[saymaListserv] Politics and Economics

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Sat Nov 22 16:39:45 JEST 2003

Dear SAYMA Friends,  Just a note to tell you about a very short 
article that is worthy of discussion, and to offer an apology.

I have always been on the side of population control and have been 
especially concerned about how many children are having children.  I 
worked for Planned Parenthood for several years as paid staff and, 
eventually, ran a regional office of Planned Parenthood on the 
Eastern Shore of Maryland. We taught Adolescent Sex Education on a 
grant from Johns Hopkins to address the problems of the high birth 
rate among teenagers in that area as well as an unusually high 
incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.  The program was quite 
effective (I understood later from the Planned Parenthood office in 
Baltimore that the rates of adolescent pregnancy and sexual disease 
transmission were down by 25% and 30% in our area after the Johns 
Hopkins program was implemented). Of course, the program was quite 
controversial and so was shut down after a few years primarily 
because of protests from fundamentalist Christians on the Eastern 
Shore who were steadfastly opposed to birth control, abortion and 
sex education.

But something else quite significant has happened since then.  It is 
summarised  in a one page article in National Geographic, September 
'03, by Scott Elder.  The title is "Europe's Baby Bust" It is about 
the change in world population that has been occurring for some years 
and is now beginning to have a dramatic effect in much of Europe. 
Because of my long term concern with population studies I found it 
most interesting.  It illustrates clearly that much of the world is 
no longer suffering from rampant population growth as it seemed to be 
when I worked for Planned Parenthood in the'70s, but rather from the 
reverse. The developed world is now facing a population deficit, 
which is causing alarm and the rethinking of long term entitlements 
such as Social Security and Medicare.  Elder says "Without babies to 
replenish the labor force and pay taxes Europeans will be hard 
pressed to fund the pensions of longer-living retirees."  And the 
problem is not just in Europe.

The US is close but not quite at the point of population deficit yet. 
However, that population deficit is looming large in our future and 
in the minds of many of our politicians who have been briefed on this 
matter. The politicians fear especially that if we keep on funding 
Social Security and Medicare at current levels, the money available 
for other government services, and especially the pork barrel 
government programs that keep many politicians in office, will run 
dry.  One answer to the problem for the US and Western Europe is to 
admit more young immigrants and refugees who are anxious to work and 
pay taxes.  The insistent pressure of migration on the US and on 
certain Western European countries (France, Britain, Ireland, the 
Netherlands and Norway) has enabled these countries to delay facing 
this monumental economic change. However many people, including those 
near the top in the present US administration, don't really like 
having more refugees and immigrants in their midst.  There is still a 
prominent racial and cultural bias which appears to be the source of 
resistance to increasing the number of foreign immigrants and 
refugees. That tension, between the unpleasant realities in our 
economic future and a dislike and mistrust of foreigners, may 
underlie much of the political debate in the US, Western Europe and 
the rest of the world for years to come.

If anyone in SAYMA wishes to comment, respond or argue about this I 
would love to hear back online. My previous messages have engendered 
responses but the messages were all addressed to me and the rest of 
SAYMA didn't have the privilege of sharing in the discussion.  I 
think that as Friends we believe in and try to embody "one standard 
of Truth" so please share your thoughts.  It will make for a  more 
interesting dialog.

Now, for my apology: On June 28th of this year I wrote on the Kitenet 
list the following:

"Actually, the only places in the world where poverty is still 
increasing are in remote areas of China and India. These are areas 
where one aspect of globalization, moving jobs away from affluent 
workers in the US to impoverished workers in the rest of the world, 
has not yet reached. Everywhere that globalization has reached both 
employment and incomes have increased, sometimes dramatically, for 
the poor."

I completely left out the largest area of entrenched poverty in the 
world, Sub-Saharan Africa.  I have worked in Africa and am well aware 
of the severe economic problems so why did I leave it out of my 
message entirely?  I really do not know. I only realized the mistake 
when I reread the message much later on.  That omission may have been 
related to my disability which leaves me in pain most of the time and 
in severe pain some of the time.  When the pain is severe I don't 
think, speak or write clearly.  I'm not offering this as an excuse, 
just a possibly relevant fact.

(To update the message from 6-28, in recent economic data both India 
and China have turned the corner and are fractionally up in 
alleviating poverty among their people and environmental degradation 
in their countries.  Both Chinese and Indian people are becoming less 
poor. China is ahead in some areas of economic advancement and India 
in others, primarily as a result of globalization.)

Janet Minshall

Janet's new e mail address is :  jhminshall at comcast.net

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