Bring on the baby boom – Are you kidding me?
This opinion piece in USA Today really gave me pause. Author Laura Vanderkam celebrates the fact that U.S. fertility rate rose 22% from 1976 to 2007. And she suggests increasing it even further is a worthy goal. I’m not kidding. Here is her rationale:
Between bank bailouts and the stimulus package, it’s no secret that our government is spending like a megafamily at the grocery store. But both of these pale next to the looming problems of Social Security and Medicare. With fewer workers supporting an aging population, Social Security, for instance, will exhaust its trust fund about 2041.
A higher birthrate could ease that. The youngest Boomers won’t retire until 2030 or so,when children born today enter the workforce. A baby bulge over the next few years could push off the day of reckoning, and the economic growth a rising population causes will shrink our debt to a more manageable percentage of GDP.
Aside from being pregnant, Ms. Vanderkam has no credentials to make her an economic or demographic expert, a shortcoming she clearly displays with this glaring absence of mathematical ability and lack of big-picture, long-term thinking. Judging by the on-line comments to her column, many readers recognized her plan for the unsustainable Ponzi scheme it is. But I feel compelled to underscore just how utterly ridiculous is the notion that we can “grow manageably” as she puts it, and solve the problems of the growing U.S. deficit.
So, let’s do a little simple math. Let’s say the women of America don’t swallow Vanderkam’s hogwash and we don’t further increase fertility rate. Let’s say we just stay at the current annual U.S. population growth rate of roughly 1%. Certainly Ms. Vanderkam would consider that “manageable.” At that rate, we double our population every 70 years. That means in 2079 U.S. population will be over 612 million. And in 2149 it will be 1.2 billion – equal to today’s China population. In 2219 it will be nearly 2.5 billion. How manageable is that? Today, at 306 million we can’t keep everyone employed, California doesn’t have enough water to supply agriculture, and USA Today is too busy to find a columnist who understands overshoot. Let me assure you, the costs of trying to meet the needs of even 600 million people in the U.S. will dwarf the current financial crisis. Her solution is no solution at all.
Let me be clear, I’m happy for Ms. Vanderkam and her pregnancy. Everyone has a right to make a family. In fact, I want very badly for her children to have happy, healthy lives; that’s why I want prospective parents everywhere to simply understand the consequences of having large families, so they can make informed, responsible, compassionate decisions about family size.
Producing Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity, I of all people am well aware of the proliferation of mindless ignorance of the fact we are in overshoot (our planet’s population is beyond a sustainable level). Yet when a prominent national publication like USA Today gives ink to this kind of drivel, I shudder. And I call it like it is. Forgive me. I know it’s impolite. But when growth-boosting baby-terrorists like Vanderkam are on the loose, it is no time for diplomacy.
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