No U.S. Population Growth for Six Months?!?!

March 21, 2017

As part of my monthly calculation of the size of the actual labor force (for the purpose of analyzing the monthly employment report), I use the U.S. population as determined by the “Population Clock” on the home page of the U.S. Census Bureau.  As I write this, it stands at 324.73 million.  This figure typically grows at the rate of about 180,000 per month.  That’s a scary rate of population growth.  The U.N. estimates that half of all world population growth by 2050 will be caused by the growth of the population in only eight nations – seven third world nations and – you guessed it – the United States, the only developed nation that continues to experience third-world-like population growth.

But I’ve noticed something strange in the last six months, and especially since the beginning of the year.  In December, the population clock actually fell back by almost 600,000.  Since then, the population has been growing at a rate of only about 80,000 per month.  Today, it stands at almost exactly the same level as it did at the end of September.

This is great news, but I suspect that some of the reason for the slowdown is not good news.  You may recall that sometime back around December, the CDC announced that death rates in the U.S. were rising while life expectancy had actually declined slightly.  But there’s some really great news too.  Illegal immigrants are being deported and the entry of new illegal immigrants has slowed dramatically.  Even legal immigration has slowed since Trump took office.

Although it’s still early in this new trend, a couple of observations are in order:

  • Most economists predict economic gloom and doom to accompany a lack of population growth.  Contrary to that, the U.S. economy has experienced its best growth in many years in the past six months.  A brightening economic outlook is one of the outcomes I predicted in Five Short Blasts that would accompany a stabilizing or even declining U.S. population.
  • A rising death rate is another outcome that I predicted in my book for nations whose population densities continue to grow beyond a critical level, driven by rising unemployment and poverty.

This is all something I’ll be watching closely as immigration continues to slow dramatically during the Trump administration.


Student Visas

February 24, 2017

The subject of student visas aggravates me as much as illegal immigration (although we’re finally getting some great news on that front).

Why?  “What’s the problem with student visas?” you might ask.  For most, the topic probably conjures up images of foreign exchange students coming to the U.S. to experience life here and return home to spread the news about what a great place the U.S. is and to help spread our value system around the world.  Or maybe you envision students coming here for an education that can be put to work back home in some underdeveloped country, helping to raise living standards there.  But the reality of the situation is nothing like this.  The student visa program boils down to money.  It’s a system designed to suck trade dollars back into the U.S. economy and to prop up inflated tuitions.

Let’s begin with some data.  Here are the statistics for non-immigrant visas issued from 2011 through 2015.  (The data for 2016 is not yet available.)  Student visas are primarily “F” visas.  “M” visas are for vocational students.  Taken together, they totaled nearly 700,000 in 2015.  These are “non-immigrant” visas, but don’t be fooled.  A large percentage of these students receive immigrant visas (leading to permanent status) almost automatically upon graduation.

Where do these students come from?  About 280,000 came from mainland China.  75,000 came from India.  28,000 came from Saudi Arabia.  27,000 came from South Korea.  17,600 came from Vietnam.  An equal number came from Mexico.  17,000 came from Japan.  The rest are spread across the remaining nations of the world.  The significance of this list will be discussed later.

To get an idea of what the student visa program is really about, take a look at this web site, which provides information for foreign students for how to apply:

https://www.studyusa.com/en/a/33/how-to-get-your-u-s-student-visa

What it boils down to is this:  you have to explain why you want to study in the U.S. and, more importantly, you have to prove that you can pay for it.  There’s no student loan program here, at least not through U.S. agencies.  If you can get scholarship money from your native country, fine, but regardless of how you get the cash, you have to be able to pay your way.  You must also declare your intent to return to your home country when you’re finished with your studies.  But that’s a formality, one easily skirted when you actually get your degree.

In 2015, over 677,000 “F” visas were issued.  223,000 applicants were refused.  In other words, about three quarters of all applicants are accepted.

Now, let’s take a look at some interesting findings about the student visa program published in a study by the Brookings Institution in 2012.  Here’s the link:

https://www.brookings.edu/interactives/the-geography-of-foreign-students-in-u-s-higher-education-origins-and-destinations/#/M10420

“From 2008 to 2012, 85 percent of foreign students pursuing a bachelor’s degree or above attended colleges and universities in 118 metro areas that collectively accounted for 73 percent of U.S. higher education students. They contributed approximately $21.8 billion in tuition and $12.8 billion in other spending—representing a major services export—to those metropolitan economies over the five-year period.”

Got that?  They paid full tuition and living expenses, bringing over $33 billion into the economy.  And that was through 2012.  In 2015, when 25% more visas were issued than in 2012, that figure rises to over $42 billion.

Two-thirds of foreign students pursuing a bachelor’s or higher degree are in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) or business, management and marketing fields, versus 48 percent of students in the United States.

Remember how tech companies claim that they depend heavily on immigrants to provide the advanced skills that they need?

Forty-five (45) percent of foreign student graduates extend their visas to work in the same metropolitan area as their college or university.

In other words, these students then go on to become the H1-B visa workers that the tech industry (and many others) claim that they need.  So the “non-immigrant” nature of student visas, and the declaration of intent to return to their home country, is truly a joke.  Here’s further evidence that student visas are used as the pipeline for H1-B visas:

http://www.h1base.com/content/f1visa

These companies who claim that they’re dependent on immigrants for the skills they need are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.  What they need are STEM graduates and they get them from American universities.  They like the fact that foreign students contribute to a glut of labor that helps to keep their payroll costs suppressed.  When Apple claims that, if immigrants aren’t allowed to travel freely to work in the U.S., then they might need to relocate to where they can have easier access to immigrant labor, that’s a “crock” and they know it.  Go ahead, Apple, move to Yemen or  Iran or Libya or one of those other countries, and let’s see how successful you can be there.  What you really need are the STEM graduates of American universities.  You won’t find them in those other places.  But what you will find are poverty, illiteracy and oppressive governments.  But you say you can do better there.  So prove it.  Just leave.  Go ahead.  Go.

There’s a mind-numbing amount of information in these links.  Let’s boil it all down:

  • Immigrants currently fill 1.2 million of the seats available in American universities.  That’s a significant percentage of the seats available.
  • Approximately three quarters of foreign students who apply are accepted.  Compare that to the acceptance rate for American students at most prominent universities, where only 10% or fewer attain admission.
  • Why the preference for foreign students?  Because they pay full tuition, propping up the ridiculous rate of tuition increases.
  • Foreign students are given preference over American students because of their ability to pay.  This effectively shuts American students out, especially from STEM curricula.
  • The influx of foreign students actually counts as an export of services.  Can you believe that?  It’s one of the tricks used by the government to draw trade dollars back into the U.S. economy and to keep our trade data from looking even worse than it does.
  • University sports teams have also gotten in on the act, now recruiting foreign students through the “student” visa program, denying athletic scholarships to deserving American athletes.  When it comes time for the Olympics, those athletes, trained in America, compete for their home countries, leaving the American teams thin.
  • Almost half of foreign students then go on to work in America, shutting American students out of those jobs as well.
  • The student visa program feeds into the H1-B visa program, which then begins to feed many of the other immigrant categories such as immediate relatives and family-sponsored preferences.

OK, remember the above list of countries that send the most students?  Did you notice anything about that list?  Did you notice that it includes the countries with whom America has the biggest trade deficits?  That should give you a clue as to where these foreign students are getting the money they need for tuition.  Their parents are getting rich on manufacturing for export to the United States.  What this means is that, in addition to taking your job, they then use your money to pay for their kids to come over here and take your kids’ jobs too!  Can this scheme possibly get any more outrageous?

If you’re an American student who hasn’t been able to get accepted into the school or program of your choice, the student visa program is probably the main reason.  If you’re a recent graduate and find yourself now saddled with crushing student loan debt, you can blame the student visa program for propping up ridiculous tuition rates.  And if you now find yourself struggling to find a job, you can once again blame the student visa program.

The student visa program is an outrage perpetrated on unsuspecting parents and students, depriving them of opportunities to help America out of its trade-created cash crisis, to help greedy universities prop up inflated tuition rates and to help corporations suppress wages with a labor glut.  It has to stop.  No foreign student should be admitted until every last American kid who wants a college education has gotten a seat in a university.  President Trump … please … take a close look at the student visa program and rein it in.


U.S. Immigration – A Little Perspective

February 18, 2017

A lot of claims are made about immigration, especially by those supportive of high rates of immigration into the U.S., no more so than recently.  “We are a nation of immigrants.”  “Our high tech industry needs the special skills that immigrants provide us.”  “Immigrants are ambitious and innovative; 25% of all small businesses are started by immigrants.”  “Immigration boosts our economy through diversity.”  And so on.

Are these claims true?  Do immigrants possess some sort of mystical economic powers lacking in the native-born American population?  Or are these claims mostly hyperbole designed to support some other agenda?

First of all, let’s look at the evidence.  The claim that “we need immigrants to have a viable, vibrant economy” is similar to the claim that “we need free trade in order to have a viable economy.”  Both statements fail the most basic test of logic.  If these statements were true, then it would be impossible for humankind to have a viable economy since we have no trade with or immigrants from other planets.  Think about it.  In order for such a statement to be valid, it has to hold true regardless of how big you draw the circle around any given group of people.

If immigration is critical to a vibrant economy, how does one explain that, of the five largest economies in the world, three rank near the bottom in terms of migration rate?  China, the largest economy in the world and ranking in the top seven percentile in terms of its rate of economic growth, ranks in the bottom half in terms of migration rate.  India, with the fourth largest and seventh fastest-growing economy in the world ranks 84th in terms of migration rate.  And Japan, with the fifth largest economy in the world (but among the slowest-growing economies in the world) ranks 86th in terms of migration rate, with a rate of zero per 1,000 people.  In fact, of the 222 nations on earth, 151 nations have a net migration rate of zero or less.  (Less indicating that they have a net outflow of people.)  Clearly, immigration is no factor at all in determining the health of an economy.  That’s not to say that there aren’t instances where immigrants do, in fact, provide some special skills that are needed by companies and other institutions, but to extrapolate that to mean that more is better simply doesn’t stand up to the data.

There has also been a recent trend in holding up Europe as a shining example of tolerance toward immigration while berating the U.S. for its efforts to reign it in.  If we are to believe the news reports, the European Union (EU) has welcomed an absolute tidal wave of immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, while the U.S. deports and talks of building a wall.  Let’s look at the facts.  In 2014, approximately 284,000 “refugees” arrived in the EU, which has a population comparable in size to the U.S.  In 2015, that number exploded to 1.82 million.  In 2016, the EU began “closing the door” and the number of refugees fell back to below the 2014 level, for a total of about 2.3 million over the course of three years.

Compare that figure to the U.S. where over a million illegal immigrants have crossed our southern border year in and year out for decades, while the U.S. admitted legal immigrants at about the same rate – a million per year – for a net influx of two million immigrants per year for as long as most of us can remember.  The fact is that Europe’s rate of immigration is dwarfed by what the U.S. has accommodated for far, far longer.  Yet, we are to see the EU as a shining example of tolerance for immigrants while the U.S. is depicted as intolerant and bigoted?  Give me a break!

This is a good time to take a closer look at legal immigration into the U.S.  Here’s the State Department’s statistics on visas issued for the 2012 – 2016 time frame.  As you can see, the number of immigrant visas issued has grown by about 50% over the past four years to nearly 618,000.  But take a look at the “non-immigrant category,” which is visas issued for temporary stay.  These are running close to eleven million per year – 13 million when you include “B1/B2 Border Crossing Cards.”  That sounds alarming at first, but let’s take a look at what these are.  Here’s a listing of the non-immigrant visas, broken down by category.  (The data for 2016 isn’t available yet.)  The vast majority of non-immigrant visas are for temporary visits for  business and pleasure.  However, there are a couple of categories that we do need to be concerned about:  F and M visas for students, which totaled nearly 700,000 in 2015, and H visas for “temporary workers.”  We’ll come back to that.

Let’s take a look at where most of the people migrating to the U.S. originate.  In 2016, of the 617,752 immigrant visas issued, 249,000 were immigrants from Asia.  Most of these were people from China, the Philippines, Vietnam and India, in that order.  222,000 were from North America, predominantly Mexico, followed by the Dominican Republic.  Most of the remainder were from Africa, spread across most African countries.  If you’re interested, here’s the complete breakdown from the State Department.

As you can see, the vast majority of people who immigrated to the U.S. in 2016 came from rather poor nations.  So how are we to believe that they possess some kind of mystical economic powers, or come to the U.S. with skills and education that just can’t be found among native-born Americans?  When you look at all the facts, such claims are clearly nonsense.

The fact is that immigrants bring nothing more to the table than do native-born Americans.  They are just people – no different than the rest of us.  As such, in the final analysis, there is only one real effect of immigration, and that is to grow the population.  And if that is the only effect of immigration, then any discussions of the merits of immigration that don’t begin and end with questioning the wisdom of growing our population are ruses, meant to confuse us in the hope of advancing some other agenda.  Like what?  Like using population growth to prop up economic growth, to drive consumer demand, to suppress wages and to fatten corporate bottom lines, just to name a few.

Putting a halt to illegal immigration and deporting those who have already entered illegally is a no-brainer.  A country that doesn’t control its borders is no country at all.  The real question is whether our current rate of legal immigration is appropriate.  Do we need to be growing our population?  In light of the relationship between population density and declining per capita consumption and rising unemployment, do we really need more people?  In light of the seemingly insurmountable challenge posed by global warming, do we really need more carbon emitters?  Is it appropriate for the U.S. to function as a population relief valve for other overpopulated nations?  Or are we merely exacerbating all these problems?

The time has come to begin scaling back the rate of influx of immigrants.  But where do we begin?  Legal immigration is like a pipeline that the longer the tap stays open, the faster the flow becomes.  Believe it or not, the place to start is not by trying to close the tap, but by slowing the source that fills the pipeline.  What I’m saying is that we need to begin with a hard look at student visas.  In my next post, we’ll take a close look at how student visas are driving all of the other classes of immigrants and the harm being done to our young people and our workers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 


Bill Clinton on Illegal Immigration

February 14, 2017

Immigration is a subject that I’ve mostly neglected, while I’ve devoted most of my time to railing against idiotic U.S. trade policy.  In the wake of the first weeks of the Trump administration, however, the time seems right to interject a little perspective into the debate.

Over the past half century or so corporations, and their deep pockets used to fund political campaigns, have turned the subject of immigration into a growth industry.  They have used a tidal wave of immigrants to bolster their balance sheets by providing a surge in consumer demand for products and a surge in labor supply that has suppressed wages.  Legal immigration has exploded and illegal immigration has gone from a criminal activity to practically being a human right.  Americans were once almost unanimously opposed to illegal immigration and both parties opposed it, the right more than the left.

Today, it’s completely different.  The political left advocates “open borders,” and the right is almost at that point as well, barely distinguishing itself from the left with a thin veneer of support for some kind of legal process.  Against that backdrop, Trump looks downright radical now and the political left’s reaction to his early attempts to reign in illegal immigration have bordered on hysteria.

So it’s worthwhile to take a look back at Bill Clinton’s State of the Union address in 1995.  In this excerpt from his 1995 State of Union address, Clinton calls for exactly the kind of crack-down on illegal immigration that Trump has now begun to execute.

Too bad that Trump didn’t use this clip in a campaign commercial.  Nothing further needed to be said, other than “I’m Donald Trump and I approve this message.”

More perspective on immigration will soon follow.


More Thoughts on Trump Victory

November 10, 2016

I’ll preface this by reminding readers that, in various posts in the past, I have described Donald Trump as a buffoon and as a “foul SOB.”  In spite of that, I encouraged you to vote for him as I did for one reason:  his stands on illegal immigration and trade align well with the conclusions of my book, Five Short Blasts.  To very briefly summarize, there is an unrecognized (by economists) inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption which has two major implications – that population growth beyond a certain level becomes a cancerous growth that eats away the economy, and that free trade with badly overpopulated nations accelerates this effect dramatically.  The effect of these on our economy is so over-riding that these issues dwarf all others.  I would vote for any candidate – Republican, Democrat or Independent – whose positions address these issues.

With that said, the following are some random thoughts on what happened in this election:

  1. Any party that focuses only on minorities and ignores the majority is doomed to fail.  The Democratic Party did exactly that, taking its historical support from working-class Americans for granted and ignoring them and polling data that consistently showed their deep concern about the direction of the country.
  2. The Republican Party has also blundered in its strategy of making itself indistinguishable from Democrats, particularly when it comes to the key issues of trade and immigration, contenting itself with splitting the vote while hoping to sway a small 0.5% toward their side.  Were it not for the fact that Trump – not a true Republican – chose to identify himself as one and to fight tooth and nail to prevail against their slate of traditional Republicans – the Republican party would have lost this election.
  3. This election was all about a rejection of the globalism and open borders that both parties embraced.  I don’t think either party, even now, fully understands this.  Whichever party embraces a new strategy and platform based on our nation’s right of self-determination will succeed going forward.
  4. Though it pains me to quote him, Bill Clinton said it best in the ’91 election:  “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Indeed it is, and not necessarily the macro-economy but each individual’s own share of the economy.  Only when the vast majority of Americans are enjoying the fruits of a healthy economy can other issues like the environment take center stage.  Both parties ignored the polling data that showed the country was headed in the wrong direction and that voters were fed up with their politicians.  The Obama administration chose to fool itself with gimmicked economic data.  Few voters were fooled.
  5. Clinton erred when she tried to portray Trump’s position on illegal immigration as racist and xenophobic.  Illegal immigration is a concern for all Americans and it’s a mistake to believe that Hispanic Americans would uniformly embrace it just because most illegal immigrants are Hispanic.  Many have been here a long time now and identify themselves as Americans first, just as I identify myself as American and not Irish.  As I said in Five Short Blasts, I wouldn’t care if it was Ireland that we shared a border with instead of Mexico.  Illegal immigration has to be stopped.  The Democrats were shocked to learn that nearly 30% of Hispanics voted for Trump.  Many were insulted by the assumption that they favor illegal immigration over the interests of their own country just because of their ancestry.  The Clinton campaign was no less guilty of stereotyping Hispanics than Trump was perceived to be.
  6. The Democrats are almost as guilty of taking the black vote for granted as they were of taking white working-class voters for granted.  Trump made a play for the black vote.  It was criticized as a clumsy attempt, but he made a very valid point, that the inner cities seem to be little better off and have little to show for their support for the Democratic party.  Trump correctly pointed out that his trade policies aimed at rebuilding the manufacturing sector of the economy would, if anything, benefit the black community even more than the white community.  Well, it didn’t seem to resonate that much, though Clinton got a little less of the black vote than Obama did.  But Trump has laid down a marker for the black community.  They may have been skeptical of what he said, but they’ll likely remember if, in fact, a manufacturing turn-around produces a renaissance in the inner cities.  Democrats, beware.
  7. The Clinton campaign’s mantra was that “when they go low, we go high!”  Yet, in the final days of the campaign, they did just the opposite.  They took the worst, most crude elements of the campaign and bundled them into commercials.  The commercials criticized Trump for things not fit for our children to hear, yet the Clinton campaign had no problem with bombarding our children with those things incessantly on prime time television – even during the World Series.  It came across as very two-faced and, if anything, made Clinton  seem more of a sleeze-bag than Trump.
  8. Meanwhile, the commercials aired by the Trump campaign in the last couple of weeks were very positive.  There was one commercial  that took on globalism and the globalist elites who profited at the expense of everyone else.  It was a dynamite, highly-effective commercial that should have begun airing sooner and should have aired far more often. But I saw it only once (and I watch a fair amount of television in the evenings).  What happened to it?
  9. Along those same lines, the Clinton campaign held a concert that head-lined Beyonce and Jay Z.  While some fawn over this couple, many people are offended by the lewd “twerking” of Beyonce and the filthy and racist (the “n” word) lyrics of Jay Z.  This isn’t a racist observation.  I personally find Miley Cyrus to be just as offensive.  Clinton’s condoning of these lyrics destroyed her credibility when criticizing Trump.  The concert was a dumb move.  What purpose did it serve?  Did she really think that Beyonce and Jay Z would swing undecided voters to their camp?
  10. The spending by the Clinton campaign dwarfed that of the Trump campaign, to no avail.  It’s not the first time we’ve seen such an outcome.  It demonstrates once again that it only takes a lot of money to sell lousy products, and good products sell themselves.  For all the concern about big money in politics, maybe it doesn’t really have that much of an effect.  So, hey big donors, if you want to waste your money, you’re perfectly welcome to plow it back into our economy through the ad agencies.  Either way, the money is now out of your accounts and into the hands of people who need it more.  Thanks!

Up next:  some thoughts about the challenges facing Trump and what it means for the world going forward.


Make America Great Again

October 25, 2016

I wonder how many post-baby boom Americans – Gen Xers and millenials – can even relate to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.  “Make America Great Again?”  What’s not great about it now?  We’re the leader of the free world – the most powerful nation on earth.  We have a high standard of living and every modern convenience you can imagine.  We have cell phones, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  We make ten bucks an hour schlepping lattes at Starbucks and have nice little apartments where we can go to watch The Voice and Dancing with the Stars in the evenings.  How much better could it get?

Undoubtedly, the once-great America that Trump remembers – an America that anyone under 50 is too young to have ever known – was the post-World War II America.  It was a land of almost unimaginable industrial might.  By the end of the war, the shipyards on the West Coast were building complete destroyers from the keel up in only two days.  The Willow Run bomber plant in Detroit was cranking out a new B-24 bomber every hour, day and night, seven days a week.  Other plants cranked out trucks and tanks by the thousands.  And massive steel mills all around the country that stretched for miles kept all of these plants supplied.  Neither Germany nor Japan nor any other nation on earth could even come close to matching that kind of industrial output.

When the war ended, industry transitioned back to a peacetime economy.  The factories in Detroit resumed making cars and all of the other thousands of factories around the country resumed making appliances and every other product imaginable.  American products were the envy of the world.  European cars were laughable compared to American cars.  I can remember taking Europeans for a ride in my car and their astonishment at the latest feature – cruise control.  Hell, indoor plumbing and sanitation weren’t even commonplace in Europe back then.  And Asia was downright primitive.

Anyone who was a high school graduate could get a good job at the local mill or assembly plant making enough money to buy a home and a car – as much money as a college graduate, though the college graduate would eventually earn more with experience and advancement.  Not only was the pay good, but health care was often provided for free as a benefit.  Co-pays and deductibles?  Those concepts didn’t exist.  And a good pension was a given.  Companies competed for college graduates.  Each could choose from a half dozen different offers.

The U.S. space program quickly left the Russians in the dust, putting men on the moon while the Russians had barely moved beyond sending monkeys up for a couple of orbits.  America was the world’s bread basket.  Even the Russians were dependent on American grains.  And everything about American culture – our clothing, music, movies and magazines were the envy of the world.

That’s when America was great, in a way that those who didn’t live it can’t even imagine.  But even while all this was going on, the seeds of America’s decline had already been sown.  Weary of two world wars in as many decades, the time had come to address the high rates of unemployment in overpopulated nations like Germany and Japan that had fostered the rise of its fascist leaders.  Eager to put their new, untested theory of free trade to the test, economists convinced world leaders that free trade was the route to global peace and prosperity.  So in 1947 the U.S. signed the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or “GATT,” beginning the process of dismantling the tariff structure that had helped build America into the world’s preeminent industrial powerhouse.

What could it hurt?  Sharing a little of the wealth seemed a small price to pay to prevent the next war, one that might doom humanity, in light of how the last one just ended with the dawn of atomic weapons.  Besides, the economists convinced us, growth in the world economy would only add to the demand for American products.

It started innocuously enough.  A few Volkswagens from Germany.  Toys and souvenirs and trinkets from Japan.  The words “made in Japan” became synonymous with “cheap junk.”  Then came small Honda motorcycles, soon to be followed by cars of the same brand – cheap, two-cycle, chain-driven death traps that were painted paisley and sold as novelty items.

But that trickle quickly evolved into a tidal wave.  By 1975 our trade surplus had vanished and our national debt, which had been shrinking dramatically since the end of World War II, began to rise again.  In the 1990s, the Clinton administration passed NAFTA, exploding our trade deficit with Mexico and then, as its closing act, granted China “most favored nation” trade status.  We all know how that went.  2016 marks our 40th consecutive year with a trade deficit.  And the $13 trillion growth in our national debt during that period can be blamed entirely on the trade deficit’s cumulative drain on the economy.

Returning to post-war America, we were a nation of 150 million people with a seemingly boundless supply of resources and wide open spaces.  During the morning rush hour, you had to wait through two traffic light changes to clear the intersection instead of one.  President Eisenhower had just commissioned the construction of the interstate highway system.  Freeways were virtually devoid of traffic.

The term “illegal alien” didn’t exist in those days.  There were migrant workers who came to harvest crops that had to be hand-picked and, when the harvest was over, they were gone.  Then, something changed.  They didn’t leave.  We began to notice large groups of Mexicans gathered in parking lots – “day laborers” waiting for pickup trucks to take them to some job site – probably a house under construction – where the contractor was happy to have the “off the books,” tax-free labor.  Now, people who had lost their jobs in the auto industry and needed construction work found themselves displaced yet again.  And our population that once grew by a million people per year began growing at two or three times that pace – even ten times that pace when you include the results of the amnesty programs for illegal aliens.  Now we’re a nation of 325 million.  In spite of that population growth, which economists call a driver of economic growth, good-paying full-time jobs are scarce and household incomes and net worth, for all but the top few percent, are declining.

Born two years after the signing of GATT, at the age of 67, I can honestly say that I have never once seen my country stand up for its citizens and workers.  Oh, there’s been plenty of times when our military has asserted itself, often ill-advisedly, in some foreign conflict.  But I’m talking primarily about trade negotiations, but also other diplomatic negotiations, like deals to keep North Korea in check or, more recently, Iran.  Not one damn time do I remember the U.S. coming away with a deal that was good for American workers.  Can you?  If so, please feel free to refresh my memory.

There’s a very solid reason why free trade and globalization have failed Americans.  It’s the inverse relationship between population density and per capita consumption at work.  Instead of being an engine of economic growth, our population growth has been cancerous and toxic, eating away at per capita consumption.  And by co-mingling our economy with those of grossly overpopulated nations, the effect has been accelerated.  The result is that young Americans face the prospect of being the first generation to fare more poorly than their parents.

By far, the two factors most critical to restoring America to its nearly-forgotten greatness are first a dramatic shift in trade policy away from “free” trade to a focus on balance.  All trade deals must be based on the premise that the U.S. will buy from its trade partners no more than they are willing to buy from us.  Contrast that with today’s trade policy that says, “If you can make it and get it here, we’ll buy it.”

Second, run-away population growth that is fueled almost entirely by equal parts of both legal and illegal immigration must be reined in.  Illegal immigration is the place to start.  But even legal immigration needs to be dramatically curtailed.

Donald Trump is the first candidate in my long memory who has promised to do exactly these two things – to tear up existing trade deals and start over, putting America first, and putting an end to illegal immigration.

I personally don’t much like Donald Trump.  Never have.  It’s a shame that this message has been overshadowed by some of his antics and the things he’s said that have been caught by open mics.  But as someone who attended an all-male high school, followed by an all-male university, followed by three years in the navy, you can believe me when I say I’ve heard worse things spoken more commonly than some would like to believe.  But that’s not an excuse for his behavior.

It’s like this:  imagine that we’re at war, and it’s going badly.  We need to replace the general in charge.  He’s a nice guy, one we’re all proud to serve under and be associated with, but ineffective.  We have two candidates in mind to replace him.  One is similar – a great person but just as ineffective and likely to yield the same results.  The other is a foul SOB, but one who knows how to kick ass and get things done.  Like I said, it’s a war.  Do we want to win or don’t we?  There are times when the latter choice is the right one, and this is one of those times.

In two weeks we have a chance to reverse America’s decline.  We have a chance to put an end to our role as the host in globalization’s host-parasite relationship.  It’s a chance that I began to doubt would ever come.  It may not come again. Let’s stand up for America for a change.

 

 

 


Immigration, Muslims and Trump

December 11, 2015

Since economic damage caused by immigration-fueled population growth is one of the key themes of this blog, and since immigration has been a red-hot topic in the media for the past few weeks, it may seem strange to my readers that I’ve been conspicuously silent on the topic.  I’ve been debating whether to wade into this subject, since my focus has been the sheer volume of immigration and not how it relates to any particular group of people.  But Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigrants has raised the issue to such a fever pitch that I feel compelled to weigh in.

Trump began the debate on immigration with his position on illegal immigration.  He has a way of alienating many people with inelegant rhetoric, calling Mexican illegals murderers and rapists, but his concern with illegal immigration is a valid one that taps into a deep-seated disgust among the American people with politicians who, for decades, have turned a blind eye to the problem or, as in the case of our current president, actually encourages it.

Then came the Syrian refugee crisis, and many openly worried about the possibility of Islamic extremists hiding among them.  As if on cue came the Paris attacks and, sure enough, among the perpetrators was one who had recently entered Europe as a “refugee.”  Don’t worry, our politicians and bureaucrats assured us, we’re doing everything possible to make sure that such people are screened out of our immigrant pool.  Here it should be noted that many Republican governors, and even some Democrats, vowed that no Syrian refugees would be allowed to settle in their states – a position that seems little different that the one taken by Trump.

Again, almost as if on cue, we get the terrorist attack in San Bernardino.  In spite of the Obama administration’s reluctance to label it a terrorist attack by Islamic extremists, it was quickly obvious to all that that is exactly what it was.  In spite of the government’s assurances that ISIS sympathizers and other jihadists are monitored by the FBI, we now know that the perpetrators had been planning such events for years right under the FBI’s nose and nobody noticed.  So Trump, in his usual fashion of addressing a valid issue in a way that offends, called for a complete shutdown of all immigration by Muslims.

While all politicians and world leaders have been quick to condemn his remarks, polls have shown a lot of agreement among the American people.  Those who agree with Trump can, at the very least, be forgiven.  Americans value tolerance and freedom.  It’s written into our constitution.  But there’s only so much that people can take.

It all started slowly enough, beginning with the American hostage crisis in Iran in 1979.  In 1993 came the World Trade Center bombing which failed to bring down the building, but did kill six people.  In 2001, the “911” attack did bring the buildings down and killed over 3,000 people.  In 2006, Mohammed Reza Tahiri-azar plowed his SUV into a group of pedestrians at UNC-Chapel Hill to avenge the murders of Muslims around the world.  In 2009 there was the massacre at Fort Hood.  In 2013 there was the Boston marathon bombing.  In 2014 there was the New York City hatchet attack on police officers.  Later in 2015, four marines were killed at a recruiting center in Chattanooga.  A sailor was later killed by the same attacker at a naval reserve center.  Finally, there is the massacre in San Bernardino that prompted Trump’s remarks.  The frequency of these Islamic extremist terrorist attacks is increasing exponentially.  In addition to these attacks in the U.S., Americans are subjected daily to a litany of attacks throughout the world including ISIS beheadings and a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive.

To be fair, not all terrorist attacks are the works of Islamic extremists.  There have been attacks by the KKK, left wing extremists, right wing extremists, white supremacists, anti-Semites, black radicals, Christian radicals and eco-terrorists.  However, among the 59 terrorist attacks chronicled by Wikipedia in the U.S. since 1990, nineteen were perpetrated by Muslims.  Of the 3,351 people killed in terrorist attacks since 1990, 3,158 of them died in attacks perpetrated by Muslims.  To put this into perspective, in a nation where Muslims represent about 1% of the population, they have accounted for 32% of the terrorist attacks since 1990 and 94% of the deaths in those attacks.  In a society as diverse as that of the U.S., there are going to be “nut jobs” of every stripe.  But the above statistics seem to speak to a greater propensity among the followers of Islam toward such violence.

In the wake of such attacks, we are told that these people do not represent Islam, but some sort of perversion of Islam.  On this past Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd dared to ask the question, “Is the Islamic extremism espoused by ISIS a warped distortion of Islam? Or does it tap into a strain of Islamic thought?”  One of the panelists – Asra Nomani, author of Standing Alone:  An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam, had the following things to say on the subject:

… we are opposing a very real interpretation of Islam that espouses violence, social injustice, and political Islam.

… The problem is sitting in the birthplace of Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where this interpretation of Islam has gone out into the world over the last four decades, creating militancy groups from Indonesia, to now, San Bernardino, California …

… There are hundreds and hundreds of followers of Islamic State around Europe and the U.S. The Saudis are showing this. And all you have to do is look at the conversation inside of our mosques and inside of our communities. And you will hear it. And I hear it. And I have to say that I saw it in 2002, went to Islamabad, Pakistan, and met women who were supporting this ideology. I call them the Taliban Ladies Auxiliary back then. This young woman in California would’ve been a star member of it.

That the Koran speaks of infidels and seems to justify waging holy war (jihad) against them is indisputable fact.  I think the question is how literally this is interpreted and how seriously it is taken by Muslims.  This lady, who clearly knows what she’s talking about, believes that, at least in the Middle East, it is not just a “strain of Islamic thought” but a rather prominent belief system.

That’s probably not the case among American Muslims.  It seems logical that people who have such a belief system would not willingly migrate to such a land of infidels as the U.S. – what some in the Middle East refer to as “The Great Satan.”  But it’s also logical to believe that a small number would, perhaps rationalizing it as a way of positioning themselves for jihad.

So what’s to be done to protect ourselves from more Islamic extremist attacks in the future?  As justification of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to take on extremists, we were told that “we must fight them over there so that we don’t have to fight them here at home.”  It always begged the obvious question that no one ever dared to ask.  “If they are over there, why would we ever have to fight them here unless you let them in?”  It never made any sense.

Today, as we’ve done for decades, the U.S. admits roughly a million legal immigrants each year.  (Another million enter illegally.) In recent years, that pool of legal immigrants has included probably 100-200,000 Muslims from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.  Our leaders assure us that all of these immigrants are thoroughly vetted.  Really?  Do you believe that the government is really able to do that? It certainly doesn’t seem so, when the FBI admits that it’s currently tracking thousands of ISIS sympathizers in the U.S. and has made over 70 arrests this past year. It’s impossible to accurately screen that volume of immigrants and to monitor that many extremists. What we’ve learned about the San Bernardino attackers makes it clear that the authorities missed a lot of obvious red flags. Can there be any doubt that they’re missing others? How long before they attack?

There are three major factors involved in mass shootings. One is the mental health of assailants as we’ve seen in the cases of the Aurora, CO theater massacre and the slaughter of kids in Newtown. Second is the issue of gun control. There’s more that needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally deranged and known extremists. But, in the cases of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslim immigrants (or, in some cases, by the succeeding generation that feels alienated), there has been an obvious failure of immigration policy. Finally someone, however clumsily, has identified what needs to be done – a drastic reduction in Muslim immigration.

“We’re a nation of immigrants,” we’re told. Well, first of all, I suspect that native Americans bristle at that statement. In fact, we were, at first, a nation of invaders and conquerors. Then came the immigrants. And why not? We were a vast land that was virtually uninhabited. The plaque at the base of Lady Liberty proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” So many have come that we now have our own huddled masses, tired and poor, stacked like cord wood in the inner cities. We’ve reached the point where overcrowding is eroding our ability to gainfully employ everyone. So, yes, we are a nation of immigrants. But it’s impossible to keep up the pace. This isn’t the early 1900s any more.

“That’s not who we are,” we’re told in response to the idea of excluding muslims from further immigration. “It’s unconstitutional.” Actually, it’s not unconstitutional. The supreme court has consistently maintained that the rights and freedoms promised in our constitution apply to U.S. citizens and do not extend to foreigners. We have a long-standing practice of discriminating when it comes to deciding who should be granted the privilege of citizenship. Besides, although we believe in freedom of religion, what are we to do when a group of people – that “strain of Islam” that seems common in the Middle East – uses our values and sensibilities as a weapon against us? How are we to deal with a religion that justifies – even promotes – murdering “infidels?”

Our leaders would have us believe that we really have only one option – to fight and defeat them “over there.” That strategy has been a proven failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we feel we have accomplished our mission, creating conditions for a democratic election, we draw down. As soon as we do, extremists move back in to fill the vacuum. And all too often, the democratic process that we fought so hard and paid so dearly to establish is simply used to pick the next theocratic dictator. In the end, the situation is worse.  It’s impossible to end the sectarian violence in that part of the world.

“We can’t give in to terror,” we’re told. “That’s exactly what they want us to do!” Really? Is that all these Islamic extremists really want? Fear? Terror? That doesn’t seem like a very lofty goal for martyrdom. What they really want is to rid the world of infidels, or at least their part of it.

Fine, I say, let’s give them what they want. (Remember the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”) They want their own culture and society, free of the influences of western civilization.  So let’s leave them alone. We don’t need their oil any more and they don’t need to be offended by the products of western society – and that includes food and medicine. Perhaps it’s time to halt all trade with the Islamic world, and halt all trade with any other nation who doesn’t do the same. We have fallen into a trap of wielding only our military might to address problem areas in the world. We grossly underestimate the power that cutting off access to our market would have.

A little harsh, you might say. Maybe. So we have another tool at our disposal – immigration policy.  The choice is to either do something about our immigration policy to assure that Islamic extremists are excluded from the immigrant pool, or to simply accept that terrorist attacks will continue and write off dead Americans as collateral damage – a price we’re willing to pay.  No one would choose the latter, though our leaders seem to be doing exactly that.

Trump has proposed a total ban on Muslim immigration as the way to make ourselves safe. But there is another way to do it without discriminating against Muslims, and that is to drastically reduce all immigration. In Five Short Blasts I proposed reducing immigration to the point where it is no longer a factor in population growth. That would be a level of about 50,000 immigrants per year vs. over a million per year today. If Muslims were represented in that group in proportion to their total population in the world (in other words, no discrimination whatsoever), then the number of muslim immigrants would decline to about 10,000. That would be about a 95% cut in Muslim immigration without resorting to any discrimination, and the reduction in total immigration would be a huge boost to our long-term economic outlook.  It would reduce the task of scrutinizing immigrants to a manageable level.

We Americans have reached the limits of our tolerance. We can’t take this any more. It’s time for action and time for new policies that will do the job. If you don’t have the stomach for Trump’s approach, that’s fine. I’ve offered an alternative here that would do the job just as well. Either way, something has to be done about immigration.