Here are two pieces of information that might help you understand what I am about to write. A) I like Rick Santorum B) I appreciate large families
The combination of those two factors suggests that I should welcome Mr. Santorum’s campaign proposal to increase the per child tax credit. Yet, my heart sank when I heard about it. I certainly have first-hand knowledge of how expensive it is to raise children. Over the years, our orthodontist bills alone approached the budget of a small city. While our seven children were all home and the price of milk or eggs went up a few cents, my pocketbook felt it. You might say my opposition to the child tax credit proposal is a case of sour grapes since the benefit isn’t intended to be retroactive, but I don’t really think that is influencing my thoughts. I would be delighted for each of my children to have a large family (no pressure…well, maybe just a little), and empathize with how helpful some extra cash would be. As a grandmother, it might even free me up psychologically to leave Costco with clothing larger than toddler size. Still, while I am intrigued by Sen. Santorum’s candidacy, I think he is promoting a poor idea.
I have two basic concerns about this government giveaway plan. Firstly, I really, really, really want to see the tax system drastically simplified. I am tired of the thousands of codes and laws which favor some, reward “clever” accounting and legal footwork, and make most citizens cynical about the entire structure. My personal idea is that everyone, including those who receive government assistance, should pay something and that anytime the tax code cannot be readily understood and complied with by the majority of the country’s citizens, it needs to be overhauled. Granting that my idea may not be practical and certainly isn’t politically savvy, I do not want to hear about favoring some people over others. Period. Not government sector employees over those in the private sector; not those in some industries over others and not those who have children over those who don’t.
Even more than that, I don’t believe that government should be in the business of encouraging families to have more children. There is a huge problem, as both China and Europe have discovered, when a country’s aging population outnumbers its youthful one. But children are spiritual beings, not physical commodities which can be stockpiled. One of the ironies of the medals given by Stalin to mothers of large families (I would think long and hard before mimicking any policies of Stalinist Russia) was that some Jewish families, who were regularly harrassed because of their loyalty to their religion, were recipients of that medal. Of course, they had children not to help Mother Russia but in obedience to God’s command. Those children helped bring down the atheistic and communist Soviet Union. Getting into the procreation business – like other government favoritism forays – can open a can of unintended consequence worms.
Perhaps more importantly, while money may be tight in a family with children, getting a tax credit isn’t worth the price. I do not grant the government the royal mantle to reward or punish my decision to have or not have children. I want less government involvement in my family’s life, not more. Isn’t it funny that European countries who mandate parental leave unequaled in America, who provide much more government paid early education and day care, and who seem to make it so much easier to have children, have much lower birth-rates than America? Truthfully, the majority of parents who have large families, like Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and me, have them because we believe that God said to, not because any institution made it easy for us. I’d be happy for the government to take less of all hard-working people’s money and leave me the option whether to use it for raising children or in any other way.
There is a great deal I appreciate about Rick Santorum. His tax credit proposal doesn’t fit that category. I would actually like to hear a debate between just him and Mitt Romney, with questions posed by a moderator who is not actively working against a Republicans win in November. It would give Mr. Romney a chance to win support as more than the default candidate and Mr. Santorum a chance to show that he has bold and broad ideas to invigorate the economy. But then, I have no secret weapon for manipulating reality and so I will only hope that as the primary season continues, the process doesn’t continue to demoralize as it unfortunately has been doing – to me at least – until now.