A sermon for Memorial Day

The Battle of Iwo Jima, February – March 1945, was enormously bloody for Americans as well as for Japanese, who waged a suicidal defense. When it was over, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn (1910-1995), the first Jewish chaplain the Marine Corps ever appointed, was asked by the American commander to speak at a unified memorial service.  The Christian chaplains refused to participate in a service led by a rabbi, so Gittelsohn spoke to a very diminished gathering. His ecumenical sermon became Marine Corps legend and were widely published.

His sermon complements the words by Frederick Douglass spoken in 1869 about America being a “composite nation.” The following are excerpts.

Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor . . . together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men, there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy …….

Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or who thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn duty, sacred duty do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price.……

We here solemnly swear that this shall not be in vain. Out of this and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this will come, we promise, the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.

(Thanks to Rabbi Dov Taylor)

The demographic crises in Japan and Korea

I posted yesterday on a Foreign Affairs article about China’s fight against demographic decline. Here I include its analysis of other East Asian countries:

In 1989, Japan’s fertility rate dropped to its then lowest level: the “1.57 shock,” as it became known, induced Japanese authorities to expand childcare facilities and establish one of the world’s most generous systems of parental leave, at least on paper. After Taiwan and South Korea hit the same point in the early years of this century, their governments created new parental leave policies, expanded preschools, and offered financial bonuses to couples for having children. Singapore took an even more aggressive approach, establishing government-run matchmaking programs and public housing policies that strongly favor married couples.

None of these ambitious measures mattered much. Fertility rates are not merely well under the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman, as is true for other aging countries such as Russia (1.8), Germany (1.6), or Italy (1.3). Hong Kong, South Korea’s rate is astonishingly low: 0.81 births per woman. By comparison, even geriatric Japan looks positively fecund at 1.37.

East Asia faces the same problems—high housing costs and demand for additional years of education—prompting young people globally to delay marriage and childbirth, or forego them altogether. However, as Taiwanese scholar Yen-hsin Alice Cheng notes, conservative social values play a particular role in East Asia. Roughly 40 percent of American births are out of wedlock. In Iceland, over 70 percent are. In Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, that figure is four percent, two percent, and 1.5 percent, respectively.

Behind declining marriage and birth rates lie highly gendered social expectations of who will take care of small children and elderly in-laws. Sweden and Japan have among the world’s best systems of paid paternity leave. In 2019, around 90 percent of Swedish fathers took it. Only 7.5 percent of Japanese fathers did.

Migrants in Russia have declined

The Financial Times reports that for Russia, migrants are a source of cheap labor for jobs that locals refuse to take on. For the central Asian states, migrants’ remittances contribute a substantial chunk of their gross domestic product and their departure helps to reduce unemployment at home.

In 2020, 11 million foreign persons lived in Russia. Of them, 3.3 million were from Ukraine and 2.6 million from Kazakhstan. in 2014, the year of the first Ukrainian invasion, remittances were $35B. They are now about $22B. It’s almost as if we went to war with Mexico.

But by early April there were 5.5m foreigners in Russia — 42 per cent fewer than a year ago Construction and agriculture were particularly badly affected.

“We have had very few migrants remaining over the past year. And we badly, badly need these migrants to implement our ambitious plans,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month.

Russia’s deputy prime minister Marat Khusnullin estimated the shortage of migrant workers in construction alone to be 1.5m to 2m people.

“Construction workers’ salaries were raised by 50 per cent due to labou shortages, and doubled in some places. But even while paying double it is extremely hard to find people,” he told local media. “We believe this is one of the key factors holding back construction development as a whole.”

Replacement theory and immigration

A survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center revealed that Americans believe that immigrants are coming to the country to improve their lives and contribute to the country’s democracy. They also believe that there was a “nefarious intent” to bring in immigrants to influence the outcome of elections.

Most Republicans believe that the main reason why immigrants came to the US was to improve their lives and contribute to the country’s democracy. Yet over 20% strongly agree, and an additional 25% somewhat agree, with the statement that some people (the elite) in the U.S. are trying to replace U.S. born Americans with immigrants and to transform the country. 12% of Democrats strongly agree with that statement. From here.

Tucker Carlson described in 2021 the “great replacement” as “the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far away countries. They brag about it all the time, but if you dare to say it’s happening they will scream at you with maximum hysteria.”

According to a report in the New York Times, Charles Herbster, Trump-endorsed candidate for the Nebraska governor’s office, who lost in the May 10 primary, believes that the coronavirus that infected people in the US in early 2020 was manufactured in China and brought into the U.S. illegal immigrants. He also claimed that drug smugglers from Mexico were responsible for the outbreak.
From here.

If STEM workers get faster visas, what about nurses?

A late March survey reports that large majority of Americans say that we should admit more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering Math) specialists in the country into the country. About 65% in favor, 25% opposed, 10% undecided.

The White House is considering a special pathway for Russian, and perhaps, Chinese STEM specialists to obtain permanent residency.

Two questions: First, how sure are we about the long term supply shortage of STEM specialists? (Go here.)

Second, can the same argument for more favorable visa policy also be applied to nurses, whose average wage went up by 9% in the past year (to $87K) , and about which there has been a practice for many years to recruit from other countries (Go here and here.)

Can Biden walk the talk on refugee settlement?

The National Immigration Forum on May 6 wrote, Only 1,984 total refugees were resettled in April, a decrease from March as the system continues to flounder at Trump-like levels.

More than halfway through Fiscal Year 2022, we’ve only resettled 18,414 refugees total — nowhere near the refugee ceiling the administration set at 125,000.

After the administration committed to resettle 100,000 Ukrainians, the U.S. resettled just 125 in April and 12 in March. The good news: The Uniting for Ukraine program has had 14,500 applications in just 10 days.

As for Afghan refugees, there is a “small but very notable increase” in their resettlement this month.

To be blunt, the administration needs to walk the talk and accelerate these processes. They are saying the right thing, but painfully slow in terms of execution.

China’s demographic crisis

Foreign Affairs has an article, China’s doomed fight against demographic decline:

The median age of a Chinese citizen has increased significantly since 1978, reaching 38.4 years in 2021. If the country’s fertility rates continue to decline, the median age of a person could reach over 50 by 2050.

In 2016, China’s government scrapped its one-child policy. In 2021, it began implementing policies aimed at increasing childbearing. However, these efforts are unlikely to help raise the country’s fertility rates. The ruling Communist Party’s re-embrace of gender norms is also expected to contribute to the country’s declining birth rates.

In the 1970s, China launched a population planning program aimed at discouraging couples from having more children. The number of births per woman dropped dramatically from 5.8 to 2.7 in 1978. The program’s targets encouraged authorities to adopt policies that could lead to forced abortions and sterilizations. Fines for violating the program were typically several years’ worth of salary for the average citizen.

By 2000, Chinese academics had begun to voice concerns about the long-term demographic consequences of these policies, including significant imbalances in male-female sex ratios at birth—the result of sex-selective abortions. Officials initially assumed that merely rolling back long-standing state restrictions would boost birth rates. In 2013, Beijing announced that couples would be allowed to have two children if one parent was an only child. In 2016, the one-child policy was formally scrapped in favor of a two-child policy; in 2021, it became a three-child policy.

As the results of the 2020 census trickled out last year, Beijing went into overdrive. In the summer of 2021, the Politburo adopted the three-child policy and rolled out a comprehensive pro-natalist strategy aimed at removing financial and practical barriers deterring couples from having children.

What immigration adds to the labor force

A number of people have been estimating shortfall in our labor force due to the decline in immigration due to Trump and the pandemic from a prevailing level of about one million persons a year. The following passage (from here) estimates that the prevailing rate of 18 to 65 year old immigrants was about 660,000. At a labor force participation rate of 80% for this age cohort, that means that a half million persons were added to our workforce by immigrants every year. The passage below estimate a total shortfall due to immigration downturn of 2 million.

This is most acutely experienced in food and hospitality jobs, which today have an unfilled job rate of 13-15%, and in which 25% of the labor has been foreign born.

Trump and other Republicans sought to reduce immigration by about 40%. Call that a reduction in annual foreign-born labor force addition of say 200,000 from the 500,000 prevailing annual addition. Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would in effect increase the labor force addition by roughly 200,000, to 700,000. The prevailing increase of the labor force by U.S. born persons is around zero.

The passage from Econofact is here:

This decline in immigrant and nonimmigrant visa arrivals resulted in zero growth in working-age foreign-born people in the United States. Prior to 2019, the foreign born population of working age (18 to 65) grew by about 660,000 people per year, as reported in data from the monthly Current Population survey (see the first chart). This trend came to a stop already in 2019 before the pandemic, due to a combination of stricter immigration enforcement and a drop in the inflow of Mexican immigrants. The halt to international travel in 2020 added a significant drop in the working-age immigrant population. As of the end of 2021, the number of working-age foreign-born people in the United States is still somewhat smaller than it was in early 2019. and, relative to the level it would have achieved if the 2010-2019 trend had continued, there is a shortfall of about 2 million people. A similar calculation done using Current Population Survey (CPS) monthly data on foreign-born individuals with a college degree indicates that of the missing two million foreign workers, about 950,000 would have been college educated, had the pre-2020 trend continued. This is a very substantial loss of skilled workers, equal to 1.8 percent of all college-educated individuals working in the US in 2019.

Why democracies fail

The Washington Post notes Yascha Mounk’s latest book, The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure. “We all know the reasons. Ethnic hatreds come easy. When scapegoating demagogues stoke them during hard times, they make the classic promise: Break the democracy pact, and people like you can be great again.”

What happens if you believe, as Vice President Mike Pence told the Republican National Convention in 2020, that “the choice in this election is whether America remains America”? And what happens when your version of America loses?

Immigration is at the core of this distress. The shock that 50 million people for whom English is not the dominant language at home. The shock that Nigeria is the source of the highest educated immigrant group.  The shock that immigrants  due to citizenship have become voting eligible

Mounk tries to rewrite the basic pro-immigrant slogan: “He asks us to abandon the tired slogans, the “melting pot” and the “salad bowl,” in favor of the “public park” metaphor: “A public park is open to everyone.” “A public park gives its visitors options.” “A public park creates a vibrant space for encounter.” “

(Stephen Douglass in 1869 had coined the term “composite nationality.“)

A copy of the book’s introduction is here.

From the summary on Amazon:

Some democracies are highly homogeneous. Others have long maintained a brutal racial or religious hierarchy, with some groups dominating and exploiting others. Never in history has a democracy succeeded in being both diverse and equal, treating members of many different ethnic or religious groups fairly. And yet achieving that goal is now central to the democratic project in countries around the world. It is, Yascha Mounk argues, the greatest experiment of our time.

Drawing on history, social psychology, and comparative politics, Mounk examines how diverse societies have long suffered from the ills of domination, fragmentation, or structured anarchy. So it is hardly surprising that most people are now deeply pessimistic that different groups might be able to integrate in harmony, celebrating their differences without essentializing them. But Mounk shows us that the past can offer crucial insights for how to do better in the future. There is real reason for hope.

It is up to us and the institutions we build whether different groups will come to see each other as enemies or friends, as strangers or compatriots. To make diverse democracies endure, and even thrive, we need to create a world in which our ascriptive identities come to matter less—not because we ignore the injustices that still characterize the United States and so many other countries around the world, but because we have succeeded in addressing them.