Abortion, Like Slavery, Harms Economy Despite Janet Yellen’s Claims
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claimed on Tuesday that the Supreme Court was reversing Roe vs. Wade “would have very adverse effects on the economy.” Like the Confederates who settled on an economic argument to defend slavery rather than justify such a travesty on the principle of personality, Yellen not only avoids a moral defense of the morally indefensible, but she is also demonstrably wrong.
Experts may disagree on which issue is specifically affecting our economy, but most will likely agree that one is exacerbating all major candidates: a shrinking workforce. Not only has the exodus of workers from the labor market in general depressed our economic output and contributed to the supply chain slowdown that has ignited inflation, but a wave of retirees, including those who accelerated their retirement in the COVID regulatory framework, continues to catapult the economy into an insurmountable debt crisis. Population growth generally promulgates overall economic growth, but especially in a state of law like ours, a replacement-level birth rate is crucial to avoiding a deficit crisis. Social Security and Medicare, together the biggest drivers of our national debt and deficit growth, are de facto structured like Ponzi schemes and as such both require birth rates to support enough workers to fund entitlement recipients.
The morality of the abortion issue aside, the available data would belie the claim that limiting access to abortion is detrimental to the economy. In fact, the reverse is probably true, if only because abortion continues to artificially restrict labor force growth with very little net benefit.
Freakonomics first popularized the (eventually founded) argument that access to abortion did indeed reduce a local population’s crime rate over time, but review and further corroborate the study, Steven Leavitt conceded that viewing abortion as a utilitarian benefit to society was a “horrible compromise” for those who value unborn lives as equivalent to those already born. He and fellow economist John Donohue estimate that “there are maybe 5,000 or 10,000” fewer homicides due to the more than half a million abortions performed each year. Maybe the absence of abortion really would have forced more women out of work since the Supreme Court ruled Roe vs. Wade, but the net effect may not be so bad at all. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2017 that married mothers of minor children have a labor market participation rate of 69% compared to 77% for single people, which means that in the immediate term, the labor force may not have increased too much contracted, and in the long term, those who do not diminish the children would become workers pursuing the solvency of our rights.
Notice that in the long run, the debt crisis becomes an even bigger crisis than the inflation crisis, especially because of the way inflation is piling up on the interest on our national debt.
Consider your own credit card payments. Most consumers are able to generate a lot of debt under a given credit limit as long as payment minimums are met in full and on time. Until then the pain is interest payments, a substantial burden but not with many externalities on a consumer’s borrowing power – that is, until interest payments become so large that minimum payments are not met, resulting in a tank credit rating.
As of last year, the amount of money needed to pay the interest on our national debt was only 1.4% of our annual economic output, but over the decade the Congressional Budget Office projects that share will nearly double and, by the second half of the century, is expected to gobble up 9% of our gross domestic product.
This projection becomes even more devastating when you consider that the last time inflation was this bad, Paul Volcker had to hold interest rates in double digits for years. But not only do we lack a Fed Chairman with the will to initiate the short-term pain of rate heights for the long-term safety of crushing inflation, but we must also fight the mass excess money generated by the (failed) experiment of a decade of quantitative easing.
All this to say that the CBO’s projections can only go higher given that even now, interest rates remain at historic lows. With the Fed forced to continue with rate hikes — Jerome Powell would love a pat on the back for finally instituting a half-point hike earlier this month — interest payments on our national debt could achieve a double-digit share of our GDP.
The slavery argument that I first mentioned introduces facets of this debate that we cannot even quantify yet. Unlike contemporaries that justified slavery as an economic benefit to the country, economists today note that the institution prevented the South from modernizing and industrializing its economy as the North did. Slavery may have actually made “King Cotton” less majestic than free labor would have given the structural disincentive to immigration through slavery.
Who knows all the ways abortion limits our own economic growth? Perhaps those would-be criminals who escaped abortion wouldn’t have become criminals at all if the Supreme Court hadn’t normalized abortion and thus men the cultural license to abandon the women they fertilize. Would a culture of more motherhood force employers to adapt and be more accepting of mothers balancing their family life with their career?
In any case, restricting the population is rarely a good economic argument, especially since the ratio of Social Security workers to benefit recipients drops from 3 to 1 to 2 to 1.