Muddled Musk Wrong on Population

For number crunchers, July’s second week offered eyepopping data. To begin with, the consumer price index shot up to 9.1 percent year-over-year, the highest spike in four decades. Truth be told, consumers may be taking a bigger than 9.1 percent hit. The CPI is a controversial index which many economists insist is manipulated to reflect fewer alarming price increases and, conversely, a stronger GDP. Taken together, those two variables, massaged favorably, help to keep a lid on investor panic, and to underpay on cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients.

Since time immemorial, CPI was calculated based on a fixed market basket of goods. But in the 1990s, the Bureau of Labor Statistics introduced what it identified as geometric weighing – substituting lower-priced, lower-quality goods in the basket, while excluding more expensive, but still everyday items.

Most blue-collar, working Americans consider the CPI a government gimmick that purposely excludes their day-to-day necessities: energy, up 41.6 percent; gas, + 60 percent, eggs +33 percent; and public transportation, +23.7. A truer indicator of consumer pain showed up in the producer wholesale price index which hit 11.3 percent.

Inflation, which makes Americans poorer with each passing day, has an immediate and tangible effect on consumers’ psyches. But another report issued in early July is, taken over the long-term, more disturbing.

Inflation has its peaks and valleys, but the prediction by the United Nations that the global population will reach 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050 represents an ongoing, and perhaps insurmountable, challenge. By the end of the century, the U.N. estimates that there will be 10.4 billion people on the planet. Today, the world’s population is just a tick under 8 billion, and has grown at an unsustainable rate.

Not until around 1800 did the world’s population first reach 1 billion. But, only 130 years later in 1930, the second billion was reached, and the third billion in 1960, another 30 years later. Then, global population exploded. The fourth billion arrived 15 years later in 1974, and the fifth billion only 13 years after that. During the 20th century alone, the world’s population grew from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. For comparison, in 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now. Every year, about 83 million people are added to the global population.

Eight nations will account for most of the growth between now and 2050: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania. India is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country as soon as next year.

Those countries are thousands of miles away, and their difficulties unfathomable to most Americans, but U.S. population also is climbing at an unsustainable rate. The nation’s population is about 332 million now, but will reach 424 million in 2100, about 25 percent more people than live in the U.S. today. The consequences of too many people are grave, both in terms of more difficult human interaction in overcrowded surroundings, and lasting ecological damage to dwindling natural resources.

Ironically, the U.N. released its frightening population projections at about the same time that Elon Musk, claiming the U.S. faces an “underpopulation crisis,” pleaded for an increase in births. “A collapsing birth rate is the biggest danger civilization faces by far,” said Musk, who cited himself as a would-be role model. One of his love interests, Shivon Zilis, gave birth to twins this summer, bringing Musk’s total offspring to nine. To Musk, replacement level fertility, normally considered 2.1 children per woman, is an outdated notion.

Unfortunately, Musk’s message to promote a have-more-children agenda, via his huge social media following, reaches more people than the communications of stabilization advocates. Don’t listen to Musk! Census Bureau data reflects a net gain of one person – births and international migrant arrivals minus deaths – in the U.S. every 26 seconds, far too many to protect the nation’s already crumbling, overcrowded infrastructure and its imperiled ecosystems.