Reactions to a New Social Compact
Commentators and policy analysts react to our proposal for a Family Income Supplemental Credit.
After publishing our proposal for a Family Income Supplemental Credit, or Fisc, we invited a range of conservative commentators and policy analysts to offer their own critiques, insights, and modifications. This page will feature an expanding set of arguments over the coming week.
- Gov’t Spending Is Already Too Burdensome | de Rugy (Mercatus) & Mitchell (CFP)
- Don’t Federalize Family Policy | Andy Smarick (Manhattan Institute)
- Toward a Family Wage Subsidy | Erika Bachiochi (EPPC)
- For Pregnant Mothers, Make Payments Lump-Sum | Daniel E. Burns (U. of Dallas)
- The Social Meaning of Family Benefits | Joshua McCabe (Niskanen Center)
- Fitting the Fisc to Social Security | Robert Stein (former Treasury official)
- Is a New Entitlement Program the Solution? | Angela Rachidi (AEI)
- Support Families Because They Are Families | Chris Buskirk (American Greatness)
Government Spending Is Already Too Burdensome
Veronique de Rugy, Mercatus Center & Dan Mitchell, Center for Freedom and Prosperity
At the risk of being caricatured as drown-government-in-the-bathtub libertarians, we think the proposal for a Family Income Supplemental Credit (Fisc) from Oren Cass and Wells King is misguided, mostly because it would raise tax rates and expand the burden of government spending.
Supporters estimate the Fisc would cost $200 billion annually. A majority of that cost — $120 billion per year — would be financed by eliminating the existing child tax credit. This change presumably would not have a significant economic effect, either positive or negative. And it arguably would not represent an increase in the size and scope of government.
But the rest of the Fisc, $80 billion per year, would be financed with tax increases. Since the federal government presently is far too large — and since it is expected to become an even bigger burden in the future — this fact alone should make the Fisc a non-starter as a matter of fiscal policy.
It is particularly worrisome that proponents want to use higher income tax rates as the main source of new revenue. More specifically, the plan calls for $60 billion of new revenue from increasing income tax rates for households making more than about $85,000 (for single taxpayers) or $171,000 (for married taxpayers). Cass and King speculate that tax rates would have increase by two percentage points, but the Congressional Budget office’s most recent estimates suggest the increase in rates would be much closer to 3 percent.
Income tax rates already are too high, and President Biden wants to raise them further. Self-styled conservatives should not be aiding and abetting the push for class-warfare taxation by adding to the collection of proposed tax-rate increases on workers, investors, entrepreneurs, and business owners.
And it is also worth noting that the Fisc’s phase-out (for individuals making more than $100,000 and couples making more than $200,000) means the handout from the government is reduced by $10 for every $100 of additional income. The combination of that implicit tax rate with the high explicit tax rates in the internal revenue code will discourage productive economic behavior (and Cass and King agree, writing that, “a phase-out substantially increases the implicit marginal tax rate for households in the relevant income window”).
The Cass-King proposal does have one advantage over Senator Romney’s proposal for child allowances, in that households must earn income the prior year to be eligible for the Fisc. This reduces the risk that recipients will be encouraged to drop out of the labor force. But being better than Romney’s plan is hardly an endorsement.
We will conclude by observing that it would be desirable for families to have more economic opportunity and financial security. However, it doesn’t follow that conservatives should support subsidizing child-bearing and -rearing. We do not think copying Europe and imposing more redistribution is the right approach. Americans enjoy far-higher living standards than people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, thanks in part to our smaller fiscal burden.
It would be far better to focus on the policies of “market fundamentalism” that have a proven track record of delivering faster growth, improved productivity, and rising wages.
Don’t Federalize Family Policy
Andy Smarick, Manhattan Institute
[Note: these comments are excerpted from a longer essay posted on The Commons.]
Although this is a response to the interesting and compelling Family Income Supplemental Credit (Fisc) proposal by Oren Cass and Wells King, it is meant to engage more broadly with those on the political right who argue for more forcefully using public policy, especially federal policy, to support the family. My overarching contention is that policy should help the family, but a policy isn’t justified merely by its promise to help families. There are principles of governing that should inform our thinking about which programs are desirable and which are not. Said another way, I want to find new ways for conservative governing principles to help the family, but I want to avoid labeling a policy as “conservative” simply because it purports to aid families.
I want to cheer a number of things in the Cass/King plan as well as some of the thinking behind it. The authors are right to raise concerns about the weakening of the family, adults’ reporting that they are having fewer children than they’d like, the health of the American Dream, and how changing economic conditions have influenced all of this. The authors are right that policy should have a role in addressing these matters.
I agree with their reasons for rejecting rationales related to anti-poverty cash payments, “parenting wages,” and “natalist subsidies.” I agree that the once-a-year payment of the child tax credit inhibits its effectiveness. I agree with their opposition to universal per-child benefits.
The Fisc plan itself laudably prioritizes work and marriage, and it smartly avoids the problem of child-care programs that subsidize two-working-adult families over those with one parent staying home. I also find appealing the idea of basing public support on work instead of income; that is, a working lower-income family would benefit more from this proposal than the current tax credit.
But I do have reservations. I’m concerned that the Fisc would create a larger federal footprint requiring new federal taxation. I’m concerned about its expense given our enormous deficit and debt. I’m concerned about understanding and delivering this benefit along the lines of a Social Security-style entitlement, given that our existing entitlement programs are bankrupting the nation (making discretionary domestic spending more and more difficult).
My more basic objection relates to authority and duty. While I agree that the economic position of the family has changed over the decades due to a host of factors, that doesn’t mean, in my view, that a more muscular Uncle Sam is the answer. When families are in need, they should receive assistance from those close by. That assistance should last as long as necessary but as short as possible; it should be designed to help those served reach the point of no longer needing assistance.
A high-dollar, nearly universal, perpetual federal family program like the Fisc risks creating an unhealthy relationship between families and Washington. It casts the federal government in a significant, ongoing role in this most intimate of associations. It allows Uncle Sam to leapfrog the universe of mediating bodies standing between Washington and the home, which confuses the allocation of societal powers and duties and attenuates our bonds with one another. A regular check from Washington not only positions the federal government as each family’s personal benefactor—it also saps the purpose of family, community, and state support systems, which is how such mediating institutions wither away.
My view is that we should aspire to have families in a social compact with neighbors, community-based associations, and local governments, not federal mandarins thousands of miles away. Those providing assistance should know us by our names, faces, and stories, not by our Social Security numbers.
The proposal ends with an invaluable question to conservatives that forces us to be explicit about our goals and how we believe state power should be used to achieve them. Cass and King ask:
Will we support a major government program if it is pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-life, pro-work, reinforces solidarity and a sense of mutual obligation within the nation, and meets head on what the American people identify as one of their most pressing needs?
My answer is: A large-scale federal program is not warranted simply by virtue of helping families and incentivizing work and marriage. I would not support, for instance, an initiative that gave everyone a government job and a $100,000 marriage bonus. The collection of governing principles developed by American conservatives over generations can help us assess which proposals properly use state authority and respect the duties and powers of the various components of society. That is, we must consider the clumsiness of Uncle Sam, the inability of central administrators to collect, analyze, and act on the totality of necessary information; the dangers of federal action crowding out mediating bodies; the difference between local solidarity and national solidarity; and the risks associated with delegating individual, family, and community duties to distant authorities.
So, yes, absolutely, our agenda should help families. But “help” often means preserving the family’s powers and responsibilities, encouraging close-to-home entities to provide support, avoiding dependence by keeping assistance temporary and targeted, and stopping Uncle Sam from doing too much.
Toward a Family Wage (Subsidy)
Erika Bachiochi, Ethics and Public Policy Center
I could not be happier with the substantive debate over family policy that is now taking shape among conservatives, inspired by Sen. Romney’s proposed “Family Security Act.” It carries me back to the bi-partisan Communitarian movement of the 1990s, whose Position Paper on the Family, published in 1993, sought to articulate a “coherent pro-family agenda.”
In addition to calling for a “culture of familialism” to disrupt the “profound cultural shift toward excessive individualism … careerism … [and] acquisitiveness,” the paper recommended at least six months of publicly funded paid leave (as fiscal circumstances allow), flex-time and home work arrangements, and most importantly perhaps, a generous child allowance. “Parents should be able to choose between working at home and outside the home, but government tax policies should not be used to favor families who earn more because both parents work outside the home when there are young children in the family.” It seemed clear to me then that the Communitarians were right: only a higher viewpoint, one that saw the economy in the service of families and their members, not the other way around, would provide the rationale for a humane family policy. Twenty-five years later, you could say I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.
Oren Cass and Wells King’s proposed Family Income Supplemental Credit (Fisc) has much to recommend it. The Fisc combines the merits of both the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit while removing the EITC’s ill-conceived marriage penalty to offer parents a per-child monthly benefit, and married parents a nice bonus. What results is a kind of family wage subsidy or provider’s benefit, which would increase the earnings of the working poor and middle class significantly, and better still, encourage stable marital coupling so that parents can raise their children and work to build up their assets together.
An important insight deep within the structure of the Fisc is that much of the trouble ailing families right now is not strictly poverty; it’s fatherlessness. Whether it’s the fault of the Great Society programs themselves, deindustrialization, the sexual revolution, inordinate incarceration, or all of it together, fathers are far too often disconnected from their children, and their children’s mothers. This is not good for men or women, and it certainly isn’t good for their children. And so a family subsidy that encourages marital stability and bolsters provision is a means for fathers especially to have greater impact on the well-being of their families.
I would take some issue, however, with the Cass/Wells suggestion that families who have received the Fisc would need, as part of the social compact, to “repay the investment” or “debt” (by paying their share of increased taxes as their incomes rise). The truth, of course, is that such parents would not be left indebted to anyone. The families they build and the children they raise – and the goods both bring to the community – are their contribution. Indeed, parenting is itself, contra Cass/Wells’ depiction otherwise, a “productive economic contribution.” A direct cash benefit just spreads the overwhelming costs of raising the next generation to the community, allowing parents, as Cass and King write, more freedom from market work to give their children the time and attention they need to grow into happy and productive adults.
As a direct consequence of designing the benefit as a supplement for providers rather than a wage or allowance for caregivers, the Fisc seems far less beneficial to single mothers whose dual role as sole provider and sole caregiver clash in life, and so in the Cass/King proposal too. Those who are unable to work a sufficient amount to fund the following year’s supplemental credit are left in the traditional safety-net. Though existing programs work to address root causes of poverty in a way cash cannot, I worry about how work requirements (in both TANF and the Fisc) for mothers of very young children work to push those children into institutional day care from their infancy. The work requirement may well move poor single mothers out of economic poverty (I’ll leave that to the judgment of those far more expert than I), but poverties of the heart may be worse still.
For Pregnant Mothers, Make Payments Lump-Sum
Daniel E. Burns, University of Dallas
Oren Cass’s and Wells King’s “Fisc” proposal is an outstanding model of the type of innovative policy thinking that the conservative movement needs more of. Contrary to some moralistic takes from both Left and Right, crafting good policy to support families always involves the difficult balancing of many competing considerations. Cass and King have put impressive thought and effort into getting that balancing act right.
The decisions made by Cass and King in managing any family policy’s unavoidable tradeoffs are all eminently defensible. It is much harder to say whether their proposal represents, on balance, the best option available to us. Rather than try to tackle that enormous question, I will just point out a tweak that should be made to one small but important feature of their proposal: its plan to begin family support payments before a child’s birth.
The Fisc expands on Sen. Romney’s idea of beginning a child benefit in the latter part of pregnancy. This is a good and welcome plan to target money to parents when they actually need it, since babies begin to be expensive a few months before they are born.
The cost of a baby does not, however, accumulate over the latter part of a pregnancy. The Fisc benefit does. I therefore suspect that, although the authors do not say so, they are hoping the Fisc would allow some moms to reduce their work hours earlier in the pregnancy than they otherwise would (since moms will be confident of receiving monthly cash support for as long as they remain pregnant). If so, then this is a real advantage to the plan that should be celebrated more openly. A great many parents would reasonably be delighted at the chance to limit potentially unhealthy work for mom at the later stages of her pregnancy.
But there are problems with starting a monthly cash benefit in the 5th month of pregnancy. If an obstetrician’s guesswork (or the patient’s report) about the date of conception will trigger an impoverished mother’s monthly federal benefits, this could put undue pressure on what should be a protected medical judgment. And if OBs or moms did succumb to the understandable temptation to misrepresent the date of conception in order to trigger benefits earlier, they could then find themselves in the perverse situation of being legally obligated to induce labor early, with all the attendant medical risks, when the baby goes “overdue” relative to a fudged due date.
Moreover, at least under the Fisc’s proposal of higher benefits during pregnancy relative to postpartum, there is something inequitable about shortchanging the parents of preemies (who will need the extra cash much more) while rewarding women who carry their babies past term.
The proposal could be improved by offering the payments for pregnancy expenses in two lump sums. Half of the pregnancy benefit ($2k under the Fisc proposal) would arrive after the expectant mother fills out an affidavit in her third trimester of pregnancy. The other half (another $2k) would arrive in the mail with the new baby’s social security card.
Lump-sum payments will decrease the incentive for fraud while eliminating the inequity regarding length of pregnancy. They will allow mothers to make reasonably accurate plans about the costs and benefits of taking extra time off work during pregnancy. And they would not depend on any sensitive medical judgment. In case of a fraudulent affidavit, the mother would simply have to pay back the benefit with a penalty five months later. (“Fraudulent” would of course exclude a documentable miscarriage or stillbirth.)
Whatever one may think of this and any number of other possible critiques of the Fisc proposal, we should all be able to agree that these are just the types of arguments that conservatives ought to be having. Cass and King deserve high praise for a well-thought-out proposal that pushes our policy conversation in very much the right direction.
The Social Meaning of Family Benefits
Joshua McCabe, Niskanen Center
In their thought-provoking essay on policies to better support American families, Oren Cass and Wells King note that child allowances have been justified on a number of grounds – anti-poverty, pro-natal, parenting wage – all of which they find unconvincing. History indicates these political justifications are as old as child allowances themselves. Although interesting from a political perspective, they tell us little about how families themselves perceive various cash-benefit schemes.
We know families support cash benefits but Cass and King worry that unconditional income supplements will commodify parenthood or erase the concept of reciprocity inherent to the social compact. They structure their proposed Family Income Supplemental Credit (Fisc) to avoid these perceived pitfalls. The sociology literature on the social meaning of money suggests this is not the case. No-strings-attached cash through a child allowance does not sever social ties or lead to the commodification of parenthood. It maintains expectations and parents will earmark for their child’s needs.
The Wisdom of Viviana Zelizer
In contrast to dominant approaches within economics that tend to treat money as fungible and transactional in a broader system of amoral markets, the pioneering work of Viviana Zelizer found that people and families treat money as having special meaning depending on its source and expected uses. This goes much deeper than the economic concept of mental accounting, which treat it in very individualistic terms.
The sociological concept of money sees it as embedded in a larger network of social relations. Zelizer, for example, finds poor families earmark sources of income for different ends depending on whether they come in the form of cash relief or chartable gifts. More recent research finds similar results for how parents spend their EITC refund checks and how they view the expectations involved. In each case families are well aware of social expectations and treat cash benefits accordingly.
What Does This Mean for Child Benefit Proposals?
This brings us back to Cass and King’s objections to child allowances on the ground that they might commodify parenthood and violate the principle of social reciprocity. Zelizer’s answer to the first objection is straightforward: There is little evidence that the introduction of cash benefits for families will lead to marketization of the family. Parents will continue to treat these benefits as a type of special money earmarked for their children’s needs.
This bring us to their second objection about the principle of reciprocity. Cass and King predicate their proposed benefit on work so that it “retains a clear distinction between a supplement for working families and the safety net for those who cannot contribute to their own support.” There is nothing wrong with this per se. We already do this with the EITC and it is common around the world for countries to have in-work supplements for low-income workers to “make work pay.” But this does not mean it is necessary to predicate every income supplement on work.
The key distinction is not work versus nonwork but whether benefits amount to a small income supplement or more generous income support for families. My research finds that societies and family themselves makes this important distinction by separating unemployment benefits from child allowances.
Reciprocity is a vital principle built into existing income support programs. David Schmidtz’s typology of compensatory models of deservingness, in which we deserve something based on past actions versus promissory models of deservingness, in which we deserve something based on what we will do after we receive it, helps illustrate this idea.
As Cass and King point out, contributory programs like Unemployment Insurance are premised on the idea that an unemployed worker who has fallen on tough times is being helped based on their past contributions in the form of UI taxes. But the principle of reciprocity is also present in programs like TANF, which are premised on the idea that an unemployed worker who has fallen on tough times is being helped based on how they will get back on their feet if given the chance. All societies institutionalize the principle of reciprocity in these two programs – unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance. This is acceptable because beneficiaries are asking society to fully support them for a short time.
This is not the case with child allowances. As modest income supplements, evidence indicates families treat them in the same way they treat in-work benefits – earmarking them for their child’s development – without any work requirements. As Sean Speer points out in another essay in this series, accusations that families might waste these monies on beer and popcorn are even seen as an affront to the dignity of families. Each stipulation added to child-benefit proposals risks falling prey to the “technocratic, government-knows-best underpinnings” Speer discusses in the Liberal Party’s attempt to influence family choices.
In other words, Cass and King’s claim that “a universal benefit … severing all connection to productive economic contribution violates the basic principle of reciprocity at the heart of a durable social compact” is misplaced. We can and should premise income support programs on reciprocity, and we can even do it to a limited degree with in-work benefits to supplement the incomes of low wage workers, but the history of child allowances in other countries suggests that its simplicity is well worth it and the social compact will continue to be as durable as ever.
Fitting the Fisc to Social Security
Robert Stein, former Treasury official
Oren Cass and Wells King have added their proposal, a parenting supplement they call the Fisc, to a list of ideas designed to reduce the fiscal burden on parents relative to non-parents.
One of the most hotly debated features of the Fisc is a “work requirement,” in that the annual allowance cannot exceed prior year earnings. I’ll let others quibble over the details on the formula. And I’m also sympathetic to the idea that parents need extra resources whether they’re working or not, particularly in the case of a single-mother.
However, by tying the payment to earnings, the Cass-King proposal may encourage marriage because they’d entice single workers to marry single parents. Let’s say an unmarried couple has a child and the mother intends to be a full-time homemaker while the father works. Un-married, they don’t get the Fisc; married, they do. In this case, the “work requirement” is a marriage incentive in disguise.
Now a quibble that I do care about: the income thresholds for phasing out the Fisc start at $100,000 for singles, $200,000 for married couples. I’d suggest lifting the threshold to $142,800 for singles, which is the amount of the taxable Social Security wage base in 2021, with a threshold of $285,600 for married couples. In addition, I think those thresholds should rise each year at the same pace as the taxable wage base, which is generally faster than inflation.
Why lift the thresholds to the maximum wage base potentially faced by each kind of household? Because one of the points of helping parents is to offset the disincentive for parenting built into the Social Security system. The Social Security system taxes earned income (wages and salaries), forcing workers to use a portion of earnings up to those thresholds to purchase government retirement obligations. Future Social Security benefits then relate to those tax payments, crowding-out the natural incentive to raise children to provide for old-age security.
Why not make the Fisc available to all parents, even those with very high incomes? Because workers who expect to consistently earn more than the taxable wage base face different incentives. For them, the Social Security tax is essentially a “lump-sum” payment to the government, which doesn’t affect them at the margin and shouldn’t generate the same distortions in their parenting behavior.
One other change I’d make is to specify that the only earnings that matter for purposes of deciding eligibility for the Fisc should be those taxed as part of the Social Security wage base. That means no capital gains, no dividends, no interest. All irrelevant! Keep the Fisc a benefit tied to labor earnings; parents who only clip coupons need not apply.
Is a New Entitlement Program the Solution for Working Families?
Angela Rachidi, American Enterprise Institute
Oren Cass and Wells King’s proposal for a Family Income Supplement Credit (Fisc) is the latest in a line of ideas aimed at family policy goals important to conservatives. Traditionally, scholars and policymakers have justified policies like Fisc by suggesting they would reduce child poverty, increase marriage, and support childbearing. Cass and King instead frame their proposal as a new social compact in which the federal government supports working families at a time when income strain is high and they might otherwise struggle to make ends meet.
One advantage of the Fisc is that it addresses some of the downsides of a universal (or near-universal) child allowance by directing benefits toward working families. The Fisc would match a family’s income from the past year up to $4800 per child under 6 and $3000 per older child paid monthly, with an extra payment for mothers in the final months of a pregnancy and a bonus for married parents.
My main concerns with a universal child allowance have always been that it resembles our failed welfare policies of the past, which discouraged work among single parents, while removing important touch points embedded in the existing social safety net, such as job training and child support. How does the Fisc stack up? Better than a universal child allowance, though I still have concerns.
Theoretically, a work disincentive still exists because parents do not have to be working to receive the payments (the prior year’s income determines the payment amount). This might be fine for two-parent families who have the potential for two incomes, but I worry about single-parent families with little employment in the household. And without knowing how the Fisc would interact with the EITC, it is hard to tell the overall employment effects for single parents. Even so, negative employment effects are likely to be small and narrowly focused since the Fisc targets working or recently working families.
My larger concern is the premise that we need another major federal entitlement to address the needs of working families. It is true that families with children face economic constraints at precisely the time they need money the most. But there are ways to address these constraints without creating a new entitlement program (see Holtz-Eakin and Gitis for a proposal on parental leave savings accounts). Instead, the Fisc replaces the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which Congress originally designed to be tax relief to working families, and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which rightfully credits childcare as a work expense. These two policies essentially lower the amount that families pay in taxes and offset child-related expenses. Instead of creating a new entitlement such as the Fisc, I would maintain tax relief for working families, consolidate the EITC in a way that reduces marriage penalties, and explore other ways to provide relief.
Only in recent years have policymakers expanded (or considered expanding) the CTC beyond federal income tax and payroll tax liability. The Fisc would take that one step further by removing the child benefit from the tax system entirely and creating a new government entitlement program ripe for future expansions. There are plenty of conservative policy alternatives to the government sending cash to nearly all families through a new program. Let’s start with coordinating safety net programs better, expanding school choice, reforming our healthcare system, and rethinking the way we license occupations and regulate new businesses.
Support Families Because They Are Families
Chris Buskirk, American Greatness
Conservatives have a persistent problem: they often don’t know what it is they want to conserve. This bears on the burgeoning discussion of family policy. The good news is that the broad center-right appears ready to engage the subject seriously and offer some major policy solutions instead of mere exhortation. “We’re pro-family!” is a disposition not a solution.
So it’s in this context that the proposal put forward by Oren Cass and Wells Kings (the Fisc) is a welcome addition. However, it’s with all due respect to my host that I must disagree with the Fisc in favor of a broad child allowance like that proposed in the Family Security Act. As usual their report is smart, well-researched, and full of helpful insights. But reading the report, I come to a different conclusion. And it’s because I think we’re trying to solve for different problems. The predicate to determining the best policy is defining the goal. We all agree, I think, that the challenges facing most Americas who want a family are big enough that we need something better than the existing policy approach. But what exactly are we trying to achieve and how do we measure success?
I agree with their premise that we need to revitalize the American social compact. But the way to do that isn’t by creating a needless link between wage-work, having children, and receiving this broadly necessary allowance. I realize that some people on the right are concerned about the possibility that a child allowance will subsidize or even encourage people to game the system and that some people might even leave the workforce as a result of a child allowance. To the former, I say, who cares? The small group of people who spend their lives gaming America’s welfare system are already doing it and no one is going to go out and have a brood of children just to get the child allowance. And as for the allowance permitting more parents to leave wage-labor to raise their children, well, that sounds like a feature, not a bug.
For conservatives, I’d ask, what is this country’s top priority? Is it keeping as many parents and potential parents engaged in wage-work or is it more children being raised by their parents?
Let me offer this answer: we want more families, more family stability, and more children. The success of family policy should be judged by those criteria. Discussion of the impact on consumption, GDP, wage-work and so forth miss the point entirely. Let me go a step further and suggest that if fewer parents were forced to lean into cubicle culture and were able to have more children and spend more time raising them that the country would be much better off.
Over the past four decades fewer and fewer families have been able to afford a stay-at-home parent. As Cass’s own Cost of Thriving Index demonstrates so well, a single median American income hasn’t been enough to provide a family of four with a home that they own, a car, health insurance, and college tuition for a long time. As a result we’ve redefined what it means to be middle class. The material distinctives are essentially the same, but now it requires two incomes so both dad and mom work. That leaves a parenting gap which either means that people have no children, fewer children than they want, or, in an unfortunate homage to the McKinseyized, globalized economy that wrought havoc on American wages, they outsource childcare to poorly paid third-party services and then to the public schools. Why is there is so much pressure for universal pre-K? It’s not because those three, four, and five year-olds need more schooling, it’s because their parents need free daycare. And that’s what coming if a child allowance isn’t passed. The real political choice isn’t between a child allowance or nothing. It’s between a child allowance and even more money being spent on expanding the amount of time kids spend in government schools and away from their parents.
The fact that the average American family can’t afford to have a stay-at-home parent isn’t Middle-America’s fault. It’s the fault of American elites who spent decades pursuing policies of globalization and financialization that proletarianized the middle class, beggared the working class, and ravaged interior America. In a better world, a single median wage would be enough to buy a house, raise a family, and provide a traditional middle class life. But until we rebuild a more robust economy that can do that, the more urgent issue is supporting American families and helping them have more kids and raise them themselves. There is nothing more conservative than parents raising their own children. That’s why I think the Fisc, while much better than what we have now, is ultimately insufficient. A broad child allowance like the Family Security Act is closer to what is needed, but even that could be improved upon with an increased allowance to cover birth expenses and perhaps some sort of downpayment assistance to help families with children buy a home.
Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion about the integrity of America’s borders. A country that can’t enforce it’s own borders isn’t much of a country, they say. That’s true enough. But a country that can’t reproduce itself isn’t much of a country either.See more from this series
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