Sophistry thy name is Wattenberg. Ben, that is. A long time senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which gains its succor from corporate and conservative donors, Wattenberg specializes in using anecdotal "evidence" to subvert arguments backed with credible data.
I say this based on his performance at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) press briefing on the release of its latest Backgrounder study, "100 Million More: Projecting the Impact of Immigration On the US Population, 2007 to 2060", today, August 30, at the National Press Club here in DC.
Wattenberg [send him mail] was a member of the panel discussion which included Mark Krikorian, CIS Executive Director, Steve Camarota, CIS Director of Research, and Roy Beck, Executive Director of NumbersUSA. Wattenberg slyly diverted the focus of the meeting with his often-absurd anecdotes and comparisons, which undoubtedly was his objective.
In introducing the panel, Krikorian noted that, while the US government had no stated official population policy, its actions in permitting a massive number of immigrants, both legal and illegal to enter the country since 1965, constituted an implicit population policy. As Backgrounder author Steve Camarota explained, using updated US Census Bureau projections, this will likely add 100 million more people by 2060. Significantly, that number assumes more legal alien arrivals than illegal—a fact which is currently being overlooked by far too many of our government officials, who have gotten the message only about illegals.
Roy Beck then questioned strongly whether adding that number of people would improve the quality of American life. Beck noted that polls taken over decades constantly showed that most Americans wanted immigration reduced.
Enter master sophist Wattenberg, whose most recent book is Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future.
In a low-voiced, avuncular manner, Wattenberg started with an anecdote, saying "Plural anecdotes are data." This should have brought hoots of derision from his press corps audience. But it didn't. Then, he introduced his housekeeper, Iris, who sat directly behind me in the audience. She, Wattenberg reported, had come to America illegally years before. Her present status was unexplained. But then no one asked.
Iris is the mother of three children, presumably born here, making them American citizens (some of us think of them as "Anchor Babies" because they can bring in alien relatives). Iris' husband has left her and she is coping as a single mother. One child, a fifteen year old boy, is now a sophomore in high school and a linebacker on the football team. He is patriotic and will be well educated and will make a great contribution to America—according to his mother's employer, that is.
Heartstring-pulling remains the default-mode gambit of the open border advocates. But, doubtless, Iris' story will make AEI's contributors beam with delight.
Next, Wattenberg noted that in 1790 the US population was 4 million and now is over 300 million, a "75 times growth", and we became the greatest country in the history of the world, he said. So why should we worry if the increase from now to 2060 of only 56%?
Then of course he played the race card, saying that every wave brought groans from nativists, about the new comers. Jews, Italians, etc. were all hated initially but made huge contributions. He added that the "Hate Du Jour" is now Mexicans, who in their service in the US military have garnered more Medals of Honor (did he mean in the current Iraq War?) than any other ethnic group. [VDARE.COM NOTE: This is a myth.]
Anytime one of the other panelists offered comments after their opening statements, Wattenberg constantly popped in with "Let me say...." For example, at one point, contesting this de facto government policy of massive immigration and non enforcement of immigration law, Wattenberg cleverly managed to position CIS's Krikorian as being against Social Security, which could fail in the next generation, even though Camarota's study clearly demonstrates that importing this unneeded next 100 million will very minimally add to the number in the US work force. This opening gave Wattenberg license to go on about how popular Social Security was with everyone, etc., implying that it was somehow related to the topic under discussion and that Krikorian was somehow on the lunatic fringe.
Jousting with a sophist can be very tricky—particularly if the facts push the sophist into a corner. N'est pas?
Wattenberg's hobby horse issue, addressed in his book, Fewer, is fertility rates, which have declined in many countries—not just in rich, western countries, but also in some poor, less-developed countries. That the planet currently adds over 70 million a year in net new persons, over 95% of them in "developing nations", and that total world population will certainly reach 9 billion by 2100 apparently fazes him not a whit. Global warming and the other problems must not be on his radar scope. He just wants more people. Above all, he considers more immigration into the US an unmitigated joy.
Wattenberg attacked Pat Buchanan's argument that the US is being overrun by aliens with another anecdote–his form of data-gathering–by citing a couple at a Waldorf Astoria cocktail party of "hundreds of people" in the hotel ballroom who, upon seeing an "immigrant couple from Mexico" enter, say, "See, we're being swamped." Again, the racist card—and a determination, which must please his corporate donors, to ignore not only the illegal alien invasion, but also the larger threat of present levels of legal immigration.
Camarota pointed out that an intruding couple at a cocktail party hardly described the repeated arrival of millions of aliens both legally and illegally. But Wattenberg's barrage of irrelevant comparisons continued throughout the session.
This CIS report asks Americans to weigh in on this question: Do we want an additional 100 million people here in the next 50 years?
Are they needed and who benefits from their arrival are not questions the report answers. Clearly, Wattenberg's allies—the US Chamber of Commerce, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the various ethnic lobbies—have agendas: cheaper labor and more members for their groups. Most American citizens can plainly see with their own eyes the effect of growth since WW II. It doubled our population size to 306 million and could raise it to 1 billion by 2100. Crowding is bad enough. But we ignore the vital topics of cultural and political assimilation at our peril.
Of course, neither Wattenberg nor I will be around to see that 2060 date. But I close with my own anecdote. At 77, I remain fully employed and I notice that many of my age group are similarly occupied. I have many friends doing useful work well into their 90s. (For that matter, Wattenberg is 74.)
Backgrounder author Camarota's study assumes a labor force of ages between 15 and 64. He points out that one way to fix Social Security would be to raise the retirement age. I suspect that as automation progresses even further, old folks like me will be even more capable of doing work that companies will want to pay for. To add cheap, young, uneducated workers to our work force at poverty level wages, as Wattenberg wants, claiming that "they do work Americans won't", simply is not smart.
Further, if pay is adequate, young Americans will be available. And those early entry-level jobs make a huge impression on their values and life outlook—if my case (another anecdote!) is any measure.
David Francis noted in his May 21, 2007 Christian Science Monitor article, Fuse on the 'population bomb' has been relit:
"Two years ago, the United Nations projected that the number of people on this planet would reach 8.9 billion by 2050. In March, the UN Population Division revised that projection to 9.2 billion. If UN demographers are right, in 43 years the world's population will increase by 2.5 billion, up from 6.7 billion today. That growth is equivalent to how many people lived on Earth in 1950. The difference in the two UN projections, separated by only two years, is equal to today's population of the United States".
Hardly a "birth dearth, "Mr. Wattenberg.
[Wattenberg's "Wattenblog" is here —and comments are open.]
Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.