Wedged into Paul Ryan’s Thursday press conference was a brief tangent about “entitlement reforms,” in which the Speaker emphasized the need for “higher birth rates.”
“This is going to be the new economic challenge for America: People. Baby Boomers are retiring... I did my part but we need to have higher birth rates in this country,” Ryan said. “Baby Boomers are retiring and we have fewer people following them into the workforce,” he explained, pointing to the low number of people entering the American workforce, a stark contrast to the high numbers of Boomers retiring. “[We’re] going to need more people,” Ryan said. Buried here in Ryan’s so-called wonkish approach of numbers (of course we need more people in the workforce) is a subtle nod toward an undercurrent of a particular ideology, a kind of nationalism that emphasizes cultural preservation through native birth rather than immigration.
If Ryan’s suggestion that American women need to have more children—or American men need to do their part—is familiar, then take Steve King’s (R-IA) March tweet where he said, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In a later interview with CNN, King reiterated that point. “You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies. You’ve got to keep your birth rate up, and that you need to teach your children your values. In doing so, you can grow your population, you can strengthen your culture, and you can strengthen your way of life.”
As Republicans continue to push for more and more immigration controls, the only solution to sustaining programs like Social Security—especially given the tax bill Ryan and Republican leadership recently struck a deal on—is for American women to give birth to more and more children. It’s telling that Ryan—an vocal anti-abortion congressman who once sponsored a bill that would have prevented rape victims from obtaining an abortion—sees this as a pragmatic solution rather than the first chapter of a cheap Margaret Atwood knock-off.
At any rate, Politico reports that 2018 is likely to be Ryan’s last year in Congress. According to the report, Ryan would like to avoid sharing a ballot with Donald Trump and also spend more time with his three children.