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The George Bailey Effect

Abortion-on-Demand and the Implications for America’s Economic Future

Larry Burkett
with Joseph Slife

Christian Financial Concepts Inc.

This is an aspect of the abortion issue that. Sex. Incredible as it may seem. Bureau of the Census. largely. George makes a rash request: “I wish I’d never been born. In other words. everything in his hometown has changed. The challenges presented by the graying of America are created not so much by baby boomers getting older but by a marked slowdown in the population growth of young people. Bit by bit. rather. the USA Would Be a Vastly Different Place. Without the life of George Bailey. The result is that within 30 years there will be The Young and the Old as many Americans of “retirement age” as there are 20. and Hispanic Origin: 1995 to 2050 (Middle Series). “If only one-third of those who have been aborted were available to start work on their 18th birthday.”2 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 YEAR 2007 Population in Millions 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030 2035 2040 2045 2050 YOUNG (ages 20-34) OLD (ages 65 & over) Source: Population Projections of the United States by Age. has been ignored over the past 25 34-year-olds.” speculated USA Today. it tells how America is different now and how it will be different in the future. and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole. TOO MANY OLD—OR TOO FEW YOUNG? Consider what social researchers call the “graying of America. Race. Without Abortion.The George Bailey Effect “Strange. it concerned the demographic impact.” Instantly. In one scene. by the time the peak of the baby boom generation reaches retirement age.”1 The story did not concern the significant moral or constitutional questions surrounding abortion-on-demand. “the demise of Social Security would be put off for decades. the life of just one person. the angel Clarence makes it so. because of legalized abortion. 80 This growing parity between the old and the young is at the heart of the demographic challenges that face Medicare and Social Security.” a term used to describe the social and economic impact of the aging of the post-World War II baby boom generation—those born between 1943 and 1960. doesn’t he?” From It’s a Wonderful Life I’m sure you remember the classic film. George discovers that because he never existed. But the economic and public policy implications are so serious—and unavoidable—that we can’t afford to ignore these demographic consequences any longer. starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. February 1996. 1 . Wade decision will equal the number of births in the baby boom. nothing is the same. I thought of George Bailey recently when I saw this headline in USA Today: “Abortion Altered America’s Future. It’s a Wonderful Life. isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. the number of abortions since the Supreme Court’s Roe v.

S.” writes one observer. come to this? The sequence of events is instructive. 1/21/98 2 . 122. population has stopped replacing itself.”5 How has Japan. once the economic envy of the world. 42 workers supported each retiree. “groaning under the weight of heavy taxes. Once home to the world’s fastest-growing economy. is following much the same pattern. it is the simple fact that their once vigorous population is running out of creative steam. has remained below the “replacement rate” of 2. since the U.”4 According to The New York Times.”6 Will America.S.7 In other words.) Workers per Beneficiary 50 Number of Workers 40 30 20 10 The economic troubles caused by having too few young people extend far beyond government social programs. Japan is heading toward a 21st 0 century in which it will have “twice YEAR 1945 1965 1985 2000 2010 2020 2030 as many old people as it has chilSource: 1996 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and dren. but has been moribund since then. experience a Japanese-like fall as our baby boom generation retires? We can only wait and see.S. however. The main difference is that the Japanese experienced their big baby boom just prior to World War II (the U. 30 Millions 20 10 0 IMMIGRANTS (1970-1997) ABORTIONS (1973-1997) Source: USA Today.1 children per woman. That decline will be mitigated somewhat by immigration. our nation is inevitably headed toward long-term population and economic decline. p. despite huge strides in fertility technology.Indeed. its population [will be] shrinking. having lost some 35 million lives to abortion. boom was after the war) and legalized abortion in 1948 (the U. Consider the example of Japan. If this trend continues.S.S. the Japanese boomers are retiring and not enough young people exist to take their places. since abortion-on-demand became legal in 1973 the U. two workers will be supporting one retiree. it is largely because of abortion-on-demand that by the year 2030 the ratio of workers to Social Security beneficiaries will be reduced to only 2-to-1. ‘[T]he number of Japanese reaching the end of their [economically] productive lives overwhelms the small expansion of twentyImmigration and something Japanese.3 In other words. (When the program began in the 1930s. of course. “If anything can explain Abortion Numbers why the Japanese stock market roared during the 1970s and early 40 1980s.” The nation’s economy will be Disability Insurance Trust Funds. legalized abortion-on-demand in 1973). We do know that for the past 25 years the total the U. Now. However. and the government’s reserve of Social Security funds [will] run dry. according to a projection from the Social Security Board of Trustees. fertility rate. cumulative immigration since 1971 has replaced only about half of those Americans who were not allowed to be born. Japan is “now the world’s most rapidly aging industrial society.

This assertion may be true for the early years of life.10 The view that population growth leads to poverty is rooted in the assertion that people consume more than they produce. is likely to create “a tight labor pool. But where are the houses?” Clarence: “You weren’t here to build them. The Cost of Abortion. combined with the retirement of many baby boomers from the workforce. This pattern has been repeated in other parts of the world. where population growth has been especially strong in recent decades.” they wouldn’t be economically productive anyway. slow population growth. incomes are more than five times what they were in 1965. and natural disasters. because their consumption of diapers. leading not to prosperity but to poverty and misery. He also estimates that the loss of millions of children to abortion thus far has precluded creation of between 950. As the late Julian Simon noted. As social researcher Allan Carlson points out.”16 These jobs will not simply go unfilled. in the U. and consumption stimulates economic growth. “[e]xpanding families are net consumers. economic competitiveness. Some people will argue. In East Asia and the Pacific. but likely they will be exported to other nations. countries in which poverty has accompanied population growth have tended to be nations which have suffered from political repression.2 million teaching jobs. According the Hudson Institute’s Workforce 2020 report.12 Over the long run.000 to 1. the most positive economic effects of additional people “happen in the long run and are cumulative. But such a view seems inconsistent with the facts of history. toys.9 By contrast. Their consumption generates production. especially in free societies. would be part of what we call “the underclass. the ‘baby boom’ of the 1950s was accompanied by an economic boom that defied . are engines of economic activity. abortion-on-demand already has produced a negative economic effect. Indeed. however. and the like. “population and per-capita wealth grew together at unprecedented rates between 1850 and 1950. Moreover.S. and processes are conceived by the human mind and then put into use. In his book. that since many of the children aborted in the U. Several years ago. I believe the major reason social researchers are projecting a notable shortage of “human capital” in the 21st century is due to the large numbers of people lost to abortion. .S. for example. the loss created by these “economic ghosts”13 isn’t restricted solely to the cycle of production/consumption. resulting in a steady erosion of U. civil wars. not specifically abortion—in an editorial titled “Poverty and Norplant: Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?” 3 .S. But even young children. if current trends continue. gloomy prognostications”8 (italics added).”14 These effects occur as new ideas. particularly for high skilled jobs. “many high-skilled manufacturing and service jobs will go begging in the U. at least in cold economic terms.George: “This should be Bailey Park. . however. the Philadelphia Inquirer made this very argument—in the context of contraception.S.”11 In this sense.”15 Indeed. products.” POPULATION AND PROSPERITY I realize that from the days of Thomas Malthus onward some population watchers have claimed that growing numbers of people actually are a drag on society. researcher Lawrence Roberge correlates the legalization of abortion with a slowdown in the production and sales of child-related items. of course.

In fact. 4 . the Inquirer asked what seemed to be an economically sensible question: “[W]hy not make a major effort to reduce the number of children . Although few choose to express it publicly. Setting aside the moral argument that can be made against deciding who “deserves” to live. . it cuts the legs out from under the desire to improve oneself and one’s lot in life. I grew up to enjoy a better life financially than my parents knew. Like millions of other poor youngsters. Think of your own family a generation or two back.Lamenting the number of children living in poverty. born into such circumstances?”17 The paper suggested making the implanted contraceptive Norplant available free to poor women. why should a man feel any obligation to marry and provide for the woman he has impregnated? But the argument that aborting the underclass is “good economic policy” falls to another reality: The underclass are not doomed forever to be the underclass. let me ask a practical question: Has inner city poverty improved since abortion became legal? Obviously not. I don’t have to think that far back. After all. . Will some poor children stay in poverty all their lives. Were any of your ancestors “poor”? Personally. if the life of a child has no value. Ultimately. I would submit that legal abortion has made the poverty problem worse by helping to sow the seeds of family breakdown. I was raised in a family that was on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. It tells the poor that life is cheap. this is the same attitude many people have about abortion: It helps us rid the world of children who will just be a drain on society anyway. Yes. It is a “solution” that serves only to make the problems of poverty and despair worse. a problem that plagues the poor in America. But how can we know who will and who won’t? I believe that aborting the underclass accomplishes nothing except to encourage a continuing cycle of hopelessness.

5% Interest on Debt Not Paid Due to Missing Taxes 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 1000000 2000000 3000000 4000000 5000000 6000000 7000000 8000000 9000000 10000000 11000000 12000000 13000000 14000000 15000000 16000000 17000000 18000000 19000000 20000000 21000000 22000000 23000000 24000000 25000000 26000000 27000000 28000000 29000000 30000000 31000000 Aborted Workers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1000000 2000000 3000000 4000000 5000000 6000000 7000000 8000000 9000000 10000000 11000000 12000000 Missing Second Generation $30. In other words.138. Government Year Missing Workers Each Year Second Generation Workers Average Pay 3% Increase Each Year Missing Payroll Each Year Taxes and Fees Not Collected (33%) Each Year 6.003 $39.545 $20.034 $175.495 $570.193.613 $2.422.” CASCADING EFFECTS I don’t think of people primarily as “taxpayers.762.352.177 $1.700 $42.013 $82. Wade Decision to the U.928.115 $26.818 Cumulative 30-year Salary $30.199 $146.813.358 $256.900 $31.545.908.142 $112.860.138 $51.824.552.637.333.000 $20.000 $131.159.587.181.216.358 $2.658.360.605 $54.103 $102.907 $1.448.394.093 $459.143 $40.896 $38.973.686.056 $45.840.575.359.568.086.983.169.008 $2.376.104.616.000.772.982.796.305.022.030 $226.200 $55.508.034 $135.727.826.856.875.252 $129. You have no children.984 $62.921 $2.000 $4.427.782 $1.829.037.700 $294.829.702 $342.917.638 $70.924.868 $411.027.618 $747.000 $168.835 Cumulative Total Payroll $9.687.874.183 $2.137 $203.145.571.468.697 $72.890.240.344 $623.246.650 $680. it is asumed that not all of the 35 million people thus far lost to abortion-on-demand would have become taxpayers.680 $ $52.329.591. George.451.635 $366.922 $1.188 $566.712.927.744 Keep in mind that the numbers listed above are conservative.946.630.431.528.208 $60.271 $295.721.529.426.324.857 $6.830.317 $41.790 $270.444.684 $224.782 $33.439 $1.405.172.585 $51.168.370.406. Instead.875.981 $199.740 $883.636.141 $ $31.563.437 $699.739 $48.093.773 $44.149 $443.072.748 $10.285.698 $66.939.864.882.040.441.669.572.602 $956.183 $55.000.747.665. illustrating the possible loss of tax revenue due to abortions that have occurred already. $411.869.870 $616.” but I was nonetheless intrigued by the chart that follows.483 $59.214.313.764.744.271.574.834.940 $892.281 $289.229 $62.270.889 $1.500.392 $3.395.912.051.500 $208.824.344 $14.409 $632.658.985 Cumulative Unpaid Taxes and Fees $643.852.000.729.500.966.028.938.745.492.174.774 $33.639 $68.878 $87.676.832.072.S.422 $118.481.906.495.204 $813.406.782.917 $512.842 $183.184 $498.493.321.498 $512.511.368. the chart assumes a uniform loss to the workforce of an additional 31 million first generation workers.602.633.822 $ $61.239.000 $1.499.273 $684.400.020.530.898.080 $32.000 $95.378 $46.870 $10.708.900.380.614.827 $32.778 $35.924.465.943 $135.185 $747.162.498.730.553.134 $460.227.537.311.538.809 $57.071 $320.450 $6.000 $30.884.765 $34.000.046.George: “Mary! Mary! Tommy! Pete! Janie! Zuzu! Where are you?” Clarence: “They’re not here.177.880.127.283.958 $326.646 Cumulative Interest On Debt Not Paid TOTALS 31000000 12000000 $1.751.374 $250.446.095 $68.929.427 $970.369.251.955. Cost of Roe v.819 $364.784.989.043.717.253.041.975 $391.179 $74.000 $43.000.519.141 $49.474.110.747.619.711 $164.813 $64.968 $818.527 $42.750.580.149 $97.137.461 $556.537.800. 5 .818.

However.18 the cumulative effect is a significant and unrecoverable loss to the U. this second wave will create a third wave and a fourth wave and so on. public services. how much these missing Americans would receive in government benefits. “The challenge for state policy-makers is to begin planning for the time when the revenues may not be there. we can expect to see new [financial] pressures placed on . of course. since most people give substantially more to government than they receive. A study by the state controller in California projects that with the retirement of the baby boom generation will come a significant reduction in state revenues. treasury.S.”19 6 . .Also note. Eventually.” warns California Controller Kathleen Connell. . 250% 200% 150% 100% 50% 0% YEAR 1800 Projection Actual 1850 1900 1950 2000 2050 Source: Congressional Budget Office State governments also will face fiscal challenges. as the chart shows. “In the next two decades. This growing loss will Federal Debt as Percentage of GNP exacerbate the growing imbalance between government spending and government revenue in the early decades of the 21st 300% century (see chart). creating a second wave of demographic impact. perhaps even restructuring our tax system to accommodate the changed demographics. that those who have been aborted will not have children of their own. so it is impossible to determine the degree to which the additional tax revenue they produced would be siphoned off in additional government costs. We can’t know.

a large population is not only necessary to field military forces but also to support them— in the both the public and private sectors—with strong industrial production. build.” NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES One other area that should be mentioned when discussing the demographic and economic impact of abortion is the effect on America’s ability to defend itself militarily. but of public concern. transportation. WHAT CAN BE DONE? As the preceding evidence demonstrates. . engineers.”21 Whether or not we will have sufficient numbers of young people to carry out these tasks could well determine the future of our nation and the world. We can’t undo the fact that we have had 35 million George Baileys. Abortion-on-demand has effects that are rippling throughout our society and could even threaten our future liberties. spy satellites. Ben Wattenberg argues that a superpower requires both cutting-edge technology and a robust population to maintain its superpower status. abortion is not simply a matter of private conscience.20 Indeed. Indeed they have left an “awful hole. . We can’t undo the past. . nuclear submarines or a battalion of M-1 tanks. Will we be able to recruit. air cargo carriers . we must resolve to promote from this time forward an ethic that is pro-family and pro-children. scientists. and finance sufficient numbers of young people for military service? In his 1987 book. Simply writing off abortion as a “moral” or a “religious” issue is a short-sighted approach that fails to reckon its economic and demographic consequences. The Birth Dearth. maintain. 7 . cannot be ignored in framing public policy. transportation personnel. people whose lives were never allowed to touch other lives.George: “[My brother Harry] saved the lives of every man on that transport!” Clarence: “Every man on that transport died. and engineering and science acumen. even if all moral arguments are totally discounted. train. Lawrence Roberge offers this useful mental exercise: “Picture the numbers of construction personnel.” But for the sake of our nation’s economic future and national security. as well as its moral character. supply. This is why abortion. people never born. Harry wasn’t there to save them because you weren’t there to save Harry. military training specialists. and train for such military necessities as aircraft carriers. of course. Only then can America continue to have a wonderful life. and raw materials suppliers that are required to design.

18. Dec. 21. 050698 8 . Inc. 1987. April 1997. p. Senior Fellow.cfcministry. Theory of Population and Economic Growth (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 2. i. 23.” The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. Allan C. 13. Gainesville. 1998. 11. PBS. May/June 1997. 1998. The Birth Dearth. “Markets Which Need People. 12. 5. 20. 10. 3. 16. “Graying of Baby Boomers to Slow California’s Economic ‘Golden Age’. No. This is the “intermediate” projection. A18. ©1998 Christian Financial Concepts. Judy and Carol D’Amico. The Cost of Abortion (LaGrange GA: Four Winds Publishing. Lawrence Roberge. 15A.” Congressional Budget Office. Benjamin J. The Grandchild Gap (documentary). 1986). Jan. not “most” optimistic. Workforce 2020 Executive Summary. 7. Richard W. “The Poverty Business.” The Family in America.S. 19.” USA Today.Endnotes 1. 1997. W. 11.” Population Research Institute Review. 9.” Business Wire. Roberge. Wattenberg. David Mastio.e. See “Who Pays and When? An Assessment of Generational Accounting. Carlson. Hudson Institute. 1995. “The Economic Consequences of Abortion. 64. p. “The Face of the Future in Japan: The Economics of Aging. pp. 601 Broad St SE. 1990. p. 1997. 5. Nov. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. Testimony before the U. 67-68. Julian Simon. Carol D’Amico. Sept. 17. Ibid. 21. 49. Carlson. 14. “Abortion Altered America’s Future. All rights reserved. Cunningham. 1995. Jan. 12. 4. Feb. p. p. 9. 2. 1995). Patrick Cunningham. GA 30501 • 770-534-1000 • www. Hudson Institute. not worst-case. Pharos Books.” The New York Times. 5.4. Vol. 11. 1998.” Philadelphia Inquirer. 6. 1997. 8. “Poverty and Norplant: Can Contraception Reduce the Underclass?. “Sheryl WuDunn. Ibid. 15. June 5. The term is borrowed from Allan C. p. p.