Even as he pushes forward a tax reform bill that primarily ensures the rich get richer, US house speaker Paul Ryan has his eyes on the next challenge: birth rates. “This is going to be the new economic challenge for America: people. Baby boomers are retiring,” he said yesterday (Dec. 14) in a press conference, “I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country.”
Population growth is indeed at a record low. But while Ryan might think he’s done his part by contributing three children, he hasn’t done much as a lawmaker to enable US population growth. In fact, his work is making it even harder to achieve. Here’s how:
One of the fastest ways to get America’s population up is by welcoming more immigrants.
For the past 150 years, the vast majority of immigrants coming to the US have been of working age (15 to 64). Encouraging immigration would be a fast way to inject young workers into the economy, and yet Ryan’s party wants just the opposite: Not only does the points-based immigration reform proposed by the GOP make it generally harder to access the US, but the government is also threatening the DACA program, which could result in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young people who were raised in America and are on the brink of joining the workforce.
When Ryan encourages Americans to have more children, he overlooks the fact that nowhere in the industrialized world is childbirth so life-threatening for women as in the US.
This is a consequence of many factors, one of which is women’s limited access to healthcare before or between pregnancies. All of the GOP’s attempts to repeal Obamacare were found by the Congressional Budget Office to leave millions uninsured. Meanwhile, a provision in the Republican-backed tax reform bill would end the individual mandate for health insurance.
Since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the rate of uninsured women has been steadily declining, so it’s likely that a repeal or a substantial change—such as ending the individual mandate—could prevent more women from accessing pregnancy-related healthcare.
If Ryan wants Americans to have more children, too, he could ensure the government does not strip away medical insurance from millions of them. So far, the GOP’s inability to refinance the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) risks leaving over 600,000 children uninsured by the end of January. It puts a total of nearly nine million at risk of losing coverage eventually.
And then there’s the cost of raising all those children. For a large chunk of Americans, the cost of childcare isn’t just high, it’s crippling.
In nearly half of the US, childcare can cost more than college, and with no government option to take care of their young children, nearly 60% of parents say they can’t find reliable, affordable childcare near their house.
The average cost of raising a child has risen to over $300,000—without accounting for college costs. In many cases, the solution ends up being having one parent stay home from work resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages growth.
Despite Ivanka Trump’s promises during the 2016 presidential campaign to work on making childcare affordable for Americans, even a credit for childcare in the GOP tax bill will not make difference for American parents crushed by costs.