“When my mother was my age, she was working full time while raising three small children, and she spent every spare moment studying to finish a graduate degree. My father was working extremely hard as well. Between the two of them, they were able to provide their kids with a solidly middle-class life. But it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always fun.
So now, as a childless professional in my mid-30s, I often reflect on the sacrifices working parents make to better the lives of their children. And I have come to the reluctant conclusion that I ought to pay much higher taxes so that working parents can pay much lower taxes. I believe this even though I also believe a not inconsiderable share of my tax dollars are essentially being set on fire by our frighteningly incompetent government.”
As a childless professional myself, I agree.
“We all benefit from the work of parents. Each new generation reinvigorates our society with its youthful vim and vigor.”
This is exactly right. Raising children is what economists call a public good. And it is taken on, voluntarily, at great cost, by private individuals. Everybody in our society benefits from well-raised children – including the aging gay couple - who will be tended to in their twilight years by the children of heterosexual couples.
A common feature of most modern western countries is low fertility rate. This is because, thanks to pension programs (both private and public), raising children is no longer economically rational. Childrearing and retirement have become uncoupled. Taxing childlessness is how you make it rational again.
“Even when we compare a nonparent and a parent who are working exactly the same hours and earning exactly the same income, the nonparent has a clear leg up. Most obviously, the nonparent has far more disposable income to play with, which she can save, to become much richer than her parent counterpart over time, or spend, to travel to exotic locales, to eat out constantly, to wear awesome clothes, or to live as I do in a conveniently located shoebox in a great American metropolis. Raising taxes on nonparents could even the score a bit, tilting the balance ever so slightly in favor of those who toil on behalf of America’s future workforce by wiping their butts and painstakingly removing their head lice.”
Fairness is a cause with wide appeal. Gay marriage proponents won because they appealed to the inherent fairness of their cause, and the defenders of traditional marriage lost because they didn’t. Championing the cause of parents who selfless raise children for the greater good of society is a way of turning the tables. Childless gay couples can then be effectively portrayed as selfish hedonists who don’t care if the society around them burns to the ground, just as long as their existence on this mortal coil is serene and pleasant.
(As an aside, when did lice become a problem for North American children? It certainly wasn’t when I was growing up. My parents talked about lice, but only in context of their experiences in World War II. In Canada of the 1960’s and 70’s, lice were an entirely abstract problem for kids.)
“These millions of nonparents are not good political enemies to have. But does this mean those of us who favor a more parent-friendly tax code should give up? Not quite. Tax reform along these lines could awaken a sleeping giant in American politics, namely the 36 percent of American voters who have a child under 18 in their household.”
In addition to those 36%, there are many more voters who used to have a child under 18, and others who are planning to join the group. Add in childless people like myself, who see the inherent justice of their cause, and you have a rock-solid base for victory.
Often, conservative businessmen disparage socially conservatives for holding back the cause of conservatism with their repellent views. Personally, I think championing the cause of people with children is one of those breakthrough issues that may effectively counter the negative impressions that conservative support of big business has on the average voter.