Birthrates and Welfare States

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 22nd, 2013

History 101

Birth Control and Abortion hurt the Welfare State because Babies become Taxpayers

People typically have fewer children during bad economic times.  Because you have to feed and clothe kids.  Which is very hard to do during bad economic times.  Especially if you lost your job during a period of high unemployment.  Such as the Great Depression.  Or if you’re going through a period of high inflation.  Like during the Seventies.  We can see this if we look at the birthrate over the years.

Number of Children per Woman R1

(source: Population Reference Bureau)

Bad economic times (Great Depression) fewer births.  High inflation (the Seventies) fewer births.  Of course, there was something else happening during the Seventies.  Which followed the Sexual Revolution.  Women were having more sex outside of marriage.  But they were using birth control and recently legalized abortion to avoid having children.  Women were liberated.  The feminists were moving into careers once reserved for men.  And because they were having careers they were not being stay-at-home mothers raising a family.

Also during the Seventies there was the zero population growth movement.  Among many other movements.  As the hippies turned antiestablishment.  And anti-capitalist.  Preferring a communal life.  Where there was no greed or profits.  Where everyone was equal and had an equal share.  Like the communists enjoyed.  Or, rather, suffered.  The zero population growth movement protested against having babies.  And the threat they posed to the limited resources of the earth.  So they were quite happy to see the birthrate fall below the replacement birthrate (about 2.1 children per woman in the United States).  Because below this rate future generations will be smaller than previous generations.  Which will burden the limited resources of the earth less.  But it created a big problem for those who wanted a large socialist state to provide cradle to the grave welfare.  For babies become taxpayers.

Because of the War on Poverty it takes Two Incomes to raise a Family Today

We just emerged from a government shutdown that ended with an agreement to raise the debt ceiling.  Why?  Because they can’t raise tax rates high enough to pay for all of the government’s spending.  At least not without putting most everyone below the poverty line after taxes.  Which makes that declining birthrate a big problem.  For the fall in the birthrate coincided with the expansion of the welfare state in the Sixties.  As can be seen in the explosion in welfare spending following LBJ’s launching of his War on Poverty.

Total Welfare Spending 1950 - 2010 R2

(source: The Heritage Foundation)

So just as women were having fewer babies so following generations would be smaller LBJ’s Great Society gave us a new expanding welfare state.  That is, once our tax base began to grow smaller with each subsequent generation federal expenditures were growing larger with each subsequent generation.  Resulting in higher tax rates on the smaller tax base to pay for it.  And massive new borrowings to pay what our taxes won’t.  As the government took more of our earnings away median household income stagnated.

Federal Spending and Median Income

(source: The Heritage Foundation)

If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t raise a family on one income these days this is why.  It’s the growth of federal spending.  Paid for with a growth in tax revenue.  Leaving us less money to raise our families.  Requiring that second income.  This is what the Great Society gave us.  And it’s what birth control and abortion gave us.  But it gets worse.

This Year Adult Incontinence Pants outsold Baby Diapers in Japan for the First Time

The Sexual Revolution gave us a baby bust generation.  Following a baby boom generation.  Giving us an aging population.  Where more people are leaving the workforce than are entering it.  So more people are consuming taxes (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) than are paying taxes.  Causing a massive wealth transfer from the young to the old.  So an aging population makes it even harder to raise a family.  Especially for the young just starting their families.  Because of the higher tax rates on a shrinking workforce required to pay for that aging population.  Which can lead to worse things than a collapse of the welfare state (see Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex? by Abigail Haworth posted 10/19/2013 on The Guardian)

Japan’s under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren’t even dating, and increasing numbers can’t be bothered with sex. For their government, “celibacy syndrome” is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060…

Fewer babies were born here in 2012 than any year on record. (This was also the year, as the number of elderly people shoots up, that adult incontinence pants outsold baby nappies in Japan for the first time.) Kunio Kitamura, head of the JFPA, claims the demographic crisis is so serious that Japan “might eventually perish into extinction”.

This is the zero population growth movement on steroids.  The Republicans in the United States shut down the government in an attempt to curtail federal spending.  As the public debt is approaching 100% of GDP.  Very dangerous territory to be in.  But if you think that’s bad it’s far worse in Japan.  As their public debt is approximately 214% of GDP.  To support a massive welfare state.  In a country where the taxpayer is fast becoming an endangered species.

This is the ultimate end of any democracy that learned it could vote itself the treasury.  As taxes rise people cut back on their spending.  And a big cost item is children.  So we have declining birthrates in developed countries with expansive welfare states.  And immigration problems.  Immigrants who come for those generous state benefits.  And governments that want to grant them citizenship.  To make them taxpayers.  To make up for that declining birthrate.  And prevent their own extinction.

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Keynesians say it’s No Problem to owe Money to Ourselves even though they’d be Miffed if we Defaulted

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 8th, 2012

Week in Review

Keynesians have all sorts of ways to justify deficit spending.  One of their favorites is to note that the additional amount of interest owed on new debt is so mall in the big picture that we’d be fools not to borrow more.  So the government can use that new debt to stimulate the economy.  Or so they say.

Another thing they love to say is that a high level a debt is not a problem because we owe it to ourselves.  And therefore it doesn’t really exist.  Because it’s just for all intents and purposes money moving from our left hand to our right hand (see We Refuse to Lend to Us by Don Boudreaux posted 1/2/2012 on Cafe Hayek).

Like the mid-20th-century economists whose reasoning in terms of unwisely chosen aggregates led them to argue that public debt owed “to ourselves” is not much of a problem…

All that today’s government need do when faced with the need to raise marginal tax rates today in order to pay off yeterday’s [sic] debts is to default.

Insofar as we owe the debt to ourselves, default simply means that we choose not to repay ourselves.  Right-hand owes left-hand; right-hand refuses to pay what it owes to left-hand – no big deal: the entity to which both hands are attached possesses the same amount of money with default as it would with payment.

If the Keynesians are right in their theory that owing money to ourselves is not a problem then they shouldn’t mind a default from the U.S. taxpayer.  But they would mind a default.  And wouldn’t allow one.  Which can mean only one thing.  Owing a large debt to ourselves is a big problem.

It’s not the same as borrowing from your savings account.  You can default on that.  You just have less in the bank.  And earn less interest.  Public debt is more like borrowing from a credit card.  The more you borrow the more you pay in interest.  And defaulting has consequences.  The difference?  In one we borrow from ourselves (our savings account).  The other we borrow from someone other than ourselves (the bank holding the credit card).  Who expects to get their money back.  Just like sovereign debt holders.

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Debt Limit Talks just Theatre, Obama Determined to Emulate Greek Spending and Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 18th, 2011

The Debt Limit hasn’t Stopped the Debt from Growing

The bond ratings agencies are getting nervous.  About the inevitable default of Greece.  And the possibility that the U.S. won’t be able to accumulate the unsustainable debt like the Greeks have (see Moody’s suggests U.S. eliminate debt ceiling by Walter Brandimarte posted 7/18/2011 on Reuters).

Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday suggested the United States should eliminate its statutory limit on government debt to reduce uncertainty among bond holders…

“We would reduce our assessment of event risk if the government changed its framework for managing government debt to lessen or eliminate that uncertainty,” Moody’s analyst Steven Hess wrote in the report…

In the United States, Moody’s said the debt limit had not effectively curbed the rise in government debt because lawmakers regularly raise it and because that limit is not related to the level of expenditures approved by Congress.

They have a point.  The Economist noted (see Down to the wire posted 7/18/2011 on The Economist) “Congress has acted a total of 91 times since June 1940 to either raise, extend or alter the definition of the debt limit…”  So it would seem that the debt limit is a limit in name only.  It hasn’t stopped the debt from growing.  As their little chart shows.  So why have it?

A Debt Default will be Bad, so will continued Out of Control Spending

Because, apart from World War II, the public debt hasn’t exceeded 100% of the GDP (see The Economist chart referenced above).  George W. Bush took it close to World War II heights to pay for two costly wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) and an expensive Medicare drug plan.  Obama has taken it beyond World War II levels.  At about 140% of GDP.  And Obama wants to borrow more, taking it to 150% of GDP.  Or beyond.  The European Central Bank is forecasting Greek debt to peak at 161% of GDP.  So you can see why having a debt limit is a little more important now.  Which makes the Moody’s recommendation a bit puzzling considering their concerns over Greece (see Senate Throws Obama a Debt Lifeline by Chris Stirewalt posted 7/18/2011 on FOX NEWS).

The bond-rating agencies have spelled out the two scenarios that would result in a downgrading of U.S. creditworthiness: either an unconditional increase to federal borrowing that shows Washington sprinting toward the fiscal abyss or an unbreakable stalemate on the debt ceiling.

A debt default will be bad.  But so will be continued out of control spending.  So it makes little sense solving one problem by making another problem bigger.  Besides, the U.S. has the money to service its debt.  The only question is will Obama service it?

But, here again, Obama is the one in charge of deciding who gets paid in the event of a shortfall. While his administration might send scare letters to senior citizens as a bargaining tactic with Republicans, it’s unlikely that the president would tell pensioners that they can’t have the money they paid into the system during their working lives.

Imagine the president keeping open national parks or green energy stimulus projects while telling America’s oldsters that they aren’t getting checks. Not going to happen.

Yes, if Social Security checks don’t go out to seniors, it will be because Obama chose not to send them.  And speaking of Social Security, this brings up another point.  That it’s a Ponzi scheme. 

The money we paid into the Social Security isn’t sitting in some lockbox collecting interest.  Like those Social Security statements we get imply.  The government spends that money, our money, as soon as they get it.  Which is why they viciously attack any plans to privatize Social Security.  They want your money now.  While you’re living.  And after you die.  For if we privatize Social Security, our heirs would get our unspent retirement money.  Not the government.  As the system is now designed.

This is just another good reason not to give the government more money.  They’re just going to blow irresponsibly.  Like using our retirement money deducted from our paychecks to pay for national parks.  Or green energy.

Obama and the Democrats don’t want Deficit Reduction

Washington can’t curb it’s appetite to spend.  Doesn’t want to.  And they don’t try to hide this fact (see Obama officially threatens to veto ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ by Sam Youngman posted 7/18/2011 on THE HILL).

The White House on Monday warned President Obama will veto GOP legislation to “Cut, Cap and Balance” spending and the budget…

The administration lambasted the “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal as setting out “a false and unacceptable choice between the federal government defaulting on its obligations now or, alternatively, passing a Balanced Budget Amendment that, in the years ahead, will likely leave the nation unable to meet its core commitment of ensuring dignity in retirement.”

The White House also blasted some of the cuts Republicans have suggested, saying the proposal would “undercut the federal government’s ability to meet its core commitments to seniors, middle-class families and the most vulnerable, while reducing our ability to invest in our future.

“[The bill] would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future,” the SAP said. “It could also lead to severe cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which are growing to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers, and put at risk the retirement security for tens of millions of Americans.”

Business as usual.  Scare the old people.  So they can spend more.  This is an admission that there will be no deficit reduction.  Obama and the Democrats don’t want it.  It’s all just theatre.  To amuse the public.  And buy time.  For they plan to spend, spend and spend.  On programs that are ‘critical’ to winning the future.  Despite the fortune we’ve spent already on these programs that have won jack squat so far.

The American Taxpayer paying for Irresponsible Governments Here and Abroad

So it’s on to Athens.  Push that debt up to 160% of GDP.  I mean, what really can happen that’s so bad (see Gloomy Forecast for Europe’s Banks by Jack Willoughby published 7/16/2011 on BARRON’S)?

Sean Egan, co-founder and president [Egan-Jones Ratings], has a stunning prediction for Barron’s readers: Forget about things getting better in Europe, he says; they will actually get worse. And who might be one of the patsies in all this? The American taxpayer, who could feasibly be stung as the Federal Reserve aids an ailing European Central Bank already depleted by too many bailouts. The big question: Will Europe, worn down by bailout after bailout, finally be forced to bail out the bailer—the ECB?

Oh.  As bad as things are in Europe they’re going to get worse?  And the American taxpayer may ultimately pay for these bailouts?  Lovely.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse.  Not only will the American taxpayer pay for their own irresponsible government.  But Europe’s as well.

Atlas can’t Shoulder the Weight of the World Anymore

That debt limit seems more important than ever.  This out of control spending has to stop.  Before it’s too late.  Because we can’t afford our debt and Europe’s debt.   America can’t be Atlas and shoulder the weight of the world on its shoulders.  At least, not anymore.  Not with the Obama administration running things.

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