Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has suggested that our economic recovery could be stoked by American women simply having more children.
According to the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, America’s fertility rate is at an historic low – partially due to choice and partially biological. Reuters has reported that scientists are alarmed by a precipitous decline in male sperm count – more than fifty percent in the U.S. and E.U. that they attribute to chemical exposure, pesticides, stress, and obesity.
But to me, Mr. Ryan’s formula for recovery – breed more workers and consumers – is rich in dark irony, especially since we don’t care for those we have. And if his goal is indeed for women to have more children, we’ll need to improve their chances of survival.
The U.S. ranks 36th among the 41 developed nations tracked, with nearly a third of our children living in poverty. Newsweek reports that 1300 kids a year die in gun violence. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children reports 1740 deaths from child abuse and four million child abuse referrals this year alone, while according to a new CDC report, we have a higher infant mortality rate than any of the other 27 wealthy countries in that survey.
Maternal mortality and morbidity are generally in decline around the world, but they’re rising steadily here, mainly due to inadequate medical access in rural areas, racial disparities, incomprehensible coverage systems, and women’s choices to delay childbirth.
Another recent study found U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science, and The Economist reports U.S. student loan debt exceeded $1.2 trillion in 2014, with more than 7 million student debtors in default.
If the new tax-cut package balloons the deficit by well over a trillion dollars as many predict, it may be necessary to raise taxes or cut the family-friendly and community-supportive programs that have been targeted for years – programs like CHIP, Medicaid, and Social Security.
All of this is why I find Mr. Ryan’s effort to draft women into an economic recovery by urging them to breed more workers and consumers to be both hypocritical and completely out of touch with reality.
Would-be parents struggling to find jobs, adequate nutrition, daycare, affordable housing, accessible healthcare, and good schools probably are not sitting around discussing the number of children they want to bring into this world.