Issues & Insights
Social Security
Social Security by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Social Security’s Crisis: It’s The Fertility, Stupid

By Bob Maistros

Two headlines splashed across adjoining pages of the Wall Street Journal this week underscored a desperate but largely uncommented-on challenge facing America.

“Red Ink Seen for Social Security by 2020,” screamed one, as the program’s outlays will exceed income next year — and its trust fund will be insolvent by 2035.

And directly to the right: “High Court to Take Up LGBT Rights,” discussing three Supreme Court cases that will determine whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation or gender identity. 

What links these headlines? 

Simply this:  Social Security is going broke because we’re in a slow-motion demographic train wreck. As Chief Actuary Stephen Goss put it back in 2011, “Lower birth rates are the cause of (the) substantial and permanent shift in the cost of Social Security as a percent of GDP from 2008 to 2040.”  

America’s total fertility rate hit the lowest rate ever recorded in 2017 at just under 1.8 children per woman in her lifetime. The stork’s been in free fall since 2010 – and baby-making is cratering in particular among women 20-29, prime reproductive years.  

It gets worse. The Journal coverage estimated that old age benefit shortfalls will “account for 90% of larger budget deficits.” Wonder why America is patrolling the seas with a deteriorating fleet half its size compared to the 1980s?  Why there’s no money for infrastructure?  Or why, despite the Trump boom, we may return to economic secular stagnation

Dare one paraphrase the 1992 Clinton campaign watchword?  “It’s the fertility, stupid!”

So why the plummeting birth rates?  Largely, according to Lyman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), because marriage in America is in critical condition.

Stone writes that fertility among married women in 2016 remained above 4.0 per woman across child-bearing years. Yet “a smaller proportion of women are married during (their) peak-fertility years.”

How much smaller?  Again per IFS:  less than half of Americans 18-64, and only 26% of adults under 35, were married in 2016 – compared to 72% of adults in 1960.  

Well, then. What is a government all hot and bothered about non-existent Russian collusion, presidential obstruction and climate change doing about the deep freeze on traditional marriage and impending demographic winter?

Why, it’s doubling down on another obsession: prioritizing the cause of untraditional sexual behavior.

No need to dwell on how the feds have injected themselves into state and societal efforts to regulate sexual behavior since the seemingly innocent 1963 Supreme Court Griswold case overturning bans on selling contraceptives to married couples – and Congress’s subsequent decision to give them to poor single women for free.

Fast forward through Roe v. Wade and the High Court opinion deep-sixing the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by roughly 85% congressional majorities and signed by a Democratic president – after the Obama Administration reversed itself and refused to defend the legislation. And the ruling that mandated recognition of same-sex unions, effectively ensuring all marital benefits to couplings with no impact on fertility.

Which served as the starting gun for the race to advance the agenda of another sexual minority – transgenders. Since the selfsame Obama Administration effectively ordered opposite-sex access to school restrooms, America’s been inundated with controversies over “gender neutral” facilities and pronouns, drag queens reading to kindergartners, and the outrageous dominance of biological boys in girls’ and women’s sports.

Now the justices will again review complaints of aggrieved sexual minorities. The transgender case is especially contentious: the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued a funeral home on behalf of a biologically male employee who wanted to dress as a woman, despite the potential effect on grieving families, who are likely not in a mood to sort out their feelings about “gender fluidity.”

It’s no certainty how a new conservative majority will rule on redefining civil rights laws as requested. After all, Justice Brett Kavanaugh clerked for Anthony Kennedy, who penned the same-sex marriage opinions and an earlier ruling striking down a Colorado referendum limiting gay protections.

What if the Court does expand protections to gays and transgenders?  Expect years of additional confusion, court battles and government refereeing over matters extending far beyond the workplace to schools, churches, community organizations and – yes – family formation and interaction.

Shouldn’t someone devote the same level of energy and attention to investigating how to preserve the one platform for sexual expression proven to contribute to social and economic well-being?

Funny you should ask. The same day the articles appeared, Tucker Carlson – previously outspoken about the decline of men and their resulting unsuitability as marriage partners – aired a segment entitled “America’s Real Crisis.”

“Why,” the Fox News primetime host queried, “isn’t the conversation about how to help Americans have the number of children they say they want to have, but can’t because they can’t afford it?”  

That’s an especially important interrogative. Surveys show women really want an average 2.7 children during their lifetimes – a number that would fund old-age programs into perpetuity.

Carlson insists that going forward, he will start asking guests, “If children aren’t the most important thing, what is?”

It’s a question the Supreme Court – and government as a whole – will have ample opportunity to answer.

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at

Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. We’re just getting started, and we’ll be adding new features as time permits. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

Be sure to tell all your friends! And if you’d like to make a contribution to support our effort, feel free to click the Tip Jar over on the right.

We Could Use Your Help

Issues & Insights was founded by seasoned journalists of the IBD Editorials page. Our mission is to provide timely, fact-based reporting and deeply informed analysis on the news of the day -- without fear or favor.

We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe in a free press, and because we aren't afraid to tell the truth, even if it means being targeted by the left. Revenue from ads on the site help, but your support will truly make a difference in keeping our mission going. If you like what you see, feel free to visit our Donations Page by clicking here. And be sure to tell your friends!

You can also subscribe to I&I: It's free!

Just enter your email address below to get started.



  • This is an easy one. Leftists believe there should be fewer Americans. They breathe a sigh of relief that the new class of Congresszirs are demonstrating open hostility and shame of our great nation. Why should such a criminal country have any more kids? The declining fertility is thus justice, or at least part of it. When leftists revive cattle-car transportation for deplorables, they’ll really feel they’ve righted history’s wrongs.

    • If leftist want fewer Americans then why do they endorse open borders? The population will increase massively through immigration. It will be a disaster.

      • Those aren’t Americans, sneaking in. And leftists vote for policies that keep them that way, a hostile, covetous force within our borders. They run over Americans with their vehicles. They rape Americans. They steal from Americans. They aren’t Americans.

  • If you, the author, or you, the reader, really believe that fertility is a problem, there is a solution.
    YOU need to give up birth control and concentrate on conceiving and raising another child.
    YOU need to actively work to make abortion illegal.

    If you aren’t willing to do that, then this article is just barking in the wind.
    And, of course, you aren’t willing to do either of those things.
    You’re just willing to encourage other people to do that for you, so your SS payments aren’t at risk.

    • Yeah. Funny you should write that.

      It just happens that my wife and I did give up on birth control and have six wonderful productive kids we put through college at extraordinary personal sacrifice. They’re now producing their own kids (expecting #5 grandchild next month), and we’re still helping some of them financially. Trust me, I put my money where my mouth is with little help from government. How many kids do you have?

      I’d say my Medicare is at risk for sure. It’s supposed to go insolvent n 2026, when I turn 70. Social Security when I’m 79. Not sure I’ll make it that long.

      And Google me, friend. You’ll see that I’ve been writing about abortion on various platforms for years. And marriage. (At risk to my career.)

      Do a little research next time.

      • By the way, since I’m 63 and my wife is 62, giving up on birth control is not much good at this point unless God decides to work an Abrahamic-level miracle. My focus these days is on marrying off my three unmarried kids and supporting the others in producing abundant progeny. Both are hard work in this day and age. Happy for any ideas you might have.

  • One in five women have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which is the leading cause of infertility in women and greatly increases the likelihood of miscarriage in suffers who manage to get pregnant. Surely a disease that inflicts 20% of women and causes infertility has more bearing on the reduction of the fertility rate than the very small numbers who have a opted for untraditional sexual behavior?

    • It’s closer to 5-10 % of women who suffer with PCOS, not 20%. Besides which, most women are delaying and forgoing motherhood out of choice or economic reasons first.

  • This is typical crap posing as conservatism, and simply regurgitates the implicit belief that children are necessary only to support a Ponzi scheme socialized pension program or to provide cannon fodder for military adventurism abroad.

    The issues the author identifies are serious ones, but we will never confront them until we recognize and unapologetically stand for the belief that children are a blessing in and of themselves, and need no other justification.

    • Thanks for reading.

      But I’m puzzled. You call this article “crap posing as conservatism,” then basically endorse my main point.

      I do kinda like most of my 6 kids (although I tell them these days that I’ve now discovered their real purpose was to serve as conduits to my grandchildren).

      Biblicists (even above conservatives) know that doing the things the right way (first “cleave unto your wife” then “be fruitful and multiply”) is good, not to mention rewarding and even fun, in and of itself. But it also makes society as a whole work as intended. Nothing “crap” about leading with the latter point for secular audiences.

      • Yes, I do endorse your main point–enthusiastically. What bothers me is, as I said, the advocacy of fertility for political purposes. If you agree with me, you should say so.

        I would have liked to have more than one child too (especially one without developmental disabilities), but feminism and circumstances kept that from happening. As long as we allow women to compete ferociously with men for power and money we will get a low fertility society.

    • Uhm, the idea of “cannon fodder” is a left wing charge, not a Conservative one. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. It was passed long ago to ease the poverty of widows when most men died at the age of 65 or soon thereafter.

      • Yes, that’s true. “Cannon fodder” has traditionally been a left wing charge, but as the cliche goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. As for SS, it was just announced that the whole system will collapse by 2035, but the unpleasant reality is that a growing young non-white population is going to have a hard time accepting having to pay for the pensions of old white people.

  • The most serious problem is that we have lost sight of the fact that we proles are still looking to secure the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness promised us at the country’s founding. They have unfortunately been sacrificed on the altar of Social Security, Medicare and the pronatalilsm needed to support those twin socialist policies. We childfree proles have long resented the theft of our taxes gone for public miseducation of the youth and those socialist exercises in risk-aversion. Marriage is nothing more than a religious exercise at heart that our religious gummint has decided to reward with tax, inheritance and other discriminatory benefits. Gays wouldn’t have been seeking marriage if it weren’t for those benefits, since all the other so-called benefits of marriage, including the breeding, can be achieved by cohabitation.

    • “Discriminatory benefits”? I take it you’re not a parent. It’s blanking HARD to raise children, and since the government, along with the rest of us, has a vested interest in seeing children raised well and grow into RESPONSIBLE adults, I don’t see how a few measly tax breaks are in any way discriminatory. Homosexuals rarely raise children, even though they have higher incomes than most Americans. I doubt they wanted the “bennies” so much as the chance to spit in the face of Conservatives.

About Issues & Insights

Issues & Insights is run by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

We Could Use Your Help

Help us fight for honesty in journalism and against the tyranny of the left. Issues & Insights is published by the editors of what once was Investor's Business Daily's award-winning opinion pages. If you like what you see, leave a donation by clicking on donate button above. You can also set up regular donations if you like. Ad revenue helps, but your support will truly make a difference. (Please note that we are not set up as a charitable organization, so donations aren't tax deductible.) Thank you!
%d bloggers like this: