Taxing the Lonely


Mia showed me this article last week and as I do with all things Mia sends me I dove right in expecting to be impressed. Instead, I found myself getting physically ill. The more I read the angrier and sicker I felt.

In short Reihan Salam’s article, “Tax the Childless” is cold, not well thought out and borders on hateful to a group he himself is part of. The main argument is that people who have children are providing a huge service to society as a whole and should be compensated or at least be shown leniency taxwise. Understanding that the government needs the taxes it takes, this means that single folks who do not have children should then be taxed more. This plan disrespects people’s personal rights.

Do not misunderstand me. I fully agree that the care of children is important to our future. I am just shocked at the single mindedness of Salam’s view point. I am not politically savvy or knowledgeable. I do not have the expensive education Salam enjoys. I am just another single and childless person trying to make a life for myself…but I had the following thoughts.

Maybe we should fix our current education system that is understaffed and underfunded. Maybe we should have more programs geared toward helping children who are in the bottom and top percentiles. The bottom percentiles need the additional help to keep up and the top percentile needs to be challenged so they can fulfill their true potential. Don’t I already pay taxes that are used for education, though I am childless. Why don’t we use our current funds better? This next thought might be considered cold but why do we spend incredible amounts of money on keeping our sickest children in stasis when we could use those funds to educate our healthy children in hopes that they will grow up and develop cures and technology to prevent the sick. Don’t we have an overpopulation problem? Don’t we already have trouble keeping children of today fed? And not in other countries! Here in the US we have trouble with children who do not have enough to eat.  Can’t you see the negative repercussions of this tax break? There are already those who use children as a source of income. Why would we encourage that practice even more? There is so much we can do for children and should do for children if you would just take a second to truly think about it.

Salam even acknowledges some of issues in his article but then does not address them. He states, “It could be that lowering disposable income for nonparents would actually lead them to delay marriage and child-rearing, as people might want to build up a sizable nest egg before they start being fruitful and multiplying.” Salam also says children add “vigor” to society by writing “catchy tunes” and inventing “breakthrough technologies” for the “cranky” and “decrepit” older generations. If he is so excited about the children others are having why does he want to prevent or hinder people who may have children in the future by crippling with taxes before they have the chance to procreate? He clearly states the faults of his own tax scheme but has no plan for protecting these prospective parents. I don’t feel there is a way to clearly preserve the rights of these single, pre-child citizens except by not having this tax.

Personally, I want children but realize I will be financially responsible for them and for their future for a long while. So before I take this step I want to be sure that I have children with the right person and that financially we are ready for that responsibility. Should I be penalized for wanting to be responsible and to be a good parent? What if I never find a satisfactory partner? Should I be punished because no one wants to procreate with me? What if I can’t have children because of some medical reason? Should I pay for others to have the joy of children while trying to save to adopt? Adoption fees are astronomical for an everyday couple, that is why there is a tax break when people adopt. Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive to also tax them while they attempt to adopt?

Lastly, there is an entire paragraph where Salam seems angry about the childless people who get to spend their income in fun ways instead of having to pay for children. He goes on and on about how people with children are disadvantaged in the work force and thus it disadvantages the children. This may be true, however, children are a choice. You choose to have children and should understand the time commitment and work involved. If someone chose not to have children and thus has more time to work that is their choice to make. Should we compensate those who could not afford expensive Ivy League educations and equalize them with someone, me, who went to a state school? So that these two candidates would have an equal chance at a job or promotion? That is the logic here. Why would we be in favor of destroying people’s ability to choose?

I am not a devoted follower of Salam’s career but I cannot believe this article made it into an online publication that wants to be taken seriously. Honestly, I had never heard of Slate prior to this article but I can’t say I am impressed with its “reporting” or “opinions”. It’s almost as if this article was written just to stir up controversy and not as an actual well thought out, intelligent argument seriously in favor of taxing single childless taxpayers.

For another response to Salam’s article please see this CNN Money Article, “Should people without kids pay higher taxes?”


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