Okay, okay—before you start pelting me with the citrus fruit of your choice, let me make it clear: I have no love for Mitt Romney. I think he’s a traitorous, chimerical liar whose positions bend and twist with the ever-changing fashions of the Left. He strikes me as a coward and opportunist, who will gladly slit his own party’s throat for a farthing of accolades from Democrats and the progressive press.
All that said, I’m intellectually honest enough to give credit where it is due, and even a stopped Mormon is right twice a day. Mitt Romney has proposed a bill (forgive me for linking to the Never Trumpers at The Dispatch) that he argues is intended to alleviate childhood poverty, but is really a pro-natalist plan: direct payments of $350 for children five and under, and $250 a month for children six through seventeen, with a maximum annual benefit of $15,000 annually, and payments beginning four months before a child’s birth.
Naturally, the local interest isn’t hard to see here for Pierre Delecto: he represents Utah, a State dominated by fecund Mormons. His plan would dump a lot of federal dollars into his State, and likely the coffers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
But the convenient intersection of political payoff with pro-natalism doesn’t invalidate the latter. Raising a family, as any parent will tell you, is quite expensive. My younger brother and his wife, for example, would immediately get $1050 a month under this plan (falling to $950 later this year when my niece turns six). There’s a lot they could do with another $12,600 a year that would benefit their children and their community.
There are downsides, of course: it seems that out-of-wedlock children would count towards the total (though i need to confirm this speculation). Those families probably need the money far more than a stable two-parent household like my brother’s, but I don’t relish the idea of further incentivizing single-parent households. The plan does phase out at $200,000 a year for single filers, but that’s not going to be the bulk of single-parent households (the phaseout is $400,000 for joint filers).
Nevertheless, should the Family Security Act pass, it would be transformative for families and family formation across the country—and birthrates. Just as Hungary has enjoyed immense success with its direct payments to parents, the United States could truly benefit from such a plan—especially more rural parts of the country, where injections of cash would revitalize local economies.
As a conservative—and a fiscal one, at that—I do worry about excessive government spending (Romney’s plan claims to be revenue-neutral). But if we’re going to have overburdened welfare programs anyway, why not have one that is simple and directly benefits families of all stripes? I’d love to see this program replace the myriad other, overlapping, even conflicting plans that are out there, but this one is elegant in its simplicity, and the experience of Hungary shows us it works.
If Romney could pull this off, he may begin to redeem himself. It will certainly be the one positive achievement from a long career of dishonesty and equivocation. But what an achievement it would be.
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