More immigrants, please

Good stuff from Brett Stephens and John Cassidy last week.  The reality is that we need more immigrants.  While Donald Trump and friends are busy trying to scare everyone and reduce all immigration because… brown people, the reality is our national demographics and our economy really need us to have more immigration.

Stephens:

We could use some more people. Make that a lot more.

That’s a point worth bearing in mind in the larger immigration debate unfolding in Congress. The Trump administration’s policy of forcibly separating migrant Latin American children from their parents was a moral outrage that, had it not been belatedly terminated on Wednesday, would have taken its place in the annals of American ignominy…

Consider some facts.

First: The U.S. fertility rate has fallen to a record low. In May, The Times reported that women “had nearly 500,000 fewer babies than in 2007, despite the fact that there were an estimated 7 percent more women in their prime childbearing years.” That’s a harbinger of long-term, Japanese-style economic decline.

Second: Americans are getting older. In 2010 there were more than 40 million Americans over the age of 65. By 2050 the number will be closer to 90 million, or an estimated 22.1 percent of the population. That won’t be as catastrophic as Japan, where 40.1 percent of people will be over 65. But remember: We’ve only avoided Japan’s demographic fate so far by resisting its longstanding anti-immigration policies.

Third: The Federal Reserve has reported labor shortages in multiple industries throughout the country. That inhibits business growth. Nor are the shortages only a matter of missing “skills”: The New American Economy think tank estimates that the number of farm workers fell by 20 percent between 2002 and 2014, accounting for $3 billion a year in revenue losses.

Fourth: Much of rural or small-town America is emptying out. In hundreds of rural counties, more people are dying than are being born, according to the Department of Agriculture. The same Trumpian conservatives who claim to want to save the American heartland from the fabled Latin American Horde are guaranteeing conditions that over time will turn the heartland into a wasteland.

Fifth: The immigrant share (including the undocumented) of the U.S. population is not especially large: About 13.5 percent, high by recent history but below its late 19th century peak of 14.8 percent. In Israel, the share is 22.6 percent; in Australia, 27.7 percent, according to O.E.C.D. data, another indicator of the powerful correlation between high levels of immigration and sustained economic dynamism.

Finally, immigrants — legal or otherwise — make better citizens than native-born Americans. More entrepreneurialMore church-going. Less likely to have kids out of wedlockFar less likely to commit crime. These are the kind of attributes Republicans claim to admire.

Or at least they used to, before they became the party of Trump — of his nativism, demagoguery, and penchant for capricious cruelty. [emphasis mine]

And Cassidy:

The easiest way to grasp the seriousness of what is happening is to look at the fertility rate, which is the average number of babies born to mothers between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Merely to replace the existing population, the fertility rate needs to be about 2.1 per cent. During the baby-boomer years, it reached 3.7 per cent. In 2017, it was just 1.76 per cent. If this trend persists, as it seems likely to do, it portends a declining population and a sharply rising dependency ratio…

The final option is to welcome more immigrants, particularly younger immigrants, so that, in the coming decades, they and their descendants will find work and contribute to the tax base. Almost all economists agree that immigration raises G.D.P. and stimulates business development by increasing the supply of workers and entrepreneurs. There is some disagreement about the net fiscal impact of first-generation migrants. The argument is that they tend to be less educated and therefore earn lower wages than the native population, and that they tend to contribute less in taxes. But this is disputed. There is no doubt about the contribution that immigrant families make over the longer term, however…

In the long run, welcoming immigrants is a good investment for the United States. The entire history of the country demonstrates this fact. But the current President wants to go in the opposite direction. Along with introducing draconian measures to curb the influx of undocumented migrants, he wants to slash legal immigration. At the moment, the United States grants permanent-resident status to about a million people a year, and many of these folks go on to become U.S. citizens. Trump wants to cut this number in half, roughly speaking…

His policy isn’t driven by economics, of course. As he more or less admitted earlier this year, with his derisive comments about immigrants from “shithole countries,” it is driven by racism and a desire to resist the emergence of a nonwhite majority in the United States—a transformation that is inevitable and necessary.

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