Taxing Tiny Tim: California Raises Taxes for Parents

In a bizarre twist that reminds one of Scrooge rather than Schwarzenegger, the state of California decided last spring to significantly reduce its dependent tax credit.  In other words, it just became even more difficult to raise future California tax payers.

California parents can no longer count on their little ones for the $309 per child tax credit they enjoyed in previous years; according to the state, each child is now worth a mere $99 credit.  This effectively raises a parent’s taxes by about $210 per child, per year, placing a significant burden on the large families that need this credit most.  This cut, which was buried in the massive budget package Governor Schwarzenegger signed in February, will be an unwelcome surprise to many parents.

It is no secret that California is in serious financial trouble.  Tax increases are inevitable; however, since the funds that California is attempting to raise through this tax increase will come from parents, one wonders why lawmakers continue to subsidize a very profitable organization that aims to prevent parenthood altogether.

Planned Parenthood receives millions of dollars from California taxpayers each year.  The organization claims that none of these dollars directly fund abortions; however, money is fungible.  The tax dollars Planned Parenthood receives for preventive care services enable it to devote other income to providing abortions, and thanks to the recent cuts in dependent tax credits, California will soon have more of those tax dollars to give out.

In the long term, higher taxes for parents will mean fewer California children.  As one blogger pointed out recently,

Economists have a rule: If you want more of something, subsidize it; and if you want less of something, tax it.

If California wants to encourage the growth of the next generation of voters and taxpayers, it’s going to have to stop penalizing parenthood – not because families have caused the current deficit, but because they are its best long-term solution.

Surprisingly, most pro-life, pro-family Conservative commentators have been slow to target the tax code’s anti-family bias.  Ramesh Ponnuru is a notable exception, but the McCain campaign’s tax policies indicated that Ponnuru’s recommendations have fallen on all-too-deaf ears.  It’s easy to rally around a perceived injustice, but difficult to do the harder work of real reform; in this case it seems it’s even difficult for commentators to suggest we do so.

The Right has an unfortunate tendency to present negative solutions to social problems when positive solutions would be both more effective and more attractive to potential detractors.  The current move to defund Planned Parenthood is a prime example of this tendency.  While many pro-life organizations are working to defund Planned Parenthood, few are focusing on viable alternative solutions that would help families with children who have already been born.  In their zeal for saving future families, pro-life activists have sometimes failed to help existing families thrive and expand.

While Planned Parenthood should certainly lose funding, households struggling to raise children should not; after all, parents raising children will frequently bear and raise more children if they have the economic means to do so.  Our social and economic success depends on stable families, and our laws and tax policies ought to reflect this fact.  Unfortunately, as California illustrates, they often penalize the parents whose children will be the source of tomorrow’s income.

Worse, our tax policies burden stable families while our welfare programs encourage single parenthood.  Readily available programs like WIC and Healthy Families do help women and children in one way, but also hurt them by making it easy for husbands and fathers to leave them, secure in the knowledge that the state will provide what they will not.  For many women the state is provider, protector, and enabler – all at the expense of the mothers and fathers whose children the state so desperately needs.

A comprehensive, long-term solution to California’s budget problems would involve both the removal of tax dollars from economically destructive organizations like Planned Parenthood and positive tax exemptions for those raising children.  Unfortunately, the pro-life movement has not always put enough emphasis on the positive side of this equation.  If pro-lifers want to win the hearts and minds of the citizens of California, they need to offer positive solutions to the social and economic problems that have usually been addressed through some form of negation.  California will have to do the same for its families if it hopes to solve its financial problems – as even Scrooge eventually realized. ‘

BPA: One less thing to worry about

Fear sells.  No one knows this better than advertisers, whose aggressive marketing content is unconsciously absorbed by millions of consumers who don’t – or can’t – think critically about what advertisers tell them.

That’s why it’s such a shame when advertisers and marketing firms invent false crises in order to exploit these unprepared consumers.  BPA-free baby products, for example, are all the rage right now.  These products fly off the shelves, bought largely by parents who are afraid their children may be harmed by the chemical.

In fact, BPA is not dangerous.  A California regulatory board (made up of physicians) ruled last week that “California will not place Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of plastic baby bottles and toys, on the state’s list of chemicals that are believed to cause reproductive harm.”

This comes on the heels of a new Statistical Assessment Service study out of George Mason University, which found the risks were “misleading and caused unnecessary public anxiety.”

So why have so many parents been scared into buying only the more expensive BPA-free products?

Rob Port recently noted that this all traces back to Fenton Communications, the same PR firm that was behind the ‘General Betray Us’ ads:

“Putting aside the fact that the claims were entirely bogus, the fear campaign against BPA was a brilliant business move for Fenton-and a win/win/win for liberals.  David Fenton… represents many radical environmental groups like the San Francisco-based Tides Foundation, who could benefit from creating a bogey man.  And he also represents trial lawyers, who could make millions by bringing about class action lawsuits against the manufacturers of plastics.  Lastly, trial lawyers are major donors to Democratic politicians, so getting them on board was easy.  And plastics competitors who didn’t use BPA could now charge absurd prices for their products at upscale stores like Whole Foods, based on the fact that their product (though more expensive) was ostensibly “safer.”

And Townhall.com’s Dwayne Horner noted,

Of course, leftist environmental groups like Environmental Working Group (EWG), Center for Health, the Tides Foundation, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), and others have been funding research to advance this agenda.  Sadly, the phony science was aided by journalists and politicians, despite the fact that numerous independently funded studies have found BPA to be entirely safe.

Ultimately, parents – not children –  have suffered from this.  Aside from worrying unnecessarily that they might have exposed their child to dangerous chemicals, parents have spent outrageous amounts of money on non-BPA products.

As National Journal reported,

Ron Vigdor, the founder and CEO of BornFree, sells trust. More precisely, he sells baby bottles for about $5.50 that are guaranteed to contain no bisphenol A, a chemical that is widely used in $1 baby bottles.

…Vigdor began selling his bottles in Whole Foods grocery stores in 2006, and his production capacity has grown to 1 million a year. The established companies – which sell about 60 million baby bottles annually – are now marketing their own BPA-free bottles and cutting production of older models.

… To boost press coverage, Vigdor hired Fenton Communications, which specializes in political advocacy and was already engaged with other anti-BPA outfits, such as the Environmental Working Group.  Vigdor’s    market gets a boost every time the media publicize a report on BPA’s possible hazards…

Parents may not need to worry about the BPA content of baby bottles and car seats anymore, but they do need to worry about dishonest marketing tactics.  Parents should certainly protect their children from dangerous chemicals, but they should also learn how to inoculate them against deceptive sales tactics. ‘

Prop 8 Video by the Family Research Council

While speaking with people about the issue of same-sex marriage, I often hear people claim that they see no harm in voting to allow same-sex couples to marry since they, the voter, will not be affected. When I hear this, I become concerned for my fellow citizens. I become concerned because I believe they have been deceived into thinking that good work being done by our families to raise children is unimportant to our society. People have been deceived because the implications of a law normalizing same-sex marriage have largely been kept quiet. However, make no mistake, the normalizing of a poorly constructed ideology framework for the family is truly the motivation for people wanting proposition 8 to fail.

The Family Research Council has produced a great video addressing what has already happened in Massachusetts as a result of laws legalizing same-sex marriage.

I have a lot of thoughts on this issue which I will address in a later post. However, the salient facts are that, in the state of California, same-sex couples who enter into a civil-union obtain the exact same legal benefits as married heterosexual couples. In fact, some would argue that same-sex couples have more benefits especially when it comes to areas like adoption where same-sex couples often receive preferential status. In light of this, it is clear that the strategy being played out in California is akin to the one played out in Massachusetts. If proposition 8 fails, the next move that the same-sex lobby makes is into the classroom. Please watch this video and consider whether it would be good if this happened in California.

Find out what you can do to help people think well about and protect marriage.