The race to finalize tax reform before Christmas continues, which is obviously stressing Republicans TF out. That's the only possible explanation for what happened at House Speaker Paul Ryan's weekly press conference on Thursday, Dec. 14. While Ryan waxed poetic about everything from tax reform to Rep. Blake Farenthold's impending retirement, he also had an interesting take on what will help tax reform succeed. Ryan said that Americans need to have more babies in order to make tax reform and the American economy work. But there's a problem with Ryan's plan: a lot of the legislation Ryan supports would make it extremely difficult to have children.
As having and raising children becomes increasingly more expensive in the United States, year over year, many of Ryan's legislative proposals would compound that difficulty by slashing social programs and raising taxes on average Americans. So, even aside from the fact that women's bodies are not factories to be used to pump out productive workers and taxpayers, Ryan is actually de-incentivizing what he says is one of the key factors to keeping the American economy afloat.
During his Dec. 14 press conference, Ryan was discussing entitlement programs like Social Security when he told reporters that the American economy will only function properly if the nation's birth rate increases. He said,
This is going to be the new economic challenge for America: People. Baby Boomers are retiring — I did my part but we need to have higher birth rates in this country.
(Ryan, in saying, "I did my part," is seemingly referring to the fact that he and his wife have pumped out three children of their own.)
Baby boomers are retiring and we have fewer people following them in the workforce. We have something like a 90-percent increase in the retirement population of America but only a 19-percent increase in the working population in American. So what do we have to do? Be smarter, more efficient, more technology. Still gonna need more people.
And, yes, Ryan is dead-on when it comes to the gap between retiring baby boomers and those replacing them in the workforce: according to The New York Times, the U.S. fertility rate hit a record low in 2016, with only 62 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. And yes, low birth rates mean slower economic growth, which is a problem. But there's just a teensy-tiny itty-bitty little problem with Ryan's assertion that now is the time to have more children.
It's going to be pretty difficult to have kids under some of Ryan's biggest legislative proposals.
Take, for example, the House tax reform bill, one of Ryan's largest legislative goals ever.
Ryan has promised that this bill will raise wages $4,000 for the average American family. But that optimistic assessment is a far cry from the reality, according to everyone from the left-leaning Tax Policy Center to the bipartisan Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
The proposed tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners in Ryan's version of the tax bill would be negligible at best for many earners, with the lion's share of savings going to the very wealthy. Further, these individual tax cuts would be temporary, which means that by 2027, low- and middle-income earners could see an increase in taxes. The Tax Policy Center "estimates that next year about 10% of middle income filers and 20% of the highest income households would pay more. Those percentages rise to 30% for each group by 2027."
Those increases aren't exactly incentivizing childbearing, which is insanely expensive. As of Jan. 2017, Time reported that the average cost of raising a child is $233,610, a 3 percent jump from 2016. That's an average of $13,000 per year for 18 years.
Further, under Ryan's plan, not only will taxes either stagnate or increase for average Americans, say goodbye to the ability to write off most of your state and local taxes. That means more of your money will be taxed by the federal government, which means less money in your pocket.
And let's take a closer look at that declining birth rate.
Per the New York Times, aside from the teen birth rate, which has thankfully plummeted 67 percent since 1991, the biggest decline is among millennials, which, if you're a millennial is probably hardly a surprise. After all, who has the money for kids when you're busy paying off your student loans?
Millennials are, by and large, putting off having kids due financial instability — a large part of that owing to the student loan crisis.
According to CNBC, "There are over 17 million student loan borrowers under the age of 30 in the U.S. These 17 million people hold a total of $376.3 billion in debt. The average monthly student loan payment for a borrower in their 20s is $351, and the median monthly payment is $203."
And sure, maybe you thought you could diligently pay off your student loans over time, opening up the possibility of having kids later in life. But if Ryan's tax proposal passes, it'll take even more time and money to pay off those loans.
If Ryan wants us to have children for the good of the old stars and stripes, then his tax bill probably shouldn't include a provision that eliminates the ability to deduct student loan interest — which currently allows taxpayers to claim up to $2,500 of what they paid toward interest. Yet it does.
There are some other Ryan policies that make makin' babies a challenge.
It's no secret that Ryan was one of the loudest voices in the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) over the summer. While that repeal attempt died, Ryan and other Republican leaders are working on a compromise tax bill which would likely include a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. That would, according to experts, send markets into a tailspin, raising premiums, making essential health care unaffordable. No or prohibitively expensive prenatal care, no accessible coverage if you've had postpartum depression or a C-section — all proposals in Ryan's Obamacare repeal attempt — would discourage average Americans from taking the financial risk of having children.
Ryan is also staunchly opposed to funding Planned Parenthood — which provides essential prenatal and postnatal care for women. He has also been "dreaming" of cutting Medicaid, which would, once again, mean goodbye to essential health care for many working women in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Oh, and if you do end up having a kid? Good luck getting any help with child care if Ryan has anything to do with it. Family leave? Nah. That means less income if you decide to take time off to spend with your infant or, oh, I don't know, recover from giving birth.
Oh, and gosh, you know there's the whole icky borderline nationalistic implications of prioritizing birth rates (instead of, say, boosting the population by immigration) in order to build up the workforce.
But hey, the future of the country is at risk. So start pumpin' 'em out, ladies.