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America Needs a Baby Boom

Social security is about to go belly up, financially speaking. And at the head of this crisis is a demographic disproportion: there are simply too few young people coming into the workforce to support the increasing numbers of elderly baby boomers who are retiring.

In "What's Really Behind the Entitlement Crisis," (Wall Street Journal, July 12th), Ben Wattenberg explains that "never-born babies are the root cause of the 'social deficit' that plagues nations across the world and threatens to break the bank in many."

The math is simple. Birthrates have fallen so far and so fast that the thinning ranks of the young can no longer support the burgeoning numbers of retirees in country after country. Greece and Spain are already going over a demographic cliff, and there is not much they can do about it. Governments there and elsewhere can and do try to raise taxes or delay the age of retirement, but this will only delay by a few years the onset of the crisis. Ultimately and inevitably, there will be too few taxpayers to compensate for the deficit.

The problem, at root, is the birth dearth. There are a number of factors contributing to the strange barrenness of this generation of humans. According to Wattenberg, these include delayed marriages, wealth, divorce, legalized abortion, and accessible contraception.

Unfortunately, Wattenberg does not have much in the way of concrete policy proposals to offer. He does suggest that “the place to begin is by recognizing the problem, publicizing it, and trusting that humanity has been around for a long time and is not about to under-breed itself out of existence."

He criticizes the myth of overpopulation, noting the powerful downdraft this had on fertility. He says that it’s time for a new message, namely, that “The real danger for the future is too few births."

I would be more specific. It is clear that the myth of overpopulation has played a part, a big part, in driving down the birth rate. The vicious anti-people propaganda of the radical environmental movement has also played a part. When you teach young people that babies are vermin—as some of these groups do—you naturally discourage childbearing. When you teach them that the birth of a baby means the death of a whale, you encourage abortion. Children must be taught that they, and the children that they will one day have, are the ultimate resource, the one resource you cannot do without.

It is by now obvious to all countries with below-replacement birthrates that they have a serious problem. Most have tried to solve it by bribing parents with various kinds of governments subsidies. Their birthrates haven’t risen for the most part (with the exception of America, which we’ll get to in a moment). People are still avoiding having children. The programs are not lucrative enough to affect fertility behavior. Parents invest huge amounts of time, energy, and income on their children. A one-time baby bonus, or even a small monthly payment, hardly makes a dent in these costs.

So what has America done differently? The Republican-controlled Congress in 1994 passed a tax credit of $1,000 for each child under 16, and generously increased the per dependent deduction so that it is now $4,650. This means that young couples can actually lower their taxes by having more children, to the point where young couples of modest income pay virtually no income tax.

While this policy has kept America’s birthrate near replacement, this is not good enough. Young couples should also be sheltered from paying social security taxes, for example. Those who are willing to marry and have children should have their student loans forgiven. They should be exempted from state taxes, from sales tax, from any and all manner of taxation.

After all, they are investing in the future of America in the most fundamental way: by investing in the future generation.

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Reply to comment | Population Research Institute

Great topic: Also, did you know that there is more variation in fertility rates between American states than there is between all of Europe?

Reply to comment | Population Research Institute

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America really needs a baby

America really needs a baby boom. The Republican controlled Congress in 1994 passed a tax credit of $1,000 for each child under 16, and generously increased the per dependent deduction so that it is now $4,650. This means that young couples can actually lower their taxes by having more children. windows 7 help and support

One more thing

Oh -- if you're really that concerned about the spectre of the U.S. population eventually decreasing, why not open the gates wide for immigrants? There are lots of people from Africa and other parts of the developing world who'd be happy to become Americans help with your anticipated demographic woes.

But then who will help their demographic woes?

I'm all for increased immigration and have written to my representatives many times in support of it. But the problem of population aging and eventual population decline isn't just a US problem, it is a world wide problem. The Total Fertility Rate TFR (average number of children born per woman) in 1950 was around 5. Today it has already dropped to less than 2.5. To maintain the current population we need at least 2.1 children to be born per woman. More than 30 countries have already fallen below a TFR of 2.1. South Korea for example has a TFR of only 1.2! By 2050 the TFR of the world will also be below 2.1 and then the would population will begin to rapidly age and decline.

The ongoing catastrophic population explosion

The last thing we need is for any large country to have a baby boom. The ongoing population explosion is burdening our civilization's infrastructure, and the planet's biosphere, with ever greater demands. Current projections predict the human population peaking at over nine billion. What will happen then? Nobody knows, because there have never been that many people before.

We're already pulling more fish out of the ocean each year than the ocean -- that's the whole ocean, all the salt water on the planet -- can replace in a year. Our use of carbon fuels has changed the composition of the atmosphere (and thus the climate of the planet).

The demographic problems described in this editorial are miniscule compared to the environment-ravaging, resource-depleting, civilization-collapsing utter catastrophe of the level of population we're approaching.

So, obviously there's nothing resembling a shortage of humans. To be blunt, the position of this article only makes sense if one considers American people to be superior to, and worthier than, the other 95% of the human race. Or, at least, if one is only looking at American economics and doesn't worry about questions like how much damage the source of half our oxygen (that'd be the ocean) can take, or what kinds of desperate measures might be taken by a starving country with a few nuclear weapons.

If one's concern is for human civilization to survive and enjoy a liveable environment and a diverse biosphere (and maybe not keep turning grasslands into desert), then it's obvious that overpopulation is our single largest problem. A decreasing birth rate is a good thing. Possibly too late.

Sorry to say but I totally

Sorry to say but I totally disagree with your statement that overpopulation is the single largest problem there. You said it yourself that carbon emissions are rapidly increasing in the atmosphere. This is not because of overpopulation but the use of fossil fuels. Today's researchers continue to search for alternative sources of energy and some may already have. I know at least one country who was able to develop a waste-to-energy plant to hit 2 birds with one stone.

And on the point of fish depletion, it's not the only source of nourishment. Picture this: if governments develop the agricultural industry, this would definitely hit so many birds with one stone (sorry to the avian population). 1) Agricultural produce is more nutritious than fish or any meat produce. 2) More plants can convert more Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen and also clean the air. 3) there are so many plant-based medicines. 4) We continue to discover more benefits in plants.

Sorry to be blunt myself, but

Sorry to be blunt myself, but when people who write in comboxes don't appear to have really read the entry all that closely or produce some facile dismissal of what was said, it's like trying to have a conversation with someone who is just waiting for the next gap in one's speaking to shove in whatever pre-formulated response he had already. Why is this so difficult?

The European problem is not minuscule. They have been literally paying people to have children. The Asian problem is not either -- 118 males for every 100 females, seeing a rise in human trafficking of women already. America is just breaking even.

The Current Catastrophe Population Ageing and Decline

A baby boom is exactly what we need. There are major economic benefits to having a growing population: more workers to pay taxes, a growing consumer base, a growing housing market, more innovation (younger societies tend to be more dynamic and innovative). The list could go on and on.

The population in the US in 1900 was around 76 million. Today it is around 310 million. That is almost 4 times larger. Yet there is far less pollution in American cities today than in 1900. Better technology through innovation will work to reduce pollution much quicker than a growing population will create pollution. If you are worried about pollution you should focus on that through regulation and new technology not on reducing the population. One of the people you prevent from being born in an attempt to decrease the population could be the person who would have unlocked the secret to fusion power, an unlimited supply of clean energy.

Saving Social Security

With six kids, my wife and I figure we're doing our part, and we've gotten used to the stares, the head shakes, and the clucks of disapproval from total strangers in the supermarkets and shopping malls. When clerks and fellow customers inquire, "Are they all yours?" we let loose with wry rejoinders like "No, we found three of them." When impertinent clods demand to know if we're "planning more," we stun them with the revelation that we didn't "plan" the ones we have. If they're rude enough to wonder if we're "finished yet," we appall them with an invitation to join our crusade to save Social Security.