Steve King is a Republican congressman from Iowa. His district is 94% white and apparently they don’t like the idea of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. King has no substantive legislative accomplishments. He is a rabble-rouser famous for inflammatory rhetoric and xenophobia. He also cares little or nothing about the future of the Republican party or the country. If he did, he would understand that comprehensive immigration reform is crucial to the future of both. Our question for Congressman King is, “Can you read a Census Report?”
Let’s start with the country. The 80 million strong baby boomer generation has begun its retirement at the same time that the U.S. fertility rate has dropped below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. The workforce will continue to increase in size until about 2020, then left unchecked, will be begin to decline. This decline coincides with the explosion of the number of Social Security & Medicare beneficiaries. As the chart below indicates, in 1945, there were 41.9 workers per Social Security beneficiary. In 2010 it was 2.9 workers per beneficiary, and it will continue to decrease.
When you combine much smaller generations following the baby boomers with a birthrate that is below the replacement rate, the results are as clear as they are predictable. Absent an influx of immigrant labor, we will not have enough workers to run an economy that produces enough tax revenue to a) run the government; b) defend the country; and c) pay benefits to retirees. Thus, maintaining a flow of immigrant labor and being able to ramp up that flow in the early 2020’s is not only sensible, but a national imperative. The United States is very lucky in the sense that it is a country of immigrants and does a better job of integrating immigrants into its society than any other country on earth. It’s also lucky because its birthrate is considerably higher than the rest of the developed world, but we will still depend on a large influx of immigrant labor not too far down the road.
Next let’s consider the Republican party. The modern Republican party has come to be known as the old, southern, white men’s party. It is moving in the opposite direction from the rest of the country. In the next twenty years, white Americans will no longer be a majority of the U.S. population. Unless you can attract black and brown votes, you are destined for permanent minority party status. This played itself out in the 2012 presidential election. Mitt Romney won virtually no black votes and less than 30% of Hispanic votes and lost resoundingly. Unless the Republican party gets right with minority voters, it will not win another presidential election, period.
All this is clear from reading a census report and the problems Republicans have with Hispanics are especially vexing. Most Hispanics are culturally and religiously conservative. They believe in hard work and want the government for the most part to stay out of their lives. They are the largest and fastest growing minority population and they appear to be natural Republicans, but immigration reform is the touchstone issue for that bloc. Every month that goes by without a comprehensive reform of our immigration system loses more Hispanics for the Republican party. Permanently.