Tag: crisis

1.3 Percent of All Central Americans in the Northern Triangle Were Apprehended by Border Patrol This Fiscal Year – So Far

Border Patrol apprehensions of Central Americans from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rose again this month to 444,509, so far this fiscal year (FY).  According to United Nations population estimates, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 1.32 percent of all residents of the Northern Triangle countries to date this fiscal year.  Northern Triangle citizens account for 75 percent of all Border Patrol apprehensions this FY.

So far in FY 2019, 1.8 percent of the population of Honduras, 1.2 percent of the population of Guatemala, and 0.9 percent of the population of El Salvador have been apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol.  The percent of the Northern Triangle populations apprehended by Border Patrol are still far lower than the annual emigration rates from many European countries during the Age of Migration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  According to Dudley Baines, the emigration rate from Italy was about 2 percent per year from 1901-1913 while it was almost 4 percent per year from Calabria during the same time.  Regardless, Border Patrol apprehensions in FY 2019 as a percentage of the sending country’s population is very high.

The rate of Northern Triangle emigration has accelerated rapidly over the last several years as reflected by the percent of the population in those countries apprehended by Border Patrol (Figure 1).  However, the collapse of Border Patrol apprehensions of Mexicans is equally dramatic as it fell from about 0.6 percent of Mexico’s population in 2007 to 0.1 percent in 2019.  A major difference between the apprehension of Mexicans in the past and those from the Northern Triangle today is that the latter are turning themselves into Border Patrol to ask for asylum while the former were trying to evade.

Figure 1: Percent of Northern Triangle Countries and Mexico Apprehended by Border Patrol

Figure 1 does not include the number of immigrants from those countries who received green cards, work visas, entered unlawfully and escaped detection, or returned to their home countries from the United States.  It is just a gross apprehension rate by Border Patrol.  It both undercounts and overcounts the net emigration rate from the Northern Triangle.  It overcounts because only some of those apprehended are let in and many are removed, it doesn’t include other deportations from the interior of the United States, and it doesn’t count voluntary returns.  It undercounts because it doesn’t include the number of green cards issued to those abroad in the Northern Triangle nor does it include the number of other visas issued to them.  The net effect on the net emigration rate of the Northern Triangle is ambiguous.

Public Sees Past Facade of “Financial Reform”

A new AP-Gfk poll reveals that about two-thirds of the American public lack confidence that the financial regulation bill, currently being crafted by House and Senate conferees, will actually help avert future financial crises. 

The public is right to be skeptical, as there is nothing in either the House or Senate bill that ends bailouts or ends “too-big-to-fail.”  In fact parts of the bill, such as the expansion of deposit insurance, will actually increase the likelihood of future crises.  (The IMF has an insightful working paper on the negative impacts of deposit insurance). 

Perhaps the failure of Congressional efforts to end financial crises is the result of Washington’s unwillingness to recognize that government itself was the major driver of the recent crisis.  Fortunately the public seems to get that.  Some 70 percent of the poll respondents believe that government shares blame for the crisis.  Here’s to hoping that Congress will at some point listen to the public, and end many of the distortionary policies that caused the crisis.

Fiscal Imbalance and Global Power

Over at National Journal’s National Security Experts blog, this week’s question revolves around the health of the U.S. economy, and its relationship to U.S. power. 

The editors ask

How serious a threat is the mounting debt to the nation’s standing as the world’s only superpower? Can the U.S. continue to spend more than all other countries combined on its military forces given burdensome debt levels? In what other ways does the mounting debt undermine the country’s strategic position? […]

My response:

Our long-term fiscal imbalance, which increasingly amounts to a massive intergenerational wealth transfer, is clearly a sign of our decline. But it is a decline that has been a long time coming. (I first wrote about the insolvency of the Social Security system as a college sophomore, 23 years ago.) As such, it is tempting for people to assume that we’ll figure our way out of this mess before a complete collapse. Let’s call them, at the risk of a double negative, the declinist naysayers. And, even if they are willing to admit to the problem in the abstract, the naysayers can point to the more serious, and urgent, imbalances between pensioners and those who pay the pensions in Europe or Japan and say “At least we aren’t them.”

That is a pretty shoddy argument, but it seems to be ruling the day. We can talk about the obvious unsustainability of using taxes on current workers to pay benefits for retirees until we’re blue in the face. And my second grader can do the math on a system that was designed when workers outnumbered beneficiaries by 16.5 to 1, and in which, by 2030, that ratio will fall to 2 to 1. It simply doesn’t add up. (For more on this, much more, see my colleague Jagadeesh Gokhale’s latest.)

But this isn’t a math problem; this is a political problem. The incentive to kick the can down the road is overwhelming. The pain in attempting to deal with the problem in the here and now is, well, painful. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that members of Congress / Parliament / Bundestag / Diet, etc, have become very good at avoiding the issue altogether. And many of those who have chosen to tackle it are “spending more time with their families.”

What does all this mean for the United States’s standing as the world superpower? Less than you might think. Our difficulties in two medium-sized countries in SW/Central Asia have done more to puncture the illusion of American power than our political inability to deal with domestic problems. Our fiscal insolvency might convince other countries to play a larger role, if they genuinely feared for their safety. But other countries, especially our allies, are cutting military spending, while Uncle Sam continues to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. In other words, our ability to maintain our global superpower status isn’t driven by our economic problems. But it is strategically stupid.

It is here that I take issue with Ron Marks’s contention that we spend less today than during the Cold War. While technically accurate, measuring military spending as a share of GDP is utterly misleading (as I’ve argued elsewhere.) If the point is to argue that we could spend more, I agree. But the measure doesn’t address whether we should do so.

We should think of military spending not as a share of the American economy, but rather relative to the threats we face. In real terms (constant current dollars), we spend today more than when we were facing down a nuclear-armed adversary with a massive army stationed in Eastern Europe and a navy that plied the seven seas from Cam Ranh Bay to Cuba. We spend more than during the height of the Vietnam or Korean Wars. Today, terrorist leaders are hunkered down in safe houses somewhere in, well, somewhere. In other words, what we spend is utterly disconnected from the threats we face, a point that is easily obscured when one focuses on military spending as a share of total output.

We spend so much today not because we are facing down one very scary adversary, but because we are facing down dozens or hundreds of small adversaries that should be confronted by others. After the Cold War ended, our strategy expanded to justify a massive military. Since 9/11, it has expanded further. Our fiscal crisis alone won’t force a reevaluation of our grand strategy. It will take sound strategic judgement, and a bit of political courage, to turn things around.

In the cover letter to his just-released National Security Strategy, President Obama acknowledged that it doesn’t make sense for any one country to attempt to police the entire planet, irrespective of the costs. Unfortunately, the document fails to outline a mechanism for transferring some of the burdens of global governance to others who benefit from a peaceful and prosperous world order. We should assume, therefore, that the U.S. military will continue to be the go-to force for cleaning up all manner of problems, and that the U.S. taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.

Did the IMF Deliberately Exaggerate the 2008 Financial Crisis?

This month, two vice-presidents of the Czech National Bank (CNB) have made very serious allegations against the International Monetary Fund. Below is the summary of their claims so far:

  1. Speaking to the Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard on April 2, Mojmir Hampl, the vice-president of the CNB, said that the IMF under Dominique Strauss-Kahn “wanted to expand its role in Eastern Europe and obtain new financial resources.” Hampl claimed that the IMF exaggerated problems with the financial systems in Eastern Europe. “We have always emphasized that the instability of the financial system [in 2008] was a Western European problem. That proved correct… According to a recent EU report, only nine out of 27 EU member states did not have to introduce any financial stabilization measures [during the crisis]. All nine were new [mostly Eastern European] member states.”
  2. Hampl’s claim was echoed by his colleague, CNB vice-president Miroslav Singer, in today’s edition of the Czech daily Hospodarske Noviny. According to Singer, “I cannot say nice things about the IMF’s role in the 2008 crisis.” The Financial Times, Singer continued, carried a lot of nonsensical stories about the state of the Czech financial sector prior to the crisis. Instead of dispelling those stories, the IMF produced a study about the Czech Republic based on incorrect data and then leaked it to the Financial Times.  “It is difficult to be certain… that the IMF wanted to harm the Czechs, Slovaks or Poles on purpose… More likely it was a combination of panic, lack of expertise and a desire to see problems everywhere.”

If true, these claims raise troubling questions about the incentives behind the largest increase of resources in the Fund’s history.

“Freedom in Crisis” on YouTube

My “Freedom in Crisis” speech, which has gotten some compliments as I’ve delivered it in various venues, is now available on the web, complete with accompanying Powerpoint illustrations.

Find it also on the Cato site here. And a partial transcript (pdf) was printed in Cato’s Letter. (Get a free subscription to Cato’s Letter here.) And to hear speeches like this live, watch for details on the next Cato University, July 25-30, 2010, in San Diego.

Monday Links

  • Burnt rubber: Obama’s decision to slap a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires whiffs of senseless protectionism.