Trump and his supporters want taxpayers to pay women to have more kids because it will mean more consumers and demand for big business, cheaper labor in the future as workers compete for jobs, and more taxpayers. What looks like a helping hand to parents is actually an attempt to nudge people towards having larger families to reverse a progressive fertility decline in some populations. That decline has been the greatest success of the last half-century’s concerted efforts around the world for sustainable development, women’s empowerment, and environmental protection.
The tax proposal, which cut similar credits for adopting a child, is part of a larger Republican move that simultaneously cuts off access to family planning services that would allow for smaller families in a country where half of the pregnancies are unplanned, and which recently included one Republican lawmaker trying to limit access to abortions because doing so would produce a glut of more laborers (thereby disempowering individual workers) to fuel the economy. These moves ignore a trend of economic growth in highly developed places like Japan, despite falling population.
- Their cash-for-babies scheme, like other child tax credit and pronatalist schemes in general, ignore child welfare. How does encouraging people to have more children ensure that each child will be born in anything approaching optimal conditions? Even with an increased tax credit, more kids inherently means less investment in each child. The average cost per child is about $230,000, which is in no way countered by an increase in the tax credit.
- Their proposal ignores every child’s right to a fair start in life, which is increasingly important to ensure in a world where one percent of the population owns half the wealth. How do pittance tax credits, which treat families like isolated units, close the gap, massive in some cases, between rich kids and poor kids? Don’t all kids deserve the healthcare, education, and nutrition Trump’s kids got? Why wouldn’t they?
- Their proposal is pure climate change denial, as our situation only worsens, with over 15,000 scientists recently issuing a dire warning regarding the future of our environment. It would only further destroy the polluted and collapsing natural environment our kids are inheriting. Why ignore the clear evidence that larger families drive the worst impacts on our climate, crowded cities, and other forms of environmental degradation?
- Their proposal is correct to focus on family planning, but makes a crucial mistake. Instead of growing an economy and intensifying inequality, we need to build democracy. And that means ensuring the intergenerational coming together of free and equal people, through the decentralizing of power, diffusing it instead among future citizens though a family planning system that builds democratic communities where each person belongs and has a voice.
The fundamental problem with child tax credits and similar pronatalist schemes is that they divorce the decision to have a baby, the creation of a need, from the resources required to fulfill that need, or the physical and emotional means each child deserves. Human history has shown we get the best results by being proactive and planning ahead, not ignoring needs until they fall in our lap. By raising the conditions of entry for all children, we will continue to reduce family size, increase cooperation, and continue our greatest success in sustainable development, women’s empowerment, and environmental protection.
Instead of a cash-for-babies scheme, we need a child first and truly human-rights based Fair Start family planning system that incentivizes and also assists would-be parents to have children only in conditions that begin to ensure that child a fair start in life, relative to other kids in their generation. We need to continue the progressive evolution of family planning systems (which have failed to account for things like climate change, inequality, the erosion of democracy, etc.) by now linking them to what kids need, before those kids are born. Family planning determines who we will be in the future, and must further the fundamental values of child welfare, fairness, nature and democracy.
What would child-first Fair Start family planning look like? Recently, Republicans moved to modify tax-advantaged “529” educational savings accounts to allow fetuses to become beneficiaries. Instead, why not work with states to fully fund those accounts for prospective parents and children, including college tuition, through progressively scaled contributions that also require some cooperative and progressively scaled contribution from parents, before they have kids? Doing so would mean a future world filled with happy and healthy children, equal opportunities for all, smaller and more connected communities, and functional democracies in a healthier environment.
Please contact President Trump and your representatives and senators today. Please politely tell them to drop the cash-for-babies schemes in favor of proactive, child-first and fair start family planning that incentivizes better and cooperative family planning to give every child a fair start in life.