(Partial lyrics to "Lobachevsky," by 1950s and 60s mock-folksinger Tom Lehrer. Performance here. Not to be missed!)
I was reading a brief, thoroughly perverse blog entry ("Don't Let Health-Care-for-Illegals Kill Health Reform") by Derek Thompson at The Atlantic's website and happened to glance at the response to Thompson posted by commenter "Black Saint" at 11:44 a.m. on August 24, 2009. A lot of Black Saint's material, which debunks the usual, tired arguments favoring illegal immigration and amnesty, seemed quite familiar.
There's the "lettuce" argumentThere's quite a bit of overlap between that, by Black Saint, and this, written by me in mid-2008, at the website of Montanans for Immigration Law Enforcement:
We'll be paying $50/head if we don't have illegal aliens working in the fields. As Phil Martin, ag economist at UC Davis shows, the field labor cost in a $1 head of lettuce is about 6 cents. Triple those wages and Americans will do the jobs. (They're not career positions. They're seasonal jobs for young people, starting in the world of work. I have did [sic] similarly menial jobs.) And you'll be paying 10% more for lettuce and other produce. Do you spend $1,000/year on produce? OK, you'll pay $100 more.
Claim: Lettuce will cost American consumers $5.00 per head if we don't have illegal aliens working in the fields.Obviously there are differences in wording between the two, but Black Saint's specific version also seems very familiar to me — likely those are my precise words (except for the grammatical mistake!) posted somewhere else online.
Facts: Naturally, we call this claim "the lettuce argument," and it's false for lettuce and other vegetables and fruits. Research by Philip Martin, agricultural economist at the University of California (Davis), tells us that, if a head of lettuce costs $1, about 6 cents of that pays the field workers. So if we tripled wages for field hands — at which point Americans would do the jobs — we'd boost the cost of that head of lettuce to $1.12.
Extending this argument to fresh produce in general, consumers' costs would increase less than 15%, so a family that now spends, say, $800 per year on fruits and vegetables (about $15 per week) would incur additional costs of about $100 per year. This is a modest price for ending what amounts to modern-day slavery. (Note that Americans taking such jobs needn't view them as onerous careers. Instead, they are starter jobs, introductions to the world of work for young people.)
Substantial other parts of Black Saint's contribution are definitely my creations originally. For another example, there's his seven-item list of mass immigration's impacts on American society starting with "The flood of immigrants drives wages and living conditions in our central cities toward those of the Third World."
Does this unattributed use bother me? NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST!! I'M DELIGHTED! We have a country to save from immigration, and if someone else has made what you think is a persuasive, memorable argument for that purpose, USE IT!
I do it myself. For a third example, I'm pretty sure Black Saint lifted this, too, from me:
There's the "everyone's an immigrant except for the 'Native Americans'" argument. Well, the American Indians didn't sprout from the land, they came across the Bering land bridge from Asia. So if the criterion is "You're an immigrant if you had an ancestor who immigrated here," then American Indians are immigrants, too.Actually, I would have written "the American Indians didn't sprout from the ground." But I cadged the thought — and the expression of it — from Peter Brimelow's writings.
In that case, "immigrant" is no longer a useful word, since Everyone's an immigrant.
Black Saint also writes, "The difference between American and Mexican 'twin cities' straddling the border is like night and day, yet the land is obviously the same. It's not the dirt that's important, it's the people. Put another way, if culture didn't matter, Mexico and Central America would be paradise."
I think that's from me, too. But I stole its final sentence from Bay-Area stalwart and letters-to-the-editor-writer extraordinaire Tim Aaronson.
So if you're a veteran at writing online comments and/or letters-to-editors (preferred because they have more readership, hence more impact) ...
... or if you haven't yet engaged yourself in such writing because you're verbally tongue-tied and you could use some starter material...
Step right up and PLAGIARIZE!