Immigration Part Three — Who Gets In – And Who Doesn’t

 

statue of liberty tears

Recent decisions by President Trump regarding immigration have caused an outcry.  Critics screamed that Trump’s actions were unconstitutional. A New York newspaper front page carried an image of the Statue of Liberty crying.

The outcry was everywhere.  Every form of media reported it along with the oft repeated axiom that we, the “nation of immigrants” don’t do this! We welcome people, we don’t refuse them entry!

Well….. not exactly.

It seems we’ve been denying people entry into the United States for a pretty long time.  Different people at different times, but it was never pretty.

immigration law

Immigration law in the United States.

The first immigation laws in the US were enacted in 1882. The first group excluded were the Chinese.  About 300,000 Chinese had migrated to the US, many of them working on the building of railroads.  Xenophobia about the Chinese gave rise to the phrase “yellow peril”, suggesting the Chinese were taking jobs from native-born Americans.

Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, wrote an editorial that included this:

“The Chinese are uncivilized, unclean, and filthy beyond all conception, without any of the higher domestic or social relations; lustful and sensual in their dispositions; every female is a prostitute of the basest order”

The government enacted the “Chinese Exclusion Act”,  prohibiting Chinese from entering the country. The act was enacted for ten years and was renewed for ten additional years. The act was not officially  repealed until 1943. In essense, we banned Chinese people for sixty-one years.

During the ensuing years, Congress banned imigration of people in bad health and poor education. Specifically banned were infectious disease carriers and “lunatics”.  After President McKinley was assasinated, anarchists were specifically banned in 1901.

In 1917, we added a literacy requirement and expanded the banned persons list to include: “alcoholics”, “anarchists”, “contract laborers”, “criminals and convicts”, “epileptics”, “feebleminded persons”, “idiots”, “illiterates”, “imbeciles”, “insane persons”, “paupers”, “persons afflicted with contagious disease”, “persons being mentally or physically defective”, “persons with constitutional psychopathic inferiority”, “political radicals”, “polygamists”, “prostitutes” and “vagrants”.

The same legislation banned people from the “Asiatic Barred Zone”, which included most of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

In 1921, Congress enacted the Emergency Quota Act, which created formulas allowing varying percentages of immigrants from other countries.  An annual cap of 150,000 immigrants was established, and countries were allocated 2-3% of that number.  The quotas were tilted, however to favor Western Europeans.  Southern Europeans, such as Italians, were discouraged by lower quota numbers.  Arabs and Asians were banned completely.

The law was modified over the years, favoring some groups, while restricting others.  Books have been written about the social and politcal machinations using the immigration laws.  The quota system basically stayed in effect until 1965.

Other Bans

Others have been banned from entering the United States, usually specific groups and for specific reasons. Such as:

Franklin D. Roosevelt  limited German Jews during WWII, fearing some could be German spies.  The most notorious of this was the German ocean liner MS St. Louis. The ship set sail from Germany with over 900 Jewish refugees. They were  denied entrance into the United States, and ultimately returned to Germany.  There are estimates that as many as twenty-five percent of those on board eventually died in concentration camps.

The Internal Security Act of 1950, banned Communists, despite being opposed by President Truman.  Sections of the act were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1993.

 Jimmy Carter banned Iranians during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980.

 Ronald Reagan banned HIV positive persons in 1987, adding HIV to the list of “dangerous and contagious” diseases.  The repeal of the ban was begun by George W. Bush in 2008, and completed by Barack Obama in 2009.

In 1981, Reagan banned “Undocumented aliens from the High Seas”.

Reagan also banned all planes, ships and trade from Nicaragua, and banned immigration from Cuba in 1985.

Bill Clinton at various times blocked individuals from Serbia, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

George W. Bush blocked immigrants from Haiti.  He also blocked some people from Zimbabwe.

Barack Obama blocked people who  engaged in transactions with North Korea, or who contributed to instability in Libya, Burundi, Central African Republic or Ukraine.   He also blocked people from Iran and Syria.

Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 —  Prevents travel to the US by anyone who has been in the following countries since March 1, 2011: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen.

So all in all, we’ve done our share of preventing people from other countries from touching our shores. Some of the reasons may have been good, others were petty, and some were outrageous. But that’s who we are; we’re not perfect, and our ideals don’t always match reality.

Considering things like terrorism in the modern world, it seems likely we and others will block foreigners from time to time and for various reasons. This is the nature of the human condition today.  Knee jerk reactions and outcries based more on emotion than facts do nothing productive.

Next: In part four we will look at the actual immigration process and see how it works.

References

National Law Review

Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

Public Law 189-236

Immigration Act of 1990

MS St. Louis — Holocaust Memorial Museum

Undocumented Aliens from the High Seas

 

 

They might be Giants…But they don’t have a college degree

hollywood

One of the things that really got my goat during the recent Presidential election campaign was the statement, repeated over and over again that those voting for Donald Trump were mostly those without a college education.

Pundits and talking heads clucked their tongues, implying the “educated” were voting for Clinton (or at least Bernie Sanders), while all the riff-raff would be supporting Trump. Pompous, sanctimonious and elitist. Their fawning snobbery made me sick.

One of the groups most outspoken this election were the celebrities. Every time I turned on the television it seemed, there was a celebrity pontificating why Trump was a horrible choice.

Since these folks are some of our most elite, surely they must be our best educated, right? I decided to check some credentials. Here’s a list of celebrities who do not  possess a college diploma:

No college degree:

Ben Affleck – college dropout (University of Vermont)

Jack Black – college dropout

Cher – dropped out of school at age 16

Louis C.K   — no college

George Clooney – college dropout (University of Cincinnati)

Miley Cyrus – Charter schools, private tutors, acting school. No college.

Johnny Depp – high school dropout

Leonardo DiCaprio – high school dropout – GED

Robert Di Niro – high school drop out (age 16)

Barry Diller – college dropout (UCLA)

Richard Gere – college dropout (Amherst)

Whoopi Goldberg – high school dropout

Chelsea Handler – no college

Angelina Jolie   – no college

Jimmy Kimmel – college dropout (Arizona State)

Jennifer Lawrence – no college

Rob Lowe – Santa Monica High School – no college

Madonna – dropped out of college (University of Michigan)

Michael Moore – college dropout (University of Michigan)

Rosie O’Donnell – college dropout (Boston University)

Sean Penn – Santa Monica High School – no college

Brad Pitt – college dropout (University of Missouri)

Mark Ruffalo – no college

Barbra Streisand – no college

Al Sharpton – college dropout (Brooklyn College)

Sarah Silverman – college dropout (NYU)

Ben Stiller – college dropout (USC)

Actually, they are in the majority.  Only about 32-34 percent of Americans hold a bachelor degree or higher. And that’s fine.  Many people can be perfectly successful without a degree, and many are, these included.

Until this election, education never seemed to matter, and indeed it shouldn’t.  Snobbery is never becoming. The next time the pundits talk about the “non-college educated”,  they should perhaps look among  their elitist icons.

Why Donald Trump Won the Election

presidential-seal

The pundits were wrong, and now as I write this piece the morning after the election, they are still wrong. They don’t get it. They never did, and perhaps they never will. Correction, they’ll pretend they knew, but they didn’t.

Throughout this nightmare campaign, Trump bashing, and indeed Clinton bashing dominated nearly every news cycle. Trump was a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, vile, perverted, etc. bastard. Clinton was a crook. The screaming and shouting and accusations back and forth never stopped. We had nominated the two worst people in the world, and your guy was always worse than mine. People completely missed the point.

The election was never about Trump and Clinton. They were figureheads, metaphors if you will for the underlying issues that we were never able to confront. The issues are clear, and they are there, and they are the reasons Trump won.

Before we address the real issues, let us take pause for a minute and discuss one important factor in Clinton’s loss.

Trump supporters are not “deplorables”. They are not overwhelmingly racist, homophobic, poorly-educated, gun-toting knuckle draggers that many Clinton supporters believed and the pundits wanted people to believe. They are the backbone of this country. They are made up largely of the former middle class which has all but disintegrated in the past few decades. They are not stupid, not by a long shot, and they mightily resented that condescending label foisted upon them by the media elite. If I heard about Trump’s “non-college educated” supporters once, I heard it ten thousand times. This was almost presented as some sort of qualifier, a ticket to correctness.

This patronizing and condescending tone prevailed throughout the election, oddly pushed not only by the Clinton camp, but from the Republican “elites” who clearly demonstrated what they thought of their own constituents.

Another factor in the repertoire was social issues. The “Deplorables” were against equal rights, hated immigrants and the LGBTQ community. They were racists and fascists, dragging their knuckles through the backwoods swamps of flyover country.  Wrong, wrong and wrong.

These issues were not the deciding factor in this election, no matter how much the pundits wanted them to be. Frankly, by moving these issues to the top of the Democrat agenda, they drilled holes in their own ship. While people care about social issues, they do not rise to the level of election-determining, not in 2016. There are far bigger fish to fry.

Laws and elections don’t deal with social issues, people do. Certainly the civil rights laws of the sixties were important, but they came about not from the top, but from the bottom. Society is always changing, much like the climate. We are a sea of individuals living side by side, and we learn to harmonize by our own actions and interactions. Laws can’t make people like each other. Presidents can’t dictate who will accept whom. These things evolve by their own accord and always have. People change, usually for the better. We learn from each other. Certainly there is discord at times, but this has also always been so. Making social issues the primary focus of a political campaign was a losing strategy all along.

Now let’s discuss why Trump won. There were four main issues, mostly either ignored or blown out of all rational proportion during the campaign. From least to most important, here they are:

 Number #4 Immigration:

Let’s first dispense with a silly notion: Trump supporters do not hate immigrants. Say that again; they do not hate immigrants. We are all immigrants to some degree of generations removed, and we all know that. We all know America’s history; “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” We know it, and we get it.

Trump supporters agree with legal immigration, to repeat the word: legal. We have immigration laws; whether we agree with them or not, they are the laws. If you don’t like the law, change it. But until the law is changed, it should be upheld. Rationales like illegal immigrants “do the jobs Americans won’t do”, do not get it. Change the law or uphold it.

And yes, people resented their tax dollars paying for welfare and food stamps for illegal immigrants. And why shouldn’t they, especially if they have lost their well-paying job and are scraping to get by. By definition an illegal immigrant is here illegally and by law they are breaking the law.

For months (years actually), I’ve heard about the need to “reform” immigration policy. Never happened. Congress was content to do nothing; Obama was content with allowing the laws to be broken. It could have been fixed. People wanted it fixed. The government ignored it and Trump said “Build a Wall!”  Trump and his wall metaphor became a target for hate from the left, but still the government did nothing. This should never have been an issue, but it was. The issue really isn’t about immigration, it is about government failure.

A final note on immigration: Trump’s comments about Muslim immigration were directed toward Syrian immigrants. He stated that it was impossible to “vet” these immigrants, and implied this was a possible avenue for terrorists to sneak into the county. He has yet to be proven wrong on this. No one in the Administration has ever explained how it would be possible to background check these immigrants, classified as refugees from that war-torn country. It is simply impossible to do anything but take them at their word, a definite national security risk, especially since ISIS has touted their ability to sneak potential terrorists into the United States. This part of the immigration issue was never about racism or intolerance as the critics suggested.

Number #3 Foreign Policy

We have a foreign policy, don’t we? Let’s take a look at what is going on:

Afghanistan: We still have thousands of troops in Afghanistan. We’ve been there now for fourteen years! Why? What is our mission? We have American troops dying there every week and no one in the government seems to be able to articulate why.

The Middle East; chaos in the region. Our officials celebrated the “Arab Spring” in 2010, and things have gone downhill ever since. Egypt is in turmoil. We helped take down Khadafy in Libya and there is chaos there. Syria is at war; and we’re backing who? Rebels? Which rebels? Do we even know anymore? Oh yeah, something called ISIS came along under our current foreign policy.

Secret deal with Iran? Why is all this secret? What deal are we striking with this country, and will this allow Iran to build nuclear weapons down the road? We don’t know that, do we?

Russia on the move, perceiving our weakness. Ditto China. The Philippines want us out.

And on and on and on…..

Critics and pundits have argued Trump would make a mess of our foreign policy? Really?

Trump supporters looked at what is going on today and concluded that Trump may make our foreign policy better, but it does not seem he could make it much worse.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing to those who voted for Trump was the notion of “globalism”.  This relatively new phenomena was first heard when George H. Bush referred elliptically to the “new world order”; the beginning of the idea that the United States was not special, but merely one nation among many. Trump supporters rejected that notion. They believe in American exceptionalism. Certainly this is an emotional belief, but a strong one.  Trump supporters want to be part of the world community, but on American terms. No country in history has done more to support and defend freedom around the world. No country has done more to rush to the aid of others in distress. This is exceptionalism, and Trump supporters believe this intensely.

Number #2 Trade

We have been told over and over that free trade with the rest of the world has been good for Americans. Certainly the availability of inexpensive goods and services has been positive. But what about jobs? What about the thousands of Hillary Clinton’s “Deplorables” who watched their jobs shipped off overseas, and saw their middle class dreams evaporate?

The Clinton Administration enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Since that enactment and combined with other free trade agreements, our trade deficit rose from $2 billion in 1994 to over $60 billion in 2015. Almost 700,000 jobs were lost, directly attributable to NAFTA. Some may argue these were replaced with other jobs as the economy grew, but even if this is so, which it is not, the “replacement” jobs are often at significantly lower salaries and lack the benefits the old jobs provided.

The Obama Administration has been pushing the TPP or Transpacific trade agreement, broadening free trade with Asia. Again, at what price? The price of more displaced American workers?

Curiously, when pressed for detailed specifics about the advantages of free trade, supporters always seem to come up lacking details. They are happy to cite numbers about GDP and other financial figures, but when it comes to citing actual and specific jobs, they always grow evasive.

The bottom line is that if a trade agreement is good for America, those supporting it should be able to point to specific concrete reasons why this is so. Absent that, Trump supporters don’t believe them.

Number #1 The Economy

It’s Still the Economy Stupid…

Back in May I wrote a piece suggesting that the main issue in the election was the economy http://williamwlewis.com/wordpress/?p=1506. I followed that with a second piece in August about the demise of the Middle Class: http://williamwlewis.com/wordpress/?p=1560 .

This is what bought voters to the polls in massive numbers, numbers never seen before in a national election. Above and beyond anything else, people are worried about their jobs, their families, and their future.

Whether it is trade agreements or technology or these plus other things, there are few bright lights on the horizon when it comes to the economy. In the United States, we are falling into two categories; those who have done well from these changes, and those who have not; winners and losers, the haves and have-nots.

The Middle Class have been a driving force in this country for the past seventy years. We have grown and prospered because of the blood, sweat and toil of those people labeled as “Deplorables” by Hillary Clinton. Without a Middle Class, the economy tips over. Without a Middle Class we are not the same country we once were. The Middle Class is what made America great, and that greatness is what Trump voters sought.

Trump supporters aren’t “Deplorables”. They’re not racists or homophobes or misogynists. They are just like you. They go to work, raise their families, and hope for the best. They don’t hate any more than you do. They watch TV, go to ball games, and probably eat the same kinds of food that you do. They are the same as you, not different.

The notion of division in this country is false, a construct of politics. The election is over, those barriers should fall. It’s time for everyone to stop fighting, shake hands and become Americans again. We have work to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handicapping the Election

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We are just a few weeks away from what appears to be the most contentious presidential election of modern times. If presidential primaries are any indication, we might see record turnouts as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battle for the White House.

Every day there are new polls, new assessments, and new predictions. To be sure, no one knows who will win, but as political sport, the prognosticators are out in force.  Predictions are often based on emotions and personal feelings; handicapping is assessing the situation using as much practicality as possible. Let’s attempt a bit of the latter.

We’re not really looking at the candidates here, but rather the individual states; their histories and their political tendencies coupled with the current reality on the ground. Contrary to most beliefs, national elections are not about the country as a whole, they are about individual states. States are different, as are the people in them. These differences determine who wins and who loses.

At the end of this piece, I will make my own prediction. My prediction record is 100 percent, because I have never done it before. I may be right, I may be wrong. I’d enjoy hearing your comments on my method and your thinking on this issue.

The Electoral College

Presidential elections are won or lost in the Electoral College. States are apportioned college “votes” based on population. The total number of votes is 538, based on the members of the House of Representatives (435), the Senate (100), and three additional votes for the District of Columbia. It takes 270 votes to win, as simple as that. The person who receives 270 or more votes becomes President.

This process, although seen as unfair by some, was designed to allow smaller, less populated states parity with larger populations. Without it, elections would solely be determined by the areas with larger populations, leaving many of the smaller populated states with no voice.

Most states award electoral votes based on a winner-state-all system. This means that whichever candidate receives the majority of votes in that state receives all the electoral votes for that state. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska award electoral votes based on a percentage of the votes cast.

vote-02Most of us are familiar with the “red/blue” electoral map, red for Republican and blue for Democrat.  For the most part, states tend to retain their color, often for many years. This is because the voting constituency tends to remain the same. Population shifts can cause changes, but generally take years to do so. For this reason, it is usually reasonable to predict that a state like Massachusetts will go “blue”, and a state like Alabama will remain “red”. The few states with a tendency to change back and forth more frequently are known as “swing states” and are usually the most closely watched during an election. The number of swing states tends to vary only slightly from election cycle to cycle.
All this being said let’s look at the 2016 election, region by region to see what is happening:

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New England:

New England is notoriously a blue region, and we should expect mostly the same this election. Clinton should prevail in Massachusetts (11), Rhode Island (4), Connecticut (7), and Vermont (3).

States to watch:Two states to watch in this region: New Hampshire (4) and Maine (4). New Hampshire is considered the most conservative state in the region, and Trump showed some early polling progress there. As of this writing, Clinton is polling six points ahead. Trump is faring somewhat better in Maine, and appears to be rising in the polls. Main splits its electoral vote, so Trump could take away vote or two.

If any red shows up in New England, it could be a long night for Hillary Clinton.

 

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 Mid Atlantic States:

Another blue region, the Mid Atlantic states most often remain the same. New York (29), New Jersey (14), Delaware (3), Maryland (10), the District of Columbia (3), and last but surely not least, Pennsylvania (20).

 State to watch: The Mid-Atlantic only has one state really “in-play” — Pennsylvania. Normally a blue state, the state seems to at least the potential for “swinging” over to red this year.

Pennsylvania has two major cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and a handful of smaller cities. Much of the rest of the state is small rural towns. Pennsylvania’s economy was once largely industrial; coal mining and steel production being two. Both of these industries have been crippled in the current economy, and the future of coal mining in general is under assault by environmentalists. The one bright industrial area in the state, gas and oil fracking, is also under environmental attack.

The rural areas of Pennsylvania are sandwiched between the two cities. Philadelphia has always been a Democratic stronghold, and will likely remain so. Western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh seems to be shifting toward Republicans. Lack of industry coupled with an aging population seem to be propelling this. Another factor is that in the rural areas, like much of the country, voter turnout has fallen in recent years. Much of this population is white, and  non-college educated, a group largely seen as leaning toward Trump. If large numbers of this group decided to vote this year, there is a possibility the state could go from blue to red.  This a state to watch.

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The South:

Much of the South has been traditionally Republican territory in recent elections. Red states tend to include West Virginia (3), Kentucky (8), Tennessee (11), South Carolina (9), Georgia (16), Alabama (9), Mississippi (6), Louisiana (8), Texas (38), Oklahoma (7), and Arkansas (6).  One can be reasonably certain these states will remain red this time. There are, however, three Southern states that bear watching.

States to watch:

Virginia (13) is an interesting example of demographic change. Home of the Confederacy, Virginia had been a red state since the 1980’s years of Ronald Regan. In 2008, however, Virginia turned blue, along with neighboring North Carolina. Both states went for Barrack Obama twice.

A good part of the changing demographic in Virginia is the increase of federal workers in Northern Virginia. This part of the state has undergone a population boom in the last ten years. Thousands upon thousands of people working for the government or government contractors have poured in. Many of these people tend to vote Democrat, simply overwhelming the past nature of the state to vote Republican. As of this writing, Clinton is polling about 5 percentage points ahead of Trump, so the blue trend may prevail here. Nonetheless, this is a state worth watching.

North Carolina (15) is an important state to watch. Typically a red state, North Carolina voted for Barrack Obama in 2008, but for Mitt Romney in 2012. Sudden reversals like this mean the state is in play, and is considered a “battleground” state — either candidate can win. Current polling put Clinton and Trump in a dead heat in North Carolina, making this an important state to watch.

Florida (29) The biggest prize in the traditional South, and one of the most difficult to predict. Florida is another state, that while traditionally red, went to blue in the last two elections. It is also one of the most contentious (Bush/Gore 2000), largely due to a highly diverse population. Florida is a “must win” state for Donald Trump. Without winning Florida, it becomes hard to visualize him winning the election.

Racial and ethnic demographics will surely play a role in Florida. The state is 60 percent white,  20 percent Hispanic, and 17 percent black. A large percentage of the Hispanic population are Cubans, who tend to vote Republican. Florida also contains the highest percentage of people over the age of 65 in the entire country.

As of this writing. Florida is another “dead heat” in polling between Clinton and Trump. Of all the states to watch, not only in the South, but the whole country, Florida may well be the most important. It is not unreasonable to suggest that whoever wins Florida will win the election.

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The Midwest:

The thirteen states of the Midwest have stayed roughly the same for the last two elections. There are some possible changes this year.

First the no-change states: North Dakota (3), South Dakota (3), Nebraska (5), Kansas (6), Missouri (10), and Indiana (11) have been red states and are likely to remain so and go for Trump.

Minnesota (10) and Illinois (20), both blue states, will likely remain so.

States to watch:

Iowa (6): Traditionally a farm state that leans conservative has shifted a bit to the left in recent years as there are fewer family and more corporate farms and young people have not gone into the family business, but off to college instead. Iowa went for Obama in 2012. Currently however, Trump is polling about three points ahead of Clinton, still within the margin of error, but nonetheless, this makes Iowa another “battleground” state.

Wisconsin (10): Wisconsin has flip-flopped Democrat/Republican a number of times over the years, but has been a “blue” state since voting for Al Gore in 2000. There are some factors in play that deserve attention. First, neither Clinton nor Trump won their primaries in Wisconsin. The winners were Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, candidates to the respective left and right of the current nominees. Governor Scott Walker (R) has been a controversial  figure, battling the teacher’s union. The Tea Party has also played a role in Wisconsin politics. Clinton and Trump are currently polling within 4 points of each other, making Wisconsin a “key battleground” state because of it’s high number of electoral votes.

Michigan (16): While Michigan has favored Democrats in the last four Presidential elections, the state historically has favored Republicans more often. Michigan is another state where Sanders beat Clinton in the Democrat primary. Clinton is currently polling about five points ahead of Trump in Michigan. That being said, Michigan is a “rust belt” state that has lost thousands of manufacturing (mostly auto) jobs to overseas trade, a position largely favored by Democrats. Trump’s appeal to disaffected, laid-off workers could tilt the balance here.  Michigan is another “key battleground” state.

Ohio (18): The crown jewel of the Midwest, politically speaking, and another critical state for Donald Trump. Ohio has voted for the Presidential victor more often than any other state (93% of the time). It has been both red and blue, voting for George W. Bush twice and Barrack Obama twice. Clinton and Trump are polling within two points of each other in Ohio, making this state an absolute horse race.  Ohio is another “rust belt” state damaged by jobs lost from foreign trade. Eight years of being a “blue” state does not seemed to have helped the Ohio economy, so it seems reasonable to see a swing to red in this state.

The West:

Five solid red states in the west — Montana (3), Idaho (3), Wyoming (3), and Utah (6), Arizona (11), and one solid blue, New Mexico (5),  none likely to change.

States to watch:

Colorado (9): Colorado is another state that went red for Bush and blue for Obama. Currently Clinton and Trump are polling about three points apart, too close to call. As a battleground state, Colorado is unpredictable. Traditionally red, the state has been becoming increasingly liberal, and in fact Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton here in the Democratic primary. On the other hand, Ted Cruz beat Trump here, the result of an influential right-wing Tea Party population. Colorado is a toss up state.

Nevada (6): Another state that voted twice for Bush and twice for Obama. Clinton and Trump are tied in the polling here. However based upon the primary turnouts, Republicans seem to outnumber the Democrats in Nevada by a significant number, making this a close call, but seemingly leaning toward Trump.

The Pacific Coast and Offshore:

Very easy to predict: California (55), Oregon (7) and Washington (5), all blue, all solid Democrat states.

Alaska (3), red. Hawaii (4), blue.

 Outcomes:

My count gives Hillary Clinton a pretty solid 16 states and 201 electoral votes. The same method gives Donald Trump 23 states but only 191 electoral votes. Since neither candidate has enough “solid” states to win, the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election will be determined by the remaining 11 “battleground” states.

Predictions:

New Hampshire — Clinton

Maine — Clinton

Pennsylvania — Clinton

Virginia — Clinton

North Carolina — Trump

Florida — Trump

Iowa — Trump

Wisconsin — Trump

Michigan — Clinton

Ohio — Trump

Colorado — Trump

Nevada — Trump

My totals give the victory to Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in a very tight race, 275 to 263.

As a footnote: my prediction includes Wisconsin going to Trump and New Hampshire to Clinton. If these two states reversed, New Hampshire for Trump and Wisconsin for Clinton, the result would be an absolute tie, 269 to 269, throwing the election choice to the House of Representatives.

Presidential elections are often personality contests, decided by the voters individual reaction to the candidate. I believe 2016 is different, in that there are two relatively unpopular/unlikable candidates. This time, I think more people will vote on their own political philosophies, liberal or conservative. Normally, this would maintain the status quo of previous elections, but this cycle seems to have triggered far more visceral reactions than I can remember in my lifetime. With neither candidate being strong, even within their own parties, it seems to me this could be the year for the apple cart to tip over, changing traditional expectations.

I may be right, I may be wrong. What is your opinion?

 

 

It’s Still the Economy Stupid, Part Two — Say Good Bye to the Middle Class

middle_class_sign

The American Middle Class, the driver of the US economy, is in retreat.  By definition, the middle class worker makes a decent salary and spends money. This makes companies profitable, and they expand and hire more workers. Government collects more taxes, and expands programs. Middle class workers pay to educate their children and save some of their money. This increases the numbers of educated workers and builds personal wealth. The middle class is the hub of the wheel around which everything else turns. Today, the hub is shrinking. and the wheel is getting wobbly.

In 1970, the middle class comprised 62 percent of the population. The upper income class was 20 percent and the lower income 10 percent. By 2014, upper income had risen to 49 percent, the lower was 9 percent, and the middle class had shrunk to 43 percent. The trend is clear: We are heading toward a nation of have’s and have-nots, which is not in the least desirable.

Manufacturing jobs in the 50’s and 60’s created the American middle class. The American “dream” of owning a home and a car, buying a television and having an annual vacation became reality for millions of people. Most of all, the middle class had opportunity for upward mobility, the idea that they and their children could look forward to a brighter future.

In 1955, the five largest employers in the United States were General Motors, U.S. Steel, General Electric, Chrysler, and Standard Oil. These companies employed a total of 1.4 million people. Today, the largest employer in the United States is Walmart, employing  2.2 million workers. Other retailers in the top five employers include McDonald’s, Kroger, and Home Depot.

Fully 14.8 million Americans are employed in retail sales, and another 13.3 million in the leisure and hospitality sector. The vast majority of these jobs fall in the minimum wage range.

Sociologists in the 1950’s first began describing the class as primarily the new white-collar worker. The upper middle class consisted of college-educated salaried professionals and managers. The lower middle class was comprised of skilled craftsman and lower-level managers. According to the sociologists, middle class people had a comfortable standard of living, economic security, and could rely on their expertise to sustain themselves.

When the middle class declines, wages stagnate, consumers buy less, companies downsize. Tax revenue decrease, government cuts programs, and unemployment rises.

The Pew Research Center recently reported on the slippages of the middle class:

“The American middle class is losing ground in metropolitan areas across the country, affecting communities from Boston to Seattle and from Dallas to Milwaukee. From 2000 to 2014 the share of adults living in middle-income households fell in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas examined in a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. The decrease in the middle-class share was often substantial, measuring 6 percentage points or more in 53 metropolitan areas, compared with a 4-point drop nationally … The shrinking of the middle class at the national level, to the point where it may no longer be the economic majority in the U.S…” (1)

As the middle class recedes, the gap between the haves and the have-nots  increases. In 1978, the typical middle class work made a salary of about $48,000 (adjusted to 2010 dollars). In that year, there were about 393,000 people in the top 1% of wage earners.  That adjusted salary for that worker in 2010 decreased to about $34,000, while the number of wealthy 1% earners increased to over 1.1 million people.

The rich are getting richer, stockholders in prosperous companies are getting richer. The middle class grows poorer by the day. There is no “trickle down” in today’s economy. Companies are not created to benefit the worker; they are created to benefit the owners and the stockholders. Stockholders in public companies constantly pressure management to make more and more money and push stock prices upward. This puts enormous pressure on management to continually look at ways to save money by reducing a singular large cost — employee salaries and benefits.

One of the reasons for the decline of the middle class is undoubtedly the loss of our manufacturing base to globalization and the rise of technology. Simply bringing manufacturing back is not an answer, as more and more manufacturing can be done by machines and robots. Other countries, however, are manufacturing in the high tech world. We’re not doing such a good job. Let’s look at an example:

apple-iphone-5s

The IPhone — popular and efficient. Who makes the money from the sale of IPhone components?

Japan 34% — Germany 17% — South Korea 13% — USA 6% — China 4%  — Other 27%

American company,  Apple,  jobs out all but 6 percent of component manufacturing to non-American countries. By the way, the phone is assembled in China, but the components are made elsewhere.

Even the American automobile has the majority of its parts made elsewhere and shipped to the US for assembly.

So who looks out for the middle class? Anyone?

I don’t claim to have answers, maybe no one does. But I believe this is something we should be talking about and asked our politicians about, especially in relation to both current and proposed trade agreements. Policies being considered today will effect our children tomorrow, and if recent history is any indicator, we need some serious policy changes.

In the meantime, I strongly recommend you watch this:

 

References:

(1)Pew Research Center 5/11/16: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/05/11/americas-shrinking-middle-class-a-close-look-at-changes-within-metropolitan-areas/

It’s Still the Economy, Stupid

its-the-economy-stupid

We are in the midst of a presidential election campaign, and all hell seems to be breaking loose.  Businessman Donald Trump, the putative Republican nominee is wreaking havoc with pundits and critics on both sides of the aisle.  His views on everything from immigration to foreign policy are seen as controversial to say the very least. Virtually every time he opens his mouth some critic claims that it is another example of why he is crazy; a lunatic, a fascist.

One would think the chances for this bombastic  real estate mogul would be minimal at best; yet he is sweeping the field during the primary season, and the numbers of supporters seem to grow daily. Why might this be?

Critics will tell you many things about Trump supporters, most of them not very kind. From the left especially, Trump supporters are seem as racists, rednecks, poorly-educated, slovenly hillbillies (no disrespect to hillbillies). The vitriol seems endless, but that is just part of the political climate of 2016. It’s nasty and pretty brutish.

One could look at any one of a number of issues and cross swords over the Trump position.  Indeed, any person may see any one of a dozen issues as most important  in this election.  I see primarily one. To steal a phrase from the “Rajin’ Cajun”, James Carville during the Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid”.

Carville was doing nothing more than stating the politically obvious, something known for decades:  people vote their pocketbooks. I would submit that one reason Donald Trump is doing so well is that the American economy is in the tank. Before we talk numbers and statistics, however, let’s look at a little history:

rca victorRCA Victor, Camden New Jersey

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in South Jersey, about ten miles from Camden, New Jersey. Camden was a thriving manufacturing town.  RCA Victor made radios and televisions, Campbell Soup,  Hollingshead Corporation made polishes and waxes, Warren Webster Company made heating and cooling components.  New York Shipyard actually built ships;  big ones, right in Camden.

South Jersey was ripe with industry:  Owens Illinois and Owens Corning companies made fiberglas insulation and glass bottles in multiple factories.  Wheaton Glass made all sorts of glass products, as did dozens of smaller companies.  Additionally, South Jersey had a thriving agricultural industry (the famous Jersey tomato).

Jobs were everywhere and easy to find, without even crossing the Delaware River to Philadelphia, where jobs were even more plentiful.

In those days, a person with a little backbone could land a decent-paying job, support a family, buy a house, and take that summer vacation.  It wasn’t difficult, all it took was hard work.  In those days, folks with a minimal education could get a decent manual labor job and high school graduates could become “management trainees”.  For those with a college education, management positions were abundant. Today, it’s all gone.

Today, Camden is rated as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. Poverty and crime are rampant. Those factories are all gone, torn down and not replaced with anything except littered empty lots. The other factories in South Jersey are mostly gone too,  several of them left standing as a ghostly reminder of what once was.

Why?

Why did these jobs go away? Why do we manufacture almost nothing today?

We know where the jobs went:  The last television set was manufactured in the US in 1999. Today, most are made in China.  Campbell’s still has it’s “world headquarters” in Camden, but no longer manufactures anything in the city (no more Jersey tomatoes in your tomato soup).

savannahThe NS Savannah, the world’s first commercial nuclear powered ship was built in Camden. Today, most shipbuilding takes place in other countries.

Tariffs

A tariff is a tax on imported goods. The tariff is used to regulate the flow of imported products into the country, as well as to protect the prices of domestic goods from low-cost (foreign) competition.

The United States has used tariffs in trade with other countries since 1789. Tariffs ranged from a low of around 15 percent to a high of around 45 percent in 1870. In the 20th century,  tariffs declined as trade with other countries increased. By the end of World War II, the average tariff on foreign goods was around 8 percent.

By the 1970’s tariffs went down to around six percent,  which spurred the import of foreign automobiles, particularly Japanese.  American auto workers fought for raising tariffs, but lost. The government agreed to a “voluntary” restriction of imports by the Japanese.  We all know how this played out.  Other American industries, such as steel, TV’s, textiles, and clothing were already collapsing from low-cost imports. The loss of the American auto industry was a major event.

In the 1980’s, the Republicans abandoned protectionism, and tariffs fell even more. Tariffs drifted downward to around 3 percent. More and more American goods were being replaced by goods from foreign manufacturers.

NAFTA

The North American Free Trade Agreement  (NAFTA), was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1994. This law effectively removed all tariffs between the United States with Canada and Mexico.

Ross Perot, a third-party candidate for President and Texas businessman in 1992 opposed NAFTA. He said this:

 …We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It’s pretty simple: If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor,…have no health care—that’s the most expensive single element in making a car— have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south
…when [Mexico’s] jobs come up from a dollar an hour to six dollars an hour, and ours go down to six dollars an hour, and then it’s leveled again. But in the meantime, you’ve wrecked the country with these kinds of deals.

Soon after NAFTA,  significant changes in the balance of trade began.

 Maquiladoras

malqMexico began immediately setting up maquiladoras, or manufacturing shops right over the border in Mexico. These plants used imported components and  produce goods for duty-free export into the United States.  Today there are over 3000 maquilladoras, shipping duty-free goods into the United States every day.

Government officials argue that these free-trade agreements are good for the economy, but don’t like to talk about the 700,000 American jobs lost because of NAFTA.

Since NAFTA, the US has negotiated at least fourteen (14) additional free trade agreements with countries around the world, including, but not limited to China, Jordan, Oman, Peru, Columbia,Honduras, Panama, and South Korea.  We have pending trade agreements with all of the other countries in the Western Hemisphere, all of Europe, the Middle East, and every country touched by the Pacific Ocean (Trans Pacifiic Partnership, TPP). In other words, free trade with the rest of the world.

Try finding a major product manufactured in the United States today — look around your home, look at labels.  My guess is you will find precious few newer product “Made in the USA”.

 Figures lie, and liars figure …. old adage.

fred

An obvious question about all this free trade is how has this effected gainful employment in this country. Well, that seems to depend on who you ask.

The official unemployment rate hovers around five percent , which the government and the Chamber of Commerce would tell you is pretty good. But is that number accurate, and what does it mean?

That five percent calculates out to around 8 million people out of work. This however is only the “official” unemployment; people seeking work and collecting unemployment benefits. Once a person stops collecting benefits, they are off the list — whether they found work or not. The government doesn’t exactly list them as employed, although that is the implication. It just removes them from the count. So official unemployment: 8 million.

On the opposite side of that coin, Trump and others have said there are as many as 94 million out of work. Well, that isn’t right either. That number includes anyone over 16 years old not reported as working. So it includes teenagers and others in school as well as retirees, who obviously are not working.

According to the Bookings Institute, there are probably about 13 million adults who are not collecting benefits but still not working, or working only part-time and seeking full time employment. So we’re really looking at around 21 million people, a 12-15 percent unemployment rate. Obviously, this is much higher in certain demographic groups.

And then there are those who are working but…. The “underemployed”.

If a person made $50,000 per year and lost their job, and the best new job they could find paid only $25,000, they are underemployed. Millions of people technically “working” are working at jobs earning far less than they once did, with little prospect of returning to the higher pay they once enjoyed.

Several estimates suggest around nine million people fall into the “underemployed” category, bringing our unemployed/underemployed number to about 30 million people.  Is the economy working? Not for them.

The Future — Manufacturing and technology.

America has been losing manufacturing jobs since the early 1980’s, and continues to do so. The suggestion that the jobs lost to other countries were only low-skilled jobs is frankly nonsense. Regardless of the skill levels, lost jobs are lost jobs — they’re not coming back.

Add to this the fact that technology is advancing rapidly, causing the potential loss of even more jobs. Ever think how many bank tellers lost their jobs because of ATM’s? Not likely, because we tend not to pay attention, but we should. This becomes even more apparent when we consider the current clamoring to raise the minimum wage. If employee costs cut into a company’s bottom line, something is going to give, and that something could be even more people losing their jobs.

The United States has historically used things like tariffs to protect jobs. It’s only really been since NAFTA (1994) that politicians and corporations seriously embraced this world-wide “free trade” concept. They promoted the idea. and still do claiming it is good for the American economy, and any other stance is a step backward to isolationism. This of course, is nonsense. The politicians have profited, corporations have profited, wealthy stockholders have profited; all while the American worker has suffered.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked this question.:

“Next Tuesday is Election Day. Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago? And if you answer all of those questions yes, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for. If you don’t agree, if you don’t think that this course that we’ve been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have.”

Ask yourself that same question thirty-six years later. Think about your answer.

Full circle

trump

This brings us back to Donald Trump. It’s not clear if re-imposing tariffs or other actions will bring back American jobs, especially manufacturing jobs. But Trump is pointing to a hot-button issue for millions of folks. He calls it out, and puts it on the front page. Whether or not he could change anything would remain to be seen. But he’s talking about it, something other politicians have dodged and dodged and dodged.

Certainly there are other issues in this election, and I’ll be writing about some of them as well. But if our economy and our future economic condition isn’t a central issue in 2016, then I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

 

 

Elvis

elvis

January 8th is the birthday of Elvis Presley.  If he had lived, he would be 81. Elvis died in 1977, thirty-eight years ago, but just mention his name, and there is instant recogniton, even from those far too young to remember him clearly.

I was never a “fan” of Elvis Presley, but I always enjoyed his music.  There is no doubt that as a cultural icon, Elvis is indisputably “The King”.

A few years back, I saw my first live performance of an Elvis tribute artist, a guy by the name of Doug Church, and he was pretty good:

After seeing this performance, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I learned that Doug Church is just one of many Elvis tribute artists.

There’s Shawn Klush:

And David Lee:

And many, many, more.

Elvis Aaaron Presley was born in 1935 and died in 1977. In a lifespan of just 42 years, he became arguably the most famous singer of all time. During his career, he recorded between 665 and 711 songs (the actual number is in dispute). He had twenty number one albums, and thirty-six number one singles. He appeared in thirty-two movies.

Books and movies have been written about his life. His music was (and is) known around the world.

Even though he has been gone for almost four decades, his persona lives on in the form of an army of Elvis impersonators.

Elvis impersonators come in three forms: The look-alikes; not necessarily perfomers, but available for your next party or supermarket opening. The sound alikes; singers who attempt to imitate Elvis’ voice. And finally the tribute artists; professional performers who put on Elvis-oriented shows, sometimes traveling around the world to perform.

elvis02 elvis03

 

There are some incredibly bad Elvis impersonators:  bad elvis 1

A trio of Elvis impersonators with tartan capes, from left, Shane Allison, Dean Pirtle and Matt Raven wave to fans as they walk along the 18th fairway during the third round of the Verizon Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Saturday, April 19, 2008. The three were declared the winners of the tournament's Tartan Day competition. (Jay Karr/The Island Packet/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1057191

bad elvis 3

There are Japanese Elvis’s (Elvi?):

japanese elvis

Chinese Elvis’s:

chinese elvis

And yes, even female Elvis’sfemale elvis

So many Elvis’s, so little time….

Comedian Andy Kaufman “made his bones” with an Elvis impersonation back in the 70’s.

Elvis lives, at least in the minds of those who follow the shows of tribute artists. But a take look at the audiences of these shows, and one sees a lot of gray hair. It would seem that as the audiences age, the popularity of Elvis remembrances might fade as well.

On the other hand, Graceland, Elvis’ home in Memphis, still attracts over a half million visitors a year. Graceland was voted top U.S. iconic tourist attraction by USA Today readers in 2012.

GracelandMansion

The deceased Elvis earned $55 million dollars in 2012, just behind the top two deceased performers, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson.

An then there is Warner Brothers, who reportedly has secured the rights for the entire Elvis music catalog as part of a planned Elvis biopic under discussion.

As far as the tribute artists, there are still a few balcony seets left for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest to be held in Cincinnati in January. Cheap seats in the nosebleed section start at $175, and there are not many left.

Memories of Elvis are strongest for those from his era, but it looks like there may be a number of little Elvi in training:

little elvis

Paris Warms Up

President Barack Obama, left, sits with French President Francois Hollande, right, as they have dinner at the Ambroisie restaurant in Paris, France, with Secretary of State John Kerry, 2nd right, French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal, 3rd right, and French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, 3rd left, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. Obama is in France for a two-day visit as part of the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change conference. Other officials are : Translator, Thomas Ronkin, 2nd left, Charles Kupchan, top left, and French President Hollande's Military Chief of Staff General Benoit Puga, top right. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)

The world-wide conference on climate change in Paris ended recently. The media exhibited a breathless, Entertainment Tonight  glow reporting the event. One blog headlined it like this: “This is a momentous, world changing event”.

No, it is not.

Yes, I know some 196 nations reached an “historic” agreement in Paris. Yes, I am aware that many people around the world are convinced that this agreement will “save” the planet (or more accurately human beings), from global catastrophe. I am completely aware that I am one of the minority, or as I like to call it, the loyal opposition.

Let’s discuss politics.

Each of the nations involved in the agreement submitted a plan for reducing it’s reliance on carbon fuels. Each was a combination of “hope” to do, “want” to do, and “plan” to do to reduce their “carbon footprint” by 2050 or so. I say “or so” because dates always tend to get a little fuzzy in multinational agreements.

None of the agreements are legally binding. They are “promises” loosely based on what each country’s leaders think they can get through their repective governments and publics. The United States, for instance, was smart enough not to try to make this into a legally binding treaty, because it is well known no such treaty would ever make it past Congress, which must approve all treaties. The stongest enforcment in the agreement is “global shaming” of countries who do not meet their committments to reducing emmissions.

So think of it as a multinational “to do” list, with some items possible, others not. The prospect of each nation reaching it’s goals is extremely unlikely. Why? The complications and the money, mostly the money.

The poorer nations (most of them) are demanding payments from wealthier ones (especially the United States) to help them to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. Part of these are oblique “reparations” for industrial nations advancing economically while at the same time being the major polluters. These poorer countries believe that the wealthy countries are the ones who have caused “global warming” and now demand those countries pay.

And pay big. One figure floated around Paris was $100 billion (dollars) per year transfer from wealthy countries to poor ones, over a period of at least ten years, a total of  one trillion dollars!   And that’s just for the first decade of the agreement!

Does anyone really think that is going to happen?

** Note — This just in: Congress is approving President Obama’s request for $500 million in the 2016 budget for the climate fund for poor countries. Could that money have been spent here? Nah….we don’t need it….

The biggest polluters carbon fuel-wise today are China and India. China has said it will stop increasing it’s use of carbon fuels by 2030, but that’s not surprising, insasmuch as that’s about the time China’s population will stop growing. India, on the other hand, refuses to get tied down, as it claims that because it is such a poor country, it needs more time to “catch up” industrially with the West.

It’s already been noted that even if the U.S. took extraordinary measures to reduce carbon fuels, the difference we could make would be negligable at this point. That doesn’t mean however, that shanigans won’t be taking place.

money temperature

Look for calls for “carbon taxes”. Bernie Sanders has talked about this alot, and I suspect he will have company as time goes on. These “taxes” will make it more expensive for you and I to heat our homes and fuel our cars, but it doesn’t stop there. Manufacturers and all sorts of producers will get slammed with these taxes, which they will naturally pass along to the consumer. Ostensibly these taxes will go toward encouraging research and development of “clean” energy sources, vis-a-vie grants and so forth to potential developers.  Watch out for that one. The name Solyndra comes to mind. If you don’t recall who they were, they were the solar power company that received over $500 million from Uncle Sam, only to go bankrupt after five years.

solyndra

Currently there is no large-scale replacement for fossil fuels. Solar, wind, biomass, and hydro power all work, but only in a limited way. So far, no one has found a viable solution to what happens when the sun isn’t shining or the wind is not blowing.  All of these combined could not generate nearly enough power for an industrialized country such as the United States. The “hope” is that newer and better alternatives will be discovered just in time to save the day and keep the seas from rising. Maybe that’s where “Hope and Change” came from – we hope someone will invent something that will mean a change.

The alternative to a new discovery is taxing carbon fuels so heavily that we all return to a pre-industrial state, sort of like living in the 1750’s.  We all know that’s not going to happen. I’m not saying the taxing won’t happen, it surely will. I’m saying it all hits the wall when the public finally realizes what the proposals mean to them; and that will not be pretty.

I’m sure all the delegates had a marvelous time in Paris on someone’s expense account, and left feeling fulfilled and salf-satisfied. The problem is, like so many political activities, most of the discussion was completely removed from the real world we live in.

We may be going through climate change. Certainly it has happened before. I seriously doubt man has had much to do with it, and doubt even more that man can do much about it.

Except hold conferences.

Immigration Part II: Demographics

 

overpopulation2

The world is changing, and not a little bit. I’m not talking about climate change, I’m talking about people change.  There are significant changes taking place all over the world, and they will effect everything.

As I write this, the earth’s population is about 7.4 billion people. This number is fluid because we are adding to the population at a rate of something like 200,000 people per day. That, by the way, is not births. It is births minus deaths, or an actual net gain.

Roll that number around in your brain for a minute. That’s more than the population of Little Rock, Arkansas (197,706), Salt Lake City (190,884), or Providence, Rhode Island (179,154) every single day. We are seeing a population explosion like nothing the world has ever seen, and we have no idea what it all means.

First a little perspective. From the dawn of time, literally from the beginning of mankind thousands of years ago, the earth did not reach one billion people until about 1800. Thousands and thousands of years to reach one billion.

The second billion came just 130 years later in 1930, the third billion in 1959, the fourth in 1974, the fifth 1987, the sixth 1999, and we reached seven billion in 2011. At the current rate, we’ll hit eight billion around 2024, just nine years from now.

population graph

Yeah, well that’s nice, but so what?

overpopulation

 

The so what is that with this growth, everything changes. Everything. It all comes down to something called the birth rate, more significantly, something called the replacement rate.

The replacement rate is the number of children each woman in a given population must have in order to sustain that population. More childen, the population goes up, less children, it goes down. Pretty simple, right? Well it is, but it requires some calculation. For instance, the replacment rate must offset deaths of any kind, simply for a population to remain stable.

The generally accepted replacement birth rate for stability is 2.1 children per woman. So in a given population, if there is an average of 2.1 children born to each woman, the population will remain stable, neither going up nor down. It will stay exactly at that point.

Remember, this is an average of women in the population. It accounts for the fact that some women will have no childen where others may have three or four or six. It’s an average.

Here’s where it gets interesting, and disturbing. The current birth rate in the United States is 1.87. This is below the replacement rate, which means the population of the United States is in decline. Absent immigration, the population will continue to go down. Some reasons for this may include fewer people getting married, more choosing not to have children, or other social factors.

Similar numbers exist in other countries. The United Kingdom (1.89),  Germany (1.44), Canada (1.59)  Belgium (1.78), Italy (1.43). All well below the population replacement rate. These and many other western countries have an aging population which accounts for much of the decline.

Then there is the opposite side of that coin, countries with booming, sometimes absurd population growth. African countries such as Niger (6.76), Somalia (5.99), Uganda (5.79), and Zambia (5.72). Throughout Africa, there is a population explosion that far exceeds any other place on earth.

In addition, Middle Eastern Muslim countries are having large population increases. Pakistan (2.75), Syria (2.60), Iraq (4.12), and in the Gaza Strip (4.08).

How about Central and South America? Mexico (2.27), Guatemala (2.90), Honduras (2.78) Panama (2.35).

Even the Caribbean:  Haiti (2.69) and the Dominican Republic (2.33) exceed birth rates in the United States.

Ground zero for the population explosion is Africa. At current rates, Africa will have a population of over 4 billion by the year 2100. That year, the world population is expected to be about 11 billion.  That means 36 percent of the world’s population will be African. By comparison, the United States is projected to be about 450 million, roughly 1/10th that of Africa.

The bottom line is this: Western European and North American countries are in decline, sometimes steep decline, while countries to the south are almost all exploding.

immigration boat

Migration

People all around the world are migrating. Of course, we see it in the United States on our Southern border, but it is happening all over the world.

There is no question that economics are a significant factor. Overwhelmingly, countries with high or even absurd birth rates are poor and undeveloped. There is never a case where wealthy people migrate to a poor country. As these populations grow at an astonishing rate, the additional people put even more pressure on sometimes collapsing infrastructures. Not enough food, not enough water, no jobs, poor health conditions; the list is endless.

Add conflict to these situations and it only gets worse. People fleeing not only poverty, but war and societal chaos. Sometimes fleeing for their lives. And they only have one place to go: north.

This is not a futuristic scenario; this is happening now. According to the New York Times, sixty million people around the world are migrating at this very moment. They are on the move.

Mass Migration – The New York Times

You may have seen this video. (Note: audio goes off occasionally, do to copyright disputes with the music composer):

Income Levels:

There is a clear disparity of income levels in northern and southern countries.  It’s not completely clear to me why this is the case, but the differences are dramatic.

According to the World Bank, Per capita family income in the United States is $54,630. In the United Kingdom, it’s $45.603. France is $42,733, and Germany is $47,627. Most of Western Europe is in the same range, fairly wealthy countries.

South America, not so much. Brazil is $11,385. Argentina $12,569. Peru, $6559. Colombia, $7904.

Much of the Middle East is not prosperous: Iraq, $6,334. Egypt, $3199. Jordan, $5,423.

Southwest Asia is even worse: India, $1,596. Pakistan, $1,334, Bangledesh $1,093.

And finally, Africa: Chad, $1,025. Ethiopia, $585. Gambia, $419. Rwanda, $696. Uganda, $696.

This list of figures was not meant to make the reader bleary-eyed, but to point out a significant point: Much of the world is poor, abysmally poor, poor beyond our imaginiations. And these places are where the population is growing. The sheer numbers of the growing populations of poor people is staggering.  Add to this the fact that many of these countries have little or no effective infrastructure, educational systems, or even effective governments. This is precisely the right incubator for terrorism. These countries have very young, uneducated populations. The make perfect cannon fodder for groups like ISIS. They are a terrorist army just waiting to be led.

Let there be no mistake; the population explosion coupled with massive poverty is a recipe for disasters. And these disasters are likely to begin happening long before any “global warming” effects, if any, are seen.

Which leads me to a theory:  Before the reader jumps to a conclusion that I am a whacko “climate denier”, please hear me out. If my theory is faulty, I’d love to hear from you telling me why.

I suspect a ruse. The leaders of our government and all European governments are surely aware of all these facts and figures. They have to know that these combinations present a clear and present danger much larger and sooner than any rising oceans. They also know that if people in these poor countries ever began migrating in mass, there would be no way to stop them. Sheer numbers would overwhelm any attempts to stop them. We are seeing the early stages of this today with the migrants entering Europe.

I have come to believe that government officials have been working on a plan to prevent this, and hiding it beneath the cloak of “climate change”.

Major portions of the United Nations proposals on climate change include wealthy nations effectively paying poor nations to upgrade their economies as to not rely on fossil fuels. These proposed payments are in the hundreds of billions of dollars to many of the countries mentioned here.

My premise is that these proposed climate mitigation payments are in fact payments to poor countries to keep their people within their borders, methods to be determined by the countries receiving the money.

Paying people to stay where the are? Why not? All the wealthy countries on earth could not begin to absorb the vast numbers of poor and uneducated people from these places.

Does this solve the problem? Of course not. It is a delaying action at best. If these countries cannot be convinced to enact serious population control (ie birth control), the situation will only get worse. Just remember, every day 200,000 new people on the planet, and no end in sight.

Then there is this:

Next installment will look more specifically at options for dealing with the population demographic crisis.

 

World Population Clock

CIA World Fact Book

Monthly Disposable Incomes Worldwide

 

Climate Denier: Part One

global-warming 1

Climate Denier. Such an odd term. It used to be Global Warming Denier, and before that  Anthropogenic Global Warming Denier,  for the sophisticated.

I suppose I might be called a Denier. I’m not sure if that should be capitalized or not. It seems to be a formal label of sorts, so I guess it should be capitalized.

Anyway, it’s an interesting choice of words. To deny something, according to the dictionary, is to “refuse to admit the truth”. In the case of global warming, now called climate change, to deny the “science”, or “the truth”, is to be a Denier. I call bullshit.

First of all, no one can deny climate change. The climate on earth has always changed, from the very beginning. It is changing now, and will change again, and again in the future. Such is the nature of the planet. I can’t imagine anyone who would deny that, but alas, that is not the point, is it?

The point is whether or not one agrees with the “settled science” of the day.  Disagree, and one automatically becomes a Denier. Worse, one becomes some sort of Neanderthal, incapable of understanding the complexities of the modern world. To disagree makes one an outlier; not to be taken seriously,  a person to be ignored. I accept that challenge, and here’s why:

First of all, there is no such thing as “settled science”, that’s not the way it works.

“But you’re not a scientist”, some may say, “what do you know?”.

Well, a little. Let’s have some background before continuing. I worked for four years at Rutgers University, in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. For those four years plus four more, I worked on a human subjects research project as the project director. The work of this project was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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Additionally, I have presented research results to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), both in Washington DC and at the University of California (USC) Irvine, at the invitation of the NAS.

So no, I’m not a scientist, but I have worked in the field and believe I have some notion how legitimate science works, and how it does not.

First of all, science is rigorous. A “fact” is never a “fact” until it has been tested, replicated, and repeated again and again and again. Even then there is always the open notion that it can be proven wrong sometime in the future. There is not now, and has never been such a thing as “settled science”.

Science relies on experimentation, not consensus. There is no opinion polling in science. Even when legitimate scientists agree, they allow for the possibility that they could be wrong, individually or collectively.

Generally speaking, science is not in the predicting business. It is recognized that certain outcomes may be likely, even seriouly likely, but they are never guaranteed. Speculation, plausible outcomes, possibilities, and liklihoods are all fair expressions. Absolute certainty is not. Scientists have been proven wrong in the past, and will be in the future. There are no absolute truths.

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What we are seeing today is a hypothesis presented as fact. Statistical extrapolation projected as absolute truth.

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There is always great risk speculating about climate. The earth’s climate is a vast and complicated organism. Collecting past data accurately may reflect what happened in the past, but is a poor resource for predicting the future. The reality is that with all our sophistication, we can barely predict the weather more than a week in advance. Predicting such things as climate and sea levels hundreds of years in the future is arrogance, not science.

As a non-scientist, my hypothesis is not worth much, I understand that.  But since this is my blog, I will be presenting some of my ideas on the subject in future posts. Read them or not, agree or disagree. That is fair. What I do urge, however, is that you do not blindly accept the “facts” you read today as “settled”.  Examine them, question them. Those presenting the information are not infallible. Don’t let them pretend that they are.