Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Immigration is Good For America

Tuesdays on WKYB I get to talk, mostly about happiness.

Immigrants are great for America.  They improve the economy at the bottom and the top.  They commit less crime.  They pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. They have a higher fertility rate, which we need in an era of below-replacement fertility.

Some demagogues play on fears about immigrants, citing some scary stories.  They do not, though, show the proportions of crime, welfare use, and other scary things that immigrants produce compared to the native population.

Much of the illegality of illegal immigrants comes from their immigration status.  If we had an easy guest worker program, then they could live and work here above board.  This would prevent them from undermining wages, and make them more likely to cooperate with the authorities on all manner of civil order tasks.

The current ban on some immigrants, and the widespread fears of coming here that the administration has generated among all foreigners, has already hurt us in tourism, in foreign students, and in the kinds of workers we are trying to attract.

Let's go back to e pluribus unum and welcome immigrants.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Raising Kids in the Boburb

I am studying how what I call "boburbs" - bourgeois bohemian city neighborhoods - compare with suburbs.  Right now I am trying to figure out what the distinctive ideals of each kind of neighborhood would be.

The suburban ideal is driven by the nurture of children.  As such it is fundamentally an honorable ideal. 

Bohemias and boburbs are primarily for childless people, and their neighborhood projects are adult oriented.  

Still, there is an ideal of human development as "cosmopolitan citizens" that leads some parents to include children and child rearing into the boburb project.  They are not just finding a way to raise kids in the city, they embrace it as a better way for the kids.  This is especially true for adolescents.  

This is a higher risk, but higher payoff, form of adolescent rearing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

International Day of Happiness

Tuesdays on WKYB I get to talk, mostly about happiness.

March 20 is the International Day of Happiness. The United Nations first proclaimed this annual event in 2012.  They take this occasion to report on well-being around the world.  The index used in this report emphasizes a range of measures of well-being that go beyond economic activity.

This year's report places Norway at the top of the well-being ladder, along with several other Scandinavian countries.  At the bottom are several sub-Saharan African countries, along with Syria. The United States ranks 14th.

Clearly, well-being is roughly related to wealth.  That, though, is not the whole story.  The world rankings show that several Latin American countries are better off than their economic performance would suggest, because they also invest in the kinds of quality relationships that improve well-being.

National governments have been trying to measure and promote overall well-being since the '70s, when Bhutan proclaimed that they would aim to improve Gross National Happiness, more than just Gross National Product. GNP includes all measures of economic activity - more money spent on security and divorce and disease, as well as money spent on good things.  Well-being measures, by contrast, look specifically at things that make life better.

In the U.S., our economic indicators have been improving since the recession, but our social trust measures have been declining.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Helping When Another's Religion is Under Attack

On Tuesdays I get to talk on WKYB, Danville's country station.  This was this week's topic.

Mr. Rogers famously said "When I was a boy and would see scary things on television, my mother would say 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"  Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister.  This attitude reflects both a Calvinist sense that there will always be sin in the world, tempered by a mainline faith's belief that the world is full of decent people who will come to provide aid.

I have been struck by the number of instances recently in which, in response to terrorist attacks on one faith, people of other faiths have been quick to help.  When the Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania were vandalized, Muslims organized the relief effort. When a mosque was burned in Texas, people from all over, mostly Christians, quickly raised a million dollars to rebuild. In Cameroon, where a Muslim terrorist organization threatens not just vandalism but murder against any who do not practice their eccentric brand of Islam, Christians and Muslims take turns protecting one another's places of worship on their respective sabbath days.

The religious terrorists are few.  The religious helpers are many.  Look for the helpers.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Plunder Agenda is the Main Point of the Trump Administration

The main activity of the new Republican government has been to roll back regulations that costs corporations and their rich owners money.  Lobbyists have been sending in their wish lists of environmental, health and safety, consumer protection regulations they want ended - even rules that protect the entire world capitalist system from another meltdown.

In nearly all cases, the Trump administration and the Ryan-McConnell Congress has been complying with these corporate wishes before the public can respond. The administration of the "best negotiator" has asked for nothing in return - no alternative method of protecting the public or the future, no jobs made or saved, to alternative revenue to pay for the president's hugely expensive announced agenda.

The foxes are in charge of the henhouses, and are dealing out the chickens as fast as they can.

This is really what this administration is about.  Their actions on immigration, abortion, marijuana, and the endless tweets are secondary at best, and a smokescreen most of the time.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Good News About Reforestation

On Tuesdays I get to talk on WKYB, Danville's country radio station.  This was today's topic.

The world is reforesting at a delightful rate.

True, we are still losing more forest each year than we gain.  But the rate of deforestation has slowed. Brazil, home to the "world's lungs," the Amazon rainforest, has made great strides in reducing forest cutting.

Moreover, some countries have had astoundingly successful reforestation programs.  China has had a net gain of 46,000 square miles of forest in the past decade. Pakistan has planted 750 million trees just in the past year or so. And last summer India planted almost 50 million trees in one day.

The United States has more trees now than it did a century ago.  We use much less wood for fuel, and have returned many acres of marginal farmland to trees.  Some of this effort is government driven, but quite a bit is from the decisions of millions of private property owners that it makes sense to plant trees - or just to let them regrow naturally.

In Danville, yours truly has helped raise money in an ongoing project to plant 50 trees a year along downtown streets.  This is a micro initiative, but is like many others which, taken together, add up to a macro reforestation of urban America.

Good going, trees.