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GOP underdogs address construction labor shortage, immigration

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Editor’s note” Wednesday evening’s debates among the Republican candidates for President were hosted by CNBC – a financial news network on cable television. A transcript of the first debate is available at the Washington Post.

The first of the evening’s debates was among the Republican presidential candidates polling most poorly. On stage were Bobby Jindal, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki and Rick Santorum.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., was asked about his immigration plan and how to reconcile immigration policies when a company such as Toll Brothers says half of its construction workforce is made up of immigrants because they can’t find Americans  to do the work. Graham’s reply was that he would ensure that “American workers always get the first preference. But if you can’t find an American worker, after you advertise at a competitive wage, I don’t want you to be at a loss. Bring people in based on merit to do the work to get the company and economy moving.”

Former Gov. George Pataki, R -N.Y., said, “We have to honor the carpenter, the plumber, the electrician, who can actually build something and instead of just saying that a college degree live — delivers prestige, let’s celebrate those who do things with their hands and elevate their skills using training in high school and community.”

Former senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said “we aren’t giving the training and the investment in our workers and we’re bringing in people to compete against low wage workers.” He’s right about the training, and organizations , unions and schools are working on that. However, Santorum also called these $20-plus-an-hour trade jobs “low wage” ones, and that flies in the face of reality. The Bureau of Labor Statistics  put the September 2015 hourly average wage at a bit above the $20 per-hour level.