If Newsweek wants to understand why its readership is declining it need only look to Robert Samuelson and his latest ramblings in the Business column for the August 16th issue of the magazine titled, The Parent Trap: How our budget policies hurt families.
His major points:
- Our society does not – despite rhetoric to the contrary – put much value on raising children
- Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly
- Tax breaks for children are modest
- Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children if we have deficit reduction measures
- Fewer children translates to economic decline
- Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation
- They have stagnant or shrinking markets for goods and services
- Some European countries and Japan’s fertility rates are falling to 1.2
- The United States’ fertility rate is at 2.1 and 40% of the births are to unmarried, poor and unstable mothers
- In wealthy societies government now supports the elderly, diminishing the need for children
- Deficit reduction must include spending and benefit cuts for the elderly and higher taxes for everyone except parents
- He quotes another economist, parenting is “one of the most important services any American can perform”
Major points in response:
Does Mr. Samuelson not watch any television, read his own magazine or any of the other major magazines that not only emphasize, but glamorize and glorify every aspect of motherhood. There are entire industries, corporations, associations, marketing minions that do nothing else but mindlessly encourage motherhood and the value of children. Billions are spent. “Not much value”, I don’t think so!
And why shouldn’t parents bear the full responsibility for living in this society. They were raised by parents who are now elderly and need some help, especially when medical science continues to extend their life expectancies beyond their wildest dreams. The elderly haven’t chosen to be old, while parents have chosen to be parents, or at least should have chosen. What do you want to do, throw the elderly out on the street or maybe we can just euthanize those old folks. Now there’s a solution we can all live with!
Modest tax breaks for children? Get real. If you call the personal tax exemption, child tax credit, child-care tax credit ,adoption tax credit and public education modest, just go talk to the people who have no children and make up for all those credits and benefits with their increased taxes and see if they think those tax breaks are so modest. Not to say what it cost to subsidize that 40% or more of the population that have no business having children in the first place.
Women and couples are choosing to have fewer or no children because they are more educated and smarter. It has nothing to do with higher taxes, deficit reduction or whatever. Any fool can produce a child and many do. Some of the more thoughtful among us are beginning to realize their parenting abilities and skills are limited by circumstance and temperament.
Now the truth comes out, what children really mean in a consumer economy is another commodity and future purchaser of goods and services. And without a steady increase in that commodity, according to economists such as Mr. Samuelson, we will wander through years of want and suffering. Declining economies decline for many reasons but lower fertility rates is not one of them. Only fools and economists believe that growth economies are infinite.
I don’t understand this concept of declining fertility rates (less people) translating to less economic investment and innovation. What kind of thinking is this? Why wouldn’t people be more confident about entrepreneurship and more creative in their thinking with a society that lives within its means, creates a more educated and dynamic populace, and understands that a successful civilization is not measured in numbers of people but quality of its people.
Shrinking markets for goods and services is a good thing! People are forced to make choices based on real need not whim and fashion. Most Americans don’t need half the things they have already, much less anymore stuff. What we really mean is that we must produce more useless goods and services for jobs creation when we choose to grow populations. Reduce populations and we no longer have that requirement. Seems simple enough to me.
So what! Japan’s women and couples are obviously getting smarter. Why would you choose to have children if you didn’t want any and destine yourself to a life of drudgery and suffering, especially in a small geographically challenged island nation that needs less people not more. Again, the choice is not to produce children because it is your duty as a citizen or a woman, but because you actually want children, and can afford them and make all the sacrifices that come with such a choice. And as for Europeans, they have been through the war and turmoil thing for millenniums and my guess is they are finally understanding the connection between overpopulation and war - which is long overdue. We would do well to emulate them. And besides all that, their quality of life quotient – except for their growing immigrant populations - seems to be much superior to the rest of the world’s.
America’s fertility rate would be much less except for Latino and other ethnic groups that haven’t got the message yet. You don’t need four or five children to take care of you in your old age, and besides most of the new immigrants live in big cities not in rural farming areas. So much for the “help out on the farm” justification. As for the 40% that Samuelson slips in as almost an aside, that speaks volumes to where we are going to end up in this culture if that trend continues. Except for Walmart’s love affair and feeding frenzy relationship with these people, I suspect most Americans would like to see this trend go away in a hurry. That 40% gives new meaning to the words, government supports and subsidies. To all of us taxpayers out there that translates, more money for people we don’t really need and less for people who truly do have needs.
Sorry, but I don’t get this. How does helping the elderly – a necessary and right thing to do in any civilized society – diminish the need for children. First of all we don’t need children, what we need are couples that are capable, diligent and dedicated enough to choose to have children. We can all rest assured that children will never be on the Endangered Species List, at least not until we finally turn this planet into an inhabitable desert by continuing to reproduce quantities of human beings that we DON’T need! Mr Samuelson we can continue to help those elderly that need it and continue to have children, we just have to make economic choices and sacrifices that foster care and nurturing for both groups. By the way I guess it didn’t occur to you that by emphasizing quality children over quantity, we will reduce future elderly populations – exactly the group you seem to feel takes up way too much room and resources in this society.
First, read the last paragraph again! We are all in this together, like it or not. Reducing budget deficits should mean equal sacrifices for all groups. If that means people choose to have fewer children so be it, that’s all part of it. But I guess for you that means this generation that created this nasty, selfish economic crisis we find ourselves, should now place the burden of the debt we have created on the backs of increasing numbers of future generations so you can be assured of collecting your Social Security and Medicare checks. Wow, I get it now!
“One of the most important services an American can perform”? Does that not seem eerily close to the German Nazi propaganda machine of WWII? Having children is now our patriotic duty, a “service” to “perform”. Whether cannon fodder for the “fatherland” or a commodity to fuel a declining economy, we now know what the real value of children has become. Why don’t we just line up all those unpatriotic, self-centered women and AI all of them. What could be more important than the American economy? Instead of a “chicken in every pot” we could have “five kids in each home”.
Now that would surely take care of all our economic problems.