Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE) has authored what family scholar Dr. Allan Carlson calls “the most important piece of pro-family legislation to be introduced in decades.”
Brian C. Robertson documents the damage inflicted on children and thus society at large in Day Care Deception: What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us. He summarized the data in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review, October 1, 2003. A child in day care “is eighteen times more likely to become ill compared with children at home, four times more likely to be hospitalized, and at 50 to 100% increased risk for contracting a fatal or maiming disease for each year in day care,” Robertson said. “[T]here, according to the government's own on-going study of child care, that child has a three times greater risk of developing serious behavior problems like noncompliance, talking too much, arguing a lot, temper tantrums, demanding a lot of attention, disrupting class discipline, cruelty, meanness, bullying, explosive behavior, and getting in lots of fights. I think these and other findings show that this vast social experiment of taking pre-school children out of the home setting for most of their waking hours is incredibly risky at best.”
Studies show that day care is bad for kids. But how can we convince American mothers to stay at home if they no longer want to? Actually, we don't need to. According to Terry's office, 77% of working mothers wish they could stay at home full time, but 60% of households with children under six have both parents in the workforce. “The most comprehensive survey yet done on child care by the non-partisan group Public Agenda found that parents prefer one parent to stay at home over a 'quality' day-care center as the best arrangement for children under five by a margin of 12 to 1,” said Robertson. “Seventy-one percent agreed with the statement that 'parents should only rely on a day-care center when they have no other option,' and 8 out of 10 young mothers with pre-school children professed the desire to stay home with them rather than continue to work.
“In terms of policy, both fathers and mothers prefer options that would 'make it easier and more affordable for one parent to stay at home' over those that would 'improve the cost and quality of child care' by a margin of 2 to 1.” PTRA does as they desire.
Brownback, in a June 23 statement in the Congressional Record about PTRA, noted the terrible burden that the federal government is now placing on families. “In 1948, the average family with children paid 3% of its income in federal taxes,” he said. “Today, that same average family with children pays almost 25% of its income in federal taxes.”
Terry's and Brownback's Parents Tax Relief Act gives the vast majority of American parents what they want, and what is demonstrably better for their children. The opposition will come from the decadent and power-hungry other side of the culture wars, those politicians, bureaucrats, and experts who wish to continue the detachment of children from their own families and increase their control over America's young. “They deeply distrust the competence of parents to raise their own children,” said Robertson of the United States' child-care establishment. “They are much more comfortable with the notion of child-development experts taking the leading role in the formation of children, not only in an academic sense, but in terms of moral values as well. It's the ideological subtext of the debate over day care.”
Joseph A. D’Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to debunking the myth that the world is overpopulated.
The Parents' Tax Relief Act (bill number HR 3080) would rectify discrimination against stay-at-home mothers in the tax code and provide other tax savings to families with homemakers and home-based businesses. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced companion legislation (S 1305) in the Senate.
The centerpiece of the bill is its extension to stay-at-home moms of the Dependent Care Tax Credit (DCTC), which currently applies only to paid day-care thus granting a financial incentive for mothers to work outside the home rather than take care of their own young children. By discriminating against stay-at-home mothers, the tax code privileges a two-earner lifestyle that degrades family and community life, especially at the expense of children. Under the Parents' Tax Relief Act (PTRA), “a stay-at-home parent is treated equally,” Congressman Terry told PRI in an interview. “Families with household incomes in the $50,000 to $60,000 range could save $3,000 to $4,000 per child per year. Of course, there comes a point where you don't pay taxes anymore.”
That should be the goal: Lower- and middle-class families with children should not have to pay federal income taxes. Extending the DCTC should eliminate that tax liability for many families with homemaking mothers, though Terry said that specific figures on the bill's effects, such as how much it would save American families overall, won't be available until September.
Asked why the DCTC hasn't been extended before, Terry said, “That's a darn good question and I don't have an answer for that. I've heard from so many stay-at-home parents.”
“You can't take for granted economic incentives in influencing social structures,” said Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R), a fellow Nebraskan and original co-sponsor of Terry's bill, in a separate interview.
Fortenberry said that there are values at stake when it comes to raising children, and that although the fight for passage of this bill will be “uphill in tight budget times,” he believes that “the tax code should not be biased against those values.”
PTRA would also make the $1,000 child tax credit, set to expire in 2010, permanent; increase the personal tax exemption to $5,000 from $3,100; simplify tax deductions for home-based businesses; create a telecommuting tax credit to facilitate mothers (or fathers the bill is entirely gender-neutral) working from home; and let mothers have up to ten years of Social Security employment credits for taking care of children 6 and under, thus preserving Social Security benefits that would otherwise be reduced when they left the workforce; and almost eliminates the still-lingering but hard-to-eradicate marriage penalty, which causes some people to pay more in taxes after they marry than they did when single due to the inherently unfair nature of our progressive income tax system.
Stay-at-home mothers would not lose the DCTC if they earned outside income while working at home with their children.
Terry said that he didn't expect his Parents' Tax Relief Act to advance legislatively this year. “My goal in introducing it was to educate and build interest this year in preparation for pushing it next year,” he said. Prospects for near-term advancement of Sen. Brownback's companion bill in the Senate also look doubtful.
So it's up to pro-family Americans to educate their relatives, friends, local media, members of Congress, and the White House about this piece of legislation. Not only is extending the DCTC a matter of ending discrimination against stay-at-home mothers and encouraging better parenting for young children (the DCTC applies to children under 6 only), but it could help raise the birthrate. America's fertility rate is at 2.0 children per woman, slightly below the 2.1 needed to replace the current population, according to the United Nations Population Division. That has fueled America's high immigration rate, but even immigration has not been able to rescue the long-term prospects of the American health care system, Medicare, and Social Security all of whose problems are prime examples of the consequences of a graying population and too few workers.
Phillip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It, wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on January 9, “By raising and educating their children, parents provide the system with essential human capital. The cost of this contribution, in both direct expenses and forgone wages, is often measured in the millions. Yet parents get no compensation from Social Security, nor from the wider economy, for the investments they make in their children. Instead, Social Security pays the same benefits, and often more, to people who avoid the burdens of parenthood. So long as Social Security effectively penalizes people for having the very children the system requires, it contributes to a downward spiral of falling birthrates leading to higher and higher tax rates.”
Extending the DCTC, though it might increase the federal deficit slightly in the short term, will improve the federal government's solvency in the long term by encouraging the larger number of children this country needs. Most of those children will grow up to be productive, tax-paying Americans who return more to the economy than they take out. And getting more young kids out of day care and back home will have a plethora of positive benefits for them and for society, including financial ones.