George B. Reed Jr.: Overwhelming immigrant hoards?

June 2, 2017 GMT

Have you ever wondered why the Germans and Scandinavians welcome immigrants from the war-ravaged Middle East? It isn’t from the goodness of their hearts, I assure you. It’s because of Europe’s declining birth rates. Most European countries are not even reproducing at a replacement level. Thus, the European average age is increasing. They need younger people coming in to work and contribute to their health care and retirement systems.

When European social programs were instituted their actuarial soundness was based on a steadily-growing population and an expanding economy. But as societies become more affluent their birth rates tend to decline. Younger workers must be brought in and Arab and Turkish refugees provide a ready source.

The American rightwing likes to crow that these European countries are headed into financial disaster because their socialist policies have killed the will to succeed. Poppycock! The problem is one of pure demographics. We Americans are not yet facing this problem due to our lower average age, higher reproductive rate and a steady influx of younger immigrants. But if present trends continue, our birth rate will probably approach European averages about the middle of this century. That is, by the way, about the same time when the U.S. Caucasian race is predicted to become a minority.

Most of our immigrant groups, particularly Hispanics, the most numerous, have higher birth rates. But as Hispanics become more assimilated their birth rates will probably also decline. But we can easily keep our Social Security and Medicare systems solvent by raising the retirement age which hasn’t been adjusted since Social Security’s inception in the mid-1930s, and by slightly increasing the payroll deduction amounts over time. These needed changes will be simple and relatively painless. Social Security is not “going busted” as George W. tried to tell us in the 1990s.

The heartfelt words engraved beside the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your sick, your tired, your huddled masses . . .” are largely myth. Historically, we Americans have usually resisted immigration, sometimes violently. We have grudgingly welcomed immigrants only when they have filled a need: Irish and Germans to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, Polish to mine the iron ore and coal of Pennsylvania, Italians to work the steel mills, and Jews, Irish and central Europeans for the northeastern textile mills. I could go on. And today it’s the Hispanics to harvest the crops, tend our landscapes and clean our houses. The reality is that they need the work and we need economical, low-skilled labor. But do they also bring murder, rape and other violence as our president claims?

Current studies, surveys and prison records reveal that immigrants commit far fewer crimes of all types than native-born Americans. Today the foreign-born share of the U.S. population has grown from 8% in 1990 to over 14% today. But according to FBI data, over that same period the U.S. violent-crime rate for murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault has decreased by 48%.

Where does Donald Trump get all of his “fake news?” Obviously he, or somebody, just makes it up. But I don’t blame him, I blame the electorate for believing what he says and not checking it out for themselves. There’s no excuse for being duped today for anyone with access to a computer.

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bellsouth.net.