Increased Immigration is Not A Simple Solution for US Population Woes

I do not normally agree with the Center for Immigration Studies, with its general anti-immigration work, but this analysis largely mirrors my own concerns regarding the arguments of Canadian advocates for increased immigration:

Conventional wisdom has developed that the United States desperately needs more immigration to address the supposed twin evils of population aging and slowing population growth. The 2020 Census showing the U.S. grew by “only” 22.7 million over the last decade has prompted a new round of calls to expand immigration.

In fact, immigration does not make the population substantially younger unless the level is truly enormous and ever-increasing. Moreover, there is no body of research showing that higher rates of population growth necessarily make a country richer on a per-person basis. Advocates of mass immigration also ignore the downsides of larger populations, as well as the more effective and less extreme alternatives that exist for dealing with an aging society.

Despite this reality, Jay Evensen of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News argues that the slowdown in population growth revealed by the Census “portends a population disaster.” Bloomberg News’ Noah Smith thinks lower population growth creates a “grim economic future.”

Many commentators argue for increasing immigration above the more than one million already allowed in each year to spur population growth and “rebuild the demographic pyramid,” as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush famously put it in 2013. But as the former director of Princeton’s graduate program in population studies, Thomas Espenshade, observed a number of years ago, “the effect of alternative immigration levels on population age structure is small, unless we are willing to entertain a volume of U.S. immigration of historic proportion.”

To illustrate, the Census Bureau’s “low-immigration” scenario produces a U.S. population of 376 million in 2060, compared to 447 million under its “high-immigration” scenario — a 71 million difference. Under its low-immigration scenario, 56 percent of the population will be working-age (18-64) in 2060, compared to 57 percent under its high-immigration scenario. Thus, the addition of 71 million people raises the working-age share by just one percentage point.

One reason the impact is so modest is that immigrants are not uniformly young when they arrive — many now come in their 50s and 60s — and they grow old over time just like everyone else. Moreover, immigrant fertility now only slightly exceeds native-born fertility, and their children add to the dependent population — those too young or too old to work. Of course, these children eventually grow up and become workers, but by then many of their immigrant parents will be at or near retirement age.

Given the inefficiency of immigration as a tool to address population aging, immigration advocate Justin Gest at George Mason University is forced to propose unprecedented levels of future immigration to accelerate population growth and slow population aging. In a piece for CNN and a report for the immigration advocacy group, he argues for doubling immigration to the United States to make the country “younger, more productive, and richer.”

Gest’s own projections show that the current level of immigration will make the U.S. population 74 million larger in 2050 than if there was no immigration, while doubling immigration would add another 92 million people by 2050.

Gest emphasizes that making the population 166 million larger increases the aggregate size of the economy significantly. More workers, more consumers, and more government spending does make for a larger GDP. But a larger population means the larger GDP is spread out over more people, so each individual is not necessarily better off. If all that mattered was the overall size of the economy, Bangladesh would be considered a richer country than New Zealand. Of course, what really determines the standard of living in a country is its per capita GDP.

Gest claims that the 74 million additional people that the current level of immigration would add will raise per capita income by 4 percent in 2050, relative to no immigration. He further asserts that doubling immigration would, along with an additional 92 million people, increase average income by another 3 percent. The idea behind this calculation is that if there are more workers — or more specifically, if a larger share of the population is of working-age — the average income of the entire population will be higher.

What is so striking about these numbers is that even if everything Gest argues is true, adding a total of 166 million people to the country — more than the combined populations of France and Germany — in just three decades only modestly improves per capita economic growth. But even this small increase is an overestimate if the new immigrants crowd out some existing workers from the labor force. There is certainly evidence that this happens with teenagers and Black Americans.

In the real world, it is hard to find evidence that population growth actually increases per capita economic growth. For example, if population growth were such an economic boon, then countries like Canada and Australia, which have among the highest rates of immigration and resulting population growth in the developed world, would dramatically outpace a country like Japan, which has relatively little immigration and a declining population. And yet, between 2010 and 2019, Japan’s per capita GDP growth was slightly higher than Canada’s and Australia’s. Among all developed countries, the correlation between population growth and per capita economic growth was actually negative between 2010 and 2019.

One of the reasons population growth is not associated with economic growth is that increasing the supply of workers reduces incentives to improve productivity. Looking across countries, a 2017 study by Ronald Lee and Andrew Mason found that “low fertility is not a serious economic challenge.” Instead, they find that “The effect of low fertility on the number of workers and taxpayers has been offset by greater human capital investment, enhancing the productivity of workers.” There is simply no reason to assume that a larger population will necessarily be richer.

Putting aside economics, making the population 166 million larger or even 74 million larger than it would otherwise be has important environmental implications. While population is not the only factor that determines human impact on the environment, it does have a direct bearing on everything from preventing further habitat loss to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

One can debate the severity of climate change and how best to address it. But mathematically, if the total population is 166 million (50 percent) larger in 2050 than it would otherwise be, then each person would have to reduce their greenhouse gases admission by roughly one-third just to maintain the current level of emissions, to say nothing of lowering levels. As Joseph Chamie, the former director of the United Nations Population Division, pointed out in The Hill recently, stabilizing America’s population is necessary “to deal effectively with climate change and many other critical environmental concerns.”

In addition to the environment, making the population dramatically larger must also have profound implications for the quality of life. Most Americans aspire to live in areas with a fair amount of open space. A 2018 Gallup poll found, by a two-to-one margin, that Americans want to live in rural areas or suburbs. The rapid suburbanization of immigrants shows that they share this desire. Significantly increasing the nation’s population density is likely to make it more difficult for many Americans to live the way they want to.

There is also the issue of traffic. As a Brookings Institution analysis a number of years ago concluded, “The most obvious reason traffic congestion has increased everywhere is population growth.” Traffic congestion alone has been estimated to cost the American economy $120 billion annually. Both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Department of Transportation have reported that the nation’s roads are in a state of disrepair and need significant upgrades. It is hard to imagine that adding tens of millions more people in just 30 years would not create even more congestion.

If we are concerned about population aging, there are far less radical ways to address it. Projections by Karen Zeigler and myself show that raising the retirement age by just one year increases the share of the population that is working-age (16-64) about as much as all of the immigration expected by the Census Bureau through 2050. Increasing it by three years improves it more than does doubling immigration. We also found that increasing the share of working-age people who have a job from the pre-Covid rate of 70 percent to 75 percent would do more to improve the overall share of the population who are actually workers in 2050 than would the current level of immigration.

Population boosters assume a larger population would be a boon to the economy, even though there is no clear evidence that this is the case. They also ignore the negative impact on the environment, congestion, traffic, and other qualify of life issues. There are more effective, less radical, and more environmentally sustainable ways to deal with the challenges associated with population aging than using an ever-increasing level of immigration to dramatically increase the population.

Dr. Steven Camarota is director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Source: Increased Immigration is Not A Simple Solution for US Population Woes

Why The US Is Losing Immigrant Entrepreneurs To Other Nations

Interesting longish read on how USA is becoming less attractive given immigration restrictions, and how other countries, including Canada, are benefitting:

John S. Kim, cofounder of Sendbird, which offers real-time chat and messaging for mobile apps and websites, relocated from his native South Korea to San Francisco five years ago.

He wanted to be close to his U.S. customers like Yahoo, Reddit and Headspace,have access to Silicon Valley venture capital, hire American engineers and expand his company here. He easily obtained an L-1 nonimmigrant visa for foreign executives, given that he’d first started the business in South Korea, but by 2019, he had only one extension left. He applied for a green card to get legal permanent residency—and received a letter that he’d likely be denied. “Notice of intent to deny is, ‘We’re going to kick you out; change our mind,’ ” he says. “We had raised $100 million–plus in financing, we had real revenue in the tens of millions of dollars, we were creating jobs. It was a slap in the face, for sure.”

Source: Why The US Is Losing Immigrant Entrepreneurs To Other Nations

USA: The Brewing Political Battle Over Critical Race Theory

Latest iteration of the “culture wars:”

Last month, Republican lawmakers decried critical race theory, an academic approach that examines how race and racism function in American institutions.

“Folks, we’re in a cultural warfare today,” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said at a news conference alongside six other members of the all-Republican House Freedom Caucus. “Critical race theory asserts that people with white skin are inherently racist, not because of their actions, words or what they actually believe in their heart — but by virtue of the color of their skin.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., added: “Democrats want to teach our children to hate each other.”

Republicans, who are fighting the teaching of critical race theory in schools, contend it divides Americans. Democrats and their allies maintain that progress is unlikely without examining the root causes of disparity in the country. The issue is shaping up to be a major cultural battle ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Academics, particularly legal scholars, have studied critical race theory for decades. But its main entry into the partisan fray came in 2020, when former President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning federal contractors from conducting certain racial sensitivity trainings. It was challenged in court, and President Biden rescinded the order the day he took office.

Since then, the issue has taken hold as a rallying cry among some Republican lawmakers who argue the approach unfairly forces students to consider race and racism.

“A stand-in for this larger anxiety”

Andrew Hartman, a history professor at Illinois State University, described the battle over critical race theory as typical of the culture wars, where “the issue itself is not always the thing driving the controversy.”

“I’m not really sure that the conservatives right now know what it is or know its history,” said Hartman, author of A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars.

He said critical race theory posits that racism is endemic to American society through history and that, consequently, Americans have to think about institutions like the justice system or schools through the perspective of race and racism.

However, he said, “conservatives, since the 1960s, have increasingly defined American society as a colorblind society, in the sense that maybe there were some problems in the past but American society corrected itself and now we have these laws and institutions that are meritocratic and anybody, regardless of race, can achieve the American dream.”

Confronted by the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer, as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 curriculum, which roots American history in its racist past, Hartman said many Americans want simple answers.

“And so critical race theory becomes a stand-in for this larger anxiety about people being upset about persistent racism,” he said.

Legislative action

States such as Idaho and Oklahoma have adopted laws that limit how public school teachers can talk about race in the classroom, and Republican legislatures in nearly half a dozen states have advanced similar bills that target teachings that some educators say they don’t teach anyway.

There’s movement on the national level too.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has introduced the Combating Racist Training in the Military Act, a bill that would prohibit the armed forces and academics at the Defense Department from promoting “anti-American and racist theories,” which, according to the bill’s text, includes critical race theory.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said he is co-sponsoring legislation that would prevent federal dollars from being spent on critical race theory in schools or government offices.

“The ideas behind critical race theory and [its] implementation is creating this oppressor-oppressed divide amongst our people,” Donalds told NPR. “And so no matter how you feel about the history of our country — as a Black man, I think our history has actually been quite awful, I mean, that’s without question — but you also have to take into account the progression of our country, especially over the last 60 to 70 years.”

Donalds said the country’s history, including its ills, should be taught, but that critical race theory causes more problems than solutions.

“It only causes more divisions, which doesn’t help our union become the more perfect union,” he said.

A post-racial country?

Nearly half of the speakers at the Republican news conference in May invoked Martin Luther King Jr., expressing their desire to be judged “by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

But Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a sociology professor at Duke University, said King’s dream was about the future. “He didn’t say, ‘We are now in a colorblind society,’ ” he said.

Bonilla-Silva, whose book Racism Without Racists critiques the notion that America is now “colorblind,” says he too shares King’s dream, “but in order for us to get to the promised land of colorblindness, we have to go through race. It’s the opposite of what these folks are arguing.”

He says the idea that American society is post-racial is nonsense.

“We are not, because we watched the video of George Floyd, and we are not because we have the data on income inequality, on wealth inequality, on housing inequality,” he said.

As an example, Bonilla-Silva noted the opposition of whites to affirmative action in the post-civil rights era.

“Many whites said things such as, ‘I’m not a racist. I believe in equal opportunity, which is why I oppose affirmative action, because affirmative action is discrimination in reverse,’ ” he noted.

“That statement only works if one believes that discrimination has ended,” he added. “But because it has not ended, claiming that you oppose affirmative action because it’s presumably discrimination in reverse ends up justifying the racial status quo and the inequalities.”

Motivator for the midterms?

The fight over critical race theory will likely continue to be a heated issue ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Although November 2022 seems a long way away, Christine Matthews, president of Bellwether Research and a public opinion pollster, says pushback to anti-racism teaching is exactly the kind of issue that could maintain traction among certain voters.

“I think it’s just one more addition to the culture war that the Republicans really want to fight and it’s what they want to make the 2022 midterms about,” she said.

Matthews noted that Biden’s approval ratings, in the mid-50s, are significantly higher than Trump’s were throughout his term in office, “so Republicans are wanting to make this about othering the Democrats and making them seem as extreme and threatening to white culture as possible.”

“If Republicans can make [voters] feel threatened and their place in society threatened in terms of white culture and political correctness and cancel culture, that’s a visceral and emotional issue, and I do think it could impact turnout.”

These issues could be used to galvanize conservative voters and increase their numbers at the polls.

“We have seen evidence that the Republican base is responding much more to threats on cultural issues, even to some degree more than economic issues,” Matthews said.

But Rep. Donalds said the Republican Party doesn’t need to rally the base to get it to show up to vote.

“When it comes to the ’22 elections, we don’t need additional ammunition,” he said, pointing to what he views as a list of failures from the Biden administration, from budget and taxes to shutting down the Keystone pipeline.

Doug Heye, the former communications director for the Republican National Committee, said in some ways, the attempts to mandate what schools can or can’t teach highlights just how far the GOP under Trump has moved away from traditionally conservative principles — like wanting less federal involvement in schools.

“A lot of what we might have described as conservative policy five years ago, 10 years ago, now just isn’t that case,” he said. “If we’re pushing what is a current priority for the Trump base, that’s defined as conservative, whether or not that’s a federal top-down policy or not. So the old issues of federalism has really been upended under Donald Trump’s reign as the leader of the party.”

Heye said at this point, critical race theory is still politically a “niche issue” among conservative voters, but he expects it to play a larger role in state assemblies, governors races and school boards rather than in national politics.

He said he believes it’s an issue some candidates will raise “to further rile up the base that is already pretty riled.”

“So the question will be then for Republicans: What else are they really emphasizing?” he said.

From a strategy perspective, Matthews says she thinks it will all come down to messaging.

“The Republicans are trying to make it a bad thing,” she said, “but I feel like if the Democrats got the messaging right, they could make it a good thing.”

Both sides have a little more than a year to do that.

Tribes to Confront Bias Against Descendants of Enslaved People

Of interest:

With pressure growing from the Biden administration, two Native American tribes in Oklahoma have agreed to consider reversing their policies of denying citizenship to descendants of Black people who were enslaved by them before the Civil War.

The tribes, the Choctaw Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said they would take initial steps to address the long-running demands of the descendants that they be granted equal rights as tribal citizens, an issue that has split their communities and highlighted clashes over identity and racism among Native Americans.

But the two tribes stopped short of a commitment to grant citizenship to the Black descendants, who are known as Freedmen, instead saying they would open discussions about the issue. In February, the Cherokee Nation eliminated from its constitutionlanguage that based citizenship on being descended from “by blood” tribal members listed on a federal census, the biggest step by a tribe so far to resolve the issue.

Those tribes and others, which had originally inhabited the Southeast, purchased enslaved Black people as laborers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and had brought them along when they were forcibly relocated by the federal government in a deadly ordeal known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Post-Civil War treaties in 1866 gave the formerly enslaved people all the rights of tribal citizenship. But in practice they were segregated and their citizenship rights later denied by a requirement that they be descended from non-Black tribal citizens who were on census lists more than a century ago, a situation that prompted increasing protests in recent years.

“Today we reach out to the Choctaw Freedmen. We see you. We hear you. We look forward to meaningful conversation regarding our shared past,” Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation, said in a letter announcing that the nation would consider “tribal membership for Choctaw Freedmen.”

David Hill, the principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, also wrote to the tribe’s national council proposing town hall events and a period of public comment to discuss citizenship for Creek Freedmen.

Freedmen said the tribes took action only after being pushed into it.

“Black Indians were a part of this tribe, the Choctaw Nation, they lived in the Choctaw Nation,” said Verdie Triplett, a descendant of both Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen, and who lives on the Choctaw reservation in Fort Coffee, Okla.

He added: “For them to do this now, they didn’t do it on their own. This right here is a prime example of pressure.”

The announcement from the Choctaw Nation followed a statement this month from Deb Haaland, the first Native American secretary of the Interior, addressing the Freedmen of Native American nations in Oklahoma and acknowledging their rights as citizens of the tribes that had enslaved them.

“The Cherokee Nation’s actions,” Ms. Haaland said, referring to the tribe’s decision to amend its constitution in February to grant equal status to its Freedmen population, had fulfilled “their obligations to the Cherokee Freedmen.”

“We encourage other Tribes to take similar steps to meet their moral and legal obligations to the Freedmen,” Ms. Haaland said, naming four other Native American nations in Oklahoma — the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the Chickasaw Nation and the Seminole Nation — that had owned slaves and allied themselves with the Confederacy to preserve slavery as an institution.

With those words, Ms. Haaland waded into a painful reckoning within Native American nations in Oklahoma that had historically owned slaves.

Changes to the Choctaw constitution in 1983 and the Muscogee (Creek) constitution in 1979 required that a citizen of the nation must be descended from “by blood” citizens, disqualifying the Freedmen who were counted separately in the federal census known as the Dawes Rolls of 1906. The Cherokee Nation had also previously expelled its Freedmen, and the Seminole Nation currently grants only limited citizenship to its Freedmen.

Equal citizenship in a Native American nation would qualify the Freedmen for a number of tribal services — including housing, health care and education — much of it funded by the federal government. Older Choctaw and Creek Freedmen recall being eligible for these services before they were expelled from the nations.

Funding in the CARES Act distributed to tribal nations recently funded services exclusively available to “by blood” tribal citizens. Seminole Freedmen who applied were denied because of their limited citizenship in the Seminole Nation.

The Choctaw and Creek Freedmen would also be guaranteed civil and political rights within their nations, such as the ability to vote and run for tribal office.

In interviews, descendants of Freedmen described repeated appeals to the tribes for inclusion as equal citizens and repeated denials on the basis of their race.

“It’s heartbreaking. It really is heartbreaking,” the Rev. McKinley Rice, the senior pastor at St. Matthew Baptist Church in Okmulgee, Okla., and a Creek Freedmen, said. “In the day that we live in, and in the time that we live in, we was hoping and praying that racism and discrimination was, you know, gone.”

The letter from Mr. Batton marked a shift by the Choctaw Nation. Mr. Batton wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi nearly a year ago condemning efforts by Representative Maxine Waters, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, to compel the tribe to re-enroll its Freedmen as citizens by withholding federal funding.

“The Freedman issue is a problem caused by the United States, not the Choctaw Nation,” Mr. Batton said at the time, referring to “America’s enslavement of African Americans” while making no mention that the Choctaw Freedmen are descendants of people enslaved by the Choctaw Nation.

In an interview, Mr. Batton said the federal government played a role in facilitating racist policies like the “by blood” requirement for citizenship. He added that the Interior Department ultimately accepted the constitutional changes from the Native American nations that had expelled the Freedmen in violation of Reconstruction treaties.

“My issue with the federal government is because they’ve implemented policies, and we followed those, and now they’re saying that we should not abide by those policies.” Mr. Batton said. “It’s kind of a Catch 22 as far as I’m concerned.”

Chuck Hoskin Jr., the chief of the Cherokee Nation, who has been a longtime supporter of the Freedmen, said tribes had worked tirelessly to make sure the federal government upholds its treaty obligations. Cherry picking which treaties to uphold undercuts that fight, he said.

“I don’t think any nation is as strong as it can be when it denies its history and suppresses part of its society,” Mr. Hoskin said. “I think that’s what’s happened in respect to the Freedmen.”

The Chickasaw Nation had jointly signed its Reconstruction treaty with the Choctaw Nation, but did not comply with the condition to enroll its Freedmen as citizens. Some Chickasaw Freedmen enrolled as citizens of the Choctaw Nation, but were never included as citizens of the tribe that had enslaved them.

Bill Anoatubby, the governor of the Chickasaw Nation, said in a statement responding to Ms. Haaland’s remarks that “Chickasaw citizenship is a matter of sovereignty and is clearly defined in the Chickasaw Constitution.”

The Seminole Nation did not respond to requests for comment.

LeEtta Osborne-Sampson, a Seminole Freedman who serves on the tribe’s governing council, said she did not expect the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma to follow suit voluntarily. Ms. Osborne-Sampson said the tribe’s position had long been that it would take a ruling by a higher court to compel them to allow Freedmen to be recognized as equal citizens.

Eli Grayson, a Creek citizen with Freedmen heritage, said he was skeptical of the statements from tribal leadership. He noted that the Freedmen barred from citizenship would have no influence over a vote to change the tribes’ constitutions, and predicted the measures would ultimately fail.

“Citizens today do not have a right to vote on an issue that was settled during the Civil War,” Mr. Grayson said. “They’ve already settled this treaty with the U.S. They don’t have a right to change the conditions of that treaty.”

For the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, race was a key motivation for changing the constitution. In a national council meeting in 1977discussing the changes, the principal chief at the time, Claude Cox, expressed fear that the nation would be outnumbered and replaced by its Black citizens over time.

“The full-bloods lost control. That’s what we’re fighting,” Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Hill, the current principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said in his proposal that citizenship for Freedmen “is a polarizing issue for our citizens.”

“This deeply personal and highly emotional issue goes to the heart of identity for both Creek citizens and the descendants of Freedmen,” Mr. Hill said. “As a nation committed to truth and justice it is important that we reflect upon this issue with an open heart and seek to understand what is right and equitable.”

Biden Aims to Rebuild and Expand Legal Immigration

Good overview:

If President Biden gets his way, it will soon be far easier to immigrate to the United States. There will be shorter, simpler forms and applicants will have to jump through fewer security hoops. Foreigners will have better opportunities to join their families and more chances to secure work visas.

A 46-page draft blueprint obtained by The New York Times maps out the Biden administration’s plans to significantly expand the legal immigration system, including methodically reversing the efforts to dismantle it by former President Donald J. Trump, who reduced the flow of foreign workers, families and refugees, erecting procedural barriers tougher to cross than his “big, beautiful wall.”

Because of Mr. Trump’s immigration policies, the average time it takes to approve employer-sponsored green cards has doubled. The backlog for citizenship applications is up 80 percent since 2014, to more than 900,000 cases. Approval for the U-visa program, which grants legal status for immigrants willing to help the police, has gone from five months to roughly five years.

In almost every case over the last four years, immigrating to the United States has become harder, more expensive and takes longer.

And while Mr. Biden made clear during his presidential campaign that he intended to undo much of his predecessor’s immigration legacy, the blueprint offers new details about how far-reaching the effort will be — not only rolling back Mr. Trump’s policies, but addressing backlogs and delays that plagued prior presidents.

The blueprint, dated May 3 and titled “D.H.S. Plan to Restore Trust in Our Legal Immigration System,” lists scores of initiatives intended to reopen the country to more immigrants, making good on the president’s promise to ensure America embraces its “character as a nation of opportunity and of welcome.”

“There are significant changes that need to be made to really open up all avenues of legal immigration,” said Felicia Escobar Carrillo, the chief of staff at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, of the efforts to reverse Mr. Trump’s agenda. “In the same way that they took a broad-stroke approach to closing off avenues, I think we want to take a broad approach toward opening up the legal avenues that have always been available but that they tried to put roadblocks up on.”

Since taking office four months ago, Mr. Biden has struggled with a historic surge in migration by Central American children and teenagers that has prompted some Republicans to accuse the president of flinging open the nation’s borders to people trying to enter the country illegally, a charge the White House rejects.

In fact, Mr. Biden does want to open the country to more immigrants. His ambition, as reflected in the blueprint, is to rebuild and expand the opportunities for foreigners to enter the United States — but to do so legally.

Divided into seven sections, the document offers detailed policy proposals that would help more foreigners move to the United States, including high-skilled workers, trafficking victims, the families of Americans living abroad, American Indians born in Canada, refugees, asylum-seekers and farm workers. Immigrants who apply online could pay less in fees or even secure a waiver in an attempt to “reduce barriers” to immigration. And regulations would be overhauled to “encourage full participation by immigrants in our civic life.”

Even with a more restrictive and slower immigration system, about 1 million people obtained green cards in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. Most had been waiting for years. In the final year of the Obama administration, 1.2 million people received green cards.

But if Mr. Biden accomplishes everything in the document, he will have gone further than just reversing the downward trend. He will have significantly increased opportunities for foreigners around the globe to come to the United States, embracing robust immigration even as a divisive, decades-long political debate continues to rage over such a policy.

Most of the changes could be put into practice without passage of Mr. Biden’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented people living in the United States but has stalled in a bitterly divided Congress. While surveys show that most Americans support increased immigration, many Republican voters have eagerly backed Mr. Trump’s more restrictive policies.

White House officials declined to comment directly on the Homeland Security Department’s blueprint, saying that such documents go through many drafts and that decisions about specific steps to address legal immigration remain in flux. But they said the president remained committed to significantly rolling back the restrictions imposed by his predecessor.

That effort will take time and has not yet caught the public’s attention like the surge of crossings at the southwest border. But conservative activists who have for years demanded lower levels of legal immigration are vowing a fight to stop Mr. Biden and extract a political price for his actions.

“They just want to shovel people in here,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a former Virginia attorney general who served as the acting head of Citizenship and Immigration Services under Mr. Trump. “They are not running an immigration system for the benefit of America, and certainly not for the benefit of ordinary Americans. ”

Most research has shown that legal immigration to the United States has benefits for the country’s economy, especially at a time when the country’s population growth is slowing. But Mr. Cuccinelli and others who favor severe restrictions on immigration say it is obvious to them that letting foreigners compete for jobs — especially when the country is still recovering from an economic downturn like the one created by the pandemic — will hurt the prospects for American citizens.

“The number one job for the immigration services is to make sure that immigration does not hurt Americans,” said Roy Beck, the founder of NumbersUSA, a group dedicated to far lower levels of legal immigration.

Motivated by that belief, Mr. Cuccinelli set in motion a transformation of the government’s legal immigration system during the Trump administration — changing his agency from one that confers benefits on foreigners into a “vetting agency,” in part by issuing numerous restrictions on offering asylum for immigrants and trying to raise fees.

The increased vetting, as well as travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, helped contribute to the result the Trump administration had sought: The influx of immigrants slowed significantly, as winning legal approval to enter the United States became much harder.

With fewer immigrants coming through the pipeline, there has been less money to finance Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is supported almost entirely by fees paid by immigrants. Restoring the agency to full capacity is at the heart of Mr. Biden’s effort to expand legal immigration, according to the document and interviews with administration officials.

A central element of the blueprint is addressing backlogs in the immigration system.

The administration is planning to fast-track immigration applications by expanding virtual interviews and electronic filing, as well as limiting the requests for evidence from applicants. Mr. Biden has tapped Cass R. Sunstein, a former Obama administration official and legal scholar at Harvard Law School, to remake the immigration system so it is “more effective and less burdensome” than it has been in decades by “reducing paperwork and other administrative requirements.”

Mr. Biden wants to restore opportunities for foreign employees through the existing H-1B visa program, which is intended for workers with special skills. The administration also intends to create new pathways for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to “start-up businesses and create jobs for U.S. workers,” according to the document.

Officials are working on a regulation that could allow migrants to win asylum in the United States if they are victims of domestic violence or their relatives were persecuted. During the Trump era, Attorney General William P. Barr moved to end asylum protection for those who claimed they deserved it for those reasons.

Mr. Biden is also aiming to expand immigration opportunities for L.G.B.T.Q. refugees from countries where they are persecuted or where same-sex marriages are not recognized.

In addition, he wants to revamp a program that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who help law enforcement by cooperating with police or testifying in court.

The waiting list for the U-Visa program has ballooned, leaving crime victims and survivors of domestic abuse vulnerable to abusers who may threaten to report them for deportation if they continue to talk to the police, said Leslye E. Orloff, director of the national immigrant women’s advocacy project at American University.

The Biden administration is considering extending protections to immigrants who cooperate even before they make it on the official waiting list for the visa, according to the document.

“They’re recognizing that there’s danger for these victims,” Ms. Orloff said.

Critics say the Biden administration is ignoring the negative consequences of their efforts. The H-1B program has been attacked as a loophole for tech companies to import cheap foreign workers to compete for jobs. Granting asylum to the victims of domestic abuse could open the door to accepting millions of additional people. And some Republicans say Mr. Biden should not loosen vetting of foreigners, though officials insist they will continue to screen for terrorists and other threats.

As the Biden administration pushes forward with the changes, officials appear willing to use emergency rules and presidential memos to avoid the lengthy regulatory process, in much the same way that Mr. Trump put his own agenda in place. But that could make Mr. Biden’s immigration legacy subject to a similar reversal by a Republican president in the future.

“The question looming over all of this work is how do you do this in a way that isn’t easily so capsized next time around,” said Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company in Seattle that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship.

Change could not come soon enough for Jenn Hawk, 37, who is currently living in with her Argentine husband in Poland, where he works, even though her autistic son is in the Washington area with his father.

Because of delays in processing her husband’s immigration application, she is faced with a choice: stay in Poland with the man she married, or go back to the United States alone to be with her 10-year-old son.

Ms. Hawk filed to sponsor her husband’s immigration to the United States in October of 2020, spending $575 on the application. But they are facing a delay of more than a year and a half before they can even submit their financial and medical information, let alone get an interview with an immigration officer.

“I just want to go home,” Ms. Hawk said. “It seems like they’re doing everything in their power to restrict that from being a possibility.”

State GOP lawmakers try to limit teaching about race, racism

Of note (and of course, the states are preserving existing indoctrination):

Teachers and professors in Idaho will be prevented from “indoctrinating” students on race. Oklahoma teachers will be prohibited from saying certain people are inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously. Tennessee schools will risk losing state aid if their lessons include particular concepts about race and racism.

Governors and legislatures in Republican-controlled states across the country are moving to define what race-related ideas can be taught in public schools and colleges, a reaction to the nation’s racial reckoning after last year’s police killing of George Floyd. The measures have been signed into law in at least three states and are being considered in many more.

Educators and education groups are concerned that the proposals will have a chilling effect in the classroom and that students could be given a whitewashed version of the nation’s history. Teachers are also worried about possible repercussions if a student or parent complains.

“Once we remove the option of teachers incorporating all parts of history, we’re basically silencing the voices of those who already feel oppressed,” said Lakeisha Patterson, a third-grade English and social studies teacher who lives in Houston and worries about a bill under consideration in Texas.

At least 16 states are considering or have signed into law bills that would limit the teaching of certain ideas linked to “critical race theory,” which seeks to reframe the narrative of American history. Its proponents argue that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.

Those states include Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

The latest state to implement a law is Tennessee, where the governor this past week signed a bill to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools.

The legislative debate over that bill caused a stir earlier this month when a Republican lawmaker who supports it, state Rep. Justin Lafferty, wrongly declared that the Constitution’s original provision designating a slave as three-fifths of a person was adopted for “the purpose of ending slavery.” Historians largely agree that the compromise gave slaveholding states more political power.

Some other states have taken steps that fall short of legislative change.

After Utah’s Republican governor blocked a vote on a set of similar bills, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a symbolic resolution recommending that the state review any curriculum that examines the ways in which race and racism influence American politics, culture and the law.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp wrote in a letter to state education board members that they should “take immediate steps to ensure that Critical Race Theory and its dangerous ideology do not take root in our state standards or curriculum.”

Montana’s attorney general issued a binding decision Thursday declaring that certain teachings violate the U.S. and state constitutions and that schools, local governments and public workplaces could lose state funding and be on the hook for damages stemming from lawsuits if they provide critical race theory training or activities.

The National Education Association and the National Council for the Social Studies oppose legislation to limit what ideas can be presented inside a classroom.

“It creates a very chilling atmosphere of distrust, educators not being able to be the professionals they are not only hired to be but are trained to be,” said Lawrence Paska, a former middle school social studies teacher in New York and executive director of the council.

Republicans have said concepts suggesting that people are inherently racist or that America was founded on racial oppression are divisive and have no place in the classroom.

Earlier this month, Republicans in the North Carolina House moved to prohibit teachers from promoting seven concepts that critically examine race and racism, including the belief that a person’s race or sex determines their moral character, that people bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex, and that they should feel guilty because of those two characteristics.

Rep. John Torbett, a Republican who leads North Carolina’s House education committee, said the legislation was intended to promote equality, not rewrite history.

“It ensures equity,” Torbett said during a hearing this month. “It ensures that all people in society are equitable. It has no mention of history.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw, executive director of the African American Policy Forum, was among those who helped popularize critical race theory in the 1970s and 1980s as a response to what she and others felt was a lack of progress following passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

She said Republicans are twisting the concept to inflame racial tensions and motivate their base of mostly white supporters.

“This is a 2022 strategy to weaponize white insecurity, to mobilize ideas that have been mobilized again and again throughout history, using a concept or set of ideas that they can convince people is the new boogeyman,” Crenshaw said.

The boundary between teaching ideas and promoting them has stirred concern among teachers and racial justice scholars.

Uncertainty about that boundary could cause teachers to avoid difficult conversations about American history, said Cheryl Harris, a UCLA Law School professor who teaches a course on critical race theory.

“For anybody who’s ever taught in a classroom, the idea is to get the conversation flowing, and you can’t do that if you’re preoccupied with which side of the line are you going to be on,” Harris said. “That is a chilling effect, and that is every bit as offensive to the First Amendment as a direct ban.”

Opponents of the North Carolina bill say it’s a solution in search of a problem. Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the bill’s promoters could not point to any school in the state where students were being indoctrinated in certain racial concepts.

That’s just one reason the bill faces an uphill climb. The press secretary for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said the governor believes instruction should be honest and accurate, and that students need to be taught to think critically.

The legislation also faces skepticism from the Republican leader of the state Senate, where it will be considered next.

“I don’t like making it illegal to teach a certain doctrine, as wrong as that doctrine may be, while saying the reason for that ban is freedom of thought,” Sen. Phil Berger said in a statement. “That strikes me as a contradiction.”

Source: State GOP lawmakers try to limit teaching about race, racism

How Religion, Education, Race And Media Consumption Shape Conspiracy Theory Beliefs

Of note:

Religion, education, race and media consumption are strong predictors of conspiracy theory acceptance among Americans, according to a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.

The survey of 5,149 adults living across the United States released on Thursday finds a strong correlation between consuming right-wing media sources and accepting conspiracy theories such as QAnon.

The poll examines ties between religious beliefs and belief in false conspiracy theories. White evangelicals and Hispanic Protestants were the most susceptible to the QAnon theory. 

About 1 in 4 respondents from those religious groups said they believed that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” a statement associated with the false QAnon conspiracy theory. 

That’s notably higher than the 15% of Black Protestants, as well as 15% of Americans overall, who agreed with that statement. At 8%, Jewish Americans were the religious group least likely to say they agree.

The report also looks at education and media consumption. Americans who said they consume far-right news sources reported the highest rates of conspiracy theory acceptance; close to half said they believe in the tenets of QAnon. The survey defined outlets such as Newsmax and One America News Network, or OANN, as “far-right.”


USCIS: Citizenship agency eyes improved service without plan to pay

Canada also needs to modernize its citizenship program (, including full integration into the GCMS modernization project):

Less than a year after being on the verge of furloughing about 70% of employees to plug a funding shortfall, the U.S. agency that grants citizenship, green cards and temporary visas wants to improve service without a detailed plan to pay for it, including granting waivers for those who can’t afford to pay fees, according to a proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

The Homeland Security Department sent its 14-page plan to enhance procedures for becoming a naturalized citizen to the White House for approval on April 21, It involves U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of Homeland Security and has been operating entirely on fees, without funding from Congress.

The plan describes short- and long-term changes that reflect “a realistic assessment of our aspirations and limitations,” including more video instead of in-person interviews with applicants, authorizing employees to administer citizenship oaths instead of having to rely on federal judges, and promoting online filing to reduce processing times.

Homeland Security says it can all be done without the approval of Congress, where consensus on immigration has proven elusive for years.

Taken together, the changes mark a complete break from the Trump administration, when the agency focused on combatting fraud and adjusted to shrinking immigration benefits, such as ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to shield young people from deportation.

The plan also seeks to give potential U.S. citizens the benefit of the doubt. For instance, it specifies that an immigrant who mistakenly registers to vote in U.S. elections before becoming a citizen won’t be punished. Doing so now can lead to deportation or criminal charges, likely ending a person’s chance for citizenship.

The issue has been in the spotlight amid a recent surge in automatic voter registration and former President Donald Trump’s repeated unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. Last year, Illinois’ automatic voter registration program mistakenly registered hundreds of people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens. At least one voted.

The document that aims to improve the citizenship process is designed to “encourage full participation in our civic life and democracy” and to deliver services effectively and efficiently.

It doesn’t provide cost estimates for any of the proposed changes, though some measures appear designed to save money as well as achieve efficiencies. It also acknowledges success depends on long-term financial stability, which includes asking Congress for money.

Under the plan, the agency would continue subsidizing the costs of becoming a citizen to make sure the process is available to as many people as possible. Guidelines on fee waivers would be consistent and transparent, it said.

The administration “recognizes that the cost of fees can be a barrier to certain individuals filing for naturalization and is committed to providing affordable naturalizations,” the document reads. “This will mean that other fee-paying applicants and petitioners will continue to subsidize this policy decision to ensure full cost recovery.”

The White House and Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fiscal challenges came to a head last summer when the agency threatened more than 13,000 furloughs to tackle a projected $1.26 billion shortfall. But a few tense months later, it said it didn’t need the money after all and would end the year with a surplus. The agency’s then-acting director, Joseph Edlow, said application fees rebounded more than expected as offices reopened from coronavirus shutdowns and contracts were reviewed for cost savings.

The anticipated shortfall first surfaced in November 2019, when the agency proposed major fee increases — well before COVID-19 threatened finances.

The budget whiplash raised doubts about how the agency’s finances deteriorated so rapidly then suddenly recovered. Ur Jaddou, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in April to lead the agency, was among those with questions.

Jaddou, who served as the agency’s chief counsel under President Barack Obama, said in October that the agency needed a financial audit. She questioned some changes under the Trump administration, including justification for a major expansion of an anti-fraud unit and a requirement, since abandoned by Biden, to reject applications that left any spaces blank.

“It really is a bunch of bureaucratic red tape,” she said when discussing the agency’s financial woes.

Fees were set to increase by an average of 20% last October but a federal judge blocked them days before they were to take effect. The fee to become a naturalized citizen was set to jump to $1,170 from $640. Fee waivers were to be largely eliminated for people who could not afford to apply.

Other Trump-era fee changes that were stopped included a first-ever charge to apply for asylum of $50. Asylum-seekers would also have to pay $550 if they sought work authorization and $30 for collecting biometrics.

The wait to process a citizenship application grew to more than a year by the end of Trump’s presidency from less than eight months four years earlier.

Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications

One of the more significant articles I have seen recently, highlighting the need for countries and societies to adapt to declining populations. While traditional immigrant receiving countries like Canada, Australia and the USA can blunt the decline somewhat, they will also feel the effects on an aging population.

Just as in climate change where adaptation and reduction strategies are both needed, relying only on immigration, as Canada largely does, to mitigate (slow down) the decline, will not address successfully the longer-term trends.

Politicians, policy makers and stakeholders need to devote more attention to other policy responses beyond simply increased immigration. After all, declining populations in most of our source countries may make Canada relatively less attractive in economic terms:

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.

“A paradigm shift is necessary,” said Frank Swiaczny, a German demographer who was the chief of population trends and analysis for the United Nations until last year. “Countries need to learn to live with and adapt to decline.”

The ramifications and responses have already begun to appear, especially in East Asia and Europe. From Hungary to China, from Sweden to Japan, governments are struggling to balance the demands of a swelling older cohort with the needs of young people whose most intimate decisions about childbearing are being shaped by factors both positive (more work opportunities for women) and negative (persistent gender inequality and high living costs).

The 20th century presented a very different challenge. The global population saw its greatest increase in known history, from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000, as life spans lengthened and infant mortality declined. In some countries — representing about a third of the world’s people — those growth dynamics are still in play. By the end of the century, Nigeria could surpass China in population; across sub-Saharan Africa, families are still having four or five children.

But nearly everywhere else, the era of high fertility is ending. As women have gained more access to education and contraception, and as the anxieties associated with having children continue to intensify, more parents are delaying pregnancy and fewer babies are being born. Even in countries long associated with rapid growth, such as India and Mexico, birthrates are falling toward, or are already below, the replacement rate of 2.1 children per family.

The change may take decades, but once it starts, decline (just like growth) spirals exponentially. With fewer births, fewer girls grow up to have children, and if they have smaller families than their parents did — which is happening in dozens of countries — the drop starts to look like a rock thrown off a cliff.

“It becomes a cyclical mechanism,” said Stuart Gietel Basten, an expert on Asian demographics and a professor of social science and public policy at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s demographic momentum.”

Some countries, like the United States, Australia and Canada, where birthrates hover between 1.5 and 2, have blunted the impact with immigrants. But in Eastern Europe, migration out of the region has compounded depopulation, and in large parts of Asia, the “demographic time bomb” that first became a subject of debate a few decades ago has finally gone off.

South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019 — less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world. Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.

That declining birthrate, coupled with a rapid industrialization that has pushed people from rural towns to big cities, has created what can feel like a two-tiered society. While major metropolises like Seoul continue to grow, putting intense pressure on infrastructure and housing, in regional towns it’s easy to find schools shut and abandoned, their playgrounds overgrown with weeds, because there are not enough children.

Expectant mothers in many areas can no longer find obstetricians or postnatal care centers. Universities below the elite level, especially outside Seoul, find it increasingly hard to fill their ranks — the number of 18-year-olds in South Korea has fallen from about 900,000 in 1992 to 500,000 today. To attract students, some schools have offered scholarships and even iPhones.

To goose the birthrate, the government has handed out baby bonuses. It increased child allowances and medical subsidies for fertility treatments and pregnancy. Health officials have showered newborns with gifts of beef, baby clothes and toys. The government is also building kindergartens and day care centers by the hundreds. In Seoul, every bus and subway car has pink seats reserved for pregnant women.

But this month, Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki admitted that the government — which has spent more than $178 billion over the past 15 years encouraging women to have more babies — was not making enough progress. In many families, the shift feels cultural and permanent.

“My grandparents had six children, and my parents five, because their generations believed in having multiple children,” said Kim Mi-kyung, 38, a stay-at-home parent. “I have only one child. To my and younger generations, all things considered, it just doesn’t pay to have many children.”

Thousands of miles away, in Italy, the sentiment is similar, with a different backdrop.

In Capracotta, a small town in southern Italy, a sign in red letters on an 18th-century stone building looking on to the Apennine Mountains reads “Home of School Kindergarten” — but today, the building is a nursing home.

Residents eat their evening broth on waxed tablecloths in the old theater room.

“There were so many families, so many children,” said Concetta D’Andrea, 93, who was a student and a teacher at the school and is now a resident of the nursing home. “Now there is no one.”

The population in Capracotta has dramatically aged and contracted — from about 5,000 people to 800. The town’s carpentry shops have shut down. The organizers of a soccer tournament struggled to form even one team.

About a half-hour away, in the town of Agnone, the maternity ward closed a decade ago because it had fewer than 500 births a year, the national minimum to stay open. This year, six babies were born in Agnone.

“Once you could hear the babies in the nursery cry, and it was like music,” said Enrica Sciullo, a nurse who used to help with births there and now mostly takes care of older patients. “Now there is silence and a feeling of emptiness.”

In a speech last Friday during a conference on Italy’s birthrate crisis, Pope Francis said the “demographic winter” was still “cold and dark.”

More people in more countries may soon be searching for their own metaphors. Birth projections often shift based on how governments and families respond, but according to projections by an international team of scientists published last year in The Lancet, 183 countries and territories — out of 195 — will have fertility rates below replacement level by 2100.

Their model shows an especially sharp decline for China, with its population expected to fall from 1.41 billion now to about 730 million in 2100. If that happens, the population pyramid would essentially flip. Instead of a base of young workers supporting a narrower band of retirees, China would have as many 85-year-olds as 18-year-olds.

China’s rust belt, in the northeast, saw its population drop by 1.2 percent in the past decade, according to census figures released on Tuesday. In 2016, Heilongjiang Province became the first in the country to have its pension system run out of money. In Hegang, a “ghost city” in the province that has lost almost 10 percent of its population since 2010, homes cost so little that people compare them to cabbage.

Many countries are beginning to accept the need to adapt, not just resist. South Korea is pushing for universities to merge. In Japan, where adult diapers now outsell ones for babies, municipalities have been consolidated as towns age and shrink. In Sweden, some cities have shifted resources from schools to elder care. And almost everywhere, older people are being asked to keep working. Germany, which previously raised its retirement age to 67, is now considering a bump to 69.

Going further than many other nations, Germany has also worked through a program of urban contraction: Demolitions have removed around 330,000 units from the housing stock since 2002.

And if the goal is revival, a few green shoots can be found. After expanding access to affordable child care and paid parental leave, Germany’s fertility rate recently increased to 1.54, up from 1.3 in 2006. Leipzig, which once was shrinking, is now growing again after reducing its housing stock and making itself more attractive with its smaller scale.

“Growth is a challenge, as is decline,” said Mr. Swiaczny, who is now a senior research fellow at the Federal Institute for Population Research in Germany.

Demographers warn against seeing population decline as simply a cause for alarm. Many women are having fewer children because that’s what they want. Smaller populations could lead to higher wages, more equal societies, lower carbon emissions and a higher quality of life for the smaller numbers of children who are born.

But, said Professor Gietel Basten, quoting Casanova: “There is no such thing as destiny. We ourselves shape our lives.”

The challenges ahead are still a cul-de-sac — no country with a serious slowdown in population growth has managed to increase its fertility rate much beyond the minor uptick that Germany accomplished. There is little sign of wage growth in shrinking countries, and there is no guarantee that a smaller population means less stress on the environment.

Many demographers argue that the current moment may look to future historians like a period of transition or gestation, when humans either did or did not figure out how to make the world more hospitable — enough for people to build the families that they want.

Surveys in many countries show that young people would like to be having more children, but face too many obstacles.

Anna Parolini tells a common story. She left her small hometown in northern Italy to find better job opportunities. Now 37, she lives with her boyfriend in Milan and has put her desire to have children on hold.

She is afraid her salary of less than 2,000 euros a month would not be enough for a family, and her parents still live where she grew up.

“I don’t have anyone here who could help me,” she said. “Thinking of having a child now would make me gasp.”


For more conventional thinking, see the Foreign Affairs article by , which is similar to the arguments of the Century Initiative, Irving Studin and others. Only at the end does the author acknowledge that “quality” (e.g., human capital, skills etc) matter as much if not more than numbers):

The United States’ global preeminence owes a great deal to demographics. After the collapse and fragmenting of the Soviet Union, the United States became the world’s third most populous country, behind the giants China and India. By comparison to other developed countries, the United States maintained unusually high levels of fertility and immigration—a phenomenon I termed “American demographic exceptionalism” in these pages in 2019. Since the end of the Cold War, the overall American population and its number of working-age people (between the ages of 20 and 64) have grown more rapidly than those of other developed countries—and faster, too, than those of rivals China and Russia. Growing working-age populations boost national productivity in economies run by governments that can successfully develop and tap human resources. For modern welfare states, the slower aging of the population forestalls some of the fiscal burdens built into current arrangements.  

To the extent that crude demographic trends matter in world affairs, they have been running to the United States’ advantage for some time. But big changes are underway. The initial returns from the U.S. 2020 census and the reports about last year’s birth totals offered sobering news: with the slowdown of population growth and steady declines in national fertility, the United States now seems to be charting a less optimistic demographic path, one leading to a grayer and less populous future.   

The United States may be losing its advantage and becoming less exceptional as Americans choose to have fewer children. To the degree that lower birthrates signal diminished popular confidence about the future, the drop-off in fertility warrants attention and perhaps concern. Slower population growth could also have troublesome longer-term implications for Washington’s pay-as-you-go entitlements for senior citizens and other social welfare programs. But a look under the hood of the latest population data and projections suggests that there is no immediate reason to be alarmed about the country’s prospective international standing. The United States will remain in a strong demographic position with respect to its competitors for decades to come.


The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 “headline” numbers formally ratify something demographers already knew: the United States’ population growth has been decelerating steadily since 1990—and is now at the slowest recorded tempo in the country’s history, apart from the Great Depression era. Between 2010 and 2020, the U.S. population grew by an estimated 7.4 percent. That is a distinctly slower rate of growth than that of the previous decade, when the United States’ population grew by just under ten percent.

Interestingly—some would say surprisingly—immigration does not seem to have much to do with this slowdown: indirect indications suggest net immigration amounted to about a million people a year over the 2010s, roughly the same level as in the previous decade. Rather, changes in birth and death trends explain the shift. “Natural increase”—the total number of births minus deaths—averaged 1.7 million annually for the decade between 2000 and 2009 but just 1.2 million between 2010 and 2019. In 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it fell below 900,000, the lowest annual sum on record since at least 1933, when the United States’ nationwide birth and death registration system was completed.

The falloff in U.S. natural increase in the 2010s was partly due to an increase in annual deaths—an entirely predictable result of the aging of the overall population. But the slump in births played a greater role. Birth totals in 2019 were down by over half a million from their all-time high of 4.3 million in 2007, just before the Great Recession.

Total fertility rates—a measure of births per woman per lifetime—tell the American childbearing story on a more human scale. For the two decades leading up to the Great Recession, the United States’ total fertility rate averaged just over two births per woman. Between 2007 and 2019, however, the U.S. rate dropped from over 2.1 (just above the level for long-term population replacement) to 1.7, below replacement level. That was the lowest rate ever recorded for the United States—until now. The provisional birth figures for 2020 indicate another four percent drop, to about 3.6 million,  implying a 2020 national total fertility rate of around 1.64—more than 20 percent below replacement level.

The available data document a substantial and remarkably widespread fertility reduction since the Great Recession. Demographers are wary of supplying definitive reasons for such changes. Economic concerns may play a part, with some blamingthe high costs of child-rearing for their reluctance to have more children or any children at all. Younger generations may also have different priorities and cultural attitudes from those of their predecessors; the rising cohort of millennials, who make up most of today’s population of childbearing ages, is decidedly less religious and also less sanguine about the future.


But the demographic future remains relatively bright for the United States. The 2020 census results seem far from harbingers of doom, especially when placed in a broader context. Take, for instance, some of the low-end projections of future U.S. population growth. The UN Population Division’s “low variant” models are instructive: these assign the United States a total fertility rate below 1.4 for the second half of the 2020s—a nationwide average lower, in other words, than that of any single U.S. state in 2019—and an even lower rate during the 2030s and 2040s. Even with this strikingly low fertility rate, the projected U.S. population would still rise for the next generation, peaking in 2047 at just under 350 million people, where it would roughly remain through 2050. The number of working-age people would likewise rise modestly during the next quarter century in this scenario—to a projected 2050 level about five percent higher than the corresponding total for 2020.

As that exercise demonstrates, the 2020 census results should not cause a “depopulationist” panic. Even with extreme and unrelenting sub-replacement fertility levels, the United States’ total population and working-age population are on course to keep growing. Continuing migration and the “population momentum” built into the United States’ current demographic structure (as rising cohorts move into age groups currently occupied by comparatively smaller cohorts) would push the overall U.S. population and working-age population to higher totals for at least another generation.

As a result, the United States will likely retain a demographic edge over other great powers. China, Japan, Russia, and the countries of the European Union have all had sub-replacement fertility rates for much longer than the United States. Their current fertility levels are all lower than that of the United States. And their populations are all older than the U.S. population today. (China has the most youthful population of those other powers, but its median age has already exceeded that of the United States.)

The United States’ most recent year of achieving replacement-level fertility was 2008. By contrast, Japan and the EU fell into sub-replacement fertility in the 1970s, China and Russia in the early 1990s. Although the United States’ surfeit of births over deaths has been steadily dwindling for over a decade, deaths have outnumbered births in the EU since about 2012, and Eurostat projects the combined population of the 27 EU member states will begin shrinking around 2025. Japan has had a surplus of deaths over births since 2007 and a continuously shrinking population since 2011. Russia has seen nearly 14 million more deaths than births since the fall of the Soviet Union.

As for China (as I noted in Foreign Affairs back in 2019 and again this year), the working-age population is already in decline; depopulation is set to commence within the coming decade—perhaps much sooner—and the country is on a path toward extremely rapid population aging, with all that implies for economic performance and domestic social need. The particulars of China’s future demographic course will become clearer when the details of China’s 2020 census are divulged—but Beijing’s unexplained month-long delay in announcing even summary findings from the count suggests official displeasure with those results. Among other unpleasant demographic surprises, the Chinese Communist Party has seen births plunge since the suspension of the regime’s harsh one-child policy in 2015. China’s still imperfect vital registration system tallied almost 18 million births in 2016, but the 2020 census reports only 12 million births in 2020. That extremely low reading may reflect the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic (a crisis the regime insists it has always had well under control)—but as demographers learn more, they may find that China’s demographic slide is progressing even more rapidly than they thought.

Of all the presumptive great powers, only India stands to see greater and more rapid total population and working-age population growth than the United States over the coming generation and to remain a more youthful society than the United States. As is well known, in just a few years India will displace China as the world’s most populous country and will surpass China in working-age population shortly after that. But India is now entering sub-replacement fertility, too: UN estimates suggest India’s under 20 population is already declining, and India’s working-age population could peak before 2050.


The dip in fertility in the United States does suggest that clear-cut U.S. demographic exceptionalism may be over, at least for the time being. The United States will likely surrender its place as the third most populous country in the world to Nigeria at some point before 2050. But it will remain a fairly young and vital society, at least with respect to other developed countries and to competitors such as China and Russia.

Nevertheless, U.S. strategists and policymakers should not take too much comfort in this fact. Raw population numbers won’t on their own strengthen the United States in its competition with others. The United States must also maintain its edge over competitors in developing human capital—a lead that has been dwindling for decades. Revitalizing health, education, and other facets of the country’s human resource base is an urgent task in its own right—and will pay geopolitical dividends.


The War on Critical Race Theory

Good long read (The Atlantic also, The GOP’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ Obsession)

According to the right, a specter is haunting the United States: the specter of critical race theory (CRT).

On the eve of losing the presidency, Donald Trump issued an executive order in September banning “diversity and race sensitivity training” in government agencies, including all government “spending related to any training on critical race theory.” He was prompted, apparently, by hearing an interview with conservative activist Christopher Rufo on Fox News characterizing “critical race theory programs in government” as “the cult of indoctrination.” (President Biden ended the ban as soon as he took office.) In March Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, introduced a bill seeking to ban the teaching of CRT in the military because—he charges without argument or evidence—it is “racist.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned CRT from being covered in Florida’s public schools for “teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other.” Republican majority lawmakers in the state of Idaho prohibited the use of state funding for student “social justice” activities of any kind at public universities and threatened to withhold funding earmarked for “social justice programming and critical race theory.” Lawmakers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Utah are following suit.

The exact targets of critical race theory’s critics vary wildly, but it is obvious that most critics simply do not know what they are talking about.

Similar attacks are afoot abroad. In Britain a government minister declared in October that the government was “unequivocally against” the concept, even though records show that the phrase “critical race theory” had never once been uttered in the House of Commons before that time. And a British government “Race Report,” commissioned by Boris Johnson in the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, was just released amidst considerable controversy for its reductive definition of racial discrimination as nothing but the explicit invocation of skin color. For the French, criticism of a “decolonial” turn in the academy is being invoked to do the sort of political silencing that CRT has been advanced to do by conservatives in the United States and Britain. (Never mind that decolonialization—as a term, a politics, and a field of study—was around well before CRT.) President Emmanuel Macron and his ministers have castigated the importation of “certain social science theories” from “American universities” for leading to “the ethnicization of the social question,” and prominent intellectuals have denounced discussions of race. Philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff, whose earlier work tracked the history of anti-Semitism, indicts contemporary anti-racist critics of the French state as guilty of “anti-white racism.” An assistant attorney general in Australia insisted an anti-racism program should not be funded because “taxpayer funds” were being used “to promote critical race theory.”

The attacks have also made their way to my office doorstep, probably due to my small contribution to the body of scholarship to which “critical race theory” actually refers—scholarship that first emerged several decades ago, not in the last few years, as a critical response to what was then known as “critical legal studies.” When I picked up my mail a few weeks ago, I found a thick hand-addressed envelope with no return address; the contents included an eight-page-long screed denouncing CRT as “hateful fraud.” The documents are copies of resources prepared by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York (CACAGNY), which filed an amicus brief in the failed Supreme Court case challenging what the group characterized as discrimination by Harvard University against Asian American applicants. The materials echo essays sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, which calls CRT “the new intolerance” and “the rejection of the underpinnings of Western civilization.” The materials suggest a more coordinated campaign than many seem to have realized; I am surely not the only one who received this package.

What do all these attacks add up to? The exact targets of CRT’s critics vary wildly, but it is obvious that most critics simply do not know what they are talking about. Instead, CRT functions for the right today primarily as an empty signifier for any talk of race and racism at all, a catch-all specter lumping together “multiculturalism,” “wokeism,” “anti-racism,” and “identity politics”—or indeed any suggestion that racial inequities in the United States are anything but fair outcomes, the result of choices made by equally positioned individuals in a free society. They are simply against any talk, discussion, mention, analysis, or intimation of race—except to say we shouldn’t talk about it.

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Among CRT’s critics little distinction is drawn, in particular, between the academic disciplines of critical race theory and critical race studies. Critical race theory refers to a body of legal scholarship developed in the 1970s and ’80s, largely out of Harvard Law School, by the likes of Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Patricia Williams, Mari Matsuda, and Charles Lawrence, III, among others. Though varied in their views, what unites the work of these scholars is a shared sense of the importance of attending explicitly to race in legal argument, given the perpetuation of racial and other hierarchies through the structure of colorblind law instituted after the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The framework has since been taken up, expanded, and applied more generally to social discourse and practice. As a jurisprudential and social theory it is open to critique and revision, even rejection with compelling counterargument—all notably absent from the current attacks.

CRT functions for the right today primarily as a catch-all specter lumping together “multiculturalism,” “wokeism,” “anti-racism,” and “identity politics”—or indeed any suggestion that racial inequities in the United States are anything but fair outcomes.

Critical race studies, by contrast, encompass a broader, more loosely affiliated array of academic work. Some far more compelling than others, these accounts have been taken up, debated, and indeed sometimes dismissed in the expansive analysis of race and racism in and beyond the academy today. Very little holds all of these accounts together beyond taking race and racism as objects of analysis. Two radically divergent books, for example—Isabel Wilkerson’s latest bestseller, Caste, and Oliver Cromwell Cox’s classic, Caste, Class, and Race (1948)—share little in common, though both would be recognized as works in critical race studies.

In conservative accounts, the two authors most commonly cited as CRT’s principal exemplars are Ibram X. Kendi, who trained not in law but in African American Studies (he is CRT’s “New Age guru,” according to the Heritage Foundation), and Robin DiAngelo, a professor of education. Neither is a critical race theorist in the traditional legal sense, and Kendi’s popularizing of some work on race shares little with DiAngelo’s reductive account of what she calls “white fragility.” Other screeds also dismiss philosophers Angela Davis and Achille Mbembe as “scholar-activists” (as if there is something damning about the title). Of course, there is no evidence anywhere of either ever claiming anything resembling that “everyone and everything White is complicit” in racial oppression, or that “all unequal outcomes by race . . . is the result of racial oppression,” as the CACAGNY documents put it.

According to the CACAGNY screed, CRT claims that “you are only your race” and that “by your race alone you will be judged.” The theory of intersectionality—first elaborated by Crenshaw—belies the point, of course, arguing that race operates along with other key determinants of social positioning such as class, gender, disability, and so on. Nor do I know of any serious CRT scholar who would endorse the CACAGNY qualification that, in intersection “with other victimization categories” like gender, “race is always primary.” The point of intersectional analysis is that conditions and context dictate what the primary and exacerbating determinants of inequality and victimization are in specific circumstances. Indeed, one of Crenshaw’s seminal contributions to CRT scholarship specifically criticized the limitations of a “single-axis framework,” including those that focus on race to the exclusion of a supplementary “analysis of sexism.”

Another measure of the ideological dishonesty can be found in the cheapness of these screeds’ intellectual genealogies. According to CACAGNY, CRT simply substitutes “race struggle” for “class struggle” in the work of “such hate promoters as Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Schmitt, Marcuse, Foucault, and Freire.” Apparently critics cannot be bothered to imagine sources other than white men. For them there was no Frederick Douglass, no W. E. B. Du Bois, no Zora Neale Hurston, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Frantz Fanon, no Aimé Césaire, Alain Locke, or Charles Hamilton Houston, no Stokely Carmichael, Charles Hamilton, or Audre Lorde—and on and on. Their list of progenitors is instead plainly meant to conjure “neo-Marxist” bogeymen, the association with Marxism or socialism the surefire means to parodic conservative dismissal. Needless to say, I have not seen any mention, let alone analysis, of the substantive body of literature on racial capitalism and racial neoliberalism.

The conservative attacks weaponize colorblindness in an effort to neoliberalize racism—to reduce it to a matter of personal beliefs, rather than structural injustice.

A small circle of conservative outlets appears to be responsible for the bulk of the messaging. One of them is City Journal, a voice of the Manhattan Institute long committed to defending and defining the conservative and anti-anti-racist values of the day. The Heritage Foundation, decades-long coordinator of attacks on progressive critical thought, provides the cement, insisting that CRT “seeks to undermine the foundations of American society”—implicitly admitting the racism at the country’s basis. The groups Campus Reform and Turning Point USA weaponize these criticisms to spy on faculty and students across the country they take to be too liberal for the national good. Freedom of expression is cancelled for all but those shouting their agreement with them. National Review gets in on the act by publishing a dismissive review of what they take to be the founding texts of whiteness studies—three decades after those texts were published. These are contemporary extensions of the practices conducted by David Horowitz’s Freedom Center over the last couple of decades; all that is new are the terms of indictment. The critics, NGOs and politicians alike, are mobilizing the very tactics for which they excoriate CRT.

City Journal has published a growing number of articles attacking CRT, many by Rufo—a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute, best known for its unstinting advocacy of intelligent design. Rufo pits a self-styled disenfranchised right against a supposedly out-of-control government set to impose dogma on the unsuspecting:

critical race theory . . . is an almost entirely government-created and government-sponsored ideology, developed in public and publicly-subsidized universities, formulated into policy by public bureaucracies, and transmitted to children in the public school system. The critical race theorists and their enablers at the New York Times and elsewhere want the right to enshrine their personal ideology as official state dogma. They prioritize the “freedom of the state” over the “freedom of the individual”—the prelude, whether deliberate or accidental, to any totalitarian system.

The ideological dishonesty is almost too obvious. Bell, Crenshaw, and others would be surprised to hear it was the government that created CRT. And the irony of the accusation of individual freedoms being sacrificed to the state will not be lost on those noting the current undertaking by these vigorous conservative efforts to impose its ideology on the state. The truth is that the only high-level coordinated campaign attempting to “enshrine” a view of CRT “as state dogma” is a dismissive one. It is the French president who has echoed Heritage Foundation publications and webinars. It is the British prime minister who has authorized a Race Report committed to downplaying racism in society along with the history and legacy of slavery. And it is conservative state governors and politicians in the United States who are acting to legislate bans.

The attacks on CRT and CRS often center examples of egregious “anti-racist” practices, attributed usually to K–12 school classrooms or student groups on university campuses. As with Rufo, decontextualized quotes and positions are often lifted from academic publications; Dinesh D’Souza honed such practices to an art in the 1990s. While many, if not all, of the targeted claims are peripheral to much of CRS and all but missing from CRT, critics attribute their occurrence to the impact, influence, or implication of CRS commitments.

It is true that anti-racism today has been turned into something of an industry. But an honest critique of CRT would take issue with its actual assumptions, logic, and conclusions.

It is true that anti-racism today has been turned into something of an industry. But “diversity training,” “racial equity,” “systemic” and “institutional” racism, and indeed “anti-racism” itself are not the inventions of CRT; all but diversity training predate it. Like “diversity” over the past decade and “multiculturalism” before that, critical race theory is being made the bag now carrying the load long critical of racism. The foolishness sometimes said and done in its name—including some genuinely wince-worthy—is being used as a sledgehammer to bash any effort to discuss and remedy racial injustice. Attempts to turn these into a manual, largely by those looking to advance personal, professional, or pecuniary standing, are doomed to ridicule, which in turn unleashes the conservative caricatures.

Critics such as Thomas Sowell, taking CRT reductively to claim that racism alone disadvantages Black people, counter that education is a major enabling factor in Black advancement. On the face of it nothing objectionable there. But in blaming Black people for lesser educational attainment, they pay no attention to deep, structurally produced inequities in public school funding. They ignore historical lack of access translating into cross-generational disadvantage. They sideline racially disproportionate class differences enabling a greater proportion of wealthier white students to receive after school tutoring and not have to work to put themselves through college. The conceptual narrowing of “racism” in the British Race Report—limiting it to the beliefs of individuals—engages in the same sleight of hand.

An honest critique of CRT would take issue with its actual assumptions, logic, and conclusions, not blame it for policies, programs, and practices—or for that matter, attributed premises and principles—it had no hand in formulating or implementing. “CRT,” a Heritage webinar asserts, collapsing the good and the bad of CRS with CRT, is “leading to cancel culture.” Not only politicians but political fundraising campaigns are using these explicit terms to advance their cause. Controlling the narrative, rather than honest critical debate about the sources and remedies of racial injustice, is defining the agenda.

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What conclusions can we draw from these developments?

First, the coordinated conservative attack on CRT is largely meant to distract from the right’s own paucity of ideas. The strategy is to create a straw house to set aflame in order to draw attention away from not just its incapacity but its outright refusal to address issues of cumulative, especially racial, injustice. In a perverse misuse of Martin Luther King, Jr., colorblindness remains the touchstone of clearly uninformed conservative talking points on race. As critics such as Eduardo Bonilla-SilvaPatricia Williams, and myself, among many others, have long pointed out, colorblindness—the individualizing response to structural and systemic racial injustice par excellence—hides the underlying structural differences historical inequalities reproduce.

The strategy is to create a straw house to set aflame in order to draw attention away from the right’s outright refusal to address cumulative, especially racial, injustice.

Second, the conservative attack on CRT tries to rewrite history in its effort to neoliberalize racism: to reduce it to a matter of personal beliefs and interpersonal prejudice. (Even in this case, you will search in vain at The FederalistNational Review, Fox News, the Daily Caller, and Breitbart News for coverage of a recent story in which a group of white high school students “auctioned” their Black peers on Snapchat.) On this view, the structures of society bear no responsibility, only individuals. Racial inequities today are at worst the unfortunate side effect of a robust commitment to individual freedom, not the living legacy of centuries of racialized systems. The British Race Report shares with the 1776 Project this project of historical erasure. The problem is not the actual histories of slavery, racial subjugation, segregation, and inequity but, as historian David Olusoga observes, how those histories are represented, taught, and mobilized for contemporary ideological purposes. Hence the attack on work spelling out the historically produced social conditions establishing ongoing racist systems—especially the New York Times’s 1619 Project, which is explicitly dismissed as the product of CRT thinking.

Third, race has always been an attractive issue for conservatives to mobilize around. They know all too well how to use it to stoke white resentment while distracting from the depredations of conservative policies for all but the wealthy. Conservatives see their worldview under threat of being eroded; Tucker Carlson now openly alludes to the white nationalist “replacement” conspiracy theory, the fear of white people being diminished and displaced by Blacks, Latinos, and immigrants. “Whiteness,” James Baldwin wrote, is “a metaphor for power.” At a time when the power, privileges, and indeed numbers of the GOP base are under pressure, the conservative assault on CRT is only the latest effort to maintain white domination—economically, politically, and legally.

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There is no simple toolkit for the critical analysis of racism. Pointers and rules of thumb may help, but they are not and never will be a substitute for mass popular organizing to create a more just world.

CRT and more nuanced work in CRS offer an invaluable resource for this work. They take seriously what the conservative attack too readily looks away from. They try to account for what it is in our culture, in the social infrastructure and institutional shaping and the order to which they give rise, that reproduces the undeniable inequality, the lived violence and trauma, that people of color experience in the United States and Europe, however variously.

At a time when the power, privileges, and indeed numbers of the GOP base are under pressure, the conservative assault on CRT is only the latest effort to maintain white domination.

Conservative critics of CRT not only have no serious response to these tragic injustices; instead they belittle the very suggestion that they ought to have one. Willed away are the lives of those they would rather not admit are fellow citizens. Heritage calls instead for a narrative of upliftment and hope. Wiping the slate of history clean, they insist that formal equality under the law—never mind how recently or imperfectly realized—vitiates any claim of enduring injustice. Whatever the unfairness of the past, this thinking goes, individuals are now free to make of their lives what they will.

If we are to learn one thing from this highly orchestrated assault on CRT, it is that this alternative narrative is not a sincere expression of hope: it is a cynical ploy to keep power and privilege in the hands of those who have always held it. Meanwhile, the outcome remains what Marvin Gaye sang about a half century ago: “Brother, brother, brother, there are far too many of you dying.”

Source: The War on Critical Race Theory