I wouldn't take the column so seriously if this were the first time I'd heard this refrain; but it isn't. I heard a virtually identical lament a few years ago, when I was recovering from my second knee surgery. Home all day doing rehab exercises, I took a break to go outside and gab with the contractor who was remodeling my neighbor's house. (Did a nice job, too.) He said the same thing: he's tried to hire Americans and they won't work. They don't show up, or they don't stay, or they don't do the job the way he wants it. The workers who show up, work all day, and do what they're told to do as it's explained to them - are the people whose papers are, um, not in order.
The anti-illegal folks rant loudly about the way illegal immigrants are going to ruin this country. If Americans lose the will to do a day's work for a day's pay, we'll ruin the country all by ourselves. The illegal immigrants won't have to do a thing.
The whirring sound you hear is my dad, spinning in his grave. Dad worked from the time he was I think about fourteen; he didn't graduate from high school until he was 21 because he was working. He took any job he could get; on every job, he worked his hours, and did whatever they told him to do: sell shoes, make ice cream, chip paint, drive a forklift, supervise a crew, move furniture. After he retired from Federal civil service (he had a civilian support job for the Navy), he got another job doing cleanup at an auto body shop, just to get his Social Security quarters in; and by the time he was ready to retire again, they begged him to stay, because he did more work in a day than anyone else.
That work ethic is what built America; it's what won 2 wars and pulled the country through the Great Depression. It's what makes the international commentators say that Americans are the workingest fools on the planet, taking less vacation than anyone and working crazy overtime. I wonder. I realize I sound like a bunch of people I actually have very little in common with; but I was raised to believe that a regular paycheck was a contract, and my side of the contract was a solid 40 hours of work a week, in exchange. It sounds to me as if we may be losing that attitude. If we do, we'll regret it. And we may try to blame the resulting trouble on the Mexican immigrants; but it won't be their fault.