Declining numbers at an even rate
At the count of one we both accelerate
My Stingray is light, the slicks are starting to spin
But the 413’s really diggin’ in
—The Beach Boys, Shut Down
Last Thursday I found myself in waiting room hell, pending surgery to repair a ruptured biceps tendon (hazards of starting martial arts training in one’s mid-40’s). All three TVs (plus the one in pre-op) were mercilessly tuned to ABC’s The View. As a side note, Thursday’s episode featured guest host Katherine Schwarzenegger, whom ABC billed as an “author and activist”—she in fact has written a book titled Rock What You’ve Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s Been There and Back, whatever that has to do with anything—but who in reality is a 23 year old recent college graduate with two famous actor parents. I am at a complete loss as to what she could bring to the table, although I suppose her level of insight and expertise fit right in with Whoopie Goldberg (actor/comedian), Barbara Walters (faux journalist), Joy Behar (actor/comedian), and Sherri Shepherd (actor/comedian—anyone seeing a pattern here?).
Despite my best efforts to run or hide, I was unable to avoid a segment entitled “The Child-Free Life.” Goldberg introduced the segment by referring to a recent piece in Time—she gave no specifics as to the date, issue, author, or even the title, which I soon learned is apparently standard procedure on the program, but I think I found it here—that noted the U.S. birth rate has dropped to significantly low levels. The general premise of the segment, it became immediately apparent, was that this was OK, maybe even a good thing. And for the next four minutes, the ladies discussed the evils of having children and the virtues of not, all to the intermittent cheering of the studio audience.
I’m not sure when children, as an abstract concept, became such anathema in this country that we cheer their non-existence.
Among the arguments offered by the esteemed panel:
- It costs $295,000, before college, to raise a child (Walters, spouting a very official-sounding exact figure, but citing nothing);
- Years ago someone did a poll showing that 100% of parents of adolescents regretted having children (Walters, operating from memory);
- Child-free is happier and stress-free (Schwarzenegger, citing her own personal observation from her vast 23 years of life experience, with which she expressly disagreed in the very next breath);
- Not everyone should have children (Schwarzenegger, to spontaneous roars from the audience);
- Mommy has to be the conflict-resolver whether there’s one child or multiple (Goldberg, never explaining why that’s a problem); and
- Children nowadays don’t/won’t take care of their parents (Walters, again citing nothing).
The level of analysis and intellectual depth of the discussion was just staggering. To her credit, Behar—in her lone contribution to the conversation—did argue that you should have one child “in case you need a matching donor.” I’m not even sure she wasn’t serious; if it was a joke, no one laughed.
Now, I will agree with Miss Schwarzenegger that not everyone should have children, and I won’t argue that we should enforce some kind of mandatory birth quotas. But the tenor of the discussion on The View, I fear, reflects a growing societal aversion to children. And that’s troubling indeed.
The Time piece Goldberg apparently used to kick off the segment centered on 2009 data from the National Center For Health Statistics, and took the position based on loose generic anecdotes to Europe and the idea that lost births can simply be replaced with immigration, that a dropping fertility rate was no problem. But The Washington Times recently did a piece using the same study updated to 2011 data, and the necessary conclusions are problematic.
The general fertility rate fell to 63.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, a historic low. The total fertility rate fell to 1.89 births per woman. The reason this is trouble is it’s well below the statistical replacement threshold of 2.1 necessary simply to maintain a population. In other words, all else being equal, a birth rate that low means population decline. And in a society dependent upon multiple ponzi-scheme-driven entitlement programs, what that means is the economic engine is running out of gas.
Consider Social Security, which even the Social Security Administration openly admits is dependent upon having perpetually growing numbers of payors paying into the system in order to fund future outlays; in debt parlance this is referred to as an “unfunded liability”—an obligation to pay in the future for which there is no present savings or revenue stream. With a declining population, there simply aren’t enough future young people paying in to fund the benefits payments to the larger number of retirees. The system becomes upside-down, and it necessarily collapses on itself.
Medicare is in largely the same situation, with benefits payments to seniors being dependent upon funding from a sufficiently large base of younger taxpayers. In a different way, Obamacare will eventually also face the same problem, as there are fewer and fewer younger healthy premium contributors to offset the disproportionate benefits payments to the older and sicker cohort. None of which is sustainable.
That’s assuming all else is equal, which, of course, it’s not. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
As noted above, the Time piece assumed that any declines resulting from low fertility rates will be made up through immigration. Query whether they should. I have previously noted that the bulk of our immigration does not consist of wealthy skilled people likely to be large net contributors to our entitlement system, but of impoverished low-skilled laborers, mostly from Latin America, likely to be net consumers. Rather than curing the fiscal imbalance in the system, the immigrant population increases an already unsustainable draw on ever-depleting funding resources. But there’s another issue.
While the population as a whole is at fertility rates below replacement levels, consider that the Pew Center reports that the fertility rate among U.S. Muslims is around 2.8, meaning that the muslim population is increasing—in addition to immigration—while the general population is decreasing. And when you add in the fact that the Muslim population is younger, thus further increasing their potential for total births—a 20 year old is more likely to have additional children over her lifetime than a 35 year old—and the potential for dramatic demographic shift is clear. One need only look to Europe, where the declining birth rate phenomenon has been playing out for decades, to see the consequences. Much of Europe has already become Islamicized, with many countries expecting to see Muslim populations exceed 10% within the next 15 years. In Britain, some predict a Muslim majority by 2050.
Why is that a problem?
Leave aside the fact that in a 2011 Pew Research poll nearly 20% of U.S. Muslims found themselves unable to say that violence in defense of Islam was never justified, and that a similar percentage had either a “favorable” view of Al Qaeda, or did not know. Never mind that 20% said they did not want to assimilate—then why the hell are you here?—and another 16% said they wanted to both assimilate and remain distinct from larger American society—query how you have it both ways. And forget that while Pew didn’t publish U.S. results for this question, globally the overwhelming majority of Muslims favor making Sharia the law of the land (it’s impossible to give a figure because Pew deliberately broke the results down by region to mask it, but except for Southern/Eastern Europe, regional majorities in favor ranged from 64% to 84%).
No, don’t worry about that. Forget how women and homosexuals fare in places where Muslims wield political control. Pay no mind to the fact that the only tolerance Islam admits is of itself, and they will sue for all things accommodating Islam, while at the same time accommodating no one else. Leave all that aside, because worrying about such things makes you an Islamophobe, and the ladies of The View simply can’t have that. Just consider this:
76% of U.S. Muslims approved of Barack Obama’s job performance as of 2011
68% of U.S. Muslims favor even bigger government and more services.
Even the DNC doesn’t get those kinds of numbers.
This is where we’re heading with current birth trends and immigration. Thought you might want to know.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I am in a cast following my surgery, making typing difficult. Will try to post when I can, but traffic is likely to be slow for awhile.