Should childless Americans pay more taxes?
I’m surprised by some of the upset in Headlines to Reihan Salam’s proposal. Granted, the phrase “more taxes” rarely induces happy thoughts among conservatives, but I thought there’d be more support for beefing up the incentives for having children within a movement that (a) laments the breakdown of the nuclear family, (b) frets about declining birth rates and what they mean for the entitlement state (see, e.g., Mark Steyn and Jonathan Last), and (c) would probably benefit electorally if more Americans had children. I can’t find any data about voters with kids from the 2012 exit poll but Romney won 56 percent of married voters while Obama won 62 percent of singles. If Salam tweaked his idea to limit the tax breaks to parents who are married and reside in the same household, with lesser supplements for single parents, would that change people’s minds? What I’m asking, in other words, is whether the problem here is that we’re using the tax code to do too much social engineering or not quite enough.
And before you say “the answer is to cut spending, not to increase anyone’s tax burden,” Salam agrees with you on that. He just insists on living in reality. We tried to starve the beast and failed; turns out the beast doesn’t starve, it simply borrows and keeps feeding. If we’re doomed to run deficits until a debt crisis brings about a reckoning, who should bear the burden of extra taxes in the meantime in the name of reducing that deficit as much as possible?