Hey, Paul Ryan — More babies won’t fix bad policy

Hey, Paul Ryan — More babies won’t fix bad policy
© Greg Nash

Last week, Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) said that low birth rates were going to be the new economic challenge for America. As The Hill reported, the Speaker suggested that fewer babies puts Medicare and Social Security at risk. Yet, earlier this month, Ryan also recommitted to cutting spending on what Republicans like to call “entitlement programs” — typically referring to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

These programs provide a safety net to our most vulnerable citizens, but they’ve been in Ryan’s crosshairs for years. Meanwhile, he and other congressional Republicans are handing out fiscal favors to wealthy corporations, the most entitled class in the country.

The Republican tax bill contains historic corporate tax reductions and other corporate giveaways, as well as lowering the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans. The theory that cutting taxes for the rich will trickle down to boost the economy hasn’t panned out in the past. And now it seems that Ryan is counting on procreation to save the economy.

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This hypothetical yet-to-be-born generation of economic saviors will have their work cut out for them, especially if they inherit the America of today’s GOP. In a country where it pays to be rich, but everyone else gets fewer benefits, there is an increasingly difficult job market and more barriers to the basic building blocks of success, such as healthcare and education.

 

But that’s just the beginning of what these babies will face. 

Population growth doesn’t solve problems, it actually exacerbates them. When the economy is only measured according to metrics of infinite growth, it misses the point that we live on a finite planet with finite resources. 

If everyone on Earth lived like Americans, we’d need five planets to meet the demand on natural resources. As our population and wasteful, polluting industries grow unchecked, so will that number. Yet we only have one Earth, and our debt to the planet is being collected with unprecedented drought, severe weather events and the sixth mass extinction crisis.

We can’t afford Paul Ryan’s baby boom. We already add 227,000 people to the planet every day. As our population grows, natural resources become scarcer, communities become less resilient and wildlife are being crowded off the planet.

Republicans have been working to make healthcare more expensive and contraception harder to access, while the United States has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies among developed nations.

Increasing population through higher birth rates will only increase the social and environmental pressures that come with it. We can’t sell off our future to pay for economic shortfalls. That’s why more and more economists are starting to look at happiness indexes instead of just dollar signs.

Babies shouldn’t be a tool to solve problems created by bad policy. There are far better solutions. Instead of giving away billions of dollars in corporate tax breaks, corporations should pay their fair share into caring for our society, both through taxes and taking financial responsibility for the true costs of their operations, such as paying to prevent and clean up pollution.

There’s simply no need to gamble on the population numbers game to compensate for policies that make it increasingly difficult for people and wildlife to thrive. Instead, we should be passing policies that give everyone in the United States the healthcare, tools and information they need, to ensure that every pregnancy is planned and every baby has a chance to grow into more than just a GDP statistic to enjoy a world with clean air, safe water and abundant biodiversity.

Stephanie Feldstein is the population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity. Follow her on Twitter @sfeldstein