Monday, September 3, 2007

Demographics, Politics, Destiny

The old saying "Demographics is destiny" is not used as much as it once was. Maybe we have gotten used to being the baby boomer "bulge in the snake" and haven't considered what happens when the snake slims down....

Maybe we have assumed that our parents will remain here forever to listen to our whining, to clean up behind us, to bail us out of our problems and to let us stay "forever youg"... Or maybe we just don't care. Thinking about the future is what we were supposed to be good at... Saving the planet (another topic, another time), being one with nature and living our lives so that all mankind was our brother...(
More than ONE internet wise person has noted that we are not building shields to protect the cities, underground chambers to protect the population, space weapons to destroy intergalactic meteors that have destroyed the Earth several times before. Yet, we are concerned about Global Warming to a level not seen in 300 million years, based upon computer projections that cannot give an accurate forecast for March 15, 2008)

The reality is that a shrinking population means a sudden diminishing in our standard of living and reduction in our expectations. Boomers have never been very good at diminished expectations. Many of the things we have worked hard to achieve and now enjoy will be denied us. i.e.A nice meal out, clean hotel rooms, inexpensive and safe food, caring and professional nurses and doctors who speak our language and understand our needs.... Look at Europe and Japan who have larger social safety nets and a more rapidly declining population. They lack the tax funds and entrepreneurial energy to refurbish and maintain their infrastructure. (30,000 died during an August heat wave recently) Their power, sewer, water, road systems are all creaking with age and they lack the manpower to rebuild. A 35 hour work week and gentrified union work force will not bring about much more than a slow decline. It will not bring about a new technologies, new methods, new investment.

Steven Camarota in Front Page Magazine has an interesting article about the affects of our present immigration policies... (WARNING: Discussions of methodology, statistics, charts, graphs and other details that are not for everyone, at the link)

This study uses Census Bureau data to project how different levels of immigration impact population size and the aging of American society. The findings show that the current level of net immigration (1.25 million a year) will add 105 million to the nation’s population by 2060. While immigration makes the population larger, it has a small effect on the aging of society.

Among the findings:

  • Currently, 1.6 million legal and illegal immigrants settle in the country each year; 350,000 immigrants leave each year, resulting in net immigration of 1.25 million.

  • If immigration continues at current levels, the nation’s population will increase from 301 million today to 468 million in 2060 — a 167 million (56 percent) increase. Immigrants plus their descendents will account for 105 million (63 percent) of the increase.
The nation’s ongoing debate over immigration generally has not focused on the effect it has on U.S. population size. Yet, increasing the nation’s total population is one of immigration’s clearest and most direct effects. Supporters of low immigration point to the congestion, sprawl, traffic, pollution, loss of open spaces, and greenhouse gas emissions that could be impacted by population growth. Supporters of high immigration argue that population growth may create more opportunities for businesses, workers, and consumers. Whatever one thinks of population growth, the projected 167 million growth in the nation’s population in the next 53 years is very large

Because of gains in life expectancy coupled with the decline in fertility, American, like all modern societies, is growing older. Many observers worry that there will not be enough workers to support the government and economy in the future. It is often suggested that immigration can offset the aging of America society by adding young workers.

Consistent with Census Bureau projections, we find that future immigration levels have a very large impact on population growth. Also consistent with Census projections, we find that immigration has only a small positive effect on the aging of American society. At present, 1.6 million immigrants settle in the United States annually, and 350,000 leave, for a net level of 1.25 million a year. If that level of net immigration continues, the nation’s total population will grow by 167 million, to 468 million, by 2060. Immigrants who have yet to arrive, but who do so by 2060, plus their descendents, will account for 105 million — or 63 percent — of this future increase. If the annual level of net immigration were 300,000 a year in the future, the population would be 80 million smaller in 2060 than if immigration continues at the current level.

While immigration has a large effect on population size, it has only a small effect on the aging of society. At the current level of net immigration, 61 percent of the nation’s population will be of working age (15-66) in 2060, compared to 60 percent if net immigration were 300,000 a year. If immigration was doubled to 3.2 million a year (2.5 million net), it would only raise the working-age share of the population one additional percentage point, to 62 percent of the population in 2060. However, at that level, the nation’s total population would be 572 million, 272 million larger than it is today. Immigrants do tend to arrive in America relatively young, but they grow older just like native-born Americans. Immigrants admitted today become tomorrow’s retirees. And although they tend to have somewhat larger families than natives, the differences are not large enough to significantly change the nation’s age structure. As a result, immigration makes for a much larger population and more densely settled country, but can have only a small effect on the aging of society.

The debate over immigration should not be whether it makes for a much larger population — without question it does. The debate over immigration should also not be whether it has a large impact on the aging of society — without question it does not. The central question this study raises and that Americans must answer is what costs and benefits come with having a much larger population and a more densely settled country. Some foresee a deteriorating quality of life with a larger population, including its impact on such things as pollution, congestion, loss of open spaces, and sprawl. Others may feel that a much larger population will create more opportunities for businesses, workers, and consumers. These projections do not resolve those questions. What the projections do tell us is where we are headed as a country. The question for the nation is: Do we wish to go there?

We cannot think beyond the next election cycle.we think only in a sports win-lose mentality. We cannot imagine a nation THAT large. We cannot imagine the systems and procedures that we must develop to ensure that our economy, democracy, values and strengths remain vibrant... We cannot think that far ahead, but somebody must... If not our "National Thought Leaders", then who?

Illegal Immigration

Some people have already considered the consequences of their economic situation and decided that they want their children to grow up in "the land of the free and the home of the brave"... They have voted with their feet. Small towns across the Midwest have welcomed the waves of immigrants, legal and illegal. The current political mess shows only that our "leaders" would rather hide than deal with the subject.

MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA — Everyone knew they were there, doing dirty and dangerous work in the massive meatpacking plant. They had come a long way — more than 1,000 miles, from impoverished rural Mexico to the lush corn country of the Midwest. Some folks looked the other way, others offered a helping hand.

This town in the heart of middle America that has been transformed — even rejuvenated — by immigration stands as a symbol of the agonizing predicaments and pressures faced by many communities today.

As the latest crop of presidential candidates crisscrosses Iowa, their speeches bristling with catch phrases about the border, Marshalltown is confronting the real-life consequences of a problem whose roots are far away.

And the town can't thrive without immigrants. The dramatic growth in the Hispanic population — from a few hundred in 1990 to perhaps as much as 20 percent of the 26,000 residents now — has pumped new blood into this aging rural community.

"The leaders know darn well this town would really be suffering if not for the influx of refugees," says Mark Grey, a University of Northern Iowa professor and immigration expert. "They can wax nostalgic for the good old days, but the good old days are gone."

After the December raid — one of six at Swift plants across the country — federal agents returned in July. They made five more arrests, including a union representative and a human resources manager who allegedly coached an illegal immigrant on how to apply for a job using a fake name and documents.

This is an issue that will not go away. What is the carrying capacity of the United States? How mny people can we support? What do we do about the millions of people whoa re here illegally? How do we support our aging population? How do we support the whiny boomer's in their dotage? what will happen to Social Security, Medicare, Medicade, prices, taxes, insurance rates etc. in a nation with an aging and declining population?

When will a leader emerge to confront these issues? We keep electing "leaders" who get to Washington and become "sheep"... Or maybe we should simply focus on keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive and let American ingenuity combine with immigrant ingenuity to decide what the future will look like...

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