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Government Policy: Save Money, Don't Have Kids

Kids are an expensive drain on society?

By Lee Tydings  |  March 9, 2012

For lo these many decades, pro-life activists have argued that the pro-abortionists actually hate children and humanity in general and that their arguments for sexual "freedom" are a mere smokescreen.  Whether by accident or by design, Jean Sebelius, Mr. Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, has resolved this dispute once and for all.

As part of the ongoing furore over Mr. Obama's demand that Catholic organizations pay for insurance coverage of contraception and abortions which they believe to be serious sins, Sec. Sebelius told Congress why this imposition was necessary and, in fact, a great idea in these times of budget cuts.

“The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception,” Sebelius said. She went on to say the estimated cost is “down not up.”

Sec. Sebelius on a cost-saving drive.

In other words: Pregnancies are expensive, The Pill and condoms are cheap.  By paying for contraception, insurance companies will avoid having to shell out at the maternity ward.

Put another way: Kids are expensive, we can't afford 'em, and everybody needs to stop having them.  This view has been around since the days of the Yuppies, but it's still startling to see a high government official put it so bluntly.  Even the Congressman interrogating Sebelius was at a loss for words:

“Not having babies born is a critical benefit. This is absolutely amazing to me. I yield back.”

Perhaps the only stronger statement would be Mr. Obama's saying that he didn't want either of his daughters to be "punished with a baby" should she become pregnant.

The Changing Job Description of Marriage

Traditional marriage vows didn't mention children even though having babies was the most universal part of any marriage arrangement.  This was because children came automatically and nearly universally.  Once a man and woman started hanging around each other, children followed as night follows day.  There was no reason to include children in the vows because they'd happen pretty much regardless of the wishes of either party.

With the coming of the pill, however, families have shrunk all over the world.  Americans are having fewer babies than needed to maintain a population; our population would be shrinking if it weren't for immigration.  Many European nations will more or less disappear by the end of the century since there aren't any baby Italians or Russians to replace the oldsters as they croak.

Brazilian fertility has dropped even faster than in America.  In 1960, each Brazilian woman had 6.3 children on average.  By 2009, the rate had dropped to 1.9, well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Although other countries are experiencing lower fertility than Brazil - Japanese women are having .9 babies each - no nation on earth has changed this rapidly.  The change spread over a vast area, a population of 191 million, and despite strong Catholic influence which has made abortion illegal.

What's more, it covers all classes of Brazilian society.  Unlike the situation in America where welfare mothers have more children than taxpaying mothers, Brazilian poor are limiting their families in the same way as the rich.

Where are the Grandchildren?

Brazil had such a rapid drop in fertility that demographers have been trying to figure out why women changed their expectations so universally.  There will probably never be agreement, but a number of causes have been proposed:

Economic Effects

Children impose high costs on their parents and on society at large.  Smaller families contributed to Brazil's economic boom in two ways - fewer children require fewer resources for education, clothes, etc., and fewer children mean that more women are able to work.  Women's participation in the work force went from 39% in 1980 when the average woman had 4.4 children to 54% in 2000 when the average woman had 2.4.  When fertility drops, extra women working combined with fewer dependent children means that the ratio of working to nonworking people is unusually favorable for a generation or so.

This "demographic dividend" has been seen in other countries.  If a country has economic policies to encourage its large numbers of working people to create new businesses and new jobs, high economic growth rates can be observed.

As the first generation that had smaller families hits retirement age, however, two generations of smaller families mean that there are too few workers to support  the promised pensions.  Just as Greece, Italy, and other western countries are discovering, Brazilians will find that government's promises of old-age pensions aren't worth much because there won't be enough taxpayers.  They will discover, too late, that children are the only retirement plan they can count on.

Goodwife Bundchen's Children

We wrote earlier about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being vehemently defended by his wife Gisele Bundchen at a low point in his career.  In publicly defending her husband, a fairly rare event at that level of celebrity, Ms. Bundchen showed that she was entitled to be addressed by the archaic title of "Goodwife" and that Mr. Brady was even more blessed than he had appeared to be.

Assuming that they don't spend all their money on divorce lawyers, Gisele and Tom shouldn't have any financial worries in their old age.  They have enough money to educate however many children they have regardless of the government.  Given modern chemistry, they can decide whether or not to add more children to the one they have, based simply on whether they want them.  They needn't care whether Jean Sebelius thinks they ought to reproduce!

The ancient title "goodwife" didn't include having children because just about all wives had children.  Does the modern role of a goodwife include having children?  Modern women don't seem to think so.  While spacing out children is certainly beneficial for women's health, having too few to sustain economic growth will lead to gigantic problems.  Our entire economic system is based on the idea of growth - more markets, more products, and more people buying and making products.

Nobody knows what will happen when the population stops growing, but it won't be pleasant when people find out that their promised retirement is but a mirage - and of course, if there aren't any children then before long there won't be a society or much of anything else either.