Thursday, January 27, 2005

Should Government Limit How Many Children You Can Have?

For three decades China’s “One China” policy, which permits each woman to bear only one child (with some exceptions in rural areas), has resulted in forced abortions and sterilization. While Chinese officials congratulate themselves on reducing population growth, China has become a country full of spoiled brats with no cousins, aunts, or uncles. Each precious only-child rules his or her household.

Moreover, since cultural tradition establishes a desire for at least one son, couples have used abortion for sex selection to the point that the country has 17% more eligible bachelors than potential brides. One Chinese professor publicly wondered (probably an unwise thing to do in China) why people see the birth of a cow as an asset, but the birth of a human being as a liability.

Thank goodness we live in the USA where we are free to make the intensely personal and sacred choice of determining family sizes ourselves. Or can we?

In some of the more liberal urban areas families with more than one or two children are looked upon with disgust. Some, who consider themselves liberally open-minded, derisively refer to parents with more children as “breeders.” Organizations like Zero Population Growth openly seek laws similar to those of China.

Of course, nothing like this could ever happen in family-friendly Utah. Or could it?

Two of our state representatives, Patricia Jones (D-SLC) and Steve Mascaro (R-WVC), have once again introduced a bill that would establish an official government policy limiting the maximum acceptable number of children a family may have. Promoted as an education funding bill, HB197 eliminates dependent exemptions in excess of three. That’s right. If this bill is signed into law you will be penalized if you are so irresponsible as to have more than three children.

I haven’t been concerned about this bill in the past because it has always been a tax increase bill, so by Republican legislative leaders and the Utah Taxpayers Association opposed it. However, this year the sponsors have made it a revenue neutral bill. It increases taxes in one area while decreasing taxes in another. The Utah Taxpayers Association has now taken a neutral stance on it and some Republican legislative leaders have suggested that it has a chance of passing.

Bill sponsors contend that the bill simply attempts to force those using more education services than others to pay for them. This is a canard. While we regularly expect those using more of certain government services to pay for them, we address this by collecting fees at point of service (i.e. licensing, admission to state parks and arts, etc.)

Income tax, on the other hand, is a collectivist system that funds general services and infrastructure from which we all benefit. We all pay for education because we recognize that each educated child benefits our entire society regardless of whether we currently have children in the system. In fact, the investment in a child’s education pays off handsome for society in the long run.

Income tax is strongly correlated to ability to pay, but has almost no correlation to use of services. Otherwise we would tax Medicare and Medicaid recipients at a higher rate. We would increase taxes on unemployed people applying to Workforce Services. We would have higher rates for anyone using our court system. Instead, we all pay a percentage of our income into the purse from which all of these things are funded.

If bill sponsors are serious about having families of students pay a larger portion of the cost of their education, they should collect those additional fees at point of service, not by taking away income tax dependent exemptions.

Dependent exemptions exist because our society recognizes the value that each individual brings to the whole. These exemptions exist to help parents raise the children that will become our next generation of workers, leaders, and thinkers. All dependent exemptions should be of equal value. Eliminating exemptions in excess of three sends the message that fourth, fifth, and sixth children are of no value to our society. It suggests that they are only a drain. It would effectively establish a government policy stating how many children you should have.

If our society has become so selfish and shortsighted that we can no longer see the value of a child in terms of a long-term societal investment, then maybe we should get rid of dependent exemptions completely and start charging parents more for their children’s education at school registration. Heck, the societal consequences wouldn’t show up for 15 years or so, and even then nobody would attribute them to this policy. On the other hand, maybe what we have isn’t such a bad idea.

At any rate, the Jones-Mascaro bill is a bad idea that should be voted down.


Anonymous said...

You know what the government should not control how many kids we have because what if something happens and you have one more then what you're supposed to what are they going to do kill it?

Anonymous said...

I don't think that that is right.Why?Because when parents have more than one child the other child has to be put up for adoption.When no one wants a child and that child grows up and dosen't know there real parent that child is missing apart of them it seems like to them.Trust me I know cause I'm adopted.When a child has no where to go then they stay in a shelter I've been in 9 different ones and 11 different family.Well I don't think it's right and thats all I have to say.I'm 12 and that has all ready happedto me.I'm not chines eather.I also was taken away from my family when I was 2 years old.