The retirement explosion. Today’s 45 million aged 65+ population will increase to 70 million by 2030.
The color explosion. Today’s 65% Caucasian population will likely shrink to 43% by 2060.
The ideology gap. The four current American generations; the Silents, the Boomers, the Gen Xers, and the Millennials are increasingly less conservative and more liberal.
The inequality gap. Both income and wealth inequality are growing rapidly and this trend is likely to continue.
Each of these trends is firmly established by data as shown in the accompanying charts. There are huge political implications for these mega-trends. For starters, the biggest threat to our nation’s finances is the rapidly increasing cost of entitlements, especially Social Security and Medicare. Where will the political will to control this spending come from when there are ever more retirees who want to keep their benefit programs? With a surging immigrant population, primarily Hispanic and Asian, constantly gaining more political clout, it becomes more and more urgent to move our 12 million undocumented aliens out of the shadows with some kind of legal status. A broad based guest worker program would be a good way to get started. The ideology gap is more difficult to interpret. The four groups are more conservative than liberal and people in general become more conservative as they grow older. Nevertheless, there is an overall trend towards liberalism as age decreases. Finally, the growing inequality gap will inevitably create much resentment if ignored by our political system. Each of these four mega-trends will create pressure for more federal spending to address the needs and interests of various segments of society. We already have huge deficits, and rapidly increasing national debt, to contend with. How do we balance the pressure for more spending with the need for fiscal restraint? Stay tuned!
The lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A Pro-Growth Reform”, is right on the money. It challenges the GOP House to improve the Senate immigration bill, not kill it. The emphasis in the Senate bill is to provide an eventual path to citizenship for the approximately 11,000,000 illegal immigrants currently in the US. To offset the charge that this is amnesty, the Senate bill greatly increases enforcement by doubling the size of the border patrol, at a cost of $4 billion per year, and increasing the criminal penalties for employers who mistakenly hire an illegal. The Senate bill also increases the quota for skilled workers from the current 65,000 per year limit to 120,000 per year but it only barely increases the annual quotas for construction and agricultural guest workers, which doesn’t nearly meet current needs.
What is needed is less emphasis on eventual citizenship (coupled with stronger enforcement) but rather more emphasis on simply having an adequate supply of both skilled and unskilled legal guest workers. This presents an opportunity for the House of Representatives to produce a better bill.
First of all, raising the quotas for both skilled and unskilled guest workers should be the first priority for the House. An adequate supply of legal guest workers means there will be much less demand for illegals, which, in turn, means less need for the increased enforcement measures of the Senate bill.
Secondly, what immigrant workers need most is legal status rather than a guaranteed path to citizenship. It is the constant risk of deportation and separation from their families which adversely affects their quality of life, rather than the lack of US citizenship.
More immigrants, both skilled and unskilled, will help our economy grow faster and recover more quickly from the Great Recession. We should provide immigrants with the legal status they need to come to our country and succeed and prosper!