Mass Immigration and the Squeezing of the American Middle and Working Class
Michael Anton’s The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return, which was published in the second half of 2020, is a book about the stark choice the United States faced in the (then) impending presidential election and – one may add – which the country continues to face. But The Stakes is also a critical analysis of what the author calls the modern-day America’s woke-globalist “regime” and “ruling class.” Although the book is not mainly or exclusively about immigration, the issue is nevertheless important to Anton’s narrative.
The author – a national security official in the Trump administration, a lecturer and research fellow at Hillsdale College, and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute – espouses a clearly “nationalist-populist” brand of conservatism. Thus, he considers increasing economic inequality in this country a major problem which will, if left unchecked, ultimately turn the U.S. into a banana republic where a small oligarchy of hyper-rich plutocrats rule over a mass of poor and dependent subjects.
Anton describes the “ruling class” as consisting of uber-wealthy tycoons in sectors such as Big Tech and Big Finance as well as the politicians (including establishment Republicans), judges, academics, think-tankers, and journalists who work and shill for them and their interests at the expense of the commoners. This oligarchy occupies an ideological spectrum stretching from “woke” leftists through liberals to corporatists only concerned about money, but shares a globalist hostility towards nations and borders.
The way in which this “regime” operates, according to Anton, is a “high-low” alliance against the “middle.” In other words, the plutocrats working together with the low-income working poor, welfare dependents, and the identity politics/ethnic grievance crowd to squeeze the middle and working classes. That way, the “ruling class” maintains and bolsters its power and wealth while deflecting the discontent of those in the lower rungs of society away from themselves and towards the supposedly “privileged” strata in the middle. The whole point is to “divide and conquer,” to keep a solid majority from uniting against the higher ups.
What will happen once the middle and working classes are thoroughly squeezed? The “ruling class” does not appear to have thought this through, but, Anton argues, we are definitely heading in that direction if present trends continue.
How does immigration figure into all of this? To begin with, the oligarchy views immigrants as part of its “high-low” coalition. It courts low-skilled, low-income immigrants through welfare and the more educated and affluent ones through identity politics and fomenting resentment against the native-born majority.
And this resentment is not just limited to relations between poor immigrants and the native-born middle class, but sometimes also manifests itself in a contempt for said middle class by the wealthier foreign-born. For instance, Anton quotes an anonymous Taiwanese-born CFO in the internet business who told the Atlantic that middle-class America is overpaid, entitled, and fails to generate enough value, and should therefore “decide to take a pay cut.”
In general, mass immigration means votes for left-wing politicians, cheap labor and more customers for big business, more clients for the welfare bureaucracy, and satisfaction for various purveyors of ethnic grievance politics. And while the elites get to virtue signal about how supposedly “welcoming” and “tolerant” they are, the middle and working classes pay the bill in one form or another (e.g., higher taxes and debt, rising costs, overcrowding in the schools and streets, stagnant wages, job losses, etc.).
As a result, Anton believes that the right-of-center cheerleaders for mass immigration are naïve and out of touch. Most recent immigrants, as well as their offspring, tend to vote for left-wing policies. The reality, he asserts, is that the left supports mass migration because it hopes that by changing the American electorate it can make any center-right opposition to its agenda irrelevant and forever relegated to an impotent minority.
Anton – the descendent of Lebanese, Greek, and Italian immigrants – does not oppose all immigration per se, nor does he blame all of America’s problems on immigrants. His argument is that unchecked mass immigration – both legal and illegal – as it has existed for decades now is not serving the common good and is, sadly, contributing to many problems facing the nation. Thus, he believes that the U.S. should consider a moratorium on immigration, to allow all the foreign-born already here to assimilate, and proposes picking immigrants based on merit – rather than family-based preferences – and eliminating the “diversity” visa lottery.
In short, Anton argues that “the first, last, and only question that should determine America’s immigration policy is: how much immigration, chosen on which bases, best serves the current interests of the current American citizenry? That’s it. Not what’s best for ‘the economy,’ or this or that industry, or what we somehow ‘owe’ to the rest of the world.”