(IMPORTANT: At this moment, Google has the entire book up for free, at http://books.google.com/books?id=UZMvbAjwjPIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Shock+of+Gray&source=bl&ots=qc-foXW9S9&sig=cbltXejIJ8uoVcF1CKWm9LyeF94&hl=en&ei=X2q_TJuKLtGLswbf-421DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false )
This book could not have been released at a better time.Think about it -- around the globe, populations are aging, and soon many countries will have more old people than young people.
Last week, the French took to the streets in huge protests over the government raising the retirement age. At almost the same time, Britain dismantled government programs across the board, eliminating almost a half million jobs much to the shock of many. We're facing an election in which many are expected to vote in favor of reducing -- or eliminating -- entitlements for the old and the disabled, in favor of (supposedly) making life easier for the middle-aged, middle-income family. (Whether that equation would work or not is yet to be seen but I don't want to go there, at the moment.)
It’s entitlements that are at issue here, and most of those entitlements are pseudo-sacred programs set aside for those no longer in the workforce due to age or disability. People don't want to fund programs for those not contributing to the tax base, only eroding it.
For those of you who missed reading excerpts from Shock of Grey published in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, here are a few quotes (in italic) that appear to support my belief that the success of this country lies in its ability to attract immigrants, especially young, skilled ones.
The world’s population is aging … the number of older people is expanding faster than the number of young.
China’s youthful labor force thus helps the country maintain its low-cost economic ecosystem and attract foreign investment that seeks the higher returns a “younger” economy offers, whether or not any particular pot of foreign money goes to employ young people.
We decry the fact that US companies – including Microsoft, Apple, HP, Ford, for example – have moved at least some of their manufacturing to younger countries (China and India, for example), dumping their older US workers along the way. Because they must satisfy shareholders, corporations move jobs so they can offer the same service/merchandise for the same price.
We lose jobs, in this exchange, but maintain our ability to buy goods cheaply from younger countries. US companies thrive, even if some of their former employees don’t. The US consumer is happy about getting cheap goods, but not happy about a high rate of unemployment and increasing national debt. Around and around we go, shortchanging one segment of society to augment another.
The population of nearly every developed country is expected to shrink before midcentury.
Young countries like China will be the countries that in the not-distant future go shopping for younger workers in younger places [like Africa and South America]. Those places will be transformed by satisfying an older China’s needs.
[The US] is subject to the same two big trends — longer lives, smaller families — that are aging much of the world’s populations, but we are not growing old as fast as countries in East Asia and Western Europe. Our median age will climb only 3 years, to 40, by 2050, a rate slowed by the arrival of young immigrants, including millions from Latin America.
China will be older than the United States within a generation, making it the first big national population to age before it joins the ranks of developed countries. One of China’s biggest fears, expressed repeatedly in public pronouncements, is that it will grow old before it grows rich.
Power rests on how willing a country is to neglect its older citizens.
According to Fishman, our older, unemployed workers can blame their predicament (that is, the loss of their jobs before they were ready to retire, and the threat of a reduction in their government-supported retirement benefits) on their own opportunity to live longer than their parents and grandparents, thanks to expanded public health programs, literacy and other life-extending practices. They may blame immigrants all they want, but immigrants are not the problem. Living long, is.
Still want to go after immigrants?
If we want to live long lives, enjoy and maintain some level of comfort in life, we better kiss every immigrant we see for coming here and keeping US businesses flush with talent. All those employed green-carded workers pay into Social Security, Medicare and the general fund, while they keep the economy clicking (or slogging) along.
I thank my Albanian physical therapist, the French hospice nurse who took care of my mother in her last days, the Thai restaurant owner in our town, my friend’s Moldovan beautician, my nephew’s Mexican-engineer wife, a Russian doctor I know and all the Jamaican migrant workers who keep our local orchards and fields in production. Without them, we’re screwed. Our own children either don’t have the talent or the inclination to take on some of these jobs, so thank goodness there are others who do.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, if young people from young countries aren’t willing to come here to work and pay into entitlement funds, our businesses will fail. Just ask IBM, HP and Microsoft. They’ve already figured out that they must move overseas to make it easier to recruit top talent in China, India and Mexico. When they open plants in China, they also get a big break on how much they pay toward employee benefits. So it's a win/win solution for business, a lose/lose solution for US elders and families.
Remember: If more of our big companies fail, not only will our senior citizens lose entitlements, but more of OUR young people will leave to find opportunities elsewhere.
It's hard enough to be old and poor, but imagine losing your children and grandchildren on top of that? My daughter-in-law's parents did, and they're heartbroken. I certainly sympathize.
Our kids haven't left (yet) but we know a handful of young people who have already gone to China, Japan, Argentina and other places, to work for big US companies with offshore facilities.
Want to keep your kids and grandkids in this country? Then support immigration reform that makes it easier for talented young people from other lands to come here to live and work.
If they come here, our kids are less likely to have to go there.
Otherwise, you may find yourself looking for Waldo thousands of miles away, just like part of our family does: