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Democrats Eye a Congressional Majority

The Journal Editorial Report

Stuart Varney: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," the U.S. population hits 300 million. More immigrants, more newborns and more baby boomers living longer means America just keeps getting bigger. What will this brave new America look like, and how does it stack up against the rest of the world? Plus, against the background of Mark Foley's resignation, the battle for Congress continues. Democrats say Republicans have no accomplishments. Republicans say Democrats have no plan. Those topics, plus our weekly "Hits and Misses." But first, these headlines.

Varney: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Stuart Varney, sitting in for Paul Gigot. Any day now, the U.S. Census Bureau will announce that the population of the United States has reached 300 million, making it the third-largest country, behind China and India. And we're just getting bigger. The population is projected to hit 400 million in just another 40 years. The United States is the only industrialized nation with significant population growth. While U.S. birthrates have held steady at the replacement rate of just over two children for every woman, the birthrates of Europe, Japan and Russia have plummeted. But the story isn't just how much America has grown, but how much it has changed. Joining me now is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Ben Wattenberg.

Ben, first of all, let's talk in terms of size. We've doubled our population in the last 56 years, to 300 million. Do you see that as a plus or a minus for America, big-picture?

Wattenberg: Very much a plus. I mean, the United States is not what they used to call the sole superpower, or I now call the omnipower, just because of our military. It is because we are a big, continental, robust, polyglot, innovative, free nation. And I think that's why the stock market has gone up, among other things. And we have plenty of room. I mean, the wise guys say, when you're flying across the country, they look down they say that it's empty, it's flyover country.

Varney: But, Ben--

Wattenberg: And people say--I haven't checked the numbers--but you could you put every person on the planet Earth and give them one acre of Texas and there'd be room enough for everybody.

Varney: But there is a counterargument, and that is--

Wattenberg: There certainly is.

Varney: --that rapid population growth depletes natural resources--water, energy, in particular--and it contributes to greenhouse-gas emissions and global warming. Now, do the environmentalists have a point at all here?

Wattenberg: I think a very limited one, and one thing they never take into account--you know, Stuart, I write about demographics. And I wrote Lyndon Johnson's speech for the 200 millionth American, and we had much the same argument. But because population, world-wide--it's a global phenomenon. It's called global warming. World-wide, the numbers are going down. And so you're going to have--the original global warming projection was based on 12 billion people, based on some, I think phony, U.N. poll. It now looks as if we are going to top out at seven or eight billion and come down. So that means 35%, 40% less global warming in the short term. And maybe much more--a much steeper decline later on.

And the other thing is immigrants help us fight this allegedly terrible budget deficit. The average age of an immigrant is 29. So they will be paying into the Social Security system for 40 years before taking out a nickel. They are educated, typically on somebody else's dime. By the second generation they speak American. Every evidence we have is that they are even more patriotic than native-born Americans, who are the most patriotic in the world.

Mexican-Americans in Iraq--the Defense Department seems to have numbers for everything except who's going to win the war--Mexican-Americans in combat in Iraq have won the highest proportionate share of Congressional Medals of Honor of any Americans.

Varney: All right. Now look to the future. In the next 40 years, we're going to add another 100 million people to the population of the United States. There is going to be an ethnic shift. There's going to be, to some degree, a cultural shift. Do you think that by the middle of this century, when I say I'm an American, it will mean something different from what it means today or 50 years ago?

Wattenberg: Not as much as you think. First of all, when the 2000 census came out they said, Oh, by the year 2030, America's going to a majority-minority. We've always been majority-minority. I mean, you talk to people and they're half Scots-Irish, half British, half German, one quarter Indian. I mean, that's nothing new. Tiger Woods is a case in point. I mean, he calls himself an "Amerasian," an American Indian, African-American, Thai as in Thailand. I know, in the Jewish community that I grew up in, in New York, was almost entirely Jewish. Now you have Jews all over America, marrying, intermarrying, keeping their religion, changing their religion, their new wives changing their religion. It's all mixed up.

Varney: No change in America's basic principles, the founding principles of being of what is America? No changing that despite ethnic change?

Wattenberg: No. I don't think so. I think the reverse is true. We who were born in America, we are just automatically Americans. These people made a choice and said I want to join that wonderful club. They are very good citizens.

Varney: That's exactly what I did. And I thank you for that compliment. Ben Wattenberg, thanks very much, sir.

Now, when we come back, the new supersized American population will have a major impact on culture, politics and the economy, of course. Plus, the Mark Foley resignation: It casts a shadow on the Republican leadership. Will it keep voters away from the polls in November? Our panel weighs in on those topics, and our "Hits and Misses" of the week, when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Varney: And welcome back. A constant stream of immigrants, a steady birthrate and the increased longevity of the baby boom generation are all pushing the U.S. population to the 300 million mark. So how will an America that's bigger, older and more diverse change the world around it?

Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, as well as Wall Street Journal editorial board members Kim Strassel and Steve Moore.

Dan, to you first. How do we stack up in America demographically compared to, say, Europe and Japan?

Henninger: Well, the easiest way to think about this subject is in terms of one little number: 2.0. Actually, it's a bit above that. That is the total fertility rate, or sometimes called the replacement rate. It means whether you are replacing--that women are replacing their families at a rate above 2 or below. Most of Europe, in fact all of Europe, is well below 2. They were above that up until the mid-1960s or around 1970 when this sort of neo-Malthusian idea took over and said the world has a population problem. And the Europeans started having fewer babies. The Japanese did as well.

Now, we're above that. We can support ourselves. We can support ourselves in old age. They can't. The European Commission is extremely disturbed about this and is encouraging the Europeans to have more babies. France has a program. Sweden has a program. Japan and Australia are all trying to increase their populations now.

Varney: In the absence of mass immigration--America has mass immigration. That contributes to our demographic advantage. But Europe will not go down that route, will it?

Henninger: Well, it's inexorable. That's the thing about demographics. You know, you just cannot replace it overnight. It takes generations.

Moore: It's true. I mean, if you look at--you know, the joke about France is that if you project out their birthrate over the next 200 years, there'll be like eight Frenchmen left on the globe, you know, because their population--that may or may not a good thing.

[Laughter]

But in the U.S., the situation--Dan is right. We're right at replacement-level fertility. But actually, that's projected to decline a little bit. And immigration, I think, is coming at exactly the right time. We have 75 million baby boomers who are going to start retiring 10 years from now. Who are going to pay all those benefits?

Strassel: No. And that's what really matters here. And that's why the Europeans are so concerned about the replacement rate. It's not because they're concerned just that they're going to have a smaller population. Right now, I think the United States has about 4.5 workers for every retiree. When you're looking out in the future, I think by about 2050, something like 26% of the world's developed countries--26% of those in the developed countries will be senior citizens. Someone's got to pay for them and these social security programs. And this is why this has become such a huge concern.

Moore: Let me make another point, though, about why this is actually something we should celebrate, the fact that there are 300 million Americans. A lot of people have these grumpy faces, Oh, my gosh we're overpopulated. The two major reasons that the U.S. population has grown so much over the last century has been dramatic declines in infant death rates and increases in life expectancy. That is to say, this has been a kind of an epidemic of human life. It's something that we should be celebrating not moaning about and saying we're overcrowded.

Varney: All right. You raised the question of the French. Now, look to Canada for just a moment. Canada is a divided country with a large French-speaking, culturally French minority. Dan, isn't there a danger that we, in America, could inherit the same problem with Hispanics? Forty, 50, 60 million people, Spanish-speaking, live in a concentrated area. Isn't that a potential problem for the future?

Henninger: I don't think so. I think as Ben Wattenberg suggested, this mixing up in the United States is inevitable. Again, demographics just goes forward like the tides. I mean, it's really hard to resist it. I think that if we keep our system designed in a way that allows these people to be productive, we'll be fine.

I mean, you're thinking about the long-term future. And let's talk about global economies. China, India and Brazil are all growing fast. They are going to be competitors in the future. Anyone who is going to compete with them is going to need, A, a big population, like they have, and B, intellectual firepower to produce goods and services. If we keep our institutions going in the right direction, we, alone among the developed nations, I think, are going to be able to compete with those three countries.

Strassel: The added benefit, too, is that not only is good tax policy, good trade policy, all of these things, good for allowing people to actually move up through the ranks and integrate into a country; it's that much more likely that we're actually going to be financially capable in the future of actually taking care of some of these Social Security issues.

Moore: But you raised a good point. You raised a good point, too. Everyone here is very pro-immigration. We're glad you're here, Stuart.

Varney: Thank you.

[Laughter]

Moore: But we do need to strengthen our institutions of assimilation. That's where kind of Canada has gone wrong. They've balkanized with two languages. I think the more we can put resources into making the newcomers Americans, learning English, all the better for us and for them.

Varney: All right. All right, when we come back--we're going to take a short break. And then, coming up next, the battle for Congress heats up amid a sex scandal and allegations of a coverup. That, and our "Hits and Misses" of the week, when "The Journal Editorial Report" continues.

Varney: Welcome back. I'm Stuart Varney, sitting in for Paul Gigot.

The resignation of Florida congressman Mark Foley over instant messages sent to an underage page sparked outrage inside and outside the Beltway. Democrats have raised questions about the Republican leadership's role in the affair, saying it's part of a record of inaction by this Congress. Republicans say the Democrats have yet to offer a real alternative.

All right, Stephen, let's start with the politics of this scandal. Does it have legs? Will it have an impact on the election?

Moore: You know, it couldn't have come at a worst time. The Republicans had just had two or three really good weeks, with the economy improving, gas prices falling, more of an emphasis on national security, all things that redounded to the benefit of Republicans. Then, this bomb drops, right three or four weeks before the election. I think it could very well have legs because the danger is that it continues to depress the kind of conservative base voters that need to turn out if Republicans are going to win. They're already angry about a budget out of control, about not passing an immigration bill. And now, they think, Hey, a lot of these Republicans are corrupt too.

Varney: Huge negative for Republicans, Dan?

Henninger: Oh, I think it remains to be seen. The interesting thing about this incident is, yes, it has had legs through the past week. And it's amazing that--I mean, you know, it was a serious event. But was it a phenomenon large enough to dominate the news for five or six straight days, in a week when the North Koreans were threatening to carry out an underground nuclear test, the Dow hit an all-time high, the president of Iran is basically telling the European negotiator to get lost, we'll continue to enrich uranium?

These are serious subjects. And yet, this Foley thing has overwhelmed all of that. It kind of says something about the unseriousness of the political system right now.

Strassel: But I don't think we'd be at this point--I mean, Steve made the ultimate point, which is that if this had happened had in isolation for a party that was doing well at the moment, it might not have mattered. But this comes--look, Republicans were voted into office on the promises that they were going to cut government, they were going to restrain spending, that they were going to tackle some of these gigantic entitlement issues--Social Security, Medicare and also tax reform. They haven't done any of that in the time that they've been there. And, in fact, they've been embroiled in the earmarking scandal and other things. And the voters are just saying, You know, look, this isn't what we've sent you to Washington to do. And we're not now going to go out and vote. And that's the big fear here, is turnout, not necessarily--

Varney: Well, Kim, are you saying that the Republicans don't deserve to retain control of the House and the Senate?

Strassel: Well, they certainly aren't running on that message out in--they're basically saying, Look, you need to vote for us because the alternative would be worse. That's not something I think they should be incredibly proud of.

Henninger: And I think Steve put his finger on one thing. Once again this was going to be a national-security election. It was going to be about who should handle the war on terror, who should complete the war in Iraq. And opinions can differ on that, for sure. We're having a big struggle over that. But I think the American people ought to be given a clear shot to vote on that subject and not have something like this Foley issue come in and overwhelm that.

Moore: The Democrats are clearly trying to now turn this whole election into a kind of referendum on the issue of corruption. Republicans actually have some targets to shoot at here. I mean, let's not forget, just in the last year you had the William Jefferson scandal where $100,000 was found in his refrigerator. You had the Cynthia McKinney scandal where she assaulted a police officer. You had Patrick Kennedy. So there is a lot of corruption in Washington, but it's on both sides of the aisle.

Varney: All right, let us suppose--I mean, this is purely hypothetical, obviously. Let's suppose the Democrats retake the House and they retake the Senate. If that were to happen, what happens politically for the next two years? Nothing, or does all hell break loose?

Moore: I've made the case that this is not that critical an election, because for the next two years, even if Republicans hold the House and Senate, you're not going to see a lot of policy get done. The one big issue--

Varney: You're sounding desperate, Stephen.

Moore: --is the judges. The judges is a big issue.

Strassel: No, I disagree. I mean, I think there's going to be real fireworks. Because remember, with the majority power comes the ability to hold hearings, to have subpoenas, to basically make some of these issues--there's going to investigations till the end of time. And that is not something Republicans are going to want a lot of focus on. And yet, probably nothing is going to get done if either party is in control. But Democrats are going to make it a lot louder down in Washington.

Moore: But you know what, Kim? Let them do that. Let the Democrats--the American people would be so outraged by--you know, there's even talk about them trying to impeach Bush. Do you think the American people want that?

Varney: Do you think they would be outrage at raising taxes on the so-called rich, which is what Congressman Rangel proposed?

Moore: I sure hope so. I sure hope so. Because this is has been a tax cut that has been such a benefit. And the truth is, the Democrat line of soak-the-rich has never played well with the American voter, because most Americans want to be rich.

Varney: But isn't there a shift in the intellectual and political climate more towards income redistribution, which we've not seen in 25 years? Isn't that shift beginning to take place?

Moore: Well, I think there's is no question. The big division between the two parties is the Democrats believe in income redistribution and the Republicans, in most cases, believe in wealth creation.

Strassel: But you put your finger on something, which is there is also a cost of inaction over two years. Remember, these tax cuts, which have been so beneficial for the economy, are set to expire in 2010. And if there isn't some work done to extend them--and that's probably not going to happen under the Democrats. And it's also concerning whether or not it would even happen under the Republicans because they'd retain such a small majority.

Varney: All right. We have to take one more break. But when we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.

Varney: Winners and losers, picks and pans, "Hits and Misses," it's our way of calling attention to the best and the worst of the week. Item one, a hit for the US of A, Dan?

Henninger: Yes, that's right, Stuart. The Nobel Prizes were announced this week, and the U.S. swept the science prizes, in medicine, physics and chemistry. The medicine prize was for learning a powerful way to turn off the effect of specific genes. In physics, it was to confirm the Big Bang theory. And in chemistry, is was how DNA is stored in genes and telling how it is copied and used it tell an organism what to do.

Now, we live in an era when the news is by and large a downer. It's full of stories about corrupt politicians, athletes on steroids, school shootings. I think what this tells us is that the United States remains a fundamentally serious, high-achieving place where the best work is done out of the spotlight by people like these Nobel Prize winners. And it allows us to say, "USA! USA!" And do it for the right reason.

Varney: And by the way, the one-and-a-half-million-dollar Nobel Prize is tax-free.

Next, a hit for private foundations leading the way in medical research, Kim?

Strassel: You know, this follows on Dan's. You know, the X Prize Foundation made a lot of news a couple of years ago by offering a prize for the first private group that could get into space. This was very exciting. They're now back, and they are saying $10 million to the first group that can decode 100 gnomes in 10 days. Up until now, the quickest we've been able to do it is one in nine months.

This is thrilling not just because of the potential medical breakthrough, because it's a return to the way we used to inspire people to innovate. You know, Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic because there was a prize waiting at the other side. We've gotten used to waiting for government to do these breakthroughs. But I think if we had a few more of these prizes--because Americans love the idea of making a buck--we could solve a lot of problems in the world.

Varney: It's a great country, isn't it? And finally, a miss for Acorn--Stephen?

Moore: Acorn is the organization around the country that is leading the charge for raising the minimum wage. There are six states that will have ballot referendums on minimum wage this year. There's a big push at the federal level. So Acorn is the big group saying we've got to have an increase in the minimum wage. Guess what, Stuart? Ten years ago, Acorn was cited by the state of California for evading the minimum wage.

And Acorn said they didn't want to pay the minimum wage for two reasons. One is they wanted their workers to feel a sympathy for the low-income people they're advocating for. And second of all, they said, If we had to pay the minimum wage, we wouldn't be able to hire as many workers. Now, isn't this wonderful? We've been making this case for 25 years on the editorial page that when you raise the minimum wage it destroys jobs. It's nice to know even liberal groups understand that.

Varney: Actually, that's another thing that Congress did not do. There was to increase in the minimum wage, was there? Or was there?

Moore: Thank goodness.

Varney: There was not. I'll tell you--

Moore: They dodged that bullet.

Varney: Indeed, they did.

Stephen, Kim, Dan, many thanks.

That's it for this week's edition of "The Journal Editorial Report." And we thank you all, Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel and Stephen Moore. I'm Stuart Varney. We thank you for watching. Paul Gigot will back with you all next week.


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