The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

It’s Very Simple

Posted on | April 26, 2019 | Comments Off on It’s Very Simple


Many of our country’s problems can be traced to a single factor:

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.”

In my experience, when you try to talk to young people about this problem, what you get in response are economic arguments — they can’t afford to get married and have children, they say. However, this argument is easily rebutted by the observation that, first of all, marriage itself costs nearly nothing. My wife and I will mark our 30th anniversary Sunday. On April 28, 1989, we went to the courthouse in Gordon County, Georgia, and were married by Probate Judge Johnny Parker, with two of our friends in attendance as witnesses. You don’t need a big expensive ceremony to get married and, proverbially, “two can live as cheaply as one.” Furthermore, very poor people have more babies on average than do the college-educated middle class, so that income and assets are inversely correlated to fertility. Thus, the claim that young people can’t get married and have children because of their economic circumstances is exposed as a self-justifying rationalization.

When our eldest daughter was just a baby, my father came to visit my wife and I at our tiny little roach-infested rental home in Calhoun, Georgia. When I complained about our difficult financial circumstances, Dad laughed and said, “Son, if you wait to have children until you can afford to have children, you’ll never have children.” So true!

We ultimately had six children — our youngest is a high-school sophomore, while the oldest three are married with children of their own — and we have been struggling financially the whole time. A family like ours is only possible for those who reject a prejudice I call “middle-classism,” where people’s imagination of what is possible is limited by concern for material wealth and social status. If you believe children must live in a “good neighborhood” with “good schools” (these phrases are a sort of code, if not indeed a racist dog whistle), then you will find yourself within those those imaginary limits. On the other hand, if you believe children are a blessing from God, you will have more babies and figure some way to survive despite economic adversity. And you might be surprised to discover that, whatever the financial disadvantages or loss of social status your family experiences by rejecting the prejudice of “middle-classism,” your children actually do quite well in life.

However poor a large family may be (in relative terms, given the general affluence of American society), if you inculcate good values in your numerous children — especially a strong work ethic — they may well accomplish great things in life, far exceeding their more privileged peers who have fewer siblings but more social status. Religious belief is strongly correlated with high fertility, and it is not surprising that U.S. fertility has declined as atheism has flourished. I have often remarked that liberals, who never hesitate to declare their commitment to Science™ — particularly Darwinism, but also such totems of the intelligentsia as “climate change,” gender theory, etc. — generally seem to be failures at the basic biological task of procreation, whereas us ignorant Bible-thumpers are winning by Darwinian terms.

Those who speak of “overpopulation” tend to think of people as statistics — interchangeable units, without any individual value — and this dehumanizing conception fails to take into account the differences in human quality. However equal we may be, in terms of our basic rights, some people are more valuable to society than others. If you consider yourself a person of superior quality, as liberals obviously do, isn’t it logical to assume that you would be a superior parent? Your children would not only inherit whatever genetic advantages you might pass along to them, but also they would also benefit from being raised under your wise guidance and, it also logically follows, your children would grow up to be very worthwhile members of society. Yet liberals don’t act in accordance with this logic, instead preferring to avoid parenthood altogether, or else having just one or two children.

Whatever else might be said in favor of larger families, the need for future taxpayers ought to be something everyone could agree on, but instead we seem to be drifting toward fiscal catastrophe because of what Bob Maistros calls our “slow-motion demographic train wreck.”

(Hat-tip: Instapundit.)



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