DENVER â€” There's a burning concern in the American West â€” almost an obsession â€” that Democrats will not touch in their convention here. Nor will Republicans in St. Paul. It is the U.S. population explosion. The West is feeling the brunt of it, as flowing lava of housing developments and big-box crudscapes claim its cherished open spaces - and increasingly scarce water supplies.You know a problem has gotten difficult to solve when politicians want to stop discussing it. Take the federal debt. In the 1980s, the budget deficit problems alarmed some in the Senate enough to enact Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, legislation which sought to rein in spending by establishing maximum deficit amounts. But that didn't help pols stop their obsessive spending. Now, when the debt amount is so much greater, the topic goes unmentioned in the campaign.
The U.S. Census Bureau now expects America's population to top 400 million by 2039, far earlier than previously forecast. The 300-million mark was hit only two years ago, so if this prediction is correct, the headcount will have soared by 100 million people in 33 short years.
America's fastest-growing region has been and will continue to be the Intermountain West. Its megalopolises - centered on Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City - are set to add 13 million people by 2040, according to a Brookings Institution study. This would be a doubling of their population.
Hyper-growth still brings out happy talk in some circles. The Brookings report looks at the population forecasts for the urban corridor on the eastern face of the Rockies, spreading from Colorado into Wyoming, and enthuses, "Such projections point to a huge opportunity for the Front Range to improve on the current level of prosperity." There are challenges, it says, but they can be met - and you can almost hear local hearts breaking - by new roads, bigger airports, more office parks.
And where oh where are they going to find water? Every county in Colorado was declared a federal drought disaster area in 2002, when the population stood at 4.5 million. It is expected to approach 8 million by 2035.
Immigration is similar. Nobody in Washington wants to tackle the preventable disaster of another 100 million people in 33 years because it would require leadership on a controversial issue. Instead we hear pretty speeches filled with fluff while the nation is headed toward a demographic cliff.