Sen. Ted Kennedy may do a lot of talking about his love for the little guy, but if two major proposals he has made in this Congress were to become law, it would be a disaster for the poorest American workers and a blow to American freedom.
Some American workers would lose their jobs, while others would see their wages suppressed by the legalized mass importation of foreign workers who would be allowed into the United States precisely because they had agreed ahead of time to sell their labor here for less than an American would.
Kennedy's first major proposal, which was narrowly defeated in the Senate in March, would have increased the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour. That would have thrown some Americans off the bottom rung of the employment ladder.
His second proposal, introduced last week, would provide amnesty to illegal aliens while creating a permanent, ongoing guest-worker program to fill -- as a summary on Kennedy's Web site puts it -- "jobs that require few or no skills."
This would thrust the American employment ladder down into Mexico and other under-developed regions of the world, so that workers who are used to laboring for Third World wages could routinely, legally and in massive numbers climb into the U.S. job market and compete directly with American workers for pay and positions.
Kennedy's minimum-wage increase would have effectively cut demand for low-wage labor. His guest-worker program would increase supply. Both would cost jobs for the poorest Americans.
When promoting his plan to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25, Kennedy attacked rich executives for not volunteering to pay more than the market demands to their lowest-paid workers. "What is fair about executives who pay themselves millions of dollars but can't find a way to pay a decent minimum wage?" he fumed on the Senate floor. But, with his guest-worker program, Kennedy wants to allow these same executives to import cheap foreign laborers whenever the domestic labor market drives the wages of American workers to a higher level than these executives want to pay.
Kennedy is not utterly inconsistent: With both proposals, he favors government intervention in the labor market to fix the price of low-skilled labor.
But while his minimum-wage proposal may be bad economics, his guest-worker plan is worse: It is un-American.