As a democratic society we have agreed that government should provide – one way or another – for the education of our children. But why should government be in the role of encouraging people to have children? Let’s say that your household and that of your next-door neighbors, Marge and Homer, each earn $75,000 per year. You and your partner/spouse/siginificant other have no kids. Your neighbors have three kids. Those three kids go to school.
That means that you are subsidizing their schooling through your income and property taxes. Okay, that’s how democracy works. After all, if we want to live in a thriving economy as we get older, we need to have an educated workforce. In fact, when Horace Mann advocated for an even playing field for all levels of society back in the first half of the 19th century, that’s exactly what he had in mind; an elementary school education in the “Three R’s” (apparently, Horace was not that good speller himself). And so, his movement for free, compulsory education was born. Every kid would have the basics to go out in the world and earn a living, whether as a blue- or white-collar laborer or, with further education, as a professional.
But in the early part of the 20th century, income taxes were born. And so were deductions for dependents. So while you are paying full freight for your income tax burden on the 75 grand you make, your neighbors’ tax burden is based on an income of $10,950 less than yours. Huh?
For each child theyelect to produce, they get an annual tax deduction of $3,650. Well, you might say, that’s fair. After all, it costs a lot to raise a kid. Here’s where we have a problem. If you can’t afford kids, why should your neighbors be subsidizing them? Have as many kids as you can afford, and pay your income taxes. We have two rescued dogs. One of them, we just learned, has bone cancer. We are spending thousands to keep him free of pain and living as long as he can do so comfortably and happily. We would like some government support. Fat chance. We took the responsibility and we’re living with it.
Everyone with a kid is offered a 13-year, K-12 scholarship. Holy cow! Isn’t that enough? Every adult in a household gets a deduction. But people who have kids, whether one or 19 (do a web search for “The Duggars” – you’ll be amazed) get a deduction for each kid, no limit. And if you live in a state that levies income taxes, you get a deduction there as well.
Here’s another thought. If you and your significant other make 75 thou, while Marge and Homer make $250,000, they still get the kiddie deductions. So you are still helping them out. It’s not until a family’s adjusted gross income passes the $250K milestone that its dependent deductions diminish until they hit zero at just under $373,000.
But wait, there’s more!
Provided that Marge’s and Homer’s income is below 110 grand (or $75,000 for a single head of household, or $55K for a married person filing separately) they get a $1,000 tax credit for each kid. Woohoo! This is not a deduction. It’s a full thousand dollars off your final tax bill . . . for each kid.
So while politicians from coast to coast whine about how our educational system is getting the shaft (we’re not talking about new school elevators here), no one will dare speak about the idea of getting rid of tax deductions and credits for dependent children and funneling that money into schools. That would be a tax raise. Oh heavens forfend! Not in this day of too many taxes and too-big government (unless, of course, there will be a curtailment in my own personal benefits, in which case the above does not apply, thank you very much).
So while theoretical you, with your $75,000 income and childfree lifestyle, must pay full freight, Marge and Homer get three $3,650 deductions and three grand in credits. And in many states they get state tax advantages as well.
“Why?’ we ask. We did not ask parents to reproduce. Their kids create increased burdens on society. But it’s not only related to education. There are public health costs. And infrastructure. And playgrounds and parks and ball fields and yada yada yada (a bow to Seinfeld).
While President Obama’s deficit reduction commission reported Wednesday on what we need to do to reduce America’s debt, there is no mention of the inequitable tax burden for those who have chosen to be childfree.
You want kids? Fine. Pay up.
What’s your opinion?