Bloomberg: Open the Immigration Floodgates

May 3, 2011

 In case you missed NBC’s “Meet The Press” with David Gregory on Sunday morning, here’s a link:  It was one of those programs that got me fired up.  New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was one of the panel guests, along with David Axelrod and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.

It was Bloomberg’s soliloquy about how to fix the economy in general and Detroit’s economy in particular that raised my hackles, soon followed by Gregory’s use of the  The Economist magazine’s feature article titled “What’s Wrong with America’s Economy?” to prompt a discussion about the state of the U.S. economy.

The following is the comment I posted on the “Meet the Press” website:

As a remedy for Detroit’s economic woes, Bloomberg suggests filling it with immigrants.  No doubt, that would reverse the decline in Detroit’s population.  But the people who already live in Detroit (including many immigrants) are experiencing the highest unemployment in the country.  What exactly would Mr. Bloomberg have all these new immigrants do for a living?  How would loading up Detroit with more labor capacity fix the problem that has driven people out of the city in the first place – the lack of sufficient work to employ them? 

Mr. Bloomberg also repeated a frequently made and patently false statement when he said that “this country was built by immigrants.”  While it’s true that the U.S., like every other nation on earth (with the possible exception of Iraq, where the garden of Eden is believed to have been located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers) is populated by the descendants of immigrants, the vast majority of labor that went into the building of everything you see in the U.S. was provided by native-born Americans.  Sure, immigrants contributed, but to say that the U.S. was built by immigrants is ridiculous. 

David Gregory then went on to prompt a discussion of the economy with the cover of “The Economist” magazine, which asks the question, “What’s Wrong With America’s Economy?”  How ironic.  What’s wrong with America’s economy is that its economic policy is guided by the field of economics which, thanks to its refusal to ever again consider the full ramifications of the biggest factor at work eroding our economy today – population growth – its theories, most notably those regarding trade, are fatally flawed. 

If economists ever get over the beat-down their field took in response to the seeming failure of Malthus’ theory about overpopulation and food shortages, and once again consider the full implications of unending population growth – not just strains on resources and stress on the environment – but other implications as well, they might discover the relationship between population density and per capita consumption.  They might come to understand how extreme population densities erode per capita consumption, driving up unemployment and making overpopulated nations utterly dependent on manufacturing for export in order to gainfully employ their bloated labor forces.  And they might come to understand that this is the driving force behind the trade imbalances that nearly collapsed the global economy. 

But, no, economists continue to foolishly rely upon population growth as an engine for macroeconomic growth and as a way to stoke sales and corporate profits, never giving a thought to the relationship between per capita consumption and employment.  Until economists emerge from the fetal position they adopted in response to cries of “Malthusians!” and open their eyes to the full ramifications of population growth, America’s economy and, indeed, the global economy as a whole will continue to deteriorate. 

Pete Murphy

Author, “Five Short Blasts”