000? Why are Motorola, Rockwell and small rivals like Novellus Systems and Lam Research laying off? According to one San Jose research firm, revenues in the semiconductor manufacturing industry will plummet 28 percent this year — because of the recession in Asia, excess capacity and the movement to sub-$1,000 PCs, which squeezes profits.

Do our high-tech firms need 60,000 new foreign workers, or do they just prefer pliable Asian guest workers to middle-aged Americans?

Last year, college enrollment in computer studies exploded by 40 percent. How does the Republican Party expect to win over these kids if we give away their jobs to foreign workers before they get there? How does the party expect to bring back Reagan Democrats losing jobs in defense plants, if, when they try to transfer to civilian high-tech jobs, they’re pushed aside for workers imported from India and China?

Why should these folks support Republicans if the party keeps killing their family dreams for soft dollars?

Are Republicans suicidal? Our manufacturing sector is already showing signs of a slowdown. Exports are falling, and the Asian import tsunami has not yet hit. If the economy turns turtle just as 115,000 guest workers start replacing Americans in high-tech jobs and shouldering aside our college graduates, the GOP will be risking in 2000 a repeat of ’96 and ’92. How many times does the elephant have to get hit with a two-by-four? The Senate is a lost cause on this issue, but the House can still kill the quota hike.

Besides tax cuts, the Republican Party must find an agenda to get the wages of American workers and the median income of the American family rising again, as they used to do in Reagan’s day.

My thoughts on the eve of Labor Day.