Refugees, Borders, and Globalization
Taking Care of Americans and Taking Care of the World
Balancing Two Truths
Much of recent political conflict in the United States, as well as in numerous other countries, revolves around the question of refugees, borders and globalization.
Liberals advocate, in the name of compassion, open borders, massive unvetted refugee admission, and a global economy and mentality. They paint conservatives as hard-hearted and selfish when the wisdom of this liberal agenda is questioned.
Conservatives advocate a different form of compassion — compassion for our own citizens, who have to foot the bill for global charitable gestures, and who have to suffer the risks of infiltration by terrorists (who are, by definition, people who try to take what they want by violent means). Conservatives also advocate compassion for those immigrants who have patiently followed immigration laws and procedures and continue to stand in line to enter the US, but are bumped aside by people who simply walk across the border to stay. Conservatives accuse liberals of being unrealistic, and of trying to make the US hand out more than we can handle.
Who’s At Fault and Who’s Right?
Rather than condemning one group or the other, liberals or conservatives, let us start with the premise that most Americans are reasonable, that neither half of America is evil, and that each group has a piece of the truth.
One truth says that we should care about and assist those in need, our country was built on immigration, and we must offer a helping hand.
The other truth is that we cannot take care of poor outsiders and strangers at the expense of neglecting our own poor, and we certainly cannot increase the population of the US to accommodate all the population of the world who would like to live here.
Framed in these terms, the question becomes not who is evil or wrong, but a much more rational and practical question of balancing two truths, of determining the degree to which we can help others, without damaging ourselves. It becomes a question of Taking Care of Americans and Taking Care of the World, and finding a fair balance somewhere between the two.
Solving Our Own Problems
This need to balance our own nation’s stability before helping other nations is analogous to airline flight emergency instructions, which tell us to secure our own air supply mask before attempting to assist others. It is also analogous to a lifeguard’s need to develop their own strong swimming skills and lifesaving techniques before trying to assist drowning swimmers, lest two individuals drown instead of one. Any trained lifeguard or water safety instructor will tell you that if a novice approaches a panicked drowning swimmer the wrong way, even if the well-intentioned rescuer is a strong swimmer, the panicked drowning person will climb on top of the rescuer, pushing them BOTH under water and making the rescue impossible. Specific training and cautious techniques must be used to save both people.
When approached from this friendlier and more unifying perspective, the problem of how much to help the world, versus how much to help our own nation, becomes easier to consider. It is transformed from a hate-labeling tug-of-war between political factions to a cooperative effort to find a workable compromise.
How Much Will It Cost?
Let’s start with some facts, which help to define the problem.
The Gross Global Annual World Product is $108 trillion, or $16,100 per person per year. So most of the world is pretty poor.
The American Gross National Product is $18 trillion, or $56,000 per person per year.
(Note, these are not salaries, but also include everything the government does for us, like building roads.)
So we Americans have 3.5 times more than the average individual in the rest of the world.
This is crucial information in considering the role we as Americans want to play in helping the rest of the world.
If we Americans want to share what we have to help the rest of the world, we have to decide how much we can bring ourselves to part with.
How Much Should We Share?
The saints among us who want to share all we have, must realize that to equalize the world, all inhabitants of the world would have to go down to the $16,000 per person per year. This just happens to coincide with our government-determined poverty level in the US. In other words, in order to help the world very significantly, we would have to part with most of what we have, and become impoverished ourselves. There is NOT a huge amount of wealth in the world, and those who want to bring the world up to our American standards not only must realize that this is impossible, but they also must realize that to equalize, we must go down to the world’s poverty level, and we might have to sacrifice more than we first realized. And the rest of the world, including China, would have to do this as well.
Many generous-hearted people who do not want to live a life of poverty themselves look for other sources of income to tap, for elevating the lifestyle of others. They somehow believe that there is some untapped wealth in the world that will make it possible for everybody to live well. They look to the Bill Gateses of the world and the corporate giants of the world to pay for the charity they wish to initiate.
Taxing the Rich
Let’s try to do the pretty simple arithmetic on that. If we take the 8 richest men in the world who were recently in the news (Bill Gates et. al.), who own the same amount between the 8 of them as the poorest half of the world’s population all put together, the total net worth of these 8 men is $427 billion. If we distributed this to the poorest half of the world’s population (the poorest 3.6 billion people), we would only be able to give each person $119, only one time. Everyone working for the 8 men would then lose their jobs, and the next year, we would have no 8 men to take money from to distribute again. And the $119 would not make a huge difference to those whose annual share of the world’s wealth has been defined as an average of $16,000.
Yes, the world has so many poor and so few rich men that this technique would not help much.
Some people get so caught up in their envy of the rich that they want to punish the rich even if that would not benefit themselves in the least. Analogous to the child who rips off their sister’s doll’s head because they cannot have the doll themselves.
If we tried to tax the entire US, every single one of us, down to poverty level, if we allowed the entire US to earn only $16,000 per person, and the government took the rest, the taxes collected would only allow us to give each person in the world $1,700, bringing their $16,000 to $17,700 ONCE, after which the US would be too poor to give them anything again.
Repossessing corporate holdings would have similar results. Most corporate holdings are stocks and they represent the savings of America’s retirees and those preparing for retirement. If we take that money, we, the taxpayer, will have to support those people in their old age, when they have no retirement nest egg left. So taking corporate money or dividends is, at best, a very temporary measure. What you gain now, you will have to shell back out later, to the same people you took it from.
Back to Who Is Right?
These and other similar calculations show us that the concerns of conservatives are not as evil or selfish as progressive leaders or the press would have us think, but are the valid concerns of responsible people, who do not want to steal from one to give to another, while weakening everyone to the point where nobody can help anybody at all.
And, correspondingly, the concerns of liberals are not evil power plays attempting to steal votes from the poor with false promises, but are the compassionate concern of a good population that has not been informed by their leadership of how little money there actually IS in our national coffers and in the world.
This might be a good place to insert an observation — that the ancient religious practice of tithing, of everyone giving 10% of what they have to their Churches to redistribute to those in need, would do a much better job of equalizing the fate of unfortunate people than any governmental system of taxation could ever do. An additional benefit would be that distribution would be local, and more easily supervised.
And yes, Churches and other charitable institutions have had their share of unscrupulous people who mismanage and even misappropriate those funds, but can any honest person say that our government has ever done a better job of it? Or have they just feathered their own nests and the nests of their friends with our tax money, which was supposedly earmarked to provide essential services to Americans and to other nations in need?
At War With Each Other
So when we embark on the political exercises of regulating the admission of refugees, the regulation of borders, and America’s participation in globalization policy, when we discuss Taking Care of Americans and Taking Care of the World with what resources we have, let’s remember not to vilify each other, let’s remember that each side has important lessons to teach the other side, and let’s not war with each other, destroying our own stability and making it impossible to help anybody else.
Back To How Much Can We Afford?
Let’s also remember that some campaign promises and government issued benefits, including free health care (average $10,000 per person per year), free college ($10,000 state & $34,000 private per person per year), old age and unemployment benefits, food stamps, free cell phones, and rent subsidies, that these benefits cannot be handed out to more than the tune of $56,000 per person per year, or the US will go bankrupt. The $56,000 per person per year Gross National Product that we can afford to spend includes our salary, all our government benefits, all services including roads and police protection, maintaining the military, paying for schools, libraries, and community centers, and helping refugees and others in need. And we have not even considered the repayment of the $20 trillion national debt ($62,500 per person) America has yet to repay.
To make the pie any larger, to get any larger slices, requires growing the economy and creating prosperity, so we could have more pie to share.
And it requires putting the unemployed back to work, baking more pies.
President Trump’s economic plans and incentives during his first month in office alone have already grown the value of the stock market by $3 trillion, which certainly increases the size of our national pie.
And the Trump administration is working very hard to create jobs to put people back to work.
So one way to help the poor, both in our own country, and in other countries, is to give President Trump a fair chance.
The more liberal half of America could help the poor simply by refusing to support the recent organized resistance movement against President Trump and his administration, thus giving conservatives the same fair chance liberals just had for eight years.
The Bottom Line
Shouldn’t I reach into my own pockets when it comes to discussing charity, and shouldn’t I be a bit kinder and more understanding of those who are in charge of keeping this nation fed, defended, employed, and on an even keel?
The bottom line is that there is no magical source of income to tap, our poor are overwhelming in number, and we all have to reach into our own pockets to help as much as we can. One good start would be to tithe and to volunteer at the local Church/charity of our choice. And today, Ash Wednesday, would be a good time to start.