Social Security in Circles

I'm confused. James Capretta argues in The Weekly Standard that Social Security benefits discourage large families and that, therefore, we must cut Social Security benefits in order to increase the birth rate in order to . . . make it easier to pay for Social Security benefits.

There's some truth to this argument, but on another level I think it pretty obviously doesn't make sense. One needs to first decide whether or not one believes there should be a generous defined benefit public sector pension program and then think about child rearing issues in light of that. All that follows from this is that there needs to be some level of balance between public sector support for retirees and public sector support for kids and their parents. The conservative solution is to level down, by reducing benefits for retirees and the progressive solution is to level up with better education, day care, work-family policy, etc. The conservative way, people need to have more kids to support them in their old age, and women will need to stay at home to care for these larger broods in a world without high-quality preschool options. The liberal way, better preschool and children's health care benefits slightly increases both the fertility rate, the workforce participation rate, and the overall level of human capital. Either way, in principle, you can make the math work out.