Social security is about to go belly up, financially speaking. And at the head of this crisis is a demographic disproportion: there are simply too few young people coming into the workforce to support the increasing numbers of elderly baby boomers who are retiring.
In “What’s Really Behind the Entitlement Crisis,” (Wall Street Journal, July 12th), Ben Wattenberg explains that “never-born babies are the root cause of the ‘social deficit’ that plagues nations across the world and threatens to break the bank in many.”
The math is simple. Birthrates have fallen so far and so fast that the thinning ranks of the young can no longer support the burgeoning numbers of retirees in country after country. Greece and Spain are already going over a demographic cliff, and there is not much they can do about it. Governments there and elsewhere can and do try to raise taxes or delay the age of retirement, but this will only delay by a few years the onset of the crisis. Ultimately and inevitably, there will be too few taxpayers to compensate for the deficit.
The problem, at root, is the birth dearth. There are a number of factors contributing to the strange barrenness of this generation of humans. According to Wattenberg, these include delayed marriages, wealth, divorce, legalized abortion, and accessible contraception.