In reporting on President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking legal immigration amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times contradicted its own previous reporting on immigration and the economics of the labor market.
In a snarky paragraph that seeks to highlight how Trump’s executive order is actually bad for the very Americans Trump claims to protect, the Times writes: “While numerous studies have concluded that immigration has an overall positive effect on the American work force and wages for workers, Mr. Trump ignored that research on Tuesday, insisting that American citizens who had lost their jobs in recent weeks should not have to compete with foreigners when the economy reopens.”
It’s true, that in addition to concern for the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, Trump is also concerned about the economy and how the number of workers competing for jobs directly affects wages. The Times notes this economic devastation caused by the virus and the 22 million Americans who have lost their jobs.
“By pausing immigration we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs,” the president said at his daily news conference Tuesday. “We must first take care of the American worker.”
But it is also true that the New York Times has previously published reports confirming these same economic concerns Trump is acting on.
In 2006, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that “as a liberal” he was conflicted on the immigration issue, but ultimately concluded that “Immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. That’s just supply and demand.” That sounds an awful lot like the theory the president focused on Tuesday afternoon.
The next day, Krugman wrote another column on the same topic, noting that “many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration.”
That’s why it’s intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants do ‘jobs that Americans will not do.’ The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays–and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants.
In another more recent example, a May 2019 news story titled, “Why Wages Are Finally Rising 10 Years After the Recession,” by New York Times reporter Ben Casselman explains how how the labor market affects wages for workers.
Martha Gimbel, an economist quoted in Casselman’s story, says it turns out “we had to wait a few years for the labor market to get tighter,” before we would see any wage growth. Ernie Tedeschi, another economist at Evercore ISI, told the New York Times that most of low-wage workers’ gains over the past three years are “likely a result of a tightening labor market that is forcing employers to raise pay even for workers at the bottom of the earnings ladder.”
There are plenty of political and policy implications to disagree with in Trump’s immigration executive order, but from a strictly journalistic perspective, the irony is too much. The New York Times claimed “Mr. Trump ignored that research,” while simultaneously ignoring the research printed in their own pages. The paper of record should check in with their own reporting and economist opinion columnists next time they want to take a swipe at the president.