Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Gazette Takes A Reasonable Approach

There are many reasons to support immigration reform and immigrant rights including those based in our faith traditions, human rights, labor rights and the contributions, both cultural and economic, that immigrants make to our communities. The Colorado Springs Gazette detailed how demographics impact the economy and explains how immigration may be helping the economy, not hurting it.

I went to a training myself yesterday and learned the Labor Department estimates that by 2010 there will be a 151 million jobs in the United States and 141 million workers. This is not a political statistic, it is real.

Our View - Thursday

January 10, 2008

Forbidden topic
How immigration could save us

Anti-immigrant tough talk has failed, once again, as it did in the 2006 election. The toughest of the tough-on-immigration candidates — Colorado’s Tom Tancredo — didn’t get to New Hampshire before his campaign fizzled. John McCain and Hillary Clinton, two of the weakest tough-on-immigration candidates, stole the show in New Hampshire, where immigration never became an issue.

There’s a lesson in this: Americans are confused on immigration, they don’t feel deeply either way, and the topic is mostly a source of anxiety. They’ll reward candidates who ignore it.

Politicians learned this from Tancredo’s demise. They also learned from Clinton, who waffled on the issue of drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants and suffered in the polls. Immigration, from any perspective, is a perilous, no-win issue for candidates on each side of the aisle.

And that’s too bad, because immigration may be the most important issue pertaining to our country’s economic plight.

Consider a report in the business pages of Wednesday’s Gazette, where Money Management columnist Dan Serra interviewed Littleton financial planner James Lunney, author of “Surviving the Storm; Investment Strategies that Help You Maximize Profit and Control Risk During the Coming Economic Winter.”

One can hope that Lunney’s “Economic Winter” subtitle represents an overly pessimistic forecast. But don’t count on it. A growing number of economists say our economy is already in recession. Meanwhile, the stock market continues to sag, and the nation’s leading mortgage lender teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, along with the largest insurer of municipal bonds. Investors abroad are deserting the dollar in favor of the euro and the yen.

Lunney is rare among economists and financial planners, in that he seems to grasp the very foundation of long-term financial challenges facing our country. He describes what might be viewed as an inverted population pyramid, telling Serra: “Never has there been a period in history where you have a large generation followed by a smaller generation.”

Lunney cites government statistics that show Americans spend the most in their mid- to late-40s, and the majority of baby boomers are beyond that. Younger generations are smaller in numbers, meaning the economy is heading into a period in which fewer people will be consuming services and goods, and a large population of seniors will be dependent on younger generations to drive the economy and care for them. It’s a gloomy equation.

“The market’s not going down because boomers are taking money out of stocks, it’s because of reduced spending,” Lunney said.

The days of families producing five to 10 kids are probably over for good, so the inverted pyramid may be hard to reverse. Or is it? Immigration — the “problem” a failed crop of politicians promised to fix — is the obvious cure.

Massive immigration, legal or not, is nothing other than a demand of our economy — a force powered by the wants and needs of some 300 million consumers who vote with their dollars every day. Politicians such as Tancredo mistake the immigration influx as exploitation of America by a poorer class, believing that our country has tolerated the influx as a favor to Latin Americans. They fail to grasp the American economy as a self-serving, self-correcting entity so powerful and sophisticated that market forces of correction mimic gravity, or the suction of a vacuous void, regardless of political whim.

The economy pulls immigrants in to give us a working class, and a base of consumers to help support the businesses and fill the homes that resulted from a large class of baby boomers, most of whom are moving past their most consumptive and productive years.

Americans know instinctively that politicians cannot, and should not, stop an immigration tide that’s pulled by the gravity of economic want and need. Most Americans know the immigrants who fix their leaking roofs and mop the floors at their children’s schools. Business leaders know the immigrants who buy their goods and services, and they’re thankful.

Presidential candidates will probably continue ignoring the debate, viewed as a proven campaign failure. As a result, the country will continue with inane immigration laws that mischaracterize a legitimate reaction to economic demand as a dark and unlawful attack on our country. Open, honest political dialogue about the causes and benefits of immigrant consumers and workers — and ways to curtail the liabilities associated with them — could be the first step in saving us from recession, or worse. Unfortunately, such conversations don’t conform to the emotional and expedient nature of presidential politics. Neither, however, does tough-guy anti-immigrant talk.

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