Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bad Penny of Workers Comp Turns Up In Montana

When I was a kid, I remember the Red Skull telling Captain America, "Like a bad penny, I always turn up." I wasn't really sure what that meant, as I hadn't ever seen a bad penny, but nonetheless the phrase stuck in my head. Now, in Montana, a perennial bad idea in Workers' Compensation has turned up once again: denying illegal immigrants Workers' Compensation statutory rights and benefits.

This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, but the reason that I think might be most persuasive is this: it would encourage employers to hire illegal immigrants.

This would happen because if illegals were to be denied Workers' Comp rights and benefits, then injuries to such workers would not show up on the employer's experience modification factor. That would make Workers' Comp insurance premiums lower for employers who use illegals than for employers who follow the rules. Surely it cannot be the intention of legislators in Montana to encourage the hiring of illegal immigrants.

I would expect their intentions are merely to make it possible for some employers to maim and occasionally kill such undocumented workers with impunity, as a way (so they think) of discouraging such workers from migrating to their state. A little blood on the workshop floor, a few missing fingers or arms, would be a small price to pay for making a principled political stand to earn a few votes, as long as the blood and fingers belong to folks who won't vote anyway.

That's why I point out the economic flaw in their proposal, rather than the cold blooded disregard for human life that it entails. Their vindictive little proposal, if ever enacted, would actually serve to create an economic incentive to hire illegal workers over legal ones.

Even in Montana, unintended consequences can be the most long lasting ones.

No comments: