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This week, House Democrats — on the heels of a similar proposal by Republican Sen. Mitt Romney — unveiled a new program that would grant parents up to $300 per child, per month, for the next year. The reason for this program, they say, is to help families cope with financial difficulties due to COVID-19.
In reality, though, the White House and congressional Democrats are already saying that they will push for the policy to be made permanent later in the year.
The proposal is tucked into Biden’s $1.9 trillion spending extravaganza, and it would ultimately mean that each child under the age of six years old would entitle their parents to a government payment of $3,600 annually. Having an older child, from six to 17, would result in $3,000 a year. The benefit is granted in full for parents that make up to $75,000 for a single tax filer or $150,000 for married filers.
My family would be an interesting example to use, just to illustrate how much money we are talking about here. My wife and I have four children, two of which are under the age of six, and two of which are over the age of six. For us, this new government welfare program would mean that we would suddenly have $13,200 in our pockets.
Money I don’t need, and don’t want. But money that will be paid.
“Good,” you might be saying, “Matt may not need it, but people are struggling to get by, and the government has a duty to help them.”
That is a sentiment I certainly understand, particularly given that many people close to me are single parents, or are having a hard time making ends meet. We are all full of compassion and a desire to help struggling people, especially when the struggling people include kids.
But good intentions don’t make good legislation and we need to consider the ramifications of a proposal like this. Two questions, specifically, come to mind.
First, and perhaps most importantly, can the United States even afford this new entitlement?
Second, even if it can afford it, will this leave our country better off?
To the first point, I’ve been warning for a very long time — since long before COVID — that the United States is on an unsustainable financial path, and we simply cannot keep spending money the way we have been. If we don’t deal with this, we will be unable to avoid an impending economic cataclysm.
Prior to COVID, the government was already facing a trillion dollar deficit, and that massive debt load has only been exacerbated by the many trillions spent on COVID relief over the last year.
Now we want to create a new, permanent welfare program that will cost the taxpayers at least $120 billion per year? All while pursuing countless other new initiatives that spend money, like an attempt to eliminate student loan debt?
Where is all this money coming from to pay for this?
Maybe you think you can get it by “taxing the rich.” But if you think that will do the trick, think again.
According to the Manhattan Institute, “Combining popular proposals to tax the wealthiest Americans and corporations would likely raise $3.9 trillion over the decade. This revenue could not even eliminate half the $15.5 trillion budget deficit that is already projected over the next decade.”
In other words, raising taxes on the rich won’t even close to closing our pre-existing deficit, let alone pay for new initiatives. If you want to actually pay for something like this, you are going to have to have major increases in middle-class income taxes to pay for it.
Or you can just keep deficit spending into oblivion, I suppose.
Second, ask yourself this: Do you really want to set up a system where every American is dependent on the federal government?
Dependency has a deleterious impact on human beings. Independence is the key to human thriving, and turning every person in this country into a ward of the state would have untold negative consequences for our society. Consequences that go well beyond crushing debt.
At the end of the day, no one wants to be dependent, and setting up a system where dependency is an expectation rather than an absolute necessity would be a shocking and tragic failure — the latest in a long and growing list of failures — by our government.
Matthew Gagnon of Yarmouth is the chief executive officer of the Maine Policy Institute, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. A Hampden native, he previously served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C.