Come this October - or thereabouts - the population of the United States will hit 300 million. It was 1967 when our population topped 200 million. It will be in the 2040s when the population will likely top the 400 million mark. But as is often the case, those numbers don't begin to explain the impact of this growth or the changes that are virtually inevitable. For many of us, those changes won't be welcome news. But then again, many of us won't be around to witness and experience these changes.
But our grandchildren will and that, I believe, is why some of these numbers are so troubling.
I am a white, middle-class baby boomer. Thus, I view these population changes from that perspective. I make no apologies for my viewpoints but it's important to know that others most certainly don't share my concerns nor fears. I'll leave it to you to make your own conclusion.
The population projections were widely reported last week when first announced. As you would expect, there was less than universal agreement on whether this nation is headed in the right or the wrong direction. But the one statistic that stood above all others is the explosion in the Hispanic population in the United States. All other statistical projections were meaningless compared to the inevitable growth in our Mexican population.
When this nation hit the 200 million population mark back in 1967, the Hispanic population was just 4 percent and most experts believe it was actually less. The wording of the first census count for Hispanics led many people to make mistakes and inflate the count. Today the Hispanic population here is 14 percent - larger than the black population. By 2040, the Hispanic population will hit 25 percent and the white population will barely top the 50 percent mark.
It doesn't take a social scientist to understand that this population shift will have profound impact on American culture and American society as a whole. Proponents of immigration say the changes will expand the cultural opportunities of this nation. Opponents say the changes will effectively end the American way of life. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
I'll fully admit, I have grave concerns for the changes that are ahead. And yet without effective and immediately immigration reform, these numbers are daunting. If you want a bilingual, global society with very little resemblance to the cultural values of today's America, then the future here will seem optimistic to you. If, however, you yearn for the dream that this nation's founders embraced, the future is less than optimistic.
What the statistics don't say is more important than what they do. All experts agree that the overwhelming majority of this new immigrant population will be poor and uneducated. This new population will be chasing a dream of prosperity that is currently unavailable in their native land. The real question is just how much can this nation absorb in financial support for millions of newcomers crossing our borders daily. I believe we will reach a point in the not-too-distant future where our social delivery structure will crumble under the weighty burden of millions of low-income newcomers.
In so many ways, I am glad I won't be around for that day. But then again, my grandchildren will be around and the burden may well be placed squarely on their shoulders. I can't help but wonder how that future generation will view this current generation when that day arrives.