‘Subsidizing’ Parents?

by Maggie Gallagher

It is amazing and discouraging to me that the discourse on NRO on the child exemption has been about “social engineering” and “subsidizing parents,” as if children were consumer goods.

The heart of the child exemption (and of course I’m not speaking here about the earned income tax credit which is a transfer program to low-income parents who work) is the idea that the family of four, or six, at a given income in a progressive tax system should not pay the same as an individual at the same level.

Children are not consumer goods, they are (forgive me) public goods. They are necessary for all of us, whether or not we personally choose to have children.

A man who is supporting a wife and three kids should not be taxed as if he were a single man. He is not. His income is supporting five people, not one person, in terms of basic need.

You want to eliminate progressivity altogether, well, fine, that’s one theory. But under a progressive tax code, the assumption is that ability to pay has some relationship to marginal tax rates.

By the way, the child tax exemption is the single most effective pro-family policy anyone has found. It is totally unlike the European solutions, which involve government checks to people with families, a signal of dependence. Instead, it helps the economy of gratitude within the family, by preserving the basic income necessary to support families from government intrusion.

Conservatives are losing basic information they once understood, during the Reagan years.