Reviews | Why the United States needs the Romney family plan

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But there are two reasons for the Conservatives who backed Gingrich-era reforms to give Romney’s plan a hearing. First, some of the incentives in his plan are clearly in favor of work and marriage, not against. One of the main reasons the old welfare system discouraged work was that its benefits could immediately disappear if a recipient found a job, because every dollar earned meant a dollar less in welfare. But the Romney subsidy is only phased out only with high incomes, so there is no deterrent for a low-income parent from taking a job. Meanwhile, the plan also changes the labor income tax credit to make it more marriage and work friendly, potentially balancing the disincentives created by the child allowance.

Lifting the details of the policy, however, the main reason Conservatives favor the generosity of Romney’s plan is that we live in a very different world than 1996. Then America had an overall birth rate that was consistently high. around the replacement level, and a stubbornly high teenage birth rate in communities struggling with chronic poverty. It was reasonable, in this context, for welfare reform to focus on breaking a cycle in which teenage pregnancy threatened to lead to lasting unemployment and subsidized dependency.

Today the situation is different. The teenage birth rate has dropped to its lowest level in modern American history, and meanwhile the overall birth rate has also fallen, with Covid-19 providing an additional fertility suppressor. (If the United States had just maintained its 2008 fertility rate, 5.8 million no more children would exist today.) Neither of the two political coalitions yet reckons with the consequences of this fertility collapse, but we will all live with its consequences – in stagnation, loneliness, alienation – for decades to come. future.

In this environment, it is worth risking a little inducement to have and raise children in non-ideal circumstances in order to create a more welcoming society for the education of children in general. Conservative goals of supporting work and marriage remain important, but overall they need to give way a bit to a more basic goal – that society should reproduce.

Besides, the more liberal goal of fairness should also pay off – which is why the Romney plan would actually be better without the income cap, with a family allowance circulating even to fertile billionaires.

To a much greater extent than 25 years ago, America simply needs more babies – rich and poor and middle class. Public policy alone cannot deliver them, even something as ambitious as the Romney Plan. But his reasonable goal is not an immediate baby boom, however desirable it may be. It is about laying the strongest possible political foundation on which a more fertile, younger and more optimistic society could possibly be built.


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