Friday, June 29, 2012
Population & Wildlife
The home page of this website mentions that in 1930, the population of the United States numbered 122 million. This may seem an odd point to bring up in the context of a literary author and her novels. I think I can explain why I find this an important subject:
present population – just reached seven billion.
peak population – will reach nine to ten billion in the later half of this century.
The population increase brings with it
— an increase in the usage of water and land resources.
— chipping away the global ecosystem.
Quoting an article published June 20th in alternet.org,
Water shortages are having an ever-increasing impact on the planet's biodiversity. According to Wetlands International, there has been a 50% loss of wetlands over the course of the 20th century. Freshwater species in particular are disappearing at a much faster rate than all other species. Nearly 25% of freshwater fish in Africa alone are threatened with extinction and 136 freshwater-dependent birds had become extinct by 2010.
The loss of wildlife habitat is linked to the increase in human population. Examples: the loss of the acreage of the Brazilian rain forest. The increase in the acreage of the Sahara desert. Various hotspots have been identified around the world where loss of diversity has reached a critical degree. Global warming gives evidence of the larger issue — the impact we are having on the global ecosystem. What will our world look like after another hundred years of loss of wildlife? What the future holds in store for our planet is up to all of us, reasoning together.
The immigration issue
One aspect no one is talking about
The jobs taken by immigrants from south of the border — they say that citizens of the USA would not take these jobs. The pay is too low; the working conditions too harsh, including supervisors who show contempt their workers; the volume of work is too high to be sustained over long periods. I am speaking here of farm jobs and associated food-processing jobs. Pesticides sicken more than 10,000 farm laborers annually. And conditions in the factories that process the chickens were the subject of an episode of This American Life in 2010.
What if these jobs adopted more humane pay and working conditions? Who would win and who would lose?
Agribusiness would lose a little. They would have to pay more for their labor costs. This cost would be passed along to the general public in the form of higher food costs.
Unemployed Americans would win. More of them would apply for these jobs and be hired, in preference to immigrants from Mexico. This would reduce unemployment in the US. This helps thousands, more like millions, who are currently unemployed. This in turn has a ripple effect benefitting our economy, since we pay for the safety net that helps the currently unemployed, and we pay for the education of their children and other shared expenses.
Restructuring the agricultural jobs to make them accessible to United States citizens, in turn reduce the magnet for impoverished immigrants from Mexico. Fewer would attempt to immigrate, since the number of opportunities for them to find work in this country would be reduced. This influx is the prime driver of population growth in the USA. Without it, our population would stabilize.
The question then becomes how to get the employers of these jobs to adopt higher pay and more humane working conditions. This can only come through a combination of government oversight — probably through provisions in the farm bill enforced by the departments of Labor and Agriculture — and a strengthening of labor unions in these fields. The weakening of both government oversight and the labor unions is a sign of increased corporate dominance of our democracy.
Up with Chris Hayes discussed the Arizona immigration law SB1070 on 07/01/2012. We learn the scope of the problem, along with some exaggerations on both sides, from Kris Kobach (R) Kansas Secretary of State, and the valid counter-arguments from well-known journalist and activist Maria Hinajosa. But when Chris Hayes approaches the subject of farm jobs, he shows he has never thought of the point I raise in the paragraphs above. I transcribed the relevant portions.
Kobach: The idea is, you want to create disincentives for people to be breaking federal law within the State of Arizona. Some of the disincentives are big ones, there are others that are smaller ones. So, you try to look at various ways in which the state can encourage people to comply with the law. Which in most cases means, return to one's home country, comply with US federal law, come back in some other time legally. So the fact that it would operate against employees seeking work, and that's not as common as people being investigated or stopped for other crimes, doesn't mean you don't do that. The state wanted to adopt a policy of attrition through enforcement, which the law speaks to. The idea is, if we ratchet up the level of law enforcement on various levels, then that encourages people to comply with the law. That's the essential concept of deterrence, which is what a country where the rule of law exists has to have.
Hayes: Why do you care about this issue?
Kobach: This is an issue that affects so many other issues that all of us, I believe, should care about. One of them is unemployment. We are worried about Americans not having jobs and not being able to put food on the table. One way that you help US citizens and aliens who are authorized to work in the United States to get jobs is you remove illegal labor from the equation. If they are competing against illegal labor that's undercutting their wages, it's going to be real hard for Americans to put food on their table.
Hinajosa: You have read the studies about — forget about human rights violations or due process or the core of who we are as a country in terms of being a country of immigrants, when you look at just the numbers, what happened after President Ronald Reagan created a Path to Citizenship through comprehensive immigration reform in 1986, in the Immigration Reform and Control Act, Actually, what that ended up doing, was creating jobs in the United States. Because what you do is you have people who are actually working here, who are stuck now in this limbo, in fact in the State of Arizona, were all the undocumented immigrants to leave, and by the way they're not going to, this is what they're saying to me, and also as a political statement, but were they actually to leave, it would be an economic tsunami in Arizona. So the fact is the numbers show that were there to be comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship, you would have home ownership going up, you would have people opening small businesses, all above board, you would have all these people paying in (they're already paying in) but even more so. So as somebody who cares about jobs, I need to understand why you are so much standing in the way of creating a minor economic revolution were eleven to twelve million undocumented immigrants to be brought in.
Kobach: If you look at the numbers, though, they really don't add up. Here are some numbers to consider. One is that you have almost twenty-five million Americans who are either unemployed or under-employed, seeking work or unable to find it. And so you've got, of the eleven million illegal aliens here, you've got about seven million in the work force. Those are seven million jobs that US citizens could be bidding for, or could be occupying and putting food on the table. Another number: 2.6 trillion dollars is the estimated cost to us taxpayers if we were to grant an amnesty to the eleven million here, because they suddenly become eligible for all kinds of Federal welfare benefits: social security, earned income tax credits, and others.
Hayes: What time horizon is that number over?
Kobach: ten years.
Hayes: 260 billion dollars a year? That seems a radically inflated number. But here's a question about jobs: About four million of those folks are farm workers. And we've seen in Alabama, we are not seeing native-born Americans work on the farms. Instead what we've seen are crops going fallow, and a massive near-revolt from the agricultural business in Alabama over this.
Nope. Chris Hayes never thought to ask, "What if these jobs adopted more humane pay and working conditions? Would more Americans apply for them?"