Refugees: 750,000 Coming, 600,000 (Illegally) Staying

In February (g), the German government estimated 300,000 people would seek asylum in Germany in 2015. Just six or so weeks ago, the German Federal Ministry for Migration upped the number to 450,000. A few weeks ago it climbed again to 600,000 (g). Now it's at 750,000 (g). Is that linear or exponential?

According to the Federal Interior Ministry, 600,000 is also the number of migrants who, as of January 2015, were living in Germany (g) even though their applications for asylum had been denied. One fact that rarely gets mentioned in abstract debates about immigration policy is that even when migrants do not show they have a legal right to continue living in Germany, they are almost never actually deported.

So, 750,000 (and rising) migrants are expected this year, and there are 600,000 immigrants currently living in Germany without legal permission because the government cannot or will not deport them. 

I wonder if there's a link between those two numbers?


Corey's Awakening

A story very loosely based on my many interactions with activists over the years.

There was once a sensible, compassionate progressive (SCP). Let's call him Corey. Corey is a gender-fluid freelance graphic designer who lives in Seattle.

Over a period of months several blatant injustices suffered by Members of a Disadvantaged Community (MDCs) came to Corey's attention. He and his SCP friends exchanged many messages on Facebook and Twitter sharing their outrage. They also shared many tweets from MDC activists. But not the ones that contained death threats. Corey saw a highly articulate Assistant Professor on television who put these injustices into historical context.

Eventually Corey and his SCP friends decided that merely sharing social media outrage was empty symbolism. They decided to go to a local meeting of Outraged Activists to show their solidarity and support. Let's follow Corey's train of thought at the meeting: 
  1. Man, it feels good to be really attending one of these meetings. I am in the middle of MDCs but I feel completely safe. People are giving me approving glances.
  2. This first speaker from the local church is really eloquent. 
  3. Time for the next speaker, from the local No Justice No Peace campaign.
  4. Feels a little uncomfortable chanting No Justice No Peace and raising my arm. I'm really not much of a group person. But it's also exhilarating!
  5. Wow, this guy is sure using a lot of, er, uncompromising phrases. But then again, he's justifiably angry about real problems, so who can blame him?
  6. Some of his demands are reasonable, but some are really pretty much totally unworkable. I mean, do we really need to disband the police?
  7. Hmm, that statement about Hillary Clinton made me a bit uncomfortable. Not sure that's the vibe we need.
  8. Oh cool, another speaker, this one from the Local Branch 45 of the Unapologetic Militant Task Force.
  9. Wow, that's some salty language.
  10. Uh, are you allowed to say that about the President in public? Besides, I don't think that would fit in Obama's 'booty'. Do men even have booties? Well, he's probably just using metaphors and exaggeration for rhetorical effect. And the crowd seems to be loving it. 
  11. Wait, what do the Jews have to do with any of this? Doesn't this guy realize we're on his side?
  12. Is that dope I smell? Not that I'm against ganja -- to the contrary! -- but not sure this is the time and place.
  13. Wait, how did we progressives become the bad guys?
  14. I'm really not sure these Auschwitz comparisons are helpful. Besides, wasn't this guy just dissing the Jews?
  15. Speech over. Whew. Now people from the audience are being asked for their 'interventions'. This should be interesting.
  16. Wow, this guy is really taking that Auschwitz analogy to bizarre new lengths. 
  17. And now that I look closer, he's not wearing pants! Shouldn't someone tell him he's not wearing pants? Doesn't the audience care he's not wearing pants?
  18. Now two heavyset women have kicked him off the stage and started screaming talking points from a crumpled piece of paper.
  19. My friends and I have decided to discreetly exit the building now.
  20. Over some really hoppy IPA at One-Eyed Jeremiah, my friends and I have decided we will never speak of this experience again.

Germany Receives Highest-Ever Monthly Number of Migrants in July 2015

Germany just broke a record: 79,000 people arrived in Germany and filed claims for political asylum in July 2015 alone (g). This is the highest monthly total ever recorded in Germany. According to the Federal Ministry for Migration and Refugees, 450,000 migrants will arrive in Germany in this year alone. If those numbers seem almost unbelievably high, that's because they are. As of right now in Germany, 209,000 asylum applications are being processed. 90,000 of them were filed by migrants from the Balkans, over 99% of whom have no valid grounds for political asylum. In the past few weeks alone, 30,000 Albanians applied for political asylum. 99.9% of these claims are rejected, as Schmidt reports.

The FAZ also notes that members of the Green Party, who are twice as likely as other Germans to endorse open borders, tend to live in expensive urban areas (g) of German cities in which you find almost no migrants. Fancy that!


Socialists Against Open Borders

Bernie Sanders is the U.S. Senator from Vermont, and a self-declared 'democratic socialist'. Until very recently, that label was about as successful in US politics as 'unrepentant pederast'. But now Sanders is running for the Democratic presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton. Although he has almost no chance of winning it, he is attracting huge crowds and plenty of attention, and is clearly forcing Clinton to the left. Sanders is easily the most left-wing serious candidate for a Presidential nomination in at least 15, if not 50 years. He would certainly be my choice for President.

And he's strongly against open borders:

Ezra Klein

You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders. About sharply increasing ...

Bernie Sanders

Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein

Really?

Bernie Sanders

Of course. That's a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. ...

...

Ezra Klein

It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn't it?

Bernie Sanders

It would make everybody in America poorer —you're doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don't think there's any country in the world that believes in that. If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you're a white high school graduate, it's 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?

I think from a moral responsibility we've got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don't do that by making people in this country even poorer.

Ezra Klein

Then what are the responsibilities that we have? Someone who is poor by US standards is quite well off by, say, Malaysian standards, so if the calculation goes so easily to the benefit of the person in the US, how do we think about that responsibility?

We have a nation-state structure. I agree on that. But philosophically, the question is how do you weight it? How do you think about what the foreign aid budget should be? How do you think about poverty abroad?

Bernie Sanders

I do weigh it. As a United States senator in Vermont, my first obligation is to make certain kids in my state and kids all over this country have the ability to go to college, which is why I am supporting tuition-free public colleges and universities. I believe we should create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. I believe we should raise the minimum wage to at least 15 bucks an hour so people in this county are not living in poverty. I think we end the disgrace of some 20 percent of our kids living in poverty in America. Now, how do you do that?

What you do is understand there's been a huge redistribution of wealth in the last 30 years from the middle class to the top tenth of 1 percent. The other thing that you understand globally is a horrendous imbalance in terms of wealth in the world. As I mentioned earlier, the top 1 percent will own more than the bottom 99 percent in a year or so. That's absurd. That takes you to programs like the IMF and so forth and so on.

But I think what we need to be doing as a global economy is making sure that people in poor countries have decent-paying jobs, have education, have health care, have nutrition for their people. That is a moral responsibility, but you don't do that, as some would suggest, by lowering the standard of American workers, which has already gone down very significantly.


Immigration Is the Labour Party's Millstone

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The most fundamental distinction lawyers and philosophers learn is between 'ought' and 'is', or the similar fact/value distinction. If you go into court and argue that your client should not be sent to prison because the laws are unfair and really ought to be improved, you will lose, and your client will go to prison. As the old saying goes, this ain't a court of justice, this is a court of law.

Should the native inhabitants of European nation-states embrace large numbers of immigrants who don't look like them and don't share their language, religion, and/or culture? You can have a lively and interesting debate about this question, with plausible arguments on both sides. But even if you argue yes, emphatically, they ought do to so, that does not mean it is the case that they actually do.

If you ignore the fact that most native Britons, Germans, Swedes, Danes, etc. do not want large numbers of people from very different cultures being allowed to permanently settle in their countries, you risk a backlash that will make the situation worse. We are seeing this right now with the rise of right-wing nativist parties all over Europe. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

The British Labour party is also finding this out. As we all know, it recently got its head handed to it on a platter in a humiliating national defeat. Much of the blame of course rests with Scotland, where Labour supporters ditched the party to vote SNP. Some more of the blame goes to an unconvincing campaign. But in their desperate attempt to understand why one of Britain's two mass political parties is disintegrating, Labour analysts are hitting upon one theme over and over: immigration.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Labour oversaw a massive increase in immigration into Great Britain. Former Labour speechwriter Andrew Neather has claimed that one of the reasons for this policy change was that Labour wanted to create a new 'multicultural' Britain.

Whether you agree with this policy is one thing. Quite another is whether closely associating itself with large increases in immigration damaged Labour. The evidence is pouring in on that point.

Shortly after their shellacking, Labour convened focus groups of former Labour voters to find out why they abandoned the party. In an article tellingly entitled "Labour's lost voters may never return again (sic), study finds", the Guardian -- summarized the results. The voters identified a weak candidate and tax policy as some of their concerns, but the party:

...was also seen as anti-business, in the pocket of the unions and not tough enough on immigration. “Immigration is the topic that, left to their own devices, the respondents would have talked about all night. Their central arguments, across all groups and repeated frequently, were along the lines that our country is full, our country is broke and public services are creaking and cannot stand extra strain.”

Recently, seven Labour MPs who lost their seats in the last election decided to canvass their constituents to find out why. You may notice a certain pattern:

The campaign, the authors claim, addressed only “the needy and greedy”, leaving the rest ignored. The party had nothing to say on welfare, business creation or immigration, “sounding as if it was on the side of those that don’t work”.

Labour, they say, was “frightened to enter the difficult conversations on immigration, leaving those discussions to go on without the Labour party”.

The seven also suggest Labour needs not just to regain economic credibility but to rethink its approach to immigration, advocating a shift from free to fair movement of labour within the EU.

They write: “We need to answer concerns about immigration and identity, especially for people attracted by Ukip’s resistance to change.

...

We had been told by senior figures in the party that Ukip was a boon to Labour, splitting the right of the country, but not for marginal seats like ours. In these white working class communities, particularly on the coast, Ukip tore our vote apart.

“This loss of the white working class vote is a crisis for our party, not just because we lost, but because it raises an existential question about who we represent.”

Should Europeans be more accommodating toward immigrants? Perhaps they should. Are they going to be more accommodating to immigrants in the near future? No. In fact there is every reason to think they will continue on a well-established path of being increasingly less accommodating to immigrants. They will increasingly vote for nativist parties and insist on stricter controls.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Iraq War 2005 = (sort of) Greece Bailout 2015

American economic historian Jacob Soll notes the self-righteous anger shown by German economists at a recent meeting:

But when the German economists spoke at the final session, a completely different tone took over the room. Within the economic theories and numbers came a moral message: The Germans were honest dupes and the Greeks corrupt, unreliable and incompetent. Both parties were reduced to caricatures of themselves. We’ve heard this story throughout the negotiations, but in that room, it was clear how much resentment shapes the views of German economists.

Clemens Fuest, of the Center for European Economic Research, who has advised Mr. Schäuble, kept reciting numbers about Greek debt and growth, and said the Greeks had failed at every level over the past several years to manage their debt. He believed they should simply be thrown out of the eurozone. Henrik Enderlein, of the pro-European Jacques Delors Institute, said that Greece should stay in the eurozone, but only if it applied more austerity and better management. Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies, theorized that Greek debt and economic woes could be countered only with better export numbers.

All points were important, but to hear it from these economists, Germany played no real part in the Greek tragedy. They handed over their money and watched as the Greeks destroyed themselves over the past four years. Now the Greeks deserved what was coming to them.

When I pointed out that the Germans had played a major role in this situation, helping at the very least by insisting on austerity and unsustainable debt over the last three years, doing little to improve accounting standards, and now effectively imposing devastating capital controls, Mr. Enderlein and Mr. Fuest scoffed. When I mentioned that many saw austerity as a new version of the 1919 Versailles Treaty that would bring in a future “chaotic and unreliable” government in Greece — the very kind that Mr. Enderlein warned about in an essay in The Guardian — they countered that they were furious about being compared to Nazis and terrorists.

When I noted that no matter how badly the Greeks had handled their economy, German demands and the possible chaos of a Grexit risked political populism, unrest and social misery, they were unmoved. Debtors who default, they explained, would simply have to suffer, no matter how rough and even unfair the terms of the loans. There were those who handled their economies well, and took their suffering silently, like Finland and Latvia, they said. In contrast, a country like Greece, where many people don’t pay their taxes, did not seem to merit empathy. It reminded me that in German, debt, “schuld,” also means moral fault or blame.

Here lies a major cultural disconnect, and also a risk for the Germans. For it seems that their sense of victimization has made them lose their cool, both in negotiations and in their economic assessments. If the Germans are going to lead Europe, they can’t do it as victims.

I agree that Nazi comparisons are moronic (the better historical analogy is the Treaty of Versailles). But many mainstream German commentators react with outrage to any criticism of Germany’s handling of the Euro crisis, no matter how well-informed.

The German reaction to criticism reminds me of the reaction of certain Americans (and some others) to criticism of the Iraq War in, say, 2005. In both situations, countries which were pursuing their own self-interest (probably a very short-sighted and foolish version of it, but self-interest nonetheless) wanted everyone not only to let them pursue it but to admire them for doing so.

The other dynamic, which proved so fatal to many European America-philes, was a version of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Some of the critics of the American invasion were delusional leftists who always criticize the United States in harsh and often unreasonable terms. Since I despise these sorts of people and everything they stand for, the America-defender thought, I must instinctively support anything they oppose. This dynamic, known as ‘punching the hippies’, reappears throughout history and has been responsible for millions of dumbass decisions by otherwise generally smart people.  

Because of these two dynamics, any criticism was chalked up to resentment, ignorance, or prejudice. Sober questions about whether the policy was effective or morally justified were met with the kinds of deflection and misdirection that people universally resort to when defending a decision an action they vocally supported, but which is rapidly, publicly going pear-shaped. The conversations went a little like this:

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified and will lead to positive results?

-- What are you implying? Have you seen the protesters with their Bush = Hitler signs? Let me tell you, if morons like that are against it, it’s probably a good idea.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- Why don’t you ask a Kurd or a Marsh Arab or one of Saddam’s countless torture victims that question?

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- Europe is full of anti-American cranks who are going to hate us no matter what we do, so I don’t particularly care about their opinion.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- People who think modern problems can always be solved peacefully are foolish, naive, and irresponsible.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- You’re trying to make this into an American thing. Don’t you realize the coalition of the willing includes Britain, as well as many Eastern European and Micronesian nations?

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- The historical analogy you’re implying in your question is both inaccurate and deeply offensive.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- I see this is the thanks we get from Europe for saving their asses twice during the last century.

So, do you think the invasion of Iraq was justified…?

-- If America has to go it alone in spreading democracy and freedom in a troubled part of the world, I guess that’s just what it will take.

And so on and so on, ad infinitum. I see basically the same dynamic playing out now in Germany, as the agreement reached after the recent summit is being roundly attacked by the vast majority of non-German observers, and not a few German ones as well.

My advice to Germans still clinging to the Finance Ministry’s viewpoint: give up. There's no defending the indefensible. It’ll make your life, and everyone else's, much easier.

UPDATE: Krgthulu's mailbox is buzzing with angry Germans:

You see, I’ve been getting a lot of mail from Germany lately, in a break from (or actually an addition to) my usual deluge of right-wing hate mail. I’m well aware that this is a highly distorted sample, since I’m only hearing from those angry enough and irrational enough — seriously, what do the writers expect to accomplish? — to send such things. Still, the content of the correspondence is striking.

Basically, the incoming missives take two forms:

1. Obscenities, in both English and German

2. Bitter accusations of persecution, along the lines of “As a Jew you should know the dangers of demonizing a people.” Because criticizing a nation’s economic ideology is just like declaring its people subhuman.

Again, these are letter-writers, and hardly representative. But Germany’s sense of victimization does seem real, and is a big problem for its neighbors.


Jochen Bittner and Anna Sauerbrey are the Face of Germany in the USA

Cultural Ambassadors. These are the people, usually journalists, who get picked by Home Country journalists to be the face of Foreign Country in Home's press. Usually, it's because they have learned to speak Home's language, and have connections there. They then become the sole source of information and commentary about Foreign Country for the vast millions of Home's residents who are mildly curious about Foreign Country, but not curious enough to do more than read an occasional newspaper column.

Right now, the preferred Germany-explainers to America are Jochen Bittner of Die Zeit, and Anna Sauerbrey of Die Welt. Here is an excerpt of Sauerbrey's most recent column in the New York Times, about the Muslim female blogger Betül Ulusoy (g) a lawyer who has blogged about facing discrimination because she wears a headscarf: 

That piety and independence, religion and political wit can go together indeed doesn’t fit into many Germans’ heads. Germany has become deeply secular in recent decades. Both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches have been losing members rapidly. Today, over a third of all Germans do not belong to any denomination.

Immigration, however, is bringing religion to Germany. The number of Muslims in Germany is estimated to be between 3.8 million and 4.3 million, about 5 percent of the population. That makes the Muslim community in Germany the second-largest in Europe, after France.

Though such projections show that Islam will remain marginal in Europe for decades to come, the fear of “Islamization” is widespread. It has led to the rise of right-wing populist parties from Finland to France. Their rise is usually regarded as a political phenomenon. It might as well be seen as a result of cultural alienation, though. In Germany, many have come to see faith as a spooky and potentially dangerous pathology. Want to make a character on a Friday night TV detective show look suspicious? Let him pray.

In Germany’s secular society, religion in general, and Islam in particular, is regarded as an atavism, a relic from a premodern era from which the country has luckily matured. Renunciation and deliberate submission, common elements of religion, throw the average German hedonist into a state of panic (unless they are part of a no-carbs diet or yoga routine). Why would anybody in her right mind refrain from eating or wrap a scarf around her head in the summer? 

So German readers, next time you're at a dinner party in the USA, be prepared to be confronted with the name Anna Sauerbrey and asked how she could possibly have been so brilliant/stupid as to write X in the New York Times.


Feckless Freeloaders v. Hot-Money Flows

Kevin Drum has the most intelligent commentary on the Greek debacle I've read in a long time, so I think I'll steal it:

Greece bears plenty of blame in this whole debacle. They borrowed way too much when their economy was booming; they refused to modernize their infamously porous tax collection, especially toward the rich; they lied through their teeth about their finances for years; and governments of both right and left have doggedly supported an insanely bloated public sector that would make even a Russian blush.

On the German (i.e., Northern European) side of things, the story of blame is a little more....technocratic. Banks made bets on interest rate convergences between north and south when the euro was introduced. This paid off, and for years they happily shoveled money into Greece at great profit. Greece's economy overheated, but the ECB kept monetary policy loose because that benefited Germany twice over: first by providing Germans with a good place to invest their money and second by providing Greeks with enough money to import German goods. Eventually, this hot money flow produced inflation, but monetary policy stayed loose anyway because the German economy was kind of sluggish at the time and needed the boost. Inevitably, this produced a capital account surplus in Greece and therefore a current account deficit. When the Great Recession hit, everything went to hell. Due to the hot money flows, Greek banks had become dependent on wholesale funding, and when that suddenly dried up a banking crisis got added to the rest of the mix. It's been downhill ever since.

Now: read those two paragraphs carefully. It's plain there's fault on both sides. But the fault of the Greek side is easy to understand and easy to put in moralistic terms. They lived high, they lied about their finances, and they coddled their government workers. It's easy to paint the Greeks as irresponsible wastrels who are just getting what they deserve.

The German side is quite different. Be honest: did you even understand it? It's all very technocratic, almost hydraulic in nature. Investors made bets on some derivatives; centralized monetary policy was not ideal for Greece; hot money flows inevitably produced current account deficits; and when the Great Recession cratered the economy it all turned into a full-blown banking and debt crisis. This is all very recondite. Sure, maybe it was Germany's fault, but in an abstract, bureaucratic way. It's a lot harder to see bad personal behavior here.

I'm not alone in thinking that once you dig into things, German behavior has been quite a bit worse than Greek behavior. But it's hard to make this case in a way that makes much sense emotionally. What most people see is a highly intricate and technocratic system on one side and a bunch of reckless, happy-go-lucky Greeks on the other side. So who are you going to blame?

In case you're wondering (I was), 'hot money' is an actual financial term of art.


60% of 'Refugees' in Germany Come from Europe

The head of the Federal Ministry for Migration, Manfred Schmidt, describes the situation (g) in Germany:

It is still the case that a large fraction of asylum applications come from Western Balkan states, which means they have no chance of obtaining asylum. "As of the end of May we received 111,000 people from the 10 most important countries of origin. 68,000 came from the Western Balkans", said Schmidt. The number of migrants from Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina has dropped since these countries were declared 'secure countries of origin' by German authorities. Asylum applications from Kosovo also dropped drastically. By contrast, the number of applicants from Albania has increased rapidly: "30,000 Albanians want asylum in Germany. Traffickers are dangling false hopes in front of these people."

The chances of asylum being granted to people from the West Balkans is between .1 and .2 percent. However, they get 140 Euros a month each in 'pocket money' once they reach Germany. Schmidt wants to reduce that to reduce the incentive for economic migration.