The Refugee Crisis: Where’s the Noise?

September 12, 2015

I’ve also been following the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. Middle class families from Syria are walking to freedom—freedom from a tyrannical government, but also freedom from bullets and other killing products—as I write. And I keep asking myself, “Where’s the noise?” “Why is there no talk about this situation here in the United States?”

To be fair, Secretary of State John Kerry did raise the issue on Wednesday, September 9. And later in the week the Administration committed to taking in 10,000 people in the next year. (Gardiner Harris, David Sanger, and David Herszenhorn have details in Obama Increases Number of Syrian Refugees for U.S. Resettlement to 10,000, from the Thursday New York Times.)

Gee, 10,000 people. On July 4, 2015 the U.S. Census Bureau reported our population at 321,216,397. So, one refugee per 32,000 Americans. Tucson, with a million people, can handle 30 refugees. With these numbers “the soft bigotry of low expectations” comes to mind.

So what might we expect with a different party in power? Well, here’s what the frontrunner for the Republican Party nomination had to say:

We have our own problems, we have very big problems between our own borders and our infrastructure and everything else. We have some very big problems. We have to solve our problems and we’d better do it fast. We owe 19 trillion dollars. [Actually, it’s $18.3 trillion.]

I think we should help, but I think we should be very careful because frankly, we have very big problems. We’re not gonna have a country if we don’t start getting smart. We cannot help everybody through the world. Europe should help. Russian should help. China, they’re not doing anything. The Gulf states are doing nothing. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, any of the gulf states, they’re doing nothing. They should all help. And then maybe we could do something. But we have big problems to solve and we better solve them fast.

(That’s a lot of problems. And very big ones, of course, for the Donald only knows from very big!)

There are challenges associated with playing a substantial role in a refugee crisis on the other side of the planet. And many other countries are not punching at their weight. Some, however, have stepped up in a big way. On Labor Day Bill Chappell reported Germany, France Announce Plans to Welcome Thousands of Migrants, also on NPR. Note the actors. Germany, 82 years ago, started a 12-year long ethnic cleansing regime the likes of which the world has not seen since. And France, which always seems like it has its collective nose pointed upward. France, which gave to the United State of America its welcoming beacon, the Statue of Liberty.

So what’s keeping the U.S. from playing a bigger role? I don’t know, but I do know “we can’t afford it” is simply not true.

At GDP per capita, PPP (current international $), the World Bank has published a number for each nation, reflecting gross domestic product, per capita, adjusted to reflect purchasing power. (Go to the page for finer details about the methodology.)

Only Macao ($140K), Qatar ($140K), Singapore ($83K), Brunei ($76K), Norway ($65K), the United Arab Emirates ($63K), and Hong Kong ($55K) have higher per capita numbers than the United States of America ($55K). (Kuwait, Luxemburg, and Switzerland do not have numbers for 2014, but their numbers are also likely higher.) Each of the referenced countries depends on finance, gambling, or oil as a major revenue source. All also have small populations: the UAE, with 9,000,000, is the largest.

Bottom line? The United States of America is the richest country in the world. If Germany and France and other countries in Europe can step up, we can too! Mr. Trump is really telling us “We don’t want to.”

We’re the world’s melting pot. The place people look up to! And, while countries in Europe are meeting a once in several decades crisis with action and money, we’re all but looking the other way. We’re better than we’re acting these days. We are. Really!


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