Immigration

Rampant population growth threatens our economy and quality of life. Immigration, both legal and illegal, are fueling this growth.

I’m not talking just about the obvious problems that we see in the news – growing dependence on foreign oil, carbon emissions, resource shortages, soaring commodity prices, environmental degradation, etc. I’m talking about the effect upon rising unemployment and poverty in America.

As explained in Five Short Blasts: A New Economic Theory Exposes The Fatal Flaw in Globalization and Its Consequences for America, as population density rises beyond some optimum level, per capita consumption of products begins to decline out of the need to conserve space. People who live in crowded conditions simply don’t have enough space to use and store many products. This declining per capita consumption, in the face of rising productivity (per capita output, which always rises), inevitably yields rising unemployment and poverty.

This theory has huge implications for U.S. policy toward population management, especially immigration policy. Our policies of encouraging high rates of immigration are rooted in the belief of economists that population growth is a good thing, fueling economic growth. Through most of human history, the interests of the common good and business (corporations) were both well-served by continuing population growth. For the common good, we needed more workers to man our factories, producing the goods needed for a high standard of living. This population growth translated into sales volume growth for corporations. Both were happy.

But, once an optimum population density is breached, their interests diverge. It is in the best interest of the common good to stabilize the population, avoiding an erosion of our quality of life through high unemployment and poverty. However, it is still in the interest of corporations to fuel population growth because, even though per capita consumption goes into decline, total consumption still increases. We now find ourselves in the position of having corporations and economists influencing public policy in a direction that is not in the best interest of the common good.

For example, consider Japan.  Their average dwelling is less than a third the size of the average American’s, simply because it is far too crowded for people to have decent-sized homes – they are ten times as densely populated as the U.S.  But, because they are ten times as densely populated, and in spite of the fact that their per capita dwelling space is one third of ours, their total dwelling space is three times what it would be if they were no more densely populated than the U.S.  Therefore, if you are a Japanese citizen, it is in your best interest to reduce your population, affording you the luxury of living in a larger home and increasing the percentage of the labor force that is employed in the construction of home and in the manufacture of housing materials.

On the other hand, if you are a Japanese corporation engaged in manufacturing housing or materials, it’s in your best interest to encourage never-ending population growth, because your total sales volume will still rise, even though per capita consumption may decline.  This is why our government pursues policies that encourage population growth – because corporations and economists believe that it’s in our best interest.  It was at one time, but no longer.

The U.N. ranks the U.S. with eight other countries – India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia and China – as accounting for fully half of the world’s population growth by 2050. The U.S. is the only developed country still experiencing third world-like population growth, most of which is due to immigration. It’s absolutely imperative that our population be stabilized, and that’s impossible without dramatically reining in immigration, both legal and illegal.  It’s time to halt illegal immigration and deport those already here.  And it’s time to reduce legal immigration from over one million per year to about 50,000, matching the rate of emigration and eliminating immigration from the population growth equation. 

Pete Murphy
Author, Five Short Blasts

32 Responses to Immigration

  1. hotoffthepress says:

    Pete — By what means do you propose country’s like Japan and the United States decrease their populations?

  2. Pete Murphy says:

    Thanks for stopping by, “hotoffthepress.” The primary means I see for accomplishing this for the U.S. would be a dramatic reduction in immigration accompanied by a system of economic incentives to encourage people to choose smaller families. Tax policy could be restructured to provide such incentives, as opposed to the current system that rewards people for choosing larger families.

    Assuming that immigration is reduced to a level that balances with emigration, a decline in the fertility rate from 2.09 births per female to 1.79 would quickly yield a stable population. (A rate of less than 2.0 is necessary to compensate for steadily rising life expectancy.) A fertility rate of 1.52 would yield a population of about 280 million people in the U.S. by the year 2050, vs. the current level of 305 million – a small improvement, but way better than the 450 million that is currently forecast.

    Japan already has reached a stable population, but at a density that is ten times higher than the U.S. Similar economic incentives would work there as well. But first, like the U.S., they have to get over their fear of a declining population.

  3. With the U.S.A. in the troes of an economic depression, fewer would immigrate and fewer would want the expense of additional children and more would emmigrate.

  4. digginestdogg says:

    Smoot-Hawley was a major factor in exacerbating the GD. Anyone with even a little bit of effort can read the facts about the tumultuous drop in exports in Europe and the US after the retaliatory tariffs were enacted in Europe–while the populations of those nations didn’t change. Certainly the GD’s root cause was under consumption–but it was because of the increased concentration of wealth to a few and the subsequent loss of income to the masses leading to lowered consumption leading to job losses in the industrialized nations–and a vicious negative feedback cycle. Exactly what is occurring here again. Except, even worse, we have been overburdened with debt and over-inflated housing. The root problem is the real wage stagnation in the US since 1973. It was offset with spouses going to work and taking on more and more debt for a while but finally reached its limit and collapsed. Some elements of your theory are plausible–the over abundant supply of labor overseas did in fact suck out high paying jobs which further concentrated wealth in a smaller segment of the US population. But your theory is but a small piece and not the main pice of the puzzle. Your theory addresses symptoms more than root causes. And over all you model is too simplistic and doesn’t bear up under scrutiny.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Yes, I have read the facts, and the fact is that from 1929 to 1932, exports declined by $3.57 billion, but this decline was off-set by a decline in imports of $2.9 billion, resulting in an overall worsening of America’s trade balance of only $0.67 billion, compared to a decline in GDP of $33.1 billion. (Free traders always want to focus on exports and forget about imports. But that’s not how GDP is calculated.) Smoot-Hawley essentially left tariff rates unchanged and only changed the way they were set, and it wasn’t even signed into law until a full eight months after the October ’29 stock market crash. To suggest that Smoot-Hawley contributed to the Great Depression in any measurable way is preposterous.

      Have you asked yourself why wages have stagnated since 1973? Do you think it could be related to the fact that we haven’t had a trade surplus since 1975, that we’ve racked up a cumulative trade deficit of $9.2 trillion and have shed six million manufacturing jobs since then? Or how about the fact that our population has increased by 50% since then, adding to the labor force faster than their productive output can be consumed?

      I think you’re the one focused on symptoms and you’d do well to read the book. All it takes is “a little bit of effort.”

  5. RD says:

    I have a different take on the population sustainability question but agree with you that immigration laws need to be enforced and reformed to meet our country’s needs. There is a limit to how many immigrants that can be assimilated at once and too much immigration can lower wages for already struggling American workers. Immigration is a good thing in moderation but it is completely out of control.

  6. Matt Rafat says:

    You say, “It’s time to halt illegal immigration and deport those already here.” (Your words, not mine.)

    You may be encouraging deporting the next founder or the parent of a founder of a major company. See post below:

    http://willworkforjustice.blogspot.com/2009/04/intels-founder-on-americas-future.html

    The most successful American cities, in terms of GDP, have all experienced massive population growth. Meanwhile, smaller cities–who have the population schematic you desire–are all dying out and/or losing their younger residents. A simple analysis of wealth in larger, immigrant-based cities seems to refute your anti-immigration argument.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      You have your cause and effect backwards. The “massive population growth” you cite is the cause of the increase in GDP in the big cities, just as it is the primary cause of GDP growth throughout the U.S. The problem is that the growth in GDP isn’t translating into growth in incomes because rising overpopulation is driving down per capita consumption (and thus per capita employment). The fact is that the only two major cities in the U.S. to ever declare bankruptcy also happen to be our two largest – New York and Los Angeles. California, our most populous state, is a fiscal disaster, thanks in large part to immigration.

      That argument that we may deport the next founder of a major company is without merit. We have plenty of Americans without jobs who’d love to be the founder of the next major company. We don’t need to stockpile more potential founders.

    • “You may be encouraging deporting the next founder or the parent of a founder of a major company.”

      You probably also think Peter Griffin was giving good advice when he said to have as many kids as possible so that way the chance of one of them making it big in Hollywood and paying your bills was greater. Technically true, but I’ll let you draw the obvious conclusion of that idiocy.

      And yeah, this is kind of a late response.

  7. Matt Rafat says:

    1. I agree that California is a fiscal disaster. That’s because California spends most of its tax revenue on education. In addition, the salaries, medical costs, and pension obligations of public sector employees–officers, firefighters, teachers, etc.–create a significant impact on CA’s budget. Illegal immigration is a convenient scapegoat for CA’s refusal to cut spending across the board. See this PDF file for more information:

    http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/pdf/BudgetSummary/SummaryCharts.pdf

    It shows that education is the #1 spending item in CA, by far; then comes health and human services; then jails (CA jails too many nonviolent criminals). Some illegal immigrants may receive health and human services, but until we receive a breakdown of how much money or services is given to illegal immigrants, blaming them for CA’s budget crisis is, at best, resorting to speculation, and at worst, scapegoating. Keep in mind also that immigrants pay sales taxes.

    2. As for your dismissal of the idea that you might be deporting our next generation of ideas, you don’t have any statistics supporting your view. My previous posting had a link showing that at least 1/2 of the companies in Santa Clara County were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. If we accept your philosophy of slow growth, San Jose, S.F., L.A., and N.Y. all disappear as we know it.

    Gone are also Google (Russian immigrant), eBay (Iranian French immigrant), Sun (Indian immigrant), Intel (Hungarian), and so on. Basically, if we followed your advice 20 years ago, we’d be decades behind in technological progress.

    3. You want America to look like Indiana–a nice place, certainly, with good schools, low population growth, and ample land. But let’s not confuse economic growth with other amorphous variables, such as happiness or quality of life. It is clear that more immigration leads to more jobs and more overall income. If that wasn’t the case, immigrants and younger Americans would not be flocking to the larger cities. Your distinction that per capita income declines as more people gather in a particular place isn’t significant in a globalized world where companies can ship jobs anywhere. There must be a reason companies and their employees stay in a particular city, even as per capita income declines. If declining per capita income was a problem, intelligent Americans would be flocking to smaller or low growth cities. They are not.

    I am actually in agreement with you re: your main thesis. If you want a slower pace of life and a more close knit community, I agree that lower growth policies and protectionism are conducive to those goals.

    The trade-off, however, would involve a serious reversal of American dominance and prestige. Other countries would start creating jobs and companies, immigrants would start going elsewhere (like to Canada and Australia), and America would be decades behind in job growth. This reversal of overall growth would lead to future generations of Americans moving to India, China, and Singapore to find jobs or deciding not to work at all (e.g., Japan’s “hikikomori”).

    Be careful what you wish for. Societies that fall behind the global race rarely catch up.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Matt, first of all, virtually every business in America was started by descendants of immigrants. We should be proud of our immigrant heritage, but there comes a time when we have a full house and can accept no more. It’s like a building made of concrete. Once the building is complete, you don’t keep pouring concrete in through the windows just because the building has a tradition of using concrete. It’ll soon collapse.

      You are correct that more immigrants mean more jobs and more income. What you are missing (which is understandable if you haven’t read my book) is that adding more population (whether through immigration or through growth in the native population) adds workers faster than their productive output can be absorbed, because over-crowding begins to drive down per capita consumption. Such growth, even though it adds to GDP, essentially becomes cancerous, raising unemployment and eroding people’s incomes and net worth.

      Regarding your last paragraphs, you don’t seem to appreciate that, ultimately, an extremely dense population is a source of weakness, not strength. A balancing of trade by America would leave the parasitic economies of overpopulated nations without a market for the exports they rely upon to sustain their glutted labor forces. They’d be forced to confront the consequences of overpopulation that, until now, they’ve been able to sweep under the rug by exporting them. The global race for growth that you speak of is clearly doomed to failure, since growth cannont be sustained. It will be the nations who have stabilized their populations at sustainable levels that will come out the winners, not the ones who collapse into abject poverty under the weight of crushing overpopulation.

  8. Black Saint says:

    Our Immigration Laws are not broken, what is broken is our Political system when we elect Corrupt/Pandering politicians that puts votes ahead of American Citizens or the future of this Nation welfare. Our government fails the most basic task of government, namely to protect this Country and its Citizens from invasion and enforce its laws. Our Government, past & present, has allowed the invasion of 20 to 40 million criminals and uneducated peons which is the largest invasion of any Nation, at any time, by any means & in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution, this refusal to abide by our Constitution or enforce our Laws should be classified as Treason of the most foul kind, & grounds for impeachment & worse!

    Not only have they allowed the invasion, they force American tax payers to pay Billions on Billions of dollars to provide Welfare, Prison cells, Educate the invaders numerous spawn, and free medical care, at the same time the invading horde break numerous laws and destroy our schools, hospitals, communities, culture and standard of living while Robbing, Raping, Killing & Assaulting American Citizens at an rate the terrorist can only dream about.

    It seems like our Politicians & our Government do more harm to American Citizens & the future of this Nation than any of the terrorist organizations or diseases like Mexican Swine flu!

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Black Saint. I feel your anger about the way our immigration policy has been handled, but encourage you to keep your anger focused on those crafting and executing our immigration policy and not so much on the immigrants themselves. The vast majority of them are just people desperate to improve their lot in life. To be taken seriously, those of us opposed to immigration policy need to stay focused on the economic realities of excessive immigration contributing to soaring overpopulation, and not attack the people themselves; otherwise we risk being dismissed as racists or xenophobes.

  9. weaver says:

    Pete Murphy is absolutely correct about the current immigration intake — it is too high.

    Currently, we graduate about 3.5 million of our kids from High School every year, the death rate is about 2.4 million. So, in a given decade, domestic growth is about 11 million.

    The BLS population (noninstutionalized 16 and over) has grown by 26,254,000 this decade. Employent however, has only increased 5,137,000 since the beginning of the decade. One job for every five entrants into the population, 2 million fewer new jobs than were created in the 1950’s.

    The oft overlooked factor that immigration causes is hyper-inflation in the housing market 309% from 1980 – 2007. These housing costs have driven salary requirements beyond globally competitive levels. Some employment is now created abroad rather than domestically.

    For every action, there is a reaction.

    Even if the migrant was underutilized in his home country, he was still a consumer, renter or homeowner. His emigration causes some supply-demand inequities in housing availability. Ownership equity is retarded in the foreign country, wages flattened in America and this lowered labor rate allows monopolist leaning companies to dump (excess) product into the foreign economy.

    Temporary dumping into foreign industries bankrupts these industries, increasing the need to emigrate. Once the bankruptcy of an industry is complete, the monopoly is free to raise prices to profitable levels.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Weaver. I agree with you regarding hyper-inflation in the housing market. It’s one of the key drivers behind our ridiculously high rate of immigration – pumping up demand for housing. But I think I disagree on the supply/demand imbalances. The evidence (our enormous trade deficit) is that it’s America that’s become a dumping ground for foreign companies, not vice versa.

  10. IBMMuseum says:

    Peter, more after a few preliminary questions, but for now if you can expand on the immigration references you have made. Reducing legal immigration to your numbers of 50,000 per year, which categories are you going to cut? Would the immigration system continue to be family-based, or changed to a higher ratio of worker-based? On the phrase “halt illegal immigration and deport those already here”, illegal aliens are picked purely by this as the easiest way to cut population? How are the currently waiverable members, a portion of those married to U.S. citizens, to be treated (is their spouse able to apply for a chance to legalize them, or are they deported too)?

    I’m just trying to flesh out how a recovery would be done (not validating it either way as of yet) under your theory. If I need to explain immigration categories that is fine, most Americans don’t understand the legal immigration system (and worse still, try and act as an authority on the matter) and how it works. Thank You.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      Thanks for stopping by, IBM. These are great questions that I cover in detail in the book, but I’ll try to give you an abridged version. Approximately 1.1 million immigrants are granted “legal permanent resident” status each year. Of these, approximately three fourths entered the country under “non-immigrant” visas. Each year, the U.S. issues approximately 180 million such visas. The vast majority (about 177 million) are short-term visitors, like tourists and business travelers. Of the remaining three million, about 1.5 million are temporary workers and 1.0 million are students and exchange visitors. It’s in these two categories where drastic cuts need to be made. We have to shut off the pipeline of non-immigrant visas that is the source of most of the demand for immigrant visas. It would be difficult for anyone to make the case that we need 1.5 million temporary foreign workers in the U.S. (But understand that I’m not saying we don’t need some of these.) And dramatic cuts in foreign students would make college educations much more accessible and affordable for American students.

      Of the 1.1 million “legal permanent residents” admitted each year, most are relatives of U.S. citizens and family-sponsored preferences. But about 0.25 million are “employment preferences. To me, this is the first category that should be cut dramatically. Next come family-sponsored preferences, followed by relatives of U.S. citizens. Refugees and asylees would be the last category to be cut.

      I acknowledge that it would be extremely difficult to cut to 50,000 at first. But 250,000 should be achievable, and that is about the rate at which people currently emigrate from the U.S. Of those 250,000 that emigrate, only about 50,000 are native-born Americans. That’s why I say that eventually we need to cut to 50,000. Over time, that figure would be attainable because earlier cuts would result in fewer and fewer foreign-born citizens with family connections outside the U.S.

      This is all very tough stuff and may seem kind of cold and heartless. But it’s imperative that we stabilize the population of the U.S. and, as long as immigration contributes to population growth, it means that American families must be encouraged (non-coercively, through economic incentives like tax policy) to have fewer children than they’d otherwise choose. Given how tough all of this is, perhaps it’s easier to understand why I have so little tolerance for illegal immigrants. Hope this helps.

      By the way, please visit the NumbersUSA web site at http://www.numbersusa.com/content/ for an outstanding explanation of the need for sensible immigration policy. They (like me) are not immigrant-bashers but, rather, approach the issue from a very logical and practical need to gain control of our exploding population. It’s a great organization and a great web site.

  11. IBMMuseum says:

    When you talk about three fourths of LPRs entering as ¨non-immigrants¨, my wife and three stepchildren were among them (first under K-3/K-4 visas, spouse of U.S. citizen/stepchildren of U.S. citizen, but ¨non-immigrant¨ classifications). The method (actually being gradually used less, as USCIS catches up with handling immigrant petitions better) is supposed to alleviate some of the waiting period while the immigrant petition is adjudicated. In our case it allowed the family to be unifed about eight months quicker, but still had an 18 month delay to get the K-3/K-4s.

    Please explain what tax policy you are referring to, as the EITC that Rubenstein maligns is capped at two children. People don´t have extra children to claim additional tax credits. The current tax policy is already shaped towards small conventional families without much ability to improve it.

    Regarding NumbersUSA, I don´t hear the message about no immigrant bashing because it is being drowned out by other more vocal organizations that are very much into immigrant bashing, and their data misused into being xenophobic. FAIR and CIS have declared war on legal immigration as well, with what I consider ulterior motives about ethnicities. Would it surprise you to learn of pure fiction being mouthed by FAIR to mislead about sponsorship levels, so they can say we are ¨importing poverty¨?

    I´m just hearing what sounds as echos of their policies, and wondering if it is just that lack of ¨tolerance¨ for illegal immigrants is leading you into putting this theory (and book) forward. Pardon me for being so skeptical, but I see William Gheen (listed in the original topic that led me here) guiding his misnomered organization ¨Americans for Legal Immigration…¨ as anything but someone for legal immigration, masking anti-Hispanic views. That´s actually more of your problem than mine, as groups like that are always going to be linked to your goals, and they will always seek legitimacy under your coattails, to use the data as they see fit.

    • Pete Murphy says:

      IBM, good comments and questions. I’ll try to address them in order. First of all, in light of your family’s background, your wariness of the motives of anyone advocating reduced immigration is certainly understandable. There are very, very few Americans who can’t claim immigrants as their ancestry. For that reason, it’s a tough topic for everyone.

      I’m no tax expert but, in general terms, the tax code provides a deduction for every dependent. The more children you have, the less tax you pay. Is this enough to motivate people to have more children? The only way to answer that is to point out that many people, perhaps most, make a choice at which point to limit the size of their families based on economic factors. Responsible people don’t choose to have more children than they can afford to provide for and to raise properly. So everything that factors into the economics of that decision has an effect. Since the tax code provides deductions for every dependent, I argue that this is an incentive (admittedly a small one, but an incentive nonetheless) for people to choose larger families. The tax code could be revised to promote smaller families. Base tax rates could be reduced, and people could be required to pay a tax adder for each child, or perhaps for each child in excess of two, or whatever.

      Property taxes are another example. The bulk of property taxes goes toward the funding of public education. So the taxes that fund public education are based solely on property values while the number of children taking advantage of the system isn’t even a factor. I don’t advocate turning property taxes into a “head tax,” but it seems to be common sense that a family with twenty children should contribute more to the public education system than a family with one child.

      I’m not talking about big changes here because the birth rate isn’t really contributing that much to our growing population. Our fertility rate of 2.09 per female only needs to be reduced to about 1.84 to achieve population stability. (Why less than 2.0? Because of our steadily increasing life span.) So very small changes in the economic incentive system are all that’s required.

      I certainly understand your skepticism of my motives, and the motives of organizations like FAIR and NumbersUSA. There is no doubt that people with ugly motives have latched onto the messages of these organizations. But I’ve never heard anything from these organizations that suggest a racial motive to me. My motive is just as I’ve stated on my blog – my new economic theory exposes the economic consequences of rising unemployment and poverty wrought by worsening overpopulation. There is no racist or xenophobic motivation here. Our problem with illegal immigration isn’t limited to those crossing our southern border, as there are also plenty of illegal immigrants from Europe and Asia who have simply over-stayed their visas. Speaking as someone of Irish and other European descent, I wouldn’t care if it was Ireland instead of Mexico that shared our southern border, I would be just as opposed to illegal immigration, just as I’m opposed to admitting more than a reasonable number of immigrants from Ireland and Europe legally. My concern isn’t immigrants. They’re just people, just like you and me. My concern is stabilizing our population and, once one accepts that as a concern, it forces one to confront some very difficult issues.

      Some say we have a moral obligation to accept immigrants from other nations that are badly overpopulated. I respond that, by doing so, we are only acting as a relief valve, facilitating more overpopulation. There is no way to address global overpopulation without addressing it on a nation-by-nation basis, and what better nation to lead the way and set an example than the U.S.? But there is no way for the U.S. to even come close to attaining population stability at its current rate of immigration.

      Is my advocacy for stabilizing our population by reducing our birth rate and by reducing immigration anti-family? Some would say so. But I maintain that nothing is more anti-family than policies that slowly, incrementally reduce everyone’s standard of living and quality of life. And that’s exactly what happens when we continue to grow our population beyond the point at which people are forced to begin crowding together, driving down per capita consumption and driving up unemployment.

      We can be proud of our heritage as a nation built of immigrants. But like a building made of concrete, even though it has a “heritage” of using lots of concrete during its construction, once completed, it can’t sustain that heritage by pouring concrete in through the windows. It’ll soon collapse. That’s exactly what will happen if we don’t wake up to what overpopulation can do to the U.S. and the world as a whole. We’ll reach a point where unemployment and poverty will drive the death rate higher, to the point that population growth finally comes to an end. That’s not the kind of world I want to leave to my children and grandchildren.

  12. IBMMuseum says:

    I´m not worried about my ancestry, but rather a family like mine being told there isn´t even a quota system in place to live in the United States. Like many servicemembers, I married overseas. With a limit of 50,000 immigrants per year, there wouldn´t even be an ability to enter the U.S. for qualifying relatives of U.S. citizens.

    That´s not going to go over well with others like myself, with almost all of the last 25 years of military service for this country…

    EITC and the Child Tax Credits are the primary reductions for American families. For EITC, everybody on the tax form has to have Social Security numbers, and the credits are capped to allow no further than two children. A third or further child sees available tax credits drop off rather quickly.

    As such, tax policy seems currently written to benefit families with two children or less, and families are not having more children for the purposes of less taxes…

    Education has long been subsidized, with even those without children paying property taxes towards their local school district. I haven´t heard many complaints in that regard, nor did I complain while in the same position. What I do mostly hear is a misplaced rage towards ESL classes (which have no understanding of the limited application and success of that program anyway) to say it is bankrupting schools.

    In particular, quoting an example of a family with 20 children gives me quite a bit of insight on your focus and assumptions…

    Your comment on accepting immigrants from overpopulated coutries leaves me confused. To the contrary, the current system is very focused that any would-be immigrant will not become a public charge. Of course that is also the area that FAIR spreads lies about too.

    You are welcome to get them to correct their data, I can provide exactly where it is listed and how it is wrong…

    Your theory is one among many, and the systems you touch on obviously need to adapt over time. I´m not saying that immigration doesn´t need changes too, but I place other systems with a higher priority. Perhaps I will look over more details to your book, but I am not very convinced at all right now.

  13. IBMMuseum says:

    To the contrary, I’m someone familiar with compromises for a working solution, in life and in politics. The points I’ve raised are valid, such as a U.S. servicemember that returns with a foreign spouse and/or family that wouldn’t neccessarily be let in under what you see as the optimal workings of your plan. Using an exagerated example of twenty children in a family (the Duggars are the closest family I know to that number) isn’t realistic, and I recognize that sensationalism for what it is.

    I’ve provided the hard case on whether a family like mine can immigrate to the United States under your plan. Please provide the answer as you see it, I can take the truth. You have said that refugees would be the last immigration category you would restrict (ahead of family-based), but in 2008 there were more than 50,000 refugees admitted to the United States.

    The ball is in your court…

  14. Pete Murphy says:

    It wasn’t my intent to use “sensationalism.” Rather, I was using extreme limits to illustrate the point. If you read more on the site, you’ll find that I consistently state that it’s no one’s business how many children any one family has. Who cares about any one family, as long as the overall fertility rate declines? Do a search on this site for “Duggar.” I doubt that you’ll even find it mentioned on this site, until you brought it up.

    To reiterate, what I’ve advocated in the book (the page you’re viewing on the blog is an abridged version for reasons of practicality) is a reduction in immigration to 250,000 per year, with a gradual decline to 50,000. It begins with cuts to employment preferences and students. But, yes, eventually, the importation of wives and other family members will have to be greatly curtailed.

    And you’re right, 50,000 refugees is just about what we take in now, though many of them “game” the refugee status to gain admission. So too do some asylees. Like I said, there’s nothing easy about any of this.

    May I suggest that you ignore the immigration part for now, and just try to understand the economic theory. Once you understand the theory, you’ll understand that the effects of our trade policy – free trade with badly overpopulated nations – dwarfs the effects of growth in the U.S. population.

  15. IBMMuseum says:

    ¨Importation of wives and other family members will have to be greatly curtailed¨ isn´t entirely truthful (nor tactful), as a spouse can be the opposite gender of the U.S. citizen. And it wouldn´t be curtailed; A quota system would quickly backlog, so family-based immigration at the culmination of your plan would have to be ended.

    I can´t ignore immigration, because it is the sole crux of your population reduction. You would not get involved in the fertility rates of Americans (other than ¨tax incentives¨ for smaller families), but would eventually exclude families like mine, along with a possible returning U.S. servicemember, from living in the United States. Quite a cruel system!

    What comes over as root economics of your plan is that it doesn´t matter if a U.S. citizen is a public charge, but they will be favored, maybe over someone that has done more for the United States and has not been a public charge. For your military background, that surprises me. The economics of the United States wouldn´t matter to me if I couldn´t live there with my family.

    Earlier you gave me the adage about the world you want to leave your children and grandchildren. In reality, that would have been ¨child¨ and ¨grandchild¨ if you would have had this revelation at an earlier point in your life. What does your own family think of this plan and its limits?

    The premise of ignoring a component of a theory to make other portions of the same theory passable is a failure to the scientific method…

    Your entire supposition has to be taken as a whole, and to pass or fail on all of its merits…

    But it seems you and I are at an impasse…

    • Pete Murphy says:

      One final question, IBM: Do you see a need to ever attain population stability in the U.S.? Suppose we were to allow our population density to rise to the same level as India? Or worse, Bangladesh? Assuming that you see a problem with that, how would you address it? What actions would you recommend to attain population stability?

  16. IBMMuseum says:

    There is good science that increasing education levels, accessible health care, women in the workforce, and higher income levels lead to lowering birthrates. Fertility rates have steadily gone down among the native-born, and decrease quickly for second and successive generations of immigrants. Your goal of a 1.8 fertility rate was reached in the period from 1975 to 1979, after an all-time peak of 3.8 twenty years before that, proving those rates are quite fluid, but generally tending downward over time.

    You, as well as I, are part of the “Baby Boom” generation of that peak. In fact that is a large part of the troubles the United States will face in the future, with an aging population that will overload existing services. There are additional drains on society, such as the largest prison population per capita in the world.

    I really feel for you in your focus, because I know you selected immigrants as the easy item to cut. We feel less pain if someone else has to take the brunt of a cut. You knew there would be pain, but I think you didn’t see the human face until I showed it to you. And as I reminded you, to respond about the condition of a world for your children and grandchildren is hypocritical for your theory.

    In short you are willing to sacrifice the notion of my family for yours, at least for their ability to live in the United States…

    I would like to see immigration managed better, but under other ideals. We need to identify the productive sectors of the population here in the United States, and cut away the drains on society. That includes immigrant and native-born alike. Immigrants have to prove they will not become a public charge (and timelines before access to benefits), how about the same qualification for all?

    Government control of family planning is a very rocky path. I don’t have an opinion on an optimal population for the United States, nor a plan to regulate it to that goal. The better plan, in my opinion, is to develop smartly, because “Development is the best contraceptive.” [Karan Singh, a former minister of population in India].

    Educate, and the population will stabilize itself…

    • Pete Murphy says:

      In 2007 (the most recent year for which such data is available), the fertility rate for people of all origins in the U.S. was 2.12 births per female. Among those of Hispanic origin, it was 2.99.

      Something in the range of 2.0 to 2.1 is often referred to as the “replacement rate,” often confused with the rate at which stability is achieved. Again, the latter rate needs to be closer to 1.84 because of increases in life expectancy to achieve a stable population.

      I’m not trading anyone’s family for anyone else’s. I’m not saying mine is better than yours. All I’m saying is that, going forward, in order to stabilize our population at a sustainable level, immigration has got to be dramatically reined in from its current level of nearly 1.5 million per year (including the influx of illegals).

      I disagree with the notion of immigrants, or any other citizen, having to prove that they will not become a “public charge.” That opens up an ethical can of worms that few would want to take on.

      “Developing smartly” is no plan at all. Development is the cause of overpopulation, not the solution. It cuts the death rate much faster than a subsequent, slow decline in the birth rate. That doesn’t mean development is bad. It just means that it needs to be accompanied by a plan to prevent a population explosion. India would be just about the last place I’d hold up as a shining example of how development has worked as a plan for stabilizing the population.

  17. IBMMuseum says:

    Specifying my family would not become a public charge is exactly what I, and any other sponsor of an immigrant, has done. It is legally contractual, and I am responsible for the sponsorship I have signed to. Legal immigrants (unless a dependant of an Active Duty servicemember) cannot get Medicaid (or many other government benefits) until being present (or becoming a U.S. citizen within the timeframe) in the United States for five years as a Legal Permanent Resident.

    And they have to pay into Social Security with 40 quarters of work (10 years) before being able to draw their own Social Security benefits…

    What is wrong with making U.S. citizens fiscally responsible too? I had to show that I was solvent, at least 25% above the poverty line (for the size of what my family would be, including myself) in the three years immediately before immigrating my family to the United States. It comes down to base income too, because any assets listed are at 1/5 value, and have to be able to be immediately liquidated if used.

    Immigrants commonly see this phrased in practice as “sure it’s hard to come here, but you have to earn it”. Now I see they are the low-hanging fruit of your plan as well. Why not put the same burden of proof on U.S. citizens, to how productive they have to be to live here? Because we have no place to send them if they fail?

    Population sustainment also forecasts that childbearing years are defined, and that an individual will be past his or her prime, out of the workforce at some point. I don’t expect to change the focus of your theory, just to say I don’t support putting all of the population reduction on the backs of immigrants. U.S. citizens are able to “game” your specifications purely because they are born here, not whether they have or will contribute back into society.

    Don’t cut a segment out that have met the requirements proving they can contribute before drawing the benefits they have paid the system at a later point in time…

    You do understand that USCIS is funded from petition fees, as not to be a burden to taxpayers?…

    Have you gained any understanding of immigration through our interaction here?…

    Cut to the chase, if immigration is capped at 50,000 per year, it excludes all but refugee and asylee cases, and stops family and employment-based immigration entirely. We would also have to stop “Adjustment of Status” for any would-be foreign vistor to marry in the United States, because that is also immigration. I’m just trying to be totally truthful, your plan leaves no room for immigration as we know it today (which you probably want anyway).

    I’m just hoping to raise your awareness…

    • Pete Murphy says:

      What is wrong with making anyone fiscally responsible is that we would have to imprison, execute or deport anyone who becomes infirm. Is that really want you want?

      Ooooh, immigrants have to work for 10 years before collecting social security? Poor babies. I have to work my entire life before collecting any.

      Your last paragraph indicates that you finally get it. 50,000 is the number we can live with eventually. If we are to stabilize at a sustainable population, then any more than that denies Americans the privilege of having children. That’s not fair to Americans. Immigrants can remain in their own countries and surround themselves with as much family and children as they like.

      This discussion is getting nowhere, as you’re unwilling to admit that immigration is contributing to the problem of overpopulation in the U.S. Have a good life. I wish you and your family the best.

  18. Pete Murphy says:

    Neither of you has addressed the fundamental issue – how to stabilize our population at a sustainable level.

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