The Immigration Problem Explained

My neighbor Bob, who is getting up in years, decided to forego his annual spring cleaning chores. Not that they wouldn’t be done, but at least for this spring he decided to hire a handyman. On his wife’s advice he placed ads on the internet, in the local newspaper and also spread the word at his two favorite watering holes Starbucks and Al’s Gin Joint.


The response was not overwhelming. However come Saturday morning five candidates showed up at the designated time.

Instead of interviewing each one separately Bob decided to form them in a line and asked each to tell, in a few sentences, something about themselves and how much, per hour, they expected to be paid.

The first candidate was a recent college graduate. As he stepped forward he proudly proclaimed that he had achieved a number two ranking in his field of study, Middle Eastern Philosophy. He stated that, as a recently degreed applicant, his “expectation” was a starting salary of $62,500. However, he said that he had done the math and that it equated to $30 per hour. With that statement he smiled confidently and stepped back into line.

The second candidate was a recently laid off construction worker’s helper. Upon evaluating the size and shapes of his competitors he decided to highlight his obvious advantageous physical prowess. He quickly deduced that if $30 an hour was the apparent going rate for a scrawny Philosophy major, he obviously was worth at least that sum. “Yes,” he said, “thirty dollars an hour. That works for me.”

The third candidate was a woman. She was recently laid off from the local McDonald’s. As the kiosk’s became more prevalent the need for her service skill’s became less and less. She stepped forward and said that she had, “No college education nor any experience in construction, like the other two.” However she was adamant that her strong suit of efficiency would save Bob “much money.” Therefore she would work for what she considered a “living wage,” $15 per hour. Bob immediately perked up.

The fourth candidate was a retiree, apparently, several years older than Bob. Needing a supplement to his social security and small pension he confirmed that he, unlike the others, knew exactly what had to be done. “No need to waste time supervising me, Bob, I’ve done this job many times before.” With that said he stepped forward and whispered in Bob’s ear, so the final candidate could not hear, exactly the hourly rate he wanted.

The final candidate was an undocumented immigrant who had just arrived in town. English was obviously not his first language. He was able to determine, however, that what Bob was looking for had nothing to do with education, physical prowess, efficiency or experience. He stepped forward and stated, in very broken English, that he would work for two dollars per hour less than whatever the “old guy” had whispered in Bob’s ear.

Who did Bob hire?


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With his passion for economics Bill Tatro has been entertaining audiences on the radio and in seminars for decades. Bill is an economist that provides weekly paid content to subscribers, and offers a free daily "lite" version as well.