Minorities might be saving America in more ways than one.
Posted by Matthew J. Tuininga
The story is in all the major papers today. For the first time in American history, the majority of births are to non-Hispanic whites. I have already commented recently on how non-whites are preserving Christian orthodoxy as well as traditional Christian teachings regarding marriage. Slate notes that African Americans are viewed all around as the key voting group in the effort to reestablish traditional marriage in Maryland. The conservative National Review quotes one black pastor, Dwight McKissic, commenting on Obama’s decision to support same-sex marriage, “The moral impact of this decision is equal to the military impact of al-Qaeda when they attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11.”
Reverend McKissic notes all the problems the black community faces: “divorce, out-of-wedlock birth, absentee fathers.” Same-sex marriage will exacerbate the problems, he argues. It will have a “devastating effect on families.” The president “slapped history in the face” by “going against natural law.”
But non-whites are having just as great of an impact on American demographics. In an age when industrialized countries around the world are struggling with the economic and fiscal implications of plummeting birth rates and aging populations, immigrants are maintaining America’s demographic health. As the New York Times puts it,
the fact that the country is getting a burst of births from nonwhites is a huge advantage, argues Dowell Myers, professor of policy, planning and demography at the University of Southern California. European societies with low levels of immigration now have young populations that are too small to support larger aging ones, exacerbating problems with the economy.
“If the U.S. depended on white births alone, we’d be dead,” Mr. Myers said. “Without the contributions from all these other groups, we would become too top-heavy with old people.”
The need for a vibrant economy to support the growing portion of the federal budget that goes towards health care, support for retirees, and the safety net has never been greater. Liberals often complain that America spends far too much on defense and far too little on care for the needy, but according to a vivid graph posted on NPR (which you should definitely look at), spending on defense has been steadily falling – from 51.7% in 1962, to 29.7% in 1987, to 22.6% in 2011 – while spending in health and welfare has been rising almost as dramatically (For instance, in the same years support for the poor has increased from 5.8% to 7.2% to 12.6%; Medicare has risen from 0 to 13.1%).
Someone has to pay for all of this of course, and that burden falls on the youth of the future. For that reason, a high birthrate among minorities is very good news, although one wonders about the social tension that would be created if the United States found itself in the situation of having a predominantly non-white work force pay for the comfortable retirement of mostly white senior citizens.
Whatever the case, one would hope that a healthy immigrant ethic would help Americans give up their seeming belief that they should receive everything from the government while paying nothing. As George Will vividly portrayed the problem in a recent Washington Post column:
Campaigning recently at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., Romney warned students about their burden from the national debt, but when he took questions, the first questioner had something else on her peculiar mind: “So you’re all for like, ‘Yay, freedom,’ and all this stuff and ‘Yay, like, pursuit of happiness.’ You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”
If this is how American youth think these days, we are in trouble. The burden they (or we) are facing is far greater than most people realize.
About Matthew J. TuiningaMatthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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