Why Make America Small Again?

Popular Economics Weekly



Why make America small again is the question Americans should be asking President Donald Trump whose immigration policies are designed to do just that. He would reduce immigration flows by 50 percent, if he and his conservative supporters have their way.

The result would be stagnating economic growth because of the simple fact that immigrants are the main driver of population growth, due to the low birth rates of native-born Americans.

The U.S. birth rate is 1.8 births per woman, down from 3.65 in 1960, according to the World Bank. Demographers consider 2.1 births per woman as the rate needed to replace the existing population.


Economic 101 theory states that population growth is one-half of the equation for Gross Domestic Product growth (It’s population growth + productivity = GDP growth). Without adequate population growth, U.S. economic growth would stagnate, as it has in Europe and Japan.

In fact, the Japanese population has been shrinking for decades, which has resulted in a record government debt of some 200 percent of GDP. How else can the Japanese invest in their future but use their government to print money, when its own population contributes a shrinking amount to tax revenues?

And a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found immigration “has an overall positive impact on the long-run economic growth in the U.S.”

The best evidence of low native-born birth rates is that over the next five decades, the U.S. immigrant population of 45 million is projected to grow to a record 78 million. The growth rate of 74 percent will be more than double that for the U.S.-born population (30 percent), according to the PEW Study.

Then what does President Trump really believe would make “American Great Again,” if he restricts immigrant inflows, which would reduce U.S. population growth rates by more than half?

He and his supporters labor under a very ancient assumption (not based on fact) that resources are limited in a zero-sum game where one can only gain when others lose a share of income or wealth, or influence, or stature.

That was the mentality of the concentration camp that Nobel Prize-winner Eli Weisal portrayed so graphically in Night, his description of conditions in Nazi death camps as a child.

It is unfortunately a picture that exists today, in which we are imprisoned in a world of declining resources. It also happens to be the mentality of fossil fuel interests that attempt to protect their limited and declining resources—and wealth that are the financial supporters of the Republican Party (such as the Koch Brothers).

They want to protect their very limited resources, whereas renewable energy offers the promise of unlimited energy resources, as does the Information Age and the Internet. This is a world that requires fewer restrictions of people and information across country borders.

American can only be small again in the Trump-Koch Brothers world of the last century, a world that seemed to have limited resources. There’s no part of America that would prosper with 14-foot-high border walls, or trade barriers, or immigration restrictions that are based on win-lose fallacies.

Such walls can only exist for those that still believe they are imprisoned in a past that no longer exists, or has any basis in fact.

Harlan Green © 2019

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of PopularEconomics.com, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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