Paul Ryan to American Public: Do Your Patriotic Duty, Have More Kids

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., flanked by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., left, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., updates reporters on the GOP tax bill following their weekly policy meeting, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) thinks America has a people problem.

“I’m riffing here,” the speaker admitted, before listing three bullet points of “things we’re trying to do right now to get this economy humming to reach its potential”: Fixing the “regulatory problem,” passing Republicans’ bill to slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and people.

“People,” Ryan said bluntly. “This is going to be the new economic challenge for America. People. Baby boomers are retiring. I did my part, but, you know, we need to have higher birth rates in this country, meaning, baby boomers are retiring and we have fewer people following them in the work force.”

By doing “his part,” Ryan seemed to be referring to his three children. Low birthrates negatively affect tax revenue: If there are fewer people paying taxes the government will take in less money, especially if Republicans succeed in massively lowering taxes for the country’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.

According to disclosures they made during the 2012 presidential election, Paul and Janna Ryan paid an effective tax rate of 15.9 and 20 percent in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

“We have something like a 90 percent increase in the retirement population in America, but only a 19 percent increase in the working population in America,” he continued. “So what do we have to do? Be smarter, more efficient, more technology? Still going to need more people. And when we have tens of millions of people right here in this country falling short of their potential, not working, not looking for a job, or not in school getting a skill to get a job, that’s a problem.”

It’s true that America’s birth rate has dipped over the past decade since the Great Recession, according to World Bank data. But, after a dramatic drop between 1960 and 1975 — reflected worldwide — it has stayed mostly fairly in the following decades.

A spokesperson for Ryan did not respond to TPM’s request to clarify his comments.