Reducing Economic Inequality

It seems to me….

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to empower individuals and communities, as it creates new opportunities for economic, social, and personal development.  But it also could lead to the marginalization of some groups, exacerbate inequality, create new security risks, and undermine human relationships.”  ~ Klaus Schwab[1].

When rising numbers of homeless live in tent cities in relatively close proximity to expensive homes and condos, it is only natural to question the reason for such obvious economic and social inequality.  How has it happened and what should be done to create greater equality?

Income inequality is the widening gap between what is earned by the wealthiest people in an economy when compared to the poorest.  Inequality in the U.S. has been steadily rising over the past few decades and is now at an overall level similar to that prior to the Great Depression and at the highest level of any nation in the industrialized world.  The causes of economic inequality are multifarious and we as a society have been unable to reach a consensus on what, if anything, to do to resolve it.  Political deadlock will apparently preserve the apparent status quo for the foreseeable future.

There is a strong correlation between economic inequality and opportunity inequality as it impacts people’s abilities to climb the wealth ladder and to get ahead by working hard resulting in geographic segregation, gaps in educational attainment, and cycles of poverty.  On a political level, it can threaten democracy as a small group of elites amass political influence and control.

A commonly used measurement of inequality is the Gini index which summarizes the distribution of income into a single number.  It ranges from zero, which is a perfectly equal distribution, to one, where only one person possesses all the wealth.  Historically, an increase in the net (post-tax and transfer) Gini coefficient above 0.4.is associated with a higher probability of social unrest.  Countries with a Gini coefficient over the 0.4 tend to become dysfunctional and experience civil strife, revolution, mass protests, or war.  The U.S. Gini index was 0.486 in 2019 and has continued to increase.

No one wants to see violent protests in our streets but little is being done to address the basic causes so as to prevent them.  Street protests have been increasing for several years and are consequently likely to continue to do so.

There is general agreement that any display of social unrest, especially one involving any form of violence, must be forcefully suppressed.  But suppression does not rectify the basic causes for that unrest.  Repression without relieving the basic problem source only temporarily constrains the unrest creating a pressure cooker effect allowing the pressure to continue to climb until once again breaking out possibly with increased vehemence.

Wealth and income inequality have increased over the previous half-century.  The income for families near the top of the income hierarchy increased by about 90 percent from 1963 to 2016 while income of families at the lowest level increased less than 10 percent.

In 2019, the top 20 percent of the population earned 51.9 percent of all U.S. income; the top 5 percent earned 23 percent; the bottom 20 percent only earned 3.1 percent[2].  The income of the top 1 percent of Americans increased 160 percent since 1979 and is now 20 times as much as the bottom 90 percent; over the same period, the bottom 90 percent experienced a growth of only 26 percent.

89.7 percent of investment shares in the U.S. are owned by the wealthiest 10 percent.  Since the 1980s, the wealthiest 1 percent increased their share of total income by 10 percent; everyone else saw their piece of the pie shrink by 1 to 2 percent.  Even though income going to the least wealthy improved, they fell further behind when compared to the most wealthy.  Additionally, marginal taxes for the most wealthy have decreased by 79 percent over recent years.  The U.S. now ranks second in terms of poverty rates among OECD countries.

The increase in inequality is not easily resolved as it resulted from a combination of reasons rather than the somewhat simplistic explanations frequently cited such as cheap labor in southeast Asia (China), unfair exchange rates, job outsourcing, automation, or decline in unionization.  Corporations are often blamed for putting profits ahead of workers, but to remain competitive, they must compete with offshore companies who pay their workers much less.

Many companies have consequently outsourced high-tech and manufacturing jobs overseas resulting in a 36 percent reduction in factory jobs – which traditionally were higher-paying union jobs – from 1980 to 2020.  Service jobs did increase over that same period but they normally are much lower paid.

It is technology, not globalization, that feeds income inequality as it has replaced many workers at factory jobs.  Offshoring is a very easy target but not as responsible as it initially might seem.  Technology has increased worker productivity but also increased necessary worker educational levels marginalizing benefits of lower waged employees.  Basic manufacturing costs are frequently of less importance than those for transportation and distribution increasing the importance of locating manufacturing facilities in closer proximity to customers and markets thus negating potential benefits from offshoring other than in areas primarily dependent upon communications such as help desks.

Rather than attempting to totally shift blame for rising inequality  to such considerations as offshoring, political conservatism has repeatedly failed to adequately support critical factors such as national infrastructure, education, and worker’s healthcare or childcare.  E.g., the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without guaranteed parental leave.

Employment training programs improve income inequality by preparing employees for higher paying positions.  Education, in general, increases worker income generating economic growth.  Over a lifetime, Americans with college degrees on average earn 84 percent more than those with only high school degrees.

Technology, including digitalization, has resulted in education becoming increasingly important but even availability of universal free education would result in only minor reductions in inequality as many college programs result in degrees in very low paying fields.  The value of education should not be questioned – in general “high education, high income; low education, low income” is correct but primarily so only for those with degrees in fields such as STEM, medical, legal, or economics.  Many graduates with pure liberal arts degrees never experience sufficient earning increases to cover their educational expenses and eventually find employment outside their degree field.

A moderate amount of economic inequality is not only acceptable, it is natural and unavoidable.  In the game of Monopoly, everyone starts out with exactly the same amount of resources yet inequality quickly develops with someone eventually accumulating all that is available with everyone else bankrupt.  Life is somewhat similar though much less fair since no one starts out with the same resources or potential.  In life, without legal constraints, someone potentially could accumulate all available resources.  It is both a moral and ideological question as to how much economic inequality is tolerable.  Many people, including most economists, now believe that the U.S. has exceeded an acceptable level of inequality.

When U.S. officials became concerned about poverty during the 1960s, they established a measure of official poverty, a so-called “poverty line”, calculated by multiplying the cost of a very minimal diet by three as a government study had determined that the typical U.S. family spent one-third of its income on food: a family whose income is lower than three times the cost of a very minimal diet is considered officially poor.  The poverty line has been adjusted annually for inflation and for the number of people in a family but how the poverty line is calculated has not changed since 1963 though many other things such as energy, childcare, and healthcare, now occupy a greater percentage of the typical family’s budget than was true at that time.  As a national measure, the poverty line also fails to account for regional cost of living differences.

41.4 percent of Americans fall below that poverty line and classified as either low-income or as a low-income family.  Approximately 44 percent are White (non-Latino), 29 percent are Latino, 23 percent are Black, and 4 percent are Asian.  The poverty rate for U.S. children is the highest in the Western world; almost 21 percent of children under age 18 are poor (amounting to more than 15 million children):  35.7 percent are Black and 33.1 percent are Latino.  8.9 percent of people aged 65 or older (about 3.4 million) are poor[3].

U.S. poverty stems from societal problems that lead to lack of equal opportunity.  Problems include (1) racial, ethnic, gender, and age discrimination; (2) lack of adequate schooling and/or healthcare; and (3) structural changes in the U.S. economic system such as the movement of manufacturing companies away from cities in the 1980s and 1990s.  These frequently created a cycle of poverty in which children of the poor often end up in poverty or near-poverty when they become adults[4].

A minimum wage does not provide a living wage for the majority of American families: a single parent with two children would need to work the equivalent of 3.5 full-time jobs — 139 hours per work week, or more hours than there are in five days — to earn a living wage at a minimum-wage job.  A parent who is the sole breadwinner and earning minimum wage at a full-time job does not make enough to bring their family above the federal poverty line.

The right to collectively bargain has long been tightly linked to wages and incomes.  Since the 1970s, declining unionization has fueled rising inequality and stalled economic progress for the broad American middle class.  Failure of workers’ wages to grow at a pace corresponding to growth in overall productivity is one of the U.S.’s central economic challenges.  Other economic challenges—reducing poverty, increasing mobility, closing racial and gender wage gaps, and spurring a more complete recovery from both the 2009 and COVID-19 economic downturns also are dependent upon boosting hourly wage growth for the majority of workers.

Among the bottom 90 percent of American households, labor income—including wages and wage-related income such as employer contributions to health insurance benefits for workers and Social Security and Medicare for retired workers—represents the vast majority of their income.  Wages and wage-related income for the top 1 percent averaged just under 40 percent while it averaged 86 percent for the bottom 90 percent of households.

Most low-wage workers are unable to afford the education that might help them secure better-paid work lowering the supply of skilled labor.  The U.S. ranks 26th in the world for the percentage of 4-year-olds attending pre-school and 29th for 3-year-olds.

They do not receive health insurance, sick days, or pension plans from their employers so being ill normally means losing wages for being sick.  They can’t get ill, have no hope of retiring, and have reduced overall life expectancy.  Some lower income earners reach a point where they believe they have no option other than to resort to crime to support themselves.

The U.S. has one of the lowest rates of upward mobility of any developed country in the world.  Past history of wealth inequality shows that low-income earners are less likely to break the cycle of poverty as children growing up in these circumstances may perpetuate this cycle because they don’t have the resources to better their circumstances.  The Horatio Alger Myth[5], the belief that anyone can get ahead if only they try sufficiently hard, no longer is true in the U.S. (and probably never was).

If income mobility was fairly high, the degree of inequality in any given year would be unimportant since distribution of lifetime income would be relatively even.  An increase in such mobility tends to make the distribution of lifetime income more equal, wealth accumulation decline, and poor move up.  Unfortunately, there is relatively little income mobility in the U.S. compared to other countries.

The government should provide the bottom two-fifths access to education and employment training.  Investing in human capital is the best way to increase individual wealth and improve the labor force.  Economic equality should never be achieved by reducing everyone to the same comparable level but Congress must, if necessary, raise taxes on the top fifth of income earners to pay for it.  Economies are not zero-sum and the total available expands in accordance with various factors such as productivity.

If not addressed, increasing economic inequality eventually will result not only in potential social disruption but also decreased spending ability and concurrent growth slowdown which eventually would lead to escalating job losses and further financial distress.  High unemployment isn’t just harmful when it’s happening; it also has destructive long-term effects as young people starting their work lives amid economic weakness suffer persistent damage to their earnings.

Those in the top fifth of the U.S. income bracket must realize that those in the bottom two-fifths cannot bear the brunt forever.  While no one should either envy the rich nor pity the poor, the government must do more to help the needy.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Klaus Martin Schwab is a German engineer and economist best known as the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

[2] Amadeo, Kimberly, and Janet Berry-Johnson.  Income Inequality In America, The Balance, https://www.thebalance.com/income-inequality-in-america-3306190, 15 July 2021.

[3] Sociology: 8.4 Economic Inequality And Poverty In The United States, University of Minnesota, https://open.lib.umn.edu/sociology/chapter/8-4-economic-inequality-and-poverty-in-the-united-states/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Horatio Alger Jr. was an American author who wrote young adult novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through good works.

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Insurrection Revisited

It seems to me….

Insurrection:  An unsuccessful revolution; disaffection’s failure to substitute misrule for bad government.”  ~ Ambrose Bierce[1].

Over a year has now passed since the attack on the U.S. Capital and attempt to overthrow the U.S. Constitution by a mob incentivized by the lies of a defeated President having been denied re-election.  While it normally would be assumed that all associated with the attempted coup would quickly face legal retribution, that has not proven to be so.  Though a number of those who directly participated have been charged, none of those primarily responsible for instigating the attack have yet to be held accountable.

Republicans, including many whose lives were endangered in the attack and breaching of our Capital, have closed ranks to protect culpable members of their party.  Their primary defensive strategy is to delay any legal action until after the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans should be able to regain control of both Houses of Congress and can terminate all legal inquiries regarding the insurrection attempt.

No one is above the law.  “Every man must be guaranteed his liberty and his right to do as he likes with his property or his labor, so long as he does not infringe the rights of others.  No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it.  Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor[2].”  Everyone, regardless of position, is equally subject to the laws of the land as provided for under the Constitution.  When the law has been broken, it is the duty of those in authority to investigate, charge, and duly punish those responsible.

Just as no one is infallible, so must everyone be accountable to some independent authority.  Everyone, public officials included, is obliged to act in the best interests of society.  When any such official acts in a manner divergent from the interests of the public, there must be mechanisms for legal redress.  The U.S. Constitution provides for three independent and equal branches, none of which is subject to the authority of any other.  If one of those branches is believed to have not acted in the public interest, it is incumbent upon one of those other two branches to take appropriate remedial action.

Many Republicans, including Trump, continue to claim the “Big Lie”, that the election was stolen.  Their attempt to undermine confidence in the election results with incessant misinformation could lead to violence in future elections, further attempts to discredit results of those elections, and/or overturn of the demonstrated will of the voters.

While everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, regardless of what one might think, facts remain facts – so-called “alternate facts” remain nothing but lies.

Following the massive interference in the 2016 election as shown by the Federal Election Commission, every intelligence agency, and even Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, it should be obvious that the 2020 Presidential election was the most thoroughly supervised election in U.S. history.  It is beyond reason to doubt that the results are other than the most accurate, most verified, the U.S. has ever had.

Trump filed over 40 lawsuits challenging the 2020 election results:  ALL failed.  Even a direct appeal to the Supreme Court, which he had packed with conservated appointees, was rejected.  Trump requested election recounts in four states, and all resulted in slight increases in votes for Biden.  There should not be any doubt that any claim of Trump having won to be totally untrue.  Any allegation to the contrary is a lie.

There has been a general moral and intellectual decline in political conservatism and the time has come for anyone claiming the 2020 election results were in any way invalid to remove their head from their posterior.  The Republican party should cease in their claims of Democratic extremism and consider how far to the right they have traveled in what lately has become a lemming-like sprint.  Both the Republicans and the Democrats spread fairly wide tents but Republicans, especially, have spread the welcome mat for extremist conservatives to such an extent that their primary ideology has now become neofascist.  Rather than traditional Republicanism, they now harbor the Tea Party, Libertarians, White Evangelical Christians, alt-right, white supremacists, QAnon, and other similar outliers including private militias and hate groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers.  Perhaps it is time for Republicans to recall they once were the party of Lincoln and reaffirm a platform more similar to that under former President Eisenhower.

By failing to condemn the attempted insurrection and overthrow of our Constitution, Republicans have shown themselves to be the greatest threat our republic currently faces.  Belief in the rule of law upon which our Constitution is dependent has been shown to be more fragile than most of us previously believed.  A rapid and strong response is essential so that any current or future potential would-be demagogue, or anyone complicit in their efforts, knows with absolute certainty that any similar behavior will be met with a strong response.

The majority of those participating in the riot were mostly ordinary Americans who had only recently become radicalized.  “Their personal beliefs and acceptance of political violence … were shaped by a propaganda campaign that engulfed the full spectrum of right-wing politics: from Republican elected officials, prominent conservative commentators, and conservative-leaning major news outlets to newly minted social media influencers, minor radical organizations, and a burgeoning group of far-right niche media ventures[3].”

It is beyond logic that Trump’s false claims continue to be believed or repeatedly relitigated in state-level legislative battles over election procedures.  While there admittedly are liberal extremists, they are not part of the Democratic Party leadership.  Rightwing radicals, on the other hand, now essentially are the Republican Party.  Recovery will require a Republican revitalization of GOP officials, pundits, and voters to reject Trump’s false election claims and prevent it from ever again occurring.

The Republican Party has so far not only failed to purge itself of the extremist elements responsible for the assault on our Capital but continues to falsely corroborate “The Big Lie” that Trump won the election.

The frequent cynical response to political transgressions of sufficient magnitude, such as this, is a transition from initial shock to disbelief, to anger, to identification of the guilty, and eventual punishment of the innocent.  While many of the actual rioters deservedly face punishment, many of them are the victims of disinformation who were misled by unscrupulous commentators, far right news outlets, and self-serving politicians.  It is becoming increasingly likely that those most responsible for the insurrection attempt and actions leading up to it are unlikely to ever be held legally accountable or face any consequences or punishment for their actions.

This concentration on a single issue does not in any way deny that we have multiple escalating social, cultural, and religious issues that are combining to further divide our nation – they are geographic, ideological, and spiritual.  While the majority of us desire a reduction of our increasingly dysfunctional political environment, when significant geographical regions sharing a common culture believe their fundamental values are under attack and lose confidence in the democratic process, the possibility of insurrection, or even civil militancy, becomes increasingly real.

Support for Trump has transcended normal ideological levels and now bears greater similarity to that of a cult.  Sociologically, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices.  Trump supporters willingly believe his mendacious assertions; any actual support of Republican Party principles has become secondary.  Unfortunately, partly leaders believe they are obligated to participate in what has now become nothing more than a charade.  It is time for those remaining responsible Republican Party leaders to renounce extremism, to purge the Party of its darker elements, and to once again support those principles which our nation has traditionally espoused.

Followers of Trump should keep in mind that members of a cult are eventually asked to drink the Kool Aid[4].


[1] Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was a U.S. short story writer, journalist, poet, and Civil War veteran.  His book The Devil’s Dictionary was named as one of “The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature”.

[2] Roosevelt, Theodore.  Third Annual Message To Congress, 7 December  1903.

[3] Miller-Idriss, Cynthia.  America’s Most Urgent Threat Now Comes From Within, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/05/opinion/jan-6-domestic-extremism.html, 5 January 2022.

[4] Eldridge, Alison.  Jonestown, Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/event/Jonestown, 11 November 2021.

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2021: The Year That Was

It seems to me….

This past year has been something else… it’s opened my eyes to many things and many people.  It’s had its ups and downs and ins and outs.  And I believe we’ve all been able to take something from that and grow in our own imp articular ways.  We’ve overcome obstacles and set in motion opportunities that can change our own individual lives.”  ~ Kyle Schmid[1].

Every year seems to have more of those events that shape history than its predecessor.  While probably not true, those events, being more recent, remain more fresh in our memory.

This is not an attempt to document everything that happened in 2021.  It is a very biased short list of just some of the events that seemed of special interest to me.  Everyone has their own perspective on importance and I do not expect anyone to necessarily agree with mine; e.g., I have relatively little interest in sporting events (unless it happens to be the Olympics).  There are numerous more complete lists available on the Internet; e.g., Historical Events in 2021[2].

Politics (National)

U.S. politics has seldom been more fractious than now.  Never before in U.S. history has a sitting President refused to accept his election loss and attempted to overturn his defeat.

January 5:          In the normally Republican state of Georgia Senate run-off elections, Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) were declared the winners giving Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.  The Georgia state legislature immediately changed their voting laws in an attempt to prevent it from again occurring in the future.  Several other states with Republican majorities with a shifting electorate fearful of losing their representative majority approved similar legislation.

January 6:          Pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, in an attempted insurrection during Congressional certification of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s victory in the 2020 election prompting evacuation of lawmakers and Vice-President Mike Pence and resulting in five deaths.  This was the first time the Capitol building had been invaded since by the British in 1812.

January 13:        Donald Trump became the first U.S. President to be impeached twice after the House of Representatives charged him with inciting the Capitol insurrection.  The Senate voted to acquit him primarily along party lines on 13 February.

January 20:        President Joe Biden inaugurated as U.S. President.  Kamala Harris becomes the first female, Black, and South-Asian Vice President.

September 8:    A large statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from its plinth on Monument Avenue, Richmond, Virginia.  This was part of a general belated movement to eliminate the honoring of those who waged the Civil War in an attempt to secede from the U.S., were slave owners, or engaged in genocide against native Americans.

Politics (International)

It was not a particularly good year for world democracies as illiberalism continued its advancement.  Optimistically, with Trump no longer U.S. President and encouraging other would-be populist autocrats, there will be a rational return to what is generally known as the western international order once again leading to economic and social progress.

August 15:         Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Taliban forces entered the capital Kabul and took control.

August 30:         The U.S. ended its longest-ever war in Afghanistan when the last military evacuation plane flew out of Kabul.  The departure, while long overdue, was very poorly managed.

September 26:  Germany voted for a new Chancellor.  Angela Merkel, one of the longest-serving senior politicians in Germany, ended her career after 16 years.

December 8:      Olaf Scholz was sworn as the new Chancellor of Germany.

Healthcare

The ongoing pandemic easily remained the most important issue for a second year.  As the COVID-19 related death toll continued to mount, the U.S. entered a new phase of response with a rollout of vaccines.  Use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 was initially made available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for individuals 16 years of age and older on 11 December 2020.  A second vaccine from Moderna was approved under a similar EUA a week later.

January 26:        The total number of global COVID-19 cases surpassed 100 million.

February 27:      The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized its third COVID-19 vaccine under an EUA, a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson.

May 10:              The U.S. FDA authorized the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds.

October 29:       The U.S. FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in Children 5 through 11 Years of Age.

November 19:   The U.S. FDA announced it had amended its emergency use authorizations (EUA) for both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines approving the use of a single booster dose for all individuals 18 years of age and older after completion of primary vaccination with any FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.

December 31:   COVID-19 continued its toll in lives.  There have been 847,162 confirmed deaths (55,864,519 cases) in the U.S. and 5,456,867 deaths (289,659,230 cases) worldwide.  Definitely not the common yearly flu.

Environment

While there was considerable talk about the predicted disastrous effects of global warming, there was very little action to prevent its worst effects.

January 20:        Biden rejoined the Paris climate accord and World Health Organization (WHO).

February 15:       A major winter storm in the U.S. stretched from Texas to Maine resulting in over 3 million without power in Texas and the death of 210 people.

February 20:      President Joe Biden approved a state of emergency declaration in Texas following the devastating winter storm that resulted in rolling power cuts and record low temperatures.

May 19:              The world’s largest iceberg ‘A-76’ at 1,667-square-miles (4,320 square km) calved off the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

August 8:           The Dixie Fire became California’s second-largest wildfire at 463,000 acres (724 square miles).

August 14:         A 7.2 magnitude earthquake centered in south-west Haiti near the city of Les Cayes killed at least 2,200 people, injured many more, and destroyed 52,000 homes.

November 12:   COP 26 was held in Glasgow, Scotland.  While not a total failure, it was unsuccessful in its attempt to persuade nations to sufficiently reduce carbon emissions limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels which most climatologists believe necessary to avert serious consequences.

December 10:   Rare December tornadoes struck Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, completely destroying some towns and leaving at least 70 dead.

December 30:   A wildfire near Boulder, Colorado, destroyed nearly 1000 homes and left 3 people missing and 7 injured.

Space

Space is becoming increasingly crowded as additional nations joined those who have successfully orbited Earth satellites or landed on the Moon or Mars.

February 18:      NASA Perseverance rover carrying the Ingenuity helicopter landed safely on Mars in the Jezero Crater on a mission to find microfossils.

April 19:             NASA successfully flew its drone helicopter Ingenuity on Mars, the first powered aircraft to fly on another world.

March 9:            China and Russia agreed to build a research station on or around the Moon and collaborate on lunar missions in a move that could start another space race.

May 15:              China lands its Zhurong rover on, Mars as part of its Tianwen-1 mission.

December 25:   James Web Space Telescope successfully launched into space.

Economy

The U.S. allocated $6 trillion to pandemic relief, around $850 billion of which was spent on three different installments of direct cash payments of $1,200, $600, and $1,400.  While they provided a much-needed boost to a sagging economy, they came with a tradeoff.  Increased demand equals higher prices and the arrival of the third round of checks signaled a possible increase in inflation.

March 11:          Biden signed a $1.9 trillion rescue package into law starting the distribution of $1,400 in stimulus checks.

March 23:          The cargo ship Ever Given becomes stuck in the Suez Canal snarling global trade operations.

Miscellaneous

I tend to not actually follow the activities of British royalty but there are exceptions.  E.g., I remember watching Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952.

April 9:               Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband of 73 years, died at 99.

April 17:             The funeral of Prince Philip, consort to Queen Elizabeth II, was held under COVID-19 restrictions at Windsor Palace, England.

Firearms

Firearm availability continued to proliferate along with escalating violence.  There does not seem to be any solution to this form of U.S. national insanity.

March 21:          10 people are shot and killed at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, by a 21-year-old gunman.  This was only one of far too many similar occurrences.

November 19:   A U.S. jury cleared Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, of murder for fatally shooting two people and injuring a third during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

November 24:   Three White men were found guilty by a jury for the murder of Black runner Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia.

30 November:   A 15-year-old student killed four and injured seven at a high school in Oxford, Michigan.

Entertainment

There most likely were numerous entertainment opportunities but as I rarely watch television and have avoided all other public events due to the ongoing pandemic, have mostly been unaware of them.  Still, I miss getting out and seeing family and friends.  My wife and I have only been to one movie (Dune) in two years.  Hopefully, everything will improve in the coming year.

July 23:               The XXXII Summer Olympic Games officially opened at the Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan, and continued through 8 August.

Infrastructure

The U.S. infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate as a result of ideological disagreements over funding.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the basic cost of just critically needed repairs to be about $2.59 trillion over the next 10 years and that nearly $6 trillion is needed to bring the U.S.’s broken infrastructure up to current standards.  Obviously,  the $110 billion approved as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is only a start on what is actually needed.

November 15:   U.S. President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion so-called infrastructure bill into law.


Many of our most important events are those that are personal:  births, deaths, marriages, graduations….  They are what we will remember in coming years.  Hopefully, 2021 was a good year for you.

New is the year, our hopes, resolution, spirits, and warm wishes just for you.  May 2022 be filled with happiness, meaning, and all that is good.

Happy New Year

That’s what I think, what about you?



[1] Kyle Schmid is a Canadian actor best known for History’s “SIX”, BBC America’s “COPPER”, and a number of feature films including David Cronenberg’s “A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE”.

[2] Historical Events in 2021, On This Day, https://www.onthisday.com/events/date/2021, 2021.

Posted in Afghan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, Angela Merkel, Antarctic, Arkansas, ASCE, Ashraf Ghani, Boulder, California, California, carbon emissions, China, China, Colorado, COP 26, COVID, COVID-19, Dixie Fire, Events, Firearm, Georgia, Germany, Germany, Glasgow, Global Warming, Global Warming, guns, Haiti, illiberalism, Infrastructure, infrastructure, Ingenuity, international politics, Jezero Crater, Joe Biden, Kabul, Kamala Harris, Kentucky, Les Cayes, Maine, Mars, Michigan, Mike Pence, Missouri, Moderna, Moon, NASA, NASA, NASA, national politics, Olaf Scholz, Olympics, Oxford, Pandemic, Paris Agreement, Paris climate accord, Perseverance, Pfizer, Pfizer-BioNTech, Politics, Queen Elizabeth, Raphael Warnock, Richmond, Robert E. Lee, Ronne Ice Shelf, Russia, Russia, Scotland, Space, Taliban, Taliban, Tennessee, Texas, Texas, Trump, Virginia, WHO, Windsor Palace, World Health Organization, World Health Organization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resetting China Relations

It seems to me….

Globalization has powered economic growth in developing countries such as China.  Global logistics, low domestic production costs, and strong consumer demand have let the country develop strong export-based manufacturing, making the country the workshop of the world.”  ~ Ma Jun[1].

Unfortunately, that fact was not appreciated by the Trump administration who favored “America First” policies.  It now seems as if President Biden is somewhat reluctant to fully overturn many of Trump’s ill-advised trade policies – especially those regarding China.

To be fair, not all foreign trade-related difficulties are the fault of Trump.  Until Brexit, the UK could be counted on to expedite trade and commerce across the Channel and veto anti-U.S. actions by other European countries, especially France.  With Brexit, that now has changed.

Despite considerable noise from Trump regarding renegotiation of trade agreements with Mexico and Canada, there actually was little that changed.  Additionally, a major opportunity was abandoned by Trump when he withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam which would have provide considerable leverage over China.

Trump was hostile to multilateral trade deals in Asia and Europe and rather than supporting high-standard rules that advantaged U.S. companies and workers over China’s unfair practices, he skipped Asia’s most important international summits and opportunities to reassert U.S. diplomatic leadership.

Trump even attempted to end India’s preferential trade status with the U.S.  As China rises in power and influence, Trump’s move was another blow to any hopes of building a broad coalition to check India’s neighbor.  India shares a disputed border with China, has a fraught relationship over the latter’s allegiance to Pakistan, and is the seventh-largest buyer of Chinese goods – all good reasons for the U.S. to seek out a partnership with India when it comes to China rather than alienating it.

Surprisingly, President Biden has neither reversed Trump’s policies nor more aggressively pursued relationships with far-eastern nations.  It might be somewhat understandable given other priorities: concluding military operations in the Middle East, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, budget negotiations with Congress over a number of allocation measures, and other measures he considers important but time is being wasted.

In Trump’s victory speech following his Presidential inauguration in 2017, he promised a lot of concrete-pouring: highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals….  It was all talk and no action.  U.S. infrastructure, already in poor condition as a result of conservative opposition to spending appropriations, was permitted to further deteriorate an additional four years.

While highly improbable, if asked, Xi Jinping, China’s President, might have willingly explained to Trump that China has a fair amount of expertise in construction.  China is a vast country with more than 18,400km (12,000 miles) of high-speed rail lines where the U.S. has none and a dam at the Yangzi river’s Three Gorges which is nearly as tall as the Hoover Dam and six times its length.

President Xi might even have offered financial support and expertise for Trump’s building efforts emphasizing that China’s help would generate U.S. jobs.  In return, it would have been an easy goodwill gesture for Trump to reverse President Obama’s opposition to U.S. membership in the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and lent support to President Xi’s “Belt and Road” plans for building infrastructure across Asia and Europe.

Instead, Trump chose to escalate disagreements with China.  Admittedly, there are many legitimate grounds for those disagreements but escalation primarily over trade was the wrong issue.  The numerous Trump imposed tariffs on Chinese-made goods led to cutbacks across the U.S.  It never was very clear exactly what Trump hoped to achieve.

The Chinese economy also felt the pinch as growth in its manufacturing sector slowed in 2019.  Far from reaching an amiable conclusion, each side defended itself and attempted to impose costs on the other[2].  Now Biden must find a way for both the U.S. and China to be able to genially declare victory.

Trump’s hard line with China was popular with his political base and even some Chinese business leaders quietly praised Trump for pushing Beijing to enact what they considered much needed reforms to the state-oriented economy.  But there are few signs China plans to enact the sweeping systemic changes to its policies on intellectual property, forced technology transfers, market access, and industrial subsidies demanded by the U.S.  Beijing has consistently denied Washington’s accusations that it engages in unfair trade practices and portrays the U.S. as the aggressor.

The U.S. is admittedly not any trading angel.  E.g., U.S. dairy quotas and tariffs are so restrictive that the vast majority of the milk, cheese, and butter sold in the U.S. are made domestically.  The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the intergovernmental organization responsible for regulating and facilitating international trade between nations.  When the U.S. has been a respondent in dispute resolutions (as it has been in 129 cases – more than any other WTO member), it has lost on 89 percent of adjudicated issues.

Trump might have thought it was in his benefit to paint the U.S. as a victim of foreign governments but it was far less obvious why he believed countries he had subjected to baseless attacks would negotiate favorable trade agreements with a President who repeatedly demonstrated he could not be trusted.

Trump’s trade wars, far from being “good, and easy to win” as he claimed, damaged large parts of the U.S. economy.  Similar to almost everything else Trump said or did, he was wrong on trade – no one wins a trade war – there are only losers.  When the associated costs have become sufficiently egregious, they are resolved leaving ill-will and resentment on both sides.  He also claimed China pays the tariffs he imposed but again was wrong: the nation imposing tariffs pays them.

Trump and his tariffs sacrificed market access for U.S. firms, prompted retaliatory measures, shifted supply chains away from U.S. producers, and incurred higher costs of raw materials and finished goods for U.S. producers and consumers.  Farmers have faced financial disaster; manufacturing, which Trump’s policies were supposed to revive, contracted; consumer confidence decreased largely because the public (rightly) feared tariffs would further increase prices.  Paradoxically, voters in more predominantly red states who voted for Trump in 2016 stood to lose more in retaliation by other countries against U.S. tariffs than voters elsewhere in the U.S.

Global trade has changed and is much different than in previous decades.  Today, essentially all products contain some parts made elsewhere in the world as U.S. manufacturers no long make many of the basic components used in their products.  U.S. manufacturers source products and parts from everywhere in the world and it now is nearly impossible and very costly for companies to extricate themselves from the global supply chain.

Trump’s lack of understanding of economic issues isolated U.S. manufacturers penalizing both companies and consumers from the increasing world prosperity that is part of a globalized economy.  Tariffs hurt U.S. export competitiveness by increasing item costs relative to products made elsewhere.  Trump’s trade wars also forced some companies to relocate their manufacturing facilities to other countries resulting in U.S. plant closings and employee layoffs – something about which he frequently complained.

Chinese foreign direct investment in the U.S., which had already fallen from $46 billion in 2016 to $29 billion in 2017, fell again in 2018 to $5 billion, a drop of 83 percent[3].  Meanwhile, Chinese investment in 2018 increased by 80 percent in Canada, 86 percent in France, 162 percent in Spain, and 186 percent in Sweden.

The drop-off in Chinese investment in the U.S. was largely attributable to continued restrictions on outbound transactions in China, tighter U.S. foreign investment reviews, and a tense bilateral relationship between the two countries[4].  Trade hawks in the Trump administration fully approved that Trump’s tough-on-China approach was helping to decouple the two economies.  Trump’s hope of reducing the U.S.-China trade deficit[5] was marginally successful as the China trade surplus with the U.S. decreased to $310 billion in 2020 from $344 billion in 2019 though much of that difference most likely was attributable to COVID pandemic supply chain disruptions.

President Xi Jinping’s aim to modernize China’s military into a world-class force by 2050 means being able to defeat the U.S. in a regional war.  China’s ambitions, however, most likely involve regional territorial claims with historical precedent, not world domination.  Its military does not currently threaten the U.S. and it remains surrounded by competitors like South Korea and Japan that will naturally contain it.  China’s influence will grow, and that will understandably pose some problems, but the U.S. should not treat China as an “enemy” which would only turn it into one.

China is pursuing advancements in aerospace, cyberspace, unmanned systems, and underwater warfare in addition to robotics, autonomous weapons, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, big data analytics, advanced manufacturing, AI, quantum computing, biotechnology, human-machine cooperation, cloud computing, and hyper-sonics.  It is in these areas that the U.S. should attempt to maintain leadership.

The U.S. has possibly mistakenly begun what could be a 100-year conflict with China.  As the U.S. frames China as an economic and ideological threat, U.S. hawks will find an enduring enemy — and the rest of the world will have to deal with the consequences.  Hopefully, Biden will be able to deescalate what is called the Thucydides Trap where a rising power challenges one entrenched but actions by the established nation fearing insecurity and a determination to defend the status quo frequently (75 percent) results in militarily confrontation.

There is a fair probability that the U.S. could be substantively wrong in its analysis of China.  China’s ideology does not necessarily threaten the U.S., there is no civilizational conflict, and the U.S. cannot halt China’s rise even if it wants to.  A combative approach by the U.S. would produce a dangerous result by creating hostility among China’s people, wreck the liberal international order, and undo globalization.  Trump seemed determined to undermine historic alliances with total disregard of the international system.

While criticism of China’s civil rights record is justified considering treatment of its Uighur minority, the U.S. should first address its own past attempted genocide of indigenous American nations and ongoing systemic discrimination of minorities.  The Biblical advice in Matthew 7:4-7:5 and Luke 6:41-6:42 regarding the beam in one’s own eye surely is applicable.

It now is up to Biden to deescalate tensions.  The U.S. has been waging the wrong war, fought in the wrong way, on the wrong terrain.

China will surpass the U.S. economically and by 2050, the five largest global economies are predicted to be China, India, the U.S., Brazil, and Indonesia.  (To be fair, this has been predicted almost every year for the past fifty – especially for India and Brazil.)

China is attempting to carry out an unprecedented economic transformation and the uncertainty is therefore high.  They now are entering a more difficult phase of this adjustment – as they liberalize, they no longer can control their economy as they previously had and the risk of miscalculation increases.  But they seem to have the right strategy and, at least so far, have executed it very well.

Not all is certain, however.  General expectations are that a rising Asia will become a dominant market and political force but many signs remain of fragile Asian stability.  There always are uncertainties and though unlikely, the so-called “Asian Century” could possibly end far sooner than predicted.  From a slowing Chinese economy, problems in Hong Kong, and rising tensions with Japan and South Korea, the dynamism that was supposed to propel the region into a dominant future might provide an opportunity for the U.S. to exert influence on the continent.

Still, China is leading the largest urbanization and infrastructure development program on Earth.  Its “One Belt and One Road” (OBOR) project includes new roads, shipping lanes, and building projects stretching over 65 countries to literally rewire global trade from China throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

Though it continues to meet its energy demands by building coal powerplants, China, already the leading producer of photovoltaics, is also set to become a global green energy producer taking the lead on climate change reduction after signing the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

China is also setting the global pace on a digital economy, including cashless payments, of up to 90 percent of all commercial and retail transactions in convenience stores and cafes.

The Trump administration tightened restrictions on visas for some Chinese citizens coming to study in the U.S. which Biden has yet to rescind.  This hurt the U.S. both economically and in the war of ideas.  Chinese students pay high tuition rates that help subsidize the educations of native-born Americans.  They also are highly productive researchers generating scientific output as much as 30 percent higher than most other students.  And the vast majority of these talented individuals formerly tended to stay in the U.S. after graduation working to boost U.S. prosperity and contributing to the talent of the domestic workforce.

Competition from Chinese universities, which are quickly rising to the top of international rankings, is also rapidly increasing.  Two schools, Peking University and Tsinghua University, rose from well below the top 200 into the top 30 within five years.  There are another 40 universities that are not far behind and are set to enter the ranks of elite universities in the coming years.  Unfortunately, the rankings of many formerly top-rated U.S. universities have recently declined as a result of funding reductions.

Given China’s technological prowess, we might be moving toward a bipolar world in digital technology with two walled-off ecosystems: U.S. and Chinese.  Cut off from Western supply chains, China may begin to develop its own processors and phone operating systems, in effect, a separate technological system of its own[6].  That avoidable decoupling would not only make the world less prosperous; it also would have consequences for global democracy.  Less-expensive Chinese tech is attractive to the developing world but also lets governments employ greater control with the result that as China powers a vast expansion of connectivity in places like Africa; it also is giving a boost to repression and authoritarianism.

The U.S. has never encountered any challenge similar to what China represents.  No previous rival has combined its size, sustained speed of growth, or civilizational determination to strengthen itself.  The Soviet Union’s GDP never reached 60 percent of the U.S.’s while China’s is now similar in size.  Given China’s state-run economic growth and mastery of digital surveillance, its ideology will appeal to other countries.

The U.S. will not be able to defeat China in a similar manner as it did the Soviet Union.  The two nations can hopefully agree on norms for tech and trade, strengthen alliances, and cooperate where possible on issues like climate change which will not be resolved unless the world’s top powers work in concert.  There are no easy answers.

Trump picked the wrong field upon which to contend with China.  The primary battle is over innovation, not trade, and the U.S. has steadily decreased its investment necessary to maintaining its lead.  China does not have a higher percentage of innovative people than the U.S. – but they do have more of them and they are providing them with the education and resources to facilitate them become productive.  Trump, on the other hand, positioned the U.S. in a position of weakness – as he seemed to do with everything he touched.

Hopefully Biden will swiftly act to counter valuable time lost under Trump.  The future of not only the U.S. but also much of the free world depends on it.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Ma Jun is a Chinese environmentalist, environmental consultant, and journalist.  He also is Director of the Center for Finance and Development at Tsinghua University, Chairman of China Green Finance Committee, and a Member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC).

[2] Campbell, Charlie.  As The U.S.-China Trade War Escalates, Pocketbooks Feel The Pain, Time, https://time.com/5669518/united-states-china-trade-war-manufacturing/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-brief-pm&utm_content=20190905&xid=newsletter-brief, 5 September 2019.

[3] Chinese FDI Into North America And Europe In 2018 Falls 73% To Six-Year Low Of $30 Billion, Baker McKenzie, https://www.bakermckenzie.com/en/newsroom/2019/01/chinese-fdi, 14 January 2019.

[4] China’s Annual Trade Surplus With U.S. Hits Record Despite Trump’s Tariff Offensive, The Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-annual-trade-surplus-with-u-s-hits-record-despite-trumps-tariff-offensive-11547439977, 13 January 2019.

[5] Trade In Goods With China, U.S. Census, https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5700.html.

[6] Zakaria, Fareed.  The World Of Tech May Split In Two, Fareed’s Global Briefing, https://us11.campaign-archive.com/?e=5c72e3ac25&u=47c9040f6ff957a59bd88396e&id=631780515f,  24 May 2019.

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Educational Bias

It seems to me….

Getting a college degree used to be free or low cost because, as a society, we saw providing higher education to young people as an investment – in them and in the future of our own country.”  ~ Pramila Jayapal[1].

Top tier colleges enroll more students from the top 1 percent of income distribution than from the entire bottom half and spend almost 8 times as much per student as less selective schools.  Graduates from those elite colleges dominate the highest paying jobs who then are subsequently able to continue a dynastic tradition by being able to afford similar quality educations for their children.  Colleges and universities frequently provide additional tuition reductions to children of graduates knowing it results in increased endowment donations still further benefitting attendees.

Employment in categories traditionally dominated by women, such as education or healthcare, has increased by about 100 percent over the last 35 years.  Women also now earn the majority of college undergraduate (57 percent) and graduate (63 percent) degrees and tend to marry other college graduates with an ensuing increase in socioeconomic inequality between college-educated and non-college graduate families.  Benefits of higher education/incomes are typically passed on to their children further perpetuating this disparity.

Regardless of meritocratic admission requirements, highly rated colleges can never become economically diverse.  Wealthier parents provide art and sports lessons, travel, and hire tutors spending much more educating their children than is an available option for students from lower- or middle-class families.

At a time when the importance of attending college is increasing, even the very option of doing so is rapidly fading for many students from less-wealthy families as costs continue to escalate.  Though a college degree or other postsecondary credential or certificate has never been more important, it has also never been more expensive.  Over the past three decades, tuition at public four-year colleges has more than doubled even after adjusting for inflation.  While several options have been advocated, solutions remain trapped in political limbo.

A college education is potentially capable of providing the ability for someone from a lower- or middle-income background to climb into a higher income tier but as economic inequality continues to increase, it is becoming significantly more difficult.  While all too often only the considerably superior individual is now capable of that achievement, everyone should have the opportunity to obtain an education emphasizing their specific strengths and interests.  Far too many prospective college students feel priced out of the education they need to prepare themselves for future success.

College is admittedly not for everyone, there are those who do not academically qualify for college, nor is it the correct choice for many others.  Still, everyone deserves an equal opportunity whether it is college, vocational training, or wherever their path in life takes them.  I do not believe in utopian meritocracy but also am aware of the unqualified too often being in positions of leadership which a degree might somewhat alleviate but not eliminate.  There currently is too much economic inequality and resulting resentment by those not having a degree feeling they are being unfairly discriminated against by those more privileged.  Everyone is entitled to the equality promised by our Constitution.

A college degree is a “private” good where the primary measurable benefits of college attendance accrue mainly to the student, not to society at large.  For example, Census Bureau data indicates that a typical adult male college graduate made about $30,000 a year more in 2017 than their counterparts with just a high school diploma.  While the value of a college degree is not entirely in what it earns over a lifetime, its economic importance in our increasingly bifurcated society – high education, high income; low education, low income – will only continue to grow in the future.

It was not until after 1940 that more than half of all students completed high school although graduation did not become the established norm until about ten years later in the 1950s.  Now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that by 2022, 27 percent of all new jobs will require a bachelor’s degree.  Just as K-12 became the educational norm in the 1950s in response to changing employment demands, corporate recruitment has continued advancing and now necessitates again increasing that basic norm to K-16.

U.S. worker availability with advanced skills in areas such as math, science, and healthcare is becoming increasingly insufficient with a current shortfall of about 20 million adequately educated workers.  Employers frequently complain of difficulty in hiring the educated workers they need to fill available positions.  Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) positions, which require almost all workers to have a college degree, are projected to increase by an additional 26 percent.  Healthcare professional and technical fields, which require the same high level of education as STEM positions, are projected to outpace all other occupations with a forecast growth of 31 percent.

While increasing the number of STEM graduates is essential, liberal arts still remain important.  Historically, it is Athens that is remembered for their art rather than Sparta who excelled militarily.  Admittedly a comparison of apples and oranges but the necessity for budget reallocations is hopefully apparent.

Corporations unable to hire adequate numbers of STEM employees haven’t any option other than to relocate research and development offshore.  International students receiving advanced STEM degrees in the U.S. experience difficulty obtaining visas as a result of rules originally enacted under the Trump administration preventing them from remaining in the U.S. further worsening existing shortfalls and need to be rescinded.

Tax reductions, a key Republican issue, has resulted in reduced funding for education at all levels.  Post-secondary schools have raised fees and tuition in response to make up the difference – Americans now have a cumulative total of over $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loans largely due to escalating tuition costs.  The annual cost of attending a four-year private institution in the U.S. reached $48,510 in 2018, more than double what it was less than two decades earlier.

Student loan debt has soared in the U.S. overtaking both auto loans and credit card debt in recent years to become the second largest form of consumer debt after only home mortgages.  Tacking on the fact that student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy has contributed to the disaster student loan debt has now become.  If college is ever to be more affordable and inclusive, many Republican policies enacted over the last 40 years need to be rolled back.

Debt-Free College supporters claim that by offering students the ability to avoid taking out loans, basically telling them that they can get a degree without any debt, would permit limited resources to be directed to those students from the worst economic backgrounds most in need of assistance.

Seven out of 10 college students (70 percent) feel stressed about their personal finances[2].  An increasing number of students drop out because they do not have the ability to pay tuition for all four years.  Eliminating tuition would reduce this reason for not completing degree requirements.  It also would serve to improve college graduation rates as fewer students would feel the need to drop to part-time status or take a break from education for financial reasons.

The overwhelming majority of students at most four-year colleges and universities come from relatively affluent families; free colleges open to students at four-year state universities would almost certainly primarily benefit those students.  Attempting to establish wealth prerequisites, however, would only add to overall administrative costs.  It most likely would not be that unfair as many students from high-income families frequently attend top-tier private universities.

Tuition-Free College supporters argue the simplicity of that offer would make it more likely low-income individuals would take on the challenge of attending school instead of doubting the validity of the program and worrying all the required paperwork, rules, and traps could potentially leave them drowning in debt because they somehow failed to follow the directions of a complicated debt-free program.

For now, it is more important than ever for the college-bound to consider the types of careers to which their degrees may lead and how much they can expect to earn afterwards.  Many students with federal loans are experiencing difficulty repaying them as a direct result of being in a low-paying field.

If student loan default rates are any indication, community and for-profit colleges may not adequately prepare students for success in the workforce.  Of those graduates who started to repay their loans in 2009, 38 percent of community college and 47 percent of for-profit college students have defaulted on their loans compared to only 10 percent of students at four-year public institutions over the same time period.

70 percent of U.S. eligible voters are non-degreed so it is easily understood why they might object to their taxes being used for government-provided free college education knowing many of those students upon receiving their degree would immediately have a higher income than those without would ever have.  It should not, however, be difficult to rationalize the importance of increasing the number of degreed workers to those who remain non-degreed given the shortfall in availability and role in national competitiveness.  In today’s economy, higher education is no longer a luxury for the privileged few but a necessity for individual economic opportunity and U.S.’s competitiveness in the global economy.  At a time when jobs can go anywhere in the world, skills and education will determine success for both individuals and nations.

For many students, difficulties in obtaining a quality education begin long before college is even a consideration.  Educational outcomes for minority children are much more a function of their unequal access to key educational resources, including skilled teachers and quality curriculum, than a function of race.  Regardless of improvement over the years, many school systems still remain essentially “fundamentally separate and unequal”.

Public school funding in the U.S. typically comes from federal, state, and local sources, but as nearly half of those funds come from local property taxes, the system generates large funding discrepancies between wealthy and impoverished communities[3].  23 states spend more per pupil in affluent school districts than they do in high-poverty districts.  In contrast to European and Asian nations that fund schools centrally and equally, the wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. school districts spend nearly 10 times more than the poorest 10 percent and additional spending ratios of 3 to 1 are common among schools within states.  Since funding inequities exist both within and between states, the optimal way to address them would be through changes in federal policies but this has traditionally received little support at any level related to school funding issues.

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future found that new teachers hired without meeting certification standards (25 percent of all new teachers) are usually assigned to teach the most disadvantaged students primarily in low-income and high-minority schools while the most highly educated new teachers are hired largely by wealthier schools.  Students from schools with highly qualified teachers serving large numbers of minority and low-income students have been shown to perform as well as students in much more advantaged schools.

More than one-third of college freshman must now take remedial courses with that percentage being considerably higher for students at community colleges.  Lower income students are less likely to complete high school, less likely to have adequate academic preparation, and thus less likely to attend schools with even minimally selective admissions.  Policymakers should focus their efforts on reforming the K-12 system to adequately prepare students for college and making higher education truly “higher”.

Nationwide, community colleges have a relatively dismal track record of starting students on a path toward upward mobility.  The majority of students attending community colleges now take six years to complete their degree and three out of every 10 beginning students, about 1.3 million, fail to ever complete degree requirements though many acquire high levels of student debts.

The world has appreciably changed since K-12 became the norm; it is time for education to also change.  If the U.S. wishes to retain its world leadership role; competitiveness in a postindustrial economy will depend primarily upon continuing innovation rather than military strength necessitating budget reallocations.  It will require increased emphasis on advanced education – especially in STEM-related disciplines.

A college degree remains the greatest driver of socioeconomic mobility in the U.S., but if more is not done to keep it within reach of middleclass families and those striving to get into the middleclass, it could have the opposite effect – serving as a barrier instead of as a ticket to the American Dream.  Every hard-working student deserves a real opportunity to earn an affordable, high-quality degree or credential that offers a clear path to civic engagement, economic security, and success.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Pramila Jayapal is the U.S. Democratic Representative for Washington’s 7th congressional district.  She was the first native-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

[2] Grabmeier, Jeff.  70 Percent Of College Students Stressed About Finances, Ohio State News, https://news.osu.edu/70-percent-of-college-students-stressed-about-finances/, 30 June 2015.

[3] Biddle, Bruce J., and David C. Berliner.  A Research Synthesis / Unequal School Funding In The United States, ASCD, http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may02/vol59/num08/Unequal-School-Funding-in-the-United-States.aspx, May 2002.

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Give Me Shelter

It seems to me….

While it’s absolutely important that we build housing for our low-income residents, when we are talking about opening up hundreds of sites for housing, we should be trying to build affordable housing for all of our residents struggling to pay rent.  That means housing for teachers, for nurses, for janitors.”  ~ London Breed[1].

The U.S. is in the midst of a housing crisis with an insufficient number of affordable units available for the many households in need of one.  This problem is especially severe since, on average, the least-affordable cities are also the wealthiest ones – a lack of affordable housing can therefore lock people out of good job opportunities.

At least 15 percent of U.S. homeowners or renters live in housing markets where the monthly mortgage or rent payment on a median-priced home requires more than 30 percent of their monthly median household income; an amount considered to be the maximum for rent/mortgage repayments.  While average earners nationwide need to spend only about one-third of their income on a home, residents in Brooklyn and Manhattan spend more than 115 percent of their income.  In San Francisco, it requires about 103 percent, and in Hawaii’s Maui County, it takes 101 percent.

About 10 percent of families report they are unable to pay the full amount of their rent or mortgage or that their payment was late.  Thirteen percent said they had missed a utility bill and about 1 percent of adults have been evicted or forced to move.

After steady reductions from 2010 to 2016, homelessness has increased in the last four consecutive years.  In most cases, homelessness is a temporary circumstance rather than a permanent condition.  There isn’t any accurate estimate but about 1.2 percent of the U.S population is currently homeless.  More than 550,000 Americans experience homelessness on a normal night; 1.4 million will spend some time in a shelter in a given year.  It is estimated that about 200,000 or more people spend the night outdoors on any typical day.

This does not include all of the estimated 19-27 percent of the U.S. homeless population categorized as being chronically homeless; almost a quarter of whom have a disabling condition such as substance abuse, disability, or mental illness.  39.8 percent of homeless persons are African-Americans[2]; 61 percent are men and boys; 20 percent are juveniles (42 percent of whom identify as LGBT).  The average life expectancy of a homeless person is only 50 years.

About 65 percent of all homeless people in the U.S. live in a shelter.  While a small percentage of homeless people are on the streets because they recently lost their job and no longer can pay their rent or mortgage, a larger portion of the homeless population is working but does not earn enough to meet their housing needs.

Most (53 percent) of the money spent on the homeless is spent on health care[3].  About a third (24 percent) goes toward criminal justice, mostly jails, and 13 percent is spent on social services.  On average, a person experiencing homelessness incurred annual medical fees of $5,148 with almost half of all medical costs (47 percent) being spent on just 5 percent of the homeless population.

Policymakers have a variety of tools to address affordability-related concerns: rent control, inclusionary zoning ordinances, targeted subsidies…; but economists generally agree that the only comprehensive way to lower prices is to increase the supply of houses, usually by changing zoning rules to become more accepting of new construction.

While use of rent control or inclusionary zoning policies to address housing affordability issues are quite popular with politicians and some citizen’s groups, they are limited in only being able to redistribute a fixed supply of housing and unable to actually increase the number of people able to afford living in a particular area.  For housing to be more affordable, the supply of houses needs to increase.  Additionally, the typical long-term effect of rent control is an eventual reduction in rental unit availability.

In the U.S., the public housing sector has been left to languish, denigrated as the accommodation of last resort.  On a trip to Columbus, Ohio, then Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson talked about making sure life in the projects wasn’t so “comfortable” that it encouraged dependency on the state.

During World War II, there was a broad ban on civilian construction to ensure resources were available for military use and war production.  Consequently, the postwar U.S. faced a serious housing shortfall which was addressed in many places with government-financed construction projects to build government-owned housing.

As the economic situation normalized, these public housing projects became concentrated clusters of housing for very low-income families.  General suburbanization trends and urban population declines of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s left the projects more isolated from jobs and economic activity.  Rising crime (and racism) led middleclass neighborhoods and suburbs to reject the idea of new public housing projects further entrenching the nexus between public housing and ghettoization.

“Affordable housing” is housing which is deemed affordable to those with a median household income at or below the national or local government recognized housing affordability index[4].  Affordable housing in the United Kingdom includes “social rented and intermediate housing, provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market”.  In Australia, the National Affordable Housing Summit Group developed their definition of affordable housing as housing that is “…reasonably adequate in standard and location for lower- or middle-income households and does not cost so much that a household is unlikely to be able to meet other basic needs on a sustainable basis”.

Affordable housing is housing considered appropriate for the needs of a range of very low to moderate income households and priced so that these households are also able to meet other basic living costs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care, and education.  Affordable Housing is defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as housing that costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s monthly gross income.  Housing costs include rent plus utilities for renters or mortgage payments plus insurance, property taxes, and utilities for owners.

Affordable housing has long been an important planning and design concern in large urban areas and around the peripheries of major cities where population growth has led to an increasing demand for suitable housing environments[5].  Housing costs are increasing in most cities but incomes are not increasing at a corresponding rate.  Governments, on the other hand, are unable to provide sufficient housing stock to bridge the gap between demand and supply due to decreasing housing budgets and the lack of investment.

“Low-income housing” refers to residences for individuals or families with low annual household income.  There are many such housing programs that are private, state, or federally operated and funded to provide locations for people to live at a reasonable cost they are able to afford.  Subsidized low-income housing is provided as a place to live for those who qualify and are charged 30 percent of their monthly income as rent.  The federal government determines in advance what the fair market rent for the property is and then pays the difference after the tenant’s contribution.  The federally subsidized housing program is most often referred to as Section 8.

“Low-cost housing” deals with reducing construction costs through the use of locally available materials along with improved skills and technology without sacrificing the strength, performance, and life of the structure.

The term “social housing” is fairly new to the U.S. but is relatively common throughout the rest of the world.  Social housing is often owned and operated by a non-profit organization, sometimes along with the state.  Social housing is considered permanently affordable because it is not subject to price fluctuations that can drive up real estate costs.  This is because these properties are owned by a public entity (the state) or by a non-profit organization, taking them off the speculative market.  These rentals are often cooperative or democratically controlled which gives residents a say in how their rentals are operated and maintained.

There is much that could be learned from how the problem is being handled in other countries.  Vienna, the Austrian capital, is fast becoming the international gold standard when it comes to social housing ― in Vienna’s case, government-subsidized housing is rented out by municipality or nonprofit housing associations[6].  Unlike the U.S.’s public housing projects, which remain reviled and underfunded, the city’s schemes are generally held to be at the forefront not only of progressive planning policy but also of sustainable design.

According to the municipality, 62 percent of Vienna’s citizens currently live in social housing where rents are regulated and tenants’ rights strongly protected.  In contrast, less than 1 percent of the U.S.’s population lives in public housing, which is limited to low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.  Social housing is a valued priority in countries such as Austria, where it is funded by income tax, corporate tax, and a housing-specific contribution made by all employed citizens.  Vienna’s annual housing budget, which is spent refurbishing older apartments in the city as well as building new social housing projects, amounts to $700 million with $530 million coming from the national government.

There is essentially nowhere in the U.S. where a full-time minimum wage employee is able to afford even a one room apartment.  This should be considered unacceptable as affordable housing is a basic element of national infrastructure necessary for society to function effectively.  There isn’t any reason for anyone to be homeless in the U.S. if there are adequate public structures and public policies that allow people to have homes, food, and lead a dignified life.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] London Nicole Breed is a U.S. politician from California who is the 45th mayor of the City and County of San Francisco.

[2] Homelessness In The US – 2021, OKGA, https://www.okga.org/?p=3119, 29 August 2021.

[3] Van Dam, Andrew.  The Surprising Holes In Our Knowledge Of America’s Homeless Population, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/09/18/surprising-holes-our-knowledge-americas-homeless-population/, 17 September 2019.

[4] Affordable Housing, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordable_housing, 31 December 2020.

[5] Bach, Alexa, et al.  Ten Principles For Developing Affordable Housing, Urban Land Institute, http://uli.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/TP_AffordableHousing.ashx_.pdf, 2007.

[6] Forrest, Adam, Vienna’s Affordable Housing Paradise, HuffPost, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/vienna-affordable-housing-paradise_us_5b4e0b12e4b0b15aba88c7b0, 19 July 2018.

Posted in Affordable Housing, Austria, Ben Carson, Brooklyn, Columbus, Construction, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Housing Administration, Hawaii, health care, Healthcare, Home, Homeless, homeowner, homeowners, household, Housing, Housing, Housing, HUD, Low-cost housing, Low-Income, Low-income housing, Manhattan, Maui, Mortgage, Mortgages, Ohio, property taxes, public housing, Public housing assistance, rent, rent control, renter, residents, San Francisco, San Francisco, Section 8, shelter, social housing, Vienna, World War II | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cost Of Strength

It seems to me….

War is not healthy for children and other living things.”  ~ Lorraine Schneider[1].

The U.S.is the world’s undisputed leader in terms of military strength according to a ranking of the 10 strongest militaries in the world by GFP (Global Firepower)[2].  Russia ranks second, narrowly ahead of China.

There is much that is positive about the U.S.’s military strength.  It has provided an umbrella since the end of World War II for what has been called the liberal, rules-based, or U.S.-led international order, referring to the perception that contemporary international relations are organized around principles of international cooperation through multilateral institutions like the United Nations and World Trade Organization, open markets, security cooperation, promotion of liberal democracy, and leadership by the U.S. and its allies which has provided economic prosperity and the longest duration without all-out war in recent history.

Rather than continued military expenditure increases called for every year by military leaders and most conservatives, it is time – well past time – to accept that even current allocation levels are untenable.  Military spending should immediately be reduced to at most 10 percent of the annual budget from the current 14.8 percent with that remaining amount reallocated with somewhat different priorities.

The U.S. can no longer outspend every other nation.  China’s economy exceeds ours and they are investing significantly more in research and other factors of productivity assuring greater future economic growth than the U.S. unless U.S. budget priorities significantly change.

Perhaps President Eisenhower said it best:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.  This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.  Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower[3].

The U.S.’s science and technology defense investment has enabled it to counter military threats and to overcome any advantages that adversaries may seek.  Those investments have helped counter special threats such as terrorism that cannot be met by conventional warfighting forces, and that investment has underpinned intelligence capabilities necessary to assess the dangers that the U.S. faces.  It is crucial that those investments not only be maintained but increased along with other essential research.

Trump, and several members of his administration, criticized NATO members for insufficient investment in defense.  In actuality, it is not that other nations, such as Germany’s, defense spending is too low but that the U.S.’s is too high.  Russia knows that NATO spends more than 13 times as much as it does on defense.  Even without including U.S. spending, the other NATO members combined spend more than four times as much as Russia even without most of them reaching the recommended GDP goal of 2 percent.  Many U.S. voters desperately want the kind of welfare state that Germans already have.  They want to check in to the hospital without risking bankruptcy and to attend college without going into debilitating debt.

Probably the primary problem with the U.S. military is that it repeatedly attempts to wage the same type of war in which it has been engaged in the past.  Since it has successfully managed to lose the last three “wars” in which it has been involved, perhaps it should be apparent that the world has changed and the nature of war has changed along with it.  What is needed is an entirely new way of thinking about how future conflicts should be conducted.

Unfortunately, that has been attempted by most Presidents with considerably less progress than can be considered success.  Existing policies are remarkably resilient to change when conservatives and military traditionalists refuse to consider not only change but constantly demand additional increases in expenditures to compensate for a less than optimal strategy.  Presidents are drawn to intellectuals — those who can elevate their impulses, distill coherence from chaos, and help shape history.  President Kennedy had his supposed “whiz kids” but, as shown by Vietnam, that wasn’t very successful either.

I admittedly am not a military expert but do not believe anyone either currently in command or military academy educated should necessarily be involved in the redesign of our future military other than in an advisory capacity.  It is time for new – some might say “revolutionary” – thinking.  This should not be taken to imply that no one currently serving in the military does not appreciate the full extent of change that is necessary.  I’m sure many do but are strongly discouraged from expressing those concerns.  That said, there are many excellent analyses that deserve consideration (e.g., see The Army Strategy[4]).

The U.S. military needs to do more with less which will require increased reliance on innovation and continuous process improvement.  If impossible to resolve differences through negotiation, future engagements should be limited to primarily cyber or psychological conflict.  Potential combat strength should at most be sufficient to provide a deterrent for any potential adversary.  Given today’s rate of technological advancement, major platforms or systems need to proceed from initial concept specification to phaseout and retirement within a maximum of 10 years.  This will require an entirely different way of developing systems.

The U.S. Navy is infatuated with aircraft carriers and currently maintains 11 carrier strike groups which are operational formations composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, usually an aircraft carrier, at least one cruiser, a destroyer squadron of at least two destroyers or frigates, and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft at an estimated initial cost of about $30 billion or $6.5 million per day to operate.  It also can include submarines, attached logistics ships, and supply ships.  Aircraft carriers have become archaic dinosaurs easily targeted by modern missile defenses and totally obsolete in modern warfare.  They admittedly provide a standoff platform for aircraft in some locations beyond reach of ground-based resources but that can be met through modern inflight refueling.  Their only other use is intimidation during foreign ports-of-call.

A carrier strike group is an inviting target for any potential adversary and would represent a major loss of vessels and personnel.  The navy instead needs to transition to numerous less vulnerable fast stealth vessels perhaps developed based on designs similar to the HSV-2 Swift but scaled for combat operations and adequately armed not only with defensive weapons but also missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).  The most useful aerial vehicle might be based on an appropriately scaled quadcopter design requiring minimal stacked storage space and VTOL operation.

It used to be believed that in order to win any conflict that it was necessary to take, hold, and clear the ground element.  Recent military operations, the majority of which involved asymmetrical conflicts, have shown that to no longer be possible.  The reality is that given evolving world dynamics; e.g., China’s rapid military buildup; the U.S. no longer can afford to act as the world’s sole policeman.  The future must necessarily rely on increased reliance on partnerships and agreements similar to NATO.

While it remains important to maintain a force projection balance of light, medium, and heavy elements, even adequate pre-deployment of large, armored fighting vehicles; e.g., tanks; has become prohibitive.

Historically, militaries tend to cycle between heavier armor and larger weapons and lighter weight deployable and agile units.  Armor and large weapons make armies heavier, slower to deploy, more difficult to sustain, and more expensive to equip and to operate.  Given the nature of recent combat operations, it is increasingly important to emphasize agility, rapid reaction, deployability, transportability, and efficiency.  Improving survivability and lethality under a variety of circumstances always remains important but remains constrained in large land battles involving powerful adversaries.

The U.S. must increasingly depend on rapid deployment formations capable of quick reassignment anywhere throughout the world while maintaining the ability to conduct high intensity, high-tempo combat operations without losing the corresponding ability to conduct low-intensity, asymmetric or humanitarian support operations.  This will entail fewer but better trained personnel, some medium tanks but less main battle tanks, no tracked infantry fighting vehicles, and more unmanned vehicles (both aerial and ground).

Military personnel will increasingly be called upon to support low intensity, humanitarian, and peacekeeping operations while providing potent forward-deployed conventional, ground-based, power projection and deterrence force wherever necessary.

This represents a significant strategic change from the Trump administration.

Both Trump and John Bolton, who served in various administrations and offices including U.S. National Security Advisor under Trump, believed everything to be zero-sum, that resources are limited, and all decisions result in either winners or losers.  That in order to protect itself and project its power, the U.S. must therefore be aggressive, unilateral, and militant in pursuing U.S. national interests, not because those interests are virtuous but because they are ours.  They shared a personal sense of constant war of all-against-all and a politics in which those who are different must be separated, each with their own “lebensraum”, to end (or, at least, partition) the zero-sum nature of the world.

The world is not “zero-sum” – there is little in this world, other than pizza, that actually is.  Everyone gains by altruistically assisting others, whether individuals or nations, to achieve their aspirations.  More can be gained through cooperation and humility than behaving like a 5000lb behemoth.

Simply having sufficient military strength to do something does not necessarily justify actually doing it.  Trump was always critical of President Obama for his so-called drawing a line in the sand and then failing to follow through when it was crossed.  It now is obvious he did the same on several occasions.  Trump drew a “red line” in Venezuela, only to see Russia test it.  In the cases of Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran, Trump was presented with real problems, sought to address them with aggressive, unilateral threats that (at least in the case of Iran) isolated the U.S. and then failed to follow through on his threats.  After the initial warnings, each case is a story of miscalculation and poor planning by those determining foreign policy.

The world is moving at an ever-quickening pace.  As the U.S. strategically pivots toward the Pacific.  “The task of U.S. foreign policy is to recognize that traditional power politics can indeed deter Chinese expansionism while also recognizing the ways in which interdependence might also constrain it.[5]”  China has historically limited fighting to their periphery but recently has developed interests in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.  The primary concern of the future will be to avoid the so-called “Thucydides trap[6]”, named after a 5th-century BCE Greek historian and politician, which can occur when a rising power threatens to displace an existent dominant power.

The very thought of military force should be sufficiently abhorrent to deter any nation’s leaders from ever considering such a possibility.  Unfortunately, many have never experienced combat and use the threat as an extension of national diplomacy.  Any nation with a sufficiently strong military will at some point be tempted to use it.  Any use of force should instead be considered as a failure of diplomacy.

For the first time in twenty years, the U.S. is not engaged in active hostilities.  While constant vigilance and preparedness is always necessary, it presents the best opportunity in decades to rethink our defensive capabilities and determine how to best prepare for possible challenges in the future.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Lorraine Schneider was a U.S. artist whose 1966 print, ‘Primer’, decrying war became an iconic image.

[2] Global Firepower 2021, GFP (Global Firepower), https://www.globalfirepower.com/, 2021.

[3] Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower  was a U.S. military officer and statesman who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II and as the 34th U.S. President.

[4] Milley, Mark A., and Mark T. Esper.  The Army Strategy, U.S. Army, https://www.army.mil/e2/downloads/rv7/the_army_strategy_2018.pdf, 2018.

[5] Zakaria, Fareed.  This Is Not A ‘Sputnik Moment’, Fareed’s Global Briefing, https://view.newsletters.cnn.com/messages/1635545720079cbea033ab639/raw?utm_term=1635545720079cbea033ab639&utm_source=cnn_Fareed%27s+Global+Briefing%2C+Oct.+29%2C+2021&utm_medium=email&bt_ee=GyoJkQqQyzjwT%2B8TJdl5SdOuEcEXDqF0OCtEmubcjU0vMgZ%2FdyG%2FimG2EY5Ho0Y6&bt_ts=1635545720081, 29 October 2021.

[6] Thucydides trap, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thucydides_Trap#:~:text=The%20Thucydides%20Trap%2C%20also%20referred%20to%20as%20Thucydides%27s,United%20States%20and%20the%20People%27s%20Republic%20of%20, 1 November 2021.

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Lack Of Environmental Progress

It seems to me….

It is critical for us to cultivate consciousness and compassion towards our environment, create awareness, galvanize people, and build sustainable innovations for sustainable development.”  ~ Dia Mirza[1].

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the UN entity tasked with supporting global response to the threat of climate change.  The UN Conference of the Parties, better known as just COP, is the decision-making body where all states review agreements of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts, making the necessary decisions to promote their effective implementation including institutional and administrative arrangements.  A primary task of the COP is to review the national communications and emission inventories submitted by member Parties.

The most recent COP UN Climate Change Conference, COP 26, took place from 31 October to 12 November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, with the goal of limiting world warming to a maximum of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels as agreed to in the previous COP 1995 Paris Agreement.  Many climatologists are warning of serious global warming consequences, that if not corrected, will most probably lead to the collapse of civilization as we currently know it[2].

Though there is considerable official reluctance to classify COP 26 as a failure, it resulted in a final agreement most delegates agreed was insufficient to meet its 1.5°C goal.  The world, at present, is on track to warm 2.7°C higher than preindustrial levels.  That level of warming would exceed what is believed to be an irreversible tipping point altering life as we know it.

The final COP26 agreement accepted by all the participating nations consisted of compromises that failed on multiple issues.  A number of nations – specifically Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Australia – refused to agree to what are widely believed to be necessary carbon emission reductions.  Last minute objections from India and China halted a commitment to end coal use and subsidies for fossil fuels.  Coal, one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounts for 30 percent of global CO2 emissions but generates 38 percent of the world’s electricity.  No one was happy with the final text and delegates expressed anger that only India was allowed to alter the final draft.

Many promises were made at COP 26, from both countries and the private sector, but achieving the 1.5°C target does not appear realistic[3].  To do so would require countries to put forth ambitious new climate programs no later than next year as provided for in the final Glasgow agreement.  It would require nations that until now have been reluctant to reduce their carbon emissions, to take the steps needed to help reach the 1.5°C target.

While the issue of carbon fuels was finally addressed, it was not at the scale necessary.  The U.S. and more than 20 other countries agreed to stop financing most new oil and gas projects.  Other countries agreed to “phase down” the use of unabated coal-generated power and “phase out” inefficient fossil fuel subsidies but without providing actual measurable commitments.

COP 26 follows a year of massive wildfires in Siberia, unprecedented flooding in Germany and Belgium, famine in Madagascar, and record-shattering heat and fires in the U.S. West.  It has become abundantly clear that climate change has contributed to increasingly frequent and severe weather events.

A growing group of countries, led by some of those most vulnerable to climate change, say that new commitments should happen more frequently, preferably every year, creating a venue to assess which countries are following through on their commitments and pressuring those that are falling behind.  Creating such a venue for new and deepened commitments may be the only way the world can credibly say the 1.5°C target remains viable.

Several of those less-developed nations that are already suffering the effects of environmental change but have done little to cause the climate crisis, are seeking redress from the wealthier nations responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions.  While their claims were largely rejected, they are considering an appeal to the international courts for legal redress.

Though assistance is both justified and necessary, it is the wealthier nations – admittedly primarily responsible for past greenhouse emissions – that now have the highest priority to rapidly convert to sustainable energy sources.  Consequently, they face the greatest crucial financial investment plus the difficulties in getting their own house in order while providing admittedly necessary assistance to those nations most in need.

Climate Action Tracker presented four possible scenarios:  In the most pessimistic, countries basically continue with their current policies, leading to the alarming 2.7°C estimated increase.  In a middle scenario, where countries implement policies in line with 2030 emissions-reduction commitments, temperatures rise 2.4°C.  The most optimistic scenario essentially assumes that countries are either taking emissions-reduction actions today that are not reported (which is highly unlikely) or will suddenly move much faster on emissions reduction measures than what they’ve been up to till now (still quite unlikely).  In that case, temperature rise would be limited to 1.8°C.  Finally, there is a significant gap between what is pledged – actions that would limit warming to 1.8°C – and what has actually been implemented – actions that would result in 2.7°C of warming.

China currently leads the world in clean energy investment, followed by the U.S., Germany, Japan, and the U.K.[4]  Everyone familiar with U.S. environmental policy, replete with many deficiencies, realizes there has been a cycle of bold attempts to enact climate rules that eventually sputter, followed by years of inaction.

President Carter placed solar panels on the White House roof which were removed by his successor, President Reagan.  President Clinton proposed an energy tax before backing away under industry pressure.  President Obama pursued cap-and-trade legislation before it stalled in Congress.  Obama tried again using regulatory authority but many of his attempts were undone by a combination of the courts and the Trump administration which disrupted that dynamic tearing up trade norms and climate agreements.  Every time the U.S. has tried in recent years to get its domestic house in order on climate, the world has instead been left waiting for the next opportunity: a new term, a new President, or a new Congress.

For decades, international climate efforts have centered on a collaborative approach.  Countries negotiated voluntary international agreements with the hope that their counterparts would also agree since it is in everyone’s interest to fight climate change.  Following the refusal of the U.S. to join the Kyoto Protocol in the early 2000s, some experts outside the U.S. began calling for a border carbon adjustment.  But such efforts went nowhere: globalization and trade remained sacrosanct.

Other environmental agreements, in addition to any reached at COP, are also occurring.  Multinational environmental compacts like the Ocean Panel recommendations for sustainable marine management recently adopted by 14 nations will continue regardless of non-participation by some major players including the U.S., China, and Russia.

The European Union plans to release details of a plan to penalize imports from countries that are moving slowly to address climate change[5].  The EU is positioning the measure, known as a border carbon adjustment mechanism, as just one plank in a much larger package that outlines how it plans to cut its emissions over the next decade.  The measure also indicates more significant changes are still intended.

European countries, who have spent considerable resources fighting climate change for decades, were unsurprisingly the first to take on climate change.  Corporations located in the bloc, which in recent years has increased the price companies pay to emit carbon, have called for the policy, complaining that they have been left at a competitive disadvantage.  According to leaked documents, the new policy is expected to start small in 2023 before being fully phased in by 2026.  To start, the policy will apply to a limited number of carbon-intensive products including steel, iron, and cement.

It is a testament to how climate change is reshaping the world around us as it seeps into other issues once siloed like global trade.  It also signals a new front in the global fight against climate change: after decades of offering carrots to encourage countries to act on climate change, the EU is turning to sticks.  Climate policy experts say the EU’s policy is only the beginning.

Renewable energy costs have fallen dramatically in recent years, and in much of the world building new solar or wind power infrastructure is less expensive than coal or natural gas.  But the world isn’t building those new power plants nearly quickly enough to reduce emissions in line with the targets of the Paris Accords, especially in the developing world where borrowing costs necessary to build such projects can be many times higher than in wealthy nations.

The use of renewable energy sources has been gaining in popularity over the past several years; in 2019, renewable energy sources surpassed coal as a source of electrical energy in the U.S.  This trend is expected to significantly increase as the costs of renewables decrease and become more affordable for businesses and individuals[6].  Support for climate action grew by 14 percentage points among Democrats in the past six years; among Republicans, it implausibly decreased from 43 percent in 2015 to 39 percent today.

Most economists believe the most effective response to climate change is to place a price on greenhouse gas emissions, ideally through a renewable energy  Taxes passed by different countries range from less than $1 to $121 per metric ton.  In the U.S., models seem to converge at $40 to $47 per ton.  The key is calculating the social cost of carbon that would require a discount rate on investments, knowing the damage CO2 emissions will impose on the economy, and the risk of potential disasters.

This is a basic economic principle: the waste produced from any activity is a cost that has to be paid whether it is for throwing away our garbage or for cleaning our wastewater.  We should similarly pay for the carbon dioxide waste created from activities such as burning fossil fuels.

A carbon tax provides greater clarity about the price of emissions which the business community values.  The U.S. already has a well-developed tax collection system which works smoothly for collecting excise taxes on many fossil fuels.

Several studies have concluded that an initial $25 carbon tax would benefit the environment, slightly negatively impacting the carbon-fuel industry, and result in the creation of as many as 72 million new jobs[7].

If the U.S. moves forward with a carbon tax, there are important design issues to consider:  What to do with the tax revenue?  What to do for workers in carbon-intensive sectors of the economy?  How to incentivize carbon capture and sequestration?  Whether carbon dioxide embedded in imported goods should also be taxed?  Are there political benefits in relaxing some environmental regulations in return for a carbon tax?

Climate change presents perhaps the most profound challenge to have ever confronted us.  While there is progress, it is too little and occurring much too slowly.  It is obvious that climate change not only affects environmental systems but also dramatically alters living conditions for all life.  While it’s not yet too late to avoid the worse effects that now appear inevitable, many conservatives still deny the true extent of the problem delaying immediate urgent action.  So far, we, as a species, have failed to adequately address the challenge.

The most urgent social, political, and economic question is what will it take to garner an appropriate response?

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Dia Mirza is an Indian model, actress, producer, and social worker who predominantly works in Hindi films.

[2] Bowles, William.  Six Months To Avert Climate Crisis: Climate Breakdown And The Corporate Media, The New Dark Age, https://williambowles.info/2020/06/23/six-months-to-avert-climate-crisis-climate-breakdown-and-the-corporate-media/, 22 June 2020.

[3] Worland, Justin.  What We Learned From COP26, Time, https://view.newsletters.time.com/?qs=10a7e930cd16d8f6bc793157fd682b16f858f6e2b84bfbf37d2cccfd4c9c204f0afbf0ba203123be91ac1470d59c0d1028626cd24596cc3ce010e7e7d92b17b16d88157a2d7d7a7c303cc93bd8b960c8, 16 November 2021.

[4] De La Garza, Alehandro, et al.  Here Are The Goals Of The COP26 Climate Change Meetings – And Where The World Stands In Accomplishing Them, Time, https://time.com/6110941/cop26-goals-climate/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sfmc&utm_campaign=newsletter+brief-pm+default+ac&utm_content=+++20211029+++body&et_rid=21594157&lctg=21594157, 8 October 2021.

[5] Worland, Justin.  Climate Is Everything, Time, https://view.newsletters.time.com/?qs=1216c93d7e4ace5090a7e0f8d1befbdbeb8ced2eaa676ca96fe5fbadb64eddf336c2c01848c7f618e8a6d8aa8ddc6cc0a63dcef206faffc68aacaf2866662d040e4745f99fff88470502bcdc58a1fbbe, 13 July 2021.

[6] Alexander, Gemma.  Predicting Environmental Trends For 2021, Earth911, https://earth911.com/business-policy/predicting-2021-environmental-trends/#:~:text=Predicting percent20Environmental percent20Trends percent20for percent202021 percent201 percent20Restoration percent20Policy.,Continued percent20Climate percent20Crises. percent20… percent205 percent20Intersectional percent20Environmentalism. percent20, 4 January 2021.

[7] Fischetti, Mark, and Amanda Montanez.  Carbon Taxes Boost Jobs, Scientific American, https://www.moreofcourse.com/carbon-taxes-would-boost-jobs-across-the-u-s/, March 2020, p84.

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Childcare Cannot Wait

It seems to me….

Research has shown time and time again that infants who receive the high-quality childcare and early education programs do better in school, have more developed social skills, and display fewer behavior problems.”  ~ Judy Biggert[1].

The issue of support for childcare and pre-K has been ideological contentious since it was initially proposed.  It is inexcusable that it still remains so.

The majority of parents now work regardless of the age of their children, but many other parents of small children are unable to participate in the workforce without childcare[2].  As the cost of childcare, on average about $10,000 a year per child, may be nearly as large as one parent’s entire salary, it is a financial necessity for parents to receive two incomes to get by.  In almost half of all states, the cost of childcare exceeds the average rent payment resulting in too many families with young children struggling to make ends meet.  Many single parents are unable to afford to raise a child and hold down a job at the same time.

The prohibitively high costs of private childcare, and insufficiency of quality and accessible public providers, forces parents to choose between either low-quality care or doing without for lack of funds.  When forced to choose, mothers are more likely than fathers to take time away from paid work to care for a child – possibly impairing the mothers’ lifetime earnings gap.

Without adequate investment, childcare unavailability will likely delay economic short-term COVID recovery and economic long-run growth.  1 in 4 women are contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce.  Between just August and September 2020, 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force as did 216,000 men.  Lower costs and increased access to childcare would lead to a decrease in the number of women leaving employment and an increase in the rate of their entering employment, enabling mothers to keep working when they want or need to do so.  Enabling more women to work by improving access to childcare would help mitigate the gender wage gap and reduce a mother’s likelihood of going on public assistance.

The findings of the most major study[3] to date “concluded that most childcare programs (for children at 24 and 36 months) do not meet the recommended guidelines for aspects of care that can be regulated.  In addition: (1) the number of hours children spend in child care varies by ethnicity, with white non-Hispanics averaging the fewest hours of care and black non-Hispanics the most; (2) higher quality child care is associated with more positive outcomes whereas lower quality child care is associated with more negative outcomes; (3) infants from poor families are more likely to receive relatively low quality care; (4) children from families at the lowest and highest income levels received higher quality of care than those in the middle income range; (5) families more dependent on a mother’s income placed their infants in child care at an earlier age and used more hours of care than families less dependent on a mother’s income; and (6) family and home characteristics are stronger predictors of many outcomes than are children’s experiences in child care”.

Studies have shown that children, including babies and infants from the ages of 6 months to 4 years, benefit from a certified daycare environment, including its quality instruction, structure, and social lessons.  As the number of two working parents continues to increase, the demand for reliable and affordable childcare will continue to grow.  Selecting the right child daycare can be difficult for parents since they frequently are apprehensive and uncertain as to whether their child will be attending the right location and if the center will provide a happy and safe environment.

Home-based childcare is a vital part of the childcare infrastructure serving more vulnerable populations, younger children, and low-income families.  45 percent of U.S. parents with children under the age of 5 paid for childcare in January 2020; 12 percent of those parents used a home-based childcare center[4].  Homecare, which served up to 30 percent of infants and toddlers prior to the pandemic, is the preferred care option of most families of color who feel racial bias often begins in preschool.

The COVID pandemic has been extremely difficult for childcare centers in general.  The cost of providing center-based childcare has increased by an average of 47 percent since prior to COVID-19.  Many childcare centers were experiencing difficulty prior to the pandemic with the number of small, licensed family childcare businesses declining by 52 percent between 2005 and 2017.  70 percent of childcare centers report substantial new operating costs as a result of the pandemic and only 30 percent of home-based childcare centers remained open during the pandemic.

The average daycare operator grosses $48,000 a year; childcare workers earn about $24,000 a year.  Only about 15 percent of childcare workers receive employer-sponsored health insurance.  325 thousand childcare workers lost their jobs between February and June 2020.  86 percent of childcare providers report serving fewer children than prior to the pandemic and only 18 percent of childcare centers anticipated being able to remain in operation beyond July 2021 if enrollment rates remained low.

Publicly funded programs are helpful for some low-income families and mothers, but access is too limited, and quality is often far too low[5].  Only about 22 percent of children in low-income families currently receive federally subsidized childcare, and while preschool enrollment has increased nationwide in recent years, the lowest-income children are the least likely to participate in preschool programs.  A study found that about one in four families who were on a waitlist for childcare assistance either lost or had to quit their jobs while they waited for an opening[6].

Each state has guidelines and regulations regarding childcare centers and home-based daycares and certification requirements are different for each state.  A number of national childcare organizations have established quality standards that go beyond a state’s minimum licensing requirements.  To gain accreditation, centers must provide qualifications beyond licensing regulations.  They must prove they provide a higher level of childcare, including a higher level of attention to educational activities to promote development, growth, and school preparedness.  Programs that are accredited provide a safe and healthy environment for children, have teachers who are well trained, have access to excellent teaching materials, and work with a curriculum that is appropriately challenging and developmentally sound.  To maintain their accreditation, centers must voluntarily improve their offerings and adhere to high national childcare standards.

Similar to childcare, early childhood education has numerous benefits including better, more equitable long-term outcomes for children of divergent economic backgrounds.  The importance of preschool has therefore become an emotional topic among politicians, school districts, and parents with publicly funded pre-K programs receiving broad public and political support.  It provides an initial exposure to school and sets the tone for an attendee’s educational career conveying both short-term and long-term benefits including improved academic and school readiness, higher graduation rates, and lower incarceration rates.  Accredited pre-K programs are staffed by highly trained teachers who know how to build students’ self-regulation skills, nurture their creativity and curiosity, and foster an environment of playful learning.

Certified preschool teachers are educational professionals specifically trained in methods to enhance a child’s physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and language development.  They know how to immerse children in engaging learning experiences and have years of experience doing it.  Preschool does not discount skills taught at home but reinforces them in a new environment ensuring all areas of the brain are intentionally activated.

The groundwork for successful experiences in the education system is largely established prior to entering K-12.  The first five years are very crucial due to the brain’s ability to make connections with a child’s capacity to develop communication skills – largely decided by the time they reach age five.  Children who attend high-quality preschool enter schools with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.

Preschools provide material support by the cordial supervision of teachers who help make a child’s transition from home to preschool secure and comfortable.  Preschool is an opportunity for children to be in a structured setting providing a foundation for both social and academical learning and preparing them for elementary school.

Preschools are important in helping a child gain some basic knowledge and pick up information that would be useful once he/she starts elementary school.  Studies show that preschools aid a child’s development and students who have attended preschools have a higher graduation rate than those who have not attended preschool.

Many preschools start to accept children when they are only two and a half years old, while other preschools only admit them following their third or fourth birthdays.  Most children join preschool at age four.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) [7] is the largest accrediting organization for preschool programs assuring parents that the school’s childcare facilities, curriculum, teaching, and healthcare meet or exceed all required standards.

Children have a right to a public-school education to which even nonparents contribute, but there are few provisions for smaller children.  Only 6 out of 10 kindergarten programs in the U.S. are open for full-day enrollees.  Attendance in preschool, or even elementary school, does not eliminate the need for childcare as many school programs do not provide care for a parent’s entire workday.

Rather than remaining contentious, opinions regarding both childcare and preschool programs are changing among both liberals and conservatives.  While free market orthodoxy told parents with young children that they were responsible for finding and paying for affordable safe childcare, a managed markets outlook recognizes the obvious: inexpensive access to good childcare makes it easier for parents, particularly mothers, to join the labor force and boost economic activity.  In many cases, it also improves educational outcomes for their children.  Virtually all Democrats and almost three quarters of Republicans support the idea of offering optional public pre-K to all children three-and four-years old.  Nearly half of Republicans go further and support universal childcare from birth to age five.

Early childcare and universal preschool has long been advocated but now, while still recovering from the economic and social effects of COVID, it has become of increased priority.  It would provide a social welfare benefit enabling a greater percentage of working adults, especially women, to participate in the workforce if they so choose or the option to complete their own education.

It is obvious that innovation is key to our nation’s future, and it is women who are earning the majority of both undergraduate (57.2 percent) and graduate (58.2 percent) degrees[8].  Childcare is increasingly necessary for both their education and employment.  Hopefully, both conservatives and liberals will come to an agreement that has been too long delayed and provide this service to all in need.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Judith Borg Biggert is a U.S. Republican politician and attorney and former U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 13th Congressional district.

[2] Vesoulis, Abby.  Day Care On The Brink, Time, 2-9 November 2020, pp54-56.

[3] NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) Historical/For Reference Only, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/seccyd, 10 June 2019.

[4] Luscombe, Belinda.  The Rise Of The “Carebnb”, Time, 2-9 November 2020, pp57-60.

[5] Glynn, Sarah Jane, Nancy Wu, and Jane Farrell.  The Importance Of Preschool and Child Care For Working Mothers, The Center for American Progress, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/the-importance-of-preschool-and-child-care-for-working-mothers/, 8 May 2013.

[6] Lyons, Jeffrey D.,  The Importance Of Preschool And Child Care For Working Mothers, The Center for American Progress (CAP), https://www.americanprogress.org/article/the-importance-of-preschool-and-child-care-for-working-mothers/, 8 May 2013.

[7] National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), https://www.naeyc.org/, 2020.

[8] Degrees Conferred By Race And Sex, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72, 2020.

Posted in certification, Certifications, Childcare, childhood, Children, COVID, daycare, Economy, Education, Education, employment, Homecare, K-12, kindergarten, mothers, NAEYC, National Association for the Education of Young Children, parents, Personal, pre-K, Preschool, racial bias, Teachers, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On-Going Immigration Difficulties

It seems to me….

Immigration is a system and a set of policies.  And immigrants are the people behind those policies and behind that system, and the human stories.”  ~ Cristina Henríquez[1].

Global society is facing increased challenges that can be neither defined nor contained by physical barriers.  While climate change is the most significant challenge facing the world, the unprecedented increase in global migration remains of major concern closely followed by terrorism, pandemics, nascent technologies, cyberattacks, and numerous other threats.

There are an estimated 272 million international migrants:  3.5 percent of the world’s population.  India, Mexico, Russia, China, and Bangladesh were the top five origin countries with nearly half of all international migrants being from Asia.  India continues to be the main origin of international migrants with 17.5 million India-born people living abroad.  Mexico and China also have more than 10 million former residents spread around the world.  Tragically, half of the world’s refugees are children.

The U.S., Germany, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UK were the top five destinations for migrants with the U.S. being the primary destination as a proportion of national population.  It is the United Arab Emirates, however, that has the largest migrant contingent.

Ravaged by inequities of conflict, persecution, or violence, refugees are those who have chosen to flee out of concern either for themselves or their families.  While migrants and refugees normally travel in similar manners, economic migrants voluntarily leave their country to improve the future economic prospects of themselves and their families.

In reality, it is of little difference to the victims of terrorism whether treatment resulted from religious, political, or domestic persecution, or if a perpetuator was self-radicalized – to the survivors, any such incident is simply an act of terrorism.  While assistance to migrants is optional, it is mandatory under international law to assist refugees.

Often strident calls from European and other Western human rights activists for adherence to the contemporary liberal European construct of society face a backlash in the rest of the world.  This tendency is exacerbated by activists who see expanding the concept of ‘rights’ as the best means to effect domestic social and political change on issues such as poverty or the environment.

Any effort to increase the relevance of human rights must return to the principles of consensus and universality that were at the heart of those rights as the movement gained global political significance in the last quarter of the 20th century.  Otherwise, overselling human rights only strengthens authoritarian governments and others who challenge their universal application through hypocritical appeals to cultural relativism over globally shared values.  Asking more of human rights than can be accomplished risks weakening or even destroying them rather than accomplishing the intended results.

Similar to the environment, immigration has become one of the greatest challenges reshaping societies around the globe[2].  Barriers erected by wealthier nations have been unable to keep out those from the global South — typically poor, and often desperate — who come searching for work and a better life.  While immigrants normally deliver economic and social benefits to the countries taking them in, they have also shaken the prevailing order and upended politics in the industrialized world where the native-born often exaggerate both their numbers and their needs.

Those who are native born tend to vastly overstate their immigrant populations.  There are approximately 44 million immigrants in the U.S., about one in every eight U.S. residents (13.6 percent) is foreign-born.  The overestimates are largest among particular groups: the least educated, workers in low-skill occupations with lots of immigrants, and those on the political right.  They overstate the share of immigrants who are Muslim and understate the share of Christians.  They underestimate immigrants’ education and overestimate both their poverty rate and dependence on welfare.  Almost a quarter of French respondents, as well as nearly one in five Swedes and about one in seven Americans, think the average immigrant gets twice as much government aid as native residents do.  There is no nation where that is true.

Immigrants are beneficial to their destination country.  Immigrants to the U.S., particularly refugees, have higher self-employment rates (13.0 percent) than U.S.-born (9.0 percent).  One quarter (25 percent) of new U.S. businesses are founded by immigrants.

The proposition by the political right that immigration amounts to a large-scale threat has been gaining acceptance.  They are not but if wealthier countries wish to reduce the number of immigrants, their best opportunity would be to help poor countries to become sufficiently wealthy that fewer people feel the necessity to leave.  It would include helping them adapt to climate change, and simply opening up their own markets to developing countries’ exports.  Until that is possible, numerous changes are necessary to protect the rights and safety of those forced to leave their homeland.

Border immigration enforcement frequently tries to direct those seeking to cross the border illegally into inhospitable terrain that is hoped will discourage such attempts.  It is impossible to estimate the number of deaths that have resulted in such areas as all traces of human remains can disappear in approximately one week due to natural predators.

It is difficult to understand a recent wave of hysteria by hordes of angry demonstrators protesting busloads of Central American children turning themselves in at the border.  The most basic fundamental fact is that children were actually turning themselves in at the border.  Rather than a failure of border protection, as portrayed, it actually demonstrated the success of current immigration policy.  None of what conservatives have been doing in the recent “border crisis” moral panic makes any sense in terms of pragmatic problem-solving but does make perfect sense in terms of expressively defending a threatened group identity.

Immigrants are, in general, much less likely to break the law than the native-born[3] and the sharp decline in violent crime in the 1990s coincided with a large wave of both legal and illegal immigrants[4].

There isn’t any U.S. statute of limitations for immigration offenses.  If someone is found to be in the country illegally, it does not matter how long they have lived here  – they will still face criminal proceedings.  Even after five years, they can always be deported for illegal entry though cannot be prosecuted – illegal entry is considered a misdemeanor more similar to jaywalking than to theft.

While it is time to stop blaming Donald Trump for escalation in migrant animosity, it did increase considerably during his administration at his encouragement.  For those Americans who are members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority groups that were the frequent targets of Trump’s rotating ire, hate and violence moved from historical knowledge, to known risk, to what now has become actual fear.

For others, recent mass shootings have marked an appalling extension of insults, threats, and injustices among racial, ethnic, and religious minorities that regrettably have long been part of American life – even in a country that prides itself with promises of equality for all.  There are many young people, in particular millennials, who are struggling with the reality that this is what the U.S. has always been and always will be absent some sort of reset.  Many of them feel vulnerable, both emotionally and economically, and guilty about the injustices now all to commonly occurring.

Migration from Latin America will increase as global warming worsens conditions throughout that area.  The World Bank estimates climate change could send up to an additional 1.7 million people north by 2050.  Drought, shifting rain patterns, and extreme weather are predicted to destroy crops leading to food insecurity.  The World Food Program found that nearly half of Central American emigrants leave their homes as a result of insufficient food.

Climate change is likely to contribute to significant displacement and migration.  As the number of severe and extreme weather events or climate-related disasters increases, migration can be anticipated to correspondingly increase[5] well beyond current levels placing significant stress on both origin and destination areas straining cities and urban centers.

The worldwide average number of people displaced by natural disasters, including floods, storms, and droughts, has averaged 22.5 million a year since 2008 and is increasing.  As weather extremes strengthen and sea levels rise, experts have warned that forced migration linked to climate pressures is poised to become a problem that could dwarf all previous refugee flows.  It is estimated that 30 to 143 million climate migrants worldwide could be forced from their homes by climate change impacts by 2050.  Migration could even further accelerate after 2050 due to stronger climate impacts and population growth if greenhouse gas emissions are not severely curtailed[6].

Those ideologically opposed to increased immigration will be unable to hold back the incoming wave of those desperately seeking the basic necessities of survival.  Now is the time to develop the means of accommodating those anticipated prior to their arrival becoming overwhelming.

That’s what I think, what about you?


[1] Cristina Henríquez is the author of The Book of Unknown Americans which was a New York Times Notable Book of 2014 and one of Amazon’s 10 Best Books of the Year.

[2] Porter, Deuardo, and Karl Russell.  Migrants Are On The Rise Around The World, And Myths About Them Are Shaping Attitudes, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/20/business/economy/immigration-economic-impact.html, 20 June 2018.

[3] Ewing, Walter, Ph.D., Daniel E. Martínez, Ph.D. and Rubén G. Rumbaut, Ph.D.  The Criminalization Of Immigration In The United States, American Immigration Council, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/criminalization-immigration-united-states?utm_source=Fareed%27s+Global+Briefing&utm_campaign=83ac9cec13-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6f2e93382a-83ac9cec13-85658801, 13 July 2015.

[4] Chapter 5: U.S. Foreign-Born Population Trends, Pew Research Center, http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/09/28/chapter-5-u-s-foreign-born-population-trends/?utm_source=Fareed%27s+Global+Briefing&utm_campaign=83ac9cec13-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6f2e93382a-83ac9cec13-85658801, 28 September 2015.

[5] Report On The Impact Of Climate Change On Migration, The White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Report-on-the-Impact-of-Climate-Change-on-Migration.pdf, October 2021.

[6] Cho, Renee.  Climate Migration: An Impending Global Challenge, Columbia Climate School, https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2021/05/13/climate-migration-an-impending-global-challenge/, 13 May 2021.

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