Most people, even those deeply opposed to President Trump, probably think his plan to expand the child tax credit is a good thing. However, this proposal – long pushed by the religious right – is not so simple. Instead, it has to be viewed within the wider context, including the fact that Republicans are blocking access to family planning and playing politics with children’s health by delaying funding for the Child Health Insurance Program for some nine million needy kids.
The idea of expanding the child tax credit – the $1000 the government cuts off your taxes for every kid you have – is not new. Increasing that credit been called for by many, perhaps most notoriously Ivanka Trump and Marco Rubio, as another cash incentive meant to encourage certain Americans to have more kids. The credit tries nudge people to reverse a progressive fertility decline in some populations. This decline has been perhaps the greatest success of the last half-century’s concerted efforts around the world for sustainable development, women’s empowerment, and environmental protection.
Beyond attempting to undermine women’s empowerment, environmental protection, and sustainable development, this new tax proposal has many other significant problems.
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. Incentivizing larger families also leads to even greater inequality between rich and poor in a society where some families already buy six-dollar loaves of bread while others can’t afford diapers. Our society’s current approach to family planning continues to widen the gap, and incentivizing more kids will broaden the chasm between the haves and the have-nots.
Pushing families to have more kids is also the worst way to exacerbate climate change. Increasing the tax credit to encourage larger families should really be seen as an extreme form of climate change denial. Of course, this hurts an untold number of children in the long run.
But the tax-credit is also a perfect example of how all of us – Republicans and Democrats alike – claim we care about children but fail to actually help them. Through the child-tax credit, our government is equating a “child” with a few extra dollars for the parent. This divorces the decision to have a baby from the real needs of that helpless and defenseless individual, and all the many physical and emotional resources each child deserves to have. None of those needs can be addressed by simply tossing parents a few more dollars.
If we really cared about children, we wouldn’t propose minor tax credits in order to disguise massive giveaways to the rich and corporations. We wouldn’t, in a country where half of pregnancies are unplanned, be denying women access to family planning both domestically and abroad, or denying health insurance to our most at-risk children.
This is what Trump’s tax and budget proposals add up to: Women being prodded to produce more children while society provides fewer resources and programs to care for those children. This creates a pool of resentful future workers with lower education and fewer opportunities – a permanent underclass whose only purpose is to prop up a system built on maximizing profits for the wealthy.
We need a way to actually help kids, one that recognizes the vital importance of early childhood conditions. Preparation, planning, foresight, and collaboration are how we can truly care about the next child born.
We know how this would look: Smaller families making up integrated, cooperative communities that properly fund and support the vital array of resources – healthcare, education, environmental – every child needs to get a fair start in life.
We could do so much better. If we look at our nation’s founding documents, we all have a fundamental birthright to equal opportunities in life. Instead of tax credits, we need incentives for parents and communities to work together to plan a fair start in life for every child.
It’s time for a fundamental change in how we care for children. It’s time for Congress to be proactive, not reactive, and help every child have a fair start.
Please contact your representatives and senators. Please politely tell them to develop a plan that incentivizes parents and communities to work together to plan a fair start in life for every child.