Oppose the Mandate to Have Children!

It has come to my attention that, for married couples making less than $110,000 per year, a couple without children has to pay up to $3000 more in taxes than their neighbors who make the same amount of money but have three children.

I oppose this mandate from the government to have children and fail to see how it can be justified under the Commerce Clause. All right-thinking people should oppose this tyranny immediately!

FILED UNDER: Health Care, Quick Takes, Taxes, US Politics
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. William Teach says:

    Don’t forget, having children is bad for global warming, too!

  2. James Joyner says:

    Many of us have been pointing out since this controversy arose that it would be inarguably within Congress’ power to:

    1. Raise taxes by amount X
    2. Issue a credit in the amount X to those who purchase health insurance.

    The effect of 1 and 2 would be identical to the mandate for any practical purpose. But just because that’s true doesn’t mean that Congress actually has the power to charge people X for failing to purchase health insurance. Process matters.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    @James –

    I don’t actually disagree with that. I just find the Commerce Clause discussion to be beside the point, and given that the de facto result of the insurance “mandate” can be easily remedied by steps 1 and 2 you described, I find the discussion of government “tyranny” as a result of the mandate to be a bit hyperbolic, to say the least.

    FWIW, if it were up to me, there would be no income tax credits or deductions and we’d go to a single payer system. I don’t think that free markets in health insurance work and mandating the purchase of tightly-regulated private insurance just seems to be adding a middleman for no reason.

  4. More to the point, AFAIK the stated purpose of the childcare deduction is not to encourage child-bearing, but to avoid taxing people with differential expenses. They didn’t enact the tax and then offer a rebate in order to get people to have more kids; they enacted the tax to raise revenue, which is what the taxing power is for. Hudson discusses this in his decision: if the main purpose is to raise revenue, it’s a tax, while if the main purpose is to alter behavior, it’s a penalty. I’m not actually sure that you could get around it by simply raising the income tax and then immediately rebating the tax to those who purchased insurance.

  5. Vast Variety says:

    Careful there Alex. If you take children out of the equation of marriage then groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council will loose their last half-baked argument for not allowing gays to be treated as equal human beings who seem to be confused in thinking that marriage is solely about having kids instead of two adults cementing their love for one another.

  6. sam says:

    Yeah, and how about the mandate to buy a house?

    Consider the twins, JIm and Bob McGetenalong. Jim and Bob live in the same city, even the same neighborhood. They make exactly the same salary. They’re both married, with no children. Bob lives in a house he’s got a mortgage on, Jim lives in an apartment. Bob’s mortgage is $1500/month, Jim’s rent is $1500/month. Bob gets the mortgage interest deduction, Jim doesn’t. JIm is paying higher taxes — in effect, he’s being taxed because he hasn’t bought a house.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Alex: I’m edging ever closer to supporting single payer with private option (basically, the French and German systems) myself. While part of our problem is that we have nothing like a private market in healthcare, given that most people pay for it either through a third party provider (insurance) or government and thus have no incentive to lower costs, there are good reasons to think an actual free market wouldn’t work. There’s not much elasticity of demand when you’re dying.

    @Megan: I think a tax credit for the purposes of incentivizing behavior has sufficient history behind it that it would be hard to find it unconstitutional at this point. If we can give deductions for putting insulation in the attic or buying a specific car, why not for buying health insurance?

  8. sam says:

    @Megan

    “they enacted the tax to raise revenue, which is what the taxing power is for. Hudson discusses this in his decision: if the main purpose is to raise revenue, it’s a tax, while if the main purpose is to alter behavior, it’s a penalty.”

    Then the “taxes” on cigarettes are not really taxes, but penalties?

  9. PD Shaw says:

    And yet people have been to known live without owning houses or having children. That’s the problem of using a tax credit in lieu of a mandate, young people, who tend to pay zero in indome taxes will continue not to buy health insurance. It’s not very effective with this tax system.

  10. Vast Variety says:

    “That’s the problem of using a tax credit in lieu of a mandate, young people, who tend to pay zero in indome taxes will continue not to buy health insurance.”

    Then that’s there choice. Why should they? If they get sick then it’s their responsibility to pay for it.

  11. This argument holds no water. Clearly my wife’s and my decision to not have children would, if aggregated to a large segment of society, have a significant effect on interstate commerce by reducing the number of consumers and wage-earners in the form of the children we are not having. Therefore, on those occasions when my wife and I do not engage in sexual relations, we are engaged in interstate commerce and are therefore within the scope of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority, and thus also subject to the Federal government’s taxing authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause.

  12. sookie says:

    >> I oppose this mandate from the government <<

    So do I.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    “FWIW, if it were up to me, there would be no income tax credits or deductions and we’d go to a single payer system.”

    Oh come now, we can’t have any socialism like that in this country…don’t you know that’s Un-American…

  14. James Joyner says:

    @sam: In the case you describe, unless they make very high salaries, they’re likely not itemizing their taxes and thus paying the same. Although, if they’re living in a place where rents are $1500, they might be itemizing.

  15. sam says:

    Well, JJ, I’m pretty sure we could construct a much longer hypothetical in which they made the same salaries, took all the same itemized deductions, except that Bob takes the MI deduction and Jim doesn’t, and the result would be as I described — no?

  16. James Joyner says:

    Sam,

    Sure. I’m merely pointing out that, contrary to popular belief, a lot of things that are “tax deductible” aren’t in fact deducted by most people. The standard deduction is high enough that most people can’t benefit from itemizing.