But the tide among Republicans may be turning. Three senators – Mitt Romney of Utah, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Steve Daines of Montana – have just proposed a new child benefit. It would give parents $700 a month starting halfway through pregnancy, $350 a month for children 0-5, and $250 a month for children 6-17.
It’s a fresh take on a Romney proposal from last year, and one that’s timely for the expected reversal of the federal abortion law.
Like the previous version, the proposal would also reform the earned income tax credit. This is a subsidy to low-wage workers that encourages them to join and stay in the job market. The proposal would modify it in various ways.
Specifically, recipients would no longer receive a reduced benefit if they married. The proposal calls for paying for all these changes by eliminating the tax deduction for state and local taxes. However, many taxpayers who currently claim this itemized deduction would gain or at least reduce their losses because they have children, even if they live in high-tax states.
In addition to helping parents, the new benefit would reduce child poverty rates. It would also reduce something else: the long-standing gap between the number of children Americans say they want and the number they have.
This proposal is not going to become law anytime soon. But there are four reasons to think it will get a better reception from Republicans than similar ideas in the past.
The first is that Romney and his team addressed the strongest objections from conservatives to the previous version of the plan. These critics feared that Romney’s proposal would reduce the incentive to work among low-income people.
The new plan requires households to earn $10,000 in income to receive full benefits. It also retains the temporary assistance program for needy families, which includes a work requirement, instead of getting rid of it as the old one did. The new plan is pro-work as well as pro-parenting and pro-marriage.
Libertarian-leaning conservatives, who oppose government support for parents even without conditions, will always oppose it. But conservatives who don’t oppose such aid in principle should join us.
Second, the Republican Party is changing. It sees itself as a workers’ party more than a party of professionals. Old party orthodoxies are up for grabs, including the idea that economic policy should be aimed above all at freeing up entrepreneurs and reducing the tax burden on high earners.
Third, social conservatives have moved to involve themselves in political disputes beyond the former portfolio of abortion, same-sex marriage, school prayer, and school choice. Fifteen years ago, I advocated for pro-family tax reform to a group of them. The audience was polite, even enthusiastic, but afterward, the band leaders suggested to stay in their usual way. The Romney-Burr-Daines idea has the approval of every social-conservative organization you can think of.
This includes groups that work primarily to stop abortion, such as Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and the National Right to Life Committee. Which brings us to the fourth development: the impending demise of Roe v. Wade, which is expected to happen in the next few days.
For years, proponents of legal abortion have accused opponents of prioritizing life only until birth and then doing nothing to help mothers and children afterward. Now that legislators will have the power to define abortion policy, what was only an argument becomes a real political and moral issue.
The new Republican bill is a partial answer. Parents would be eligible for the mid-term pregnancy benefit. And it’s no coincidence that co-sponsor Daines is the leader of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus.
Republicans may be beginning to realize that a practical anti-abortion agenda must include policies that make raising children a viable proposition for more people, and develop an agenda that addresses economic dimensions. , and not just moral, of family life. Not a moment too soon.
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
• William Barr hands Republicans an exit strategy from Trump: Noah Feldman
• What Won’t Happen After Roe Falls: Ramesh Ponnuru
• Don’t Eat American Student Lunch: Editors
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the editor of National Review and a Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion
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