The article reports on a provision in the Senate immigration bill that removes the cap on the number of nurses who can enter the country each year. The problem, as described in the article, is that the country faces a large and growing shortage of nurses. In a market economy, a shortage means that wages should rise. This will cause more students to enter nursing schools (presumably creating more incentive to establish nursing schools), and will induce many part-time or retired nurses to work more hours as nurses. It may also curtail the demand somewhat, as some tasks that are performed by nurses can presumably be performed by less-skilled workers.
But, that is not the way things work in the world of the conservative nanny state. The people who set economic policy in this country don’t want to pay nurses higher wages. They have a different solution - bring more nurses from developing countries into the United States. These nurses will be very happy to work for the current wages received by nurses in the United States, which are far higher than what nurses in places like the Philippines or India earn. (Never mind the impact that this drain of nurses has on developing countries.)
Before anyone claims that free immigration is part of a free market, it is important to remember that the United States does not have free immigration in general, it only allows free immigration in occupations where it is trying to depress wages.
"Here's a Job Americans Would Do
Outsourcing is killing plenty of American jobs. But nursing is a good job that can’t be outsourced, because the patients are here. Hey, no problem. We’ll just in-source foreign workers.
Kuttner ideas on how to increase wages and improve distribution of wealth via taxation are a bit dated in my opinion-but at least he’s trying.
The US of Guest Worker Visas to attack Software Engineers went smoothly for the plutocrats because software engineers were not an organized profession-and had nothing in the way of things like licensing boards as a tool to use in their defense. Nurses are largely unionized. Many nurses have seen first hand what Guest Worker Visas have done to family members in the software profession. If the union leadership of Nurses can’t stand up to this kind of assault, I suspect we’ll see a rapid reaction in this area.
Why is this happening?
The key to the story is that our political leaders think that free trade and competition are good only for manufacturing workers, nurses, and other workers lower down the social ladder. They want the nanny state to protect the highest-paid workers from international competition. The huge gap in wages between those at the top and those at the bottom is not because of the market, it ís because those at the top got Congress to rig the game.
Disillusionment has set in: I'm getting this feeling more and more often.