Thom Hartmann on Illegal Immigration

This morning, January 8, 2010, on the Thom Hartmann show (1150 AM Los Angeles), Thom joined the throngs of those who believe that illegal immigrants “dilute” the work force. Essentially he is saying that illegal immigrants are a drain on the economy.

I think the opposite is true. Anyone who works and works hard for a wage is what is good about our world and our economy. The illegal immigrants are by and large hard working people who provide value to the economy. Shame on those who criticize them or would deny them the ability to work. If the complaint is that they work for low wages then the answer for that is to raise the wages, not condemn the worker.

Thom Hartmann seems to be making the assumption that there are only so many jobs to go around and, hence, illegal immigrants take jobs away from those who are here legally. That premise is flawed. An economy is the activity of people working. If there are more people working the economy is bigger. Double the population, you double the economy, all else being equal. 100 million people are going to do about twice the amount of work and consume twice as much as 50 million people. It is just plain common sense. As the population increases, so does consumption and overall economic activity. So the influx of immigrants, legal or illegal, does not harm the economy.

If you really believe Thom’s line of reasoning, then why stop with illegal immigrants or, for that matter, legal immigrants? What about children? Shouldn’t it be illegal to have children because they will “dilute” the work force a few years down the line? Perhaps children should be illegal too.

Or how about just requiring some people to emmigrate, making more jobs for those who remain? It’s logical, according to Thom’s reasoning.

I believe that the illegal immigration scare is a red herring, a scape goat, a distraction based on prejudice and false reasoning.

Let’s examine some of the real reasons we have problems in our ecomony.

What about outsourcing jobs?

If you object to outsourcing based on the belief that jobs are exported so that we cannot provide jobs for everyone and, hence, illegal immigrants gobble up some of the few jobs remaining, wouldn’t you be better off criticizing the concept of outsourcing? How about investing right here in the U.S. and create jobs here? And if the private sector, meaning the small minority of the oligarchy that controls the private sector, is too greedy to invest here in the U.S. because their profits will be less, that means the private sector is failing the overall economy. It is doing wonders for the wealthy, and has been doing so since Ronald Reagan. But don’t confuse the wealthy or overall GDP with the economy. If overall GDP has gone up but been distributed by the private sector to only the most wealthy in the population, the private sector has failed.

All those pundits who dislike government and say that the private sector is the answer are wrong. Instead, the government should, for example, nationalize the banks. Why should anyone, much less a banker, receive millions of dollars a year for shuffling money? Yes, there is some skill required in determining who is credit worthy and what loans should be made in risky environments. And there should be room for high risk venture capital. But banks. No, sorry, if some simple rules requiring ample reserves and down payments, and good credit scores were to be put into effect, then a nationalized bank system with high paid (low six figure) employees would do a fine job of operating the business of keeping the cash flowing. Give me a break. The only reason that isn’t done that way is because banks are now private and there are incredible fortunes being made by the owners of the banks who control the money flow.

Speaking of owners, consider land lords. What function does a land lord provide? They manage property. That’s fine and is worth a moderate (below six figure) salary. Otherwise, what are land lords creating? What are land lords adding to the economy? How many shops on Main Street go out of business because they cannot afford the rent? How many residential landlords have their mortgages paid by their renters?

I think we should figure out a system so that everyone would be entitled to own part of the land they live on as their primary residence. Some day, when we are further from the caveman stage than we are now, it will be seen as ludicrous that a time existed where some humans were “lords” over others, especially as regards the land the others lived on.

There are many positions in our economy where compensation is based on fame, inheritance, stock ownership, position in an old boys network, and other forms of power all of which are not directly related to the amount of work being done by the recipient or even to the quality of that work, if any work is involved at all. Yet this system is accepted by seemingly everyone and what gets complained about is how illegal immigrants are diluting the work force. When I see an add on TV for some medicine that is supposed to help alleviate my elderly mothers arthritis pain, I wonder how much of GDP went into making that add, figuring out the cute name for the drug, and creating the marketing campaign to sell it. All for profit when a well-informed doctor who keeps up with the latest bulletins on drug therapies would be a better and much more cost effective method of delivering that drug to my mother.

Yet the thing conservatives complain about, and many liberals as well, is illegal immigration.

Illegal immimgrants, legal immigrants, and, equally importantly, normal working people are contributing to the economy by virtue of doing work, creating things, building things, and using the money they make to keep the overall economy going, including the compensation of bankers and land lords and others who benefit from their work product.

The drain caused by illegal immigration, if there is a drain, is the wasted money spent on law enforcement in trying to track down illegal immigrants, spent in the legal system and penal system in incarcerating illegal immigrants, and the income lost due to the underground economy created as a consequence.

Legalize all of the illegal immigrants. Make them full fledged citizens who will pay social security tax, income tax, and participate in the society fully. Let’s concentrate on letting people who want to work, work.

Control the borders, within reason. But be very liberal in allowing those in who are able to find work. Provide a good minimum wage and enforce that minimum wage. The result will be a happier more productive economy.

For more information about Thom Hartmann, who is one of the more intelligent radio talk show hosts currently on the air, see However, be warned, he is plain wrong on the topic of illegal immigration.

8 thoughts on “Thom Hartmann on Illegal Immigration”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more my friend. Ever since I heard Thom’s views on this subject, I had less respect for him. I agree with most of what he says but in this area I feel he is definitely part of the problem, not the solution. I also feel that his advice to his listeners to not boycott ad sponsors but instead to voice our complaints to radio station managers is self-serving because he doesn’t want his paycheck to be cut. This is one of the primary problems with so-called “progressive radio,” they are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them e.g. Clear Channel. It disgusts me that so-called “progressive radio” station KPOJ in Portland, OR, runs ads for military recruitment, Wal Mart, and BP. If you have the time, check out my blog at and let me know what you think.
    —Rob DeLoss

  2. I fail to see how immigration helps the current members of a nation. I do see how it hurts them. Companies use low-wage labor, and immigrants supply this. It leaves behind the workers and potential workers who grew up in that society as outsiders who are often more competent than native workers work for less compensation at the least-skilled, physically-hardest jobs. It’s great for companies and it’s great for consumers of strawberries, for instance, but it’s bad for someone growing up in a labor market which is not closed to outside “scab” laborers. Not only is he or she competing with natives for a job which hopefully will provide enough to live on, but also with the, as I say, often above-average foreign workers. These foreigners not only accept lower wages, but accept a lower standard of living which for psycho-social reasons a native would find nearly impossible to accept–such as living 4 to a room. People who advocate for immigrant rights do not have the best interests of the members of the native society at heart. I suspect that immigrant advocates think that those workers who don’t accept massive influxes of cheap foreign labor are racists and xenophobic. That is a slur which mostly goes unsaid–they leave that slander to people like the author of this piece.
    American workers don’t hate or fear other people–they do hate and fear not being able to afford a decent place to live, not being able to get married and have children, and not being able to negotiate with their employers without the constant threat of cheap laborers from somewhere else taking those opportunities away.
    It’s no wonder that Republicans now favor immigration. Nor that Democrats think the same, but for (ostensibly) different reasons. Republicans love it because 1. it helps the short-sighted money-making potential of the U.S. for the rich, very rich, and very very rich, and 2. because they can point to their approval of immigrants as a sign that they aren’t racist. Democrats love it because most immigrants will 1. vote Democrat, 2. have brown skin, and 3. make for a more “multi-cultural” society, whose formation they can direct.

    1. There are too many non sequiturs in Kevin Watson’s reply to take on in a short comment but I’ll just take plunge and address the main issues as I see them

      First, this entire nation is made of immigrants. This nation (the USA) has been around for less than two life spans of my late mother, who died at the age of 93 (230 years is about two and half of her life times).

      During those two and half life times we’ve had nothing but immigrants building this country.

      Her parents were immigrants, Polish coal miners. The rail roads were built by immingrants, Irish and Chinese included.

      So stop this idiotic rant against immgrants.

      Now, if higher pay is the issue, good. Let’s increase the minimum wage to a living wage for everyone who works.

      The main problem is not workers coming into the country, it is out sourcing work away from the country so that the olligarchy can obtain work done at even lower wages and accumualte more profit for the owners the economy.

      If we had the will and organization to stop using war as a way to employ our citizenry, start building infrastructure here on site, and regulating out sourcing, I believe we could improve our economy for everyone here in the United States. Part of that would include a substantial increase in minimum wage.

      I also think rent control should become the norm not the exception. This seems like a separate topic but it’s part of the same problem with the oligarchy.

      Why should a land lord “earn” money by virture of owning property. Sure, the function of property manager is valuable, but that is not what builds the wealth of land lords. The term land “lord” is a relic of feudalism. What if, instead, we convert all renters into owners of the dweillings in which they live? Instead of paying rent to a lord (paying both for the lords mortgage as well as additonal money that is pure profit for the lord) they would be accuring equity for themselves and be more in charge of their own destiny. And the money they earn by working would go to improving their life, not the life of their lord.

      Same for corporations. We could require that all workers own some of the corporation they work in.

      There is enough wealth to go around, it is just that the “social darwinism” of which you speak incorrectly, and in fact, the right term is “capitalism” (use of other people’s labor to make money for the owner) is at the base of our current situation.

      It is going to take at least another couple life times the length of my mom for such revolutionary transformatoins to occur, but I am optimisitic that they will take place.

      It has nothing to do with immigration. That is a red herring and a scape goat used by the oligarchic powers to distract us from the real causes of inequity in all socities in all countries.

  3. “Let’s concentrate on letting people who want to work, work.”
    That, to me, sounds like social darwinism, and is why I am against immigration.
    Would you sell out your child because an orphan came along who was better. Did what you wanted, demanded less of your time, energy, and space.
    Gee, I thought that a really progressive view on society would focus on realizing where the pro-greed policies of the past and present in the U.S. had hurt Americans EVEN IF THOSE AMERICANS WEREN’T THE STRONGEST.

  4. @Dennis Allare – You are conflating immigrants and illegal aliens which undermines an honest discussion about illegal immigration.

    1. @Joe Murphy, no I am not conflating immigrants and illegal aliens. I am stating that illegal aliens are not a drain on the economy and in fact are a benefit to the economy. Please re-read the first few sentences of my post.

      And, illegal alians are immigrants. No need to conflate. They just happen to violate the laws such as in the state of California which used to be Mexico before being conquered by the United States.

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