There’s an old saying among economists, demographers, actuaries and sociologists: “Demographics is destiny.” If that’s true, and it certainly appears to be, America could be in very big trouble.
Back in 1970, leftist Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich warned in his sensationalist book, “The Population Bomb,” that overpopulation would lead to mass starvation and the depletion of our natural resources. As we all know, it didn’t happen.
Indeed, natural resources have never been more abundant, based on prices we pay, as the late economist Julian Simon predicted in making a very public1980 wager with Ehrlich about the future. Virtually every measurable form of pollution has fallen sharply in the intervening years. And billions of people were pulled out of poverty, all during a time of strong population growth.
In short, Ehrlich and his legions of doomsday followers couldn’t have been more wrong.
In fact, the real problem we face today is exactly the opposite: People in the U.S. are no longer having enough babies. That fertility decline shows in a dramatic slowdown in population growth. And no, don’t blame COVID-19 for that.
The Centers for Disease Control just this month reported that U.S. birth rates fell in 2020 for the sixth straight year, dropping below the population replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman to just 1.64 children per woman. American women had just 3.6 million babies last year, the fewest since 1979, when we had 110 million fewer people.
Over the last decade, the U.S. population grew just 7.4%, the smallest gain since the Great Depression. If current declining fertility trends stay in place, that small gain will soon turn into an actual population loss.
Of course, many Americans on the left, in particular global warming extremists and green activists, welcome a shrinking population. They see humanity as a plague, not a gift or a blessing.
Typical of this line of thinking is this recent headline from, of all places, Vogue magazine: “Is Having A Baby In 2021 Pure Environmental Vandalism?”
But fewer people will also mean less farming and pricier food, a smaller number of factories, a decline of small businesses, and a reduction in homes. In short, a smaller economy, barring some sort of productivity miracle. There will be less money to go around for everyone. It also means a decline in innovation and creativity by entrepreneurs. We’ll have shortages of goods and services, fewer new medical advances, diminished scientific discovery.
The socialist types that now run the Democratic Party seem to think that fewer people will mean less inequality and greater wealth to spread around. But real wealth is created by entrepreneurs and businesses competing in free, open markets. Not by government.
With anti-family propaganda now a common feature on the left, it’s no wonder that young women put off having children. They’ve been shamed into believing its economically selfish, literal “environmental vandalism” to have a child.
The news of our declining birth rate comes at a very bad time in our nation’s fiscal history. Joe Biden’s new Democratic administration has embarked on the most foolish expansion of government spending and power in our history. It’s already spent trillions, and plan to spend trillions more.
That’s where the birth dearth will really be felt. Who’ll foot the bill for Biden’s added $6 trillion and counting in debt?
And with the Baby Boom now becoming the Social Security and Medicare Boom, who will pay for the current generation of retirees?
In 1950, there were 17 workers for each retiree; today, there are 2.7 workers for each, and by 2029 or 2030 it’ll be down to just 2. Think they’ll happily pay the huge increases in Social Security taxes required to keep the system solvent?
Before you answer, “don’t worry, the rich will pay,” just think of this: The top 1% already pay more in taxes than the bottom 90%. Thinking you can squeeze the top earners further is a socialist delusion.
We’ve truly painted ourselves into a demographic and fiscal corner. The national debt is nearly $30 trillion. But the IOUs that will hit us from coming Medicare and Social Security shortfalls are truly mind-boggling: more than $100 trillion, according to economist Brian Riedl’s testimony to Congress last year.
The Social Security Trustees say that by 2034 they will be able to pay only 76% of what’s owed to retirees. Guess who will be taxed to fill the shortfall?
Young Americans in early adulthood may not have the opportunities past generations did to work, save and retire comfortably after raising a family. After all, government will be taking ever-larger amounts out of their paychecks.
Not having babies now may seem like freedom to Millennials, Gen Z and later generations, but it will be anything but that. With all the taxes they’ll have to pay, who will care for them in their old age?
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board