by Rob Schwarzwalder
October 17, 2011
In a characteristically perceptive op-ed titled “Downward Mobility,” Washington Post economics writer Robert Samuelson notes that “for young Americans, the future could be dimmer.” As he summarizes:
In 1990, there were 32 million Americans 65 and over; by 2040, that’s reckoned at 80 million. Rising costs for Social Security and Medicare have created a new political dynamic: If benefits for the elderly aren’t cut, burdens on the young will go up. Decaying infrastructure poses similar choices. Either pay for repairs or tolerate substandard roads and schools. If today’s weak recovery persists, the outlook darkens. Unemployment will remain high, say 7 percent to 9 percent. Wage increases will remain depressed. Young workers will have trouble finding jobs to develop the skills and contacts that lead to better jobs. Productivity growth might falter.
This is not a scenario anyone wants to contemplate, but contemplate it we must if we want our country to remain the economic engine and beacon of prosperity it for decades has been.
One thing Samuelson did not note, however, is that our economic crisis is significantly augmented by a lack of future employees. As my colleagues Drs. Pat Fagan and Henry Potrykus have demonstrated in their important study, “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital and Population Change,” “The slowdown of GDP growth is explained by the concentration of both population and human capital in the baby boom, which is now being replaced by lower human capital cohorts.” In sum, they argue, “the historical balance of population growth, human capital development, and physical capital investment is the optimum national path to economic growth. Growing our human capital is critical to our future economic growth.”
We cannot have a growing economy with a shrinking labor pool. Yet that is the grim demographic reality we are facing. Even the most extraordinary gains in productivity cannot compensate for a lack of one indispensable resource: people. Given that we are losing roughly 3,000 unborn children through abortion every day, is it any wonder that our economic future looks bleaker than ever?