This past month, I came across a CNN article showcasing an article originally written by Slate columnist Reihan Salam. In his article, Mr. Salam advocates a somewhat radical taxation concept in which nonparents who earn more than the median household income of 51,000 should pay higher taxes than working parents. Mr. Salam believes this “tax break” for those with children would benefit American society as a whole despite nonparents shouldering the extra financial burden. He explained,
“By shifting the tax burden from parents to nonparents, we will help give America’s children a better start in life, and we will help correct a simple injustice. We all benefit from the work of parents. Each new generation reinvigorates our society with its youthful vim and vigor. As my childless friends and I grow crankier and more decrepit, a steady stream of barely postpubescent brainiacs writes catchy tunes and invents breakthrough technologies that keep us entertained and make us more productive. The willingness of parents to bear and nurture children saves us from becoming an economically moribund nation of hateful curmudgeons. The least we can do is offer them a bigger tax break.” (Salam, 2014)
As to be expected, Mr. Salam’s article generated a fair amount of heated comments. As a “nonparent”, I certainly take issue with the expectation that I shoulder extra financial burden for another’s perceived “simple injustice”. While it is easy to become indignant at such a radical suggestion, my logic for taking issue with Mr. Salam’s suggestions fall under three simple rationales.
Parents already enjoy tax breaks that nonparents cannot qualify for
One aspect Mr. Salam never even comes close to broaching is the fact that parents already enjoy child-related tax breaks that nonparents cannot qualify for. Some of these include, but are not limited to, the Child Tax Credit, the dependent exemption, and the head of household filing status for single parents. These tax breaks can add up,
The Tax Policy Center “estimates that the average tax benefit for parents exceeds $3,400. A married couple with two kids could get benefits of nearly $7,700, while a single parent with two children might receive more than $8,100.As a result of the code’s many child-related tax provisions, about half of households with kids — many of them lower income — won’t owe any federal income taxes in 2013. Some in that group will even get a check from the government.” (Sahadi , 2014)
While the monetary amounts of these benefits is debatable, what is not debatable is parents already enjoy tax breaks simply for having children. These are benefits nonparents cannot qualify for.
Nonparents already monetarily “nurture” America’s children
Anyone who pays taxes pays into the infrastructure that nurtures America’s children. Whether through property taxes or sales taxes, a percentage of these taxes are levied for schools and educational purposes. In addition, many of the “free” child-related recreational activities (like youth baseball, softball, football, etc.) offered by cities are supplemented by these same taxes. Once again, the monetary amounts of these taxes is debatable. However, what cannot be debated is the fact that a percentage of taxes are already utilized for children-related educational and recreational means. These taxes are levied uniformly and do not distinguish between nonparents and parents. Therefore, nonparents already monetarily “nurture” America’s children.
Parenting is both a responsibility and an investment
Of my “simple” rationales, this one is the trickiest. Unlike my other two points of contention which contain objective facts and figures, this point is significantly more subjective. Like Mr. Salam, I believe a parent deserves commendation for bearing and nurturing our future generations. Parenting is not easy and often it can be a thankless role. However, I also believe that parenting is both a responsibility and an investment. A parent has a personal and social responsibility to ensure they have an adequate financial means to bear and nurture their children. Like any investment, if one does not have adequate financial means to invest…well…they should not invest! I understand that the numerous variables involved in child/family planning makes it practically impossible to narrow down an exact timeframe. However, like any big life choice, having children should be something that is planned for to one’s best ability. This includes the financial discipline necessary to adequately provide for one’s children. If one does not, or cannot, maintain that financial discipline, or is unwilling or unable to plan appropriately, then they should not have children!
In all fairness to Mr. Salam, I believe his article was written with heartfelt intent. Being as Mr. Salam is a nonparent as well, clearly he did not write his article as a means of financial self-gratification. As I alluded to earlier in this post, I understand that parenting is not easy. In addition, I agree with Mr. Salam’s concerns that parenting is becoming increasingly expensive. As he points out in his article,
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that raising a child born in 2012 will cost a middle-income family a cumulative total of $301,970 over 18 years.” (Salam, 2014)
Once again, the monetary figure that Mr. Salam quotes is debatable. However, most would agree that the cost of everything is rising. If so, then it stands to reason the cost of raising children is also becoming more expensive.
While Mr. Salam advocates a tax break for parents, I believe there should come a point where parents should have to pay more taxes…or at least lose their tax breaks, depending on the number of children they have. What that “magic” number is…3..4…7 children? I don’t know. The reality is there is a finite number of resources available. These resources, necessary for survival, are becoming increasingly scarce. The other reality is there is no longer a need for a “large” family unit in today’s America. Those that choose to rear large families do so for reasons that benefit only them. These reasons include personal satisfaction, family expectations, or religious beliefs. This comes at the expense of others that are vying for the same finite, increasingly scarce resources. This makes those that rear large family units selfish. As a result, they should be taxed more…and not less.
While I agree with Mr. Salam on some points, I believe it is simply asinine to expect nonparents to shoulder increased financial burden for rearing and nurturing other people’s children. This is especially true considering parents already receive tax breaks and nonparents already contribute monetarily to the nurturing of America’s children. The choice to have children is both a responsibility and an investment. Those, like me, that choose not to have children should not be responsible for supplementing those parents that either won’t, or can’t, live up to the financial responsibilities of rearing their children
Sahadi , J. (2014, April 7). Should people without kids pay higher taxes? Retrieved from CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/2014/04/07/pf/taxes/childless-parents-taxes/index.html?hpt=hp_t3
Salam, R. (2014, March). Tax the Childless. Retrieved from Slate: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/03/tax_credits_and_children_parents_should_pay_lower_taxes_and_childless_people.html