This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Paul Ryan Thinks That Raising the Birthrate is What the US Economy Needs

It is no secret that the tax plan about to be voted on by Congress will massively increase the federal debt, despite the Republican Party's historical aversion to higher national debt. It also seems well established that in a few years Congress will push to lower the debt by slashing government benefits such as Medicare and Social Security. If we are to listen to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, this could be avoided if only Americans had more babies. Here is the report of his press conference today, courtesy of TheHill:
“This is going to be the new economic challenge for America: people. Baby boomers are retiring — I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country,” Ryan, a father of three, told reporters as he riffed on how Republicans will tackle entitlement and welfare reform in 2018. “Baby boomers are retiring and we have fewer people following them in the workforce.
The comment came at least partly in response to the news last summer that the birth rate had dropped a bit in the U.S., as I noted at the time. Of course, a big problem with the idea that babies will bail out the tax reform is that the tax plan will in fact make it harder to have kids, as reported today:
As having and raising children becomes increasingly more expensive in the United States, year over year, many of Ryan's legislative proposals would compound that difficulty by slashing social programs and raising taxes on average Americans. So, even aside from the fact that women's bodies are not factories to be used to pump out productive workers and taxpayers, Ryan is actually de-incentivizing what he says is one of the key factors to keeping the American economy afloat. 
During his Dec. 14 press conference, Ryan was discussing entitlement programs like Social Security when he told reporters that the American economy will only function properly if the nation's birth rate increases.
The reality is that if Congress passes the current tax reform bill that is being considered, the economy is very unlikely to get better. The rich will get richer, but the economy will not get better. That scenario is not going to be affected by the birth rate. On the other hand, passage of the bill may push the birth rate even lower.

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