The manifesto attributed to the shooter in El Paso, Texas, has been described as racist, and it’s certainly that.
There’s another dimension to it, though, that hasn’t gotten much attention but should. The manifesto writer devotes 740 words to the “economic reasons” for the coming slaughter of innocents. Other than the vile description of immigrants as “invaders,” the thoughts expressed are common ones. That’s what makes them so pernicious, because the writer uses mainstream thinking to justify mass murder. That demands just as much refutation and denunciation as the racism.
1. We need more immigration, not less. The manifesto writer declares that “immigration can only be detrimental to the future of America.” This isn’t just something the manifesto writer believes; it’s a core of President Trump’s philosophy. He came into office wanting to reduce the number of immigrants the nation accepts. This is completely backwards: Economically speaking, we need more immigrants, not fewer, and the people most likely to oppose immigration (primarily older voters) are the ones who would benefit the most from expanded immigration.
How can this be? Can we allow vast numbers of people in Central America to simply walk across the border? Of course not. However, the current mass migration of people from Central America has a discrete cause: The disintegration of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We have three failed states within walking distance. We’re not seeing migrant caravans from Belize or Costa Rica or Panama because those governments work. We don’t see them even from troubled Nicaragua. The solution is not a wall on the border, because that wouldn’t fix the fundamental problem —it would simply send desperate people out to sea to wash up, dead or alive, on the Gulf Coast. The solution is to restore order to those three countries — but this administration seems incapable of that level of engagement (and yes, foreign aid).
Here’s why we need more immigration but in a more orderly way: Americans are getting older and living longer. However, Social Security and other entitlement programs, though, are based on a large number of workers paying into the system to support a much smaller generation of retirees. That worked great in 1950 when there were 16 workers for each retiree. It works less well today when the ratio is 2.9 workers per beneficiary. By 2035 the ratio is expected to be 1.9 workers per beneficiary. That’s why the Social Security system is running out of money. We need more workers paying into the system but we are not creating them — the nation’s birth rate has fallen below what demographics call “the replacement rate.” If you want to make sure your promised Social Security benefits are still going to be around, you either need to be rooting for a sudden baby boom, or more immigration. Let’s flip the question around: If we don’t change our demographic pyramid, how do we pay for Social Security other than oppressively higher taxes?
Is it likely that those immigrants won’t, um, be white? Yes. So what? The United States has never been a nation based on ethnicity. The English may have founded Jamestown in 1607 but they started bringing in non-English colonists the very next year. All the concerns over cultural “assimilation” are ones we’ve heard before with every other wave of immigrants — from Germans to the Irish to the Chinese to the Italians to every other group. The reality is that today’s immigrants assimilate, if that’s the word you want to use, much more quickly than previous generations did. The economic argument for more immigration is basic math; the cultural argument against immigration is fear and often something else much darker.
2. Immigration is good for the economy. The manifesto writer buys into the old canard that immigrants take job from “natives.” This may be true in specific cases, but isn’t true in the broader sense. Instead, there’s much evidence that immigrants actually drive economic growth: A study by the New York non-profit New American Economy found that immigrants are 10% more likely than natives to found small businesses. Indeed, 45% of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies were either founded by immigrants of the children of immigrants. Here in the Roanoke Valley, immigrants are driving the region’s nascent technology sector. While immigrants constitute just 5.5% of the valley’s population, they account for 11.4% of the workers in the prestigious “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The manifesto writer complains that immigrants and foreign-born visa-holders are displacing native-born workers, especially in technology fields. The manifesto writer sees that as unfair. That’s one way to look at things. Here’s another: Why aren’t more natives qualified for those fields? The manifesto writer complains that “my whole life I have been preparing for a future that currently doesn’t exist. The job of my dreams will likely be automated.” That’s true — lots of jobs are being automated. Here’s a tough message for the manifesto writer and lots of others: If those are the jobs of your dreams, then your dreams are misplaced. The economy is changing. It’s always been changing. When the agricultural age gave way to the industrial age, lots of former farm workers had to find ways to adjust (and they did so without going on killing sprees). As the industrial age gives way to the information age, workers will have to adjust again. This is nothing new. The manifesto writer laments that “to compete, people have to get better credentials by spending more time in college. It used to be that a high school degree was worth something. Now a bachelor’s degree is what’s recommended to be competitive in the job market.” That’s true. So what? Get to it — and if you don’t, then don’t complain that some somebody else with a different skin tone has done the hard work that you won’t. The manifesto writer creates a new stereotype: The unmotivated but entitled white man.
There are lots of things government ought to be doing to get people prepared for a changing economy — more emphasis on career and technical education, cheaper tuition at both community colleges and four-year schools. But ultimately people have responsibility for their own resumes. The manifesto writer resents having to get qualified for the jobs being created. That’s just lazy — and America wasn’t built by lazy people. But it was built, and continues to be built, by lots of hard-working immigrants. We need more of them, and absolutely zero lazy whiners, whether they’re writing racist manifestos or not.