[Speaking to the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department, McCain took] questions, including a pointed one on his immigration plan.
McCain responded by saying immigrants were taking jobs nobody else wanted. He offered anybody in the crowd $50 an hour to pick lettuce in Arizona.
Shouts of protest rose from the crowd, with some accepting McCain's job offer.
"I'll take it!" one man shouted.
McCain insisted none of them would do such menial labor for a complete season. "You can't do it, my friends."
How can this assertion of his possibly be right? Fifty dollars an hour is $100,000 per year. I suspect the lettuce-picking season is shorter than a year, but it's still $50,000 per six months, assuming a 40 hour/week pace. It's possible that no-one in that particular crowd would think this is a good deal; among other things, they already had jobs that likely pay pretty well, and perhaps most of them were older and not terribly fit (McCain saw the crowd and I didn't). But surely there must be some substantial number of current American citizens who would be quite willing to engage even in highly strenuous physical labor for an annualized wage of $100,000 per year, no? Even if 99% of all Americans would be unwilling or unable to do the job, the remaining 1% should be plenty to fill those hypothetical jobs.
Now perhaps Sen. McCain should have just chosen a lower number; maybe his claim would have been plausible at that number, though I'm not sure. But it seems odd that he would choose a number that is so clearly out of place for his argument — that he would seemingly deliberately engage in such pretty patent overstatement.