No, Sen. Murphy, There Are Many Reasons to Love an Aging Population
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado points to multiple factors that ought to negate fears about increasing average age of nation's people
In their ongoing push to grant mass amnesty to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants and prolong the most liberal “family reunification” system in the world, immigration expansionists in the legacy media and the U.S. Senate have been ridiculing Americans about something else they’re allegedly no good at: having babies.
Recent reports from CNBC, USA Today, and the New York Daily News have all made the claim, backing up what Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) vividly stated during last month’s failed DACA debates: “Unless folks start churning out a lot more babies,” the country is headed for “demographic cataclysm,” he said.
In other words — people are too lazy to do manual labor, too dumb for IT work, and now, too incompetent to start a family. Decadent, dimwitted, and insufficiently fecund, the senator’s message was clear: Americans can and should be replaced with new immigrants.
The “fresh blood” argument for open borders is actually an old one. In 2013, for instance, when the Senate last debated amnesty, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a roomful of conservatives that “immigrants are more fertile” and therefore were needed to “rebuild the demographic pyramid.”
Although technically correct on the first claim, native fertility rates being 2.0 compared to a national average of 2.1, he was wrong on the second, the difference in rates being marginal. And even if it were large, its effect would still be tiny because of the difference in population size between immigrants and natives.
Also, of course, immigrants do eventually Americanize and become just as ‘decadent, infertile, and old’ as we do. Going by Murphy and Bush’s logic, we would have to continue bringing in immigrants in increasing numbers forever. We’d be carrying out a Ponzi scheme, in other words.
Murphy also claimed immigration could fix Social Security because low U.S. fertility rates have led to a worker/beneficiary imbalance. Apart from the fact that one can find benefits to having an older society (lower education and child welfare costs, for instance), the senator’s argument is interesting in the context of Trump’s framework, as it inadvertently argues for a merits-based system.
To “fix” the worker-to-beneficiary ratio needed to sustain Social Security, not only should immigrants be youthful but they should also be skilled, educated, and of a high earning capacity. Canada, for instance, gives bonus points to applicants with these qualities.
But a system like ours, which is 70 percent family-based and allows the sponsorship of elderly parents and numerous categories of adult relatives, does not accomplish this. Because family-based immigrants are generally low earners, they may in fact be a drain on the system rather than its savior.
And even if the additional payroll taxes from immigrants are modest, the contribution might be offset by things like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the costs of maintaining our giant immigration bureaucracy.
Simply suggesting that we import millions of people in order to re-engineer our “broken” demographic situation should strike some as an incredibly blunt and far too simplistic solution for what’s a monumentally complex issue. In fact, it has been panned as ineffective by the Census Bureau along with academics.
It should also strike some as dehumanizing in that it reduces American citizens to mere economic integers, rather treating them as members of an organic nation. It’s the same attitude among free-market fanatics that says, ‘If it’s good for the economy, do it,’ never mind the environmental or cultural consequences.
There’re plenty of reasons not to fear, and even celebrate, a natural moderation of population growth. Take America’s outsized demands on the planet’s resources. We consume, for instance, one-fifth of the world’s oil, but our share of the population is only 5 percent.
It’s been estimated that the carbon footprint of the average immigrant is four times higher than it would have been had they remained at home. Lowering U.S. population growth, therefore, is an easy way to reduce our carbon footprint.
An aging America can also be something to celebrate. Like most parts of the world, we used to have high mortality rates and short lifespans. That’s now been reversed largely due to medical innovations.
And by continuing to promote development in medical technology, which makes our workforce healthier and more productive, we can better deal with such issues as Social Security. Other changes might include increasing the retirement age, considering Social Security alternatives, or promoting a higher-savings (and lower-consuming) culture.
Murphy made an additional point on the Senate floor, saying, “At present birth rates, we don’t have enough people born here to fill all the jobs that are going to be created in the next 20 years.” Although he’s generally correct about there being a looming jobs crisis, the problem isn’t too few workers but too many.
As many economists have pointed out, the secular trends of automation and robotization are on their way to rendering whole swathes of the labor market redundant. This is especially the case in the lower-skilled occupations, meaning we may not be able to afford not to cut chain migration. Ignoring these structural changes, and quick-fixing our inability to “churn out” babies, is not only vain and naïve but likely disastrous.
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo is a Republican from Colorado.