Opinion

OPINION | TED TALLEY: Changes in population trends mean there’s no “great again” to which nation can return

Population shifts make immigration a necessity


A report released by the Centers for Disease Control late last week contains good news and bad news regarding U.S. birth demographics and population replacement.

The good news is that teen births, mothers aged 13 to 19, fell 3 percent in 2022 versus the prior year. Birth rate age brackets for women 20 years and older were mixed.

"Provisional births rates declined for women in age groups 15–24 and 30–34 from 2021 to 2022, rose for women in age groups 25–29 and 35–49, and were unchanged for females aged 10–14 years," the report stated. That last age group bears watching in years to come. We can only pray its rate doesn't increase if Republicans have their way in forcing the very young to proceed to term no matter the circumstances, be they rape or incest.

The continued bad news, from an economic perspective, is that our population growth is well below replacement levels and has been for years. A replacement rate would be minimally 2.2 children per woman but has been below that rate consistently since 1971, according to the report.

That year, 1971, is not an accident. It intersects with population replacement rate history. Apparently it took just three years after the 1968 release of the "The Population Bomb" book by two Stanford University academics to take effect on birth rates. The book scared the hell out of us with its opening: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

The problem with world hunger and overpopulation is that it has most typically been centered in third-world countries with limits in capital resources, food and birth control. Yet we here in the developed west decided to do our part, misguided though we were. We replayed in our mind the guilt trips laid upon us by 1950s mothers who shamed us for not finishing our vegetables when poor children in Africa (or India or China) were starving. So we forced down the broccoli. In the revised scenario a generation later, we sought to save the world by buying more condoms and birth control pills. Besides, having fewer children meant we could afford nicer family vacations, Big Bertha golf clubs and the latest SUV versus that older Ford Ranch Wagon with presumed white trash kids hanging out of very window.

So here we are, in the 21st century with even more challenging news from a different government agency. The Congressional Budget Office, which per its masthead provides "nonpartisan analysis for the U.S. Congress," released its demographic outlook late last July projecting population growth and demographic factors from 2022 to 2052.

The projections, similar to the CDC report, confirm that we are locked in non-replacement mode, and concluded "In CBO's projections, the size of the U.S. population increases from 335 million people in 2022 to 369 million people in 2052. Population growth is increasingly driven by net immigration, which accounts for all population growth in 2043 and beyond."

Well, that ought to rile up the far-right legion of racists who cast aspersions upon those crossing over our leaky southern borders. Yet how do the likes of our own Gov. Sarah Sanders and Florida's Ron DeSantis justify being at odds with traditional Republican ideals of stoking the good ol' red-blooded American capitalistic jobs furnace without increasing dependence on those of darker skins? How do they explain this "shoot us in the foot" stance on immigration when we need warm bodies everywhere to alleviate a low unemployment rate that edges long-term towards higher inflation and reduced productivity?

Big picture economics be damned, they demonstrate. Who cares if we're light in the workforce as long as we're heavy on the anti-woke tactics for the base, reaping wins at the ballot box.

Those who yearn for America to be great again, with more white-skinned folks living behind white picket fences, don't grasp that there is no way to return to yesteryear. That opportunity left us three generations ago when birth rates among the existing population began dropping. Those men running around the Capitol in insurrection mode, sporting he-men hirsuteness and combat gear, don't realize that one key to their frustration is that Pops and Nana should have been copulating more long before they were born.

I actually feel sorry for them in a manner. But, hey fellas, Happy Father's Day anyway.