We are increasingly pummeled with claims that the economy has regained its health and jobs have increased and rosy days for Americans are ahead if we continue to pursue economic expansionist measures. That was a theme of the State of the Union Address. Another claim of American exceptionalism, “America on the way up,” appeared in the February 1 issue of The Washington Post. The writers, Gen. David Petraeus (USA Ret.) and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute, asserted that, “Short-term economic trends in the United States are encouraging.”
Among the indicators they point to for their upbeat assessment was, “The United States is now the world’s largest producer of both oil liquids and natural gas…” It is important reading these claims to keep in mind that the comment is about the “short-term.” That reservation is important because in the long-term petroleum and natural gas deposits are finite. That means that the faster that they are extracted and consumed the sooner that they will no longer be available. It is difficult to imagine a post-petroleum economy, but at present there is no prospect for maintaining a highly energy-dependent economy like ours without petroleum products.
One irrefutable line from President Obama’s SOTU address was that we need to “protect the one planet we’ve got.” That line expresses recognition of the need for near-term measures to achieve long-term sustainability.
But, both President Obama and the writers of the Post commentary ignore long-term impacts while focused on short-term effects. For example, both back “comprehensive immigration reform” even though that proposal includes a major increase in immigrant admissions which, in turn, means a faster rate of population growth. Petraeus and O’Hanlon state that, “America’s demographics are far and away the healthiest among the developed economies, as well as Russia, China and India, with a nice and steady 1 percent annual population growth rate.” If they focused on the long-term, they would note that a one-percent rate of growth means a doubling of the population in 70 years. Doubling the population means vastly increasing consumption of natural resources. Immigration is already the source of the majority of U.S. population increase, and adding millions to our already historic high level of immigration is sure to speed up the rate of population growth.
If the American people are going to hold policymakers responsible for sustainable immigration policies that are needed to help protect future generations in this piece of the planet that we are responsible for, it is important that we speak up when we hear advocacy of short-term proposals that are harmful in the long-term.