The philosophy behind Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan misses the point: first-world states take care of their own
Helmut Schmidt, the great West German Chancellor and former Nazi artilleryman, is now, at the age of 92, confined to a wheel chair. He continues to chain-smoke Renos, and has a tendency to push himself in and out from his desk incessantly as he speaks. When we met last March in a smoky, Hamburg office still modeled off the years of his chancellorship, he predicted divisive, perhaps violent years ahead for America.
"By the middle of the century," he said, "the Hispanics and the Afro-Americans, these two minorities together, on the one hand they will form a majority of the electorate, and on the other hand they will demand social security for themselves. They will demand access to colleges and to universities and to positions higher up in the economy and the society."
The shifting demographic has been affirmed by the 2010 census, and is not, unto itself, particularly revelatory. Schmidt's prediction of an ethnic clash alongside the shift is more original, though hopefully less prescient.
Such demands will go "against basic instincts of the white Anglo-Saxon population," in Schmidt's assessment, and are likely to lead to conflict. The demands are certain to include citizenship, in the case of tens of millions of Latinos, and schools that graduate more than 55-65 percent of their poorest pupils. They're likely to include a social safety net with fewer holes -- more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies are the result of medical bills, according to a Harvard Medical school study from 2009 (PDF) -- and more attention to workers' rights in farming and services industries.