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  1. Lauren
    Lauren February 21, 2006 at 11:41 pm |

    I’ll take my kudos for doing my part having babies early. Granted I haven’t had a quiver full of children, but there was some quivering involved.

  2. I ♥ Dr. Calvin
    I ♥ Dr. Calvin February 21, 2006 at 11:52 pm |

    Ever heard of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement? You could argue that they’re nuts, but here’s a sampling from their FAQ:

    Q: Does a growing economy require a growing population?
    “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world, is either a madman or an economist.”~ Kenneth Boulding, Economics professor
    Q: Why not move excess human population to colonies on other planets?
    Contraception is cheaper.

    My religion forbids contraceptives.
    Pope John VI didn’t draw directly from scriptures in 1968 when he issued Humanae Vitae. Loosely translated from Latin, it means, “It’s a no-no to put pee-pee in muff-muff, except to make bee-bee.”

  3. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 22, 2006 at 12:38 am |

    And zuzu’s proposed solutions would be . . ?

  4. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 12:43 am |

    Clearly what is needed is a natalist feminism, which makes birthing and childrearing mothers the center of society – richly rewarded economically and emotionally, lavishly supported physically and culturally.

  5. Kvatch
    Kvatch February 22, 2006 at 12:57 am |

    And it’s becoming more socially acceptable for married couples to deliberately choose not to have kids.

    Oh yeah? Tell that to the parents who think that denying them grand-children is the height of self-involved selfishness.

    On the other hand childlessness is the secret to health, wealth, marital bliss, and youthful good looks, but that’s just one frog’s opinion.

  6. Lauren
    Lauren February 22, 2006 at 1:11 am |

    Oh no, he has a dad, but his dad drives a VW.

  7. Gordon K
    Gordon K February 22, 2006 at 1:17 am |

    VHEM (pronounced ‘vehement’) aren’t as radical or crazy as they seem at first glance. And they’re not all that wrong, either – the world is overpopulated. I would say it’s not necessarily a bad thing if some countries’ birth rate dips below 2.1.

  8. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 1:26 am |

    And they’re not all that wrong, either – the world is overpopulated.

    Yes they are and fooey. The only rational standard for gauging whether a place is overpopulated is the well-being of its inhabitants; name a place whose inhabitants were better off when there were (say) only half as many of them.

  9. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 1:27 am |

    Oh no, he has a dad, but his dad drives a VW.

    Wuss.

  10. spotted elephant
    spotted elephant February 22, 2006 at 1:47 am |

    We can’t just consider population. We also have to consider consumption and the environmental effects of a society. If you give a rat’s ass about your kids, and your children’s children and so on, then these things matter.

  11. I ♥ Dr. Calvin
    I ♥ Dr. Calvin February 22, 2006 at 2:32 am |

    Hmm, if children (usually) learn values from their parents, then people who either don’t care enough about overpopulation to forego having their own babies, or who churn out babies because of religious conviction, these people will inherit the earth. I wonder if there was once a group like VHEM way back in the past, and now they’ve vanished. It’s similar to the idea that populations will stabilise at 51% opposition to abortion, since pro-lifers will have more children and pass on those values (does this idea have a name? if anyone knows it’ll be people on this site)

  12. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 2:40 am |

    We also have to consider consumption and the environmental effects of a society.

    Why?

    If you give a rat’s ass about your kids, and your children’s children and so on, then these things matter.

    My kids are likely to have far more tools at their disposal for handling these things than I do, and their kids are going to be dealing with entirely new sets of problem. It is complete hubris to assume that the problems that I/we can currently articulate are actually the important problems, or to believe that our actions are somehow unique in human history.

  13. Woman
    Woman February 22, 2006 at 3:45 am |

    I can’t say I blame these women for delaying/not bothering at all. I had my son at 21 years old. Before that I had the beginings of a career, the respect of my peers, friends and a social life, a boyfriend who loved me…now I have none of those things. Mind you, as I’m relying on benefits to get by, I’m sure I don’t count amongst the middle class women they’re so worried about.

  14. La Lubu
    La Lubu February 22, 2006 at 8:22 am |

    Clearly what is needed is a natalist feminism, which makes birthing and childrearing mothers the center of society – richly rewarded economically and emotionally, lavishly supported physically and culturally.

    Wow. Robert’s a secret hipmama fan! Who knew?

    You know, I can easily accept the tradeoff that being a mother means I’m going to have fewer opportunities to earn money—I knew that going in. The part that is difficult to work around is the lack of a support system—the fact our societal structures haven’t kept the pace with changes in our daily lives. And that this is thought to be a completely “individual” problem (“that’s your problem, not mine”). Over on Alas, I suggested having school hours coincide with standard working hours, and it wasn’t long before that suggestion was shot down by a woman who thought that translated into the “schools raising your child”.

    The “baby gap” isn’t just a money gap, it’s a social institution gap. Having to wonder if you’re going to lose your job because you have to take a fourth day off work in one year alone because your kid has a fever again isn’t much fun. When we’re getting to the point that even Robert is backing us up on this one….damn! (Maybe I’m assuming too much here—that Robert is supporting Working Outside the Home Mothers too).

  15. chris
    chris February 22, 2006 at 8:43 am |

    All this, of course, is coded language: what they’re concerned about is that the white people will be bred out, given that immigration is one of the fixes for the pension problem

    Truer words were never written. This comes from the same headspace as the Europistan bullshit, and it would be sufficiently vicious even if it wasn’t brutally misogynist. However, there is a serious issue with using immigration as a fix for the pension problem, which is that if countries like Britain and Germany use their high wage economies to attract skilled personnel from poorer countries, then that potentially leads to an ever more intolerable skills shortages in those countries. Whatever the resolution of the pension problem is, we have to live with the fact of declining populations in most of the first world. The global south has bailed us out too often already.

  16. That Girl
    That Girl February 22, 2006 at 8:52 am |

    It’s like listening to men whine about how their wife doesnt put out enough. Instead of whining (I say) why dont you make it so good for her that she wants to do nothing else?

    That’s just too easy though.

  17. Magis
    Magis February 22, 2006 at 9:14 am |

    Yes they are and fooey. The only rational standard for gauging whether a place is overpopulated is the well-being of its inhabitants; name a place whose inhabitants were better off when there were (say) only half as many of them.

    America.

  18. Ann Marie
    Ann Marie February 22, 2006 at 9:37 am |

    I am a proud contributor to this “problem” – no children and no intention of having any. Serioulsy, the world is overpopulated, there are millions of children that are already in the world and need help, so why does the world need my genetic contribution? When I am emotionally and financially able, I plan on adopting a child or possibly 2.

  19. Dianne
    Dianne February 22, 2006 at 11:59 am |

    But your child was (whisper) fatherless! (/whisper)

    Whoa! E was born through oocyte fusion? Cool! Hey, wait a minute…if he was fatherless where’d you get his Y-chromosome? (/silly bio-nerd joke)

  20. Dianne
    Dianne February 22, 2006 at 11:59 am |

    But your child was (whisper) fatherless! (/whisper)

    Whoa! E was born through oocyte fusion? Cool! Hey, wait a minute…if he was fatherless where’d you get his Y-chromosome? (/silly bio-nerd joke)

  21. Dianne
    Dianne February 22, 2006 at 12:07 pm |

    if children (usually) learn values from their parents, then people who either don’t care enough about overpopulation to forego having their own babies, or who churn out babies because of religious conviction, these people will inherit the earth.

    Fortunately, values are passed via meme, not gene, and the parental contribution isn’t always the decisive one. One argument for keeping the public schools as strong as possible is to expose children to ideas that they don’t hear at home. Plus they’ll see that their friends from one child families where the parents are actually enjoying raising their child instead of seeing him or her as a burden are having more fun than them and maybe decide that that decadent lifestyle isn’t so bad.

    I apologize for the double post above. My computer said it didn’t post….grumble.

  22. Lauren
    Lauren February 22, 2006 at 12:11 pm |

    Whoa! E was born through oocyte fusion? Cool! Hey, wait a minute…if he was fatherless where’d you get his Y-chromosome? (/silly bio-nerd joke)

    Pretty cool, no? I got the Y chromosome black market. I know somebody that can hook you up if you’re interested. Y chromosomes are cheap these days because of the market in Asia.

  23. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 12:17 pm |

    (Maybe I’m assuming too much here—that Robert is supporting Working Outside the Home Mothers too).

    Within reason. (Government subsidy so that Professional Mom can birth Britney, hire a nanny and a live-in and return to Chase Manhattan two weeks after parturition? No. Policies to align work hours with school hours and give tax credits to working moms? Surely.)

  24. Dianne
    Dianne February 22, 2006 at 12:46 pm |

    Policies to align work hours with school hours and give tax credits to working moms?

    How do work hours aligned with school hours help the mother of a 3 month old? Or tax credits help a mom working for minimum wage (ie who already pays no taxes due to deductions?)

    I’m not quite the Professional Mom that Robert seems to dislike–I don’t work for Chase and my “nanny” (aka my mother out of law) only took care of the baby during working hours, but I did go back to work (part time, gradually building up to full) at two weeks post birth and only had the kidling after the mother out of law declared herself willing and able to take care of kidling while both parents worked until she was of at least nursery school age. If you want people like me (middle class, educated, professional, able to pass for white) to have kids, you’ll have to work out a way to make it possible for women to go back to work within the first year of the child’s life. Otherwise…well, I’m not having another until/unless we identify a daytime caretaker for it (the mother out of law having decided that once was fun, twice wouldn’t be).

  25. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 1:03 pm |

    I know somebody that can hook you up if you’re interested.

    Yeah, but I bet they’re crummy latte-sipping VW-driving Y chromosomes.

    You want some quality Y, come on by Honest Bob’s Human Genome Warehouse. We got deals!

  26. Nymphalidae
    Nymphalidae February 22, 2006 at 2:16 pm |

    Robert says:

    We also have to consider consumption and the environmental effects of a society.

    Why?

    Because environments have what is called a carrying capacity (k). k is the number of individuals an environment can support based on resource availability, space, etc. It’s fairly simple to figure out k when you’re dealing with something like aphids. It’s not so simple to figure out when you’re dealing with humans, which are capable of altering their environment to benefit themselves. In other words, we keep pushing the value of k up with things like modern agriculture and transportation. We probably haven’t reached k yet, and we might not do it. But if the human population keeps growing exponentially without us increasing our resources to meet demand, we will eventually hit k. When populations exceed k, they crash. And a population crash is not something we want to go through.

    That being said, I’m not sure why we’re worrying about a lack of babies in England when there are a billion Chinese and another billion Indians. It’s not like we’re short of people.

  27. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 2:58 pm |

    But if the human population keeps growing exponentially without us increasing our resources to meet demand, we will eventually hit k

    Our resources have increased faster than our population has. We’re literally only years from putting up the first space elevators, at which point the quantity of material resources we have access to becomes effectively infinite.

  28. Magis
    Magis February 22, 2006 at 3:22 pm |

    Now Robert,

    What did we tell you about that space stuff. You don’t want to have to go back to the home do you?

  29. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 22, 2006 at 3:26 pm |

    Ann Marie,

    I am a proud contributor to this “problem” – no children and no intention of having any

    It would be terrific if you actually do adopt a child or two. Otherwise, if you remain childless the odds are that you’ll become a financial leech upon society. Consider that your FICA deductions are based on your income and not on the amount of children you have. By contributing through FICA your contributions are not self-financing your retirement – they’re only partially financing. In the end you’re going to be depending on other people’s children paying for your retirement and expensive health care in your old age. Those young people could instead have used that money to help their own parents, help their own children, or helped themselves, instead of helping selfish childless senior citizens who chose not to have children.

    Parents get the rawest deal in that they incur all of the costs of raising future taxpayers and society gets most of the benefits. It used to be the case that children were a means for parent to create security for their old age in that the children would take care of their parents. What we’ve done now is bureaucratize that process so that society’s children take care of society’s parents, but the implicit deal here is that people become parents. Adoption is a terrific way of honoring the implicit bargain.

    People who make the conscious choice not to be parents need to be excluded from from receiving full SS & Medicare benefits when they retire. They should be capped at the value of their own contributions. To participate in the societal bargain they need to keep up their own end of the bargain and they’ve chosen not to.

  30. Magis
    Magis February 22, 2006 at 3:33 pm |

    Well now, I’ve got this whole female plot thing figured out, yesiree, Bob.

    Women are going to stop having babies for strategic reasons. Eventually, see, babies are going to be so valuable the state is going to pay each woman $1 million per kiddo. Then they really can stay home and eat bon-bons and hire male nannies. The power of the womb is coming home to haunt.

  31. Dianne
    Dianne February 22, 2006 at 3:51 pm |

    It would be terrific if you actually do adopt a child or two

    Slightly off topic, but when considering the question of whether to adopt a child, consider the damage that it does to the biological mother. Numerous studies show that a woman who gives a child up for adoption is extremely likely to experience a lifelong depression as the result of that decision. (Thank you, “crisis pregnancy centers”.) This depression can be somewhat ameliorated by open adoption and contact with the child. I’m not saying that adoptive parents are doing anything wrong–definitely not, especially when adopting a “hard to place” child–just that being sensitive to the secondary effects of trying to adopt is important too.

  32. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 22, 2006 at 5:42 pm |

    zuzu,

    Cost it out. If you aren’t inclined to do so I’ll send you a link to a series of posts I’m working on that get right into the nitty gritty details of this argument. I should have them finished in the next couple of months.

    Take a cursory look at your the average per capita taxes that go towards children’s educations compared to the subsidies that go to elder care in all its forms. There’s a reason that the unfunded liabilities of Medicare are over $45 trillion.

    What a childless person, man or woman, pays towards educating other people’s children doesn’t come anywhere close to offsetting the subsidies that they’re going to receive in old-age.

  33. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 5:51 pm |

    Tell me, Tango Man, how is it that someone who pays into the Social Security system all their working lives, pays property taxes that benefit schools and libraries, who pays income taxes, who purchases items that help keep the economy afloat, etcetera, etcetera — just how is it that such a person could in any possible sense be a “financial leech upon society”?

    Tango is addressing you on the tactical details of how the numbers come out; I’ll take on the conceptual question.

    The answer to your question is “very easily”. All that is necessary is for the system to be “progressive” – for people with higher incomes to pay higher amounts. We’ve designed our tax systems in such a way that both Bill Gates and Joe the Shoeshine Guy feel a pinch from taxes. The difference is that Joe’s contributions to FICA and payroll taxes and all the rest of the things you mention are based on the $18K a year that he scrapes by with. Bill’s taxes are based on his tens or hundreds of millions in annual income. Bill will end up paying the fixed-freight cost of a thousand other people; Joe won’t even cover his own nut.

    Social Security is predicated on there being more earners paying in than retirees drawing out, and it caps what gets paid in – even Bill Gates is a net drain on the system if he doesn’t start pumping out some more taxpayers. Other subsystems have different progressivity curves. But on balance, if you’re not in (at a guess) the 70th percentile for lifetime income, or so, then you’re not going to pay in taxes as much as you will draw out in benefits over time.

    Either you cover your own costs, or richer people are covering your expenses, or the children of other people are covering your expenses. Unless you’re pretty rich, you’re not covering your own costs. A person under our current arrangements who doesn’t have kids and doesn’t make a boatload of money, is a net fiscal drain.

  34. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 6:05 pm |

    You’re still not addressing the fact that I am, as a childless person, paying for the retirements of other people’s parents right now. As well as for the education of other people’s children.

    Sure. So what? You’re paying in maybe 80% of what eventually you will take out.

    The elderly have been working their whole lives, most of them — why shouldn’t we pay for their care?

    No reason at all. What does this have to do with the question of whether a low- or middle-income childless person is a net drain, or a net provider of surplus, to the system?

    You also seem to disregard the fact that the population can increase quite nicely with immigration rather than increasing the birthrate

    If we bring in large quantities of immigrants possessed of the high levels of social capital (skills, education, networks) required to make them economically adequate substitutes, then the countries where those people originated become even poorer relative to the United States. Is it worth increasing global inequity so that we can defer maintaining a replacement birthrate?

    We can bring in low-skill people without making that problem worse, and hope that they maintain high fertility rates so that their children become net contributors – but the number of people we can assimilate in that fashion is a relatively low quantity.

  35. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 6:33 pm |

    Having more children doesn’t solve the problem of retirement funding, it just pushes it off for a while.

    Correct. The problem is not going to be “solved” (at least not until we get a consensus about de-progressivizing things, and re-establishing the principle that we each pull our own wagon.) You have three kids and they pay the costs for you and a partner; they have three kids apiece and pay for their parents, and so on. Our public economics (more specifically, our tax and benefit systems) are predicated on population growth.

    Pushing it off “for a while” permits us to have the while to continue working on the problem – increasing the size of our economy, for one thing.

  36. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred February 22, 2006 at 7:28 pm |

    you’re ignoring childcare costs, more children mean more social services, welfare services, education services, and so on and so forth.

    Often such costs can easily outweigh their actual payments into the social service system itself when they reach adulthood, especially when you take into account that those children will in turn require supporting themselves when they reach an old age that will probably soon start to rival their actual time paying into the SS system in length.

    No, having more children is not the answer to such problems, but there is a way, a third way, in which the tax paying population can grow without it in turn eating up taxes with a childhood;

    Immigration, that way you experience population growth in a particular country, don’t put a further burden on overall world wide population sustainability, have a work force that will gladly do the most menial of labor, pay their taxes, and cost the government a tiny fraction of what children do.

    So don’t have children: Smuggle an immigrant into the country today.

  37. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 8:23 pm |

    have a work force that will gladly do the most menial of labor

    So you’re suggesting that the gap between feminist ideals and the demographic realities necessary to maintain a modern state, be carried on the backs of exploited immigrant labor?

  38. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 9:41 pm |

    What does this have to do with tolerance, Zuzu?

  39. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 22, 2006 at 9:56 pm |

    A defense of tolerance shaming only resonates if the critique has no other purpose. Robert asks a very legitimate question about migrant labor. The fact that it touches the raw nerves of Liberals doesn’t make it tolerance shaming or out of bounds.

  40. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 10:25 pm |

    Translation: You feminists are supposed to be so tolerant! You’re just a bunch of immigrant-exploiters! Shame, shame!

    No, translation: are you suggesting that the gap between feminist ideals and the demographic realities necessary to maintain a modern state be carried on the backs of exploited immigrant labor?

    I have little to no interest in “shaming” you (well, R. Mildred, since its his/her quote). Your emotional state is material to your cats, your friends, your coworkers, and your mom. I’m none of those things. We’re talking about policy here, and I’m asking you how you expect our society to maintain the social structures we’re all fond of while simultaneously not producing the children on whose future existence those structures are predicated.

    So far the answers aren’t impressive. Attempts to derail your lack of good answers with “you’re shaming me!” are even less impressive.

  41. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 10:48 pm |

    Immigration, Robert. [and then some material on how we can exploit illegal immigrants]

    OK. Then let’s go back to what I’ve already written in response to your suggestion that immigration will make up the difference:

    If we bring in large quantities of immigrants possessed of the high levels of social capital (skills, education, networks) required to make them economically adequate substitutes, then the countries where those people originated become even poorer relative to the United States. Is it worth increasing global inequity so that we can defer maintaining a replacement birthrate?

    We can bring in low-skill people without making that problem worse, and hope that they maintain high fertility rates so that their children become net contributors – but the number of people we can assimilate in that fashion is a relatively low quantity.

    New text: fiscally exploiting illegal immigrants is not a long-term viable solution. First off, it’s not morally acceptable. Secondly, those people who are paying in and getting nothing back are not likely to endure these conditions indefinitely; eventually they will demand they be treated fairly.

    The pool of immigrants we can draw on without worsening global conditions in the case of skilled immigrants, or simply borrowing new demographic troubles in the case of illegals, is relatively limited; it certainly won’t make up for the tens of millions of people we need to fill our social institutions.

  42. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 22, 2006 at 11:02 pm |

    Zuzu,

    You do realize that illegal immigrants are already paying into Social Security and the general tax fund but very rarely drawing out of it

    There is a huge difference between skilled immigration (which I’m all for) and unskilled immigration (which I’m deadset against.) Importing HS drop-outs into a nation with the world’s most advanced economy, and one of the most expensive in which to live, is an idiocy to top all idiocies:

    The NRC estimates indicated that the average immigrant without a high school education imposes a net fiscal burden on public coffers of $89,000 during the course of his or her lifetime. The average immigrant with only a high school education creates a lifetime fiscal burden of $31,000. In contrast, the average immigrant with more than a high school education was found to have a positive fiscal impact of $105,000 in his or her lifetime. The NAS further estimated that the total combined fiscal impact of the average immigrant (all educational categories included) was a negative $3,000

    You can find a more indepth analysis of the National Research Council reports in my comment at Washington Monthly.

    Zuzu, your argument is actually a net loser for the nation as a whole, though the illegal immigrant and their employers and customers certainly do benefit.

  43. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred February 22, 2006 at 11:04 pm |

    So you’re suggesting that the gap between feminist ideals and the demographic realities necessary to maintain a modern state, be carried on the backs of exploited immigrant labor?

    Huh? who said anything about exploiting? Someone has to do the low level jobs (there are no actual garbage/production line/service personnel fairies robert), the ability to produce stuff and export it all is vital to a healthy economy and immigrants are willing to do that, at a living minimum wage of course, I am a liberal after all.

    A decrease in population leads to a deminished workforce, and past a certain point it becomes economically neccesary to outsource, simply because there is not enough people in the local population to do the job neccesary.
    Fuck that, bring the workers here, pay them a living wage and boost the economy due to the creation of a large number of new american consumers.

    Ford spelled out the sound economic reasons why you don’t underpay and overwork the working class; how can they buy your shit if they can’t afford it and are too tired to use it?

    Every new legal economic immigrant is a new consumer, a new tax payer, a new worker and a new potential parent, not to mention they are one less person overcrowding already overcrowded third world countries that already cannot sustain their populations, and are less liable to be heavily abused by tyrannical first world companies in america than back in their homeland. Who needs to redistribute the wealth when people will redistribute themselves?

    Plus immigrants don’t uniformly look like a SD winston churchills, unlike babies, which imho, is the most important point in their favor.

  44. Robert
    Robert February 22, 2006 at 11:25 pm |

    There you go with the mischaracterization, Robert. I’m not advocating the exploitation of immigrants, just pointing out how much our current system relies on them.

    I apologize for mischaracterizing you.

    If you are not advocating that we continue to exploit immigrant workers, then what are you advocating? The programs need people to fund them. The existing people are not sufficient to fund them, and their descendents, even less so.

    Of course, we could allow for more immigration without worsening global conditions if we, you know, did something to address the global conditions. Like, say, not defunding family planning programs, or not not funding AIDS treatment initiatives.

    This has nothing to do with the nature of my objection. Highly-skilled individuals are an asset to econmies. If Pedro Gonzales is working as a chemical engineer in Ohio, he is not working in any capacity in Mexico City. Mexico City, which paid for Pedro’s education and upbringing, is losing out by Pedro immigrating to the US as a high-skill worker. Increased immigration of high-skilled individuals from outside the United States makes us stronger (yay) but makes them poorer – which is problematic.

    Funding AIDS treatment and buying condoms for Mexico does nothing to affect that calculus.

    And we could lessen the pyramid-scheme nature of retirement if we instituted universal health care, or instituted small changes such as means testing, or whatever

    Universal health care would simply worsen the pension problem by extending lifespans universally. Means testing could certainly extend our resources somewhat, but is unlikely to defuse the demographic timebomb that is quietly ticking away.

    If “whatever” is actually shorthand for some actual policy proposals, as opposed to “and at this point, we hope for a miracle”, then it might have some value. However, what you’ve proposed thus far doesn’t close the gap.

    the idea that someone who works hard for minimum wage is somehow more of a drain on society than someone whose fortunes rest on the labor of others (not that you, Robert, have expressly advocated this) is preposterous

    Actually, nobody has advocated this, so I’m not sure who you’re addressing.

    What has been observed is that someone who works hard for minimum wage all their life does not contribute enough economic margin to society to cover the cost of caring for them in their old age.

    Do you dispute that this is true?

  45. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 22, 2006 at 11:44 pm |

    TM, do you have any non-right-wing-think-tank sources? Thanks.

    Check the WM comment which relies entirely on two books from the National Research Council published by the National Academies Press. The NRC reports are the basis for all of the data.

    NRC is a pretty trusted source.

  46. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 23, 2006 at 12:14 am |

    The core of the problem is that each citizen, over the course of their lives, need to generate enough wealth, via savings or through surplus tax transfers that are later redeemed as benefits, to pay their own way through life.

    The public goods of society are paid for through progressive taxation of all citizens, but personal benefits like health care and living expenses are paid for individually.

    The grand bargain that was struck for SS was that society’s children would pay for the care of society’s elderly, thus removing individual risk from the elderly who had to depend on the good graces of their children. Fine, I’ve no problem with gov’t transfers of this sort, so long as they are actuarily sound. The problem is that the programs aren’t constructed on the basis of a net balance of – - tax proceeds + investment income = benefits. The programs are underfunded, by design, because they were premised on ever increasing populations and seniors dying soon after reaching retirement.

    Things are now falling apart, more drastically in Europe, because of the birth dearth. The solution is simple in prinicple – each person is responsible for paying their way through life for the basics like healthcare and retirement. Therefore, the young pay more in healtcare premiums than they draw but the accounts will be balanced when they enter old age.

    If men and women had more children the financial accounting would start to look healthier. Think about this as well – if people are informed of the tax situation then they can make appropriate life choice decisions. I’ll lay out a conflict for you and with the parameters laid out you can decide for yourself how best to live your life.

    Here’s the inherent conflict – having children early in life creates additional obstacles and expenses that hinder other life choices. By postponing children until a later stage in life these other life choices, and career enhancements become possible thereby increasing actual earnings and earning potential. So, a woman who has her first child at 38 will likely not have many more children. When the woman retires at 65 the child will 27, likely just entering the workforce after a college education. If the parent, man or woman, had had that child when they were 18 the child would have been in the workforce for 20 years concurrent with the parent. It could even be the case that a grandchild is entering the workforce just as the person is retiring at 65.

    Society benefits economically by closing the period of generational length. So, to compensate the 18 year old who has a child for the benefits that accrue to society the FICA tax rate for the 18 year old is lower than for the 38 year old. The prinicple here is that the longer one puts off having a child the longer they pay their full fare towards retirement self-financing (because there are no children to assume the burden for the parents) and when a child finally arrives the reduction in rate isn’t as significant. So a 28 year old will have a lifetime rate lower than the 38 year old but not as low as the 18 year old. Have more children and reduce the rates even further.

    Knowing that the system is constructed this way, you can decide that no way no how are you prepared to hve a kid at 18. We all know that doing so creates huge burdens. You can decide for yourself, when or if, you have a child. Nobody’s business but your own, and your partner. However, the consequences of your decision are also yours and not society’s.

    As I said I’ve got a lot of this already worked out and I’ve run the numbers but it’s a huge topic and I’m not ready to post it yet. But this should give you an idea of what I’m thinking. Also, you should see my healthcare reform ideas, which are guaranteed to piss off Republicans like this SS reform is bound to piss of Democrats.

  47. mythago
    mythago February 23, 2006 at 2:22 am |

    and unskilled immigration (which I’m deadset against.)

    You must grow your own food.

  48. Robert
    Robert February 23, 2006 at 4:07 am |

    and unskilled immigration (which I’m deadset against.)

    I am in favor of a reasonable amount of relatively unskilled immigration. The number of immigrants (of all sorts, not just the unskilled) we’ve invited into the country has varied significantly from era to era in our national history. Somewhat less than we’re admitting now, but we should still admit a fair chunk.

    Of the highly skilled immigrants, more is better. However, my concern for depleting the talent pools of other countries is genuine. Human capital is a resource; it follows the general economic patterns for resources. Resources are created by human effort plus varying material factors – but always, human effort. When a skilled person comes from Switzerland or Swaziland, a great deal of that nation’s effort comes with him.

    Ordinarily I’d be all for America saying “give me everybody who knows something” – but there are limits to our population. And there are limits to disparities. It is very difficult for countries to coexist when the gap between them becomes too large. I suppose we could take over the world, but that really seems too dreary.

    So, yay immigration – but within reason, and with an eye out both to our own national interests and harmonious international relations.

    There’s a protectionist argument against overmuch immigration too, but I don’t subscribe to it.

    There is also the closely related issue of humanitarian immigration – acceptance of refugees, the persecuted, and so on. Many of these immigrants are women, and feminists probably have valuable insights into where the priorities ought to be in deciding who to admit.

  49. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 23, 2006 at 3:05 pm |

    mythago,

    Please take a look at what’s happening within the black community over the last decade or so. Of Black men between the ages of 15-64, over 25% have been idle for a year or longer, and this doesn’t include men who are in prison or homeless. These men are not high school or college graduates – they are on the lowest rung of our economic ladder and what we’re doing is importing more labor to compete with them while also depressing the wages of the lowest skilled in our society.

    I believe I owe more allegiance to my fellow citizens than I do to illegal immigrants.

    As for importing stoop labor so that we can have food on our tables I think that’s a pretty poor argument. That cheap labor is subsidized indirectly by taxpayers. As with any factor in the economy, technology and mechanization are a tool to be used to substitute for stoop labor. The design, fabrication and maintenance of the mechanized equipment also provides jobs, but they are better paying jobs with higher skill sets.

    Lastly, if mechanization is resisted, there is little reason to continue to import stoop labor, and subsidize each laborer to the tune of at least $89,000, when we could rationalize our trade and begin importing more food from countries lower on the economic ladder.

    Irrigating vast amounts of California desert isn’t the most efficient use of our nation’s water resources.

  50. Magis
    Magis February 23, 2006 at 3:19 pm |

    Please take a look at what’s happening within the black community over the last decade or so. Of Black men between the ages of 15-64, over 25% have been idle for a year or longer, and this doesn’t include men who are in prison or homeless.

    We have exported so many of our entry level jobs this problem for whites as well as blacks will only continue to increase. One of the reasons that Blacks emmigrated from the South to the North was non-agricultural jobs. Those have mostly disappeared.

  51. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 23, 2006 at 3:52 pm |

    Magis,

    Your point about entry level jobs being exported is true. What I’m saying is that if you look at Dept of Labor job reports most of the jobs being created are being taken by illegals and not our fellow citizens. This has a hugely disproportionate impact on Black males, even moreso than on white males, white females and black females. 1 of 4 black males available for work has been without work for a year or longer I’m not sure on what the numbers are for men who’ve been able to find a job in less than a year but I’d say that it is also up there.

    Why are we importing unskilled labor from Central America when we have an employment crisis with our own citizens?

  52. TangoMan
    TangoMan February 23, 2006 at 4:48 pm |

    Zuzu,

    I hope you’re sitting down. I agree with you.

  53. Robert
    Robert February 23, 2006 at 5:07 pm |

    I also agree. Let the fainting commence!

  54. Magis
    Magis February 23, 2006 at 5:33 pm |

    I agreed with you TangoMan, the least you could have done is faint for me. I blame sexism.

  55. Nymphalidae
    Nymphalidae February 23, 2006 at 10:00 pm |

    Our resources have increased faster than our population has. We’re literally only years from putting up the first space elevators, at which point the quantity of material resources we have access to becomes effectively infinite.

    I’m one of those optimistic types that thinks colonizing space would solve a number of problems. I’m not sure that we’re that close to doing it, however. If we do begin to inhabit other worlds, I don’t see any reason to not have as many babies as you damn well feel like.

  56. Robert
    Robert February 23, 2006 at 10:06 pm |

    They just did a mile-high elevator test.

    http://www.newscientistspace.com/article.ns?id=dn8725

  57. Michael Price
    Michael Price February 24, 2006 at 2:42 am |

    # zuzu Says:
    February 21st, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    But your child was (whisper) fatherless! (/whisper)

    The 3 wise men came from the Persia like last time but they were thrown into Guantanamo Bay.

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