WASHINGTON, DC, January 9, 2013 ― Last year America’s birthrate hit a record low. This change was primarily due to the decreasing fertility levels amongst immigrant populations.
Fertility rates have dropped in much of the world. Nations once known for their large families – El Salvador, Iran, Brazil, and Italy, for instance – now have fertility rates under replacement level. Many other nations like Mexico, India and Indonesia are trending to birthrates under replacement levels. Immigration can no longer be depended on to increase the American birthrate. It’s time that America developed its own family policy to increase its own native births.
An “American” family policy should look at growing the middle class – the segment of the population that has the highest portion of taxpayers in relation to take-home income, is least dependent on the state, and has a strong sense of civic responsibility. This policy would reward people for positive behavior, unlike our current welfare policy, which benefits people for being in a bad situation whether it be of their own fault or not.
One original approach to helping with this effort would be a pro-family tax policy offering married couples not receiving public assistance (e.g., food stamps, Section 8 Housing, Medicaid, and so on) the possibility of paying no federal income tax while they are the caretakers of four or more children under the age of 18. Other requirements might be a joint income under $200,000 (i.e., the 98 percent), and the couples would need to be married and stay married.
Total tax exemption for families would benefit the tax structure as a whole. For example, couples who increase their families to meet the requirement of four children would be out of the income tax filings for possibly as much as two decades. It is highly unlikely that families will follow in the Duggar’s footsteps and have more than a dozen children if they originally only planned on having two or three; under this tax proposal they would be more be inclined to have four or five.
It might seem that this proposal would produce an enormous tax deficit; however, it would be a long-term investment in the growth of the middle class. How responsive the middle class would be to the elimination of income tax would have to assessed, but this policy would increase the chances that two and three-child families would go to four, and the children would be instilled with all the middle class’ cultural and educational values. There is a huge rift between the values upper and middle-income earners and lower-income earners, including the value placed on education and the value placed on marriage.
An income tax exemption on families who meet the qualifications would better allow them to choose a situation where one parent stays at home or works part-time while the other works full-time. Parents are then free to dedicate more time to their children’s school performance and to extracurricular activities that are proven to be positive in a child’s upbringing.
Another example of an “American” family policy would be the one Teddy Roosevelt pursued. During his time as President, Roosevelt faced a similar decline in birthrates and family culture. According to Allan Carlson in The American Way, divorce rose threefold from 1890 to 1910. During that same time, birthrates fell and the native population decreased from 67 percent of the total to 56 percent. Roosevelt stated, “It is in the life of the family, upon which in the last analysis the whole welfare of the Nation rests…”
Roosevelt devised a tax plan to benefit married couples with children who would receive a tax exemption of $500 for each of their first two children and $1,000 per child after that. ($1,000 in 1910 is currently valued at $24,000 in 2012 currency.) This kind of policy became part of the federal tax plan in 1948, when the government gave $500 tax exemptions per child (currently valued at approximately $5,000.) The current tax code, which is far outdated, gives only $3,700 per child. For many parents, the first year of a child’s life costs over $10,000 without daycare or babysitters. Current deductions are mere tokens and do not promote family growth. They do not provide significant incentives for working parents to have more children.
The continuing economic crisis many families find themselves in has led many couples to delay having children, and it will likely reduce the total number of offspring they have. A reduction in births today is the loss of productive taxpayers tomorrow. With current worldwide birthrates on the decline, Congress must be proactive in seeing a different kind of fiscal cliff a generation or two into our future. In a generation, the amount paid by future middleclass taxpayers into the Social Security and Medicare systems will not be enough to pay for the obligations those systems owe their parents and also pay for welfare for the poor and disabled. Within the economic, entitlement, and immigration conditions facing us, let’s decide to look homeward and grow the middle class from the womb.
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