Monday, September 6, 2010

On Maine's Quiet Crisis

Charles Lawton:

The single greatest challenge facing Maine today is
demographic. Over the next 20 years, our 65+ population will increase over 80
percent, while our population age 20 to 29 will decrease by nearly 30 percent.
If we are to avoid the stagnation and poverty of a population entirely dependent
on transfer payments coming from an ever-declining working-age cohort, we need
to increase ways for the elderly to remain in the labor market--even, or perhaps
especially, part-time.
This solution--getting older workers to stay in the job market--will definitely be needed, especially when you consider that any compromise that salvages Social Security will probably include raising the age of eligibility for the program.

The other solution, as Lawton and others have pointed out numerous times, is to grow the work force (read: Retain and recruit youngsters). Increasing the birthrate could be a factor, but social, cultural, and economic trends (Maine has the second-lowest birthrate in the U.S.) shouldn't make us very optimistic about that option.

What is left, then, is immigration, both from within the borders of the U.S. and from outside America. Strip away any other humanitarian and ethical reasons for Mainers to become more welcoming and engaging toward American and foreign immigrants and you get perhaps the most appealing argument to beat back the paranoia and fear that is unbefitting for a state and country that have such a good track record of assimilation: It's in our collective self-interest that those "from away" are successful. And it seems to me the best way to encourage success is engagement, not ostracism.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: The New Brunswick Model (August 19, 2010)
Related: 2010 v. 1895 (May 5, 2010)
Related: Cross-Pollination, Take Two (March 10, 2010)

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