Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tax Out of Wedlock Babies

In a recent column (The African-America dilemma) George Will discusses the consequences of out-of-wedlock births in the African-American community. 70% of African-American babies born today are born to unmarried women. This “statistic” was alarming four decades ago when Patrick Moynihan brought it to the nation’s attention (it was about 20% then). The social costs are staggering. White out-of-wedlock birth rates are lower but are still associated with staggering social costs and involve huge numbers of children since white births exceed those of African-Americans. Criminality, incarceration, dependency, wretched school performance, alarming high school drop-out rates and a nearly endless list of social and behavioral ills flow directly from the prevalence of out-of-wedlock births. In his column Mr. Will says, “ Public policies can have little purchase on these, and least of all the fifth.” The fifth in his list of factors affecting school performance is living in a two parent family. The astounding increase in out-of-wedlock births is largely attributable to public policies (in conjunction with changes in morays and universal acceptance of the notion that is it terrible to be judgmental) that facilitate and subsidize out of wedlock births. These public policies are even more pernicious in as far as they are designed to make eligibility to the public largesse that flows to the mothers contingent upon being single (no man in the house).

Mr. Will is wrong. Public policy is largely responsible for this problem and public policy can be used to correct it. Economics is simple: if you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it. In the present system AFDC, WIC, housing allowances and a plethora of other enticements encourage out-of-wedlock births.

If you want fewer out-of-wedlock births, tax them. Say, at $10,000, payable at birth. This sum is only a fraction of the average (discounted) monetary cost to the public for such births. The Madonna’s of the world can pay the tax and blithely go on their way promoting social dysfunction. What of the poor mother? The African-American mother ? They can cease having out-of-wedlock babies. They can pay in installments. They can pick up trash on the side of the road at the minimum wage until the bill is paid. They can put their babies up for adoption. There is a huge unsatisfied demand for infants by families who want to adopt. Let the adopting families pay the tax and raise the child. The adoption solution solves two problems at once since the financial cost of out-of-wedlock babies need no longer be borne by the public in welfare costs and the children will be unlikely to be raised in the self-perpetuating environment which spawns dysfunctional behavior.

The libertarian part of me cringes when I suggest a solution such as this. After all, shouldn’t people be allowed to behave as they wish? In a nation of busy bodies isn’t this pushing that inclination to its limits? The key fact is that when women have out-of-wedlock babies they rarely pay the costs. The tax solution permits the behavior but will reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births and make those engaging in this behavior more likely to be able to pay the costs associated with child rearing.

Mr. Will is wrong. Public policy created this mess and a different set of public policies can help clean it up.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Foreigner in the Whitehouse

No matter what his shortcomings in character and personality, no matter how wrong-headed his ideology or policies either foreign or domestic, William Jefferson Clinton is as American as apple pie. Barrack Hussein Obama is not. This difference in not one attributable to intellectualizing. Instead it is the product of experience. While Bill Clinton was going to Sunday school, playing little league baseball, pledging allegiance to the flag, attending cub scout and boy scout meetings, watching parades or eating barbeque on the 4th of July, Barrack Obama was listening to the siren like voices of the evening call to prayer in Indonesia. During his formative years (whether ages five or six to ten or twelve is difficult to discover due to the lack of interest in the media and academe in verifying such details) Barrack Obama was living in a foreign land, in a country as distant from America in miles and culture as any one can imagine. This lack of immersion in American culture through which its values are transmitted accounts for how easy it is for Obama to see himself as a citizen of the world. It informs his every word and decision so that when asked about American exceptionalism he replies that all countries are exceptional as if to say one cannot tell one country from another. They all have a past. It is not that he cannot understand such a question. Intellectually. It is that absence of gut instinct that arises from identification that defines Barrack Obama. It is this absence that is the origin of that obvious detachment which allows him to view America as just another country in a huge list of other countries, each with good points and bad, with heroes and villains in its past. It is this absence that allowed him for twenty years to nod agreeably while listening to a Black liberation preacher who was once a Black Muslim deconstruct America using imported philosophy. What at some elite universities might be viewed as the key to academic success is a debilitating — even dangerous —flaw in a president. I want someone in the Whitehouse whose heart and soul are on our side. Someone who’s instincts derived from early experience are quintessentially American. Someone who is inclined to evaluate every circumstance or decision from atop some mountain looking down on a world in which America just happens to be where he is located at the moment belongs at Harvard or Yale indoctrinating our children. He does not belong at the helm of history’s most exceptional country.