Making Children Cheaper
A #Slatepitch Too Far: Tax the Childless?
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  • Joe Eagar

    What was the blog post/news article that triggered this post?

    • Andrew Allison

      Um, “How do you enrage a Slate reader? Advocate a “soak-the-childless” tax platform, as Reihan Salam did recently.”

  • Boritz

    School taxes is an important point. The childless already pay this though they have no kids in the schools. Also count on parents to pass bond issues that the childless must help repay so the school can have a performing arts center and a new football stadium.

    • Jim__L

      Schools (educated children) are a public good, or government in past generations wouldn’t have paid for them.

      Parents pay the same taxes that non-parents do… we just pay a heck of a lot more over and above that, because we’re also raising the kids that go to those schools.

      Criticize how the money gets spent if you like — I have no problem with the argument that a theater or a stadium has limited application to actual education. But the claim that the childless somehow don’t see any good out of schools, that paying to ensure there are decently-educated doctors, engineers, police, and even retail workers once the childless retire, is simply nonsense.

      • Boritz

        Sure. This childless should support education just as you support prisons whether or not your own kids live there.

      • Andrew Allison

        “Parents pay the same taxes that non-parents do…” Really?

        “But the claim that the childless somehow don’t see any good out of schools, . . .” Boritz didn’t make any such claim.

        • Jim__L

          Er, yes. We pay the same taxes you do. A couple hundred bucks here or there doesn’t significantly change that.

          You’re right about Boritz’s claims, though. I’m just so used to reading claims that childless people shouldn’t have to pay for schools I glossed over that point.

  • Pait

    I don’t feel the need for people who do not have children to be taxed at a higher rate to subsidize people who do have children like myself. However all should be paying the same rate for the same income.

    That is not true in the US right now. If you work for a living, you pay relatively high taxes. If you don’t earn your income, but simply collect dividends, interests, or capital appreciation, you pay much lower taxes, if at all. That is unfair and a disincentive to work.

    • KTnTX

      It is only a disincentive if you have sufficient capital to live off of the dividends. Only a few achieve that status and most of those a only after a lifetime of work. The point of taxing investments at lower rate is to encourage the investments that create new businesses and/or help to grow existing ones, thus growing the number of jobs and our GDP.

      • Curious Mayhem

        No argument on the origins of economic progress. But — the different sorts of income should be taxed more or less the same. The point of reforming taxes is not to keep introducing more distortions and imposed preferences, but reduce them, simplifying and unbiasing the tax code.

      • Pait

        If only a few achieve this status, and only after a lifetime of work (and work by other people in most cases!), why do we give them the vast majority of the tax breaks on unearned income?

        • Andrew Allison

          We don’t.

        • KTnTX

          I am willing to go along with the simplify argument that curious mayhem makes, but if you start a business you are taxed on the profits as well as any income you personally draw from the business and then when you sell it you are taxed again on the gain. It is not preferentially taxed when you look at the whole life cycle.

    • rheddles

      Why should my children have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes to subsidize those who were too unfortunate or selfish not to have children? They had the chance to save for their own old age without having to provide anything for the future. I reared 3 children who will be productive contributors to the future.

      • Jim__L

        I agree completely. Honestly, I think that Social Security and Medicare should be restructured so that if you don’t have kids you can’t get full benefits. Social Security already gives you “points” for the years you work; the points necessary to get full payout need to be increased significantly, and parents should be able to count their kids’ points towards their own totals. The same point-prerequisite system needs to apply to Medicare, too.

        • Andrew Allison

          Social Security benefits are based on your lifetime earnings, not points; specifically, average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. (http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10070.pdf). Medicare, as I’m sure you know, is a health insurance program.

          • Jim__L

            http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/credits1.htm

            These are the sorts of points I’m referring to. They should be restructured to reflect and incentivize the essential contribution parents make to the sustainability of these programs.

      • Andrew Allison

        Why should anybody have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes to subsidize people who didn’t save for their old age? [/grin] Or is your argument that you weren’t able to save because you had children? More to the point, how did a question about how parents should be compensated for the cost of rearing children spin off to one about Social Security and Medicare?

        • Jim__L

          Social Security and Medicare, being intergenerational Ponzi schemes, are the most obvious way to demonstrate that childless people are not contributing in the same way that parents are.

    • Dan

      You can also lose that money if the stock tanks

  • Andrew Allison

    From each according to their ability (to pay), to each according to their need. Let me think, where have I heard this before? Ah yes, Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program.

    • Jim__L

      Interestingly, families work under that principle, and have forever. My two-year-old is a “taker”, not a “maker” — he has never worked an honest day in his entire life, yet I’m not going to refuse to feed him. (Well, except when he demands a third bowl of ice cream.) My oldest is finally getting the hang of some chores, but it would be dishonest of me to claim that he does them well enough that he wouldn’t get fired from any paying job that required similar things of him.

      The argument here is not that parents “need” more and therefore ought to be given more; the fact is that parents are making more of a contribution than non-parents, and that contribution needs to be recognized in some real way. Our hard work in raising the next generation is the only thing that might keep our intergenerational Ponzi schemes (Social Security and Medicare) solvent.

      • Andrew Allison

        Let’s make a deal: the State takes on a further portion of the cost of raising your children, and a proportionate share of their upbringing. This already happens in, e.g., education and healthcare, and we know how that’s turned out [/grin]. More seriously, we geezers, along with the rest of the general population, are also contributing more than our share of the cost of the other public services which your children enjoy. I vote for “we should be doing everything we can to make everyone’s earned income go further.”

        • Jim__L

          I have a better idea. Why doesn’t the government just keep its grubby hands off parents’ paychecks, to the extent that we’re keeping this (or any) system going long-term in ways that childless people simply aren’t.

          Government can also stay out of the upbringing of our kids while they’re at it.

  • stefanstackhouse

    The personal exemptions for dependents probably are too low. Simply increasing these to a more realistic level would go far toward providing help where help is most needed.

    • Jim__L

      Er, $300k far?

  • Jim__L

    It’s more than just “catchy tunes” and “breakthrough technologies”. The next generation supports Social Security and Medicare. (Not to mention every other job under the sun.)

    Without them, there could be no retirement, it’s that simple. Everyone would have to drop in the traces. When you’re too old to work, someone’s children are the ones growing your food, maintaining your houses, emptying your colostomy bags. The people that raised those children did far more work to make this system workable than the ones that didn’t. They’re “makers”, and the childless are “takers”.

    But wait, you say, you saved money to retire on! Well, the blunt fact is the only reason that money has any value is that younger people are working. A system where everyone “saves money” and no one has children is a system that will collapse.

    To each according to his contribution, guys. The childless failing to contribute in one very real way. If you’re childless by choice, you’re a shirker. That’s bad enough — but to actively deny that there’s even an issue here? That’s not just shameful, that’s either intellectually dishonest or just plain stupid.

    I thought better of VM commenters.

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