ABC's Planet America program shows worrying bias.
- Selective assumptions: Chas assumes that we (i.e. the US and by implication Australia too) are heading for a terrible lack of workers, although there are many indications (such as stagnant wages and constant scandals over employers cheating on conditions and on work-security, e.g. the 7-Eleven and petrol station scandals) that both countries have the opposite problem: an over-supply.
- Selective alarmism and pro-natalist bias. The rather high US birthrate of nearly 2 children per woman, which in fact ensures a surplus of births over deaths, at least until the population is considerably older, is represented as a disaster. Why? Similarly, the staggering rise of the USA’s working population from 45 million in 1950 to around 150 million in 2015 rings no alarm bells, and rouses no environmental alarms; yet a possible decline of just 7 million by 2035 is represented as a disaster. (In fact this may be too small a drop, if automation and robots mean that only a much smaller workforce can be kept in work.)
- Misunderstandings of the “dependency rate”. Traditionally this term meant the ratio between the number of people of “working age” (traditionally 15-65 years, but today that might have to be raised to at least 20-70 years) and the number that are either too old or too young to work. The trick is to get the naive hearer to imagine that only old people are “dependants”, and that everyone over 65 is on the pension. In fact the dependency rate was often worse in the past, when people had large families and the population was full of “unproductive” children.
- Forgetting that to have a high percentage of the population within “working age” is only good if there is work for them. If not, the extra “workers” just add to the number of persons on social security. And a working age breadwinner without work often means a whole family on social security, whereas a retired person has very likely already paid for their retirement, and may be financially supporting younger dependants. (If the USA ever reaches the scenario that Chas advances of having only two persons in employment for every one person on social security, this will be because jobs have disappeared, not because persons aged 20 to 70 have disappeared.)
- Caricature and moral grandstanding: e.g. assuming that people who dislike high immigration must “hate” immigrants.
- Ill defined and contentious statistics: How rigorously was “founder” or “patent” or “College degree” defined, for instance? (For a counter-view of the claims Chas has recycled, see for instance https://cis.org/North/Startup-Founders-Patents-Lies-Damn-Lies-Statistics-and-Migration-Policy )
- Forgetting that the brain-drain of doctors and surgeons and of top graduates into rich countries, which certainly occurs, has cruel effects on poor countries. “All our doctors are in America now.”
- GDP worship, and belief that growth can go on forever. e.g. Chas saying: “ . . . to slow annual GDP growth by 1.2% this decade! That is a lot.”
- Assuming that the hiring of immigrants means that their labour was essential. It may mean that they are being employed for less, or on worse conditions and benefits, and so are keeping native-born Americans out of work, and them and their families on social security. (This was a major reason that millions voted for Bernie Sanders and even for the appalling Trump, rather than Hilary Clinton who was in denial about the issue—as are most ABC commentators. Three days later the ABC's Q&A program, on 5 Feb. 2018, managed to hold a long hand-wringing discussion of low wages, without mentioning immigration. One questioner mentioned population growth, but was ignored.)
- Forgetting the huge infrastructure costs of adding to the population—at least $100,000 per person. This amount of extra infrastructure has to be in place before each new arrival arrives, else everyone starts to suffer from overloaded infrastructure.
Chas Licciardello’s “Deep Dive into US Immigration”
NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION by Mark O’Connor:
This was a monologue, with pre-prepared slides, spoken by presenter Chas
Licciardello in his trademark emphatic manner with dramatic gestures. The latter
part is sub-titled by the program itself, with emphasised words in capitals.
Earlier, my under-linings indicate heavy emphasis.
(dramatic fast-paced music)
Logo: Graph labelled Projected US population over 65: (Source: UN World Population Prospects 2008).
Too late! America’s fertility rates haven’t been high for decades! And they are just getting worse[sic].
Chas: So, bottom-line: whether restrictionists like immigrants or not, America needs to take a heap of them.
Chas’s uncritical acceptance of rightwing economic ideology re the need for endless growth is also a caution. One would have thought that someone with his media experience would have twigged that when business spokespeople claim they must have lots of immigrant workers because there is a terrible shortage of labour (even though unemployment is high and wages are stagnant or falling) this may simply mean that they want to pay less than the market rate for labor.
In February 2018 the Australian economist Leith van Olesen of Macrobusiness placed on line his recommendations to an Immigration Department enquiry. He wrote that “. . . empirical evidence shows no link between population growth and prosperity”, and that most of the supposed dangers of population aging are myths put about by “the ‘growth lobby’ of retailers, the banking sector, the property industry and erroneously named ‘think tanks’.
"In Australia, the Productivity Commission has for more than a decade debunked the myth that immigration can overcome population ageing. For example, in its 2010 submission to the Minister for Population, the PC explicitly noted that “substantial increases in the level of net overseas migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age”. Academic demographer, Peter McDonald, has also previously stated that it is “demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young” .