Twice a month I make it a point to go down to my local Barnes and Noble and peruse the magazine section. It’s a pricey habit but not one I am prepared to end soon as the trip always provides great fodder for future blogs.
This month was no exception. Forbes put out a special edition featuring the 400 richest people in America. The list included the usual cast of psychopathic 1%ers but this time there was a twist. This edition paid homage to immigrants who through pluck, guile, good luck, persistence, and other traits managed to break into this elite group. The title of the magazine was The American Dream and the subtitle was “It’s alive and well. Meet the surprising group dominating the Forbes 400: Immigrants.”
Given Forbes is the rag of record for the aspiring entrepreneur, it is little wonder the magazine’s editor, Steve Forbes is eager to ensure that the cat that got out of the bag in 1965, the liberalizing of US immigration laws and policies is not going to be walked back any time soon. In his Fact and Comment section, Stevie looks with disdain on that period that ranged from the mid 1920s to mid 1960s when US lawmakers made immigration work for the people and not just the corporations. I don’t have bandwidth in this blog to demonstrate that he got wrong how the settlement of North America differed significantly from Latin and South America; or how “most work done by illegals is shunned by most Americans”; or how history demonstrates that unbridled immigration leads to upward mobility and wealth creation (well, maybe for a few.)
But I would like to point out the subtle presentation of half-truths about our immigrant past and present that permeate the articles in this magazine. One of these can be found on page 64 where the author, Monte Burke states, “. . . immigrants started 28% of all new business in the US.” That is not quite accurate. However, considering Burke attributes the statistic to a report by the Partnership for a new American Economy, a group formed by Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg, I can see where it might not be quite right. . .
I argue the 28% figure comes from the 2015 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey by the Census Bureau. The Survey determined that 28.4% of immigrants are either part-time self-employed or self-employed. (Entrepreneurial.) The same Survey revealed that 31% of the native born population is either part-time self-employed or self-employed. Unlike the article would have you believe, immigrants are in fact no more entrepreneurial than the native born.
According to the magazine, 42 of the Forbes 400 are immigrants. That is roughly 10%. But when you consider a number of them arrived long before passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, I just don’t see the correlation between higher levels of immigration and greater prosperity for the nation as a whole. But what we have witnessed are increased levels of economic inequality, insecurity and volatility on the part of the majority of Americans. In that bleak period between the mid 1920s through 1960s, America built a strong middle class and boasted a host of public institutions that were the envy of the world.
In 1965, less than 10 million Americans were of foreign birth. Today the number is over 40 million. Our total population has jumped from roughly 200 million to over 330 million. The editors and writers at Forbes would have you believe that America’s future is inextricably linked to economic growth as well as population growth. Given that 80% of population growth comes from immigrants and children of immigrants, you can understand why Forbes is a champion of open borders.
I take a very different view from Forbes. I believe we need to begin to position the country for a soft landing as opposed to a crash that will inevitably accompany the growing scarcity of fossil fuel and other nonrenewable resources required to make our techno-industrial civilization operate. Population is a common sense place to start, as a smaller population will lower demand and be better able to dapt to change. And if all that is true, the best place to start is with our immigration policies. It was understood by the Populists at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries that corporations used unbridled immigration to suppress wages and foil attempts by workers to organize. Those “understandings” eventually found their way into legislation. But you won’t find that in Forbes.